Saturday, December 19, 2015

Embarking on Our Sri Lankan Adventure, and Musings on Travel Generally

We are off in T minus 8 hours and I am sitting on our rooftop, listening to Adele, waiting for Michael to wake up so I can finish packing (God forbid we disturb his beauty sleep by one iota -- and this is the guy who thinks he wants a kid?), and generally feeling contemplative and in a chatty blogging mood.

I really hope that our charter flight with Helitours tomorrow works out.  After a countless series of emails (usually consisting of the operator responding to one out of every six of my questions, and neglecting the others) and a few frustrating conversations over fuzzy phone lines, I think we have a plan.  This was quite a dilemma at first, because their physical counters are only open between 9 am and 6 pm between Monday and Saturday, and we land at 11:30 pm on Saturday and fly on Sunday.  Because they are a branch of the Sri Lankan armed forces (SLAF), they cannot accept wire transfers.  They also do not have capability to accept credit card payments online.  "Only at the counter in Colombo city, ma'am."  Um, when in this age does anyone buy airplane tickets at the counter??  Apparently in Sri Lanka, ma'am.

So now we are to make payment at the Helitours counter in Colombo city between 9 and 9:30 AM on Sunday (they will open the counter "specially" for us), about four hours before our actual charter flight, in Sri Lankan rupees or, for a 2% surcharge, by credit card.  Fingers crossed that it all works, or else our flight will be canceled and we will have to make last minute arrangements at the mercy of an unscrupulous driver.

But all of these little things get me thinking about travel again, and what travel means in our society, and also why I just like it so damn much.

First of all, I complain about the logistical nightmare of Sri Lanka (which is actually child's play compared to some other countries) and the annoyances and frustrations, but I actually love every bit of it.  Because, isn't it all just a great story?  The more convoluted and ridiculous the planning or the experience, the more I feel like I am in a Joseph Heller novel.  And that's a good thing, because how boring are our lives otherwise (boring in a good way, though, I should hasten to add.  I'm very grateful for the healthy, full, privileged, mundane life).

Plus, do you ever ask yourself, why should travel come easily?  Somehow we all just assume that we are entitled to extreme comfort and pleasure when we travel.  But it's all relative.  Travel used to be REALLY arduous.  At least nowadays we don't have to battle weeks' long trips on ocean liners or endure cross country travel by horse-pulled coaches.  I mean, that took commitment.  (Of course, I'm not saying that travel is easy in this day and age - it has its pains and discomforts too.  How wonderful is this little depiction of travel?  So apt!)

We also seem to have this idea that travel for pleasure, for vacations, should be relaxing.  Pshaw, I say!  Vacations should be hard (but I will be the first to admit I try to make vacations as brainless and as easy as possible).  So I will just say that theoretically, they should be challenging because they offer experiences that open your eyes to a new set of expectations, provide you with a different perspective, and force you to reconsider your very sense of self.  Who are you, what do you stand for, and are your beliefs and preconceptions justified?  (Come to think of it, I guess that's why I also like reading so much.  Travel, in a way, but cheaper.)

I love Mark Twain's delightful quotations about travel, and seeing it recently prompted this whole long rambling post:

"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts.  Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime."  See more here.  Of course, you can travel a lot and become completely disillusioned and grow more uncharitable toward your fellow man.  Choose your chalice, I guess.  

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