The first illusion that we have to break up with as modern wayfarers is the idea that travel is a perfect, magical time, or even glamourous. Sure, travel can be these things, but any globetrotter can also tell you either a harrowing or hilarious tale of travel gone wrong. When we truly dive into traveling and experiencing other cultures, life happens and life is messy. Flights are delayed, we feel a little manhandled by airport security, hostel reservations are lost, we get sick, we totally botch the language, and so on. Traveling isn't always pretty and ninety-percent of the time it's not always living in the lap of luxury, but that doesn't mean that the journey can't be fun. The key for me is to trade any expectations with a sense of humor and go from there. And besides, smooth sailing never makes for a good story.
One of my favorite travels of all time was to Le Cinque Terre during my very first trip to Italy about six years ago. I have nothing but the best memories of that place, although when I think back to specific moments there were more than a few detours.
A small group of us hiked from Monterosso to Vernazza, one of the trickiest part of the trails between the five fishing villages. I could go on and on about the beauty of this hike but I think the pictures speak for themselves.
As soon as we reached Monterosso, it started pouring down rain. We dodged into the first restaurant we could find, one that apparently served some of the best seafood in Le Cinque Terre. From the front door I could spot exactly where my sardines were caught earlier that day. That was one of my favorite meals to date. Everyone was soaked but laughing, and the food was so fresh and delicious. Of course, being caught in a torrential downpour was less than ideal but instead of letting it ruin the day, we all rolled with it and came upon an incredible meal as a result.
That evening in Monterosso at the family-run bed and breakfast, I burnt my hand on my curling iron. It was bad enough that I embarrassingly stumbled downstairs to the front desk where the daughter of the family was working. After trying to explain in broken Italian what had happened, she took me by the arm through the galley doors back into the kitchen where she and her brother put ice on my hand and wrapped it for me. They were so sweet and everytime they saw me in the lobby after that, they would always ask if my hand was any better. As luck would have it, me being an idiot and burning myself on my curling iron allowed me to make a few new friends.
The moral of the story is that things go wrong all the time. That's life. We have to allow ourselves the grace to make mistakes and roll with the punches. Some of the best memories from my travels aren't from the moments where everything went perfectly as planned. My best memories come from the times that I got to know a local through asking for help, taking chances, or when spontaneous problem solving turned into something unexpected and incredible.
Ultimately, when we travel as modern wayfarers, we have to do away with our expectations of having the perfect time and allow ourselves the freedom to explore and make mistakes because that's how we let travel become a transformative experience for us.
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