Where do I get this urge to move or should I say, travel. And when I say travel, I am not talking about cruising around on a fancy ship, jet setting to an exotic land, sunbathing at a fancy resort or sitting on a behind the windows of a moving bus. I am talking about, TRAVEL. A transformative, growth experience of delving into the unknown and going where the heart wants to explore.
I can proudly brag that I have been to over 50 countries, and have seen natural wonders and met interesting people. I believe that one benefit of travel is the people contact. It forces one to get out of their bubble and reach out. Otherwise, one may be shuffling around in circles looking for something that they want to see or find. Since the street signs are not in my native language and people do not necessarily speak my language proficiently, I need to find some method of communication. When I am trying to find a site or a monument, I use a map. When the street names do not correspond with the map, I put away my map and start asking random strangers. I might ask up to ten different passersby in a row. It does not really matter as I am not bothering the same person ten times. Only one person gets asked that direction question.
And the science of asking a question when traveling in a different country is to make it simple. When I was traveling in Amritsar, India I was looking for some place along with some northern Europeans. They were saying “Excuse me, do you know where the Temple XYZ is? Well, that is fine if you are in England, Australia and the US. That may even work if you know that someone speaks English because you hear them speaking it to others. But really, it is finding the one key word like TEMPLE XYZ and posing it into a question and using your fingers, eyes, and voice inflection. So I have learned to adjust my English to travel English. So instead of all those extra words beforehand just say one word: Temple XYZ with an inflected tone of a question while you point your finger forwards. The answer will be a simple, Yes, No, or I do not know, but it will rarely be a dazed and confused reaction.
Along with simple language I use my social skills immensely so I can find something that does not necessarily have signs and arrows guiding you.
One day I was looking for the two thousand year old olive tree in Bar, Montenegro. This is not on the tourist maps and there is no sign with arrows, but it is noted in the “Lonely Planet” guide. I asked a local and they offered to take me for about 5 or 10 Euros because they said it was many miles away. Intuitively I knew that was incorrect info. It might not be so direct, but it was within walking distance. So I used the combination of my map and asking people as I passed by. Since there were many twists and turns, I would confirm the route with every person I passed by. Like I wrote, who cares how many times I ask for directions as long as it is a different person every time.
Well, eventually after asking about ten people, I made it through the zig zaggy winding streets. I would have found it sooner if I had a guide, but I was on a steadfast mission to find this tree. It was like a scavenger hunt, my own scavenger hunt against myself. Actually first I saw a group of cute dogs hanging around nearby and I thought well, if I cannot find this old tree at least I can make some friends. But these dogs were not very friendly. I should also add, that I was racing against time as it was getting darker and the rain clouds were gathering. Plus, I needed to leave Bar and move on to my next destination, which I would be hitchhiking to because the buses were done for the day. But that is another story.
Okay, so near the dog gang, I found a gate and the sign to the entrance. Of course there was an admission fee but I was the only one there and I could clearly see the tree through the open gate as it rose up high. Do I really need to pay the 2 or 3 Euro fee to be up close and personal to this old tree? I decided to splurge and pay. After taking countless selfies of myself and the tree. I hesitantly asked the ticket lady to take my photo. She said during the summer and spring there are many visitors and it is hard to manage them and take photos. But since I was the only one there on a Thanksgiving November day, she was available to take as many photos as my heart content of the tree and I. I tried to sit by the tree and reflect about its age and purpose. But I was so mesmerized by its immense size and presence, as if it was one of those political monuments glorifying a soldier, fighter or politician.
Why did I search relentlessly for this two thousand year old olive tree? To this day I wish I knew. I am still figuring out why I made the journey outside of charming old town Bar to track down this tree. And I am convinced that it is not because I wanted have a photo of me with the tree. But I did enjoy hugging it and absorbing all its olive energy while getting it on camera. Maybe it was the excitement of the challenge as if in a hunt. I always love to challenge myself as long as it is not hazardous to my health. Two thousand years is a long life and maybe I figured this tree had more wisdom to impart on me, than any elderly human. After all to an American, who lives in a two hundred year old country, who can argue with two thousand year old wisdom.
Amy In Wanderland
World Traveler and Explorer; Artist; Film/Media Specialist; Environmental and Human Rights Activist