How to Handle Wanderbust: AKA Travel Letdown

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I am sitting in a price fix vegetarian restaurant waiting for my lunch on a sunny day in Innsbruck, Austria. I wasn’t supposed to be here today sipping on this tasty glass of Chardonnay. I was supposed to be hiking to Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaraia.

Hell, I wasn’t even supposed to be in Austria, and as it turns out, now I may not be going to the castle at all during this trip. A year ago, this would have bothered me immensely and I may have been fussing over it all day long. But today things are different and I made a choice. Though I know I will visit the castle someday, at this point in my trip I can’t take any more huge tourist sites, especially for the money it costs to get from Innsbruck to the Castle. Past disappointments helped me to make this decision and I believe I chose wisely. Because what’s most important is that you’re doing something you enjoy, and right now I enjoy taking it easy with a glass of Chardonnay.

Managing disappointment, or wanderbust as I like to call it, is something you have to learn early on during a big international trip. You’ve spent years fantasizing about the famous destinations you’re going to visit. Looking at these pictures of far off places on your screen, you imagine how happy you’d be if you saw them in real life. However, as soon as you hit the road and spend days upon days seeing some of the world’s greatest sites (or whatever it is on your bucket list), you begin to realize that nothing will ever prepare you for how you’re actually going to feel at the moment you witness all these things in person. And sometimes, in spite of how beautiful the sites are, you get a bit of wanderbust. Nothing is quite as awesome as you expected, and you feel hollow inside for not having some sort of grand epiphany when you looked out on that mountain. You feel guilty that you can’t stop focusing on how claustrophobic you feel amongst the three thousand other people bumping against you taking a picture of the very same thing. But rather than acknowledging that the situation makes you cringe you try to fool yourself into believing you’re having a good time. You should be able to get over these feelings. Think positive. You’re lucky to be here seeing these beautiful things!

Screw that!

Ungrateful as this all sounds, you are actually better off if you acknowledge wanderbust, because then you can fine tune your travels to avoid these kinds of experiences. So many times we rush through our trips, doing all the “must sees” without thinking about what we actually enjoy doing and setting our course according to that parameter. If you haven’t already done this, I strongly suggest you try. Perhaps you are feeling tired because you are pursuing activities you don’t actually like – like going to all the popular museums when you truthfully have no real interest in art. You feel you are supposed to enjoy these things, but it’s best to judge your experiences by how you’re actually feeling at the moment. If you don’t like something, you don’t like it. It doesn’t matter how famous or important it is. It’s not a crime to skip out on the Mona Lisa!

db056404af80c6f2b2e3d848ab0972aaMont Blanc was great but I had to wait in line to have this photo taken…

So do yourself a favor and take note of how you feel from moment to moment. You will learn a lot about what kind of travel excursions you like, and you’ll also learn more about yourself. I’ve learned a lot about my trip by monitoring my feelings during my excursions. As much as my old self would hate this, I now know that I no longer enjoy solo hikes the way I once used to. They make me feel bored and lonely and longing for the end of the trail head. As a result, I am saving all my backpacking through the mountain trips for when I have a friend to join. On the upside this trip has shown me how important art is to me as well as having the time to read and write. Some of my happiest moments have been spent writing in cafes. I’ve also realized how important meeting new people is to me, and have invested more energy in trying to find like minded souls on the road. I also now know, despite all recent attempts to stop eating out, that eating delicious food makes me really fucking happy. All these travel tips I’ve read about eating in, and fancy food being empty and materialistic have not stopped me from feeling utterly romantic and one with the world when I stare upon a beautifully executed meal or delicious glass of wine. As frivolous and expensive as these things are to some, they have meaning to me. You will never feel the same way someone else feels about anything, and there’s no easier way to notice this as when you’re in a place that’s supposed to be one of the top must see before you die spots and all you can think is “Meh.”

So take note of the voice in your head that says, “If I have to hike another mountain I may kill myself,” or “I wish I was drunk in my hotel room right now instead of hanging out with all these dicks with cameras.” Ignoring your inner self for the sake of “seeming” appreciative is nonsense. You’re only fooling yourself, and are risking the opportunity to learn more about yourself from your experiences. Because let’s face it..sometimes getting tipsy at a vegetarian restaurant in Austria really is more fun than waiting in a line to look at an old castle with a bunch of old people.

f6e00914bdc9771c80e686866a3f162cIt’s hard to tell how beautiful a place is when it’s the most claustrophobic place you’ve ever been in your life.

About Alexandra C. MacArthur

94d317f7ffca94229c1abbb5352155b9Alexandra is a writer and filmmaker from Philadelphia. Last year she left her job in New York as an ad writer to pursue her dream of traveling the world and has spent the last three months backpacking around Europe. She writes about travel as a tool for self-transformation.

Website: Alex Goes There

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