When Travelling Sucks

by Brenna Holeman
On the Bus in India (and not very happy)
I love to travel (obviously). I have dedicated nearly every moment and every penny in the last seven years to this passion, sacrificing jobs, relationships, and the comfort of having a bed that’s truly my own, but I’m OK with that. I love meeting new people and having conversations in new languages. I love trying new food, walking through new cities, learning and laughing and loving all over the world. Travel is my life.
Sometimes, though, travelling really sucks.
Just like anybody, I have good and bad days. For the most part, I only write about the good days on this blog, just because often I don’t want to relive the bad parts anymore than you probably want to read about them. 95% of the time, I am completely happy when I travel, be it in a museum or sharing beers with fellow travellers or even in the back of a pickup truck filled with smelly pigs (thanks for THAT memory, Salento). There’s always that other 5%, though.
That 5% is filled with days when all of a sudden everything seems to fall apart, everything seems to go wrong, everything seems to annoy you. You are tired and sick and hungry and have weird bites on your legs and the bus is late and when it finally comes there’s only a seat in the very back next to the toilet and a crying baby and the bus driver decides to stop every 45 minutes to have a snack and when you arrive the taxi driver rips you off and your hotel room has no wifi and no hot water but plenty of cockroaches and a gang of drunken fools in the lobby that carouse until 3am – sound familiar? On an ordinary day, you’d shrug most of this off, laugh about it with a travel buddy, rationalise that not every single day will be amazing. But during those 5% days, travelling can be a nightmare.
I’ve had bags misplaced, I’ve been so ill I needed to go to foreign hospitals, I’ve been mugged. I’ve stayed in the worst possible rooms, I’ve sat on the most uncomfortable buses, and I’ve eaten some of the most disgusting food. I’ve lost my temper, I’ve had my heart broken, I’ve cried myself to sleep in numerous countries around the world. But those things happen everywhere, and to everyone. We all have bad experiences in life, whether we’re hiking through the Andes or sitting at home on the couch. I’ve simply chosen to accept that my bad days will happen to me while I’m on the road. I strongly believe that a necessary trait of any successful traveller is a positive outlook, and I pride myself on my optimism, my ability to see the silver lining in every dark cloud. A thick skin and a lot of patience help, too.
Today, I could have written a beautiful blog post about the Santuaria de Las Lajas in Ipiales, Colombia; it was a fantastic place, and it does indeed deserve its own post. I could have made the day sound romantic and adventurous, the church in the morning followed by the crossing into Ecuador. But here’s what really happened today: I woke up freezing cold, with inadequate clothing for this unexpected chilly weather. There was no heat in my room, and no hot water for a shower. Still shivering, we took a taxi to the church, where, yes, we did spend a marvellous two hours. Back to the freezing hotel to pick up our bags, more haggling in the taxi to the Ecuador border. We stood in line for two hours in immigration all for the 15 seconds it took to get an entry stamp; there were no real food vendors around, so at this point all we had eaten were crackers. Another taxi. The crowded and smelly Tulcan bus station, where we were herded onto a large local bus – still no food, and the only bathroom around has no toilet seats and an ominous odour from the second stall. The bus takes off…no, it stops. It takes off again…ha ha! Just kidding, we’re not really leaving yet. Third time’s a charm…until we pull over to randomly search luggage. What’s supposed to be a two-hour journey to Otavalo turns into nearly five hours of repeated stops, repeated passport checks, and repeated elbow-in-head as people pass up and down the aisles. Lunch? A melting coconut ice cream and some overly salted crisps. We finally arrive on the outskirts of Otavalo – another taxi, and then we’re in our nice hotel with shaky wifi and a toilet that runs nonstop. Food will cheer us up, we think, but the only restaurants around serve only beef (my travelling partner’s a vegetarian) or pizza. Pizza again, then, though my Hawaiian is suspiciously lacking ham. Back at the hotel and shivering, I check my email, but the email I’m waiting on hasn’t arrived and the Internet is barely strong enough to support Blogger, let alone Twitter and Facebook and Instagram and Skype. I get into bed fully clothed for warmth, play some Hearts against the computer, and chalk this day up to a long, dreary one, but necessary nevertheless.
And tomorrow? Tomorrow I’ll wake up and feel fine, I’m sure, ready to go to the Otavalo market, to prepare for the Galapagos on Friday, to relish in the beauty and wonder that is travelling. Today was a mediocre day, but that’s all right – sometimes travelling sucks. Sometimes life sucks. It’s whether or not we let those bad days affect us that is truly important; do we wallow in our misfortune or self-pity, or do we simply accept that we are human, strap our backpacks on our backs again, and look to the future?
The answer, fellow travellers, is clear.
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Nurse-issistic Travels September 5, 2012 - 4:56 am

Amen to that Brenna. Amen to that…

Em September 5, 2012 - 5:47 am

Inspiring 🙂

Alli Campbell September 5, 2012 - 5:57 am

Very much feeling your pain! My bag has been stuck in Kiev for almost a week, and every day I am told “maybe tomorrow.” Just trying to see the positive: nothing to carry on to the crowded Romanian train today. Hope tomorrow is a better day for you! 🙂

soloflightEd September 5, 2012 - 6:06 am

We all have our share of bad days. 4 days ago, I had to beg the immigration officer in Malaysia to grant me a 30-day visa instead of a 7-day one. It took how many times and about 20 minutes to convince him. I thought I was screwed when he already stamped my passport with only a week’s worth of stay. I passed that and now I just finished biking 4km in a coastal area northeast of this state.

We have those bad days and we have those good ones. Great post. Can totally relate with laughing off our mishaps over pizza. Let’s keep the travel fire burning! 🙂

Katie @ Domestiphobia.net September 5, 2012 - 1:18 pm

Better to be miserable and traveling than miserable and… not traveling. 🙂

I’m sorry you two had a crappy day, and leaving Columbia (which you obviously love), probably didn’t help. BUT. Holy crap you’re about to go to the Galapagos Islands!!!! Can you FEEL my envy through the internet? Can you?? Hope today is a million times better!!

Callie September 5, 2012 - 3:55 pm

Sometimes…it just sucks! I had one of those days in Peru where everything went wrong – I was so frustrated that I actually cried because this guy in the seat ahead of me wouldn’t stop snoring! The next day was better, thankfully.

Have fun in Ecuador – I loved Otavalo. Looking forward to reading about the next leg of the trip!

Christine loves to Travel September 5, 2012 - 6:18 pm

Oh no!!! I can still feel your optimism even through your bad day.

Tomorrow is another day 🙂

[Ali] To Be Continued... September 6, 2012 - 1:42 am

As you know this resonates with me hugely at the moment as I’ve just had a month stint of that 5%! We just have to remember there is no light without the dark and it’s those awful moments which define who we are & how we handle such situations. Great post darling – enjoy Ecuador 🙂 xx

This Battered Suitcase September 6, 2012 - 3:50 am

Nurse-isstic Travels – Ha ha, thank you!

Em – Cheers, thanks!

Alli – Oh no! Here’s hoping the bag arrives soon, but I admire your positive attitude!

Soloflight Ed – Ah, but at least you were able to convince him! Good work! I hope you are enjoying Malaysia…thanks for your comment!

Katie – Yes, the fact that I’m heading to the Galapagos on Friday means I can’t really complain about anything!

Callie – Thank you! Oh how I hate snorers…

Christine – Thanks! Today was indeed pretty wonderful…

This Battered Suitcase September 6, 2012 - 3:52 am

Ali – Very well said, my friend. Here’s hoping those dark days are behind you now! Have fun in Guatemala xo

Audrey | That Backpacker September 7, 2012 - 3:07 am

The roughest days for me are when I find out my hostel has no hot water and it’s not even summer, or when I wake up freezing. I don’t like being cold or dirty, lol.

Ellie September 7, 2012 - 3:17 am

Great post, its so true! It is funny how we seem to forget that we have bad days no matter where we are they would just be different, thanks for reminding me of that! Also been having a few of those “days” lately – hope your week got better, your journey looks amazing so far, happy travels!

kellyabroad September 7, 2012 - 3:18 am

This couldn’t have come at a better time. I’m having one of those days too. It’s 30 degrees but it feels like 50. I got ripped off by a local tourism company. The shower is cold. There are weird bugs in my room. Boy, that felt good!

This Battered Suitcase September 7, 2012 - 6:23 am

Audrey – No hot water when you’re cold is the worst! I think I’d rather just not shower…

Ellie – Thank you so much for your nice comment! I’m in a great space again, it was just one bad day. I hope your days are also happy!

Kelly – Oh no! It will get better!! I have to admit that “weird bugs” made me laugh, though. And it does feel good to get it off your chest, doesn’t it?

Andi of My Beautiful Adventures September 7, 2012 - 8:00 pm

Been there done that and totally feel your pain. You know what though if we didn’t experience the downs the ups just wouldn’t be so amazing and unforgettable. Plus, at least you have your bestie by you rside!!! I love your writing.

This Battered Suitcase September 9, 2012 - 2:43 pm

Andi – Thank you! It’s definitely easier with Kerri by my side. And you’re right, we need the bad times to appreciate the great times all that much better!

Britany Holmes September 12, 2012 - 2:21 am

Travelling from different places was cool I remember when I was a child, we go every night in the city and we go at the lay ground to play with my friends and that was really enjoyable.

Stephina Suzzane October 10, 2012 - 1:58 pm

Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.

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Alana Morgan November 11, 2012 - 7:33 am

Travel is full of more downs than people let on…it’s just that (usually) the ups far outweigh them!

This Battered Suitcase November 12, 2012 - 10:23 pm

Alana – Absolutely! I totally agree…

How Do You Know You're Ready for Long-term Travel? - This Battered Suitcase November 30, 2015 - 5:15 pm

[…] You’ve thought about how you’ll cope with the bad days. Unfortunately – just like life – travelling isn’t all unicorns and magic. While the happiest days of my life have all occurred when I’ve been on the road, I’ve also dealt with loneliness, illness, anger, grief, frustration, heartbreak, and just about every other negative human emotion or feeling while I’ve been travelling. Depending on whether or not you’re travelling solo, you may or may not have your usual support network to rely on if you’re far away from home. This doesn’t have to be a scary thing; it can actually be quite empowering and esteem-building to know that you’re able to handle these things on your own. I honestly believe that if I didn’t travel, I’d still be the girl who occasionally panicked about trying a new restaurant because I might not know where the bathroom is (yes, really). Travelling is the best thing that’s ever happened to me, but – again, just like regular life – I’ve still had to deal with some tough shit while doing it. It’s OK if you feel nervous about dealing with these emotions far away from home, but it’s also important to emotionally prepare yourself that not every single day will be perfect. […]

Hannah February 4, 2020 - 5:52 am

Oh Brenna, I miss your writing. I’m going through your archives for a dose of Brenna realness. Please drop some new wisdom in the form of a blog post soon! 🙂


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