Before you leave for your trip, it’s hard to imagine all of the things that will change in your daily life while you’re traveling. As an inexperienced traveler, I think I imagined that I was going to be living my same life, just in another country.
Experienced travelers don’t face quite the same adjustment period as new travelers when they’re just starting out, for example, Paul hasn’t thought twice about how gross the hostel showers are, whereas I could barely get myself to go in them the first few times.
Aside from the time zone change and the whole “missing your family” thing, the following are areas in your life that you have to adjust on the road in order to accommodate your new lifestyle:
When you stay in a hostel, it’s difficult to have a sense of privacy…anywhere. You sleep in a room with five or six other people and you have a shared bathroom and common space.
You can often make friends with the people in your room so that your shared space feels more of a community rather than a bunch of strangers in bunkbeds. Most people staying in hostels are young backpackers and share a common goal: to explore the world while learning about new cultures. We have become friends with many of our roommates by simply asking where they are from.
Your backpack becomes your home when you’re traveling and keeping it safe and secure is always in the back of your mind. You have to constantly be aware of where your valuables are and be sure that they are locked up. At first it’s kind of unnerving to have to lock up your things, but after the first few days it becomes a habit.
In our last hostel we left our phones charging over night, but in our hostel in Vigo we are a bit more cautious because the door to the room is left open all night due to the heat.
At home I had a nightly routine: brush teeth, get a glass of water, take meds, put on chapstick, turn on fan, turn off light, go to sleep. Every night on the road is different so I have had to develop a new routine. Every morning I make my bed and set out my pajamas, toothbrush, and medicine; so if we come back after the lights are out, everything will be in one spot and I don’t have to fumble around with the flashlight.
Figuring out your new routine asap (if you’re a routine person) will be crucial in your adjustment to life on the road.
You go to a city and plan to do X, Y, and Z while you’re there. Then the first day it rains so much that your hostel floods (true story from London). The next night you decide to stay in to play cards with new friends instead of doing what you had planned. You have one more day in town so you prioritize your goals and pick activity X.
One of the first things I learned about traveling was “you can’t do everything.” You might have made three days worth of plans and you only did one: that’s ok. Other opportunities are bound to come up and you should take them. Be spontaneous.
Life on the road will not be what you expected and you will have to adjust. But within the first day you will realize that traveling is so much more than you expected as well. On the road you have a new lifestyle and a new big, beautiful community to be a part of: embrace it.