It’s Not All a Bed of Roses

its not all guns and roses

And now, here I am, still moving from one place to another with my backpack and my books. This adventure or temporary lifestyle really is like a roller-coaster and indeed the most eventful time ever. I have dreamed of this often and I made this dream come true.

(from: I am a Gypsy Girl)

Even though I love my life and I am living my dream, I also want to mention a few downsides to long-term travelling, since many people have the idea that it is all just fun, happiness and “chilling” all the time. Maybe it is perceived like a never-ending vacation because the net is full of travel bloggers showing only the beautiful places they have visited and not many speak about the negative sides of it.

Many people don’t know that there is a HUGE difference between being a tourist and being a traveller. When I was travelling as a tourist, taking a vacation from my studies/job or just my daily routine, being on a budget or taking the cheaper & slower route to get from one place to another was not my biggest interest since I only had very limited time for my vacation; but now as a traveller being on a tight budget has become part of my life.

I will not choose the fastest way to get to any destination but I rather the cheapest way, which is usually the slower way that locals also take.

In reality, long-term travelling is not all a bed of roses; no, it is an amazing but sometimes also hard full-time “job”, which can get you quite stressed out from time to time. It is a wild and beautiful roller-coaster ride which you just have to enjoy how it comes your way.

One of the stigmas I would like to clear is that many people believe, that as a traveller, I have nothing to do all day, that I just lie around and relax. Actually the opposite is true, because I am busy all day. Once I arrive in a new place, mostly after a long bus, train or flight journey, with very little sleep, I check into a room, shower, get dressed, eat and research online (if I haven’t done it before) the places I can visit. And then, no matter what the weather conditions are outside, whether it is cold, raining or super hot, I go and explore which, depending on where I am, might take all day. Mostly there is absolutely no time to waste, because I constantly move from one place to another.

Long distance buses are extremely uncomfortable, take hours, drive like crazy and make it impossible for me to even close my eyes for a second without being afraid for my life. For the most part the roads are in a terrible condition and I literally jump off the seat in a rhythmic manner throughout the bus ride, especially on mountain roads.

Sometimes the buses are so packed that people are standing like sardines, bumping into each other; so if you suffer slightly from claustrophobia, well then good luck! People vomiting next to me and me urgently waiting for the next stop to use the bathroom (most buses don’t have toilets on board) while hoping that the bus won’t leave me at the rest-stop and that nobody will take my bag in the meantime (many times the bags are kept in the front of the bus) is just routine.

On top of that, local buses are not very reliable, with delays of many hours or breaking down in the middle of the road can happen any time and to top it all, especially in India, the drivers love to honk every 2 minutes – if you are “lucky” enough to sit next to him, you will probably be deaf after the ride. Train rides are slightly better and safer but more expensive, not available in every country and usually slower. Initially all of this is still exciting, because it is something new, but doing this day in, day out, means that it becomes kind of a routine for travellers.

Accommodation, when travelling on a budget, is a big subject and it is totally unpredictable. Most days I don’t even know where I will end up sleeping. Apps like Agoda and Hostel-bookers are not always reliable; a few times I booked a room online and when I finally got to the hotel, they told me that they are overbooked and don’t have space for me. So even though I just completed a 48-hour train journey and I am totally exhausted, I still have to go in search of another hotel.

Buses normally arrive early in the morning in a new place but you can only check in to hotels at noon, which means waiting for a lot of time. In India, when you are not married but travelling with an Indian man, you will often not be given a room or you will be charged double the price, stating that the police will make problems.

I have slept in the worst imaginable rooms –  with rats, mice and spiders crawling on my feet and nagging on my guavas in Nepal; in a room which was possibly part of a brothel in Sri Lanka; in another without windows resembling a prison cell from the times of the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia, without A/C when it is 45 degrees outside and you are literally dripping with sweat or without heating when its very cold outside.

I won’t even start speaking about hygiene or how clean some rooms are – mostly all the blankets and pillow cases are full of stains and at times I have slept in rooms which seem as if they haven’t been cleaned in ages.

From time to time I am pretty disgusted, but having chosen this lifestyle and not luxury, I have lowered my standards and expectations.

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.

To be continued …

(Note: In this article I am mostly sharing my experience of travelling around Nepal, India, Sri Lanka & Southeast Asia)

Credits

Image Title Author License
its not all guns and roses its not all guns and roses Isabel Scharrer CC BY-SA 4.0
Local bus, Sri Lanka Local bus, Sri Lanka Isabel Scharrer CC BY-SA 4.0
Local bus, Sri Lanka 2 Local bus, Sri Lanka 2 Isabel Scharrer CC BY-SA 4.0
Local bus, India Local bus, India Isabel Scharrer CC BY-SA 4.0
Crowded local transportation, India Crowded local transportation, India Isabel Scharrer CC BY-SA 4.0
Long train journey, India Long train journey, India Isabel Scharrer CC BY-SA 4.0
Worst room, Sri Lanka Worst room, Sri Lanka Isabel Scharrer CC BY-SA 4.0
Spotted this baby mouse in the bathroom,Nepal Spotted this baby mouse in the bathroom,Nepal Isabel Scharrer CC BY-SA 4.0
Worst room, Sri Lanka 2 Worst room, Sri Lanka 2 Isabel Scharrer CC BY-SA 4.0
Sleeper train, India Sleeper train, India Isabel Scharrer CC BY-SA 4.0
Note the huge spider, Nepal Note the huge spider, Nepal Isabel Scharrer CC BY-SA 4.0
Shooting day under heavy snowfall Shooting day under heavy snowfall Isabel Scharrer CC BY-SA 4.0
Hiking to a remote area in Nepal for a womens health camp. The sun was burning and unfortunately my umbrella broke Hiking to a remote area in Nepal for a womens health camp. The sun was burning and unfortunately my umbrella broke Isabel Scharrer CC BY-SA 4.0
Exploring under the rain, Inle Lake, Myanmar Exploring under the rain, Inle Lake, Myanmar Isabel Scharrer CC BY-SA 4.0
Bathroom at rest-stop during long bus ride, Nepal 1.jpg Bathroom at rest-stop during long bus ride, Nepal 1.jpg Isabel Scharrer CC BY-SA 4.0
06-1-After a long train ride I met this unexpected guest at the train station, India
11-Wildlife in the room scorpion_edited
Bathroom at rest-stop during long bus ride, Nepal 2 Bathroom at rest-stop during long bus ride, Nepal 2 Isabel Scharrer CC BY-SA 4.0
No heating and cold weather in the mountains_edited No heating and cold weather in the mountains_edited Isabel Scharrer CC BY-SA 4.0