I feel qualified to talk about travel after this year. My Facebook is decorated with iconic landmarks and in this world that means everything. It seems to mean that I’m carefree, liberal, spontaneous, that my life is cool and that I’m happy all the time in all of these great places. It paints it too easily, I’d read the same messages in the pictures.
I mean it’s not untrue (we all know I’m cool), but it forgets a lot of the other stuff. The planning, budgeting, anxiety, and just the plain fact that it’s not easy at all. I’ve worked some ridiculous hours to pull it off and I’m careful not carefree. I have anxiety anyway so airports are a stressful experience for me. I like adventure but only if it’s safe. You will never see me skydive – it won’t happen. My friends know that I won’t cross a road without a green light. I’ve been lost at 10pm in Rome after a two-day flight and I wasn’t laughing about it. My struggle to say no also landed me in a coffee shop with a questionably-motived older Italian man adamant that I should swap my hostel for his place. My common sense isn’t what you think it is.
Every trip you take is 100% likely not to be what you expected. And you have to go in with an adaptable attitude. We all smile for the photos – you won’t find one of me feeling sorry for myself in a McDonald’s because it’s the only thing I recognised in a desperate search for free wifi.
It’s not about the posed photos, it’s about the experience. It’s about getting yourself from A to B, deciding what to do each day inside a budget, it’s about learning to pack breakfast items into your bag for lunch later, it’s about having enough skepticism to stay safe, it’s about having a lame under-the-shirt travel wallet, it’s about dressing for comfort at the risk of fashion and telling strangers that you have a boyfriend when you don’t – it’s about practicality. It’s not what it looks like in the perfectly crafted photographs, but it’s not about those anyway.
It’s still beautiful and liberating but it comes at a cost. For me the cost is a heavy price of anxiety, for others it might be homesickness and for everyone it’s definitely a starved wallet. My experiences have been life-changing and completely worthwhile but the pretty photos aren’t everything, take them with a grain of realism because they’re not always what they look like.