Struggling Abroad – Backpacking experience in Australia

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“Travel whilst you’re young and have no ties. It’ll be the best time of your life.” Anybody who has travelled around during their younger years will have heard this at some point. Whilst it’s true, travelling has given me some of the best memories I have, there is also a stigmatism attached to this golden advice that has made it increasingly difficult for travellers to admit when they need help. No matter where we are or how we travel, there are always difficulties along the way.

All that glitters is not gold

Part of the problem lies in our own ignorance. Social media censors the experiences we’ve been through. We only tell people about the good, the great and the exciting. When we come back ‘changed’, nobody bothers to tell stories about the struggles they encountered along their journey, even though these moments have just as much responsibility for our improved outlook on life.

So far since coming to Australia I’ve experienced the following:

  • Money worries
  • Loneliness
  • Family problems
  • Sickness
  • Plans gone awry

All of the above are moments that shaped my experiences and none of them are unique to my story. So here’s my advice to anybody travelling around and going through a less than perfect experience.

“It’s okay not to be okay”

The most important thing is to work out how to tackle it. Take some time to yourself, or talk to someone, whichever suits your needs better. Don’t pretend that you aren’t miserable as it won’t change anything. Then, categorise where you stand so you can work out how to fix it.

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Do you need professional help?

Examples include becoming a crime victim, thinking you’re sick or perhaps you are being taken advantage of at work. For a start, Australia’s emergency code is 000. You should know this for anywhere you travel. Hospitals and doctor’s surgeries are easily located with sign posts in both rural and non-rural towns. There is plenty of information available on line about where and how to seek help, for example, if you required a new passport. Or alternatively, ask at a library for numbers to call for government companies such as the fair work ombudsman. The most important thing is to act on it as soon as possible if you require professional help. Don’t leave it because you are worried about language barriers, or because it might just go away, as the chances are it WONT. Also remember the Australian government departments will give you the correct official information. Don’t accept word of mouth from other travellers without double checking. Medical care and visa rules change according to your nationality.

Do you need support?

Loneliness and family problems can’t be helped in the same way as a physical illness but that doesn’t mean you have to suffer them alone.

Loneliness

I met a fellow traveller who was so miserable she didn’t know how to enjoy herself anymore. After a long conversation she finally admitted that she missed being home but because everyone around her didn’t, she felt like she was failing. She couldn’t imagine spending another three months away. The difficulty here comes from knowing exactly what it is that is making you miserable. Staying connected with those back at home is a personal preference. Some people need to hear from their loved ones regularly, others less so. She’d had enough of being away from her family. All it took was for somebody to tell her that it was alright to want to go home early if she was miserable.  By bringing her flight forward two months, it gave her a closer end goal but still allowed her time to finish an abbreviated version of her trip.

Family problems

Family problems are more difficult as it can feel like you’re a million miles away and hopeless to help. Unfortunately, all you can do is decide whether you actually CAN help. Will being back at home make any difference to the situation? Or, will your support be the same if you remain abroad? Not all family situations are fixable and sometimes you simply have to accept that being there for your family over the phone is akin to being there in person. If your physical presence won’t change anything, then think carefully before changing your plans. Sometimes the cost is worth it. Sometimes you need to accept that it isn’t. Most importantly, these decisions need to come from a selfish place. Is it what YOU want, or are you making decisions based on what you think others want you to do? It is difficult but you have to remember that travelling is something you have chosen to do to improve yourself. You mustn’t let others hold you back.

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Do you need advice?

Sometimes we can feel like the world is on our shoulders and that everything is going wrong. During these times, I’ve always found that something as simple as asking the right person for their local advice is the best way to help. For months I relied on the Internet to tell me everything I needed to know. When it came time to sell my QLD car, it took weeks and more dollars than I was comfortable with trying to get the correct road worthy and fix all the ‘problems’ it had. In the end, a local in the area recommended an ‘honestly run’ local garage, which did the job for a quarter of the price with the roadworthy included. A little local advice can go a long way. There will always be people trying to rip you off but I’ve come to discover that hostel staff for example have excellent local knowledge and nothing to gain by giving you dodgy information. Don’t be afraid to ask!

 


The most important thing when you’re struggling abroad is to work out what it is that’s getting you down and to tackle it head on. Once you’ve made a decision be firm in it. See it through, even if it doesn’t seem ‘the done thing’ as it’s the affirmation of making a step forward that makes you feel more positive. Never be afraid to ask for help. Make an effort with people. Don’t be afraid to do something different to everybody else. We all travel for our own individual purpose. Whilst we cross paths often, we are still making our own route and there’s no one way to do it. The people we meet along the way come and go through our lives so the only person you ever have to prove anything to is yourself.

Whether you are starting your travels, mid way through them or sitting on a plane on the way home, good luck. Stay safe and remember that the good times carry more weight than the bad!

 

Written by Mercedes