Things that are important while traveling are pretty basic. Ability to navigate, adapt, quick thinking, how to get from one place to another… and the importance of complaining. If you think that last bit isn’t important, you likely need to travel more.
So often overseas, we’re isolated. That doesn’t mean that you hate traveling alone, however. But more often than not, we’re isolated from having local friends and just sticking to other expats, or even worse, not really knowing ANYONE and fending for ourselves, trapped in our own brains the whole time.
Now, there’s a difference between complaining and whining, of course. Whining falls more into the category of things you control and can change. Things that you can’t change would be more along the lines of police corruption or bureaucracy or how no one smiles or talks to you because that’s not their culture. Whining is more like expressive ad nauseum displeasure about not being able to get a “proper cup of tea” or having to take the stairs when you’re tired because the country isn’t into elevators so much.
When things fester, it feels like your brain might explode (or implode). Having someone to complain to, air grievances to, or even just listen to their issues and feel better having helped someone, is so vital. Mental wellbeing can get tricky when being isolated in a place where people either don’t talk to you, or you don’t speak their language. This, coupled with the expectations that others have about “going abroad” and how amazing it must be can make you feel like you’ve somehow failed everyone, including yourself. After all, you likely moved/traveled overseas BECAUSE you though it would be amazing. And then reality sets in. Especially if you’re embarking on solo travel.
The things you hear from others when you live abroad, after you’ve gotten through the inevitable “how do you make enough money to support that?” usually end up being “you must love it”, “you’re sooo lucky”, “life must be so wonderful for you”. When, in reality, life is life everywhere in the world. A travel writer and fitness model in Tahiti is still going to have issues, feel isolated, and have things to complain about. And that’s ok.
There’s always the person who might counter your moderate foray into complaining with “well, maybe you should get out more.” But what if you’ve lived there for years? What if you HAVE gotten out and it turns out, it’s not your jam and you still don’t like it. Like fruit + chocolate, not everyone is supposed to like something because someone else does. How boring would that be.
Then there’s the guilt that comes with this wave of thinking. You might start thinking that you SHOULD feel lucky. That you owe it to the masses to put on a brave face and say how wonderful everything is, simply because you’re doing something that sounds like a fantasy to them. You don’t owe them anything. It’s ok to say “you know, there are good things and bad things, and I’ve learned that some things aren’t as they seem”. Do people WANT to hear that Paris is full of litter, snarky people, and dog poo? No!
Do people want to see Syrian refugees living in abandoned factories off a beach in Greece? No!
But, the reality exists beyond Instagram and happy shiny glossy magazines. Do people want to hear how hot and sticky and gross Venice or Tokyo are in the summer? No, because that would ruin the fantasy. Like learning your favorite movie star actually hated puppies. No one wants to hear that.
Even though you don’t owe people your happiness, you don’t have to completely shock them, either. Balance in all things, right?
So even though you might be living in a place that people would give one or both of their kidneys to live in, and you feel as though you SHOULD be super happy every day and #blessed to be there, more than likely, because it’s human nature, locals would love to complain just as much as you would. You think the French love their bureaucracy? That Japanese people would prefer to maybe not collapse in exhaustion on a train on the way back to their tiny pod hotel/apartment?
The morale of the story? If you’re going to live overseas…get thee a complaining buddy. Or at LEAST a blog to get your thoughts out there. Odds are…there are more people out there who share your views than you think.
Have complaints? We’d love to hear them!