People assume that when we take a trip to Mexico for 3 months, it’s a trip of tacos and relaxation and beaches and margaritas. I’m not going to lie, those things exist. But the stresses you experience at home don’t magically disappear once you venture out. You can’t run away from them. In fact, during long-term travel they are likely to amplify. It’s okay, though. Travel is still a good idea.
Minor Manic Moments
The little things that annoy you on a daily basis will annoy you anywhere in the world. If you’re afraid of germs or bugs or people, travel is just going to introduce you to new types of germs and bugs and people to fear. Again, it’s still a good idea. Because the more you experience variations on the things that annoy and/or scare you, the less they will have the power to do so.
Example: I’m not a fan of extreme heat. I sweat easily enough in 75° weather. Hot temperatures reduce me to a giant, half-human puddle on the ground. The half of me that’s still human becomes manic about showers and laundry.
I sweated for the entire two months we spent in Brazil, never more so than during our time in the Amazon. On top of that, we found ourselves staying at a jungle lodge during a time when the water wasn’t working, so there was no opportunity to shower or do laundry. Such conditions are an assault on my very being. And yet, I was able to surrender to the situation (because I had no choice). I didn’t die. That experience prepared me for similar climates. Now I can manage my manic tendencies and do a lot less bitching, for which my travel companions are very grateful.
The Traveler Freak Out
Then there’s the traveler freak out. Tim Ferriss addresses this in The 4-Hour Workweek. It’s not a struggle with your unfamiliar surroundings, but an internal crisis that starts brewing when you find yourself displaced over a long period of time. You may begin thinking…
What’s wrong with me?
I’ve been looking forward to this trip forever.
This is what I wanted.
No matter how sure you are that long-term travel is the way you want to live your life, you are still susceptible to the traveler freak out. For some, this manifests in an irrational level of panic over specific parts of an itinerary. For others (me), it starts with What are we doing here? and mutates into frantic attempts at defining the meaning of life.
The good news is that the traveler freak out is temporary. A sense of calm and enjoyment returns. It is also usually a singular event, something that helps you process a new way of viewing life in the world. Once you work through it, you’ve gotten it out of the way, whether or not you’ve figured out the meaning of life. (If you haven’t, just watch more Monty Python. That’ll surely do the trick).
When you learn to manage the Minor Manic Moments and you get your one big Traveler Freak Out out of the way, you get back to exploring and enjoying this amazing world. If doing so involves tacos and relaxation and beaches and margaritas, so be it.