Dr. Seuss may have said, “Oh, the places you will go!”, but he never mentioned the people you’d meet along the way.
Today is my one-month anniversary with full-time travel, and specifically with Europe. It’s been a whirlwind month and I’m still trying to catch my breath (and catch up on posts, because I have some stories to tell!), but in the meantime, I’ve been sharing snippets on my personal Facebook page about the people I’ve encountered on my travels, and people seem so interested in hearing more about these characters.
I say characters because honestly, some of this stuff you just couldn’t make up. I never dreamed that staying in hostels every now and again, and generally just traveling solo, would open up my world to a whole host of people who’ve provided such amazing entertainment, thought-provoking conversations, and a million smiles (and some cringe-worthy moments, too).
I thought I’d share a few of my favorites with all of you.
Meganotravels Goes Solo: Month One Characters
American women on Scottish Highlands bus tour: This woman was the epitome of what everyone thinks of when they hear “American tourist”: loud, opinionated, judgmental, and obnoxious. I had the pleasure of sitting in front of her on an 11-hour tour through the Scottish Highlands just a few days after landing in that gorgeous country. At first it was innocent enough–a few comments here or there about how things in Scotland aren’t similar to things in the US (duh), and some loud gum-chewing. But then things got worse, and my short temper was on the verge of boiling over as she started talking about politics (particularly, about how Obama should be impeached for being a crappy President. I don’t care about your political beliefs, but give me an example of any recent president who hasn’t done at least one crappy thing during his time in office); then that morphed into how we (Americans) are going to be taxed to death, get shitty healthcare, etc. Then began the questions to the Scottish bus driver: How much do you pay in taxes in Scotland? What’s the healthcare like? Can you actually get decent healthcare, or do they just leave you to rot and die? I was mortified for her, making a spectacle of herself just to make a point in front of a bus full of people from around the world.
Little Scottish girl at Princes Street Gardens: After a couple of “down” (and by that, I mean sort of depressed) days, I decided to take a long stroll through Edinburgh, and stopped off in the Princes Street Gardens to people watch and write for the afternoon. On the bench next to me was a mother with her two young daughters, who were cute as buttons. I am a total sucker for kids with accents, so add a Scottish accent to two adorable little girls, and I am enamored. At one point, the younger of the two daughters said, “And I want to roll on the grass. Please, Mummy!” A few minutes later, she was distracted after her father snuck up on them with tickles and ran off as quickly as he arrived: “Where’s Daddy?” she asked. “He’s just gone to the toilet,” retorted her mother. To which she responded with the cutest thing I’ve ever heard.. ever (again, read this in a wee Scottish accent), “It’s taking him ages!”
Scottish Whisky Bar guy: I can almost guarantee that this barkeep/owner was a bit tipsy as soon as I entered the bar with two Canadian guys I met in the hostel an hour or so earlier. We were on a mission: taste the whiskies that had been recommended to us by various people. When we walked in, we were all a bit overwhelmed by the number of whisky bottles decorating the shelves. I requested the Edradour that was recommended to me and the guy happily handed me a tumbler of Scotch and a glass of water. Not five minutes after sitting down, he came over to our table to basically just hang out with us and talk whisky. He showed us several photos of different aged whiskies he’d procured recently, photos from recent whisky distillery tours, and regaled us with slurred stories. When I asked for more recommendations based on the Edradour, he quickly changed subjects to other bottles he’d purchased before walking away. A bit disappointed that I didn’t get some great recommendations, I was ready to head out and try another place. But just as quickly as I’d started to get up to pay my tab, he brought me a slip of paper with a few recommendations. I actually really enjoyed talking to this guy and hearing his stories–it’s one of the things that “makes” a place for me, but I could tell that the Canadian guys were not thrilled to have his company and were ready to leave. So, we did.
Vietnamese mom/son team: This is one of my favorites. They were honestly the nicest people in the world, but every interaction was just kind of strange. I don’t even know where to start: I’ve already written about the son who thought that every American owns a gun, and how I tried to combat that myth (and was sadly undermined the next day). But the mother was honestly my favorite part of the dynamic duo. She didn’t speak a word of English and I don’t speak a word of Vietnamese beyond “bun ga nuong” (my favorite dish), but still talked at me in Vietnamese like I could fully understand her. Thankfully, her son was eager to translate, but it was really hysterical for her to excitedly talk to me, while looking me in the eye, with the knowledge that neither of us could understand the other. She wanted to know how much it cost to open a nail salon in the US (I have no idea), offered to help me find a job in Vietnam, and was insistent when she told me that she saw the “drum”, not Liberty Bell, in Philadelphia. But the best part of this whole two-day experience with them was finding out that this tiny 4’10” Vietnamese woman in her 60s was shuffling around the room in my size 11 shower shoes. I came back one day and found them in front of her bed, so I locked them up in my locker (because seriously, who steals someone’s shower shoes?). Later that night, I saw her frantically searching for them. I actually felt kind of sorry, but did she really think that the hostel provided communal shower shoes?
Naked Kazakh guy: I’m gonna start this by saying that I actually really really liked this guy. He was ridiculously personable, easy to talk to, engaged me in some of the best conversations I’ve had on this trip, and was cute to boot. BUT, the dude would seriously strip down mid-conversation with you. I was so confused the first time it happened–where was I supposed to look while we were just maintaining eye contact, deep in our chat, when he decided it was an appropriate moment to disrobe? I mean, a free strip show is always welcomed, but it was totally awkward for me not knowing if I should continue looking at him while talking, or if I should be scanning the carpet or examining the ceiling while he stripped down and got under his blankets.
Reykjavik hostel hippies: And finally–as I sit here and write this, the common room is crawling with hippies who are in a serious creative zone writing a song about how “we all share one heart”. One girl is actually doing interpretive dance/tai chi to the budding tune. Earlier, this same group of light-hearted hippies was choreographing a “dance” sequence on the couch, swaying from side to side, lying on one another, and just generally being “wacky”, when suddenly one of the twee hipsters announced, “this just doesn’t feel organic.” To which the guy in the bunch chimed in, “that’s because it’s choreographed.” Wow, captain obvious. So, they decided, in the end, to break up these choreographed segments by doing some wacky organic shit in between. (Also, I realize how horribly bitter/sarcastic I sound, but I lived in the “weird” capital of the world for the last six years, and I just can’t suffer through this “art for art’s sake” anymore.)
So there you have it. Month one’s characters. Let’s hope month two is just as awesome.