Time for some real-talk
I was re-reading some of my blog posts over the past few months and came to the conclusion I needed to make a special post (a break from our normal programming).
This time traveling and writing and learning to code etc. has been amazing and I am so glad I decided to take this journey, but my time away has not been perfect. Sometimes I find that friends or family who post overly positive, make-the-internet-jealous accounts of their amazing adventures are actually, in-person, some of the most miserable, unhappy, dissatisfied people. I always find it ironic that their online presence neglects the challenges and struggles that are sometimes core to their day-to-day.
I realized while looking back at what I’ve posted, that I’ve neglected to talk a lot about my own challenges and struggles. I do not for a second regret leaving my job to take this time, but it has not been all fairies and rainbows (or maybe in my case monkeys, ramen, and wild deer).
1) Hostel-living is hard
Yes, it is cool to meet new people from all over the world and have super cheap accommodations sometimes in incredible parts of the city you’re in. But, staying in hostels for months is pretty tiring. The beds are hard (in Japan tatami mats over wooden bunks), the rooms are very small usually without soundproofing, and guests (other hostel-travelers) can range from kind, caring, and generous to loud, disrespectful of the rules, and utterly abhorrent. I recently had to move out of a hostel early (forfeiting some money) because a group staying there four nights in a row cranked up the tv in the living room (only separated from the bedroom by a curtain), took loud, on-speaker phone calls in the bedroom, and had rowdy conversations all past 1 AM (sometimes 2 AM) in the morning. I had asked nicely for them to be respectful of the mandatory quiet hours (poorly enforced, from 10 PM – 8 AM), but was ignored. And, even when I have met incredible individuals, usually their plans are so firm and they are just as transient as me, that our time together has been too short and we haven’t been able to develop deep friendships. Which brings me to …
2) Traveling is lonely
I am an introvert (yeah yeah I know you don’t think so, but I am and you’re wrong :P). This means I enjoy being alone and find it energizing. Still, in some places where there are few english speakers, I’ll go a whole day without saying more than 5 words out loud. And those times I have made friends, conversation has stayed pretty much on the surface (where are you going, what places have you been, what is there to do, etc.). I miss my family, boyfriend, and friends a lot. I miss hugs.
3) Taking time off is both rewarding and costly
Again, I made the right decision for me in doing this (I am learning a lot and doing what I love), but there are costs to taking significant time away from traditional work. I am so fortunate to have friends and family that support me, but most folks I talk to outside of those two camps and who are on the more standard, professional paths have been pretty critical of my decision-making. I don’t know what taking this time will cost me yet when I return home and look for work (I am hoping not much), but I do have a feeling it is adversely affecting my b-school admission chances given some of the results that have already started to trickle back in.
Right now my life is good, but it is far from perfect. Anyone who paints a picture of long-term backpack style travel as being only amazing and awesome and their-life-is-so-perfect, in my opinion, probably isn’t sharing the whole truth of their situation.
And that’s actually too bad because facing challenges and struggling and making mistakes shouldn’t be dirty little secrets we hide from the world and each other. These moments, especially how we deal with and rise through them, are what make an experience worthwhile, teach us new lessons, and help us grow. As for me, I’ve grown up so much in the last few months more from what has sucked about traveling than from what has rocked. I am excited to see what I will face next and eager to see how I’ll push myself through it.