In any situation there’s gotta be the downtime. You find yourself calling the day quits since it hasn’t been working out. Boredom will creep in, and having to deal with it in various ways is needed. When in cities for a few days, repitition sets in. The numerous ways I kept myself occupied are outlined as follows:
You’d be surprised how appealing singing is when you aren’t getting a lift. Travelling solo, be wary, as onlookers might see someone in dire need of the wrong kind of help. With another person, singing at the top of your lungs when shit hits the fan is a great way to relieve tension. Classics like Johnny Hobo, or Johnny Cash’s ‘I’ve Been Everywhere’ were our favourites.
Though it sounds like an existential resolve of faith, counting cars is in fact simply counting the cars that pass. When hitching, making a mental tab of each person that passes can make time go quicker, but only when you get a ride quick. Bad for morale, counting about 50+ cars is where it should stop. After this, scowling follows, then a single tear rolls down your cheek, along with inevitable depressing thoughts. Keep her positive.
When the driver can’t speak English (or any language you can communicate in), sometimes silence is favoured. This isn’t always tense and problematic; it gives you a chance to observe some fabulous native scenery. Getting a chance to watch the endless sunflower and corn fields rolling gradually by is quite a liberating experience. To have those moments to be absorbed in your own thoughts, imagining what happens daily in the fields outside is fabulous. Those minors escapes can be cherished. Seeing hawks gliding in effortless circles resonates heavily in the eco-minded side of my psyche. We don’t get a lot of these kind of wildlife opportunities in Ireland. Seeing hawks was a fantastically new experience every time it happened. I completely lost my shit one day in either Slovakia, or maybe Hungary, when a hawk was perched on a fence-pole next to the highway. It was beautiful.
Everyone has their own preference here. I was reluctant to bring books as I was keeping diaries, but after about two weeks in, I gave in and bought On the Road. I had read the book previous to this point, but I felt like it was needed. My anarcho-squatter friend had The City is Ours and Chomsky always at the ready. During lagging moments I’d whip the book out on a random page and read. The timeless writings are enough to motivate you to keep going no matter where you are. Maybe phrasbooks would help, but when you’re covering numerous countries it’s quite impractical. This also leads smoothly into…
Keeping diaries was indeed quite a lot of effort, but sitting having a drink, writing about the previous day, was all very relaxing and therapeutic. As mentioned in a previous post, these diaries are wonderful to read back on. Not only that, but it’s fascinating to track the progress of writing as well as travelling. What started as writing less than a page graduated quickly to twenty page documents, expressing emotions, views, scenery, everything. You can read all the books on travelling you want, but nothing quite compares to your own writing. Except maybe Kerouac. Maybe.
Last but not least, BEER
Beer is good. Beer is always good. If you don’t drink (like some of my friends met while travelling) then kudos. You aren’t exactly missing anything essential. One of my favourite (multiple) moments from the excursions was walking from our hostel in Budapest to the river, stopping for bottles on the way, climbing that steep-ass mountain, and chilling the night away underneath the fabulous monument having a beer with whoever. Beer, unlike other things, can be an excuse to talk to people, can break grounds, can induce friendships, can give you an excuse to get to know people better. Nothing like getting two bottles of (not as good) foreign Guinness in Amsterdam and sitting down next to the canal to chat shit. Good times. Still, one could argue that without beer you can do all these things. Of course you can. Tastes good though; you can’t beat a cold one.
Sing your heart out to Johnny Hobo: