19 May,2016 By Jagabond
The top travel blogger out there is unarguably Matthew Kepnes of ‘Nomadic Matt’ fame, and I recently read an article on his site that he’s taking a break from travel. Some people choose to take a break, and some have it forced upon them…mine was the latter. My ‘freedom to travel’ moratorium is going on ten months now, and it got me thinking about what I miss, and don’t miss, about a life revolving around airports and train stations.
Five things I miss:
1. Breaking up the monotony of life – When you are constantly traveling, it’s always about the next trip. I could have a few boring weeks at work, knowing that I had another adventure fast approaching. Jump forward to now, and that’s hard to do with only two trips a year. It’s up to me to find something else to break up the monotony, but travel really is the best medicine for this.
2. Feeling years younger – I turned 40 last October, and I feel 40! Two years ago I was 38, and I felt 30…in fact I may have lied about my age at a few hostels. Maybe it’s because of the preponderance of young people I met on my travels. I find that chronic travelers tend to be either young university students who are ‘taking a break’ before they start a career, or older 50+ individuals who are comfortable financially and trying to enjoy life after decades of working hard. I related more to the younger group, so I probably felt closer to their age through osmosis.
3. Accountability – Whatever happens…good or bad…you own it. That’s not a scary thought, to me it’s actually an empowering one. It’s like that Seinfeld episode when they spoke of being ‘Master of your Domain’. Many people stress about life if they feel like they have no control. Travel, and especially solo travel, shows you just how much control you have over life.
4. Security – Maybe this is specific to Europe, but I loved the idea of walking the streets of Lisbon or Venice at two in the morning alone…try this in downtown Chicago and you might not make it back to the hotel. I’m offering no political opinion here, but it’s nice to not worry about being shot…stabbed maybe, but that kills you slower so you still have a chance for medical intervention.
5. Big world perspective – It’s common for us to get hung up with our immediate surroundings, and the drama of the people we interact with on a daily basis. It’s amazing, however, to realize that same situation is occurring in literally thousands of places sprinkled across the globe. On a trip you can even involve yourself in this local drama for a brief moment, giving you a glimpse into the daily lives of others. For anyone who’s even a tiny bit narcissistic, this is good to observe…the world does not revolve around you!
Five things I don’t miss:
1. Travel delays – When delays happen at U.S. airports, you can at least vent your anger by complaining to the customer service desk. In Europe, however, that’s hard to rationalize when you only spent 50-60 euros on a round trip ticket. When you fly these budget airlines, you take the good with the bad. Dirt cheap flights also mean no perks, and no obligatory ‘nice’ treatment of customers…that means you just suck it up, throw your backpack on the ground, lay your head on it and wait. Also, in regards to RyanAir, can anyone explain to me what their definition of ‘on-time’ is? I swear I’ve been an hour late before, and they still play that damn jingle over the speaker celebrating yet another ‘on-time’ arrival.
2. The lonely vegetarian – That was me in most European countries. Depending on the country, vegetarian options were difficult to find, and many restaurants refused to tailor a dish to remove the meat. The best country for non-meat eaters is probably the UK (helped by lots of Indian restaurants), while the worst is a tie between Croatia and France. Budapest was bad for a veggie-centric diet, too…which means I was often hungry in Hungary (been waiting to use that one).
3. Getting sick – The only time I’m ever really depressed is when I’m sick, so when this happens on travel it absolutely sucks. My first Prague trip was spoiled by a stomach infection, and I didn’t go out on my birthday in Cork because I lost my voice. These experiences made me a germophobe, so much so that I remember a few times I hurriedly moved chairs at airports because a kid (i.e. germ factory) coughed or sneezed near my face.
4. Frivolous spending – Did you ever have that attitude of ‘why not spend money, you’re on vacation’…what if you’re constantly on vacation? If you maintain that attitude you can burn through cash quick, and go into shock when you see your credit card statement. Spending crazily on holiday is okay if you only do one or two trips a year, but if you’re a steady wanderer you need a travel budget. Furthermore, some European countries have prices in the stratosphere, so when visiting Norway, Iceland and Switzerland, I drank my beer very, very slow.
5. Line jumping – I wonder if anyone can explain why Europeans are such practitioners of this rude habit? You can’t lose focus while standing in line, because if you hesitate for a second, someone will jump in front of you without consequence. I’d like to see these people try this in New York City…I’m sure at minimum colorful words would be exchanged. There appears to be no age limit on this, as I’ve had kids younger than ten and elderly women steal my spot in line. When I first moved to Europe I figured I’d get over it, but the practice is so prevalent that I never did.