Travel can be a real pain in the ass.
First, there’s everything you have to do to prepare: get ahead on work, clean the house, pack, take care of the yard, arrange for house/pet sitters, alert your credit card companies, make sure you have all the proper paperwork like visas and copies of things like passports – and that’s just what I can think of off the top of my head.
Then, there’s the process of getting there. If you are traveling to the other side of the world it could take a couple of days. Your legs ache from 14-hour plane rides. You have a headache for three straight days. Your feet swell. You develop an unpleasant body odor, as does the guy sitting next to you. Your mouth starts to feel like a sewer.
Once you get there, you’re jet-lagged, you feel tired pretty much all the time from walking so much, your feet swell even more, your body sweats continuously in places that it has never sweat before. You worry you’re missing out on seeing something because you don’t have enough time, yet all you want to do is slow down so you can take it all in.
It’s stressful, and it makes you stinky. Well, it does that to me anyway. And sometimes shit happens like your luggage doesn’t arrive, you lose your credit card, or somebody gets really sick and you have to see a doctor who doesn’t speak English.
You come home to three weeks of unopened mail, bills piling up, more jet lag, needy pets, a yard that looks like a jungle, a smelly house, and work that needs to be attended to immediately if not before.
It’s stressful. It sounds awful. Why do we do it?
When we returned from our latest trip to western and Eastern Europe, a friend asked me, “What was the most memorable moment of your trip?”
No one ever put it to me that way before. Usually I get asked, “What was your favorite place?” or “What was the best thing you ate?” But the most memorable moment?
I didn’t even have to think about it. I knew exactly what it was.
It was the moment we got off the metro in Rome and headed up the stairs toward the street. It was crowded and I could just see over the heads of the travelers in front of me to the outside. Ancient ruins, blue sky and white, puffy clouds teased me. I actually turned to my husband and warned him, “I’m going to freak out in about ten seconds when we get outside.”
We emerged from the metro station and there it was: the Colosseum. I took four years of Latin in high school. My favorite part, always, was learning about ancient Roman culture. I’ve seen countless photos of the Colosseum, the Forum, and a host of other archaeological wonders. But always on paper. Never in real life. My parents didn’t have the money to send me on the yearly trip to Rome with Latin Club. Visiting was always a dream.
My heart quickened. I could barely contain my enthusiasm. I wanted to turn to the people around me and shout, “Look! You guys! It’s the fucking COLOSSEUM! It’s RIGHT THERE! OhmygodOhmygodOhmygod!!!” and dance a crazy little jig while thrusting my hands in its direction.
Lucky for my husband I kept a lid on such outward signs of ecstasy. (Okay, maybe I danced and shouted a little bit). But we stood there for a good hour so we could stare at it in disbelief. I mean, it was right there in front of me. For real. In real life. Holy cow.
So – that’s why I do it. I suffer through the general unpleasantness of foreign travel because of those moments. The ones that make your heart race and your mind explode. That give your enthusiasm and your spirit a big old kick in the pants. The ones that ignite your imagination and fill your well. It’s worth the swollen feet and smelly crotches and stinky armpits and weary legs and lost luggage and misplaced credit cards and all the preparation before and damage control after.
It’s worth it.
To have your heart burst open with the wonder of it all. To taste the magic of life, even for a brief moment. To feel connected to history and to feel a part of the world community. To have profound reverence for what has come before you and what will come after. To look around and realize how small your are, but how lucky you are. To be filled full up with gratitude.
What was your most memorable moment from your last trip?