Getting used to traveling

One of a few ‘David Attenborough’ moments on our trip.

One of the best things about traveling is going to new places, seeing new things, eating new food, and meeting new people. Newness at its purest form – a landscape and culture a bit, a lot, or completely different from home. This is exciting and your synapses are firing at full speed, making memories and slowing time down as every new thing comes along. Enjoying it takes some doing though. It certainly wasn’t as amazing as advertised on travel blogs, and I went through a deal of personal change before really getting the most out of it.

Display for Día de los Muertos, Mexico City.

It comes down to two factors. The first is simple and in my mind required : getting used to the consequences of traveling. On the road, where the language is hard to understand and the maps are unfamiliar, there’s an extra level of perceived danger or discomfort with every negative event. Is the sky pouring buckets? It’s worse now because all of your worldly belongings, including the clothes you have to sleep in on the bus tonight, are going to get soaked. Has the last bus home already left? It’s scarier (or so it feels) because there’s no taxi to take you home, your friend can’t come by to pick you up, and there’s no bus schedule anywhere. (Side-note : there usually is a taxi but it’s often very expensive, hard to contact, and harder to communicate with.)

Early on in our trip – what have I gotten myself into.

I think many people have experience dealing with this added layer of uncertainty and anxiety. I certainly did not, and it took a long while on the road to learn to relax. Eventually I had to relax, for my own sake and for Natalie’s, but it took effort and experience. Missing the bus a few times taught me that it’s ok – there will be another way onward tomorrow, or we can always sleep where we are. Getting soaked (a particular peeve of mine) got much less frustrating the third time around. Practicing being positive and reacting less negatively changed my outlook on uncertainty and mishap entirely.

There’s always another bus. Except when there isn’t. It’s ok though, plans change.

The second factor I think is more nuanced. It’s an appreciation of novelty. Where getting accustomed to discomfort brings the experience up from miserable to normal, learning to appreciate the new around you opens up the whole enjoyment of traveling. It took some time to embrace the experience of going somewhere far and unknown and hard to get to, just like learning to enjoy bitter beer or coffee.

Sunsets are great practice – they’re almost universally great.

People are in general hard-wired to seek out novelty. Unfortunately, with modern life’s focus on routine and (often) drudgery, it’s easy to lose the taste for new experiences. Luckily, it does come back. And once it does, it becomes addicting in the best way possible. Arriving in a new city becomes less scary and more an opportunity to seek out things you haven’t seen before. Far flung adventures loom less and invoke more excited anticipation. Everything about travel comes with less resistance, because now you’re calm enough to focus on the good things. It took me personally well into Russia to fully open up, but every step along the way was easier and more rewarding than the last.

The rewards are worth it. Especially the food.

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