I have to say that I really find it odd when I see people plan their travel to the n’th degree. You probably know the type, (or possibly even are one) that
Nothing depresses me more than seeing a jam-packed schedule that accounts for every 15 minutes of my time. It sounds more like my typical work day, where time is money, and it’s just not the ‘baggage’ I like to travel with! Now not everyone is the same, and some will find immense comfort in schedules and planning, but for me, that spontaneity is one of the best parts.
Adventure is out there. You’ll never know it if you don’t go and give things a try, meet new people or be open to a change of plans. After my previous trip to Brazil where I had a few crazy adventures (namely Drugged and Mugged…) many friends and family suggested I come home after only a few months into my year-long adventure. How glad I am now that I chose not to listen to them… I am a far richer person for the travel experiences I’ve had. The financial cost, but a minor inconvenience when compared to the feeling of being really alive – in control, in the moment and truly free.
The hardest thing after a really bad travel experience, is to learn to trust again. And not just to trust in others, like locals, businesses or other travellers – but also to learn to trust in yourself again, and your judgement. If I’d cut myself off from trusting others during my past trip, I would have missed out on some of the most amazing experiences I’ve had in my life. I learnt to quickly trust my judgement again, my gut-feel about situations and interactions so that I could be ‘travel aware’.
It made me open to new experiences and willing to go outside of my comfort zone – ready to grab life and run with it whichever way it unfolded before me.
And so it came to pass that while I was in Natal, a friend I’d just met mentioned I should check out nearby Pipa, a small coastal town about an hour and a half south of Natal.
My travel plan said stay in Natal, and I’d only recently met Anderson, so could I really trust his call to go and visit Pipa? My heart however, said, “let’s see what Pipa has to offer”. Last time I was in Brazil, some of my most favourite moments were spent in a small town in the country, which I never would have gone to if it weren’t for the kind invitation of my friend, Savio.
The bus slowly crawled its way past small village after village, until finally it reached the coast, and Pipa came into view. A bustling mix of locals, tourist and foreigners who had come to call Pipa home met my eye. It was like a more funky Jericoacoara but without all the desperate selling. The streets were mostly cobblestone, and charming avenues, restaurants, hotels and shops spun off from the main strip in all directions.
From the nearby Bay of Dolphins (yes, with actual dolphins) to the varied and beckoning beach coastline, Pipa has a small getaway for anyone, yet with all the convenience that sometimes makes life just, well, fun.
Such as the pizza rodizio. A great idea for a restaurant where they make a million and one different pizza flavours and bring them out every few minutes to share up amongst the guests who pay an ‘all you can eat’ fee. An awesome place for pizza lovers to taste a little bit of everything all at once.
I loved my time in Pipa. I felt relaxed, rejuvenated and entranced by the local vibe. And it wouldn’t have happened at all if I hadn’t have gone out on a limb, and trusted my travel ‘gut’.
The one thing I have loved about my travels is that aside from knowing exactly which country I will still be in at the end of the day, I have no idea how the end of each day will end.
Previously I had my days and nights pretty nicely programmed so that even though there was room for a little spontaneity, I had a rough idea where and what I’d be doing. Not so with my travels. Unplanning my days and my trip has left me open to some incredible experiences and some new friendships.
One day recently, I ended up downtown in the afternoon for a coffee and ended up chatting with a Jordanian guy, Nadeem, who now lives in Canada. We talked about life in Canada and some of the interesting cultural things to do in the city. He invited another friend, Suhail, to meet me and we all chatted about different things for a while. Afterwards, I was invited to go to see a film by renowned Egyptian director, Youssef Chahine. The film was called “Alexandrie… New York” and was part of the Toronto Arab Film Festival. Although there were mixed reviews from the crowd as many had seen some of his other films, I was left captivated by the story.
The film was so controversial that it was censored in New York. The relationship between the Egyptian director and his American-born son reflects some of the stories of intolerance and rejection of the Arabic community following 9/11 in New York. The irony of the film’s censorship in NYC only adds to the film’s strength.
What a totally unexpected end to my day, but it could easily have been more typical if I had not been in an open frame of mind…
So many opportunities can pass us by because of routine. Routine trains our minds to accept all information from our senses in terms of protocols. I don’t stop and smell the roses on the way to work because routine says I don’t need to. But the rose will always smell nice…
Get out of your routine! Do something crazy and leave yourself open to making a new friend, doing something you wouldn’t normally do or surprise your spouse, friends or family. If you don’t go to bed tonight feeling more alive, then you may need to check your pulse.
Do something crazy or different and then let me know about it! I love hearing from you guys…
It can be something small like going home a different way from work or something big like going to a cafe and trying to strike up a conversation with someone else, surprising someone with a gift or whatever. And tell me about it! Please!
I’m such a tourist…
Have you ever walked around Sydney and seen the multicultural mix from everywhere? I’ve always loved the differences and unique perspective that each culture brings. But it also goes without saying that tourists always look like, well, tourists. With their daggy clothes or the Australiana paraphernalia draping from their necks down to the camera bag bulging with maps and local tourist guides. You know what I’m talking about, I’m sure…
Well now I am the one that is wearing the daggy clothes, draping Brazilian paraphernalia wherever I can and ordering food in a weird accent with little success in making yourself understood and ending up eating whatever they happen to bring. Have you ever had a conversation with someone who has just learnt a little English? Think of your reaction, the different things you said and did, and now put those characteristics into someone else who is trying to talk with you. It’s pretty weird being on the other side of it!
Some people say I have been brave to come here on my own. I don’t think so. Brave is the Brazilian girl who I met last year in Sydney. Renata spoke no English before she came, was traveling alone and was in Australia for around six months. She overheard me talking with my tutor Rafael at Sydney Tower. When we all went to eat something afterwards, she didn’t accept my offer to translate when ordering, she just jumped in line and used symbols and what little English she had learned to order her meal.
Most travelers will travel in groups or as families and have some connections at their destination, such as work organized contacts or relatives. But to travel alone is to rely on yourself completely. If you feel tired during transit there is no nap for you while someone watches your things for you. There’s you and no one else.
When you arrive at an airport, there’s no one to pick you up, to meet you or to help you get to your hotel. Actually, that’s not entirely true, there’s plenty of people willing to help you get to your hotel for four times the price!
From the two airports I have now arrived at, I realize that I shouldn’t grab the first option that comes my way. It’s usually quite heavily priced, and through my lack of understanding of the new exchange rate, I’m probably being ripped off completely.
In Santiago, the first price was 10,000 pesos for my taxi. I later learnt there is either a bus or an airport shuttle that I can order for around 2,500 pesos.
In Rio, the guy wanted me to pay 160 Reais, I knew the price was nowhere near that much for a taxi to my hostel and so talked him down to 50 Reais (which was still above the normal 40 Reais price)
Solo travel has its rewards at the same time… It keeps you focused and challenges your personal limits. You know that you and you alone can walk into a new situation and walk out the other side of it without too many worries.
You are changed as a person because your experiences only make you stronger if you don’t let them beat you, and also you have a better understanding about the different types of people that exist in this planet of ours.