Raw Talk #1: I Hated My First 6 Months of Travel
I decided to start a new series of posts on this blog called Raw Talks. Raw Talks are going to be more of a stream of consciousness style of writing with minimal editing. They’ll provide a better understanding of what I’m experiencing while I travel and what life on the road is really like. Think of it as a behind-the-scenes, uncensored view of traveling full time.
It’s gonna be raw. It’s gonna be unfiltered. Things ’bout to get wild y’all!
This is my first Raw Talk post and it’s going to be about how I hated my first 6 months of travel!
I fucking hated my first 6 months of traveling. The end.
Kidding, kidding. I have a lot more to say on this topic than just 2 measly lines of text.
Where should I even begin? With every disappointment comes the expectation that leads to the disappointment. Nowadays we’re used to seeing assholes jumping off tourist boats with selfie sticks in their hands, Phi phi islands in the background, proclaiming that traveling while earning a living is the only way to find fulfillment. Become a digital nomad they’ll tell you. They’ll tell you- “It’s not easy but it’s totally possible! (pssst…all you gotta do is sign up for my free webinar)” or some nonsense like that.
Well, let me tell you upfront – it’s NOT fucking easy. No one can or should ever teach you or tell you HOW you should travel, and that this way of traveling is right and this way of traveling is wrong or that staying in a corporate job is wrong and being a digital nomad is right. Get my drift? YOU are the one who decides what’s right and what’s wrong for you. What works and what doesn’t.
Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself. And maybe I don’t sound any different from a dildo nomad right now. So let me get back to the beginning of this year.
It’s January, 2019. I’ve just quit my job. I’m in the process of selling all my stuff on Carouhell. I’m weighing each and every item that I own on a fucking digital scale to make sure that all my worldly possessions don’t weight more than 12kg in total. I even have a friggin excel file full of items and their weights.
Titanium spork – 50g
Sea to Summit Silk Liner – 200g
This is in a vain attempt to make sure I can always carry everything I own with me and I don’t ever have to check in my luggage. Because that’s how digital nomads are supposed to travel. What a fucking nightmare. Meanwhile, people are congratulating me and wishing me all the best on my journey while I’m thinking to myself – what the fuck am I doing and how the fuck am I going to carry these jeans with me that weight 650 grams.
I am giving up my cushy, beautiful apartment in Hillview, the most wonderful place I’ve ever lived in. The whole place feels like a god damn resort and I’m giving all this up to live out of a backpack in some stinky hostel down the road. Anyway, I have committed to this and I know that these are just my defense mechanisms acting up right now. I’ve made way too many trips to Salvation army and I just don’t have the time to make another one because I need to get out of this apartment in a few hours time and my shit refuses to fit inside my backpack. I open the garbage chute and down go my 650 gram Levis jeans.
Cut to a few weeks later. I’m in India now. I’m spending time with my parents in Indore. Indore has become a gigantic shit hole. It’s crowded, there’s way too much traffic. Smoke and dust in the air. This is not the town I grew up in. The beautiful building of my childhood, Shree Apartments, that was at one time the tallest structure in Indore, is now a dilapidated mess that’s just begging for a horror movie to be shot in. It doesn’t help that someone jumped off the roof of this building when I was still a teenager (or maybe it does, if you’re the Ramsay Brothers looking for a location to shoot Purana Mandir 4 – Purani Building). I am realizing that nothing ever stays the same. The only thing I have now are my memories of a clean, green, sleepy Indore and a magical, untainted Shree Apartments. The dry weather and dust seem to have caused an allergic reaction on my skin and there are rashes on my neck and arms. This is just the beginning of my eczema and I have no idea what lies ahead.
The eczema gets worse when I visit my sister in Bangalore, another city that I used to love when I lived here for a year but which I’m growing to hate now. Not only are are there rashes on my neck and arms, but now the skin has started to dry up and flake on my forehead, my eyelids, my nose, my lips, all over my beard, all over my ears and especially my earlobes that have gotten cracked and pussy (…wait what? Pussy? Pus filled?), the back of my ears, my legs, especially on my shins and even on my friggin dick! Yeah, let that image sear into your mind for a bit. And that’s not the end of it, NO! I even have a fucking persistent eye infection on my left eye that just doesn’t go away no matter how many antibiotic eye drops my red, swollen eye guzzles up. My anus is also ithcy because apparently I have butt worms. Hahahaha! Butt worms! (Don’t laugh – it’s a real thing and very common in India).
And finally, because of all the dust, pollution and pollen in Bangalore, I have mild bronchitis that keeps me up all night as I cough my lungs out. Sleep deprived and stricken with multiple ailments, I’m already starting to wonder if this whole travel thing was a good decision. And then things get worse.
I am now in Abu Dhabi, staying at my friend’s place. My ass is better thanks to multiple rounds of deworming medication from 2 doctors, but I’m still coughing and cannot sleep at night. Abu Dhabi is colder and drier than India so my skin gets even worse than what it was in Bangalore. I feel out of place in my friend’s home. I get the feeling that he wants me to go out and see Abu Dhabi but I’m just so exhausted and itchy every where. I just wanna go home at this point in time- a recurring thought that would stay with me for months-
I wanna go home!
But I have no home now.
I wanna go home!
But I have no home now.
You get the idea.
Rinse and repeat in Istanbul.
Rinse in repeat in fucking Barcelona.
Rinse and repeat on the farm I was staying at in Riba-Roja, Spain.
A new development has arisen in Europe – the cold has started to make my infected eye weep uncontrollably. Tears roll out from just one eye and I have to carry around tissues everywhere with me. I’m weeping on the streets, I’m weeping in parks, I’m weeping inside La Sagrada Familia (only this time because I’m truly moved by it), I’m even weeping inside fucking restaurants while I eat shitty tapas (I’m looking at you, Barcelona). My fucking minimalist backpack is making it impossible for me to carry around all the medication I have and I have to check it in every time because I have too many liquids.
Every day I go out, I struggle with the elements and try to make the best of my time in Barcelona and every day, when I get back to my shitty hostel, I spend a few hours on the internet searching for eczema remedies.
Vaseline, someone says. I go and buy a whole tub and slap it on. No use.
Coconut oil, someone says. I go and buy a large jar of organic cold pressed coconut oil and slap it on. Eczema gets worse.
Kiehl’s sensitive facial lotions, someone says. I go and buy 100 Euros worth of fucking Kiehl’s. Kiehl’s…the store I used to laugh at! Karma is a bitch. It works for a while before things go back to being bad.
Rinse and repeat for the 20 other products I slap onto my skin. Slap-a-fuckin-doo. Slap-a-fuckin-no-use.
I am tired. I am disheartened. I watch videos of people living their dream lives in Canggu and Chiang Mai. I watch videos of people talking about eczema and their struggles with it. And all this while, I am on the move, never staying in one location for more than 2 weeks. I keep going from city to city, stressing out over which places to see, what to eat and if there’s a drug store nearby where I can buy some moisturizers from. I’m not used to sleeping in other people’s beds and the eczema and all the itching makes it hard to sleep, so I’m not getting enough rest either. I’m using too much water in the farm in Riba Roja because I take two showers every day- one in the morning to clear off all the dead skin and one in the evening after sweating all day in the farm doing work. My hosts aren’t happy about the water usage and I’m probably at the lowest point in my travels.
I am exhausted.
I am sleep deprived.
I am depressed about my eczema.
My dreams of working on a farm seem to be a fantasy meant for people without any terrible skin conditions.
I’ve had fights with my girlfriend over Skype along the way because I feel like I’m not receiving the support I want even though I know she’s trying her best in the midst of her own instructorship training and Indiegogo campaign. I know I’m being unreasonable but I’ve made it OK for myself to be unreasonable (tsk..tsk..in hindsight).
Basically it’s all a huge mess. This is not what I had expected.
My friends on IG tell me that I should go and meet people and make connections because that’s what traveling is really about and not doing all the touristy things. With my weepy eyes and flaky skin, I don’t wanna see anyone. Hell, I can’t even stand the sight of my own face in the mirror.
I mean, I know that they’re probably right, but I don’t care about what’s right and what’s wrong. I just wanna go home. I check the prices for Airbnb and hotels in Singapore. It would cost me over 4,000$ (in rental alone) just to stay for a month and a half. I decide to bite the bullet and come back to Singapore to get my skin checked out. It’s probably my first good decision in 2019.
I return to Singapore in March – feeling broken and defeated. Traveling has broken me in just 2 months. I had gone out to explore the world and the world had kicked me in the balls and sent me back.
World: Oh, hello there noob traveler!
Me: Hello, world!
World: You thought you could go and do the whole travel the world and live your dreams bullshit, didn’t you?
World: Hahahahaha! You dumb choot. Come here. Come here.
World: Arrey, come here na, beta.
World: Ye le bhenchod!
<World kicks me in the balls. Me falls down on the floor in fetal position and pukes>
World: Welcome to the real world, motherfucker! Tank you, come again!
Over the next 1.5 months I make several visits to the National Skin Center in Singapore and start using steroid creams on my skin. The effect is immediate. My skin clears up within a week but I would have to use steroid creams for the rest of my life, or so I’m told. My dermatologist even jokes that if they ran out of steroid cream he might as well not show up for work! That’s western medication for you. Anyway, I’m thankful to have finally found some relief. I go to an eye doctor and he tells me that I’d have to keep using eye drops for the next 3 months. I spend more than a 1,000$ on my treatment. Insert emoji of money flying away. Suddenly, I miss my job and my corporate insurance.
In April I sold my backpack and bought a suitcase instead. I could finally stop weighing my clothes and searching for products on Amazon based on their weight…thank God. I also bought a nice pair of Bose headphones because I thought I deserved to treat myself after the harrowing first quarter of 2019 and also because my birthday was around the corner. I reconnected with my friends and my girlfriend in Singapore, I chilled out, and I thought to myself – if I give up now…I’m more likely to give up every time I face a challenge like this in the future.
The decision is simple – I would just have to keep going and somewhere down the line, all of this would have to make sense.
In May, I leave for Bali, backpack replaced by suitcase, Dr. Bronner’s travel soap replaced by tubes of Desonide, Protopic and Dexamethasone. I discover that living in an Airbnb for a month is actually cheaper than staying there for 15 days because of monthly discounts of up to 70% for some places! A WHOLE NEW WORLD!
But…my eczema comes back and after 2 weeks of staying there, my Airbnb apartment is invaded by waves of field mice who poop everywhere, scurry around at night and tear up anything and everything in the kitchen. I just can’t seem to catch a break.
I have to move around in Bali – starting with Denpasar, then Gianyar during a Shamanic course, then Ubud for a spa retreat and to recover from Shaman and finally in the touristy and uncharming Seminyak. My girlfriend is traveling for her art residencies in Europe at this time.
I’ll be honest with you…at this point, I was really scared of going back to Europe because my eczema was at it’s worst over there. But me being me…and because of all the training I’ve received from ECI and life coaching, I know that I can’t run away from the things I’m afraid of. So I decide to head back to Europe and face this whole eczema thing head on. I plan the cheapest way to get there from Bali all the while trying to see as many places as possible – Bali, Bangkok, short trip to Krabi and back, Copenhagen, Prague, Budapest and finally, Sofia.
I get hit by a terrible bout of diarrhea in Bangkok and I think Krabi is the first place where I actually catch a break from being a tourist. I skip all the touristy boat rides and island hopping and decide to just stay in my nice resort and chill out. That’s where I started to write on this blog again and that’s when I have the space, for the first time, to really not give a fuck about traveling, finding the best places to eat or booking day trips or whatever to see the so called “must-see” places.
Lemme tell you something…Krabi, especially Railay Beach, has exceptionally shitty Thai food. And because there’s not many options over there, I was kind of relieved in a way – I wouldn’t have to plan where to eat, because every place was equally shit. I could just stay in my resort and eat at the restaurant over there. In fact, after a botched attempt at swimming in the sea that left my skin red and swollen, I was done with the beaches too. All I had to do in the evening, was to get out of bed, go to the restaurant, watch the sky turn into a beautiful shade of pink as I ate my questionable Thai green curry chicken and just take it slow.
And then it hit me.
I take a look at the way I’ve been traveling for the first 6 months-
Indore – 2 weeks
Bangalore – 2 weeks
Istanbul – 3 days
Barcelona – 4 days
Riba Roja – 7 days
Barcelona – 5 days
Singapore – 1.5 months
Bali, Denpasar (ratty Airbnb) – 10 days
Bali, Gianyar (Shaman) – 7 days
Bali, Ubud (Resort) – 5 days
Bali, Seminyak – 8 days
Bangkok – 5 days
Krabi – 5 days
Copenhagen – 4 days
Prague – 8 days
Budapest (holiday with my girlfriend) – 10 days
I was traveling like I used to when I had a job.
<Major facepalm moment>
WHAT THE FUCK HAVE I BEEN DOING ALL THIS WHILE? I COULD HAVE EASILY STAYED AT ONE PLACE FOR A LONG TIME INSTEAD OF JUST HOPPING FROM PLACE TO PLACE AS IF I’M HOLIDAYING ON A DEADLINE! As I sit in my comfy couch in my beautiful Airbnb in Sofia, Bulgaria right now, I can’t help but chuckle at my stupidity.
Anyway…so after Budapest, after 6 full months of traveling like a tourist, I came to Sofia. And I’ve been here in Sofia for almost a month now. My eczema has been a lot better and I’ve only had to use my steroid creams once in the whole month. I’ve had lots of rest and good sleep. I’ve taken my own sweet time to explore the city and even made a 3 day side trip to the mountains with just my daypack.
All my fears of coming back to Europe were unfounded. I have met the nicest people so far amongst all my travels in Europe. And not just that, Bulgaria is beautiful! I’ll do a full post on Sofia and Bulgaria at a later time. I think this is the happiest I’ve been all year! I’m spending quality time with my girlfriend. I’m healing. I’m having fun.
Someone said that you have to slow down to really appreciate life. And then you think to yourself…oh yeah! Why didn’t I think of that before? Well, it’s because people say a lot of fucking things and who knows what’s applicable when. We’re all just trying to figure this life thing out in our own way and no one knows what’s right and what’s wrong.
What I do know is this –
1. I don’t have to travel like I only have 2 weeks of leave. Not anymore.
2. There is no one best way of traveling. You have to find what works for you on your own.
3. I hate beaches. Fuck beaches (get money).
4. The best way to travel for me, is to stay in one place for at least a month. It’s relaxing, I can take my time and I can really live like a local (which is what attracted me to travel in the first place…duh!).
5. Even though it can be painful, it is totally possible to travel for long periods of time with eczema – you just need to plan ahead.
6. I love Bulgaria and I’m coming back here in late August to spend another month here.
7. Airbnb’s can be considerably cheaper if you book them for a month.
8. It’s never too late to learn something new. And I say this with respect to traveling. What once worked for me, doesn’t work any more. And that’s OK.
After reading through this Raw Talk, I realized that I left out an entire section about my fear of not being able to earn money on the road and the constant feeling that I’m wasting my time if I’m not doing something or learning something along the way. But I think that’s probably a post for another time.
I’ll end this Raw Talk like I end all my other posts on this blog – with a song. And I think the most apt way to end it is to play a song that sums up everything I just said in 1 simple line-
we’ll get there fast
and then we’ll take it slow.”
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