The thing I enjoy most of all in the world is travel.
OK, that’s a lie. Travel is a close second to something else I love more, but this is a family-friendly blog and nookie doesn’t happen to be this week’s Debutante Ball topic.
I’ve been profoundly lucky to travel the world over the past decade of hoarding frequent flyer miles, having jobs with generous time off, and not having kids. I’ve visited Venezuela, Colombia, Mexico, Hawaii, Jamaica, Barbados, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Germany, Switzerland, France, Italy, Slovenia, Greece, Spain, Morocco, Gibraltar, and probably a few places I’m forgetting but surely enjoyed anyway.
I tend to fall more into the “grungy backpacker” crowd than the “luxury travel” set, though I’ll willingly take the luxury if I can get a good deal.
The biggest lesson I’ve learned in my years of travel is that the things I think will be most memorable seldom turn out to be. Almost always, it’s the funny little unexpected oddities that make the best travel memories.
Take the month I spent trekking around the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. I saw ancient ruins and gorgeous beaches, lovely old churches and quaint little villages.
But the thing I remember most is the trip I took on a third-class bus headed to a tiny town called Valladolid.
I’m mostly fluent in Spanish, which made me privy to the details of conversations between the bus driver and his buddy riding along serving no discernable purpose in the operation of the vehicle.
Bus driver: We should pick up Juan.
Buddy: You remember where he lives?
Bus driver: No, but if we drive around awhile, we’ll find him.
So we drove around for awhile looking for Juan. We made a few pit stops along the way to buy comic books and fruit, which the men took turns enjoying when they weren’t busy ignoring traffic signals and terrifying livestock with horn-blasts.
Eventually, we found Juan and headed out of town. We had just hit the highway when the bus driver smacked himself on the forehead.
Bus driver: I forgot my shirt.
Juan: You’re wearing a shirt.
Bus driver: No, my uniform shirt. I got in trouble for that last week. I’ve gotta go home and get it.
So we spun a u-turn in the middle of the highway – narrowly missing a large truck packed with chickens – and headed back to town. All 35 passengers aboard were treated to a lovely tour of the barrio, complete with a colorful lecture from the bus driver’s wife who shared her immense displeasure at his failure to return home the previous night.
Eventually, we set out again on a journey that lasted nearly four hours and included a rousing game of “let’s hit pedestrians with fruit pits while traveling 50 mph in a vehicle held together by duct tape.” When the bus driver emerged victorious, he celebrated by taking a nap on the floor while his buddy took over driving duties.
Eventually, we made it to Valladolid. The bus driver was kind enough to weave his way through the narrow city streets in search of a hotel I pointed out in the guidebook. As the busload of weary passengers waved at us from the grime-streaked windows, I’ll admit I was a little sad to see the journey end.
It’s stories like that I tend to remember more fondly than the monuments and museums I pack into any vacation like a dutiful traveler.
What kind of traveler are you? What’s your fondest travel memory? Do you tend to catalogue the big things, or the funny little unexpected quirks? Please share!
And if you’ve got some extra frequent flyer miles lying around, can you share those as well? I promise to put them to good use.