The Museum of Islamic Art, Doha © 2014 Wayfaring Scribe
Every time I finish another two-day dance with motion and the travel tornado sets me down anew, my comfort zone throws its customary conniption fit and claims that it simply cannot cope. I have learned to expect it even though I have no idea what complaints will be lodged.
The first night in Yangshuo, my Interior Department of Inessential Pleasantries woke me up several times hourly to bellyache about the insufferable hardness of the bed. The second night, the protests were milder and less frequent. By the third night I was sleeping like a baby.
When I arrived in Kathmandu, my Psychic Bureau of Unimaginable Third World Indignities was unprepared for the softness of the mattress and aghast at the rolling power cuts. Not only could I not find a climate controlled apartment, I couldn’t even find one with seamless electricity. This meant that the fan, that sorry substitute for air conditioning, would be out of commission twice every day for 3-5 hours at a time. And unlatching the windows, I quickly found out, was like throwing an open house block party for a posse of flying Himalayan cockroaches. What would I do? I would suffocate, that’s what! I’d lie down on the impossibly soft and cushy bed and just melt into a puddle of pity.
By the time I left Nepal, I was so unequivocally comfortable there that I was terrified of going to South Africa. My quarters were going to be a co-ed dorm room and I was mad that I would have to sleep in pants (by which I mean trousers, ye snickering Britishfolk; I’m not partial to sleeping commando). I arrived only to discover that the place was unheated and painfully frigid after dark. Both of my roommates turned out to be female, but we slept fully clothed every night. The first night I tossed and turned in the deep freeze, wondering how I would manage a month of it, and wishing to the gods of coziness and comfort that I had more pants, not less.
It seems that whatever vexations we imagine in the throes of uneasy anticipation, the realities will almost certainly be different, the challenges entirely unexpected. Whatever lack of comfort we believe at first flinch to be intolerable rarely is. I have come to see discomfort as a ruse, a smokescreen that keeps us from testing our limits. And now, every time I arrive somewhere new, I am waiting for that indignant voice, that herald of hardship that throws up its hands and tells me I just can’t do it. I listen to it wandering through my mind with a mixture of compassion, fascination, and amusement. I don’t respond to it; I don’t hold on to it. I know it isn’t mine.
When I arrived in Doha and stepped outside of the air conditioned sanctuary of the airport, I was wearing long sleeves and a full length skirt out of respect for Middle Eastern custom. The voice commenced to throw a colossal temper tantrum at the sheer magnitude of the heat: “What were you thinking, coming here? You simply can’t cope with these temperatures! Not when you have to wear so many clothes! This kind of heat is the very last thing you could ever learn to deal with!” I smiled into the furnace, knowing that in that case, I’d come to the perfect place.
“Observe the wonders as they occur around you. Don't claim them. Feel the artistry moving through and be silent. Don't grieve. Anything you lose comes round in another form.” ― Rumi