Channeling Your Inner Hobo

So I’m on my yearly migration to Africa, where I go to molt, feed, and mingle with others of my species. Every time I make the trip, I’m so grateful and happy. And miserable. And terrified.

It’s not Africa that bothers me; it’s getting there.

I admire but don’t understand people who love travel for its own sake. I have enough trouble puttering around my house; flying to places with utterly different time zones just seems gratuitous.

Eckhart Tolle says that there are only three feeling states for people who live in the Now: acceptance, enjoyment, or enthusiasm. Enthusiasm, which means “filled with God,” kicks in when you’re doing what you love, with people you love, in places you love. Enjoyment is how you experience things that are, y’know, okay. Acceptance is the emergency go-to state for times when you’re not in your element.

Once I get to Africa, I’ll be eyeballs-deep in enthusiasm. But to find acceptance for the actual trip, I must assume the ragged mantle of the Airport Hobo, my alter ego who—this is the important part—only knows the world of air travel. I can’t even let myself think how much I’d like to be doing something else. For Airport Hobos, there is only Now: security screenings, boarding passes, inappropriately timed sunlight.

Each trip, I take a new Airport Hobo name (last trip, Numbbum Eyebag; this trip, Imaculatta Tinkleplenty). I tell Airport Hobo stories. I sing Airport Hobo songs (“I’m leavin’ on a jet plane…”). I hunt hot outlets. I flee from babies.

This works so well I’ve started Hobo-ing in other circumstances, such as waiting for a medical exam or talking to my accountant. Try it. When you absolutely can’t find enthusiasm or enjoyment, become the Acceptance Hobo of whatever it is you must do: the Laundry Hobo, the Office Temp Hobo, the Parent-Teacher Conference Hobo. Name yourself. Then accept your progress one present moment at a time. Later, you can tell the tale over many a crackling fire to generations yet unborn.

And forgive me if, when we pass each other, I don’t wave. Airport Hobo means no harm. Airport Hobo only recognizes passport photos. And Airport Hobo’s tiny, jet-lagged brain is entirely occupied accepting the Now.

13 replies
  1. Benay Dara-Abrams
    Benay Dara-Abrams says:

    Have a wonderful time at Londolozi, Martha!!!

    When I’m traveling, I think of myself as a cow, so I just move along when and where I’m told to. It sure helps on long, involved international trips and it also really helped a couple of weeks ago, when the Chicago FAA control tower was closed due to smoke, and we spent an hour on the runway and another 4 hours in the airport waiting till we could fly out of Oakland. I just texted my sister and said “moooooooo” and then I calmly sat and read a book, did email on my phone, got up and walked around the airport, ate the food I had packed, and periodically moo’ed till we were told to get in line and board the plane.

    Sending you BIG HUGS and LOTS of LOVE,
    Benay (Bessie the Cow)

    • nancy
      nancy says:

      That’s so cute Benay! You’re right, it does seem like we are a herd of cows, slowly going where we are told. A happy MOOOO to you. 🙂

  2. Nikki
    Nikki says:

    I am so with you on this one. I am going to Spain to walk part of the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage this September and I am SO needing to get in the right mind space to make the plane trip over.
    When I returned from Uganda 5 days after 9-11, it took 48 hours, including standing 8 hours with my luggage in London. I thought I was going to shrivel up and die. I will practice acceptance from now until September with every occasion that I can’t muster enthusiasm or enjoyment in preparation. Isn’t there a pill to take to disappear 10 time zone changes (I am coming from Maui)??

  3. Katie
    Katie says:

    I got to the airport to find that my flight to Europe had been cancelled without notice – I started to panic – I had planned this trip for a long time. There was a language issue and so that had to be focused on and captured my full attention. Ultimately it turned out that I was put on another flight – a direct flight – so one flight instead of two – it was a great.

    Many years ago I was flying from Hawaii to California and the man next to me said, Thank heaven we made this flight, the airline just went out of business – this is the last flight. I said, Looks like I’ll have a long swim home – I was living in Hawaii! With just an $80 fee, another airline gave me a ticket to fly home – of course this was a very long time ago.

    In the old USSR – your luggage would disappear at airports and then appear at the oddest places and the oddest times – but at least I always got it back – some other travelers never saw theirs again.

    What I have found is – in decades of travel – the exhaustion often helps me stay in Surrender – I pass irritation and sometimes even outrage (justifiable of course) – and settle into numb acceptance followed by receiving the Kindness of Strangers – which always seems to show up.

  4. Candace
    Candace says:

    Oh, thank God. I thought it was just me that detested travel so much. I love Immaculata Tinkleplenty. I think I’m her on every airplane trip. I’m always thinking, “is there enough time to get to the bathroom and back before we board?”

    “I flee babies …”

    Oh, amen, sister.

    Thanks, Martha. This will help me immensely the next time I have accept and endure.

  5. PBK
    PBK says:

    Dear Martha,

    I always enjoy your posts and your sense of humor, so I thought you would appreciate Louis CK’s hilarious words of wisdom on flying (forward to 02:40)

    Since your words reach so many, when you write and speak of future trips to the African continent, I hope you’ll consider specifying which country/countries you are going to rather than just saying “Africa.” I ask this because too often we lump all of Africa together as though it were one country. Given that you have a larger megaphone than most, this is one small but meaningful way to add nuance to our understanding of the world.(lots more on this topic at

    Have a wonderful trip, and thank you so much for all that you do!

  6. Linda Squires
    Linda Squires says:


    On the way to work this morning, a pair of goldfinches flew across the road in front of my car as it was moving. One of them flew into the front of my car and then away from it. As I looked in my rearview mirror, horrified. I saw it fluttering on the road. I started wailing, grief strickened that this occurred. Right now I am the acceptance hobo. Trying not to judge(I should have driven slower..). My guides told me the bird was going to be okay. I am sad and trying to remember to be kind to myself. I accept what is and carry an aura of sadness around me.

    • helena
      helena says:

      Ummm…fluttering on the road? You could stop and pick it up move it to the side of the road, take it to wildlife rescue, a vet, or…?

  7. Marla
    Marla says:

    I love you so much that it’s ridiculous. Every time I seek serious counsel, I have to find my last “O” issue –this time, I thought I’d try your website. [DUH] I LOVE travel …or I used to, anyway. Before CFIDS/FM –which, I’ve decided, is emotionally-sourced, and my apparent “fascination” with it has kept me from traveling anywhere much less outside the U.S. Otherwise, I could reminisce about my enthusiasm, perhaps and hopefully inspiring to you. Who knows. Maybe I, actually, don’t like travel anymore! We need to talk. 8 ? ]

  8. Laura
    Laura says:

    This is a timeless article. I never have commented before but feel you should know that the bubbling up of reall laughter from this permeating all my cells shook off all the worry that had been shaping a fine shell over my natural exuberance. Yes! This is the spirit with which I approach life too. Hobo, cow, really amusing myself at all times.

    Thank you!
    Peace and love,

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