Were You Born to Travel?

Did your first savings account have a country you wanted to visit in the title?  Do you dream in multiple languages?  Do you feel safest and strongest and most in your skin on the road with a backpack holding most everything you need in life?

Were you born to travel?

Do you feel more anxiety from the time between destinations than from not knowing if you’ll eat/sleep/get to where you’re going?  Does moving to Africa with a month’s notice sound better than most other things?  Do you cook things you learned in random places while listening to music you found in other random places while drinking wine you tasted in other random places?  Do you know, really know how, to hitchhike/train hop/ walk through mountains?

Were you born to travel?

Have you ever mimed or used animal sounds to obtain something simple like an egg or a Q-tip because you didn’t know the word in the dialect of the country you were in?  Do you have friends from countries most people don’t even know exist?  Do you really know the value of a good travel towel and hiking boots?

Were you born to travel?

Can you sing songs you learned in Andean mountain villages?  Have you ever lived with shamans in the jungle?  Do you know how to navigate through borderlands with no money and no map?

Were you born to travel?

Do you dream of making random ethnic cuisines in other parts of the planet?  Have you seen the stars from different hemispheres?  Do you know the calmness of being lulled to sleep by the movement of the train under you?

Were you born to travel?

Can you fall in love in languages you can’t speak?  Do you know intimate histories of off-the-beaten-track places because the old man in the village told you their stories?  Have you ever danced fire on the streets and sold bracelets to get enough money for a bus ticket?

Were you born to travel?

Do you have at least three maps on the walls of your home?  Do you know the words to silly pop songs because you danced to them in Central European discotheques?  Have you seen the sun rise, standing all alone, on the highest mountain on La Isla del Sol?

Were you born to travel?

Will you remember where your feet have taken you?  Will you know that the stories of places you have walked through make you who you are today?  Will you smile at the memories of epic days filled with too much rain, too little money, being lost in a language you don’t understand, and still being excited to do it the next day?

Perhaps you were born to travel.

Tell me, how do you know you were born to travel.

Image credit: Carolyn Van Lydegraf

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Girls Who Ride Trains (or Don’t)

“The train’s not there!  It’s supposed to be here.  The tracks are on the map!” 

It was a winter night in Poland, and it was f-ing colder than any other place I’ve ever been.  The train that my travel partner and I were supposed to take to Ukraine no longer existed.  It just was no longer there.

And then my friend lost it.  I mean really lost it. This cool, calm, collected girl who could take anything (except no trains), just completely lost her marbles.

“No train…NO train. NO TRAIN!”

Yep.  No train.

In times like these, there is only one thing you can do.  Buy mulled wine from a street vendor, read Polish poetry from the book in your bag, sing a silly song, and jump up and down.  Bonus points if the street vendor will take a picture of you jumping and laugh.

It was quite hilarious to me, my adorable friend, throwing a tantrum walking down the streets of Krakow because the train that was supposed to be there just wasn’t. And she was pissed.

We all throw these the-train-is-supposed-to-be-here tantrums (mine take the form of this-is-the-most-f-ing-cold-place-I’ve-ever-been).  We have a plan dammit!  We want to ride trains that say they will come!

Now any traveler worth his or her salt knows that plans never actually work out.  But generally you miss the train.  Usually it, at bare minimum, exists.  There was an explanation, we just didn’t have enough Slavic vowels under our belts to even begin to comprehend.

It never occurred to either of us that it simply would not exist, and we’d have to find another way, and that way would just happen to be one of the best days of our entire journey.  And from this I learned, sometimes, even though they say there is a train, the train is just not there.  And there’s not much you can do about a train you want to ride that will most definitely never come. Sometimes No train…No train. NO TRAIN! is the best thing that can happen to you, you just don’t don’t know it yet.

So what did we do?  Took a bus that almost drove away with our packs, walked to Slovakia, ignored the creepy dudes saying strange things to us from a house where we waited for hours for a hitch, hitchhiked with a guy who liked Megadeath, hitchhiked with a guy who barely spoke but took us to the bus station, took a bus to Ukraine, got in a car with our friends, and passed through the border to a comfy former Soviet home and a welcome shot of vodka.  Three countries, three languages, and a lot of epic adventuring in the course of a day.  And that day was one of our most amazing of a 2 ½ month journey.

Girls who ride trains get it.  We ride them right through the split of the countryside.  We view life from our window seats looking forward and back.  We see the shortcuts through the borders.  We find freedom knowing we’ll fall asleep in one country and wake up in another.

Girls who don’t ride trains also get it and find other ways.  We stick out our thumbs and are taken through the highways by Slovakian men who love death metal.  We drink cold coffee on the side of snowy roads waiting for a hitch.  We navigate to destinations in languages we can’t even begin to understand, and yet we somehow get where we are going.

Because even when the train is not there, we’ll find another way.

Take a train lately?

Image credit: Tab Tuhin