Saturday, August 1, 2009

No Return, a Travel Story Serial Part 1

Much has been written about why we travel and there seem to be as many reasons as there are travelers. In examining my own impetus to strike out to foreign lands, I've come up with a short list: Adventure (doing and seeing things I've never experienced before); Danger (that certain feeling of dabbling in the forbidden); Food (seeing what other cultures eat and maybe eating it myself); Examination (seeing how humanity has figured out different ways of doing the same things).

For this story danger plays the dominant role.

As I walked down the portable stairs from the plane there was an immediate tropical feel to the air. It was a little humid and the light breeze tickled the red, white, and blue flag above the airport's lone small terminal building. Standing across the tarmac on either side of the terminal entrance were two camouflage-clad military sentinels, each with his own sub-machine gun slung over a shoulder. I suddenly felt as though we where a clandestine drug-laden plane landing somewhere in the jungle to offload dangerous cargo. Everybody from the plane ambled the 300 yards without the slightest evidence of worry, bypassed the guards and entered the building. I followed suit.

Once inside, all seemed normal again as passengers lined up in front of the two customs booths to be processed through to baggage claim. When my turn came I declared, "I am from the United States, would you please not stamp my passport"? With no reply and no expression, the official just closed my passport and handed it back. I was in-country and nobody else knew it.

Believing the worst was over and now I could enjoy a whole week of adventure in an illegal country, I headed for the large sliding glass doors toward a waiting bus outside. Before I reached the doors, a man approached and asked, "Are you Mr. Croddy"? "Yes", I replied wondering how the hell anyone knew me here. He said "I'll have to hold your return ticket until next week". Suddenly I wasn't feeling so samary-pants.

Sometimes when traveling off the normal tourist track the decisions you make turn out to be serious with no possible way of taking them back. That's exactly what makes it adventurous. Taken to the extreme, your decisions can kill you.

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