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Published: December 13th 2018
Our sister ship arriving at Tual
There's a certain tragedy in travelling with lots of time but very little money. It's the tragedy of choice and chance. The choice lies in how you spend that little money you have got, the chance lies in the dividend of your choice. You mostly have but one chance, and whether your choice pays of is a matter of the wisdom on which your decision is based and... luck. Furthermore earlier choices effect future ones, as every decision subtracts more or less of that sparse commodity, money! Spend more on one thing and it means somewhere in the future you can spend less on something else, limiting your choice and therefore your chances. There is a final factor that effects both, age! Choice changes with age, what is important when you are young, might seem less important when you get older, and vice-versa. How you spend the little money you have while travelling, changes with age, and on the whole I have noticed what changes is that your choices become more expensive. Unless your income rises with your age, something's gotta give, as they say.
So how has age effected my choices? Well, the most obvious change in choice is
my accommodation. I no longer wish to sleep in the absolute cheapest dig in town, if it means having to bunk down in a sweaty, dirty, flea pit of a place with no windows and a saggy mattress riddled with stains of unknown origin, unless absolutely necessary (in other words, unless that is all there is!). My standards have risen a pitch, I now seek out my accommodation not only on price, but also on comfort. If I can, I will always opt for a en-suite, it should be clean too, the bed should be good, preferable it contains windows, even more preferably it contains windows with a view. Within those limits I still try to find the cheapest option, but limits they remain, which means I disregard those that don't have it, which invariably means disregarding the lowest price range. I value my privacy more now too, and with age I become ever more reluctant to make use of dorms. Though all these rules can be broken and do get broken, if my preference is unaffordable. If I have only two choices, either a 40 dollar room or a ten dollar dorm or dank room in a hotel that
My cabin! Luxury
doubles up as a brothel, obviously it will be the dorm or the dirty room, though if I could afford that 40 dollar room I would go for it!
It's strange, I remember when I didn't care about my accommodation at all, and I remember older travellers telling me that they would never sleep in the shithole I was sleeping in, saying they had done so when they were young and that there came a time when they simply didn't want to anymore. I thought then, how stupid, who cares? The money you save on accommodation you can spend on other more important things, why would you want to waste your money on where you sleep? And look at me now!!! I have become one of those older travellers who wastes their precious resources on more creature comforts, because... I have done the opposite and it doesn't attract me anymore. Oh, the irony of it all.
Unfortunately my monetary situation hasn't changed with age, so the money I spend on accommodation is money I can't spend elsewhere. My younger self would find this all very intolerable. And so in the last ten days, I have spent my money
With a desk and all, and a private bathroom
on a cabin on the three day boat ride from the Kei Islands to Merauke in Papua, whereas young me would have slept on deck and saved himself a cool million rupiah's! I've spent it on my room in Merauke, which is the cheapest option within my comfort limits, but young me would have sniffed in disdain and found somewhere... more rustic shall we say, and infinitely cheaper, probably saving another million in the process. And those millions young me had saved, he would have spent on what matters, what he and I both came here for, Wasur National Park, to see wallaby's and birds of paradise, and cassowaries. He would have heightened his chances of seeing them by opting for a three day tour of the park, penetrating deeper into it, camping in the wilderness, and other such measures which make it much more likely to see anything. Whereas present me, can't afford to do so, and has to opt for a day-tour, and simply hope for the best.
Present me knows all this, but can't change what he has become. Present me wishes at times he had the money for both, but he doesn't, he still has
View of Kei Besar as we pass it on our way to Papua
the same money past me had, but is using it differently. Thus present me's chances are diminished. Present me's solution to all this is to have high hopes but low expectations. Therefore he always hopes he will see all he wants to see in one fell swoop, but knowing his chances are not great, he has low expectations. And present me also knows that he would not be happy doing what his past me did, even if, yes, he might have seen much more if he had done so. But present me is not saddened by this. Present me is happy with his one day, in which he mostly sweated as he walked through the bush for six hours and saw many smaller birds (most of which, being birds, did not sit and pose for his cutting-edge camera), but no cassowaries and birds of paradise and only a glimpse of a wallaby, and was assailed by ants every step of the way. And present me is quite content at the end of the day because present me knows he will come back to his nice cool room and take a nice shower and sleep in his good bed. And present
Entering the river mouth near Timika on Papua
me's hopes never get dashed, because he knows there are more chances of seeing what he wants to see, and his trip is not over yet, and neither is his life. One day, somewhere he is sure he will see a bird of paradise or a cassowary. And
go to bed in a nice room!
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