Photo Anna Brones
It happens surprisingly often that, when we are traveling and are confronted by paradisaical locations and amazing people, we are unable to enjoy ourselves entirely.
Despite our surroundings, there is a certain niggling feeling: the idea that something just isn’t quite right about the situation.
If our immediate physical environment is perfect, then we have to examine our inner emotional landscape to discover what these irritating stumbling blocks are. What inner journeys are we having that are preventing us from really enjoying the moment?
This is a short list of five of the most common barriers to inner travel.
1. The absent â€˜other half’
How often is it, when confronted with a picture postcard view and lots of people busy making friends and enjoying themselves, you have distanced yourself and thought “I wish X was here to share this with me”?
We are all guilty of pining over absent partners, of running up ridiculously high mobile phone bills as we chatter incessantly to them.
In turn, of course, we have been annoyed by friends visibly pining for their partner, whilst they should be enjoying a long deserved break with us. Not fun.
When traveling without a partner, pre-arrange how often you are going to be in contact. That way, you won’t obsess about missing calls from them, or have to worry about contacting them unnecessarily.
For motivation, recall how irritating your friends are when they are in this situation- you don’t want to end the holiday on bad terms with any of your traveling partners!
2. The â€˜Jaded Long-term Traveler’ Attitude
We all know the types. They’ve wrestled sharks in the Caribbean, lived in the wilderness, and slept in more quirky cabanas than exist in all of Southeast Asia.
As a result, nothing fazes them- every waterfall you see, they’ve seen one twice as big. Every crazy character you meet, they’ve met someone twice as crazy.
It is very easy to adopt this attitude after traveling for a while. Impressed by nothing, the excitement of traveling merely becomes everyday.
This can be difficult to shake off- especially as the â€˜seen it all’ attitude can earn you awe from other travelers.
But try thinking about the company you keep; rather than gravitating towards other seasoned travel-heads, it can be really refreshing hanging out with people on their first trip abroad.
Their sense of open-eyed amazement can be very infectious. And of course, every now and then will come the moment that suddenly shakes this attitude from you.
One of mine was when I saw my first firefly in Mexico (living in England, they are little more than exotic myths). Glowing green insects like flying led lights- what can beat that!?
3. The Urge to Document
All your friends are participating in the indigenous ritual that they will only get to attend once or twice in their lifetimes. And what are you doing?
You’re standing behind the ring of people, nose glued to the camera as you fiddle with the settings to correctly expose the photo. Or you’re scribbling frantically in your notebook, composing beautifully descriptive phrases.
You are so concerned with depicting the moment perfectly that you fail to enjoy it.
I’m notoriously bad at this- occasionally I have to rely on good friends to tell me to put my notebook away and look at what is going on! Save writing for those long boring pauses in traveling; those all day bus journeys, for example.
Photographing is a little more difficult to avoid, but I think it is wise to forsake the complicated SLR for a small compact camera, set on automatic mode, which eliminates the pauses for fiddling.
4. Failure to Stay in the Present
You’re not enjoying yourself because you are worrying about the flight you have to catch tomorrow, or the hostel you’ll need to find when you arrive at 2am.
Or else, you’re busy regaling people with anecdotes from past travels, or preoccupied with repeating a past traveling mistake. Either way, your thoughts are not located in the present. But what about â€˜now’?
Remember this: the best traveling experiences are the ones you can’t anticipate. There is no point in hoping for something in the future, because reality is often better. If you are worrying, close your eyes, take a deep breath and try and let past and future worries dissolve.
When this happens to me, I always take a few minutes to myself to be alone and calm myself down, so I can authentically appreciate what is going on around me.
5. Desire for a â€˜genuine’ experience
This is very common in long-term travelers. As a result, you become surprisingly snobbish about certain towns that are featured in the guide-books, failing to appreciate them because they don’t reflect the desired “look” of the country you’re in.
The company of other â€˜tourists’, however like-minded they are, is often disparaged.
Traveling doesn’t follow a particular path- sometimes you’ll spend weeks just talking to locals, other times, you’ll only meet tourists.
Often the best travel experiences aren’t remotely related to the culture you’re attempting to immerse yourself in – they may occur through a variety of unpredictable encounters with locals and tourist alike.
When I felt like too much of a tourist, I threw out my guidebook, and now, I rely on talking to people for information about transport and good places to go.
These are 5 of the most common inner obstacles we encounter whilst traveling. I have used my own personal experiences to help me compile this list.
What are your own barriers to inner travel? Share your thoughts in the comments!