Five Ways Travel Ruined My Life

Van Gogh Cafe Bucharest Romania bookshop coffee shop

This may sound like an odd title for a travel blogger to write a post with. But it’s true – travel HAS ruined my life. Everyone says how amazing it sounds, that I travel all the time. That I disappear off on journeys around the world and see incredible places and have the best adventures.

No one warned me about the negatives, about the downsides of travel and jetting off to different countries all the time, and so I found them out the hard way. Here are five ways that travel has ruined my life…

1. I get cabin fever in one place

I can no longer stay in one place for too long, especially if it’s a small area. I end up searching places to go to, where cheap flights are off to, where I can go for a weekend. I start feeling trapped if I’m the same place for a long period of time, especially when friends – many of whom are fellow travel bloggers – posting photos and talking about their amazing journeys.

Kanchanaburi Thailand

Visiting Kanchanaburi in Thailand, June 2016

For example, I find it really hard to be at home for too long. Not because I don’t like my parents (I mean, hello, free food?!) but because I don’t have the independence that I’m so used to. We live an hour’s walk from the nearest train station. Buses are… rare, to say the least. Maybe if I drove it wouldn’t feel so constricting, but I miss being able to walk out of the front door to get to the supermarket, being a few minutes away from friends and only having a short walk to all the shops.

In short, travel has destroyed my ability to stay in one place for too long. I’m always on the search for that new experience, on the road to that new adventure!

2. Post travel lows really are a thing

You come back from a trip on a high. You’re still buzzing from the amazing experiences, the incredible people you met, the fun you had. At first, people are loving hearing about your trip. They want to know the details – where did you go? What did you do? Then life has to go back to normal.

Then life has to go back to normal. People start to get bored of you ‘going on’ about your travels. You start running out of photos from the trip to post on Instagram (legitimately a problem, I tell you). You may have lost contact with all the friends you made on your trip – a lot of friends made in hostels are short-term, you hang out on the trip but lose contact so soon after.

Ljubljana Castle Slovenia

Looking out over Ljubljana, October 2015

You start to feel bored. You start to feel lonely. Your time is filled with the monotonous – work, study, grocery shopping, cleaning. Your free time is filled with searching for new places to go, cheap flights so you can get that buzz of adventure again. It’s addictive. Photos pop up on your Instagram feed of Cinque Terre, of Santorini, of Cappadocia. You’re jealous – YOU want to be there too.

I get terrible lows after coming back from a trip, especially if it was a long trip and I don’t have anything planned for quite a while. You miss being where you were – after returning from Bangkok I missed the bustle of the city, the amazing street food. Everything also seemed so needlessly expensive too, after being in a city where I could buy a good dinner for 50 baht (£1).

You start thinking of all the things you didn’t have time for on your trip, you regret decisions you made – why did I visit X when I could have visited Y? (Hindsight is 20/20, after all.) Did you sleep in one day until 10am or 11am? You’ll feel annoyed at yourself at all that you missed. Travel exhausts me because I want (I NEED) to do it all. And when I come home, and I know I didn’t do things or see things, I get the travel blues.

3. My entire life plan has been %#?!ed

Yes, that’s technical speak for my priorities have changed and now I’m not sure what I want from my future. I had a plan. A 5-year plan, a 10-year plan. I knew what I wanted from life.

And then I started to travel solo. That lit my fire for travel and that’s where this blog came from. I’ve always been a traveller – I’d been to probably 10 countries by age 10 at LEAST – but going interrailing at age 18, just out of college, ruined me. Not because I started to change my plans then, but because it set the ball rolling on my travel ways.

My plan was to go to university, get my degree, get a good job (likely in finance). Maybe I’d meet someone at uni who I would end up marrying, or maybe I’d meet them at my job, or just through friends (we will come back to the dating dilemma later). I’d get married in my twenties, maybe have a house by 30 (although with this housing crisis? Even if I do stay in one place I’ll be lucky to have a house by 50… but not the point!) and have children (two maximum) in my thirties. Maybe we’d even get a dog.

Gothenburg Sweden Feskekorka fish market

Visiting Gothenburg, Sweden in February 2016.

Then I went to university.

Then I had to take a year out due to illness but still had eight months post hospital appointments and medical fun to ‘recover’ until the correct semester rolled around to go back to studying.

I was bored.

I wanted to DO something, something worthwhile.

So I ended up looking for inexpensive volunteering opportunities.

Then I went to Honduras. I volunteered for a month. I extended my trip. I worked freelance as a social media marketing consultant and even helped the set-up of a community organisation in the mountains. I worked for two months. I dated someone.

Then I went home. But more travel ensued – I had an internship in Austria.

I flew to Austria via Ukraine (why not? The flights were the same price. / But Penelope, that’s mental! / It’s fun! / Wasn’t there a war on? / Calm down, only in certain regions and it wasn’t like I was holidaying to Donetsk or Crimea…) and then, while in Austria, I visited Slovenia and Slovakia. I visited other cities in Austria. I loved it!

Then, at the end of my internship I was off to Romania for a group trip. How was I supposed to get to Romania from Austria? I mean… I COULD fly, but where’s the fun in that? So I took the long route.

I took the train from Klagenfurt, Austria to Villach and onwards to Ljubljana. I took the bus from Ljubljana to Niš in Serbia. I stayed in Niš for a day and then took a bus onwards to Skopje, Macedonia (FYROM). I stayed in Skopje for three days and I LOVED it. In Serbia and Macedonia, people weren’t used to British tourists. Everything felt so authentic and untouched by the heaps of tourists in other countries and cities. Then I took the bus from Skopje to Sofia, Bulgaria, where it was -21 Celsius and covered in snow (now I have to go back when I can see things, of course) and then a day later the train from Sofia to Bucharest, Romania.

Van Gogh Cafe Bucharest Romania bookshop coffee shop

In a café in Bucharest, January 2016 (by Diane Li)

And this, dear readers, has completely and utterly scuppered all my life plans. Now I don’t even know if I WANT to get a job and settle down after university – the digital nomad life is calling to me. I know so many people who gave up their jobs to travel.

It isn’t that my life plans have changed. I just don’t HAVE plans now. I don’t know what I want to do after I graduate. I don’t want to buy a house and settle down in one town or city.

You know what? This is terrifying because I LOVE plans. Before all this I wasn’t a spontaneous traveller. I had everything planned out down to the hour. But now? Now I do things on a whim. I change plans. I extend trips. I book a trip less than a week in advance.

How do you make a 5-year plan with that?

4. Dating is practically impossible

I’m not saying you can’t be in a relationship while you travel, or find the guy/girl of your dreams as you journey the world.

However, this is an area that currently escapes me. First of all, I don’t like long distance relationships. Some people can do them, and I applaud them (and am secretly amazed). I am in that other group where if you live three hours away by train, that’s a lot of effort and/or money that I could spend on travelling somewhere else.

Maybe my mindset would change if I met the right person. I’ve always hoped to find that special guy who I could travel the world with, but it hasn’t happened. There’s always an obstacle (time, money, willingness to actually travel to random places). I’m still somewhat clinging to the cliché of meeting someone while travelling and ending up falling madly in love and then travelling the world together (a girl can dream, okay?!) but I know this isn’t going to happen soon, or if ever.

Visiting Skopje in Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia FYROM

Travelling solo in Skopje, Macedonia in January 2016

It’s often a relationship killer (aside from the “I’m only looking for something casual” gem). The concept of being in a relationship comes up.

But Penelope, you’re moving to *insert country here* in a month.

You travel too much.

You’re moving away for a year. 

I mean, heck, maybe I’ve just missed that guys are trying to let me down kindly by blaming it on my travelling (if so then this section is REALLY awkward), but it still gets in the way of my dating life. You might meet someone in one country, but you’re both only there for a few days, maybe a week at most. You may try to keep in touch, but life happens, people move on.

So travel has destroyed my dating life, also because it’s made my standards much higher (the travel related standard at least). I’m not going to date someone who doesn’t have an interest in travel, who doesn’t want to travel with me, who would prefer a weekend at home over a weekend in Italy. I’m going to wait until I find that person who I’m truly compatible with and who doesn’t mind my slight obsession with Skyscanner.

5. I can’t stop.

 Can’t stop. Won’t stop.

There’s no turning back. How can I turn my back on my ever increasing list of places I want to visit? How can I settle for less when I’ve seen everything I can experience? How can I decide to live in a town or city forever, when I know what’s waiting for me ‘out there’?

I’ve seen too much. I’ve had a taste and I want more. I’m always on the search for my next adventure, trying to find time in my schedule to go. I recently had the (extremely privileged and luxury) problem of “I can’t travel to Chile because I’m too busy travelling to New York”. Can’t travel because too busy travelling, sorry world.

I am addicted to travelling. I am high on the buzz of a new experience and a new adventure. I cling to the desire for new destinations and new locations.

Travel has ruined my life for good.

And you know what?

I love it. 

Five Ways #Travel Has Ruined My Life via @theflyawaygirl #wanderlust

Travel has officially ruined my life. Why? Find out here...

Has travel affected you and your life plans? Tell me in the comments what you think of my opinions and tell me your experiences on the matter. Don’t forget to pin the above image if you enjoyed the article!

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51 Comments

  • Reply
    Alex
    August 23, 2016 at 12:44 am

    I definitely relate to most of this post! I get stir crazy after a couple of months in a new city (I’m already trying to plan my next adventure from NYC) and I get really bad post-travel blues. It happened after I spent a year of university abroad in London and then had to return to small-town North Carolina. There are just too many places to see to be stuck in one place forever 🙂

    • Reply
      Penelope
      August 23, 2016 at 12:51 am

      Exactly!! I really hope we get to meet in NYC – you sound exactly like me haha

  • Reply
    Emma @ Adventures of a London Kiwi
    August 23, 2016 at 3:03 am

    Preach! So many yesses…

    • Reply
      Penelope
      August 23, 2016 at 3:04 am

      Which do you get the most with your travels?

  • Reply
    Kim
    August 24, 2016 at 7:01 am

    Love your story. I can definitely relate! Since I starten my business there is no way back. I could never work for a boss again. Unfortanetely despite that, travelling as a start up (without money) is a huge Challenge. Have you got any tips?

    • Reply
      Penelope
      August 24, 2016 at 3:34 pm

      Thank you! I recommend checking Skyscanner initially – it’s great to see where you can go and when on very little money. Where are you travelling from?

  • Reply
    Ivanna | Provocative Joy
    August 25, 2016 at 9:22 am

    Travel has also slightly ruined my life plan. I travel a bit differently than you do, but it still has altered my priorities. I travel slower since I work with a traveling organization and I’m also with my husband. However, once I left home, I realized that I didn’t have as much desire as I used to for the typical life plan.

    So yes, I’m ruined too, but I think it’s better this way 🙂 I think you agree?

    • Reply
      Penelope
      August 26, 2016 at 1:47 am

      I think I’m ruined for good (and for the better) haha!

  • Reply
    anna
    August 26, 2016 at 10:34 pm

    I totally agree. A relationship issue has been solved, but the life plan thing? Well, I have to use my imagination twice as hard.
    anna recently posted… Potatoes, coca and baby alpacas: the beauty of Cuzco.My Profile

    • Reply
      Penelope
      August 31, 2016 at 9:16 am

      Haha I feel you!

  • Reply
    Dominique @ Ohbeehave
    August 27, 2016 at 12:15 am

    Travelling is very addictive! I had never been overseas until I met my husband (he had travelled a lot) and now we go overseas at least one a year (twice this year) and I’m sure we will continue to do so more and more in the future.

    It’s funny how you have a plan for how your life will be and then throw it out the window as other things come along. Everything will fall into place at the right time. Until then, I hope you continue to enjoy your travels! 🙂

    • Reply
      Penelope
      August 31, 2016 at 9:16 am

      So true! And thank you so much. Enjoy your travels!

  • Reply
    Jane Clements
    August 27, 2016 at 3:39 am

    Yes, yes, yes. This article is spot on – on all counts.
    I have been travelling for more than 3 years now for all of the above reasons.
    Maybe we will bump into each other somewhere along the way

    • Reply
      Penelope
      August 31, 2016 at 9:16 am

      Maybe! Where have you been recently?

  • Reply
    Punita
    August 27, 2016 at 8:44 am

    Symptoms of incurable wanderlust..listed wonderfully.

    • Reply
      Penelope
      August 31, 2016 at 9:17 am

      Thank you!

  • Reply
    Ellen
    August 28, 2016 at 7:05 am

    Going through the post-travel blues right now. It really does suck! Haha but this post makes me feel better 🙂

    • Reply
      Penelope
      August 31, 2016 at 9:17 am

      Aw yay I’m glad I could help!

  • Reply
    Sarah
    August 29, 2016 at 3:54 am

    Completely agree with the Instagram thing… haha, I’m always trying to find photos that I haven’t posted before.. it’s a real life struggle!!

    • Reply
      Penelope
      August 31, 2016 at 9:17 am

      Hahaha it really is!!

  • Reply
    Ricarda Christina Hollweg
    August 31, 2016 at 9:15 am

    I can completely identify with your post. What becomes most obvious: You definitely love travel. 🙂
    Thanks for this great thoughtful post which I enjoyed reading much.

    • Reply
      Penelope
      August 31, 2016 at 9:18 am

      Thank you! And I do, maybe a little too much love hehe

  • Reply
    Crazy Travelista
    August 31, 2016 at 9:24 am

    Wow, this article really speaks to me. I relate to each and every one of these points! In a way, I feel like it has ruined me as well! I don’t take pleasure in things i once used to and I’m always looking for the next place to visit (sometimes I cant even enjoy where I am because thats always in my head!). And forget about my life plan haha. But ya, glad someone else can relate! So where to next? hehe 🙂

    • Reply
      Penelope
      August 31, 2016 at 10:01 am

      That’s so true!! Sometimes I’m too busy trying to do and see everything I forget to actually live in the moment… I’m in Warsaw right now and off to Gdańsk and Malmö!

  • Reply
    Anne
    August 31, 2016 at 10:00 am

    This all sounds so familiar! Totally agree with all the points here.. Can’t wait to go on my next adventure 🙂

    • Reply
      Penelope
      August 31, 2016 at 10:01 am

      Thank you and enjoy!

  • Reply
    Georgia
    August 31, 2016 at 10:07 am

    Great article and so true. I can especially relate to #1 and #5! They can suck at times, but aren’t they all totally worth it… 🙂

    http://www.bohemianbythesea.com

  • Reply
    Lucine
    August 31, 2016 at 10:08 am

    I can especially rely to those post travel lows. When im comig home, first thiong i do is always planning a new trip 🙂

  • Reply
    Jurga - Full Suitcase
    August 31, 2016 at 10:34 am

    This is so true, Penelope! I also have the ‘after-travel blues’ once in a while and a luxury problem of not having the time to plan next year’s trips because I’m traveling now.. And yes, you do have to plan in advance when traveling with 3 kids during school holidays…
    When I read your post, I am just glad I caught the travel bug AFTER my studies and after I met my husband. Otherwise I would have probably ended up without a degree and no kids… 🙂
    You’re still very young – don’t worry about making plans for the future. Enjoy the moment – it will all work out just fine!
    Jurga – Full Suitcase recently posted… Our 2016 Summer Vacation: Fun, Crazy, UnforgettableMy Profile

    • Reply
      Penelope
      September 6, 2016 at 1:02 am

      It’s so tricky trying to study while wanting to travel everywhere – I never know what to prioritise or what to do… Haha

  • Reply
    Hayley
    August 31, 2016 at 11:01 am

    Love this! These things are so true, I think most travellers would agree!

  • Reply
    Amanda
    August 31, 2016 at 11:12 am

    Great post and hey who needs a life plan?! Live in the present that’s what I say and what will be will be. And if one day you decide to settle somewhere, you can start a University degree or new career at any age.
    Amanda recently posted… A Wet and Wild Green Man 2016My Profile

  • Reply
    Jessica
    August 31, 2016 at 2:06 pm

    Thank you for writing about the things that a lot of travelers fail to write about. It is easy to take pretty pictures and paint travel as living the dream- which may be true- but there are def negatives as well. It was great to read this perspective because it helps give you the pros and cons before you commit to a life of travel

  • Reply
    Daniela @ Grumpy Camel
    August 31, 2016 at 8:32 pm

    I’ve found a great way to beat the post-holiday blues – I always make sure I’ve got another trip planned before coming home, even if it’s just a short city break 🙂

    • Reply
      Penelope
      September 6, 2016 at 12:58 am

      Hehe I love doing that!

  • Reply
    Fee
    September 1, 2016 at 1:12 pm

    i’m not a full time traveler so can’t relate but it is refreshing to see the ‘real’ downside to long term travel and how you can try and overcome! most travel experiences are enriching after all. 🙂

  • Reply
    5 ways travel ruined my life
    September 6, 2016 at 12:10 am

    […] This post has been published and edited with permission from The Flyaway Girl. […]

  • Reply
    5 ways travel ruined my life - Startupnet
    September 6, 2016 at 1:13 am

    […] This post has been published and edited with permission from The Flyaway Girl. […]

  • Reply
    Turner
    September 6, 2016 at 5:19 am

    We’d get along just fine.

  • Reply
    Lauren
    September 6, 2016 at 1:13 pm

    I know what you mean with dating.

    I’m going through such a crisis about that one. Is there a support group for us?

    • Reply
      Penelope
      September 6, 2016 at 7:40 pm

      Haha I wish there was!

  • Reply
    MTravels
    September 7, 2016 at 3:03 am

    yup to pretty much all except i made the mistake of staying in the long distance relationship.. really messes with things.. then tried to find excuses to work abroad.. and of course, the anxiety of … where to travel and when. it’s a disease

  • Reply
    Mandi
    September 7, 2016 at 6:33 pm

    I thought I was the only one going through #3, thank you for posting this! I’m not an irresponsible grown up failing at adulthood or maybe I am but at least we can do it together. Seriously though, I have really been struggling with #3 recently cause im gonna be 30 this year and I actually just started traveling, I have so much more to see and do but society and my OCD brain tell me that I need a plan and I need to figure out my future. Anyway, thanks for showing me I’m not the only one who is having trouble dealing with the “no plans.”

  • Reply
    Karen Hurry
    September 7, 2016 at 7:12 pm

    I think your so very lucky….I didn’t discover travel till I turned 50! I can’t even see/hear a plane above without wanting to check my boarding pass! I feel incredibly blessed to get the chance to travel once a year..but I try to make the most of it! In Turkey now and it’s amazing!

  • Reply
    Matthias
    September 7, 2016 at 9:06 pm

    I picked up your post over facebook and your catchy title got me 😉
    I had my jaw dropping when I looked over your profile and saw that you are 21. Wow! Wow, because of these toughts:
    -NEVER would have assumed that just from reading your post. It has such a high level of old granny wisdom(been everywhere, did everyrhing) combined with an easygoing, smooth writing style. Something I would expect from a 50+ traveler! Big like
    -doesn’t ist come down to: we always want (or at least think we should have it too) what we don’t have? In the end it’s a tradeoff: stable social contacts vs giving in to you constant itch of curiosity. Find your sweet spot
    -so your 21. 21! While you’re right in every aspect, there’s more than enough time to completely change and do things differently if you feel the urge. Careful with words like “ruined”, which has a very final touch. At your age you can ruin and rebuild it again. And ruin it once more 🙂
    Sweet travels,
    Matt

  • Reply
    Andrea
    September 9, 2016 at 3:26 am

    I made my very first solo trip to Germany in June…just a month which at the end was too short and I wish I could have stayed for way longer and I already felt the way you feel..I’ve been always wanting to travel the world…and I’m desperate to go somewhere else or everywhere…there’s so much to see and enjoy of this planet and I can’t wait to be able to go away as soon as I finish with damn Uni.
    Hope you can make it to Chile next time 😀
    let’s meet if you come here!! I love to meet people from abroad

  • Reply
    Cami
    September 13, 2016 at 6:06 pm

    I can relate so much, I’m studying at University now, so I can’t travel as much as I’d want.. But I love it so much that I leave every single time I can instead of going back home.. This sometimes annoys my parents, but I really can’t help myself! It’s like a drug, now, as soon as I finish my exams next stop will be Berlin, any advice?

    • Reply
      Penelope
      October 10, 2016 at 10:29 am

      Berlin is amazing! Check out my article on the best beer and coffee there – some real gems!!

  • Reply
    Syu
    December 7, 2016 at 4:12 am

    Hi Penelope, did you work while traveling?

    • Reply
      Penelope
      January 13, 2017 at 12:14 am

      Hi Syu – yes I have done! Sometimes I do freelance work and I also earn through my Instagram with some sponsored posts. In some EU countries I have also worked part-time (e.g. in Austria I worked as a waitress over Christmas one year).

  • Reply
    NieNie
    February 7, 2017 at 2:15 am

    Travel an addiction we all can’t shake! But honestly, who’d want to? We only have one life, live it to the fullest!

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