When backpacking, or even generally in life, you will inevitably meet circumstances of spontaneity and risk that you either embrace whole heartedly, diving into the exciting attractions of that unknown abyss. Or you run, crying back to your capsule bed/comforting cocoon of stability and dressing gown of protection.
These opportunities vary. Travellers examples range from the weird and wonderful to the downright ridiculous, stupid and normally life threatening. Moped rides with no helmet, jumping out of planes, getting tattoos in questionably hygienic settings, getting flat-out drunk and not being able to find your hostel, diving with various aquatic delights such as sharks that could quite possibly eat you like an appetizer, going easy on the suncream (not one I recommend, I am testament to unsightly tan-lines that aren’t actually tan lines but are in fact just third degree burns that vary on the colour chart from lobster swiftly through to albino, and cause vast amounts of pain, questionable looks and me trying in vain to convince myself I look good.)…Previous sun burn on a girls holiday 2016, my feet looked like purple boots
…deciding that tomorrow you’re going to pop off to another country and explore that for a while, looking after yourself body and cheesily soul, and then plummeting to realms of true degradation; i.e yoga master down to big mac taste-tester and floor-sleeper, making friends with a monkey and then having said monkey try to scratch your eyes out for a bottle of coke, trying the most abnormal thing on the menu, throwing up after said abnormal thing, going on every day trip you can possibly book, wearing every shade of tie dye possible and all in one outfit and rocking it hard, doing a bungee jump, doing any kind of jump that involves an element of near fatality, trying the local spirits or testing the police’s techniques in what I like to think would be an epic game of hide and seek.
The possibilities are endless.
I like to think of myself as someone who seeks the abnormal and goes fully outside the box, someone who really lives life to the full and is a dynamite example to people everywhere that spontaneity is king. Realistically I am sheltered to the max, loving being looked after where possible and not wanting to even drive to places I’m not sure of the directions to. I love to bail on a Friday night out and stay in on my own, in my pjs and watch shitty tele and probably drink two bottles of red, no shame. I love to hear about this amazing temple that you have to trek through a jungle to get to where monks bless you and all sorts; to hear about it not actually trek there. Reading every travel and adventure blog I can get my mitts on, loving every single detail and promising myself I will do it and then swiftly skipping past any advice given on ‘off the beaten track’ regions or dangerous activities and returning to my sheltered cup of tea and boring biscuit*. (I don’t know why I wrote that, no biscuits are boring)
Equally, I live on the cusp of these spontaneous movements, feeling the need to accomplish them all but having enough fear, or perhaps embarrassment to convince myself that taking part is not a good idea. That I may not be cool enough to qualify, exciting enough for danger or that I am downright just not brave enough*.
*I’d like to point out here that I am not the human version of the boring biscuit and do skip happily into the risky business of the unknown abyss on many an occasion, and do not in fact live in a hole. Laziness tends to be my downfall, in equal proportion to fear of inevitable embarrassment as I do fall over in public on a regular basis.
Now traveling changes these perceptions. You’re alone, in a country you don’t know, it’s the perfect excuse to take part. You literally have no choice but to embrace the unknown because otherwise you’re just alone. Pushing yourself to reach these goals of dangerous exuberance in order to fulfil the typical traveller escapade into the instagrammable unknown and possible hospital bills- and also a way to make friends by making people believe you are way cooler than you actually are. I am that girl who unless slightly paninined doesn’t dance in public, but these days give me a table to dance on and some electronic smush music** and I will get this party started. Move over skinny, posey girls, Melons is here to get down and yell the Fresh Prince of Belair soundtrack in your face until you learn to love both that and my wicked moves that include interpretive dance.
**a term I’ve now coined to represent all questionable mix of popular music that include the inevitable bass drops and the ability to cause strokes.
So, I have two examples of my latest forays into the realms of spontaneity.
1. The trek up the mountain.
Anyone who has ever met me, been in the same room as me, or been in the same universe, will know of my pure and unequivocal hatred of exercise. I cannot stand it. Why you would want to get hot and sweaty, let your lungs feel as if they have actually collapsed and that you are on the cusp of heart failure, I truly do not know. Yes I look fabulous in yoga pants but they are just as comfortable to wear walking to the nearest establishment that sells ice cream and/or wine as they are attending a yoga class, where realistically the only aim for the whole two hours is to try not to fart in the presence of fellow yoga posers who are also trying to do the same thing whilst looking elegant doing salute to the sun; no one looks elegant you all look like you’re doing a drunken lunge at the kebab shop owner.
So, when the opportunity arose for me to trek up a mountain I obviously jumped at the chance!
In reality, someone told me nearly three weeks before I decided to take part.
Feeling a new-found sense of purpose and energy (what) I woke up at 1:30am to be collected and taken to the bottom of Mount Batur to climb the 5663ft to the top to see the sunrise.
What beautiful sentiment that is.
I, along with various other backpackers and tourists, started the climb with serious high hopes. I for one was thinking it was ‘incredibly easy, maybe I am super fit, maybe I’ve become an athletic goddess without even having to lift a finger, maybe I should trek that other even higher mountain next week, maybe aim for olympic trekking status’.
Half way through I wanted to die.
I can’t breathe, I can’t see, I’m trying to catch up with everyone else- who by the way are finding the whole ordeal really easy and enjoyable- enjoyable?! Yesterday someone ID’ed me thinking I was 17 and today I think I have arthritis. The group I’m with slowly but surely abandons me because I ‘want to enjoy and take in the scenery’- no I bloody don’t, I just think I left a lung down the mountain somewhere and I need to go look for it. I’m getting over taken by more groups which include actual children and pensioners who are all practically skipping to the top. I also get over taken by an elderly Chinese woman who proceeds to stop and make me be in a selfie with her because obviously the sight of me is just fucking hilarious. The group leader has taken pity on me and comes back to find me, where he then proceeds to chain smoke his way up the mountain whilst holding my hand and every 2 minutes lets me sit down- what a legend. He practically drags me to the top, where everyone is chilling out and are not at all looking for the nearest oxygen mask/gin. This red face won’t go down for at least 4 hours and my legs are turning to jelly so I’m walking like John Wayne on a trampoline.
What the hell did I get myself into?
I spent 3 hours convinced I would never make it to the top, that my chest would implode and I would die and be eaten by monkeys on the side of a mountain. I nearly turned back several times, and I hated every single breathless, sweaty minute of it. But, when I got to the top and watched that sunrise with my friends, with a monkey sitting on my lap and clouds all around me, well it was cliché worth it. A trek that for any normal human being was an absolute piece of cake was a massive struggle for me, and as embarrassing as that is, I actually did it. I befriended/was pitied by a tour guide, I am going universal in Chinese selfies, I couldn’t walk for 3 days afterwards but I climbed a mountain.
2. A Weekend jaunt to Australia
Last week I was invited to spend the weekend in Perth. The decision-making process for this went from boring biscuit, thinking every detail through thoroughly, to suddenly booking my ticket for the next day. There I was committing to the pirate life on an island surrounded by beaches, turtles, smush music and beer, when I suddenly booked a boat, a bus and an airplane in order to get to Perth to spend the weekend with some weirdo I met in a club and his friends. I proceeded to have the best weekend, meeting glorious new people, listening to beautiful music in idyllic settings, drinking good beer, driving a jet ski through shark infested waters (its Australia so I just assume it) and generally having a smile on my face the whole time. Absolutely worth the 3 million hours sitting in the airport wanting to kill someone.
Spontaneity hasn’t always been a friend of mine, in fact I’ve ignored it much like cellulite and bank statements. I’ve lived a life thus far that has been utterly brilliant and has included many moments of odd and random decision making. But being away from home, where everything is new and exciting and also fucking terrifying means that I am out of my comfort zone, fully out there ready for the inevitable injuries that will follow. Because its me, of course there will be injuries. There will be excitement, happiness, fear, pain, embarrassment, questions, regret, joy, embarrassment again and numerous other feelings. You don’t reinvent yourself, you become something better, someone with the extras bolted on. I’ll still hideaway from a lot of things, most of those things will include spiders in which case get the hell away from me. But I wont be saying no to things straight away.
You encounter these things that essentially can change your life, change you as a person, and change your number of limbs. Then you realise, a bit of spontaneity never hurt anyone….that much.
Ps. Apologies for the very late post, but these spontaneous activities won’t do themselves.