Who is the most annoying person to have as a travel companion?
From my experience, a complainer. The one that doesn’t want you to take him higher up that mountain because he’s afraid that we’ll lose a trail. Or doesn’t even want to try to get to that mountain because it’s cloudy in the morning. Or gets oh so stressed because we’re in the middle of that mountain and it’s getting dark.
Also, a know-it-all one. A know-it-all doesn’t care if there’s an awesome museum nearby, or an exciting non-touristy corner of the city, or there’s a beautiful unknown somewhere far ahead. A know-it-all is not interested in adventure, because it’s just not necessary. There’s nothing that can surprise him and nothing worth the effort. He’ll stroll down the street in Cape Town without looking around. And will insist on taking a taxi from the main square in Takoradi because it’s easier, although the walk would take only fifteen minutes and see some things you don’t usually see.
At such times I always keep the words “why do you travel at all” to myself, because I used to be like that. Any obstacle in the airport would ruin my day. Any obstacle, in general, could. And once I realized that it made no sense. Wasn’t it worth the trouble in the end? And if it was, why stress out about it?
A few days ago, on the morning of my departure to Berlin, my mom was jumping around the apartment, telling me I’ll be late for the airport-bound train. She was so convinced in it she was more nervous than me. I calmly finished packing my backpack – why pack it earlier if it just takes fifteen minutes? – and headed to the door. Unlike her, I knew I had just enough time to make it. I made it five minutes before departure, because instead of stressing out I was focused on achieving my goal. I calculated which escalators I had to walk up, which passages I could walk, and which I had to power walk. I didn’t let the police officer make me take off my bag and put it into the scanner together with my backpack, because it would steal another ten seconds from me; instead, I opened the bag for him, collected my backpack in one swift move and in a moment I was gone. On the other hand, I didn’t argue with the customs officer at the airport when he asked me to throw away all my liquids due to some stupid temporary Olympics-related regulations. I let him take all the unimportant stuff, like shampoo and shower gel, but I did it so quickly that he couldn’t even argue about the liquid for my contact lenses or an anti-infection liquid. I bombarded him with words – meaningless words about how I didn’t know about the regulations etc, so he got distracted and even forgot to take my toothpaste. I had no time to argue because the boarding was to begin in five minutes. I kept talking while I put back my travel kit and walked away before he realized he didn’t quite fulfill his duty. I comfortably landed on the plane. I could’ve failed at any of the steps above if I gave in to nervousness. But my experience so far shows that if you want to travel as pleasantly as possible, there should be just you and your goal, and nothing else matters. Determination to do something is the most powerful way to adjust the events in your favor.
So my psychology of travel is such: keep calm and carry on. Nothing new, right? Yet it works. Don’t let anything bring you down and lose hope. In the end, having an inside pivot helps you approach strangers and ask for help, even if you were an introvert all your life.
And sometimes you just want to let the stream carry you and get lost in a new place, lost in a good way, with discoveries awaiting. My “let’s get lost” policy makes a lot of people uncomfortable. What do you mean, get lost? Shouldn’t we have a plan? It’s dangerous not to have a plan! Boom – they’re being drawn out of their comfort zone, and they freak out!
Traveling is about stepping out of your comfort zone. Leaving all your fears, complaints, and all the emotional baggage behind to take in the world anew. In your travels you only take the essence of yourself with you. No roles, no pretense, no stereotypes. Out of the box and into the world. Harsh at first, rewarding in the end. When you get to sit on the top of that mountain at sunset with a rainbow halo around your head imprinted on the clouds below, or sip the delicious white wine at the place where you let total strangers bring you off the top of that mountain, – then you feel that your efforts were well-rewarded. That you can do anything, anything you want.
And you feel free.
That’s my psychology of travel.