Confessions of a Newbie Traveler: April’s Story

~Intro by Karina Noriega~

For three months April and I have been desperately trying to balance the demands of our journey with our blogging ‘responsibilities’. While it is a labour of love, there is no doubt that creating our articles and films on the road is strenuous and exhausting. Often, finding a way (and a conducive environment) to stop our travels is much harder than continuously moving forward. Thankfully, we are able to share this responsibility as we commit to weekly updates. Thus far, April’s films have gained her numerous new fans and brought thousands more viewers to the site. Let’s face it, not everyone likes to read. 😛

This week, April is revealing a much more personal side of herself and how this journey has made an impact on her life. I am so excited and privileged to introduce her very first article.

I hope this new travelers’ confession shines a light on the truth and hardships of becoming a citizen of the World.

Great Sand Dunes, Colorado, USA

April’s Lookout, Great Sand Dunes, Colorado, USA

 

~April’s Story~

Achieving a sense of balance in this constantly changing environment feels like an impossible feat. Not for a second do I regret the choice I’ve made to pursue this nomadic lifestyle but there is no question, it is taking its toll on me emotionally.

With every new house I walk into, I am required to acclimate to a new environment, a new culture and a completely different way of doing things. Karina and I must adapt we go, all the while fulfilling the social obligations of the host/guest relationship. It is customary to exchange adventure stories between traveler and host when couchsurfing. Having stayed with so many different people in the 19 states we have explored over the last 3 months of our road trip, these questions can feel repetitive when we feel exhausted. When our desire for social interaction has waned, our answers are a broken record that keeps playing over and over.

Being in a position where we do not have a space to call our own reminds me of the time that I spent living with my parents as an adult. At a certain age, a child must leave the nest and yet attending University delays this process for some, as it did for me. I remained under my parents’ roof long after I should have moved out on my own so I could finish my Undergraduate education, debt free. As a result, the last few years I spent living with my parents were riddled with conflict. The desire to have a space of one’s own is a powerful one.

This trip has revealed to me that while couchsurfing is the best way to connect with the place we are traveling through, the social obligations and need to adjust to others’ household rules can be very emotionally taxing. Most hosts really have understood our need for space as they themselves have travelled for extended periods of time and have experienced a similar struggle when they too, had no home of their own. Being that we have stayed with locals for our entire 3 month journey, so far we have had the pleasure of being hosted by 30 different people (plus their partners, children, roommates, other guest and pets) during our stay in the US. For us, change is the only thing that has remained the same.

A few times Karina and I have encountered personality clashes with our hosts. Although it was never acknowledged directly, we knew it was there under the surface and this impacted our interactions with our host and with one another. Before Karina and I knew it, the tension we were both feeling impacted our moods and then we began to alienate one another. Even when we get along very well with our host (which is the case the majority of the time), the requirement for constant adaptation being in someone else’s home, can weigh heavily on me. It has been important for Karina and I to recognize our needs in order to know when it is time to pull back and spend more time discovering places on our own. The purpose of couchsurfing is not to save money on accommodations but instead to help us develop a deeper connection with the local culture around us. I never want to take the richness of my experiences staying with locals for granted.

The host we stayed with most recently seems to appreciate that while Karina and I are eager to learn about his experience in the world, we also require our own space in his home so we can decompress. His ability to relate to us may stem from the fact that he spent two consecutive years traveling through Central America. He empathized with our current position as a nomad, and he suggested that the mind can only handle so much change before one hits a breaking point. He confessed that toward the end of his journey he almost faced a mental breakdown from having lacked stability in his life for so long. Given how challenging this experience has been for me, I have considered the long term effects of living without a home. The risk of eventual burn out is inevitable if I don’t give my mind and body what it needs throughout this journey. In the end, I need to recognize that I am in complete control of how long this journey will last. I am only moving as long as I want to. I have chosen to live this way for the time being as the journey fulfills a need I have had my entire life. As long as the seeker in me still feels desire for the open road, I will continue to move.

That being said, I wouldn’t want to do this trip alone. While Karina and I do drive one another nuts at times, given that we have such different personalities and we are constantly in one another’s space, she provides the stability I need in my life. I know that I can count on her to always be there. She is the first face I see each morning. She is my one constant. In the past we often joked that in our relationship, she was the bird and I was the nest. I, being the domestic type who loved taking care of our home and she, the adventurer, most often in flight but all the while, knowing exactly where she could find her nest. We both knew exactly where home was and we each had our respective roles in that space. Now, we are both in flight, having given up our nest to explore the world. We each have new roles to adapt to; a new relationship to cultivate. Sometimes we fly high together feeling the warm sun on our faces. Often though, we soar through the sky blinded by clouds, and drained to exhaustion from the cold, hard rain. When stormy weather is predicted on the horizon, I have nightmares of flash floods taking us away in the middle of the night as we lay asleep in our tents. Survival means something different on the road. At home in Hamilton, I took for granted that I always had a faucet that produced fresh, clean water for me to drink and bathe in. Now, we carry water in our truck, always being mindful that we have enough on us in case of emergency. A gallon in case the truck overheats. Then, what if we break down in a remote place? Do we have enough water? How much is enough? This can be the difference between life and death when traveling through the desert in Arizona and Utah as we plan to do in the coming months.

In this new life Karina and I are building we move together, waking each day to plan our next move, not knowing what the day will bring. It has been months since I have experienced boredom. When I recall my experiences working the day to day grind of a job that I despised, I cringe at the thought of my trip coming to an end. I try to resist wallowing in fear of a future I don’t want, where I return to a career that impacts me like an emotional vampire, sucking away all my substance just so I can earn an income. What happens when the money runs out? Will I find what I am seeking before that time? Wait, what the hell am I seeking…that is a better question? Is the answer out there or has it been with me all along I just need experiences that will open my eyes to what was right in front of me all along? My hope is that by traveling in my current state (on a shoestring budget), I will extend my travels for as long as possible, allowing me to explore the world until I am satisfied. Exposure to so many different cultures will help me grow, learning from others’ points of view. Studying anthropology in University taught me how diverse the world really is. I am happy that now I am learning this first hand, rather than from a book.

What makes this adventure so exhilarating is that I suffer each day to make it possible and yet I still feel the desire to keep going. I am making my dreams possible but I am not doing this because it is easy. In the last few months I have stretched myself farther than I could have imagined. I have cried more times than I can count. With each new stranger I encounter in the gas station, coffee shop or visitors center, we are often asked why we have given up everything to do this trip. The repetition forces self-reflection and so I find that as my audience changes and time passes by, my answer changes as well. At times I have spoken of my desire for adventure. To others, I will speak of being disillusioned by the world of career desk jobs, mortgages and children. I tell them I am searching for something different. Something that feels right for me. What surprises me most of all, is how many have said how much they have always longed to do the same. They often say they will follow the blog going forward to live vicariously through us. Some sent us emails indicating that our storing inspired them to awake the traveler within. Our host in Georgia said her and her husband began planning a road trip after we left their home. Reading emails like this helps us to keep pushing forward on the more challenging days. After nights of sleeping cramped up in our truck to avoid camping in a hail storm, we face the day with a smile knowing we have inspired other seekers to pick up their backpack and just go…

~ An Extraordinary Story by April Beresford ~

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Great Sand Dunes, Colorado, USA

April @ Great Sand Dunes, Colorado, USA

25 thoughts on “Confessions of a Newbie Traveler: April’s Story

  1. Pingback: Modern Nomads | Karina's Extraordinary Life

  2. What an amazing journey you are taking April – both physically and mentally. And by the looks of it you two will not be returning to “desk jobs” – you have too much talent and creativity for that…keep on truckin’ and keep on writing…Take care and safe travelling

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  3. When things get rough just think of Dory from Finding Nemo, and “just keep swimming”! Sometimes it’s all we can do, just keep going til BAM! things are great again! Best wishes for a continued safe journey!

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    • Sometimes we swim hard, and sometimes we just float. Right now, as we plan for our trip to HongKong, we are doing a bit of both. I prefer the execution stage to the planning stage, after all. Who doesn’t. Hope you, Gabe and the rest of your family are doing well.

      Like

  4. Thank you for articulating some of the down falls and emotional junk that goes along with traveling. I agree that it’s totally worth it, but it’s not a constant vacation like some people think!

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  5. Really great points here about long term travel! I haven’t ever done couchsurfing or long term travel, but I can imagine that there would be issues occasionally (as you point out). I am particular about my personal space, so I think that couchsurfing would be taxing! Still, if you’re passionate about travel (and it seems like you are!), all of the tough times are worth it! 🙂

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    • The online couchsurfing program is absolutely amazing. You should really try it! Many people are able to provide accommodations that provide you with lots of personal space, just check out their profiles. Thanks for reading and providing feedback. Much appreciated.

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  6. Thanks for sharing your personal story. Being on the road long-term is certainly not always easy good for you for keeping with it. Look forward to hearing more about your journey.

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    • Travelling is tough work. Anyone who says different hasn’t travelled long term before. Hope you do continue to follow us. If we have travelled somewhere you are interested in learning more about let us know. We are always happy to help other travellers.

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  7. It’s definitely difficult, but you seem to be making the most of it and recognizing that this was a lifestyle choice so you just have to go with it. I applaud your ability to keep moving forward even when you don’t really feel like it.

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  8. Wow beautifully said! I totally felt the same when I went backpacking for two month in Southeast Asia. While I was fortunate to have Stacey travel with me and I enjoy her company, we still had to learn how to give each other some personal space as we get on each other nerves sometime haha. Couchsurfing is a great experience but I agree with you that it can be taxing as well if the host has some strict rules. Anyway looking forward to the rest of your journey. I am itching to get back on the road soon 🙂

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  9. No matter our circumstance we all need to fund that perfect balance of responsibly and personal space. In sure this is made harder by a life in the road.

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  10. What a remarkable journey! Thanks for sharing your deep thoughts with us. I know how you feel when it comes to long term travel and couchsurfing. It can be exhausting to adjust with each host and I often feel guilty when I want time to myself. I think there has to be a balance for sure! You are doing something very few people would dare to do and the journey is definitely worth it!

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    • Yes, the guilt factor is a powerful one. I would feel like I needed to make up excuses (“should I say I feel sick just so I can take a nap as I can’t muster up the energy to explore right now?”). It is tough to just ‘rest’ or take time for yourself in someone elses space.

      Thank you for your words of encouragement. The world is a beautiful place and I am happy to be exploring it!

      Cheers,
      April

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  11. I enjoyed how you were able to let loose on all the emotional hardship that constant travel can sometimes do a person. I have never couchsurfed although I have wanted to. I can´t even imagine being in so many different houses, I bet some of those people were hard to deal with even if they had good intentions. Our family moves around alot and I also sometimes feel like telling people back home that im not on “eternal vacation”, we still have to live our lives as best possible and sometimes that means settling for while somewhere, even if it is a tropical island. I haven´t seen any of your videos but I will go check some out right now!

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    • Thank you for your very detailed comment! Can’t tell you how much I appreciate the feedback. Becoming acclimated to so many different environments is tough work but very rewarding. I appreciate that while you haven’t couch-surfed before, you appreciate where I am coming from. Hope you enjoy the videos. If you have any suggestions about what you would like to see (in a video or in a story) going forward, please let me know.

      April

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  12. My husband and I have never used Couchsurfing as a guest, but we have hosted someone on it before. I can only imagine how mentally exhausting it would be having the same conversation with 30 different hosts! It sounds like you guys are on an exciting adventure though and I am finding myself a little envious at the moment 😉 -Valerie

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  13. Pingback: Modern Nomads - A Film - Wisdomtrails.com

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