The scantily clad native chopped off a piece of the snake cooking in the bonfire and passed it me on the tip of his machete. “Eat this” he shouted at me, grinning maniacally at my discomfort. Drums were throbbing hypnotically in the background. I shuddered. Nevertheless, I felt like I had no choice but to comply. After choking down the bloody and still wriggling meat, then I had to wash it down with some repulsive looking liquid, the origin of which I couldn’t guess in my wildest imagination. I was sure that I was going to die soon of some horrible disease.
Well, this never happened to me. It is pure invention, pure fiction.
Instead, it was the nightmare scenario (exaggerated a little for dramatic impact) of my cousin who detested the idea of travelling. Where he got this wild vision in his head, I don’t know. I would guess that it must have come from a “B” movie he saw as a child. In his imagination, without any basis in fact, he believed he would suffer all sorts of similar discomforts if he ever happened to go to a foreign land.
All his life, even though he was an executive for a major airline, and could travel anywhere for free, he always preferred to head for his cabin in the Sierra Madre Mountains of California. It was safe and predictable there, and that was just what he wanted. He was a good, intelligent person, and I respected his desire for security. Although his fantasies are ridiculous, I believe that many people do share his fear of foreign places. In this regard, I read recently that less than 30% of adults in the U.S. even have a passport.
Me, I’ve always been different. I came from a family of good home abiding people. Not as bad as my cousin, of course. To my family, going to a national park in the U.S. was a daring exploit. However, adventures in a far off land were the last thing they wanted to do. They were sure that it would be dangerous and uncomfortable. For me, by way of contrast, if it was dangerous, when I was young, that sounded fine to me. If it was uncomfortable, then I was more than willing to suffer a little for the sake of an adventure.
How can I explain my life- long fascination with exotic lands?
It was certainly not in my genetic make-up. No adventurers there. Perhaps, I sometimes wondered, was I switched as a baby at the hospital?
I think that love of reading really helped to make me aware of foreign lands. I especially loved the adventure stories that I found at my local library.
Still, I have never really understood why my cousin and I, coming from the same family, with most everything being equal, would be so different.
Whatever the reason, I WAS different and have lived my life totally differently from the rest of my family.
Would I have eaten the snake in the opening scenario?
No way. I may be adventurous, but I’m not crazy.