Becoming Immune to the Travel Experience

Caye Caulker. Belize

Here’s a preview image from Caye Caulker, Belize – Click to enlarge!!

As my eyes attempt to adjust in vein to the fresh new light of the previously dull tone I feel a mild rush of excitement pulsating in the atmosphere surrounding me. I wipe the sleep caked in my still aching eyes, stretch the kink in my neck and twist myself to a position on the rock hard carpeted floor to see what the commotion is all about. As I pull my weight to a seated position and my mind adjusts to my location I realize why there hangs such an aura of anticipation in the air; I’m in the airport.

I tap my hand around my surroundings to make sure that nothing “disappeared” during my night’s slumber on the floor of Juan Santamaria International Airport. I lift my body, which feels heavier than usual, and work my way through a group of school kids in line for breakfast. As I see the glow in their eyes I come to the realization that I have become somewhat immune to that sense of anticipation they carry so proudly. The night before, when the rubber feet of the air plane abruptly touched the perfectly smoothed tarmac my heart didn’t jump like it used to. When the plane’s brakes engaged to a point where everyone on board realized they were safe and began clapping, I didn’t join in. And when I stepped out of the plane and the wall of war humid air hit my face I did not strike a smile in realization that I was in Costa Rica. Have I become dull to the travel experience?

I board my next flight, one that will take me to San Salvador, and sit down in the aisle seat since my reserved window seat is occupied by a woman already. I don’t create a fuss, I no longer mind that I can’t look out the window. The slightly overweight lady smiles at me and her husband greets me with a quick phrase in Spanish to say good morning. I notice that the lady is confused about how the seat belts work as the usual announcement is being made to lock them together so I help her through the process, while at the same time remembering how the first time I boarded a plane I tried to act cool as I tried to figure out the seat belt.

Upon take off she takes the hand of her plump husband partly in fear and partly in excitement. I grab the arm rest with my left hand with some strength as well, hoping that the squeeze of my hand on the handle will cause a wave of nostalgia to turn in my heart; it didn’t. In the midst of my own self-assessment the stewardess comes by to take our drink orders. The lady orders an orange juice. The pretty stewardess, wearing a smile far too wide for 6 in the morning, asks the all too excited husband if he would like the same. He replies quickly in Spanish “No, I would like a whiskey please! I have been saving for this trip for 15 years, I deserve a whiskey.”

Feeling proud for the man, and remembering how special the things I do really are, that wave of nostalgia I had been begging for hits me like a rolling wave of icy water in the chest. A cool chill of deja-vu races through my backbone like a winter’s shake and I remember exactly how I felt on my first solo trip in which I landed at that very airport we had just left.

“I am really doing this aren’t I?” I thought to myself back on that first trip as I stepped near enough to the sliding door sensor to allow the humidity of San Jose‘s highland air to tickle my senses and the shout of excited taxi drivers to shred my ears. “I must be stupid” I thought to myself as a rush of overwhelming anxiety raced through my body as I tried to control my exterior presence. “This is going to be amazing.”

I laugh to myself in the memory of how I used to be and how I used to act.

“I was stupid.” I laugh “and it was amazing.”

I quickly come to the realization that, yes, there are days that I wish I could go back to being that scared boy eternally combusting as he held a combination of nerves and excitement from ripping though his skin. Like anyone I love feeling my heart drop into my stomach, love feeling that tingle race up my spine, and I love not knowing what I’m getting myself into. But in the end, I realize that I am no longer “20 year old Brendan.” I am “27 year old Brendan,” and that’s fine. No, I am no longer scared when faced with a swarm of taxi drivers, or nervous when I land at a foreign airport. Thanks to travel, and the lessons I have learned through travel, I have grown up. “27 year old Brendan” is brave, confidential and outgoing, but that in no way means that he has to have lost his nativity or curiosity.

The waitress smiles at me and calls me “Señor” which always makes me smile. She asks me what I would like followed by a quick exclamation in which she names off everything non-alcoholic on their menu. I smile back and feel a wave of excitement about my journey begin to take over my previously dulled senses.

“I’ll have what he’s having” I say as I point to the plastic glass half-full with whiskey and ice on the old man’s drink tray. He smiles back at me and when the drink hits my hand he pulls his up in the air and says “Salut! Por la vida es bonita! (Cheers, for life is beautiful)”

Author: Brendan van Son

Author: I am a travel writer and photographer from Alberta, Canada. Over my years as a travel photographer, I have visited 6 of the 7 continents and more countries than I have any desire to count. If you want to improve your skills, be sure to check out my travel photography channel on Youtube . Also, check out my profile on . to learn a little bit more about me and my work.

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  1. What a very well written post. And interesting too, it’s funny to think about what we were like as young travel bunnies 🙂 I’m happy not to be scared to fly anymore and fortunately I do still get excited about most places we go.

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  2. Great post – I’m not sure too many people understand the highs and lows of long term travel. Sometimes you just have to push through the days where you’re not feeling it – there’s always something that comes along that reminds you why its that you’re doing what you are.

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  3. I know exactly how you feel. In fact, feeling like this was part of the reason I went back to Sydney for a couple of months – I just wasn’t excited *at all* any more.

    And I still don’t get quite as excited or feel as much anticipation in airports as I used to and sometimes I wish I could be like the man who has saved for his trip for 15 years, but a bit of a break definitely helped to refresh me.

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  4. Great post Brendan, it’s almost like the kid growing up and not getting quite as excited about X-mas. I can relate, it’s not that you don’t appreciate your travels it’s just that you’ve done these things (flights, sleeping in airports, long bus rides, etc) so often now that you no longer get a buzz or adrenaline rush from it. I found myself getting a little bored of my typical travel routine & then I went to India & well, WOW!

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    • @Samuel – You’re right… the craziness of places like India and China are definitely calling me to push me. The truth is I’m basically Latino now, so I fit it too much. It’s like I’m home in Latin America… I feel more uncomfortable in Canada now. I still appreciate how amazing things are, it’s just, I guess, like going to a new job. The first little while it is scary and exciting and then it gets to be your life, no matter how amazing your job is you always need reminders that it’s amazing.

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  5. What you saw in that man was him doing something for the ‘first’ time –
    The first time of anything is EXCITING as its new and fresh and unexplored and there’s curiosity to be satisfied ~

    As you get more of life’s experiences under your belt more does appear ‘everyday’ as the mechanics become mundane – But how fabulous that because the flight was all second nature to you now, you noticed different things, such as the children and this man feeling the buzz of travel. When it was your first time you’d have been way too preoccupied with yourself to appreciate these other things going on around you, so your appreciation of travel is now on another level –

    Like love – there’s first the chemical attraction, and then a deeper, more knowing richness blossoms – When you stop noticing ‘other’ little things, like you noticed on this last flight – Then I’d say you’re dull 🙂

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    • Very nice reply Linda… I agree. Very well said

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  6. Great post. I think a lot of us that travel frequently can relate to your feelings. Sometimes you have to find inspiration all over again!

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  7. What a beautiful post! Salut indeed!

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  8. This reminds me of my first day of my trip, starting my journey from Boston to Australia. A year and a half later things aren’t quite as exciting anymore. I still love what I’m doing, but it’s just not the same, is it? Well written, Brendan!

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    • @Jeremy – thanks for your comment, I’m glad it resonated with you as well.

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  9. Nicely done! and glad to read you can tell yourself, “I was stupid.” I laugh “and it was amazing.” and still order a whiskey at 06:00.

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    • @Maria – Here’s to hoping I’ll still be drinking whiskey at 6am another couple years from now 😀

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  10. I enjoyed this post and have felt the same way – I never want to take travel for granted and you put the spark back in my yearn to jump on a plane!

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