WHETHER IT’S an open-ended backpacking trip or a standard two-weeker away from 3-piece suits and office small-talk, remember this: places are like people. You can love, like, hate, be infatuated with, play, be played by, run from, and long for places…just as with humans. Accepting this fact before you hit the road can save you from spiraling into a deep depression because the travel dream you’ve always longed for has failed you — and keep you more interested along the way.
Sometimes your travel will be fantastic. But not always. Expectations are the enemy. Walking down the street in a big city — do you expect it to work out with every person you see? So why should places be any different? What about that beautiful guy you always had a crush on until he opened his mouth? That’s what’s left of that postcard on your fridge of a white sand beach…until you tasted the horrible food and spoke with rude locals.
Let’s take a look at how places are like living, breathing humans.
Sometimes you’ll be in love.
You’ll fall. Head over heels. And you’ll love the place. You’ll love everything about it — even the imperfections. And you’ll want to change your plans and ditch your friends and turn your whole schedule inside out for this one gem. You’ll want to spend more time here. And you should. Otherwise, you’ll always wonder what it would have been like.
But sometimes you’ll jump through all these hoops in the name of love just to find out that…
It’s just infatuation.
So, you extended your stay and ditched your friends, but now it’s fizzled out. The initial shock of beauty has somehow faded, the mind-expanding sensation you got in the first few weeks has wilted to monotony, and the ‘anywhere but here’ mentality starts to resurface. Accept the whirlwind of a good time that it’s been and move along. Don’t try to turn it into something permanent.
Sometimes you’ll only like one thing.
Maybe it’s the beaches. Maybe it’s the museums. Maybe you’ve explored up and down, high and low, and nothing else appeals to you. Maybe the art scene is brilliant, but the people, the food, and the landscapes all suck. Accept that. Someone else will come along and think the art scene is atrocious and everything else is rainbows. Don’t force it.
Take a risk and you just might find a keeper.
Yes, the plain vanilla all-inclusives will arguably never let you down — you know what you’ve signed up for and it’s good. But that’s all it is. It’s just good. Not great, not incredible, not awe-inspiring. If you dare to stray from said vanilla comfort — to something that pushes your dusty adventure buttons, forces you out of all your high maintenance bullshit, and pisses you off in all the right ways — you’re sure to find something a bit more intriguing.
You won’t always be in love.
Don’t expect to have a love affair with every city, town, and village you step foot in. There will be times you want to leave, but you don’t want to want to leave. You’ll tell yourself you haven’t seen enough, maybe there’s more…maybe I’ll stay a few days longer. Just surrender. Sticking around to fall in love with a place is like spending too much time on a shitty date. Can’t fight the vibe. If you’re feeling an itch to go, whip out that train time table and get on aboard.
But also, as with people, give the place a chance…
Some places need time to reveal themselves.
People can be shy. And so can places. You might have to be a little more curious for some destinations. Peel back the layers to get to the good stuff. Maybe this one doesn’t lay out the entire story in the first 3 hours. There are some parts you must earn.
Even if you are in love — the spark isn’t there all day, every day.
Somewhere along the way, postcards and Instagram led us to believe that every single day of traveling must be over-the-moon amazing and life-altering. If that’s what you’ve got in mind — stay home. The fantasy will be much more satisfying, I assure you. You can love a place and have a really shit day, or week. Do you leave your partner after one crappy day together? No.
But you should accept the fact that…
Some places will break your heart.
Maybe you built them up to be something they never were from the start. Maybe your expectations worked against you. Maybe that postcard-perfect image screwed you in the end.
Or maybe it really is everything you want, but you can’t find the time to stay, the job to move there, or your body is just rebelling in all ways biological. Maybe persevere…but maybe move on. Life might just have greater plans for you…
Do you just keel over and crumble after a fall-out? Well, some do. But Mr./Ms. Right won’t appear if you don’t get out there and try again. You might have a streak where nothing appeals to you at all, for weeks, months, who knows, years. You might be repulsed by an entire continent! But keep going. Pick that next country to have a date with — the spark awaits you.
We tend to think that anywhere far away from our home-routine must be mind-blowingly amazing. But as soon as we can accept the fact that instead of our delight with travel being a guarantee, it is as much a crapshoot as it is with people. Swallow that and your globetrotting will prove much more rewarding.
This piece originally appeared on Thought Catalog and is republished here with permission.