When that last big wave hits me in the face and the undertow pulls me in the water long enough to make me gasp for breath, I struggle to remember which way is up. When wave after wave makes me fall off the board. When I’ve paddled hard for what seems like hours but haven’t moved an inch because the current is pushing me further and further out to sea. When the sun is harsh on my back. When I have muscle pain in body parts that I didn’t even realize had muscle.

That’s when I start to wonder – Why am I still doing this? What has compelled me to keep at it? To surf even after numerous gashes, blows to the head, a sprained ankle, chipped teeth (Okay, that wasn’t me). Yes, it could be much worse! Why am I still paddling forward? What drives me to get back on that board after being tossed around by those sinister waves, washing machine style?

Then I remember: Surfing is just one of those things you have to do without fear.

Traveling is essentially the same. As a female traveler, so many things could go wrong: Missed flights, unwanted male attention, eating the wrong kind of exotic delicacy and spending the holiday mostly from a toilet seat perspective. To name a few of my misadventures:

Waiting for the midnight bus in a sketchy neighborhood in Queens, New York in the dead of winter because I missed the last train.

Getting caught by a train inspector in Zurich after I had ‘forgotten’ to buy a ticket and mumbling a few incomprehensible phrases in Filipino to weasel my way out of the situation.

Surviving a cramped, sweltering 5 hour ‘non air-conditioned’ bus ride (alongside chickens and goats) from Cebu to Dumaguete in the Philippines because the ticketing agent failed to inform me the next bus would come in 10 minutes later AND it had air-conditioning!

Saying yes to a street vendor in Chiang Mai when he asked me, ‘Thai spicy not farang (foreigner) spicy’ and regretting that decision even days later in the confines of the lavatory.

Wondering why I was getting stared at in an airport lounge in Dubai then realizing that my all too white shirt had become nearly transparent in the desert heat and was now gaily showing off my screaming pink push up bra.

Yes, traveling can sometimes be a form of brutality. After all, travel and travail originated from the same French word travailler, which used to mean suffering or painful effort. But why continue to do it? Why do I still find myself in another country where I hardly know anyone, can’t speak the language and can’t even tell whether I’ve just ordered juicy deep fried shrimp, or juicy deep fried maggots?

I guess the yearning for more adventures (or misadventures) has morphed into a physical need. I keep going, not absolutely fearless, but choose to ignore that fear and just jump in feet first.

What travels and travails have you experienced? 

The Sole Sisters are dying to find out.

2 Responses so far.

  1. lj says:

    That's ME!!!!

  2. lj says:

    That's ME!!!!

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