Writing Memoir

The unbridled joy of travel

departure-lounge
@ Suvarnabhumi Airport, Bangkok, 2014

 

You know you’re having an adventure when you wish you were safe at home in bed.

Travel is tiring. They never talk about the unglamorous bits: the waiting, the sweat-inducing delays, prepackaged foods, high airport prices, the discomfort, the bloating, and the thirst. Travel bloggers, books and TV series seem to forget to mention the shoebox seating and holding your bladder for so long that adult diapers suddenly seem like a brilliant idea.

Oh, no. It’s all about the destination, facebragging and the inconvenient journey is soon forgotten.

But what about the smells? Sometimes I think I have too sensitive a nose because no one else seems to notice that the turbulence has caused everyone’s lunch to find an emergency exit with repeated haste. Or that the passenger in 51B has incredible BO this early morn or that your traveling companion has the breath of ten dead dragons with gingivitis no matter how many Fisherman’s Friends you keep handing to her.

On the VIP bus from Chiang Rai to Chiang Mai I was perfectly sandwiched between the guy who took off his shoes and stretched his legs out so that his offending feet could be seen at head level and the older woman who had excitedly emptied the bottle of Giorgio perfume on to her body. No, I wasn’t going to die, but I realized that I was in a certain kind of prison that I tried to escape through loud music.

And can nothing be done about the airport air? I understand the sickening smell of exhaust and spicy public toilets is something we cannot escape, but what kind of air are they pumping through the airports? Because it smells – bad. It’s an unhappy smell.

Maybe this is because airports are filled with exhaustion. There is the walking, standing, sitting, the lack of sleep or too much. I watch children running around with envy because everything must seem so thrilling. And though I pack as little as possible, even the lightest bag becomes heavy after carrying it all morning, afternoon or night. The smallest purse starts to weigh heavily on your shoulder, digging its leather strap into your skin so that you start dragging your purse on the floor like a child’s blankie.

Then there is airport security which ironically does little to make me feel secure and a lot to make me feel that incompetence, insensitivity and wastefulness must be key job requirements. I’m sorry, but I have a hard time not laughing when they paw through grandma’s underwear looking for the next unabomber or give parents with little children the 3rd degree about carrying certain sizes of baby formulas or lotions before tossing them into the trash.

When I finally do reach my gate, I feel like I had to work for it, you know? Not like I’ve walked the gauntlet because that’s absurd, but like I’m being punished for the privilege of flying. I’ve never flown first class so I always look at the “Beautiful Orchid First Class Lounge for Special and Better People” with curiosity because ass-class (or steerage if you prefer) has the warmth and frills of a meat locker. But one day, I hope to fly first class or even business class which seems like the same thing, but with more ego room.

Until then, I’ll be one of the people on the plane waiting to leave the runway while someone runs furiously late to catch this flight.


What do you think about travel? Do you enjoy the journey whether it be by bus, boat or plane?

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30 thoughts on “The unbridled joy of travel

  1. Well said! I curse my bag as it weighs me down after what feels like I have walked 10K. Once we started traveling outside the US I find myself more relaxed and don’t feel like a criminal. I do like being around languages I can not understand because I can be in my own little world. Once I am around English I feel like someone is imposing on my solitude because I understand every word and I really don’t care what they are going on about!

    I was in a songtheaw the other day and an American couple got on about our age. She was speaking two languages at the same time… English and English Louder. She leaned over to her husband and said, “The lady sitting next to me is SO MATURE……She has those earrings with holes in them!”

    She was wearing about a million monk blessed strings on each wrist and they went about 4 inches up each arm. I bit my tongue, but wanted to tell her that she needed to have a different addiction, because clearly those weren’t working.

    Remember, Wherever you go, there you are! I sure am enjoying my own company these days and of course the company of my best friend, Mr. Hat! Thanks again for a great post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. The only time I’ve seen someone with all those little white string bracelets is when they got married. So maybe she just tied the knot? 😉

      And yes, I try to get “zen” and in the moment when I’m waiting or traveling, but this time around was a little more than I bargained for! It’s a good thing I had time and when I didn’t, more time was magically 😛 created!

      Happy holidays to you and Mr. Hat! xxoo

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  2. Brilliant post about the hassles of traveling. Very honest, I loved it. You’re not alone about smelling everything around you on your travels. Most days I can’t smell anything as allergies stuff up my nose. But when I travel to a new place, somehow my nose decides to wake up. On trains and buses, I can smell stinky, worn-out cushioned seats. On planes, it’s usually someone’s cologne, BO or if I’m sitting next to my mum, her Chinese medicated oil (the Kwan Loong brand variety). I’ve flown Business Class a number of times – the great things are the wider seats, better food and no rush for the toilet. But of course, less window seats available if you want to take photos of the world from above.

    You’re usually on your feet a lot when traveling, and eating irregular and fast-food kinds of meals makes you tired too (some of us already eat enough of that in a regular working week…). And jet lag. Oh, also, my shoulder feels exhausted after lugging around a sling bag on a regular full day out walking in Melbourne city 😀

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    1. I’m glad I’m not the only one. Sometimes I don’t want to hear about how wonderful travel is. I know it’s great and a privilege. Afterall, I don’t live in my passport country and haven’t for 5 years. So, I get it. But let’s also be honest about all the ways they make travel horrible and expensive.

      Specifically what comes to mind is when travel bloggers talk about how traveling is really not as expensive as you think. On the one hand, I agree, but on the other hand, there is definitely a financial barrier that prevents all people from greater comforts and ease.

      That said, Happy Christmas Mabel 🙂

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      1. I love how you admit travel is not all glitter and glam. Sometimes I see my friends travel all the time and I wonder, “How can they afford it?”. And I’m the penny-pincher kind. These days, it’s not uncommon for parents to fund their kids’ (Gen-Y) holiday trips.

        But with that said, each trip is memorable and comes with lessons. Happy holidays and chat soon, Lani 🙂

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      2. “Specifically what comes to mind is when travel bloggers talk about how traveling is really not as expensive as you think. On the one hand, I agree, but on the other hand, there is definitely a financial barrier that prevents all people from greater comforts and ease.”

        So true! I hate it when travel bloggers say it’s really not that expensive and ANYONE can do it if s/he only does this or that. I even commented before in one blog that I wish I could travel as much as the author but finances wouldn’t allow me and I got the anyone-can speech. Yes, anyone can, but not everyone, even if s/he follows the travel blogger’s tips. Reality is we all come from various places, having different jobs, living in various situations. How is it hard to understand that one’s dollar could be equal to around 50 pesos? Saying that you can’t travel as much is not pessimism. It’s being realistic and practical.

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      3. Agreed. I think these kinds of things can be rather insensitive without meaning to. To be honest, I often wonder how folks fund their RTW trips. I just met a teacher who said she sold her laptop so she could go to Costa Rica.

        And that reminded me of the time I sold my car to go to Ecuador.

        Lately, it seems, I have found those who are returning after their extended travel vacations, scrimping and saving until they can leave again. So, the reality stories are out there.

        But it’s tough when it feels like everyone is “richer” and “smarter” than you.

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  3. Thanks for a good laugh, especially as it is so true. Yip, travelling can be costly, especially if you want a smidgen of comfort. If I had more money, it would be business class all the way. 😉

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    1. Happy to hear that I made you laugh. I know I complained, but the alternative bus rides would have been worse! Happy holidays from T-land!

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      1. Thanks, Lani. I am spending a week on Lamu Island in Kenya with my husband and am loving it. Hope that 2015 will be a great year for you. Blogging, writing, teaching, and otherwise.

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  4. The worst things when traveling are really the air and the different smells. Often in airports and planes the air is just to stale and then the mixture of different smells from all the people around just give me the rest…
    The only airport with “normal” air I have been so far was helsinki airport but that is probably due to its small size and it is surrounded by nature.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Interesting. Yes, that reminds me Honolulu Airport is an outdoor airport because it’s Hawaii! I don’t know why I didn’t think about that. It’s just lovely to be outside and even the sounds don’t seem to be that bad either. Of course, the gates are not outside, but those are a nice break from the humidity. Cheers.

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  5. Hey Lani I travel like I drive my car/ I like to arrive early/ bring what will get me through the day/ and get curious about other people/ I had an 18 hour delay Saturday traveling to Dad in Dallas from Hawaii and at one point I just started to laugh / my sister was traveling with me and her anxiety about making her next flight to Michigan to be with her daughter who is due to have her first grand baby was palpable. So I became the calm for most of the journey.

    She did make her next flight(barely) and I made it to Dads. The best part of traveling for me is coming home …as then I feel a deep sigh of relief that I am no longer flying on a mechanical bird and can truly rest.

    My husband worked for American 30 years so I get flight passes/ occasionally first class which does help/ yet it still takes 8 hours to get to Dallas and generally very exhausting/ I do have gratitude for flight passes, as in your case/ family trips would be very expensive.

    After all that I am Glad to be with Dad as he would have been alone at the holidays!
    Sending you much love at this holiday time, along with no more BO or stinky feet! Heart to Heart Robyn

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    1. “The best part of traveling for me is coming home” – agree! I always say that I enjoy seeing new things and places, but it’s the getting there that drives me mad.

      When I was traveling with my mom this time around, I was very much aware of how angry I was getting with the delayed flight and then the turn around on the runway because of some technical problem – oh, and then the wait while they fixed it.

      I had to tell myself that spending time with my mom was the most important part of the vacation and that missing our connecting flight was just something that was inevitable and that we’d figure it out.

      What was interesting was just the simple fact of standing up and listening to the conversations of the passengers and the man-in-charge by the plane door, as oppose to just sitting in my seat, did a lot for my sanity.

      I miss driving! Sending you much love and light, too.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Me too! I miss driving to other States that is! Yet when I come to Texas I drive plenty and fast. Maybe we are so used to being on schedule with our work, it makes delays that much more difficult as I have a set schedule I never really deviate from. Just a thought that came to me? I think if I interact with others or just listen in ,time goes faster Much love Lani So happy that I have met you in the awesome blogging world! Robyn

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      2. Thank you, what a lovely thing to say. I really do enjoy building relationships via blogs. I feel like I know bloggers better than some of my friends!

        Liked by 1 person

  6. I have felt and smelled all the things you have mentioned while traveling. Your words make my memories flow unbridled… Which is not entirely pleasant. Hahaha.
    We have had so many travel days in the last two years and each time they start with excitement and end with exhaustion. I am always glad to be in a regular bed at night (whether it is mine own or a hotel).

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  7. Beautifully written, Lani 🙂 I know too well the exhaustion of a traveler… and often put myself into avoidable situations that would’ve been better for me. Which makes for good stories 😉 I dream of one day experience first class, especially on a long flight… like…. AUSTRALIA! or something.

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    1. Thanks. And yes, first class on a long flight. Not a short one! Gah! Good to be specific with the wishes. I’ve gotten in trouble with that one before.

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  8. Its unfortunate, I love “traveling” — that is going to different and exotic locales, but the actual process of traveling (for me at LAX) is always a horrible experience. I remember that when I was traveling as a child it was a glamorous experience. There was actually a service element to it and passengers were allowed to go up to the gate with their families. Nowadays it just makes the most sense for me to get dropped off at the curb.

    One pet peeve is when you check in at the ticket gate and then they make you carry your luggage to the other side of the room to go through the scanning machine. It’s bad when I start to think that getting to keep my shoes on in the TSA Pre line is a luxury

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  9. A long plane ride in North America is enough but probably not as unpredictable/uncomfortable as certain forms of transportation in Asia or Africa in certain areas.

    I prefer a train ride over a bus but North America does not offer an extensive train system across the continent.

    As for packing, it only becomes a hassle when packing for temperate, rainy and wintery weather which I’ve had to do for this latest trip. Wearing lined winter boots in Vancouver is overkill since it rarely snows but then I have to be prepared for snow and very cold winter temperatures when returning to the prairies.

    I don’t pack a lot of stuff and have become very efficient and spare compared to..many other people who can’t believe that I can travel in a carry on luggage size for 3 wk. vacation trip. Of course, living a cycling life helps a lot.

    Smells such as smoke and perfume drive me abit nuts in enclosed area. Thank god there are restrictions in certain countries.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We had an unusual cold snap that carried over to Isaan (Eastern Thailand). This is normally a hot place and so I didn’t pack very well, but I always bring one jacket when traveling because airplanes, buses and trains are sooooo cold.

      I agree, packing for climates and anticipated climate changes are really the worst. The good thing about Asia is the sidewalks are so bad that they force me to carry a school-size backpack and never a rolling suitcase. So I always carry things on my back for quick transfers and mobility.

      Although when I’m waiting at the airport, I look with envy over that those who have the rolling suitcases. It’s just not practical here unless you go from car to airport. I’ve watched too many people struggle with their suitcases and end up walking on the street because they have no other choice.

      Travel!

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  10. Screaming babies, odd smells and snoring seat mates really don’t bug me much. For me the biggest hassle of air travel now is seat assignment. The distance between rows is getting shorter and shorter and I’m 6’4″. For any flight over two hours, if I can’t be guaranteed an aisle seat, I just won’t go.

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    1. Yeah, my stepfather is as tall as you and he flies first class or business because his stature demands it. I prefer the aisle because I like to get up frequently. I actually hate the window seat. I feel trapped and I get woosy staring out the window.

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  11. I love this post! Finally, sometime writes about what travel is REALLY like! Long hours on the bus, suffering in the airports, and funky smells! I think all of the years of uncomfortable flights, delays, and long hours spent in the airport have honed my patience.

    Where are you traveling by the way?!

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    1. I just went to Issan (Northeastern Thailand). I’m going to write about it later. It’s not very far as flying goes, but man, were we in the delay-time bubble! I think that is why I wrote about it. I was reminded of all the reasons why I don’t like to travel and started thinking about all those other times. I’m waiting for the Star Trek transporter to come out… 😛

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  12. Ugh, yes. I so loathe the act of traveling. Cramped seats, long delays, the pushing, dragging my luggage around, running with it when you have to make a tight connection, the security checks, etc.

    I got randomly bumped up to first class on an international flight once and it was glorious. So glorious that I just felt like more of a commoner since I had no idea what to do to make the chair extend in to a bed-like contraption.

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  13. But it’s tough when it feels like everyone is “richer”

    It sure is. The last two years were especially hard after my parents passed away. It was like a domino-effect. My finances were so affected by what happened that it is only just now that things are kind of getting better a liiitttle bit. My officemates kept visiting places and I couldn’t go mainly because even if they got promo fares, etcetera, my finances just could not handle it, so to speak. I mean, unless you get an all-expenses paid travel opportunity, you will have to shell out money. I didn’t want to go “carpe diem!” then not have anything to eat when I got back.

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