I’m feeling incredibly drained. It’s been just over one month since I started travelling – and I’ve already hit 13 cities in 6 countries – From Lisbon to Madrid, Sevilla, Barcelona, Milan, Roma, Florence, Pisa, the towns of Cinque Terre, Venezia, Vienna, Prague to Munich and now I’m currently on a night train to Berlin. If I counted day trips that would bring the count up to 22. I’ve had what ranks to be the best month of my life – I’ve met a whole range of incredible people, eaten plenty of delicious food, and seen and experienced the places that a year ago were only in my wildest dreams – why am I not happy?
The thing with travel is that even though it doesn’t feel like real life – it’s still life, just amplified. You will have astronomical highs and abysmal lows. Sometimes one after the other. You might meet an absolutely amazing group of people in one place and have unique and unforgettable experiences with them, and in the next place you might meet no one. It’s happened to me. You might completely screw up a city that you were extremely excited about visiting, and conversely you might fall in love with a city you had no expectations for. That’s happened to me too.
It also begins to feel like a routine – partially because it is.
1. You catch the train to the next city
2. You make your way to the hostel and concurrently navigate the city’s metro system (this is something we need back in Sydney, honestly)
4. Spend a couple of hours on wi-fi researching what there is to do.
5. Explore and try to do some of those things
6. You’re completely hopeless in the country’s language if it’s your first day there (or second, or third, or fifteenth)
7. You take heaps of photos
8. Go back to the hostel
9. Move into your room
10. Meet your roommates if they’re there and sociable
11. Spend time editing photos
12. Go out if you feel like it
17. Check out.
18. Go to the next city.
It’s not a bad routine to be sure and it’s something that anyone back home or not travelling would have zero sympathy for, but it’s a routine and it can get exhausting after a while, especially if you’ve hit a string of places which don’t quite beat the last.
I think part of the exhaustion stems from the fact that I’ve hit a bit of Eastern Europe and the Germanic countries – Places which I know absolutely nothing about and don’t have places I already want to see. Compared to when I was living out my fantasies in Barcelona, Rome, Florence, Cinque Terre and Venice – there’s nothing comparable to the experiences I had in those places. I see a pretty building here, I see a nice park there. I’m just exploring and doing the must see stuff not because I want to, but because I don’t know anything else. I’m starting to feel less like a traveller and more like a tourist. It’s not a good feeling when you’re in a city and you start to think to yourself “Why am I here?”
Another part comes from my photography. I absolutely love photography, but I’ve been taking hundreds of photos EVERY DAY. That leaves an almost insurmountable backlog of photos to go through, which turns editing from a joy to a chore. The actual act of photography is beginning to get stale too. I’ve seen more cathedrals, churches, frescoes, famous artworks and pretty buildings than I can count – after a while it all begins look the same, and soon enough so did my photographic style. They may be nice photos that I’m taking, but to me they look boring and generic. I need to mix things up. When your passion turns into a chore you know something needs to change.
That change is just going back to doing what I want to do. TripAdvisor is useful, sure – but it’s not a be all end all guide for things you will enjoy. It’s an aggregation of thousands of users opinions into one. People are different, which means not all (or maybe none) of these things will suit your tastes. I’ve changed a lot over the course of my exchange and travelling, going in and out of phases where I felt like I knew who I was. Thing is that no matter what you are the person who knows yourself the best. Stick to things you feel like you would enjoy, be spontaneous and avoid the checklist of the “must sees”. You don’t need to see them – most of the world probably hasn’t. Being able to point and say “I’ve seen that in real life!” about something you didn’t care about won’t make your life any richer. A story that is uniquely yours is worth so much more.
I think that’s all I really have to say. Just letting you into the ups and downs of extended travel. Until the next post (whenever that comes)!