Bret’s comment (from Green Global Travel) on my post the other day regarding speed bumps made me realize that I needed to create a counter post to talk about the positive things that can affect a trip, not just the negative. The point that I had originally intended to make was that it’s the little things on a trip which can make it stand out from the ordinary ones. If it’s a boring, normal, everyday, average trip, you won’t really remember anything about it because nothing special happened. But when something unique occurs, good or bad it will stick with you and make that trip memorable.
So, since I’ve already covered how conflict breeds interest and speed bumps along the way make you perk up and take notice, I want to talk about some of the amazing things which have happened to me along the way, and just how important it is to pay attention to the little things in life as you make your way around the world. Don’t blink, because you might miss something!
I still think one of the most amazing trips I’ve taken to-date has been my time spent in Colombia, living in Bogota. I made a post about the friendless of Colombians while I was in the country, and there were dozens of examples above and beyond the ones I listed there. For example, when I took my trip to Manizales my ComCel phone suddenly stopped working when I arrived. I had a signal, but I couldn’t make any calls, and I was supposed to meet some friends when I arrived. That was about a year ago, and my Spanish was pretty rudimentary then, just enough to get by, so I tracked down a ComCel dealer and as luck would have it stumbled across a store where the husband and wife who worked there happened to have lived in Miami for 15 years and both spoke fluent English. He checked out my phone and spent about 30 minutes troubleshooting it before coming to the conclusion it was just the chip and it would take up to 24 hours for the network to realize I had switched from Bogota to Manizales.
If I had been somewhere like the United States I would have had to pay for that 30 minutes of time, but they not only graciously spent 30 minutes of their time with me for absolutely nothing…they then offered to take me out for a coffee and crepes later that afternoon to show me around their part of the world.
Another example was my cleaning lady while I was in Bogota. I’m a bit of a health nut, and for those of you who follow along I also run a Mediterranean Diet website related to my personal journey through losing over 50 pounds while living in Bulgaria, and I also love to cook. I hosted weekly get-togethers with my friends while I was in Bogota and I would cook meals for 8-10 people every Friday or Saturday night. I always have leftovers kicking around the house, plus I am always in the kitchen (I cook daily), so whenever the cleaning lady was there I would let her be my taster. After a couple of times she suddenly started showing up with cookies, sweets, cake, pieces of pie and other little treats for me.
Then there were the security guards downstairs. I’d go for beer runs a few times per week and I’d always offer whoever was on shift a brew on my way back in from the store. These guys quickly became fast friends with me during my time in Bogota, and helped me with things ranging from the best places to find clothing, hooking me up with some local fixers, and so on and so forth.
But it’s not just friendliness. It’s also nature. I’m a big fan of the outdoors, and while I prefer the mountains to the beach, I’ve still enjoyed my time here in Mexico immensely. One of my most memorable evenings was last September when I got back from Colombia and I was out with my girlfriend for an evening walk on the beach around 10:30 at night. Now, I’m a bit of a sci-fi nerd who has read way too many books and seen way too many movies and shows for my own good, and as we are walking along I suddenly see this massive thing crawling up out of the waves, easily the size of a Volkswagen beetle (at least to my mind at the time. It was slightly less, but still massive). I literally grabbed my girlfriend’s arm and pointed, and the very first thought that popped into my head was “omfg, it’s a sea monster/alien, we are going to DIE!”. Then, a split second later, I realized it was just a turtle…which we then were blessed enough to watch for the next three hours as she lumbered up the beach, dug her hole, laid her eggs, buried them and then made her way back to sea. It was an awe-inspiring moment that turned an otherwise ordinary, average night-time stroll on the beach into something magical.
The year before that I had born witness to the babies themselves hatching, around the same time at night, walking along the beach. Only then it was as if the entire beach in front of me had suddenly come alive and was crawling rapidly towards the ocean, and as I came closer I realized that it wasn’t my imagination….there were hundreds of these little turtles making their way out of the next into the ocean.
When I was younger, back around the time I was 18 or 19, I was working on a construction project in Colorado in the family business before I became a writer, and I can remember that one day during tornado season, the entire job stopped and people were suddenly shouting to come outside and take a look. Another day on the job, nothing special, but when I got outside it was the most impressive and frightening thing I had ever witnessed in my life; the entire sky from horizon to horizon was visibly turning above our heads; a giant cloud formation that was spinning, slowly rotating, giving us all that tingle in the back of the head that reminds of us just how insignificant we really are when we are compared against the power of nature.
Or my first time scuba-diving off the coast of Bodrum, Turkey, and struggling to overcome my fear of deep water and fact that I’m not a very good swimmer. It was a ten minute struggle to calm my breathing from a panicked panting into a more controlled gasping, but the last few minutes along the bottom I remember finally transcending my fear and allowing the calm and the tranquility to wash over me as swam along the bottom of the sea, touching the rocks, swimming alongside the fish and being one with nature.
No matter what, we are all One People. This is Our Planet, and we are all of us sharing in the Human Experience. It’s one of the reasons I enjoy cultural immersion so much, because it allows you to connect with peopel around the world on a personal level…but it’s not just the people who make trips memorable. It’s also nature and the whole experience of being part of this wonderful planet we call home. And no matter if you are talking about people, places, animals or beyond…it’s the little things along the way that make the experience worthwhile.
What are some of the little things that have made your adventures special?