When you don’t travel much, going on a two week vacation seems like paradise. Every step of the process from the anticipation, arrival at the airport, checking in at the hotel are exciting and new. However, when you travel regularly most of those novel experiences quickly become boring and often dreadful.
Here are 14 reasons why I hate travel.
Customs in some countries, especially the US and UK have become draconian. From power hungry customs officers to stupid security procedures that fail to deliver even basic levels of respect, arriving in a new country can be a royal pain. It is not like this in every country, however. Travelling through Japan and many other countries can be quite pleasant. I understand the need for security but I wish every customs officer was forced to fly through Japan to see how they should behave.
2. Environmental Footprint
Air travel is hugely devastating for the environment. The faster you travel the more damage you are doing. It is very inexpensive to fly now, but as with all of our consumption, the total environmental costs are not factored in. If you care about the planet, you will fly less.
Learning new public transportation systems and navigating new cities is tiring, particularly if you are carrying lots of travel gear with you. It is great to be in one place for a long time so that you don’t always have to figure out where to go. Some cities like London and Budapest are quite easy to navigate, but many cities really have terrible maps and finding information online has been next to impossible.
4. Travel is for Animals
When I was a child, travelling was a special experience where people dressed up and passengers were treated like they were in a high quality restaurant. On my first trip to Europe, there were dessert carts on the airplane where we could choose from among several desserts after eating a meal. I remember going up to the lounge on the second floor of a 747 and sitting on the spacious sofas. This was economy class.
Now you are likely to sit next to a traveller who hasn’t showered or changed their clothes for three days. The planes are dirty, passengers and flight attendants are rude and the airlines have moved the seats so close together that you can barely move. I can’t justify the jump in price to business class, but I would definitely pay more for a better experience.
5. Living out of a Suitcase
Constant packing and unpacking, trying to wash clothes and always rifling through bags is tiresome. I want to put all my things away so that I am not tripping over clothes and bags everyday.
6. Finding Flats
Finding new accommodations also takes a lot of time and energy. We spent more than a week each looking for flats in Istanbul and Budapest It is difficult to find a good place for a reasonable amount of money. Real estate agents have been terrible and we have also encountered at least a half a dozen Craigslist scammers. We ended up with a beautiful flat with a great landlord in Budapest but our Istanbul apartement wasn’t cleaned as promised when we moved in so we had to spend several hours getting it to a livable state.
The same goes for finding hotels or hostels. It takes time to find decent places to stay. The reviews help and all the competition is bringing down prices but I still think hotel booking can be improved a lot online.
7. Internet Access
Getting a USB internet connection in Budapest was hell. Vodafone sucks; It took three hours in the store to get a USB internet stick with lousy (non-existent) service outside of Budapest. The software didn’t work on a Mac as promised and the Vodafone store refused to return it the next day. I was sent to the back of queue three times, each with more than an hour wait, to try to get it working with different clerks. I repeat Vodafone sucks!
Our Istanbul landlord promised we would have internet upon moving in but it took more than 12 days and even then it is really slow and cuts out regularly. It is hard to get work done without a decent internet connection. Now I am starting to realize how spoiled we were in Japan. I miss my fiber optic internet connection!
8. Lack of Routine
When travelling regularly it is impossible to have a routine. My wife and I like to work out daily and can’t wait to join a gym again. It is very difficult to find places to run in a city like Istanbul and I can only imagine what the pollution is doing to my lungs.
It always takes a while to find quality supermarkets so that we can eat fresh and healthy food regularly. Going to restaurants on occasion is nice, but everyday is too much.
Regular travelling also wrecks havoc on sleep patterns. A couple of sleepless nights have lead to colds, some minor dental problems and a whole lot of crankiness. People often ask what do we want to do while in a new city, our response is often, “Nothing! We just want to relax.”
The larger cities of the world, particularly in rapidly developing countries have serious pollution and garbage problems. It is only getting worse. Combine this with non-existent smoking law enforcement and it is very difficult to breathe clean air in many cities of the world. Clean air and water are quickly becoming the world’s biggest problems.
I admit that my wife and I can be anal sometimes, but I still find it difficult to accept people smoking, eating sunflower seeds, taking out garbage, handling money and then touching the food they are preparing for me. In Europe, where bread is often sold unwrapped, I hate when customers squeeze three or four loaves before choosing one. It is kind of funny because in many countries food service workers wear rubber gloves but still smoke and handle money. Didn’t their mothers tell them to wash their hands before touching food?
11. Lack of a Decent Kitchen
The rental apartments we have stayed in have had terrible utensils. A good kitchen knife, cutting board, a decent pot and pan plus a collection of good fresh herbs are really missed. Doesn’t anyone cook when they travel? It takes four times as long to prepare a meal without the proper equipment. We are going to bring a good kitchen knife and cutting board with us from now on.
12. My Stuff
I don’t need much possessions but there are a few things I have difficulty living without. I like to play guitar and couldn’t bring one because of our check in allowance on EasyJet. I bought a used guitar and left it in Hungary, but I have been without in Turkey again. Even if you only want to do any semi-professional podcasts you need some basic gear. It is difficult to lug that stuff around in a backpack.
Good bicycles are also important. The best way to navigate a city is by bike. It is good exercise, yet not too quick to really enjoy the commute. We have rented some junk bikes by the day, but we would love to have access to some reasonable quality bikes everyday.
I hate having to be on guard against theft and cheating all the time. Budapest is a bad city for getting ripped off. A couple times a day we would be overcharged or not given the correct change, Turkey is much better though.
It is not the money. Just the principle of being taking advantage of really irks me. It takes a lot of mental energy to deal with that everyday. We are beginning to long for Japan again where it is safe everywhere and you never have to worry about being over-charged.
14. Lack of time
Travelling really takes a lot of time in planning, preparation, getting to a new location, sight-seeing and meeting people. That means I haven’t focused on my work projects as much as I would like to.
I am not really contributing to the world when I am in constant motion. Travel is completely self-serving. At the risk of ruffling some blogger’s feathers, partying on a beach is not “kicking ass,” “extraordinary” or “awesome.” It is fun sure, I still like to go out and party once in a while, but it is not changing the world.
Too many bloggers write like everyone should be travelling the world full time. That is total bullshit. It is easy for a fresh graduate out of school with no obligations, work experience or money to live on next to nothing while having fun for a year or so, but that is not a lifestyle.
Penelope Trunk wrote 4 Reasons travel is a waste of time, I am starting to agree.
Travelling is Not All Bad
Of course, travelling can also be incredibly rewarding. My wife and I have met and continue to meet some fantastic people. We have seen many beautiful places and ate at some great restaurants. We have learned how little material possessions are necessary to be happy. Staying in many places has helped us figure out exactly what we want and need when we build our dream house. We have a much better understanding of the diversity of our planet. We also have a much better appreciation for our home countries and families. Living abroad is great, but travel is too much.
My Solution to the Travel Problem
We will continue to travel but we are going to do it much slower. Ideally we would like to stay in each city for at least 2 or 3 months with short excursions to nearby places. I have also started coordinating a group of travellers who would share the same accommodations around the world.
Personally, I would love to have a small network of people I know and trust to share each other’s homes. Everything will be completely set up, with internet, clean and nice furniture and fully equipped kitchens all for just enough money to cover costs. So far I plan to set up my house in Japan again and we will mostly get a second place in Budapest in 2012. If there are any of you out there that would like to swap accommodations around the world, please email. I want to keep this small and inexpensive. It would be fantastic to be completely set up in a new country on arrival without staying in hotels, dealing with real estate agents and living in run down short term accommodations.
What do you hate about travel?