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The upside of travel's downsides.

While traveling in India, AFAR founder Greg Sullivan discovered that the bumpiest roads are often the most memorable. 

Imagine a travel brochure that said, “India vacation: rough roads, slow buses, and mishaps guaranteed!” Would you go?

Ten years ago, my friend (and now business partner) Joe Diaz and I were on a crowded bus making our way along the bumpy roads of Wayanad, India. We approached another bus coming in the opposite direction. Our driver slowed. We heard a screech. The bus stopped. No one seemed concerned. The drivers of both buses got out and started talking. Joe and I got out to see what had happened. The road was so narrow, the tops of the two buses had scraped and gotten locked together. And now we were stuck.

Our driver went back inside our bus and pulled out what looked like a billiard ball. He put it underneath one of his tires, got back behind the wheel, restarted the bus, and moved it backward a few inches. The angle of our bus changed, leaving just enough room for the other bus to drive past. It was no big deal for anyone except for us two Americans, who gleefully admired the MacGyver-like ingenuity.

Trips are full of unexpected incidents, and one of the things I love most about travel is getting in the mind frame to appreciate them. Getting lost, breaking down, waiting in line—each is an opportunity to witness something new. Am I this patient in my daily life at home? Not so much. But isn’t that part of the point of travel? To put aside the demanding, perfection-seeking side of ourselves and embrace the hiccups along the way?

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You can bring this attitude to any destination. (As you can read in the July/August 2017 issue, writer Wells Tower needed it in Peru.) Wherever you’re headed next, I encourage you to welcome the unexpected and the imperfect.

Want to share a memory of your own imperfect travels with Greg? Email him at greg@afar.com.

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