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As we continue on our journey through Central Asia, we’re finding that we’re not our usual upbeat selves. Usually when we’re travelling and have our backpacks on, we’re ecstatic. But for some reason, this trip has been filled with many highs and lows…and we’ve only been on the road for 48 days!

When we set off from China, we were overjoyed to finally be back on the road. We were so pumped for our travels in Mongolia. We couldn’t wait to see the Gobi Desert and start our independent, 8 day trek in the middle of nowhere. Even though we had some amazing experiences during our trek and the Gobi, it rained a lot. Due to being cold and wet, we became annoyed and easily irritated.

trekking in mongolia
Enjoying the 5 minutes of sun before those dark clouds moved in!

All we wanted was some sun in one of the sunniest places on Earth. Is that so much to ask? In our 30 days of travel in Mongolia, we literally saw some sort of rain every day.

Then came Russia. We were rushing through Russia and found ourselves getting tired. We’d been on some looong train journeys, from Ulan Bator to Irkutsk (26 hours) and then from Irkutsk to Omsk (39 hours). In between those travel days, we were able to chill out on Olkhon Island on Lake Baikal. It was stunning…BUT, it rained.

olkhon island
Dark clouds looming on the horizon at Lake Baikal

Olkhon Island sees 300 days of pure sun every year. Since we were going to be on the island, the travel Gods decided that it would rain for half the time we were there! All we kept hearing from the owners of guesthouses and locals was “it’s never usually like this” Urghhh! It became so frustrating.

lake baikal russia
Enjoying one of two sunny days on the shores of Lake Baikal

If it wasn’t the rain, our moods were affected by something else.

Even when we weren’t travelling and decided to stay put for a few days, we were running around doing our backpacker errands: arranging bus tickets, booking hostels, buying food for the next leg of the journey, etc. Since hardly anyone spoke English in Russia and parts of Mongolia, these tasks were extra daunting and draining.

transportation in Russia
Running around trying to organize transportation and tickets is no easy feat in this part of the world…good luck getting on the right transport without speaking English!

On top of doing our tasks for the days, we had to somehow find time to blog about our journey. Don’t get me wrong, we LOVE our website and really enjoy blogging, but we’re still trying to find a balance between travel and work. It’s been difficult for us to keep in touch with advertisers, stay on top of our email inbox, make videos and still write content that our readers will enjoy!

dorm room in russia
Nick finding some time during the day to work on the website at our hostel

Besides all of these things that were bringing us “down” a bit during our travels, we think the main problem was the fact that we weren’t really able to have any spontaneity, which is one of the things we love about travel. In order to take this epic Trans-Siberian train journey (which was awesome!), we needed to have everything booked in advance to make sure we got a seat on the train and also so that we could apply for our Mongolian, Russian and Kazakhstan visas. This didn’t leave us with much flexibility or any option to stay somewhere longer if we wanted to.

trans siberian train tickets
It took a lot of preparation and planning to take the Trans Siberian Train

Even though we felt like we were moving too fast, we found ourselves on a brutal 17 hour overnight bus journey from Omsk, Russia to Astana, Kazakhstan. We were so excited to be in Borat’s homeland! But guess what? It was cloudy and rainy for one of our only two days in the city. We couldn’t believe it…well, actually at this point, we could.

bus from omsk to astana
Us gearing up for a 17 hour overnight bus journey from Omsk to Astana

We made the most of it, wandered around, ate some really good food and saw some amazing feats of architectural engineering, but still, we weren’t completely happy. We didn’t want to “just make the most of it” in these countries, we wanted to be able to fully explore!

astana architecture
Enjoying some of the awesome architecture in Astana, while the sun was out

It sounds silly to let a thing like weather dampen (pun intended) the mood of a trip, but it really got under our skin and we were totally fed up. We were “in the best seasons” for all the countries we went to and yet still had bad weather.

Between the weather, the fast-paced travel, the fact that we had to book everything far in advance (which we hate doing), the lack of down time and the difficulty of booking any onward travel in these countries, we seemed to be at a low.

From Astana, we boarded/endured yet another overnight, 21 hour train to Almaty. We were in 3rd class and were SO HOT during the 35 degree train journey – yes, the sun decided to come out when we were on the train. We did, however, meet a really nice guy who shared all his food with us and when we arrived in Almaty at 4:40am, he gave us a ride to our hostel (which we never would have found without him).

train from astana to almaty
With new friends on the train!

We had a good feeling about Almaty as soon as we arrived and our spirits were instantly lifted.

Almaty is beautiful! A massive mountain range towers above the city along the southern end and the whole city is on a downward slope going north. It’s a great place to walk around and is known for its European feel, cafes and restaurants, tree-lined streets, markets and amazing outdoor excursions.

big almaty lake
Us feeling relaxed, recharged and happy in Almaty!

We decided to put down some roots here, re-group and travel how we’ve always enjoyed travelling, slowly & spontaneously. Almaty would be our home for the next 7 days and it sure didn’t disappoint.

Have you ever had “low” days while on the road? Share with us below!

RUSHING THROUGH RUSSIA: AN 8 DAY ROUNDUP

ASTANA – THE DUBAI OF CENTRAL ASIA

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The Truth About Travel- Dealing With The Low Days

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Goats On The Road

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24 thoughts on “The Truth About Travel: Dealing With The Low Days

  1. Guys !!!!

    We can feel your pain, but trust me, there is Sun on the other side 🙂 Balancing travels and the blog can be tricky, but at the end of the day all of us love both equally (as you pointed out)

    You said: “we needed to have everything booked in advance ” – just to make you feel slightly better, Savi and I, in our 5 years of traveling so far, have had to plan each day of our trip at least 2 months in advance to secure Visas and stuff, so trust me, it’s not so bad 🙂 haha, hope that brought a smile to your faces 🙂

    Absolutely LOVE the last picture – you should totally get it framed 🙂

    Cheers

  2. I hear you with the transmongolian Railway and visas…we are working on it now and already I am thinking it is too hard….I want to be flexible but you just can;t be if you want to go that way. As for blogging some days on our short trips I just can;t face it luckily Ron is happy to take up the slack and do the work.
    I hope you get to relax and enjoy your break.

  3. The truths of travel. It is the non-glamorous side we all know about but never really share with our readers! So nice to read that perspective. We have been there before too!! Glad you are out of your low and enjoying your break. 🙂

  4. You’ve spotted the problem – you’re trying to do everything too fast. You want to see every inch of the world and know you don’t have long enough to do it in.

    You’re right. You don’t have long enough. But if you slow down you’ll find tiny joys in the discoveries of days – the smell of spices in the market, the way the sun beats off a tin roof, the patter of a monkeys in the tree tops … so stop, slow down, live for the moment.

    And most of us had to learn this the hard way!

  5. Hey guys!
    As always, thanks for the kind words 🙂 I knew you would know how we were feeling! haha. We were just getting sick of booking things so far in advance, but since Almaty, we’ve been able to chill out and are now enjoying moving around Kyrgyzstan at our own pace – no more trains to catch 🙂

    Cheers!

  6. Yep, it definitely takes a lot of planning for that epic journey, but if it’s something you really want to do, then you just have to make it happen! We also found it difficult getting all of the visas sorted out, having to book rooms in advance, deciding how long we wanted to stay in each city/country – even though it was a pain in the ass, the train journey was fabulous and it was totally worth all of the stress.

    Don’t give up! It’ll all come together.

    Let us know if you have any questions..cheers!

  7. Thanks Lina!

    Us travellers all know about the ups and downs of being on the road! We figured it was time to let everyone in on the truths about backpacking, it’s not all sunshine and lollipops!

    Cheers

  8. Hi Jo,

    Thanks for your reply. You’ve got that right, we were moving too fast and trying to get to Central Asia for the trekking season. We chose to do the train journey instead of flying because it was much more interesting (and cheaper) that way. We still had an amazing time and we’re still trying to find our balance between work and travel, but it’s coming together!

    We enjoyed our time in Kazakhstan and are having a great time travelling slowly through Kyrgyzstan 🙂

  9. Thanks for this honest post. And ofcourse it is totally recognizable!

    Also it is not strange AT ALL to be influenced by the weather. Especially so much rain is terrible and can really spoil a trip. (Sun-)light brings out the best of things. It brings colors to life, it makes people more outgoing. I experience often that it makes me feel lighter and more ‘up’. So again: totally understandable and logical. Combined with the other factors you mentioned it can just get too much….

    All you can do is try to make the best of it, one way or the other. As you did…

    I will keep my fingers crossed for more sun for you guys on your next trip!

  10. Guys, chin up!!!!!! I’m sending some love and positive energy from China. I agree, blogging and constant travelling is not the easy thing to combine. We totally understand you. We sometimes felt so much pressure on blogging that we didn’t enjoy our travels that much which is absolutely lame!!!! As for the weather, I hope you will get more sun in the upcoming days. You’re doing well and I keep your fingers crossed for you! GO! GO! GO!

  11. Travel always has its ups and downs.. Some people used to write stories about bad trips and how some times the problems can be more interesting than..another great day at the beach in Sri Lanka.. I remember some people talking in Koh Phi Phi..”You just cannot go the beach every day.” I wish I could travel more often but through the years , since 1979, my first trip, I do have a list but this does not mean I can relive it everyday. At the same time, there are things I do not miss like noisey music early in the morning..

  12. Hey guys! I think it is great that you wrote about this! Having lows on the road for a nomad is always challenging. There is the task of balancing work/travel, taking care of yourself, negotiating foreign languages to accomplish simple tasks, all while traveling and sleeping somewhere different every few days! We are just like you, we prefer to travel slowly and have control over how long we stay in a place, rather than have it planned a head of time. At the end of our 28-day road trip in New Zealand I was ready to just stay at the same hostel for the last 4 days cause I was so exhausted and it didn’t feel fun anymore! (it was also really rainy and cold–and it was tough to come by a hostel with HEAT) 😉 Cheers!

  13. When I read “put down some roots here” I was like “what, they’re moving to Almaty?!” But OK, 7 days. After the pace you’ve been going at, I can see how it would feel like that! I totally get this feeling, and while people who aren’t travelling can make you feel guilty for talking like this (because after all you’re visiting all these amazing places WHICH THEY AREN’T!), but it’s only natural. And it’s funny how the weather can play such a huge role in how you feel about a place, right? We didn’t do as good a job as you guys in planning which season to travel in parts of South America, which is why we now find ourselves in Lima during winter. Oops! Oh well, lesson learned.

  14. Hey Anja,
    Thanks for the kind words 🙂
    You’re right, when the sun is shining, the colours of a place look so much better, and people are generally in a better mood as well.
    We’ve made the best of it and are feeling much better now!

    Cheers

  15. Thanks Kathleen! It’s nice to know that other people can relate to what we were feeling. I agree, after a road trip, it’s nice to just stay put in a hostel and catch up on things…and unpack a bit! Having no heat is no good.haha, I have to have my heat if it’s cold out 🙂

    Thanks for the comment.

  16. Hey Sam,
    It’s so hard to plan the weather for a big region, especially for South America! Sometimes you win, sometimes you don’t. Thanks for relating to what we were going through, it’s nice to have support 🙂

    Cheers and happy travels to you guys.

  17. I remember how difficult booking tickets on the spot for the Transsib was. You could be queuing for a few hours in line, and then when it’s finally your turn receive a strange nod from the woman behind the counter. Tickets sold out? Train cancelled? At that moment you can only hope for someone else to show up and help you out in whatever language. Russian is worse than Chinese. Problem was that it was not the right queue for the right destination. So start all over again at a different queue…

    Weather wise: I happened to be near Leh (Ladakh) when the severe cloudburst took place (August 2009). The region receives little rain (and hardly any in summer). It resulted in severe mud streams destroying houses in Leh and many other villages (up to 40 km away), the main road, bridges, the bus station, part of the airport, broadcast antennas (internet connection was extremely difficult or impossible), and of course many fatal casualties (people and animals). I’ll never forget the sight and smell of a young mother and her baby buried under the mud when they were sleeping. They were dug up with a tractor. All villages were cut off and all businesses shut down, so all there was to do was volunteer to remove the piles of mud everywhere before they dried up completely (hospitals, schools, …). It continued raining for a few consecutive nights and everyone was on standby. Many people evacuated and ran up the hills out of fear for more possible disaster. I got also scared, but stayed in my room… Most foreigners were able to fly out to Delhi after 3 days. I was stuck because my next stop was to be Srinagar overland. The main road (there is only one) remained shut off for about 1 week; shops were running out of fresh supplies, and Leh looked like a ghost town (in mourning; the high tourist season ended early; hardly no foreigners left; shops and stores closed, …). The public buses were not running anymore, so I had to hitchhike my way out (not a clever idea in India). And a few weeks later I wanted to go to Almora before continuing into Nepal (in time for the October hiking season). But more disaster was to come. I managed to travel by buses to the mountain town of Ranikhet (just before Almora); the bus already had to cross several streams running over the road. Two days later the news came that due to the unstoppable rain, many landslides had caused enormous damage, and all the villages here were also cut off. Problem was that by now I had only 4 days left on my Indian visa (rules had just been severed for my nationality; instead of 6 months multiple entry, only 3 months single entry and you had to get out); very stressful. The village itself was utterly boring (the continuous rain blocking all mountain views). Finally one road got restored, and I managed to reach the lowlands. The countryside was even more flooded (not by mud but by rain collecting it all from higher up); I was so fortunate that the train was running (the rails being on an elevated platform); travel by road was impossible. So be it – thanks to my guardian angel or not -, but on the very last day of my visa I managed to cross the border. Only to be stuck again in the first town across the border due to political strikes in Nepal (3 days; sooo boring; no foreigner ever stops there!!).

    So dear ‘Goats’, sorry for my ‘very’ long story, but I wanted to show that it can be even worse… (even if you try to avoid the rainy season).

  18. Hi Helga!

    Wow, that is quite the story indeed! I can’t believe all that you went through, how stressful and scary is that? The mother and her baby buried, I cannot even imagine that…

    I’m so glad you’re sharing your travel tales with us, they’re really quite incredible. Thanks again 🙂

  19. Hi Nick and Dariece,

    Great post, I admire that you guys share not only your good and positive experiences, but also your low moments to not only let other travelers that they’re not alone in experiencing those low moments, but also to inspire others from your experiences and outcomes (such as your arrival into Almaty and the nice guy you had met on the train); something we can remember to hang on to our hope and positive outlook in those low moments.

    Travel Nerd Nici

  20. Yes, totally know this feeling. Often accompanied by rain, getting ripped off, or turning up somewhere with expectations which aren’t met. For me, this was pretty much all of Syria, and I really regret feeling this way now, because it was really my choice to be happy or not. Had I known what the future held for Syria, I would’ve made the most of it, and tried to do something about my mood at the time – proof that we often have some degree of control over our emotions.

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