Traveling is a puzzle. When you send yourself to a far off land where you don’t speak the language, it becomes a brainteaser trying to figure out how the simplest things are done. It makes you think in an entirely new way. You have to be an investigator. You have to watch what other people are doing or how they are acting. It’s a combination of monkey-see-monkey-do and Sherlock Holmes all wrapped up into one, and not in English. And it’s fun!
But it’s also a gamble and you don’t always win. When I go to a new place, I usually don’t know where or what to eat. What typically happens, is that I find a restaurant with pictures, point to the most desirable looking meal and hope for the best. Sometimes the waiter or the cook will try to discuss my choice with me and I always say okay throw a thumbs up in there and hope I didn’t agree to eating testicles or chicken feet. Sometimes it’s great, but most of the time it’s mediocre and sometimes I end up paying more than I wanted to. But that’s the gamble! And that’s what I love.
What’s funny is that when I don’t love the outcome, it makes the experience better. Crazy, right? I am of the opinion that travelers like myself love when things go wrong. We are masochistic gamblers. When I say “What! There’s a typhoon in our path?!” I’m secretly hoping that we at least get some huge waves. Bring on the seasickness and the Dramamine! Or when I say “What do you mean there’s a strike and we are stuck in traffic that might last 24 hours?!” I’m secretly thinking, wow how exciting and interesting! I can’t wait to see how this gets resolved!
Nobody remembers or talks about things going perfectly. The great stories and adventures always have twists and turns. The more uncomfortable I am, the better the story is going to be in a few weeks, or months, or years.
I don’t read about white sand beaches and crystal clear water and yearn to travel. It’s when I read about broken toilets on a 48 hour train ride to Tibet, or being attacked in your sleep by red ants, that makes me want to pack my backpack and hit the road. I know that’s not the case for everybody, and I know that this partly has to do with the fact that I am twenty-four. Right now I can still sleep on a concrete floor for weeks on end as long as it’s free and I have a mosquito net. I’m not yet at an age where I need comfort above all else. Right now I want to collect stories and experiences, not possessions. And the best stories come from the not so great circumstances that we complain about while it’s happening, but love to reminisce about later. So bring on the bugs, bring on the confusion, and bring on the good times!
This post was originally written for diwyy.com.