Be not afeard; the isle is full of noises…” William Shakespeare
The more I travel the easier it becomes to recognize the cookie-cutter tourist. It’s the one over there in the corner, next to the 16th century church, guarding her brand new camera from prying eyes, holding tight to that pristine Coach handbag, making sure the purity of her tidy clothes is not violated, avoiding eye contact, acting rather suspicious for such a relaxed atmosphere; she is secluded, withdrawn, not a part of anything, but rather apart from everything.
As I lean back against the wall of a fountain, it’s tepid water sprinkling playfully and judiciously over my sun tanned skin, I ponder, as I often do, on the fallibility of human nature. Why would a person travel hundreds, perhaps thousands of miles, to feel insecure and vulnerable without confronting, adapting, and ultimately overcoming. Why be miserable away when you can be miserable at home? Why can’t men be like chameleons, acquiring dimensionality and proportionality in accord to the surroundings, breathing easier when the air is pure, walking faster when the land is tame? Surely, a nobler path must exist.
The Great Mirage
To become a great traveler you must learn to let go; you must shake vigorously all your preconceived ideas, childhood fears, and mistaken notions acquired through years of exposure to sensationalist media and benign but misguided advice from family and friends. Contrary to popular belief, the world is not a scary place, period. Shake off the negative thoughts or spit it out like the catarrh from a nasty cold.
Fear of the unknown prevents us from truly enjoying all that traveling has to offer. When you let go, the wonders of traveling come into focus and you begin to enjoy all the aspects of the experience: the colors, the sounds, the aromas emanating from the closest pâtisserie, and even the summer breeze caressing your body as you plow confidently through a historic landmark.
Statistically speaking, the probability of some catastrophic event taking place while you explore the remotest corners of the world is insignificant. What about volcanic eruptions? A terrorist attack? Coup d’etat anyone? Please! Let us be realistic and practical. The fact of the matter is that the probability of your significant other stabbing you in the dark is far greater than any of these. Why? Because you annoy said person often enough for such an event to become possible. All present and future events are based on probability; some call it numerology, but I’m desirous of being religious about such matters. Calm down, take a deep breath, and exhale your wonderfulness upon the ether of the world.
The world is kind to you in proportion to your level of trust and humanity. Yes, there are misguided and corrupt souls waiting to take advantage through forgery and robbery, but their number will soon be called and their ignominious presence weeded out like dollarweed from the presidential lawn. To avoid these, you need only remain prudent, not distant and guarded. Learn to see it as the exception in a sea of rules. We’ve grown so accustomed to mass media proliferating bad news like the seasonal flu that it feels like a new reality, but statistically speaking, it isn’t.
A positive attitude is the key ingredient to an unforgettable trip. If you fall, the land will catch you, and a hand will surely help you. Visualize it, imagine it, and learn to let go.