Long term traveling comes with a price- and not just monetarily. You will have to give up more than you think to gain more than you can imagine. Along the way there will be shock and horror…and pleasure and excitement. You’ll be rattled to your core and broken down to your essential self- for the most part possession less. All in the name of becoming a nomadic warrior.
Initially, many shockwaves hit me- mostly accommodation related. ““HostelWorld”” (the booking site nearly every backpacker uses to find nearby hostels) can equal “hostile world” if you’re not mentally prepared. In my case, I was not. Giving up any and all personal space was not appealing to me but it was necessary. To travel on $50 a day, dorm rooms are many times your only option.
I was not ready to sleep in bunkbeds with strangers breathing heavy in the bed next to me. I was not expecting the complete and utter lack of privacy.
I was never expecting accommodation to be in a house that was old and dirty and full of Middle Aged men, but it can happen.
I suppose the image I had of hostels was ruined by the brand new nicely modeled hostel I first stayed at in Madrid- U-Hostel. It was spotless and felt more like a hotel. It was an easy introduction to the world of hostels. My standards were skewed.
The second hostel I stayed at in Portugal had an old rickety couch with food crumbs all over it when we checked in and I was mortified. (Yes, my bitchy princess came out and I was literally disgusted with this place.) It was old and dirty and had VHS tapes stacked in the living room next to the dirty couch with torn cushions. We had to wait on that couch for 4 hours until our room was ready. We had no choice but to stay- we had already paid. At this point I figured I had officially been inducted to the world of living in hostels.
But no, there was more!
Nothing could prepare me for the couples that would bunk up next to me- making me feel not only very uncomfortable but really lonely. “Why can’t they just get their own room?!” I’ve mentally shouted in those moments. Often times the double rooms are close to the same price as the dorms. Maybe they are couples that have only just met, though? I’m no prude, but I mean…come on people!
Regardless, it’s a bit of a culture shock for me- a girl whose had her own apartment the last four years. In addition I was newly single and the last thing I wanted to see was happy freaking couples in bed. Just…no.
Back home I was very used to my own space. My things. My food. My bed. My pillow. All my stuff and no one to mess with it. All my cozy things in my little comfort zone. I had my sanctuary of an apartment and I gave that all up… For this?
So the big question is: Is it worth it?
Of course it is.
“To travel is worth any cost or sacrifice,” says one of my role models, Liz Gilbert. And it’s very true.
You learn to cope with the uncomfortable and sometimes the unbearable for the sake of seeing a country you’ve only ever dreamt about. Each experience pushes you out of your comfort zones and expands your horizons. Just over a month ago I was on the bus ride to from hell (seemingly) headed to Prague. It was worse than any bus ride I had experienced in my life (even the dreadful ones in middle school where I was picked on and bullied). There was no toilet, little to no English speakers on board and no pit stop in sight for four hours and to top it off…crying/screaming children. But in the end the reward of experiencing such a beautiful city made it worth every uncomfortable hour it took to get there.
Sometimes sacrifices must be made. Sometimes you will have to share a dorm room with loud British drunk girls who wake everyone up at 4 AM while they stumble around looking for tooth paste to wash away the whiskey and cigarettes. Sometimes you’re room mates won’t speak English at all and you’ll have an awkward looming cloud hanging over your bunk beds. Sometimes your room mates steal things- so always lock up your valuables. This one I’ve seen and heard about too many times.
Sometimes you won’t sleep in a bed at all and you’ll have to fly overnight in order to save cash on the cheaper flight option. (This is why my argument stands on bringing a nice pillow from home.)
Traveling comes with sacrifice and cost and risk taking, but at the end of the day- at the end of the long road- it is all SO worth it. The experiences I have had and the stories I have to tell are endless, timeless and priceless. The road has made me appreciate home but also has made me realize how strong and flexible I really can be.
It’s amazing what can happen when you put your bitchy princess attitude in the backseat for a while and just go with the flow.