Getting Bitten by the Travel Bug and Why That's OK
I must have somehow been bitten by the travel bug at a very young age. Growing up I always enjoyed family holidays to Europe and parts of my home country. I got just as excited as a child as I do now. I especially loved the holidays to warmer climates. In fact my first was when I was 15 years old, visiting Majorca for two weeks in the summer. It was a standard British all inclusive holiday at one of the 100s of hotels on the Spanish island. It wasn’t exactly a cultural experience since we didn’t spend much time outside of the hotel and resort, but it definitely made a big impression on me.
I loved the intense Spanish heat, the swaying palm trees, long golden beaches and unfamiliar brands. We were only a two-hour flight from home but I felt so much further away. I loved the feeling of being somewhere totally different to over familiar grey England.
This post is quite lengthy. Pin for later?
I was Always Obsessed with Far Away Culture
I hadn’t been before but the USA was so luring to me as a child. Most kids I grew up with were passionate Football fans but not me. While my mates were watching and playing Football and other English sports, I was doing the same with US sports like Basketball and Baseball.
As a teenager, I wasn’t fond of the UK music scene. At that time it was mostly Indie and Brit Pop but their whiny Northern voices bored me to death. Instead, I was listening to US rock bands and hip hop artists whose lyrics about their lives were so far away from my own but I was so fascinated.
I was also obsessed with nature documentaries from all over the world. My Grandparents used to videotape as many as they could for me and I was always happy to sit and watch them for hours. Elephants in Africa, Tigers in India, Monkeys in the Amazon, I wanted to see them all!
I was clearly a child, a teenager and then an adult who was keen to explore other parts of the world outside of my comfortable British life. But had I actually been bitten by the travel bug?
Then Along Came Shelley
In 2003 I met Shelley, now my wife, who shared the same travel interests and outlook on life. She seemed to have the symptoms of being bitten by the travel bug too. We both wanted to travel together so a year working holiday in Australia seemed the best option for us. However, we had only just graduated in 2004 so we had no cash to fund any kind of trip like that.
So we spent a year renting together and working hard to save for flights to Australia. To satisfy the travel bug urges during that year of hard saving we even took a cheap trip to Turkey. We needed a dose of something to keep us going. We couldn’t even wait just a few months. A clear symptom of two people who had maybe been bitten by the travel bug.
Then came Summer 2005. Flight tickets in our pockets, working holiday visa in our passports and enough cash to last a few weeks to get us settled and working in Australia. This was to be our first backpacking experience and we couldn’t wait!
The Year in Australia
We landed in Brisbane where we spent the first few months working and saving. I remember our first morning in Australia, sitting on a bench in Brisbane’s botanical gardens. We both looked at each other with ‘what have we done‘ expressions on our faces and started crying. It was a big deal to us back then. We were in our very early twenties, on the opposite side of the world from our family and friends. With nowhere to live and no job.
But we needn’t have worried because it was one of the best years of our lives. We easily found work in both Brisbane and Sydney. So while renting cheaply we could save to fund lengthy trips around many parts of Australia. We even travelled through Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand on the way home.
I also remember the day it all ended and we landed back in London. Again we looked at each other with ‘what have we done‘ expressions on our faces and again started crying. What a pair! We were so sad that the trip had ended. Both of us knew that what we had just accomplished was just the start of a new type of life for us. We had well and truly been bitten by the travel bug.
It’s Referred to as Being ‘Bitten by the Travel Bug’ for a Reason
In most cases, the travel bug infects you and will never let you go for your entire life. We’ve been infected for at least 10 years and the symptoms are just as strong now as they were from the start. Probably stronger!
We’ve come to terms with the fact that we now have to live with it. We think about travelling every single day. Plan our lives around our trips and make constant sacrifices in order to cure our symptoms. To live our lives the way we want to. But we wouldn’t have it any other way. We’re glad we’ve been bitten by the travel bug. And here’s why.
We Get to Experience New Cultures
Too many people play it safe when choosing where to go on their next holiday. A lot of British people seem to think that the only place to holiday is on the same Spanish beach resort or similar. Somewhere they’ve probably already been to year after year. They’ll book an all inclusive hotel where they’ll eat the same British food they eat at home. Socialise with only British people and never leave the premises to explore what else the country they have visited has to offer. These people have not been bitten by the travel bug. Even if they think they have.
10 years ago I would have been happy to go to a Spanish all-inclusive beach resort but now I couldn’t think of anything worse. Getting bitten by the travel bug has made us realise that there’s a whole interesting and incredible world out there to see.
The Travel Bug Encourages Us to Think Outside the Box
We try new destinations and experience new cultures. For us, there’s nothing more exciting than landing in a country like Bolivia, India or Cambodia. Somewhere that’s the polar opposite of home in every way.
While for some the familiar is the only way to holiday but for us, it’s all about the unfamiliar. The feeling of arriving at a new destination and not knowing what to expect is so exhilarating. Not knowing what we’ll see around every corner. What type of landscape we’ll come across. The kind of people we’ll meet and what type of food we’ll eat. We crave this because we’ve been bitten by the travel bug.
We Get to Devour New Taste Sensations
Before we started travelling, food was not a big part of our lives. Sure we enjoyed food but not anywhere near to the same level as we do now. The travel bug has taken us to some interesting parts of the world where there are all kinds of amazing foods to try.
There’s nothing better than visiting a country and discovering new dishes we’ve never tasted or even heard of before. Food that’s been cooked by real locals in the traditional way. Browsing bustling food markets, smelling tempting street carts, being invited to dinner in someone’s home and stopping off on the roadside to find the unexpected is all part of the food experience on a trip. Food has now become such a huge part of our enjoyment while on the road.
However, there are some foods that we won’t be trying – 10 Strange Foods From Around The World That We Won’t Be Trying On Our Travels
We Get to Make Like Minded Friends Who Have Also Been Bitten by the Travel Bug
Getting bitten by the travel bug has taken us all over the world and we have made some great friends along the way. Sometimes these friendships only last a few days, enjoying their company while you’re in the same city or whatever. But sometimes they can last for years. When you really get on with someone and make that extra effort to stay in touch.
The popular choice of accommodation for travellers is the hostel. Hostels are most of the time very friendly places to stay. There’s something about staying in a hostel that makes you more sociable than you would be if staying anywhere else. Hostels also have lots of communal spaces such as a shared kitchen, lounge or bar. So you are constantly around other people.
The assumption in most hostels is that everyone else is a like-minded traveller. We’ve all been bitten by the travel bug. With that in mind, it makes it easier to start a conversation with an individual or group and there’s a better chance that you’ll have lots in common and a genuine interest in each other’s lives.
Back home I have lost count of the amount of empty conversions I’ve had when meeting new people. I’ll always be polite and ask them questions to show some genuine interest. They’ll happily tell me all about themselves but it’s often never reciprocated. It’s difficult to find someone you really click with and it’s within our western culture to be wary of everyone. This can at times makes it awkward to make that first move but in our experience, this is far less likely to happen when meeting other travellers on or off the road.
We Don’t Make Friends with Just Other Travellers
We’ve met some amazing local people from all over the world. Whether it be an owner of a guest-house, a tour guide or just someone you happen to start talking with on the train or bus. Lots of other cultures are so open and welcoming beyond belief. Someone you’ve just met for the first time will invite you to their home for dinner. Another will invite you to their friend’s birthday party.
It can be fascinating to talk to locals who are from a totally different part of the world to you. Learning about their cultures, their way of life and their country’s history.
We Get to Improve Our Self Development
Saying that long term travel develops a person is a bit of a cliche but I think it’s true. Travel has changed us in many ways and we feel for the better.
When I was a younger traveller fresh out of University and heading to the other side of the world, the experience was a massive learning curve in being responsible and self-sufficient. Shelley and I had to make a life for ourselves in a foreign land by finding work and a place to live. Then budget our spending in order to make our trip last for a whole year. We would not have had the same learning experience at that age if we didn’t take that first epic trip.
We’ve become a bit of an expert on budgeting. Both during and pre-trip. This also helps us in other aspects of our lives like when we were saving for a deposit to buy our little London flat. We’ve even written this post on how to save money so do check it out if you need help.
We Get a Different Perspective on Life
Western society has become obsessed with material possessions. Most people want nice cars, big houses, the latest mobile phone and the best HD 4K 3D 60-inch curve screened virtual reality television! They feel they need these things to make them happy and some will overwork themselves in a job they hate in order to afford them. Do these superficial things really make them happy? You’ll have to ask them. We’re strong believers in spending money on experiences over possessions. Another symptom of being bitten by the travel bug.
Traveling to poorer communities around the world makes you realise that none of the above is important. People get by with very basic possessions and in most cases are still very happy. Their family and friends are what’s most important.
It’s Made us Extremely Grateful for what we do have
It makes us realise how lucky we are to be born in a country like England. We don’t take things for granted that many other people do. Our national health system for example. Even simple things like unlimited clean running water from a number of taps in our home. If you think about it it’s crazy to have access to as much clean water as we want when there are millions of people around the world who don’t even have that.
It sometimes blows me away that I have this plastic card in my wallet which I can stick into a wall, press a few buttons and out comes some cash. I know I work hard for that cash but there are people out there who work just as hard or even harder and still can’t afford to feed their families or put a roof over their heads.
You can read more about how travel changes you as a person here.
It’s Still Developing us as People Today
We’re learning new languages, volunteering to help those less fortunate and I’m currently exploring ways in which Shelley and I can earn a living without being location dependent. Along the way we’ll both be learning new skills which will hopefully enable us to live the kind of lifestyle we both want. If we’re successful, we can happily thank being bitten by the travel bug for that.