Two roads diverged in a wood and I – I took the one less traveled by. | Robert Frost
It’s the middle of the day. I’m immersed in some routine task and I find my mind wondering off to a beach somewhere, sipping cold coconut water and reading Orwell, hair billowing in the cool breeze. I sigh in content, happy in the moment…
Aaaannnd I’m back. My eyes register the screen before me and my mind snaps back to reality. Urgghh. How could a vacation even cross my mind when there are bills to pay, a family to support, that imaginary house I’m supposed to buy before I’m thirty and that shiny car that everyone says I should spend my next bonus on.
Money is a scarce commodity in my life. Should I really further deplete this meager amount just to see the world? Is travelling really worth the time and expense? I think back to my previous excursions.
Standing at the cusp of Lookout Mountain overlooking seven states in the US.
Feeling the sharp, cold desert wind in Kuwait cut through my bones, teeth clattering while looking up at the stars, clutching precious hot chai to my chest. Huddled up with friends under warm blankets. No starry night picture could compare to that silver-speckled sky that night. No camera could capture it better than my mind’s eye.
And I’m now in Sri Lanka. The heat replaces the piercing Kuwaiti winds. The innately pleasant Sri Lankans with their incredible hospitality. We’re riding elephants through the river. Water surrounds us and our elephant marches on, completely obedient to its trainer. Marissa is her name. We are sitting on her bare back, her coarse hair tickling the back of my thighs as we hold on for dear life. We come to a halt in the middle of the river. The trainer bellows to Marissa. She dips her trunk in the water. Next thing we know, we are drenched from the unwarned elephant shower Marissa is spraying us with. Trainer and company laughing at us. We laugh along.
Now back to the beach. Ahhh…always back to the beach…in Malaysia. Unrivalled cool clear waters engulf my feet. Absolute beauty meets the eye wherever I turn. I’m in the water. Breathing through a tank. I see a mini clownfish at arms’ length. I reach out to stroke it, screaming “NEMO!!” in my head the entire time. It scuttles away. Corals and the exquisite colour of the ocean floor take my breath away. It truly is a whole new world under the sea. Sebastian was right. Ariel missed out when she left the ocean.
And my mind whisks me off to Vietnam. I’m crouching in a claustrophobia-inducing tunnel. I’m in the extensive underground maze dug by the resilient Vietnamese soldiers for 20 long years during the Vietnam War. The perfect mouse trap for the bulky, strapping US soldiers. If the Americans chased the petite Vietnamese soldiers down their rabbit hole, they would most definitely get stuck and killed. The tunnel was cramped even for me. You would have to move through it either crouched or bent double. It was a legitimate workout. I emerge at the other end of the tunnel drenched in sweat, heart beating frantically from the adrenaline rush. An exhilarating experience.
Slowly, languidly, the daydream fades. I hear the familiar tapping on keyboards and the hissing coffee machines. My shoulders slump, heavy. Back to the daily grind. Everyone runs this rat race. 9 to 5 at the desk. Deadlines to meet and bosses to placate. Migraines induced by lack of sleep and too much coffee.
Do I want this life? Of slaving away for the next forty years just for that big house and shiny car? No, no I don’t. I don’t want to live every day, with only the next paycheck on the distant horizon. I need something more. Just as cinnamon adds spice to bread, I need something different. Something daring. Something fun to make monotony bite the dust.
So you know what? Yes. My car is crappy and my phone is old. But these experiences, they add so much to life. Interacting with people from diverse backgrounds and immersing myself in other cultures somehow makes me richer, as a person. Shiny, new things do add temporary pleasure to life, but travel my friends, colours permanently into your character. “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page” (St. Augustine, 430 AD). Hence, the reason I remain, one broke girl.