Thursday, May 15, 2008

Sound of silence

As we all know, traveling carries with it a certain amount of forgetfulness; maybe you're on the move in the first place to leave behind painful memories of a lost love or you're trying to become the new person you always thought you wanted to be or you've just forgotten how mind-numbingly boring it can be to sit on an American commercial jetliner once you've exhausted the in-flight magazine with it's FIVE NEW TIPS on traveling light ("Tip number 4: Roll up your underwear and put them in your dress shoes!").

I always forget stuff when I travel.  I forgot a portable alarm clock, simultaneously forgetting that I'd have to be waking up at 6:30 am to go diving on this past trip (Guatemala, Honduras).  I forgot earplugs; staying in dorm rooms is like playing Russian Roulette with snorers.  I was mostly lucky, but the very first night, in Antigua, we managed to bunk with an Indian girl who was audible from the hallway, let alone in the room; she also had an enormous rolling suitcase and a curling wand.

I forgot about the traveling conversation that all blends into one voice eventually: what'syournamewhereareyoufromhowlonghaveyoubeentravelingdoyoulikeit?  My last night in Utila, while waiting disinterestedly for my friends to return from wherever it was they went (they never did, by the way, so now I'm not entirely sure if I should be using "friends" as the appropriate noun here), a young, drunken Norweigian collapsed into the seat next to me.

"Where are you from?" he said, rolling his R's.

"Pennsylvania," I said, hoping to circumvent the repetitive thing that always happens when I say I'm from the United States and everyone says "Oh, you're an American?"

His eyes widened.  "Lithuania?"

I spent the rest of that night wandering the streets of Utila with a guy whose name is too good not to share: Martyn Glastonbury.  He's one of those choruses to the song of the trip, the guy who keeps showing up in all the places you are, and, as it turns out, is hilarious and laid back and not drunk.  Not drunk was a good thing for me, because one of the other things I forgot while I was traveling is how never-endingly boring it gets to travel on the cheap when you're not a party gal.

I've never been a drinker, not even before I got massively drunk on the roof of a hostel in Sevilla, puked all night, and had the kind of hangover the next morning wherein I believe my eyeballs actually crawled right out of my head to escape the sunlight.  Ever since then, alcohol just tastes bad to me; people are forever shoving drinks into my hand telling me that I won't taste the alcohol in this one, and I have to point out that actually, it's the alcohol that I do taste.  I'm not into other recreational substances either, which usually leads to bleary expressions of awe and a statement akin to "That's so commendable."

If you ate some beef and you really didn't like the taste of it, and then you tried some different cuts of beef and still wanted to vomit, would you keep eating beef?  Or would you switch to chicken, or possibly become a vegetarian?  It doesn't take a lot of willpower to not do something that makes you feel bad, and I only wonder why, when I see my friends staggering mole-like from their beds with bloodshot eyes and pulsating livers, they think it's fun at all.

When you're traveling, especially if, like me, you don't have a lot of money, you tend to follow a particular pattern: hostels, supermarkets, long walks in the park versus Broadway plays.  You get your fun from talking to other people and fondling excessive amounts of colorful foreign currency, not from renting a JetSki.  The majority of people who seem to travel like this are under 25, probably because, in our Western culture, those are the ones that have No Responsibilities (aka No Debt).

I like traveling, and it seems fairly obvious to me that the less money you spend, the longer you can travel for.  But as a result, it means I spend a lot of my traveling time with people who are younger than me, and people who are younger than me still think getting drunk and hanging out in bars is a Pretty Neat Idea.  Some people who are older than me also think this, but I don't like them very much.  I don't really like the younger people either, although I'm more willing to chalk it up to youthful enthusiasm rather than a serious character flaw; I'm not a teetotaller,  I just think hanging out in bars is boring, boring, BORING.

But, the more I travel, and the great adventure technically starts tomorrow (Guatemala and Honduras being a pre-travel hiccup more than anything else), the more I'm staring party culture in the face.  But on the bright side, party culture is so drunk it can't see me properly.


Anonymous said...

I am totally with you on the subject of bars and drunks. :D Have a good time on the road! Take a picture or two if you care to bother.

MaggieMayDay said...

I wanna go!

If you're still going to be at burning man and need things schlepped out there, tell us or mail things for us to haul.

I wanna I wanna I wanna. But my arthritis has other ideas, I can't do a day in the truck on a comfy level anymore.

Nicholas said...

Ay ay ay...of all the people to have forgotten earplugs! Claire, I must get some more tidbits from you about Guatemala or I am going to literally spontaneously combust. LITERALLY. How was Semuc Champey? Did you ever make it to Xela? I'm bursting at the seams (and catching fire) as I anticipate hearing your stories in person.

And yes, those courageous, ignorant young people with their Partykultur can make travel a pain, but you've started off your blog in a very defensive/homiletic tone, haven't you? Of course, given the typical hostel atmosphere, you're probably having to rebuff peoples' advances about 1000x/day, so I can understand your wanting to vent.

And uuuy I am so glad you went diving in the Bay Islands! It's not my cup of tea, but everyone I know who has done it loves it.

Like I said, looking forward to more words and pictures. Ciao ciao!

kittarina said...

Wow, I am totally going to read your posts. I am actually taking a year off in January and am traveling to New Zealand, Australia, Indonesia, up north thru Asia and then hitting either S. America or S. Africa. And, I will be on a tight budget too so hostels here I come! I can't wait to read all about your adventures! :)

Anonymous said...

Yay!! Now we can keep track of you! And the great thing about reading the travel blog of someone who doesn't drink, you'll have the mental ability to remember it AND the clarity to write it down and have it be interesting.

This may sound super stupid, but I had such a fucking good time with you at Santarchy NOT being drunk that it's been one of the things to help me take a step back and reel in my drinking habits. So thank lady :)

Claire said...

Oh, I didn't realize how peripatetic this sounded until a couple of people pointed out how grumpy I seem. Chalk it up to me essentially being that grandmother who whacks you on the legs with her cane and tells you to get off her lawn.

Anti M: I'll definitely be at Burning Man, and may be visiting you beforehand!

Nick: Drop me an email, for the love of god. Come visit in Montreal.