I had just finished my best meal in weeks. After living on fruit, bread, and beer since arriving in the country, local seafood was a rewarding treat. Our group of eight was the typical demographic you find in most hostels – mainly European, some Brits, and the token American. While not the cheapest country on the planet, the Colombian dining scene is frequently a bargain. For less than the equivalent of $10 U.S., we dined like kings.
Like clockwork, as I finished my last bite of food, the lights shut off. Not just the restaurant, but the whole town. Rolling blackouts come with the territory of small coastal towns in developing countries.
“Crap!” I thought to myself. Blindly wondering the pitch-black town in a country infamous for its crime is not something I would welcome.
My seasoned travel companion had a much different reaction. “Look at the stars” she said immediately.
Sure enough, I look up and see the kaleidoscope of stars never witnessed from the light polluted North East corridor. With my stomach full of fresh fish and cheap Colombian beer, I relaxed, looked up, and enjoyed the evening.
In retrospect, that small experience embodies how I hope to travel. Backpacking is all about new experiences. But there is also something well beyond that. It is also about embracing the unexpected and truly, truly, enjoying it.
You will spend hours waiting at the bus station. Locals will give you much needed directions in a language you barely understand. New foods will put you in a gastrointestinal nightmare.
But heck, it’s all part of the experience. It’s why we quit our desk jobs and buy the plane ticket. It’s why we give up following our favorite sports teams for the season. It’s why we forget what’s it’s like to sleep in a queen size bed.
So that’s my new traveling mantra – enjoy the lack of comforts which I have become so accustomed to. Always find the positive, forgetting that things could be different. Embrace the dark and marvel at the stars.
But now, I have a plane to catch.