It has now been 24 days since I woke up at 6am to leave my house and set off on a trip spanning 5 countries, 11 boats, and 10 beds. Or approximations of beds. 11, actually, if we’re vaguing up the terminology to “approximations of beds” because I napped a bit while sitting upright on my 10pm – 6am train from Torino to Rome.
After that gloriously restful night sleep, I got to Paris in the morning and had a whole day to occupy before I could get to the next bed on the list. (It’s not entirely relevant to this post, but food was a key part of how I occupied myself because I make the best choices.) I put my monstrous suitcase in a locker at the station, but I still had my backpack. After my night on the ass-bed I was already approaching a special level of human grime. Wearing the heavy backpack around in the heat didn’t help matters much.
Six years ago, though, this is how we traveled. Backpacking with my little brother was one of my favorite trips, but countless times on this current outing I have marveled at the difference that six years has made.
Namely, that I have become too old for that shit.
It’s not just about creature comforts. Following the week in Amalfi, I spent a week on a cruise ship. The ship was fantastic and the port cities were incredible, but I found myself generally distressed by how little time we had to see these places. How do you explore a city in half a day? HOW?
Not that we didn’t also occasionally find this unpleasant even then. I remember the end of our very long first day in Paris. We’d saved the Louvre for the end of the day because it was cheaper if we went in after 6pm, plus SEE ALL THE THINGS! and we were still beginners at this trip maximizing game. This was the day of breaking in those traveling shoes. We went down an escalator and immediately sat down near the bottom of it. I looked at Derrik and asked if he was ready to call it – knowing the answer already. Clearly we were both ready to call it.
We ran ourselves into the ground in the second city on our trip. Then we repeated the process for five more weeks.
Then, of course, there was the “no more old churches” compact. I don’t actually recall if this was a real conversation we had. I assume it was – a trip like this is kind of intense because you end up speaking almost exclusively to one person for six weeks, because of the language barriers and the fact that you don’t stick around your hostels long enough to have multiple conversations with the other people staying there. Regardless, we were relying quite heavily on Lonely Planet’s Europe on a Shoestring to tell us what to do and where to go. (Alternatively, Derrik would run in the mornings and come back and say, “I passed X, Y, and Z neat things. Let’s go see what they are!) Essentially every city in Europe’s top 3 MUST SEE items includes at least one magnificent church that’s significantly older than our home country. Many cities have several of these MUST SEE churches. They’re gorgeous and impressive, but there’s a point at which you run out of fucks to give for all the opulent old churches of yore.
In that respect, I guess at 26 I might be able to stretch that time a little longer than I could at 20 and traveling with a 16-year-old. I might have fucks to give for an additional 1-2 old churches.
Probably not, because the bigger issue – the real thing I’d like to never replicate – is the aggressive pace at which we moved. Especially carrying all of our stuff. (Which, though challenging, remains better than being without your stuff.) Of course, the shit we were hauling around was a lot less than everything I brought on this six week trip. As I have mentioned a time or two before, we weren’t traveling with those monstrous backpacking backpacks – these were proper books-and-lunch-bags backpacks.
My brother brought two pairs of socks with him. The smell of his feet on that trip will probably haunt me in my nightmares long after many of my other memories fade. Regardless, it’s a potent (and pungent…) example of the kinds of “creature comforts” which were once unnecessary luxuries. (I have not asked, but I have faith that this sock thing is a life choice that my brother would not replicate at 22.)
All of this is to say that I am glad that while a handful of those 10-11 beds are one-night-only deals, most are much longer than 2-3 nights. I’m glad that I had that trip with my brother when I had it – I loved 93% of every minute of it. I’m also grateful to be traveling this way, now.
I learned a lot about myself and a fair number of problem solving skills. It was one of those rare moments where you’re experiencing a significant transition while fully aware that that’s what’s happening. It’s a little surreal to be reminiscing about all of that now, because six years feels like several lifetimes. It feels like I’m not just comparing two very different trips, but trips being experienced by two very different people.
The 2014 one owes the 2008 one a whole lot. Past!me’s adventures were grand and I’m lucky to have gotten to live them. Some of my favorite stories and mental pictures were collected on that trip. The view from here is pretty damn great too, though.