Traveling Is Not For The Weak: The Moments That Made You Stronger While Living Abroad
You just got home from vacation. You hug your parents, throw your suitcase on the ground and tell them the most G-rated parts.
You talk about the museums, the people, the wonderful food. You become nostalgic through your own stories, awing at them as memories now.
You had a great time. There were those people you met, that amazing beach and those beautiful mountains. Then that tequila-induced beachside sex one night with a stranger, that time night you got drunk on absinthe and ended up in another country.
Not to mention, those awesome nights out ’til 7 am and those perfect afternoons in the park when 420 was just another date.
Everything was great.
But in the deep hours of jet-lagged restlessness, when your memories come flooding back, isn't there some stuff that wasn't so great? Weren't there some moments when you weren't having the time of your life?
What about that homesickness that manifested itself in violent diarrhea? What about the days turned to weeks of loneliness and frustration? What about the moments you were cold, tired and just didn't have the right pair of shoes?
What about the time you just missed your warm bed and the smell of your mother's detergent? What about that time you couldn't find one person to understand you?
Those deep lows and unseen pits of despair are all part of the experience. And traveling, one of the best experiences of your life, has a steep price. Because experiences that mold you, change you and enhance you do not come cheap.
Not only does traveling eat away at your wallet, but at your soul. It chips away with every delayed flight, un-airconditioned train car and lice-ridden mattress. You are prodded, challenged and pushed to your limits.
In the foreign (sometimes barren) landscape of the unknown roads you take, anything and everything will happen. It's not for the faint of heart and definitely not for the xenophobes.
Those who take the leap come out the other side reborn. Baptized in the waters of another land, you only have great things to say about the cities that took you in and changed you.
Rejuvenated, you forget the pain and the anxiety of the low points. You fail to remember the debilitating fear and insecurity that accompanied your rebirth.
Like that time you got lost for three hours in the ghetto. Or when you watched a man masturbate in front of you on the subway. Or that time you couldn't sleep for a week straight, or when you got pick-pocketed and ripped off by a taxi driver.
Or what about all those times you were just lonely? Lonely for your people, your customs and your old life. Those times you just wanted a CVS, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and some bad television.
While traveling is life-altering, delirium-inducing and absolutely amazing, there are some moments when it does its best to scare the sh*t out of you.
Some moments when it tries to kick the weak to the curb and the tourists out of the cities. Some moments when you just wanted to get the hell out of there and go home.
When you couldn't say how you felt
Not being able to speak the language presents the unnerving inability to express yourself. Coming from a culture in which you’re always understood, it's like having your most basic human right revoked.
You feel violated, scorned and weak. The simple human interactions you took for granted are now unattainable privileges.
When you could only afford McDonald’s and street meat
Towards the end of the trip, when you begin to regret all those souvenirs you didn't buy and all those clubs you shouldn't have gone to, you start to realize how little you can physically survive on.
How strong you are, how many meals you can skip and how many days without metro passes you can endure. How far you can stretch that yen, euro, peso, thai baht and how many clubs you can sneak into.
The whole time, however, you're just dreaming about the meatloaf and heaps of mashed potatoes your mom is making for your unappreciative siblings.
When you were always the outsider
No matter how fluent you are in that language, unless it's your native tongue, you will always feel like an outsider, a poser.
From your clothes, mannerisms and accent, they will know right away you're not one of them. And that feeling, that lingering feeling of “foreigner” will eat away at some of the most beautiful moments.
When you were violated in the club
Just because women in your culture don't drop kick you for grabbing their asses doesn't mean we won't.
Just because we have blonde hair or the type of clothes you're not used to seeing doesn't mean you can treat us like foreign animals that are allowed to be touched. There's only so much a woman can take.
When you couldn’t find your way around
The map may as well be the Swedish instructions for your new Ikea furniture because you haven't even started correctly.
It's one thing to get lost in a city of your own language, but another entirely when you must try to follow the directions of another.
The street signs don’t make sense, you can’t pronounce anything you just heard and the beautiful churches and squares you used for landmarks are a dime a dozen.
When you got tired of all the hissing
There comes a point where you just miss the men of your country. Even their obvious statements, their horrible pick-up lines and their bloated egos.
You miss the terrible ways they approach you because you know how to handle them, you know how to handle yourself.
When you got tired of your travel companion
Why is it that hatred increases longing? There's nothing that makes you miss home more than hating someone you're with.
The aches and pains that come with traveling are only magnified when you’re with someone you just want to get away from.
Their lost wallet becomes your lost wallet, their food sickness becomes your night in, and their nagging becomes worse than the mother you were trying to get away from.
When got tired of being alone
Loneliness may be the most threatening ailment of the traveler. Hotels, restaurants and beautiful scenes are just not the same without someone to share them with. That amazing sunset is something you'll always cherish, but never be able to share.
Life-changing views and spontaneous nights out are yours to recall, alone. It's the dilemma of the solo traveler: You have memories that will forever remain yours, but no one to carry them on with or to remember you by.
When you lost your passport for a minute
The longest minute of your life was filled with nothing but visions of home. In a sharp realization that led to frantic panic and momentary heart failure, you longed for your mommy.
Where could it be? I’m never going to get out of here. I’ll never see my parents again! Then you find it, and while relief and exuberance washes over your body, you still can't shake that terrifying dread that you might have to live there the rest of your life (or until the embassy could get you a new one).
When you never understood what was going on
Where's customs? What's the parade for? Why do I need to give you my credit card? What do you mean “extra charge”?
Those terrifying and confusing moments when you just don't know what’s going on leaves you feeling more alien than foreign in this country you’ve been pretending was your home.
There comes a point in every traveler’s life when the loneliness, frustration and confusion overtake the high of being free, and for a few seconds, minutes or hours, you just wish you were back home, locked safe away.
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