Today was a fist pump in the air kind of day. Three days in to the 9 month adventure and we conquered our first major hurdle. Purchasing all the bus tickets we need over the next 6 weeks in Mexico at the local bus station and only in Espanol!I felt like a seasoned campaigner going in to this challenge.
I know from my backpacking trips in the late 90s and early 2000’s that bus stations, like airports, bring out the worst in people. There is a lot of ‘lost in translation’ and not a lot of compassion for the fellow man – particularly when one has a 20kg backpack on their back and a 10kg day pack on their front full of their travelling capsule collection (for all those insta selfies) and their tech equipment (laptop, iPhone, iPod nano, kindle etc).
We only got through this predicament unscathed as I was prepared, like a girl scout on a military expedition – I knew what to say, when to say it and if my gringo Espanol failed, I had it written down in Spanish (old school) with the help of Google translate (new school).You see, last time I travelled, there were no smart phones in every tourists’ pocket along with the obligatory selfie stick.
I could only achieve this major feat as I had a said phone, wifi (also new revelation since Central America adventure of 2009) and the Mexican ADO bus app on my phone. Whilst I couldn’t book on the app (annoying) I could work out schedules, prices and classes of the buses that I wanted. I wrote it all down on paper and handed it over to the assistant. 10 minutes and a few hand gestures later, we had navigated this would be hurdle and I was skipping down the street on my first travelling high (You know that high you get when you do something unremarkable and mundane but in a different country and language, without a hiccup).
On returning back to our luxe AirBnB apartment, I realised that travel has changed. Significantly. Monumentally. Perhaps even detrimentally.
Gone are the days where you rocked up to the bus station 3 hours early because you couldn’t access the timetable. Negotiated tickets in broken Spanish and ended up on a 2nd class at 7pm, near the toilets and next to someone with severe travellers diahorrea or with two children and a chicken on their lap.
On arriving to said destination you walked the streets for hours, with your lonely planet book clutched in your hand with more determination than a door knocking Jehovahs Witness, to negotiate a good deal on a spare bed, in a dorm room, with 12 people, 10 of whom are Israeli and just got out of the military and could kill you with their pinky finger if they weren’t so stoned.
Postcards still existed. And if they failed, communication was every week or so via emails from the local internet cafe which cost approx $5 AUD per 30 minutes on the South Amercian continent. Photos were impossibly complicated and expensive to send. Skype had only made it onto the scene and internet speeds in South America weren’t up to the challenge. This was only 2009 people! Only 6/7 years ago and SO much has changed.
Back then (which isn’t once upon a time in a far away place), travelling was about fending for yourself, making it through the challenges and living to tell the story. But what stories do we have to tell today? They are filtered, framed and glossy and are perhaps just more of the same, same and a little different?
I am sitting here in my AirBnB apartment, on my Apple laptop with Google translate, using Evernote, on Wifi, having eaten lunch at a place from TripAdvisor, looking into a Viator tour, managing my budget with Trail Wallet and updating friends and family via Messenger, We Chat, FaceBook, Instagram and Skype via my Apple iPhone. Travelling is a full time job in interdisciplinary communication and marketing these days!
I have access to everyone’s opinions on every element of my adventure. Serendipity is scarce and ‘playing it by ear’ is near impossible. So too is disconnecting, forging your own path and just enjoying the moment – only if the moment is between 5-6pm whilst there is good weather, and happy hour drinks are happening at a 5 star rated place on trip advisor that my friend on Facebook went to last March and posted awesome pics of her happy and tanned self, with the driver that was recommended through the Travel with Locals app.
The world is definitely getting easier to travel across but it is also getting smaller, more digital, more calculated. What will the travel adventure stories be in the future? Who will say something different? What will they need to do to get that story.
My hungry for adventure self feels a little starved, like things are a little easy and the sweeping highs from conquering something aren’t that high or often anymore. The cravings are still there – the destination to get the fix is still unknown.