Friday, January 26, 2018

Acquiesce to Discomfort

Travel, although glamorous on social media, entails many days and nights of less than sexy scenery, poor hygiene, and general discomfort. Learning to unlearn what I knew about my ‘needs’ became second nature as I learned to adjust to the different cultures and amenities (or lack thereof) I was faced with. 

Acquiesce to discomfort, I would often remind myself. 

From less than ideal “bathrooms” to all sorts of transportation methods that try your patience: you get used to it. You’re sweating profusely with your legs sticking to the seat, or you’re shivering and trying desperately to get warm, or your crammed into seats while your arms stick to the person next to you... Travel discomfort (for me) occurs mostly in the physical aspect of transporting. Whether it is the 12-hour open-window bus through the hot belly of Southern India or the 5-hours of bumper to bumper traffic with no breeze in Sri Lanka or the 16-hour overnight buses with frigid air conditioning and loud snoring - one simply must acquiesce and let it go. Put on a smile (and some headphones) and let the time pass and ignore the physical discomfort. 

When you lean into it, you can even have fun. While back in India, after a travel snafu of a wrongly booked ticket (through an agent) we ended up 4 hours outside of where we needed to be - after a 10 hour overnight train. It was 6:30am and we needed to make our way then to the local bus station to reach our final destination. Sleepy-eyed and underslept we found our way. Sitting down with our heavy bags, we played Rummy, ate bananas and waited. The bus was hot and uncomfortable and took 5.5 hours.  There were rarely any foreigners on this local route and we were the only ones who rode it from Hubbli all the way to Hospette. Because of this, we saw lots of groups on their commute to school and work. School children were fascinated, waving, laughing, and asking us questions. Elders smiled and teenagers asked where we were going. What had begun as a bummer for missing part of a day turned into a fun experience, as well as seeing a part of India we never would have seen otherwise. 

For the last week of Sri Lanka, in early December,  after bouncing around for many weeks all over Asia, staying no where for more than a few nights, we decided to settle in Mirissa Beach for a week to soak up some rays and enjoy the beautiful beaches. Having not succumbed to the insane-ness of tourist beaches elsewhere, we were left alone on Mirissa beach. There were few people in the water and no one trying to sell us anything while we lounged. Far less crowded than any beach I’d been to, and absolutely gorgeous. 

For a day trip off the sand, we decided to take a local bus to find a nearby tea plantation. The bus stopped for approximately 30 seconds, and as I was stepping onto the first step the bus took off. Going nearly 70 mph on small streets, Anna and I struggled to stay standing as we held onto the poles above us and braced ourselves for the impact of bumps and halts. Terrifying, and exhilarating, we eventually got seats when the bus emptied out and could feel our heart rate slow down again. 

My final trek from Sri Lanka back to Ghana took a total of 52 hours. It was a true test of my own travel advice to others in acquiescing to the discomfort and exhaustion of the travel time. Arriving in Ghana, my dear friend, and the groom in the wedding, was standing there on the asphalt in his airport security vest. It was a warm welcome home indeed as he skirted me through security and immigration quickly and back into my first alternative home of Accra. 

My next blog will explore my five weeks in Ghana, in my 7th trip there and return to what will always be another home to me. Blogging has taken a backseat as I explore other avenues of cathartic writing. 

1. Hampi, India (where we ended up after the travel snafu)

2. Anna and I, atop Sigiriya Rock in Northern Sri Lanka
3. A Day trip to Galle, exploring the old forts and walled in city (Sri Lanka)

4. Another climb photo from Sigiriya Rock, beautiful views of the vistas 

Until next time,

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