Here’s something I’ve been thinking about for awhile: the boring parts of travel. People always say they love to travel, but are they talking about the part where you see ancient monuments and eat delicious food, or the part where you wait in the airport lounge for 7 hours because your flight is delayed? Because both of them have an equal hand in traveling, and you really can’t ignore either.
People travel to see things and be amazed, to stand in awe of a famous monument or taste new flavors of a region. To relax and escape from a day job or to learn something new. In short, to enjoy life.
Isn’t it funny, then, that so much of travel is a practice in being bored, tired, hungry, and grumpy? In waiting for things? In getting lost, being frustrated, feeling angry, and just wanting to give up? No wonder we always joke that we need a vacation from our vacations. Seeing the world around, or even your nearest national park, is exhausting and boring.
I have a friend who’s favorite part of travel is the in-between. The moment when the bus has crossed the border of one country but not the next and the passengers exist in a constructed nowhere, a non-place. Or when the plane is high over international waters with only the topography of the clouds out the window. Even, to an extent, the similar feeling of another airport, another train station, here-but-not-really.
All those amazing must-see places are out there waiting for us: the great walls, the mountaintops, the castles and mosques. But to get there, we have to first make the effort of waiting at train stops, risking the customs checks, forgetting to bring enough water, and watching time pass over grimy bus station floors.
To get anywhere you have to pass through the in-between, the non-places. And that, maybe, despite all the hunger, the aches, the bored stares and tired eyes, that is what makes the places, the bookends of the in-between, even better.