“You guys are living the life. You’ve got it made.” Throughout our travels we hear these sentiments from many different folks. We are and we do. We live in a state of appreciation. But why do we love to travel? I don’t know…so I researched “travel,” the word.

An ancient root from the Latin word tripalium means to impale with three stakes, as in torture. Later, the French root travail, or travailen means to torment, labor strenuously, journey, toil and struggle. Hmm…50 Shades of Travel? Perhaps I don’t want to know why we love travel.

Here’s an example of a day in the life of a traveler, which is just as typical as seeing wonderful things and meeting beautiful people:

Mare and I board a 20-hour bus from Livingstone, Zambia to Windhoek, Namibia. The bus gets so full of passengers that there remains no seat for the extra driver. He ends up sleeping below the bus in the luggage compartment.

Being the only white people on board, we get another glimpse of what it feels like to be a minority. Of course, we’re in Africa. The man sitting behind Mare is too huge for the seat. Mare cannot lean her seat back at all. I argue with him a bit, but he’s too huge for that also.

As soon as the bus leaves the station, our backs soak with sweat during this hot, bumpy ride. The road is long and straight, and elephants cross on occasion. An awful movie blares. It begins with white cops chasing and beating up a black thief. Great. Then, it develops into something about cops getting way in to God, and end up practicing loving forgiveness. (Science fiction?)

Four hours later we all disembark to walk about a mile in the hot African sun, between various Immigration and Customs buildings. We swipe our feet on chemically soaked rugs to prevent spread of “hoof and mouth” disease. This practice occurs at least four times during the twenty-hour trip. I begin to look forward to it, to break the monotony.

At the Namibian border, we are screened for Ebola by standing sideways, while a woman shoots a ray gun at each of us. Then we receive a torn piece of cardboard with a number written on it. Apparently, that means we do not have Ebola and can enter Namibia.

Ten hours into the ride, the black of night cloaks the windows. Mare cannot lean her seat back, so falling asleep means that her head drops forward. She lays her head on my lap, and stretches those long legs straight up in the air against the window. Mare sleeps. Lucky devil.

My knees ache. Back still wet with sweat. Neck is tied in knots, and leg where Mare’s head lies is totally numb, but I don’t have the heart to wake her. My ass feels like someone has scrubbed it with sandpaper, and my elbows are rubbed raw from the arm rests. Then, as soon as I close my eyes, the final movie blares louder than any other – “Alvin and the Chipmunks.”

The screeching sound of singing chipmunks in the darkness for two hours is surreal. That “Hula Hoop” song stays stuck in my head for days.

Twenty hours later, we arrive in Windhoek. It’s six o’clock in the morning and we can’t check in to the hostel room until noon. We walk the streets, mainly waiting for a “decent” time to have a beer. Time of day matters little at this point. Finally, in the room and out of our clothes, a shower has never felt so good.

The strange thing about “travel” is that we love it. I’m not sure what that says about us, but we live in a state of appreciation for all of life’s experiences. Well maybe not all… sometimes it simply feels good to stop.

Why do we travel? Most often, a pay-off comes with it. In this case, the following day we rent a car for an exhilarating ride on remote gravel roads, and end up in a safari tent at Desert Camp, outside of Namib-Naukluft Park. Unworldly landscape and monstrous dunes blow us away. Perhaps we travel just because we like to see different stuff.

Photo by Marilynn Windust

We’re living the life and we got it made. Thank you, Abundant Universe!  Ron Mitchell