The Side of Traveling that Facebook Doesn’t Show
“How adventurous and exciting their lives seem!” And how could you think anything else when all you see is the highlights of their adventures, the perfect pictures, the smiles and the new friends that they’ve made!
And travel IS full of excitement and adventure, but what you don’t see are the hours of time spent at McDonald’s trying to find the next couch to surf on, the best spot to hitchhike from, or the cheapest bus ticket. You don’t see the moments when they’re lonely, and all they want to do is hop on the next plane home. There aren’t selfies of the days without a shower, or the cold nights spent outside when a hostel was too expensive and couchsurfing didn’t work out. You don’t see the hours spent holding a sign and failed hitchhiking that resulted in cutting into the ever-depleting budget.
There aren’t selfies of the days without a shower, or the cold nights spent outside when a hostel was too expensive and couchsurfing didn’t work out.
No one took pictures of the endless bread and apples that were the sustenance of food in countries where eating costs more than traveling. You miss the moments when they don’t want to be social and wish that they could hold someone’s hand just like the dozens of couples walking through the streets of Prague. The moments when the freedom of traveling is outweighed by the desire to be home, to feel at home in someone’s arms, and to see a familiar face. The days when your bank card doesn’t work and you don’t speak the language and your traveler’s charades aren’t good enough to communicate your desperate need to find a bathroom. Or the moment when all you feel like doing is breaking down and crying because you messed up a ticket, and lost that hard-earned money into the oblivion that is foreign transportation.
These are the nitty gritty details of travel, or at least of budget and innovative travel. This is the reality of what it takes to get to the tops of mountains, and the ends of the earth. These are the puzzle pieces that make up the incredible stories and this is where you find adventure and “yourself.”
As I hitchhiked through Eastern Europe, from Turkey northward around Bulgaria, Romania, and beyond, I felt myself understanding the reality of what it means to travel. I had left a study abroad program where traveling felt nearly seamless. Then, when traveling became my everyday reality, I began to understand that these challenges are what make or break us. These challenges are what make us beautiful, independent female travelers. They are the meat and potatoes of travel that don’t find their way into glamorous magazines, but they do teach us who we are.
Being homesick teaches you that you can go home and you will (despite the moments when going home scares you more than Saigon traffic), and that those hugs upon your return will be treasured so much more than you may realize. The longing for a hand to hold teaches you that as independent as you want to be, you seek the companionship of another and that maybe that’s not such a bad thing. Hitchhiking and couchsurfing teach you to be resourceful and to trust the goodness of people around you. They show you that the beauty in this world is in more than just the scenery and sunsets, but in the smiles of strangers. They teach you that simplicity can make the best friendships and, ultimately, the best stories.
Missing a ferry or selecting the wrong day for a ticket teaches you that you need to slow down, and that no matter what happens, how dumb or big of a mistake you make, life will always, always go on.
The apples and bread make you eternally grateful for any bite of food that costs more than one euro, and make you realize that flavors are richer when compared with these simple staples. And sleeping outside helps you remember the perfection of the stars, and how grateful you are to have a bed, even if it’s in a country a few thousands miles away. Missing a ferry or selecting the wrong day for a ticket teaches you that you need to slow down, and that no matter what happens, how dumb or big of a mistake you make, life will always, always go on. This hidden side of travel is what gives you the best stories, and is the part of traveling that reveals your heart, your dreams, and your true self.
May your misadventures be plentiful. While they may not make for the best pictures, they certainly create the best stories, the wildest nights, and the friendships that you’ll hold the dearest to your heart.
Top Photo By Nick Harris, The Side of Traveling that Facebook Doesn’t Show