Over on the Sourcebooks Casablanca blog, the authors are discussing travel this month.
My debut as a Sourcebooks author is still 17 months away, so I don’t get to play along just yet. But since travel is my very favorite thing in the whole world, I can’t resist the urge to play by myself over here (which, incidentally, is my second favorite thing in the whole world).
When it comes to travel, Pythagoras and I are very lucky to share the following:
1) A devotion to traveling light – carry-on only, even if we have to plan for both hiking in the Swiss Alps and snorkeling off the Italian coast.
2) A refusal to pay more than $50 a night for lodging
3) A commitment to the fine art of meandering – no hotel reservations, and standby flights that sometimes earn us first class seats, and sometimes earn us a few nights sleeping on an airport floor.
4) A steadfast belief that the journey itself is half the fun.
The latter has been particularly key for me – both in writing and in travel. As much as I enjoy typing “the end” or checking into a hotel room to discover little luxuries like soap, it’s the journey itself that really rolls my socks up.
This is something I’m having to remind myself as I’m in the very scary BEGINNING part of a book – the part where I really don’t know what’s going to happen, but I’m strapping on my seatbelt and hoping the ride isn’t too bumpy.
Then again, bumpy has its perks.
Once while traveling around Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula, we hopped aboard a bus headed to the colonial town of Valladolid. In theory, the journey should have taken an hour.
But because we’re penny-pinching backpackers, we opted for the third class bus. The primary difference between a first and third class bus in Mexico is that the first class bus will get you there within an hour or so of its predicted time.
A third class bus might get you there. Beyond that, they don’t make any guarantees.
I’m mostly fluent in Spanish (the result of many years of schooling, followed by four months living in Venezuela and learning more than I had in nine years of classroom study). This fluency made me privy to conversations that went like this:
Bus driver: We should pick up Juan.
Buddy riding in the seat behind him, serving no discernible purpose in the operation of the bus: You remember where he lives?
Bus driver: No, but if we drive around awhile, we’ll find him.
So we drove around for awhile looking for Juan. We made a few pit stops along the way to buy comic books and fruit, which the men took turns enjoying when they weren’t busy ignoring traffic signals and terrifying livestock with horn-blasts.
Eventually, we found Juan and headed out of town. We had just hit the highway when the bus driver smacked himself on the forehead.
Bus driver: Shit, I forgot my shirt.
Juan: You’re wearing a shirt.
Bus driver: No, my uniform shirt. I got in trouble for that last week. I’ve gotta go home and get it.
So we spun a u-turn in the middle of the highway – narrowly missing a large truck packed with chickens – and headed back to town. All 35 passengers aboard were treated to a lovely tour of the barrio, complete with a colorful lecture from the bus driver’s wife who shared her immense displeasure at his failure to return home the previous night.
Eventually, we set out again on a journey that lasted nearly four hours and included a rousing game of “let’s hit pedestrians with fruit pits while traveling 50 mph in a vehicle held together by duct tape.” When the bus driver emerged victorious, he celebrated by taking a nap on the floor while Buddy #1 took over driving duties.
Eventually, we made it to Valladolid. The bus driver was kind enough to weave his way through the narrow city streets in search of a hotel I pointed out in the guidebook. As the busload of weary passengers waved at us from the grime-streaked windows, we couldn’t help but feel a little sad to see the journey end.
So I have to keep reminding myself of this as I begin this new book. This is the journey – the fun part. The part where I get to throw fruit pits at pedestrians and weave through traffic at disturbing speeds.
Where’d I put my Dramamine?
* Butt-rock bonus points to anyone who can tell me song title and/or band name for the lyric that serves as the title of this post!