These are not travel love stories, or romantic affairs on the road.
Some people have the good fortune of meeting the loves of their lives while travelling. The idea of finding your One Person through some random encounter in a place far from where you grew up – It’s the best mix of serendipity and romantic comedy fantasy all rolled into one.
When I embarked on my year long career break, my friends were convinced that this would be the year I would meet someone special.
“Singapore’s just too small! Maybe your One is somewhere else in the world and this would be the perfect chance to find him!”
“Holiday romances are just so romantic! You can meet all these good looking foreign men!”
“OMG are you going to move overseas and have beautiful mixed race babies?”
Well some of them might have been getting ahead of themselves, but 15 months, 35 countries and many new Facebook friends later, I’m still very much single, but now I have a whole bevy of stories tell you about some of the weird dudes I met on the road.
Not that all these guys were trying to hit on me – trust me I’m not that desirable – these are just some of my encounters with people I’ve run into on my travels that could really apply to people of any gender, but for some reason all these odd encounters of mine always involved men. I could always count on the women and all female dorms to be friendly, helpful and nice smelling (Sorry but when a dorm has lots of guys in it and poor ventilation, you can always smell it from a mile off).
This isn’t any sort of how-to guide; you’re here for the gossipy stories so let’s get to it:
The Cute Guy with an Ulterior Motive
Who you end up sitting with on plane rides is an exercise in karma and pure luck. I just hope for a normal person with basic common sense and standard sized bubbles of personal space, that’s not too much to ask right? Keep to your space and be considerate is all I’m asking for.
Sometimes you luck out though – I met the loveliest couple from Colombia while flying to Bogota, and chatted with a nice French guy in the very last row of one of my internal Colombian flights. Having awesome seatmates rocks but I really love it best when I have no one next to me… empty row for the major score!
So when I flew from Madrid to Bucharest, my 3-seat row had an empty middle seat (minor score!) and in the aisle seat, a nice looking man.
Cute eye candy, check.
Speaks Spanish so I can practice, check.
Wants to chitchat at all, check!
I really do enjoy being able to practice my terrible Spanglish in the hopes of improving it to being less terrible and more Spanglish, and its definitely a bonus if I’m chatting up a good looking guy to boot! Standard small talk ensued, and at some point we got to talking about languages. When he found out I speak Chinese, he proceeded to pull up a video on his phone and asked me to watch it. Being bilingual, I’ve been asked to translate some weird Chinese things on the road so I’m unsuspecting at first trying to figure out what this video is. It’s kinda obscure at first going on about the plight of the world today…
As I watched, it slowly dawned upon me what this video was about – it was one of those Christianity will Save YOU videos that evangelists like to use when trying to win over new converts. I feel that religion is a very personal choice that people make for themselves at their own time and pace, so I absolutely loathe when people try to spring their religion and unsolicited conversion efforts on me without any warning. It’s fine if I wanted to know more and asked, but seriously, that’s the first thing you talk about with a random stranger on the plane?!
I managed a fairly civil “no me interesante!” (I’m not interested!) and then stuffed my earphones in for the rest of the flight so I could avoid any further conversation, just in case.
The Old Man who Bought Me a Drink
My personal mantra? I don’t say no to free drinks. Well I rarely do, but a winning combination of cheapskate-ness and morbid curiousity to see what happens next means I generally won’t say no to a free drink unless I’m convinced someone’s trying to drug me with it.
I’m on the train in Gdansk in northern Poland, returning from my jaunt to nearby Zaspa and this older Polish gentleman is sitting opposite me. Now I’m always happy to chitchat with local people – you learn about the country and culture and sometimes they show you pretty cool stuff that tourists don’t know about – and despite the fact that he hardly spoke any English and I don’t speak any Polish, he managed to ask me to accompany him for a drink.
I was hesitant.
Perils of being a solo female traveller – safety usually is the number one thing you have to worry about as there are way too many stories out there about terrible things happening to people who were a little too trusting. But he seemed genuinely nice and I was going to be in a public place so curiousity won out and I said OK. We found our way to a nearby alfresco cafe and sat down for a drink where he got me a small Polish beer.
I honestly had no idea why he asked me for a drink at all. He’s like, grandpa age and while making new friends is awesome, conversation when neither of you speaks the language nor have anything in common makes for a rather awkward time, especially. I did manage enough to learn that he was a shipbuilder at some point, and apparently owned a bunch of property around Poland, but at other points I had to resort to asking the lady at the next table to do a little bit of translating because I was just at a complete loss. I called it a day after one drink – we took a selfie and I said my goodbyes before heading back to the hostel to just crash for a little bit.
That said, he was a really nice man and in hindsight I appreciated the experience – things like this remind and make me try a lot harder when it comes to picking up a foreign language just because it makes so much difference when you can communicate with each other.
The Worst Hostel Mate in the World
According to my budget sheet, I spent nearly 350 days in 2016-2017 sleeping in foreign beds, the bulk of which was spent in shared hostel dormitories, so I’ve met amazing people and other people who are absolutely clueless about what it means to share a common space. There was the pair who tried smoking out the window and talked really loudly on the phone at midnight, and the dude who yelled WHY IS EVERYONE SLEEPING at 7am and then proceeded to snore like some monster, but this particular hostel guy takes the cake as the worst person I’ve ever had to share a hostel room with.
So I’m staying in a pretty nice hostel in Lima, good ambience, nice people and staff, cute dog… I’m there for 4 nights and all seems fine on my first day there. I’m coming down with the feeling that I got before I lost my voice in Krakow previously, so after a long day of walking around on Day 2, I head back to the hostel looking forward to a good rest when I’m met with the very sheepish face of the hostel staff, telling me in the most apologetic tone that my very high quality 18-year old lock (I’ve been using it since high school! I’m sentimental!) was cut and all my stuff and valuables moved to another locker because I was not using the locker that was assigned to my bed, even though:
- There were other lockers free in that room
- Someone else had been using my locker in the first place, so I just used another one AND the hostel staff who checked me in saw that and even checked with her manager whether it would be an issue
- I was there for 4 nights! This happened on Day 2, I got back in about 5pm and check-ins usually take place around noon? It wasn’t like I was gone for the night or something
Apparently the guy who checked into the room and was assigned to that bed/locker kicked up the hugest fuss and was absolutely insistent on having that particular locker. Enough of a fuss that the hostel gave in and decided to cut my lock. The best part of all this? Dude was only staying there for ONE NIGHT. ANDDDDDD, he DIDN’T EVEN USE THE F#*$)&$# LOCKER AFTER ALL THAT. So tell me, what was the entire point of this exercise for except to be a complete asshole?
Now I personally think it was very poor decision making by the hostel staff to give in to this tantrum because it made me extremely angry – I have no idea how long my stuff was left unlocked in that other locker and I had my property and privacy invaded by the place I was living in. I could have left terrible reviews on the accom sites – this is the kind of story that personally turns me off a property and they have a really high rating – but I’m choosing to put most of the blame on the fella who started it all because my stay was mostly quite nice other than this incident, and they were suitably apologetic and replaced my lock (though the standard is definitely not as good, unfortunately).
I wish I had just gone up to the dude and yelled/questioned him, but I had just lost my voice and was feeling really emo and tired and angry so I didn’t do it. I’m pretty sure I said hi to him as he walked into the room, at that point not knowing he was the ass who started all this. Now I only wish him the worst karma ever and hope he loses all his things at some point.
Well that’s all I’ll spill for now! Most of the people I’ve met on the road have been absolutely lovely and I hope many of them will stay friends over time, but you have to admit that there are many odd people out there as well. I’d love to hear what stories you all have about the strange people you’ve met on the road, share with me your best ones!
Cover photo credit: Legs by Kristian Thøgersen via Flickr Creative Commons