I want to preface this article by saying that I am incredibly privileged to be able to travel at all, let alone for this length, and I would not trade this life for anything. Even as we approach our half way mark, I marvel at the new joys I constantly discover throughout this experience. With that being said, I want to talk a little bit about some of the mental hurdles I've faced personally, as well as thoughts from others I have met along the way.
Many of my friends and family have asked me questions like "How is the vacation going so far?" and "How's the funemployment across the world going?" I always respond with something like "It has been incredible, everything I've always wanted it to be" or "Amazing, I wish it didn't have to end", but the truthful answer to that question isn't always so simple. There are good days and bad days, just like anywhere else in the world. There are new challenges to be faced and sudden problems to worry about that appear at an unrelenting clip. That is part of the fun of travel right? In my experience, yes absolutely, but unfortunately all of this leads to some broad spectrum issues that are less easy to solve.
Imagine if someone told you that you're not allowed to have a bad attitude about anything for a full year, no exceptions. Or that you need to take every possible opportunity to socialize with strangers for a full year. What about something more serious, like you need to constantly be on guard for thieves and scammers, and no matter how aware you are you will still probably get scammed or have something of yours stolen. Even as an anxious, introverted person I am able to manage these sort of requests on a short term basis, but having to always be "on" for 7 straight months has been a serious test of my mental fortitude. There are days where I've felt like my anxiety has never been worse and weeks where I've felt incredibly down for no reason at all. Without my tried and true strategies to battle anxiety and depression available to me or even an option right now, I'm stuck wondering whether I'll ever get the opportunity to recharge my batteries between now and when we come back to the US.
This internal struggle of mine would be far more dire if I didn't have Jenny constantly by my side. To have someone to confide in, vent to, laugh and cry with, it makes it all so much more bearable and worth forging onward each day. Sometimes, I do feel some pressure from traveling with a partner. You want them to have the best time possible and you are afraid to ever let them down, even if it's at the cost of your own mental or physical well-being. But by and large, traveling with someone you truly care about enriches the experience tenfold and allows you to both lean on each other when the going gets tough.
I've spoken extensively with solo travelers as the trip has gone by, and they have confirmed what I have long thought. Traveling alone long term is one of the most difficult trials you can put yourself through. There will be times where you will never feel more hopeless and alone - a strong support system back home can only get you so far. I don't believe I have what it takes personally, but I do know that these solo travelers come out the other side as some of the strongest, happiest and most confident people I have ever met. In a way I envy them and what they got out of their trip, but I would never trade being able to go on this journey with my partner. If you are ever planning on committing to long term travel plans yourself, I ask that you keep some of these thoughts in mind. Whether you are traveling alone or with others, you will face mental hardships, no matter how strong you think you are. It is how you face those hardships and come out on the other side that is important.