I think every single frequent traveler loves being a frequent traveler. We love it even when it brings difficulties and so called travelers’ struggles. This summer I decided to stay home and receive my friends from all over the world to show them my area. My next travel season is starting very soon, and while getting ready for it, I’m writing this new Traveler’s Collection entry.
I also want to mention that a year ago I did a summer school called Global Village, where I met most of my current international friends. A few weeks ago, a new generation of Global Villagers has finished the program, and I know very well how are they feeling at the moment.
I kinda dedicate this article to my fellow villagers and people who have studied or worked abroad.
Who is a frequent traveler?
Before starting, I’d like to clarify what I mean when I say “frequent traveler”. In my words, a short definition of that term could be something like – a person who invests most of his or her money, time, and energy in traveling and planning the travels. I would also like to say that most frequent travelers lived abroad for some time, did some school and/or work in different countries, and they really know people from different countries.
Even though many people visited a large number of countries, usually by planning their holidays/vacations or weekend city breaks wisely, they are not necessarily frequent travelers. But it’s just my opinion. I just don’t think that many of them truly met the reality of different countries places or people. Many of them were either looking for the cheapest international restaurants in every city they visited or they were staying in a luxury holiday resort where they enjoyed a ready-made experience away from locals. Being a frequent traveler is something else.
So, most frequent travelers are people who love to explore, to create, and understand. I say I find #myfundiscoveries when finding some off-the-beaten-path curiosities, and that’s my hashtag for Instagram. Use it when you feel like you found your #myfundiscoveries.
This was my first suggestion for frequent travelers (laugh), but let’s go to the point of this article. What are these 5 struggles and how to overcome them?
Struggle 1: Boring “travel questions” and superficial comments
Most of my family and close friends love to travel, and some of them can also be considered frequent travelers. But, it’s not 100% of them. One of the common travelers’ struggles is coming back home and dealing with local conversations about life (laugh).
Non-travelers are likely to make some typical, annoying comments or questions such as – “you travel so much”, “I wish I could, but I can’t”, “it’s so easy when you are single and/or childless”, “It’s so easy with your kind of job”, “it’s easy for you because of whatever reasons”, “do you feel bored/afraid/you name it when traveling”, “how do you find money for that”. More extreme comments are likely to be “I would never go to that destination, there are so many <insert a group of people some might have prejudices about> over there”, or “you are privileged”. Ever happened to you?
If you have made many international friends, your old friends at home or relatives may show they skepticism. Led by their own, authentic lives and experiences, they might say, “I think friends are people we see every day, not people we met once and will maybe see next year”.
Travelers may need to be well-prepared to respond to these provocations.
See also: Museums, Travelers, and Romance
What to do?
The best thought to have inside your mind is I don’t care about your opinion, but I would just suggest a little bit of empathy for all the people who say these things. Many of them say silly things because that’s the only way they are, it’s because their lives, experiences, and choices are different than yours. They just don’t understand your reality. So, don’t say “I don’t care about you” loudly.
Sometimes they really try to understand your lifestyle, but they don’t know how.
One thing I do, and I would recommend to other travelers is to take an approach similar to the one used while traveling – the way you learn what behaviors and situations are to be avoided in foreign countries, learn what to avoid when surrounded by people from your hometown, region, or country.
In other words, use your travel experience and wisdom to understand your local community.
Travelers are always a minority. Common people may or may not like to listen about travels. Learn what they like. Build bridges between people. However, never forget to defend your passions and interests, don’t let anyone destroy your dreams and beliefs in friendships you made.
Struggle 2. Annoying (and false) assumptions about certain people or places
This is a kind of situation every traveler faces time by time, and more you travel, you will feel it more often. When you come back home, you will hear conversations between people saying things like – “that country is poor”, “people of that country are cold”, “these people are extremely traditional (or lazy, materialistic whatever)”, “it’s a conflict zone”. I call it one of the travelers’ struggles because it affects our emotions about everything we live and experience. While we know a certain reality, these people don’t, but they don’t hesitate to say things we know that are false.
In most cases, these assumptions are a sort of half-truths. They have some reasons to be, but it’s not that easy to understand. The worldviews or living standards of common people in a foreign country are a more complex topic than a newspaper article or a YouTube video about one particular case that happened.
To avoid engaging in sensitive topics in this article, I will just give a few of banal examples:
“In America, you can only eat fast food”
“Scandinavians drink alcohol in the sauna”
“On the streets of Lisbon (Portugal), there are guys offering drugs”
Okay, these assumptions are not lies at all. There is a range of fast food choices in America, many of them a bit unfamiliar to Europeans. Some Scandinavians are passionate weekend drinkers. There are weird guys saying “haxixe, haxixe” in Lisbon (in most cases their “haxixe” is actually a cheap tea).
But in reality, there are healthy food choices in America. Most Scandinavians don’t drink on weekdays, therefore you will not see them drinking in the sauna on a Monday evening. There are a few streets of Lisbon where the fake drug guys walk around trying to sell. Lisbon is not that small, it has much more streets.
Maybe you heard some similar assumptions about Croatia. Did you? For instance, “the fish dishes in coastal restaurants are bad and expensive”? Don’t worry, I will recommend you where to try the best fish dishes if you ask me 😉
What to do?
To be or not to be? To explain or not to explain?
When I have a pretty fine understatement about a particular topic, and a person shows interest to know, I explain. I do it simply because people have a right to know real things, regardless of the mass media half-truths.
When I don’t have so detailed insights about something, I just say “I don’t know, but I have a feeling…”, or “I know a person x or y, they told me this or that”. Then, I try to invest some effort to understand it better.
Struggle 3: Buying things
Financial resources are always limited and many travelers need to save money and avoid buying stuff in order to have funds for traveling. However, we all need to buy some things.
Clothes, shoes, phones, computers, you name it. The cheapest price level is usually a huge NO. So, how to deal with expenses on things, if we need to have enough money for plane and bus tickets?
It’s frustrating. It leads us to overthink. We may read various kinds of suggestions what to buy and we get confused.
See also: How to travel?
What to do?
Things are to be used, people are to be loved.
Buy experience, not things.
These are a few quotes all the travelers love.
By buying things we will use, we just give ourselves a pleasure of having something we need. I will not reveal which brands of shoes, bags, or phones I usually have, because I do not advertise them, but these are mostly well-known, reliable brands I know that will serve me for a while.
There are also cheap things that can be useful and perfect for a traveler’s limited budget – for instance, I buy most of my summer clothes (apart from sandals, swim suits, and evening dresses) in supermarkets for 5-7 euros. I don’t bother giving a lot of money for things that can be easily damaged.
With a focus on people and experiences, things we buy should be simple utilities and something that help us achieving the greatest moments we can have.
Struggle 4: The fear of missing out
There is a real thing in “the fear of missing out”. Usually associated with the use of social media and the constant need to keeping yourself hyper-informed, this term can also be applied to frequent travelers who would simply love to travel all the time, and to be on any occasion they like to be in other countries and areas – these occasions can be concerts, festivals, sport events, or, in my case conferences or exhibitions in museums.
I know that there are full-time travelers and that many of them write about it on their blogs. I am not one of them. My job allows me a certain flexibility, which means that I’m in a better position than people who work on regular jobs so their travel choices are limited to the holiday time. It’s not only a frequent travelers’ struggle, but also a “dreamers’ struggle”,
As I’m not a full-time traveler and I can’t afford traveling to any place I want when there is an occasion (in the case of some friends wedding in Australia for instance, I could not afford to travel to Australia for that occasion, unless someone else pays me the trip), I know how painful it might be when you see other people being in some places, enjoying some moments that you are not able to do.
See also: A wonderful weekend in Lisbon in 4 steps
What to do?
The same as I said in the previous chapter – set priorities. Anything can be done if priorities are clear, and any occasion is reachable if planned on time.
In my previous article titled “how to travel” I wrote a set of simple ideas for planning travels wisely and taking the most out of them. There are many ways to attend the desired events and see the cities and countries at the same time.
Visiting friends in other countries can be a great idea to get to know the place where they live. Everyone has some relatives living abroad – why not to visit them? So many people miss that opportunity, after being invited many times.
Struggle 5: Laziness and motivation
This travelers’ struggle is not only about starting doing, about getting ready, or enthusiastic, or being hard working or disciplined. There is no one single way that works for all the people. Every traveler faces a lack of motivation sometimes, for a number of reasons. I also feel lazy and unmotivated sometimes when I shouldn’t.
Most frequent travelers overcame the need for comfort. Travel and comfort are generally two opposite things unless you are always staying in top-class hotels. People who can afford it have a great time traveling, but I don’t think they enjoy their travels more than the rest of us.
Anyway, when a trip becomes long, the homesickness increases along with the need for some comfort.
There is no way to have the same level of energy and motivation all the time. Summers and winters may be exhausting even when you are staying home. These long periods of time when the weather conditions are a kind of extreme limit our motivation to go out and explore, even in our close surroundings.
The contrast between traveling and non-traveling time might be mentally exhausting. After coming back, the adrenaline level drops, and the need for sleep and relaxation increases, which may cause laziness.
It’s impossible to sleep well every night. When waking up in the morning and feeling still very tired, I don’t mean sleepy or clumsy but really tired, and I planned to visit three museums in a day, I can’t give up easily.
When I don’t feel like working and I need to get the stuff done for the client in order to earn money, how can I get motivated? Regular jobs in most cases include a to-do list received from the boss, but as my clients need my creative work rather than administrative work, I need to plan by myself. It means that fixed working hours are usually a no-no. Some kinds of creative work are easier to do when traveling, on the train or in the crowded hostel than in a quiet office.
What to do?
A balanced diet helps me a lot. It does not necessarily mean “only healthy food”, even though I try to consume less fast food, sugars, etc. In my country and surroundings, it’s common to assist to many food-rich hangouts, with delicious and exclusive meat, fish, or seafood choices on the table. I need to balance how much do I consume so I don’t get tired. While most people go to rest after these gatherings, I try going out and walk or swim (in the summer, when I’m at my seaside home).
I used to skip meals when traveling. To me, having a lunch at 1 pm was a waste of time and money. Why eating at that time, if I can have one good meal at 6 pm? Then I realized I should rethink the way I get my energy. I didn’t need to order a main dish in a restaurant and I much less needed a bakery product. Instead, I would take a nice smoothie or a soup. Museum restaurants are perfect places to have a light lunch.
When it comes to sleeping, people have different patterns so I will not say much about it. I can’t agree with the suggestions of waking up at 6 am, because I am naturally not an early riser, and I don’t feel guilty because of that. I tried being one, and I could not be more productive than I was when I was waking up at 8 am. No exciting breakfasts or morning walks helped because I was feeling sleepy again soon.
I also work best at night, and there is no way I sleep well before the midnight. (I have heard some “scientific facts” that the best sleep occurs between 10 pm and midnight, but such conclusions cannot be applied to all the people) If you are similar to me, just don’t feel bad about it. Things are changing and many companies are moving their opening times from 8 to 9 or even 10. Natural early risers are surely helpful to their employers, but employers also understood that they don’t need sleepy employees.
Find your own traveling and working rhythm and adapt everything else to that rhythm. Be honest with your friends, colleagues, clients and other important people about it. If you do all the things fairly, they will not mind about the time when you do it.
Traveling with friends is a challenge. If you are enthusiastic about a destination, it’s easy to start calling your friends lazy because they don’t have that much energy to spend the whole day walking around the city. There might be days you will feel less motivated than them. I don’t mind if we split and go our own ways for some time.
But as a kind of control freak (laugh) I used to get frustrated when people wanted to do different things when traveling together. I wanted all of us to go together everywhere and to eat the same kind of food. It’s impossible, but we can still be friends.
With the “friends topic”, I’m finishing this long article. I hope you enjoyed it! What struggles do you face as a traveler? Share it with me. I especially want to hear from travelers who work in different professional areas.