6 MO ago

When Travelers ‘Level Up’.

It’s nearly midnight and we’re in a van hurtling haphazardly down the road through the Sumatran jungle, blaring some insane techno Indonesian version of Rihanna’s 2007 hit “Umbrella”.

We’ve got a flight to catch in the morning, and a 9 hour journey ahead of us that some aussies reassured us we can make in “six and a half”. With this driving, we’ll make it in 5. We’ve successfully returned our 8 borrowed surfboards that have only fallen off the roof once or maybe twice, though we’ve hit every decent pothole in the last seventeen miles. I can’t tell if I’m about to pee myself or puke and I don’t really want to find out.

Then it hits me: these types of adventures are no longer as fun. Back in 2006 when I was in a van crash and a bombing in India, my youthful immortality kept me buoyant and chatty. I was high on the sense of adventure, and I wanted more: the hazards became campfire lore that I couldn’t wait to recount in between the saturated tales of food, sights and new places. These days, when those ‘edge of your seat’ experiences become mundane, when they get in the way of basic transportation, the novelty and patience has worn off.

When people back home ask “how is remote year…Amazing?!” My immediate response is a resounding “Hell yeah!” Yet the next words out of my mouth always seem to be “but guys, I am REALLY tired”.

With each “well, let me tell you about the time we almost died because the driver we’ve hired to get us from A to B had explosive diarrhea and a kamikaze complex” story I tell (and believe me, there are a lot) the more unenthused I get. How many times can I put my life in danger for the sake of an elusive wave or a secluded island for it to suddenly to become less …fun? I’ve counted: This is probably the 6th time in half as many months.

Can it be I’ve lost the positive vibe I’m so well known for here? Have I finally “gotten over” traveling like so many people back home have threatened I will? Am I just really cranky today? Have I finally grown out of the $7 hostel beds and the mentality “I’ll eat anything if it’s free?” Will I start paying for airport lounges?

I think I’m just growing some higher standards, which is a weird feeling when you’ve previously been so flexible. Especially in the parameters of a lifestyle like this.

Looking back at the woman in the mirror who would kill for a soft pillow, when last week I happily slept wherever I lay my head (including buses, taxis, planes and airport floors), I wonder what else the new year will bring this leveled up traveler I’m becoming.

But for now, I’ve just finished peeing in what might be someone’s front yard, told our driver to slow the eff down, eaten seven coconut cookies and found an upside down cross legged position that affords me the luxury of being unable to see out the windows while keeping my head from bouncing repeatedly off the luggage behind me. I’ve also joined in on a few singalongs, so it’s all good, bro.

View of our surfcamp in Sumatra

Not to mention that remote surf trip to Sumatra was pretty cool, too. But next I’ve got some clients to email, my teeth to brush, and a plane to catch, and right now I’m really looking forward to those things. I’ll even settle for 2 out of 3.

As always, #almostputtogether.