My bottom hovered gingerly over an abysmal shit hole as heavy tears poured down my splotchy red face. I’d been squatting in a public toilet house outside of a dusty train station in Delhi for the last half hour. Something I’d eaten was scratching and clawing at the walls of my stomach to get out.
I’d come to India armed against food poisoning- my Jansport filled to the brim with toilet paper and Immodium. But exhaustion was getting the best of my rationality, as I’d spent 13 hours on an overnight train, trying to disregard the unabashed stares of fellow passengers who wondered what a nearly- anemic white girl was doing curled up on a luggage rack.
I just wanted to go home, but my plane wasn’t leaving for two months. I thought of my soft, clean bed, 8,000 miles away, and the warmth of my family that I promised to never take for granted again. I didn’t want to leave the dim stall where I wallowed in self pity over my tummy ache. Time was the enemy- I didn’t know where I would sleep that night, or where I’d sleep for the next two months, for that matter- but I didn’t care, as long as I made it home before my misery killed me.
All of my supposed passion for travel and culture and adventure had vanished, and a dormant homebody gene was expressed in its place.
Funnily, I tend to reminisce more on my anguish in India than on the pleasurable times. My food poisoning stories are my favorite; I bring them up whenever the opportunity arises. Ask if I saw Bollywood, and I’ll tell you how I vomited on every street corner of Mumbai. When I’m at work or school, I think longingly of hot, crowded, never ending train rides.
I’m not a masochist. Most other budget travelers will brush past the details of an iconic landmark they visited but will instead eagerly tell their favorite tales of suffering. We don’t travel in search of pain; so why do we get nostalgic over misery?
This phenomenon was explained to me as there being two types of fun. Type A Fun is full of fond, happy memories- like water slides, sunsets, and good coffee. Type B Fun is actually quite unpleasant in the moment, but becomes great in retrospect. Type B Fun is a reminder of suffering, and imparts on us a fondness for ourselves for having survived and learned from a nightmare. It has emotion and lessons attached to it that stick with us.
Travelers experience more Type B Fun than tourists or resort- dwellers, who experience more Type A Fun. Like an extreme sport, traveling forces you to push your limits. Unlike an extreme sport, there isn’t always an adrenaline high. So wanderlost will always be wanderfound again, because the terrifying monotony of routine won’t teach us anything new- but will test the limits of our patience.