Travel wisdom is much like a selfie stick – it’s omnipresent and occasionally unnerving. It prods you using fantastical language and an Olympic-games-like motto: Run; jump; fly; live, don’t exist; your greatest education is your journey.
While all of this undeniably true, a traveled life, much like an untraveled one, is prone to its moments of ‘”Meh.”
Amidst the spontaneity, the adventure, the leaping and the jumping, there’s a feeling of nothingness. Those feelings are rarely romanticized – you do not see them printed in whimsical typography over pictures of empty roads or dandelions.
But it’s the crest that makes the trough. The perceived notion of how we should travel often excludes those in-between moments of withdrawal, exhaustion, and downright laziness. It happens to the most spirited travelers, and it’s just as much a part of the process.
But my bed is so beautiful!
Your bags are packed. Your airport clothes lay over the ironing board. Your bookmarked travel guide rests in the most pristine form you’ll ever see it. You can hardly wait.
But somewhere between 10 PM and your unearthly 5 AM flight, the excitement fizzles. And in precisely that moment of vulnerability, you’re seduced by foam and cotton. It calls out to you with grand promises of buoyancy and warmth.
So what if you’ve planned this trip for eight months! Can’t a person just get some sleep?
Morocco will be magical, but YOUR BED IS SO FLUFFY. Your bed comes as advertised; You don’t have to sit through the horror of flipping your blanket to find a curious stain or spend an entire night pondering over the source of a single strand of hair that is too long to belong to you.
You could wax eloquent about your bedding right about now:
Ye pillow, so fluffy like a cloud,
Ye warmth comparable to triple-layering in a snowstorm.
Ye bring me as much joy as free wings with a side order.
Ye are all my heart will ever need.
Your bed is everything traditional travel wisdom runs from. It probably seems like the antithesis of the adventure that awaits you.
But the feeling of not wanting to leave is not unusual. If I had air miles for every last minute withdrawal I’ve ever had, I’d be flying from Abu Dhabi to Sydney first-class for the rest of my life. I’ve come to understand that this feeling is temporary and dissipates when you realise that the other side of the world comes bearing many fruits. Free food with your one-Euro drink? (Andalusia, I’m talking to you!) I’ll take that.
Can I have some fast food now?
It’s Day 30. You’ve ploughed through local markets and feasted on innumerable delicacies. You are an expert on Mediterranean cold soups. You chuckle lightly as the one-day-old tourist mispronounces “prosciutto.”
But your resistance begins to peter, and that familiar yellow arc calls out to you. The heart wants what it wants, and sometimes the heart wants a supremely processed, eight-piece nugget combo and super-sized fries. Sometimes it wants a cheeseburger. Sometimes it will make you take three buses to get to the only Indian restaurant in Kyoto.
Do not be ashamed: All of us have our moments of gastronomical downfall.
Why would you travel 5,000 miles to eat something you could find in your own backyard? Because familiarity is comforting. It doesn’t dilute your experience. In fact, it often enhances it.
Remember Lady and the Tramp 2? No, probably not. What about Lion King 4? Not that one either?
That’s because they were pretty bad movies. While sequels can give you a bite of something you know, they also remind you how awesome the originals were. So gorge on that double cheese steak; it’s the epicurean equivalent of bumping into an old friend from your high school in a remote part of the world . Everybody needs an old friend.
Ummm, it has how many steps?
It was a 16th-century fortress. I had seen over a dozen forts in Rajasthan. This one stood tall amidst a dry, parched, and unforgiving landscape. There were no clouds, just the sun and the earth.
I had a puddle the size of a lake above my lip, and my clothes were drenched like a marathoner. I had walked less than a mile.
A gatekeeper motioned towards the sky. “The best views are on the top of fort,” he said. My heart broke a little.
Hoards of school children climbed up the winding road that led to the watchtower. I was exhausted and dreamt about lodging myself in a meat freezer. Never a good sign.
After a self-imposed guilt trip, I surrendered; I decided not to make the ascent. Soon after, an 80-year-old grandma waltzed up the road, wielding her walker like a warrior princess.
Grandma rubs it in, but I was not fazed. I stuck to the sup-par view and sipped a cool drink under a sheltered snack shop. You win some, you lose some.
While I’m a strong advocate for Team Push Yourself, I’m an equally strong supporter of Team Push Yourself to the Nearest Cool Spot.
Some days you’re that girl who treks up the lonely hill to witness a tamarind sunset as the wind blows through your tousled hair. Sometimes,you’ll endure sub-zero temperatures for a three-second shot at a photograph. But occasionally, you’ll just want to order room service and watch a Bulgarian family drama (sans subtitles) as a bustling city thrives around you.
At these times there is just one thing you need to remember:You are not Google maps; you cannot see everything.