My Bipolar Relationship with Traveling
Updated: Sep 23
Some love it, some hate it and some are still undecided! Not at all surprising in our current polarized environment. But let me suggest to you another option. BOTH ... Love it and Hate it at the same time! Being fortunate to have the opportunity to travel a lot, and to a variety of primarily international destinations, I have determined that my relationship with traveling is truly BIPOLAR. As 'hate' may be too strong of a word, I'll soften my descriptor to 'dislike'. There are elements that I DISLIKE about traveling and others that I just LOVE. I thought it would be fun to blog about MY top 5 reasons for each. So, per my usual, let me start with the bad news first!
The Five Things that I Dislike about Traveling
What to Pack
Figuring out WHAT to pack for a given trip is stressful. OF COURSE, I look at the weather forecast ahead of time, but that INVARIABLY changes. Clouds clear to let the sun sear down, cold front rolls in, winds change and rain advances. This is further complicated by my itinerary. Depending on the activities on my agenda (usually MANY), I may need to pack clothes appropriate for a nice opera or concert hall, casual sight-seeing, fancy dinner, rugged hiking, hot beaches, cool evening desert, and cold mountains ... and footwear for each occasion. While comfort is a must, fashion cannot be neglected! The second part of this equation is trying to fit ALL that I THINK I WILL NEED into my suitcase. Ideally, I would prefer this to be a carry-on, but more commonly it is not. In the end, I overpack, lug a heavy suitcase, and use only a fraction of the things that I packed. NOT fun.
Waiting, Waiting, Waiting
Those who know me well would tell you that I am not a particularly patient person. I KNOW that PATIENCE IS A VIRTUE, but somehow I was passed over when patience "was doled out". Traveling, however, requires an inordinate amount of patience, so for me, it is always put to the test. There are endless flight delays, missed connections, and far too many queues. Wait in the TSA security line, wait in the passport control line, wait for the baggage arrival, wait to board the plane, wait to deplane, wait in the rental car line, wait in the taxi line, wait for the spouse, wait for others in the tour group ... and on, and on and on of WAITING! I think you get the point. A LOT of WAITING requires a lot of PATIENCE. So this leaves me with no choice but to ATTEMPT to be patient or to be frustrated.
Overtourism Hot Spots
There are SO MANY beautiful places to visit, but I don't live in a vacuum. Much to my chagrin, others have also received the memo informing them of the beauty of those EXACT SAME places. Ugh, why can't they remain a secret? The shared knowledge of beautiful and desirable destinations makes them popular. This results in cities and sites that are OVERCROWDED, to the level that they are simply not very enjoyable. A few such places, of which there are many, that immediately come to my mind, which OTHERWISE I consider postcard-perfect and wall calendar-worthy, are Venice, Dubrovnik, and Santorini. Despite the beauty of each of those destinations, they all GREATLY suffer from "OVERTOURISM" which makes them quite unappealing to me. Sadly, I have to acknowledge that there are still SEVERAL locations on my 'travel bucket list' that may yield disappointing due to this exact reality.
Currency Exchange Rip-off
Another major headache for me arises from the need to exchange currency for international destinations. I conscientiously look up the going rate on XE.com, only to be greatly disappointed when the rates offered are FAR off that mark. Should I exchange at home with either AAA or a local bank in order to have foreign cash on hand upon my arrival? Neither seems to offer a good rate and both calculate in 'hidden' exchange fees. I have learned that the worst place to exchange cash is at the airports, be they their currency exchange kiosks or their ATMs. Airport exchange rates are abysmal. Currency exchange kiosks on the city streets are none the more generous. Brick and mortar banks in foreign cities are cumbersome to access. That leaves me with either accessing ATMS on the city streets or using my credit card. My preferred paying method when I travel is my credit card, for I know that I get the best exchange rate with it (although still not the XE rate). I also access ATMS on the city streets in order to have some foreign cash on hand for tips and smaller purchases, or when vendors tell me that their "machine doesn't work" or their "internet is down!" Yeah, right ... how convenient! So, without question, navigating currency exchange is always frustrating and makes me feel ripped-off. I don't like that!
Bargaining ... also known as 'getting ripped off'
Funny how this concept of exploitation comes up AGAIN! It's clearly not a feeling that I like. Living in the USA my entire life has not prepared me with the bargaining skills needed to confidently navigate the bazaars, souks, markets, taxis, rickshaws, etc., at overseas locales, particularly in the Middle East and Turkey. In the USA, prices are ordinarily posted and fixed. You SEE the price, you pay THAT price, or you just don't get it. Haggling is not customary, or typically even an option. "Bargaining scenarios" create discomfort for me because I KNOW their stated price is far higher than the product's worth, I KNOW I am being set up to be swindled, yet I don't want to insult the vendor (and sometimes I actually do desire the product). Along this same theme, I have noticed that many overseas tourist sites may have different prices for locals, sometimes different ones for EU residents, and the heftiest price for "other". Yup, visiting Americans fall into that "other" category. I can't wrap my head around WHY viewing the SAME SITE or entering the same attraction has DIFFERENT PRICES depending on where one resides.
After reading the above, you may be wondering why I ever leave my house and travel anywhere. There is an easy answer to that. I LOVE to travel!!! So here comes the fun part ... WHY??
The Five Things that I Love about Traveling
Stimulates My Curiosity and Knowledge
Despite years and years of schooling, it is TRAVELING that I credit MOST with stimulating my curiosity to read, research, and learn about the cultures, history, and geography of our world. There is NOTHING equivalent to actually spending time in a place to make me want to understand it better. Traveling has made me insatiable for knowledge and knowledge is power! I love to know things. However, the more I research and the more I read, the more I realize how little I know. For me, the pursuit of knowledge is FUN!
Broadens My Palate
As you can ascertain if you follow my blog, I love to cook and I love to eat. (Oh yeah, I love to drink wine, too). These all complement travel perfectly! Traveling opens my palate to AUTHENTIC spices, flavors, textures, aromas, and cooking styles that I would never experience by staying home. Of course, once I experience them abroad, I WANT TO bring them back to my home to share with my friends and family. Traveling, thereby, motivates me to explore ingredients and recipes in an effort to most authentically recreate the dishes and flavors that I so enjoy abroad. For me, this is FUN and improves my quality of life.
When I travel, invariably some setbacks occur, obstacles present, and plans get foiled. Overcoming such challenges, however, demand problem-solving skills. They require me to think on the spot, come up with a plan 'B' or even 'C', be accomodating, be flexible, find my way, figure out how to communicate, or make things work. (My problem-solving skills are particularly being put to the test this week, as I am needing to, "on the fly," completely reroute and revamp, a planned Pacific Northwest trip along the Oregon coast due to the smoke and ash from the wildfires in the region.) In these ways, I feel that traveling "keeps me on my toes", sharpens my mind, and buttresses my confidence. For me, being challenged in this way is FUN!
Opens My Eyes, Mind, and most importantly, HEART to Diversity
In today's world, it is easy to become self-centric, to think only about ourselves or others very similar to ourselves. Traveling has exposed me to people of MANY DIFFERENT cultures, races, religions, and socioeconomic classes. Through both my observations and interactions with them, I have genuinely learned to embrace diversity. By being around others, seemingly very different than me, often befriending them and remaining in contact with them upon my return home, I have gained much insight, developed greater empathy, and acquired a genuine understanding of their stories, their struggles, and their hardships. It is through these personal experiences that I have come to realize that while on the outset, it may appear that they are very different from me, in REALITY, we often share many similarities. This exposure has unequivocally opened my heart to diversity. This, I feel, is priceless.
Appreciate the Beauty of our World
I love to travel and see the many natural WONDERS and VISTAS of our world. To experience the great variety of climates, ecosystems, and terrains in nature. I am also awed by the MARVELS and ARCHITECTURE built by civilizations. I love to experience the ambiance, style, and energy of varying cultures. Seeing something new and experiencing something different is exciting and interesting. This, for me, makes life FRESH and FUN!
Traveling is certainly NOT for everyone; for I know far too many people who rarely leave the state in which they live, and more astoundingly HAVE NO DESIRE to do so. But for me, there is nothing that excites me more. My trips are NEVER SEAMLESS. Mistakes are made, mishaps occur and circumstances outside of my control arise, but they are all collectively dwarfed by the immense joy that I gain from the overall experience. While my 'Dislike segment" above is twice in length and detail to my "Love segment," as often is the case, fewer words can carry more meaning.