“Are you sure you can handle long term travel?” This was one of the questions my friend asked me when I told her I had decided to leave my corporate life to travel for a year. She knew I wasn’t a “backpacker.”
Here are some of the things that made me less of a “princess”:
I Slept in Uncomfortable Beds
We spent two days on a cargo ship on the way to the Corn Islands. One extra day than usual because the engine broke down the first night. Our transport was nowhere near a cruise ship. We had make shift bunkbeds alongside other locals and all sorts of supplies on board, including two live pigs. The sea didn’t cooperate either. I was so glad when we made it to the Corn Islands.
During this trip, I’ve slept in pretty uncomfortable sleeping situations including a hammock in San Blas Islands, a freezing 6-person tent in the Sahara Desert and the departure area of Rome’s Ciampino Airport. It was hard to sleep but it made these experiences more memorable.
I Used the Jungle Toilet
“What happens in the desert stays in the desert.” Camping overnight in the Sahara desert in Morocco was one of the best experiences in our trip. Everything was very basic though.
I don’t have to go to China like Karl Pilkington to complain about certain toilet situations when travelling – sometimes there isn’t even a toilet available when camping or trekking.
I Skipped Some Flights and Took Long Bus Rides
From Santa Marta, we took a 14 hour bus ride to San Gil and another 1 hour bus ride to Barichara. This was the longest time we had travelled overland and the roads were probably the windiest. It was a rough ride but the trip offered the most scenic mountain views and the small colonial town of Barichara was just beautiful. Skipping the flight definitely paid off, so we gave up on the idea of taking flights in Colombia and rode buses everywhere. I get pretty bad motion sickness but I made it through (I took some pills, of course).
I Rode the Chicken Bus
There were no more seats on the chicken bus to Managua so Jon and I had to stand face to face with random people for the next few hours. Our misery didn’t stop there. Just as the bus made a stop, vendors hopped on and pushed themselves unto the standing crowd (us). That was a really long ride!
In most of Central America, the chicken bus (an old US school bus turned into a public bus) is the easiest way to go around. The ride isn’t always pleasant (lots of vendors, no AC, you may have to stand) and uncomfortable (seats have no cushions) but it took us where we needed to go.
Related Post: The Charming Towns of Ruta de las Flores in El Salvador
I Ate a Lot of Street Food
Let’s try a scorpion! It sounded like a pretty smart idea while Jon, his cousin and I were drinking at Khao San Road. We each had one. It tasted like charcoal.
From the Gyros in Greece to the Tacos in Mexico, I’ve learnt to love street food. Does it matter if we’re not eating in fancy restaurants often? Street food can be good food. It’s cheap and it’s filling. There were some we just tried out of curiosity, like the fat-bottomed ants in Colombia.
Related Post: 10 Must-Try Local Delicacies in Europe
I Used Cheaper Bags
I fell in love with the leather bags in Morocco. I bought one when we were in Marrakech and never looked for another bag. It’s not as classy or as expensive as branded bags but it’s unique and perfect for travelling!
Related Post: Magical Marrakech: The Perfect Gateway to Morocco
From $1 socks to $7 shoes, I’ve learnt to dress for a little less. It’s not very practical to carry a branded handbag while backpacking in Latin America anyway. There are also a lot of good finds in the artisan markets around the world, you’ll find these things are a lot more interesting to use during a trip.
I Cut My Own Hair
Is it even? I finally started to think that cutting my own hair was a bad idea. I cut one side shorter than the other and I couldn’t fix it.
Trips to the salon were always a part of my routine when I was working. Now I’m used to cutting my own hair to save money and for convenience (even though I sometimes mess it up!).
Related Post: My Struggles with Backpacking Fashion
I Made Friends with Animals
Goats on Trees! On the way to Essaouira, Morocco our bus made a quick stop to a unique scene where goats are actually on top of argan trees. It was an awesome sight. I also got the chance to hold a baby goat. It was so cute.
When I was in the Philippines, I was always cautious with stray animals. I often worried about safety. During this trip I got the chance to meet a lot of different animals and even got the chance to come close to some of them.
Read More: Exploring 6 of the Best Medinas in Morocco
I Got Sick a Few Times
No one wants to be sick while travelling. During our visit to Guatape, Colombia I had a bad case of altitude sickness. Although I wasn’t feeling well, I still pushed on to the 750 steps to the top of the rock of Guatape. I was so glad I did it! On the way back on the bus to Medellin, I didn’t feel too good though and we had to push our plans back because of it.
It is no fun to be sick while you’re on your dream trip. I’ve had trouble with motion sickness a few times – windy roads had always been my weakness. After Medellin, I realized, altitude sickness can also be problem.
Nothing is wrong with wanting your trips to be as convenient as possible or wishing that things go according to your plans. But sometimes, you just have to learn to let go and adjust to situations better. I think for women, travel is a little more difficult. The change in lifestyle, especially for backpacking travel is greater.
Jon calls me a “princess” when I complain about certain things. In the ten months that we travelled so far, I realized how much I have grown as a person. I learnt to live a little simpler. I adjusted to situations a lot better. I became less of a princess.
Jon and I have a few months left to travel. We hope you continue to follow our journey around the world.
How has travel changed you? Let us know.