We’re in Azerbaijan for two nights this week, as part of a fantastic (and crazy) 10-day itinerary. Baku seems like a fantastic city, and when we travel together it generally falls to me to write up the stuff we do on the ground, so I’ve been looking forward to telling y’all about it. But we have a slight obstacle to that this time.
I’d love to tell you about seeing petroglyphs and oil rigs and mud volcanoes. I’d like to show you pictures of grand Soviet metro stations, the view from the top of the Maiden’s Tower, and beautifully-preserved Zoroastrian temples.
I’d relish describing Baku’s cosmopolitan and bustling nightlife, or even just sharing how the weeks I’d spent practicing Turkish really came in handy as we were sampling dushbara, plov, and qutab in tiny local restaurants.
But none of that happened, so this is not that post.
Sometimes, travel doesn’t go the way you plan.
We’re in the middle of a fairly ambitious itinerary, having been through Moscow, Belgrade, New York, and now Baku since leaving California a week ago. Combine that with our work schedules, and there’s not a lot of margin for error.
We’ve been pretty lucky on this trip so far though, with no major delays or travel disruptions. We have, however, had a series of very, very, extremely minor annoyances. And as stupid little things are wont to do, each minuscule inconvenience compounded.
On top of that, my travel companion is as sick as I’ve ever seen him. Ben doesn’t complain, but you know he feels awful when he’s talking about canceling flights.
It really comes down to this – I’ve been awake at exactly the wrong times to be able to do much of anything in Baku. Everything I’ve read says Azerbaijan is a very safe country for tourists, but that probably doesn’t extend to solo female sightseeing at 3AM.
And, of course, when we set time aside during the day to explore the city we dragged ourselves out of bed and into a rainstorm, which was predictably miserable.
Not pictured: inside-out umbrellas and sopping wet shoes
Literally, it’s been the kind of trip that people (usually falsely) accuse us of taking, with every meal in the hotel and limited sightseeing opportunities, but which is (fortunately) far removed from actual reality.
If this is how we traveled all the time we’d probably quit the game – there is no joy in traveling this way.
But sometimes that’s how it goes. And despite the perfect storm of inconveniences putting some severe restrictions on this part of our itinerary, I’m still glad we’re here. We get to spend some rare time together, even if it’s with puffy eyes and headaches, and next time someone asks either of us if we’ve been to Azerbaijan we can respond with “Funny you should ask…”
We did sneak out to a darling tea house, at least
I guess the takeaway is that travel isn’t always aspirational and glossy and glamorous. People get tired, and people get sick. Weather happens. Sometimes things just don’t work out like you’d planned.
I think there has to be an acceptance of that at some level. If you expect things to be perfect you leave yourself open to a lot of disappointment, and probably an unnecessary amount of frustration with your travel companions.
At the end of the day we are beyond privileged to be able to travel at all, much less in the manner and at the rate we do. That doesn’t change because one part of a trip falls flat, and I think it’s so important to recognize that, and appreciate all the ridiculously fantastic experiences we get to have otherwise.
You win some, you lose some. It’s all still awesome.
I really hope to be able to come back to Azerbaijan someday, as I was really looking forward to this trip. The good news is that I get to keep looking forward to it!
The people we’ve interacted with have seemed genuine and interesting, and the architecture is incredible. Baku seems like a city I would love, and I can’t wait to actually explore it in the future.
Have you ever had a trip go not quite as planned? And anything we should see in Baku next time?