“What makes travelling so appealing to me is that everything is renewed constantly. New challenges and different happenings arise all the time …”
A small group of us had just spent a fruitless week searching for waves in a remote corner of the Mentawai Islands, that exquisite archipelago in Indonesia that all surfers fantasize about. The crystal clear water, ideally shaped coral reefs that pulse with color and the emerald green jungle crowding the shores make this part of the world one of the most desired destinations for every surfer. But we were demoralized and tired because we had found nothing in the way of waves. We decided to catch a ferry to one of the well known, but crowded surf destinations nearby to console ourselves.
What makes travelling so appealing to me is that everything is renewed constantly. New challenges and different happenings arise all the time and bad experiences are usually easy to forget once you move on to another destination. You leave one place behind, get on a bus and arrive in a different world with a clean slate and high expectations.
These days, with travel books, the internet and (still most importantly) word of mouth, you have a good idea of what to expect before you arrive. But sometimes there is a surprise; it doesn’t matter whether it’s good or bad. That special feeling you get when you look around you and realize that things aren’t what you expected is addictive.
This is the fix for the travel junkie; the constant curiosity about what lies at the end of this road or behind that rise needs to be satisfied.
And when you find out what was hidden around the bend, you start wondering about what you would have found if you took a different direction back there. Could things have turned out better? You’ll never know until you return one day.
And now we were standing on a derelict jetty, waiting for our friend Derrick, who had the infuriating habit of always needing the loo whenever we were about to depart. Shaun Tomson famously said that time stands still when you are riding the tube on a wave.
For Derrick, time stands still when he’s on the toilet. When he finally emerged from the shed shielding the hole in the wharf grandly signposted as “Tourist Conveniences”, the ferry we were supposed to have taken was chugging out of the harbor and we were all seething with frustration: the next boat was only due in a few days. But while we were still sitting around on the wharf not talking to Derrick, a feral Aussie with a surfboard under one arm and a sack of rice under the other appeared. He was waiting for a fishing boat that would drop him off on an obscure islet that none of us had ever heard of.
We rolled the dice, jumped on board with him and found the most perfect waves on a pristine, palm fringed beach. For the next week we camped on the sand, subsisted on rice, fish flakes and coconuts and surfed the best waves of our lives with not another soul in sight. Just over the horizon, hordes of frustrated surfers were fighting each other for waves at the famous surf spot that would have been our destination. We would never have known about the existence of this magical place, had it not been for Derrick’s dodgy digestion.
But, to get back to the appeal of traveling, I think we should be careful not to let it lure us in too far.
The compulsive traveler’s approach to life, moving on constantly and in the process running away from his problems and responsibilities, can be problematic. Life can easily become a series of superficial encounters and I suppose the temptation to just keep moving away from commitments and mistakes will limit personal growth, ultimately creating an unfulfilling existence.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Travelling is a fools paradise … I pack my trunk, embrace my friends, embark on the sea and at last wake up in Naples, and there besides me is the stern fact, the sad self, unrelenting, identical, that I fled from.” Still, the freedom of travelling is like nothing else, but like the labels on beer cans say: Enjoy Responsibly!