The Struggle, It’s So Real

During your travels you would hope all things go as planned. That it is so smooth you have nothing to worry about. (A little like the peanut butter I haven’t been able to find in all 30 countries.) With all of my insta pictures, “This is so amazing!!” texts, “I’m never coming home,” phone calls, or my Facebook statuses, the world would think that I’m having the time of my life. That nothing ever went wrong.

You know the pictures of me skydiving in the Swiss Alps, watching the sun set in Mykonos, having a spa day in the Blue Lagoon, riding a camel on the beach in Morroco, and drinking champagne under the Eifle Tower. It looks great, but boy did I struggle. I emphasize on these amazing moments I’ve encountered, but I never elaborate about the things that went wrong.

Solo travel is very empowering, it keeps you on your toes, humbles you, and it changes you, not because of the good experiences, but because of the challenges along the way. With many ups, there are just as many downs. Here are my top 5 reasons why “the struggle is so real.. Actually, it’s very fucking real.”

1. I don’t understand what you’re saying.. English?!

Unfortunately, not all people speak English. Before I got onto the plane to Iceland I knew that I’d eventually come across this hurdle. Two months into camping around Europe and I finally ran into my first problem when I made it to Southern France. Not only did no one speak English here, but it was really hard finding help when I needed it. Directions? Forget about it, just keep walking in circles. Hungry? Looks like you’re starving today. Bathroom? Nope, looks like you’re peeing in the streets with all the stray cats and dogs.

2. Why am I such a loner?!?

When no one understands you, in comes walking solitude. And a lot of it. I’ve had my moments where I felt like I sat in a dark room surrounded by mirrors as one spot light shined on me. I’d sit there for hours in silence and eventually the voices started to get into my head, which led me to question myself. “Why the hell did I decide this was a good idea?” As I sat there groups of people and couples walked by me and I started to miss my friends, my family, my boyfriend, and my dog. More then I thought I ever would. It became difficult telling myself that it would have been nice to experience this with someone.

3. I think I’m getting too old for this: 

Yes, your body literally becomes a human a punching bag. Carrying an extra 30 kilos on my back has nearly killed me in the dark while I struggled walking to make sure I made it to my bus, my train, or my flight on time during all sorts of strange hours of the day. Which put me in awkward situations with strange people at times.

Either I’m really clumsy or Europe is out to get me. I can’t describe how many times I’ve fallen on my ass, spraining my ankle, and causing bruises in place I didn’t know I could bruise in. But there was one moment in particular that I remember oh so well because I fell to my death. Okay, I didn’t die, but I was forced to tumble down one of those many beautiful cobble stone stairs in the Czech Republic. Blood was every where, running down my legs, ruining my new pants I bought in Athens.

Lastly, the food. The yummy delicious food that you can’t help but eat, until your stomach becomes angry at you and forces you to shit all over the place in Macedonia, with vomit to follow. This was a miserable time for me because I didn’t come prepared with any Imodium or anti “you’re going to shit yourself to death” medication. Instead, I had to struggle out of my tent and run for what seemed like miles to save myself from humiliation.

4. Not all those who wander are lost. (HA!):

Actually, yes! If you wander, you will get lost, like the time I was in Santiago De Compostela, Spain. When I booked my hostel I didn’t realize how far away it was from the old town, so I figured the best way to get there was by bus. (Because it’s the cheapest way aside from walking 10 miles.) I grabbed my day bag and hopped onto the first bus that came to the stop. After sitting on it for over 2 hrs I realized that it was just the bus driver and I on the bus, I started to panic.

The offline map on my phone wasn’t working and I didn’t know where I was. Then the bus stopped in the middle of nowhere, the bus driver looked at me, and started speaking to me in Spanish. Not an ounce of English. In my super broken Spanish, I pointed out the old town on his map. He looked at me and said no.

I refused to get off the bus, which led him to tell me I had to pay again and off went the bus. As we went to each bus stop, my map started to work again and I saw that I was getting closer to where I wanted to be. Eventually I got off because it sunk in that this was the wrong bus and I started walking for miles in the heat to catch the right bus.

5. Sometimes cheaper isn’t always better:

It sounds better, but it’s not. (Use reason 4 as an example.) I say this because I’m a hardcore budget traveler. When you travel on a budget and you try to go the cheapest route, it doesn’t always make it the easiest, especially when it comes to transportation and accommodation.

When I decided to go to Marseille, France on a whim, I quickly found out there were no hostels in this old city. Since I was still eager to go, I decided to look into hotels. I found the cheapest hotel that I could find near the port. Excited with my decision, I was ready to head to Marseille not realizing that I was heading to a chaotic storm of soccer fans for the Euro Games 2016.

As I got off the metro from the airport, I found myself in a little square. My map told me to walk two blocks and I would be at my accommodation. I started to worry when I walked up to the hotel, saw bars on the windows, and people smoking cigarettes right in front of the entrance door.

My accommodation was a shared dorm, which was great, but the female dorms didn’t have a lock on the door or required a key to get in. This meant anyone can walk in. There were cracks on the ceilings, stains on the floor, the musty smell of smoke lingering in the walls, and the girls bathroom didn’t work. Which meant I had to walk into the men’s dorm to use the bathroom or take a shower, where all of those crazy drunk soccer fans are.

There were moments where I would cry until my eyes hurts. Where I would drop to my knees and start screaming and yelling like a crazy person. Moments where I wanted to just pack up all of things and go back home because it was easier. But with all of the tears, sweat, and blood, I am so glad that I didn’t. It was obstacles like this that changed me, that made me open my eyes, and turn me into the person I am today. I can officially say, I am a better me. I am a stronger me.