Wednesday, May 9, 2018

It's Not All FB and Instagram

Long term budget travel is not all glamour shots from Facebook and Instragram.

It is 8:00 pm and I have been at the Mumbai international airport for 2 hours. The check in for my flight to Cambodia is still 90 minutes away so here I sit. The choice was to hang around Mumbai or come to the airport 8 hours early. I like airports. I have no problem sitting in them for hours at a time, especially modern high volume international airports such as Mumbai. I have just finished having a chat with a young boy of about 8 as his family slowly gathered around and smiled and took photos. His English was terrible and my Hindi is non existent. Through it all there were silly laughs, high fives and smiles good bye. A 5 minute random airport friendship makes me happy. 

I post pictures on Instagram and Facebook of moments I want to share. They are usually positive because that's how social media rolls. I write this blog to keep a record of my experiences. It allows me to share my experiences but more importantly it will help me remember where I have been and what I have done. I try to be as honest as possible and write without embellishment. I also tell stories about all experiences, good and bad. Sometimes I write factual and sometimes emotional. I try to add a bit of humor where I can because no matter the situation I love the life that I have chosen to live. If you like what I write about that is excellent. If not, sending me nasty messages does nobody any favors. Simply don't read and get on with your life. 

Now, let’s talk about the reality of long term budget travel. If you have done it you will read this post, hopefully reflect on a trip you took, smile and nod knowingly. If you say "oh yeah or I remember that" or anything else out loud, you are talking to yourself. Find your passport, you need a trip.

Lets start with airports, but we can add train and bus station to the equation. You will sit and wait, often. Maybe the timing works and it’s an hour or as is the case now, my flight leaves at 1 am and I arrived here at 530. That’s 8 hours to kill. What do you do with 8 hours? It's a work day or a good nights sleep. I start by going to the bathroom to clean myself the best you can. Always and I mean always carry baby wipes. Next find a place to eat an overpriced meal and drink a coffee knowing full well there is better food on the other side of security. Finally go sit by the counter where you will check-in and stare longingly at the digital signs while eating any variety to unhealthy snacks.

Long term budget travel will be challenging, frustrating, exhausting and tiring. When you learn to embrace the suck and not give a fuck it’s never boring. As an aside I am reading Mark Mason’s new bestseller The Subtle Art of Not Giving g A Fu*K so the reference was important for context. What you do with all this wait time is up to you. If you’re a whiner and complain that it sucks or you are bored we will never travel together. This is a wifi world and if you feel the need, log on. I like to read real books and they always readily available. Watch the world go by, people are always interesting. Start a conversation with a stranger, people are always willing to tell their story. Take a nap, have a beer, do nothing. Don’t get me wrong, I get as bored and annoyed as the next person. Then I remember where I am, where I am going and what I will be doing. Airports are expensive, deal with it.

I have written about the simple joys of an airport pickup but at times they cannot be arranged. Now you have to deal with station or airport transportation. I always think the worst in this scenerio, always. Scammed, ripped off, over charged whatever. I have had the joy of all of the above and it will happen. Over pay and you feel like an ass. Argue about the fare and you will be dealing with language issues and maybe the police. It’s like the drunk arguing about his bar tab at the end of the night. You can’t win. Pay it, say fuck it and move on. If you have not been ripped off by a taxi in a foreign country you have not been in a foreign country. To that point, Uber is showing up everywhere, even in India. Get the app and reduce your stress.

Other joys you deal with are hotels not being what they should be, overcrowded local transportation, the smells of rotting garbage, shit and piss and sewage. Seeing extreme poverty and homelessness. People suffering all types of disfigurement. Street animals that are rabies factories. Possible food contamination leading to any type of malady. I once got food poisoning in San Cristobal Mexico that lasted two weeks. I lost 10 kilos and could not drink water without running to the toilet. If it happens go to the doctor. I didn’t and was dumb thus suffering for my bravado.

Touts will try and sell you anything and everything, especially at a bus stations. I have been robbed in Bolivia and Australia so I have the art of getting police reports and a new passport down to a science. It’s the worst feeling in the world but once you get over the shock, anger and fear just do what the embassy says. You will be fine.

I was not robbed violently. My stuff was stolen when I got sloppy in a busy bus station in Bolivia and a Hostel in Australia. Shitty things will happen. Dealing with it depends on you. 
Travel is glamorous and exciting when looked at through the eyes of Facebook and Instagram. It’s what happens between posts that people don’t talk about but honestly those are where the good stories reside. This is not about looking at everything through rose colored glasses, far from it. This is about how you deal with things, making decisions and always keeping perspective.

It’s up to you. Will you be bored looking for perfection in everything or will you embrace the suck? It

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