We’ve all heard it said that people should travel when they’re young. I always took that to be due to the increased responsibilities that typically accompany getting older, which makes sense since once you get a “real” job, get into a long-term relationship, add beings to your life that rely on you (i.e., kids or critters), and have bills, it’s much harder to leave for an extended period of time. What I also suspected but can now personally attest is true is that this statement also refers to the notion that we tend to be more flexible and resilient to the realities of travel, particularly budget travel, when we’re younger.
Overall, my travels so far have been exceptionally smooth. My luggage hasn’t been lost (yet). I haven’t spent a night in an airport due to a delay or canceled flight (yet). I haven’t had gastro-intestinal issues due to food or water containing fauna that doesn’t agree with mine (yet). And, I haven’t lost my passport or credit card (yet). But while smooth, it hasn’t been all sunshine and good, cheap wine.
While in a 6-person dorm room in a hostel in Santiago, Chile, and, more recently, one in Ushuaia, Argentina, I was woken up as a few dorm mates stumbled into the room in the wee hours of the morning after a night of drinking. We all know that it’s impossible for a drunk person, even one with the best of intentions, to be quiet. I don’t know what the other sleeping people in the dorm thought but as I’ve been the well-intentioned drunk person a few times in my life, I figured this was payback so turned over, turned up the volume on my iPod, and fell back to sleep. (My new habit is to fall asleep to music).
In addition to being woken up by drunken dorm mates, my bed was stolen in the hostel in Ushuaia! I’d gone out for a beer with a hostel-mate and came back at midnight (not drunk) to find my stuff (books, towel, clothes) moved from my bed and placed neatly on the bunk above. WTF!?! It’s unspoken hostel code that the presence of a person’s stuff on the bed signifies it’s occupied. Then as I stood there absorbing the situation, the woman asleep in my bed asked me to close the door, presumably because the hallway light was keeping her awake. Since it was late and I wasn’t sure what to do, I moved my stuff from my new bed to my locker and climbed up to sleep. But in retaliation, I only half-heartedly tried to be light-footed as I climbed up the bunk bed. Ha, that’s what she gets for stealing my bed! I also felt a bit vindicated when she too was later woken up by our drunk dorm mates. I left very early the next morning to catch a bus so didn’t get a chance to see who this bed-thief was or figure out her deal. However, by then, I’d reasoned that she was older and likely couldn’t climb to the top bunk. So, I figured that I’d been volunteered to do a good deed which would surely be repaid to me in the future.
After that fun night, I got on an early bus to Punto Arenas, Chile. I actually didn’t mind that it’d be a 12-hour ride. I figured I’d use the time as “Tannika time” and catch up on my daily journal, listen to music, sleep, write my next blog about Antarctica, ponder life. As it turns out, I had more “Tannika time” than expected. We were delayed for 4 hours at a ferry crossing. Apparently, the local coast guard had stopped the ferry service due to high winds. This wouldn’t have been so bad except that it appeared that there was nothing around! Only a giant sign welcoming us to the crossing of the Strait of Magellan and a boat ramp; no terminal buildings or anything else in sight except a long line of waiting vehicles. After 2 hours, the bus driver informed us that if the ferry service didn’t resume, we’d have to spend the night there, on the bus, parked with all the other vehicles in front of the giant sign, the boat ramp, and nothing else. To make matters worse, while cold outside, the bus, entirely full, was hot and stuffy and there was no running water. So, no water to drink, no water to flush the toilet, no water to wash your hands. I can deal with sleeping on a hot, stuffy bus and not having water to flush or wash but no water to drink!?! I had just run out so y’all know I went into a quiet panic. Fortunately, we all retained our good moods. Nothing we could do about the situation, so no reason to get mad. After a total of about 3 hours of sitting on the hot, stuffy bus with no water, someone thought to ask if there was a place to buy food/drinks nearby to which the bus driver casually responded, yes, and pointed to the right. There was a tiny truck stop-like cafe with snacks, drinks, and working bathrooms literally on the hill immediately above the bus but out of sight. WTF!?! Didn’t he think we would have liked to know that about 3 hours ago? Good reminder to be more proactive and ask questions. Another hour later, now hydrated and stuffed with cookies and chocolate (survival food), we got notice that the ferry was on its way and I made it to my hostel at about 1am and got a good nights sleep.
Don’t get me wrong, my trip so far has been filled with amazing experiences, and lots of good, cheap Chilean and Argentinean wine. And like I said, I realize these are minor annoyances on the scale of possible and probably travel annoyances. These are just a few events that made me realize why being “young” as defined as being someone who’s flexible, resilient, accepting, and positive is imperative for successful extended travel. So, here’s another reason I’m super happy with my decision to start my extended travels now, while I’m still young.