I never used to like travelling, especially travelling overseas.
In fact, I detested just the mere thought of boarding planes and going on road trips, both forms of travelling which required passengers to sit still for a couple of hours, depending on the destination. I always felt uneasy during these kinds of trips because I could almost always never stay seated for hours on end, and because I always knew myself to be a bother to everyone I travel with since I tend to become so impatient.
I didn’t like travelling by plane because I could never trust my decision in choosing between the aisle, middle, or window seat. The aisle seat allows for more leg room—kind of, but only when the flight attendants aren’t making their rounds—and provides for easier access to the bathroom. The middle seat is most comfortable when you actually know the people beside you, and the window seat can show you beautiful views at the right times if you’re lucky, but both seats pose a problem when you feel the need to use the bathroom, not only to yourself but also to those sitting beside you. Regardless which seat I take, though, I know I’d already grow to regret the decision, anyway, approximately 30 minutes into the flight. That’s about how long it takes for my legs to feel numb, my back sore, and my patience shorter by the second.
I didn’t like travelling by car for the same reasons, pretty much. Long car trips make me feel nauseous, and I can’t get by for long periods of time without breathing in fresh air and stretching my legs after being stuck in a small space for an extended time, so we tend to make a lot of pit stops along the way. This is also commonly the reason why our travel time usually becomes even longer than the ones accounted for by GPS devices.
Airplane flights and car rides are usually the “before” and “after” of travelling, however, and then you get to the destination, finally, and you’re faced with the change in temperature and the different timezone. It’s usually not fun adjusting and adapting.
A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to fly to the United States for an international conference, and while I was excited to be exploring New York for the first time in my life, I wasn’t keen on sitting on a plane for 15 hours or so. I also wasn’t very much interested in being stuck in a car for a couple more hours, expected to sit still, during the drive from NYC down south to Jersey, DC, and Baltimore. I most especially wasn’t looking forward to adjusting to the timezone, which was a full 12 hours behind Philippine time, and the cold weather, which plummeted to temperatures of less than zero on some nights.
Thinking of all those things caused me to be anxious, but I figured the trip was a chance I couldn’t bear to let go, an opportunity I couldn’t miss, and I supposed it wasn’t going to help if I preempted myself.
I wasn’t wrong. The moment I stepped on foreign soil to explore what I could of the east coast made me forget the initial uneasiness and hesitation. My limbs were thanking me for being able to be used again, and my lungs for the fresh, albeit bitterly cold, air. I of course wasted no time enjoying my vacationer status, visiting tourist spots, shopping, going on food trips during the free time I had before and after the conference itself.
Being able to explore totally new cities to me was nothing short of thrilling. It was an amazing and enriching experience to visit national museums and different tourist spots, to learn more about the country, to get exposed to American culture—particularly since I am an American studies major. Naturally, the experience geeked me out and I guess I can say I learned things about America I could not have otherwise been taught within the four walls of the classroom.
Between late night strolls in Times Square in the city that never sleeps and pieces of American history and culture I took with me from different museums and monuments in DC, I wondered how I could be so excessively anxious in the first place, when I knew it was all going to be worthwhile in the end.
Some of us may feel this way towards the idea of travelling, especially if the destination is practically on the other side of the world. The thought of being stuck in a plane, or in a car, for hours does not seem at all appealing, but trust me when I say that these things will soon be irrelevant when you finally arrive at your destination, especially if it’s a place as beautiful and rich in culture as New York City or Washington, DC.
My body still operates on American time, even more than a week after I arrived from the States, but I’ll live. The trip was worth it, and it’s an opportunity I wouldn’t have exchanged for anything else. I write this just in time for vacation season in hopes that your travels, too, become worthwhile. I hope you’ll learn to love travelling, just like I did. When you’re given the chance to explore the world and the opportunity presents itself, take it. You’ll learn a lot from the places you go and the people you meet.