I’m bored of people rubbing their profound knowledge of the world, the universe and life itself in my face through Facebook memes and inspirational quotes. If anything, they inspire me to throw my iPhone out the window at the nearest unsuspecting child cycling past. Fear not, I have restrained (for now). I figured that through almost four years of gallivanting around this little blue dot and spreading profanity in multiple languages, I have probably gained a little wisdom and that maybe some of these idiots who keep telling me that my soul is beautiful from their mediocre bubbles might like a little insight. I also am bored that of all of these lists of ten, so I’m making this as awkward as possible. Here are 9.5 truths I have learned from my world travels.
1 – Never underestimate the power of a Snickers bar. I was sat on a bus one day, talking to a Dutch girl who sounded like she had done some serious high-altitude hiking in the weeks leading up to our mutual trip. She offered me a snack and showed me the entire contents of her bag which resembled the inside of a hippie health food shop. Standing out like a goth in a rave bar was a Snickers, so naturally, I asked her about it. She turned to me and with absolute shit-inducing sincerity said the phrase “never underestimate the power of a Snickers bar”. It’s true, and I’m sure some professional dietician is going to tell me I’m wrong but just shut up and bear with me here. To tell you the truth, I fucking hate the things, but I usually have a few hanging around, and I do occasionally get cravings for the bloody things too. The perfectly proportioned chocolate, sugar, and nuts are one hell of an energy boost, and when you’re feeling drained, exhausted and considering lying down for the vultures to find you, GET SOME NUTS, and you’ll be feeling yourself again instantly. This is tried and tested by at least two people in the world (myself included).
2.0 – Money flows. If you have any savings in your bank account, it means one of two things; you’re saving up for travel, or that you’re not traveling enough. Money is just pieces of metal and paper we assign a value to, and if you value paper and metal more than stories, adventure, and being chased by dingos, I feel truly sorry for you. We all get scared of running out of money, and trust me, right now I’m struggling to understand how I’m going to eat anything but plain unsalted pasta until payday, but money, like diarrhea, flows, and with a little common sense, you’ll always find a way to survive even in the direst of situations.
3 – Being able to speak English is a gift. Us native speakers have it far too fucking easy as the rest of the world (okay, most of the world) has been learning our language since before they could even speak a single word in their native tongues. In most countries, if they realise that you can’t speak their native language, the first thing they will try is English. Us natives are in the incredibly privileged position that we own the language of business, of travel, of international relations, of aviation and of backpacker drinking sessions. We also don’t understand how difficult our language is for others to pick up, and how many nasty exceptions, slang, and strong accents there are to throw people off their tracks. Never take this for granted. And, speaking of languages…
3 and one half – Languages are wonderful. Nelson Mandela once said “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.” (Check me out with my pretentious inspirational quotes – somebody make a poster). Learning second and third and even twentieth languages not only opens up a world of communication that we never knew before but also makes us understand more about the cultures they are connected to and even our own language and culture and how it differs. It also means that you know you are ordering the correct drink, that you know how to impress the opposite sex, and that you know that you’re being kidnapped and ransomed for huge amounts of money. Just because you can speak English, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t learn a little Faroese.
negative D – I don’t care how many countries you have been to and how many internationals you have banged, you are no better than anybody else. It is okay to know that you are interesting to speak to and to entertain others with your stories, but be aware that you are not the only one in the room. Everybody has value and you must stay aware of this, and the more you listen, the more you learn. Also, just because your total number of countries is higher, that does not mean that you have seen more culture, in fact, it is probably the opposite. The longer you spend in a single country, the deeper you scratch into their culture and start to understand what it is to be a local rather than a tourist. Lastly, your penis is not a magical culture absorbing wand of pleasure, and sleeping with as many internationals as possible teaches you very little unless you awkwardly endure the pillow talk afterward. I’m just saying.
2 – Go outside. As wonderful as it is to meet other travelers in hostels, the real stuff is all out the front door. It absolutely enrages me when I see people who boast about their travels who actually spend all their time on Netflix in the dorm room, which sounds ridiculous but it happens. Go and get so lost that you wonder if you’ll have to find a cave to sleep in for the night as you might not get back to civilisation. Go and climb a mountain. Go and chase a shark. Go and realise that your Spanish speaking skills will get you tequila instead of coffee. Get sunburnt. Get wet. If you are lucky enough to be abroad, make the most of every opportunity that you can. There will always be time to meet people afterward.
😉 – Beer transcends all language barriers (and drinking in a foreign language is the second quickest way to learn it). After a day of hiking, take some beautiful strangers to the pub and you will begin to realise that despite different origins, languages, and cultures, that we are really all the same. After a couple of drinks, you will cease to care about how much of a grammatical minefield your communication is and will start talking instead about once you woke up naked in front of six Italians in a hostel in Sweden.
7 – In the wise words of Brandon Flowers, everything will be alright (everything will be alright, everything will be alroiiiiiiight). When you are surrounded by open-minded and generous people, you will realise that they will help you in your hour of need, providing you help the next person in theirs. If a snake if halfway through devouring your torso, give a friendly wave to your nearest traveler and, before long, you should be able to escape with at least a quarter of your body and a new drinking buddy.
F@#G? – Everybody shits, both physically and metaphorically. Traveling with people is living with them 24/7, and as much as you will want to deny it, everybody needs to go to the bathroom and you will be subjected to all of their habits. Sometimes the hostel toilet is going to smell bad. Sometimes people are sick and you’ll hear everything. There is no rolling your turds in glitter, they’re still turds, and in such close proximity and with zero privacy, you may as well just be honest and own it when you block the toilet. Metaphorically, and this has literally nothing to do with traveling, even the highest and most important person has to do the most unspeakable of things, so when you’re pushing one out, keep in the back of your mind that Queen Lizzie might be doing exactly the same as you in that very moment with her corgis watching. If you put somebody on a pedestal, all that’s going to happen is that their shit is going to fall on your head instead of somewhere more appropriate.
334 – The world is both bigger and smaller than we think it is. “Ooooh look at Tom, he’s sounding all deep and mysterious with his contradictory and bold statements. What a dick he is, let’s all throw food at him.” Alright, alright, I get it, just let me justify myself here. You will not have enough life to explore everywhere on this little blue dot (unless there are some serious advances in science in the next few years, and I’ve had hour long debates about whether or not that would be a good or bad thing, so let’s not open that rabbit hole. You probably won’t even have enough life to explore every nook and cranny in the country that you live, so be selective. By this, I mean that you should take some time to decide what speaks to you, and what is important for you to experience, and to target your travels and free time towards that, whether it is community, culture, nature or vintage cheese tasting. That said, you will still magically bump into the same person unexpectedly in three different continents, and as travel becomes more accessible, I am expecting to bump into Alina somewhere in Tanzania next.
I’ve lost count but still have one more point – Euphoria comes in many forms and you have not truly traveled until a warm shower and a clean pair of underpants has been the highlight of the week. There are so many things that we take for granted in this stupid, dumb little world, and when you force yourself back into nature you start to realise how privileged and lucky we are to have stupid, dumb things like plumbing, locks for the door and spice racks. I will absolutely stand behind this until the day that I die (which is probably soon knowing my current luck) – when sixty seconds of scalding water that cost you $5 in a dodgy rural shack elates you, you’re absolutely doing something right. Think back to what exactly brought you to that moment in time, and be proud of everything you have accomplished, especially if nobody was around to witness it with you. These, for me, are the moments that make life worth living.
It’s okay guys; I’m a musician, so I can only count to four and repeat.
– Tom @ indieroad