Travel is about being here, not going there. How many time are you thankful for paved roads, computers, internet access, or an indoor toilet? We all take things for granted, especially when it is all you have ever known. For many people developing world travel is uncomfortable and dangerous – they are right. Travel is also a gateway to gratitude and window in to living in the present.
A journey in the third world instills an appreciation for first world luxuries. Today I woke up in a comfortable bed, took a long hot shower, drank water directly from the tap and cooked food on a gas burner from a fridge that is taller than I am, then I walked into the world in a sleeveless dress cut above the knee. This evening I am eating in a restaurant where I have a 0.01% chance of getting sick. If this is your day, stop and give thanks. If you can’t muster some gratitude for that, it’s time for you get out in the world.
Experiential travel doesn’t have to be hard or life threatening, you can volunteer or go camping, even a beach vacation can increase your gratitude. A week ago in a little hotel on a nearly private beach outside the small town of Todos Santos I was luck enough to live a Corona commercial for 6 days. We ate, drank, swam, tanned and drank some more, it was one of those vacation you dream off from your cubicle on a Thursday afternoon. At an all-inclusive resort in Los Cabos could be that holiday, but our beachfront service was a stirofoam cooler of beer shaded by a rock, this is why I travel with soft sided coolers and beer cozies.
At the Cerritos Surf Colony in Todos Santos Mexico I was thankful for the sound of the waves at night; because the bed was so uncomfortable I couldn’t sleep. The towels looked just like the ones we have at home, to wash the car with. And shower…. well there was a shower, water did come out; then it dispersed into a fine cold mist like the SF fog I live in. I wasn’t upset, because I wasn’t on a tropical get-away to be in the first world. I went to Mexico to have a one week beach vacation for 2 for less $1500 – budget travel comes with some give and take – for beachfront I sacrificed. Mexico is not the third world, and our vacation wasn’t scary or hard – it was relaxing and refreshing, regardless I came home thankful.
Why do you travel? Do you seek out the familiar? Do you want to be on a package tour with a clear understanding of what’s coming up next? Do you want to know what you are ordering off the menu?
If you are focused on what you want, are you really ever thankful for what you have?
Next week I leave for one month in India. Traveling alone in the Himmal Pradesh for 2 weeks then returning to Delhi. The big question: is it safe for a woman to travel alone in India? Let me make something clear, the world is not a safe place. This is why is sucks to be a woman most everywhere in the world. Women are the fairer sex, delicate , weak… a target. So we have to be more aware, dress carefully, follow social rules that seem repressive to American values. It’s not easy, but not impossible.
If you walked around Saigon with your head on your i-Phone the way people do in SF you will be run over by a moped caring a family of four.
A funny thing will happen when you become aware – you stop worrying about whats going on at home, stressing over what other people think, adding and subtracting items from your to do list, the endless chatter in the back of your mind all disappear. There you are, living in the moment, the definition of inner peace.
Try This Travel isn’t about taking the easy way; it’s about doing something different. Step out of your comfort zone, if only to be thankful upon return. Your hot shower will be magic, your favorite restaurant will taste better, and your bed will transform into the most comfortable place in the world. Life is never as sweet without the sour.
For those who have forgotten how to live in the moment, afraid to take time off work, nervous about the unknown, returning to the same timeshare holiday year after year. Try This…. Get out there! See how the rest of the world lives. When you come home, you’ll be thankful.