Doing Difficult Trips – It’s All a Matter of Perspective

I’ve always been an advocate for change – change in scenery, change in lifestyle, change in psyche, and continuing the change however deep you want to go down the metaphysical rabbit hole. Fortunately, one of life’s easiest ways to initiate change is to travel. Naturally. Of course one could argue that your hometown is a perfectly acceptable place to spend your eternal days, and yes, that does breed a certain sense of contentment, but the outline you make around your footsteps will define you forever. And to make big footprints you should really take big steps.

AirTreks is a company that promotes complicated travel itineraries. Therefore we love seeing people setting off for extended periods of time to see the world in which they live. As far as we’re concerned, the more complex the trip the better, not just for us, but for you. So it pleases us that there’s an escalating trend for long-term travel. The arrival of movies like Eat, Pray, Love and the current travel blog explosion only serve to solidify the idea that nomadic travel is not just a fad, that people are making a serious change in their opinion of how international travel is done. According to our accounting department, AirTreks around-the-world and multi-stop international trip sales are up 7% over last year and even more from the year before. While it may not be good for the line in front of the Uffizi Gallery or the crowds at Bangkok’s Royal Palace, it’s a change that’s generally good for humanity. It gives those who have the ability to travel a chance to spit-shine their world view and it gives those that don’t money they need to survive in an increasingly hostile global landscape.

So what of difficult trips?

Anyone who’s ever set about making this commitment in their life knows there’s a lot to it. It’s not simply purchasing your ticket and catching a cab to the airport. It involves a long list of obligations and to-do’s. It’s endless hours of researching, planning, budgeting and if you’re like me, months, if not years, of convincing yourself you have what it takes. It’s a near lunatic obsession with your departure date, so much so that it will test your resolve, your character and the patience of just about everyone that’s not taking the trip with you.

It also follows that the time you spend on the road is infinitely more difficult than, say, a day spent doing your laundry. To illustrate the point, I’ve put together this handy table:

Traveling Not Traveling
Breakfast Navigating the streets around your accommodations to find something warm and nourishing. Explaining that you don’t like strong coffee in Turkish. Going to the kitchen for cereal and cold milk or the coffee shop where the barista already knows your order.
Day Planning your activities around a notoriously unreliable and arcane public transportation system in an impossibly complicated foreign language. Gym or dry-cleaner?
Evening Making sure every belonging you own is present and accounted for. Panic to the point of mental collapse when your passport is momentarily misplaced. Make sure to play with the kids. Dinner at 7.
Calling your mother Locating a shop to sell you a SIM, prepaid or other necessary card, explaining to the shopkeeper your need in hand gestures and grunts, then getting it into a phone that doesn’t completely eradicate your savings. Dial the number. Chat.

The best thing about this chart is that while all the things on the travel side are difficult, none are reasons not to travel. And while they may try even the most steadfast constitution, every one of them can be looked back upon and enjoyed for the sake of their excellent survival rate.

Inspiration, Motivation

If you’re the type that needs a village to back up your commitment, you’re in luck. The Internet is practically bursting with folks that have jumped aboard the nomadic travel train and are extremely keen on bringing more people into their passion pit. People will love you for simply joining in on their quest.

The current trend is to set aside your own tiny corner of the Internet and write about travel. It’s entirely possible to maintain a sophisticated travel blog while on the road and for it to give you benefits while you do so. Take a look at the list below to see nomadic travel in action on the web. These are some of my favorite travel blogs written by people currently traveling.

(In no particular order and by no means a complete list. Take a look at this big list.)

These are all folks that have taken the plunge, some into deeper water than others but each doing it with a sense of commitment that should make your own leap seem small and easy to make. They’ve already tested those deep waters thereby making yours all the more pleasant.

So what’s the purpose?

Is it to overcome your fear, to become more sophisticated, to see the world through the eyes of others, or to simply get away? Why would someone choose a difficult four or six-month trip over a two-week holiday? It’s the thrill. You avoid the nagging idea that you’ll be back before you know it, thereby skirting the sense that you’re not doing something rare or uncommon. Even though you’re thrilled to be “outta here” on the flight to Orlando, the endorphin rush of future uncertainly is lacking.

You also get that welcoming community, a band of travel veterans each with their thousand-yard stare. Difficult travelers come together like the notes of an orchestra, it brings them together with a sort of tonal harmony, each vibrating with their o
wn storied predicament, gathering travelers around on and off the road.

Where to begin?

The first thing to do is to take a deep breath and realize that what you’re presuming to be difficult is only a matter of perspective, that the line at the Uffizi is less difficult than say, overthrowing a government. In other words, look at the trip objectively. It’s what you make of it.

The next thing to do is to read. Because, for one thing, you should get in the habit of reading, and for another you can experience other people’s difficulties as referential monologues and not as mind-crushing inevitabilities coming only to drive you home prematurely. Here is a great list of books to read to let you know no matter how difficult you think your trip is, someone like Tim Cahill has done something more difficult and lived to write about it.

Once you get it in your head that what you’re doing is not necessarily difficult (or as you have come to define the word) you can rise above what previously might have given you panic.

I love the quote by Dale Carnegie, “If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.”

Photo credits: the author, SF Brit and Let Ideas Compete