After embarking on my long-term solo travel, for the past few weeks I have been posting – in fact a tad too regularly – pictures and posts depicting the beauty of and my fun moments in Thailand.
A few friends who eventually found out about my travel have come expressing their envy of what I’m doing and how they wish to be able to do the same.
But is what I’m doing really as fun as it seems to be? What I have shared on Facebook have almost always portrayed the more positive side of my travel, but does this mean that there hasn’t been thorny roads during my journey?
Before I go on, let me clarify why I refrain myself from posting too many negative items on Facebook. It certainly is not because I’m trying to hide anything unpleasant, but because 1) my Facebook newsfeed is already littered with too many negative posts; and 2) I am a half-full kind of person, so why post something negative when I can choose to focus on the positive?
Having backpacked for some time now, there are actually many other things behind the seemingly fun and exciting facet of it. Below I will talk about three misconceptions about such a travel:
1. The luxury to check into a hotel/guesthouse everyday
Oh yeah, because why not? When we’re on a holiday it’s supposed to feel like a holiday and enjoyable. What’s strange about checking into a five-star hotel or a romantic resort?
Well, except that long-term backpacking is not a holiday.
This is something you may not get to see. What about having to check into a cheap apartment unit with hard bed, muddy tab water, and cockroaches – because it’s a long travel and without an income you need to spend as frugally as possible?
What about having to move from one place to another every other day – remember you’re carrying with you a heavy backpack – and having to find a guesthouse that doesn’t go beyond your daily budget?
Trust me, it’s nothing more than a tiring routine. It gets mundane after a while.
It’s definitely fun being able to check into a good hotel once in a while, especially in between work blocks, but when you quit your job for a long-term travel, you will lose that kind of privilege – unless you’re freaking Jho Low.
2. Sand, sun, and fun
Sometimes you get some of those, and that is just one side of the reality. Just like the other day when after 40 minutes of walking in the hot tropical sun, I saw this really awesome beach with clear, blue sea water before me.
Then, a bowl of Tom Yam Guung became the perfect match for the breathtaking scenery.
But this is the other side of the reality: there is usually more sun than sand and fun.
Travelling in tropical countries means you’re surely going to get sunburned, and by that I mean REALLY. SEVERELY. BURNED.
If you’re afraid of the sun and walking, then travelling long-term in the tropical countries isn’t for you.
3. The fun of making new friends
I love making new friends, especially of different cultures and nationalities, and it’s definitely exciting to meet new friends along the journey of my long-term backpacking.
But there is one problem.
These friends come and go. They won’t be there for you for too long. Sometimes there are those with whom you want to hang out more and spend time together, but you’re occupied with your own things and heading for a different direction. And so are they.
They are unlike friends at your hometown. You can always ask your hometown friends out for a cup of tea or a movie whenever you feel like, even repeat it every week.
But with the friends you make during your travel, tonight you may be having some beer with them and chatting the night away, tomorrow you’ll have to brave yourself to bid adieu to them and head to your next destination.
So most of the time during such a kind of travel, there is a lot of intrapersonal communication going on. There is a lot of observation, a lot of internal monologues, a lot of self-questioning.
But it’s a good thing, really. It makes one a thinking individual, it allows one to relate to things and understand them better.
So it comes down to the question: is long-term backpacking really all that fun? Well, there are the fun moments of it, but it certainly isn’t a holiday. It’s a learning curve that requires lots of energy, determination, and endurance.