I hate travelling.
No, I’m not kidding. I hate airports. I hate getting to the airport and I hate getting away from it. I hate living out of a bag, I hate shared bathrooms, I hate not being able to eat what I want when I want. And I hate trying to figure out how many dollars I just lost to the bullshit money-swallowing system that is Paypal.
But O, I love this crazy, crazy world.
New York was always a pipe dream, as I imagine it is for many people. One of those “Oh, I’d love to go there,” sort of things. Africa, too. You say you want to go, you sort of think one day it might happen, and then you forget about it.
And then last week I went to New York, and now I’m in Rwanda, and I have NFI what I’ll be doing next but I do know that I’ll be quite happy to just sit and chill for a bit, thanks.
I get told pretty often that I’m “so brave!” and “so adventurous!” and “so lucky!”
Yeah, nah, I’m not. I just do stuff. I’m also an unbelievably crap traveller.
Airports turn me into a crying wreck. Long-haul flights leave me puffy and lethargic [and hungover]. I suck at meeting people and I suck at learning languages [I try, I still suck]. I refuse to dine at places with a Western menu which means I am now regularly afflicted with some sort of Guatemalan amoebic dysentery that will hopefully be cancelled out by Rwandan mosquitos.
I’m also really crap at writing about the places I go to. I’m no travel blogger. I never wanted to be. I have no desire to be Nomadic Matt or Adventurous Kate. I observe, I walk amongst it, I store little thoughts away in my head, but sometimes I just cannot be farked writing them down. I’ll never blog about the sandwich I had in Manhatten or the best way to get to Simba Supermarket in Kigali or the thread count of the sheets in Doha. That’s not my jam.
New York, though. New York is a magnificent chaos and I loved it, and maybe I will talk about it just a little bit.
I didn’t do anything special. I didn’t take the ferry to the Statue of Liberty (I saw it every morning on my run). I didn’t go inside the Rockefeller Centre (I felt poor), I didn’t go into the 9/11 museum (the queue was stupid), I didn’t eat a hotdog and I didn’t see a show. I didn’t buy a t-shirt.
I did walk through Times Square. And back. And back again. I ate terrible greasy chicken in Chinatown and overpriced spinach in Dean & DeLuca. I gazed up at the Empire State Building and googled the number of people who have leapt from the top (30). I went into every supermarket I could find and marvelled at the enormous variety of cereals and cookies. I got emotional at the John Lennon memorial. I sat and ate a punnet of blueberries beside Manhatten Bridge and looked at the people. I went into Macy’s and went back out again.
If I can impart any sort of travel advice, it’s this: if you want to go somewhere, go. Just, go.
Go to New York, because it is AMAZING and nuts and filthy and neon and LOUD. It’s everything you’ve ever seen on TV and nothing you’ve ever seen in real life. People are black and white and yellow, they’re purple-haired and tattooed, they’re in heels or they’re in Chucks, they’re carrying Burberry handbags and puppies or they’re pushing homes made of out shopping trolleys.
Go to Mexico, too, because the food is fabulous and the people will love you, and the avocadoes are 70c and sirens ring every five minutes.
And go to Vietnam, because you’ll never know fear until you’ve walked across a road through a swarm of five hundred motorbikes and scooters that look like they won’t stop but they always [nearly always] do.
Find a way, and go. If this incompetent blubbering tantrum-at-the-check-in-desk can do it, so can you.