When everyone is constantly pretending to have way more fun than they are

leah pai

I have a red moleskin journal. I write in it from time to time when something particularly notable happens; when I have a moment I really don’t want to forget. When the language barrier creates a misunderstanding that is so genuinely funny I want to be able to relive it for years to come (hint: it involves a waitress, a washroom, and a pot full of cash sitting on the stove).

“How do you write in your journal?” people have asked me along the way. “I want to write in one but I don’t know how.”

And I get it. It feels lame to be like “today I did this and this and then I did this”, but what else are you supposed to do? Sometimes I write bullet points. Sometimes I jot a random thought down. I tell people this – my weird little strategy for writing – but I never let anyone read it. I’m too self conscious that I’m not doing it right either.

That said – I’m going to share an excerpt from my journal because I can’t get over how funny it is. It is literally the only thing I wrote in a 7 day span, & it reads like this:

March 17: Today I washed my bra in the sink and felt so happy about it. It was such an ordinary task and I was doing it in Vietnam, and I just felt so productive and happy to be washing something on the other side of the world. 

Like, there’s no denying that this is legit embarrassing. The only “particularly notable” I felt was worth writing about in an entire week was doing laundry in a sink? I don’t really want to know what that says about me as a whole. But regardless, today I met a girl who made me think about this entry.

She was a dancer from Norway. She had been travelling Asia solo for 3 months with 1 more to go. She was struggling.

“I just don’t know if I’m appreciating it enough,” she said. “Everyone seems to be having so much fun all the time and like, yesterday I was really lonely so I watched a movie and went to bed. Isn’t that lame?”

I mean, A) Girl. Read my journal entry from March 17th and then let’s talk about what’s lame, and B) we, as a society, really fucked ourselves over. Between Instagram and Snap stories and this general pressure to have the best life ever, we’ve pushed ourselves to believe if we aren’t having fun at all times we’re doing it wrong. If our brunch didn’t involve latte art and a bowl of red fruit, is it even worth indulging in? A low-key walk in the park gets captioned into something much greater than it is. “Simple things”. “Moments like this”. Suddenly our walk is not only fine, it’s inspirational. We are inspirational.

And then travel! Man, we have made travel into this be-all-end-all – into this crazy lifestyle that is going to be the single best thing we could possibly ever do – that it’s become way more stressful than it needs to be.

We’ve glorified it to the point that it’s made us believe we are supposed to be having the best, most life-changing moments of our lives literally at all times. We’re supposed to be partying with strangers turned besties; staying out til the sun comes up; meeting our future soulmate – or at least our soulmate for the night.  Seeing Instagram-worthy views every time we turn our head.

So what happens when this isn’t the case? When we didn’t connect with anyone at this particular hostel and didn’t feel like forcing conversation and didn’t see a life-changing sunset to snap a photo of? When we had nothing to say when our friends asked if we had any crazy stories to share? When we washed our bra in the sink?

We feel like, maybe, we’re doing it wrong; like we’re missing something; like everyone else is better at travelling than we are. Maybe we’re boring.

But this is what’s so flawed about how society has come to represent this whole #wanderlust phenomenon – letting us believe that simply by hopping a plane we’ve crossed some bizarre threshold between life and travel. But we haven’t. We’re literally just living our lives in new places with new people and a new shower routine. We’re still going to have good days and bad days (and both are fine, btw). We’re still going to get headaches from being too hot and dehydrated and just because we’re in Thailand doesn’t mean we won’t give af. We’ll still have to take an Advil and a nap and use our Saje peppermint halo that we’re so thankful we remembered to pack. We’re still going to be a living, breathing human with likes and dislikes and feelings. We’ll probably just be sweating more often. That’s it.

Have I loved my trip? Yes. 100 times yes. Has it impacted me? Changed me? Made me look at life a tad differently? Absolutely. But fuck man, I’ve been away for 58 days. 1392 hours.

I’ve been asleep for approximately 464 of those.

I’ve probably been complaining about something at least 465 of the remaining.

And the rest? Those are the early morning coffees. The unexpected friendships found via island bike rides. The Bangkok skyline. These are the hours that make it all worth it, and this is why we keep doing it.

And the same goes for ‘regular life’ back on the other side of that supposed threshold. You’ll have epic nights out and cottage getaways; pieces of unnaturally delicious cheesecake and beach vball games and moments where you feel so stoked to be alive. And that’s why we keep trucking through life, too.

But rest assured – all those moments when that wasn’t the case; when you were lonely and unsure and absolutely positively not having fun. When all you were doing was washing your bra in the sink. Literally every single person in the world is having those moments and literally every single person is pretending they’re not.

So let’s all chill out. Eat a burrito. Wash something in the sink. I don’t know. But I do know is if you aren’t having the best day of your life right now, there are thousands of other people who aren’t either. You’re doing fine 🙂


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