Travel Fatigue

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For those of you who have been following my travels closely, I suppose it’s fair to keep you abreast of my relevant moods and ideas. As you may have noticed from recent posts (or lack thereof), I’m getting a bit of travel fatigue. Considering I’ve been moving around for about five months now, maybe it is to be expected. Sure, there were times I’ve spent a couple of weeks on the same bed (Bangkok, McLeod Ganj and Paris), but I think being in one place for awhile without having had plans to stay there, still feels transient.

I’m not entirely convinced that moving around is the part that’s getting to me though. There’s no doubt that the un-culture shock of coming west from the East has been a psychosomatic challenge. The West is a cold place in comparison. I got use to the warmth in Asia.

It’s the simple things really. Accidentally brushing shoulders with people, letting curiosity manifest in eye contact; things I took care not to do before and am now readapting too. It may seem hard to believe one could absorb much from a culture in such a short time, but there’s no doubt that re-entry to the more private and prejudice part of the world has been getting me down.

My solution won’t be to escape back to the East, for I’m not big on escaping. But there’s no doubt that visiting Europe in the shadow of attack monkeys and crazy festivals has gotten me a bit disillusioned. As my incessantly honest and much beloved Uncle (who has become somewhat of a travel mentor and who I am trying to convince to start his own dad-lawyer-golfer-with-lots-of-opinions blog) so abrasively put it; I’ve ‘got my eyes closed’.

Well maybe not completely, but they have certainly been much more closed than I’d like them to be. Especially for my first time exploring Europe!

Again, my hunch is that it’s not really the moving around that’s getting to me. It’s more so visiting only major cities with major sites and lots of major tourism. There’s no doubt I’m getting tired of hostel hopping too. I still love meeting people, especially other travelers, but there’s a wave of tourists who come through Europe about this time each summer. Most are nineteen to twenty one, still in college, it’s their first time overseas and they have a very strong second priority of taking pictures of themselves in front everything they are awake long enough to see. I say awake long enough, because their first priority keeps most of them drooling on their hostel pillows throughout most of the daylight.

I don’t mean to look down on them at all. They’re probably far better off than most of the friends they’ve left back home who have never walked on foreign soil. They talk about where they’re from, what they study, the differences between European and American culture, Australian and New Zealand accents and how to protect themselves against pickpockets. The topics are often far from trivial and most of the kids are intelligent and have interesting things to say. It’s just that the conversations are mostly the same and I’ve been having them almost everyday. That I know I need a break from.

All this really means (as many of you pointed out in comments or emails) is that it’s time for a change.

What kind of change? I’m not completely sure. No sorry Dad, I’m not coming home yet, but something new needs to happen. I’ve gone through a few different ideas.

My first was to gear up and tour Europe by bicycle. It would have allowed me to see lots of small towns, move slower and have time alone to write (with a pen), save me some cash and mix some physical activity into the lethargic life of a long term traveler. The idea isn’t completely shot, but I forwent doing it now because I’d have to give up my camera and laptop for at least a few months in order to bike through a good portion of Europe. I’m still pondering the idea of going by pedal power throughout the UK in September.

From the cycling idea I started thinking about buying a motorcycle. True, I wouldn’t be getting any exercise, but I could carry my gear and have the freedom to go where I wanted, as fast as I wanted (especially in Germany)! After some investigation, I learned that I’d either have to travel by motor scooter (think Dumb & Dumber) or attack a likely lengthy process to acquire a foreign motorcycle license, never mind the other legal snags I didn’t realize I’d have to face, which I am now facing with my third idea.

This week I’ve been looking into buying a van. A Volkswagen bus turned tourist camper to be exact. I met an Australian girl who gave me the idea. Last year she and her boyfriend outfitted a conversion van with a bed and two bikes and did a road trip throughout Europe. They would park in suburbs where it was free and safe, then ride their bikes into the cities. I love the idea of having all my photography and writing gear, a stereo, a guitar, a bike to ride, privacy when I need it, ability to move around Europe fast or slow and the choice to sleep in hostels or in a VAN DOWN BY THE RIVER!

Off searching I went. Web-searching that is. I found exactly what I was looking for on this site. My heart was set on #4 and #5, but when I finally figured out how to call the Netherlands from a Spanish payphone and got in touch with the husband and wife owners of Turner Cars & Campers, I found they had not updated their website since April. All the vans were sold. Evidently ‘now is the worst time to try to buy a van in Europe, especially with the World Cup going on’! Oh and those other legal snags I’d mentioned earlier. Yes, well foreigners can no longer register cars in the European Union.

I haven’t given up on this one completely though. Donna at Turner told me she’ll see what she can do about finding one. ‘You want a diesel I right?’ she asked. ‘Oh, uh yea, of course,’ I stammered, pretending to know exactly what I was doing after trying to buy a van in Europe at the worst time to try to buy a van in Europe. Anyway, hopefully I’ll get an email from her. I’m also doing my own searching because if I find a van, she will hold registration for a fee. Imagine the likeliness of meeting someone in America that would do that? Try slim to none. Not with out fifteen layers of LLC between them and the car anyway.

If the car doesn’t work out, maybe I’ll pick a place and settle down for awhile. Becoming a paragliding pilot in Switzerland is high on my list. I think I’d like to learn French, so an apartment in Paris is a possibility as well. (Too bad there’s no possibility of becoming a paragliding pilot in Paris, because that would be perfect!) As for something humanitarian or starting a new business, I’m thinking that’s a good prospective for 2007. I’ll need something to do when my money runs out.

So that’s where I’m at right now. Seeing as it probably won’t be tomorrow that I’ll be pumping diesel into a stinky, 1980’s, orange, mini-motor home, I’m moving onward with a positive attitude.

For starters, I mustered up some rationale and attended my first and last bullfight yesterday. It was disturbing, but at the least it gave me lots to photograph, think and write about. Yesterday while eating lunch at a middle-eastern café here in Granada, I met two very well traveled, wise and beautiful womem. We had some great conversation over salad, tea and couscous and we met again in the evening for drinks. They are friends since age twelve, both artists of different sorts, both mothers of two girls and both Canadian expatriates. Jennie lives in a compound in Saudi Arabia and Kathy in London. We talked about our families, growing up and living life all around the world and ended the night at a flamenco show in the basement of a bar, which is something I’ll be sure to write more about.

As for getting some exercise, I bought some sweet new Adidas shorts and started running. Six miles in two days put a burn in my legs, which was nothing but good until I needed to lug my overweight bag to the bus yesterday morning. My left knee gave out in a crosswalk and I thought I was going to lose it completely, but instead I just ended up doing a little farewell-Seville dance for those waiting at the light.

Now that I have some plans for what lies ahead, my eyes have opened up a bit. And with this running and lack of balance, that’s probably a good thing.

4 Thoughts on “Travel Fatigue”

  1. Phil Psilos Says:

    I totally get this- hungry for a base myself at this point in my trip. I think the van idea is great. Have you thought about walking the Camino de Santiago in Spain- most people walk from the Basque country to Santiago de Compostella in about a month, ending July 25 in Santiago. You can also bike. Free places to stay, other pilgrims. A trip.

  2. lauren Says:

    chris farley – nice : )
    one of the best snl skits i can remember.

  3. stacey Says:

    a couple of hours ago i was writing in my journal about the people i’m meeting in hostels and the conversations they have and how boring and tiring it all is! its so true what you said. its all the same. and if you see a boy with a bullhorn he probably deserves a punch in the face.

  4. Graham Says:

    Travel Fatigue – Yeh John, shit happens. For me, nine months is the longest I can go. Then I just stop caring. All I think about is sleeping in my bed and having a my simple life back. After sailing for a long while I ended up in New Zealand, pretty fucked, but knowing there is no way I couldn’t see the land of the long white cloud. Ended up working in a farm for a month, not for the money but just to recharge my enthusaism. Worked perfectly for four months. Then I planned my next trip, I crashed at a friends house for another month before leaving NZ and starting a new adventure in the South Pacific. If you do go for the van, great. But don’t drive it anywhere. Find a nice spot and do nothing. Bye from the scottish sailing guy.

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