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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.

Frustration when you travel

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.

Pity in India :(

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.

rational fear keeps you alive!

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.

Love on the road

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.

cockroaches when you travel - nice

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.

travel frustration

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.

Enjoying my time in Sudan

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.

Loneliness when you travel

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.


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31 thoughts on “9 Strong Emotions You Feel When You’re on the Road

  1. Hi, Johnny, i am going to Europe for 3 months. I am 50 and and going alone, this is my first backpacking trip. I will be seeing Italy, France and maybe Germany, Amsterdam and Croatia. I would like to try HelpX volunteering for a month or so. in order to not spend too much money. I’m so excited! I just discovered your site today, Thank you! It is so inspirational. I would love more information on starting a Travel Blog.
    Thanks much

  2. hey ……really true and inspiring…..but i think u have become a travel addict now……..visiting more countries..drinking local wine beer….eating budget food….but that’s now life….John.y…… u just visit the places….try to really feel ’em

  3. This is my favorite post of yours, Johnny! I always say that for me everything is about emotions and it is cool to see that for some guys too 🙂

  4. Loneliness and independence are definitely very closely linked. I felt lonely fairly often on my trip, but I loved the independence and I’ve missed that a lot since coming home!

    1. that feeling of independence can grip u megan, and there’s no way to replicate it other than getting back on the road again – uh oh!

  5. Hi Nandi
    Bristol is a great city! But the world is an even bigger place.. having said that I wouldnt mind when I return home getting a BBC job in Bristol! email on its way…

  6. The buzz of travel … of life, of intense living, of existence; agreed. I get them all, in varying doses, also and some spiritual/cosmic awareness, too.

    the candy trail … a nomad across the planet, since 1988

    PS: I assume drunkenness or being high is filed under exhilaration/appreciation/love/enjoyment/empathy/independence? 🙂

  7. So..I woke up at 7a.m today.(Keeping in mind I didnt know 7 had an ‘a.m’ coz frankly, its normally the time I crawl back in). Im not a morning person either so ironing clothes/making lunch/a 30 minute uphill climb to the office before 9am is more than I can fathom, nevermind actually do. lol

    I live in a beautiful city and am working for the BBC. By all accounts, I have the best job in the world. I get to meet fascinating people, talk to government officials and fraternize with celebrities all day.

    And yet the closer I got to the office, I couldnt help but think a) “I really really wanna stop walking and just sit in this spot forever” and b) “I wander what johnny is doing today” lol.

    So as far as im concered, enjoy the emotions. Im counting down the days until I go traveling and its somewhat soul destroying. Im learning an invaluable lesson about doing what you have to do so you can do what you want to do – even if its chipping away at my spirit lol

    Embrace the emotions, and whatever youre doing/seeing/eating/drinking etc 2morow, make sure you do it twice. Once for you and again for

    ooo…chocolate time 🙂

    1. hey nandi, thanks for that AWESOME response 🙂 just keep your head down, your trip is just around the corner and all the extra work you do now will pay off so much when you’re overseas, just think of the cash! And besides, it does sound like a great job – maybe not quite as cool as trotting around the globe, but still cool and the trotting is coming soon.

      I hope this article didn’t come across as negative, did it? :S That wasn’t the intention, i was just trying to get across the rollercoaster than life on the road can be, and i love all of it, both the ups and downs

      1. No, it didnt sound negative at all. It made me giggle actually. It was a nice little reminder about why im killing myself at work for the next 8/9 months. lol

        Today wont be so bummy as im filming outside all day at the beach so yay me. have fun x x

        1. Dont forget your so lucky to have got through the door at the BBC and have a good job there… thousands would kill for that position! On the other hand I am working in Beijing at an international radio station and get to experience a different lifestyle… but one day I still long for a chance in the BBC! Let me know if you are interested in media work in China and I can hook you up!

          1. wow, international recruitment going on my post – great stuff 🙂 sounds like you have a great job becks, how is it goin?

          2. Hey becky,

            that sounds awesome. I think the beeb is wasted on me. Ive met a lot of people who would kill to intern here, which makes me wander what that says about me :-s I definitely enjoy it though. Im just ready to travel now and see what else is out there. I was defo. planning to go to china next year so working out there would be awesome. Can you send me more details to nandi.mundeta at yahoo dot com please? Thanks

            Mr Ward, I know this is your blog or whatever but stop dropping in to my conversations lol

        2. Hey Johnny – its going well in China and good fun to be an expat in Beijing! Im off to Xi’an for a trip next week, I see you liked it there!

          Hi Nandi – yes I will email very soon with the details of where I work. what is your role in the beeb and which one do you work at?
          Im sure you will appreciate your career more once you are away travelling – I find being away from home always gives me time to reflect on what I am away from and what I had / have there..its just another good reason to travel! I guess also seeing other peoples lives whilst on the road can trigger off another strong emotion.. and that is gratitude. Johnny maybe another one for your list!

          1. Hey Becky

            I am a third year journalism student (broadcast) and also a freelance photojournalist – which will be great when im travelling. Im an intern here and tomorrow is my last day at bbc radio bristol 🙁 but its the royal wedding so not a bad day to end at all lol.

            Most of my work is in presenting tv and radio, filming, interviewing, editing, publishing articles online, photography etc so anything along those lines is perfect. Im also thinking about pr or press office work. Im open to whatever comes my way really lol

  8. I guess you will never really get over how other people live and what you take for granted. I guess thats why the pity and empathy will never leave. But I dont know if i could ever get used to rats, lice and bed bugs.

    1. you’re right mate. And give the creatures a chance in your room for a few weeks, i’m sure you’ll acclimatize accordingly – although, like i say, im not sure that’s a good thing!

    1. fair comment mate, i often forget what it’s like to be stuck at home :S still, you know the only way to fix it 😛

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