Listening to a Moth podcast this week, I heard Sebastian Junger tell his story:
The phrase that jumped out at me was that sometimes in travel you get “more than you bargained for.” Junger was a war correspondent who found himself looking down the barrel of a rifle in Africa. Later, his colleague was killed in a war zone. More than he bargained for.
I’ve never had anything like that happen, thank God. I have had some experiences that I had not bargained for. After the fact, you might laugh, but in the middle of the experience, less so.
Getting stuck in the Sahara Desert was not a pleasant experience. But there I was, with the four-wheel drive I was riding in no longer going forward, or backward. Only deeper into the sand. My host and I dug for an hour when I gave myself permission to take a nap in a tent in the nearby village. Eventually, with the help of someone younger, stronger and smarter than I am, the vehicle emerged from the desert and we continued our trip.
If you’ve ever had diarrhea on an expedition from eating or drinking the wrong thing, you have had more than you bargained for. The old joke is that the first week you’re afraid you’re going to die, and the second week you’re afraid you’re not.
On my most recent trip, we encountered a tarantula, a real one, a big one, outside our room. That was more than we bargained for.
When Sally and I were returning from Ireland, the plane blew an engine loud enough for all the passengers to hear. The pilot dumped the remainder of the fuel, and returned to Dublin where we landed followed down the runway by 18 emergency vehicles. At least that’s how many I counted. We got an extra free night of vacation—more than we bargained for!
Travel is not always stunning sunrises and gorgeous gardens. It is not always tasty food. Eating ants’ eggs in Thailand was a memorable low point. I’ve been miserably cold and miserably hot and miserably wet. I’ve been lonely and I’ve also gotten just plain sick and tired of being surrounded by too many people. I love to wax eloquently about the happy serendipities of travel. Honesty requires the admission that bad things can and do happen to people who are out and about, going to unfamiliar places with customs that seem strange.
For good, and sometimes for ill, travel is always more than we bargain for!