Monday 1 May 2017

Brendan O'Connor: I'm not really a traveller; I'm a tourist

Travel Talk

Creature comforts: Nice hotels have wifi so you can get news from home and listen to the radio
Creature comforts: Nice hotels have wifi so you can get news from home and listen to the radio
Brendan O'Connor

Brendan O'Connor

I have this myth that I am a great thwarted traveller. If I didn't have all these people and things holding me back I'd be off around the world, a carefree kind of a hippy, open to new cultures, new people and new things.

I'd be skinny, obviously, and tanned, and I would wear casual and worn but not scruffy clothes. I would wear the kind of clothes that looked as if they were originally really expensive but in a low-key way. People would assume that I was some kind of eccentric millionaire who was off finding himself, or a ne'er-do-well with inherited wealth, shirking my responsibilities to keep up the family pile.

In this fantasy I would end up in all kinds of situations with all kinds of people. It would involve hookah pipes and possibly more. Tangiers would be involved and maybe Hydra. I suppose I would have various boltholes around the place. I wouldn't be like a tourist, that's for sure. I would be regarded as a local in all these places. I would have degenerate buddies in every town. They would have boats and things, and we would hang out on them, lazy, devil-may-care.

I would of course mingle as easily with the poor locals as I would with the rich.

I would eat like a local, in the best shebeens and greasy spoons, where they knew what I liked. They would welcome me there like an old friend. The owner, gnarly and pot-bellied, would sit with me, have a beer and tell me his troubles, after I had read the local paper, in whatever language it was in.

I might even hang with indigenous tribes, fitting in easily with them.

It hits me hard at this time of the year, the desire to get away and pretend that life is different, that I live the easygoing life that you live in the sunshine. But this year it's actually not as bad as usual, my desire to escape it all. I like to think this is down to maturity.

For starters, I noticed that key to my travel fantasies was the fact that in these dreams I always see myself as a laid-back kind of character. And indeed, that was half the pleasure. But I guess it's slowly dawning on me that you don't need to go away to be laid back. I was laid back to the point of horizontal when I was younger. But then work came along and stiffened me up.

But that's the other thing about being away. You don't have to go to work. So other places are automatically more enjoyable and you are automatically a different person because you don't have to go to work. But I'm starting to realise that you don't actually have to go away to chill out. Sure, I believe in taking work pretty seriously and in applying myself when I'm doing it. But I'm learning to switch off, too. And switching off in your own place can be just as nice as a holiday.

Also key to my character in these fantasies is the fact that wherever I go I usually have a cold beer in my hand. It is really hot, and I have a beer so cold it is perspiring. But when you see that one through logically it doesn't work either. For example, if I have a couple of beers during the day, as I do in these fantasies, I'm basically good for nothing for the rest of the day.

I get tired, cranky and headachey. I love the first beer. To me it's a signifier that it's time to relax now. But then I pay the price an hour or two later. And of course you could just keep going into the evening, but let's face it, that could get messy.

I also need about three days to get over a drinking session these days. So basically if I was off travelling I would probably drink at most once a week. If I did it two nights in a row I would be in a deep depression on day three. And I'd be too hot in a foreign place and I'd want to go home.

And also, realistically, I don't like those kinds of vaguely creepy sociopathic types you meet when you travel. I don't trust most of them, and they annoy the hell out of me. So, basically, I would be steering well clear of the devil-may-care guys with boats etc.

Ultimately the truth of it is that I am not really a traveller. I like to go on holidays now and then. But I like to stay in a nice hotel that has wifi so I can read the paper from home every day and listen to the radio. And I like the sun and the sea, but when the weather is reasonable here I find it much handier to be at home.

In the end, the sad truth is probably that I'm not a traveller. I'm a tourist.

A week in the Canaries with the family will do me fine.

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