By Silvia Uribe
Traveling, no doubt, is one of the greatest pleasures for those of us who like adventure, people, new experiences, and surprises. Also, as Gustave Flaubert said "Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world." I totally agree.
The first step when traveling, is to think about where to go, and draw a mental map of what I want to see there. I like suggesting a place, and waiting for the counter-proposals that I may get from my travel partner. The decision is always based on the place that offers the most, at the best price. Then looking for comfortable accommodations, also at a fair price, may take some time, but this proves to be a good investment.
I enjoy the investigation part – an elementary step, my dear reader. What is there to discover? The great internet window reveals the answer to me in my own living room, while I sip a delicious coffee. I take mental and written notes of what will later become a reality. With each day, the excitement grows and the wait decreases. The anxiety is unavoidable, mainly, because we leave our obligations behind. We feel we are indispensable.
Finally, the day is here. Maybe we will travel a few hours or many more. If we travel by plane, we accept the idea of a stressful trip, due to the time wasted at airports, cancelled flights or marathons through those long hallways with electric bands that go so slow that using them may mean losing our connection flight. We run next to them instead.
Sooner or later we get to our destiny. Big sigh of relief.
After I get to a new place, I like to go out for a walk on the nearby streets, to know what’s around: the names of the streets, convenience and other stores, transportation, and what have you. Maybe, I want to know this to feel, from the get go, that I’m not lost, and so that things can slowly become familiar to me.
Once I get to the place I will call home for a pre-determined amount of days, I love looking out the window, and filling my eyes with whatever I can see, what’s different, what I never saw before and, maybe, to point at places that look interesting. I enjoy setting the goal to get to those places, even if I don’t know how to get there. This experience, of figuring things out is exciting to me. Maybe little children don’t feel as excited, because that’s their life. They discover new things every day. For us, adults, is not like that. We know and have experienced most things, or so we think. But, when we encounter something new, our sensation progresses from insecurity, to excitement, and once we figure it out, to satisfaction.
Taking a trip and not walking a lot, is not really traveling. During my travel adventures, I walk 6-8 hours a day. I walk, and I also take all kinds of transportation. Because of this, I have traveled by horse, mule, car, bus, motorcycle, bicycle, pedi-cab, tram, metro, train, bullet train, rickshaw, “trajinera”, “gondola” aqua-bus, “aliscafo”, jetski, boat, motor boat, ship, aircraft carrier, small planes, commercial planes, and war planes, funicular and helicopter. Never in a submarine, because I’m claustrophobic, or in a balloon because it scares me to death. My transportation dream? A flying car, like the Jetsons’, but I must wait a few years for that one.
However, what I like the most about traveling is the people I meet. I like knowing, and so I ask them, how they live, what they like, if they are satisfied with their life. I ask them who they consider important life, what they their government gives them, and what it takes from them; what they can and cannot do in terms of social freedom, and what are their ambitions. I also enjoy sharing what they want to know, of course. These interactions are usually a humbling experience, and gives the other person, and me, an intellectual intimacy and understanding that goes way beyond words.
Talking about words, languages come easily for me. But, when I do not speak the language, I truly enjoy the goodwill of people to understand what I say, and their willingness to make themselves understood. It is like playing “charades”. We use our bodies, our minds, and we get frustrated, and then we laugh, and start all over again, until communication is achieved. Traveling without communicating with natives is not a complete experience to me; I may know the place we visit, but I don’t get to know the culture’s soul.
So, I like those traveling days with no obligations or concerns other than looking for experiences or objects that will remain in my mind and possession, and that I will be able to share with those interested. Today, one can make a book of each trip. Mine have pictures and brief comments. I like this online technology option because that way I can capture the images and sensations of the moment without eventually forgetting about them or losing the pictures who knows where.
After each trip, my friends ask me if I would go back to the same place. My standard answer is no. It is not interesting to me to see what I have already seen, when there is so much to discover out there. The world is vast, my friend, and it always has something new and intriguing to offer.