Travel sucks. This truth struck me thirty minutes into our eight-hour bus ride. Our seats were at the tail end, which wagged back and forth like a puppy’s butt. I hold records for extreme carsickness, so reading was out of the question. I'd brought an iPod in case of this contingency; unfortunately, I forgot to put anything on it. There was nothing to do but watch the twenty-somethings a few rows up get slowly but determinedly drunk. I took a deep breath and pretended I wasn't about to puke. Only seven and a half hours to go.

Travel is supposed to be a great romance. Our screensavers tell us so. Exotic cities, dramatic landscapes, paint-box sunsets; it all looks pretty inspiring. Even grimy, dangerous places—swampy jungles with a surplus of malaria and dearth of cold beer—seem appealing from an office chair. You imagine yourself walking those views, adventurous and dashing, a John  Williams' score swelling in the background.

In daydreams, even the hardships of travel have a certain romance. After all, it’s the journey that's important, not the destination.

Well, nuts to that. No trip, however epic, begins with sweeping music and an uplifted soul. In my experience, travel makes people tired, grungy, and vaguely pissed off. Adventures tend to begin with a squealing alarm clock and no time for coffee. You will always lose your passport/keys/ticket. You will never remember to dump the garbage/turn off the stove/put food out for the cat until you're irredeemably far from home. You will brood on this misfortune for 14 hours while crammed in economy. By the end you’ll smell so bad the only option is to burn your clothes.

At the beginning, every trip feels like a mistake. As a travel writer, I gloss over these details. But the truth is, travel kinda sucks. And once you know that, what, exactly, is the draw?

Koh Tao 2
Koh Tao 2

Call me a contrarian, but sometimes it’s the destination that matters, not the journey.