Kim and I got stranded in a minor haboob yesterday. It was wonderful.
Stranded In A Haboob
The blowing sand pricking our skin was not wonderful, nor was walking with our eyes closed in the middle of the street because of the blowing dust. We were in the middle of the street because there were fewer things to run into with our eyes closed.
We didn’t have to worry about cars because no one drives in a haboob. People in Tucson, where we are now, know about haboobs and don’t drive in them.
Also not wonderful were the chunks of cholla streaming across the road and sidewalk. We had to stop several times to VERY carefully detach them from our shoes.
Twice, airborne, meter length fronds hit us. Twigs and other detritus battered us too.
And of course, there was the rain that followed.
What Keeps Us Sane
Why was it wonderful then?
- Because it was unexpected
- It was different
- We did not know what the outcome would be
And those are the things we thrive on. That’s why we travel. We travel for adventure.
Stranded In America
After being in the U.S. for almost 5 months where we know exactly what to expect, everything is the same, and we generally know the outcome of every action.
We are in need of adventure. Any adventure. Thus, getting caught in a haboob was a bit of adventure. It certainly was not travel adventure.
The Little Things Make Travel An Adventure
It’s not really the big unknowns that attract us to different cultures and countries. It is all the little stuff. It’s the discovery, the unexpected.
- My first time in Italy, before I spoke any Italian, I consistently ordered latte macchiatos. One day I tried a latte bianca, with no idea what ‘bianca’ meant. LOL, I got what I ordered, milk.
- In Malaysia we ordered a particular food, apparently, we said it incorrectly and we were served poori and lentils. It turns out porri is one of the best meals we’ve ever had. We ate it almost every day.
- In Athens, we had a good deal of work to do when we arrived, so we did not do any purposeful sightseeing in that first couple of days. We did go for walks throughout the day. And wow, when you don’t know what’s around the corner, Athens will stun you.
- In Istanbul, we walked by some workers restoring the old City Wall and said ‘hi’. This resulted in climbing on top of the City Wall. It’s 1,500 years old, crumbling, dangerous, and off-limits to everyone.
- In a coffee shop in Pristina, the owner heard us speaking English and suggested we go to the town of Prizen. So we did. It’s off the tourist path and wonderful.
The Big Things Make Travel An Adventure
There are some big things too. We often do not know which country we will go to next. While we were in Greece, our son messaged us and said, let’s meet in Serbia. Ok. The next week we were in Serbia.
This January we were staying warm on the beach in Vera Cruz, Mexico. Kim came across an insanely cheap fare to Singapore. Three days later we were in Singapore.
My son and I were in Yangon many years ago. He came across a brochure about Bagan. Neither of us had heard of it. We went and were blown away.
The same happened when we were in Thailand. A Thai friend said, “You should visit Ayutthaya.” Ok. It was incredible, you should go too.
These types of unexpected experiences are what drive us and they are much more enjoyable than haboobs.
It’s Not For Everyone
Our lifestyle is not for everyone. Not everyone wants the adventure of travel. Many people prefer and are comfortable with the known. We have many friends who have put down roots in the town where they live. They hang out at their regular places. They know everyone, everyone knows them. It’s fun.
A friend recently posted that he had only 4 years to go until retirement. He was a little sad to be leaving a workplace and colleagues he had grown attached too. I posted back that I’d never had the same job for four years.
Variety – Food For Our Soul
That’s the difference. Just as most people dislike change we dislike sameness. For us, America is the same, everywhere.
- In every shop, cafe, business, etc English is spoken. This is dull for someone who loves languages.
- Every supermarket carries the same food. In Saigon, we can buy every fruit and vegetable that is available in the U.S. and 10 more we’ve never seen before.
- American cities pretty much look the same. There’s no turning the corner and running into the Columns of Zeus (Athens), the Santa Maria Novela (Florence), or the Horse Warrier (Skopje).
- In America, I can get exactly the same items at the local Target or Walmart whether I’m in Los Angeles, Miami, New York, or Boise. I’ve no idea what to expect at Chatuchak market in Bangkok, Ben Thanh market in Saigon, or Orussey Market in Phenom Penh.
- With only the most minor difference in style and color, everyone dresses the same. Here’s what men wear in Yangoon, Kuala Lumpur, and Sanya:
Maybe these are not my choice of every day (or any day) clothing but it is variety and variety is what feeds our souls.
America Has Its Adventure
Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not saying people don’t love America or want to come here. If you are from a different country, America is exciting, unexpected, different. But we grew up here for us it’s normalness at its worst.
Travel is like going to a new school when you are a kid. You love or hate the idea of a new school. There are a lot of unknowns in the first few days. Those first days are either a nerve-wracking punishment or an adrenaline-fueled frenzy of meeting new friends, getting recruited into clubs, and experiencing a new place.
Most kids prefer to stay in one school, although they love to complain about it and dream of going somewhere else, they don’t really want to change. We want change.
Stranded in the U.S.
We are stranded in the U.S. because of the pandemic. The once envious U.S. passport is now all but worthless, accepted by only a couple of dozen countries. And everything in the U.S. is closed.
I do get out to the grocery store. I know what everything is. There are no surprises, unknowns, or discoveries to make. I’d list the fruits we buy, but they are the same fruits you buy.
For us, there are no more
- Dragon fruit
- Star fruit
- Lotus fruit
We order takeaway from restaurants. We order in English. There are no egregious miscommunications. We get what we ordered. There are no “What the heck is this?” surprises.
Even the currency is interesting across countries. It’s colorful, it’s art, and it’s vastly different in value. In France, a coffee is 2.50 Euros ($3.00) that same coffee in Vietnam is 70,000 Dong ($3.00).
No Challenge, No Fun
I think, but I’m not sure, that the root of all this is the challenge. We are not content with easy, we need challenge. Just as some people need/thrive-on the challenge of running a marathon, being the top salesperson, creating art, whatever, we thrive on the challenge of new languages, different currency, unusual food, unexpected places, new environments, different cultures, different world views, all the challenges that travel brings.
It’s not all fun and games. Planes get delayed, Airbnb’s are less grand than pictured, some foods are wretched, certain cultural aspects are offensive, we’ve even been to two countries we didn’t really like.
The marathon runner gets sore legs and has a bad run. But such minor setbacks are a trifle compared to the end result. The good far outweighs the bad. In fact, for us, the bad hardly registers on the scale.
Because we grew up in America, America is easy. For us, in America, there is no hour-by-hour challenge. There is not even a daily challenge. We don’t wake up in the morning with the expectation of what’s next? What will this day bring!?
And that’s what we miss most.