Brace Yourself: Travel Isn’t All Roses and Lollipops

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I’ve had a few emails from readers asking for “the real deal” about the full-time travel lifestyle. They’re afraid that I – and other travel bloggers – tend to candy-coat the experience, and people want the dirt.
Well, Brace Yourself: here it comes.

I have a funny way of turning a bad experience into a good one, so it stands to reason that my posts on the unsavoury side of full-time travel aren’t so easily located.

Never fear! I’m giving it to you both barrels today. 

Here’s all the crappy stuff that has happened to me since starting my full-time travel adventures in 2007.

Note: This post is regularly updated and added to. (Hopefully, the additions aren’t too frequent going forward, but….you never know). 

Brace yourself: Here's all the crappy stuff that has happened to me in my 7 years of full-time travel. It ain't pretty, but it usually ends well. #FullTimeTravel #TravelPlanning #BudgetTravel #TravelTips #TravelLifestyle
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Brace Yourself: Romance Gone Wrong

I embarked on my full-time travels with a partner. We lasted a few years, but ended up breaking up in Australia (2010). Here’s what happened, along with some observations on how travel can be hard on a relationship:

Breaking Up While Traveling

Then, in New Zealand (2011), I sparked up a romance with a fellow dubbed my “Swedish Squeeze” (but commingling travel agendas wasn’t so easy):

Romance on the Road 

…and he “squeezed” somebody else while I wasn’t looking:

Being Thankful in Grenada 

A new addition to this roundup as of February 2014: Yet another icky breakup on the road:

The Day I Was Dumped Via Instant Message

Then, in April 2016, my life changed completely. It wasn’t a failed romance, but rather a failed relationship and alliance with a shaman in Peru that resulted in a total life change being thrust upon me:
Apprenticeship Update: BIG Changes for The Professional Hobo

Brace Yourself: Theft

This is a new category added since originally publishing this piece, where I was robbed – by a house-guest; a saga indeed:

The Saga of My $10,000 Passport

And in 2014, my purse was stolen in Cusco:

The Day my Purse Was Stolen, and Lessons Learned

Hospital Visits, Illness

It all started in Hawaii (2008) when my partner (at the time) dropped a 5-gallon glass jar onto his toe. He thought the hospital was a good first line of defence.

It’s not.

Touring the Emergency Room

His hospital adventures were far from over though; a few months later he spent a week in a Thai hospital fighting for his life with Dengue fever. Here’s my account of a wee breakdown I had while picking up the slack:

Hospital Life with Dengue

 

This wasn’t my only kick at the can with dengue fever….I had it myself (and by myself) in Grenada in 2011:

Dengue Fever in Grenada

Oh yes, and I almost forgot – I got a neurological disease in Hawaii (2008):

An Introduction to Spearfishing…and Neurological Disease

…if you keep scrolling, my most dramatic hospital experience warrants a heading of its own…

Brace Yourself: Natural Disasters

Oh yes, I’ve had my share of encounters with natural disasters too.

The first was a dangerously close proximity to Cyclone Nargis (2008) which obliterated Burma while I was 100kms away in Thailand. I turned this into a good news story by launching an international fundraising campaign to help the victims.

Here’s the news story CBC did about it

And then, less than a year later in 2009, I was stuck smack dab in the middle of Australia’s worst-ever natural disaster, the Victorian Bushfires. The diary entry I kept that day was archived by the National Library of Australia as “a piece of history”:

Victorian Bush Fire Diary: February 7th – Day One

Victorian Bush Fires

I carried on the daily diary for 18 days; you can catch up on all the drama here:

Victorian Bush Fire Diary

As if all that wasn’t enough, in New Zealand (2011), I got hit with two cyclones one atop the other, which stranded me (and others) in the place we were staying, and also cut off the whole peninsula from the rest of the North Island.

cyclones in New Zealand


The Life-Changing Accident

In early 2013, I faced my biggest challenge in all my travels thus far; my partner (at the time) and I were in a near-fatal head-on collision (we were on our scooter, and were hit by a car):

Crash! Bam! How My Life Changed in a Second

my train-wreck of a hairstyle

Eventually, almost two years later, after breaking up with my partner and other difficult events that in one way or another are related to the accident, I had to sign off on ever getting insurance compensation:

Cutting Your Losses: Why I’m Losing in Order to Win

Encounters with Creepy Critters

In my first two weeks of volunteering in Hawaii (2007), I was nibbled on by centipedes – twice. While sleeping. In bed.

Sleep didn’t come easily after that.

Centipede Bites: The Worst Hawaii Has to Offer

…and the second attack a week later:

Just When we Thought it was Safe

Years later in Australia (2010), once I finally learned to sleep soundly again, I got 37 spider bites…while I slept:

Australian Seagulls, Spider Bites, and Blue Mountains

And again in Grenada (2011), I got devoured by icky bugs…and had some sort of centipede omen dropped at my doorstep on my first night there:

Wildlife in Grenada, For Better or Worse 

Travel Fatigue, Loneliness, etc

Here are some of the more universal issues I’ve grappled with on the road, not the least of which are work-life-travel balance problems in trying to make my full-time travels financially sustainable:

Travel, Work-Life Balance, Time Management, and the Paradoxes Within

Solo Travelers Make Better Bloggers….or Do They?

And hitting a wall after traveling at too quick a pace for too long (2011):

Travel Fatigue, and Slowing Down the Pace of Travel

The trials and tribulations of traveling solo and being alone:

Motion Sickness on the Road

Learning to be Alone in Grenada

 

Trying to decide on my next travel move (2011):

The Paralysis of Choice

After these challenges, I was good for a bunch of years on the Travel Fatigue front. Then, somewhere around 2017 when I wasn’t looking, Burnout hit me – HARD. Of course I didn’t heed my inner voice’s urgent requests to slow down and I kept flitting around Asia until the bottom fell out completely. Here’s the following sequence of events that happened over the course of the following year: 

Heaven and Hell: Panchakarma as a Reflection of (My Time In) India – a gut-wrenching (literally!!) story full of humour

All Life is Suffering: A Month in Koh Phangan – another funny story with some starvation thrown in for good measure

My (Epic?) Search for a Home Base – a culmination of the above two posts and my ultimate treatment for burnout

It’s Not All Bad!

If you’re still reading this and haven’t stabbed yourself yet or raced out and applied for the next day job you can find as an alternative to traveling, then you realize that sh*t happens. Many of these emotional and logistical problems could have happened anywhere, irregardless of my full-time traveling lifestyle.

You’ll also see that in most of the articles featured here, I manage to find a silver lining to the situation.

Heck – some of life’s greatest adventures are MIS-adventures. Our high moments wouldn’t be nearly as amazing without the context and perspective of a few low moments mixed in for good measure.

So get out there, and create some mis-adventures of your own!

Here are all the travel disasters I've encountered since traveling full-time in 2006. 3 natural disasters, 3 diseases, accidents, breakups, thefts, and more! Brace yourself.... #traveldisaster #dengue #chikungunya #cyclone #naturaldisasters #victorianbushfires #travelfatigue #travelloneliness #TheProfessionalHobo
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42 thoughts on “Brace Yourself: Travel Isn’t All Roses and Lollipops”

  1. Thanks for dropping this less than 48 hours before I begin my own extensive travels. Time to cancel…nah, I’m undeterred. 🙂

    It is good to see the flip side. I’ve had far more great times traveling than negative, but a couple of my absolute lowest moments were on the road and it’s pretty brutal to be so far from home in those moments. I’ve thought many times that traveling makes everything more intense. The good moments are truly great, but the bad moments are actually a bit worse.

    Reply
    • Josh – Ha ha, how’s that for timing!
      And you’re right; the tough moments in travel tend to be harder to handle, without the “comforts of home” and people who can add some context to your life to help you through it.
      But the overused cliche is overused for a reason: “Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”!!

      Reply
  2. So glad you’re okay after all the medical and natural disaster mishaps. Yikes.

    Knock on wood, the worst health stuff I’ve had to deal with so far is the dog getting a weird fungus and me having to navigate the German healthcare system and beg for birth control pills. The worst travel experience was getting detained and interrogated by British Immigration (and I hope that’s the worst the universe has to dish up for a while; took me a while to recover).

    Reply
    • Gigi – Ailing pets during house-sitting gigs is no bowl of cherries either (been there), and I too, have had my adventures of getting prescriptions around the world.
      And being detained by Immigration? Eeek. Never fun. Sounds like a post in the making to me! 😉

      Reply
        • Whew – that’s quite a story! I too had a less-than-lovely experience with British customs once, but certainly not quite as dramatic; I never saw the little room of torture and cruel smirks.
          Your story most emulates similar stories I’ve heard (and experienced)…about entry into the States. So many US customs officials have chips on their shoulders with assumptions that everybody who enters is trying to game the system and fall off the radar once inside.

          I’m sure British people the world round will love my little parallel between the US and England….but I’m sorry to say…it’s true. (And I’m also sure it’s not exclusive, so nobody get your shirt in a knot!!! PS – My partner is British).

          Reply
          • Yeah. The US, UK, and Australia all have a reputation for senselessly unprofessional immigration experiences. I even heard about a poor Canadian woman who was banned from the US because she was carrying condoms and they decided that carrying condoms = being a prostitute. It’s so sad.

    • Angela – I’m not so sure I’m going to be devoid of mis-adventures from now on, but I must also admit the adventures I’ve had have been pretty incredible. No complaints here!

      Reply
  3. WOW! Even after reading thru all that I still plan to move into the world of long term travel…I guess that makes me an enthusiast or just plain nuts!
    I love your writing, always a great read and education at the same time.

    Reply
    • Thanks, Quade! I’m glad you’ve not been dissuaded; like I said, you gotta take the bad with the good! I don’t know if my icky experiences have been disproportionate, but I don’t feel hard done by, and certainly at no point was I tempted to throw in the towel because of my mis-adventures.
      Happy travels!

      Reply
    • Linda – Funny you should mention….after the first two natural disasters, people started suggesting I needed to NOT be wherever they were….for fear that I bring natural disaster with me! (I turned it around by suggesting it’s not the natural disaster that I bring; it’s the ensuing relief efforts that I throw myself into!)

      Reply
  4. Unbelievable, these are not made up stories for sure. You just can’t make this stuff up! Amazing how patient, resilient one must become, as this doesn’t always come natural. What’s the saying, ‘If it doesn’t kill ya, it only makes you stronger’. 🙂
    I really love your writing, so honest, entertaining and full of priceless information. Thanks so much for always finding a Silver Lining.

    Reply
    • So true, Richard! And I’m glad you’re not depressed by my tales of woe! I really don’t consider any of these experiences to be burdens; just life-shaping experiences, for better or worse. And I always love a good yarn… 😉

      Reply
  5. You should compare this list with a list of all the awesome things you have done. If bad divided by good approaches zero your life rocks.

    Reply
    • I’m already on it, Tim! I think if I compare the amazing times with the crappy ones, I’m still coming up roses…

      Reply
    • A Scolo? Is that my fancy neurological disease? That was fun. Much more amusing than annoying really. But I figured it was still worth a mention in this lovely roundup!

      Reply
  6. Hello Nora,
    Im nevvvvver going to complain again about my 3 years world travel…. cos apart from being physically attacked in Buenos Aries ( they wanted my camera), and my computer and all electrical goods being stolen out of my hotel room in Peru, the only other natural disaster l’ve encountered was the Japanese Tsunami hitting the Galapagos Islands and having to be evacuated to the high country.. ( btw 600m above sea level in my mind doesn’t count as High country in my terminology ! LOL).
    However, l lived in Melbourne when those dreadful bush fires killed 202 people and supported the fund-raisers as best l could. However being a local in Melbourne and use to bush fires is not the same as being a tourist. So it must have been scary stuff for you?
    However as always.. you make me smile.. you make me cry and most of all you make me laugh !!
    Your writings always bring the human element into it, and thats why l love reading them.
    Ps – I think you’ve used up your 9 lives missy LOL so Lets hope 2013-2014 brings better luck and no more disasters follow you any more!!!
    all the best,
    Anthea

    Reply
    • Hey Anthea – Thank you! The human element comes from simply writing as I would talk to my best friend. No holds barred! 🙂
      And as for my 9 lives, indeed – I hope I’m done with crappy stuff for a while. But truth be told, if you spread out these events over the last 7 years, I’m still not doing too badly.
      I haven’t been attacked or had anything stolen….I think losing my computer would be far more tragic than many of the things that actually DID happen to me – ha ha! 🙂

      As for the bush fires….yes, it was pretty terrifying, especially to be in the midst of it all and evacuated from the place I was living for almost a month while the fires continued to burn across my back yard (the Black Range).
      I slept on pub floors, in sanctioned tents for the firefighters, and in the homes of people who hadn’t lost their homes. But really….my problems were so very minimal in comparison to those who lost everything – and everybody – in their lives.
      I was simply happy to be able to lend a helping hand, and I was touched and amazed at how Australians all over the country came together to help each other in any way they could.
      It was heartwarming, and ultimately a tale of amazing survival.

      Reply
  7. Wow. It’s true a lot can happen and sometimes does but you get so much more from traveling that it makes it ok. And then you could travel for your whole life and run into very few or no problems at all.

    Reply
    • You got it, Gabriel! And a good number of the things that happened to me could have happened to anybody – traveling or not. I don’t feel AT ALL hard done by.

      Reply
        • Hey – stranger things have happened! At the time I was staying in a very civilized home of friends; they had just re-arranged the room and unwittingly uprooted a nest. Who knows – maybe you have a nest under your couch…..rest well! Ha ha ha 😛

          Reply
    • Thanks Dan – stay tuned! I’ll come out with a positive-story second part to this bad-news post as well!

      Reply
  8. Hi Nora, I can totally relate to what your saying, and the thoughts running through your head. I had a bit of a meltdown last winter, while travelling in India, and realized I needed to BE HOME. It’s okay. We all have our own journey and our own destination, and there is really no point in comparing yourself to someone else. You can get ideas and clues from seeing what others are doing, but you have to follow your own path. You have always had a niche, which is a great theme to hang on to in uncertain times, it seems to me. I feel the same way. I have always followed the beat of my own drum, and have sometimes felt I painted myself in a corner. (Sorry about all the metaphors, don’t want to get too specific about my situation in a comment.) You have to believe in yourself and trust your gut instincts. Sometimes, comets that flare burn out … Just keep doing what you do, and spend some time figuring out what you want, and where you want to be. Keep your eye on the prize!

    Reply
    • Thank you, Mariellen, for such thoughtful – and insightful – words! I too, have had a recent call to stop living on other people’s territory, hence the movement towards setting up my own home base in Grenada; a place where I can still feel like a traveler every day, but also where my place is MINE. It’s actually very freeing! 🙂

      I’m not afraid of change, even if the change (initially) seems to be counter-intuitive (ie: having a home base as a “full-time traveler”).
      Life is too short….and destiny is a direction, not a fixed place.
      https://www.theprofessionalhobo.com/2011/06/destiny-is-a-direction/

      Reply
  9. I JUST wrote a similar post on this topic. Great article! It is so true though, it isn’t all fields of roses and frolicking in the sun. Shit happens, and sometimes really bad shit. I wrote an example if a friend stepping in bear shit while hiking the Skyline Trail in Nova Scotia. He was angry, but I asked him, “would you rather step in an epic pile of shit produced by a badass grizzly bear while hiking through highlands, or step on a puny dookie produced by a sweater wearing poodle when you leave your office cubicle?”

    Travel is hard, but that’s why we choose it over the “easy” life.

    Reply
  10. I have so got that t-shirt. All of them. Deadly fevers, one in Africa and one in Italy. A major injury that left me scarred for life that was never sutured…I got through it with huge pieces of gauze, tape, and tequila and went out dancing the next night on New Years’ Eve. But don’t count me out of the foreign hospital ordeals. Haven’t done a breakup but have done plenty of matrimonial arguments; real tearful doozies that would make for entire episodes of the Adventures of Ricky and Lucy. I’ve been through political upheaval and danger. And creepy critters? It was only this past March I woke up in Africa, having been dazedly fingering a deadly spider in my bed, thinking it was one of the tropical flowers that the maid decorated the bed with the night before. “Hey! Autonomous creature here!” It yelled after being flung to the floor when I came to my senses. And I don’t see that you have listed among your travel hazings the quintessential Muslim world ‘Experiences with Female Oppression’? No detention for nail polish and tales of acquired scarf claustrophobia syndrome? No being caught with your hair down while stomping on your scarf, and dropping an F-bomb while the elevator door opens upon unsuspecting male locals?

    What are the chances that we’ve probably met? Enjoying your blog.

    Reply
  11. We went on a 5 month, 3 continent, 10 country road trip… with our 9 month old daughter in tow. There were some bumps and adventures along the way, but it was ultimately the most incredible experience. I’ve written about it here, if you’d like to read more:

    Reply
  12. Hi Nora,

    I bounced from Uni to Uni and into a corporate law position. Spent three years working in London.

    I’m 25 and have a similar urge to what I imagine you experienced before embarking on your 12 year long adventure. I have a small amount saved up and started writing to earn a bit of cash.

    Want to say thanks for writing so candidly. After a good morning of reading, I’m not sure that style of long term travelling is the right move for me. That said, everything you have accumulated here remains enlightening as I tread a different path instead of corporate partner-dom.

    Reply
  13. I absolutely love the candid and upbeat style of this article. You really have had quite the series of (mis)adventures over the years but it’s made for some incredible (and sometimes hilarious) stories. I’m literally just starting out on this journey and have no idea where it will take me, but the smile and good attitude persists!

    Reply
    • Thanks, Kaylini! Indeed, every experience is a matter of perspective. I’m not always great about taking things on the chin in the moment, but I do find that in retrospect it can be a fun story to tell and I can usually find a positive spin.
      Happy travels!

      Reply

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