The unglamorous side of travel

london arch door

Travelling always looks better from the outside. Instagram snaps, vivid as paintings. Pithy tweets and breathless postcards. You don’t see the slow travel days, the queues, the trips to ATMs and money exchange counters, the quests for toilet paper or pantyliners.

Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t give up this experience for anything. But here’s an unvarnished look at some of the least glamorous parts of travel…

Saturation point
You haven’t lived until you’ve experienced the squelch of sweat-soaked backpack straps on bare skin for hours on end. Mmm, moist.

Tiny thrones
Or perched sideways on the toilet because there’s no room to sit straight on it.

It’s always fun waiting for an hour in the scorching sun for your transfer to the bus. And then getting shunted off that bus later at either a) the border, and only a vague idea of how to proceed or b) in the dark in the middle of a new city with no idea where you are.

A bug’s life
Sandflies swarming your bed. Ants, roaches, lizards and more scuttling around your bathroom. Nothing to see here; move on, folks.

Dodgy doors
See that light filtering in through the cracks between the panels on the door? The gouges out of the edge on the bathroom door? Ain’t no thang.

Got any anecdotes of your own to share?

11 thoughts on “The unglamorous side of travel

  • Reply krantcents July 3, 2013 at 10:19

    I think you can avoid a lot of the downside of traveling except one. Eventually, you want to go home. My wife has told me that her limit away from is about 3 weeks. In some ways I agree. I guess I will have to do the around the world tour in steps!

    • Reply Vanessa July 4, 2013 at 09:11

      I agree. Once homesickness sets in, you couldn’t care less that you’re in Berlin or Prague or Paris — you just want to go home!

  • Reply KK @ Student Debt Survivor July 3, 2013 at 13:51

    Fruit (or the water that washed the fruit) that makes you vomit uncontrollably for 5 days (as my ex about this experience in the Dominican Republic-poor bugger). In my defense I told him not to eat the cut fruit, he told me he had a “stomach of steel”. Guess who was right? 😉

  • Reply cantaloupe July 3, 2013 at 16:58

    Taking a shower from a bucket. Or just not showering for as long as possible to avoid taking another bad shower. Going from lodging place to lodging place, looking for the least sketchy room. Arriving somewhere after everything is closed and having to eat at one of two gross looking restaurants that are still open. The stench of people you’re forced to sit next to for long bus/train/plane rides. Definitely echo KK’s food poisoning one. And also krancent’s wife’s complaint. Eventually, constantly being on the go and wearing the same backpack-full of clothes and not being in the same place for long enough to settle… that’s possibly the worst of all.

  • Reply Mrs PoP @ Planting Our Pennies July 4, 2013 at 01:55

    Squatting over a literal hole in the ground that was the public restroom while one of your traveling companions stands guard holding up a towel since there are no doors to the stalls.
    Getting the stink-eye from Serbian security officers who also happen to be holding late rifles.
    All fun times, though not sure I want a repeat at the moment. =)

  • Reply Budget and the Beach July 4, 2013 at 10:33

    I got seriously attacked by mosquitoes in Florence one time. Worst nights sleep ever!!! I hate bugs too!

  • Reply Michelle July 4, 2013 at 14:41

    The “squat” is a warm fuzzy memory from France, Italy, and Asia. Nice. Or, paying 30 pence so I can go to the Loo. Pisses me off. LOL.

  • Reply Lindsey @ Cents & Sensibility July 6, 2013 at 12:18

    So true. Traveling has it’s fair share of blah to go with the awe. Thanks for keeping it real!

  • Reply Mo' Money Mo' Houses July 9, 2013 at 14:36

    Oh I do miss all of those fun things haha. Though it’s so hot in Toronto right now it feels like I’m in Thailand again. So sweaty all the time!

  • Reply Linda July 11, 2013 at 08:32

    The further you are outside your normal day-to-day experiences, the more memorable the trip. For me, that would have been on the trip to Zambia I took over 15 years ago. Getting not one, but two flat tires on the road to Victoria Falls (and of course having only one spare!); being attacked by a large crane while staying at a safari camp (although the owner insisted it was tame and was only trying to “give me affection”); the power outages that left us cooking over the brai in the dark; the day we couldn’t run any errands because we were low on fuel and there was no petrol to be had in town…so many memories, all of them fun!

  • Reply Link love (Powered by bowling and butter chicken) | NZ Muse March 15, 2014 at 10:41

    […] Ashley sums up all my feelings about the Grand Canyon (like her, I heard mixed things about it but was blown away) and astutely observes that “we romanticise travel when so much of it is completely unromantic” (um, see this post on all the unglamorous stuff we don’t like to write about) […]

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