Robbie and I are in month two of our epic criss cross of South America. And while we’ve seen and experienced some incredible things (that giant ass glacier, those creepy ass Moai), we’ve also had ample time to contemplate all the shitty things about long term travel. Yes, there are plenty and there’re not the typical woes, mind you. Not the sad aspects of the world, type of woes. I’m talking about the unexpected woes, the relatively #firstworldproblem woes.
But first, when I say “long term travel,” I’m not referring to the type of traveling done by the 50,000 German or French people we have met on this trip (p.s. do you ever work??) That is, two years of staying in one city for a few months then moving on to rinse and repeat. Honey, that ain’t traveling. That’s a lifestyle. And by making roots in a place, you’re able to avoid most of the list below. I know because I’ve done the long-term thing. I’ve also done the 2-week vacation. Both are far more pleasant.
But I have never done this type of traveling. I’m talking about serious nomadic gypsy shit here. Like unpack one day and repack— to your dismay—the very next day. This is our choice. We have “limited” time to see what we want to see in South America (truly, one cannot see five countries in three months). Therefore, upon creation of our Google Doc, a course was drawn in the most efficient way imaginable. So far, it has looked like this train wreck of a journey:
We’ve covered a lot of ground in haphazard, mental fashion but it hasn’t been without due insanity. So I bring you my honest, awkward list of 7 shitty things about long term travel:
#1 You experience a range of discomforts
Showers. Beds. Wi-fi. At my age and in my current situation (half of a couple), I am no longer sleeping at $3 per night hostels. Comfort matters, especially when it effects my old woman ability to function as a human being. However, being nomadic means exposing yourself to the elements, no matter how many TripAdvisor or Booking.com references you read in preparation. The elements involve little things. A shower that spills out everywhere or is clogged with other travelers’ hair. A hostel bunkbed the squeaks every time your bunkmate twitches. Slow Wi-fi versus no Wi-fi, the latter being infinitely better to prevent wrath. An overnight “executive suite” bus that ends up being run by Bible thumpers.
#2 You YOLO it up, every f*&$in time
With every new place, it’s easy to exclaim, “Wow! We will never be here again. Let’s do ____!” Or “Let’s eat ____!” I’ve a big fan of ____ in general. And I love food. It’s just that grabbing life by the balls leads to consequences. Mainly, a rapidly declining bank account. And an expanding waistline.
#3 Your clothes suck and they stink
I made life or death decisions about what to pack for this trip, knowing I would have to become more than friendly with my choices. And though I still managed to overpack for the occasion and continue to carry a deformed turtle on my back, I seriously hate my clothes right now. Every day is the same. Do I wear…They are starting to accumulate holes. And stains. And nothing smells good once it’s stuffed inside my backpack. It’s hard to embrace the slouchy, dirty hippie lifestyle.
#4 You really test your relationship
When you’ve been in a committed relationship for years, it’s inevitable that you have suffered through normal travel woes together. Delays and cancellations. Food poisoning and diarrhea. Unattractive and smelly commutes. If you get through that, awesome. You’ll be okay. But 24/7 of long term travel exposure is, well, a test of sanity. Sure, we get social breaks and purposely sequester ourselves off from one another in different rooms or activities. But we don’t have really have jobs. And we don’t really have other people. You’d think all these amazing vacation moments would be romantic. But our version of true intimacy is watching a glorious sunset over wine… while ad-libbing what the honeymooners next to us are whispering to each other as they make out (not staged, I swear).
#5 You relish the idea of staying in a room for more than two nights
We are currently at a hostel in Buenos Aires for four nights. FOUR NIGHTS. This is, and will be, the longest time we will stay in one place since starting our trip. I am so friggin’ excited to use the shelf space in our room (so, so rare). I am so friggin’ excited to throw dirty laundry around the room in glee. But mostly, I am so friggin’ excited to not worry about repacking tomorrow morning.
#6 You forget to do girl stuff
At “home” I have an OCD counter. This counter is meticulously lined with everything I need to transform into a (feminists, beware) passable woman: tweezers, razors, various creams, gels, bleach kits, you name it. However, when I am traveling, I don’t often have a counter. My shit is tucked into a toiletry kit or backpack or random pocket. And thus, I don’t see it. I don’t have a visual reminder to engage in feminine behavior. And then a week goes by and I look into a mirror and I notice I have a uni-brow. I look down and have hairy ankles (anklets are a bitch). Part of the blame, however, has to do with point #2. How does one shave her legs with no WALL in the shower?!
#7 You long for routine
Our days fall into three categories: traveling days, activity days, and down days. Surprisingly, I need more down days than I ever expected. No one has the money or energy to go go go every damn day when they’re traveling. Maybe on a two-week jaunt but this shit gets old. In reality, we both fluctuate between loving long term travel and simultaneously hungering for a sense of home and community. And a job. Who would have thunk it?