Is it safe to travel to Islamabad? What language do they speak in Pakistan? How about going overland from Lahore to Delhi? I found the answers to these questions, but only after buying the plane tickets.
Choosing our own adventure? Or allowing adventure to choose us? I think keeping both possibilities open is the backbone of this thing called Tranquilo Travel.
In Outward Bound-speak, it’s called “stepping outside your comfort zone.” I experienced it vividly as a Peace Corps Trainee in Nicaragua; faced with a so many hot, brightly-colored stimuli every day, I was forced to react (speak, listen, behave, and move) in ways I never had before. The process created new parts of me, enlarged my mind — I grew.
Nicaragua is still exotic to me, it is still exciting, but it is safe and comfortable, like much of Central America. I’ll always be able to go deeper there and be challenged, but I crave the newness, the shock, and the awe that I know I will find in the East — Middle and Far.
I can now, of course, locate Dubai on a map; I can tell you that it is an utlra-modern, luxe shopping mecca on the tip of the Saudi Arabian peninsula; I can tell you that Islamabad is safe for Westerners, as long as they don’t go westward to the Afghan border; I can tell you that Pakistanis, while united in Islam, speak 20 languages; and I can tell you that not only is land travel between Lahore and Delhi possible, but the route is rife with crazy sites, including the temples in Amritsar.
But that’s it. I’m still enormously ignorant and this has given me a new perspective regarding the people who, over the years, have asked me whether or not they speak Spanish in Nicaragua or if the war (that ended 15 years earlier) is still going on.
Of course, as Zora Neale Hurston wrote, “you got to go there to know there.”
I plan on picking up a few more factoids before leaving, but I won’t feel the pressing crowds of the souks, smell the stickiness of the monsoon, or taste the sweetness of the mangoes, until I’m there — riding the backbone, outside my comfort zone, and reacting to it all.