A little knowledge can be dangerous, and when it comes to travel, I’m downright lethal. So I guess the opposite argument can also be made: ignorance is bliss. Why my travel companions don’t take away my navigation tasks is beyond me. Perhaps they don’t realize that I’m also blundering along looking for some recognizable landmark. I think they’re content that I lead.
I didn’t mind running with the locals when trains suddenly changed tracks. But there was one incident that I wasn’t prepared for.
A recent post I read here about how the low points of your travels are where your best stories come from reminded me of a summer I spent in Europe. I wasn’t new to travel, and didn’t mind staring at posted train times or running with the locals when trains suddenly changed tracks. I could figure out which trains would stop at which cities, and which were direct. But there was one incident that I wasn’t prepared for.
I believe one way to turn travel into a more fulfilling adventure is to embark on a mission. I met Coloradan Lynette Collins at a book event, where she read an inspiring email she’d written about her recent mission to Honduras. She and her dentist husband had joined the East Chapel Hill Rotary Club of North Carolina for a medical/dental mission. Lynette kindly agreed to let me share her email here. The written content is unaltered, with the exception of a few words of clarification:
One way to turn travel into a more fulfilling adventure is to embark on a mission. A medical/dental mission to Honduras is just one of many possibilities.
I wanted to let you know that we returned early this morning and we are well… no malaria yet like George Clooney contracted in Sudan! Bozo. He should have taken pills and received his shots like we did!
My decision to leave and travel around the world with a 13-year-old was not impulsive but directed. At the time, I hardly realized the impact on everyone who was involved with this journey. The gift of telling the story from my current perspective is interesting in that so much more of it is understood.
I truly expected this painting to fall apart by now, but it’s fine.
The date was September 10, 1997, and I will never forget the morning my husband dropped our youngest daughter and myself off at the bus stop on our way to JFK airport and the world. I had never traveled by myself or been out of the country more than stepping over the Canadian border one time. But when you know you have to do something, courage finds a place in your heart. We left with too much stuff and started a process of getting rid of things in Chile that lasted all the way to Thailand. I was traveling with a portable wooden easel and 20 pounds of oil paints. I didn’t realize when I left how hard it would be to find mineral spirits when I didn’t understand the language. It was a constant challenge in each country that we went to, but we were eventually able to find it every time.
I set off on a five-day trek to see Torres del Paine National Park in Patagonia, in the company of two perfect strangers… and everyone else on the crowded trails. I had heard of the pristine beauty of Torres del Paine, and the amazing view at the end, but the real reason I was on this trek was my determination to make my South American adventure a real adventure, not just about beach hopping and bar hopping.
I threw up in the washroom of the administration office, and began the 32-kilometer stretch to Glacier Grey.
So, after a few hours on an ancient bus, I hopped off at the trailhead, threw up in the washroom of the administration office, and began the 32-kilometer stretch to Glacier Grey with nothing but a backpack full of granola bars, instant coffee, a kettle, and a different flavor of rice for each night. And a camera, of course!
In the spirit of adventure, as well as inclusiveness and hospitality, today I’m breaking with tradition and welcoming the first man ever to post on Girls Trek Too. Andrew Rooney is a fellow Denver author who loves to travel, and when he told me he had lived in Africa, how could I resist inviting him to join us here?
Spring Break in Cameroon
by A. Rooney
When we got back from our college recruiting trip to the south, it was spring break at the American University of Nigeria, where I’d been teaching since 2006. For my break, I decided to go to Cameroon, the country next door and just across from Yola, where the university was located. I borrowed someone’s car and talked two other teachers into coming along: Ward and Jean-Marcel. We took off with passports but no visas. “Who needs visas?” I said. “If they send us back, they send us back.”
For my spring break from the University of Nigeria, I decided to go to Cameroon, the country next door.
The idea was to rendezvous at the border with staff from the small wildlife college in Garoua, Cameroon. One of our crew was supposed to drop me and another teacher off when we saw them, but no wildlife college folks were there when we arrived, so we took the car on to Garoua.
Adventures are like dress rehearsals for the real thing. I have spent my life careening from one adventure to the next – always looking for the next big trip to tick off my list. Whether climbing Kilimanjaro, trekking through Bhutan or scuba diving with sharks, I told myself that by taking great risk, I was learning to handle crisis. Of course, I never imagined the kind of crisis I might have to face.
Climbing Kilimanjaro, I told myself that by taking great risk, I was learning to handle crisis.
I told myself that perhaps if I kept moving, kept adventuring, those bad things would never find me. If I filled my life with chosen risks, then there’d be no room for the unwanted ones, as if each life had a danger quota. For years I convinced myself that by taking calculated risks I was actually forestalling calamity.
But that’s not how it worked.
When I ask my friend Amy Callahan why she became a fire dancer, her amused look seems to say, “Duh, Cara it’s fi-re!” Aloud she says, “I saw some people doing it in a nightclub and I thought it was way cool. At the time, I was into fitness competitions and bodybuilding. I’m not terribly competitive, but I figured out I really like putting on a show in tiny costumes.” Add fire, and she finds the combo irresistible. “I get a kick out of making the crowd go, ‘Oooh! Ahhh!’”
Amy twirled batons as a girl, and she’s been a performer and athlete most of her life, including: a cheerleader, belly dancer, clown, yoga instructor, and swing dancer. So when she apprenticed with a fire performer she learned fast. Within a few weeks she was spinning flaming torches.