The Truth About Travel

August 30, 2012

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I need to take a pause in recapping our Europe adventure to “get real” with our experiences while traveling. Because it wasn’t always an adventure and it wasn’t everything I wanted it to be. I was chasing after a Nepal 2.0 and the experience of our trip didn’t necessarily meet those expectations. Even now as I process the trip through blog recaps – it’s being distilled down to a few words and some pretty pictures that make it all look like quite a beautiful time.

But the truth is that traveling can be scary, exhausting and sometimes even boring. Sometimes I felt like we were spending hours just trying to figure out where to go, what to eat and which train to get on for only minutes of payoff. I felt like when I was chilling out, taking advantage of free wifi over a cup of cappuccino or glass of wine, that I was missing out on meeting interesting locals or having stimulating conversations with Jeremy or good people watching or falling in love with the world.

Here are some of my expectations and challenges I came against. If you have any advice on how to overcome some of these I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

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The Desire: To Experience a Place Like A Local. The expectation was to go off the beaten path and eat at the local dives and make friends with the people who frequent them.

The Reality: We’re Not Locals. We’re Tourists. Veering off the beaten path is a bit scary and you just don’t know what you’re going to get beyond boiled potatoes topped with a fried egg in a place that smells like mold. The truth is that cities that are set up to handle tourists make you feel like you’re not squandering the precious and limited time you have abroad because there is lots to see. That’s why tourists visit. Also, when you’re traveling in a couple it’s hard to make friends with locals (especially if you’re in a city full of tourists). People think you’re on a date so they leave you alone.

The Solution (A): Travel Where You Have Friends. I’m lucky in that I have this blog and enough people reading it that I have friends (and friends-to-be) all over the world. I didn’t take advantage of that during this trip because I wanted to spend time reconnecting and adventuring with Jeremy. But we were both spending so much time figuring shit out that we didn’t have much energy left for falling in love with each other all over again. It would’ve been nice to make friends with people we already have things in common with. People who could safely take us off the beaten path and share their favorite places with us.

The Solution (B): Spend More Time In One Place. Because I work for myself, I’m location independent and can work from anywhere. I think to truly live like a local I should rent a flat in a city for 3 months or more and not cram every touristy thing possible into two days. Instead of just being on vacation I could balance work and play (just like at home) in another city. I would get the satisfaction of being productive with my work while also taking my time to really explore the ins and outs of a place. Jeremy’s not quite so location independent yet with his job but maybe one day.

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The Desire: To Drink Lots of Coffee and Wine. And stare dreamily into each others eyes while doing so.

The Reality: This is All Good and Fun Until You’re Jittery, Drunk and/or Hungover – all at the same time. We actually got really good at drinking lots of coffee and lots of wine. But at the same time we were usually taking advantage of free wifi to figure out how to use the public transportation, post Instagram photos, read up on TripAdvisor and organize and book our next move. There were no dreamy staring contests.

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The Desire: Be Spontaneous! Go wherever! Whenever!

The Reality: Travel Takes Planning. If we had booked everything in advance from home we wouldn’t be having to do it from our iPhones on the road.

The Solution: Research ahead of time. The idea of being spontaneous was more romantic than the reality of it. I think we would’ve been happier and would’ve spent a little less time with our faces in our phones if we had planned in advance and had a little more structure.

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Without the risk of coming across like a spoiled brat who had a horrible time I should reiterate here that I learned and saw a LOT and will continue to focus on the positive and share more of those insights with you throughout my recaps.

So let me hear it – what’s your advice for having a kickass time while traveling? How do you balance being a tourist with true local experiences?

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