Friday, January 23, 2009

Itching

Truth be told, I´m looking forward to going back to the States. Time and again, I´ve been told how jealous people are of my travels. It´s been a blast. However, I´m jealous of them, too. Things like a private bedroom, decent knives and good friendships are hard to go without for so long.

I´ve spent all but two months of the last 17 sleeping in shared spaces. It gets hard. It´s nice to be able to throw your clothes and stuff around--stuffing it back into a backpack day after day becomes tiresome. And of course there´s the snoring, late-night returns by drunk bar hoppers, early morning departers who couldn´t bother to pack the night before and countless other annoyances. Just last night, some dude threatened to kick my ass because I insisted he turn off the light at god knows what hour of the morning. Unreal.

Hostel kitchens run the gammut. Some are absolutely abysmal, with handleless pans and knives that haven´t been sharpened since they were purchased 10 years ago. Some are quite good, with multiple stovetops and all variety of cooking implements (the one where I lived in Wellington was fantastic). I like to cook my own food, but usually I can´t be bothered. It´s a hassle. You have to hope someone left some oil or oregano, or you need to buy these type of ingredients, which you´ll leave or have to carry with you. Ultimately, this leads to really bad eating habits. The number of times I ate noodle soup in China and empanadas in Argentina would make a nutritionist cringe.

And finally, the social life on the road. For a long time, it was cool to meet people from all over the world. I´ve met folks from all range of nations. Ireland, Iran and India. Australia, Argentina and Austria. Iceland, South Africa, Estonia, Singapore, Indonesia, Colombia, Italy. The list goes on into the 40s or 50s, I´m sure. But these "friendships" are temporary and superficial. They´re more like drinking buddies than friends. And every day, it´s the same conversation, with new people: Where you from? How long are you traveling for? Where have you been so far? You don´t even ask eachother´s names until about three beers in, and you won´t remember it. This daily ritual has taken its toll on me. I don´t give a shit where you´ve been in South America. And of course, there´s all the stupid storytelling and oneupsmanship:

"And then to get from Lima to Cuzco, we had to take a 10-hour bus ride, but the bus broke down so it ended up taking 12."

"Oh yea? well, I took a 50-hour bus ride in Bolivia, and we had to get out and push the bus the last 10 kilometers."

Just whip em out guys; I´ll go get the ruler.

Once in awhile though, you´ll stay in a place for a bit longer and some other folks will too. You get past the superficial chat and get to know eachother. I have made some good friends on this trip, whom I keep in touch with on Facebook. But generally, it´s the same day after day after day.

It´s been fun. It´s been enlightening. It´s been challenging. But it´s been a long time, and I´m ready to bring some consistency to my life once again.

But hopefully not in a cubicle.

2 comments:

Steff said...

At some point, having a traveling buddy would probably sound like a good idea. Assuming you and your traveling buddy can tolerate one another day after day after day... For the record, I envy not only you experiences during your 17 months, but also the courage you had to embark it.

dave925 said...

After 14 months of constant travel, I could not agree with you more on the sentiments. Just an hour ago, after arriving hungover in Medellin, I was thinking about how tired I am of always meeting travelers and talking about travel so much of the time. I am ready to broaden my horizons back in the good old USA! Or maybe it is just the hangover talking. Put Colombia on your must see list - the girls are incredible!