If you’re anything like me before I left for my first backpacking trip, you are probably enticed by travel pictures of pristine white houses on the cliffs of Greece or photos of small asian men from Thailand with straw hats rowing a longboat through exotic landscapes.
You know you’ve been following too many travel blogs when Remote Year won’t stop sending you Facebook ads.
Maybe you’ve even seen these pictures of the Rainbow Mountains in Peru.
It looks unreal doesn’t it.
Because it is.
This is what they really look like.
Skittles added for dramatic effect and Instagram likes
Imagine my puzzled face covered in sweat from having climbed 2 hours to an elevation of 17,000 ft. where there is barely enough oxygen to fill a raisin, let alone my 2 lungs, which were in desperate need of air.
Instagram promised me rainbow mountains, not a pile of dirt that looked like a washed out pair of jeans.
Don’t be fooled like I was, it’s a photo editing trick called saturation. You can tell when a photo is overly-edited when the sky is so blue it looks like it was painted by Bob Ross.
Oh, and these pictures make it seem like you have the entire mountains to yourself right?
The lower half of my body is cropped for a reason.
Try taking a decent picture while mobs of anxious tourists stare at you like a pack of drooling dogs at the dinner table, waiting for you finish so they can attempt to fool their Instagram followers into thinking the entire experience is better than a Black Friday rush at BestBuy.
At least you get a TV on Black Friday.
When you look at travel pictures, all you see are the good moments and none of the bad.
You don’t hear the drunk Germans at 3AM shamelessly humping on the bunkbed above you when you have an early bus the next morning.
Nor do you experience the onslaught of dark, existential questions about your purpose in life that flood every waking thought after you decided to quit your job and leave it devoid of meaning, instead choosing to pander around South America on rickety buses with vomitting children.
How about the frustration of trying to communicate with the bus driver in a language you don’t know? It’s kind of like Facetiming with poor WiFi connection, except on top of that your iPhone decided to change the audio from English to angry Spanish.
Don’t forget the clingers who invite themselves into the seat next to you on a 12 hour bus journey talking about horoscopes and spirits and then follow you around for a week like a stray dog.
Then there are those life threatening moments when you regret ever having left the safety and comfort of your home in the first place.
Like this moment in Ecuador when I encountered my first cockroach. I hadn’t felt that much fear since I was sent to the principals office for threatening to spear my 4th grade classmate in the anus with a recorder.
If your idea of travel is based off a few filtered Instagram photos, then reconsider.
I thoroughly enjoyed the Rainbow Mountain trek and traveling has been a life changing experience for me, so, when I say reconsider, I mean traveling is much more than the highlights.
You stand on that mountain for maybe an hour while the journey to get there takes much longer. It helps to get a full perspective to make sure you travel with the right expectations and for the right reasons.
After all, there are few times in life, if any, where you can marvel at the sight of short Peruvians in home-knit llama clothing and tattered sandals effortlessly outpace you as you struggle to place one foot in front of the other. Even when you have 4 layers of clothing on, including a down jacket, and you wonder how they manage to keep warm.
In the coming weeks, I’ll be posting more about the lessons I’ve learned through traveling.
Want to have a slice of that cake when it’s fresh out of the oven?
In the meantime, I leave you with a gift that we can all appreciate.
Bask in the magnificence of this beautiful creature