Maybe it’s the guy they sat next to on the train, or the girl they stumbled on at a hostel party. They’ll travel together a bit, share everything, and then within two years will have forgotten each other’s names.
“How could we afford not to?”
And totally think that no one noticed.
And not in a hyperbolic “Oh, I love pita chips!” sense, but in a legitimate, deeply felt, heartache-y, head-over-heels, totally-in-love sense.
Every sentence starts with, “Well, when I was in India…”
No, you probably shouldn’t walk 20 miles. No, you probably can’t see all of Paris in a day. No, there’s not enough time between those two flights for you to go ziplining.
And pay for it dearly the next day.
And that word is inevitably “beer.”
“Of course I’m a traveler and not a tourist,” they’ll say, sipping their Señor Frog’s margarita.
Your 20s is an era where hangovers don’t yet have the power to keep you in bed all day. I’ve personally puked on South Africa’s Table Mountain, and I have friends who have puked at Shakespeare’s Globe Theater, the United States Supreme Court, and Beijing’s Forbidden City.
And then quit in an excessively flamboyant manner when they’ve finally saved enough.
Also, gain an otherworldly ability to convince their parents that they’ll only be home “for a month or two.”
And, in retrospect, be a little upset about the money/camera/passport lost, but mostly psyched about the amazing story they got out of it.
“Not all who wander are lost,” is a popular one, or the Mark Twain bit about throwing off the bowlines and sailing away from safe harbor.
To Australians: “Have you ever eaten a Kangaroo?”
To Brits: “Do you know Prince William?”
To Kazakhs: “So what did you think of Borat?”
Oh look, you’re kissing the Sphinx! Oh look, you and all your friends are jumping at the same time at the Taj Mahal! Oh look, you turned the Eiffel Tower into your dick!
It might be Carnaval in Rio, Mardi Gras in New Orleans, the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, or Oktoberfest in Munich: they could save hundreds of dollars by going at another time of year, but that’s not the point, dammit!
And be proud of it.
I once took a bus from Cincinnati to Chicago, slept on the floor of O’Hare Airport, flew to Atlanta for a four-hour layover, then flew to Guatemala, where I caught a six-hour bus to San Salvador. It took 36 hours. I could’ve just flown direct and been there in seven hours, but that cost, like, $100 more.
Their Facebook posts about how they “can’t wait to leave again for another round of travel!” belie the fact that they’re kinda loving having access to their XBox and a pizza-delivery service.
Photo: Étienne Ljóni Poisson