Growing up, we never really did get to travel much. Long before I met Basil, I’d already begun dreaming of visiting obscure places and meeting people from different cultures. My room door was plastered with captivating visuals — snipped from magazines or calendars. These visuals got me through many rough spots in my life and those turbulent teen years. Elsewhere, in another home, Basil saved his money to collect hand-me-down National Geographic magazines, foreign currency, and stamps. Frankly, when we met in college, I didn’t think we’d ever travel. Although, he was pretty sure we would. We had to wait, for many years, before we could actually travel.

Back then, I didn’t think of what travel can do to you. What it demands of you. The price you have to pay — is not always limited — to your bank account. So, if you’re thinking of looking forward to a life of travel, you might want to read the disclaimer below. It’s always good to know — what you’re getting into.

Dreaming of furry nuzzles

Sleeping beauty – Bruges, Brussels.

When I quit my job, I had it all figured out. It might be another matter, that life, doesn’t work the way you want it to. In the grand scheme of dreams — was a furry pup. But then, our travel got more erratic, making it more difficult to make the decision. We were warned by friends and rightly dissuaded from taking the plunge.

Becoming a ‘Certified Plant Killer’

Mum’s backyard glory

So, we love nature. Anyone, who’s following us would get that. I remember, when we first moved into our apartment, we had a dozen pots in our kitchen balcony. By the time, we returned home from our maiden Europe trip, the only plant to survive was a wilted creeper. Ironically, it’s the only plant to have survived all our trips. Surprisingly, it still creeps today.

Coping with Multicultural Disorder

Automated – Tokyo, Japan.

Coming from a country that’s already confused about its cultural diversity — it’s hard, for me, to find a culture that I can truly really relate to. Adding to the confusion, on every trip, I feel like a sponge ready to get drenched in a new cultural soup. Recently, a friend casually remarked, that I’m positively confused. I guess that’s a good thing or at least I hope it is.

The case of the twisted tongue

En guarde – Seoul, SK.

I can speak four languages with varying degrees of fluency and have a working knowledge of two more. To my dismay, we visited Japan, China, and South Korea in quick succession. By the time I reached Seoul, I was tongue tied. Once, at the local supermarket in Seoul, I almost mumbled arigato, quickly corrected myself to xiexie and finally whispered kamsahamnida. Phew!

Losing friends or keeping the ones who matter

The walk – Reykjavik, Iceland.

I’ve always been a hopeless introvert. I love the sound of silence and don’t make friends very easily. I think, for any relationship to maintain its course — there needs to be a reasonable amount of time spent together. I’ve lost many friends who didn’t change as quickly as me. Thankfully, the ones who mattered, stuck on.

Losing sight of home

Home – Iceland

They say, home is where the heart is. The problem with being a serial taveller, is that, you lose your heart too often. It’s like falling in love again and again. And that makes coming back — all the more difficult.

Developing new palates

Momos – Shillong, India.

Food is the key to survival. If you can’t adapt, you won’t be able to survive. I’m a picky eater with a weak stomach, who’s a pseudo vegetarian. I’ve realised, the hard way, when you’re hungry — you’ve got eat what you have to.

Turning into obsessive savers

Modes of transport – Kamshet, India.

We fund our own trips. That calls for big sacrifices and realizing the difference between — what we really need vs what we crave. Bigger the trip — longer it takes to plan and start the saving pool. In the long run, it helps you throw out all the fancy things in life and makes you appreciate the small pleasures.

Soon enough your body will tell you to QUIT

On the top – Himachal Pradesh, India.

And that will happen long after those concerned family warnings. With each successive trip, we tried to walk, more than the earlier one. Without the right preparation, my knee took a beating. But, it also showed us, that you need to have a higher level of fitness. Nothing comes easy.

Saying Goodbye

The generation gap – Busan, SK.

I think the toughest part of any trip is — saying goodbye. Even if our families are scattered, strangely, the minute we leave for a trip, the phone lines keep buzzing. Saying goodbye is never easy.

I can continue with the list. There are so many things that travellers won’t tell you. Those edited photos and inspirational words, hide more, than they disclose. And there’s one more thing. Travel is addictive. Once you succumb to it — it’s hard to get away. The ‘real’ world might cease to exist and the only high you might ever get — might be on a trip.



Posted by:twobrownfeet

Writer-Photographer Duo. Now in Seoul.

41 replies on “The Flipside of Travel

  1. Very beautiful article. So true. Traveling is hard work. There is so much beyond travelogues and photos.
    The best part of it all, you love doing it. You love all the hard work because of the joys traveling brings.
    Saying good bye is indeed so tough. You kind of miss a place but more often you miss you in that place:)

    1. Thanks, Divyakshi! 🙂 Can’t have it all, I guess. 🙂 Sometimes, I wonder, if we could stagnate and lead a normal life. Never venture out of our city or country. I guess, we’d be unhappy! Who knows?

  2. Love this post, Cheryl! So very relatable! Being a traveller myself I often have friends remarking on how lucky I am & how much they’d love to be able to do what I do. And while I know I’m lucky, I also know travel can be hard. Like yourself, I’m also an introvert and a fussy eater. I’m willing to soak up cultures & try out languages. But I’m at the point where I don’t miss home when I leave. Quite the opposite – I cry when I leave the holiday destination to return home!! I save every cent, & skip social outings with friends, all in pursuit of the next trip. Because frankly, I’m restless and unsettled without it … And that’s hard to live with 🙂

    1. Thanks, Kim! We get that often too. Although, I’ve never accounted our trips to luck. It mildly annoys me when friends remark how lucky we are. I don’t believe in luck or destiny. I think we make the choices we do. It might not be easy, but it’s the choice we chose. I guess, more than home, it’s my space that I miss. And then, I have the similar pangs to leave and return back. It’s all very confusing. I know the saving bit. It’s crazy. I’m torn between travelling and just leading a normal life. Sigh! I guess, we can’t have it all. 🙂

      1. I like that remark about a “normal life”. That’s so true, Cheryl. Once you have the travel bug, there’s no normal anymore. And you’re right, it’s not luck. I’ve made sacrifices and choices to be able to put travel first. I wouldn’t change a thing though! If anything, I’d love to be able to step it up and do more 🙂

      2. And then, one might wonder what ‘normal’ is? Haha! At times, I do feel the need to step it up! But, the planning and logistics get in the way. Might I add, I do enjoy our little conversations here. Thanks for taking the time out and commenting. 🙂

      3. Good point! Maybe there is no normal 🙂
        And thanks, Cheryl! I enjoy our conversations too. Always so lovely meeting kindred spirits. I’ve been pleasantly surprised at some of the excellent connections I’ve made since I started blogging in January.

  3. This is such a brilliant post on the other side of travel, and there is so much truth to the points you bring up here. My parents are currently traveling and they have brought one of their plants over to my place so I can water it and keep it alive. They certainly don’t want all their hard work growing this potted plant going down the drain 😀

    Traveling can wear us down physically and mentally if we don’t know our limits or if we push our selves too far. Sorry to hear about your knee (and in previous posts as well), but now you know how to travel more safely. With technology and wifi in most hotels these days, it is easier to keep in touch with family and friends back home so saying goodbye might not be too big a deal to others 🙂

    1. Thank you for your comment, Mabel. My neighbour used to keep our potted plants for us. However, our creeper has grown and curled around the window bars. I didn’t have the heart to cut it’s branches. 😦
      I’m indebted to technology. Wifi has revolutionized travel. Although, sometimes, it can be quite a pain. There are times you don’t want to be connected and that phone doesn’t stop pinging. I went hiking over the weekend and I was happy that my knee did take the toll. So, there’s reasonable progress. And reminds me how important it is to exercise.
      Have a good week.

  4. Such a wonderful post and lots of words of truth here. It’s not all roses and photos and there are certainly downsides to constantly being on the move. But it IS worth it.

  5. a very honest, realistic and down-to-earth post about travelling… it’s not all roses and glamour, and this is exactly what is most attractive (addictive) about it perhaps 🙂 love your sense of humour lol 🙂 I’m a certified plant killer too, even tho I don’t travel as much… 🙂 and photos and text work just perfect together… love reading you, guys!!

    1. Thank you for showering us with your generous praise! It means a lot, Alexandra. I’m sure, there are many more certified plant killers out there. Haha! Thank you for your honesty. I don’t feel as bad now.

  6. What a genuinely lovely article with great matching photos. Love Sleeping Beauty and as for languages I have enough trouble with Learning Chinese (seven years now) and you can speak four!!!! Very clever.

    1. Thank you, Sue! Ah! I’ve learned those languages as a kid. It’s part of our cultural diversity and not a big feat. I must confess, any language I that attempted to learn as an adult didn’t quite end well. Hehe! I’m sure your Mandarin is fantastic. I find it’s one of the tougher languages to master. Especially, the pronunciations. 🙂

    1. Thanks! 🙂 I’d say, never quit your job. Unless, there’s something far more compelling – that calls you to do so. I wanted to write. That was my calling. Travel is something that helps me keep an open mind and gives me perspective. I wouldn’t call myself a travel writer or a nomadic traveller. 🙂 I’d be lying – if it were the image I projected. Basil, my hubby/travel partner, still holds on to his highly demanding corporate job. You very rightly pointed – travel can be quite a burner.
      Thanks for stopping by! It’s good to connect with fellow travellers. 🙂 All the best with your travel adventures.

  7. I’m thinking of quitting my corporate job within the next year or two. But I don’t want to be a travel nomad. I want to pursue something that’s related to the travel industry, and yet still call Malaysia home and travel every few months but at least I won’t have the pressure to shorten a trip because of limited number of annual leave days! Fingers crossed, will see how that pans out.

    1. All the best, Kat! I’m sure you worked it all out. 🙂 Your plan sounds practical. It’s always necessary to find a means of supporting yourself. The travel industry has so many lucrative avenues. You just need to tap them. Ironically, I quit to write, not necessarily travel. The blog was a kind of daily prompt. Hoped somebody would read what I write. 🙂

      1. I’m sure a lot of people are reading your blog 🙂 And if you have forms of writing published elsewhere, or another writing blog, let us know and we will be more than happy to promote and share 🙂

  8. Great lines here “The problem with being a serial taveller, is that, you lose your heart to often. It’s like falling in love again and again.” and “The ‘real’ world might cease to exist and the only high you might ever get — might be on a trip.” I agree 100%

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