I Used to LOVE to Travel...
Lo De Marcos, Nayarit - October 18, 2023
I used to LOVE to travel.
I lived for it.
I would work and work and save and then sell everything and hit the road for months at a time...
Central America, Mexico, Europe, Japan, Thailand, India....
I loved that things were different and upside down, that all the things you thought you knew, the language, the culture, didn't apply and you had to rely on your 6 sense, your gut, to navigate you around.
Often not understanding the language and having to trust and rely on the kindness of strangers...
Of course the world has changed ALOT since the 90's and early 2,000's when there was no internet or cel phones and you had to write letters that took two weeks to cross oceans...
But I loved that adventure, the unknown, the unexpected, both good and bad, showed you what you were made of, challenged you in ways that made you cry but then turned around and rewarded you with unbelievable sunsets and boat rides and magical moments in places you had only dreamed about.
I loved all of that and craved it, hard.
There were night trains through Italy where you woke up and held your breath at every stop because it might mean new arrivals with not so good intentions. You know, you hear stories.
And you assure yourself that your strategy is a good one: placing your boots in the foot of your sleeping bag to make you look taller while tucking your head in and removing all signs that you are female so that you are a big unknown to anyone looking for a victim, sleeping with the strap of your backpack looped with a rope around your arm inside your bag while you slept.
Just in case, because you know... banditos, or whatever they call them in Italy.
I would wake up at every stop, every station, all night long.
To this day, the sound of a train going over train tracks puts me on edge. When they go faster, its relaxing, it means we are underway. If their rhythm is slowing, I feel increasingly apprehensive, anticipating the next stop and what that could bring.
Months after I left Italy, I heard there was a new thing where robbers would slide sleeping gas under the door of compartments at night and then go in and help themselves.
I'm grateful that was after my time.
That Euro Rail pass saved me a lot of money on accommodations by taking night trains.
I was alone, of course. I always was.
I preferred it that way.
When you are alone, you can go where you want, when you want and you don't have to explain yourself to anybody, or give any reasons why this or why that.
And if something goes wrong, you make a wrong turn or a wrong choice, there is no one there to blame you and say "why, why did you choose that? Now look at the mess we are in!"
No, I was in my messes on my own back then and I watched my own back.
There were only a small handful of sketchy situations I found myself in over all those years of travelling;
pick pocketed in Guatemala (twice),
groped in Panama (by an American yacht owner, no less),
I was conned and my room was robbed in southern Costa Rica,
A man exposed himself on the Paris metro (still probably the most traumatic event of all, due to my young age. I went straight home to my hostel and stayed there the rest of the day, eating strawberries and fresh flan, trying to make sense of the world).
The other rather scary-ish time was when I was pushed down in the forest after dark in Thailand by three European guys who, up until that moment, had been perfect gentlemen.
I don't even think it was premeditated on their part, it was just mob mentality really and they mistakenly thought I was up for a good time.
I got out of that one by putting my feet on the chest of the boy who pushed me down and launched him so hard and far off of me that he flew through the air (surprised myself with my own strength) .
Then I ran like the wind through the dark until I found a Thai family having a party.
I sat down among them and disappeared, much to their surprise and probably, chagrin.
The boys walked right past. They didn't see me.
I slept on a friend's porch that night, too scared to go home to my own place, so I guess I had some street smarts.
I think my protective angels were on the job.
When I list all those things now though, together in one place, it seems like a lot.
Despite that, no real harm ever came to me in all those years.
It was a puny price to pay for all the amazing experiences.
During that time, I slept in Jaguar reserves and visited outhouses with no doors and 360 views of the Belizian jungle.
I travelled on yachts through the Panama canal.
I swam in waterfalls and scuba dived and snorkelled.
I ate fresh mangos from a tree, sitting on a rock in the ocean under the mango tree; the sweetest mangos you ever tasted that would drip down your arm and into the sea. Eat as many as you want, they are free.
Picked passionfruit up off the ground in Hawaii, not knowing what they were but eating them anyways because anything that smells THAT good, MUST be edible.
$6 dinners of lobster caught just hours before your dinner and cooked by someone's abuelita on a wooden pier, eaten at a wooden table with a plastic chair.
I slept in hammocks under the stars, camping with surfers from around the world, sharing everything except ego: stories, food, surfboards, medical care, fires and kindness.
It was a beautiful time.
Most of that is beyond me now.
At almost 50, I crave comfort and luxury.
I find hardship pretty unappetizing when I travel now.
I book hotels in advance with air conditioning instead of showing up to a country unannounced to just see what happens when you do.
I take taxis from point A to point B when I could or should take the bus.
My appetite for adventure has significantly dipped down with age.
I don't take chances like I used to. I guess that's normal as you grow older.
I still do crave change though and get bored doing the same thing day in and day out. I find it soul crushing. But I find that change is harder to get used to now. Things are shifting.
Perhaps this is a reason to keep going new places. It's not the same thrill but it keeps the mind pried open enough so it doesn't get all musty and dusty in there.
Travel and let the wind blow through.
I used to LOVE to travel.
My love now, I would say, is a little more tempered, as many things do as you mature.
It is not that wild love of abandon it once was, but a more mature, sweet, soft and smouldering fondness now.