I want you guys to understand that I wrote this during a rough down period. I go into what I mean about that below. The point of this post is to make it clear that, no, travelling is not always easy. Nor is it always fun. And in a lot of cases it’s incredibly lonely and depressing. And the stupid thing is that I’ve been through far worse than this. But, I think it’s worth touching on this topic. It’s a bit scattered as it was written throughout the day at various points of travel. So, sorry if it seems a bit erratic.
1:30pm on some train in some damned part of England.
I’m unhappy. I’m tired. My UK data and text plan isn’t exactly planned all that well. In fact, it’s downright unusable – or, rather, I’m being prevented from using it. By the carrier who owns my SIM. Good use of 20 Euros, eh?
A large man is snoring loudly. Moreso snorting, unconsciously. Like a Pamplonan bull preparing to gore a bunch of drunk Australians. When this guy does wake up, he punches numbers into his phone and loudly argues in some african dialect with a presumably equally irate person on the other end. Also, his intermittent coughing borders on lung-ejecting.
I’ve been up since 6:30 and haven’t yet reached my destination – London. Arriving to the ferry in Dublin with five minutes to spare, I barely made it to the ship on time. It being a bank holiday in Ireland, no busses were running in the early morning. Luckily I was able to abuse some kindness and begged for a lift the ferry port. This morning apparently every new, young Irish family decided to take their young to the United Kingdom for a day trip. Apparently Wales is the great touring spot if you have a kid in a stroller.
But I digress. I’m overtired, underfed, and underfunded. That’s mostly my own damned fault, sure. I’m on my way to Greece soon. But I think that after that I’ll eat my hat and head back to Canada. I’ve built this up in my head. I’ve (perhaps understandably) idealized Europe over the last two years. Travel is and was the best thing that I’ve ever done. But, what now? Am I to return a failure? Sure. Why not? I’m tired, I’m honestly a bit scared, and I’m alone. Maybe I don’t need it now, travel, I mean. Maybe I don’t love it any more. I’m sick of being lost in life and lost in general.
Maybe Greece will change my mind. I won’t say that it won’t, but I don’t know. How could it? I hope it does, but that’s a big ask.
Three hours later, I’m starting this sentence. After a shitty travel day of being overtired and surrounded by vile, screaming children, I threw up my hands and stopped caring. I scolded myself for feeling the way I had as above. I’m keeping it, though, as a reminder of the down side of travel. Everyone gets down days. If you meet someone travelling who hasn’t had a day asking themselves “what the fuck am I doing here?” then they’re lying, daft, on a package tour (or all three).
I stopped writing earlier because all it was doing was bum me out more. I put m headphones on around the time the train departed from the Welsh Ferryport of Holyhead. I actually listened to music and other things about an hour later, after I had finished writing my above moanings. I decided to listen to some podcasts, preloaded but forgotten in my phone. I started working through my backlog of the Rooster Teeth Podcast (then titled Drunk Tank podcast) and relaxed. It’s funny, putting that on calmed me down a lot, just listening to my internet friends. I owe the restoration of my sanity to Gus, Geoff, Burnie, Griffon, Matt, Jack, Joel, and Gus. After I ran through my RT backlog I switched over to the Vinyl Cafe. If you’re unfamiliar with the Vinyl Cafe, it’s a show on the CBC radio station back in Canada. It’s available on iTunes and I recommend it to anyone who has even a passing interest in my country. Each week, the host, Stuart McLean, visits different towns and cities across Canada and talks a few minutes on little anecdotes that makes that town special. He discusses their nuances and what they’ve done to make Canada…well, Canada. He goes on to read a short letter from a listener. There are musical guests, most likely Canadian or living in Canada themselves. And then he reads a story of his own, featuring fictional Torontonian husband and wife Dave and Morely.
I’m going somewhere with this. I promise.
For me, switching from the RT Podcast to the Vinyl Cafe was like going from a great comedy club to sitting in a comfy living room full of family and old friends. Sure, that sounds cheesy, but you don’t have to read this if you don’t want to. I’m not your boss. It’s true, either way. I don’t know what it is about the Vinyl Cafe…maybe it’s that it’s effortlessly Canadian, and hearing about hometowns not my own in a country that proudly is, it feels comforting in foreign lands. Even if that exotic and distant place is somewhere outside Milton Keynes in England.
Anyway, in this one story, a Dave and Morley story titled “Train Trip,” Dave has reservations about his son travelling alone. Sam, his son, is growing up and is a teenager in this story. And he’s not even alone, really: his long-time friend Murphy is with him. I’ve always liked Murphy. Bit of a shit-disturber, but good-hearted nonetheless. So anyway, Dave is worried. he fears the unknown for his son. He’s afraid of what can happen on the if-come, and that Sam would somehow manage to get stranded in Montreal on his journey out to Cape Breton Island. In the end – without spoilers – all ends well. Sam and Murphy see themselves off, and Dave has to swallow his fear of the unknown.
Somehow, having that podcast to think about made me feel even better. My mood was improving. The obnoxious man fell asleep again, but managed to drop his enormous Zack Morris phone and, I believe, it broke. Either way, he swore a lot and stomped off to the baggage rack and never came back. Good riddance. They’ve just announced we’re arriving in London soon. 16:39 the train rolls in. Here’s hoping I can cross the city and get to Brighton for 17:30ish. Will continue this later.
About two hours later.
Yeah fuck London.
Well, I like London just fine. I take issue with crossing that great city. I got into Euston Station and immediately that foul mood came back. It’s loud, crowded, and my 3G still wasn’t working. Free wifi, however, is a possibility, provided you hate having your information kept private. But sometimes you have to take that chance, I suppose. Basically, what I do is sign out of all possible services and connect to the wifi (in this case, The Cloud, ubiquitous across the UK). I use my spam email address to connect and make sure I don’t type anything I wouldn’t like losing. Parking myself in a corner to have a scowl and a signal, I made contact with Ross, my old friend in Brighton. That in of itself wasn’t easy, having to use a proxy person to help make contact. Phone numbers, too, are weird over here.
After making a few connections, I shut off the wifi and collected myself. Euston to Victoria station is not a difficult ride. At rush hour, though, it’s a bitch. In relation to Euston, Victoria is at the opposite ass-end of the city. I followed the flow of commuters, clouds of sullen-looking workaday people ambling to the Tube platforms. My first attempt at buying a ticket was a failure, as the machine told me the one ride ticket was 4 pounds 70. I thought I’d done something wrong, as I figured that couldn’t possibly be the cost for a one-way fare. I stood in line, waited to speak to a ticketing agent.
Nope, that’s the price. Pop onto xe.com and have a gander at the exchange rate for 4.70 GBP to your local currency. Fuck London, man. I thought it was bad in Toronto.
Anyway, after being gouged like the vile foreign scum I am, I was ushered to the Victoria Line by a terse, but polite enough London transit employee. I’ll give them that: they’re very cognizant of people with disabilities. Normally I wouldn’t have taken the assistance, but I was so out of it that I accepted happily.
Londoners can get a bad rap, and unfortunately so. Sort of the way Parisians do, you know? That they can be rude and sullen and only look out for themselves. If you’re looking for that, you should visit Toronto. I got on the train and, huge pack in tow, I barely fit. But then a few people stood up and offered me their seats. They asked where I was going and if I was meeting someone at the other end. One girl in particular, flat-out insisted that I sit. She was from New Zealand, an expat living in London for a while now. We got to chatting and it turned out she was heading to a charity bowling event for the RNIB (the Royal National Institute for the Blind). Small world, eh? Luck had it that she, too, was getting off at Victoria. We spoke on the train, and she seemed pleased that I pegged her as a Kiwi rather than an Australian. I explained that Canadians feel the same when compared to Americans. She’d made that mistake before and told me she was never sure, but she was learning. We alighted and kept chatting throughout the station. To the point, in fact, that we both lost track of where we were meant to go. She very kindly helped me find the rail service desk and she went on her way and I, mine.
People like her are not few and far between, in terms of the penchant for kindness. I believe most people are prone to such things, just, there seems to often be a fear to act kindly. I think that’s the case in Canada, anyhow. In Toronto, anyone will help you – if you ask. More often than not, other cultures (even most Western cultures) will offer up the help themselves. It’s a refreshing change.
A few minutes later I was on this train to Brighton. There are two kids smashing around behind me in the baggage area, screaming. Their mother gives no shits. and I’m getting a twitch in my forehead. I’m wondering if infanticide is still called that if they’re not your kids.
But, I suppose that’s the thing about travel, the ups and downs. You’ve got to take your lumps and get through the down times.
And then sometimes you want to throw two young children off of a train bridge, likely to a round of hearty applause.