10 things I have learnt while travelling for your own use, amusement or disgust.
1. Travel with people.
People, eh? Aren’t they marvellous? They’re always saying something or doing something or thinking something or thinking the opposite of what they’re saying or looking at you strangely. And they’re always there too, which is wonderful. They fill time with their beautiful making jokes and having ideas and pointing out wildlife and keeping you company.
I loved travelling with a gang of people in America, a tribe full of in jokes and sitting too close to each other on a small bus, merrily thigh rubbing and thigh slapping our way across the states. Nothing beats sentences that start ‘remember when…’and end with a life changing anecdote that only you and a few others remember, thus alienating everyone else around you. The greatest memories are shared.
Additionally of course, having a friend means never having to say ‘I’m sorry- would you mind taking a picture of me in front of this?’
2. Don’t travel with people.
Oh, God, people, eh? Aren’t they tedious? They have the same irritating verbal tics, the temerity to retain the same face EVERY SINGLE BLOODY DAY and on top of all that, they never have the same threshold of amusement as you when wandering aimlessly round a maritime museum.
That’s the trouble with people. They’re just not similar enough to you-by which I mean they’re just not similar enough to me. They never have the same amount of money, or sense of adventure as you. They’ll always be THAT conversation where you say you ‘honestly don’t mind’ a lot to each other in a clever ruse to cover the fact there’s an awful lot of minding going on.
On your own, you’re a free agent. You’re James Bond. Even if your Martini is neither shaken nor stirred and in fact contains no alcohol because it’s past 9:30 and you can’t be too careful. It’s O.K. Be a loser. There’s no one there to say the actual word to you. No one to take evidence.
Sure, if you’re with a friend you’ll never have to kill time. But you’ll also never have to kill them.
3. Do things that scare you
I was just a bit scared coming out here. What with all the things that can kill you and the having to find a job in a strange city and not knowing anyone and all. I don’t want to call it brave, what I’ve done, but I’ll call it ballsy, mainly because it’s a phrase that needs to be liberated from being used solely in the descriptions of female TV presenters. I am ballsy. Ballsy and proud! I’ll stop now.
The truth is, that most of the things that scared me were merely administrative and organisational nightmares disguised as monsters. There’s few new scary, exciting things I’ve had to do as part of this trip that haven’t ultimately been solved by me filling in a form or making a phonecall, or looking up something, or reading a map, or being on time. If you imagine most of your travelling alone fears can be reduced to bureaucracy, your only excuse for not confronting them is laziness.
Or not having a pen.
4. Nutella, when mixed into milk, does not make a cool milkshake.
I’m sorry about this one. It doesn’t work. But by all means try it for yourself if you want to experience acute disappointment in real time.
5. Ignore other people’s advice (Unless you agree with it)
There’s a lot of choice with travelling, but luckily there’s also an equal number of people wanting to foist their own version of events on you. A wise girl called Fiona once told me that people don’t actually want advice about anything; they just want to hear what they already think repeated back to them. You might think this renders all advice useless, but it doesn’t. What you’re looking for is that little stab of annoyance or self satisfied smugness after someone says ‘make sure you go to X’ or ‘you must see y’ or ‘you should probably try and be there for AT LEAST 4 DAYS if you want to see the REAL Z’
Ask yourself, are you ultimately pissed off at the person for upsetting your plans, or grateful that their suggestion fits in with what you’ve already surmised and thought out for yourself? If it’s the former, don’t bother doing what they say, you don’t really want to. If it’s the latter, you’re fine, you clever bastard you.
There is third version where the person uses sincerity and rhetoric to actually influence your decision, but it happens so rarely, I wouldn’t worry about it. Instead, advise said person to go and be a political speech writer, where the skills of rhetoric and sincerity will seem both new and alarming.
6. Be a tourist and a traveller.
TOURIST: (def) Someone who sees what he wants to see on a strict itinerary. Wears cargo shorts. Maybe socks and sandals. Traveller (def): a bit more drifty. Likely to wear stupid baggy trousers and beaded jewellery.
It’s fine to be either: in fact, you’ve got to be have a bit of both in you. You need to be able to have the heart of a Brownie back leader on some days, dragging yourself to the top of the hill because the view’s just marvellous and on others, the ability to move so little you may as well just be part of the scenery due to your sedentary nature. Or instead you might just drift down odd roads in new towns and see slightly remarkable things or nothing at all. Any of these are good. By the end of my trip, I found drifty hippy often won the day because she was so much less likely to make me walk 2km to a lighthouse.
7. Remember the crap bits too.
I wrote in my first blog on here about how much I hate travellers. I still do, out of context. They’re fine when you’re doing travelling too, but other than that they’re like the worst kind of Facebook user, where you just get the new jobs and relationships and not the suspicious idea that they too are lost and scared and ultimately alone in the world.
So as much as I’m going to remember the blissful times, I’m going to try and hold on the duller, less transformative more frustrating moments: the lack of remote control control, the sitting, the waiting, the organising, the printing. Which of course still goes on at home, but usually, in my experience, with biscuits within easy reach.
8. You have more time than you realise.
Days are long. When you take out the time blocks that aren’t available to you when travelling-staring at various screens, talking on the phone, seeing friends, seeing films, sometimes even going to work, I realise quite how much time I could’ve spent in the past learning the piano rather than watching Friends repeats. However, I am not naive enough to think I will change much when returning to reality. Spend 9 and a half weeks in mainly your company with none of life’s distractions which squeeze like cotton wool to fill up the gaps and you’re left with an empty wastleand. You too will realise wasted time is rarely wasted. It’s time off from yourself.
And I doubt I’ll get round to leaning the piano. Don’t have one.
9. I am brilliant at map reading.
I have only got lost once in this entire trip and on this occasion, was trying to remember the map from Google maps. If anyone ever says to me in the future that we’ve got lost and it’s my fault I will disagree. Maybe YOU should get lost, I will rejoinder, wittily. Which will ultimately be pointless because we’ll already be lost. But there’s one thing for sure: it won’t have been my fault.
10. Write a blog.
Finally, I’d like to say I’ve really enjoyed writing this- so I’d like to thank you for the reading it. Particularly if you’ve got in contact to tell me so I can put a face to the generous pedant overlooking my grammar mistakes in order to get some hot gossip about my occasional 10:30 bedtimes (the rest were earlier, obviously). Even to those who read it occasionally in big glutinous globs. And even to those who are secretly reading it because you’re my Facebook friend but we haven’t spoken in ages so you think it would be odd to say something. Maybe I’ll blog about something or somewhere else sometime. In the meantime, to quote cool Americans, I’ll catch you on the flipside.