Why Do We Travel?
When you look at travel photos posted by friends on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram or Pinterest, everything looks so beautiful, joyous and fun.
Reality doesn’t quite work that way. In fact, travel travails often have you wondering why you even bother to leave home!
I had an early start. I was born in India, celebrated my 1st birthday in Australia, 2nd in New Zealand, 3rd and 4th in the U.S., then returned back home for my 5th.
Since then, I’ve taken plenty of trips to various places… but can’t say they’ve all been sheer bliss.
You lose sleep.
I mean, take our recent holiday in Europe. The flight was at 04:30 a.m. – which meant staying up all night to check in 3 hours ahead. Once you take off, the crew won’t let you doze off right away, serving food, then coffee and then some other stuff until an hour into your flight… and just when you’ve drifted off to Dreamland, it’s time to land for the transit in Doha, Qatar.
Trying to fight time zone differences, a new hotel environment, different weather conditions and the discomfort of being in unfamiliar circumstances in catching up on your Zzz’s can become quite a challenge.
Fortunately, being exhausted by the day’s sightseeing helps!
You don’t understand.
Visiting new countries, even where English is spoken widely, can get interesting. In Paris, one conversation went like this:
“Can you direct us to Sainte-Chapelle, please?”
He shrugged to indicate ignorance – and suddenly, his face brightened.
“Ah, Sen Sha-Pail!“
Then followed a rapidfire set of directions.
“Tourner à droite au bout de la rue et suivez la prochaine quai à la chapelle.”
I nodded vigorously, pretending to understand perfectly.
He turned away with a smile, and I turned to my wife:
“Enna sonnaan avan?” (What did he say?)
She shrugged her shoulders:
“I thought YOU understood!”
Well, we managed to find our way to the chapel, but yeah, not having the faintest clue what people are telling you, and being unable to communicate because folks don’t understand your accent, are really troublesome issues.
(These floor-to-ceiling stained glass windows are worth walking around half of Paris to see!)
Stained glass windows at Sainte-Chapelle
Single full panel of window at Sainte-Chapelle
Close-up of stained-glass window, Sainte-Chapelle
You take risks.
Sure, you booked your hotel room after carefully studying reviews on TripAdvisor.com and poring over photographs and online brochures.
But until you step through the door of your room, you don’t know for a fact what you’ll find.
We got lucky in Rome, with a lovely room at B&B A Touch and View of Rome, just a stone’s throw from the walls of Vatican City. This is how it looked…
But there have been some unpleasant surprises also!
At home, through repeated exposure, you get attuned to the ‘dangers of a city jungle’. Abroad, it’s hard to focus your antenna perfectly.
We had just come down from visiting the Sacre Couer and were in a souvenir shop when the Tamil-speaking shop owner from Pondicherry offered us this “helpful” advice:
“Keep your stuff safe. Pickpockets are everywhere in Paris. Especially women. Yesterday, an Indian tourist told me she lost 1,000 Euros.”
Ouch! A Euro is a little over 80 rupees.
Sacre Couer, Paris, France
He wasn’t finished.
“And don’t carry your camera like that in your hand. They’ll snatch it away and run!”
But then, just a few days back, a young girl almost succeeded in dipping into my wife’s handbag on the Rome metro, so maybe we should heed the words of caution…
You feel stupid. Often.
At a supermarket counter, you slide your debit card into the slot. Nothing happens.
The teenager behind the cash register gives an exaggerated sigh, reaches out, yanks out your card, turns it over and slips it in again – the right way.
This time, of course, it works!
You stand at the gates of the Metro railway, watching what others are doing. Because the last time you tried to push your travel card into the slot, it popped right back out.
Only after a few tries did you realize that you must tap it on the sensor.
But that was in Austria.
In Salzburg, Austria
In Paris, the ticket is gobbled up by the machine, and then spit out – from a slot on top. You’ve got to grab it – because at the exit, you’ll need it again to get out!
And did you know the elevator won’t go up – unless you hold your room’s digital key against the panel as you pressed the floor button?
Fact. My daughter pointed it out, when we found ourselves stuck on the same level for a full minute after I had selected our floor.
No matter how smart you think you are, travel will show you up as a dummy.
Louvre Museum, Paris, France
To my chagrin, a delightful little Pakistani girl saw me struggling with the remote control of the interactive menu to watch an in-flight movie.
“Uncle, usko dhabaw na” she recommended, pointing with her tiny index finger.
Yup! Worked like a charm.
It’s so bloody simple, even a 6 year old can operate it.
Then why, oh why, can’t a middle-aged heart surgeon?!
These are just some of the travails of globe-trotting.
No, not everyone suffers them all on every trip. But ask any frequent flyer and holiday-maker, and you’ll see them nod in agreement on at least a few.
Which brings us to the question…
Why travel at all?
The answer: Because there’s something on the flip side that makes it all worthwhile.
Travel Expands Your Mind – In A Way Nothing Else Can!
So pack your bags, book your tickets, hop on a plane – and go see the world!
It’s actually also a lot of fun!
View from Hohensalzburg, Salzburg, Austria