Embracing the Sexy AND Unsexy Sides of Travel

Amanda Sides
Embracing the Sexy AND Unsexy Sides of Travel

Traveling is sexy. You have thought-provoking conversations on overnight train rides, homemade meals from a grandmother who speaks a language you can't identify, strangers who show you something, who make you feel, who make you see your life in relation to this magical whole—dwarfing and empowering you at the same time.

Travel is all of that, and that's the part that sells books, magazines, and tourist packages. That part of travel includes the nearly unreal photographs of mountains, wildlife, and ridiculously expensive hotels. This is the part that makes you want to grab your ready-packed suitcase out from under the bed and GO.

This is the side of travel that makes the non-traveler think everything about being on the road or flying from country to country is glamorous and romantic. But here's the thing...

Travel is not always as glamorous as it seems.

Travel is also an eight-hour wait in a third-world train station. It's losing luggage. It's getting robbed. It's running out of underwear and washing them in a sink. Or a creek.

When you get back from a trip, you're expected to rave about the place: that food! Those buildings! Nice people! So you do—because it's true, and because that's what people want to hear. That's what they understand. But if you tell that story often enough, you forget your real trip.

The trip that's yours, the trip that mattered. The trip you can't find in photographs of famous landmarks.

The "Unsexy" Side of Travel

This is the trip that included every minute of waiting in that train station, where you read two good books, tried some Polish snack cakes, and had a conversation in German. (Well, maybe. You don't speak German, so it's hard to be sure.)

The trip where you were watching the most spectacular play you've ever seen, and you turned to your side during the intermission, ready to blurt out how you felt about what you'd seen—only to suddenly remember there was no one there, you were traveling alone.

The trip where you met a soulmate-style friend in the first 10 minutes, and you spent four days talking and staying up all night, watching movies and making pasta at home. That's your Slovenia, and that's okay.

But despite the lulls, the brief moments of loneliness, the "outsider" feeling, we get out there and go again. Just because it's not sexy doesn't mean it's not beautiful and everything we'd hoped for. The moments of boredom, of fear, of uncertainty—these are the moments that help us make the trip our own.

In the end, we travel for ourselves: to learn, to grow, to experience the world on our own terms. So tell your real travel story. If people don't want to hear that version, then don't give it to them. But always keep it intact, with all its sexy and unsexy parts, for yourself.

Do you have any cherished unsexy travel memories? Do you share those, and if so, do other people "get it"?

Image credit: Alyona Lezhava