TAKE IT OR LEAVE IT, ADVENTURE’S HAPPENING
Boy Scouts’ slogan got it right! With a small adjustment: be prepared for the unknown. What do you need to bring on the trip? Really, there are only two musts: make sure your brain is working and positive attitude is turned on. All else is for extra comfort, since you will likely be roughing it without a bagful of personal belongings. Careful packing is a crucial way to anticipate and smoothly overcome possible hurdles on a badass journey. Play the trip out to yourself over and over again, visualizing the euphoria and the challenges. Think of the material necessities that should accompany those abstracts. This way, you will mitigate the stress of the unknown.
There is no ultimate way to prepare for what’s coming on the adventurous path — that’s the point. It is possible, however, to make arrangements for imaginable encounters. Everyone has different wants, preferences, and pet peeves about what to bring on a trip and what to omit. Consider those nuanced details! If you thoughtfully prepare according to your likings, luck will likely follow; even if some object will be missing.
Bring small size nick-knacks
Card/table games should be included in this category, to oh so often liven the atmosphere on a long bus/train ride, save a dull moment, and to facilitate creations of friendships with locals or fellow travelers. Head torch and a mini tripod for camera, as examples, belong in this category and have as well proven their indispensability to me over the years.
Some of the objects of this sort on my list haven’t been used but maybe once, and even then for trivial matters. A small ‘miscellaneous’ baggy – a 6x3x1 inch see-through pouch with a bright blue zipper and a sundry of odd goodies inside – has been with me on every single trip. Its relatively light contents change over time, but usually include random items such as miniature bungee cords, world power-plug adapter, earplugs, mini mp3 player, souvenir pins and coins, rolling papers, balloons, tiny magnets, extra shoelaces (black and white), blindfold, sewing kit, toothpicks, a lens cleaning set, comb, a small magnifying lens, compass, thermometer, whistle, compact flare, etc. There used to be genuine-looking make-belief CIA and FBI patches in it – the kind that you’d iron onto clothes or backpacks. These proved their usefulness upon encountering corrupt Tajik border authorities.
My flight from Khudjand airport in southern Tajikistan was due to depart in thirty minutes, when the officials, seemingly arbitrarily, pulled me aside out of the customs line. The two soldiers with guns over their shoulders escorted me into a roped off ‘waiting area’, where the lights were dimmed, and sat me into a solitary chair in the corner of an unused hall.
“$100” one of them said.
“What…for?” was my unfazed response (wasn’t my first time to be extorted for bribes).
“You don’t have proper permit for GBAO visit” was the other guard’s honest response. “We can’t simply let you leave the country.”
“Sure you can,” a smart-ass remark slipped out unwittingly, “I don’t have $100.” They exchanged looks and, unamused, requested my wallet. With request granted, the taller guard was nonchalantly browsing through multiple currencies of my traveling pocketbook.
“What country is this one from?” he wondered out loud.
“I need to get on that plane,” with twenty minutes till departure, my annoyance was still concealed.
“Let me see… Costa Rican Colons” He examined it, as if for authenticity. “And this one?” he pulled out 20 Brazilian Reals.
“Can you just let me go onto the plane now, pleeeease?”
“Ok, fine, how about you give us this USD50… and this…what are they? Reals? Looks pretty and new… and we’ll let you board?”
“I need the dollars to get home from the airport at home, and I value my collection complete, so can’t give you either bills!”
“Fine then, you’ll need to ride back to Dushanbe and get the proper documentations… then come back here to fly home,” declared the smaller stocky man, handing my passport back, turning around to walk away. He had basically just sent me 250 kilometers back up north to the capital, forfeiting this plane ticket. That would be a hurtful turn of events. ‘Screw the money and just pay,’ was my initial thought. The direness of the situation and a need to negotiate became real!
“Wait, you might like this,” I said, trying not to sound desperate. “These are authentic, one of a kind American patches,” I reached into my blue-zipper baggy and pulled out the fake CIA and FBI epaulets. The soldier-thugs grabbed one each and began marveling. All of the passengers have already boarded at this point, the airport was empty, and my shield of coolness was fading with despair. They exchanged a few words in Tajik, snickering, then the shorter one exclaimed something with excitement and both started laughing aloud all of a sudden.
“Ok, ok, kid, thanks, c’mon.” They quickly walked me to the passport booth, releasing me home with the required stamp. That weird bribe worked, although the saving grace joke still remains a mystery to me.
the tiny village/town behind Igor is Jelondi, Pamir, Tajikistan
Igor Postrekhin is a (seemingly fearless) world-traveler and professional adventurer. He is also my brother. Having a travel journal including more countries and cities than most will ever even contemplate visiting in their life-time, Igor has a unique perspective on wild experiences, facing fears, cultures & people, and most importantly living life without the constraints of society’s rulebook. A direct quote from his About Me section on his Couchsurfing profile (which has an overwhelming 142 positive reference list) says “Passion is the fuel that keeps me going. Extremes and adventures exhilarate me, obscure the norms.” He is currently living in Xinjiang, China.
The 2nd guest POst in the Vital (cliché) steps to adventurous travels series from someone who has a lot to say about spontaneity, facing fears, and traveling with tips on how to embark on an adventure of your own.
The other POsts in this series: