10 Pins in the balloon of travel


Everyone’s always harping on about how great travelling is, how magical, how……’life-affirming’.


These people are either trying to sell you something, they’ve forgotten what it was really like, or they’ve never been. You don’t need to sit in a super-heated tin room on the other side of the planet to know that you’re alive – you just need to stick a pen into your arm. If you scream and blood goes everywhere, then you are, at least for the time being, alive. Much cheaper and more exhilarating than dropping about 12 thousand pounds to sit about in various, unsanitisized dustbowls for a year. And let’s be honest, probably a more original story. So before you make the biggest mistake of your life (unless you already have kids, in which case, may as well just keep making mistakes), I implore you to read the following rules. They might just save your life. And 12 thousand pounds.

Categorically DO NOT go travelling if:

Like the rest of the world, 99% of travellers are tits. However, unlike the rest of the world, they all feel compelled to tell you ‘their story’. But ‘their’ story is actually just one story, and it goes like this:

‘I was somewhere before here, I am going on to this other place, and I have B.O. Cool, huh?’

I haven’t met one person I’d want to have sex with. Which makes what I did with that woman even more shameful. If you are reading this, sorry. I’m usually better than that.

When you travel, even your sweat sweats. If you were to zoom in on the sweat, you’d see it mopping it’s brow and complaining about how sweaty it was. And if you were to zoom in on that, you’d see more sweat coming out of that sweat, and so on, an endless flow of sweat that cannot be stemmed, even by staying perfectly still, in front of a fan, in the shade. Of course, you could just get air-conditioning but it costs a fortune. A fortune you don’t have because you already spent it on the flights, medicine and gear required to be here in the first place.

If there’s one thing that proves how homogenised the world has become, it’s ‘Gangham Style’. Blaring from every hostel, bar, tuk-tuk and bus, it’s enough to make you pick up your pen and stab it into your arm. But you can’t, because if you had to go to hospital you’d probably contract AIDS. And anyway, it’s too hot to pick up a pen. And also, someone stole your pen 3 hostels ago.

White equals money, which establishes an us-and-them dynamic between you and all locals that is tricky to overcome. The only way to get round this is to either:

a) Spend years learning their culture, language and humour in the hope that you’ll eventually blend in,
b) Become poor like them, or:
c) Wear one of their skins, like Hannibal Lecter.

The problem with skin is that it doesn’t have eyes all over it. If it did, it could tell you when it was being lanced by a mosquito’s proboscis, or nipped by an army ant’s ludicrously over-sized mandibles, or if a spider was just being a spider on it. Short of swaddling yourself in a mozzie net and sitting in a brightly-lit corner like a Guantanamo bay guy, there is no way to escape this fate.

You go travelling to leave all that facebook nonsence behind and then when you step off the plane, it’s already waiting for you. Travellers seem to think it is their right to acquire you as a facebook friend, not the by-product of a pre-existing rapport. To date, I have been forced to add 3 people while they watch over my shoulder, only to immediately block them because we had no rapport.

It’s endlessly entertaining to me how many people go on a trip round the world, then complain about having to take a bus, or walk somewhere, or do any kind of getting from one place to the next. That’s almost as dumb as spending 12 thousand pounds on a year-long trip, then writing a list of reasons why you shouldn’t have done it. Idiots, all of them.

They’re not yours, silly. They’re just things you’re holding until someone else decides to have them.

I was on a bus in Nicaragua when a cheery Carribean bloke with a huge smile asked me if I was lonely. I responded with ‘No – I’m not lonely – I’m alone’, and he burst out laughing. Big, deep, belly-laugh laughter that spread like wildfire throughout the bus. People stamped their feet and screamed with mirth, repeating ‘He is single, SINGLE, the IDIOT!!! Doesn’t he know that accomodation costs could be virtually halved if he had a partner!!!’. Even the babies were laughing. But as soon as the laughter reached the driver, we lurched to a stop, all went quiet, and I was hurled from the moving bus into a litter-filled ditch. You thought being single was hard back home. Here, being a transvestite is more relatable.


Waking up with a spider in your mouth


Yesterday, I ate chocolate so rich, so deep, so goddam SEXUAL, it felt like I was eating something’s soul. Only with the best meat have I felt so sated. If only there was an animal made of chocolate around here, I’d gladly dropkick it’s delicious head off for another hit of cacao goodness. Having googled it, I can report with much regret that it is the only animal that doesn’t exist around here.

Central America is a massive zoo without bars, keepers or closing hours. In Honduras, hordes of little kids held up huge, dragon-like iguanas to the windows of our shuttle-bus, making ‘delicious’ gestures with their free hands. Butterflies, of which I am justifiably terrified (irregular flight patterns are not be trusted), fluttered through Guatemalan glades as silver squirrels and monkeys sniggered from on high. Pumas lurk deep in the shadows, waiting for their moment.

In the jungle that surrounds my Nicaraguan Spanish school, there are reportedly 7 types of tarantula. Not 7 tarantulas, but 7 TYPES. Let’s say conservatively that there are ten of each type. That’s 70 of the scuttly little bastards that could very easily climb into my mouth as I sleep. No-one deserves that many tarantulas in their mouth, not even the person who used my toothbrush to unblock a poo-packed toilet in Guatemala. But even more bizarrely, the surrounding countryside is also apparently riddled with transvestites, following the Mayor’s closure of Nicaragua’s premier lakeside transvestite bar after one of them accidentally tried chatting him up. Just think what could end up in your sleeping mouth if that tale were true.

There are also Boa Constrictors (yes, the unfeeling ropes of solid muscle that crush their prey to death), Howler Monkeys that think they are Lions at 4.30 in the morning, rampaging, razor-tusked wild boar and thorned trees patrolled by ranks of kamikaze army ants. Touch one of these trees and you’re pretty much done. Having already seen a lizard being murdered and dismembered by ants one night in El Salvador, I have absolute confidence that they’d be able to finish off a pasty Scotsman without breaking a sweat, or whatever it is ants do instead of sweating.

According to the guy who runs the school, most of the bees around here are ‘Africanised’. Among other things, this means they’re really good at gang-stinging humans to death if they feel threatened. His advice was very clear – if you try and kill one, make sure you finish the job, otherwise you’ll quickly find yourself wearing a bee onesie, en route to the hospital. And to think I was scared of the machete-wielding locals. Turns out the smaller the organism, the bigger the problem.

Case in point – the local scorpions, which cockily assume squatter’s rights deep in your rucksack, boots or pants, then go all ‘Ricky Lake’ on you if they feel like they’re being evicted. They won’t kill you, but you’ll probably look like a balloon for a wee while. Then of course, there are the myriad mosquitos, bed bugs and ‘don’t-see-em’s’ – invisible little fuckers who pepper your derma with cluster bombs of itchy napalm for the duration of your trip. Worse, and smaller still, are the kinds of bacteria that only the most twisted God could concoct. These microscopic horrors will magically spirit themselves into your gut and own you from the inside out, despite any medicine you may take. On day 7 of my latest bout of tectonic-plate-shifting-shits, I would have gladly walked naked through a rainforest-full of mozzies to stop the bum-rot. Luckily, just as I was about to do that, the bum Gods showed mercy. El Allah is great indeed. Let’s hope he steps in a bit earlier when I catch THE PLAGUE in South America. That’d make a believer of me, at least until I woke up with a tarantula in my mouthimage