I kind of have a love/hate relationship with travel. Sometimes, I love to travel. I love seeing new places, trying out new foods, meeting different people. Perhaps one of my dream jobs would be as a co-host for that cable show "Three Sheets" where the guy gets to go to bars and drink his way around the world. Yeah, I so would love to do that-I love trying out mixed drinks local to wherever I go. It's not just the drinks though, I love the excitement of a new city or the scenic views of an unfamiliar landscape. I love being out there, wherever "out there" happens to be. It can be exciting and new and really gets me out of my usual rut. It helps alleviate the pressures of a daily grind, that's for certain.
Unfortunately though, since I know so many heavy travelers, I also know a lot about the darker side to travel. I'm not just talking about the "it's 3 am and I don't know what time zone I'm in" or the "Oh, right, this vending machine won't take my money. I don't have dead queens on my quarters!" dark side either. Those are just little glitches and are really part of the fun of traveling a bit.
For starters, when you travel, your world, your own "little world" goes on without you. Your family and friends, they're all at home, doing what it is they do. It's hard to keep in touch when you're miles away. Skype is no substitute for being there. This is especially hard on children. Hate to be the one to break the bad news but, if you're two continents and several time zones away, odds are good you're going to miss your kid's soccer practice on Saturday. And that's just the mildly bad news. You might still be thinking, "ok...yeah...so what if I don't have kids?"
I've got friends who have been mugged in New York, caught in uprisings in Egypt, trapped in Tokyo Tsunamis, and that's just for starters. Do you really want to deal with a nosy Turkish customs official at 3 am? Even if you're not carrying any dope, I dare you to try that and tell me you don't have visions of "Midnight Express" dancing in your head for weeks afterwards. Love sitting in an airport gate for six hours on end watching news clips in some forgotten language while the rest of your friends are enjoying a Sunday afternoon off?
It can also be really hard to do simple stuff, like go to the dentist or get your haircut. The little things that we often take for granted are harder to do when you're not around to do them. A friend of mine got a jury notice once while he was away and came back to face a bench warrant out for his arrest because he had ignored the court summons to appear so many times. Of course, he wasn't even aware he was being summoned, and he was three continents away opening a new business in Asia somewhere the entire time. Eventually, they excused him from his jury mess, but situations like these make us all wonder. Do you really want to go through all of that? It can be especially hard if you travel alone a lot. Isolation is no fun and, being isolated three continents away is even less fun for some folks. Those room service menus get to look pretty old pretty quickly and it's really not a whole lot of fun walking into a restaurant three continents away trying out how to ask for a "table for one" in some language you don't even being to speak while the locals all stare at you because you appear quite like an alien being from mars (or some such thing.)
There's also the grind of being couped up in a small metal box hurling through space at breakneck speeds. Love the smell of stale air in the morning? Legs cramp up much? Just how much do you love that middle seat? You really didn't need that checked bag, did you? Sorry, we're all out of "airport approved rubber chicken" here's an "oh, heck, I don't know kind of a mystery meat for you-nobody eats this crappy airline food anyway" dish I'm sure you'll just LOVE. This ought to tide you over for the next 18 hours including layovers. Please make sure you OJ Simpson yourself through that next airport, your connecting flight leaves in 30 minutes. Oh, and yeah, we don't know what gate you need to find either. Please check the message board where it's plainly spelled out for you in something resembling Outer Mongolian characters clear as mud. You have ten seconds to do that before you get trampled by a pack of hurling Japanese tourists. As my friend Linda used to say, "Good luck with that!" Even Joe McNally's million mile biscuits are looking pretty stale when you put it that way.
But, then there are times when it all works right. When you take yourself to some magical place you had only dreamed about or seen in pretty travel brochures. I can tell you, with certainty, that Hawaii is as lush and tropical as you imagine it to be. (It's even better looking in real life than the brochures, believe me.) Venice is romantic and fun, plus the food isn't half bad. Iceland looks like no other place on earth and New Orleans? Oh, what a fun town, go there if you can. From my first trips, early in my life, flying to California or driving cross-country to the Florida coasts and keys, to my most recent trips to Kona and Rekjavik, I would not trade some of my travel experiences for anything.
Sometimes, it seems like the more I travel, the more I miss my home and the more I stay home, the more I want to travel. The travel bug bites me every once in a while and I feel like I just want to flee. Land masses several continents away feel too close for comfort and then I remember Joe McNally's stale biscuits, my lost luggage, drinking tea at two am because I don't know what time zone I'm in and, gosh, I really do miss my dog when I'm away.
It's a strange thing travel is or, you know it can be, almost like a teeter totter. A little is too much and a little more is not quite enough. It's a great balancing act when you don't even know you're dancing. Everybody wants to land on the beach in Bimini but nobody wants to get stuck in Detroit in February and life is like that. Sometimes, in the great lottery, you draw up Detroit in December or some such thing and sometimes? Even the Bimini side of things has some disadvantages.
Yes, I guess it's safe to say I have the travel bug again, maybe a little bit, but it'll go away once I get out more. As I start to plan my photo trips for next year, and think about the places I might go or the locations I want to shoot, I'm excited about getting to pick out special magical places but also worried that I might miss stuff happening at home too. Lately, it seems like I want to get out more but I'm almost always one lost piece of baggage away from wanting to jump into bed (my own bed, thank you very much!) and pulling the covers up over my head. There's something also wonderful about sleeping in your own bed, eating your own food, "crash landing" on your own couch that I really enjoy. It too is a great way to recharge the old batteries. Oh, and I'll still miss my dog every time I go away. It's my favorite part of coming home again. Getting to see Chase jump up and bark like he hasn't seem me in ages. (Good doggie!)
Look for some future posts on upcoming locations as it gets closer to the new year and I plan out my 2012 travel calendar. Right now, I'm still mulling over the next great locations and spots I want to visit and trying to figure out a way I could fit more camera gear in a carry-on. If you're a photographer too, I'd love to hear about some upcoming location shoots you have planned for the new year.
Until next time...