I have a vision of her.
She shows up at the train station with some money in hand, asking for the next train to anywhere. She grabs her small backpack and hops on the train. A few hours later she arrives in a new city, walking confidently down the main street until she finds a small, boutique hostel.
After booking a room, she’s relaxing in the lounge on the hostel couches. She’s chatting with a couple of people who have been here a few days, getting tips on what to see and do. They decide to go grab a beer while they help her plan out a day or two. She’s not sure how long she’ll be staying — just until the wind carries her on to the next place.
She’s not me.
But I want to be her.
No matter how romantic I find the idea of carefree, unplanned travel, I can’t shake the fact that I’m a Type A, planning, over-preparing, scheduling type. I’m the introvert type who doesn’t last long in the hyper-social realm of a hostel. And though in my head I always magically flip that switch when I’m traveling, the truth is I can’t.
Alain de Botton discusses this in his book The Art of Travel. He says you can’t search the world for happiness if your misery is yourself.
“Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Those who complain about trash left at their neighborhood park will probably also complain about the teenagers hanging out at Hyde Park in London. Those who let an empty water glass ruin their entire meal probably won’t be able to enjoy the slow pace of a French bistro.
It’s easy to think a simple change of scenery will fix everything. In fact, every now and then, I think a change of scenery can fix it all! But most new travelers will find that the vision they carried with them is not their reality.
Travel is more real than we expect in countless ways. Whether it’s the discomfort of not being able to find a restroom, the stress of catching a train, or the frustration of not getting to do everything you planned — travel is real.
Life doesn’t stop when we travel. And life is never perfect. Irritations don’t go away in Costa Rica. My instinct to control doesn’t magically dissipate in Switzerland.
What I can do is work on who I am here and now, so that when I’m out spending my last dollar on my dream trip, I will enjoy it. I can let go of the idea that travel will make me perfectly happy. Let go of my thoughts about who I will be on the road. Embrace who I am. And make that person who I want to be — right here and right now.
Who you are here is who you will be there.
This, more than anything, will determine the success of your trip — and the happiness you find.
Because you have to take yourself with you.
This post is part of a new series: A Travel Mindset. The series will cover topics like how to travel right where you are, appreciating cultures, creating an empowered mindset, and more. Subscribe here to keep up with the series, and tweet Latitude to ask any questions or mention any topics you hope to see covered!