Travelling Uncomfortably

My relationship with travel is kind of different from other people’s experiences. Travelling for me has always been a slog of discomfort. I haven’t had a straight up vacation since I was a kid, almost all travel that I’ve done or organized for myself has had an explicit purpose.

I don’t feel like I even fully understand the idea of what a vacation is for most people because travel seems the exact opposite of relaxing.

Travel for me is not about staying in hotels or existing as a person in the joy of a nice vacation setting. Instead, it exists as a torturous journey akin to some sort of ordeal to be overcome.

Sleeping on cold floors in the winter with no blankets in an abandoned room. Sitting there on the ground wondering if I am ever going to be able to get to sleep at all.

Scrunched up in cars sleeping in Walmart parking lots instead of attempting to get a hotel, or rest stops parking. Sleeping in a place that has a bed, couch, or even a floor at all seems like a kind of luxury.

I kind of value these uncomfortable experiences fairly highly in retrospect. Sleeping on dirt floors, sleeping in a rainy tent soaked completely through with water until I am sleeping in an inch deep of water. The next day waking up to everything I have completely wet beyond belief.

Sleeping on the floor of an empty new york apartment attempting as best I can to toss my clothes together into a small little pile to give myself some basic semblance of a pillow.

Travelling for me becomes almost an ascetic practice of abstaining from comfort entirely. The joy of travel turns into an act of self denial and adventure in the pursuit of a destination.

My travel is often one small carry on bag even if I’m going to be in someplace for a longer period of time. The minimalism of travelling extremely light leads to a lot more flexibility in terms of what I can do at a place once I arrive. At cost of the minor inconvenience of traveling with very little, a whole range of mobility options opens up upon arrival.

Being uncomfortable in these sorts of situations was not something a chose originally, I endured it by necessity. Now instead I embrace it because there is something powerful about being able to rise above the physical discomfort and feel truly in control of your body.

Working through an uncomfortable travel situation, being on a bus for 20 hours, is actually a skill to be treasured and built up. Mindfulness and control over mind and body, as a practice, causes the most mundane boring actions to be a useful growing experience.

What I’m saying here isn’t really very novel or significant, these ideas are as old as time, and are rife throughout things like older Crimethinc texts. There is a long history of wandering and travel culture, most people now associate it completely with texts like On The Road that create a vision of travel itself as a valuable abstract process.

There is something really captivating about these kinds of texts, especially if they hit people at a certain age. The impact that they have on how a person views the world around them can be very powerful. When the idea of dropout culture was first introduced to me it was not something I’d ever really considered.

The idea of placing yourself into an explicitly uncomfortable situation and enjoying the range of freedom it provides can hit people like a ton of bricks if they have no prior exposure. Of course, now the entire Crimethinc individualist freegan lifestyle idea is entirely played out and demonized by many people.

There is still value in the mindset provided by these texts and this worldview, especially in terms of minimalistic travel. The flexibility of existing within this mindset while travelling is valuable by itself, even if only partially.