Travel(v): to go to a place and especially one that is far away.

A film I’d directed was accepted to a film festival in London, so I decided to use it as an excuse to Travel.

I’ve traveled. I’ve never really Traveled.

Sure. I’ve been places.  Toronto twice, once for a film festival where I spent the great majority of the time in movie theaters.    And then there were the day-excursions from cruise ships, although Cancun at this point feels more American than much of America.  While, technically, I used my passport to go to both, it was only because I insisted. Both customs agents would’ve been okay with a thumbs up and my drivers license.   It just doesn’t feel like Travel if, were shit to hit the fan, you could pack up your things and drive home.

To be clear, I thought I’d Traveled.  Toronto is in a different country! They use loonies!  In Cancun people spoke Spanish when pressed!  It was only when sharing my upcoming trip with my friends that I discovered that, comparatively, I hadn’t traveled at all.  It’s distinctly possible that I hang with a bunch of overprivileged fuckers but damn if every single one of them didn’t have a story about truly stunning amounts of time that they’d spent abroad.

These weren’t the expected week-long trips to Paris for a honeymoon or whatever.  That window of time when we lost touch? I thought it was because I was being reclusive, but really it’s because they were living in a cheateau in Marseilles for SIX MONTHS perfecting their ability to make crepes because why not? [That’s just the friends who weren’t currently abroad when I asked them the question.]

“Well the first time I went to Europe for three months I …”
“OH PHIL, my second semester in Prague I …”
“Ugh, Stockholm, really? Well I *guess* you could go there…”

That level of disdain is something I’m only used to hearing in reference to things like…Wal-Mart. Starbucks. Nickelback.  I’m not even sure what kind of life I’d have to live in order to have an “Ugh, Stockholm” in my heart but it certainly sounds appealing, because if I’ve learned anything in life it’s that being bored of shit that other people fantasize about means you are in the lead. (and we all want to be in the lead).

That particular friend had seen a big chunk of Europe when she was on the road with Snoop Dogg so maybe she meant “Ugh, Stockholm with Snoop? I guess you could do that…”  Truth is, I can’t. Snoop and I aren’t cool like that.

A lot of her travel stories involve border-trouble.

Now, I’ll admit that that part of the reason we do cool shit is so we can tell our friends we’re doing cool shit to hide the overwhelming sadness that ever threatens to crush their lives. Aggressive vacationing. To vacation AT someone.  There are a couple of ways To Vacation at someone, it in addition to the reflexive “Ugh, Stockholm…” approach.  The most popular is the pit-trap.  This is ingenious because it plays on an assumed level of conversational politeness we all begrudgingly adhere to. The person’s politeness will allow you to shine.

1. Greeting.  You dig a small hole. (“Hi!”)

2. Pleasant Inquiry. Place your spikes.  (“How are you doing?”)

3. Deeper Inquiry. Cover the hole with Debris. (“Oh really? Going anywhere special?”)

[at this point the person will make you listen to whatever candle of hope they are hanging in the distance of their own personal happiness.  Just wait it out and nod encouragingly. If while you’re internally prepping your awesome response you find that they are, in fact, going to Europe for like, a year or something, then you’ll have to modify your next response and simply say. “Must be nice.” to make them feel guilty for trying to find happiness in this life.  Move on to a new friend. However if they’re just going to a movie or something they’ll invariably ask you about you.  This is where you spring your trap, and they fall into the hole.

4. Innocent Response. (“Oh me? Well, actually…”)

I’m no exception. I’ll Vacation at people all day long, it’s just a way to pass the time you know? That said, part of my sharing was practical.

The film festival was 14 days long. I booked a 21 day ticket which would give me seven days of exploration, and I wanted to make sure I didn’t fuck it up, pick the wrong countries and end up having a bad time.  It’d taken me the better part of three decades to get to Europe and what’s to say that I’d ever get back?

You know what I discovered? Everyone really loves traveling, and traveling is like… a bonafide aspect of many people’s lives.  I always thought this was something boring people said when you asked what their hobbies were and they didn’t want to say TV. (“Oh I love food and traveling.”)  Ask your friends, and try to find someone who doesn’t identify as a foodie that loves traveling. You can’t.  [It’d be refreshing though.  “I’m kind of a meat and potatoes kinda person and I mostly just like staying at home to be honest.” ]

There’s a gender skew though, while everyone likes traveling,  girls LOVE traveling.  Now that I think about it I’ve never, not once, ever, heard one of my guy friends say “Hey bro, you know what I fucking love? Traveling. Traveling is the fucking best.”  A girl will stop whatever activity she’s engaged in short of childbirth in order to gush over how much she loves traveling.

[I mentioned this to my friend and suggested that maybe this means girls appreciate art, culture, and food a bit more than guys.  He suggested that “Girls like the distance from their peer group and the chance to ho out a bit without any social repercussions. Guys can do that at home.” ]

So that said I mostly turned to my female friends to figure out what countries I should visit with my spare time, having taken the initial financial hit of flying across the Atlantic Ocean.

Crossing The Pond: A loathsome phrase that people use as a substitute for “flying across the Atlantic Ocean”. Back in the day (~1600s) the trip across the atlantic took somewhere between one and five MONTHS, and people died on it.  The British, being British, like to both wallow in and downplay their misery, so the colonists referred to this nightmarish trip as Crossing the Pond.  Now the same trip takes about six hours and you can watch 22 Jump Street and X-Men The Last Stand during, so the litotic nature of the phrase has lost pretty much all weight. I hate this phrase.  If you ever hear me say Cross The Pond you have the right and responsibility to smack me full on in the face with the back of your hand.

There was very little consensus about which European country to visit.  Based on a casual survey Europe is wall-to-wall awesome. Every country is magical. Every trip will be fantastic. You can’t go wrong.

The only three things that people seemed to agree upon were:

1. London is Expensive.  Not in an eye-roll way, but in a re-mortgage your house way.

2. France is Great. The French are not.


Rick Steves was a “new” thing for me so I decided to track some down and see what the fuss was all about.

Next in part 2:  The Three Europes