Travel journal: part 1

When you live a normal life, there’s usually a tendency to romanticise travel. Your mind sees it as an escape from reality and a chance to reset. When it comes to romanticising travel, Pinterest is both my best friend and worst nightmare. Like most other social media platforms, it throws you into an illusion – long-term travel is the ultimate dream. Pictures of girls in floral dresses eating gelato on a terrace with a view, cocktails on boats floating on crystal clear waters, a passport full of stamps. The ones that get me are the compilations of photos that play to a soundtrack. The specific one I’m talking about is to the song Second Child, Restless Child.

Once I decided that I wanted to backpack across Europe before returning to Australia, I made it my mission to cram as many countries on my list as I possibly could. I think it was because I knew that this experience may never come again. That feeling I get when solo travelling is unparalleled – a feeling of being young, alone, free, and independent. A feeling of limitless possibilities. I wanted to have that feeling of freedom for as long as possible. And although I’ve had an amazing time so far, long-term travel is not without its challenges. Travelling is still real life – it’s messy, unpredictable, uncertain. You will miss home, run out of clean clothes, take risks that don’t pay off, and, if you’re like me, cry and threaten to book your flight home every few weeks. Welcome to my travel journal (part 1).

Being realistic

I have a very sentimental and idealistic way of looking at things. So I’ve been told. Because of this, I have a hard time accepting the honest reality of some situations – travel included. I like the sparkle and shine of the brightly-coloured pictures I see on Pinterest and Instagram. It’s that same feeling you get when you walk into the airport on the way to a new place – anticipation, excitement, and hopefulness. It’s the promise of fun experiences, new friends, and incredible food. But seeing something (especially online) is far different from experiencing it. You forget the 200 uphill steps it takes to get to that amazing view, or the fact that you can’t read the ingredients list on a packet of chips because it’s in a foreign language.

When you’re at home, you underestimate how comfortable a routine feels. After almost a month away, I’ve learnt to appreciate: hot showers, a real kitchen (with real food in it), the hangers in my cupboard, washing machines, my own space, and the feeling of being at home in a place. But, sometimes, it takes separating yourself from these things to recognise how much value they add to your life. I think what I’ve realised most is that I need to be more realistic and manage my expectations. This brings us into my travel journal (part 1) experiences so far. We’re going back in time with this one, because I think this experience is the most relevant to this particular lesson (Italy was actually the third country I visited).

Italy

When I got to Bologna, I ate nonstop. I was in absolute food heaven (and a food coma, too). I felt a little better being alone this time than what I did when I left my friends in Budapest. After Bologna, I spent 2 nights in Florence, and 2 in Siena. In Florence, I met two amazing people – one German and one Australian. It had been a while since I’d met another Australian and it was nice to have that connection to home again. When I left for Siena, my German friend, Annika, took a day trip and came to visit me. We sat on a wall that overlooked the Tuscan hills and she told me what her tattoo meant and that she got it despite her mum’s disapproval. I told her about the boy that ruined my life and how much I missed him.

I then went to a goat farm where I was meant to be volunteering for 4 weeks. On the first night, I cried in the bathroom after working 10 hours and getting a brain-numbing migraine. I managed to stick it out for 10 days. Although every day after that was not as heavy as the first, I still froze at night while sleeping in a tent and often found myself cold and naked in the shower stall waiting for the water to come to temperature (it never did). As someone who is averse to camping, puddles of mud, and everything creepy-crawly, it makes little sense as to why I chose to volunteer on a farm. But as the classic story goes, I pictured a fantasy where I was eating lavishly, wild swimming, playing with baby goats, and perfecting the Italian language. Can’t win them all.

Like I said here, and like I will continue to say (and tell myself, because I still manage to constantly forget it) – nothing is ever what you make it out to be in your head.┬áTravel is amazing if you are realistic about it. Some nights you may go sleepless because there is a guy in your hostel room that snores obnoxiously loudly – that’s just how it goes. But if something isn’t what you expected, that’s okay. Just give it a chance to change your mind. As I wrote this, I found an endless amount of words spilling out. There were so many that I had to create two parts. This is my travel journal – part 1. Stick around for part 2.

Yours,

Kait x

Cover photo by Roman Odintsov