If it wasn’t clear before, the difference between being a traveller in Europe and a traveller in Central America is disgustingly palpable. Aside from the expected shifts in price, local scenery and activities, my entire philosophy of what it meant to be a wanderer of the world changed.
Up until recently and in my experience growing up in Australia, ‘travel’ was all about going to France, Italy, Bali or Thailand for two weeks. A family would hop on a jet plane and 20 hours later they would be conquering the steps of the Eiffel Tower or buppity bumping along an elephant’s back while an underaged youngster bats it with a nervously sharp axe. The holiday would also consist of staying in a mediocre hotel, sipping overpriced Coke from a cocktail glass, following the tour guide’s every word and taking photos in poses that have been done to death by preceding travellers. I had been guilty of living this travel fantasy for almost 20 years of my life. In fact, it may have been worse because it wasn’t something I gave a second thought.
After being granted the opportunity to backpack by chance through the Yasawa Islands in Fiji, I began to see things differently. It opened my eyes to the aforementioned bubble (see previous posts) I didn’t know we lived in or how insignificant our lives and issues really are when we are away from the things that bind us ‘home’.
While I love what I have so far seen of Europe very much, I believe I have sadly become ‘just another traveller’. Bearing this realisation in mind made my visit to the Eiffel Tower very anti-climatic. There I was, staring at this magnificent steel structure and all I witnessed were the waves of generic, bumbag toting tourists. It was in that moment that I realised (with confirmation from a fellow wonderer) that I had become a backpacking supremacist.
Then I thought: What the fuck is so good about backpacking anyway?
You are annoyed with other dirty travellers 50% of the time, and as much as you try to ignore the smell coming from the overflowing fridge, it somehow seeps into your groceries which ultimately get stolen by said travellers who were too lazy to do their own shopping.
To be honest, I was becoming a tad lonely having to move from hostel to hostel which were sometimes empty. But luckily, Couchsurfing has given me a new avenue to explore during my travels. In just over a week, I have been hosted by five different residences all filled with awesomely-interesting, openhearted individuals who allowed me into their lives and fed me cheese, ham and wine.
Because of them, I could dance the night away and take happy snaps with hot, sweaty, French firemen, spend National Day watching fireworks at Eiffel Tower and wake up to the sound of birds in the countryside.
I briefly mentioned Sanne, a Dutch student studying media (how fateful was that!). Her and I stayed up until the wee hours of the morning laughing over silly things like men and careers. We parted on the promise to meet again in Palma de Mallorca in two weeks. In the meantime, she is off to Uganda to direct documentaries for some humanitarian organisations, like normal people do.
Then, there was Delphine, a free diver, and her crazy musical housemates who jammed for hours with an accordion and two guitars. Bless those brilliant Frenchies, as neither atrocious accent when I spoke French nor ridiculous pasta cooking skills were paid heed to. We enjoyed two fabulous nights of English practice, artichoke hearts and Belgian beer.
Now, I am in the rich south of France region amongst the tranquil lavender fields of Aix-en-Provence. The house is a mini mansion high up on a hill which boasts a 180 degree panorama of the city. My co-surfers, two German girls and I have spent the weekend lazing at the beach, sipping Duvel beer and devouring freshly woodfired barbequed skewers with our eight hosts. From spending a year in Central and South America (!! I know, right?), Canada while visiting ALASKA (double wow!), Australia or five weeks in Brazil, travelling seems the norm for these seasoned globetrotters. Hearing their stories has kept my head and attitude in check; who am I but a fledgling wanderer chasing the Mediterranean sun? I have yet much to discover.
These past two and a half months have been the best memories to date. And my CS adventures have only just begun!