Letters Travel

Travel is a Crucible

May 2, 2017

Dearest Sara, 

I don’t really know how to start this letter. I’d like to be writing about all the incredible, beautiful places I’ve discovered on this island, but it wouldn’t be an honest reflection of where I’ve been. And we always said these memoirs were about capturing our authentic felt experience, rather than being another travel guide. 

Our trip began with my lost baggage. It sounds so naive, but I’ve been lucky enough to never encounter this situation. Most concerning to me was the knowledge of the island’s temperamental climate (“four seasons in 1 hike”, I’d read), and not knowing how I would hike to all the mountaintop vistas without my technical gear, raincoat or favourite hiking boots. I didn’t know whether my baggage would ever arrive, as the next day was a public holiday, followed by a planned strike by the airline. Even my baggage tag was missing the luggage identification number, and while the lady at customs was doing her best to be reassuring, I could tell she was perplexed searching through every piece of travel documentation we had, unsure of how we would locate where my luggage had been rerouted to. “A brown, upright, soft sided bag with a hula girl ID Tag on it” could not sound more generic. 

I had boarded the plane prepared for our red eye flight, wearing a slubby sweater, capris and pair of Birkenstocks, pretty inappropriate for the blustery 14 degrees it was outside. So we spent the first day of our honeymoon inside a mall, trying to replace my four seasons of meticulously packed hiking gear with a 50 Euro budget provided by SATA. 

It was in the frustration of this moment that I recognized how incredibly attached I am to my possessions and how rigid I can be in the face of the unexpected. Unhealthily so. Every piece of clothing I tried on didn’t fit quite right, or wasn’t as comfortable as my one from home. We spent an embarrassing amount of time in the stationary section of the grocery store, with me paralyzed, needing desperately to have the “perfect” journal to chronicle my time here. 

I suppose in some ways, I had forgotten this is part of the reason I travel. To challenge myself and immerse myself in an experience so different that I am forced to see parts of myself I don’t normally know driving back and forth from my day job. I didn’t expect it on the nature retreat I had planned for our honeymoon, but travel is a crucible, and revelations can happen anywhere. Who knew mine would be in the centre of mall, rather than at the top of a peaceful mountain. 

My luggage did arrive eventually, on day 3, despite SATAs strike. We missed out on a few things: a dolphin swim and hike to a secret waterfall, but this was due to inclement weather more than my lack of gear. It’s possible that with my equipment, we might have tried to force these adventures, and I suspect they would have been wet, cold and likely pretty miserable. I guess every cloud has a silver lining. 

Instead, we’ve spent 3 days being rained out, watching a loud, angry brown ocean rollicking from our seaside apartment, finding hiking trails closed due to unstable slopes from the rain. And in this place, I’ve had to face a lot of my demons. Could I enjoy the experience if it wasn’t what I planned? Would this trip be a “waste” if there was no safe way to get out on the water to see dolphins or whales? Could Elliot and I find romance and relaxation even if we had to stay inside for 7 days? Is it worth driving a 60 minute drive to a lookout point if everywhere is calling for pouring rain? Do you gear up and go on that hike even though rain clouds are hanging ominously above you? When do you give up, cut your losses and spring for a ticket somewhere more temperate? 

I have some answers, but I’ll save them for another letter. I’m sorry for the gloomy post, but writing always helps with my feelings. Tomorrow’s forecast is for clouds and only 60% probability of precipitation. And if it turns out just so, I’ll be incredibly grateful. 

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