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Today’s travel quote caught my eye as I’m coming to the end of a five week stint living out of my suitcase. I’ve worn the same jeans for a week, I’ve spent maybe a quarter of the nights in a bed (the rest were on floors and couches), and at one point I ran out of underwear and wore bikini bottoms around London. Just keeping it real. So I think I’m going to have to hand it to Paul Theroux on this one:

Travel is glamorous only in retrospect

There are exceptions to this rule. Take for example the luxurious Silversea cruise that I took with my mom. That was pretty much glamorous the whole time, with the exception of that one point when my mother complained that Mykonos smelled like human urine. But with all due respect to cruise-fanatics and the exceptionally good time I had on that trip, I don’t think Paul Theroux was really referring to cruising. I would guess he was referring to a more long-term, independent and adventurous type of travel — perhaps what would fall under the “backpacking” umbrella today.

I think good ‘ol Paul was onto something. The moment a big backpacking trip is over for me, I start the process of smoothing out the unpleasant wrinkles in my memories — the torturous day-long bus rides sans air-conditioning or suspension, the scams that left my wallet empty and my eyes filled with tears, the shock of staring straight in the face of evils like sex tourism and environmental exploitation, the horrific illnesses that forced me to suspend every hygiene standards I’d ever held. None of that screams romantic or glamorous. And yet my mind irons out those unpleasant memories until there is nothing left but charming anecdotes, poignant lessons learned and a few humorous dinner party stories.

We tell friends about the warmth of the people and the weather, we show photos of exotic bazaars and colorful landscapes. We remember the delicious feeling of exploration, of wandering, of being an adventurer. In retrospect, travel becomes glamorous again.

Do you believe travel is most glamorous in retrospect?

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25 Comments...
  • Jen
    July 10 2012

    I think this is absolutely true. I think travel is the one time hindsight is not 20/20; we remember the good, the bad becomes great stories to tell, and the ugly disappears.

    • Alex
      July 11 2012

      So true about hindsight being skewed by travel! I think in a way that is why I like listing my “Lowlights” in my roundup posts… it might seem like dwelling on the negative, but in reality I’m trying to keep it real for myself in the future!

  • Dayla
    July 10 2012

    I couldn’t agree more! Spending Christmas in Tuscany sounds much more glamorous than relaying how a certain Italian airline lost the bags bearing all the Christmas gifts!

    • Alex
      July 11 2012

      Oh Dayla, that sounds awful! Were they ever recovered?

      • Dayla
        July 11 2012

        Finally! 2 weeks after Christmas when we were back in the states.

        Of course we now look back on that Christmas as the best ever. Just proving family, friends, Italians, wine, & love are all you need. Who needs presents?!

        • Alex
          July 11 2012

          Sounds amazing! My family and I did a very modest secret santa exchange this year… they had no interest in hauling gifts to Thailand!

  • Mike
    July 10 2012

    “For Africa to me… is more than a glamorous fact. It is a historical truth. No man can know where he is going unless he knows exactly where he has been and exactly how he arrived at his present place.”
    Maya Angelou

    Safe travels!!!

    • Alex
      July 11 2012

      Another great quote… thanks for sharing!

  • steve mckee
    July 10 2012

    My travel quote isn’t a quote but the title of a book:
    “Life on the Run,” by Bill Bradley, the basketball player, before he was a senator and presidential candidate.
    “Life on the Run” — the title itself — perfectly encapsulated what it really means to be a pro ball player in that seemingly glamorous profession that on closer examination is decidely not so much glamory. Always traveling, never settling. Move, move, move. Though I’d like to note that as far as I can remember, “Dollar Bill” Bradley never had to wear a bikini bottom swimsuit for underwear. I could be wrong, but I doubt it.
    Steve McKee

    • Alex
      July 11 2012

      Hmmm, I think at the moment I could title a book about my life the same way — love it!

  • Grandma Burr
    July 10 2012

    Can’t give an accurate reply, because my best travels are long ago, and my memory has adjusted them with my dreams. I remember them all fondly

    • Alex
      July 11 2012

      Exactly! We remember travels so fondly but of course like everything in life it has ups and downs.

  • Karen a Opalka
    July 10 2012

    I am so impressed with the way you’ve traveled through the past couple of years….unfortunately, I’m into the glam at this time of life…..tee-hee!

    • Alex
      July 11 2012

      I love getting a taste of the glam… when I go traveling with my parents! 😉

  • Sophie
    July 10 2012

    I absolutely loved your post today! It really struck a chord! You are right, everything is perspective. Thanks for being you and for sharing with us, your audience.

    • Alex
      July 11 2012

      Thank you so much for this sweet comment, Sophie!

  • Nadia
    July 10 2012

    “For anything worth having one must pay the price; and the price is always work, patience, love, self-sacrifice – no paper currency, no promises to pay, but the gold of real service.” John Burrows…. It has been edited down in various ways over the years: “worth working for”, “worth fighting for”, etc. It applies to travel as well. All of those cherished memories take blood, sweat, and tears on occasion. Wouldn’t have it any other way. Thanks for posting this!

    • Alex
      July 11 2012

      If only those blood, sweat and tears were metaphorical… we know all too well that they are painfully literal! But yes, its all worth it in the end.

  • This is SO true! Love the pic & quote!!!
    Andi of My Beautiful Adventures recently posted..Hong Kong: Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery (Part 2)

    • Alex
      July 11 2012

      Thanks Andi! This has become on of my favorite features 🙂

  • Dad
    July 11 2012

    Excellent quote and a good follow up question for your readers. Any travel that includes airplanes starts off with a glamor deficit since it now equates to herding and shipping cattle. But the thrill of discovery of a new place trumps the travel experience which really was never ‘half the fun’ as Greyhound bus lines tried to tell us years ago.

    • Alex
      July 11 2012

      I laughed out loud at your airline comment. I would say maybe we need an alternative but I’ve found buses to be equally unfortunate. Trains are nice and I had a great experience with cruising, though I hear when you are talking about the big ships you get back to the cattle analogy.

  • Sam
    July 12 2012

    Haha I think that everything in life is glamorous in retrospect. Nostalgia glosses over everything from travel, childhood, relationships and school x
    Sam recently posted..// N Y M P H E T

    • Alex
      July 12 2012

      Ahh, nostalgia. The downfall of so many.

      • Sam
        July 13 2012

        Oh wow, that horrendously constructed sentence was the product of a few wines. Believe it or not I did pass English in school.
        Sam recently posted..// N Y M P H E T

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