It will happen, when you’re traveling, something bad, or annoying, or horrifying will happen. Travel is a beautiful thing that will transform you into a wonderful, adaptable, loving, and interesting person with awesome stories. But, there are a few negatives that come with the territory. You need to learn to be adaptable, and prepare yourself for this simple fact: sometimes, traveling sucks. And that’s okay, because there are also some things you can do to prepare yourself, and to make a lot of situations better.
So many things have happened to me on the road that have left me feeling exhausted, defeated, and angry. And some stuff happens that is just annoying and inconvenient. If I were an optimist, I would call these things learning opportunities. If I were a pessimist, I would say that these are big black blots on my otherwise wonderful adventures. But, I’m neither of those things, I’m a realist. Some of these experiences sucked, however, life isn’t perfect. So one should not expect travel to be perfect either.
Some of these things are so minor-things that you wouldn’t even think would bother you, or annoy you, but somehow make life on the road a little bit more challenging.
So, feel my pain, my frustration, and enjoy a little bit of my problem solving abilities. And, enjoy the fact that we’re all human, we all make mistakes, bad things happen to everyone, and some situations are simply out of our control!
When Traveling Sucks
Spending the night in Airports/Spending any Time in Airports
I don’t like flying, or airports. I don’t get excited when I walk into airports for my flight. Security lines, anything to do with children and people with laptops, and people who don’t understand that no, you can’t have anything in your pockets, no, you can’t carry liquids on a plane, yes that does include your olive oil souvenir from Italy. The food is horrible, the chairs are uncomfortable, it’s crowded, it smells funny, and it ends with you getting in a small metal tube and bouncing in the sky until you land in a different country or place. And then it’s all worth it.
But still, I hate airports. The worst thing about airports you may ask? Spending the night in them.
If you’re a budget traveler, like I am, you have to deal with long and often painful, flight routes, that often include long layovers. And if you have any layovers where you elect to stay in the airport..it is not nice.
Two memories come to mind. The first, happened in Barcelona. I would be in the Barcelona airport for about 9 hours from 10pm at night until 7 am the next morning. Instead of get a hostel, I decide to spend the night at the airport, because by the time I pass through customs, leave the airport, it will be around 11pm, and I won’t get to my hotel until 12am- and then I will have to wake up at 4am to make my flight. It wasn’t worth it. So, I spent the night on a McDonald’s bench, wrapped in my silk traveling sleeping bag. Incoherently falling in and out of sleep and being woken up by cleaners every 30 minutes or so.
I also spent a lot of time in the San Diego airport-and things shut down in the San Diego airport. I had to sit on the cold tile floor for eight hours, with my stomach grumbling, no access to any kind of food, until the ticket counter opened. To pass the time, I played Candy Crush, and watched The Wire on my Kindle fire. Thankfully, the wifi was free and worked in 30 minute intervals. Being hungry was probably the worst part.
How to Make Airports Better
Wear good clothing. Nothing is worse than being uncomfortable in your clothing while trying to get some zs in between flights. Make sure you are in comfy clothing, and you have a spare set of underwear in your carry-on, as well as a travel size toothbrush and toothpaste (I also bring my glasses and contact solution on board with me). Little comforts will do you a world of difference when you’re stranded in an airport.
Bring snacks. Airport food is really expensive, and sometimes all of the stores will close for the night. Make sure you have plenty of snacks to munch on until stuff opens. Also, enjoy the airport food, but don’t eat too big of a meal. Flying on an upset stomach is not a fun experience, but make sure you don’t get on the plane hungry.
Bring entertainment. I never fly without at least one book, my smartphone loaded up with music, and my tablet loaded up with movies, and a back-up battery if it’s a long flight. You want to make sure the time goes by quickly, and staying entertained is a great way to make that clock tick faster.
Bring sleeping gear (if you’re staying in an airport overnight). This includes a pillow, I usually use my neck cushion from the flight, or ball up a sweatshirt that I always carry with me if the plane is too cold. You also will want some kind of a sheet. I really like the silk cocoon blanket, it shrinks up into a small bag, and is like a sleeping bag. Super comfy, super lightweight and durable. I take this on all of my trips. Ear plugs and an eye mask will help drown out the sites and sounds of the airport and let you get some rest. If you really want to be knocked out, take a sleeping pill.
Oh Italy, I’m looking at you. Nothing works in Italy. The Italians are used to the transportation system and don’t seem at all flustered when a train is late, or doesn’t ever come. They have a laid back attitude, it will all work out. Kind of like a chill California surfer who doesn’t have a care in the world. But you know who does have a care in the world?
I used to be horrible. I got so angry and upset and frustrated when public transportation didn’t work well when I was traveling. And then I backpacked Europe, and then I lived in Italy for two months, and now, it doesn’t bother me as much. Here’s a few train stories:
My friend and I bought train tickets from Milan to Venice. But, the first train was extremely late, so we missed the final train to Venice. First, we had to wait in a long line to talk to an agent, next we had to get a ticket for a different train. But, all of the seats were sold out. So my friend and I ended up sitting on the floor, with our backpackers, right by the restrooms for about five hours. Whenever someone had to use the restroom, we had to shuffle out of the way, and the smell…
When you ride a train or bus in Italy you have to get a ticket, and you have to get it validated. If you don’t get it validated, the evil train people come and demand your money. And believe me, there is nothing, nothing you can say to them to get out of your ticket. You will pay the ticket. And it will upset you to waste money. But, it’s okay, it will all work out.
When I was living in Rome, my friends and I decided to visit Naples of the day. It was quite nice, until we tried to get home. The train workers were on strike. Of course they were. And we wouldn’t be going anywhere. Of course we wouldn’t be. Because there were not enough workers. Sigh. And we would have to wait until people decided that they would begin to work and then we would leave. It took several hours but finally we made it home. Although, it was a lot later than we expected…
How to be Adaptable towards Transportation Issues
Know they will happen. Prepare yourself. Trains will be late, flights will be cancelled. Sometimes if you’re unsure of the customs of some countries, you may be fined unexpectedly. Be prepared. Try and take deep calming breaths when something bad happens. Do a little bit of yoga. Realize that you still have an awesome opportunity, and privilege to travel to a new and exciting place. If you train your brain to focus on the positive instead of the negative, you will be a much happier traveler.
No matter how much research you do beforehand, you will have bad experiences with hotels, hostels, airbnbs, couch surfing, ect. I mainly stay in hostels when I travel, because it is cheap, and because I’m young, and I know I won’t be able to deal with this nonsense for much longer. Here are just a few things that have happened to me in hostels:
I’ve slept in a ten person mixed dorm while two people were having sex right next to me. Most people were asleep-but really? Come on people, go use a bathroom or something…
I stayed in a 24 person dorm room, with no air conditioning, and no hot water in the middle of the summer in Nice, France. To make matters worse, there were so many mosquitos in that room. My friend couldn’t stand the heat-she could barely breathe, and we had to leave the hostel.
My Mom and I bought an airbnb that promised a quiet oasis. When we got there, neighbors were smoking weed, peeing by our house, drinking, and listening to loud music. The host, and airbnb, refused to refund our money. And we ended up getting a hotel.
In addition I’ve dealt with four flights of stairs with no elevator, rude front desk agents, creepy older guys, disgusting boys who don’t know how to flush the toilet, food stealing maniacs, party maniacs, and people on drugs. I feel bad for even complaining about moldy food at breakfast and horrible wifi service, and bad locations-I’m a child of the 21st century (kind of). I’m sorry?
When it comes to Lodging…
Do as much research beforehand as humanly possible. Know what your budget will pay for. If you can only afford to stay in a 24 bed hostel, prepare yourself for what that will be like. Understand you are giving up a few luxuries in order to travel, train your mind people! Before you choose a place to stay, read at least ten reviews, including the negative ones, and ask yourself, is this something I can deal with? And if you can’t deal with it, book something different.
And if you can spend the extra money…get a room to yourself.
Your body will abandon you when you travel. I’ve have food poisoning so bad I basically slept in the bathroom, with everything coming out both ends, praying for it to be over.
The insides of my legs have been raw from chaffing. Heaven forbid if it rains. I remember hobbling around London, trying to get back to my hostel, with bruises on the insides of my legs because my jeans got wet and would not dry.
My toes blister. I’ve invested in better shoes and this happens less frequently. But on one trip I kept popping blisters just so I could keep on walking.
Diarrhea usually is only bad if you’re eating food contaminated by bacteria, or so far off from the way you normally eat that your body doesn’t know how to react. Drink lots of clean water, or bottled water. Eat healthy foods as much as possible. And bring with you an anti diarrhea over the counter medicine, or some antibiotics if you can get them from your doctor. If you’re visiting a place with unsafe drinking water, make sure you pay attention to the foods you eat as well, and make sure they are cooked.
I bring both desitin and aquaphor on every trip to combat chaffing, as well as rub deodorant on my legs before I do a lot of walking. I also make sure to have at least one pair of yoga pants, and one pair of bike shorts if the chaffing on my legs gets too bad.
To avoid blisters and hot spots on my feet, I spend a decent amount of money on the shoes as well as the socks that I wear when traveling, which helps with blisters. If possible, I try and wear different shoes to avoid getting blisters. And, I bring duck tape if all else fails.
You will miss home, you will find yourself uncomfortable in another country. Things will be hard to understand. You’ll get frustrated when you can’t read signs, or labels. It will be challenging to remember why you visited another country in the first place. I remember when I…
Broke down in the middle of a grocery store in Italy when I got so sick of trying to read labels in Italian.
I hated people who loved to watch bulls die, in something that is called art.
Food is a constant struggle, I didn’t understand why restaurants couldn’t open earlier in the day. I was starving.
And, I was confused why everything was closed on Sunday. I’m a tourist, and an American. I can get food at 3am if I so choose.
Everything is so hard. Keeping myself fed, not getting lost, figuring out what to do each day. I just want routine.
But of course, it’s all worth it. The culture shock fades, the homesickness fades, and the wonder of the sites, smells, and sounds teaches you and transforms you. And without realizing it, you’ve changed a little bit, your mind is a little bit more open, you understand the world a little better, and you come to appreciate a different culture and way of life.
Culture Shock and Homesickness Solutions
Embrace the differences between your culture and the culture that you are visiting. You do not have to agree with everything that culture does, but you have to respect that they live a different way of life and you are a guest observer, and may not understand the reasons and mentality behind some of their actions.
Try and learn something new and try to understand the culture that you are experiencing.
Do you have any travel horror stories or travel inconveniences? Any advice? Leave me a message in the comments below!