Travel is an empowering verb. To travel is to challenge yourself, often to fail miserably, but also to find new self-respect in those moments when you master(ish) a new language, a new subway system or a new form of chili. Traveling forces you to put yourself out there and take stances on issues you didn’t know existed.
The downside of all this travel-induced decision making is that you can become a little too proud of standing on your own two feet. You feel like the master of the universe the day you can use a long drop without blinking an eye. You can take on the world the day you convince a Nigerian customs agent to let you through without your passport. You become a little too comfortable with knowing you’ll get from A to B, even if you don’t know exactly how.
Three months and suddenly Vietnam and I have hit a wall in our relationship. The initial crush has cooled down and we are facing the stark reality of each other. The honking of traffic has become too loud. The rain has become too frequent. The scooters, too many. And Vietnam seems equally annoyed with me. Why else is he sending these obstacles to trip me up? He won’t let me go to the beach (What? I’m I too fat for you now?). He sends mosquitoes to keep me in line at night.
We’re on shaky ground.
Love is mandatory in Vietnam. While places like Vegas and Rio beckon you to the glitter of singledom, Da Nang is decidedly monogamous. Just ask any of the trillion couples camped out along the Da Nang promenade oblivious to the roar of scooters, children and dogs around them. Their love blinds them from remembering to look before they cross the street – or look before they walk straight into me. But I don’t mind being stopped in the name of love.
After all there is nothing quite so beautiful as love in a time of karaoke.
Travel blogs love to talk about the backpacking community. There’s this idea that all travelers are bound to one another by some cosmic energy; that their like-mindedness is the basis of a utopian society on the go. In many ways I agree. Mutual experience traveling – or even just a shared desire to travel – is an instant conversation starter. Put me in a room with anyone who’s been anywhere and I’m interested to know their story.
But this world of Travelers Without Borders is not wholly perfect. Just like in any community there is competition, misleading (intentional and unintentional) and jealousy. Jealousy is a big one.
You’re amazing when you’re traveling. You laugh more, worry less and even seem to figure out how to flirt. In the midst of the exotic you become a more fun, open-minded and tan version of your home self. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to stay this intrepid, free thinking form of You even when you’re back into the rut and gut of real life? Wouldn’t it be fantastic to carry on throwing caution to the wind and spontaneously dancing even once you’re back into your stuffy work suit?
Well then, do it.
It’s here. After your weeks, months or years of planning and saving it’s time to travel. Your ticket’s booked. Your bag is packed. You’re ready to reward all your hard work with the trip of a life time. Problem is Travel has a mind of its own. And while Travel is often beautiful and accommodating, sometimes it just won’t cooperate.
Traveling is wonderful. It’s fun. It’s exciting. It breaks your routine and may even help you grow as a person. But it’s also scary. The unknown is equal parts electrifying and intimidating. And traveling requires a whole slew of unknowns; unknown places, unknown people, unknown languages, foods, accommodation and transportation. The good news is that fear of the unknown can be overcome. You can come to love travel just by recognizing your own fear and facing it. You can transform your waah waah wanting into real, live doing.
Wanting and doing are two different things. Lots of people want to travel. Fewer do. It’s not because traveling is unattainable, it’s because the doing involved scares many of us away. Every travel blog I’ve seen has valid reasons to travel. Every travel blog has the list of common excuses people use to not travel. And every travel blog gives the obligatory disclaimer that I’ll give now: It’s ok to not travel. Traveling is expensive, time consuming and involves varying degrees of discomfort. If it’s not your thing, it’s not your thing. But if it is your thing – something you’ve wanted to do – then do it.
Put aside the PC for a moment, some things are just weird. And in travelling you’re bound to meet your fill of them. Try and chalk it up to cultural differences all you want but somewhere deep inside of you, just to the left of the part that tells you which fork to use for dessert, you know you’re witnessing strange in all its strangeness.