When Failure is Looming

Something I’ve been struggling with the past week is a sense of failure about this trip. People have said how brave and adventurous I am for doing this, but all I see is how much money I’m spending compared to other backpackers, how I’m not having a great moment every single day, I haven’t stayed in the cheapest hostels, I feel I am not having a million wild moments, and if I do, they’ve been “expensive”, and so on.

It’s been difficult to figure out what I find meaningful and worth while – I’m seemingly wasting this beautiful opportunity of travel comparing myself and my journey to others’. I guess I thought my penchant for comparison and pre-conceived notions would be left behind in NY. Why can’t I find myself happy in my own wonderful circumstances and experiences?

That old companion Fear sneaks in. It doesn’t have to be the giant spider gazing at me from the wall. It can be the guilty little whisper in the back of my mind questioning, “Do you really want to buy that meal or drink? You know it’s more than a dollar or two – you’re not a real traveler unless you’re doing everything the cheapest, hardest way possible. What will people think?” Somehow I feel my experience isn’t valid unless it’s hard.

And I realize how silly that is! I like to travel and be comfortable and have a good time. I don’t need to blow the bank doing it, but I also don’t need to make myself miserable to save a few bucks.


Riding on The Orient Express was $29, but I felt absolutely posh! I had THE BEST night on that train from Sapa to Hanoi. I had a lower bunk, my Agatha Christie book, and my eye mask for when I got too tired to continue reading. I was so happy! I don’t regret a cent of that trip.  I want to get back to that freedom from my self-inflicted pressure.


At the start of my epic train ride


Made it out sans stabbing!! Pretty happy at 4am

I was annoyed when I got to Phong Nha and realized I could have visited Paradise Cave and Dark Cave on my own. In Hanoi, all my reading hadn’t made it sound possible, so I’d booked a day tour for the morning I arrived.  When I learned I could’ve motorbiked and experienced it on my own for less, I kept nagging and getting down on myself.  But honestly, doing it alone wouldn’t have saved me much (maybe $15-$20), and would I have even gotten my butt on a bike and done it? Maybe.. But I got to meet some wonderful people on the tour and had an absolute BLAST! Well worth the money spent.  I mean, just look at what I got to do…

down we go 2

About to zipline for the first time!

coming in for a landing 2

Minimal screaming involved 🙂

all in a row 2

Heading into the Dark Cave

further in 2

Water was cold and rocks were sharp…

inside the dark cave 2

…But oooh so worth it!

And the best part??

raise the mud roof 2

Mud Pit Party!!!!

So whenever I start feeling anxious and fearful or judged for spending money, I will think back on all these wonderfully fantastic experiences and remember that pinching pennies isn’t everything. I can do that back in NY.

About juliamenn

Performer. Artist. Author. Lover of food and travel. Animal enthusiast. Avid reader. Globe-trotter.
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3 Responses to When Failure is Looming

  1. Nancy Menn says:

    Great post! What an adventure!


  2. Love this, I think the longer you travel the more you know yourself and what YOU like and what YOU want to do with your time. This is a true insight into the reality of being on the road and I appreciate your honesty… it continue to sound like a bloody amazing adventure to me 🙂


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