Why? Part I

By Amy Rae Fox, M.A., M.Ed.

Inevitably in my travels, there comes a time when I ask why.

Usually more than “a” time, several times in fact, and I notice these times as I ease through them as if I’m passing through Kübler-Ross’s five stages.

The first time ( so sooory to leave you ) typically hits the night before departure. This could range up to a week beforehand – depending on where I am and where I’m going and most importantly – who I’m leaving behind. (SSTLY) is inextricably linked to the act of saying goodbye and the acknowledgement that I am about to be very very alone for a given period of time. The intensity of the question varies of course with the nature of the relationships left behind – ranging from, “remind me why I’m leaving again?” to the ever-inspiring “why on earth did you let me sign up for this?”

This is a low-point, inevitably followed by the act of departure itself and a reinstatement of courage (triggered by the realization that I’ve checked in for my flight online and it is impossible to refund my ticket).

The second trough (oh dear god make it stop) comes upon arrival, but before the first night of fitful sleep. After the adventure of finding my way from the airport to the budget accommodation (in the cheapest manner possible) wears off, I find myself standing in front of a shanty shack saying “this looks nothing like the picture on the website”. Panic sets in. I’m given a tour of the “facilities” and interestingly enough, I wistfully look back to past shanty shacks I’ve bedded down in and fervently wish myself back there. (“Damn, that flea-infested meditation mat in the communal kitchen of the Rongbuk monastery sure looks awfully good right now”) I see my room and ask “why, why do I continue to be fooled by the special ‘make the room look like more than 10 square feet big’ camera angles?”

At this point I’ve given up all hope of milking a single second of enjoyment from my trip, and run down a list of coping options including pre-paying for 3 weeks stay and crawling under the “covers” to cry and … paying for a full fare ticket home in the next 5 minutes.
The *theme* of the story is folks – WHY?  Why do I travel, why do I do it alone, and why do I continue to do it even now when mobility is not only a hobby but my vocation mandated way of life?

This is the question with which I grapple and will continue to grapple so long as I ride the peaks and troughs of backpacking. I promise dear friends – ’tis not all so dire … and I do remember that it all gets better. I have a vague sense that I’ll wake up in the morning happy to be here … but on night 0.75 – I need a little reminding why.

Malyasia, Philosphy of Travel