You may find yourself on a hill at Sumatra, Indonesia. Face-to-face with the last Orang Utans in the world living in the wild. Speechless. Not only because you are so close to some of these last remaining animals in the wild. But you are also still hyperventilating from climbing the mountain you are on. It had been raining all night last night. You hardly slept because your room was filled with cockroaches, spiders, scorpions and the like. After lying awake for hours, repeating the mantra ‘I do not have to go to the toilet, I do not have to go to the toilet, I do not have to go to the toilet’, you realize you do have to go to the toilet if you want at least three hours of sleep. The next morning, your National Park Permit comes in late which means that if you want to see the Orang Utans, you better start running up the muddy hill. At 35 degrees. With three hours of sleep.
You may find yourself at Tibet, Mount Everest Base Camp. You travelled overland from home for six weeks. You put up with thousands of kilometers in a train, the filthiest of toilets, smog and, well, the Chinese in general. And here you are, at 5200 meters, staring at the ‘mountain of all mountains’. Your head is pounding. You can’t breathe because of the lack of oxygen at this altitude. Around you are people puking everywhere, because their body can’t handle the altitude. You have to go to the toilet, but there is no such thing. You think you will sleep well that night, you are so tired. You don’t know yet at that point, that every time you lay down your head, it feels like it will explode and at this altitude, your body hardly allows any oxygen while lying down. And as such, you will not sleep at all.
You may find yourself in Mozambique. Thrilled by the beauty of this country, and the resilient people living in it, you feel like you have to pinch yourself to make sure you are not dreaming. Well. It soon appears pinching yourself is not necessary. You stumble across some policemen in the streets of Maputo who randomly decide to point their guns at you. They demand your passport and threaten to throw you into jail if you don’t hand it to them. Of course you won’t give them anything. Except for maybe an hour of your time to negotiate a way out of the situation and some dollars to get rid of them. At least you know you are not dreaming now.
Even on the safest of places paradise is not what it seems. You may find yourself travelling to Cook Islands. You travelled through the dateline, adding a whole extra day to your holiday. You are SO excited. You go to your hotel. It was expensive enough so it should be good. It is horrible. You see the room and decide you do not want to stay another day. This is not what you had in mind, thinking about the Cook Islands! You change your hotel and go explore the island. You find a beautiful, white sandy beach. The water is warm. There are other tourists, but hey, no one said the world was yours only. You lay down on your towel and close your eyes. Peace and quiet, finally. You hear a sound and wonder what it is. You open your eyes slightly and find yourself face to face with a bunch of stray dogs, appearing out of nowhere. Once bitten by a stray dog abroad, relaxing on Cook Island appears to be out of the question all week.
There is no such thing as paradise. The grass is not greener on the other side. It is greenest there, where you find yourself today. You chose to be where you are today after all. Would you not have chosen differently otherwise?