To explore the world is a gift which the majority of the world will never have the opportunity to do, and that’s something I try never to lose sight of. When I meet people in impoverished countries around the world, they smile from ear to ear when they hear about where I’ve been and I enjoy sharing my stories with them, but so frequently the conversation ends with “Wow, I wish I could travel like you”, and pangs of guilt strike me every time. I should say that I’m an all or nothing guy, I truly believe you have to know pain to know pleasure, so strong emotions make me who I am. That being said the guilt I mentioned made me self reflect on other emotions I experience when I’m on the road.
1) Sympathy/Empathy/Pity: Walking the streets of India, Rwanda, the Philippines or wherever seeing so many people on the streets begging with a look so sorrowful in their eyes that you find yourself reaching for your wallet every 5 minutes. You can only see so many disabled, so many homeless, so many children crying at your feet before it affects you. I always assumed I would get hardened to it the more I travel but the truth is that the more I travel, the worse I feel for them and the more I feel the need to help.
2) Exhilaration: This can come in different forms. Naturally, bungee jumping in Macau or sky diving in NZ will exhilarate us and that’s awesome, I live for that stuff. But also I’m talking about the feeling when you’re in a new country or a new experience and you get that sense of realization of “Holy sh*t, I’m actually in X”. I got that a lot when I crossed Sydney Harbour Bridge every day in Australia on the way to work, I would see the Opera House and have to shake myself to prove that I was actually living and working in Sydney, amazing!
3) Fear: First of all, you need it – if you don’t have it, you’re probably an idiot. Secondly, the relief of coming out the otherside is a huge high! Fear strikes in different ways, and managing it when you’re on the road has a real benefit for your life. If you’re irrationally scared when you’re traveling, you simply won’t cope so you get over it and that lasts with you forever. If it’s not irrational and you think your drunk bus driver is probably going to kill you, then use the fear, get off and enjoy the rest of your life.
4) Love: Definitely a strong one. Love hits you in different ways on the road, love for a country, love for your old friends and family, love for your new friends. All of it is awesome, to break your comfort zone and find love in something you’re either doing now or missing from back home is a great thing, so go with it. Some people go their whole life without it, and traveling breaks down so many barriers you’ll find in it some form on the road, you can almost guarantee that.
5) Disgust: Coming from the West, being confronted with cockroaches andrats while you’re eating on the street can take a bit of getting used to! Bed bugs and lice in your mattress isn’t ideal either. But hang in there, the feeling won’t last for long (I’m not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing…
I remember staying in a hotel in Sudan that looked really nice but after discovering lice, bedbugs AND a nest of rats we fled! 2 weeks later my mate was talking about some nice hotels we found in Sudan, I confronted him and said “You mean the one with the rats and bugs?!” and he said “Yeah, apart from the rats and bugs, that place was pretty nice for the price”. Hmmmm, not sure what that says about him, or me, but the ‘disgust’ had clearly long gone.
6) Exasperation/Frustration: I must admit I suffer from this a lot!
- “How can food literally take 90 minutes to cook”?!
- “When I ask how far, I’d like a distance or a time, ‘quite far’ doesn’t tell me much!”
- “If you know it’s going to be 3 hours late every single day, change the estimated arrival time to 3 hours later, that’s much better than everyone thinking you’re late all the time!”
I could go on but I think you get the picture! Traveling teaches us patience for sure, it just takes some of us a little longer to learn it that others.
7) Appreciation: I challenge anyone to hit the road and not come back feeling more fortunate for what they have in their lives. If you’re even reading this article then you’re more privileged than 92% of the world in that you can read and you have access to the internet. We should never forget that.
8) Enjoyment: Simple I know, but seeing and doing things out of the ordinary every day is something very special. It’s fun, exciting and most of all it’s enjoyable. We probably feel this more than anything, I almost omitted it because it was so apparent but sometimes the truth lies in the most obvious places.
9) Loneliness/Independence: OK OK i know these are two different emotions but I think they are inextricably linked, perhaps one morphing into another as your (first) trip goes on. Loneliness is something that every traveler experiences, you see a beautiful sunrise and look around but noone is there to share it with, you wish so much that your friends or family could be there so you could appreciate it together, that’s normal. But as you travel something clicks in your mind and you realise that sure it may be true that “happiness is only real when shared“ (Alexander Supertramp), but there’s genuine value in experiencing the world on your own. Facing up to whatever it throws at you and coming out stronger on the other side – that’s independence.
I’m sure you guys can relate to a lot (all?) of this and if there’s anything else you can think of please go ahead and leave it below. Life would be boring without the ups and downs and backpacking brings us more than our fair share of those. Happy travels.