Thursday, June 16, 2011

No I`m not alone, just far from home

Two nights ago I slept on the concrete floor in a corner outside an airport waiting for my plane to Madrid that was arriving no less than 11 hours later. I laid out my towel on the floor, wore as many clothes as I could and cuddled up to my backpack in the spot the nice policeman recommended where the wind wouldn`t get me. (Sorry Mum and Dad if you`re reading this!)

Backpacking is one giant no-frills goosebumps style choose-your-own-adventure. It`s taking advantage of the free breakfasts at hostels and using the bread, ham and cheese for sandwiches for lunch. It`s turning the map around over and over trying to figure out where you are, only to eventually fold it up, put it back in your bag and trust that you`ll find your way back somehow. It`s getting over the travel fatigue, getting out of your room and making yourself talk to strangers, walk to statues and ports and parks and do things you probably won`t have the chance to do again.
And yes, it`s sleeping outside of airports because you didn`t realise airports actually close and were banking on getting a nice spot on the airport chairs close to your boarding gate. Part of it is being scared, being cold, being lost. Its getting lost and found over and over and over again. Between all the lying on beaches all over Europe, taking siestas in parks by ports and monuments hundreds of years old, listening to buskers and watching street performers do their best to make crowds of tourists laugh and throw coins into worn-out hats. Between all the glory of everything you think traveling Europe is and is supposed to be, there`s the other moments that make you realise how lucky you are, just when you`re about to take it for granted.

One of my biggest realisations so far has been how reliant I am on other people when traveling by myself. I know nothing of where I am, and now for the first time traveling outside of Portugal and Spain where my spanglish won`t get me by - I know nothing of the language either. But people surprise you, they see your terror-stricken face and smile and ask you if you need help. All the time I just keep thinking `People are so nice, Why aren`t I this nice to people back home? ` I`ve had a South African guy buy me a custard tart waiting for a bus in Sintra, outside of Lisbon in Portugal while the wind and fog swallowed the view and my stomach grumbled. There was a French girl who more or less held-my-hand from when I got off the bus and put me on the metro on the way to my hostel here in Marseille. 

There are the stories of the wierdos too but most of those encounters are saved for frantic skype-dates with family and rapidly typed facebook chats with friends. The wierd and the wonderful, they`re all on show and all part of it. Now, I`m just enjoying the people watching, days of walking until my haviannas give me blisters, of having a cold cheap european beer at the end of a long day and curling up in my hostel bed because now I know what it`s like to be homeless for a night and can think of nothing better than a warm blanket in a room with a lock.


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