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road sign beside a dirt road with the symbol for elephant crossing

book front that says The Sheltering Desert by Henno Martin

Well folks, it happened again. Someone asked me, “Do you travel?” And my answer was what always happens inside me when this question is asked: “erm, should I tell this person the truth?”

So have I traveled. Yes. I have gotten on planes and gone to other places. So technically this satisfies the requirement. However, the truth is that I really don’t talk to people much about those experiences, mainly because they’re not the “usual” type of things people like to talk about.

Can I get real here folks? When Americans say “I like to travel” what they MOSTLY mean is that they flew to another country, stayed in hotels, ate in restaurants, walked around and saw scenery and tourist attractions, and then went home. I mean, I get it. That is the kind of travel people like to do, and also, quite frankly, the kind they like to talk about and ALSO the only kind they like to hear about from others. You know. “Oh, the beer festivals in Germany are so fun!” “I really love Italy in the summer.” Ok, yes, these things are true. I’m sure.

However, that is not the kind of travel I have experienced. Some of my more memorable, and not so pleasant travel experiences that were inevitable because of where I was and what I was doing at the time:

—being temporarily homeless in Berlin

—being stuck in the back seat of an Indonesian taxi with a chain smoking driver for hours (Indonesians are small, I’m tall, and I have asthma)

—having my Vietnamese driver abducted for about an hour at a checkpoint by Vietnamese cops and sitting in his car not knowing if he’d ever come back, AT ALL, and not knowing what to do next. (He did eventually reappear, drenched in sweat, and when I asked him if he was okay and what happened, all he said was, “Money.”)

—nearly dying in a hospital in Grootfontein, Namibia, a city literally composed of thugs and a few gated lodgings, and recovering in one of those lodgings that had something like 17 brown and white Jack Russell terriers onsite (that part was super fun actually) and a proprietor who made homemade apple pastries as a regular thing

Yeah.

So, yeah. Obviously we have all been at home mostly during COVID and so this hasn’t been an issue. But as everyone thinks about the world eventually opening up again (yay vaccines!) people are starting to ask again, “Do you travel? Where do you like to go?’

I guess I should try to take a “regular” trip so that I have something to talk about with people. Quite frankly my priorities on my journeys have been 1) not to die 2) not to get into fake taxis – this is harder than you might think and 3) to remember to take pictures so that regardless of the time I was having it LOOKS like I was enjoying myself, because I’ve learned that people absolutely do not want to hear about what REALLY happens.

And that’s okay.

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