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Grrr! There are too many optimistic, cheerful travel blogs telling you how wonderful it is to get away from the grind. Like eatsleeplondon.com ... 😳 ... But seriously, a big trip can have quite a few downsides. This article goes through the main disadvantages in detail.
It would be hard to mention travel disadvantages in 2020 without talking about Covid-19. The pandemic has caused enormous hardship across the world and travellers have been seriously affected by quarantines and flight cancellations everywhere. We just hope that everyone takes as much care as possible over the next months wherever they are and whatever they are doing.
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Planning for a big trip is amazing fun. But throw in an additional week on a safari in Kenya or a city break in Paris and the costs will start to mount. Costs include flights/transportation, hotels, food, entertainment/experiences and any equipment/clothes you need before you go. Because you are far from home, you might not know where the best outlets are and how to economise, so things could cost a lot more than you are used to. Before you know where you are, you find you need $'000 for your trip.
The other side of the coin is earnings. While you are away you aren't doing your regular job, using your experience and training and earning a pay packet (of course this doesn't apply if you are taking regular annual leave). You could be in the uncomfortable position of burning through your savings at a manic rate with no income.
If you are planning on working abroad there are quite a few things to consider.
Far from home, you won't have your usual support networks. If there is an emergency (medical, travel, or crime-related for example) you might just have to throw money at the problem. If you have to replace your belongings in a hurry, or book an unplanned flight, your carefully balanced budget could be blown in a few hours.
One of the main reasons people travel is for the highs - seeing new places, meeting new people. With the highs come the lows. If you are crammed on a train, tired, scared that your possessions are in danger, uncertain of what you might find at the destination, then the lows might be more evident. Some emotional issues you might face are set out below.
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At some point most travellers feel homesick for their regular life. If you are constantly surrounded by new experiences then it is easy to miss what you had at home, however monotonous it might have felt when you were there. There is nothing like old friends and family for making you feel safe and secure, and when you feel you need them most, they are half a world away.
If you knew exactly what you were going to find when you arrived, it would hardly be worth going travelling. But the flip side is that going into new places can be really scary. You might fear that you will get lost, or attacked, or cold, wet, tired, hungry. And when things start to go wrong, fears can multiply until they become overwhelming. Fear feeds on fear.
Often you will have to confront your fears and imagined limitations in order to make a success of the trip. It is really unlikely that you will get through a period of independent travel without coming into situations which force you outside of your comfort zone. After all, personal growth is a big part of travel for many people. Confronting fears is hard work and is pretty much unavoidable if you are going to spend a meaningful amount of time travelling.
When travelling alone your usual support system of friends, family, co-workers, social security, healthcare providers etc will be largely non-existent. Even if you travel with a partner or friends, there will be a lot that you have to manage on your own. It can be emotionally draining to keep going without the usual people and system that we all rely on, not just for practical support but for emotional security.
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Any friendships or relationships that you start, especially with other travellers may be intense but transient. Either of you might have to move on to keep to your itinerary, or your friend might find others that they want to spend time with more than you. This would be painful enough in the stability of your hometown, with other friends and family around. When this happens out in the big bad world you can feel an intense sense of loss.
It can be seriously exhausting when you are moving around with all your essential possessions in a rucksack or suitcase. Compared to a traditional holiday, where you stay in one place, as an independent traveller you are likely to move around a lot more, and you will probably need to carry more stuff, which can add to the overall stress. Throw in a back strain, or a cold, and you have the potential for a very nasty couple of days as you make your way to your next destination.
As a traveller, you need to focus on the positives while being aware of the negatives, so that you can avoid them. Being a victim of crime would count as one of the worse things that can happen to you when travelling. Apart from the personal distress it causes, you will also have to deal with foreign police and possibly heath services and the loss of possessions. However, if you are travelling to Europe, the good news is that you are coming to the safest continent on the planet.
If you are used to going to the gym or doing a regular exercise class, it can be hard to maintain this kind of activity while travelling. You will have to seek out alternative classes or gyms which of course cost you, and might not provide the same experience.
A subtle issue that you will face if you move from place to place and country to country is that you will be much less efficient. The basics of travelling life are find a place to stay, shopping for food, booking travel tickets, booking excursions. Each of these will take so much longer as you will have to discover for yourself the best way to do things. It is quite easy to spend the whole day just dealing with these practical aspects to life, leaving little time for anything else.
Travelling to a foreign land where you don't speak the language can be problematic, unless you are planning to stick to the tourist areas. If you are outside of the major cities in India for example, don't expect many people to speak English. The same is true in China; in anything smaller than a major city, English will not help you at all. Another problem you will encounter in China is that you won't even be able to read the street signs, so try not to get lost. Travelling in Europe is easier, as school-learnt French or Spanish will get you a long way.
Until you have had the experience of immersing yourself in a new culture, it can be really hard to appreciate that what is normal for you may not be shared across the world. Things that you take for granted in your own country may cause serious offence or amusement in another country. An obvious and visible example is barter; a typical westerner may feel uncomfortable offering to pay below the ticket price in a shop or market. In many places though, the given price is just intended as a starting point and can be several times the amount that the seller will ultimately accept.
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But there are many things that are much more subtle than haggling, and relate to honesty, public vs private appearances, generosity to strangers, kindness, attitudes to women and many more. The best way to deal with this issue is to be super observant to see not only the customs and habits prevalent in your new home, but also to be aware of the things that you have always taken for granted. Travellers shouldn't really expect the world to adjust to meet their expectations.
Even more than customs, laws can be very different from country to country. Some things that may be perfectly legal and socially acceptable at home might land you in prison in other parts of the world. For example, in Muslim countries alcohol is generally illegal, as is extra-marital relationships. Even kissing in public can get you in trouble! You don't need to be a legal expert to understand what is allowed, just read a few travel blogs on the countries you are planning to visit, and you'll quickly get up to speed.
Even countries that you might not see as adventurous can have some unexpected laws. For example Brits driving in Canada are perplexed to find that when you come to a red light, you can turn right as long as no one is coming. Motorists behind you will beep angrily at you if you stop for too long. Doing this in the UK this would generally lead to you getting an automated fine of something like £60!
It can be a real emotional comedown to return home after a long trip away. The excitement of travel compared to the humdrum of being at home. A long stint at a more or less tedious job stretching out ahead of you to pay off some of those travel-related debts you've built up. It is not surprising to find that many people find it hard to return to regular life after travelling.
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If you go away for an extended period, when you come back, many of the people you left behind will have moved on. Either literally, to other areas of the country, or at least socially - they'll have made other friends. You might find yourself in a kind of social limbo where you don't really have a social circle. If this was important to you in the past, then you'll miss it when you return.
It is also likely that a serious adventure abroad will have opened your mind and changed you. You'll have a broader perspective and probably more insight in the world at large. Friends who haven't travelled may seem parochial and limited in outlook. They also might find your constant tales about the wonders of the European capitals or the plains of Africa start to grate after a while.
While you have been away, you might have been having some amazing experiences, but you probably won't have furthered your career at all. In fact, relative to those who've stayed hard at work, you will have slipped backwards, missing promotions and work experience. It might take you a while to make up the lost ground, and that's assuming you can get a job at all.
Travel can have a large environmental impact. Flights in particular are very costly in terms of fossil fuels. This can be reduced if you can travel at least partly by sea. You might also want to consider the effect of tourism on the local ecology - popular destination can suffer significant erosion simply due to the footfall of some many visitors.
You will be missing on family milestones such as birthdays and weddings. Also, if there is an emergency, you won't be in a position to help out. There aren't many things worse than your loved ones being in trouble and not being able to provide assistance.
We hope not. There are so many things out there to see and do. We shouldn't let fear prevent us taking the opportunity to travel. But we do hope that this list can help you to be more prepared for the things that can go wrong when we travel.