While there is not a trip I’ve taken that I regret taking, the truth is travel is not always fun and it is not always easy. Sometimes it forces us to face our fears and learn how to overcome, or at least temporarily manage them, to get by. Here are some examples.
On a trip to visit several very remote islands in the mid-Pacific, we utilized a small boat, characterized by one of our group as the slowest, most unstable boat in the Pacific. I was seasick for the entire three weeks, only feeling better during our brief stops at islands along the way. Halfway through the trip I dreamed I was suddenly home again, comfortable and enjoying a fresh ice-cold glass of water. When awakening to find myself still sick and being rocked around in the oppressively hot stuffy air of my bunk my first thought was I’m still on the boat and I have not missed the chance to visit the Phoenix Islands and Howland. Thank goodness all this misery would not be for nothing! That trip taught me a lot about what to do and not do to cope with sea sickness and manage its effects that has been useful on subsequent sea journeys.
Sometimes travel, especially to tropical places, involves dealing with bugs and spiders including varieties I had hoped to never encounter in person. When in Majuro I booked two days to stay alone on the tiny Three Bag Island on the far side of the atoll. In the shell of the building in which I would be staying were some REALLY large spider webs with spiders of proportionate size inhabiting them. With the expectation that they would be removed when I pointed them out, the response from the man showing me around the island instead was, “Don’t worry—they aren’t poisonous.” In the end though I adjusted to sharing quarters with the island spiders. Several times a day I made rounds to check on them and they all stayed in their webs working to control the insect population of the island. It also helped that I had brought a mosquito net with me that made sleeping in the same building less terrifying. The two days spent on the island was the start to a month-long trip across Micronesia and what a great introduction it was. After this I was mentally ready to take on the occasional spider or roach that showed up in the rooms for the rest of the trip – with one exception of an extraordinarily large roach in Yap when hotel staff reinforcements had to be called in.
A white sand beach on a tropical island with a long section of shallow water is wonderful. But if the water is not clear or if the depth is over my head all that changes for me. On a failed attempt to reach British Indian Ocean Territory I, along with a group of other travelers, spent over a week on Addu Atoll in the Maldives. The reef by our accommodations was well known for its snorkeling and one of our group insisted that I go out to see it for myself. After successfully delaying snorkeling for a few days the morning finally came to actually do this. Upon entering the water another guest warned us to be careful as it was low tide so the reef was quite shallow. Gosh too bad, maybe another day would be good. Undeterred my friend said to follow him as he would find a way through the reef and I reluctantly did. Being on the other side of that reef was like swimming in an overstocked aquarium, so many different types of brightly colored fish including cleaner fish that apparently thought we needed some help. It was an amazing experience that I never expected to have and will never forget. I still don’t like being in deep water though.
Encounters with animals
I’m an animal lover and travel has allowed me to see some of the great animals of the world close-up. What it has also taught me is that I don’t necessarily like being that close. On recent trips to Africa I wasn’t too happy when while on safari lionesses were approaching our open vehicle from both the front and the rear, or when the tracker told us that the rhinoceros that was sniffing the ground and walking towards us was looking for his mate and our vehicle was between them, or when we started backing up at full speed to avoid elephants surrounding us, but then there was the happy hour with the crocs. As is apparently common when going out in the evening, you look around for animals, then near sunset find a nice place to stop and view animals while having a beverage and snack. This evening we inexplicably drove off road and into the high grass near the river’s edge to view the sunset. It was the exact same area where earlier that same day we had seen crocodiles during a river safari. The two guides jumped out and casually prepared for happy hour while I checked my phone for reception in case an emergency call was needed (there was no reception.) I remained in the vehicle for my beverage and snack while nervously joking with the guides about whether it was a good idea to have their backs to the river.
Although all these travels involved things either physically difficult or going way outside my comfort zone I’m still glad to have had them. All the trips we take teach us about the world and, often in that process, about ourselves. What obstacles have you encountered during your travels? Write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If we get enough responses I will include them in a future message.
Safe travels everyone!