After returning from a long trip (journey sounds a bit much, doesn’t it?), you realize that everything you brought has been in some way affected. More specifically, everything I brought with buttons no longer works. And so much more than that broke. My portable light? Gives light no more. My sunglasses? Askew. My favorite watch which hung on a necklace? Now a pocket watch. And the flashlight at the end of my umbrella? Not a flashlight anymore. Well, actually, I later lost that umbrella because I decided to put it on the outside of my backpack….so I guess the flashlight bit is irrelevant.
You get the point. Things, as in material objects, fall apart when we push them to their limits. As I reflect two weeks after returning, I really shouldn’t have expected what I brought to come back the same. And now’s the part where you expect me to launch into some metaphor about how I’ve changed. But I won’t. I’m not sure it would be fair, much less accurate, to wax poetic about my newfound whatever. Instead, I want to think about the way that I acted, spoke, was, while traveling, and how that can be found in non-travel life.
- The People
I consider myself very friendly. I crack jokes in lines to lighten the mood, and always enjoy meeting new people. On my recent trip, however, I was stranger-friendly. For example, when I would sit down after filling my cereal bowl at a hostel, I chose to sit near people I didn’t know to strike up a conversation. And then I would actively join or start a conversation with them. In other words, I didn’t worry about the fact that people might not want to talk to me. I just went up to others and assumed that we would want to get to know each other. That’s not the attitude I have in quotidian life. But I imagine I would meet some pretty awesome people if I did.
- Embracing the New
When I travel to a new place, I am undaunted by its newness precisely because I expect it. Any odd thing I encounter, then, seems appropriate because I assume it fits into this unknown context. So when I went to the bathroom in Thailand and saw no flusher, but only a bucket of water, I wasn’t shocked. I just filled the bucket with water and dumped it into the toilet (after doing my thing).* Easy, peasy, lemon squeezy. If I usually took this approach, I would not assume that something was out of place, but rather that I didn’t yet know its place.
- Don’t Sweat it
Too many annoying things happen when you travel to get upset. I fell asleep on a train in France, found out I was on the wrong train, and then got off at the first stop because I figured that was the best idea. But I walked a few meters from the station, and low and behold, I found a cheap hotel! I had a comfortable rest, woke up, and made it to my destination. I got there a little later than planned, and consequently only spent a few hours in Luxembourg City, but really, that was enough. The advantages of not getting angry in difficult situations are obvious. I’ve always thought I had this talent, but I know there’s room to improve. When the Wi-Fi stops working at my new sublet, it makes no sense to get mad. I knew that the Wi-Fi would either a) work or b) not work, so it seems silly to let its non-functioning ruin my day.
If life is travel, just go with it. Because the other option is that you miss meeting someone who also loves Hemingway, that you don’t find out how much like the ocean fresh oysters taste. And you certainly don’t use the time when your plane is delayed to journal about how much all of this has most certainly impacted you. So yeah, all my buttons broke. But this journey (see, now it’s appropriate) adds up to much more than the sum of its broken buttons.
* OK, I have to admit someone did warn me about this…but it had been months before and I temporarily forgot!