12 travel things we'll never complain about again

July 14, 2020

As great as travelling is, no holiday is all sunset selfies and rooftop cocktails. Anyone who’s stuffed their life into a backpack and hit the road has encountered their fair share of dorm snorers, customs queues and stale airport sandwiches that inexplicably cost $13.50. But there’s nothing like a global pandemic to put things into perspective.

Complaining about a privilege like travel is crass at the best of times, let alone while COVID-19 deprives us of the indulgence and affects many people much worse. And now that this whole thing is calming down a bit and travel close to home can resume, we can even start to think about travelling farther afield in the not too distant future. The moment it feels good to travel, we’ll be so ecstatic that even the middle seat on an airplane will seem enticing. Okay, maybe not…. But a few months ago, spotty wi-fi, dirty laundry and talentless guitar players ruining the vibe of a hostel common room seemed like the end of the world. Now? Pfft, bring ‘em on. These are the 12 aspects of travel we will never complain about again.

Airport lines

Once more planes take to the skies, we won’t mind lining up a little longer to get on one again. See also: endless security checks, unexplained delays, exorbitant airport prices, rubbery plane food, crying babies and that weird instinct people have to stand up the moment they land, anxiously tensed despite the fact it will take the 38 rows in front of them another 10 minutes to file out the front door. One exception to former air travel woes: excessive charges for checked baggage. Never stop complaining about them.

Customs

No one enjoys having to queue up to face some grumpy customs agent suspiciously interrogating every element of your itinerary, or rifling through your full-to-the-brim backpack (c’mon, man, it took me hours to squish everything in there). Pain in the bum? Yes. Necessary? Also yes. A reminder of how lucky we are to be travelling abroad again? Yes, yes and yes. I’ll take it.

Jet lag

By definition, jet lag involves a jet, which has probably been stuck on the runway during this whole thing. And even though that long-haul flight will feel like an eternity, you know what’s even longer? The pandemic-enforced wait to get on it.

Jetlag

Annoyingly chatty backpackers

Social distancing has silenced hostel common rooms. So when the chatter starts up again, don’t take it for granted—even those braggy backpackers on a one-man mission to monopolize the conversation. Yes, it’s very impressive you’ve “done” 18 countries on this trip. Okay, let’s hear your fourth tuneless encore of Wonderwall for the evening. Sure, that Full Moon Party in Thailand sounds fun—cheers for the 30-minute anecdote. After months without human contact, we’re craving the conversation. Tell me more about that Full Moon Party?

Foreign supermarkets

Shopping lists are particularly difficult to follow when you’ve got to translate them into Croatian or Thai. But, hey, at least they’ve got toilet paper in stock.

Stomach troubles

Bali belly, Montezuma’s revenge, turista, Tokyo trots, maladie de la Mer Rouge, Peru poos… the nicknames are a lot more fun than the reality of traveller’s diarrhea. However, we all now know that there are much bigger health problems that can ruin a vacation. And see above re: toilet paper.

Turista

Instagram versus reality

Rio de Janeiro’s Christ the Redeemer statue is spectacular… once you fight off the 19,485 other tourists jostling for that perfect photo spot. Venice is literally sinking under the weight of cruise ship passengers. The Pyramids feel like a time capsule, until you spot the Pizza Hut at the front gate. Normally, the gap between Instagram and reality is pretty disappointing. But after months of being forced to explore the globe through a screen, seeing anything in person is a treat. Plus, those large groups are unlikely to return any time soon, leaving more room for us pioneers of post-pandemic peregrinations.

Missing home

Remember what it was like to be locked up there 24 hours a day? That should pour some cold water on that homesickness. The comforts of home can’t match the thrill of being on the road. A dependable internet connection, a well organised wardrobe and your own bed, bathroom and kitchen are all great. But give me dodgy wifi, clothes smushed into the bottom of a backpack and a hostel dorm for the thrill of travel any day.

Nearby bars blaring music while you're trying to sleep

Earplug-penetrating stereo systems suck. Closed bars suck worse. Just treat LMFAO’s Party Rock Anthem like a lullaby.

Hearit

Being tired

There’s one phrase that needs to be permanently retired when travel returns: “I need a holiday from my holiday.” It was already an eye-roller, but really ought to be put in the bin now. Absolutely, travel is physically and mentally exhausting—the planning, the long days and longer walks, the constant bombardment of the senses—but we should never whinge about that again.

Dirty laundry

Many backpackers (read: all of us) subscribe to the theory that used clothes magically become clean again once they’ve spent a couple of days back in the backpack (or once your supply of actually clean clothes has been depleted). Good thing lockdown has relaxed our definition of the word ‘clean,’ after we all got used to wearing the same T-shirt three days in a row during isolation. Besides, you’ll be too busy on your first trip out of quarantine to waste time in the laundry room.

Everything

For every airport security line, crowded attraction and stinky T-shirt we fish out of the bottom of our backpacks, there’s some breathtaking natural feature, a chance meeting with an eye-opening stranger and another tick on your insatiable bucket list. This collection of quibbles is dwarfed by the bottomless list of reasons we love travel, which has only grown longer during the months we haven’t been able to hit the road. So as soon as things get back to something resembling normal, we should appreciate every second we’re privileged to be travelling. Except when we’re being charged $95 for excess baggage. Scabs.

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