Today, I want to tell you about that one time I needed to mail a parcel from Rishikesh, India to Ontario, Canada.
The reality of traveling for a long period of time is that inevitably you accumulate shit. There is a trinket that you buy for a friend back home, a skirt that you love, a card that a travel companion gives you, another filled up journal. But you only have finite space in the backpack. So at every location, when you leave and head for your next one, you re-pack the bag. Often, things do not fit. This is where you leave a book or two behind in the hostel you are staying at, or finally toss a ratty t-shirt that has now been washed every other day for three months.
But sometimes, you pack up a little pile of things, and send it home as a parcel. That means going to the post office. In North America, the errand would take you 10 minutes, and you’d be quite unhappy if it took any longer. In India, sending an international parcel in 2012 meant spending four or five hours at the post office.
You needed to bring all the things you wanted to mail.
You needed to stand in line.
You needed to put all the things in an envelope or a box.
Then you needed to purchase cloth and marker (but stand in another line first).
You needed to get a worker to sew your envelope in cloth, and write the address clearly on the package (you also needed to have a return address in India - I used the place I was staying at, and it literally made me giddy to have a return address in India).
Listen, I had a great time.
First of all, I am no stranger to random bureaucracy (cough, mother Russia… cough…). You should have seen what it took to pay your gas bill in the 90s. Lots of lines? Check. Always a municipal clerk with a resting bitch face? Check-check! Second of all, there were no children of any kind hanging off of me at the time. Well.. there were local children who really really wanted to take a picture with a white girl, but I wasn’t personally responsible for them, so…
I knew my post office visit was going to take me all day, you see. I have talked to fellow travelers. I brought a book. I had a meal before I showed up. I was good. I was amused. It was all new. Interesting. Fascinating.
And I kept thinking about what that day would have been like instead, if I showed up to a post office in Rishikesh, expecting the same experience as the post office in Toronto. If I expected things to be the way I knew them to be. I can feel my left eye twitching just thinking about that.
It is our expectation that wrecks it, isn’t it?
As I observed an American family yelling at their server in Paris a few years prior - I was sure of it. We were paying seven euros for the pleasure of having a coffee while looking at the Eiffel tower, but they were so very upset that the coffee was lukewarm, and I knew they wanted their usual Starbucks latte, and the tourist-grade shitty coffee that they got was not THAT.
If you expect things to be the way things always have been, you are bound to be shocked and disappointed.
That seems to be the case, no matter what it is you do.
Children (bless them sideways) seem to teach me this lesson again and again and again and again - as if knowing that I can be a slow learner.
Another memory snippet: A Canadian couple chats me up, as I am settling in for a work morning at a cafe on boardwalk in La Serena, Chile. They saw Italian leave earlier with a stroller, heading out to put our 18-month old at a time for her first nap of the day. They posthoc coo at the baby (yes, thank you - she IS very cute), and ask all the questions.
When did we get to La Serena? (Two days ago).
How long were we going to be in La Serena? (Three weeks.)
What were we planning to do in La Serena?
Well… This. I shrugged. Get up in the morning, have coffee, feed the kid, then head out for a nice morning walk along the water, then grab some breakfast, and then Italian would watch the kid, while I worked.
Yes, they nod. But… what ELSE?
No. Nothing else. I was working full-time, and we had an 18-month old. There wasn’t space for anything else. We knew there were museums, and bus tours into the desert, and stargazing excursions, and elaborate wine tastings, and… .. and… This was not the trip for it.
Instead, we logged miles and miles of sea air walks.
I ran on the beach.
I wasn’t EXPECTING stargazing trips and wineries on this trip.
It is our expectation that wrecks it, isn’t it?
I have done enough travelling pre-children to know to adjust my expectations of what travel would look like post-children.
We did make it out to a winery. It was chaotic and tiring. [Toddler parents, it was everything you’d expect. Non-toddler parents - imagine running through the beautiful Chilean wineries trying to catch a rabid racoon. The racoon is very cute, and you are forever responsible for catching, feeding and domesticating the racoon. Nobody is stupid enough to bring their own racoons to the winery, and then there is you…).
But we got to see wine grapes actually growing on their vines, and taste them. We tried the best red wine (Don Melchor) we’ve had to date. It was worth it. Most importantly, we didn’t expect our winery experience to resemble the one we would have had three years prior. My firstborn got on thirteen flights, and visited three countries in her first year of life (because pre-COVID). Every trip was an adventure, and fun in some ways, and hellish in others. I learned with each trip.
Costa Rica in February was way too hot for a four month old - we spent a good chunk of the day hiding inside.
Trips less than a week are almost never worth it.
Time difference with an infant is a bitch.
Twelve hour time difference will make you regret being born, your child being born, and every other decision you have made that led you to a point where you have to deal with an infant AND twelve hour time difference.
You can buy diapers anywhere.
Expecting a thing (especially a NEW thing) to be the same as the old thing can be quite a bummer.
Is there anything you are expecting to be the same way it always was?
Expecting your stomach to look the same way today as it did five years ago? Expecting the same number of plates on the barbell as before? Expecting to tolerate alcohol just as well as you did in your 20s? Expecting a relationship to look and feel the same way after 10 years? It is our expectation that wrecks it, isn’t it?