Fear and Loathing in Transit: Carrying a huge bag called ‘Virgin’ through two rush hours in two countries in one day.
There’s this feeling I get, every time I’m within a week of leaving on these adventures, of fear. It comes at strange times, not quite the day before I’m leaving because I’m usually too busy, but just when it’s close enough to seem real. This time, it was just as I was packing to head to London for the first time. I was sort of doing two trips because I was heading back to Glasgow to watch Isabella’s cabaret for the second time as a surprise (note: I’m terrible at surprises so she knew exactly what was happening, the same way Fiona knew about her surprise birthday party). Suddenly I realised that the clothes and camping equipment I was rolling up, we’re going to be my life for 6 weeks, in some pretty extraordinary circumstances. What scares me is the chance that those circumstances won’t be fun. I’m not too scared of getting hurt, or ill, or homesick. I just always seem to worry that I’m not going to enjoy myself, I’m wasting my time. The last thing I want to do is spend 6 weeks that could be spent elsewhere, and money that could be used on something else; on something that I really don’t enjoy. This time as well, I’m raising money for a charity incredibly close to me, and my family and is very relevant right now. In fact, by heading away for 6 weeks I’m actually kind of stepping away from an ongoing situation, so I really really want to make the most of my time.
Like I said, once I get closer to the leaving date, the fear gets swallowed by the ensuing stress of getting everything stowed neatly into a couple of bags which are going to weigh me down around the world. What to take and what not to take becomes a battle of my ego, who wants to prove that it can carry loads, but also wants to prove it can live minimalisticly. Luckily, this time, Azra, my inflatable stand up paddle board, weighs and measures roughly the same as a child, and me being me has decided not to check her and myself onto a plane and fly a few hours to Sarajevo. No no, I’m going to carry it on buses and trains through Paris, Munich, Zagreb and finally Sarajevo over four days. The ego argument is settled for me then. So when I get back from Glasgow at 10pm I have to start organising. Packing tents, gas cookers, clothes and camera equipment into a small kit bag, as well as design a logo for next years adventure do some washing, eat and do final checks that I’m prepared. By 2am I finally got to bed, setting my alarm for 05:30. Needless to say, any room for fear was gone entirely.
I’ve got to stop telling people from neighbouring countries where I’m going. A taxi driver picked me up at 6am, Steve, a really enthusiastic and talkative Hungarian. He asked what was in the bag, which being huge and blue and having a paddle and helmet attached to the outside, draws attention to itself like a real life giant smurf. I explained what she was and what my journey was going to be, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Croatia, Slovenia, Austria and Germany.
“But why aren’t you going to Hungary?” he said, obviously hurt that I had chosen to neglect his home.
I stuttered for a response that wasn’t “I don’t think I have the time” but what came out was an attempt at some geographical mishap that had left Hungary too far out of my way.
“But is next to Austria”
Steve stopped the taxi and proceeded to show me photos of Lake Balaton, Siofok, Keszthekly and his hometown where he has now called his son and told him I’m coming to visit: Gyor. Really I don’t have an issue with Hungary, and it looks stunning, but I’m already doing Slovenia instead of Italy because of a guy from the gym, and much to Steve’s protests it is actually out of my way. But we’ll see, I’m expecting a call from his son.
I had left with plenty of time to get the 06:37 train straight to Victoria to give me half an hour to get to the coach station. Luckily Southern rail, in its infinite care for customers, decided to start the adventure a few days early.
“We are sorry to announce that the…06…37…train to …London Victoria…has been…cancelled…due to…awaiting staff” said the electronically programmed sarcasm. ‘Awaiting staff’? So I now had to change at East Croydon and get into London 10 minutes before my coach left, I also had an hour and ten minutes with which to sit planning my hobbled sprint through London.
At 07:56 I sweated onto the bus, I’d even had time to grab a sandwich on the way. I’d probably, however, knocked over at least 3 commuters, for which I apologise. But I made it. The rest of the 8-hour bus journey went as always. Flitting between reading and watching, to listening to music. But we got there, to Paris, at exactly 5 past rush hour on the metro. So as I set off to anger and frustrate another’s cities working population, again the worry of things to come left my mind and the worry of pickpockets came into it. I quite clearly couldn’t run after anyone, I was holding my camera because I’m recording this journey, and I obviously had most of my stuff with me. I was a target.
It quickly transpired that during my hour and a half on the busiest metro in Europe if not the world, I should worry about rather small, elderly French ladies, who finding that she couldn’t verbally abuse me and Azra (Neither I nor Azra speak French), found my shins an excellent backup plan.
Finally, I made it to South West Paris and to my couch surfing hosts, Erika and Romain, who are an enthusiastic and pretty awesome young couple. They’re also vegetarian which isn’t only helpful when couch surfing, it’s quite rare in Paris. Romain had made empanadas, which were amazing, and some strawberry compote dessert and we sat and chatted until I was about to pass out, still quite early.
One day in and I already feel like I’ve done so much, but all I’ve really achieved is a wake of bad impressions on city dwellers. Next, I’m on to Munich, and then Zagreb. I don’t actually know how I’m going to travel from Zagreb to Sarajevo yet, but that will come with time I hope.