I got bored writing about the various places I’ve visited. Not because those places weren’t nice or interesting, quite the contrary actually; but because it got rather mechanical and my quality of writing got really bad.
Did you guys notice the lack of funny puns and ridiculous GIFs? I did and I’m embarrassed.
I do not want to be the girl who fizzled off into mediocre blog posts. HELL NO. I decided instead to just begin writing what’s been on my mind quite a lot lately – the rather unglamorous life of backpacking or travelling on a shoestring budget. Call it whatever you want, the realities are the same. I say this as I type furiously on my keyboard on a ferry from Copenhagen to Berlin, I’m getting more nauseas as the journey continues.
Ever since starting this blog, I’ve received quite a few messages from friends I’ve not spoken to in a while or people who are just plain impressed with what I’m doing. I think that’s rather funny because there really is nothing impressive about missing a ferry and a train, getting lost in the night (don’t tell my parents), getting lost in the day under the mercy of clouds threatening to rain hell on your ass and worst of all, not knowing where you want to go.
Unlike quite a few people I’ve met who know a lot more about the world than I do and who are travelling after spending months (or sometimes years) saving up and researching about different places, I just decided to go. As exciting as that sounds, guys, I have no idea where I’ll be laying down to sleep next week. That can be rather stressful, trust me.
Another thing that can really dampen your time away is the constant worry of not having enough money. As prepared as you might be, you just never know. To me, that uncertainty is more worrying than exciting. Have I told you about how I do not want to be stranded in a foreign country without any money or means to get home? Yeah, I still worry about that, quite a bit actually.
To compensate, I do stupid things like travel at night because it’s cheaper and I get to save on a night’s worth of accommodation (but at the cost of a crappy night bus with little rest and aching shoulders in the morning), I buy the cheap food instead of something healthier that might cost a little more (why do you think I Instagram my experiences dining out? I rarely get them!), I never fly, I steal a tonne of tissue and plastic bags from anything that dispenses it, I help myself to samples a little more than I should. In short, I’ve become a professional cheapskate which I hide behind my adorable smile.
When it comes to living in hostels, things can get tricky and sometimes rude. Once in a while, you’ll get a loud snorer, or a few in your room and boy is that not fun or exciting at all. Or some drunk idiot stumbles in at wee hours of the morning, turns on all the lights and starts having a conversation with everyone and no one at the same time. Sometimes the people you share the room and toilets with are disgusting, which you have to put up with because the cleaners only come round once a week. Not to mention, the only privacy you get in hostels is when you pee, poop or shower. If you’re lucky, you get to brush your teeth in an actual toilet too, not one of those rows of sinks like they have in prisons. Okay, that was a little extreme of a comparison but you get my drift.
If you’re really lucky, a crappy hostel might turn out to be the best place because you meet other people through complaining about how bad it is, a great tip if you want to make new friends quick.
Moving about constantly also means that you don’t have the luxury of cooking yourself a decent meal, you need to go out for one. I’ve yet to witness someone cooking chicken in a hostel kitchen. A standard meal at a hostel includes bread, cheese and tomatoes or instant noodles with peas (it seems to be a thing, gross).
Everything you buy must be consumable within the next three days or you’ll have to throw it out. Worse case scenario is that you carry it around in your pack as you get lost in the next city trying to find your hostel, cursing yourself for not listening to the logical part of your brain to just dump that extra weight.
It also bugs me that hostels don’t provide oil for cooking. The number of times I’ve stolen butter to sauté something, don’t even get me started. I carry salt and pepper in my pack, along with a bulb of garlic and some Thai curry paste because I don’t have the luxury of a full-sized kitchen where I’m able to make anything I want to, whenever I want to.
Not speaking the language of a country is pretty daunting too. Scandinavia was lovely because almost everyone I came into contact with spoke in English and were incredibly helpful. Although, surprisingly, the rudest bus drivers I’ve encountered so far were both in Gothenburg. Some places like Croatia were tricky because even if they wanted to help you, there was just no way of communicating.
Food shopping becomes a half an hour ordeal because you’re not sure if you’re buying milk or yoghurt (they package them the exact same way, the only difference is that one says milk and the other says yoghurt, in Czech or Swedish or Russian or Norwegian), because you’re not sure if butter should be squeezed out of a tube, because you want to eat something a local would but have no idea how to make it, but it’s all part of the adventure, eh?
The worst part of not being able to speak the local language is that it just keeps you at a constant shoulder’s length distance from the country and its people, and man does it take a lot from you to get closer. Sometimes, it’s exhausting.
Last but not least, backpacking means that you’ll have to always say goodbye to all the cool people you meet along the way. Sometimes you get a first name, other times, you just have no idea. If you remember, you’ll ask to add them on Facebook and perhaps stalk them once or twice. If you don’t, they end up being “that awesome person I had a conversation with in that hostel, damn I hope they’re doing good”.
The only thing that sticks with you are the stories or the painfully bad jokes they’ve shared, which will no doubt be passed on at some point in your life. If there’s one thing I’ve learnt, loud and clear, from the last six and a half weeks of moving about, is that museums and cathedrals and walking tours are only that good. It takes getting to know the people around you to make a place really incredible and special. No amount of architecture or Van Goghs or Edvard Munchs can replace that.
PS. I finished this after falling asleep on the communal couch in the hostel for three hours while people were having breakfast around me. #thisglamorouslife
The reality of backpacking is definitely not the one you read of on my blogs. It’s sometimes challenging, sometimes depressing to wander around without any fixed dates and locations. Nevertheless, the experience is always somewhat special and you can grow as person enormously 🙂
You’re a trooper! I really admire your courage and I hope they’ll be some some nice spots to forget the terrible things. 🙂