The Displaced Nation

A home for international creatives

THE DISPLACED Q: In your world travels, which Olympics athletic skill would come in most handy?

As I travel around, I often wonder what it would be like to be an Olympic-quality athlete. No, really! I do. I just LOVE the idea of pushing my body to extremes, of being all I can be.

I find it curious that the Dutch sprinter Fanny Blankers-Koen, who won four gold medals in 1948 — the last time the Summer Olympics were held in London — commented afterwards:

All I’ve done is run fast. I don’t see why people should make much fuss about that.

A humble sentiment, to be sure — but, hey, there’s something to be said for displaying your prowess at times.

The way I see it, the pursuit of excellence — in anything, from sprinting to eating a banana to waiting for a bus — should always be applauded. Why be average at anything when you can be great at it?

And if I haven’t managed it yet, that’s not for want of trying! Except in one area. Like many travelers and expats I know I find traveling rather thirsty work — and have developed the skill of lifting a pint, or a large gin and tonic, with the best of them!

But with the London Games soon upon us, I keep imagining all the Olympic-champion-level skills that would come in handy for your average traveler, if only we could enhance our bodies in certain ways.

For example:

CYCLING

As a powerful cyclist, you could transport yourself the length of a continent without ever having to squeeze onto a chicken-infested bus.

WEIGHT-LIFTING

That would help out when it came to backpacking – no need to ban your girlfriend from taking a hairdryer anymore! Just man up and shoulder the extra weight.

SAILING

Did you know sailing was an Olympic sport? (It was actually known as yachting for its first 100 years…)

Top-notch sailing skills would not only make international crossings a pleasure, but you might also be able to pick up a bit of work here and there — maybe even end up crewing a mega-yacht for the rich and famous! (I know someone who is doing this job at the moment. He reports it’s quite enjoyable…)

GYMNASTICS

For the life of me, I can’t figure out how diving or gymnastics could ever be useful. They’re just totally random skills that take a lifetime of effort to acquire and perfect, and are good for exactly two weeks in every four years, until you turn twenty and suddenly become too old. Well, I guess if you’re really lucky, you could launch a clothing label or a perfume brand to finance your travels.

TAEKWONDO and/or KARATE

Taekwondo and karate are both Olympic sports and both fiercely competitive (well, fierce when compared to, say, figure skating!).

Imagine the healthy glow of confidence you’d project strutting around the globe as one of the world’s top martial artists! Downtown in a strange city in the dead of night, you could nip out for a taco safe in the knowledge that any low-life waiting to mug you was about to get an education.

In all seriousness, though, I honestly believe that some self-defense training is essential for the modern traveler. Not so much because you might get a chance to use it, but just knowing some basic moves to defend yourself boosts your confidence a hundredfold. And people out to cause trouble can often tell this at a distance — just by watching the way you walk. They look for easy targets; if you don’t present one, you may never even know you were in danger.

WRESTLING

This could be the all-time winner for us traveling types. Last in line for a ticket? Only one croissant left at the deli? Wrestle your way through!

Caught without enough money after living it up in a posh restaurant? Try skipping out. The maître d’ will never see it coming…

Of course, traveling with bottles and bottles of baby oil is going to present its own challenges — not least when customs wants to know exactly what it’s for. Then again…you could always show ’em!

MARATHON

Ah, the Olympic marathon — traditionally the last event of the athletics calendar, with a finish inside the Olympic stadium, often within hours of, or even incorporated into, the closing ceremonies.

I’ve always fancied myself as an endurance athlete, as a marathon runner — if I was ever in the right place long enough to train for it. That kind of endurance, the ability to not give up even when it becomes impossibly hard — that’s the Olympic-level skill I value the most.

Because, as I said, traveling can be hard. It can be grueling, unpleasant, dangerous and occasionally downright painful!

But as is so often the case in life, if you can just see past all that to the bigger picture — can take a step back from the hardship of the moment and find the strength and positivity to carry you through — you’ll be able to go the distance.

You’ll be the one still traveling when all the others give up and go home; the one who perseveres with the difficult language, makes new friends from scratch and/or manages to fully integrate into an unfamiliar culture.

And that’s where the real rewards come from, the traveler’s equivalent of winning gold: being able to appreciate what you’ve achieved in spite of all the obstacles that were placed in your way.

Because, no matter how competitive some of us world travelers are, the fact remains that travel is not a race. You are only really competing with yourself — trying to see how many life experiences you can assimilate and how far you can go towards achieving your dreams.

And more often than not in that quest, slow and steady is the way to go.

* * *

So what do YOU think? Which areas of athletic prowess would you prefer to master, and why? Any Olympic skill is fair game (hahaha). Let me know in the comments!

STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s interview with Olympian author Wendy Nelson Tokunaga.

If you enjoyed this post, we invite you to register for The Displaced Dispatch, a round up of weekly posts from The Displaced Nation, with seasonal recipes, book giveaways and other extras. Register for The Displaced Dispatch by clicking here!

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img: Chronicling Tony James Slater’s attempts to become a gymnast, a martial artist and a weightlifter of note.

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We interrupt this Olympic broadcast…with breaking news about a travel book that’s going for free on Amazon!

Now as some of you may know, Displaced Nation contributor Tony James Slater is also an author. What you don’t know (yet) is that for today and tomorrow — 17th & 18th July — his book will be available FREE to download from Amazon! Take it away, Tony! If anyone can sell us something, you can! Except in this case, we don’t even have to pay… 🙂

Hi there, folks! Yes, I’m here today to do a bit of shameless self-promotion. Can you ever forgive me? Listen, my book is called That Bear Ate My Pants. As the title suggests, it’s a ridiculous romp of a travel book, based in an animal refuge in Ecuador where I spent three months volunteering. (Some of you have already had a taste of these adventures from the first post I wrote for the Displaced Nation: “I traveled in search of adventure, and ended up embracing a simpler life.”)

To say that working for an Ecuadorian animal shelter was a struggle is an understatement. To say it was a struggle to stay alive — and avoid being eaten by bears and other exotic animals — well, that’s a little closer to the truth…hence the book’s rather provocative title!

Writing a book has often been likened to a Herculean task (usually by the author responsible, who inevitably believes himself to be unappreciated!)

Well, this one — my first — took me six years to complete. Not because the level of effort needed to write it was greater than for any other book; rather, because  — to continue the Olympic analogy — I’m an exceptionally lazy athlete. I’m pretty much guaranteed to come last, but then, nice guys usually do. 🙂

In fact, the only thing remotely Olympian about this book is the number of free downloads it’s had! In one sense, new authors and budding athletes are exactly alike: we all REALLY care about are our stats! My book has only been available for free on Amazon once before, in February, and there were a staggering (if I say so myself) 22,701 copies downloaded in just two days! Needless to say, this earned the book a place right at the top of the charts, which is exactly here I’m hoping to send it today.

So without further ado, here is a brief excerpt from my adventures, to tempt you, and all of your travel-(and animal-)loving friends, to want to read more.

Excerpt from That Bear Ate My Pants!

“MONKEY!” I shouted, as a brown blur swung out of the cage and onto the path.

The chase was on.

He skipped away with incredible speed, dodging around the corner and heading for freedom as though he’d thought of nothing but this moment for years. I bolted after him, grabbing the edge of a cage to swing me round in hot pursuit. The monkey was a good way ahead of me, and far more maneuverable. But I was faster on the straight. I accelerated down the narrow corridor between enclosures, and was closing the distance between us when he reached the steps down to the main road through the farm. This was my chance — if he paused, if he found the stairs confusing, I’d be on him. But no. Being a monkey, he didn’t have much use for stairs. He just jumped.

He made the ten-foot leap to the ground with ease, landed on all fours, and scurried off down the road. Pounding along behind him I had less than a second to make the choice. If I slowed to negotiate the stairs even part of the way down, it would all be over. Once he reached the trees by the first bend in the road he’d be gone for good.

Time was up. I reached the top of the steps at a dead run and launched myself over the edge.

In the seconds I was airborne my entire life flashed before my eyes. I seemed to have spent a disproportionate amount of it chasing monkeys.

Somehow I landed on my feet, with bone-jarring force. I was only a step behind the monkey — my leap had taken me considerably further than his — but my body was moving too fast for my legs. I managed to push off with my feet at the same moment as I started to fall headlong on the ground. The result: I bounced forwards another metre, sailing high above the form of the fleeing monkey, then crashed to earth and flattened the fella.

The impact knocked the stuffing out of me. It temporarily turned the monkey two-dimensional. Pain shot through me. I felt like I’d fallen ten feet onto a small primate. For the monkey it must have been like being beaten around the head with a banana tree. For a split second neither of us could move.

He recovered quicker than I did. Amazingly he wriggled out from under me and leapt towards freedom, just as I, still lying prone, reached out with both arms and caught him.

Unfortunately I could only catch him around the middle. Which meant that while he wasn’t going anywhere, he wasn’t particularly happy about it.

In far less time than it takes to tell the monkey writhed around in my grasp and sank his fangs into my hand.

“ARGH!”

The monkey switched his attention to my other hand and bit down hard.

“Arrr!” I shrieked. I let go with the recently bitten hand, but I had no other options — I had to grab him again or lose him. As I tried to grab his neck he bit me again, puncturing the thick leather glove easily and scoring my vulnerable flesh. Again and again he bit down, faster than I could even register the damage.

I lay on my belly, flat out on the floor, both arms outstretched in front of me and both hands wrapped around a frantically flailing ball of teeth and rage. There was sod all I could do — without my hands free I couldn’t get to my feet, and without standing up I had no way of controlling the beast. It was not the first time I had the thought; what the hell was I doing in Ecuador?

To Be Continued…

*  *  *

So if you’re a Kindle owner (or want to be), head straight on over to Amazon and grab a copy while it’s free.
If you’d like to read a copy but don’t have a Kindle, here’s a link to the free software that allows you to read Kindle books on any PC or Mac, tablet or smartphone.  (Otherwise, I’m afraid you’ll have to wait for the paperback…)

And let me know what you think in the comments!

STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s installment in ML Awanohara’s new series, “Lessons from Two Small Islands.” NOTE: The post by Tony James Slater that was scheduled for today — a Displaced Q on the Olympics and nationalism — has been postponed to early August.

If you enjoyed this post, we invite you to register for The Displaced Dispatch, a round up of weekly posts from The Displaced Nation, with seasonal recipes, book giveaways and other extras. Register for The Displaced Dispatch by clicking here!

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Images: Tony James Slater in Ecuador with his simian “friends”; book cover.

THE DISPLACED POLL: Which of these 4 travel champions deserves an Olympic gold medal?

Hi there, folks! In keeping with our summer theme — we’ve been talking up the Olympics, in case you haven’t noticed — today I’ll be taking a look at some travely-types who have performed what can only be described as Herculean endeavors.

Which one of these travel worthies would you vote onto the gold medal podium for their efforts? Register your choice in our poll below.

1) THE SPRINTER: Gunnar Garfors

The 30-something Norwegian Gunnar Garfors (he’s a tech and new media guy as well as an avid traveler and former footballer) will never forget where he was on June 18th, 2012. Because he was in Istanbul (Asia), Casablanca (Africa), Paris (Europe), Punta Cana (North America) and Caracas (South America). Yup — all of ’em! He managed to create a new world record by visiting five different continents in one day!

Although the “day” was quite a long one, as Gunnar used the advancing dateline to squeeze a few more hours into his schedule.

It’s hard to believe that something like this is possible… I’m guessing he didn’t use Qantas for any of the flights. (Okay, that little dig was meant for Australians!)

Seriously, he makes me tired just thinking about it! Can you remember what you did on Monday? I think I got a hair cut…

Definitely an Olympian achievement.

2) THE MARATHONER: Jean Béliveau (no, not the ice hockey icon; we’re talking summer Olympics!)

Montrealer Jean Béliveau took a little longer to accomplish his feat than Gunnar Garfors — because Jean walked all the way around the word. No, really! 47,000 miles… It took him 11 years — and 53 pairs of shoes!

At 45, Jean went through a mid-life crisis with the failure of his neon sign business. In his own words:

“I played the game. It left me empty.”

Jean liked the idea of sailing around the world, but ocean-going yachts cost too much. Instead, he began to imagine running away as far as he could.  He started jogging and working out but told no one of his plans — not even his life partner, Luce Archambault. When he finally told Luce, she gave him her blessing — but insisted that he do it for a cause. Jean chose world peace and the safety of children, something no one could disagree with (at that point, he was after some peace of mind).

He began by running south, but by the time he’d reached Atlanta, his knees had started bothering him, so he switched to walking. He waked through the rest of America, Mexico, Latin America, Africa, Europe and Asia — six continents and 64 countries.

His interest in promoting peace didn’t stop him from being mugged, as well as imprisoned (the latter in Ethiopia). But he carried on and eventually even came to embrace his cause, telling people that to achieve peace, we must see the world through “eyes of love.”

It’s an achievement so staggering it begs the question: what can he possibly do next? Where do you go from there?

“Hey honey, let’s celebrate with a holiday…”

“NO! Already been there.”

Another record, of course, belongs to Luce, who has remained loyal to Jean despite his absence of 11 years from their home in Montreal and his falling for a woman in Mexico. Once a year, she would come to him and they would spend three weeks together, in one place.

Jean walked back into Montreal in October of last year. How does the couple find it being under one roof again? Rumor has it, they’re writing a book together! Talk about Olympian challenges…

3) THE PREPOSTEROUS POLYGLOT: Benny Lewis

Brendan (Benny) Lewis is a polyglot who hails from Cavan County in Ireland. (No, “polyglot” isn’t a type of glue; it’s a person who speaks four or more languages fluently.) Benny earned this title — he is also a vegetarian and a teetotaler — after nine years on the road, during which he taught himself to speak eight languages fluently (with more than a smattering of half a dozen more).

I know nothing about Benny’s musculature, but it’s clear his tongue has gotten plenty of exercise.

Benny now considers himself to be a “technomad” — a full-time technology-enabled globe-trotter. His Web site, Fluent in Three Months, is a treasure trove of tips and tricks for picking up languages (called “language hacks”), as well as a tribute to his mind-boggling achievement. (I’m actually surprised that his head hasn’t exploded from the pressure of all that knowledge.)

According to him, it is no big deal — anyone can do what he has done. All they need is dedication, hard work…and more of the same. (Times a million!)

You know, I have to hand it to Benny, he’s the very essence of — sorry, I can’t resist — a cunning linguist. (Well, I said I was sorry! Please stop throwing things at me.)

4) THE MASTER OF EXTREME ENDURANCE: Ben Hatch

The British novelist and travel writer Ben Hatch is the author of a hugely popular (and very entertaining) book about a recent adventure of his: driving 8,000 miles around Britain in a cramped Vauxhall Astra, while researching a guidebook for Frommers.

“But why is that worthy of an Olympics gold medal?” I hear you ask. “Novelists usually aren’t athletes. And he only traveled around his own neck of the woods, Britain.”

Well, there are lots of reasons I could pick: because he practically lived in his car for five months, because he purposefully inflicted dozens of tourist attractions on himself every week, because he had a car crash en route, or because he stayed in a haunted Scottish castle.

But the one I like best is the fact that he did all this with his wife and two children — aged four and two! — in tow.

Can you imagine? While the family was attempting fine dining in a posh hotel restaurant, his children engaged in food fights and eating mashed potatoes with their bare hands. There were tears and tantrums in the car — every single day. For months. It sounds like my worst nightmare! And I don’t even have kids…

The resulting trauma became his best-selling book Are We Nearly There Yet? 8,000 Misguided Miles Round Britain in a Vauxhall Astra — which I can only assume was written cathartically, in a desperate attempt to cling on to what remained of his sanity after such a grueling experience. I think he deserves a medal just for surviving the first week. And of course, once the kids are old enough to read what he’s written about them, he’ll be in for a whole new world of trouble…

* * *

Right! There’s my suggestions. What do think. folks? I just know there are loads of people out there making epic journeys, achieving the unachievable, and generally making the rest of us look like couch potatoes in comparison. Do you know of any? (Olympians, I mean, not couch potatoes — I’ve got enough of the latter in my house.) BTW, I toyed with the idea of including an older traveler, as unlike sport, there seems to be no real age limit on world travel, especially with all the recent growth in the international cruise-ship industry (see photo above).

In any event, I’d love to hear from you — let me know in the comments, or hit us up on Twitter: @DisplacedNation and/or @TonyJamesSlater

And don’t forget to vote in our poll!

STAY TUNED for Tuesday’s post on a historical traveler worthy of a gold medal or two.

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Image: MorgueFile

Which country produces the people who travel the farthest, the longest — and with the most credit cards?

The Displaced Nation was contacted about doing a post on a recent survey by Travelex on “How the World Vacations” — the results of which are summed up in a cool infographic (see bottom of this post).

Since Travelex helps travelers with their foreign currency needs, they were particularly interested in finding out not only where people are traveling internationally but also how they are financing their vacations.

I thought I’d go over some of their findings and see if it helps me to understand this Big Wide World of Travel.

Really? Did I? Or did I do something altogether more irresponsible, and just pull it apart for my own amusement? Well, you all know me by now. You decide…

What’s up with international travel?

More people are doing it now than ever before. Even in the most parochial parts of England, folk are pulling the ferrets out of their trousers, staring at glossy magazine adverts and dreaming of something more glamorous than a weekend caravanning in Skegness.

Rumor has it that almost ten percent of Americans now own a passport; even more significantly, some of them have actually used them!

Yes, travel beyond one’s borders is growing — but so is the human race. So it’s only to be expected, right? (The numbers of people going abroad did decline, however, in 2008 due to the global recession, but in 2009 the upwards trend resumed.)

And now for some stereotype-busting!?

I’m not sure how much the survey tells us that we didn’t already know, to be honest — but I’m willing to be persuaded otherwise, if one of you is a better statistician than I am.

Where do the Brits go on holiday? Hmm. Tough one.

If you guessed Spain, you can give yourself a pat on the back. It is Spain. For two weeks. The survey doesn’t tell us this, but most of them spend the entire fortnight lying lobster-red on the beach before heading for the nearest bar. Had the survey asked what they ate, the finding would have been 85 percent fish and chips, of which most would have been washed down with beer — the local variety of course, because it’s so staggeringly cheap.

The destination that comes in second for the Brits? Right again! France. The main surprise is how few are going to the United States nowadays: just nine percent (versus over fifty percent to Spain and France).

The Americans? They head to Mexico and Canada. Goodness, that’s a revelation! And if they venture any further, it’s usually to Europe, especially the UK and Italy, or to the Caribbean. That said, there are a few brave American souls visiting China these days.

The survey doesn’t report this, but most Americans when they go abroad eat burgers and fries, even when sitting in an Italian restaurant. They drink beer, too — but the good stuff, because it’s still cheap, and imported, which makes everything taste better!

Noticed any Chinese tourists lately?

Thanks to its booming economy, China gets pride of place in this survey. (The Japanese used to be the most well-traveled of all Asians, but I’m afraid they’ve been displaced!)

Interestingly, the 1.3 billion Chinese are represented by a sample of 20,000; anyway, for most of them the average length of holiday is six days. Perhaps it’s not surprising, then, that they end up going to Hong Kong — which I’m not sure counts as foreign these days. (Didn’t my country transfer sovereignty to China in 1997, or have I misremembered something?)

Chinese mostly use credit cards to pay their way, despite almost a third of those being refused. Which is a shame, though I can’t say it surprises me. Would you take a Chinese credit card? Be honest.

And a surprising number, about a third, travel by boat. Still trying to puzzle that one out, given how short their vacations are. Fear of flying, perhaps? I’ve heard some nightmare stories about China Airlines.

How about Brazilians?

Another booming emerging economy is Brazil, which is the fourth country to be featured in a big way in the survey. Guess where most Brazilians go? You got it, their wealthy neighbor to the North, the United States!

But what I’d really like to know is whether the five percent of Brazilians who had their bank cards stolen were the same ones that said they traveled by rail — in which case, it serves ’em right. Everyone knows that if you take a train in Brazil, you get robbed — it’s, like, common knowledge.

International holiday central

Australia, my adopted and much beloved homeland, makes a brief appearance in the statistics for “how long they stay.” We’re at the top of the charts. Did you know that Aussies having the longest holidays IN THE WORLD, by almost a week?

The survey doesn’t tell you how often we go abroad and where we go, however.  Because if you knew that every man, woman, child and most of the sheep here take a foreign holiday every single year — and that the vast majority spend it in Bali — you’d have perished of jealousy by now (or else looking into emigrating!).

As it is, I’m worried that if the Chinese see that Aussie vacations are almost three times longer than theirs, it will trigger a revolt, for which Australia will somehow be blamed! 🙂

Herzlichen Glückwunsch!

In their write-up of the survey findings, Travelex said:

We were surprised to find that the most consistent destination for international travel seems to be Germany. That’s right! Germany. We guess lederhosen and lagers hold a certain amount of appeal no matter what native language you speak.

It’s a fair point — who’da thunk it? Even the Chinese went to Germany. Well, 1.9 percent of them did. (Which, out of the 20,000 vacationers surveyed, means at least 382 out of a country of 1.3 billion.) Germany must be thrilled at this news of its new-found popularity across cultures.

I suppose another surprising finding is that while Chinese are busy having their credit cards turned down, Brits tend to err on the side of caution, doing their money exchanges before they leave, while many Americans are still getting away with using dollars — despite the recent talk of abandoning the U.S. dollar as the single major reserve currency.

* * *

It’s often said that statistics can be made to say whatever you want them to say. And then of course, there’s the old truism that 97.6 percent of statistics are made up on the spot…

Not that I’m saying Travelex did any of this, of course. Far be it from me to cast aspersions on their information-gathering tactics. I’m just wondering if something like this can tell us much. Still, it’s a pretty infographic — the designer of which has certainly earned a vacation overseas, in my opinion!

Please talk to me in the comments. Are you into travel surveys? Have I missed something earthshaking in this one? Am I being too flippant? I’d love to know your thoughts!

Additionally, you can hit us up on Twitter: @DisplacedNation and/or @TonyJamesSlater

And now for that fabuloso infographic:

STAY TUNED for Tuesday’s post reviewing some books by expats in Dubai.

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Infographic courtesy of Adria Saracino, Distilled Creative.

THE DISPLACED POLL: Which of these 4 exotic sports should be part of the Olympics?

One thing everyone in Britain knows at the moment — if not everyone in the world — is that the Games of the XXX Olympiad (July 27 – August 12, 2012) are coming to London!

Although this grandest of international sporting events is still a ways off, we’re already starting to get into the mood at The Displaced Nation.

So I’ve decided to review some of the sports I’ve observed in my travels around the world that I’d like to see making an appearance at the Summer Olympic Games. And I’ll need your help with deciding on the most suitable candidate, which I’ll of course put forward to the International Olympic Committee — which will of course guarantee its inclusion if not this year then in four years’ time. Well, maybe. 🙂

Because I’m a recent addition to the population of the Southern Hemisphere, I’ve picked some of the more interesting and praiseworthy activities from my part of the world, which, I believe, have been under-represented at a set of games that had their origins in ancient Greece.

I know there’s loads of candidates in the UK, in Europe and the US — we’ve all heard about cheese-rolling and bog snorkeling and beard-growing…haven’t we? Ah well, maybe we’ll get to those crazy sports next week.

I’ll open with an oddly appropriate quote from the American sports journalist Robert Strauss, on how success is achieved:

It’s a little like wrestling a gorilla. You don’t quit when you’re tired; you quit when the gorilla is tired.

With that in mind, let’s get down to the voting for the Next Olympic Sport. Here are your four candidates:

1) From Australia: SHEEP SHEARING

It’s a job; it’s a sport; it’s a hobby…the Aussies even hold a world championship of their own! Apparently seasoned shearers (or “guns”) can have the complete fleece off a medium-sized sheep is as little as two minutes. The current champion is Aussie Brendan Boyle, who in 2007 singlehandedly deprived 841 sheep of their coats in 24 hours! Hell, I think he deserves a medal just for wanting to. Or perhaps something more akin to a straight-jacket…

2) From South Africa: OSTRICH RACING

Yes, it’s true. It’s a sport and everything! They have jockeys and racetracks and…well, everything else you would expect, though it certainly isn’t sponsored by Goodyear. There are ostrich farms that occasionally let tourists have a go — but it’s not for the faint-hearted. Not only are ostriches damn hard to get on, harder to stay on and capable of doing over 40 mph — they’re also quite dangerous. Near Oudtshoorn, where the sport is most famously practiced, there are two or three people killed every year by ostriches — and up to a hundred world-wide! Brilliant. Kicked to death by an ostrich is going on my list of all-time weirdest ways to die!

Amazingly enough, this sport is on the increase. If you happen to live in New Jersey, you might get chance to see some — there’s a camel and ostrich race coming to the Meadowlands Racetrack in four days’ time!

3) From India: ROLLER SKATING LIMBO

I know, not exactly Southern Hemisphere — but this sport is so amazing it has to be given a chance! Check it out:

Like most sports, this probably goes on in other places too. Other, equally crazy places… But for the feat of flexibility this activity requires, you really can’t beat the Birthplace of Yoga when it comes to training. In India, when roller-skating under bars and beams ceases to be enough of a challenge, they try skating under cars! And when that’s no enough — under LOTS of cars!

In October of last year, an 11-year-old boy Rohan Ajit Kokane took advantage of the 35cm ground clearance and skated, blindfolded, underneath 20 cars in a row — a new Guinness World Record! If asked how he’d felt during the challenge, I’m sure he’d have replied “a little low…”

4) From New Zealand: ZORBING

Well, it’s hard to see how rolling down a hill in a giant inflatable ball could become competitive enough for a spot in the Olympics —  unless the challenge was to see how many times you could do it without being violently sick all over yourself, whilst still inside…! (Oh yeah, that would take some cleaning up!)

As an athletic activity though, you can’t beat zorbing. Trust the New Zealanders to come up with such an immensely fun sport! I can foresee zorbing obstacle courses coming into vogue in the not-distant future — after all, you can literally walk on water in one of these things. Or, wait — is that the next Olympic sport? White-water zorbing! Now surely there’s something medal-worthy in that? As for an athlete who would like to compete? Me. I’ll do it! Please…?

So what do you think, Displaced Nation-ers?

Which of these four is worthy of being the next Olympic sport?

Cast your votes in our poll — and if you have any other suggestions, I’d love to hear ‘em! Comment below, or hit us up on Twitter: @DisplacedNation and/or @TonyJamesSlater

Img: Tony James Slater celebrates his zorbing success (2009).

STAY TUNED for Wednesday’s Random Nomad interview with a champion linguist.

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THE DISPLACED Q: Does living abroad make you more or less patriotic?

Now then, this IS an interesting question. Very topical, especially for me, as the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee is still being televised ad infinitum here in Australia. It’s almost like the networks can’t get enough of it. At one point this week it was on three channels simultaneously!

I’m not normally very patriotic — my opinions on the state of England and the UK are…well, let’s just say, that’s why I moved to Australia!

And yet — as I watch the parades, listen to the crowds shrieking, and imagine the atmosphere outside Buckingham Palace, part of me thinks: maybe I should be there? It is my home after all…and whatever else I end up being, I will always be British as well. I can’t imagine giving it up completely — it’s my history, man! And there are still things I do love about the old country. It’s an awfully pretty place, for one thing! It’s not England’s fault it’s being run into the ground by a bunch of idiots.

Mark Twain said:

Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it.

Transferred loyalties

Oddly enough, I sometimes transfer my loyalties to wherever I call home, at least temporarily. It helps me to feel more involved with the local culture when I’m in a place, and I’m the kind of guy who’s more than happy celebrate whatever makes their country great as well.

In Thailand, for the King’s birthday, I kidnapped a gigantic yellow flag and fastened it to the back of my scooter. I saw nothing wrong with committing a minor offense to display my support for their monarch. And neither did the local police — they stopped me to applaud my efforts!

In Australia it goes without saying that I celebrate their national holiday, Australia Day. I do it for two reasons: first, I genuinely love Australia and all it stands for — it’s why I moved here as soon as I could! I really believe in their attitude to government, their national traits and their value system. Australia IS great, and it works. I think that’s quite rare in the world, and deserves recognition.

Oh and the second reason? Well, you celebrate Australia Day by going out in the sunshine, down to the river, and getting drunk. It’s not like it’s much of a hardship to get involved. 😉

But Britain is “great” — isn’t it?

Back to the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. I hear stirring speeches from celebrities and Royal Family members, and feel…I dunno. Uplifted? Triumphant? It’s hard not to feel a tickle of pride when the eyes of the whole world are on the monarch of my tiny island.

But is it rose-tinted glasses that make me tear just a little, as the cameras zoom in on the Queen smiling at a joke from the commentator? Am I just caught up in the fever of the moment? The rest of England is going crazy for this. It’s hard not to feel just a little infected by it. But what exactly is it that I’m feeling? Mere nostalgia? Fond memories and a touch of homesickness?

As already mentioned, there’s plenty of reason not to feel pride in the country of my birth. There’s also plenty going wrong in England at the moment. The wages are terrible, unemployment is rampant, the economy is in the dumps. In my humble opinion, the UK is falling apart.

But the Jubilee itself was quite stirring, inspiring even, a reminder of all that was Great about Britain, and perhaps could be again.

Then again, I can’t help but remember that the Ancient Romans had the same idea: when the masses are starving in the streets, give them GAMES! A spectacle to take their mind off the hunger, to remind them of what a glorious empire they belong to — give them a taste of grandeur whilst they’re dying in the gutters.

Okay, so that’s a pretty cynical view to take. Hey, I’m here to play the Devil’s Advocate too, right?

So here’s my question to you kind folks: does being displaced — or out of your “home” country for any reason — make you feel MORE or LESS patriotic? And why is that?

Tell me what you think in the comments, or feel free to hit me up on Twitter at @TonyJamesSlater.

STAY TUNED for our next post, which will be on Monday.

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Image: MorgueFile

THE DISPLACED Q: On your travels, what’s the most memorable chance encounter that brought you closer to The Sweet Life?

Since the beginning of May, I’ve been posing weekly questions as a way of getting at how we travelers experience La Dolce Vita, or The Sweet Life.

Seeking truths by your own lights — that’s what’s known as the Socratic method!

But while my questions thus far have focused on the sensory delights that travel offers — heart-stopping sights, delightful sounds, intoxicating scents, delicate flavors — today’s question is a little different. I want to know about the people you’ve encountered by chance on your travels, who’ve opened your heart and mind to the possibility of living The Sweet Life.

I’ve been very lucky in my life. I’ve met quite a few individuals who have inspired me in one way or another. Perhaps it’s because I’m a big believer in fate; I’ve always thought that everything will play out according to plan, if I just let it.

Not that I sit around and do nothing. Rather, I try to do as much as I possibly can, in the hope that I’ll end up doing enough of the Right Things to shape my life to come. Some of those things will reveal their hidden meaning only years later, in hindsight…

“Life is what happens to us while we are making other plans.”

— American cartoonist Allen Saunders, 1957 (later featured in a John Lennon song)

A couple of early mentors

I owe this philosophy in part to something that happened to me when I was still living in the UK, thinking I was going to become an actor. In order to help my sister, Gillian, integrate into university life, I took her to a kung-fu class. The teacher (or sifu) became more than just a friend to her, he became a spiritual mentor.

What Gill learned passed through to me, and eventually we both attended a personal development seminar that changed our whole worldview. I became more open and generous, rejecting the lessons I’d learned at acting school about clawing my way to the top over the bodies of those less fortunate. My epiphany led me to see that acting was an every-man-for-himself type industry — not exactly good for my soul.

So I gave it up. I went traveling instead. When volunteering in Ecuador, I met Toby, who also helped shape the course of my life. Toby was my boss at the Ecuadorian animal shelter; and, as I recount in my book, That Bear Ate My Pants!, he was confident and capable, at ease in his own skin — just the way I wanted to be.

Toby told me all about his adventures as a professional diver in Thailand, and I began to crave that life as though it was the answer to all my heart’s desires.

He also tricked me into getting my head shaved, the bugger.

A Sheila who suddenly showed up in my life

After three months in Ecuador, I suffered some pretty severe reverse culture shock when I got back to England. I got quite depressed, and wanted nothing more than to leave again. Well, it’s England — can you blame me? (No offense to those who are enjoying the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations while reading this…)

Around that same time, Gillian was traveling in the USA with a bunch of friends she’d met while working for Camp America. I decided to fly out and meet up with them, in the hope that a few more adventures would dispel my unhappiness.

By the time I got there, she only had two companions left, a young Kiwi-Aussie couple called Richie and Krista. We hung out together for a couple of weeks and had fun, and one by one they, and then the two of us, left for home.

Back in England again, I busied myself trying to recapture the combination of excitement and contentment I’d found in Ecuador, but to no avail. In the end I left for Thailand, following Toby’s advice, hoping that another stint of volunteering would sort my head out.

By pure chance, Gill had invited Krista to come and explore England with her; I flew out the same day she flew in, and we met briefly at the bus station. I said my good-byes and was gone. Though my original plan was to stay away for three months, I got kind of caught up in things and didn’t come back for over two years.

The two girls meanwhile, roamed around the UK until their money ran out, and Krista flew back to Australia. Gill promised to return the visit as soon as she could afford to.

In Thailand, I neither knew nor cared about such things! I was having a great time, diving for a living and partying every opportunity I got.

Toby would be proud, I thought.

Until one day I woke up broke. I’d lost a lot of money to fraud and then had what was left stolen from my bungalow. I realized I would never survive on my meager diving wages. My friends supported me for a while, but I knew I couldn’t ask this of them for long.

It was time to face facts; I was going to have to go home.

Hang on, there’s that Sheila again!

By this time, Gill was in Australia, exploring the country with Krista in a knackered van covered in multi-colored handprints. In a series of tearful emails to my sis, I poured my heart out — telling her how much I hated the idea of abandoning all my hopes and dreams and going home.

She wrote back with an offer from Krista: I could come over to Perth and stay with her family! Krista had even lined up an interview for me with a local job agency — I could hardly believe it! I still didn’t want to leave Thailand, but at least this way I could carry on traveling. (Krista and Gill also pointed out that there were plenty of spare seats in their van…)

I flew to Australia without the price of a cup of coffee. I didn’t even own enough clothing to fill a bag. The girls met me in the airport with their crumbling van (nicknamed Rusty!), and I immediately learned a few things about Krista:

  1. She was prettier than I remembered.
  2. She was now single.
  3. She was a whole lot of fun to be around!

Six years later, after many adventures together, Krista and I were married in the grounds of Taunton Castle, in Somerset in England. Her whole family flew out to join in the medieval-themed celebration, and not long after they flew back, we followed them, back to Perth, where we now live.

Of course, it was a LOT more complicated than that.

But as chance encounters go — and in terms of the ones that influence your life the most — well, that one, for me, takes the biscuit!

What about you? I want to know what chance encounters have affected you the most during your travels — leading to new experiences you wouldn’t have otherwise had. And did they ultimately take you closer to The Sweet Life, as in my case?

Spill the beans in the comments below. (You know you want to!)

STAY TUNED for Monday’s post, a tribute to Queen Elizabeth for lasting 60 years on the throne, despite a period of displacedness.

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Images from Tony James Slater’s personal collection: Touring the Grand Canyon with Krista (she is in the green tee shirt), her boyfriend and his sister, Gill; his reunion with Krista and Gill in Perth, Australia, some years later (Tony is driving Rusty); all of this leading to Tony and Krista’s medieval-themed wedding in the UK (this is their “hand fasting”).

THE DISPLACED Q: What’s the most delicate flavor you’ve sampled on your travels?

In a month where many of our posts have explored La Dolce Vita, I’ve been posing a series of questions to nomadic types on the sensory delights the wider world has to offer.

Week after week, we’ve seen that if there’s such a thing as a formula for The Sweet Life — La Dolce Vita — it lies in learning how to take pleasure in simple things.

And, bless my little cotton socks, I happen to be a very simple sort.

Confession: I’m a bit taste-bud challenged!

As this is our week for taste, I was tempted to make a rather tasteless joke — but then thought better of it. Instead I will quote from displaced Chinese writer Lin Yutang, author of The Importance of Living (aptly titled, given our theme):

What is patriotism but the love of the food one ate as a child?

As much as I love travel, I’m one of those who finds it challenging to sample new tastes. It does not help matters that people seem to detect this about me right away and like to take the mickey by tricking me into trying new things.

The worst instance of that was in an Egyptian bazaar. One of the vendors encouraged me to taste the bright blue powder that was piled up enticingly in bowls identical to the cumin and crushed garlic you see on every spice stall in virtually every Middle Eastern bazaar. He pantomimed that I should wet the tip of my finger and dip it in for a sample…then chortled like mad as my face screwed up and my tongue shot out in disgust. It tasted like soap! Indeed, it was soap — laundry detergent, to be precise, which they sell by weight.  (Well, you’ve got to get your kicks from something! Actually, I think if I had to work all day long in a spice stall, I’d be playing tricks on tourists, too.)

Nothing like a Big Mac fix…

And now let us turn to the words of another wise man, the ancient Greek philosopher Socrates:

The best seasoning for food is hunger.

For me this is borne out every time I hit the supermarket whilst hungry. Everything on the shelves sounds so delicious…far more so than when I discover it weeks later mouldering in the back of my cupboard, wondering why on earth I bought it.

It’s taught me never to go shopping on an empty stomach — a luxury that, for millions of people around the world, isn’t an option…

But back to Socrates. Hunger can certainly make anything taste better. After one particularly long (two-month) hike in Australia, where I lived almost exclusively on instant noodles, two-minute pasta packets, bread and water (and okay, a fair bit of chocolate!), I craved nothing so much as the rich, additive-laden satisfaction of a Big Mac. Even my wife agreed! The moment we reached Albany, Western Australia, the town the end of the trail, we didn’t even stop to rest our feet — just hiked straight through into McDonalds, and ordered about a thousand calories of heart-attack in a paper bag for each of us.

You know something? That burger tasted better than anything has ever tasted in any restaurant anywhere, ever. I mean it! I only wish I could have eaten more, but after a thousand kilometers on fairly limited rations, neither of us could finish more than half the meal. (For which I’m sure our arteries are still thanking us!)

…or a simple Thai stir-fry

In Thailand I was always at my hungriest after a full day’s diving. Diving seems like such a relaxing sport, but leading two dives a day gave me the most voracious appetite I’d ever known. I’d blast through the jungle on my little blue scooter with just one thought in mind: get to the market NOW!

Though I’d acquired a taste for quite spicy food, I always made a beeline for the same stall: a friendly old bloke with a wok and burner fastened to the sidecar of his motorbike. He served up thinly-sliced chicken on fried rice, with a small bowl of flavored water that I thought must be soup or tea, but was never quite sure which.

Whatever.

His stir-fries were plain, fresh, and SO delicious — I almost always went back for another serving! After I’d been going there for a couple of weeks, I didn’t even have to ask; the stall holder had a second portion ready for me as soon as I’d finished the first! I dread to think what happened to his takings when I left.

But the most delicate flavor of them all…

But there was something even more simple that attracted my taste buds while I was living in Thailand — so simple that it didn’t even involve cooking! I refer to the fruit salad I used to have for breakfast (on the rare mornings when I wasn’t diving) at the Thai resort where I lived. The resort owner, who was also the chef, was one of those people who whip up anything, and it was all fantastic. Pad Thai with crushed peanuts, various other noodle dishes, and deep-fried dumpling what-nots even the Thais can’t describe — so call them “no-names”!

But this woman’s fruit salad outdid them all — even though I had no idea what most of the fruits were! You can honestly taste the difference when you’re eating something that’s been picked less than fifty meters away. That fruit was so juicy, moist and colorful, it’s ruined me for fruit from anywhere else!

It just doesn’t taste the same when it comes from a supermarket down the road. Or maybe it did, before it was flash-frozen for transport and crossed an ocean or two.

It’s nothing to do with my carbon-footprint conscience, or a decision to support local industries. It Just Tastes Better.

Does that make me a snob?

It certainly makes me borderline malnourished.

Because I don’t get my 5 A Day. Not regularly. I just wait until my next trip to Thailand, where I try and eat my year’s supply of fresh fruit in two weeks.

As for what that does to my system…well, it’s not exactly delicate!

So tell me: what is the most delicate (or delicious) flavor(s) you’ve encountered on your travels? You can tell me in the comments, or jump on Twitter and drop a line to me @TonyJamesSlater +/or @DisplacedNation. And if you happen to have a mouthwatering photo to accompany your story, be sure to send it to me at tony@thedisplacednation.com. I’m working on the promised “la dolce vita” slideshow! 🙂

Bon appétit!

STAY TUNED for Monday’s post, an entertaining poll asking you to vote on which celebrities are most in need of a mid-life gap year! (Something fun for the holiday weekend…)

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THE DISPLACED Q: What’s the most intoxicating scent you’ve encountered on your travels?

It’s Friday here at the Displaced Nation — La Dolce Vita time!

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been doing a series of posts in aid of living the sweet life — even if you’re feeling displaced! The key, of course, lies in cultivating an approach to travel involving the five senses.

We began with the eyes and the ears, and we’re now moving on to the nose. Have you ever had the experience of catching a whiff of something and instantly being transported back to a specific moment in time — to a memory so sharp and clear you can picture it exactly? And then it’s gone, almost as quickly, as the smell wafts away and your other senses take over again, feeding the real world back into the loop…

Smell is the oldest sense, it touches the most emotional part of the brain.

– Roja Dove, the world’s sole Professeur de Parfums

Smell, like taste, is tied very closely to memory. Actually smell and taste are almost the same sense, but we won’t get into that right now — largely because we’d be talking about how in order to smell something, you have to get tiny particles of it up your nose. And that particular conversation rarely ends well…

Because smells create such strong associations with individual memories, your ideas and my ideas of an intoxicating smell are probably rather different.

Ah, the smell of…Thai petrol?!

For example, everyone loves the smell of freshly mown grass; but how many of you like the smell of petrol (gasoline, for those of you across the pond)?

I love it. I associate it with long, busy days in Thailand, running errands for the animal clinic where I was volunteering, driving around looking for stray dogs in need of vaccinating — on my tiny little Yamaha motor scooter.

I could always smell the petrol when filling up the scooter tank — because most of the gas stations had only one barrel of the stuff, with a hand-pump and a rubber hose just long enough to reach your tank.

So that smell always brings back happy memories…even though it’s not widely considered a delicate fragrance!

The most noxious of odors — bread?!

Here’s another odd one. I’ll say it slow, in case anyone is likely to faint from pure, unadulterated, lust: Freshly. Baked. Bread.

Mmmmmm! Right?

Wrong. For me, anyway! To afford my trip to Thailand (and Fiji), I had a job working shifts in a bread factory in Australia, where that gorgeous smell permeated the whole building 24 hours a day. Perhaps because I was the only guy, and therefore resilient (or expendable?), I got to be in charge of the enormous, stainless-steel walk-in ovens. I put the bread trolleys in and, twenty minutes later, took them out again. It’s a process that has to be done quickly, or else the oven loses too much heat — but the trolleys themselves get rather warm in the process, and of the four of them, two had broken wheels.

You know how hard it is to steer a supermarket shopping trolley with a jammed wheel, right? Now imagine trying to do it fast — very fast — with a trolley approaching 200 degrees Celsius…and for 12 hours straight. Even my burns had burns.

I survived a whole two weeks in that job, and then as soon as my paycheck hit the bank, I fled straight to Bali to spend it!

To this day I can’t smell baking bread without thinking that pain — the kind that accompanies searing, scorching flesh — is about to follow…

Another smell to avoid: live jaguar!

Now I’ll tell you something you don’t ever want to smell: anywhere a jaguar is living! When a jaguar is confined in, say, a remote mountain-top rescue centre in Ecuador (such as the one I worked in and on which my book is based), you have to clean the enclosure out pretty regularly. Now what goes into a jaguar — especially when you’re doing this on behalf of a nonprofit that’s operating on a shoe-string budget — isn’t particularly wholesome.

To begin with, the jaguar’s body odor isn’t noted for its appeal, unless perhaps you’re another jaguar. And of course they scent-mark everything.

But what comes out of them? Bearing in mind they are pure carnivores, living exclusively (in captivity) on carrion. It’s not…I mean, it’s just…. Look. Just don’t ever go there. Trust me on this!

And now for some winners!

Okay, back to the good. Toward the top of my list of intoxicating smells is that of the traditional Australian Sausage Sizzle. Usually held as a fund-raiser for some charity or other, they never fail to rake in the dough because the smell — of frying meat and frying onions — is utterly delicious, utterly irresistible, and carries for miles.

Now that I’m living as an expat in Perth, I get to experience this smell on a regular basis, as there’s a Sausage Sizzle held directly opposite the entrance to my gym every Saturday morning.

The moment I finish my hard-core workout, I come outside and walk full-tilt into that heavenly smell…at just the point when my body is starting to crave sustenance.

It’s almost as though those cooks are waging a personal crusade against my willpower. And my waistline.

And you know what? They win every bloomin’ time.

But my absolute favorite? I’ve got to tell you mine, right? Then you can tell me yours… It’s food again (of course!): the aroma of fresh donuts!

This dense, cakey scent takes me right back to one small stand in Morecambe Bay, in the north of England, where I went on holiday as a child. Yes, to one of my very earliest trips with my parents. I loved that I could get three donuts for £1! And, if I ate them quickly enough, I could pretend as thought I’d never had them, and convince my parents to give me another pound to buy three more! Ah, happy days indeed.

So there you have it. Now it’s your turn to describe the most delicious smells you’ve encountered on your travels — meadows, Himalayan incense, sunlight on rainbows…? Tell us in the comments! And if you happen to have a photo to illustrate this intoxicating scent, send it to me at tony@thedisplacednation.com. Yes, I may make that “la dolce vita” slideshow I’ve been promising before too long…

STAY TUNED for Monday’s post, when expat Anthony Windram recalls some chance encounters with “locals” that have enhanced his sense of the bittersweetness of life in his adopted home.

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Images: photos of the gas pump and the jaguar are from Tony James Slater’s personal collection.

THE DISPLACED Q: What’s the most delightful sound you’ve heard on your travels?

Have you ever just stopped and listened — really listened, I mean? Yes, of course you have! Because you’re Displaced Nation readers, which automatically means you’re closely in touch with all five senses. After all, that’s what travel is all about!

But just in case those ears of yours have been missing some vital input — of the kind that would help you to appreciate life’s sweetness — let’s do an exercise in aural comprehension and memory.

Yes, it’s time to pay some attention to those great big flappy things on the sides of your head — you know, the ones that help cartoon elephants to fly? Yes, friends (Romans and countrymen), I’m asking you to lend me your ears. Don’t worry — I’ll give them back. And, by the time I do, you will understand why there’s a photo of wet grapes on this page!

Today, in the service of living a fuller Dolce Vita, our question is: What is the dreamiest, most beautiful sound you’ve heard in the course of your travels?

Beauty in serendipity

Now, because La Dolce Vita is all about finding beauty in unexpected things, I won’t wax lyrical about waves lapping on foreign shores, morning birdsong in uninhabited fields, or other somewhat clichéd ideas of a “dreamy sounds.”

True, it was incredibly sweet to hear my girlfriend say “yes” when I asked her to marry me; I’m sure the same is true for everyone who’s been through this stage in their life. In fact, I hardly heard her at all because she was crying so much. (I was crying too as it happens, but that was because I was kneeling in an ants’ nest at the time and Australian ants really hurt when they bite! Damn them!)

Now, I’m the sort of person who takes great delight in discovering life’s hidden treasures in the moments you’d least expect them. And I take even greater delight in pointing them out to everyone else, which apparently is one of the most annoying qualities a person can have. Especially if you’re having a bad day.

So, what’s the most delightful sound you’ve heard recently? Is it some gentle-voiced stranger, mentioning how bright and sunny the day is, even though the train is making you horribly late for work? Or is it the sound of someone telling that well-spring of positivity to shut the f@&8 up and p*$$ off?!

I apologize in advance for being that guy. I should try to keep my happy-happy joy-joy observations to myself more often!

But in terms of the most wondrous sounds I have come across, I’ve decided not to opt for the obvious — the soft harp music at my wedding in England; the sound my footstep makes in deep, fresh snow at 10,000 feet; or the poignant jingling of a Spanish music box, dearly remembered from my childhood, which I inherited from my granddad when he passed last month.

Instead I’ll go for the unexpected: the sound of rain on my tent.

Raindrops are falling on my tent!

After three months of living under canvas, doing agricultural work in the hope of extending my Australian Working Holiday visa, hearing that particular sound would fill my entire being with joy. Why did it have such an effect on me, you may ask? Was I looking forward to soggy clothes on the washing line or to a cold, wet sprint to the block of toilets? No, even a cheerful person like me isn’t that much of a glutton for punishment.

For me, the sound of raindrops simply meant…FREEDOM!

Because as any budding grape-picker knows, you can’t pick ’em when they’re wet — so any downpour of sufficient strength to wake me meant a day off work, for sure! No hours of bending over in the scorching summer sun; no cuts and prickles of delicate fingertips; no hauling of endless buckets, boredom, drudgery and indelible purple juice on everything. (Trust me, there are parts of you that just shouldn’t be purple — ever.)

Most of all it meant 6:00 a.m. was not the time to be wriggling out of bed, out of a nice warm sleeping bag into the miserable grey dawn — and into a set of filthy work clothes. No! 6:00 a.m., when the rain fell, rattling the flysheet and threatening to overwhelm its scant moisture resistance, meant only one thing: time to go back to sleep.

For me, that hard, driving rain was the world’s most blissful lullaby!

So there you have it. No magnificent concertos, no first cries of your first-born baby — even though no one will dispute the loveliness of those sounds.

My challenge to you today is to think of a sound that holds an interesting story about your travels abroad. What’s a sound that struck you as the dreamiest and most beautiful, but that’s unique to your own wanderings?

Let me know in the comments! And if you have a photo that accompanies that sound, send it to me at tony@thedisplacednation.com. As mentioned in last week’s post, I hope to be staging a “la dolce vita slideshow” before too long!

STAY TUNED for Monday’s post — a contrarian view of La Dolce Vita by none other than Anthony Windram!

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