Monday, August 15, 2011

Listen To Your Inner Adventurer

One of the things about travel that I find to be a constant challenge is getting out of my comfort zone. At the age of 62, and officially a ‘senior’ – a term I use as little as possible, by the way – I am becoming very conscious of my growing limitations.

Limitations such as falling levels of fitness, a growing list of aches and pains, and the need to rest more, drink less, get to bed earlier and sleep in longer! Limitations that I try to ignore, confront and test as much as possible. So in keeping with today’s theme: Listen to your inner adventurer, here are some of the ways I have found to push back against my own fears, limits and insecurities.

Make Your Own Travel Arrangements
While it may not always be possible to organize every aspect of your own travel itinerary, it doesn’t hurt to do as much of it yourself as you can.

Last year I undertook a long, slow round the world trip that lasted a full eight months. The only aspect of the trip I didn’t book myself was the airline ticket. All other travel arrangements, from insurance, accommodations, sightseeing, additional air and bus travel within countries and across continents, I organized myself.

As a solo traveler, taking responsibility for my own travel arrangements has given me the confidence to plan and undertake future journeys, secure in the knowledge that I have already displayed the skills, resources, self-reliance and self-belief to take care of myself under most circumstances.

Of course, not everyone has the luxury of undertaking an eight month journey, which allows time to chop and change travel arrangements, sometimes on a whim. Travellers who are pressed for time, and who need to be keep to tight schedules and strict deadlines may well find that their travel agents are the best people to help organise and arrange their trips. At the very least, a trip to your travel agent to discuss your plans is always a good idea.

When in Rome…
I know many people who go to extraordinary lengths to avoid the ‘When in Rome do as the Romans do’ principle. They only eat meals they are already familiar with. Or consume drinks they’ve had a hundred times before. The idea that they might experiment and try something different terrifies them. A seemingly endless list of ‘what ifs’ seems to paralyse them with fear.

Ok, let’s be clear here. I’m not suggesting you go looking for the most disgusting meals and drinks available to you (raw blood soup, fried tarantula’s, or balut, i.e., duck fetus), but a little experimentation to broaden the palate can make the travel experience that much more interesting, and add to any sense of adventure you derive from your trip.

The most unusual meal I can claim to have eaten is patsas, a Greek soup made from tripe, which in Greece generally involves using the stomach of goats rather than cows – the more common source of tripe, although tripe is also produced using the stomachs of sheep, pigs and deer. I can’t say it was the most appealing meal I’ve ever had, but (pardon the pun), I was able to stomach the meal without too much trouble.

As an interesting aside, the Illawarra Folk Festival (held each year in Wollongong, Australia) claims to be the only festival in the world that kicks off with a fully fledged tripe eating dinner. I wonder how many people have added that event to their ‘bucket list’?

Field of Dreams
Travel also gives you a chance to experience aspects of a culture in the home of that culture. Like baseball. During my stay in New York City over the summer of 2010, I attended my first baseball game – ever. That’s right, at 61 years of age (which I then was), I had never attended a baseball game – whether at the amateur level or professional.

I should point out that baseball is nowhere near as popular in Australia, where I live, as it is in the United States and some other countries, so I might be excused for this lapse in my sporting education. However, I was keen to experience the atmosphere and excitement of a professional baseball competition in the home of the game, and this I did when I attended a meet between the Staten Island Yankees and the Brooklyn Cyclones at MCU Park in Coney Island.

Sure, it’s hardly earth shattering in terms of adventure travel, but it would have been just as easy for me to ignore the opportunity to catch the game, and stick with the usual tourist fare available to every visitor in New York City – tall buildings, a top ten list of major attractions and such like. As it happens, my visit to MCU Park only wet my appetite for more, and hopefully my next visit to New York will coincide with a major league baseball game rather than one from the minor leagues.

The point I am trying to make is that there are many ways to break away from the usual and the mundane when you travel, and whether your idea of adventure is bungee jumping, or an exotic meal, travel often gives you the excuse and licence to try something new. Something you may never have considered trying before. Something which may in fact turn out to be one of the highlights of your trip.


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