Monday, March 25, 2013

Why I Can't Backpack

I love backpackers. I have friends who love to throw on a backpack and go rock climbing for two weeks, or hitchhike through South America. And they're great at it. I love their sense of adventure and their enduring spirit. But I can't do it.
I don't think I'm a high maintanence girl. There are some days I roll out of bed and don't even look at my hair. I can wear the same jeans for two weeks without batting an eye about it. But I can't backpack. Here is why:

1. Hygeine
The image of dirt caked under my fingernails puts a chill down my spine. I can go a few days without a shower but I can't go a few weeks.

2. Modesty
It's been said I may be too modest. Sharing a bathroom with complete strangers sort of terrifies me. I can do it - I've stayed at motels with shared bathrooms before - but the comfort of having my own bathroom, whilst definitely a Western amenity - is one I take whenever I can get it. Also, I am incredibly uncomfortable about being unconsious around strangers. I don't even let my dentist give me anesthia.

3. Predictability
I am a planner by nature. The idea of not knowing where I'm going to stay until I'm there making me anxious for the whole day - and that's no fun when I want to explore a city! Also, being a solo female traveler, I feel a lot safer knowing I have a place to stay before the sun goes down.

The problem with my way of travel is, of course, cost. It's not as easy or freeing to travel around my way, but I find staying in serviced apartments gives me an insight to the lives of the locals: having to shop at grocery stores, being able to cook meals myself, etc.

(*Disclaimer: I know I'm young. My travel style may likely change.)

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Accidental Eavesdropping

For four hours I had been waiting for my friends to arrive outside the Odeon in Leicester Square in London. We were planning to camp out for the Les Miserables world premiere which was taking place the next day. I had flown in from Seattle specifically for this event - taking a few days beforehand to experience London during Christmastime. This was my last day in London, so I had already checked out of my hotel. My bag sat at my feet and my phone rested in my frozen hand.
"We'll be there in an hour!" They told me.
Cold, anxious, and starving, I went into the nearby Costas for a bit of a warm up. First of all, let me say that their hot chocolates are amazing not only for taste but for presentation. The barista used a Christmas tree cookie cutter to get the best shape with the powder cocoa he sprinkled over the foamy top. And then he covered it all with a lid! Remarkable.
So, freshly warm with Costas and an outlet to charge my phone, I awaited my friends and tried not to overexcite myself with the following day's events. The only other premiere I have camped out for - or attended at all, for that matter - was The Hunger Games in March 2012. The friends I was currently waiting for were the same friends I met that night. But tomorrow, oh tomorrow was Les Miserables. I grew up watching the 10th Anniversary Special and I couldn't wait to see the stars and hear how Cameron Macintosh revamped this classic for the silver screen.
"We just got off the train! We'll be there in five!" My phone illuminated.
I gathered my things and headed for the cashier.
"Can I use the restroom?" I asked.
I was met with a very confused look - ask for the toilet, the loo, the WC, even the bathroom. But the 'restroom' is not a European phrase.
"Uh...the toilet?" I corrected myself.
He told me a labrinthian path up the back stairs and beyond multiple corridors. After having gotten lost multiple times, I deduced that I was indeed in the Odeon theater and was supposed to use their bathroom. Because it was warm and my friends had yet to arrive downstairs, I took my time. I brushed my hair in the mirror, added extra layers for the impending cold December night, and brushed my teeth. As I began washing my hands, a voice penetrated the bathroom walls. Quiet at first, and then growing stronger.
"God on high, hear my prayer-"
I stood frozen where I was.
"-In my need you have always been there"
I couldn't believe what I was hearing. I grew up listening to Colm Wilkenson belt out this familiar tune, and now the voice was quite different. My hands shook with excitement. I tried to surpress a squeal. I grabbed my bags and went to find the source.
There, just beyond the door to theater #8, the movie was playing. This movie that I have waited years to see. This movie that I was camping in an English winter to celebrate, was right in front of me.
I cracked the door just barely. Just enough to see a full crowd and Hugh Jackman - face the size of a billboard - singing at the barricade.