A few days ago, I read this piece on one of my favorite financial blogs, “Budgets are Sexy.” The author, J. Money, makes a resume. Rather than a typical resume of accomplishments, he lists all his financial failures over the years.
J. Money was inspired to write this post by Johannes Haushofer, a professor at Princeton. All people see are Haushofer’s successes, and he wanted to set the record straight by making a resume of his scholastic failures.
Haushofer made this resume of failures to show that if you are going to succeed, you will inevitably fail along the way. Especially if you aim big. J. Money followed this trend to show that even though he is a financial blogger, there is more to his financial life than what he chooses to share on the Internet.
We usually only share our best selves on the Internet, especially on social media. We travelers are super guilty of this. We share Instagram photos of our epic adventures, then write inspirational blog posts about how everyone else can have lives as awesome as ours.
What we don’t admit is that we still spend a lot of time binge-watching Netflix shows. Or that we are lonely on our solo trips. Or that we cry when we get lost in a new city.
Or that we just do it all wrong sometimes. We are naive, forgetful, or rejected.
So I’m here to post my Resume of Travel Failures. I want you to know that traveling is just like any other area of life. Stressful. Full of failures. Rewarding.
My Resume of Travel Failures
2011: Went to Africa and hated the trip
I don’t post a lot about my time in Africa on this blog. In fact, I just realized I have yet to write a blog post dedicated to my trip to Africa! I should get on that.
When I was 19, I went on a trip to Cameroon for two weeks. It was a service trip, as well as a learning experience for people interested in going into Bible translation as a career. (Which I was very interested in at the time.)
Actually, the trip overall was fun and a great opportunity. I adored my group of fellow travelers. I stayed with a sweet host family. The locals were so fun. Cameroon was gorgeous. I don’t take it for granted.
And if I had been in a less remote part of Cameroon, I might have felt differently.
But I really thought I wanted to be an overseas missionary back then. But after two weeks in a remote village in Cameroon, I realized something: I hate pooping in holes in the ground. I hate taking malaria medicine every day. Also, damn, whenever it rains (which is a lot in Cameroon), I hate that there is a leak in the roof and my mattress and I get soaked.
I thought … can I do this whole “missionary to remote villages” thing?
I looked at myself and saw spoiled. Weak. Failure.
Not exactly the magical trip leading to self-actualization that I had anticipated. I left feeling shallow because I wasn’t more inspired.
2013: Missed my bus to Dresden
At age 21, I studied abroad in Europe. During this time, I decided to take a week to visit a friend who lived in Dresden, Germany.
I flew into Berlin, then was supposed to catch a bus to Dresden. Easy, right?
I spent about an hour waiting for a bus, oblivious to the fact that it was one of the ones in the line of buses right in front of me. So, yes, I missed my bus and had to hang out at the Berlin airport for an extra four hours or so before catching the late-night bus.
This might seem like a small mistake, but it was pretty embarrassing. Especially when I tried to communicate with airport employees about missing my bus and realized I hadn’t thought to learn a word of German before my trip.
It also really made me doubt my ability to travel alone. Especially since, just a few days later, I got lost and almost missed by bus out of Prague back to Dresden.
More about solo travel:
2014: Was rejected for a position in France
Ever since high school, I knew I wanted to apply for the French government’s Teaching Assistant Program (TAPIF) when I graduated college. I honed my French skills. I studied abroad in France. I was borderline-obsessed with France. Multiple people believed I was a shoo-in, and I believed them.
A month before graduating college, I received my rejection email. I didn’t make the cut. I didn’t even make the waiting list. What was my grand plan now?
Talk about humiliating and a blow to my ego. All my friends and family knew I’d had my sights set on that position for years. And I had to tell all of them that I had been rejected.
I still cringe when I think back on the day I received that email. But I knew I still wanted to travel. So I moved to New Zealand instead.
2014: Funds frozen in New Zealand
I moved to New Zealand six months after graduating college. I thought I had done all my research and taken the necessary steps to transfer my funds from my American account to a new kiwi account.
Apparently, I hadn’t.
So I had no money. For a couple weeks. All I had was the cash I had brought with me.
I ended up having to ask my parents for money, which didn’t exactly fit with my idea of branching out on my own and being independent.
More time passed, and my bank still hadn’t approved the transfer. So my kiwi friend loaned me money. A lot of money. Talk about an AMAZING friend. And talk about a hurt ego.
More about New Zealand:
2016: Completely unprepared for China
Many of you know that The Husband and I moved to China just a few weeks after we got married in 2016. A Chinese agency offered us jobs to teach English at an elementary school.
We thought we were financially prepared. But it was New Zealand all over again! Actually, it was worse, because our accounts weren’t frozen. We just didn’t have the money.
Even though living in China is cheap, there are a lot of start-up costs, just as there are any time you move to a new place. Our recruiter didn’t give us a heads up about these expenses.
A few days into our time in China, we asked her why she hadn’t told us. She said, “Oh, you’ve both traveled a lot, so I figured you knew.”
(I should mention that the agency has since created a list of expenses and packing items for new teachers.)
Once again, we had to borrow money from our parents. I felt pretty ashamed … But also grateful for parents who would help us out!
Our second night in China, we sat in our hotel room, crying, questioning if we should just go back to America.
More about China:
And those are my main travel failures.
I’m sure there are many more. And there will be plenty more in the future! I don’t regret them, though. They made me a better traveler and stronger person.
By hating my trip to Africa, I realized that being a missionary in a remote village wasn’t my calling. Then I could move on to find my true calling. (I’m still searching six years later, by the way.)
By missing my bus to Dresden, I realized I had to become more travel-savvy and be unafraid to ask questions.
When the French government rejected me for the TAPIF position, I decided to move to New Zealand. Those six months in New Zealand were some of the most amazing of my life!
When I had money problems in New Zealand and China, I realized I had friends and family who loved me and looked out for me. And that’s something I’ll never take for granted.