An Ode to the Non-Glamorous Side of Traveling

A Tale Written from an Airport Floor


There’s one thing that really bothers me about most travel bloggers and their travel social media counterparts (I’m not sure what a person who ‘instagram travels’ is called), and that is they only present the glamorous side of traveling. The image you as a viewer are given is one of constant 24/7 euphoria and celebration, as if life exists without struggle and as if nothing has a price tag. I write this from one of those non-glamorous moments, currently sitting in the Oslo airport in the middle of an eight hour layover, after a seven hour flight, while waiting for another. It’s been 30 hours since I’ve slept (expect a 15 minute nap), and have been sustaining myself on bananas and peanuts… because Norway is outrageously expensive.

Why did I put myself in this situation? Well, I’ve always wanted to see the Baltic countries, and this was the cheapest flight from New York to Tallinn, Estonia. Now, I want to make it clear, I’m not writing this to complain. Nor am I complaining at all. I’m happy with my decision. I’m just doing this to highlight the side of traveling no one else likes to acknowledge. This is part of the whole reality. Some parts of travel are exhausting, uncomfortable, and boring. If you pretend these parts don’t exist, they’ll hit you even stronger when they happen. However, even with this dark side, it’s all still completely worth it.

Sometimes you need to be still. Sometimes you need to be bored and wait. It gives you an opportunity to be introspective and think of creative ways to pass the time (such as writing a reflection like this). Maybe you can download a podcast or audiobook you’ve always wanted to hear. You can think of ideas for your upcoming trip, or you can reflect on the good memories already had. This whole process is important. Plus, when you’re board, you’ll look outside yourself more. Since you’re not doing anything you’d want to show off to hypothetical followers, you can actually look up for once and see what the world around you is doing. And even if there’s nothing exciting, observe anyway for your own piece of mind.

Most of all, at least to me, the stressful and boring times make the exciting and wonderful moments all the better. If travel was all just joy and amazement, you would stop appreciating anything. There would be no more wonder or excitement in expectation.. You can’t be surprised anymore if you always get the desired outcome, and you’d have nothing to compare the good times too if they were all that happened. Let me use two analogies here. The first is the weather. For example, someone moves from Ireland to California. The first thing they’ll notice is how warm and nice the weather is. But after a few years, this ‘amazing weather’* will just seem normal. Likewise, someone who’s lived their whole life in California will never be impressed by the 350 days of sun per year. Instead, they’ll likely just be disappointed with the weather anywhere else they go.

The second analogy I’ll use is with alcohol and dessert. Your first drink at the end of the day will probably feel pretty and relax you. Yet, your tenth drink will likely make you feel terrible. Same with dessert. The first will taste good, yet the tenth will make you feel disgusting. Now lets imagine if you drink like a fish and gorge yourself on treats every day. Not only will you continually feel awful, your life probably won’t last very long either.

So yes, parts of travel (like trying to sleep on overcrowded trains, missing meals, and 12 hour layovers) are uncomfortable and stressful, but it’s all part of an experience that is incredibly worth taking part in. It’ll make the rewards that eventually follow feel earned and seem even sweeter.