“Do you think they’ll recognize us?” I whispered to Manfriend.
“Well, I haven’t seen too many other towering foreigners walking about,” he mumbled back.
He was right. While exploring Zhangjiajie, in Hunan Province in China, we had seen surprisingly few foreigners. Making us all the more noticeable, unfortunately.
Wandering the minibus parking lot, I kept my eyes averted.
We stood as casually as we could for two jack-asses who had just walked more than 2KM for no reason.
And then, she spotted us.
The same woman who had, not 30 minutes prior, insisted we were already at the station.
“Ha!” we chortled. “No thanks!”
Surely we savvy, Mandarin-speaking travelers knew better than to hop on the nearest shuttle. They usually charged five times more to go the least efficient route. We would make our own way to the proper bus station, dammit, and find a bus that wouldn’t make fools of us both!
And so we walked.
Oh, the clear vision of hindsight.
This wasn’t the first time we had jumped to conclusions. Our spidey-senses would be tingling: Alert! Potential scam happening!
And to be fair, we had each encountered enough mishaps to justify our wariness.
In Vietnam, I had been swindled out of a hefty chunk of change at Halong Bay. Rather than kayaking my way around karsts and feasting on what I crafted at an on-ship cooking class, I was left on a dock for five hours before being led to a crap-heap of a hotel on some nearby island.
In Indonesia, we needed one particular bus that would swiftly take us to our next town. Instead, a few guys insisted this other bus — the Bus of 1,000,000 Stops, as we would come to find — would be the better bet. Many unnecessary hours later, we arrived less than satisfied.
Unfairly, we all carry past prejudices around with us. It’s hard to shake that feeling when, more often than not, the traveler is indeed the easy target.
But as we found that day — and on many other days on our adventure last summer — most folks genuinely want to help.
So when the aforementioned minibus woman had stopped us, she was right: That was precisely the pick-up point we needed to catch our transit back home.
Instead, we had walked 2KM to a bus station, and then waited for 20 minutes for the bus to take us back to that exact minibus depot.
We could barely see through the egg all over our faces.
Luckily, the woman didn’t mock. Instead, she guided us to the minibus we needed and we headed back.
Alas, even these two experienced travelers still had plenty of lessons to learn.
Note: While we all attempt to adjust to this tense, new reality, it may seem odd to share stories of sillier times. It is, though, my way of keeping calm. Remember those laughs, and find new reasons to chuckle now. Everyone: Keep cool, stay safe, and find reasons to laugh.
Follow Alexandra’s adventures overseas: coloradodaily.com/columnist. Stalk her: wildeyedandwandering.com.