A TNT Travel Writign Awards entrant
Author: Brett Longstaff
Now? Where to, when traipsing around another cathedral, and no offence intended whatsoever to the fella upstairs, just seems like that ‘re run’ of Friends you’ve seen a thousand times before? When stopping the 48 seater tour bus momentarily for the obligatory photo opp and hurry on from the driver just doesn’t ‘float your boat’? When cultural dance means seeing someone swap Reebok classics and Man U top for face paint and some re-hashed, un motivated over performed jig in front of the hoards of people all resembling walking 10 quid notes? Or when the chants of Oggy Oggy Oggy and repeated invitations to “get up on that table” and do that (bloody) chicken dance at Oktoberfest leaves you in the pits of despair?
Had my year two teacher been given carte blanche to say what she wished on my report I’m sure she would of said I had he attention span of amnesiac tadpole. And, despite a few friendly reminders off Mrs Pritchard’s ‘Board of Education’ throughout that year I’ve still, to this day, probably only had the pleasure of graduating to puffer fish. Otherwise known as a degree in Physical Education.
But despite these obvious shortcomings, I have tried this tourist lark, and I have had a decent crack, mind you.
And I’m not really 100% sure of the moment when I did actually have that real moment of clarity. That, so to say, travel ‘calling’ when I plainly thought to myself…. Is that the hell it?
I’m trying to think if it was when I visited the world famous Musee D’Orsay in Paris. Studying the first exhibits as if it was a 1987 page 3 dad had left open on the kitchen table and gaining in pace until eventually passing the final stages of the museum at a pace Usain Bolt would struggle to muster? Or was it in the tourist resorts of the Gambia when I’d somehow managed to stay calm throughout my 31st “better prices than Tesco my friend” and 64th “lovely jubbly” on a ‘tranquil’, ‘romantic’ sunset beach walk? Maybe it could have been our host’s charismatic spiel at the only ‘genuine’ Turkish baths in Olu Deniz only to hear it repeated, and repeated, and repeated for every tourist, which entered. Perhaps the 4hr queue to get over to the Statue of Liberty, £7 beers, pics of Big Ben, pushy touts, too many trips to the Walkabout, Mercedes Corby…. who, although having nothing to do with my dilemma, just pisses me off as well!
Was travelling really supposed to be like a Cameron Diaz movie, when you knew exactly what you were gonna get? Was there more to this phenomenon than the pics pretending to hold up the tower of pisa and facebook updates?
A few stints here and there since have refuelled the appetite and I reckon I’ve finally made the transformation from tourist to traveller. A long way from the likes of Pailin or Parry but if you’re an ADD traveller like me and getting bored of it all then try these few friendly tips on for size.
1) When in Chicoutimi. Modelling ain’t easy for a bloke who’s played a good 15 years of Rugby in the front row. The good thing is we’re not talking in the Kate Moss sort of genre but what I like to refer to as the ‘do what they’re doing’ principle. For me, getting amongst it with the locals has resulted in some of my most special and memorable travel memories. From getting my kit off with the locals in a sauna in Hasthagan, Sweden and then plunging into a hole in the ice to becoming wheelie bin pushing champion in Lightning Ridge, Australia, immersing myself head to toe in volcanic mud in Iceland, a Saturday night of Hockey and poutine in Quebec, a cut thought shave in the U.A.E, bartering in the spice hall of Malaysia’s Kota Bharu market, sandbags the only thing between me and a 12 year old with a machine gun crossing the Senegalese border by ferry and foot, ice skating on Amsterdam’s canals to experiencing home life with a family in ‘small town’ Norway. Seeing life ‘how they do’ for me is a major buzz compared to looking from the outside in.
2) On your bike. Sometimes the world flies by too quick, the destination becomes our goal and not the journey and… we get chubby! What about all those in-between places? I first was blown away by book about a 60 odd year old British woman who after 45 years off a bike decided to ride around the world over 5 years. I myself ‘kicked off’ with brief bicycle trip on the island of Zanzibar off Tanzinia and I was hooked on the interaction, sights and experiences it brought. Plus the fact I could eat like John Candy at a Crispy Crème convention. Since then a bike trip through Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand and around Tahiti with my good mate Russ has made me realise how much we do miss out on behind the bus window. Bush mechanics, swarms of local kids up for a laugh, amazing hospitality, brilliant scenery and cracking food are only a few of the reasons to get a set of panniers, box up the bike and pick a place.
3) Eat, drink and be merry. My curiosity often means I’ll try anything once occasionally with repercussions, yet however with more stories to bore the grandkids with in time to come. By breaking down cultural and social boundaries food and drink have been an integral part of my travels. Well, that and the fact I like a good scran and a bevvie. Fermented chou tofu, snakes blood, green sulfur eggs and a purple samosa in Mozambique which left me reeling for days are a few one offs as with the drunken new years spent on a broken down bus in ‘godknowswhere’ Connecticut but are all equally memorable. My advice, give anything a go. You’ll never remember a Big Mac in Beijing, but still keep that box of Imodium at arms length for when you venture outside your comfort zone.
4) Enjoy nothing. Often we get caught up with where we need to be what we need to see and who we have to meet up with. A few of my most vivid travel moments have been in desolate, harsh yet beautiful environments either all alone or with those I’m close to. Trekking from the red sea into Egypt’s Eastern desert, climbing atop of the Scottish moors on the Isle of Skye, looking over Wallis lake on a crisp morning in my home town of Forster in NSW, on top of the clouds on Taiwan’s Alishan Mountain and cave camping with my wife Emma alone on Sardinia’s Cala Luna beach. Throw away the guide book and GPS, don’t search but treasure these times and places that are impossible to forget.
Well then; on your way.
Oggy Oggy Oggy!