It seems all of us in the travel blogging community agree that travel is good. The majority of posts that are produced within the industry are intended to either sell the reader on the idea that travel is one of the most amazing activities one can partake-in and that they too should travel, or momentarily take them into a world of travel fantasy (as Gary Arndt from Everything-Everywhere.com likes to put it, travel porn.) In both cases, the story of travel is almost always good. However, there is indeed a bad and ugly side to travel, more specifically, to budget travel.
There are different styles of travel and each gives the traveler a completely different experience. Usually, the type of style can be defined by how much money is being spent on that experience. For example, a luxurious trip to a five star hotel in Rome will be completely different than backpacking through Southeast Asia. That said, the following issues apply to a budget traveler and only to most places of the world, mainly to the less developed world.
The Good Travel
Travel IS good. Although I admit, during the past 11 months, I have spent most of the time on the fence about whether or not I truly believe that. Be forewarned, you too might find yourself questioning your sentiments on travel during your journey. Here are my top 3 reasons why travel is good.
Travel allows you to not only discover a new physical and visual world unbeknown to you before, but it also helps you discover a new YOU within. New talents and capabilities will begin to reveal themselves to you when put in situations you have never been before. Understanding different cultural norms and the idioms of a language help you discover a whole new way of living. It is a continuous journey of self discovery when you are on the road.
After travel you will likely feel more mature around your peers during challenging situations or in depth social and political discussions. Travel develops patience, tolerance and a greater understanding or often greater confusion of how people survive in our world.
Everyday can be different and often things are not what they seem. Nature, people, and animals will continue to surprise you. Mountains, markets and birds will interest you. You can go anywhere, do anything, at anytime you please. How much more exciting can that get?
The Bad Travel
Yes, although travel is good, there is a bad side to it and no, I do not think that is a contradiction. First, not everyone experiences the good above. Some people are just not reflexive enough to learn or grow from their travel experiences. In my humble opinion, that is the worst bad for travel. There is other bad involved in travel. Here are my 3 top reasons why travel is bad.
If you’re from any of the developed nations and you think you know what being uncomfortable means, “Ha, ha, I say to you!” During your travels you will experience, and on a much larger scale, see how much discomfort can exist. Staying in low cost hostels means you will usually not have the amenities of home. Beds and buses are uncomfortable, communication is limited and hot water becomes your highest priority.
Be prepared to be confused about 50% of the time. This is especially true if you don’t understand the language and are in a country that doesn’t use much English. Cabs lack meters, streets lack street signs and hundreds of mini buses with yelling assistants are sometimes the only means of cheap transportation.
3. Lack of Order
It is a mad house out there! Abroad, people are less likely to respect lines, many processes are slow and inefficient and your typically not on there, “I want to please you,” list. It makes the US Motor Vehicle Commission look like Google headquarters. Purchasing a plane ticket required us to pull a number from the ticket machine, sit in a lobby for 1.5 hours and then we watched the clerk shift the plastic credit card hand held machine over the carbon copy and our credit card. This was for a major airline in Argentina.
The Ugly Travel
And yes, even though travel IS good, there still can be an ugly side. This is the part that most blogs do not often discuss. We bloggers mean well and as I mentioned earlier our goal is to convey to others how great travel is and to motivate the same to get out there and join us. The harsh realities below could potentially be ugly enough to make someone want stay home and there is merit to that too. Here are my top 3 reasons why travel is ugly.
1. Income Distribution Gaps
While living in the state of New Jersey and working in New York City for many year, never did I ever see a homeless child or a begging child. There are homeless, yes of course, and they are of different ages, but I do not recollect ever seeing a child (I do know they exist however). In other parts of the world they are everywhere and in your face all the time. For me, it was a difficult thing to “get used to” if one can ever do that. Most of the world is poor and when we go to bed in our warm homes, we often forget that. When you travel, you will be reminded every day.
2. Stray Dogs
There are few animal control organizations to contact when you’re traveling abroad. You will see animals that look as though they have not eaten in months, obviously carrying disease and no positive future for them. It’s a big problem to us, but often ignored in poor countries.
3. Environmental Disaster
I still don’t know if this is a culture issue, a lack of resource issue, a corruption issue or all of them combined, but the bottom line is many cities do not have proper garbage collection services and just about every local litters. We have waited at bus terminals only to watch dozens of adults, children and babies throw their trash out of the windows waiting for the bus to leave. We have collected dozens of plastic bottles while hiking. Local picnic spots can be identified by all the styrofoam and plastic trash that litters the grounds. Amazing lakes such as Lake Atitlan in Guatemala are a toxic mess. Crude oil contaminates the drinking water of Amazonian tribes. Waters flood villages every time it rains from the logging of thousands of mountains. Mining chemicals like cyanide flow into fishing rivers. That’s all very serious, but on a simpler scale, try walking on the sidewalk alongside buses with no catalytic converters on their exhausts. You will find yourself covering your face on many occasions.
That said, budget travel is really not for everyone. Yes, most of what we read makes it sound like travel is the ultimate experience, which it can be. However, it is important to manage expectations and be mentally prepared for the unknown and unfamiliar during your journey. I believe it takes a certain kind of person to step way outside of their comfort zone, leave it all behind and head out in search for the adventure of a lifetime. And if you are not yet that certain kind of person when you begin your journey…you will either be forced to become it or return home.