Taking 4 months off work to travel the world. Four months of leaving behind the everyday mundane tasks of the real world. 17 weeks of excitement and adventure. 120 days of doing whatever we wanted, with no real obligations or forced commitments. Sounds so glamorous and carefree and magical…
I thought I owed it to everyone who’s ever been jealous of the fabulous life of a traveller to share some harsh and hilarious reality. Anyone who’s stalked an Instagram account and just about been reduced to tears because every shot is SO perfect. Anyone who’s believed that it is all glamorous and wonderful, all the time. Anyone who thinks it was easy and fancy free the whole time.
Don’t misunderstand me; I had the time of my life and wouldn’t trade the months we spent away for anything! This isn’t a woe-is-me, “OMG I like totally freaked out when my hair straightener broke down” post. This is the real shit we dealt with, the parts that didn’t quite make the Instagram cut, the not-so-pretty but completely hilarious, comical, and every bit as memorable stuff.
We like to romanticise travel and imagine ourselves as glamorous Grace Kelly types, effortlessly and gracefully navigating our way through airports and train stations and cities and restaurants while our red lipstick stays in place. It ain’t always like that. Enjoy a good laugh at my expense; this is the other side.
Over the 4 months we were away, I’ve had to…
– Spread peanut butter onto a bread roll with a pen because you can’t always get a knife in the Canadian Rockies.
– Dry myself after my showers for several days with a hair dryer when a towel wasn’t provided.
– Carry luggage up 80 rickety old stairs on a very narrow staircase to get to our accommodation.
– Lug around 35kg of luggage a kilometre (mostly up hill) to get to a train station in a ‘cute’ old medieval town with footpaths to match. On a stinking hot day. In a floor length skirt. That was the last day I tried to look like a classy lady traveller.
– Boil water for tea in pots on cook tops when we were lucky enough to have a cook top, or microwave it when I was desperate and with no other options. FYI, microwaved water does not make a cup of tea your nanna would approve of.
– Bathe in a shower with only 3 walls and a defective shower curtain a few inches too short. Water. EVERYWHERE.
– Wash not only socks and undies in the sink, but jeans, jumpers and dresses. And then try to find ways to get them to dry in time.
– Wash my hair with only one hand while the other hand held the shower head to rinse with, while trying not to flood the bathroom by accidentally mis-aiming and shooting the water through the shower curtain. If you know how long and thick my hair is, you’ll understand what a completely ridiculous and inelegant undertaking this would be.
– Move from one train carriage to another, mid-ride, with all of our luggage, after some asshole decided to light up and have a smoke in the bathroom, set off the alarm, then lock the door so the conductor couldn’t get in to turn it off.
– Arrive at a hotel lobby absolutely dripping wet after being caught in a downpour on the 1km walk from the train station. Apologies to the hotel we left puddles of water in.
– Move 2 large suitcases, 3 backpacks, 1 sports bag and 2 boxes of groceries all of 10 metres, from car to front door, in the middle of an Icelandic snow storm, complete with snow, rain and gale force winds, without skidding out on the ice covering the driveway and front steps (because it would have been too easy without steps).
– Walk down 5 flights of stairs to get to the shower because the apartment we stayed in was so small it had no room for a bathroom. And then back up 5 flights of stairs afterwards. Oh, and the toilet was in a separate room, too.
– Carry my own tea bags for the times where ordering a cup of boiling water was easier than explaining how to make a cup of tea (America, I’m talking to you).
– Try to locate an Airbnb apartment in a country where I not only can’t speak the language but can’t even read the writing due to the use of a different alphabet, after being given the wrong address and with no internet. Then I got to be the super unglamorous traveller who had to locate a Starbucks outlet to hover around so I could use their free WiFi (thanks for saving our asses, Starbucks – we love you!!!).
– Find an English speaking doctor in a European country to remove an infected ingrown toe nail. And then walk around the city in thongs (flip flops). In winter. While people looked at me like I was a little mentally unstable.
– Sit in the seat behind a small child for a 2 hour flight who had no parental supervision and had just learnt to recline her seat. I spend most of the flight with the seat in front of me basically resting on my thighs. It was great.
– Put on thermal socks, snow boots, 2 jackets, gloves and a beanie over my PJs to walk through ankle deep snow in -12°C Icelandic forest to get to the bathroom.