Travel involves sacrifice. Especially when you up and leave, heading to the other side of the world for an indefinite amount of time by yourself: there are certain sacrifices that are unavoidable. A lot of travel stories focus around the amazing adventures travellers have, but rarely do you see a travel influencer post a photo about their teary conversation with their mum at two in the morning about how lonely they are. How lonely I was.
I’ve been overseas for more than two months now, and I’ve had some incredible adventures that have been completely balanced by periods of boredom, doubt and loneliness. I’ve reached literal peaks and metaphorical lows. I’ve climbed mountains and been down in the dumps. I’ve learnt many valuable lessons and I’ve made even more valuable mistakes.
After reflecting on the past two months, I’ve realised I’ve made some incredible sacrifices to be where I am.
I’ve sacrificed quick phone calls with loved ones. Catching up with my family and my friends has become difficult because totally different time zones do that to you, eh? What used to be a quick call to Mum has to be planned in advanced; calculated to the perfect time for both of us. They’re less frequent. I can’t even talk to my Dad because international calls are expensive, I’m poor and Dad doesn’t have a smartphone.
I’ve sacrificed shit-talking on a daily basis with my bestie. We used to work together and send each other gifs and jokes during the day. I’d murder the Spanish language with the aid of Google Translate and she would check the way she phrased sentences with me before she sent an email. We’d reassure each other and make each other go home on time and take lunch breaks. But now I’m awake while she’s asleep and vice versa.
I’ve sacrificed ice cream dates with my pseudo little brother. To be fair, the amount of ice cream that I was eating was probably unhealthy and the smells I made after it have convinced me I have an issue with digesting lactose or some other ingredient in ice cream, but it was everything else that went along with it. Me forcing him to walk a kilometre to find somewhere I wanted to sit. Looking at the nighties for old women in the pharmacy next to the ice cream shop and deciding which was the best. Talking about life. Talking about farts.
I’ve sacrificed quick banter with mates, being in a place where people understand what I’m saying (and I understand them), hugs from loved ones and friends when I’m sad and being around people who know who I am at my core. I met someone just before I left Australia. I sacrificed that potential.
I’ve sacrificed cuddles from my fur babies. Mikey and Tabby, while being looked after by my Mum and her husband and utterly loved and adored, were my responsibility, my joy, and my loves. Mikey was my shadow and I find myself here without one (and not just because there is minimal sun lololol). It’s certainly an adjustment. I can definitely do without Tabby’s bites… but I still miss her too.
I’ve sacrificed having a schedule that keeps me on track and keeps me fulfilled. Sometimes I wake up and I think, “What the actual fuck am I doing?” I have no purpose. No reason to get out of bed. Nothing to actually do with my life. Just an open calendar in front of me. To me, that’s kinda terrifying.
But sacrifices are made for a reason. You sacrifice something in order to gain something else.
I’ve sacrificed my comfort zone, but I’ve gained confidence in myself and experienced situations that have helped me grow and helped me understand people and the world better.
I’ve sacrificed giving a shit about what people think about me and I’ve noticed that the symptoms of my anxiety disorder and my depression reduce significantly.
I’ve sacrificed an “escape career” I’d fantasised about, but I’ve gained the understanding that I don’t particularly want to be a digital nomad; I don’t want to be a travel influencer. I’ve sacrificed that need for validation and realised I want genuine adventures without feeling the need to brag about my “perfect” travel life, my “unlimited” sense of adventure or my “genuine” partnership with travel brands.
I’ve sacrificed always knowing where I’m going to sleep the next night, but I’ve stumbled upon small towns and little hostels. I’ve met people of all ages from several different countries. I’ve worked out that almost every Australian who travels is from bloody Melbourne. I’ve allowed myself to accept my friends’ hospitality in ways that I would never have done back home. I’ve realised people travel for different reasons, but those who do travel are generally good people. I’ve been offered raw ginger and turmeric to ease my sickness from a Portuguese lady who lives in Plymouth that I met in Vienna. I’ve made friends with a Greek girl who just finished a computer science degree but whose passion is in film. I’ve watched a quantum physicist and a brain scientist play chess in the common room of a hostel. I’ve enjoyed The Sound of Music with Koreans in Salzburg; asked to join a group of Finnish people in a bar and chatted for 20 minutes; heard stories of a northern English man’s childhood growing up in York. I’ve realised I love meeting new people; love being over here.
When I left Australia, I had convinced myself that I was going to be back within three months. Whether that came from needing an escape option, a yearning for my relationships, my love for my pets, or a deep-seated idea that I just couldn’t make it over here by myself, I don’t know. But now I am happy here – even with the weather, I’m starting a job soon that will help me further my career, and I’m making friends.
No, it’s not always easy. I’m sometimes lonely and I miss the shit out of my friends, family and pets back in Australia, but it sure as hell is worth it.