Pleasure doesn’t just come from us getting everything we want, and or in just the way we think we need it. Some pleasure comes from facing challenges or difficult things, finding our strengths and building confidence.
Not everything about travel is so pleasurable. The flying experience is less and less fun. My plans don’t always go well. Things can get lost, broken (including body parts) or stolen. And when these things happen we don’t have the comfort, familiarity or our easy “go to” supports to fall back on. And yet, it’s the novel ways these situations get resolved and the experiences we go through that add to the learning and growing that travel offers.
About 18 years ago I was on holiday in Cuba. One morning I was very ungracefully getting out of a beach chair and wrenched my knee. The resort doctor was convinced I needed to go to the hospital to have it looked at. I was pretty sure it would resolve in a few days. However my interest in health care won out, as I thought a visit to a Cuban hospital would be interesting.
So off in a miniature ambulance I went. We picked up and dropped off hitchhikers along the way – that was fun. The medical care was excellent even if the setting was rather dingy. While not inspiring on the level of sanitation, I was in and out in about 4 hours and saw a slice of Cuba not offered on the usual tours. As I remember that trip, my rural hospital visit was one of the highlights.
For the recent California trip, another challenging incident - my travel pouch with all my important cards and documents left in a restaurant. As these things usually happen, it was late at night. I had just returned to my base location from a six-day poetry workshop, the main purpose of my trip. So inside I was transitioning back from an amazing and deep inward journey, to ordinary life, which can be challenging.
Being distracted and tired, I left my travel pouch in a restaurant and when I went back to find it, the place was closed for the night. So you can imagine the night I spent – panic, strategizing, texting with a friend to problem solve replacing my passport before the return flight, getting money for the following days. At some point in the night a wave of calm came over me that said: “Go to sleep there is nothing you can do right now. Maybe your pouch is safely tucked away just waiting at the restaurant. Why panic? There may be no need.” Within five minutes I was sound asleep.
Next morning very early, my kind couch-surfing host had the pouch in hand. He had whipped down to the restaurant and already retrieved it. But not without a bit of an effort – banging at length on the back door to get the early morning prep staff to open up, insisting it must be there, while they insisted it wasn’t. Fortunately he is a tenacious ex-New Yorker used to persisting. The pouch was found and returned.
I felt relief, amazement and a renewal of confidence in humans as I held that pouch in my hands. Stan, my host, who I sensed had been mildly annoyed at my mishap the night before, was now my hero. I could see his delight in being the source of my elation and relief. This early incident forged a sweet and humorous connection between us that I hope will be the basis for becoming good friends from afar.
No doubt this incident will stand out as one of the highlights of my California adventure. It will certainly stay with me as an emblem to human kindness, decency and the power of positive expectancy. I feel delighted in relaying this travel story – not what one would usually think of as pleasure, but pleasure indeed.
What challenging or difficult incidents from your life have in retrospect brought you great pleasure?
Next entry: Pleasure … sexual and otherwise
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