When Your Travels Are a Shit Storm
They say that opposites attract, but every day, I’m realising that shit attracts shit. For example, I’m using Notepad to write this because Word isn’t working on my computer – funny how life seems to enjoy aligning every aspect, right down to even the most irrelevant.
I had my day planned, and for it to flow well, I had to catch a ferry at 8:40AM. It was simple: 7:30 wake up; 8:15 buy breakfast at the supermarket; 8:25 walk to 7/11 to take out cash; 8:35 buy ferry ticket; 8:40 board said ferry; 9:00 – have a fucking wonderful day.
Instead, the supermarket was closed. Shit. I moved onto the 7/11, ready to buy breakfast there instead and withdraw cash I didn’t have (literally – my account was in the negatives thanks to me transferring money to another account I’d also overdrawn, but I figured more overdrawing couldn’t hurt).
After four attempts – ¥20 000 the first time; ¥10 000 the next, then alternating between savings; and check – I came to the damning conclusion that I had 977 yen to last me seven days, the equivalent of $12AUD. Shit. It was 987, but ¥10 escaped into a crack in the table just as I’d started to count it.
From there, the domino effect of zero cash meant no ferry catching, no soul finding, and no gallery hopping, bicycle riding nor Julia Roberts emulating a la Eat Pray Love.
Maybe I was being too cynical, and life hadn’t led me into a shit storm, but instead to the eye, where I could watch it fall apart around me. In my last Air BnB, there was a poster in the toilet with a quote from Marilyn Monroe that went something along the lines of, “Sometimes good things fall apart so that better things can come together.”
Yes, I really wished I was on a ferry to Teshima and yes, I wished I wasn’t stressed out of my mind over money every waking minute of the day. But after all that complaining and whinging, I was still in goddamn Japan. The sun was out, the wind was calm, the sea was blue; I was sitting on a dusty, black leather couch on the roof of an apartment overlooking the Seto Inland Sea (mind you, jealously eyeing off the passing ferries), drinking a hot cup of powdered milk tea in a beautiful white-and-black speckled ceramic cup, happily typing away my shitty start to the day.
You see, that’s the thing I’ve come to learn about travel. It sucks or, more accurately, it can suck. So often looking at pictures posted online, we buy into the idea of travel at surface-level value, which is probably because that’s how we sell it to each other. We write captions about how great our trip is; we reply to messages telling people we are having the times of our lives and we spam and saturate every social media account we have in a fervent fever so that people can’t possibly forget that we’re having fun.
But while some of what we share is true, behind every snap is so much more.
There’s the fact that you’ve been sick for the last week and have nearly died multiple times from seven-minute coughing extravaganzas, plus you lost your voice for four days straight because you drunkenly sag Celine Dion at karaoke on Valentine’s Day, and you feel so fucking exhausted and want to rest, but you don’t because you’d feel too guilty for wasting your precious time overseas.
I can’t help but judge myself as to whether I’m doing or seeing enough, as if I should always be trying to wrangle out that last golden drop out of everything. You sacrifice so much to get somewhere, that when things don’t go well, you can’t help but question, “Am I doing this right?” What happens when you get what you wanted when the chase is all you knew?
In my experience, all you can do is forgive yourself and adapt. Forgive yourself for buying dumb shit and condemning yourself to poverty for the rest of your trip. Forgive yourself for becoming sick, and forgive yourself for taking the time to heal. Forgive yourself for not always being confident. Forgive yourself for ordering familiar food more often than foreign. Forgive yourself for all your mistakes and poor decisions, for all the times you got lost and frustrated. Forgive yourself for not catching that ferry. Forgive yourself for not always enjoying yourself. It doesn’t have to be fun 24/7 – maybe just aim for 7/11. For all your one hundred mistakes, you are one hundred times smarter.
At that time up on the couch, I didn’t even know if I’d make it through the day, let alone the rest of the week in Japan. And that’s okay. The beauty of travelling is the extremities of every single emotion you experience: anxiety, fear, loneliness, guilt, confusion, frustration, anger, jealously, joy, happiness, freedom, contentment and enlightenment. Every little or big surprise you encounter along the way, both good and bad.
You’ve just got to accept shit, let shit stick to shit, and then let that shit hit the fan. Momentarily allow yourself to be engulfed in a shit storm, and then be left standing in a shit-covered room, saying, “Shit!” Then who knows – maybe better shit will come together. Or at least something like that; I hope.