The driver throws our shitty, little, 7-seater van around a hairpin corner and another slosh of rainwater pours through a hole in the roof and splashes down on my face. We’re 7 ½ hours into what was supposed to be a 6-hour journey across the southern coast of Java, Indonesia, and our driver had just told us we still had another 4 to go. The fake-leather seats were slippery from the leaking roof, and although I’d tried to wedge my bag into a corner and keep it off the floor, every pothole and breakneck turn shook it loose and slopped it down into the puddle of muddy water sitting stagnant on the floor. The front passenger seat next to the driver was vacant, but there was a language barrier, or at least he was pretending there was, and my request to move up had fallen on deaf ears. Instead, our gracious driver continued to occupy himself with chain-smoking rolling cigarettes and refusing to put his window down.
It could be said that we on the bus had every reason to be angry, or frustrated, or depressed, but nobody spoke a word of complaint. At one point I turned to my brother leaning his head on the window opposite trying to get some sleep, just in time to see a sudden pothole jolt him awake and slam his forehead into the seat in front. I could have died laughing, and when he came to and realised what had happened he started up even louder than me. Neither of us were having a particularly good time, but we realised we had no say in the matter, and the quicker you become resigned to your fate the quicker you get to accepting it and making peace with the whole beautiful mess. Of course it helped that we’d spent the morning hiking up an active and still smouldering volcano to watch the sunrise, so I guess we were due a bit of bad luck to keep things in balance.
That’s the thing about travelling, or anything else really; if you truly love something you need to learn to love all the shit that comes with it. You have to relish the frustration, confusion and insecurity just as much as the dizzying and life-affirming highs of discovery and adventure in some foreign, far-away land. You need to accept you’ve missed your flight and just shell out the extortionate price for another, because later that night when you’re watching 4 of the biggest DJ’s in the world you know the money won’t mean shit. You need to deal with your popped rental car tyres and move the fuck on, because rural Austria is beautiful and rural Austrian beer festivals are even more so, but you’re never going to enjoy it if you’re sitting around hating on yourself for the mistake. You need to relish the 65-hour non-stop journey from rural Peru to Budapest just as much as you enjoy the 7-day music festival that made you take the goddamn stupid fucking bullshit journey in the first place. OK, maybe I’m still coming to terms with that one.
The point is, when you’re coughing your lungs up from second-hand smoke and sliding around in a mixture of dirty rainwater and sweat on the backseat of a beat-to-shit, 5-hour overdue bus ride, there’s no reason to complain. Just slide yourself into a drier position, kick your dripping backpack into place, turn up your headphones and smile. Every shitty situation is something special in it’s own unique and messed-up way, and at the end of the day you’ve just got to sit back and laugh at the whole god damn beautiful disaster.