Travel Stories and Being That Guy

It is lunchtime, I am at work and myself and two colleagues are sitting in the comfy chairs away from our desks.

It’s nice to sit in the comfy chairs away from our desks because we can drop our job titles for 45 minutes and the real people behind our corporate masks can come out.

Jane is telling a story about how she took her daughter swimming last night and that she enjoyed it. Andrew is relaying a tale of his own about the time he first took his young lad to play football on a Saturday morning.

Both anecdotes, though delightful in their own way, are of no use nor interest to me. I don’t have children therefore I have absolutely zero interest in the offspring other people – particularly work colleagues.

Luckily, I know what to do in such situations.

“Oh, so is your boy any good then? Where does he play?”, I ask and then hope I didn’t sound too enthusiastic in case Andrew thinks I’m being sarcastic.

He’s saying, “Ahhhh! That tickles!”

I then sit back, nodding, head tilted, interest feigned. I’m also quite proud because my second question could refer to the position on the football pitch his son occupies or the location of the club for whom he plays.

I smile, satisfied that I am a great conversationalist, and plunge my spoon into my strawberry yoghurt ready for another mouthful.

I am tuned out until I hear, “Are you going away this year?”

Oh no. This is a disaster. They want to talk about holidays. They want to talk about going abroad. They want to talk about how they spend two alcohol-sodden, sun-scorched, British-ridden weeks in some two star tin pot hell hole on the Costa Del Sol every summer.

“Maybe, hadn’t really thought about it”, I say waving away Jane’s questioning.

I heave a sigh of relief. Which I then realise is a little too pronounced and so try and turn it into a cough. It doesn’t work and I can tell they think I’m a little odd.

But now they think I’m the sort of person that sighs at the avoidance of conversations. I don’t want them to think I’m the sort of person that sighs at the avoidance of conversations. So I decide I will partake.

If they want to talk about travel, I’m going to give them everything I’ve got.

I listen as Jane finishes talking about riding a donkey on Blackpool beach last summer. Or she thinks it might have been the summer before, she’s not sure and she laughs as she ponders the concept of time flying.

Is it safe to talk about camels?

My turn. Get ready.

“Yes, riding animals is great isn’t it? Such good fun! I remember the time I rode on the back of an elephant with some tribes in the hills of northern Thailand, and the elephant kept wandering off the path to get food! We were getting thrown into branches and all sorts!”

I chuckle at the memory and then quickly stop as I see the blank faces staring back at me. Andrew fakes clears his throat and they both try to smile.

And suddenly I’m that guy. Through no fault of my own, I make myself a hate figure in the eyes of my workmates.

I’m a bragger, a boaster, an out-doer whose sole purpose in life is one upmanship. I’m someone who thinks riding donkeys on Blackpool beach is beneath me. So much so, that just to prove a point, I have to go all the way to Southeast Asia to find an animal that’s worthy of me sitting on.

This is a disaster. How can I rescue this? Think! Think!

Quick, what other animals have I ridden?! Camels in the Australian outback?? Oh, this is hopeless.

I decide I am left with no alternative.

“So… do you think you’ll take your daughter swimming again?”

Advertisements

“What’s a gap year?”

I am at a careers fair at a college in London to represent a travel company I work for. It’s aimed at students about to finish their A-Levels (17-18 years old) who now face a choice about their future:

Get a job, go to university, do an apprenticeship or take a gap year.

I am here to inflame their imaginations and their want of travel, their desire to see the world whether that be as a gap year or volunteering abroad or whatever.

I am excited for them. I am enthusiastic and I am ready to answer their questions about the where, why, how and who of travelling. I feel I am prepared, I feel ready.

I also feel slightly disheartened that only seven people in the last hour and a half have felt the inclination to find out more. I can’t understand it, my colleague and I are smiling. We’ve got brochures. Look, that one’s even got a picture of a zebra on it. It’s in Africa. Don’t these people want to find out how they can go and see a zebra in Africa?

Hang on, there’s movement in our direction. Yes, this guy is coming over. This is a man who knows what he wants. This is a man who does want to see a zebra in Africa.

Bucket showers in Fiji. Reason no. 324 of why to go travelling.

“Alright?”, he opens with. Followed by, “what’s this all about then?”

“Well,” I begin, “we’re here to talk with you about seeing  the world, taking a gap year, broadening your outlook on life and getting something unique on your CV.”

“What? What’s a gap year? Why would I want to do that? What’s the point?”

What madness is this? Is the young man serious? He’s frowning. Which means he’s not joking. He is serious. I am confused and I suddenly feel light-headed. Perhaps I misunderstood the question. I seek reassurance.

“I’m sorry, what did you say?”

“Why bother?”, he shrugs and does that thing with his mouth when you don’t care about something that looks like an upside down smile. I’m bewildered but manage to keep my cool.

“Well, it’s a wonderful thing to do. You will see things you’ve never seen before; do things you’ve never done; learn things about yourself and others that could change the way you see the world and change the way you see life!”

I realise I have become animated, which was not my intention at all. The frown lines on his forehead have deepened. I’ve confused him.

Maybe a picture of a camel would have convinced him?

I’ve exhausted my sales pitch so I use the other weapon in my armoury. Silently, I point to the zebra.

He squints at it for a few seconds and I think I’ve gotten through to him. This is the breakthrough moment, the penny will now drop, and when he looks back on his lengthy career as a globetrotter, he will forever remember me as the catalyst, the place where it all began.

“Nup. Pointless.”

“Alright,” I state and then doing my utmost not to sound sarcastic, “well, you’ve clearly thought about it from all angles and made every

consideration in reaching your conclusion. If you do change your mind, you know where we are.”

He looks up at me and my fake smile. He fake smiles back.

He disappears into the huddle of people that have gathered around a table full of free sausage rolls and sandwiches.

I sit down in an attempt to take stock of what has just happened. I make eye contact with two tall girls who are now on their way over.

“What are you doing here then?”, they inquire.

Oh God. There’s more of them.

Office Life: Is this it?

Sitting in my office this afternoon I wished I had a desk that was next to a window so that I could perform that cliché of gazing out of it longingly and wistfully, thinking about all the places around the world that I could/should/want to be right now.

I don’t know how one goes about looking wistful but I’m confident I could pull it off.

Anyway, instead I had to go over to my colleague’s window-adjacent desk and ask if I could use their seat for a minute. Frankly, it didn’t have the same effect and the moment was lost.

The reason I was particularly prone bizarre acts of wonderment today was because for the first time in a long time, the sun decided to bathe London in it’s delicious rays. It’s pretty accurate to say I love the sun and dislike almost all other forms of weather.

I actually scoffed at my massive black coat that hangs on the back of my bedroom door as I left the house this morning. No my friend, you stay there, I told it. For today, the temperatures will be in the mid 20’s. You played your part through the winter, and the spring, well most of the year actually, but now you must rest.

A girl who live on the banks of the Rio Dulce, Guatemala.

As I gazed (wistfully across the office and THEN) out the window there was only one thing in my mind: This can’t be it. This can’t be me for the next forty odd years. This can’t be what my life is to consist of for eight hours a day for 345 days of the year.

To me, that is the worst fate that can befall a person. To perform the same tasks day in and day out, to have routine and to be unable or unwilling to remove yourself from situations and people you don’t wish to be in close proximity to.

But then I thought, well, why not? This is what most people do, this is what most people want. They don’t want surprises, they are not fond of change and the more security the better. I even started feeling a little guilty for not wanting to in that office staring at that computer screen at a time when unemployment is sky high.

I began to realise that part of the reason why I’ve started this blog, labelled myself “Travel Rich” and surrounded myself with so many travel bloggers on social media like Twitter is not just because I want to read about their adventures and educate and entertain myself.

But it’s also largely because I want to associate myself with them. I envy their lifestyles and I want to be like many of them. Is the grass always greener? I think we all know the answer to that one.

I’m reminded of a clip from television sitcom “The Office” where Tim is defending his decision to remain in a job he doesn’t like rather than go back to university and a more prosperous career path:

“If you look at life like rolling a dice, then my situation now, as it stands – yeah, it may only be a three. If I jack that in now, go for something bigger and better, yeah, I could easily roll a six – no problem, I could roll a six… I could also roll a one. OK? So, I think sometimes… Just leave the dice alone.”

I’m going to leave you to ponder that thought. You know where the comments section is.