You do not learn about people by picking up all of the personal facts they purposefully drop casually. And people are rarely the version of themselves you meet on a first date or initial encounter, when they are making every effort to impress you by being as impressive as they can be.
People are closer to who they really are in times of stress and fear and boredom and times of trouble. People are who they are on an average Tuesday, when they have to go to work and do laundry and take the dog for a walk. People are who they are when they are not making any effort at all. You learn who they are by observing their actions and listening to their thoughts over time. By being with them when you think you are dying of food poisoning and are afraid to have the dreaded simultaneous shit/barf experience in front of them, so you go to sleep in the bathtub where it is safe, and they stay even though you really, REALLY wish they would leave (I’m not saying that happened to me. I’m saying that’s how you get to know someone). You get to know someone by laughing so hard you snort/cry/fart/piss your pants/all of the above when you are with them. By reading their emails, monitoring their Facebook messages, and checking their phones while they are sleeping.
I am obviously kidding about the severe invasion of privacy noted above…obviously.
Everyone knows if you really want to get to know someone, you travel with him/her. Close proximity…enclosed spaces…tiny Peugeots…people really come to life. You might notice he clears his throat every other minute or that his burps smell like ham. You might learn her favorite part of the evening is the “feelings” portion, yet her ability to become a dictator when everyone is hung over and about to miss a flight is unparallelled. You might discover someone amongst the group is a poo-guider. You might be shocked to hear he has not used soap in the shower for 31 years. Oh, except for his ass crack.
When you travel with others, you also learn things about yourself. If you haven’t, you’re not paying attention. You might discover your normal drunken tendencies aren’t that cute; in fact, they are really annoying. Or that you’re really awesome at navigating the back “roads” of Ireland and making friends with complete strangers.
I’ve taken a lot of trips over the past five years, and I’ve learned something new on every one about people, about myself, about travel. Here are ten that might help me when I Quit My Job and See The World:
- Don’t pack anything you don’t want to carry on your back. Whatever you think you need, you’re wrong. You need much, much less. My friend Adam literally brings a tiny satchel for weeklong trips. What’s inside the satchel? Lots of granola bars and a thermarest. His secret? Wool socks and magical underwear, though there is some disagreement just how magical those underwear actually are.
- Contacts are a pain in the ass. I used to have nightmares about my plane crashing and becoming trapped on a desert island like in Lost, which I never watched so as not to feed my fear. My contact would rip or fall out or irritate the crap out of me and since I’m virtually blind without them, I’d be the helpless girl who would get eaten first. Then I got LASIK. Now my biggest fear is getting stupid drunk, trying to take out my “contacts” like I did for the past twenty years, and ripping my beautiful new cornea flap right off.
- Dudes have it easy. So I’ve tried to equal the playing field. Tampons are the worst, with birth control pills coming in a close second. So I got an IUD to never deal with either again. I’m living in this new magical world, and it’s awesome.
- I can go a very long time without washing my hair and feel just fine about it.
- I can go less time, but still a lot of time without a shower at all, and feel just fine about it.
- I can take PPT (pits, pussy, tits – learned that little gem from my mom & aunts) showers with a wet wipe, extending the amount of time I go without a real shower, and feel just fine about it.
- I can sleep anywhere. I recently slept in a car in Iceland in the middle of winter with only my coat for a blanket after getting kicked out of a hostel. I gave that coat excellent reviews as soon as I got home. Snug as a bug in a rug.
- Always bring butt wipes.
- Talk to everyone. You’ll learn a lot. Plus, sometimes they’ll loan you maps, buy you a drink, or lick your face.
- When all else fails, baguettes and cheese.
Yeah. I’m actually a little frightened of the new things I will learn over the next 15 months.