Another Reminder

This is bound. I knew it. Despite my many attempts of staying put. I simply cannot. I knew it was there but the signs were gradual this time – like that of a person growing old, inconspicuous as time passes until the period relentlessly screams of reality. I was going to travel again. Not to run away this time but to reward my hard work because I deserved it. Also, I promise to pay more attention to the difference of the reality of travel versus the anticipation of travel.

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I prefer to say ‘difference’ instead of taking the side of the pessimist or that of the optimist. It is also safer that way. The pessimist believes that the anticipation of travel will reflect the disappointing reality, whilst the optimist believes otherwise. Believing on the difference though is bracing yourself for both the great and worst things that could happen and digesting both with the same amount of acceptance. I am doing this now so I will not make the same mistakes I made in some of the other countries I have visited in the past.

For example, after months of anticipation, on a foggy December evening in 2012, I touched down at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi, India with the staccato expectations of relaxing meditations, colorful saris, delicious curry, and amazing Taj Mahal (although there is also the other side of the coin which I refused to acknowledge because I just wanted to focus on the best things). These expectations generally made up my concept of India. But upon arrival and the duration of my stay there, a range of things insisted that they too deserved to be included within the fold of the word India.

It was winter in India then and I was freezing. No amount of research would have prepared me to expect the (literal) cold truth and the unnerving “in-betweens” of my expectations during my three months there – like the presence of cows everywhere, the advertisement of a whitening lotion because ‘whiter’ supposedly went hand-in-hand with ‘more beautiful,’ crazy driving that rivaled Vietnam,  the agonizing queues or lack there of when making purchases whether it be in small shops, the wet market, or train stations. There were also other “in-betweens” that revealed themselves which amazed me beyond my expectations – like the intricate details found just about everywhere you looked, the hundreds of pigeons perched on my balcony that cooed me to wake everyday, economical prices of goods, the haggling of prices that went almost close to rock-bottom, the stray dog I named Rajdoot that was always there to greet me in the morning and in the afternoon, the cottage cheese which was heaven-sent (I swear I probably ate more cheese in India than in my entire life), and the abandoned Rajdoot Hotel in Jangpura which always (always) calmed my heart because seeing it from afar reminded me that I would be home soon.

Realizing it now, there was no problem with this profusion of “in-betweens.” And if there was a problem, it was that they made it strangely harder to see the India I had come to find because in anticipation, I had created a vacuum in my head that limited it to “relaxing meditations, colorful saris, delicious curry, and amazing Taj Mahal.” Of course India would be more than those expectations but I failed to perceive it in this manner, hence I was not able to truly experience the country in its full glory.

Another example to cite would be my stay in Tanzania. I love Tanzania (well, Africa in general really) but there were also images of my memory there that I protested to. For instance, the image of that aggressive man at the airport who inquired about my yellow card, the image of the box filled with school materials being cut open by a rusty cutter, the image of a pissed-to-her-wits Wilma after enduring being harassed by a drunk local while we were on our way to Maua, the image of staring at insects on my blue mosquito net while lazily rolling around on my bed on some late mornings when I have nothing to do, or the image of squeezed asses and tits every time we commuted because what was meant for fifteen people accommodated thirty and if you complained, the locals would loudly exclaim “This is Tanzania!”

You see, the thing about anticipation and expectation is they omit and compress possible experiences. They (considering an pessimist’s and optimist’s perspective) will cut away the periods of boredom and direct our attention to what we like to think as critical only (depending on your perspective) and this process of selection will then become an impending instrument on one’s adventure as one might fall into the trap of simplification. (And) For travellers who are on an adventure, simplification is a mortal sin.

So today, as I am preparing for another adventure, I will do away with my usually mapped out expectations and just wander.

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