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The Dark Side Of Travelling

It’s an exciting life, being a traveller. Every day you witness new things, you meet interesting people, you discover new ways of living and you eat food you never knew existed. You find yourself inspired by things you never thought you’d care about, and a new version of you is moulded with every new experience. If there’s one way to rediscover the magic in life, it’s travelling.

But there’s a dark side to travelling, too. A lot of the time, you are alone. You have no friends, you have no family. You may be sitting in an empty hotel room in a faraway town, or eating breakfast alone in a small, crowded teahouse. Sometimes, you just lie in bed and stare at the ceiling, starving painfully, but lacking the energy to wander the streets for a decent place to eat. It’s times like these when you long for company. The sound of a familiar voice. The comfort of a familiar face.

And then when you finally meet someone, it’s never long before you have to part ways. Sometimes, it’s just the guy in the bunk above you. Maybe you ate lunch together, or shared a few beers. A few days later you shake hands and say you’ll keep in touch, but of course, you never do. Other times, you meet a new best friend. It’s like you’ve found a long lost brother from Spain or Sweden. Those friendships always brew crazy memories, as if you’ve been friends since childhood. But it only lasts a week. Eventually, it’s time for them to pack up and move on too. Slowly, it weathers you. One can only handle so many goodbyes.

Then when you least expect it, you’ll fall in love. You won’t even know what hit you. But the road is not kind to love. Those goodbyes are the painful ones. They eat away at you. They’re the ones you’ll still think about, many years from now.

Somewhere along the way, you’ll need to come home. That is hard to describe. At first it’s as if nothing has changed. That old coffee shop with chipped red and white paint is still standing on the corner, and your old friends still slam tequilas at the bar every Friday night. But soon you realise, your old life has passed you by. People are married, they have children, they have houses and a DVD collection. They’ve built a life for themselves, and you weren’t there to be a part of it. Home has changed, but more subtly and slowly than you expected. Suddenly, it’s like you’re a stranger in your own town.

With this realisation, it doesn’t take long for the fragile comfort of home to wear off. Sometimes it’s just a couple of days. You find yourself itching to explore again. Maybe you’ll go to Togo this time. Or Venezuela.

Why?

No idea. Just because.

Wanderlust is like a drug. It consumes you. Once the road has a hold of you it never lets you go. You are drawn to it, you crave it. It’s an addiction. The conventional life becomes nothing but an afterthought. You might have worked hard for it once, but you threw it away, and maybe you’ll regret that one day. Or, maybe you won’t. But you didn’t really have a choice anyway. A roving foot is too hard to stop.

“Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return.” – Leonardo da Vinci

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28 thoughts on “The Dark Side Of Travelling

  1. Look on the ‘bright side’, some people experience that kind of ‘darkness’ (the loneliness, feeling left out, disconnection and constant goodbyes) even without leaving home. Atleast you have travel as a perfect excuse.

  2. I never expected to find an article like this on your blog or any travel blog for that matter, very interesting read and it’s all true, especially coming back home to find not only has nothing changed but that conventional life really does feel like an afterthought in light of your new experiences. That last paragraph really hit the spot. I’d say a life rich in experiences is a life well lived so don’t have any regrets on what you may have left behind because at the end of the day it’s the experiences that opens our hearts and minds and moulds the person we become.
    A bit of advice. In Thailand I spent most of my time making friends with locals via Couchsurfing. These guys don’t abandon you because not only do they live there, they’re doing it to make friends, so you’ve always got company if you make friends with locals as opposed to other travelers. Besides, the whole reason we travel is to soak up the country and the culture, so what better way than to do it with the people who live there.

    1. True, I don’t seem to spend much time in hostels these days so I make mostly local or expat friends, but unless you plan on living there, you’re going to leave them eventually. Hard but worth it.

  3. No other blogger dares to reveal the grey shade of travelling. This is a very honest and warm article buddy. Good read. Enjoy and keep safe

  4. This is indeed the dark side that travelers don’t like to acknowledge. On the other hand, people who’ve built up homes and families are also secretly envious of the freedom of their wandering buddies. There’s no place that’s all sunshine. One situation offers stability; the other offers adventure. The important thing is to be happy within oneself whatever the place or situation may be 🙂 bless you always.

  5. As always, another great read Bren! I’m so glad I stumbled upon your blog.

  6. Hey Bren, thank you for your wonderful article, it just fits in for me at the momement. It s a relief to read something like this and you somehow suddenly feel less lonely just because you know someone else in this world is experiencing simular things too, and it s not just me being too sensitive or strange to have this kind of (very strong and painful) experiences and feelings sometimes. A really beautiful, subtle article, I love it and it makes me want to write my own blog too, it s inspiring:) Thanks Bren, and thank you for all you share with us, you re amazing. Love, Teja

    1. Hi Teja,

      I’d say most travellers experience some sort of self doubt and loneliness at some stage. And of course, often you’ll be by yourself so it’s completely normal. It always passes eventually though 🙂

      Thanks for reading!

  7. I’ve thought on the loneliness and fear of going home a lot and while I understand it I don’t feel its as doom and gloom as most make it out to be.

    Going home is never the end of a trip its the starting point for something else. That town one over from your home always looks different with a travellers eye. The things you notice now compared to before is astonishing. You just need to open your eyes to the fact that home is an amazing place to explore with its own history to learn about.

    As to being alone on the road. While you do certainly make and lose friends quickly, there is always a new friend to be made and now and then a bit of alone time can be just what you need. Maybe I’m just happy to do my own thing, that I’m ok to book a table for one or explore by myself.

    1. Hi Chris, I agree the true value of travelling is in growing new eyes and seeing everything differently. The world becomes a whole new place. And the dark bits in between, well, I guess that’s just part of the package. As you say, for some people it’s actually not that bad.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  8. Wow! What poignant feeling your words bring!
    I agree with you. Travelling can be fun, especially when you’re trying to find and discover yourself. But, it can really be lonely and scary alone. I can’t imagine having such lonely meals without anyone to talk to.
    Forming new friendships are also good, especially if you learn one small thing from each of them. The memory stays, but sometimes the feelings goes.
    That’s what makes it special, the memories and the lessons you’ve passed by and gone through to reach your destination.
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  9. Traveling isn’t without its tradeoffs, but in the end, i feel its worth it. You get to see more than most ever do in their lives, and your real friends and family still do keep in touch!

  10. Thanks for sharing this with us Bren! I came across your site by accident. You’re one of the best traveller bloggers I’ve come across! You’re passion really shows through in your work! Thank you so much for all you’ve shared with us! You’re incredible!

  11. I’m an old girl of 54 now and my travelling days are done. I had a wonderful time. All great experiences, some sheer beauty and joy, some scary, some just plain weird. Some loneliness but mostly fantastic companionship with people I never saw again. Eventually, when I found myself walking the streets of foreign countries gazing into the warm homes of other people and thinking how nice it would be to have one to go to, I came home. But I didn’t go back to 9-5. I found contract work in a place near home but where I’d never been before. It was great. I made permanent friends, played sport again. After about 2 years I moved on again, then again and eventually eased myself into settling down. Fell in love, got married and had children.

    All of you youngsters out there, who think that the next travel experience is all there is to life, you need to understand that having children, looking after your aging parents and hearing their stories, growing your own veggies, these things have just as much to offer as the road. Who you are is not defined by where you are, that is a shallow thing really. Think about that!

    Old Gel

    1. Appreciate your perspective, thanks for sharing. I have no doubt I too will one day settle down somewhere, I just haven’t decided where yet. All the best to you!

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