Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Round the world: 6 loves, 6 loathes of long term travel

I've been on the road for about two months now, long enough to feel like I've just started, but also like I've been gone forever.  I thought it was time for a round up and I love me a good list, so here's my yays and nays thus far...


The freedom of solo travel

I don't have to worry about what anyone else wants to do/eat/see today, but me.  I am totally on my own schedule and I never have to rush or wait for someone else to get hungry or tired if I'm all done.  The only expectations I have to meet are my own.  This is new.

The sunshine

I have managed to plan this trip so that I'm following the summer round the world.  Coming from Mediterranean stock, I cannot get enough of the blue, blue skies and bright, bright sunshine.  It's impossible to reach the same depths of melancholy when the sun's shining as it is in the grey drizzliness. True fact.

The art, the museums, the sights, the sounds

I've seen so many beautiful, mind-expanding works of art and learned so much science and history from fantastically designed museums.  Not to mention the constant street art, architecture, interesting shops, gorgeous parks, breathtaking mountains and so on.  Why don't I do these things at home? I don't know, but I will do in future.

The people

There's nothing like being alone to encourage people to talk to you.  I've had nothing but lovely experiences of people in coffee shops, galleries, hostels and even been asked to join a party for dinner at a restaurant.  I've met authors, musicians, photographers, artists and all have been unfailingly interesting and friendly.   If you're worried about being alone when travelling solo, don't be.

Local radio and newspapers

I've fallen madly in love with NPR radio since I've been in the East Bay, but in every city I've picked up a copy of the local paper and found a wealth of interesting things.  There's always something happening that you'd never hear about elsewhere as a tourist and they're less overwhelming than Time Out.  It's such a great (and free!) way to get a feel for where you are and a local eye-view of same.

The Holy Moment

If you know not of what I speak watch this (actually watch the whole film).

When you only have a short period of time, be that 3 days or 3 weeks, somewhere and everything is new, you never get to take things for granted.  I'm not living miles in the future or past, everything is just now or unimportant.  Sure I'm daydreaming about things like I always have, but no train of thought can last long when I look up and think 'OMG I'm in California!' Each night I go to sleep thinking about what I will do tomorrow and then I do it.  That's it. And it's incredibly freeing.


The exhaustion

The corollary of 'all the things to do!' and my own tendency to make lists to determine my accomplishments means I have trouble accepting that some days I don't want to visit that amazing thai place or see that art installation, but do want to lie on my bed, watch 5 hours of Angel and eat toast for all three meals.  I'm having to accept that this is OKAY and I am not failing at travelling if I don't do everything on the '100 things to do in -----' list.  So hard.

Having no clothes

I packed so light and I am glad of that, but oh god I miss my clothes! I miss my shoes! I miss other colours and having more than one choice per weather front.  I hate having to do laundry quite so often. I've stopped going near shops, because I just want to buy everything.  Earrings are no longer cutting it for a fix.

Also, America, you have drive thru ATMS and Starbucks, you are the king of convenience, so why are washing machines not INSIDE YOUR APARTMENTS?! Je nes comprede pas!

The food and the fatness

It is hard work eating normally on the road and harder running when you don't have familiar routes that you know are safe. I almost immediately gained weight upon entering the US and have had to pay an extraordinary amount of attention to my diet and exercise to avoid a repeat of my Shanghai 15lbs.  I would like not to give my brother the excuse to greet me with "Cor, Kate! You got fat!" twice in my lifetime.

The polite conversations

As lovely as everyone has been, it can be tiresome doing the where I'm from and why I'm here conversation over and over.  It's hard to have genuinely meaningful conversations with strangers, not impossible, but hard.  That said, when you do, it's completely heartwarming.

The travel stress

I'm actually a terrible traveller, as anyone who's ever been on holiday with me will tell you.  I stress.  I check my passport every five seconds.  I worry I'll miss every mode of transport and yet am always browsing Tie Rack when the final call is announced.  I get nervous days in advance and I hate flying.  The advantage of being by myself is that I have no one to take this out on and then owe an apology. Silver lining.

The one that could be in either column: Homesickness

I do miss home, or rather the people I have at home.  It's one of those things I just have to avoid dwelling on or it would be overwhelming.  That said, there was a time I didn't care, I was so happy to be away and I'm actually pleased that my life at home is one I miss.  I'm not running away any more, I'm just travelling.  That's good to know.

What about y'all? Your yays and nays of seeing the world?

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