Everyday I’m strug-struggling.
1. Being a real person – paying bills, getting your credit cards approved for travel
OMG preparing your life for travel can be one giant pain in the butt! From calling banks and credit cards to packing your bags, there’s no denying that it’s a ton of work. And then you’re still (technically) a real person while you travel who presumably has to pay monthly bills, see a doctor from time to time, etc.
2. Finding wifi to do said real person things or just get online
That time I lost my ATM card and it took me nearly two weeks to get a good enough wifi connection at the right time of day to call my bank and cancel the card. We bought several drinks at several hostels, french fries at McDonald’s and a hotspot card at Starbucks all in the attempt to find a location with steady wifi.
3. Motion sickness and travel day exhaustion – especially when you’re battling jet lag
At home I never get sick. Like never. Bronchitis here, a sinus infection there and that one time I had a stupid kidney infection. Colds? The flu? Not my problem. But as a traveler I was constantly battling the little things that keep you down.
4. Cuts, scrapes and bruises
There was that time I was walking around barefoot and stepped on glass. That other time I jumped out of a boat and lost half my toenail. That time Maggie broke her toe. That other time Maggie sliced her foot swimming into Maya Bay. You get the idea…
5. Finding a pharmacy, hospital or clinic with a good English speaker to deal with said injuries – especially in the smaller destinations
When I broke my toenail we were traveling in the Thai islands and by day three I had to go to the clinic because it wouldn’t stop bleeding and swelling. When we finally got there a nurse quickly took my information and proceeded to pull the remaining toenail out from under my skin with a pair of tweezers. No painkillers either and when I screamed that it hurt she smiled and said yes. Another time when I couldn’t stop vomiting Maggie ran to the pharmacy to ask for anti nausea medicine and had to motion “throwing up” to them. They told her to stop drinking alcohol…
6. Figuring out how to make phone calls without actually using a phone plan – skype calls, google voice, etc. (goes back to the struggles of #2)
I got a global phone but it cost an arm and a leg to use so we never turned it on. Instead we struggled to find wifi and call home through various data phone connections on Maggie’s iPhone and my laptop. If I could go back in time I would have unlocked my old iPhone and bought local SIM cards when we got there.
7. Figuring out what exactly you’re eating – especially when it’s street food (and in my case trying to explain what “no meat, vegetarian” entails by my standards not theirs)
By the end of our trip and after a cooking class in Cambodia, I discovered that in the local culture “vegetarian” means no visible meat chunks. What?! That whole time I had been eating chicken powder, chicken stock, fish sauce…
8. Finding toilet paper… and then remembering not to flush it down the toilet
Many of the hostels and restrooms we used had no toilet paper. We quickly learned to stock up at 7eleven just in case. Oh, and don’t forget you can’t flush it because if you try and then clog the toilet, making them have to bring in Absolute Draining & Plumbing.. Well that’s embarrassing.
9. Finding a real toilet not a squatter
Who wants to step up onto a mini platform and then squat down over a porcelain bowl in the ground? No one. Then in order to flush you have to reach your hand into a nasty tub of water to grab a grubby plastic dish and pour water down the squatter. That’s just too much work.
10. Changing our flights (made even more difficult due to #2 and #6)
Without good internet connection or a real phone to call the airline, it took us hours to change our flights on the Emirates site. It should have been a relatively easy process, but on the go it was anything but.
11. Lost or stolen credit cards
My ATM card disappeared. Maggie’s credit car got stolen by a madman who went on the world’s largest shopping spree at TESCO. The ATM in Laos ate Maggie’s other card and we had to walk through the rain to the local branch to find a guy to go back and retrieve it out of the machine. At least retrieving it was even a possibility!
12. Arriving at a hostel to find out it’s already booked up
Sometimes we were just not willing to forfeit flexibility for a pre-booked accommodation. Other times we were just plain lazy. But when we every so often came across a hostel that was already full it really cramped our go-with-the-flow style.
13. Trying to take pictures that don’t reveal how terribly you’ve been sweating in the SE Asia heat
The best I can offer you is a lot of oil-blotting paper and a black and white photo filter. Or maybe just focus on the landscapes. Yeah, those are pretty too.