7 things I’ve realised about travelling.
Travelling is fucking (sorry for swearing Dad) the most awesome thing. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes it can be quite difficult, especially when you get used to a group of people you’re travelling with, so much so that when you end up moving onto different places you feel even more alone than when you did when you first stepped off the plane, but it’s been a really great experience so far.
I don’t know why but for some reason, I was scared that I wouldn’t make any friends. I was scared people would be judgemental, unfriendly if I said hello but I’ve been proven so wrong and I now have even more places to visit and free accommodations to stay in after this trip! Woohoo all about that free sofa.
Anyway, if anyone’s been travelling around and especially on local transport and using hostels as a base, perhaps you’ll be able to relate to the 7 things I’ve now realised are a thing. Like a GENUINE thing.
1. Anything more than £10 a night is insanely expensive and crazily insane to even consider
When I got to Medellin, I’d heard aaaaalllll about THE Los Patios hostel which is all fancy, sparkly, incredible BEDS AND MATTRESSES and it even has two bars, one in like a totally separate building. But then I heard it was £12/ night and I was flabbergasted by the price. £12/night? Have I just won the lottery? Do they think I shit gold? And hilariously, everyone has the same response. Should we spend £12/night at THE Los Patios which comes with fancy everything but no breakfast or stick with the usual £8/night. Decisions, decisions. Meanwhile, when I eventually go home, my breakfast with Sophie Gold will probably include poached eggs and avocado on gluten free toast and probably be like £20 so you know, I’m a hypocrite.
2. Hostel breakfasts on a budget
When you’re on a serious budget, as are some on the people I’ve met on this trip, ANY food goes. When I arrived in Guatape, there was an 18 year old on his first leg of travels eating rice, cucumber and a poached egg for breakfast that he’d bought in the supermarket. Then his poached egg failed and that sucked because he had only rice. Similarly, in the desert, a guy we met travelling brought a tin of tuna for lunch which meant Annie was surrounded by the cats she hates by the lunch table.
3. HOW DO YOU NOT FALL OUT OF THE TOP BUNK?!
This is actually a complete mystery to me, on parr with the Big Bang and whether life on Mars exists or not. How is it possible, that despite having no side to them, and if moving in your sleep is a thing, that I’ve never met anyone who’s actually fallen out of the top bunk yet?
4. Bus drivers trying to freeze you on a bus
My longest journey so far in South America has been a 14/15 night bus from Cartagena to Bucaramanga, and then a further 4 hours on smaller bus to arrive in San Gil. I was warned about the fact that bus drivers crank up the air con ridiculously high on a night bus which must obviously be down to the extreme hot climate at 3am .. I joke. In light of this, I wore about four layers which STILL wasn’t enough to stop the shivers (and also slightly worrying considering that’s basically all the layers I’ve got if I want to hike in Northern Peru). I was sitting next to a guy who had his wife and daughter in front, and who had a bandana on his face and a blanket over him. This man looked COLD as fuck and no wonder, the air con was on above him! The warmest part of this man was his arm, and I tried to shimmy up to his elbow without him noticing to try and warm myself up .. Later, as I’d passed out from the sleeping tablets I’d taken, he’d looked at me briefly and decided my shoulder/head would clearly provide HIM some warmth and decided to actively sleep on me. Not even accidentally. Judging from the fact we are now sleeping buddies, I asked him if he wanted me to turn off the air con because this poor man looked colder than I and he replied “‘No!”. So there we have it, even though he’s dressed for the Arctic and clearly as cold as fuck, and I’M now blue and purple from the coach, this guy is refusing to turn off the air con. I most definitely should have removed my head and let him sleep on the window. Later, I asked someone why the drivers crank the air con up so much, and my limited Spanish allowed me to understand it’s apparantely because the people of Cartagena smell… but that can’t be right as this is common everywhere so maybe everyone smells? Who knows.
5. “The Greatest Fear Of Our Time Is FOMO”
Aka “Fear Of Missing Out” Mum. And the quote is by someone I met in a hostel, whilst we were discussing this topic – and I believe it to be very true!
When I arrived in Salento, a bus ride away from Bogotá, there were only a few things to do. Salento is famed for a particular hike called Valle de Cócora where you walk amongst some of the biggest palm trees aswell as having numerous coffee farms to visit, where you can have an introduction into how coffee beans are grown. Due to having a few issues that I was trying to work through, I wasn’t in the mood to hike. Over the next few months I’ll be doing so many hikes, I can afford to miss ONE on the tourist trail, but the amount of people who questioned why I was even there if I didn’t choose this climb was at least more than 6. I started to feel guilty that everyone was doing this and I was choosing not to – and then doubting my decision based on other people’s opinion of me and my choice. Similarly, in other places I’ve been questioned for things I’ve done, places I’ve visited or not visited and journeys I’ve chosen to take that may be out of the ordinary. Slowly, slowly I’m learning to give less of a toss about what anyone else thinks about my journey and starting to decide on doing things for MY own reasoning rather than down to the fear of missing out.
6. Learn to trust, but trust nobody
From September to this very moment in February, Sevilla to Colombia to Peru to Chile and back to Colombia, I have met some incredible people. I have met people that I speak to every day like I’ve known them my entire life, even if we had only hung out for just a week. I have exchanged conversations with people about sensitive topics that I usually hide, with clarity and honesty. I have realised that the world is big and yet small at the same time. We may all have our different lives, our different stories about how we got to this part of our journey, different views, religions, races, faces, personalities but where there is love; where there is brutal acceptance of positives and flaws amongst friends, we are ALL connected. I have trusted people I’ve met within a few days with some of the darkest secrets I’ve had to carry around with me like a burden, and I feel totally secure and safe knowing that they’ll take the secret with them and help me through it, whenever I feel the need to ask. But obviously, with every golden gem I’ve met, I’ve also encountered people who have brought out insecurities within me as soon as I’ve let my boundaries lessen with them. I’ve felt their THEIR insecurities present themselves in different ways – whether it’s putting me down whilst acting like my friend, making me feel small or through different sarcastic comments presented as jokes but only created to humiliate. As much as I know that these people don’t bring me positive vibes, there’s still a small part of me that wishes to change the person, or somehow gain their acceptance. In doing so, I give away more of myself and I try and let them in more, whilst in return getting squashed down further and feel like shit on a stick. These are not people to trust, they are not people to let yourself be belittled by and in doing so, anyone who faults why you are feeling low is not a friend.
Another thing I’ve been acutely aware of, is that despite feeling like you’re best friends with your entire dormitory, you don’t know these people from Adam – and with that you also need to take care of yourself and your belongings. I recently had things stolen that I’d just put on my bed and now have found out it’s likely to have happened again. Therefore, despite feeling like hostels and people alike are godly, great and truthful, not everyone is and just like a poster I saw once in a hostel reminded me “be careful who you travel with”. This means when I eventually buy myself a nice, new expensive micro fibre towel due to the fact some dick has taken mine, I will be locking mine away, wet and smelly.
7. To travel and find yourself is the most truthful cliche I’ve ever heard in my life
Before I was put in a position where I was able to travel and before I felt like the world was the worst place ever created, I didn’t think much of the word “traveller” or “travel to find yourself, you guys” #travelhipsterxoxox. In fact, the whole aspect of this that I kept seeing and viewing I found really annoying to read and hear. I didn’t understand how a quote about finding yourself complete with an Instagram picture of perfect, poached eggs in Bali helped anyone find themselves other than a nice place for breakfast. 6 months later, having been on the dusty (and beachy/tropical/not very well made) roads for a little while, I can finally see the light now – maybe not so much about the Bali poached eggs but maybe that is someone finding themselves, in their own way. Or maybe it doesn’t have to even be able potentially FINDING yourself, because that just sounds like such a super simple, cliche thing to say doesn’t it? But one thing I think travelling does is open your mind to a world of hope, realisation and exploration. I can understand that when you travel alone and you have the willingness to embrace loneliness and listen to it; when you have the confidence to meet new people each with a wonderful story about how they’re got to this place, right here right now; the patience and the power to listen to your feelings instead of hiding it behind a face; the strength to be honest about your true and raw self to people in the same position and the perseverance to WANT to do better, and BE better, then you will. You have the space to think, to write, to read, to realise how lucky you are to live, to breathe and to be mindful of how you are more fortunate than half of the people you’re viewing living on the streets – purely by luck of an unfair draw.
We cannot change our past, we cannot change our beginnings, but we can do the best we can to create a stable future.
There was one particular point in my life where I did not see a point. I did not see a point in pretending to be happy when I had a seemingly, continuously ill father, a stressful family home that felt anything like home, a perfect grandad who due to life taking a shit on our heads was snatched from us and a broken relationship – all happening at the same time. I was convinced I was jinxed, and that I would continue to be jinxed as long as I lived. That one by one, different people were going to leave me in different ways. I did not see beyond the four walls of my house or through the train windows glaring at me, daring me to look outside the claustrophobia of London’s underground, packed with people looking miserable as hell. I was hiding and hiding behind a smile when I was so low and I couldn’t even talk about it properly without getting hysterical, so used was I to pretending everything was always so okay. But now? I can TELL people when I’m not okay, and in doing so feel SO MUCH BETTER. I can’t even explain how freeing it is, how happy I’ve been feeling knowing that I’m going to have good days, bad days, happy days, days of loneliness and days of feeling loved and whatever that mood is, but that’s okay because I’m surrounding myself with open, honest people in surroundings where I can relax and think slowly and peacefully.
Have I found myself? Possibly not. But am I feeling and finding what makes me tick and what I need to avoid to make me sad ? Yes.
Am I sometimes surrendering myself to the things I need to avoid in order to find out why they make me sad in the process? Yes.
Am I appreciative of the fact I have a loving family, a home and a life I should keep loving and living? Yes.
Am I finally finding what Emily needed to find for so long, slowly slowly?
YES. And I fricking love it.