The Not-So-Glamorous Side Of Travel

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.

There is NOTHING wrong with being real

I posted this photo on Instagram on Tuesday night:
IMG_3799After talking to a fellow blogger today about the dangers of social media’s creation of fake perfection, talking to my soul doctor about the pressure to achieve impossible standards, and reading a line in the @girlspo_positive book about how social media often shows us only our peers’ highlight reels, I wanted to put it out there that there is absolutely NOTHING wrong with being real.
This is me, the unfiltered, unmade-up, end of the day, real me. It is unbrushed hair and PJs. It’s no make up. It’s insomnia and depression and anxiety. It’s dad’s freckles. It’s clumsy and insecure and unable to sit still. Its mistakes and lessons learnt and completely human. And that’s ok.
Keep posting the beautiful photos because it’s always good to look back and remember the perfect moments. But don’t think you have to delete the imperfect moments; those are the ones that make you real.

I did it in a moment of slight madness (since my mental health has taken a bit of a hit, I really don’t have many photos of me anymore) and was surprised at the really positive responses that came at me, including a very good friend posting her own photo and “be real” message the next day. The reactions this photo generated made me think that we have some real problems if being real is no longer the norm and garners such praise…

When I took this photo on Tuesday night, it had been a long day. I was still recovering from the whirlwind birthday weekend that ended up playing out despite my initial reservations and protests. Monday, my actual birthday, presented some challenges centering mostly around food, which were compounded by some of the relationships in my life. Tuesday was a full work day, punctuated by a quick tea/coffee date with fellow blogger Lisa from Lisa Eats World.

I can’t remember who I heard this from, but I remember being at some kind of bloggy event a while ago and someone saying that if you read something interesting from someone you find fascinating and inspiring, reach out and see if they want to grab a coffee with you. Just before going to Japan, I read Lisa’s post about how she quit her job to become a full time freelance writer, instead of it being just something she dabbled in on the side. I was intrigued at this lady who was brave enough to do something I’d always dreamed of, and wanted to find out more, so I sent her an email and we decided to catch up when I got back from Japan. Among other things, Lisa and I spoke about how dangerous social media can be in creating false impressions. I’m no longer on Facebook in large part because of the constant “keeping up with the Jones'” attitude so many people had started taking and the competition to have the most publically perfect life. Not for me, thanks.

A few hours later, I had an appointment with my “soul doctor” (AKA my psychologist), and it was a good one. There was a lot of helpful information to come out of the session, including this absolute best piece of advice I think I’ve ever heard from a medical professional: “you need to be kinder to yourself and learn to accept your new lifestyle, and everything that comes with it.” This was on the back of my answer to the question of how often do you exercise – “every day!” I said, without hesitation, almost surprised at being asked. Without working out every day, how could I possibly control the damage that eating would do to me?? My soul doctor smiled at me and told me gently that I didn’t need to do that anymore. That exercise should be something you do because you love your body and want to keep it healthy, not to punish it for fueling itself. Anyway, that got me thinking – accept my new lifestyle. I didn’t need to be a fitness freak anymore, that’s not my job now, nor is it my passion. I have permission to let that go. I don’t have to look like a perfect little gym bunny anymore. I can be more “real.”

After that, I got home and sat down to my Girlspo+ workbook, and happened to be up to the chapter on comparisons. Reading the line about how are always comparing ourselves to everyone else’s highlights reels hit me hard, because it’s SO true. No one ever posts the unglamorous, embarrassing, real life shit on their social media accounts, because we want to present images to the world that show how fabulous our lives are. I hope that’s not how I come across, because I’ll be the first to admit my life is anything but glamorous. So I posted this picture.

IMG_3799

This was me at around 10pm Tuesday night, after everything that had come before that point.
This is me, for real.
This is no filter (how hard that was!), no make up, no straightened hair.
This is a full day on 5 hours sleep.
This is the rash on my neck that pops up when I get stressed and anxious, and the corresponding rash that presents in bleeding welts all over my scalp.
This is depression and anxiety and disordered eating and insomnia.
This is a daughter and sister and wife and friend.
This is bingeing and purging and dieting, over and again.
This is laughing with friends over the stupidest jokes.
This is crying with them when they’ve been hurt.
This is 12 tattoos and stretch marks and cellulite and surgery scars.
This is my dad’s freckles and my grandmother’s auburn hair.
This is a wealth of knowledge from reading more books than you could imagine.
This is a dream to travel and explore and learn.
This is trying to turn it all around.
This is a determined smile knowing that all the hard work is starting to pay off.
This is a tired smile knowing that I’m lucky enough to have the opportunity to live tomorrow, all over again.

Behind every few pictures of the beautiful homemade meals that pop up on my Instagram, there’s been an epic fuck up, like an oven set to grill instead of bake (seriously).
Behind every amazing travel shot, there has been nights out with friends missed, extra work undertaken, and wearing the same clothes year in year out to save the money to get there and take that shot (again, seriously, I’ve had this skirt since year 10…).
Behind almost every incredible burger and cupcake you see, there has most likely been a lot of self-hatred and harmful behaviour and thoughts afterwards.
Behind all those lovely cups and pots of tea, there’s often been tears or anxiety attacks that have led to their necessity.
Behind all the books you see me reading, there’s an underlying need to escape reality.
Behind every photo of my tattooed legs, there is an insecure girl who doesn’t believe the unadorned parts of herself are worth recording or being seen.

But all those fuck ups and sacrifices and anxiety attacks and scars add up to a real person. Not a pretty, perfectly curated life for and on social media, but an actual living, breathing human. And the whole point of this rant is that there is absolutely nothing wrong with posting the beautiful shots that we work so hard for. Keep posting the money shots of the sunsets in foreign lands – you worked hard to earn that! Post those gorgeous new shoes you worked hard to earn the money for. Post the gym shots that show off the body you put the hours of sweat in to earn. But don’t think that you need to delete every imperfect moment that led up to those shots, because those moments are your life.

Post some of those real moments while you keep posting the beautiful, perfect ones. Because those perfect shots are only possible because of all the imperfect moments that came before them. Those perfect captures are the moments created by your sacrifices and hardships and fuck ups, and they make you REAL, and that’s not something you should ever feel the need to delete.

S1, Ep1: Pilot

Have you ever been so incredibly distracted from your life, for a reason you can’t quite put your finger on? I have. I am.

Things are pretty good for me on paper, and I certainly don’t take that for granted. I have a loving husband, a beautiful home, a good, well-paying job, wonderful friends and family. I’m pretty healthy and strong, have a great support network, a cute little dog that follows me like a shadow, and I’m very thankful for all of that, truly.

But my soul isn’t comfortable. It aches. It aches for something more. I know I should be happy and content, but something in me is telling me that I shouldn’t be content with life. I should be striving for more, for bigger, for more adventurous, more amazing, more exciting. Something tells me that I should aim for more than content, that I’m worth more than that. Buggered if I know how to go about it though…

I’m a regular, every day girl. I’ve struggled with (still do to an extent) depression and body image issues. I come from a fairly typical, close-knit Italian family. I graduated high school and went straight to uni to earn a degree, because that’s what you’re “meant to do.” Then I got a job. Got engaged. Built a house. Got married. Kept working. Acted sensibly, especially with my money. Never splurge money on expensive shoes. Not even magazines. Didn’t take any risks, because I was taught not to. Always better safe than sorry.

Then, a couple of years ago, I quit my decent job and decided to take a risk by becoming a travel consultant. It was certainly not all it was cracked up to be – the hours were pretty rotten, the pay was horrible, the stress was completely relentless, as was the pressure from management to make more and more and more money. It was not the job for me long term. It did too much damage.

It also, however, gave me an opportunity to do a bit of travel, which is something I’ve always wanted to do. I feel a pull and a need to travel like most normal women feel to become mothers. I don’t have the maternal gene; I have the wanderlust gene instead. I know, in my bones I know, that my purpose on this planet in the short time I have is to travel and see and experience as much of the world as possible. I’m sure that’s not the end of my calling, because I still feel my soul twitching a little, but I know I’m on the right track now. My short time working as a travel consultant (just over 2 years) allowed me the opportunity to travel a little domestically, within Australia, but also to Christchurch in New Zealand, Koh Samui & Koh Phangan in Thailand, and Cancun & Isla Mujeres in Mexico. It also afforded my husband and I the opportunity to travel for 4 weeks to Egypt, around Italy, London, Paris and Barcelona.

It was my life dream to travel to Egypt, and I’d finally realised that dream. It awoke something within me; I finally started to realise that I had the ability to make my dreams come true. Even something as utterly impossible as travelling to Egypt (it sure as hell seemed impossible to a 9 year old girl with no pocket money!). I actually had it within me to make it happen!

With that new mindset, I made more plans to travel, mostly with my like-minded and very wonderful husband. We started working a lot harder to save our pennies so that they could be put towards experiences instead of things, including selling our large 4 bedroom home, and downgrading to a perfect little 2 bedroom townhouse, and me searching hard for and finally finding a better paying job, as well as personal training on the side for a bit of extra income.

When I blacked out on the train to work this morning, I jumped off at the next station, called my husband, and asked him to bring me home. I think it was my body finally manifesting what my soul has been feeling. It’s overwhelmed; I’m doing too much, and my brain is completely muddled because of it! I’m also a creative person by nature who isn’t really doing anything creative right now, and my body and soul recognised that before my brain did, clearly!

So, here we are. I’ve created a space where I can write, and share the things I love, both locally in my beautiful city of Melbourne, as well as globally on my travels. I want to share the wonderful things that helped awaken my inner wanderlust-bug; food, markets, fashion, real people, street art, shops, photos of beautiful places unknown, recipes I’ve been inspired to create and/or re-create, books I’ve read that have inspired me, even accommodation and restaurant recommendations! I’m thankful that I’m finally starting to find my life’s meaning after so many years of searching, and I hope that I can use this blog to help even just one other person do the same  : )

Life is short, and you only live once… but if you live it right, once is enough!