by Jill Robinson with Greenheart Travel
Traveling can be like attending a high school dance. There is the swell of giddiness and anxiety leading up to the big day and if you were like me, a lot of time spent daydreaming during chemistry class. We must prepare and do our research (who’s going to be there, what time is appropriate to arrive, proper attire), and then finally, the hour is upon us! The palms start to sweat and walking down that dimly-lit hall toward our final destination we realize it is up to us to decide the experience we are about to have.
We have two options. One, we spend the night on the outskirts of the dance floor, hydrating on nervous gulps from the water fountain and leaning nonchalantly against the bleachers watching in envy as people try to dance to Nirvana. Yes, we are safe from exposing our bad dance moves and awkward encounters with our secret crush, but this safety has cost us an experience that we might have remembered or even learned from.
Or. We risk embarrassment and leave the comforts of the sidelines and immerse ourselves in the crowd. Who cares if we only know two moves and we aren’t familiar with the songs blaring through the speakers. The lights are mesmerizing, it feels good to be slightly out of breath and “Oh my god, I just brushed the hand of my secret crush!” All this dancing has made us hungry. We should try the food, taste the punch, take a few pictures with the new friend we made while waiting in line for the bathroom. Even when the night is over, we still find ourselves humming that new song and saying hello to a few more people the next day at school.
Travel can be a lot of uncoordinated steps and nervous conversation and that exhilaration of suddenly realizing you are in the middle of a place that will inevitably shape you in some way. If we wanted to sit on the bleachers we would stay home and read guide books. We travel to learn about a culture, but also about ourselves and I say turn the music up a little louder because they are playing my favorite song.