‘That f*cking boy is from f*cking hell…’
I’m not typically one for blurbs. If we aren’t to judge a book by its cover, how can we in good conscience form an opinion from just a small collection of words? As such, I’ve typically applied a similar thinking to my blog posts. Whilst a hook has its value, I like to think that those who stumble across my work are able to find themselves pleasantly surprised by its content. Nevertheless, with such an unapologetically offensive description of my third travel companion (read about another here) at my fingertips, it felt fitting to start this post with a bang.
Picture the scene. It’s late afternoon, the warmth of the Moroccan sun is tangible even through the small plane windows and Ryanair’s passengers exhale a collective sigh of relief as our aircraft touches down on the runway. Unfortunately, as is so often the case where my motley crew is concerned, our journey hadn’t been quite so stress-free. Rewind through four hours of seat-kicking, nose-picking and angry screaming and perhaps the man in seat 23B’s reaction doesn’t seem quite so bizarre.
Ladies and gentlemen, strangers and friends, it is my pleasure to introduce you to my favourite travel companion of all; my ten-year-old brother. Whilst you could be forgiven for doubting the chaos causing potential of such a small individual, I’d ask you to learn from our foul-mouthed friend’s mistake. At the grand height of 4 foot and 5 inches, my sibling could elicit profanities from even the demurest of characters, incessant annoyance tends to have that effect.
In spite of this inconvenient truth (whilst he might not warm the entire globe, my brother sure knows how to heat someone’s temper), my third companion may be the best of the lot. Whilst my mother is occupied flicking through one guide book or another and my father is on another hunt for food, the two of us have become an unlikely pair. Whether keeping each other company on a 14 hour flight, sharing a lizard infested villa in a Balinese rice field or simply taking comfort in our mutual anguish, my brother has been a constant presence in some of my greatest adventures.
First, it might be useful for you to develop an image of this companion in your mind. In spite of the dusty blonde hair and huge green eyes, my brother rarely looks his best when abroad. Excuse the vulgarity of my descriptions, but I have yet to encounter another individual who has the ability to produce sweat in quite the manner that my 10-year-old travel buddy can. Regardless of where our excursions find us, you can bet that my sibling is, quite literally, dripping in perspiration. With his hair stuck to his bright red cheeks, his trusty water sprayer in hand and his damp clothing a shade darker than intended, it will come as little surprise that we tend to avoid the classier of establishments. Whilst witnessing my characteristically-crimson brother shovel 5* finger sandwiches into his mouth as the staff of the Raffles Hotel watched in quiet horror was something of an amusing experience, drawing attention to himself is hardly a rare occurrence.
‘I’m going to sue this entire country.’
Although this threat (issued with nothing less than wholehearted conviction) likely didn’t have the Indian government quaking in their boots, my brother sure knows how to cause a scene. With a chaotic disregard for grace, my third travel companion wastes little time in making his opinions known. Whether these revelations come in the form of rants on a populated Mumbai side-street or a more tempered relay of criticisms reserved for the passengers of a ‘disgusting’ Malaysian train, subtlety is a luxury my family cannot afford. I’ve watched as my father panics, looking desperately for an escape as my brother breaks down in sobs in the midst of Ubud’s monkey forest, western tourists looking over in concern as he attempts to use our bodies as human shields. I’ve stood aside cringing as hotel bus-boys rush to the 4 year old’s aid, teddy bears and wet flannels in hand, as he recovers from his run in (quite literally) with the lobby’s glass door. I’ve stepped back as he basked in the flash of a Chinese family’s camera, relishing the attention he receives.
Now, whilst he has mastered the art of inflicting sudden and soul-destroying embarrassment on all in his vicinity, my brother has his uses. A key element of our travels tends to revolve around the appreciation of the hotel swimming pool. With his frustrations rising after a busy day of temple-hopping, a dip in the water provides the perfect salve to my sibling’s explosive temperament. Unsurprisingly however, not everyone is so quick to welcome our presence at the pool. As my brother runs, jumps, dives and falls without a care in the world, the poor Japanese business man who had been enjoying the simple pleasure of a lap before dinner begins to realise that his serenity is a thing of the past. Although it is difficult to ignore the mutters of said business-man as he emerges from the spray of my brother’s latest dive-bomb, I cannot deny that his ability to clear a room (or body of water for that matter) is useful; I’m not one to say no to a private rooftop pool.
For all his chaos-causing, my brother knows how to have a good time. I’ve followed his giggles to the hotel bathroom and found him dripping in toilet water, the aftermath of his experimentation with the buttons on a Japanese toilet evident in his cheeky grin. Now, if this isn’t evidence enough of his fun-loving streak, I have another tale to share. Whilst I was instructed to leave this particular satire out, in the spirit of honesty and the naked truth, it seems only fitting to recall the memories of my 8 year-old-brother’s adventures in skinny dipping. With a wild cackle ringing in the air, my crazy little brother threw caution (and clothes) to the wind as he dived into our villa’s pool, providing the entire family with one hell of a story to tell.
Perhaps it is this liberal vein that has earned my sibling so many friends along the way. I’ve had my fair share of experiences across the globe. I’ve talked with people from different walks of life and shared smiles with strangers from a different world and yet my brother’s ability to collect comrades with no effort at all still evades me. Whether they come in the form of a sweet Thai waiter who brings my generation-confused brother his decaf coffee each morning, the hotel-desk worker with which he shared a ‘as-salaam-alikum’ every evening or the Japanese gardener willing to douse him with his hose as the heat of the sun becomes too much, if you’re after a friend then look no further.
Although my mother’s snobbery appears to be rubbing off on him (and those who even attempt to convince him of the merits of a hotel without a swimming pool shouldn’t waste their breath), my brother is my favourite adventurer. Whilst he might now think twice about entering a monkey forest without some back-up, there is little my little travelling buddy cannot be convinced to do. Whether we’re sharing dodgy looking snacks in a Chinese market or moaning about the heat of the Indian sun, there is no one I would rather travel the world with; even if in doing so he cannot help but cause a scene.