This is not a cute snapshot of me napping in one of my backpacking adventures.
Instead, it was a photo of me in a complete state of helplessness after being seasick for an hour, crossing a strait in a tiny rickety wooden boat, topped with another hour of being carsick to get to an eatery from the harbor. By the end of those two hours, my hands were cold, my lips were bluish, and my legs have become so weak from crouching in a fetal position that I had no option but to lay myself down the first bench I saw after exiting the cab. As Twosocks mercilessly snapped the shutter, I kept thinking that from then on I need to stop acting crazy and swear off traveling.
Come to think of it, this was not the only time I reprimand myself in such a way. Traveling makes me sick, literally. I had to be content with napping on the beach in Limassol and spraying my throat every 10 minutes while my friends toured Cyprus’ mountainous villages and went wine tasting. I dealt with the panic of having six doctors surrounding me and yelling in Italian when I was sent to an emergency in room in Rome due to a severe allergy reaction (to bedbugs and not fragola, apparently. Thank goodness.). Motion sickness is a leech I cannot shake off: I’ve been sick in the bus, car, boat, ship, bathtub…
Even when you are lucky enough to be free from all the sickness, there is the dealing with extortion bit, like that time when a train conductor in Cefalu tried to fine me and my friends for failing to punch in our ticket before hopping into the train even when he was waiting at the platform next to us before the departure. There is also the part when you are chastised for not speaking the local language, which happened to me in Madrid’s biggest train station and anytime I was in Central Java for more than three days. The worst is perhaps when your stuffs go missing/are stolen, like when I lost over 10,000 rupees for no reason in Bangalore. Hm, maybe not so. The worst is when you had to face humiliation, like being the only one wearing a lifejacket in an open-sea-snorkeling trip in the Gilis – and the only Asian in the boat, too!
Traveling is not glamorous and all fun. It is full of inconveniences. That, my friend, is the truth about traveling.
Now back to that bench. As I braced myself for another taxi ride to the airport, I started to think that I may not be cut out for traveling. On top of everything, I am also accident prone – so much that the following things have fallen on top of my head for no good reason: a cactus, a ceramic tile, and a metal bike handle. Obviously, I don’t handle traveling as well as Twosocks, for instance, who was cheerfully chatting with the cab driver while I was hugging the front seat to redeem my nausea. Should I finally give up on traveling?
Suddenly my ears perked up. The driver was telling us about Gili Nanggu, a tiny less known island on the other side of Lombok with friendly fishes sands so soft it’s like stepping on white flour. Without thinking, I turned to Twosocks and said, “Next destination?”
I was taken aback by my own sudden change of heart. And that’s when it hit me – time heals my traveling pains pretty fast. By the time I am back, I am left with amazing photos, stories, and memories where the annoying parts cease to matter. After some time, the most painful events will be the ones I remember the most and joke about with my friends – like that time when we almost froze in Brussels Zuid’s train station or when we almost died in Lisbon. Traveling has its pains, but perhaps that’s also a reason why I keep doing it: to challenge my own limits. Maybe I am cut out for traveling after all. Maybe it’s not a matter of being lucky enough to escape all the hassles, maybe it’s more about still wanting to run to the next destination even when you were so beaten up by the inconveniences traveling throws your way.
And that my friend, is the truth about travelers.
Jakarta, 7 February 2010
Happy New Year, Dusty readers. I’m back!