“When the room is very bad, I just keep reminding myself that I will leave the place in one or two days and then find another place. It’s like gambling – sometimes I get a very good deal without even expecting it, for little money, and sometimes the opposite.”
(from: It’s Not All a Bed of Roses)
Food is a very important subject. I like to eat health food, and for the most part I avoid “bad fats” and sugar. I also like a variety of food, especially since I grew up in South Tyrol, a place in Italy with Italian and Austrian influences. Even though I enjoy trying out all the different types of food new places have to offer, sometimes I really long to just have a kitchen and to cook for myself instead of eating at a restaurant or food stall three times a day.
Especially in India and Nepal, the local cuisine is very oily or with too much sugar. If I order chai (milk tea) in India or a coffee in Vietnam, I am not able to drink it because they put too much condensed milk in it. To deal with this, I bought myself a hand-mixer, in order to make fruit shakes whenever I want to and according to my taste, and a heating rod, which is like a small water boiler, in order to make myself instant coffee in the morning. Recently I bought an espresso machine which I carry with me at all times so that I can enjoy a “real coffee” whenever there is a stove available. These three items are a must now!!!
Another challenge of a nomadic life is having to cope with missing out on a lot of things that your friends/family are experiencing. I visit them and readjust “to home” again. but this takes time because Asia and Europe are just totally different cultures, and separating again after a visit is just the hardest time ever. It is a circle of adjusting and readjusting.
The continuous travelling in Asia, the unstable lifestyle and the rare visits home led to me having a panic attack some time back. This was my first ever panic attack but I think that not knowing what’s next, where to even sleep the next day might have caused it, since my nature is to plan everything in advance. I find myself somewhere between wanting to see the whole world and experiencing everything and at the same time wanting a stable life. I don’t know if any of you have ever experienced a panic attack but it is not a nice feeling and the worst is not the panic attack itself but the fear of having another attack in a situation where you already experienced it once before.
Another thing is to adapt to the occasional medical conditions which may arise while travelling and believe me, it’s not pleasant to be sick when you don’t even have your home comforts. Food poisoning and the occasional sighting of bedbugs are bound to happen. The worst bites from bedbugs I have ever experienced was during the Spanish pilgrimage “Camino de Santiago” and they affected me for around 10 days. Mosquito bites are nothing in comparison to bites from bedbugs, the itchiness drove me literally crazy and I got paranoid that it might happen again so, before getting into bed, I would examine every little black dot which was visible and to top it all up I also cut my finger and had to get stitches.
I have had food poisoning a couple of times but my worst experience was in the mountains in Nepal, I was literally in bed for 24 and couldn’t keep anything down, not even water; I was literally vomiting my soul out but thankfully the next day I was quite okay. I also twisted my ankle and tore a ligament in Laos, which was one of the worst situations in this entire time, since I had to walk with crutches for 3 weeks while I was still backpacking and travelling and that was not easy – it was very hot, my foot was extremely swollen and painful (although, on the plus side, it helped me to get some good deals with the autorickshaw drivers!).
And last but not least my worst experience – recently I got dengue fever in Mumbai. My platelet count and leucocyte count was very low and I got quite scared. I was very weak and fainted in the bathroom, hitting my eye. I had to spend one week in the hospital but ultimately everything turned out well.
One more aspect is safety. On two occasions, in places where I actually felt extremely safe, I found out later that something horrible had happened: a woman had been brutally killed there. One time during the pilgrimage in Spain and one time in Goa, India. It was a strange feeling to be there, walking the same path as these young women my age, who had to suffer such a tragic death. This reminded me again,that even though a place seems perfectly safe, tragedies can happen everywhere and anytime and you always need to be cautious. I don’t want to scare young women out there but unfortunately there are a lot of bad people around, so if you travel alone, even if it’s a pilgrimage and it might seem perfectly safe, I would advice you to carry a knife or a pepper spray.
Travelling forces me to step out of my comfort zone 100%: it is unpredictable and full of surprises, it definitely teaches me to be patient, accepting and open to whatever comes my way. Patient in the sense that many times people try to cheat me, because there is a general misconception that “white people” are very rich. Sometimes they charge me 3-4 times the actual price and every day a lot of bargaining has to be done, which can really get tiring especially if one day I am simply not in the mood. So sometimes, even though I like something, I don’t even dare to ask the price because I just don’t want to bargain. Unpredictable because it can happen that everyone will try to cheat me but at the same time I meet this one person who is honest, who doesn’t see just another “white person” but who genuinely helps without taking anything in return. So the key to almost every issue in travelling is PATIENCE and to never lose HOPE because the Universe will turn things your way.
Travelling teaches me to be content, to be happy for the very small things that I usually take for granted, sometimes waking up in the morning and having running water or even hot water can bring me happiness; it teaches me to accept things as they are, and not to get angry over something I can’t change anyway since it’s just a waste of time and energy; it teaches me not to be complicated and to be creative and to create something “out of nothing” or, in other words, with the material I have around me, because actually all we need is around us – we just have to see it.
The disadvantages and advantages of travelling are in a perfect balance and I wouldn’t want to experience it in any other way since each one of the disadvantages is a challenge, makes me stronger and grow as a person and makes me realise different things.