I don’t really know what having the “travel bug” means, but I think I must have gotten bit a long time ago, cause it’s an itch that won’t go away. Once bitten, you gain an all-sensory experience. From the moment you step onto the plane and arrive in-country, your senses are heightened and on high alert. It is exhilarating, and I encourage you to tune into these senses as you travel.
1) Smell the Country
I know it may sound weird, but the first thing I do as soon as I step out of the airport terminal and walk outside, is smell the country. Japan was light like green tea, Costa Rica was sweet like bananas, Thailand was musky like incense, and Jamaica was fragrant like flowers. These smells are my first impression, and helps me to distinctively remember each country. Some smells are more prominent than others and may differ depending on which region you travel to, but for the most part, there is a general smell that I equate with the entire country. And I won’t ever forget the smell of mapo or stinky tofu in the streets of Shanghai. It smelled like someone left raw chicken sitting in the sun for hours, and as a result, I could not bring myself to eat meat for three months!
2) Taste the Country
Who would travel abroad and not taste the foods of a country – except maybe not mapo/stinky tofu! Much to my envy, there are some professions dedicated to doing just that – people getting paid to eat around the world. I am an avid believer that cuisine tastes best where it originates, and this theory has not proved wrong yet. There’s nothing like tasting an authentic meal prepared by people who are cooking with or without recipes that have been passed down for centuries. Even after eight years, my husband and I still talk about that fish we waited half an hour for in a shopping center in Bangkok. We were so upset with the long wait, but when we finally tasted it … OMG! The fish was the size of my forearm and cooked three different ways. It was the best fish we’ve ever had, and we have yet to find the same dish anywhere else. Also that jerk chicken in Ocho Rios from a man pushing his grill down the street was the most juiciest and most flavorful I’ve ever tasted – next to my mother-in-law’s of course!
3) Listen to the Country
What I like most about traveling is listening to and learning from the people of the country. I like hearing their perspectives of the place they call home. I especially like talking with cab drivers. It seems like everywhere I travel, cab drivers serve double duty as tour guides. They share interesting tidbits of information on everything from the best places to visit to how expensive housing is in their community. Though I must admit that hailing a cab can be intimidating depending on which country you visit, such as the pushy tuk tuk drivers in Thailand, or the guys who followed us down the street in San Juan, or the swarm that surrounded us in Jamaica, but we have since learned to just commit to someone and go with it! I also like hearing the different sounds of the country whether it be reggae music in the cab, or blaring horns of angry drivers in Bangkok traffic, or roosters crowing at five in the morning in China – these sounds just make the country come alive.
All of these senses help to paint a more colorful and vibrant picture of the country in my memories. And although I did not touch on all senses, know that they are all working together and the result of the travel bug’s bite. Unfortunately, there is no medication or cure for it!