Do you ever flip through Instagram and double tap the many perfect captures of the seemingly blissful existence of others’, – places travelled and moments gathered, and then wonder why your life doesn’t also resemble a beautifully styled online portfolio of memories that are enhanced with ‘Valencia’ or alike, and effortlessly flow by graduation of colour?
Admittedly I have. And unfortunately, I’m sure that I’m not alone in this.
Social media is a peculiar tool. We know this. It’s a fantastic branding instrument that allows us to share the ‘best’ version of ourselves with those who care to listen. Because ‘perception is reality’, right! Or is it?
My boyfriend and I are 8 weeks into our year long travel adventure. Without a plan, just wherever the wind blows so to speak. It’s been a busy few months of touring and detouring, to meet family and friends across the globe, as well to discover (and rediscover) the many beautiful corners and cultures of this world. Like many, we’re travelling on a shoestring and moments are not always easy. But, that’s life and the reality of the adventure. Those (sometimes) frustrations, steep learning curves, people met, sites seen and beautiful experiences that amount to the many incredible stories, which makes it all the more wonderful.
And it’s this element, – reality, which brings me to this blog entry. The often unseen and unspoken instants behind those ‘gram’ worthy posts that we forget to remind ourselves of as viewers. So, whilst our Insta may at times look the picture of envy to some (as we swim, bike and run around the world), the actuality is, is that our nomadic lifestyle is nothing short of impromptu organised chaos. It’s a series of long bus rides and sleepless nights, wearing yesterday’s sweaty clothes two weeks later, speaking broken languages and engaging in conversation with our eyes and our smiles, fleeting friendships, feeling at home yet sometimes so unfamiliar, and finding pleasure in the cycle of boiled pasta, or… boiled pasta. It’s a constant of tiring and discovery, and it’s so damn exciting. A true affection.
And though we are fortunate that our experiences thus far have been mostly positive, I wanted to let you in on some little moments when life was not all that it seemed. Yet, with an array of beautiful filters at our fingertips to mask the imperfections, as well stunning backdrops to conceal those less than ideal circumstances, one would never otherwise know.
Let’s backtrack to the beginning of our trip when we travelled with our road bikes for a cycling camp in the Italian Alps. From Melbourne to Milan, via the east coast of the USA and Paris we struggled. At 25kgs a piece (without wheels), as well our backpacks, in the height of summer, it was a hot and heavy load. There were numerous occasions when the commute from A>B became a chore; requiring regular pit stops en route and a change of clothes on arrival. However, in an effort to make a seamless transition from Paris to Milan with bikes in tow, we actually planned in advance (I know, I hardly knew myself!) to take a train for a sizeable fee. 7.5 hours, seats reservations, spoilt. Like proper adult travel. You could only imagine our disappointment on arriving to Gare Lyon to learn that our service was cancelled amidst the strikes. Though, how lucky were we to be able to take the next train hours later with the what felt like the rest of France, and sit on the floor of the luggage compartment, sweltering, bumping shoulders with fellow travellers.
Kravice waterfalls, Bosnia and Herzegovina. What a place of sheer natural beauty. Waterfalls that stretch for over 100 meters and spill from 25 metres above. Vibrant turquoise waters that provided for a much needed cool down from the heat of the day and an excellent opportunity to people watch. We captured a few moments for our blog though what social media didn’t depict was that my boyfriend was s.t.r.u.g.g.l.i.n.g with food poisoning. Despite smiling on cue, several vomits that day resulted in an early exit from the day tour. Oh, and home to a communal bathroom and a 6-bed dorm for the night. Charming.
The following morning, feeling slightly more human on his part, we’d planned to take a bus from Mostar to Kotor, via Dubrovnik for the day. The bus was scheduled for a 7am departure and a 10pm arrival to its final destination. On reading the many reviews of the bus company, delays were expected. But, when travelling on the cheap you take your chances. True to form, it made its late entry 2 hours later. Time was on our side so it was fine, rather just a patient craving the healing of the ocean. On arriving to Dubrovnik, we had a relaxing day. Our connecting service that was due for 8.30pm didn’t arrive until late the following hour. Delays at the border were lengthy enough in queue, however with muchas gracias to a fellow passenger and his faulty passport, we were held for another hour. Arrival time to our accommodation was in the wee hours of the early morning. Sleep levels were well below sub-par, but that swim in the Adriatic Sea the following morning, – amazing! With a quick scenery enhancement, I couldn’t blame you for thinking that we’d been in paradise for a week, a picture of health and sipping cocktails at the swim-up bar. 😉 – (except there are no swim-up bars in Kotor).
Lastly, earlier this week we took a 3-hour ferry ride on Lake Koman to arrive in Valbone for our planned trek to Theth through the Accursed Mountains in the Albanian Alps. The views were insane, as was the wind! We traversed up the lake with the mountains completely encasing us; the water so blue. We were f.r.e.e.z.i.n.g! Assuming we were in for another hot day, – standard practise of recent, we were completely underdressed for the weather in a playsuit, havianas and the most deteriorating cotton knit (less luggage to carry) that I own. But, did I mention those landscapes?…
From these 8 weeks alone, as well the many previous occasions abroad, I could write a series of travel tell-tales that are anything but glamorous. From food poising on long-haul flights, to spending an icy winter’s night in a desolate open-air Italian train station because connections failed to arrive; to making use of communal bathrooms that would challenge the output of bacteria factory farms, – if there were such a thing, and so on.
In saying all of this, life on the road, letting go of routine and finding a new ‘normal’ amongst the chaos is bliss. Being able to laugh at the challenges (and yourself) is key, as is being real, trusting your instinct and believing not all that you see. Because it’s simply not always as it seems.
So next time you second guess your journey, compare it to the perfectly polished photo journals or wish it were someone else’s, please don’t. A picture paints a thousand words, and these days, it’s so easy to place a filter over the context and/or emotion of the reality. To conveniently let those finer, yet perhaps more significant details of the actuality fall by the wayside at the expense of a few extra ‘likes’. Don’t get me wrong, I love Instagram and its power to share and connect the world through beautiful photography, however there’s an intelligence to social media and its ability ignite a brilliance of colour and a heightened sentiment to a glimpse of a moment(s) that was otherwise a little more grey. Because it is just that, a glimpse. And only we, the content creators, know its absolute truth.