Destination X: On Chasing Challenges (And Local Buses)
The Central Business District (CBD)—every developed or first world city has one. At the end of another day of hustling, we find respite in a cafe surrounded by massive towers of steel and glass waiting to hear about a traveller's surprise holiday. Pictures of his exotic adventures on Instagram inspired our team so much, we couldn't wait to meet him in person.
Fresh off a 10 day “Luxury Wild Card Trip”, our traveller and latest interviewee arrives. A lawyer by profession, Joel lets a short sigh out as he sits down, as most of us do at the end of a workday. I was guilty of it just moments before. Life’s tough—we’re taught to aim high and challenge ourselves to achieve all that we can in our career. Almost everything else is laughed off as frivolous.
“Why an Anywhr trip?” our go-to opening question, to which Joel replied “I wanted to throw myself into the deep end—to challenge myself". We reckon Joel defined what it means to be challenged perfectly by saying “If you keep doing the same things, you won’t gain new insights”. A challenge doesn’t have to be mentally taxing or physically demanding.
Overwhelmed—that’s how Joel described his state of mind when he discovered where he’d be jetting off to. We don’t blame him, really, he was about to leave the comfort and confines of the familiar for 10 days, to a land he knew next to nothing about and he was going solo—for the first time. With that, his journey of challenges, new experiences, and gaining a refreshed mind began.
He was up for a challenge from Day 1, and it was something we definitely fulfilled for the newly initiated spontaneous traveller. Accustomed to big cities, fancy hotels, warm beds and familiar friends—Anywhr sent him from the big city to the mountains—where the landscape’s peaks which Mother Nature shaped dwarf everything in comparison. Oh, Joel also got the cold weather he requested for.
Joel set out to complete his 8 Anywhr missions listed on his personalised Travelogue. These missions brought him to explore hidden areas, interact with locals and also an extra push to try something different during his already-special Anywhr holiday.
With his Travelogue in hand, Joel went after every single mission - and started strategising since Day 1. After speaking to many new local friends, he realised that the most challenging one was to "Take A Local Public Transport", since the only one available was the bus and it has no specific stops nor signs and numbers were written in local numerals.
Determined, he got a local guide to speak with the bus driver and tail the bus (on a motorbike), while he boarded and alighted three stops later to return back to his guide. Upon hearing this, our team wanted to give him a standing ovation and a round of applause. C-O-M-M-I-T-M-E-N-T.
If that wasn’t enough, he topped it off by walking along a dark and dusty road to have dinner at a spot recommended to him by locals. Taking a taxi would have been too easy, so he walked. Two kilometres to dinner and another two back, down roads and alleyways with nothing for lighting. Joel was indeed grabbing life by the horns and going way out of his comfort zone.
“Was it (dinner) worth the walk?” we asked, “no” he said with a chuckle—“But it was about the experience” he added and wouldn't have done it any other way.
*Related post: How to Gain Confidence While Exploring an Unfamiliar City
The People Maketh the Place
Joel mentioned that the trip gave him more insight into the people who find themselves in less fortunate circumstances, but who roll with it anyway.
When thinking about the things that make a holiday destination special, our mind often jumps to the food and activities. But when you strip it down to its core, it’s the people—the locals—who make or possibly break a destination.
It’s the people whom Joel not only met but befriended whom he said he’d want to bring back home. Enthusiastically saying “Think about how shocked and surprised they’d be!”, just as he was when stepping into their world. For a people so exposed to foreigners and the idea of tourism, most of them will never set foot out of their country.
“They’re curious and have a passion to explore, yet they aren’t able to” Joel lamented, speaking about one particular man he met who collects currency, his way of seeing the world given his circumstance.
The Luxury of Nothing
Joel's multi-city trip brought him to his second destination, which is a small town overlooking pure, untouched nature. For the first time—in a long time we assume, Joel had the luxury of having nothing to do. With all the clutter and “things to do” in our usual busy routines, tuning out is a challenge that's deceptively difficult. No meetings to attend, messages to reply and social media feed to scroll through—would you be totally comfortable without your (digital) devices?
Up in the mountains, sipping on multiple cups of the local beverage of choice a day, he sat. Staring across the vast range of mountains that extended beyond the horizon. This was his new routine for four days, as his mind quietened down he penned his thoughts and resolutions in his run of the mill Starbucks notebook. A therapeutic luxury that everyone rushing in the CBD would be envious of.
Even the seemingly adrenaline packed activity of paragliding was surprisingly calming, relaxing and left Joel with time to think, while marvelling at the breathtaking scenery. Way different than his previous experience skydiving, he says.
From travelling solo, conquering challenges in a foreign environment, to being comfortable doing nothing, Joel shows us how challenges aren’t made the same. They may empower you with confidence or make you look at life a little differently. Joel signed up for a challenge, and that's exactly what he got. In fact, he was even more excited than us when he said he would go on another Anywhr trip in a heartbeat.
Ready to take on a challenge or two and go Anywhr?