If there’s one thing that Corona has taught me, it’s that I’m never really satisfied.
And also that I’m endlessly itching to go somewhere new. Someone coined the phrase “relocation addiction” the other day and it stuck with me, because that’s exactly what it feels like. So being stuck in one place and not being able to travel is slowly making me feel more and more…icky in a way that’s very difficult to explain.
I can only preface this so many times by pointing out that, yes, I am currently living in paradise and it’s lovely and I’m very grateful to be here etc etc etc but still, the nature of being human is being perpetually dissatisfied with things and so I’ve spent a lot of time recently daydreaming about everything I miss about travel. Aside from the obvious, of course, of exploring new places and learning new languages and promptly fucking up every pronunciation.
I miss getting up in the middle of the night with that sick, headachy feeling, checking one final time for my passport and lugging my mini suitcase quietly down the stairs, ignoring how it makes my back twinge for the excitement of wherever it is I’m going. I miss arriving at the airport, achy with tiredness, stepping off the Tube and into the main terminal. I miss looking up at the departure board, that “have I accidentally smuggled six grams of cocaine in my bag” anxiety that always hits when stepping through security and my muscle memory routine of hunting down the Versace perfume stand in duty free, spritzing my favourite perfume (Versace Versense) and finding the nearest Boots to pick up a mid-flight meal deal and some terrible real life magazines.
I miss hurriedly saving all of my “to read” articles on my phone as offline versions and getting frustrated when they inevitably all refresh when I try to open them anyway. I miss getting comfy(ish) on the plane, shoes off, legs tucked up and snacks appropriately stashed in front of me before scrolling through the entirety of the inflight entertainment system before deciding to rewatch the same three episodes of Friends as always.
I miss attempting to sleep and not succeeding, half-waking up even achier with that fuzzy, unclean, gritty-eyed feeling in a new location and speed walking at London rates through passport control and into a new country. Trying and failing to look confident and like I know where I’m going, before resorting to Google translate and broken phrases to try and find the way from the terminal to my hostel.
I miss arriving at said hostel, always feeling nervous in the exact same way that I won’t make any friends before checking into my room, collapsing into my bed and being too excited to bother having a nap. I miss having a million identical conversations of “what’s your name? Where are you from? How long are you here for? How long have you been travelling?” And repeating myself again and again and again, never particularly listening to the answers.
I miss not actually knowing where I’m going next – will it be dinner and an early night or, more likely, will I end up once again dancing on a Valencian beach at 8am with a group of Australian girls? Or maybe haggling for a taxi to take us to a random warehouse outside of the city in Bulgaria for a night of (surprisingly good) techno music with two Egyptian guys I met on a pub crawl? Will I end up breaking into an extortionately expensive club in Stockholm with the English girls younger than my sister who spontaneously invited me on a trip to Ibiza exactly a year later? Or plotting a trip to Rome with a group of international strangers after bonding in a hot tub at a party hostel in Corfu?
I think above all I miss strangers. I miss having conversations with people I don’t know. Some of them better than others: I’ve made friends abroad that I’ve stayed in contact with for years, and also various people I got chatting to that I would rather never see again in my life. The best example of the latter being some random American guy I met in Romania and ended up going for lunch with before realising he was a massive Trump supporter and also didn’t believe women should have any rights. Then there are the people in the middle: the ones I’ve bonded with in random locations across the world, had hugely in-depth personal chats with and never spoke to again. The guy I spent four hours chatting to about therapy on a rooftop in Malta, whose posts I still like every so often on Instagram but who I would never really go out of my way to chat to again.
And, of course, there are the weird coincidences: the American guy I met in Cartagena, Colombia, whose dad owns my favourite sushi restaurant in London, opposite my old office. The German girl I met in a market in Marrakech, Morocco, who ended up being the best mate of a Mexican girl I went to university with in Sheffield. The Korean guy in my hostel room in Budapest who knew a Texan guy I’d met on previous travels.
And there are the other novelties, too: I miss random adventures like quite literally bumping into a Canadian couple outside of my hostel in Poland and being convinced to spend a day exploring Warsaw with them, starting at maybe one of the best restaurants I’ve ever been to (AïOLI) and ending up firstly in a bar reminiscent of a British fish and chip shop and finally in a tiny, tucked away cocktail bar (Kita Koguta) down the backstreets of the city with no menu, but a lovely bartender who quizzes each person to design them a bespoke cocktail served with a handful of popcorn.
I miss waiting for a delayed bus in Bratislava and bonding over lots of extra strong vodka lemonades in a very dilapidated cafe with two Swedes and an Australian girl while we waited for hours for our bus to Hungary to turn up. And then, despite staying in different hostels, spending multiple nights forging a huge friendship group and stumbling from one ruin bar to another.
I miss the thrill that comes from planning new travels: sitting at the airport, ignoring the coming home feeling of sadness and focusing on Skyscanner and Google Flight’s ability to immediately cheer me up with the endless possibilities of where I could go next. I remember once being asked why I’d scroll through the “cheapest flights” filter on Skyscanner and simply click on the top three options before selecting my dates and booking a trip there. “But why do you want to go to Lithuania?” This guy had asked, confused. “Because it’s cheap and I haven’t been there yet” was my obvious answer.
I miss crafting endless itineraries and scrolling through Girls Love Travel to read recommendations, of Googling ridiculously minute details like the price of a bus ticket through Slovakia and the hilarious contrast between London’s formality and Eastern Europe’s carefree nature. Case in point: finding my way to my hostel in Bulgaria, following the hostel’s only directions of “get on the bus from the airport, wait until you see Starbucks and then get off the bus and walk for 10 minutes” (and yes, I did find my way there).
For the time being, I’m going to keep on planning and making my in-depth itineraries so that when travel opens back up again, the only thing left to do will be to hop on the plane.