I’ll let you guys in on a little lesser known secret about myself. I kind of suck at traveling. No, but really. For instance, I once showed up to the customs counter in Jamaica and openly admitted to the officer that I had no idea where I’d be staying and couldn’t quite remember when I’d be leaving. Needless to say, I had to wait to the side for a bit while they discussed what to do with this incredibly stupid American girl. In my defense, I’d just broken up with a boyfriend, quit my job and quite literally fled the country. Annnnd I was on a family trip, so I left all the planning to mommy.
You see, this backpacker savvy I can turn off and on. Sometimes I research so fervently how to get somewhere, what to do there and how to save a penny that I’m not sure if I take more pleasure in planning the trip than I do actually being on the trip. But then there are the times when I’m burnt out on traveling. Tired to tears of looking up buses and hostels and currency exchanges. I show up in a country and just get on with it. And so yeah I can suck at traveling, but then there’s this power that comes from within me that can attest to my globetrotting gumption. That power is….*drumroll*….apathy. You know? the absence of passion, emotion or excitement. Bet you didn’t think that was a character strength! Ok so maybe a fuzzier word would be calmness.
If there is one thing that verifies my vigor as a traveler, it’d definitely be my body’s ridiculous response to stress. Or lack of response (besides that one time I was drunk and got pick pocketed in Rio. Can we pretend that didn’t happen? K thanks.) When a new travel drama starts to unfold I can almost instantly feel myself becoming lethargic and indifferent. So laid-back that it seems that I actually don’t have any more shits to give. The time I rolled up to Kyoto super late at night after a delayed flight with no money, no phone and no confirmation from my couchsurfing host comes to mind. I pondered sleeping on a bench and then went to 7eleven for a cookie. Whoa! I’ve just realized this may be a genetic thing! Only just now did I remember teachings from the true guru of coolness, my mother. I remember being a teenager and sleeping in til mid afternoon (as you do). My older brother woke me screaming, “THE HOUSE IS ON FIRE!!!!! THE HOUSE IS ON FIRE!!!!!!” I yawned and stretched and then finally ambled out the door to see a bit of dry grass was on fire. He had my mom on the phone screaming over and over that our house was on fire. She didn’t arrive for a long while after this call although she had only just been in town. Her alibi? An easygoing, “I stopped for a snapple on the way.”
Seven whole months into this backpacking trip I’m admittedly drained. Just as last year I said I couldn’t bring myself to sing the Hello, Goodbye song to another group of school boys and girls again for a long, long time, I also find little will left to research the buses and hostels and exchange rates. I confess, I’m shot, spent, weary, wasted.
Naturally, today I arrived in Nepal without a visa prior to arrival. Without the proper currency for the visa on arrival. Without much of a clue as to how I wound up here and what the f*ck led me to these life decisions. All too familiarly I find myself unshowered, run-down and in a strange country on my own. Tomorrow I’ll have to convert that money, make my way back to the airport to get back my passport and get the dang visa all to start my battle with the Indian consulate to get a brand new visa for that country. All this and not even a week ago I lost my purse off the back of a motorcycle along with my iPhone, atm cards and $70 cash. In the words of Homer (not the Odyssey one, but the Simpson one), “Doh!”
And here’s the silly thing. My inner dialogue goes something like this.
Me: This blows! I hate traveling!
Inner Serene Me: Hmm you love to travel…and we’ve seen worse.
Me: Are you frickin serious?! This has got to be the shittiest circumstances we’ve ever been in!
Inner Serene Me: Girl, chill. It’s no skin off your nose.
Me: *sigh* You’re right, o wise me. Mango or pineapple smoothie tonight?
In retrospect, I’m mostly to blame (in some way or another) for every travel disaster that’s come my way. Granting all this, the shanti me is somehow all forgiving of my blunders. Even in my worst wandering moments she can shrug away any panic or unease. She’s capable of staring down all of my anxieties at once with such nonchalance and composure that I have to laugh at her own unrecognizability to me. But this cool and poised girl is a part of me and she’s what makes me a great traveler. I like to imagine that if she were to pose for a photo she’d pose just like this. Namaste, ya’ll.