The owner of the China Box hostel in Beijing is probably the greatest human being alive. He makes the Dalai Lama look like Hitler. And it’s not just because he’s friendly and helpful and funny. He also takes care of loads of cats, including a runt kitten we nicknamed ‘Frailsy’.
I trust men who have a fondness for cats. In my experience men who don’t like cats are typically bogans. And possibly sex offenders, though to be fair that is largely speculation. The only annoying thing about this God amongst men, posing as a mild mannered hostel manager, is that he has put a kink in my prejudice forming habits.
If it hasn’t become obvious yet, I’m the tiniest bit misanthropic. My approach to friendships is stolen directly from Daniel Kitson, the comedian who in my opinion is what Jesus would be like if he existed. Beard inclusive. His feelings are essentially “I have a maximum of 3 friends at any given time on principle. And even then, Chris is a c*nt.”
So forging lifelong friendships isn’t a strong point, and the types of people I’ve met traveling have given me little reason to work on this. They have however displayed similar enough characteristics for me to lump them into grossly generalized groups, under the umbrella of ‘travel wankers’.
Now it would be remiss of me to suggest that only foreign travelers are wankers. In fact, if I’ve learned nothing else from travel it’s that wankerism is a worldwide problem in need of a worldwide solution. Like global warming. Or hipsters.
But while being a ‘nothing as a second language’ traveller has probably left me experience and money poorer, it’s also provided me with an excellent invisible wanker forcefield, enabling me to pass off any local wankerism as merely ‘cultural misunderstanding’. But back to the wankers at hand (pun intended).
The first group I like to call Matthew McCoughnabees, largely because of their penchant for shirtlessness. I’m ok with shirtless near a body of water. I’m even ok with shirtless on an outdoor excursion if things get a bit hot (though I reserve the right to laugh when you get malaria). I’m NOT ok with shirtless when you’re hanging out in the communal lounge where I’m forced to eat my breakfast. They also tend to climb around temples and ruins like they’re Dr Livingstone rather than just waiting for the elderly Korean tour group to each get an individual photo in front of the smiling Buddha like the rest of us.
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Next up is the CSM, or creepy single male traveler. These come in two forms. The first is a little scarier. He just seems to sit around the hostel, not doing anything. Just sitting and watching. Not even speaking. Or at least not speaking until you leave the room, at which point he has a torrent of questions to ask your newly alone girlfriend. Where are you from? How long are you staying here? What kind of drink would you like your Rohypnol slipped into? I’m joking obviously. They don’t care where you’re from.
The second type of CSM is less terrifying but more annoying. He’s the guy who’s decided to go it alone, but it’s dawned on him that this can be a solitary experience, and he’s looking for a host couple he can attach to and suck the life out of. Preferably at the beginning of a 8 hour trip to the Great Wall where there can be no escape. It wouldn’t be so terrible if not for the fact that these CSM’s typically are painfully awkward conversationalists. I’m certainly no Oscar Wilde, but at least I only force my brand of incoherent male awfulness on my partner. And anyone unfortunate enough to be reading this.
The most common wanker, and therefore the most irritating is the tight arse Euro. You may recognize them standing in front of you in line, making you late for the only English speaking tour as they yell at the ticket lady for not accepting their student ID card which would drastically reduce the admission cost from $1 to 75 cents. This might be unlikely though because regardless of how long you stay in a place they never actually seem to leave the hostel. They always sleep in dorms but are under the mistaken impression that the $5 they’ve paid includes a monopoly over any communal TV or computer that might be on offer. And they tend to look at you as if you’re an impostor simply because you’d rather not share a bathroom with 50 other people all wearing ‘I went tubing at Vang Vieng’ singlets and representing as a group what I imagine is every entry in the STI encyclopedia.
As with any poorly thought through stereotyping, there are exceptions to the rule other than my cat loving amigo. I met one of the funniest guys I’ve known on a cruise in Vietnam. We shared a table with an English and an American couple in Beijing who were both endearingly lovely. And along the way there have been people in most places who I could see myself being friends with back home.
But these are brief moments in time. The nature of travel means you are constantly moving on and usually in different directions. Regardless of how good that initial encounter may be, it’s kind of weird to ask someone you’ve known for an hour if you can have their details because you think you’re going to be best friends forever. At least it felt weird at the time.
As you may have noticed there is one glaring admission from my list of wankers. We all know of them. They go overseas and become immediately self righteous and judgy, if they weren’t already. They look down on their fellow travelers, calling them names and criticising any behaviour that differs from their own, all the while oblivious to the fact that the most colossal wanker of all is staring back at them in the mirror. They probably even write long winded entries on other blogs narcissistically listing everyone else’s bad habits. But thankfully, I haven’t run into any of them yet.
Knock on wood.