Monthly Archives: July 2013

Home Vs Travel (part 2)

Travelling Vs staying in one place

I’m pretty sure when people picture the life of backpacker, the literal travelling part isn’t the first thing they think about. When in fact, when you’re on limited time, you spend way more time getting from a to b than you do actually enjoying yourself. Most of this time is spent desperately trying to sleep or cure your unbearable boredom. The occasional daytime coach journey in New Zealand with and a bus full of tour group friends is fine, and occasionally travel time can be rewarding. You can meet new friends and stop at some pretty interesting places along the way, not to mention seeing some beautiful scenery out of the window.

The Kiwi Experience bus

The Kiwi Experience bus – a fun way to travel

But when you start to do an overnight journey on a horrendous bus every couple of days in South East Asia, it really starts to wear you down.

At one point during my recent travels we were doing a 10-16 hour overnight journey every 2 days. When you consider that I’m an extremely light sleeper, my time spent on those buses was some of my worst. I would lie awake, often desperate for a wee, cramped and uncomfortable, just wishing I was at home with my duvet. Every time we booked transport in Asia we would pray it would be decent – you never knew what was going to come around the corner. Don’t even get me started on our horrendous day spent crossing the Thailand/Cambodia border, or my 30-hour journey from Vietnam to Laos. Of course it was all worth it, but I don’t think people who haven’t travelled really understand how unbearable and tiring it can be at times. There’s definitely something to be said for going back to the same place and the comfort of your own bed every day. The actual travelling part of backpacking can be the worst part of it and it’s something that is often overlooked.

stuck at the back of a mini bus for 8 hours with minimal aircon and the sun blasting through the window = bad times

Being stuck at the back of a mini bus for 8 hours with minimal aircon and the sun blasting through the window = bad times

Claustraphobic sleeper bus in Cambodia

Claustraphobic sleeper bus in Cambodia

Meeting new people Vs old friends and family

This is another one of the best parts of being away from home that can sometimes be a negative. I love meeting new people, hearing their stories and making friends all over the world. Someone you know for a week when you’re backpacking can become your friend for a lifetime, and you never know when you’re going to meet those people. It’s exciting and I’ve met some truly amazing people. They can change you in ways that the friends you’ve known your whole life and shared the same experiences with can’t. It’s one of the main reasons I decided to travel alone when I went on my round-the-world trip in 2012. That way you’re forced to go out of your way to meet new people and not just stick with what is familiar.

Queenstown

Sharing a jump with a group of new friends in Queenstown

On the other hand, after weeks of travelling around Australia and New Zealand and staying in shared hostel rooms I have to admit that constantly meeting new people and telling the standard ‘where I’ve been, where I’m going, what I’ve done’ story started to really grate on me. I just wanted to be around someone who knew me – someone who I was comfortable sitting in silence with and not constantly making the effort.

As close as you can become to your travel buddies, no one ever quite compares to the people that know you best. I’m aware that not everyone will feel this way and that maybe I’m just lucky to have grown up with such a great group of friends, but they’re my number one positive reason for being home. Of course, now I’m home, being in the same place as my boyfriend means a lot to me too. On my down days where I was feeling homesick or upset I would miss my family, friends and him more than anything. It’s what makes you feel at your most homesick. Those are the days I remind myself of when I wish I were travelling again.  

Family

Family

Being skint Vs earning money

The first time I went on a round-the-world trip was different to the second in regards to this point. I spent almost 3 years saving for the purpose of going on my first trip and so when it came down to spending the money I didn’t possess an ounce of guilt or regret. However, on my second trip I was spending inheritance money and it was something that never really felt right to me. As much as I would convince myself it was fine, I never felt like I’d earned the right to spend money I hadn’t made myself. In retrospect I realise that’s one of the reasons I never felt quite as relaxed on my second trip. I always felt like I should be keeping the money for something that would last – like a house or car, instead of eating away at it essentially having fun (although obviously there’s a lot more to travelling than that).  I also knew I had no job or financial stability to come back to in the UK, and that made me worry even more about slowly eating away at the money. It’s one of the reasons I came home when I did –I had to remember the real world I’d left back home and be realistic about my finances. It was either a month more of travelling or a new Macbook Pro.

By the end of my first trip I was also down to my emergency credit card and I came back to over £2000 of debt. It took me around 8 months to pay off and I don’t regret it for a minute but again, spending money that wasn’t mine took away from my enjoyment a little. I never felt completely comfortable with spending money and not earning any to make up for it. It also sometimes really gets to you when you want to buy some new clothes or just treat yourself -you’re constantly having to think about your bank balance. It’s not so much of an issue when you’re travelling somewhere cheap like Asia, but it really started to affect my experience (and health) while I was travelling up an extremely expensive East Coast of Australia and basically living off noodles, goon (the cheapest boxed wine imaginable) and McDonalds for five weeks.

The aptly named 'goonoodles' diet I adopted in Austraila

The aptly named ‘goonoodles’ diet I adopted in Austraila

Although it’s brilliant if you can find a way to earn as you go, or have enough money to spend without worrying about earning, it was never a luxury I had for very long. There’s definitely something to be said for being in a full time job and saving up for 2 weeks away where you can spend as much money as you want. You know you’re getting paid while you’re there and you’ve saved enough money to not feel guilty about it. Financial stability is something I think is often taken for granted over the life of a full-time travelling nomad.

Homesickness Vs Wanderlust

This is the biggest debate of all – which one do you feel more strongly? Some crave stability and some crave the unknown and a life of the unexpected. After my last post, I’d say I’m somewhere in the middle. I miss home when I’m away and I miss travelling when I’m at home. I’m realistic in my opinion that that’s just life – the grass is always greener. It’s in our nature to crave what we don’t have and you just have to make the most of what you do.

So for now I’ll focus on spending time with friends and family, treating myself to things I couldn’t afford if I were away, enjoying my home comforts, decorating and making the home I live in even nicer (that will come in a few weeks where I finally move into my own place). I can even buy new clothes and display them proudly in my wardrobe! I’ll try and satisfy my wanderlust by always having a trip in the pipeline, be it somewhere closer to home or further away – even just for a weekend, and I’ll find other things to get excited about that aren’t just travelling (such as planning my sisters wedding). For me I’m realising that it doesn’t have to be one-way or the other and that there is a middle ground – you just have to discover what works for you and find a way to appreciate it.

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Home Vs Travel (part 1)

I know a lot of people would read the title of this post and think, what’s the competition? Surely travelling wins – hands down. If that were true then everyone would be packing up and leaving. The truth is, it’s not that black and white. There are several reasons why not everyone is suited for the life of a backpacker and there’s even more for why I gave it up.

Although I don’t in any way want to put a negative spin on travelling – it’s still the best thing I’ve ever done and I would encourage anyone to do it, I do want to point out that there are also massive perks to being home and having a stable routine. I suspect these perks are widely under appreciated by anyone who hasn’t been away from home for a substantial amount of time (so much so that I often forget about them myself and I’m partly writing this as a reminder). These comparisons are something anyone thinking of booking a round-the-world trip of their own should give some serious thought.

Here’s how I would weigh up the differences between the two lifestyles.

Freedom Vs Routine

This is the biggest difference and the hardest one for me, especially now I’ve started full time work. Of course I miss my freedom big time. I miss not having to set an alarm and spending my days doing whatever I wanted – having no responsibilities and roaming from place to place whenever I felt like it. However, although it might be difficult for some to understand why, do that for so long and you start to crave a routine. While it’s extremely exciting, moving on and taking in new things every day can have a draining effect. I started to miss little things like going to the gym and getting up and eating at the same time every day. It might sound trivial but it’s the small things you miss when you’re away from home.

Saying that though, I’d be lying if I said freedom didn’t win this one. It’s by far the best thing about travelling and the main reason people choose to do it. I enjoy my job but I don’t think there’s many people who would pick full time work over having the option to do whatever you want every day, free from limitations.

Bondi beach

Taking as much time as I wanted to just sit and take in the scenery at Bondi Beach

A room full of stuff Vs a backpack

To me this is one of the biggest perks of being home. Living in the same shabby clothes for months at a time with barely any choice of outfits really started to drive me crazy while I was travelling. As did agonising over decisions about what I needed to ditch when I did rarely buy something new. Packing and re-packing the bag several times a week wasn’t much fun either, or constantly losing things in a mass of jumbled up, dirty clothes. It’s an absolute luxury to have a wardrobe full of clothes and not have to think about how much something will weigh when you buy it, not to mention things like luxury toiletries and sentimental items. Although when I first got home from both of my trips I did struggle a bit with the concept of having a choice.  It was so daunting that I actually ended up reaching for the familiar items in my backpack for a while!

So much choice of things to buy, yet so little space in your backpack!

So much choice of things to buy, yet so little space in your backpack!

Seeing new things Vs where you’ve always known

Again, this is a difficult one to give up. I miss the excitement of waking up every day not knowing what I would experience and the excitement of seeing something new and beautiful for the first time.

unexpectedly bumping into some elephants one morning in Laos

unexpectedly bumping into some elephants one morning in Laos

Although this can get tiring, it is my favourite thing about travelling and something I will always strive to do more. However, when I first came home I found I saw what had always been familiar and seemingly boring in a different way – experiencing so many new places has a funny way of making you appreciate what you see every day and suddenly recognising it for it’s own beauty.

Southerndown beach, South Wales

Southerndown beach, South Wales

A different culture Vs familiarity

On one hand experiencing a new culture and the local way of life is a big reason for why I went travelling in the first place. Living a different way of life is all part of seeing and experiencing new things. It’s exciting, it opens your eyes to the world and above all makes you simultaneously appreciate and dislike your own culture for what it is.

However, it’s also what made me feel the most homesick while I was travelling in South East Asia, and was the nicest feeling about coming home. After several border crossings involving rude, stern looking Asian men at the gates, it was refreshing to land at Heathrow and (although you might not believe it!) be greeted with smiles, pleases and thank you’s. It was convenient to spend my own currency, a relief not be constantly harassed to buy random items and so satisfying to eat a traditional Sunday Roast and proper cheddar cheese again. Like I said, it’s the little things that you miss. You really crave your home comforts when you’re away. As much as experiencing something completely different is one of the best things about travelling, if I had to choose one of these for long-term living, familiarity would win.

Experiencing a culture shock in Saigon - the place that made me feel the most homesick.

Experiencing a culture shock in Saigon – the place that made me feel the most homesick.

I have so many points to make on this subject that I’ve decided to divide the post into two to avoid it being one epic post! There is more to come in part two.

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