Life On The Road: The Small Things

Sometimes it is the small things that are the most memorable.

On cold night high in the mountains of Colombia the blankets on the bed are heavy and piled high. This reminds me of a cold and snowy winter night in Colorado, though I am in a city that may never have seen snow.

In a small town in Colombia, I watch french fries being cooked, starting from cutting the potato into strips. I doubt I’ve ever had french fries that taste so good.

Looking up at the stars. Even those I recognize look strange because the location is wrong. But the wonder is the same every time I look up.

Sitting on a hostel porch on a cool mountain evening. There may not be a campfire, but the evening mountain air still feels the same as so many other nights in the mountains.

Getting on the bike and riding away. No matter how many times I do this, it always brings a sense of freedom and relaxation. This trip sometimes feels like a time-lapse memory of such moments.

Meeting friends on the road. There is a special thrill when traveling that comes only from encountering, by pure chance, someone you know.

Fried Eggs. Ask for a fried egg anywhere in Latin America and there is no question “how do you want it”, you simply get a fried egg directly out of a traditional picture. Exactly the way my mom has been making them my whole life.

Beer. Talking over a beer in the evening might be one of the few universal traditions in my travels so far. It is a way to relax at the end of the day and a universal hello between friends old, new, and yet to come.

These are small things. Almost inconsequential. Yet at the same time, the most important. Of all the amazing things I have seen and done on this trip, it is these small and inconsequential events which I remember the best. Taking time to enjoy these small things keeps me traveling every day in a way the most beautiful sights and the most amazing people never could.

12 comments to Life On The Road: The Small Things

  • Elizabeth

    Interesting reflections… Normally it is the little things in life that are the most important! I hope you never lose that joy and wonder!

    I also just LOVE your reference to fried eggs!! It must really be refreshing to go somewhere and get exactly what you wanted. “Exactly the way my mom has been making them my whole life.”

  • Mom

    Small things are my favorite as well, both in the present and in memories of the past. A past small thing for me is the smell in the car each morning of a vacation, part food, part fresh air, part the scent of adventures to come.

  • Grant

    How ironic that I’m reading these tonight over a dinner of pancakes, sausage and eggs. (Mine were scrambled tonight, though.)

    I am curious: Do most people drink beer together when sitting about? What is the ettiquite regarding beer for those who are teetotal? Would it be insulting to refuse a beer if someone, for whatever reason, did not drink alcohol? How is that handled?

    • othalan

      Beer is a universal way to say: “Hello, lets be friends”, “Come share my hospitality”, “That was amazing, let me reward you”, and much more. No spoken language skills needed. I highly recommend all travelers learn to drink beer. Like music, it opens many doors. If you do not drink beer because of a specific reason (medical, recovering alcoholic, safety on a motorcycle), people will mostly understand, but you had better be very clear about the reason in a non-offensive way or you will probably seem as unfriendly and standoffish. This is easy when you speak the language, but can be a real challenge otherwise. If you just don’t drink beer because of the taste or because you don’t believe in alcohol, I highly recommend you get over it.

      You know, I think I will write a whole post on this subject. As I think on it, beer has been a remarkably important part of my travels. Look for it coming soon….

  • Grant

    So I had better learn to say, “I have an allergy to alcohol” in the language of whatever country I visit, eh?

    • Grant

      It’s not a true allergy of course, as you know. But I’ve found it much easier to say “I’m allergic” than explaining that alcohol now causes migraines and the rammifications thereof. You can’t even say you have an allergy anymore without being questioned: “What happens if you do consume it?” People are amazing.

  • I am staring to have an issue telling people about my “smallish” trips, as it’s no longer about the big, famous things, it’s the small things, like sitting an afternoon/evening/night talking to a fellow traveler, discussing the small things in life. Meeting new interesting people. Having a fresh tomato with breakfast, seeing a bird doing something silly, or a hawk waiting for something to move…. How is it possible to even start telling other people about that…

    Which is probably why it’s so depressing to get home.

    • othalan

      I know exactly what you mean. I really don’t talk much about travel with non-travelers, at least not the stuff that matters most to me about the trip. Makes it a real joy to find and chat with others who are traveling for a long time (or have done so in the past).

      • Elizabeth

        I agree with Grant! Enjoy the little things, and share them. Let the rest of the world know what it is like to truly relax and enjoy those little things in life. We knew about them as a kid… or most of us did. But as we grow older, we lose sight of that marvel and wonder. It is when you see something from a new perspective and viewpoint that you begin to realize what amazing things are out there. I’ve seen some of it from watching and interacting with Garry & the girls since they arrived. Keep on sharing those marvels, Bro! So that we may all slow down and smell the roses and enjoy the small things in life!

        • othalan

          Aye, I do what I can to spread the word. Though most people really don’t seem to want to listen, and even those that do rarely understand. Not just on the small things, but for many conversations related to what is most important to a traveler.

    • Grant

      On the other hand, isn’t it tragic that it takes going on a massive trip like that to find how to truly enjoy the little things in life. All of the things you described are the kinds of things that are around every corner, if we take the time to enjoy them. But those of us who are caught up in the hustle and bustle of our lives, simply don’t. Enjoy your conversations and your tomatoes and your birds. And when you return to the place from whence you came, I hope you still find joy in those small things. And if you teach one other person to do the same (thank you for sharing), then the value of the experience is raised all that much more.

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