Dec 19th, 2014
Laos is far from a popular vocation destination. Soon I discovered that most travellers there were long term travellers, traveling for at least half a year. Many were cool people, open-minded and had some interesting experiences. Many young ones were taking their gap years for their studies and some were taking gap years for their life. It’s one of the easiest things to meet other travellers in Luang Prabang. In the night market, where the customers were without exception all foreigners, there was a stall with long tables and a board — “All You Can Eat for 4000 Kip” (so far as I can recall). Yes!! Half a dollar!! All you can eat!! 😀 That’s perfect for big stomaches like me. When I just made my order and the joint owner was trying to attract more customers. He told some hesitating westerners:”Yes, all you can eat!” then he pointed to me and my more than full plate “That’s him!”
The long table there was a perfect spot to strike a conversation with the people eating near you. I met a German guy who was running a blog about traveling on the second evening in Luang Prabang (19th). He taught me how to count from 1 to 10 in Laotian and Thai languages. The third evening (20th) I met a German girl and a Dutch guy. We went to a pub after the meal. In that pub there were only foreigners…… There were a couple of Asian looking people but they turned out to be either Chinese or Korean…… Where were the locals?! Touristic touristic.
For meeting other travellers I do not have a lot of passion unless they are Couchsurfers, hitchhikers or Nomads. To be honest, generally speaking, most of them are not that interesting. Their stories are similar and their conversations are predictable, or even banal. Most of them stick to a kind of formality, a sort of decency when they talk and hardly jump out of “the box”, one of the things I hate the most. It sounds mean, but I have to be true with myself.
“Hi, what’s your name?”
“Where are you from?”
“How long have you been here?”
“Where are you going after here?”
These 4 questions they will definitely ask and I am quite sick of them. Since I have been traveling for such a long time, met so many people, I can already vomit at hearing these 4 and many other 1000 times-repeated questions. I have developed a kind of cynicism against this banality. I never take these questions seriously. I always tell them I am from Greenland (I also used Peru and Brazil before) and then bullshit some craps.
–“WOWO! You are from Greenland?!”
–“Yes. Greenland, best country in the world.”
–“Really?! Where in Greenland are you from?”
–“Nuuk. The capital, in the southeast of the island.”
–“How old are you?”
–“Are you married?”
–“Oh, I am already divorced actually. I have a son and a daughter. My son is studying in England and my daughter travels with me.”
–“What brought you here?”
–“How do you think about XX?”
–“WOWO! XX is AMAZING!” Then I will make a super exaggerated expression. I basically say everything is amazing, with very exaggerated expression.
Although I have a poker face and am pretty good in holding a straight face, sooner or later they will realize that I am just not serious about the questions and start to laugh and accuse me of lying to them. Then the real conversation can start. I know it’s mean of me and I don’t do it all the time. Sometimes I will give the real answers reluctantly, which is not fun or exciting, just banal.
What are travellers looking for? Freedom? No, they already have freedom when they travel. It’s experiences, experiences of all kinds, which will feed you, inspire you, outlet you, endanger you and even kill you. That’s what we are looking for! on purpose or not. What are experiences after all?! It’s memories! Those happenings will pass and never will they come back! What will eventually remain are the memories in our minds! A banal conversation, an ordinary encounter will not leave anything in your memory, nothing impressive or stimulating. The time spent in this kind of encounter is simply wasted (in most of the cases). No, I do not want to waste any of my time, for that is the material that life is made of, especially the time when I am traveling. It’s golden time and it should stay golden. Seriously, although my memory about the people I met is pretty good, those banal conversations hardly leave anything that I still remember. It’s the very open, the surprising, the bold, the out of the box, the CRAZY and sometimes the mad people and happenings that stay in my mind and become a part of my memories and enrich my soul. I enjoy meeting most travellers from time to time, especially when I have not met anybody for days, but the above-stated is my general attitude.
There are also those travellers whose sole purpose is to get drunk, get stoned and get laid. That’s probably another type of traveller I dislike. These can not be called travellers actually, tourists are a better name for them. I actually hate them less than the banal ordinary ones because at least these tourists dare something, something true to themselves. They come and go, leaving behind their money, vomit, shit, pee and sperm and carry nothing in their minds away, except some doses of dopamine.
Mean, he? Well, this kind of thing one may say just among close friends face to face and they will never want others to know how they secretly think. I am different. I speak what I think and I do not care much about criticism. I am the type of people that will be the first to do controversial things, will walk on the edges of the social values and get hit by smelly eggs, an artist by heart and mind. You may ask, you may accuse:“Why? You stupid shithead?! Why the hell do you do that?!” To be honest, I just want to show people that other ways of life are possible, other opinions, no matter how unpleasant they are, should be tolerated as long as there is truth in it. Yes, I love to open people’s minds, to show them that formality and ordinariness are not the only ways of life, tell them “Do not shrink in front of strangers or new ideas without even thinking, but simply because they are alien to you.”
I prefer meeting couchsurfing (CS) people much better. I am one of them. We are more open-minded and there are those crazy and inspiring ones among them. Well, the worst question one can ask in a CS meeting is still “where are you from?” That’s why normally I do not ask it. When I really want to know, I will guess first. That’s much more fun and I will remember the answers way better.
I crave for meeting htichhikers! For a hitchhiker I would answer whatever he or she wants to know. These are the people who dare, who trust and who LOVE people and the world, including the strangers and the unknown world!
I can do anything to meet a nomad! I am a nomad myself. It is a community on Facebook of low-budget travellers, I mean, extremely low budget, like 2 UDS/day. We share ideas about free/cheap travelling and we have the same philosophy. We are a most trusting, most daring, most inspiring and mind-blowing lot. Most of us are hitchhikers + couchsurfers at the same time. We never mind the materialistic comfort. We have the serious adventures, sleeping outside, making friends with locals in 2 minutes, sleeping in strangers’ houses, train hopping, going on the road for a week with only 2 dollars in the pocket, dumpster diving, table diving…… This is not a big community. In the whole world there are just a few thousands active members.
People say that traveling teaches you to love. I say it’s not true. Traveling teaches you to love and to hate, you love the open-minded people, the trust of strangers, the smiles from random passers-by, but also to hate, hate the greediness of those commercial minds, hate the coldness of strangers, hate the suspecting look people give you when you simply want to know the direction.
I did meet some cool people there. Many long term travellers there were also in Couchsurfing, it was a great joy to be with them! Some even did hitchhiking before. WOWO! There was a girl from which country I forgot. She rented a bicycle to go to some waterfalls around Luang Prabang. Some local kids saw her and immediately shouted to her rudely and without any shame or gentleness:”Money! Give us money!” WTF!! I call this kind of thing “social pollution.” Those kids were so young but they knew already that a white person meant money and that was all they needed to know. Why? Because there were other tourists who actually gave them money or gifts directly, which spoiled them and made them greedy. They had been perhaps indeed miserable in a material way, but now they were also miserable in a spiritual way. They had not had many things before but now they also lost two more thing — dignity and peace of heart. They had been simply poor peasants before, but now they were also beggars. It’s some hypocratic tourists and some greedy locals together that made this happen. It’s written in many locations in Luang Prabang that “if you want to help with the poor life of the locals, do not distribute money or gifts to them, instead donate money to NGOs who are helping developing the area.” I could not agree more. This girl was shocked and she did not give them money. Why should she? These kids started to curse her, chase her bicycle and assault her even. WTF…… She was cool. Once she hitchhiked together with her whole family. A car stopped and it was already full inside but still the driver was happy to take them. “Come on, come in! No problem!” Her father was sitting in the front seat, on his laps sitting another old lady and in her bosom sitting another person. How lovely! 😀