I’m a travel junkie.
I want to go everywhere.
I don’t care to spend money on jewelry or shoes or a new car. Just give me Southern Africa or Honduras or Tuscany. When I check into some tiny, dimly-lit hotel that is run by a little family and their mangy dog – that’s my happy place. My husband and I are starting to make some international travel plans for this year, so I thought I’d share my hard-won travel tips.
For the sake of preserving your relationship with your partner, it’s important to expel any preconceived romantic notions of traveling.
The actual traveling – the airport, plane, train, bus and taxi – is about as romantic as bedbugs. You will not have bathed, eaten properly, nor slept a reclining position in an inordinate amount of time. You will be uncertain of what possessed you to leave your own zip code.
He will be worse.
He will smell like a sweaty donkey and will make stupid jokes to the guy at the check-in counter. He will not stop bouncing his leg.
I don’t recommend watching those old movies with the soft, dreamy, black and white travel scenes on ships or trains. It will skew your expectations. In reality, you will not be wearing one of those pillbox hats with the net thingy over your face. You have no hankie to wave. It will be nothing like that. Watching those films and thinking it should be like that, will just break your heart and cause you to wonder why your spouse is not acting like Cary Grant.
You did not marry Cary Grant. You did marry the live man that is standing next to you in the Munich airport, giggling at the prevalence of German porn.
But don’t go thinking you are some great prize at the moment, either. Your pants that still have something sticky on them where you sat on something sticky at the train station. Your underwear, (not the fun “vacation panties” that you have stashed in the bottom of the suitcase) will be the same underwear you have been wearing – if you have calculated time zones correctly – for three days.
So if you must, go ahead and watch the romantic travel films of the 1930s and smile smugly because you know it’s all a big myth. Because the sooner you get to that place where you smile kindly when the stupid jokes are made and the taxi driver uses twine to keep the passenger side door shut — the better your world will be.
Because then, without resorting to murder or divorce, you arrive at your destination and are confronted with all the wonderful and terrible experiences that come with being in a foreign place and needing to learn how to use a composting toilet.
That’s when you understand who you really are.
Being removed from everything that is familiar uncovers aspects of you that lay dormant at home. You look at your Not Cary Grant and watch him come into his own perfect focus. You’re able to unabashedly adore his floundering attempts to use Pimsleur’s Beginning Italian to talk his way out of a parking ticket in Lucca. You will respect his willingness to try the pile of “meat” that the street vendor in Cape Town just offered him. The conversations that arise while enjoying trdelnik at the Prague Christmas market have a different depth than the ones occurring in real life, which tend to be interrupted by the need to switch the clothes from the washer to dryer.
Travel strips you down. By removing the veil of habit, routine and conventional existence, travel reveals who you both truly are.
So go, even though travel can be uncomfortable and dirty and exhausting. Forget how you think things are supposed to go and embrace the unknown. Go see the world – go get lost and get found.
There’s only one rule that I know of, babies—God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.*
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*Yep. Totally ripped off Kurt Vonnegut right there.