Rishi Sankar: Ah Trini Travelogue

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Some days I hate travel but here’s why I still do it.

Posted by Rishiray on March 16, 2014


Outside the hotel here at 2am, it’s an all too familiar feeling; freezing cold, darkness. It’s these types of days, that I hate to travel.

Don’t get me wrong … hate is a very strong word and I know that I’ve been blessed beyond belief to be able to see what I’ve seen across the planet. Every time I jump on a plane, it’s a bit thrilling; a bit suicidal; and a bit empty … all at the same time, and it comes together once you’ve landed. You get off the plane, hop in that taxi, hit the hotel and rinsed off the scent of being part of the herd on that plane and you’re faced with a new combination of silence, danger and a bit of mental constipation.

… types of days, that I hate to travel

Travel is exhausting and disorienting. In Trinidad, we say that this combination of experiences gives you “Belly”; it’s that belief that you can rise above the challenges put in your way, regardless of the effort required to surmount those challenges. My mother would say that these types of experiences are “character building” … if so, then I definitely have a lot of “character”. I’m not going to pretend that the first time alone in Thailand, I didn’t want to flip over “tuk-tuks” when the drivers tried to rip me off or lead me in the wrong direction (Disclaimer : I did actually flip one on it’s side, when the guy lied to me and took me to the Black Buddha in Bangkok … don’t mess with a big brown Trini!)

The scene of the flipping!!!

The experience did teach me that if a man comes to your aid in Asia, he will always give you directions, whether he knows the way or not, in order to save face … how you react after that is purely on you.

I really shouldn’t be complaining about the weather at 2am being so cold, when I could be a guy in India, squatting on a milk crate crowding around the one air conditioner amongst 100 people. Or be huddling around a hot water pipe in Cambodia, while an wealthy expat is upstairs taking a hot shower.

I travel so I can burp in public … so I don’t feel the shame of doing it in San Fernando or Chaguanas, but rather to express my compliments to the chef in Hong Kong or Israel. I like doing as the Romans do … especially when it involves eating a pound of lemon and berry gelato in Rome at 9am or having dinner at 11pm in Buenos Aires, wandering Las Ramblas at 3am looking for another bar or having my skin rubbed off in a hammam in Morocco.

How about passing out in Maracas with red highlights from playing mas the previous day?

I don’t travel anymore for some sense of faux authenticity … I left that home in Trinidad with my folks. I can’t pretend anymore that searching for the best noodles/pasta/biryani at the crack of dawn or end of night will make me “local” or offer a “local tourist experience” … we’re always going to be tourists. The travel porn that surrounds us through TV and print media astounds me. When magazines trumpet the “best deal of the season” and I see pages of women in high heels on the sand, uncomfortable looking hats or terrible plaid shorts, each which probably cost more than the “deal” itself … I always wonder about the aspirational value of these trips.

I travel so I can see past this stuff …

Some days I hate travel but travelling for me is an opportunity to streamline and simplify my life … every time I feel that things are getting too complex, there’s nothing like running away for a day or 10 to help refocus and recalibrate that perspective. It’s a chance to simplify, a chance to toss a pair of jeans, a T-shirt and one pair of shoes and head out for one last joyride before tossing all that stuff in the garbage can.

Once it’s all done … everything is so much lighter, so that the cold, silent taxi ride to the airport and resulting flight home while having the same dread feeling in my head, also leaves my mind and soul packed to capacity. I’ll hate travel tomorrow instead …

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