Dreams in Foreign Tongues

August 9, 2009 by
Me in a mosque in Islamic Cairo

In a mosque in Islamic Cairo

As I woke up to the sounds of Barcelona street life outside my window Saturday, I slowly realized that I had just been dreaming in another language. At least three, I think.

As I tried to grasp on to the quickly-fading memory all I could remember was playing Frogger across a street with my Egyptian guide to enter a (candy?) store and negotiate with the purveyors in whatever language I could. Not the most exhilarating dream, but still intriguing since I have heard that you know you are truly comfortable in a new language once you begin dreaming in it.

I’m fairly certain the dream involved Arabic, French, and Spanish, but I can’t say I’ve reached the “comfortable” stage with any of those languages. I think what I have reached familiarity with is the state of transience that comes with many months of travel through so many varying cultures, all so different from my own.

I have become comfortable with being uncomfortable.

I have come to enjoy not being able to understand what’s going on most of the time, making my way on uncertain ground, and being made fun of over and over (see photo above).

Standing in a group of new friends last night, all speaking rapid Spanish (seriously, they talk fast), I was happy to just watch their exchange and gather what I could from the conversation – it was definitely something about a salsa club and making fun of our roommate for not dancing. If nothing else, I can always join in on the laughs!

Recently I perused a few articles from travel pros centered around when you know you’ve spent too much time at home. This comes at a time when I have to begin planning the end of my current trip and look forward to some quality time back home. Reading this article by Turner Wright actually gave me some great things to anticipate, like having easy access to a good burger again, or being able to do as much laundry as I want.

While I am excited to see home again and have these things within my reach, I have continually put off buying the necessary plane tickets because I just couldn’t face the end of this round-the-world journey. I still feel like there is so much more to do and see, which of course is always true. I haven’t even been to Paris yet, for Pete’s sake!

Of course it is now time to face the music, suck it up, and buy the damn tickets. We’re flying out of Dublin on September 9th. As sorrowful violins play my homecoming hangover on stage, I’ll be gazing back at almost five months of delicious local food, camel rides, and playing on the beaches of the world. And dammit I will see Paris! It’s on the way to Dublin after all (sort of).

But I have a hunch that once the warm embrace of home has got me feeling extra-cozy, I will feel an itch to get that out-of-place feeling back. The feeling that means you’ve really done some good traveling.

The Most Interesting People in the World

August 4, 2009 by

There was an article making the rounds earlier this summer about 6 Ways To Not Be A Holier-Than-Though Traveler which I thoroughly enjoyed, and made notes on so I could avoid this dreaded problem in my future conversations (especially when I’m visiting my hometown this fall).

This article has popped into my mind a few times since then while eavesdropping on conversations during a ferry journey or making a new friend in the hostel common room. Whilst listening to tales told to impress fellow travelers – a daunting audience to be sure – the storyteller would often dangle dangerously over the edge of Smug Canyon, and sometimes leap right over it: “the traffic is nothing here, I’ll tell you about the time in India I had to…”

This subject was brought up again in a much more humorous way by Kelsey Timmerman as he dissects Dos Equis’ latest ad campaign centered around “The Most Interesting Man in the World”. This campaign is new to me, but some quick YouTubeing brought up some very funny ads featuring this dashing fellow who you most certainly would want to be friends with for the stories alone, and who prefers Dos Equis of course.

This one is my favorite for the line “He lives vicariously… through himself.”

Kelsey shares my fear that I might come off as someone inflicted with what he has dubbed MIMIWS (The Most Interesting Man in the World Syndrome) and be the subject of much eye-rolling when our backs are turned.

I am sure I have uttered “that reminds me of the time we were [insert colorful story here]” a few times, but posts like these definitely have me aiming to be a better conversationalist in the future!

Certainly, though, some of the most interesting people I have met both on and off the road are the most humble about their accomplishments. It helps to keep in mind that being very well-traveled just means “that I’ve been made fun of in more languages than you.” How true, Kelsey.

Backpacker Stereotypes are Fun!

July 29, 2009 by

Amy Heading has written a hilarious post over at BootsnAll about 10 Backpacker Stereotypes You’ll Meet on the Road, which Nick & I just had a good laugh going through and reminiscing about all the different travel buddies we’ve met on the road. I can honestly say that all of them fit in to their “type” at least a little bit (seriously with the flags Canadians?!).

I am heartily embracing my type as the older (ouch) American backpacker, and my past as the college-age backpacker. I totally wore PJs in daylight back in the day… sigh.

Kit PJs

Kit in PJs back in the day

Though I believe we will always be loud, no matter what our age. At least we share that with our Aussie, British, Irish and drunk European brethren!

Anyone have anything to add to the list? Embarrassing stories of your own to tell? Canadian flags to add to your backpack?


Being loud in 2003

Being loud in 2003

Being loud in 2009

Being loud in 2009

New Videos from Egypt

July 28, 2009 by

We’re sitting in our relaxed Barcelona apartment eating pounds of cheese so Nick can make up for three months of cheese-less traveling, and while we’re slowly culling through our Egypt photos I hope these fun videos of our Indiana Jones adventure will keep you entertained. Bon appetit!

First, you may have heard about crazy cab rides in Africa & the Middle East, and while we took a few that felt more like Grand Theft Auto than driving, none beats this one on a quiet street in Aswan…

This next video is of a much more relaxing time when, after a day of cruising the Nile, the Nubian felucca (boat) captains had a jam session in front of the bonfire before we slept soundly on the deck of the boat.

First Impressions: Cairo

July 16, 2009 by

So you’re in a new city in a part of the world you’ve never visited and are valiantly trying to master the currency and the pronunciation of “thank you”, and an email from your mother pops up in your Inbox: “What are your first impressions?”

Well, my first impressions of responding to that email aren’t great.

When experiencing massive culture shock my first instinct is to go back into my hostel and hide under the covers until I can at least understand how to order my lunch. Of course that’s never going to happen inside the hostel walls. Sigh.

Our view of Cairo

Our view of Cairo

So after our first 24 hours in Cairo – venturing out in to the city in small bursts, learning how the scammers work and discovering the deliciousness of shwarma – I had enough experience to write back to my mom with a decisive “I’m not sure yet.”

Cairo is definitely a city that is difficult to describe. I can’t expect to know it after just a few days, but the more time we spend here, the more I’m learning to glimpse the joys that lie just beyond the tourist’s culture-shock blinders. I’ve gone from resenting the touts to appreciating the genuine warmth of the people (and the food!). Slowly but surely I’m opening up to Egypt.

Of course, for mom, I wrote a much more in-depth description of our first day in Cairo, which you can feel free to read here. Hopefully by the time we leave Egypt I’ll be able to spout more fascinating stories of the country. For now I’ll say what I said to her: “Hopefully none of our stories will end with ‘And that’s how I ended up buying three liters of perfume.'”