My personal struggles while traversing the world, in no particular order…
1. I’m ALWAYS Hungry
First and foremost, I’m always hungry in general. I just like to eat all the food. However, the urge to eat increases tenfold whenever I’m outside of the States. But why? What is it about traveling that leaves me hungrier and overtime…h-angrier. I’m always on the lookout for some grub and therefore more money I have to fork over. Being from the USA with our entirely unnecessary portion sizes and unlimited free coke refills is part of the problem.
How to conquer: I found that my appetite adjusts to smaller portions over a long period of time, but it takes way too long to get used to. I think the trick to this is drinking lots of water after a meal to feel fuller. Cold water curbs appetites and will also keep me hydrated too.
2. McDonald’s is My Guilty Pleasure
I don’t care what anyone says, McDonald’s has the most perfect fries on Earth. Throw in a classic Big Mac and an Oreo McFlurry and I’ve got myself a meal! McDonald’s is the fast food of all fast food chains that you can find in many parts of the world in the most convenient, cleverly placed locations. I love it so much but I do feel guilty whenever I am in a foreign McDonald’s, when I know I should be exploring and tasting new and different foods. It’s just that sometimes, I’m not in the mood to test my luck and with McDonald’s always nearby, I always know what I’m going to get. It’s just so damn convenient…and complete utter crap for you.
How to conquer: I’m going to force myself to try new cuisine and test out the local restaurants and eateries of whatever country I’m in. Mickey D’s (or Macca’s for you Australian readers) once in awhile is okay and especially suitable after a long night out when I have the munchies and nothing else is open. I also enjoy seeing what other foreign McDonald’s has that’s different from U.S. ones. This is going to be a hard habit to break.
P.S. I can never find a McGriddle ANYWHERE else besides in the USA. Get on it McDonald’s!
3. Fish Are Ugly
As a toddler, when I found out those delicious tuna fish sandwiches my grandma gave me for lunch every other day was ACTUAL TUNA FISH, I just about lost it. How dare she? I never liked seafood since that fateful day and never gave it a fair shot until recently. I would always make it known so no one would dare try to serve me anything that came out of the sea. Fish are ugly creatures. Shrimp are ugly too. So are crabs and lobsters and mussels and all of that! I can’t be eating those. I’ve been to many seafaring countries where seafood dominates the local delicacies, but I would always opt out and try other things…like a cheese burger or pizza. Shame on me because I’ve been told that I’m really missing out on some high quality nourishment.
How to conquer: Fortunately for my particular case, it’s mostly mental and has little to do with taste. I have been getting better with trying seafood as of late though. I love calamari now…as long as it’s heavily breaded and absolutely no tentacles! I’ve tried crab cakes and fried fish sandwiches which weren’t half bad. I think as long as it’s not in the shape of the animal that many countries serve it as, then I’ll be okay. I vow from here on to experiment and taste as many different types of fish and other seafood as I can muster. Baby steps.
4. Drunk Spender
If you ask my friends at home, they’d tell you that I don’t drink very often. But whenever I’m traveling, I have no car to drive and no job to report to in the morning (unless I’m teaching), so let’s go nuts! Whenever I’m out having a good time and start feeling the drinks, I usually get a little too generous and start treating my traveling comrades to rounds on rounds on rounds. The results? A freakin’ awesome night, but a sad empty wallet the next morning.
How to conquer: Only bring a small amount of money with me and leave the rest hidden at my accommodation. But what if I need my cards for emergencies? Well, that’s going to take some self control on my part. Tell a buddy to help keep you in check and you can do the same for them. But wait! In Belgium when I went on a bar crawl with some friends, I always chose the beer with the highest alcoholic content. After just a couple, I was feeling good and didn’t feel the need to keep drinking to keep the buzz going. We also all had a system. At each bar we went to, we took turns buying rounds which worked out great.
5. The Altitude Hates Me
I never knew altitude sickness was a thing until I was in Peru. Incredibly naive at the time, I sprinted to the top of Machu Picchu and did it without any water in my possession. I started to feel weird, like something horrible was about to happen to me. My first case of the altitude. My next and most horrible case ever was during a hike on Mount Kilimanjaro, when I suffered from altitude sickness during summit day. I felt it again next during a hike on Guatemala up one of their many volcanoes. I love the hikes but am forever fearful of the altitude getting to me. What baffles me the most is that people who aren’t as fit as I am didn’t have as much trouble as I did.
How to conquer: Before Kilimanjaro, I did some hefty research on ways to avoid altitude sickness. The bottom line is that the altitude affects everyone differently, know matter how fit they may be. There are ways to help prevent and manage it though. Taking it slow and letting your body adjust to high altitudes, drinking plenty of water, and rest often. There are also tablets such as acetazolamide medication to prevent and reduce the symptoms. Aspirin also works for a quick fix. As for my suffering on Kilimanjaro, my best advice is to trust your gut and listen to your body. As horrible as I felt, my mental state allowed me to continue to the end but if I had to stop then I would have stopped for good and turned around. You know your physical limits better than anyone else.
6. Motion Sickness
By far my biggest hindrance while traveling…or my whole life in general. I haven’t found the proper way to battle this and I’ve tried almost everything. I’ve used Dramamine and other similar motion tablets numerous times and they do work, but they knock me out almost instantly. I still feel bad for my poor European and Costa Rican friends who drove me to amazing places, only to have me sleeping the entire way. I make for a lousy passenger and I usually feel groggier than shit when I do wake up. Don’t get me started with boats; they are the worst offender.
How to conquer: After scouring the internet and Amazon.com, I found tablets which are natural with no sleepy side effects. I bought 200 of those bad boys so hopefully they’ll do the trick without making me tired. I also found that ginger has natural properties to help soothe stomach nausea. I’ll have to find some candy versions. Also on a recent trip to Wales, Lucy drove me everywhere and I didn’t use any tablets. I made an effort to not look out the side window and look solely out the front. Unless I can train my body to cope (is that even possible?), these sleepless tablets will have to do.
7. Being Part of Large Tourist Groups
My God, I HATE being stuck in tourist groups, especially ones with lots of fanny packs and little kids. Get. Me. Out! I once abandoned an insanely slow group in Machu Picchu and did my own thing exploring and taking neat photos which was way more enjoyable. Granted I didn’t really learn anything while I was there, but that’s what Wikipedia is for later. I try not to do touristy group things but sometimes it’s unavoidable. If I can just run and explore freely on my own (in a respectable manner of course) my world would be a much better place.
How to conquer: I wouldn’t recommend ditching groups because you won’t really learn much and it looks kinda bad on your part. Plus, sometimes the groups can be cool and if you have a really super guide, they can turn a boring tour into an interesting one. If you have the time, DO make friends with the locals. They can show you things most tour groups can’t.
8. Orca Whales
I’m not afraid of many things, but few know that I’m terribly afraid of whales; specifically killer mother effin’ orca whales. The way they’re designed, everything about them screams deadly. Like a giant torpedo, a sleek black and white jet with a giant sharp pointy dorsal fin sticking out of the water coming right at you! As a kid, I always thought those giant white spots were it’s eyes. Those blank…sinister eyes like a monster. I can’t explain it. They are simply terrifying and thankfully I haven’t come across a wild one yet, but I dread the day.
How to conquer: As much as orcas terrify me, they also fascinate me at the same time. I have a strong hunch I’ll be dealing with orcas on the Antarctica leg of an upcoming trip. Learning more about them could curb my fear. Like how I recently discovered that there hasn’t been a single fatality from a wild orca whale on a human in recorded history. I may just become an expert on orcas in just a matter of time.
I’m the guy that takes 20 minutes to fully get into the water because cold. I’m also that guy who travels avoiding the winter season wherever I go because cold. Screw the cold! The freezing temperatures makes me want to nap under a hundred blankets near a fireplace and not wake up until the sun comes back. I nearly froze to death from wanting to fall asleep on top of frigid cold Kilimanjaro. Thankfully my friends were there to keep me going. I’ll take the scorching hot desert any day of the week. If you’d like to see me go from adventureborn to babyborn, just put me in a cold environment.
How to conquer: Even though I always tip toe into chilly water, I do eventually go all the way in. Remember to just man-up and jump in! As for the cold air, I already dress for the part. But I could dress more for the part I suppose. Layering is key. Think warm thoughts and find the nearest cup of hot chocolate to tide you over until the sun comes back.
10. Jet Lag
Jet lag is something that has always taken me a long time to adjust to, seemingly more so than most travelers I’ve come across. My jet lag after a series of flights from California to the Netherlands was particularly the worst. It took me two weeks. I repeat, TWO WEEKS to adjust. My friends there who hosted me were eager to show me around as soon as I got there when really all I wanted to do was sleep. In London, I passed out until 4:00pm once while visiting another friend. In Guatemala, after flying halfway around the world, I was so out of it that I had no idea what day or what time it was when I woke up there. Jet lag isn’t the easiest thing to get over and really bogs down my day. Does anyone else take as long to get over lag as I do?
How to conquer: I need the help of my international friends that I visit, please if you’re reading this, FORCE ME to stay awake if I arrive midday and FORCE ME to go to sleep if I get there at night. DO NOT let me nap if I arrive during sunlight, because I WILL nap if no one stops me. Frequent travelers have learned to sleep during flights or stay awake depending on what time they know they’ll be landing. This is called rest and reset. I haven’t learned that yet because it’s difficult for me to fall asleep on long flights if I’m not in the window seat. I won’t take sleeping pills or drink on a flight because I’ll end up feeling like a sloth afterwards. Another tip is to adjust to your impending timezone days before your flight to help you stay ahead.
I’m curious to know what some of your personal weaknesses are while traveling? Can you relate to my top ten weaknesses or have any additional advice to conquering them?