Confessions of a Dirty Vagrant

Life on the road seems glamorous and romantic because those are the stories that make it back home with us. Sometimes traveling sort of sucks, though, and that’s okay. It’s good to keep a positive attitude and make the best of things, but you’re allowed to sometimes think that the Chinese food in China isn’t as good as the Chinese food you’re used to back home (but keep these thoughts to yourself). We all have a few shameful, not-so-glamorous secrets that come along with being a traveler. Here are a few of mine:
1. I have no idea how to plan for the long-term. None. All I want to spend my money on is travel. I’ve spent so much time on the road that I have absolutely no idea how to function when I don’t have a trip planned and I have no idea what I’ll do when I have to stop traveling. Also, those things that normal people learned how to do, like drive a car without smashing it into a ditch? Yeah I never learned how to do those things because I was traveling. That’s terrible.

My boss in Iceland complimented me on my horse-riding skills. That evening I drove his car into a ditch. I was born in the wrong century.

2. I have gone many many days without washing my socks. We can all agree that you never need to wash pants. But socks? This is revolting. But that’s just how it goes sometimes. I know every trick in the book for making smelly things not smell so bad, and I don’t know whether to be proud or ashamed.
3. I don’t even want to talk about hygiene. Sometimes you just don’t have deodorant. Sometimes you also don’t have a shower. Sometimes you don’t have access to shower for a week. The worst is when you do have access to a shower but you can’t use it for whatever reason (can’t pack a wet towel, host is touchy about water usage, lack of privacy–the shower is built into the kitchen, or you would be dirtier after being in a shower that filthy). I don’t want to talk about dental hygiene except to say that I brush my teeth consistently–except when I leave my toothbrush behind. Unfortunately my toothbrush is my most frequently forgotten item.
4. Depending on a variety of factors (price, availability, pack weight, my hunger) I have spent long stretches eating only things you shouldn’t eat for long stretches. This includes four days eating only croissants and cookies, only ramen for two weeks, only food from dumpsters and gardens for one week. Our dear friend went almost a week on an all liquid diet while on the road in Denmark: only beer. Yum.

Just you wait. Spend enough time on the road and Bovril will become a meal.

5. If a country doesn’t speak English, I get too embarrassed at my accent and lack of linguistic skills to speak at all. This is most troubling when I try to pass myself off as a native. Obviously nobody is fooled if I open my mouth, so I just do not say anything. I can’t tell you how many embarrassing encounters I’ve had with European cashiers when I think I’ll get by just by nodding and handing them big bills/making a furtive glance at the register to see how much I owe, only to be foiled when they ask if I want a bag or something equally unimportant. NO I NEVER WANT A BAG I JUST WANT TO NOT LOOK LIKE AN IDIOT. Please. For once, give me that small respite.
6. There are some adventures I’m far too chicken for. I like to brag a lot about all the crazy things I’m willing to do, so here’s a list of opportunities I passed on: biking Death Road in Bolivia, eating fugu in Japan, and bungee jumping in New Zealand (or anywhere on the planet). I will never bungee jump. Never. And for all the sexual innuendos I make, I don’t really hook up with strangers. Syphillis isn’t a joke, and neither is my hypochondria.

I did not bike on this road. I think those of you who did are insane, but I’m also a bit envious. [Image Credit]

7. There’s this one dog I love more than anything on the planet.Sometimes this sweet sweet dog makes me never want to travel again. I frequently curse all legal, financial, and practical barriers that prevent me from taking her with me everywhere I go.

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