Thursday, July 2, 2009

Keeping it real - til I get the roller luggage

Last summer while driving across the U.S. Natalie and I stopped at a Super 8 motel in some backwater town in South Dakota. It cost about $50 for the night, and included wifi and a continental breakfast. We were in awe of the place. It seemed like our own little slice of luxury, the big TV, the tiled shower, the comfortable bed. After having spent the previous 6 months in fleabag hotels all across Asia, the idea that such an opulent hotel existed was mind blowing.

On my travels I have stayed in more rundown dumps than I can remember. There was the two dollar a night place in Guatemala that I stayed in for an entire week despite the fact that the shower had exposed wires, and that for some inexplicable reason every night at around 10 or 11 the whole room would begin to stink of shit so badly that I would tie a bandana around my face to go to sleep.

Then there was the enormous, and eerily empty, hotel I stayed at in Nepal. As the only guests in the hotel Natalie and I enjoyed the best room they had to offer, a corner room on the third floor with two huge windows looking out at two of the Himalaya's 8000 meter plus peaks in two different directions. The downside, the hotel was falling over and our room had about a ten degree slant to the floor making walking difficult and lying in bed next to impossible.

Or there was the time in Cambodia when I woke up to find a rooster directly below my bed looking up at me through the slats in my bamboo floor. Or the other time when I turned up at a guesthouse only to be informed that they were full, but that there were some mattresses out in the barn that I could sleep on for one dollar a night. I grabbed a mosquito night and spent the night bunked in the barn with a seemingly suicidaly depressed Thai monk as my only company.

That's just how I roll. I'm cheap, I stay in shit holes to save money, and have had some pretty great experiences doing so. But these days, I just don't think I have it in me to do it any more. I have a bit of money now, I'm not out looking for adventure, I don't need a good story to tell, really what I need these days is wifi and a comfortable bed.

I reconfirmed this last night by negating these options and staying in one of my former haunts, the cheapest hotel listed in the Morelia section of the LP. Listed as "basic, but spacious and spotless" (a gross misrepresentation) we checked in to the room and tried to look on the bright side, it was cheap and had a great location. But I couldn't look on the bright side for long. Maybe it was the rather large bloodstain on the door, the foul odor coming from the mosquito infested bathroom, the dead ants stuck all over the wall from when someone had fumagated but not cleaned up afterwards, or maybe it was the thousands of live ants forming a thick black line from the floor to the ceiling near the door, whatever it was I felt crushed. A crippling depression washed over me, and as I sat in a cafe sipping an espresso I realized that the traveler formerly known as August was dead. He simply doesn't exist anymore. Gone are my days of backpacking, replaced with my days of flashpacking, when 25 dollars a night for a hotel doesn't seem crazy, it seems downright sensible, after all there is wifi, clean towels, and cable TV.

I started traveling two years ago with the idea that doing everything as cheaply as possible would help me connect better with the people in the countries I was traveling through. I would stay in the same places they would, eat at the same restaurants they would, and take the same buses they would. And while I still believe that some of this is true (especially about the food and the buses), it doesn't seem to have worked that way. I have made far more friends and learned volumes more on this trip simply by staying in places for longer and staying away from the travelers circuit as much as possible, in the end I guess that means I have grown as a person, accepted who I am, and what it is that I want in life. Wifi.

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