In this day and age, with all our gadgets and technologies that allow us to obtain whatever we want in an ever record-setting time, we have somewhat lost the ability to patiently…wait. A most common phrase, in all the languages that I know (#bragbuttrue), is related to having lost time due to something, most often than not something classified as being unexpected (that probably we should be able to expect): “there was this traffic!”; “I thought I’d be in and out to buy a couple of things, but that supermarket!”
And waiting, of course, is the worse way to lose this precious time of ours.
If that is the case with you, more or less accurately, then I recommend you do a lot of introspective work before you set off on a shoestring trip!
When traveling on a shoe-string, in fact, you will experience endless delays, extensive waiting times, and generally unexpected things (which, if you really love traveling, you should embrace and enjoy!).
On the very first day of my solo trip, which cheekily started after a comfy family holiday for Christmas, I was still trying to sort out my ticket for my next destination (Kochi to Mysore), and the resources I had available to me were just not delivering. The much praised train and bus booking systems online were not accepting my international cards (#rookiemistake, judge me not, you’ll have plenty of these too). I knew the bus times, but could not buy my ticket…and the seats were slowly but relentlessly being sold out. I was staying in a hotel near the airport, which was an hour or more from the bus station, and almost two hours from the city center, so going to the bus station, having a stroll in town, and then going back to the hotel for my bags was not a very viable option (depending on public transportation!), and yes, I was too lazy to stroll around town with my backpacks (see Prep talk!). So I packed my bag, and headed for the bus station, a good 7 hours before my bus was due to leave! I first had looked up images of the bus station, so knew that it couldn’t be such a bad place to spend a few hours.
And there I squatted, on the relatively comfy bus chairs, reading and watching people. Only in these occasions do you get a chance to really observe locals, and get a gist of their daily routines: two young teens, who came and chatted on those metal chairs, for a good couple of hours, before just leaving the station again… A young, secret romance?
the accountant from the station cantina, who is the only one who really speaks English, and invariably ends up chatting to you about his dreams of going to live abroad, how he loves hanging out with foreigners, and just gives you a little company…
7 hours flew!
But patience when traveling doesn’t only involve physically (and mentally!) waiting. Patience also means not rushing to do things, because the best deal is always around the corner!
When I arrived in the magical Hampi, for example, after a night sleeping on the train from Mysore, I was immediately tackled by a guesthouse/travel agency salesman. Even though he didn’t succeed in giving me one of his (small and cramped) rooms, he convinced me to buy my outgoing bus ticket for the next day from him. Right after, as I made my way through the village, I saw that he had actually charged me a third more than the standard price for that route! Of course, it didn’t amount to much, so I didn’t bother with going to protest (kudos if you are into protesting for your consumer rights, for me it is among the things to try and avoid doing when you’re on holiday!), but it was a good reminder to not do that again.
Finally, you will need a lot of patience with most other basic logistics: all those things you thought you could comfortably do while away (“Oh, but for those countries I just need to apply for the visa online!”), will probably turn out to be a little less…smooth. Slow internet connections, lack of information, people who don’t really know where you need to go but give you directions anyways (I’ve been one of those people when I was selling tours of the Colosseum in Rome, and as much as it was done in good faith, I admit it is a pretty nasty thing to do to a tired, confused, tourist!), etc.
These are just some of the things that might happen when traveling, especially when on a shoestring budget, and I recommend that the best attitude is lightness of spirit and self-irony!
What will you then do when that bus is just not arriving, or the Internet moves at the same speed it did when it was first invented? Will you get all flustered, and spoil that wonderful holiday mood that you earned with your blood sweat and tears?
Or will you sit back, laugh about the irony of the situation, and….wait?
With a smile pasted on your face, of course.