A ‘Craig’ is an unusual species of tourist. They love to travel, but don’t like leaving home. They go off the beaten track but are completely oblivious to the fact that this often involves pit toilets, strange food and hanging with the locals.
Craigs are in love with the idea of travel but not the reality and on almost every tour I’ve taken,there’s always a Craig.
I first encountered the Craggius Maximus during my travels in northern Thailand. My boyfriend and I had signed up for a jungle trekking tour and nervously waited to meet the other members of our group. A stand out from the typical bunch of backpackers, Craig was from the dangerous part of LA.
That night, we went out for a group dinner at the markets. Craig makes his excuses, leaving early because he wants to “get some sleep”. When some of the other backpackers find him in a strip club later that night, he says, “Man, I am so lost. Do you know how to get back to the hotel?”
The next morning, we head to the mountains in a former army truck, huddling in the back ontwo wooden benches underneath a khaki awning. The driver parks at a local market to pick up some last minute supplies.
Tony, the tour leader, suggests we buy some small toys for the village children to play with. Craig buys a plastic helicopter as big as his head, a basketball and two eggs.
Back on the truck he tries to crack the eggs open for breakfast and they spill all over his hands.
“What’s this? These ain’t hardboiled? I want my 10 baht back!” he shouts (10 baht equals one cent). “I demand a refund!”
Our truck finally arrives at the start of the hiking trail, where a gentle slope leads up and away into the jungle. “Okay, so here we start walking,” says Tony. Craig, shocked, looks at the rest of us with our daypacks, hats and water.
“You mean we gotta walk this thing? “How far is it to the village, like 10 minutes?” Tony laughs. “More like three hours.”
You’d think if someone had signed up for a trekking tour then perhaps they’d expect to walk a few kilometres. Craig is horrified.
After a debate, Tony arranges for a local Thai to motorbike him to the village. Three sweaty hours later, we arrive, puffing and panting. Craig is sitting on a log, holding his bored head in his hands and staring at the ground.
We are given a tour of the village and pass simple wooden houses on stilts. The experience is humbling and serene. That is until Craig speaks.
“Is there a dentist in this village?” he asks. “No Craig.” Later at dinner, we hear another complaint. “Is there a napkin in this village?” “No Craig.”
Finally, he meets some lucky local kids and palms off his overweight gifts. They’re pretty happy, it’s not that often someone brings them a helicopter and a basketball.
In the next village, Craig insists on getting to know the locals and seems to frighten some of the villagers with his constant babbling about the US of A.
An enterprising woman puts him to work carrying her groceries up and down a steep hill. I suspect this woman is using him for cheap labour, but we’re more than happy.
“See, I’m getting in touch with the locals!” he shouts from the road as the rest of us relax with some beers. On the last day we return to the dilapidated truck, legs weary from walking. We exchange bumpy dirt roads for sealed asphalt, winding back through the mountains to Chiang Mai.
Craig is so exhausted from his adventures that he falls asleep, head hanging out the back of the truck. His well-greased mouth begins to drool, flecks of spittle flying out onto the open road.
And then, someone begins to sing… “Unforgettable”. That’s what you are Craig, unforgettable.