I recently returned from a lovely one week stay on the island of Roatan. Well, actually one week and one extra day and we’ll get to that in a moment. Just in case you’re wondering about Roatan (most people do) it’s an island off the coast of Honduras. Home to the second biggest coral reef on this planet. And therefore a (relatively) new hotspot not only for sun-seekers but especially for divers and snorkelers pursuing an exquisite aquatic experience.
We lucked into an incredible week. Loads of sunshine every day, calm waters for fish-viewing, a first-rate dive operation for my beloved, new friends and restaurants and a charming villa overlooking the pool for us to enjoy. The sunsets were spectacular. The beach walks (for me) restorative. The people friendly and helpful.
On our first morning I sustained a nasty burn to the bottom of my foot. In hindsight I reckon I stepped (barefoot) onto an exposed nail head on the wooden pool deck. My sole literally sizzled (sounds like a song). Naturally this injury turned into a blister which most definitely impeded my enjoyment of that beach walk twice a day. Ouch.
On evening 3 we dined at a gorgeous garden cafe which came highly recommended. With good reason. The food was divine and the puppies meandering about a welcome delight. The mosquitoes also meandering (with menace) well … maybe not so much. The next morning I realized that both my legs had provided quite the feast for those hungry mites. I counted upwards of 20 bites, soon to itch like crazy and then fester and ooze. Fun, right?
I was very diligent about sunscreen and shade so even though my beloved (Mr. Un-Diligent) sustained his first-ever sunburn, I survived that flame unscathed. Poor baby him. Welcome to the real world. He also suffered with an ear issue which kiboshed diving for 2 days until he finally believed me when I said it’s probably just wax stuck to your eardrum and we syringed that beast outta there. Voila – he was cured and back on the boat.
And then came departure day. After a full 7 days of glorious sunshine, our final morning dawned wet and wild. I’m talking about non-stop torrential rain, high winds, crashing waves and general bedlam. Whilst all the while, back home in Ontario, the winter’s nastiest ice storm had pretty much shut down the province. We ended up sitting in the tiny (and I mean really tiny – only 3 gates, all in the same room, no bar and just one kiosk for refreshments and only 1 usually malfunctioning bathroom) airport for the entire day. We were given very little information (aircraft rotation problem?) and one $15 food voucher. The WiFi was so overloaded it worked only sporadically and the place was so jam-packed people had to sit on the floor.
So why am I telling you all of this?
I am telling you all of this because I am a traveling fool. I love to travel. I love to see the world. I love to discover new places and I also love to return to places that I, well, love. I like airplane food, I like getting tipsy in an airport bar, I love the smell of jet fuel and I love the excitement of a new adventure. And so every time I am blessed with another opportunity to indulge my wanderlust I remind myself that this is a privilege. A bonus. A gift. An opportunity to enjoy what many do not. I am LUCKY!!!
So what about those traveling FOOLS? I’m sure, if you have traveled only once, you know who I mean. They are at the airport complaining because the plane needs to be de-iced. They are on the plane complaining that a baby (or two) is wailing. They have to wait too long for their luggage. Their room isn’t big enough or cool enough or beachfront enough, you can’t get a latte in the restaurant, the bed is too hard, the eggs are too soft and it’s raining. Blah blah blah.
Now, I’m not saying we don’t have a right to speak up when we’ve paid good money in good faith for certain things. Even luxuries. We do and we should … IF we truly have been slighted.
What I am suggesting is that we sit back, take a few breaths, maybe listen to some music in our headphones and remind ourselves how fucking lucky we are. To travel. To see. To experience. To taste. To seek … and enjoy.
My friend L is a seasoned traveler and lover of exceptional experiences. As we languished in that Roatan airport and my random Facebook transmissions actually hit their mark, she suggested we might take our leave of the airport and wait out the endless delay at an airport hotel. In the bar. With wine.
Fair enough. Except there are no airport hotels in Roatan. We are talking third-world country quite new to the tourist trade. Trust me, it is SO worth visiting but don’t expect Cancun.
Her response made me chuckle. And then I closed my eyes, shifted uncomfortably in my hard plastic seat, turned my music back on and played another game of Scrabble against my iPad. My ass had been in that same hard plastic chair for over 7 hours. I had already played 37 games of Scrabble. And even though I do have enough padding to support that physical discomfort I was more than ready for either a cramped flight home or a beach bar and bed.
The beach bar eventually won. We all got shipped back to West Bay (best beach on the island) and one more night on stormy Roatan. It was a lot of driving over bumpy, pot-holed roads. It was two nondescript buffet meals at a nondescript all-inclusive. Another night in a foreign bed and another wait the following day at the fabulous Roatan airport. Before we finally got to board the plane in the pouring rain. Have you ever sat on a plane for over 4 hours soaking wet?
You know what I say?
I say ALL GOOD. All part of the adventure. ALL part of the great fortune of my life that I GET TO TRAVEL!
How lucky am I?
Well … 24 hours after we returned I developed the worst cast of “traveler’s tummy” (in the olden days they called it Montezuma’s Revenge) I have ever experienced. I was really, really sick with fever, chills and, well, you know. On the bright side it was an unintentional cleanse that helped me lose whatever weight I may have gained on vacation and then some. On the not-so-bright side it was just plain horrible. But you know what?
I am still not complaining. Nor will I. I will sing Roatan’s praises to any who will listen. I will gaze upon my holiday photos with delight. I will cherish the memories for as long as they burn brightly in my brain. And I will give thanks to the Universe, daily, for the gift of travel.
Because I am a traveling fool. A fool who loves to travel. But I am no traveling FOOL. I will never take my journeys for granted and I will never assume my adventures OWE me anything. They are MY adventures, to make or break as I see fit. And with them come the good, the bad and even the ugly. And even the ugly is only as ugly as I choose to define it.
My foot has pretty much healed. My bites are just teensy little scars now. The Roatan airport is a distant memory surpassed by the memory of all those spectacular sunsets. And my belly is … getting better.
You know what? In a month or two I will be more than ready to travel again. The planet beckons. I love that the planet continually beckons. So many destinations, so little time. So beckon away, dear planet.
It is up to me to decide exactly HOW to heed that call.