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Posts Tagged ‘why travel’

So, I was having a bit of a think the other day. I know, that doesn’t happen often.

Somewhere in Lima. It's amazing how the mind lets one down after only a few years.

I was trying to figure out where this need to travel comes from and when I first realized how awesome it is. I don’t know if you’ve noticed or not, but I’m slightly obsessed with it.  But I haven’t always been like this.  Indeed, I was once a small child with an affinity for road trips and no inkling that a few short years later I would be addicted to something outside my power to control.

I think it must have been Peru. More specifically, it was when a llama decided to chase us on Machu Picchu. (Macchu Pichu? I can never remember.)

I know what you’re thinking. What did I do to that poor llama? Nothing. He came out of nowhere like an avenging angel with a spitting problem and lunged toward us with destruction written in his bugged-out eyes.  We had no choice but to run and hope we didn’t fall off the side of the mountain, a thing which is easier to do than you might imagine.

What was I doing in Peru? It was my very first trip out of the country as a wee tenth grader on a school trip.  There were tour buses, there was bottled water and jungle cabins and a scenic train and ruins and cathedrals. My god were there cathedrals.  Our tour guides just could not get enough of cathedrals.  It was a guided “educational” trip which meant they wouldn’t let us try the Inca beer, which looked slightly like a milkshake and probably like it could kill you. I believe it was made out of corn and Incan spit.

Now I don’t remember fact one about the cathedrals or most of the ruins. (Hint to tour guide operators: no one can enjoy that kind of thing for ten hours a day, every day.)

What I do remember is getting chased by a llama off the side of a mountain.  And bargaining with people in the markets for a llama-hair blanket and finger puppets of llamas.  You may notice a certain llama theme here. This is because we were in Peru, whose main exports are llamas and Inca-themed merchandise.

I think back now to the moment I stepped off the plane into the violently yellow Cusco airport.  First of all it was the longest plane ride I’d ever taken so that was exciting, because there was a full travel story in itself on how long and awful it was to be cooped up in a metal box for five hours. Yes, five whole hours.  You can see I had never considered going to Australia at that point in my life.

Forgive me this next part.  I was expecting something rather more third-worldly here.  Other than being intensely yellow, having a propensity for peeling plaster, and a noticeable lack of air-con, the airport was certainly an improvement over certain third-world airports, ones like Chicago O’Hare.

My timid classmates, our chaperone, and I were found by the tour guide and we were shuffled hastily on to a bus complete with curtains in the windows, air-con, and bottled water.  The height of luxury. You must understand that at this point I, coming from a small town in Northern Michigan, had never experienced anything like as advanced as public transportation, international airports, currency exchanges, or malaria pills.

When the hotel we were taken to had open windows on the seventh floor – one careless slip and you’re gone for good – I thought that was a pretty Notable Event.

Anyways I got over it.

But on that guided, air-conditioned, educational trip, I learned several important things.  First, that I never wanted to give my money to tour operators again.  Second, that the world wasn’t, in fact, a terrifyingly disease- and crime- infested place and was in fact Pretty Cool. And third, I learned holyshitIlovethisandthisandIwantogoeverywhererightnow.

So while I still cringe at the amount of money I had to pay for eight days being dragged around every historical site in Peru, that trip was the spark that fueled this traveling obsession and I wouldn’t change a thing.

It’s been over two months since I’ve been anywhere and I’m getting the withdrawal shakes: not being able to sleep at night, compulsively budgeting money I don’t even have yet, checking skyscanner on a daily basis, and finding myself on travel websites with no memory of how I got there.  This is going to be a long summer.

You know, I do wonder what I would be doing today if I hadn’t gone to Peru.  I almost cancelled for the stellar reasons that most of my friends weren’t going, it was expensive, and it was rather intimidating. Would I be sitting in a university somewhere wondering why I felt so dissatisfied with life? Or would something else have happened to help me realize how awesome getting in a flying tin can and hurtling to strange destinations full of malaria and yellow fever can be?

On a slightly related note, I’ve decided to learn French.  I made a good effort to learn Hungarian but without an actual speaker here to help me out I just can’t get the pronunciation.  It’s too difficult to try and learn from my limited resources.

But French, French is a piece of cake compared to Hungarian. It’s just like Spanish with a few extra sounds.  You say cafe au lait instead of cafe con leche.  Big deal.  In any case, I can get coffee almost anywhere.

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