Do Travel Disasters Make the Best Travel Stories?
Less than one week into a nearly six-month stint in Brussels and I had already racked up my first travel mishap. Heading out to an Internet café for a scheduled online chat session, I was so sure of my route until I came up against a dead end with no sign of the correct street. Only then did I realize that I had walked a good 20 minutes in the wrong direction. I dejectedly backtracked, arriving at the café 30 minutes late only to discover it was closed.
While frustrating and a bit demoralizing, my story is nothing compared with the travel disasters most of us will accumulate in our lives on the go. But it still highlights that no matter how much you travel, no matter how experienced you think you are, stuff happens. I blogged about this topic – travel disasters – last year, insisting that things that go wrong, while maddening at the time, actually become our best travel stories.
True, travel disasters are often the funniest, most entertaining stories, but only to certain people. Namely, people who don’t travel.
But do they?
I’m starting to think it’s more nuanced than that. True, travel disasters are often the funniest, most entertaining stories, but only to certain people. Namely, people who don’t travel.
Think about it: every traveler knows what it feels like to go home after a big trip. You get the inevitable questions of “what was it like?” “what did you see?” Questions that are impossible to answer. Summing up an emotional, inspiring, life-changing voyage into “It was great” leaves you feeling empty somehow. And if you really try to get into those more profound details, you can be sure the eyes of those listening will slowly begin to glaze over. They just don’t get it. However, tell them about the time you missed your flight, lost your passport and were accosted by local security guards in a language you don’t understand – all in the same day – and you’ll no doubt have their attention. Everyone can relate to a tragedy.
People who travel like to hear the good stuff. They appreciate the value of making friends with the locals. They know the feeling you get when you first gaze upon a truly magnificent work of art you had previously only seen in school books. They understand the existential quality of a quiet day spent sipping strong coffee and cheap (but good) red wine at a French café. And they identify with your burning desire to get back out there, see more sights, experience more perspective-altering, character-building, only-while-traveling moments.
Yes, everyone can relate to a tragedy, but it takes a fellow traveler to ask “what was it like?” “what did you see?” and truly mean it.