Travel is my favourite thing to do.
As every trip approaches, whether it’s an action-packed journey across South East Asia or a weekend away in the UK, the butterfly feeling in my tummy never fails to make an appearance, a physical reminder of my addiction to new places. I’ve written stories of my adventures and tales of my escapades abroad, from heatstroke in Qatar to bullet trains in Tokyo but it’s recently occurred to me that I haven’t yet shared the most important aspect of my travelling experiences with all of you, my companions.
The importance of the people that you share your travel adventures with should never be underestimated: it is their presence and their inescapable influence that develops your experiences and shapes your memories. Although I continue to hold the belief that a destination has the ability to change both a person and their outlook, the power of a place only goes so far on its own. So, it is without further ado, that I’d like to introduce you to my very own travel companions, the good, the bad and the downright hilarious.
Colourful characters have become something of an expectation on the road, but I feel fairly confident in saying that I have no need to look any further than my own family for the weird and wonderful.
We’ve all heard of Karl Pilkington, quite possibly the grumpiest and unintentionally funniest British man in the books, yet it seems that I may have just found a rival for the title of the biggest idiot abroad (and I mean this in the most loving way possible of course)… in my very own Father. Whether he’s rocking the lobster look in Bali or suffering from some rather unpleasant side effects following a sketchy encounter with an unidentifiable meat in a downtown Beijing restaurant, if you’re looking for a laugh, there’s no one better to have around.
Perhaps the most chuckle worthy characteristic he possesses is his borderline ridiculous anxiety. I will never, and I do mean never, be able to forget the knicker-wetting image of my Dad’s head popping out of the rag like curtains of his bunk on a Malaysian overnight train, eyes wide, heart thumping and shoes firmly on his feet should the need to ‘escape’ our situation suddenly arise. The utter sincerity in his tone as he vehemently declared that his curtains would remain open to enable him, and I quote, ‘to see the bastards coming’ was quite possibly one of the funniest moments of my seventeen years to date.
Now, one would probably assume that a man who prizes vigilance would be nothing short of a master of organisation, and to his credit, this is usually the case. All essential documents are firmly secured in the ‘document folder’, the padlocks are on each and every suitcase and not one of us is able to leave the hotel room until we’ve made a mad dash to ensure every single item of any value is locked in the safe. Yet, despite all of these precautions, my Dad still managed to misplace the most important item any traveller possesses, the passports. The utter look of panic on his face the moment that he realised our tickets home were whizzing across Beijing on the airport train will be emblazoned in my mind forever. The mania that ensued was like nothing I’d ever seen; my brother sat on the floor of our hotel lobby sobbing continuously, muttering that he ‘doesn’t want to live in China’, my mum switching on the water works in her desperate attempt to convince the poor receptionist to let us into our room and my Dad, off somewhere in one of the busiest cities in the world, searching for a backpack the size of a football. I doubt I need to tell you that he did eventually manage to find the bag (quite possibly the most relieving phone call we’ve ever received) but it will be a very long time before he is ever able to live this down, despite his incomprehensible claim that because he found the passports, he never actually lost them at all!
Whilst his anxious nature is undeniably amusing, his constant need to ‘stay hydrated’ in hot countries (resulting in too many 7/11 trips to count) and the instantaneous panic that sets in should we miss a meal becomes something of an irritant to the other members of our sweaty, tired and grimy travelling clan as we trudge behind him on his quest for sustenance.
Although he is far from being the stereotypical English tourist that wears his ‘foreigner’ status like a big, flashing label (and we know there’s always one) there are moments when he successfully manages to bring down the tone of our cultural escapades. Be it the oh-so-classy Roy Cropper carrier bag (full of the aforementioned essential liquid supply) that seems to pop up in all of our family photographs or his trail of destruction that left our executive lounge buffet in Qatar resembling a children’s birthday party, he never fails to amuse.
From arguments with American flight attendants on Japanese buses, intense stare-offs with a rather aggressive monkey in Bali, an emotional eye-freezing-shut situation in Riga or a worryingly inappropriate encounter with a very odd Asian fellow in a third-world Malaysian toilet, my first companion brings laughter, excitement and just a tad of offence to every journey.
Check out part two here!