A sizeable chunk of bloggers on the internet is primarily focused on how to get adventuring. Those that aren’t are focused on the actual adventuring itself. The ‘look at me! I’m somewhere cool’ posts we all like to read so much. For self-inclusive purposes, I would think I best fit into the second category. I like to go do new stuff. I also like to talk about the new stuff that I am doing as it may inspire you to try something new as well.

I think that its safe to say that our current society is judging itself based upon how cool you make yourself look in the social media. I see it as both a blessing (it give me inspiring ideas) and a curse (It give everyone on the planet an extremely unrealistic view of success and happiness). One thing I am sure of is that It’s not going away anytime soon.

That being said, I think something that tends to get overlooked by most travel bloggers is what happens after the adventure is over. How do you decompress from travel? This is a very real topic of conversation with my different traveling friends. what you do to process your travels, and how you transition back into your middle-aged workaday world, are legitimate things to be considered prior to leaving.

The majority of people aren’t professional travelers nor are they independently wealthy. This implies that whenever you return from your trip, you are going to need to reposition yourself into whatever life situation you were escaping from. If you went on vacation for a week or took that three-day cruise around the Bahamas, this probably will be accomplished without much effort. If you dropped everything to travel the world or moved overseas to work and are now about in your own country, this will be a fairly more daunting task.

I idea of decompression after a trip of three weeks or less is pretty much avoidance. A long time ago, I started planning a free day at the end of every trip. A day off between the airport and having to go back to work. This day was used to get my head out of where I was (cool adventure stuff), and back into what I had left (work). Granted, this day off looked a lot like me doing laundry, organizing pictures and video, and generally lounging on the couch. Needless to say, It usually worked pretty well. If I walked out during an important time at work, it also allowed me to check in and see what was going on. That way, I didn’t walk in and get blindsided by something stupid.

Having been back from a year in the desert for a couple of months now, I find myself still adjusting from the adventure into what comes next. Even though I had a plan upon my repatriation, the shift from constant motion and the immediateness of another culture to the (quasi) normalness of the American condition has left me with the feeling of lingering. And even though I know that I’m going to be off again in a couple more months, I still feel like I’m spinning my wheels.

The funny thing is , I knew this stage was coming. I told everybody at my last job that, if I couldn’t keep myself from becoming bored, that I probably would be back. Where I’m super good at being lazy, I’m not good at be listless. If left to my own thought for too long a time, I tend to wander off in search of something to do. This leads to the title of this blog, namely Istray.

I can have the best plan ever to do whatever, and then in the middle of its execution I’m mysteriously off to Europe instead. Proof of this statement. After I had been in Kuwait long enough to start travelling, I made up my mind that I was going to see the city Ubar. The city of Ubar is located in the Empty Quarter of Oman. You have to want to go there. It would be proper adventure. A year in Kuwait, and five countries later, I left the Middle East not having gone to Ubar. I did make it to Oman, Technically. I had to change planes in Oman on my way to Cambodia. Yes, I know. It doesn’t count.

but, back on-point here. When you spend a significant amount of time moving and then you stop moving, it make you want to be moving again. My plan for spending the interval between adventures involves writing book and getting another book ready for publishing. While it’s mentally stimulation, it is NOT the life of the jet set that I’ used to. I am getting a lot more and better writing done than when I was in the desert. That’s a good thing.

So, if you plan of being off on a grand adventure, my I suggest that you take a quiet afternoon before you go and think about what it will be like when you come back. If you’re off on sabbatical or structured leave, then you probably have this done already. If you are cutting the cord and running off, well then, this exercise will be a practical use of your planning time. You need to plan your trip. You should also plan what comes after your trip. It’s all fun and games, until it’s not.

Well, that’s my two cents anyway.

The scene of the next Kristin Hughes thriller. That is, if I don’t wander off to Europe earlier than planned or go find another cool job first.

Now, get out there. Plan your way into and out of that next adventure.

English as Your Only Language.

So, I’ve been reading this book called The Timbuktu School for Nomads. It’s helping me keep my head in other places over the winter, before I start travelling again in the spring. I enjoy the story very much, and it makes me think of my own time in the desert (such as it was). The reason I bring this up here is that there is a fair bit in the story about struggling with language. The author kind of made his own way out of Europe and down through Africa. he went from local tribe to local tribe and had to adjust to different languages as he went. it is my impression that he spoke some Arabic before he left Europe, but not a lot. Which leads me to me topical question, Do you find it necessary to speak more than one language, or to have a backup language?

I only speak one language. English. American English, to be exact. I specify the difference, because the first time I went to London I had no idea what people were saying for about two days. It took me some time to listen to the differences in words and start to figure things out.

In my travels, I have found that there were many occasions where speaking the local language would have been handy however, it was never a necessity. I have always managed to get by on some hand gestures and a big cheesy smile. Case in point, Paris. I love Paris. It’s dirty and fantastic and ( sadly) full of Parisians. They are the international poster children for being snooty about language. Or, so it would seem from the modern media. The truth is not so far afield.

Whenever I can, I stay a little place called Le Tim Hotel. It’s on the Seine, down the street from the Louvre. It’s a nice little place with good access to the Metro. Directly across the street from the front door is a corner Brassiere. You can get a beer or some food, and watch the street scenes play out as you sit. It’s nice.

Now, to set the stage, I wouldn’t say I speak any French, at all. I took French classes in first through fifth grade, and grew up about an hour and a half from Quebec, in New York. One would think I would have retained some ability to fake my way through, but no! What I retained were words. Words buried deep in my memory. The stuff that comes out when you’re talking and not thinking.

Every time I get into town, I go to the Brassiere. I go there every day, late in the afternoon, for something to eat. Usually on the first day I can say hello. The waitress French girl looks at me with disdain and shows me a seat. By the last day, I can string together a sentence, and the same waitress French girl will usually smile and ask me to stop speaking French and just use American. I’ll laugh, do as instructed, and leave an extra tip.

The point to this is not that they don’t like people who don’t speak the language. They don’t like people who don’t try to speak the language. This is an important distinction to make. I try to learn enough of any language before I go to say hello, yes, no, reservation, please and thank you. This little bit, if applied correctly, will warm the heart of the person you’re talking to enough, to let you off the hook. You need to start out in their language, and let them tell you to switch.

Second case study was the Middle East. (I may have mentioned this bit in an earlier post. if I’m being redundant I’m sorry.) The Arabic language is not and easy nut to crack. I bought a Rosetta Stone set before I left and attempted to learn some of the language. it was not a success. So, I tried a second time, when I first made it to Kuwait. That too, was not a success.

You would think that a big white dude wandering around Kuwait and not knowing how to speak Arabic would be a problem. I certainly did. it turns out that it’s not. After a little trial and error, some random conversations at restaurants, and pretty much every cabbie in the country, I learned that the base common language in Kuwait is English. It was some thing I was unprepared for, and left a large cultural hurdle un-leapt, though it helped me significantly. The vast majority of people in Kuwait are imported workers. The Kuwaiti really don’t do anything useful. Mostly, because they have oil money. So everyone that I ended up interacting with out in the city, the cabbies, the shopkeepers, the restaurant waitresses and the like, were all from some other country. They were from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, or Shri Lanka. They couldn’t talk to each other either, but they all learned from limited form of English in their homeland. So, by proxy, English became the common tongue.

I learned as I spent time there that it as definitely more helpful if you had someone in your group that did speak the language. I paled around with my British buddy Zahin. Z Man’s Cultural upbringing meant that he could converse in Pakistani. We got way better service and food at the local place when we conversed with them in their native tongue. I got perfectly acceptable service when I went at them in English, but I got way better food when Z Man went at them in Pakistani. People just respected that. That, I am fully behind.

So, I have found that if you are polite and courteous, people will also be polite and courteous. From Egypt to Jordan, to Dubai, to Italy, to France, and Peru, I have found that if you go slow and at-least start out I their language, you will end up getting the conversation completed. People are people. They just want you to respect their ways. After all, isn’t that why we travel? To learn the ways of others?

Have you had this same experience? Have you tried to get somewhere on hand gestures and a big smile? Knowing the native tongue is definitely good, but don’t let it stop you from going.

Kuwait, circa 2018. The shops signs in Kuwait are somewhat bilingual, as are the road signs. I think the camel just speaks camel though.


Now go on. get out there and make your own experiences.