|The Glitter Globe by S.R. Karfelt|
Travel has romantic connotations it doesn't deserve.
In some ways it's like marriage. It's great, but you work for results and there is pain involved.
In that way travel and marriage are like a fitness plan too. You pay for shortcuts and bad choices.
This morning Microsoft put a lovely green hillside covered in steppes on my screen. I took the click-bait and asked for more information. Where was this lovely place? Vietnam.
Now I grew up seeing movies and soldiers from Vietnam. Never once did I think hey, I wanna go there! But the war is long over and it's a gorgeous country. If I do someday go, I'll bet that the insects are brutal and the rain miserable—not to mention the flights and getting around.
But the photos would be epic!
Travel photos lie so hard. You'll see the Alamo without seeing San Antonio is crowded right up to the walls. You see the perfectly centered Colosseum without seeing the traffic or the masses of tourists melting in brutal Roman heat—not to mention the pickpockets. You'll see the Parthenon without seeing it took me three hours lost with google maps (or the cost of my phone bill for all my data usage), as I slipped and slid over smooth-as-ice ancient marble walkways to get there. You also won't see that the wind on top the Acropolis blew so hard that my dress flew up around my ears. Mind you nobody should see that, but it probably made a show on somebody's Snapchat somewhere.
Pictures might show you a thousand words, but there are a billion words you're not seeing.
We see pictures from other people's trips without seeing that their seven day trip included 1.5 days of travel-heck each way. Not first-class private plane travel like in the movies. It's usually the flying equivalent of sitting on a seat of nails inside a chicken bus next to hygiene-impaired travelers who want to talk politics.
You don't see the traveler's credit card bill after they get home. You don't see if they ended up having to buy another ticket to fly home because weather cancellation wasn't covered by the crappy trip insurance they bought.
Looking at travel photos we don't see that the traveler got dust-induced bronchitis or some version of what they so elegantly call that travel stomach ailment in Egypt—Pharaoh's Revenge. Don't drink the water is an excellent warning, but it's like trying not to get a contact high during a Motley Crue concert. Sooner or later you have to inhale. Sooner or later the water and bacteria in your environment will infiltrate that sack of water and protein that constitutes your body.
Travelers rarely take photos of the ugly bits!
Who wants to remember the bad stuff? Maybe that's the secret to success in travel, marriage, and life. Embrace the beauty. It's something I try to do.
That time the flight got cancelled and the airline put me into a concrete room with shutters opening onto an alley freaked me out. There was no glass. I could see feet walking by at one in the morning. Shoot, I could have reached out and grabbed an ankle. Likewise they could have slipped inside my room. People would have seen them, but they could said my solo-travel-mind.
It took me an hour or two to realize the alley was dotted with many rooms like mine. The night air kept the old rooms cool in the hot climate with no air-conditioning. Come morning I woke to sunshine and flowers draping the windowsill. The feet never stopped.
In the end it became a good memory, but you never know how things will turn out. It's a fact when you travel, but it's a fact in life. The secret about travel is a secret about life in general. You find the joy by setting your sights on being positive. You roll with it. You plan the best you can and endure or embrace the changes that come your way.
Travel does change you. But so does life. The thing is, a pretty picture of your trip or your life isn't the part that changes you. It's the squat toilets that change you. It's finding the inner strength to keep walking. It's getting lost and finding your way that changes you. It's when you choose to remember the beautiful parts and that you got yourself there that makes travel wonderful.
This picture is me manning the rudder of a faluka going down the Nile in Egypt. That trip was magic. I fell madly in love with the place. I also had Pharoah's Revenge a couple of times. Breathed dust for three weeks. Had severe culture shock. The traffic scared the living shite out of me. So did all the heavily armed police at first. Couldn't walk outside without getting swarmed by strange men. That last bit probably sounds way better than it is. It was a growing experience. I can't wait to go back.
This trip, the one I'm heading out on now, is going to involve a concert to see The Struts at last and glamping. They tell me glamping is glamorous camping. Experience has taught me that camping is always painful, but I'll bet I get some excellent photos.