Saturday, 8 September 2012

travelling mantra: draft 1

It is nearly 5am. Maria and Johanna are sleeping, our first night in Istanbul. After 7.5 hours sleep, I am happily sitting in the little hotel foyer listening to the sounds of delivery vans sweep past on the narrow roads.

Our yurting mantra (on the left) has served us really well when living and working in our caravan. It was born from an appreciation of how potent attitude is to making the most of the opportunity. As I laid awake waiting for dawn, I was thinking about which of my attitudes is most likely to rob me of making the most of this adventure we are embarking on, and/or which ones will amplify the satisfaction.

We wrote here about wanting to take something of our yurting approach with us when travelling internationally. And while there are some common elements, I think the mantra could do with a tweak for this type of excursion.

Firstly: ‘savour the hour’.

 Take it in, take it all in,

Now is the time that will not come again,

Take it in, take it all in,

Now is the time, and its here for the livin’.

The Waifs

When one has many places they wish to visit, the chances of never being back to any spot is very high. Each place in each city in each country has its own history and character; when on the move as you are when travelling, have an ‘emotional blink’ – and you miss it.

The Melbourne to Abu Dhabi leg was a shocker. Stuffy air, average food, sleeplessness … blah blah blah … pretty easy to write it off and wish for the ‘next bit’. But there will come a time, when the idea of being on an Etihad flight to the other side of the world will hold incredible appeal. So even the not-so-good elements need to be embraced for what they are.

Secondly: ‘respect the locals

We had arrived and showered yesterday with enough time to wander around for a few hours before having a feed and crashing into bed. Maria has booked us into a little place within walking distance of many of the attractions, so with some advice from our amazing host Yousef, we ventured out. The squares were teeming with people, and the most common street food on offer was corn on the cob, either steamed or grilled. The bright yellow looked really appealing, so to fight off the hunger until dinner we grabbed a couple.

The first bite was disappointing. Rubbery and pretty much devoid of moisture, it was hard to comprehend how something that looked so good, tasted so ordinary. And yet people were queuing up to get a piece of it. I later commented to Johanna, "imagine how popular these would be if they actually tasted good". She rightly rebuked me, “different people enjoy different things Dad.”

She was right. And it reveals one of the biggest temptations when travelling; to look at people, places, food and everything for that matter, through the lens of home. This natural inclination effectively robs us of the opportunity to experience difference. Suspending judgement is a great prerequisite for this kind of travel, otherwise we end up skimming past a culture and failing to engage it at all beyond the tourist brochure. There was a time when I would have mocked the ceiling decoration under which I am sitting ... still wouldn't choose it for my house, but we will appreciate the taste that described this as beautiful.

And thirdly, I’m going to bring one over from the yurting mantra. As I stood in an Istanbul telco store yesterday, the possibility that my well planned strategy for mobile data and internet coverage may not enjoy flawless execution! So how do I respond? The temptation is to throw a little respectable tantrum and lament other people’s incompetence. But, this is based on the pathology, to which I am very vulnerable, that life is hardly worth living when ‘things don’t work’. So, as we often say in our household, put your big girl panties on and deal with it. Or in the yurting mantra language, what happens, happens.

So, draft 1 of our travel mantra: savour the hour, respect the locals, what happens happens. I'm looking forward to the discussion with Maria and Johanna to see what they think.

The call to prayer is punctuating the darkness, and our cluttered site got more cluttered ... the draft travelling mantra is on the left.