Thursday, January 23, 2014

10 Reasons why you shouldn't travel with me

I really enjoy reading other people's travel blogs and following along in their travels. Although I often feel an affinity with their experiences on the road, I quite frequently feel quite the opposite. So here's a few reason's why my sort of travel may not be your cup of tea.

1. I'm not afraid

How many times have I read about people's fear of doing this or that, their struggle to overcome it and their eventual triumph? I'm truly happy for that traveller, I really am, but it's not something I can relate to. Because I am not racked by fears and uncertainties and have a healthy self esteem and a realistic idea of my physical capabilities there are very few adventures I'll baulk at because of fear. This doesn't mean I'll do anything, far from it, but my choice to not do something is more likely to be based on reason than on an atavistic emotion.

This lack of fear on my part makes me rather insensitive to the insecurities of fellow travel companions. I'm probably going to tell you to "toughen up princess" than empathise with your unrealistic fears. You just might resent me for that...

2. I dress for comfort and practicality

If you are really into image, looking cool or chic, and not looking like a dorky tourist, you are not going to want to be seen anywhere near me. I choose my clothing based first on it's comfort and practicality, and anything else comes second. My favourite colour is red, but there's a real paucity of practical travel apparel outside black, beige and khaki which I find really annoying. I don't wear collarless or sleeveless tops when travelling (to prevent sunburn and upsetting conservative local mores) meaning I often look like I'm on safari, particularly with my big camera strapped to my chest. I also wear a hat. I read somewhere some north american disparaging the fact that tourists wear these dorky hats when they travel but would never be seen dead in said dorky hat back home. Ummm, I'm Australian, go out in our sun without a hat at your peril, idiot!!

Needless to say, you might think I stand out like a sore thumb, and you want to fit in, not be so conspicuous. You don't wanna hang with me then...

3. I go native

I eat at busy local street stalls. I am not vegetarian and enjoy trying new food. I am addicted to durian. When in Asia I avoid any restaurant that sells pizzas, burgers or banana pancakes, as even the "local" food in these establishments will be bland and overpriced. I take local transport rather than VIP buses or backpacker transport, not only to save money but because I cannot stand listening to the whining and complaining of my fellow travellers. At least if they are whinging on the local bus I have no idea what they are saying!

I have absolutely no wish to spend my time travelling with other westerners. More than a couple of westerners together and opportunities to interact genuinely with locals just evaporate. Would you strike up a conversation with a gaggle of rowdy tourists you saw on a bus? But the quiet girl reading her book, or smiling and giggling with your baby, you might well. I have literally been invited home to stay with families after chance encounters like this. But if you prefer to sit with the other westerners up the back comparing crappy bus journey stories with each other, you might not notice that I've slipped away to spend a night in a village somewhere.

4. My comfort needs are surprisingly simple for a girl my age

Maybe because I'm a doctor, and grew up camping, climbing, caving and getting dirty often, I don't have a paranoia about hygiene. Dirt is dirt, not a big bogey monster, and there has to be a real sense of squalor before I'll pull the pin on an accommodation option that ticks all the other boxes: great location, good vibes, and cheap. Real filth is quite different to a bit of dirt, and after living a few years in Newtown Sydney where the laneway to my house was literally crawling with cockroaches and my current house is regularly invaded by mice, I'm somewhat blasé about such things. I always carry a silk sleeping sheet and have never been bitten by bedbugs, though no doubt one day I will...

I thought that I'd only go for ensuite bathrooms when I left to go travelling in 2008, but quickly found that that quickly reduced my options. A great room with a view but a bathroom down the hall will win me any day over the aircon suite up the back. Oh yeah, I'm fine with fans too!

Let's just say you might want to find your own accommodation somewhere more salubrious...

5. I get up early and go to bed early

One of my great loves is markets, and the earlier I get there the better. Also an awesome place for breakfast. The light's better for photography too, and in tropical parts it's by far the coolest time of the day. Sunrises on top of mountains and volcanoes are another of my passions. So that means early to bed too.

Totally not the party animal, boring...

6. I like nothing better than getting off the beaten path

I mean this literally. Not only do I enjoy the less touristy parts of a destination but I frequently walk long distances with my backpack on, usually in the countryside, often on small roads or paths that only local traffic frequents. I'm usually much more physically active when travelling than I am at home with a sedentary office job and often do training before a trip so I'm in condition for it. I trek, I camp, I climb quite a lot of mountains. I pack accordingly.

You may not be into this, or are carrying too much luggage, or not be fit enough to find this enjoyable...

7. I'm a know it all

I research my destinations extensively. It teaches me about the people and culture, as well as what tourist attractions might be in the vicinity. It allows me to gauge the amount of time I might need in a place to explore it fully, but it never prepares me for the actual experience once I get there. It means I have a rough plan in my head of what I want to do, although it's never a fixed schedule as I often take up other opportunities that present themselves. It means I already have a good background knowledge of a place prior to visiting, and find my visit provides the nuances and complexities. For someone with less knowledge of the place, I'm a bloody know it all.

Or a pretty good tour guide...

8. I spend a lot of time taking photographs

I carry a tripod, a dSLR, a couple of lenses, some filters, a reversing ring, and a phone camera with a few dinky lenses and lots of photo apps. I am a serious photography geek, I think nothing of spending hours, even a whole day, in a botanical garden taking photos of plants and insects, or in a jungle photographing fungi and orchids, or getting that perfect waterfall shot - not yet folks! - or a spectacular sunrise panorama. I also adore old architecture, windows, doors, street art, bicycles and rickshaws and markets, oh yes, markets. I'm also keen to do a bit more portraiture.

You might find this extremely taxing on your patience...

9. I am impulsive

I may start off with a plan but I'm happy to change it. This means I rarely book anything ahead of time, unless it's absolutely necessary. I'll have done enough research to know if pre booking accommodation is my only chance of a bed for the night, and I usually have a flight booked home if I have a return date for work. But otherwise, I come armed with knowledge and just take my chances. Usually this results in some awesome experiences.

This level of uncertainty might not appeal to you

10. I won't have sex with you

I'm really not interested in holiday romances, or hooking up with fellow travellers. I've only once succumbed to a sexy stranger I met on a plane, and he and I are still friends more than 10 years later. I prefer the ease of platonic friendships over the power struggles of relationship politics. I don't miss sex enough to want to hook up with strangers, and I value my independence too much to seek comfort in any man's arms. It's not to say that if the right man came swashbuckling into my life...

And you thought you were gonna get into my pants?

Would you travel with me?

I've travelled with some awesome people over the years, and they're usually easy going, good at interacting with the locals, and not overly concerned with the minutia of discomfort on a road less travelled. They are flexible, and fun to be with, and they usually become lifelong friends.

My kind of travel isn't for everyone.

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