To Stress or Not to Stress: A Tryst with the Unknown.
That’s how I feel.
No, not in a 3-days-post-bikini-wax kind of way.
No, not in an I-went-to-Hawaii-and-forgot-to-wear-sunscreen-and-all-I-got-were-these-billions-of-dead-peeling-skin-cells kind of way.
And no, not in an I-slept-in-a-questionable-motel-last-night-and-neglected-to-check-the-mattress kind of way.
Maybe that’s a better word to describe it.
And while last week I rambled on about the camaraderie of backpacks, I’m realizing more and more that I don’t really care how I travel, just as long as I get to travel. It’s simply easier for me to romanticize backpacking when imagining or re-living exotic trips abroad — the implied gritty, grungy, down-in-the-dirt feeling that stems from steering clear of the relative comfort of plush hotels, room service cards, and pre-packaged experiences. To leave the sanctity of the hotel restaurant and buy empanadas from a man behind a chicken wire screen, or better, to devour fried platanos from the tiny kitchen of a generous resident. To experience that uncomfortable feeling of riding on a rickety bus with the locals, knowing I’m noticeably different.
It’s humbling. And probably something everyone should experience at least once in her life. Like waiting tables.
There’s something in this world about feeling pampered. Or, if not pampered, at least safe. Clean. Looked after. And that kind of travel can be equally wonderful. Where my clothes emerge relatively wrinkle-free from a shallow suitcase and hang in a closet for the duration of a trip. Where if one thing gets wet, everything else doesn’t smell like mildew for weeks on end. Where my burden-free back is left free to stretch and bend and soak in the rays of the sun.
Nope. That’s not so bad. As long as I make it a true point to discover a place — to see more than what a single company or business would have me see — I feel like it’s a trip well-spent.
Take, for example, our honeymoon in St. Lucia back in 2006. It was an excellent balance of hotel pampering mixed with our own adventures:
Luxurious honeymoon suite.
Crazy and scenic cab rides to fancy, schmancy restaurants.
Make-you-wanna-cry views over frozen cocktails.
Tourist food — delicious!
Tourist coconut — more delicious!
Typical street food — MOST delicious.
Travel friends whose names you soon forget.
Locals you know you’ll never forget.
Vacation debauchery and shirts you wish you could forget.
I think the thing that burdens people the most about travel — why some return home feeling the need for a vacation when, in fact, that’s where they’ve been for the last 2 weeks, is because they spend their precious time pressuring it — twisting it and molding it and expecting it to be all of these things that, in reality, it might not want to be.
A tryst with the Unknown is, I imagine, like raising a child. You can want it to grow up to be a doctor. A lawyer. Just like you. Better than you. But you’re setting yourself up for some serious disappointment if you think you can control another soul. If you think you can arrange its life just-so, with the right upbringing, the right education, the perfect amount of discipline and fun time and family time. Because there are always outside influences you can’t predict. Things that will poke and prod and interfere with your project. Things that will influence its way of thinking and growing. Things that could even make it better, if you’d only let them.
So in the end, you have a choice: You can drive yourself crazy trying to steer and constrain, or you can simply set the gears in motion, nurture as best you can, and see what happens.
A trip is like that. It’s not a crafty DIY project you assemble in your garage — it’s a life experience intended simply to be experienced.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t plan. You should always know ways you might get from point A to point B. But you should also be flexible enough to change those plans should a new opportunity arise. This simple shift in thought can mean the difference between a stressed-out, tension-inducing, jaw-clenching whirlwind of befuddlement and a carefree good time.
I’ve quoted them before, and I’ll quote them again:
If you don’t expect too much from me, you might not be let down.
The Unknown is scary.
But, if we’re really honest with ourselves, that’s what makes it so damn fun.