#22 Bringing Back your Traveller’s Glow

Remember how excited you felt when you were a kid and when you took your first big trip with your parents? Fast forward half a decade or so, and then you were completely psyched to embark on that school trip sans the parentals, think of the secret late-night talks with the girls in the hostel and not having your folks breath down your neck. You know, deep in the core of your bones, that you could almost taste the scent of freedom.

Push ahead a few more years, and you’re at university! You move hundreds or thousands of miles away from home, for the whole time, or just a couple of months on study abroad, and you could not wait to graduate and finally be your own person. And then in between all that, you have somehow cultivated the insanely addictive passion for travel, and your backpack is now your best friend. You also pray that you won’t have to start downing painkillers for that impending chronic back problem that often accompanied travellers, hardcore wanderbugs or not.

You are now, almost, a half-baked wanderbug.

Airport screenings no longer bother you. You get to the airport two or three hours ahead of time, you know exactly what to expect at the different airports all over the world. Jacket, off.  Belt, watch, boots, all off and onto the conveyor belt. Scanned. All good. Pick everything up. Done. See, it wasn’t even close to annoying.

Taxi drivers who tried to rip you off, with one look, you see right through them.

Shady beach parties that might end up in a drug bust, you know instinctively to avoid.

People who at first glance looked suspicious/terrifying but are actually genial and fun become your itinerant friends on the road.

You know now that beautiful-looking travellers often use their looks as part of their international works-everywhere-everytime currency, and you have just the right mind to stay away. Or if you are equally blessed with head-turning looks, then you know exactly how to manipulate people’s natural goodness to your advantage.

You are about to be a full-fledged wander bug.

Along the way, your ambitious self picks up a language or two or three outside your native tongue, eating bugs and frogs and snakes are no longer anything strange to you, and you realise you have more friends around the world than at home. You find yourself meeting up with people at exotic locales and you begin to forget the ways of being home.

You now think you are fully fledged. You probably are, or pretty close anyway.

Then, there is this moment, you are on yet another trip — you have already lost count by now how many places you have been — where you sit on the sun-lit terrace of an impeccably tasteful café with a gorgeous view of the Aegean Sea, leaning back and drinking the poison of your choice, only to be interrupted by the tourists at the next table, who are chattering animatedly over the day’s events, the attractions they have seen, ooh-and-aahing at the ‘funny’ English accent that the locals speak, marvelling at the sheer beauty of the old city of (insert town name here)… And at this point, you sneer almost condescendingly, shake your head and mutter under your breath, “Amateurs”.

You also do not realise that you are overtanned, wrinkles lining the back of your hands and around the outer corners of your eyes, you look perpetually overworked although technically you are on holiday. You feel a little bit jaded and critical about everything. Food is TOO exotic. Food lacks character. The music is rubbish. The scenery is lame – you have already seen something like that except even better. The people are rudimentary and thick-headed. The streets are dirty and there is no decent coffee. Basically you are a fucking spoiled traveller. Spoiled, ironically, by the beauties of the very world itself. If there is such a thing.

You have travelled so much, first to satisfy your flaming passion, then your obsessive compulsion to conquer the globe, literally, and then before you know it, it becomes almost routine, like how most people get up in the morning, wash up, eat breakfast, go to work…

I know, I know. I would probably be persona non grata if I go around and start complaining and criticising about the places I see, particularly if those people on the receiving end are confined to a soulless cubicle in a stressful office environment 50 hours a week.

I can almost hear them curse, “Bitch, what are you ranting about! You are living our dream! Go, run along, and we never want to hear from you again. Ever.”

Indeed, I can perfectly understand that. Which is why I have to recalibrate my thinking before I fall off the edge of ingratitude towards the life I have now.

**While I say this, please note that I fight for what I get too, it is not as if I sit on my arse whining and the so-called freedom I’m enjoying, that others claimed to have robbed from them somehow, come to me automagically. Remember, it’s always your own choice.**

I recently met up with a friend and we discussed about the nonchalance atittudes some seasoned travellers take towards when it comes to visiting new places. Particularly his. For him, it was like trying out a fresh bottle of wine at home, or watching a newly-released blockbuster at the theater. In other words, it was part of his routine – every six to eight weeks, he takes a trip to somewhere he hasn’t been before. There is not a continent he hasn’t stepped foot on, with the exception of perhaps Antarctica (I haven’t asked, so maybe he did that already too). I asked about his latest voyage to southern Italy, and his lukewarm response was “Yeah, it’s cool. Mm-hmm.”

(You can imagine someone who is taking this trip as his/her annual vacation, a reward for working hard for the whole year and saving up for it, he/she would babble nonstop about every detail, interesting or boring, and expect you to listen intently with a tinge of envy on your face. But no, it was almost like a reply to “How’s your trip to the supermarket?” or something like that.)

A startling wave of revelation hit me, when I realised that I was not only not shocked or outraged by his reply (which I’m sure a lot of people would be), I found myself nodding slowly in concurrence. I knew exactly what he meant, and I am glad that he found it alright to show his indifference as it is. Indeed, when the reins of your own freedom and desires are firmly held in your hands, you fail to realise how precious and hard to come by they can be. For example, planning itineraries used to a beloved hobby of mine, but it has become standard fare for me, sometimes even a necessary evil before the next trip. And with that thought, I could feel my traveller’s glow starting to fade away.

I don’t want to be like that. I want to ooh and aah and be an “amateur” at things again. So, I haven’t seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa or the Giza Pyramids, maybe I don’t want to. I am shaping my own journey here, and I want to feel the adrenaline rush through me as I pack my bags and dream about a land faraway from wherever I am.

I want to radiate the traveller’s glow, the wide-eyed look of amazement and anticipation, glimmeringly dewy like a daisy in the morning despite being burdened down by my 40l pack.

I want to look forward to my next trip with peeled eyes, a renewed outlook, and hopefully, shine with a radiance so bright that the guy next to me on the train cannot help but give you a shout out, “Hey, you look fresh, where have you been?” ♥

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