I’ve been addicted to one thing throughout my life, and that is travelling.
During my twenties, I travelled to 15 countries, most of which were impulse purchases from free seat promos. My motto had always been, “You only live once”. I never cared about how many annual leaves I had left or how much money I had in my savings.
Now that I’m older, I’m starting to see travelling differently. I realise that Instagram influencers glorify wanderlust. It’s rare to see someone talk about travel inconveniences like long layovers, cancelled flights, and expensive airport transfers.
Most of the time, these nightmares are easily forgotten. After a decade of calling airports my second home, here are honest reasons why travelling sucks.
1. You’ll spend a lot of money
The biggest financial mistake I made during my twenties was spending too much on travelling.
During the early years of my career, I earned between RM1,800 and RM2,500 per month. For someone who worked in KL, it was enough to cover my work commute, lunches and student loans. But that didn’t stop me from travelling to Myanmar, Cambodia, Thailand and other Asian countries.
Financially, I thought I was being smart. I was wrong.
Let’s say you’re spending a three-day weekend in Bangkok. You only want to shop and eat. Here’s a list of your expenses.
Three-day weekend in Bangkok
Return flight: RM500
Hostel: RM120 (two nights stay)
Attraction entry fees: RM100
Overcharged by tuk-tuk driver: RM30
That’s a total of RM1,400 in one of the cheapest destinations in Southeast Asia. Multiply that by the number of countries I’ve been, and I’ve spent a grand total of RM21,000 just for travel. I haven’t included the tour packages, airport transfers, and other added expenses.
Since I was clueless about managing my personal expenses, I spent more than I saved. Now that I’m older with bigger financial responsibilities, I’m starting over from scratch.
Besides being a financial headache, travelling also wore me out in other ways.
2. You’ll be tired all the time
I never buy it when someone says they had a relaxing holiday. Mine was always tiring. Sometimes it’s waking up early to catch my flight. Other times, I would queue for two hours just to eat in the best ramen restaurant in Tokyo.
Strangely enough, I felt the most tired when I joined a tour. Although I don’t have to worry about itinerary, meals and transportation, rushing from one place to another drained my energy.
When I went to Melbourne, I booked a Great Ocean Road tour. I liked the fact that someone else planned the trip for me. I thought that a packed itinerary meant I could make the most out of every dollar spent.
I was wrong.
When that day came, I had to wake up early to catch my tour bus. For breakfast, I had coffee and biscuits, which isn’t enough for any Malaysian with a big appetite (or maybe just me). During the tour, I spent only 15-20 minutes in every attraction.
It was basically a rushed holiday. There was not enough time or energy to enjoy anything.
Ironically, the same thing happened when I planned my own free and easy holiday. Spending a short time in Bali meant that I would ambitiously visit as many temples, restaurants, and sunset bars as I could. At the end of the day, I slept like a log and caught my next flight home.
Speaking of planning a free and easy holiday…
3. You’ll get stressed out by the planning
If there’s one person who pulls everyone’s weight when it comes to holiday planning, thank them. Honestly, it’s a hard (and thankless) job.
The reason I planned most of my holidays (with family and friends) is simple – I like to have my flights, accommodations and itineraries sorted out at least a month before the trip. I panic easily and hate last-minute surprises. So most of the time, the planning duty would fall on my lap.
What they often forget is that I have a nine-to-five job, and planning a holiday takes up a lot of my time and effort.
Let’s say I’m choosing a hotel for my group of friends. If I’ve never been to that place before, I have to find out if the area is accessible to public transportation, restaurants, and attractions. From there, I’ll narrow it down to the hotels with the best amenities and rates. Once done, I’ll let my friends choose.
It’s normally easy if you have laid-back friends who say, “Can lah, anything”. But if you have an opinionated friend who has a lot to say but does nothing, you’re in trouble.
Unfortunately, I have that friend who always nit-picks everything I recommend. If I suggest a hotel, she would say, “This one got one bad review lah” or “Wah, ten minutes’ walk to the train station? So far lah. No other hotel ah?”
Whenever she does that, I wish I was brave enough to say, “Why don’t you search it yourself?”
But woe is me. I’ll take whatever they say and repeat the process all over again. I know I was being too nice, but it beats having to pay more for last minute bookings. So no thanks, I’ll take care of it.
Then, there’s another type of stress bomb.
4. You’ll get annoyed by the holiday crowd
It’s great that Malaysia has many public holidays. But it’s not so great when everyone decides to travel and balik kampung at the same time. During these times, the crowd and traffic are the worst.
I can’t recall why it was a good idea back then, but my family and I once travelled to Penang during the Thaipusam holiday. Since we left early, driving to the island was a breeze. When we got there, however, it was a complete nightmare.
You’ve guessed it, Penang was packed with locals and tourists. The parking was hard to find. There were long queues at our favourite cendol stall. We even queued for two hours to get on the train to Penang Hill.
It can be annoying and frustrating to deal with the holiday crowds. So travelling during public holidays is the worst idea ever. The next one will also test your patience.
5. You have to deal with crankiness
A few years ago, my cousins and I went to Hat Yai. During that trip, they brought along their three-year-old son, Mikey. I only got to see my nephew on Instagram, so I was excited to hang out with him. He was the cutest and funniest kid I know, but that high praise didn’t last very long.
That time, we travelled during the hottest month in Hat Yai. We had our sunblock on and were sweating profusely. Since it was uncomfortable for Mikey, he threw tantrums all day. He screamed when he didn’t get the toy he wanted. He cried when his father refused to carry him. He whined when he couldn’t find his sunglasses (it was on his head all along).
For parents, this is completely normal. For someone who doesn’t have a child of her own (like me), it got on my nerves. As much as I loved my nephew, having a crying toddler who wouldn’t cooperate messed up our afternoon. We ended up exploring the town for only three hours and stayed in our air-conditioned hotel rooms until dinner.
Stress and discomfort can bring out the worst in people. It even brought out the worst side of me. On a stressful day in Japan, I remembered snapping at my Mom when I can’t find my way around Kyoto. Compared to a toddler who cries out of discomfort, my behaviour was far worse.
You might be looking for the part where I still encourage you to leave your job and travel the world. Sorry, I don’t feel like sugar coating about travelling today.
That’s because travelling is not as magical as what Instagram influencers made it out to be.
As much as I want you to travel more when you’re young, there are many sucky realities we should remember. Like how expensive it is, how crowded a destination can get, and how tiring it can be.
So before you spend money on the next free seat promo, ask yourself: Wouldn’t it be nice to save RM21,000 by your 30th birthday, instead of spending it all on travelling?
I wished I had done the former.