Lessons from the school of life

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August 5, 2010 by jessperriam

I’ve been on the road for just over two months. It feels as though it’s been both a short amount of time and a lifetime.

But if there’s been one certain thing, I have learnt a lot. About life, about myself, about stupid little things.

So here are my top lessons (or even things…):

1. Try everything
Cigarettes, whale meat, shisha, Albanian dancing, backgammon, heavy metal cover bands in Istanbul, suspect cheese, mountain climbing, impossible-looking staircases, the list goes on.

Just do it.

Chances are you’ll like it. And if you don’t (ahem, whale meat), at least you’ll stir up some controversy and have an awesome story to tell.

2. You’re never lost, you’re just looking.

This phrase is not my own. But dammit, I wish it was for the all the many, many times I’ve said it.

Nope, this originates from the two Australian sisters I spent a fortnight with in Egypt.

I love aimlessly wandering around new places. Or at least I love taking my time getting to places. And sometimes as you pass seedy bars, dodgy blocks of flats and menacing looking people, you’re not quite sure you’re heading in the right direction.

If you look like you’re lost, you’ll look pathetic for one (no one likes to look like a Pound Puppy) and depending on where you are, you might be taken for a ride.

But if you’re ‘just looking’, you’re merely on your way to somewhere else.

It makes sense in the moment, trust me.

3. If it’s sunny and there’s shade, just walk in the shade, ok?

No one likes unnecessary sunburn and sweat. Enough said.

4. Sometimes it’s not wise to be wandering the streets of Istanbul on your own.

But sometimes the alternatives are worse.

5. Just because the Egyptians built the Pyramids to stand the test of time, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’ve built your hotel room to those same standards.

Door handles often fall off, elevators sing songs to you (true story!), showers are almost always cold (but that’s a good thing). It’s cute until … well it’s not cute.

6. On the subject of Egypt… you will get sick there.

Guaranteed. Drink all the bottled water you can get your hands on, avoid meat like the plague, you will still get sick. And it will suck for a few hours/days/weeks. But you’ll get over it and curse the day you were sick. But it will be worth it and you’ll realise your stomach isn’t as iron cast as you first thought.

7. You can keep to yourself… or you can talk to people.

Talking to people = meeting people = hanging out with people = fun times. Good maths, no?

8. Just because something sounds awesome, it doesn’t necessarily mean it will be.

I don’t need to reiterate the Florence experience, do I?

9. There are good days, bad days and boring days.

Luckily the good days far outweigh the bad ones and the boring ones are good to unwind. The good ones make you feel more alive than you ever could imagine. The bad ones make you sit back and take stock of it all.

10. You begin to pick up on the little things you do.

a) I shut my eyes and smile at the breeze when a train just arrives at the station; I have this stupid grin when I first rock up somewhere and I’m walking around exploring.

b) Whenever I get a new stamp in my passport, I have to look at it. Straight away.

c) I will drink coffee any way it’s given to me: Yes, even Nescafe with powdered milk and hot water passes for coffee in Egypt. But also black coffee in the Faroes, shitty Starbucks on pretty much any street corner , the awesome stuff in Edinburgh, Turkish coffee with creepy fortune telling and deliciously milky Roman cappucinos. Yes, I am a coffee slut, not a coffee snob. I will do anything for the sweet, sweet caffeine. (But the good coffee is the stuff – it will make my heart infinitely sing)

d) If I don’t understand the context of some heiroglyphics or old painting, I will make up a story in my head about it.

Hieroglyphics, Phillae Temple, Aswan

In this picture, some guy is playing extreme cricket where he has to bowl the ball and not let the skittle fall from his head. Yep, the stories don’t make sense but they’re funny.

e) I will always go somewhere alone rather than miss out. Films, dismal comedy shows, lunch. Better to do it alone than let an opportunity slip by and stay on the couch. That would just be lame.

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