18. December 2013 17:38
“This was all your idea,” said my mother for the second time to double check I had heard her.
It was indeed my suggestion we take the time-honored mule ride down the Grand Canyon this past spring. Although my mom was never a big fan of heights, I felt convinced the miraculous scenery of the canyon would distract her of that fact. We weren’t off to a good start.
I turned around to see my mother staring intently at the ground instead of the wide-sweeping vistas all around us. I reminded her that the whole point of the ride was to enjoy the scenery.
“I have to watch her feet so I know she won’t walk off the edge,” she said clutching the reins tighter.
Although I suggested that our sure-footed mules Jan and Leslie could walk down the dusty North Kaibab Trail in their sleep, the vertical drop into apparent nothingness at the next corner had my mom yanking on the reins to convince Leslie to turn early. The mule continued to plod around the outside edge of the trail as it had been trained and stiffly pivoted itself around the sharp switchback, causing my mother to scream in alarm.
Clearly, my mom was out of her comfort zone. I waited for her to stop imagining terror around every turn and to start looking around at the spectacular view of striped peaks, plunging cliffs and vast empty spaces.
You would have never guessed we were related watching my mother’s grimacing face and my grinning face on the ride down. I let Jan do all the navigating while I took a constant stream of pictures until my saddle started sliding sideways from leaning too far.
When we reached our turnaround point, I began to think I had failed my mother by bringing her on this adventure she could now tolerate, but not enjoy. However, when the mules started lumbering back uphill, the slow pace seemed to work magic on her mood. I caught her smiling and lifting her chin high enough to gaze at the immense grandeur surrounding us.
Travel often pushes our limits. Whether you are nervous of heights or insects, everyone knows something that makes them hesitate. Overcoming that fear can be a reward unto itself. On the trail that day, my mother earned not only bragging rights, but also a realization that maybe she was braver than she thought.
At the end of the trail, my mom even thanked me for talking her into the ride – a statement I had to hear twice to believe.
18. February 2012 01:18
“Drivers in India like to play the game of chicken,” said Anil Bahal, my India tour guide with Globus, as we watched cars weave through traffic. “They like to drive at you until the last second. Driving in India may not be half the fun, but it is half of the experience.”
Watching the cars moving haphazardly through the traffic near Agra, India, I felt very thankful to have an experienced Indian driver at the steering wheel. Just looking out the window, I saw four people on a motorcycle, cows wandering beside the road and about 20 people sitting on the roof of a moving bus, since there was apparently no room inside.
India is an exotic destination, no question. It is a total culture shock to most Americans, who aren’t used to seeing cows walking down main street or giant monkey-shaped statues next to places of worship. I was clearly out of my comfort zone, and I loved every minute of it.
I tried to soak up everything about the fascinating country while I was there. I shopped at a local market, tried flavorful menu options and even danced in a wedding procession outside my hotel.
I hate to think of all the fun memories I would have lost if I had felt too fearful of the unknown to go. People who know little about current events told me that it’s too dangerous to go to countries like India. I received similar warnings about Israel, Jordan and Mexico, and had extremely safe and culturally profound experiences in each of those countries.
Choosing the more alien destinations over the familiar favorites can end up being a worthwhile decision. Sure you can always go to your favorite beach for relaxation, but it shouldn’t be the only traveling you do. Travel to exotic destinations can teach you not only about those places but also about yourself and your culture by comparison.
Always encourage yourself to try new destinations, even if you may feel uneasy about it at first. The security of traveling with a group can help people explore regions of the world they wouldn’t have dreamed of going on their own. In the end, I always have the fondest memories for the more adventurous trips like the one to India.
The traffic in my hometown was oddly quiet once I returned.