Many people have asked me how I could just leave my job and seemingly travel perpetually. How can I afford it? How do you find places to stay for free all the time? How do you find places to volunteer? All questions I’ve received by email, and now I’m sharing the secrets in a series of posts about how The Happy Nomad Tour Rolls and what things are like behind the scenes.
Patience. It’s a trait I’ve never been blessed with and my lack of patience in many ways fueled my sarcasm in days past.
When you travel you can’t help but become more patient. Of course, it depends on what kind of traveling you do, but still, whether it’s luxury or low budget, you have to have more patience. While others see an 8 hour intercontinental flight as torture, I have no problem with 12 uncomfortable hour bus rides.
I think in many respects, people are afraid to be left alone with themselves. Numerous distractions give us comfort and allow us to hide in our own presence. While that should be a separate post in its own right, it gets at the heart at why many people dread traveling and the patience it requires – you might get bored at times and be forced to look within. And if you don’t get bored, you might face problems. How you react to those problems will also allow you to get a glimpse of yourself from within.
While in Odessa, Ukraine I had two simple tasks that anyone in normal life would take for granted.
I wanted to buy a train ticket. I looked online a few days prior and saw there were plenty of seats available on the train I wanted, but I wasn’t sure which day I wanted to travel. When I finally picked a date I looked online again and there were no seats. In fact it seemed like there were no seats for many, many days. I knew it was tourist season, but something seemed wrong. I thought it would be best to go to the train station and find out.
I entered the Odessa train station and found a sign in English. It didn’t help much. The booths all had different purposes and none had anything written in English. I first stood in the line for internet ticket pickup. I didn’t realize until I got to the window. I typed exactly what I wanted and Google Translated it to Russian. The lady read it, shook her head, and said “Internet.” Ok. 15 minutes lost.
A guy picking up his ticket took me aside and pointed upstairs. He said to buy my ticket there. I held the same message up to the window after waiting 30 minutes and she just said “niet” and went back to typing on her computer. I didn’t leave as I didn’t know where to go. She could have pointed, she could have said “Kassa” and then held up a number with her hands to instruct me which booth to go to, etc. She could have made a tiny effort to help.
It turned out I was in the line to buy international train tickets. I don’t blame the guy for pointing me in this direction. But yes, since I was traveling domestically to Kiev it didn’t help.
I went downstairs to the information desk. The guy spoke a bit of English and told me Kassa 5. I went there and no one was sitting at that booth. So I stood in line for the next closest one. 30 minutes later, the lady said she couldn’t help me. She pointed in another direction. I found a first class waiting lounge. I entered and there were booths in there too. Finally I found someone who could help me. I showed her my phone and a second later she told me that only the ridiculously expensive first class tickets were available.
After about two hours, lots of waiting, adults much older than me cutting in line and offering excuses like they knew the person in front of me like a child, I left empty handed. I bought a bus ticket online and that was that.
One problem. I needed to print out the voucher for the bus ticket and trade it in for my bus ticket at the station the day of travel. I didn’t find any internet cafes or print/copy places in Odessa. The following day I set out to print out this ticket. Odessa is a tourist city with very few hotels. It’s more common for people to rent apartments, so the facilities you might expect in a hotel were missing. My plan was to find a hotel and print it out in their business center.
I couldn’t find anything and started asking around in souvenir shops since most of the vendors in those offices spoke English. I ended up making a wrong turn and finding a four-star business hotel. I walked in, asked the receptionist if I could pay to print out a paper, and she said I could. Each page cost 1 Ukrainian Hryvnia, or $0.12.
Having found the equivalent of a goldmine after so much searching, I splurged and printed my boarding pass for my flight in a week as well. The receptionist was incredibly nice and again, after about two hours of walking around, I was able to print out what I needed.
I share this story to show the realities of traveling sometimes. For one reason or another, things are often more difficult than we’re used to. In some cases it can be much easier, but the things that are harder will leave a much bigger impression on you.
Patience is required and it can be a tough pill to swallow. Though my patience level is infinitely higher than it used to be, waiting in line still sometimes makes me anxious. I don’t know why. If there is a number queue system, I am fine. So patience is still very much a work in progress for me.
Considering where I came from, though, I couldn’t be happier with how much progress I’ve made. Traveling forces you to grow, and forces you to forgo the distractions and deal with what you need to deal with in order to grow.