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5 Vacations that Went Wrong but Ended Up Even Better

naveen0301 / iStock / thinkstock.com

naveen0301 / iStock / thinkstock.com

Throughout my collegiate years I had the opportunity to live abroad three times. Twice in Australia and once in India, with my fourth move abroad coming up shortly to Germany. Although the thrill of traveling excites every globe-trekker, most forget the reality of the dark side of tourism. Getting sick, bumming out the wrist and running out of gas in the middle of an exotic island, is all part of the side of traveling that no one wants to experience. But the best part is that these blunders down-under all lead one to become a wiser, more independent, traveler with a great story to tell.

Learning How to Surf
My number goal while living in Australia was to learn how to surf. I had a “kook” mentality about surfing, but without the kook-ish attitude. I had no idea what I was doing. At the surf shop, the surfer dude helped me, but was immediately attracted to a board that had a turtle painted on it. One night on the town, I met some locals who said they’d help me learn how to surf. As an athlete, I thought surfing would be easy, just how every other sport was for me, quick to get the gist. The white wash knocked me up, down and around the ocean floor and became irritated with the ocean. One attempt included me landing wrist first into the shallow water and tweaked my wrist. I did not give up hope and my trainer took me to deeper waters. After several failed deep-water attempts, I told myself to try one last time. This time I caught the wave and with lightening fast speed cruised the ocean, on my knees. I was paralyzed to get on my feet as the speed took me for a whirl wind, but life progressed me with baby steps. It was as if surfing taught me lessons on life. Some days there will be good, some days bad, and some are in-between. My bummed wrist healed quickly in two weeks and once hopeless was now hopeful that I could explore and experience everything in the world that I dreamed of; thanks to patience and perseverance. And I finally reached my goal to become a somewhat-skillful surfer thanks to getting back up when each wave knocked me down.

Understanding Ancient Rituals
While in Fiji, I found it fascinating and amusing to explore the ancient ritual of drinking Kava Kava with the locals in Fiji. Part of the ceremony is performed as a welcome to Fiji. The locals mixed this concoction that looked like a dirt water smoothie in a wooden bowl with luke warm water. I clapped my hands and yelled, “Bula” and downed the mixture from a coconut shell. They sang, chanted and performed This mud-water tasting solution left me relaxed, chilled, and buzzed like a bee. I went to Fiji for a scuba diving expedition and shared a lodge with 4 other people from around the world. Low and behold dirt water is foreign for any American diet and somewhat cleanses the system—embarrassing yes, especially when sharing a lodge with other people. Although a bit tired the next morning from the mixture’s sedation and laxative effect, it was time to gear up and head below the ocean’s surface. On my previous dives “stingers” kept biting people, even through the wet suits. This particular dive was the most profound. Everyone was getting stung except for me. As we dove below, somehow the marine life were magnetically charged toward me. Sea turtles, fish, lobsters and reef sharks seemed to have a curiosity about me. They would approach and look me in the eye. It was the most bio-diverse dive I ever explored. Some locals claimed the kava cleansed my soul, but with whatever the magic potion contained, it left me free of life worries and certainly kickstarted a detox.

Living the Backpacker’s Life
During the full moon in Thailand, thousands of international backpackers head to Koh Phangan to celebrate life and party on the beach. This tropical island homes adventure activities to occupy backpacker’s minds and wallets. The morning after the full moon party, my travel partner and I decided to rent mopeds. We lodged at a “hippi” resort, which was on accessible via boat. Photographing the shoreline from the ancient wooden boats, the driver dropped us off at Haad Riin beach. Stepping into the ocean, I set my eyes on people still dancing, sleeping and drinking on the beach at 10 in the morning. We walked to the moped station where the rental was 100 Baht, or three American dollars. Thinking we scored the best deal in town, I revved my engine and straight I went – into a brick wall gashing my leg and the bike. Hopeless, I hopped on my partner’s bike and whizzed throughout the jungle-like hills. While riding for ten minutes, we heard a “cluck cluck” noise, soon to realize that the gas was empty. There we sat in the middle of no where with no cell phone, 300 baht of cash and no map of the island. Hopeless, my travel partner walked in one direction and I walked to the other. Around a bend of bushes, I found a house where the locals invited me in for tea and treats.After my sweet treat, a truck of two locals saw us sitting on the side of the road where they graciously packed ourselves and the bike in the truck and headed to a gas station. With a full tank, we offered them money for their kindness, but denied our offerings. saying “We Thai people do things from the heart.” And with my heart wide open, we explored the best of the island from cascading waterfalls to mango sticky rice, all thanks to the generosity of the thai culture.

Experiencing the Forces of Nature
True hikers know that mountain weather can turn at any moment. My first extreme hiking adventure occurred in Banff, Canada. While hiking through coniferous forests and past meadows filled with bucking rams, I experienced sweltering hot weather and blistering, stormy cold winds all within a two-mile hike In the blink of an eye, dark clouds rolled in and buckets of hail poured from the sky. With not much visibility and being near five-miles away from the trailhead, the only shelter around was a mountainside wall and my raincoat. I preoccupied my the with nuts and cliff bars while staying dry. Luckily, the hailstorm and strong winds lasted 15-minutes and sunshine rose only long enough to see the most magnificent rainbow glistening over the snowcapped mountain, grazing wildlife and mountain lakes.   Everything in that moment seemed calm, still and serene. It was as if nature told me that good things happen after bad events. And nature was right. Situating my gear back into my bag, I lifted my eye gaze as I heard what sounded like a stone falling. I saw three rams who approached with gentle kindness and were what seemed like an arms length away. The majestic beauties looked me in the eye, said hello and we continued to wander down the trail side-by-side, long enough until the snow came.

Studying Yoga in India
I fled to India with hopes to discover the secrets of life. I chose to study yoga in Southern India where the dosas were tasty, chai was aromatic and yoga was a serious task. From downward dog to tree pose, my body shook and breath expanded as I did not realize how hard yoga is when doing it correctly. The guru would not allow slack or failure in any pose. He straightened, lengthened and prodded the body into proper alignment and I had no choice but to look inward at my life, my emotions and myself. The “wrong” part of the trip occurred while I backpacked the country solo for three weeks. Some blunders and mishaps occurred, which is expected in a third world country where English was far and few in-between the country of billions of people. But what I realized while studying yoga, were that these mishaps were supposed to happen. Every issue led to a life lesson or led me to a better situation. I could not help but think while holding the vigorous Warrior II pose, “If these wrong events never  occurred, I never would have met certain people, including the forever-loved soul mate.”

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