We have all heard the clichés; travelling broadens your horizons and opens your eyes. It opens doors and gives your life new meaning. Everybody seems to just focus on the positives and forget about the negatives of travelling. Nobody tells you what are you most likely to miss once you have been on the road for a few months? Well, until I decided to write this article, that is!
According to the latest research, conducted by me personally without any scientific structure to it, the top 5 things (?) long-term travellers tend to yearn for the most are as follows:
1. Clothes that don’t smell like death
I unzip my backpack with an acute sense of dread. Rummaging through the utter chaos, I spot a mustard yellow T-shirt I was after. I remember it as being white when I packed it months ago. Pulling it out of the sack, I take a good whiff of it and curse myself for not doing my laundry the other day. This had been the reserve T-shirt I was counting on, but it smells like a dead racoon and I will once again be stared at on the bus. Well then, so be it.
2. Good, home-made food
I am good at making hamburgers. I toast the buns, spread some butter on the bottom bun, fry some onions rings, melt the cheese on the meat patty, add some beetroot, tomato, lettuce and capsicum and I have a burger some guy wanted to pay me to make him one too in some hostel in Chile.
But no matter how good I become at burgers and making a thousand varieties of pasta, no matter how much I enjoy South America’s cheap Menus de Almuerzo (lunch menus) and Thailand’s Pad Thai, sometimes I just crave that simple, healthy breakfast of yogurt, nuts and fruits you didn’t eat enough of at home.
3. People who know you as you are
Every person I have met on the road has shaped my life; from the chance encounter with a fellow traveller which led to my visiting Antarctica to the finger which pointed me in the wrong direction when I was lost. I owe them all my gratitude.
But sometimes on the road, filled with doubt and questions, you just need someone who understands you and where you have come from. Someone with whom you have shared the past, and therein lay the answers to the questions you have about the future.
The initial spark which sets fire to the mundane lives of many long-term travellers, encouraging them to leave it all behind and book their tickets to the world is a dislike of routines.
But every now and then, I bloody miss them!
Even though I’m very slack when it comes to planning, I still have to, as a lone traveller, decide on how I’m going to spend my days, set out a rough itinerary, stare at bus schedules I don’t understand, worry about visa, etc. Now I know it may sound like I’m not appreciative of this ultimate freedom I have been granted.
But honestly, I think every long-term traveller ought to have woken up at least once, wishing they knew exactly how the day was going to pan out.
5. The Places You Left Behind
One of the most accurate quotes about travelling I have ever come across says travelling is only glamorous in retrospect.
And I suppose it’s very much true. At least for me. As I left the open expanses of Patagonia for the deserts of Northern Chile and Argentina, I found myself longing for them, and then I was missing the desert when I got to the rainforests of Peru and Panama. Then the rainforest was where life was at its best, I thought, as I stepped into the concrete forest of Brazil’s super-city; Sao Paulo.
But then again, maybe I ought to get off my ass, step out and explore this grey, marvellous sea of humanity for what it is. Because if I don’t, I’m afraid I’ll miss Sao Paulo too, once it’s gone.