Hi. My name is Nicole Fong and I am a travel addict. I’m not quite sure that is the phrase I want to call myself, as addict generally has a negative connotation. But when I think about it, I’m pretty sure I have the symptoms.
I recently got back from a trip to Punta Cana, in the Dominican Republic. I woke up the next morning with an aching feeling of sadness that I wasn’t waking up in the hotel my boyfriend and I had been staying in the past five nights. With no plans to catch the free shuttle to take us to a variety of pick-which-gorgeous-beach-you’d-like-to-go-to-today. With no chance to walk along the several desolate beaches we’d found that look like they’d be hanging up on a calendar at home. No options to snorkel in the clear turquoise waters and feel the warm Caribbean waters envelop us as we searched for fishes swimming amongst us.
Don’t hate me yet. There were downsides, as there usually are, when traveling. When people travel, all you see are the pictures, and generally they’re just of the good times: the smiles, the happiness, the delicious looking food, the beautiful landscapes. They don’t show the actual temperatures of the area, whether it’s the blistering heat, suffocating humidity, freezing cold, pouring rain, or 20 mph winds. They don’t make you feel the scorching sunburn you get after spending a day at that picturesque beach, or show the night you spend vomiting into the toilet after getting food poisoning. In pictures, you don’t see the worries or precautions to not drink the local water, or feel the extreme itchiness of 30 mosquito – or whatever-invisible-friggin-bug-is-biting-me – bites. You don’t feel the frustrations of inflated tourist prices, or wonder if you’re getting ripped off because you’re a tourist and they know it (I partially blamed it on my gringo looking boyfriend, but was reminded by a local Couchsurfer we hung out with, that my Asian looking self – and Mexican/gringa sounding Spanish – didn’t help me either). Pictures don’t show you standing in front of the grocery store aisle, wondering which flavor of Cup of Noodles you want, because it’s the cheapest food at the store you can buy without needing a fridge or a microwave, and you don’t want to risk being glued to the toilet again.
Am I complaining about all that? Hell no (well, I could’ve done without throwing up what seemed like everything in my entire body). I realize that when I travel, I am mostly forgoing my usual conveniences of what I have at home: constant internet and cell service, being able to cook (okay, cooking ability is questionable, but at least it is an option) and eat what I want, driving around in my own car, knowing how to get where I need to go, sleeping in my own comfortable bed. But this is what makes traveling exciting – the fact that you’re placed outside of your comfort zone and you make do. You adjust. You take the bad with the good. But along with the discomfort, come experiences that you will never forget. You get to see places you’ve never seen before except on TV, movies, calendars, magazines, or read about in books. You feel a sense of adrenaline that you’re physically there, experiencing moments in places with all your five senses, and seeing beyond the pretty, beyond what’s just shown in images. And you’re driven to discover and explore more, to go beyond the tourist attractions, meet locals, and converse with them in their native language.
I feel that when I’m traveling I’m not only in a different place, but almost a different life. I meet new people, speak a foreign language, do things outside my normal day to day, and learn so many new things (like how to ride a “guagua,” or local bus, in the Dominican Republic). Of course this might get tiring after a while. It’s a hard thing to do, to go outside your comfort zone, and just survive. But I’ve found that along every journey, the people are what make it memorable. People I’ve met while traveling are some of the most generous, hospitable, open and friendly people I’ve ever met. It blows my mind how much some people open their homes, lives, and hearts to give whatever they have to help other travelers. And I’ve found that fellow travelers and I have a sort of kindred spirit. We have a mindset that seeing the world and exploring the unknown is not an option, but a necessity. I think there’s a driving force inside us that makes us realize that we are such a miniscule part of this entire world - so why not see as much of it as you can? Of course there are always obstacles to being able to travel. It’s a privilege, and I’m incredibly grateful and fortunate to be able to do it. There are always those *tiny* issues of time and money. To travel you generally need both. And unless you’re lucky (or have just worked your butt off to be free from this), usually you only have one or the other.
Thus, the inevitable nostalgia I feel when I come home after a trip sets in. I’m sad that it’s over, but I just remind myself that the adventure has just been put on pause temporarily, before I go out exploring again. And then the planning for the next trip can begin.
Addiction. Sometimes it can be a good thing.
Where my fellow travel addicts at?! Share in the comments below what's been your favorite and not so favorite experiences while traveling! :)