The Day Travel Changed Me

by Lauren on December 23, 2013

Getting from here to there in Tanzania.

Getting from here to there in Tanzania.

 

I had traveled over 7,000 miles by plane to reach Kathmandu. After a hair-raising ride in a tiny taxi with holes in the floor, I arrived safely at the hotel. Perfect timing for a shower.

Apparently, a cockroach thought so, too. The creepy critter was making his way across the bathroom floor, an unwelcome guest in my otherwise quaint hotel room.

I marched downstairs and, using my best upset-but-calm voice said, “Excuse me, Sir,” to the concierge. “There are cockroaches in my bathroom.”

He looked at me quizzically and replied, “Yes, ma’am. There are cockroaches in Asia.”

This was one of my more influential travel moments to date. It was as if a magical conversion had happened, forcing me to see what was, rather than what I feared. This would come in handy towards the end of my journey, at a lodge in South Central Nepal’s Chitwan National Park.

There the critters were significantly larger.

A bat on my pillow in Nepal.

A bat on my pillow in Nepal.

 

This change in perspective applies to my mundane, non-traveling life as well. The night before the Thanksgiving holiday, there were extraordinarily long lines at the grocery store.

“Yes, ma’am. There are long lines at grocery stores at Thanksgiving.”

I visited Costa Rica during a trying time in my life. Efforts to mingle with other young travelers at the San Jose hostel required extra effort, and testing my Spanish with charming locals was challenging.

But I continued on, and without much hope for a sunny day (avoid the rainy season if you can), I headed to Manuel Antonio National Park.

My “rainproof” jacket was useless, and my shirt and pants were soon soaked through. There were no other tourists in sight. I felt lonely, and wondered what I was doing in a rainforest, in the middle of nowhere.

Drenched.

I decided to pause, and just wait a few minutes. The hopeful side of me wanted to see an ocelot, or the more exotic coati. Instead, I experienced something far more subtle. Organic.

It’s as if the forest were saying, “Yes, Lauren, it rains in Costa Rica. And sometimes, the rain stops.”

The steady drizzle subsided, the millions of leaves overhead were trembling with drip-drops. Only quietly now. Before long, a brilliantly-hued butterfly floated past. Several monkeys snapped branches overhead, constructing their morning project.

I was seeing the morning for what it was: a rainforest awakening. And I had it all to myself.

There’s not a single moment of a traveling I take for granted. I’d go on another rained-out tropical vacation, or fall off my horse on a Montana dude ranch any day. Well, the cockroach bit I could do without.

Happy, and soaking wet, in Costa Rica.

Happy, and soaking wet, in Costa Rica.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Jeanne Lowery Meeks February 2, 2014 at 2:19 pm

You’re absolutely right. The change in perspective is crucial for fully enjoying the outdoors and foreign countries. We can hunker down in comfort at home or go out and really live. I love backpacking. Others can’t imagine why. It’s that organic thing you mentioned. Thanks for the story

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Lauren Schaad February 3, 2014 at 12:26 am

Thanks for commenting, Jeanne! Backpacking is a great way to see the world, and you really don’t need to pack a lot. Hoping you have some great adventures in 2014.

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