My husband (Mr. H) often complains about my reaction-less attitude to bad airports, delayed flights, less than average accommodations, cancelled tours and activities and well-planned plans gone dramatically wrong. Deep down, even after three years of being married, he is still unsure if he really likes or dislikes my indifference to such annoying situations, and if he can ever make peace with it. While he gets really upset and worked up about spoiled plans, I continue to laze around to kill time, watch any lousy TV series to keep me entertained or look for the next best available option to get me out of my current ‘not-so-perfect’ situation.
Today, I am flying solo to San Jose, and I had a really tight connecting flight schedule. Well, to no surprise, my first flight got delayed by an hour, leading me to miss my connection. The only option I have is a flight that leaves the next morning – and thus a boring 12 hours or more at the Phoenix airport. Alone.
But amid all this, what really struck me for the first time – while the airline attendant announced the delay – I sat worry-less, calculating in my mind how can I keep myself busy if I did end up missing my connection. Can I run to make it for the next flight? Probably not. Can I take another flight to SF sooner? Well, that’s not an option. Can I sleep on the chairs at the airport? Maybe. Watch a movie with the free airport Wi-Fi? Well, yes. Edit my Iceland images on Lightroom throughout the night? Yes, very productive idea.
But then H’s reaction to this situation popped into my mind, and I could not help but wonder – How do I really not care? Do I really don’t care? Why am I not losing it on the airline? Should I fight with them to give me a complimentary hotel stay or not? Am I really not bothered about being left stranded at the airport overnight because the airline decided to take off late? Am I really normal? So indifferent?
Travel has definitely made me “ INDIFFERENT ”. And today I can’t help but wonder if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. But, how I see it – it’s a much STRONGER thing.
I am more open and flexible to real-life curveballs, more adaptable to all sorts of places and extremely patient with all types of people. Its not an ‘indifferent’ thing, its just a more ‘take life as it comes’ kind of thing. And it is not that bad.
While growing up, I traveled a lot with my dad. He loved roughing it out on trips and because we were his obvious tagalongs we had to rough it out his way too. I could hardly remember him spending on a luxury resort over an accommodation that was out in the wild – probably inexpensive but more experiential. If we would complain about cockroaches, moths or mosquitoes, he would simply teach us the best way to get rid of them. If we thought the bed sheet was too itchy, he would ask us to carry our own or spread a towel instead. If I didn’t like the blanket, my mom always rolled me up in her shawl. There was always a comfortable solution to all our problems, and travel was never a big deal. The only thing that mattered was experience.
Being the elder sibling of the two, I was also raised like a boy. Anything but delicate. My father hates girly tantrums. For him it was all about raising me to become more independent, self sufficient, strong headed and always “present”. Something I realized at 20 – when I first left home to do an internship in a different city (Mumbai) – “I could always find my way back home.” Presence of mind is everything. Instinct and intuition is gold.
Then when I left to London for my post-grad – the tickets were so expensive that no one from home could come along to settle me down. I didn’t know anyone in London when I first landed – all I had was an address and a reminder from my parents – “Be present. Find your way. Be safe.” And I managed just fine! My second day in London – I was walking with a map to find the closest subway station, stopping people on the road to ask them for directions and simply being proactive about moving into a new country. Well you see when you are completely alone – all you have to trust and depend on – is YOU. You adapt.
Since then I have had a lifestyle of countless flights, and “delayed” flights had become a common joke of my life. Then I had a job that was half and half in India and Bangladesh. I started sleeping in flights, taking naps in cabs and in-between meetings, creatively adjusting to jet lags more often than ever, and dealing with people – sometimes pleasant, and sometimes very unpleasant. I was surviving between changing cultures, languages, systems, amenities, and attitudes. But never did I complain because I loved my job, and a happy job seemed enough to keep me going.
In the past few years I have traveled solo, stayed in homestays, volunteered in remote places, been on challenging treks and have dealt with extreme weather conditions. Nothing seems to surprise me anymore – and everything for me is a part of a never-ending experience – called life.
Yes, today I do live with a certain kind of indifference, but it has only made me stronger and much of a problem solver. Travel does that to you with time. It did that to me over the years. So if tomorrow your travel plans go unexpectedly wrong and you feel no emotion – remember me telling you – “Hey, you have finally learnt to adapt.”