Monday, 27 June 2016

On the road

 It has been some time since I wrote the last post and the reason was, to tell the truth, that I was quite tired from traveling. So many impressions were still to be processed, and after Quito the main plan was to get to Bogota in time to pick up my friend at the airport, so the things I saw inbetween felt more like occupational therapy, even if they were beautiful, and less like the kind of adventure I am seeking when traveling. I did visit Otavalo with many lakes and waterfalls in the surrounding area, the Santuario de las Layas in Ipiales and Popayan which is also known as the white city.

At some point, at an 8-hour-bustrip through the mountains, when I just ate one piece of bread the whole day and felt like starving, I really started questioning why am I doing all this. What I mean is, I actually pay money for going out, not knowing where to sleep next night, where to eat the next meal which might lead to experiencing the worst hunger in a long time, for sitting in uncomfortable busses, sleeping in uncomfortable beds with lots of background noise, carrying the heaviest backpack you can imagine and having your arms ache everytime after you have to pick it up. For experiencing one of the worst sunburns and the worst muscle aches in your life, feeling like your legs are about to give in while climbing up a mountain higher than you have ever been, meeting dangerous animals in the wild, having to deal with the trouble of missing your flight, losing or breaking your stuff you really grew fond of, feeling your lips rip painfully from the dry climate on the mountains. For having sand everywhere in your stuff, needing to shower cold even while freezing because hot water is not available, eating things you really don't want to eat just because you are hungry, having to puke on the boat, feeling sick a whole busride because of the bad shape of the street, missing your dearest ones, sleeping in the same room with one of the animals you fear the most (which would be a big hairy spider for me) and in general having to deal with problems you never needed to face before.

I could go on endless with the list of downsides of traveling. So the question is: Why are there so many travelers that actually still enjoy traveling? Isn't that somehow crazy? And obviously I am one of those crazy people, because I am already looking forward to continue traveling with my friend that I am picking up from the airport in Bogota tomorrow!

I guess the answer is different for everyone, but for me one big part is the feeling of accomplishment. When getting into a difficult situation and managing to get out of it easily makes me feel proud of the solution, content with myself and happy with the accomplishment. This goes as far as when it gets too easy, I start looking for challenges. Like when I arrived at Quilotoa Laguna, the bus dropped me off almost at the top of the lagoon, so I could go there, take my pictures and be gone within half an hour if I had wanted to. But this was just too easy. So, to tell the truth, I had really no choice about going down to the seashore even if I knew it would be a hard climb up again. Because I always feel like I have to earn the right to tell "I was there".

Second, of course, are the amazing experiences one can make when abandoning his comfort zone. Like the one time I had to get over my fear of crabs to watch the penguin diving for food - totally worth it! And if you just get over yourself and start talking you might meet really great people, of if you just try to eat something new, you might be surprised how great it might taste. This is one of the reasons I abandoned my travel guide and started doing just what people recommended me to do. Especially in a culture where people are so open about getting in contact with you, you would be stupid not to profit from it. And if you don't take some new paths sometimes you will always be bored and won't feel like accomplishing anything which takes me back to what I already wrote above. Really, one of my greatest fears is to end up rotting at home.

And of course, if you keep your eye open, you will find the most stunning views you would have never imagined to experience. This is especially important for me because I am really a visual kind of person, therefore almost nothing gives me more joy than something great I can look at (the smell is quite important for me as well). For some reason, especially seeing water somehow beautifully arranged, like on a waterfall or at a nice lake is one of the most beautiful things I can imagine and when I am tired I just need some view of water to get some new energy.

In the end. traveling makes you feel like understanding the world better. It gives you perspective on your own troubles that mostly are really not that important. I mean okay I might be hungry today but the old lady on the street is probably hungry every day. And my arms might hurt from carrying my stuff, but there are people that have no stuff. So, another positive aspect is getting grateful for really simple things. I still don't know how I will be able to keep it up when back in Austria, but I do think it would be healthy for everybody to experience such a trip at least once in their life just to be more grateful and less embittered of the world. And for my really bad hunger on the busride when my stomach already felt like digesting itself, it got resolved by some street sellers that sold me potato chips on the next busstop - probably the potato chips I was most grateful for in my whole life.

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