On the “Misery Olympics”

02 Jul

Oh, Imodium (aka Loperamide), how much I owe thee….

This morning, I again participated in an event that is one of the highlights of my week: the #WeGoSolo Twitter chat, hosted by super-blogger Mariellen Ward of Breathedreamgo, one of the top India travel blogs.

(Side note: if you are a woman interested in solo travel, you should definitely join the conversation.  It is a great community, and you will learn quite a bit!)

This week, the topic was “travel challenges”, and the chat questions gave plenty of scope for all of us to tell funny stories, share inspiring lessons learned, and provide support and advice to one another.

The best part for me, though, was the discussion surrounding the final question: “What advice would you give a would-be solo traveller about the bad patches?”

The overall sentiment was that people should remember why they were traveling and take care of themselves.  Regarding the latter, MariellenVanessa, and I had this to say:

Misery Olympics

Ah, the Misery Olympics.  In this permutation of the perennial “tourist vs. traveler debate,” travelers unnecessarily seek out the worst hardships in order to have the best stories.  The thinking is that, if you suffer in the most miserable conditions, you are a more “authentic” traveler and, thus, deserving of a gold medal for your humility, perseverance, and general awesomeness.

Sometimes, travelers participate in the Misery Olympics inadvertently.  They may not choose a bad situation, but, once they are involved in one, they do not take easy steps to relieve their pain.  I have definitely been guilty of this.  On an overnight train between Xi’an and Shanghai, I was struck with the most brutal case of traveler’s stomach that I have ever experienced.  I spent the vast majority of that lengthy trip running back and forth from my top-level bunk to a filthy, metal squat toilet that constantly rattled as the train sped along, forcing me to continually fight to stay balanced.  Not pretty.

Now, I was carrying with me both Imodium (Loperamide), which would have stopped my “discomfort” for the duration of the train ride, and antibiotics, which would have cured me of my stomach ailment in a few days.  Did I take them?  Nope.  “Medicine is for weaklings!  I’ll get better on my own eventually!”  Well, I was wrong, and I spent the better part of a week being sick for no reason.  Once I finally got over my ego and took the medicine, I was fine.  Definitely a lesson learned.

Hence, my “Misery Olympics” tweet.  Yes, funny stories can come out of travel challenges, but these stories are the silver lining to having experienced the challenges.  The funny stories should not be the goal of the challenges nor should they be the result of refusing to end a less-than-pleasant situation.

In short: If your hostel/hotel is terrible, find a new one!  If you get sick, take medicine and rest!  If you should lose one of your heels while jumping onto a Madrid subway car just as the doors close, do not let your embarrassment/ego push you to continue your journey, limping with one shoe, in the midst of a sanitation strike; (wo)man up, go back to the metro station where you lost your shoe, and ask the staff to retrieve your missing shoe from the tracks!  (This latter situation has never happened to me.  Nope.  It happened to a “friend”.  Yes, that’s it.)

Travel will provide plenty of serendipitous moments (both good and bad) that will allow us to come home with a passel of adventure tales to share with friends and strangers alike.  There is no need to purposefully make ourselves miserable in the hopes of “going for gold” in a reverse bragging competition.  Those of us who have the opportunity to travel are extremely privileged–the least that we can do is embark on our trips with a good attitude and a willingness to enjoy ourselves as much as possible.

Just say no to landing on the podium for the Misery Olympics!

*          *          *

Do you know of other travelers who have “competed” in the Misery Olympics (or–eek!–have you done so yourself)?  Share your most memorable stories in the comments!

Jealous that you missed out on talking to so many amazing women?  Join the fun yourself!  #WeGoSolo happens every Wednesday on Twitter from 11:00AM-11:30AM EST.


Posted by on July 2, 2014 in Asia, China, Europe, Miscellaneous, Spain


Tags: , , , ,

5 responses to “On the “Misery Olympics”

  1. theletsgoladies

    July 2, 2014 at 3:09 PM

    I soooo agree with you here! Crappy things can happen to us while travelling but that doesn’t mean we have to put up with them if we absolutely don’t have to! Sure, trying times build character but they can also ruin an otherwise awesome experience. Great post!
    ~ Sara

    • passportaddict

      July 2, 2014 at 6:18 PM

      Thanks for the kind words, Sara! Also, totally agreed on not letting “character-building” get in the way of an awesome experience. 🙂

  2. anerdatlarge

    July 3, 2014 at 8:04 PM

    I couldn’t agree more. I thought of your Misery Olympics comment when I saw this pin: Which says “I am the designer of my own catastrophe”

    The whole “authentic” thing drives me up the wall. People need to stop being so judgemental and just enjoy themselves travelling in whatever way makes them happy.

    • passportaddict

      July 3, 2014 at 8:07 PM

      Agreed, and AGREED. Thanks for your comment and for sharing the pin!


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