Getting off the Beaten Track 

People think traveling is about taking photos of cool places you saw on your instagram feed.  That might be your initial motivation for booking that trip, but in reality, it’s about so much more than. Everybody likes to look at those images and admire their beauty, but what about the story behind the photo? What did that person have to go through in order to arrive at that moment? That’s what traveling is all about. It’s the experiences you have along the way, the people you meet, and the things you learn about yourself.

I wish Instagrammers would post the real story behind the picture. Travel sites are filled with adorable couples and their perfectly timed romantic photos, both of them looking like they just stepped out of a high class salon. I don’t know who these people are but I can assure you, it’s not normal. Walking around in 80% humidity, with the sun beating down on you is the farthest thing from romance I can imagine. You get cranky, tired, and if you’re lucky, you can add hangry to that list. Good luck trying to remain civil to each other when you’re pushing yourself to your limits. But you can always admire the super sexy sweat outline of your partner’s backpack on their t-shirt once you do finally get a rest.

And how did you arrive at that perfect photo location? Navigating a foreign country is incredibly difficult, especially if you don’t speak the language. Google maps is a gift from the Heavens as far as I’m concerned, but it’s still not perfect. Finding your way around is part of the fun, and it’s important to treat it as a learning experience. Here in Japan, we’ve had a bit of a steep learning curve with the train system, but you figure it out. Mistakes cost extra so we try to get it right the first time but hey, this is life and shit happens. Hopefully you don’t make the same mistakes twice.

Sometimes, the best places are off the beaten track anyway. J and I go to the big tourist spots, and all we feel is pushed around and stressed out. Tourist areas are more expensive than other areas and they’re super busy. We spend a minimal amount of time there, take our photos, then take off for somewhere else. In Japan, it’s pretty safe to walk around, so you can wander to your heart’s content. We walked over 20km one day in Kyoto and loved it. We even ate at a Japanese curry restaurant where the cook apologized for making too much noise while washing the dishes. She wrote it out on a piece of paper so we would understand. You don’t get that in the tourist districts.

Social media makes travel look like a dream come true; a lifestyle that everybody should want to have. The YouTube videos and photos just look so amazing, and life seems exciting. In reality though, it’s super tough. You get tired, you feel overwhelmed, and there’s no escape from it. Language barriers are mentally exhausting, and sometimes just finding a place to eat is a challenge. People laugh at travelers who are in a foreign country and they go to McDonald’s to eat, but sometimes, you just want something familiar. It’s hard always picking your food from pictures.

Traveling makes you learn though. Being pushed out of your comfort zone for extended periods of time make a person more adaptable. You’re faced with problems and you have to find solutions. Sometimes they’re easy, sometimes not so much. Sometimes you meet really amazing people who don’t speak your language at all, but you end up having long conversations with them. It’s learning to be comfortable in uncomfortable situations, and seeing those places you once saw on your instagram feed right in front of your face. The realization that getting to that spot is way more fun than taking the actual photo, is the ultimate goal of travelling.

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