10/12/2014

Why Traveling Sucks



Traveling, especially if you have to do it for work, sucks bigtime. For years, I traveled all over Europe and the US, to a Microsoft MVP summit each year, not to mention at least one or two other developer events, either as a guest or as a speaker.

The sign reads “Welcome to Chicago.” There’s nothing welcoming about anything though. You’re surrounded by a swarm of cranky people who were just cramped up on a long flight. They’re late for meetings or connecting flights. They’re hungry, thirsty and tired. They probably need to use the restroom, too.

The airport I’m talking about is Ohare, but it could very well be any major airport. And the last time I experienced any of that was over 2 years ago now. That was the last big trip I took. Thank god. Over the years, I’ve been to over 15 countries and had some great times as well as some low times.

I had a lot of places I wanted to visit. But I don’t care about it anymore; I’ve decided traveling sucks.

Here is why:


1. People try to rip you off

I’ve been ripped off. A lot. I would say 80 percent of the time it was while I was traveling abroad, but it happens in the States too - with taxi and limo drivers, you name it.

2. Paranoia

I’ve been lucky, but I've also heard horror stories. People who lost everything and had to scrounge their way back home. So I put systems in place to avoid that, but I can’t even keep track of my own systems!

So I end up even more paranoid.

3. You have to keep up with the Joneses

A fellow traveler I met was telling me his travel story, but I wasn’t listening. I wanted to interrupt as soon as possible to tell him my even better, more amazing travel adventure I had. And then, I wanted to one up it with another one from a country that he’d never been to.

Those are pretty much the types of conversations that ensue when you meet other travelers on the road. But no matter what you do, someone has always done something cooler, been to more countries than you have, and did it cheaper because they gamed the frequent flier mile system for 589,653 points.

It gets worse, if you open up any of your social media feeds, someone is probably on vacation sharing photos with casual captions like, “Just another day in…”

They’re pretty much rubbing in how awesome their life is and how much your life sucks.

But the joke is on them because traveling sucks!

4. Lost loves and chances

I’ve lived abroad 2 times and each of those times I’ve had little flings with some of the locals there. But they all ended on the departure date printed on my boarding pass.

One fling comes to mind. She was pretty cool. We kept in touch briefly after I left the country, but then lost touch. We connected again when social media hit the scene. All I saw was photos with her new fiancĂ©. I couldn’t help but wonder, “what if…”

Another time in Israel, I stayed up until the wee hours of dawn talking to an Australian girl I met. She was perfect. Hot, adventurous and down to earth. Actually, I found it hard to believe that I was talking to her. But that doesn’t matter. I never saw her again.

I kept hoping I would somehow run into her during my time there. That never happened. That still didn’t keep me from daydreaming, and thinking of what I’d say to her if I ran into her again. In the middle of all that daydreaming, I was being ripped off, paranoid and trying to one up everyone I met.

How could you have a good time with all that on your mind?

5. You’re always tired

It was early. Or was it late? I don’t even know. I just arrived and I was dead tired. I wanted to get to the hotel and have some food. But I just ordered food and I didn’t even realize it.

So I paid for food that I never got to eat. I got ripped off. Again.

6. Cultural experiences are overrated

When I returned from Israel I would share my cultural experiences with people. “That’s nice they’d say…but so and so got shitfaced and kicked out of a bar the other night. And Dancing With the Stars is on tonight.”

That’s real entertainment. Cultural stuff? Not so much.

But let’s be real, all I was doing was trying to one up everyone by showing off how worldly I was.

I’ve also been on countless tours and I don’t remember a single thing about any of them. Here’s one thing I do remember about tours I’ve been on: They all end in the gift shop.

7. You end up with a bunch of useless shit

I thought I was clever. I bargained with the guy for a good deal on a bunch of pre-Columbian art. I did the same for some pirated Russian DVDs that I ended up throwing out recently. I loved going to the market and haggling the vendors on price.

I always won. Or so I thought…

The joke is on me. I ended up with so much useless shit that I don’t know what to do with it all. I sent a bunch of Russian nesting dolls and a Peruvian wool hat to soldier in Afghanistan. It was part care package, and part gag gift. Maybe he could use the nesting dolls for target practice. Maybe he gave them to some Afghan kid as a piece of forbidden history. Who knows. But I do know that I have absolutely zero use for them.

I thought I developed street-wise bargaining skills in the souvenir markets of Jerusalem, but in reality, I just got ripped off.

Again.

8. Different toilet rules

Foreign bathrooms can be confusing.  I’ve traveled to many places where signs in bathrooms read “Do Not Flush Toilet Paper.” They put a little garbage can for you to throw out your used shit tickets. The signs are clearly geared towards foreigners who mess up a lot.

I always throw toilet paper in the toilet. It’s just a habit. I can’t NOT do it. So I stuff the toilet with toilet paper and then flush it to leave a flooded mess for the next person.

Maybe I’m a bad person. But I’ve walked in upon many flooded messes myself. So apparently I’m not the only one. Some poor person has to clean that all up at the end of the day. But maybe we’re all just getting even with the places and people that rip us off.

9. Airports

I’ve never met a single person that likes airports. Yet, I’ve had to stay overnight in them a number of times.

10. You don’t find happiness

Some people will have you believe that you can simply leave everything behind and lead the life of a vagabond and you’ll be happy. No responsibilities, no worries…only freedom! Maybe it works for these people and more power to them if it does. I’ve never found real happiness and riches on the road.

In the early 1900s, Reverend Russell Conwell gave an inspirational lecture called “Acres of Diamonds.” In it, he tells the story of a farmer who sells his farm so he could travel the world looking for diamonds. He spends his entire life looking for diamonds and never finds them. Finally, after a long search, he returns home broke and exhausted.

Meanwhile, the man who purchased the farm finds a diamond in a creek on the property. It turns out, the farm was located on one of the world’s largest diamond mines.

Sometimes you struggle, you travel long and far, and you hope to find happiness and riches. Then, you return home only to find them in your backyard.

Right where you left them before you took off. If you can help it, don't travel. You will thank me later.

-- Adapted and personalized from material in a blog post by Joe Choi