How to Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable While Travelling
If you like your creature comforts, travel can take some getting used to.
There are times when you’re sleeping in a smelly, sweaty tent on uneven ground, or in a hostel on an uncomfortable bed, with dirty sheets and snoring neighbours, that your own room and bed at home seem a very long way away.
Or, when you’re on your thirds consecutive dinner of a tin of tuna with a side of plain couscous, that you shed a tear at the thought of a home-cooked meal from mum. Or, when you have a backpack full of dirty clothes and you’ve been wearing the same pair of underwear for four days, that you can practically hear the washing machine rumbling away at home, taunting you.
And so on.
The moral of the story is this: when you rough it on the other side of the world, everything you take for granted at home can become a commodity that you’d sacrifice your left foot for.
Not to say that travel necessitates the sacrifice of creature comforts. Indeed, though a home cooked meal from mum might never be an option, it is absolutely possible to stay nice and comfortable.
When I first started travelling around New Zealand I had a car that enabled me to travel with lots of stuff (cool box, bbq, beers, bottled water, pots and pans, snorkels...) and enough money saved up to stay in hostels nearly every night. This was an awesome part of my trip that allowed me to maintain a level of comfort as I travelled.
If I were to offer some advice though it would be this:
When you travel, embrace opportunity and try to test yourself- it is an amazing chance to live differently, step outside of comfort zones and develop personally as a result.
Naturally, it is tempting to hold on to everything that makes life easy, pleasant, safe and secure. However, it’s tantamount to keeping the stabilisers on your bike as a kid- take them off and after an initial period of challenge, everything improves exponentially.
As my bank account dwindled and I sold my car in New Zealand, I had to sell, give away or get rid of anything I didn’t absolutely need. Going from a boot-load to a backpack wasn’t easy and undoubtedly made things more challenging as far as travel goes, but it turned out to be liberating.
With the luxury of hindsight, it is funny to think back to how uncomfortable things got in New Zealand:
- I slept in cars a lot (sandwiched between two other people most of the time)
- slept on floors
- slept in parks
- washed in lakes and rivers
- took cold showers
- wasn’t able to take a shower for days at a time
- ate daily porridge for breakfast
- had no internet
- had no phone signal
- had no clean clothes
- had no way to wash clothes
- shared toothbrushes
- lived out of a backpack
- hauled said backpack everywhere
- cooked on open fires
- had no money
- stood at the side of a road for hours to get a ride
...& so on and so forth!
Significantly, as uncomfortable as it can be, the removal of creature comforts doesn’t necessarily detract from the experience.
Indeed, in my experience the exact opposite happened. Lacking home comforts was undeniably challenging at times- uncomfortable and tiring, but travelling in this way was amazing.
When we live with minimal items and fewer creature comforts, we become aware of the excesses of ordinary life that we consider the norm and realise the benefits of living simply.
Plus, the challenge of living in slight discomfort helps us to grow, mature, fend for ourselves and develop in all manner of ways.
Now, you’ll still miss your own bed, warm showers and your mum's cooking, but in their absence they become something to look forward to rather than some devastating loss.
I think it works like this because, like the age-old maxim that states, 'absence makes the heart go fonder'. Have you ever noticed that inherently pleasant stuff becomes less enjoyable when you have it all the time?
If I eat chocolate every day, it is just another bar of chocolate- still tastes good, but nothing special and usually followed by a stab of guilt.
Yet, if I go without it for a month and finally treat myself, all of a sudden, wow! Best thing I’ve ever had in my mouth and zero guilt.
Lesson learned: sometimes you have to go without something to appreciate it fully; when you eventually get back the things back, they’re automatically all the more enjoyable.
In this way, if you travel simply, lightly and on a budget, chances are that creature comforts will be few and far between. This may well be difficult, challenging and uncomfortable, but when you eventually get back into a proper bed, or have a hot shower, are able to wash your clothes or find some internet to call home, or whatever, the experience is all the sweeter.
A final thought.
Don’t take my word for any of this- there is no right and wrong way to travel and everyone’s experience of it is their own. However, do be open to new stuff and new ways of doing things: let experimentation and exploration be the mantra you go by on your trip.
For me, the significance is simply the willingness to try something new, which gives you the chance to grow, develop and see things differently as a result.
Go travel, be comfortable, be uncomfortable, travel with stuff and without; do what feels right, but keep in mind that doing what feels wrong is often where the magic happens.