Where's Sam the Man

48 countries, 12 months, one man, half a brain

Name: Samuel Hathaway
Location: Roaming..., Germany

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Enough veggies -- more meat!

Okay, I hear you guys: "Enough of the freakin' botanical monologues!" True, I'm in Europe and most of my blog has been nature poetry that would have made Bambi weep. With this entry, I'm going to stop stuffing my writing with grass and twigs, and fill it out with flesh and blood. Not my own, because you guys need a good year of rest from me, but, rather, but that of some interesting folks who I've met along the way.

Every traveler who I spoke with before I left was excited for the people that I would meet during my travels. They would talk about the revolutionists, carnies, and Soviet police that engaged them in fascinating conversations over an espresso, and maybe even journeyed with them for a while. Then their wallet was stolen and the friendship ended, of course, but the point is that one of the joys of travel is not just what you see, but who you meet.

My plane ride over did not exactly encourage me to socialize, for those of you who remember, but I was still curious about what characters I would meet along the way. One of the benefits of solo travel is that you are never distracted by a conversation with your traveling buddy (note: I miss you guys!), so not only are you able to join others' conversations more easily, but you are more approachable by others. The communal atmosphere of a hostel is ideal for this, where budget travelers share everything but toothbrushes -- you can't help but interact with others. Yet, for the first few weeeks, my interactions with others only caused them look harder at their shoes. To be fair, I approached Scandinavia ready to be proven wrong on every stereotype taught to me by Ole and Lena, but not a word was spoken to me by any sober person other than what was absolutely neccessary. Oddly, it was only when I pushed into the far north that people began to converse with me. A lot. In fact, I couldn't get them to stop talking even when I wanted to have a moment of peace. But I was finally meeting "those people," and I thouroughly enjoyed hearing their stories. Gabbing with a complete stranger for hours, while happening occasionaly on other levels, seems to be most common for budget travelers, and, as long as I was down there at the bottom, I wanted to take advantage of this potentially fascinating opportunity.

By this point I have met a number of characters, and I have listed a couple below, for your enjoyment:

First on my list is a 60 year old woman who just started bike touring four years ago! And I thought I was a toughie. Her husband wants no part of the sport (at 60 years old, who can blame him. I don't want to be biking with a trailer for my IV), and her friends feel the same way, so she has gone by herself (not just a woman traveling by herself, but a 60 year old woman!) across Poland, Croatia, and France on bike! Pulling her own luggage! She has seemingly avoided the worn trails, and gone for more challenging route -- like Poland, with roads of uneaven quality, and Croatia, simply a biker's hell with narrow roads and reckless drivers. This lady had guts. While she was holed up in the winter, she would fill her living room with maps and charts, planning the routes for the coming summer. While it snowed outside, she said, she would imagine the sunshine, warm sea, and wildflowers of her new cycle journey. She was a real pleasure to talk: so alert, curious, and excited about living. Rather than let the adventure intimidate her, she let in excite her for what she would find. A lovely person.

There was also a fellow that had me scared out of my socks, at first sight. I shared a hostel room with this guy, and I was tip-toeing by his bed before I got to know him. I walked into the room, one day, and saw that someone else had joined me -- he wasn't in the room, but I saw his luggage. Heavy black coats were draped over the bunk bed, heavy-duty boots were placed on the floor, bandannas in crazy prints were stuffed into different orifices (seriously, anyone who wears bandannas is mixed up), and a bottle of Jack Daniel's was on the floor (okay, it could have been apple juice, but who's telling this story?). When I finally saw the large-jawed, long-haired fellow who owned this stuff, I was even more intimidated. Yet, somehow, we started talking, and he turned out to be the nicest, simplest person you've ever met -- and a passionate environmentalist! He talked for a long time about why we need to preserve the Swedish pine forests, about how he would love to see the national parks in Alaska, and about how he loves the freedom offered by the large swaths of undeveloped land in northern Sweden -- especially how you can stop by the road anywhere and eat the wild blueberries that grow in abundance. An excellent point. Such a nice, honest fellow!

People are so fascinating! Seriously, you guys should talk with one, sometime. Travel isn't neccassary for that, I suppose, but travelers can offer such interesting stories. Each adventurer has their own fascinating experiance to tell about. If the last few weeks are an indicator of what's to come, than it should be an interesting year.

Anyway, there's the proof that I haven't spent all of my days plopped on a toadstool.


Blogger Keith Olson said...

During my time in Norway, I must say that I have fond memories of conversations with locals. Ask them how they spend their "holiday", since those days seem so frequent compared to the U.S.

By the way, our family has been biking about 10 miles a day. Nothing compared to you, but pretty good for 8 and 6 year olds!

Tell us more of your diet: not much for burgers and the like there.

The Olson family

September 3, 2007 7:10 PM  
Blogger Ginger said...

Hey Sam -
After reading your latest post, I'm glad to see that you are learning a healthy respect for 60 year olds. Some of us will get there some day and we'll want your support! But indeed it was fun to read about a couple of the folks you've met so far. The pictures you took in Antartica are SPECTACULAR. And congrats on achieving your goal.

September 9, 2007 3:09 PM  
Blogger Ginger said...

Me again. I just realized that I said "congrats on Antartica". I meant "congrats on making it to the Artic Circle". Yikes! I'm losing it ...

September 9, 2007 5:47 PM  

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