Saturday, October 16, 2010

Independently drying more goodbye tears

'You're so brave and independent. I could never do what you're doing,' a friend said to me of my travels and specifically of my solo undertaking of SE Asia. Yet when I'm an independent traveller is paradoxically when I'm the most dependent on others.

I lean on friends, family, my mother's second cousin's best friend's son and perfect strangers for rides to the airport, couches to crash on, entertainment and onward contacts and recommendations while I'm away from where I come from.

A closet introvert, I must backflip out of my comfort zone and be my most outgoing and open while away from that dynamic definition of home so I can meet other travellers. The formula scarely wavers. Within 10 minutes of 'Where are you from?' onward plans for the next half week together are made, washing powder is shared and tales from the trail and tail are gigglingly exchanged over the local brew while piecing together why the hostel has free wifi but no hot water.

This is why leaving London tomorrow for a winter in SE Asia will be difficult.

I have been staying at a Sharklab friend's flat. I have been hanging out with a friend from uni. I caught up with other friends from the Sharklab. Embedded in the intimacy of daily life - even if only for a while - with people who know me well has truly been a treat. As I have journeyed solo and been part of so many necessary-for-now, but ultimately temporary and disposable relationships I have relished these pockets of comfort, familiarity and ease with old friends.

Thank you Marc and Sam, my favourite filthy couple, for the room. Thank you Steven for popping my opera cherry. Thank you Steve for renewing my love affair with salt-water creatures. Thank you Louise for exploring York with me and later taking me home. To all of you and friends and family dotting the globe, I am most grateful for your time. The massive knot in my throat and filling-up eyes as I write this are a mere testament to how much I enjoyed our brief time together.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Thankful for dorm sex and ghosts

Waking up the entire building with our mid-morning and uncontrollable laughter, my four dorm mates and I recounted our absent roommate's botched attempt at getting laid on the weekend. The Sri Lankan man who was on the top bunk of the ill-preforming man reported that a similar, successful version was taking place above him on the next floor. 'It was like aerobics lessons. I was sandwiched!' The South Korean in the bed adjacent to the non-action was told by the man attempting to play pool with a rope if he could turn over and pretend to be asleep. Arriving in the morning after working through the night, the South African shrieked at a pitch reserved for dogs when he learnt that his bed had been host to the randy, sloppy couple. The French man, who would later reveal himself an engineer and then proceed to fit every engineer stereotype I have, clearly wasn't following despite the tears running down his face managed to spot the note I left in the inconsiderate offender's actual bed: If you bring another girl back tonight, so help me god, I will castrate you.

That was my first morning in Cardiff. I later had to leg it down a canal away from the French engineer when he thought we were insta-bffs. (To my engineer friends, I actually like you and would never take off running evasively down an inland fresh water channel even if your pinky ring initially made me question your socializing abilities.)

Parting ways with Robyn and later (and admittedly tearily) Orion, I have been making my way south through England to London where I'll fly out of next Sunday. No longer tied to a calender, I mistakenly landed in Newcastle on a Saturday night where to say they party on an epic and irresponsible scale barely does them justice. Clearly unable to beat them at their own game, I joined them. Free pints from unsuspecting freshers on what was likely their first night out ever and later an honorary member of a hen party when one of their original members spewed out, Newcastle sits hazily and happily in my pickled memory.

Happy and hungover, I made my way to Hadrian's Wall on an Australian girl's recommendation the next morning. Blissfully downpouring, I settled into an afternoon of novel reading and napping until the weather cleared. I did a small walk along the wall before checking into the hostel - but not before securing a pub night invite from a group of English men twice my age walking the wall. I had taken their group photo, after all, and the resulting flowing beverages were a mere token of their appreciation.

A quick pop into the Lake District where my car-endowed roommate insisted I join her up Scaffel Pike (highest hill in England?) and then off to historic, haunted York to catch up with a friend from the Sharklab. I was later in backpacker heaven at her parents house where I not only had my own bedroom, but my own double bed and my own en-suite bathroom! The ghost walk we took the night before in York ensured I enjoyed the bed too, as I was unable to sleep for the better part of the night.

I'm off to London tomorrow until I fly out. A few errands to sort out, some more Sharklab friends to call in on and one uni friend to visit and I'll be off for another winter in Sun, Place Else.

Even though you're all unable to pop over to the pub down the road and entertain and scandalize me (I've a good one for a few of you when we're next together!) I am deeply thankful for your quiet and occasionally boisterously loud kindness, love and support.