Even before we met, as individuals, Billy and I have always loved to travel.
I have written about my cross-country adventure on the back of a motorcycle when I was 19. Billy also traveled with his van to Guatemala in the 1970s and back again to his hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio.
As a couple we lived and journeyed through Europe for six months before we purchased our restaurant in Santa Cruz, California.
These trips were life-changing experiences and we just got hooked on adventure.
When we left the traditional work force in 1991, we sold everything and began to travel the world. These experiences forced us to be flexible even when we didn’t want to.
For instance, when we lived on the tiny island of Nevis, West Indies, every afternoon or early evening, the power in our home would go out. It could happen at 4pm or at 7:30, but it would happen. Lights would go out, and the TV would click off (right as the plot thickened in the movie we were watching). The pump bringing water to the kitchen sink or toilets wouldn’t work without the electricity, so things like doing the dishes, taking a shower or using the restroom had to be prepared for in advance.
We read books by flashlight or had discussions on future travel plans.
No running water!
Speaking of taking a shower, in Nevis we shared the Governor of Nevis’s home with other housemates who were opening the Nevis Four Seasons Resort on the island.
Aside from us and Billy’s best friend who was the head chef, all the rest of the roomies were young twenty-somethings and used to First World Living. One young woman would start her hot shower, then go to the kitchen, toast bread, smother it in peanut butter and jelly, eat the sandwich, then return to a steam-filled bathroom with the water still running and take her hot shower.
As natural water-savers ourselves, we thought this was over the top.
However, we had no idea how much so, until one day… we found out that the cistern was empty. The only way the tank was filled was by rain that fell or by water trickling out of the city’s pipes from 10 am to 11 am daily. And by trickle, we mean drizzle by drop.
We were out of water, with all the conveniences that running water brings to living, so how were we going to take a shower?
Being in the tropics, rain came fairly regularly, like every other day or so. One morning around 9:30, it was a typical tropical downpour. Billy and I saw the flooding of water through the gutters and into our rain barrels and we both grabbed towels and soap. Moving a barrel and standing under the drainpipe of the gutter we lathered up and enjoyed this pleasure of a beautiful shower out in nature. The jungle and sugar cane fields pushed up against our house, and we had a straight shot of Nevis’ volcano. Spectacular.
Then… the rain stopped.
Oh Lord. There we were, soaped up, naked, and out in our back yard when the maid popped in for her thrice weekly cleaning.
She was hysterical with laughter as we both searched the skies for the next possible rain shower. It came quicker than we even hoped, and we learned our lesson. Soap up sections, rinse quickly. Soap up again, rinse quickly. Prioritize!
Citywide garbage strike… then simultaneous railroad strike
While visiting Rome, the garbage collectors went on strike. In the hot weather, it only took a day or two for the bags of rubbish to become ripe. Besides the shoulder high piles of trash which were only getting larger by the day, the smell was the kind that would knock you over.
We had to make our way north.
This is when we found out that the railroad workers had also decided to strike, so scheduled trains didn’t appear or those that were already there didn’t move from the stations. We had to be creative and assertive in finding our way out of Italy by jumping on any train moving north no matter its destination.
Other miscellaneous challenges
We’ve been in places where there were no hotel rooms available for the night and either had to sleep in the train station or move on to the next city or country on our journey. Or the weather was such that the streets flooded up to the kneecaps or waist. Then parts of the town shut down due to necessary cleanup, interrupting daily routines like getting groceries or even leaving our hotel.
Sometimes bars would play their “music” until 4 in the morning, not allowing our adjacent hotel any peace to sleep during the night.
Or maybe we’d order something off a menu and receive something that seemed inedible. Maybe we’d get directions from a local (long before Google maps) and found ourselves in the middle of nowhere. Once, I almost lost my finger as I deboarded a bus in Antigua, Guatemala! That in itself was a huge adventure that required lots of flexibility, a personal driver, operations and appointments in the capital city, and problems with our maid.
All this brings us to making this point.
Travel is often dealing with the unknown, and things can change quickly, just like when Billy was in Guatemala and authorities shut down the airport, borders and public transportation. There really isn’t any “normal,” only adjusting to what is, and having a plan in, out, or around.
Sort of like today with the COVID-19 scare.
We made it through all those countries, and all those circumstances and have survived to tell the tale.
And we’re are stronger for it, too.
We know you can and will survive this interruption in your daily routine. You will adjust and because of this, you will be more personally secure and robust for it.
We have faith in you.