Go Team Green: Run Like You’re Being Chased
In eighth grade I was a discus thrower for the track team. Unfortunately, our coach Mrs. Hampton made everyone participate in two events, which forced me to anchor the second string of the 4 x 400m relay.
Mrs. Hampton waited at the third turn, screaming at me.
“She’s right on your heels! She’s right behind you!”
Petrified, I ran until I thought my body would give out. I didn’t dare look behind me because Mrs. Hampton had taught us to keep our eyes forward no matter what.
When I crossed the finish line, muscles crying in pain, I finally turned around. The other girl was still 50 meters away. Mrs. Hampton had lied.
Every time I think of relays, I flash back to that moment and shudder.
But then Rachel and Jeff from World Flavor handed me the baton in the latest travel blogger relay, sponsored by Low Cost Holidays. I’m part of Team Green, captained by Erica and Shaun of Over Yonderlust. The idea is for travel bloggers to share their three favorite travel memories, and to keep the baton going until September 28th.
With no Mrs. Hampton screaming at my shoulder, this is a relay I’m happy to be a part of – especially since the team with the longest chain gets a small prize.
(FYI, Mrs. Hampton – prizes are way better than yelling and lies. Though the yelling was pretty effective too, so I guess you were onto something.)
First Place: The First Trip Abroad
I was a very lucky 12-year-old. My first trip abroad was in the 7th grade, when I went to Switzerland and France with my French teacher and a handful of other students. Everything was exciting, from the plane ride (where I slept by sitting on the floor and resting my head on the seat) to the squat toilets (which qualified for an entire entry in my travel journal, including a diagram).
When I got off that plane in Geneva, I was rendered speechless. Never in my life had I ever smelled air so fresh. It is perhaps my single strongest travel memory. Yes, it’s possible that time has exaggerated the details, but to this day the Geneva air is the most beautiful scent ever to waft up my nostrils.
And then there was the chocolate. Oh my God! And all this time I’d been wasting my life on Hershey’s and Crunch bars.
And France! I was in love. Instantly, madly, irrepressibly in love. The first time I watched a woman make crepes, I thought I’d never be happy anywhere else, ever.
When I got home, I cried.
“What’s wrong?” my mother asked, panicked.
“I (sniff) want (sob) to go (sniff, sniff) back to Paris.”
That was when I caught the bug, and my life, unbeknownst to me, ever-so-subtly chose its direction.
Second Place: I Think He Wants The Hand Sanitizer
I keep going back to this memory, so although it’s kind of odd, I have to admit that it’s one of my favorites.
In 2009, Jared and I were waiting in the Cairo train station for a midnight train to Luxor. It was dirty, busy, and loud. We’d been watching a pair of fat, oily pigeons pick at trash for the past half an hour, and it seemed like midnight would never come.
We had developed an unhealthy relationship with hand sanitizer, deathly paranoid about getting sick. I was tucking the sanitizer back into my bag when an elderly, barefoot man hobbled over to our bench. With great effort, he sank into the space next to me, adjusted his tattered clothing, and held out his hand.
He grinned, revealing a number of missing teeth.
“I think he wants the hand sanitizer,” Jared whispered.
When I lifted the bottle out of the bag, the man nodded eagerly.
I squeezed some into his cupped palm. Immediately, he pulled his gnarled right foot into his lap, and proceeded to massage it clean. I gave him some more so he could do the same with the left foot.
Satisfied, he rooted around in the folds of his robe and produced two pieces of candy. Bits of fluff coated the purple plastic wrappers. I thanked him and he went on his way, freshly washed feet turning black before our eyes.
Couldn’t bring myself to eat the candy, though.
Third Place: Road Trip
My best friend Anne flew down to Jacksonville and we prepared for our first-ever road trip together. We got off to a late start, and pulled into a motel after a mere four hours on the road.
The next day was beautiful, perfect for cruising north on I-75 with the windows down and the music blaring.
And for a hunk of engine to blow up and drop out of the bottom of your car.
“What the hell was that?” Tense, I gripped the steering wheel.
“Why is the car smoking?” Anne cried.
The damage was irreparable. As the tow truck driver took us to a hotel, I spotted a big blue barn just off the highway:
Car Auction: Tuesdays.
It was Tuesday. In a flash of inspiration, I asked the driver to pull over. That night, laughing uncontrollably, we auctioned off my ’97 Saturn for a grand total of $375.
This is one of my favorite memories because to me, it sums up travel: freedom, exhilaration, spontaneity, and the unexpected. Problems are bound to crop up, but with a little luck and innovation, you’ll get through it.
The weirdest part? The town where we sold my car was called London, Kentucky.
Okay, Team Green: Eyes forward as the baton goes to…
Amy of Amy Hit The Atmosphere