Day 38: The two things I learned about traveling

Today is Oct. 1, 2016, my 38th day in Myanmar.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi | When you are constantly reminded you are in Myanmar

Being in Bagan this weekend taught me one thing and reaffirmed another.

The something new I learned is that the anxiety and stress associated with traveling are half the fun. Without them, the fruit of expedition is nowhere near as sweet and rewarding as it could be.

Thursday night, my stress level reached a all-time high when getting stuck in rush hour traffic on our way to the bus station in Yangon. We left home an hour and half in advance and still found ourselves tight on time to cover the roughly 10-mile distance. Feeling crammed in the hot taxi, my fear of missing our overnight bus drove me out of my mind, but when the driver took us through the weaves of crowd in the largest bus station I have ever seen in my life (bear in mind I lived in China) and located our bus company for us, I could not have felt more grateful to be in the situation that I was.

I’ve traveled consistently for nearly a decade now. Never once did I feel like I prepared enough before takeoff. Part of the worry can be attributed to my Type A personality, which simultaneously added to my apprehension whenever I come underprepared. It’s a negative cycle, a self-fulfilling prophecy. I’ve had times when the Greyhound bus was too full for me to squeeze in, when I miss a flight because I read the boarding gate wrong, when my ferry broke down or when the TSA stalled me and dozens other travelers at O’Hare for so long that we all ended up cuddling in the airport seats and snacking on McDonald’s to get through the night.

With accumulation of experience and years, problem-solving has become easier, and accident has become a much more sparse occurrence. But traveling is no smooth-going. I know that too well. I used to want to avoid all the unexpected, so I attempted to do my research and prepare, and prepare more. This is not to say that preparation is not useful, but over preparation never managed to ease my anxiety. I hated it. I hated being a bundle of nerves and having no control over my feelings. (But really, does anyone?)

It was not until this weekend in Bagan did I realize that I can’t live without my fears as a traveler. When my fear tells me things might not happen as planned, I am beyond excited when they work out in their own ways. When I’m skeptical about certain adventure, I inspire myself to find the hidden gem during the process. I slowly learned to accept the unexpected. Meanwhile, my fear keeps me safe and punctual, the two things I consider the utmost important while traveling.

I have yet to figure out a way to completely erase my anxiety. I don’t know if I ever will. But that’s OK. Maybe my curiosity can cohabit with my anxiety and live in harmony. Maybe they are meant to be with one another from the start.

The something old I relearned is that people are what make or break your trips. You could be in your favorite, or the most romantic, or the most exciting, or the most intriguing destination that you can dream of, but the essence of pleasure and good time stems from who you meet and interact with, not from the location alone. Hopefully this statement needs no further explanation.

That’s all for now. Sad to say goodnight, but there’s a sunrise waiting. See ya tomorrow morning at 5.

(P.S. I have way too many “I read” and “I heard” and “I want to recommend” stacking up, so a weekly roundup has to be in order. Stay tuned for that on Monday!)


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