The unbearable sadness of traveling.

The unbearable sadness of traveling.
February 28, 2014 Lainie Liberti

The faint sounds of muffled sobbing softly radiated from the seat behind me.

It was all so familiar, the release of overwhelming sadness, able to occupy the entire mind simply by giving it attention. However without attention, such sadness can be stored just below the surface and plainly hidden from sight.

The bump, bump, bump vibrating sounds of the bus were hypnotic. But the faint sniffles and controlled inhales were all I could hear. I sat in the darkness, wide-eyed, focused on the pain being experienced behind me.


I tend to be quite empathetic, but usually in the case of children. But in this case, I knew exactly what the girl in seat 20 was feeling. She was feeling loss. It was thick, but sweet. But it was undoubtedly the sadness of loss.

Miro and I were on the second leg of our journey back to Lima. We had endured one overnight bus from Guyaquil to Chiclayo and were now on our second overnight bus headed towards Lima. We chatted with a few other travelers in the bus station and Miro and I connected with the traveler in the row behind us.

She was a beautiful blond backpacker, in her twenties. She was from Australia and was wrapping up a 10 month solo round-the-world trip.

I could only surmise she was processing the loss of a friendship she had made somewhere along the way, but I would never know for sure.

As travelers, we are just acutely present. We are intensely in-the-moment. And our connections with other people and our relationships tend to be equally intense.

As travelers, we have to savor each moment we have with others, as if each moment will the be the last.

As travelers, we intrinsically know everything is temporary.

As travelers, we live with constant change, both external circumstances and internal conditions.

As travelers we live with goodbyes.

And as travelers, we experience loss profoundly.

But I would argue, real-life offers the same challenges. However travel invites us not to get distracted by life circumstances, schedules or routines.

The beautiful blonde traveling in seat 20 on route to Lima was experiencing her rights of passage. Her human right to be present with her feelings of joy and sadness. Permission to be with whatever it was and process it in her own way.



Such is life.

Such is the life of a traveler…..



Image by .Andi based on creative commons license. 



  1. Hans Jonas Hansen 10 years ago

    Yeah, it’s good to express ones feeling.

    I think I will feel more sorrow if I travelled alone. Now I always have my girlfriend by my side so even if we meet new people it’s not that hard to say goodbye to them, because I’m not alone.

    Do you have any thoughts of the difference of traveling solo or with someone else? I’m asking because I have never tried travelling alone. 😀

  2. Leigh 10 years ago

    I think, perhaps, travel allows us to realize what we are feeling because of the constant leaving. It also allows us to incorporate that leaving and sadness as a natural part of life. They’re easier to avoid when you stay in one place.

    I rarely feel sad anymore when traveling, mainly because there’s always something head of me that I can use as a focus. Or at least, perhaps sadness isn’t the dominant emotion. I do, though, always cry every time I leave to travel on my own.

  3. Will 10 years ago

    I would cry too if it were the end of my trip

  4. Hamish Healys 10 years ago

    I feel for her…whenever I am travelling, I really would like to leave the place happy..but sometimes, I feel sentimental when leaving a place specially when I had forged relationships with strangers.

  5. I appreciate you sharing this, because every other article I read is about the happiness of traveling.. It’s nice to see the other side, which is sometimes painfully true 🙂

  6. Paquita Hinojosa Hoyos 8 years ago

    Great words. Just in time too. After 3 years of traveIs i can finally undestand… understand then meening of short but intense conection with people, total strangers, and sadness of course, for so many things, what we left behind and the new, always the new…that means that i am oficcially a traveler. 😉 thank you Lainie.

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