⋙ W A N D E R L U S T W E D N E S D A Y ⋘
My name is Stacey Marie Hoehne (pronounced hay-nee), and my new job is ‘supporting actress’ on For The Love of Wanderlust. While this title may be made up and unpaid, the 101 days I will be traveling with Paige are not.
While hiking the Inca Trail Paige put this idea in my head. Southeast Asia wasn’t extremely high on my bucket-list, but backpacking for multiple months was. The truth is that I unhappy at my job and I needed a change. I graduated from Missouri State with a degree in Hospitality and Restaurant Administration. I have a fabulous 4 years of college including one semester abroad in Florence, Italy. Immediately after graduating I got a restaurant management job at a casino and worked there for a year, and then moved on to managing restaurants a St. Louis Lambert Airport for almost 2 years. Although I had a lot of good times and learned a lot at these jobs, I decided that the large corporate environment wasn’t where I wanted to be in the future. So… Asia happened
A few years ago Paige did a post on why people travel, and asked me to contribute. Since then my answer has changed a bit. I still LOVE food and seeing breathtaking sights, but my experience with human connection and cultural exchange is truly why I love to travel.
Most of my favorite moments of cultural exchange aren’t caught on camera. These are moments that make my heart smile, restore my faith in humanity, and make my wanderlust grow.
After the strenuous hike on day 2 of the Inca trail, most hikers took a nap as soon as we arrived to came. We were supposed to have afternoon snack, but Paige and I slept through it. I woke up to the sound of laughter and smell of popcorn from the other campers. Giving in to my urge to pee, I threw on my shoes, grabbed my tp and ran down the hill to use the “restroom” (the designated hole in the ground). Afterward, I walked up the hill to the dining tent. When I popped my head in, it was just 3 porters of the sitting at the table. They motioned me to join them.
Inca Trail porters speak mostly Quechua and just a tad bit of Spanish. I speak English, 4 years worth of high school French and even less Italian (which I often mix up). They were playing some sort of card game. One of the younger porters was making a big effort to ask me questions. We got as far as “Are you married?”, “Do you have kids?” and “How old are you?”. Most of this was through charades. We were both single and he was smiling just a bit much, so there is a chance I had a Quechua boyfriend for a minute. I tried very hard to figure out this card game they were playing. To me, it looked a lot like “war”. I took over and tried to teach them “war”. It was mostly I dealt and gave the highest card to whoever had it and we all cheered for them.
From there it moved on to teaching each other how to count from 2-10 in English and Spanish. I had a bit of an advantage because that is about the only words in a foreign language taught in my Missouri elementary school. But I let him continue because it was so cute. This was really a beautiful moment that I will forever cherish. I didn’t even realize how special it was until it was over. What made the moment was genuine human connection. It didn’t matter that we didn’t know the language, had zero electronic connection, and were from completely different lifestyles. What mattered was that we were alive, on a mountain, and in search of some entertainment.
My second favorite travel moment of genuine connection is happening on the plane seat right beside me. Paige and I are currently on a 14 hour flight from San Fransisco to Hong Kong. In the seats to the left of me are a Chinese woman, her 4 year old son, and a man from the USA, let’s call him Joe. The mother of the child has been asleep off and on for over 3/4 of this flight. Given the circumstances this little boy has been relatively good. He is definitely antsy, has made a friend with the boy in front on him, and did a little running down the aisles. Joe has been keeping to himself – watching some tv, and taking notes on his notepad. Occasionally, I saw him sketch a bit. The little boy started watching him closely and leaning over. Joe turned the page to a blank sheet and gave him the pen. Then they went back and forth drawing items and saying what they are. The little boy speaks some sort of Chinese/English mix but they seem to communicate just fine. Props to Joe’s patience and heart to keep this little boy occupied. Judging by the look on Joe’s face, I think he is having as much fun as the boy. Once again, all circumstances aside, this is just a man helping a boy and two people learning and having fun. (I tried to take a picture, but didn’t want to be ultra creepy, or ruin the moment for them. )
It truly is the little things that make traveling special. Big sites are impressive, new food is great, but experiencing social and cultural interaction outside of your comfort zone is a unique experience each time.