Leif Pettersen's Travelogue

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Notes From A Lonely Traveler

Posted on 8/3/03

I should preface this essay by saying that I prefer traveling alone above all other options. I sleep when I want to sleep, walk 20 miles in one day without anyone calling me a “Travel Nazi” and drink one too many glasses of, well, lessee what do I have here? Villa Doluca, 2001. “Produce of Turkey?.” Huh. Since when did Turkey make wine? Well, I’m gonna drink this whole thing by myself dammit. Anyway, the point is that I’m in charge and that’s the way I like it. Especially when I am on a marathon tour of western Europe and I have a sketchy schedule that gives me from June through about November to get through and write about Iceland (well, technically that visit was last fall), Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Austria, The Czech Republic, The Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Ireland, Scotland, Spain, Portugal, France, Switzerland, Italy, Greece and any other countries that get in my way. Despite any affections I may have for the places I visit and the hangovers that I inflict upon myself, I need to stay focused and keep moving. This may sound like a dreamy cake walk to the rest of you, but traveling and writing at top speed like I’m doing has it’s own brand of stress, frustration, surprises and life altering experiences.

Whoops, got on a tangent there, didn’t I? Where was I? Oh right… Despite my selfish approach to my “job,” as I sit and have dinner alone for the fifth time this week, I can’t help but wish I had someone to entertain, or better yet, someone to entertain me. This probably doesn’t come as a surprise to many of you, but I am a huge extrovert and I think that I’m fricking hilarious, so having to sit and crack jokes to myself 80% of the time really bites the big, fat large one.

Many has been the time on this tour of Europe that I have seen something very extraordinary and said out loud, “Holy shit! Did you see that?” and realized belatedly that I was talking to no one. Sometimes the strangers in earshot that understood English would look at me and grin, but that’s about the best I got. Let’s face it, I am on a trip of a lifetime and I am experiencing things on a daily and sometimes hourly basis that drop my jaw down to my sternum and there is no one there to share these moments with me. It sucks donkey balls. I take notes, I record MP3s, take digital pictures and AVIs of live action and despite my goal to eventually share all of these experiences through my essays, I can’t help but think how some of these situations would have been enriched with someone there to loose their shit with me or laugh like brain damaged hyenas together.

As much as I would like to share these events with my countrymen and (especially) countrywomen, there are the inverse, ugly moments where I duck down and engage my best Norwegian accent while in earshot of some dipshit Americans ruining it for the rest of us. While there are hoards of Americans in Europe who are traveling with the best of intentions, there are an equal number of us, many of them between the ages of 18 and 20, on their first big trip apart from mommy and daddy and suddenly find themselves in countries where it is perfectly legal for them to drink. It’s not pretty. The drinking age in Europe is 18 and in many places beer and wine are cheaper than water. No kidding. I’ve often wondered if these people came over 2,000 miles to explore new countries, experience different cultures and expand their minds or if they came all that way just to party. I’m embarrassed to say that an alarming number of them lose sight of the former and engage in the latter.

Nothing wilts the cause of improving the American image than a drunken 19 year old at 11:30 on a Wednesday night at a camp site, shouting unpleasantries to his buddies, with at least 75 people in earshot, in the worst fake British accent imaginable. Sadly, this is what young Americans tend do when they are cut loose in Europe. As if “President” Bush (quotes courtesy of Michael Moore. PS – Read “Stupid White Men” now!) weren’t doing enough to make us look bad, these fuck-ups have to zoom across the Pond and make us look like even bigger dicks.

So as you can see, I am tortured by my desire for and my loathing of some good ol’ American companionship. As I walked through Mozart’s residence it would have been nice to have someone to make bug-eyes at upon learning that the little fucker was composing symphonies at age seven, but then I would have also liked to have evaporated into thin air while the drunken, middle-aged man and his wife were staggering out of the Stiegl’s brewery in Salzburg, babbling to the staff in the worst possible phrase book German “Dankeschön! Ich bin ein Berliner!!!” (“Thank you very much! I am a jelly-doughnut!”*) (*If you don’t already know this story by now, you should be filleted and marinated like a $5.99 Red Lobster Special, but while John F. Kennedy was visiting Berlin he made an impassioned speech that climaxed when he tried to say “I am a Berliner,” but through a hilarious translation screw-up, he succeeded in saying “I am a jelly-doughnut!” Ha ha!!) Scenes like this (we weren’t even in Berlin!) make me break out hives.

The last thing I want to address in regards to my sporadic loneliness is the inclination that many of you may have that I desperately need to get laid as fast and furious as possible. If you have been reading my babbling closely you might have noticed a pattern emerging in my repeated comments about ogling the women, the nudity and my new pursuit for a completely braless society. I would like to say without hesitation that everything that you are thinking is true. I need to get laid. Now. Like this minute. Seriously. Does anybody know anyone in Vienna? I’m desperate here.

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