Traveling here, this is medium mode, the same in South America and China. Most of Europe, North America, Australia, the rest of Asia? That’s easy mode.
All right, so where do we find hard mode.
Africa. Africa is hard mode.
I met Andre at the Hsipaw train station, in north-east Burma, back in 2011. In a place like this, the absolute dearth of English speakers means you share a bond almost immediately – what else is there to do during a three-hour wait at a rural train station, rather than chat with your compatriot? By then, and surely moreso by now, the train was not the most efficient method of moving through the region. So anyone here is either stuck on romanticism, or simply taking their time. Either way, they’re good company.
Among the traveling crowd, there is the invariable dick-measuring contest when the passports come out. Who has traveled more? Who has been to a war zone? Who has seen this and this…it goes on, but it’s never the real hardcore who partake in these discussions. They don’t do it to brag about it. For them, it’s a lifestyle. Andre was one of these.
He’s in his early forties now. He works a labour job back in the Netherlands, doing stage setup work for events in his area. It is steady work, although he said it took a toll on his body. But with the right work ethic, it funds the remainder of his year. This, he spends anywhere he feels the urge.
When I met him, he had traveled to all but a few countries, less than a dozen. This included three that no longer existed. He had tasted the thrill of constant change, of the true breadth and width of the world, of the invariably stunning variety of people and places that one can find with the right motivation. He didn’t live large, but he lived well.
You wouldn’t find him waiting in line to reach the base camp of Everest, or on a safari, or in a Khao San road hostel in Bangkok. He stuck to the third world, to places where the locals lived, and he adapted, living amongst his world, a traveler, not a visitor.
And he seemed, to all appearances, to be very contented about his lot.