HotelsWe are paying roughly $5-$13 a night for accommodation. That is the number that we can afford with our daily budget goal. Awesome, Right? You can definitely pay more if you choose to do so. Yes, sometimes we strike gold and find a nicer looking hotel room with everything you would get at a Best Western back in the States. But, most of the time we are staying in places that have beds that feel like you’re sleeping on a box spring, lumpy pillows made of old socks, cold showers, no air conditioning in 100 degree heat with 100% humidity, no wifi (sadly, a brutal moral blow), and questionable bathrooms with spider pets the size of your fist in them. We have had some uninvited visitors in our room from time to time like cockroaches, mice, mosquitos, and geckos. All of these things are easy to get used to, and even get a good laugh at, but it sure makes you appreciate your bed at home!
Don’t even get us started on checking out, and moving to another location what seems like every damn day! PACKING & MOVING SUCKS. Sometimes we have to do it 3x a week!
ToiletsThis one is probably the most comical and the one that will get your goat the most when you travel. While visiting foreign countries you will quickly notice the toilets can be much different than at home. As a matter of fact, you will want to kiss your toilet when you get back home. You better start practicing your squatting skills for number 1 & 2 and make a habit to carry your own TP. Be ready to flush the toilet by pouring buckets of water down the pot to wash away your waste. I didn’t feel so glamorous the time I ran into the stall only to find a squatter and no TP, luckily I was able to find a piece of paper in my purse to do the job. It wasn’t pretty. Sometimes on long bus rides the driver will stop in the middle of the road for people to relieve themselves, day or night. That’s great for guys who can face away from the bus and pee on a tree, but girls have to drop their trousers and squat while the whole bus is right there! Talk about feeling sexy! In these situations I find myself scrambling to find some building or object to pee behind and hope to god the bus doesn’t take off before I can get back! These experiences can either make great stories or haunt you the rest of your life.
Nothing says being clean and refreshed for a day of travel like a nice hot shower. However, sometimes I feel cleaner not bathing. Sounds crazy right? This is exactly how I felt when we were in Bangkok and were staying at the infamous backpacker hotspot, Khaosan Road. Almost all the budget guesthouses had shared bathrooms. That’s a big NOPE for me unless they’re extremely clean. The showers are typically in the same room as the toilet, which means anytime anyone bathes the entire bathroom is wet. It gives me an icky feeling when the floor, walls, and toilet are all wet from someone else’s bath water. It’s easy to get a private room with a private bath as well, which is what we mostly do.On the road 90% of our showers are colder than and Arctic tundra. For almost two months, while living on Koh Ta Kiev in Cambodia, we bathed by pouring buckets of cold water over our head with giant spiders on the wall watching us. One time we were told to go bathe in the river in Laos, and another time the shower and sink water was brown and we realized it was coming directly from the river below our guesthouse. Shitty showers are more common than not, but these aren’t the things most people will talk about. When in Rome you do as the Romans do. Hey, it’s all about the experience right? We also get a laugh everytime we get a room and the shower has a sticker on it that says “Whale of a Time” with a cartoon whale on it. Being able to laugh at something as silly as that helps ease the pain of missing our fancy showers at home. It’s the little things.
FoodWhen you think of food from other countries you always think of the delicious dishes that are popular among foreigners. For example, pad thai. But just like stopping at random restaurants at home it can be hit or miss, the only difference is the bad food at home isn’t going to put you on your ass for the next 2-5 days if it’s gone bad! When food goes wrong, it really jacks you up. There are times where we will eat 10 gross meals in a row, and we aren’t picky eaters! This gets disheartening and spoils your attitude to try new things. We find the worst food is usually at the random places buses decided to stop at. Also, you may find yourself at a restaurant in the middle of the country that only has one option. This can leave you eating some sort of mystery meat or surprise soup. Sometimes I’d rather not know. You won’t be adding pictures of those dishes to instagram.
TransportationWe are not flying from place to place, no air-conditioned comfy trains for us, it’s almost always the cheapest possible mode of transportation, buses. Some buses are decent and moderately comfortable. But for the most part they all come with a story. We have gotten on a bus that was supposed to be 4 hours long and ended up being 9.5 hours long with loose chickens hanging out by my head as I am battling motion sickness. One time were stuck on a 22-hour bus ride in Laos where almost all the seats were broken. This meant we were stuck in a seat that couldn’t recline and the seat in front of me was broken and stuck in the full recline position. In less developed countries you may be on a one lane dirt road with pot holes going around sharp curves on the edge of a mountain. If you get motion sickness like me, this can be rough. We’ve seen the aftermath of buses and trucks that have gone over the edge. On night buses you will have to spoon with a stranger in a bed the size of a pool raft. Luckily, I have Scott and it’s no big deal if we are up in each other’s business. A long bus ride leaves you feeling worse than a bad hangover and sometimes takes over a day to recover. Again, I won’t be adding any photos of me hash tagging I woke up like this after one of these rides.
Beaches in ParadiseWe have been to some stunning beaches. But along with the beautiful, picturesque beaches are often 15 hour+ bus rides along with a sketchy speedboat ride that doesn’t look or feel very safe. We look around sometimes to see if other people look worried, if they don’t we tell ourselves “ahh, we’re okay” with a slight shoulder shrug and hope for the best. We simply cannot afford luxury hotels in our budget, so we stay at budget beach bungalows. It’s great that these countries have these options, but keep in mind our “beach bungalow” typically consists of bamboo walls, a hard bed, just a fan to cool the room, mosquitos, and any other creepy crawler from the jungle! A friend of ours told us she woke up to a python hanging on the rafters of her bungalow one morning! There is something charming about the bungalows, but know we are not sleeping in a 5 star resort sitting on clear, blue water that you see all over Pinterest.
The worst is the perfect storm. When you get on that long 22-hour cramped bus ride with the broken seats and stop for food at a dilapidated bus stop, the restaurant that would be condemned and vacated in the streets of Detroit, only to force feed yourself some sort of mush mysterious soup. In two hours, when you’re back on that hell of a bus, that soup will be screaming to come out. When you finally do get to your destination you need to eat, but food sounds god awful. You need to find a place to stay, but are too exhausted and out of it to think or walk. You need a ride, but are getting scammed by tuk tuk drivers about places to stay. You need a bathroom, but ran out of toilet paper. These are the hilariously unglamorous sides of long-term travel on a budget.
Don’t get us wrong; we wouldn’t change it for a second, we enjoy new adventures and the challenges that come along with them. But for those who think our lives are super easy and we are sipping piña coladas with little umbrellas on the beach all day by our resort, you’re wrong (we wish you weren’t though – maybe one day!). Traveling long term is a lifestyle that comes with its ups and downs. Once you start traveling to foreign countries that may not be as developed as your own, you start to realize how much you take for granted at home. For example, hot showers, a comfortable bed, a toilet that flushes, clean water…etc. You may not realize how luxurious and cushy your life is at home until you leave your comfort zone. You really learn that you can live with a lot less and still be happy and healthy (unless you eat that bad food!). And best of all it’s better to experience it for the first time with a good attitude and a little bit of humor.
To read another take on this, check out Like Riding a Bicycle’s perspective!
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