Madrid reminds me of New York City. It’s extremely fast paced and especially so during the holiday season. When attempting to leave my hostel for a gyro or wine run I am met by swarms of shoppers, street vendors, mimes, breakdancers..etc. My new hostel is in the center of all the commotion and at one point a department store across the street plays a children’s animated Christmas movie over a projection against the outer walls of the building. I literally have to push my way through children and their parents just to reach the main sidewalk. It’s like trying to get to the bathroom at a music festival. It’s insane.
I walk around so much that by my third day here, I feel like I could be a tour guide. I enjoy the city vibe, but being alone here is interesting. It marks my third week of solo-hostel-travel and I’m starting to feel my first pangs of loneliness. Being surrounded by so many people and the rushed nature of the crowds of people constantly surrounding me is intense. I start to feel jaded with it all. I don’t want to visit the museums. It’s my third month in Western Europe. I’m too familiar with the formula of it all.
Wake up in the bottom bunk of a dorm room full of dudes. Have hostel breakfast (toast, jam, coffee). Get dressed in the same clothes I wore three days ago. Walk to whatever city park is near. Read a book. Write an email or a blog. Find cheap street food for lunch. Speak broken ~insert-native-language-here~. Tell people I meet where I’m from and where I’ve been. Get lost. Walk until I don’t know where I am anymore. Find my way back “home”..
Basically, I have travel fatigue. I don’t want to go home by any means, but I feel very (not unimpressed…) unaffected in a way by my surroundings. Basically I feel a need for something new. My travel itch has become its own entity. It’s beginning to get needy. In need of something new.. Something different than what I’m presenting it with.
I’m ready for Morocco.
Adventure as defined by the Oxford English Dictionary: an unusual and exciting; typically hazardous experience
The word adventure is over used. It is possible for a person to get on a plane and go somewhere they have never been before, or do something they have never done without having a true adventure. But if everything is planned (and more importantly when everything goes according to plan) one may have not so much of an adventure as simply a fun trip… Or whatever. I envy these people. But alas, adventure is in the mishaps. Not just a silly anecdote about the weird guy you sat next to on the plane, but true unadulterated misfortune. Adventures don’t happen when everything goes right, they happen more often when everything goes wrong.
And as I sit in the laundry mat down the street from my hostel in Madrid, let me tell you with absolute certainty, something is very very wrong.
First of all, I have just spent €30 washing, drying, and rewashing everything I own (including my backpack itself which was no easy feat). This is a ridiculous amount of money to spend on laundry especially when the clothes being washed were in fact already clean to begin with.
Why would one wash clean clothes and then wish to drown their backpack, clothes, (and possibly even her very own body) in Lysol once they were finally taken from the dryer? Why would one then inspect said clothes with surgical precision before repacking into a now decidedly heat-shrunken backpack?
This would probably be because someone woke up one morning and stumbled her way to through the darkness (that is hostel rooms anytime before 12pm) to the fluorescent lit bathroom. All she wanted was a shower, still groggy she enters the shower changing room and only when she is completely naked does the horror happen..
My body is completely covered in large itchy welts. Covered. And not to be compared to mosquito bites either. Swollen red lumps stretch from my neck all the way down to the soles of my feet.
This has been my one of my greatest fears during this trip and after all the countless hostel beds I have willing long crawled into I knew that, statistically at least, it was bound to happen.
I have bedbugs.
I feel like Cher in Clueless when she gets a C in debate class. I’m distraught, disheartened, but mostly I’m just disgusted. Bugs are gross in general, but bed bugs are seriously sneaky evil little suckers. Unfortunately, the cleanliness of your hostel or you as a person isn’t a factor in contracting them. All it takes is sitting on one couch or sleeping in one bed where someone who has bedbugs has slept and you’ve got it.
Like an STD.
(minus the S.. and technically the D)
They’re actually more like HTB, hostel transmitted bugs. And they’re becoming more and more common both in Europe and the States.
Luckily, after some extensive research I find that while traveling it is not too difficult to rid yourself of these unwanted companions. It’s ridding your house that’s the difficult task. For someone on the move it usually just takes a trip to the laundry mat, over drying everything you own, throwing away anything that can be replaced, and dowsing everything in Lysol. Then you just wait for your body to physically heal itself (though the emotional trauma may take some time).
I can do that.
And luckily this process worked, because it very nearly ruined my trip.
After the laundry mat I hightail it to the train station to meet Caroline. We are going to try to catch the 3:00 train to Algeciras, but seats are only available in first class. We decide to spend one night in a hostel and leave early the next morning. We have falafel and catch up on all the time between when we were last together.
The next morning we wake up early and head to the train station. We make it to Algeciras later than planned. We then take a later ferry than planned. We are plainly told that the ferry ride will be forty five minutes long. It is two and a half hours long. We had originally planned to meet Caroline’s friend at the port in Tangier, but when we exit the ferry no one is waiting at the other end. A man tells us to get on a bus. We do. He takes us to the official Tangier Med pick up and drop off building. We are over three hours late, and have had no way to contact Leslie to tell her of our travel delays. Apparently we took the wrong ferry and are subsequently at the wrong port in old Tangier. As we try to figure out how we will meet up with Leslie, we are never left alone. Men keep coming up to us asking if we need help and escorting us to the door or the ATM. They are not unkind and really do only intend to help but we are capable of figuring it out alone and all the constant attention is a bit draining. We decide to take the bus and walk up a hill to the bus stop. Cars pull over and pick up and drop people off on the side of the road frequently.. I think they’re doing some form of car sharing, but I can’t know for sure. After an hour we realize that the bus just isn’t coming. So we walk back to the port and get unnecessarily helped by another man into a taxi.
The drive takes about an hour and the driver plays popular Moroccan music on the radio. We drive by the coast and the whole time I can see Spain on one side and Morocco on the other. I feel dizzy and weird. I realize this is the first time I have ever felt even mild culture shock. When we are dropped off we are in the busy city center of Tangier. We are both a little nervous. Everyone is speaking in fast paced Arabic and moving quickly around us. We stick out like sore thumbs especially with our backpacks. What if Lealie gave up on us and went home. I hear a man say Caroline’s name behind us. “Caroline?”
We both turn around confused. Suddenly Leslie runs up swooping Caroline into a worried hug. We’ve been waiting for you for over four hours! I was worried!”
The man is Leslie’s boyfriend. I have never met Leslie or Saeed, but they are friendly and full of energy and I like them instantly. They hail a cab and we plan to meet Saeed back at the house as the three of us pile in the back. Leslie speaks Arabic as well as French and she tells the taxi driver where to go.
On the way Leslie tells us about Morocco. She originally had studied abroad here a couple years ago and decided that she wanted to live here for two years and really explore the whole country. She tells us about her original job teaching English in Meknez, and her reasons for moving to Tangier. She talks about the locals and what it’s like to live here as a woman. We drop off our bags in her apartment and head to a local restaurant where we eat traditional Moroccan food and drink bottled water. On the way home Leslie buys us all a smoothie made with avocados, dried fruit, nuts, and milk.
Leslie’s roommate is really nice and her father is visiting as well so the apartment is full of activity which is comforting in a way after spending so much time either alone or with strangers.
Until Next Time…