Funny Conversations on the Road
The thing I miss most about travel is the assortment of human interactions it throws at us. The sheer randomness of who you meet where and the things you say to each other that neither could’ve predicted. Conversations powered by travel-stoked curiosity instead of regular-life posturing where we cling to our ideas of who we are. A stark contrast to these times when interactions are mostly planned and online, scheduled and/or strategically avoided.
So much of the delicious mystery of god-knows-who-you’ll-meet-how-today has been wiped away by well-meaning sanitizers and human cautiousness, for good reason. Got me thinking back to some of the funny things I’ve heard people say on my travels and the could-not-have-made-this-up type of interactions I’ve run into on the road.
Linguistically challenging situations one can always count on for comedy, once you get used to embarrassing yourself every now and then. I’ve said “good ass” to my astonished Bolivian guide when all I meant was “good night” (buenas nachas and buenas noches are almost identical! Whose idea was that!?). And “Nice to meet the breakfast” to the host while leaving my Cuban Airbnb, which was technically true but avoidable. My broken Spanish got a solid workout over three sunny weeks, and one crazy night I found myself in a fairly decent conversation with a friendly local sex worker in the back of a Cuban cop car (a story for another post). It was all cool and que pasa until we reached the police station and the cop let her out of the car right away but wouldn’t let me out. I had been taken there just to file a complaint about a scam artist so I was really not expecting this. My claustrophobia started to creep in so I knew I had to think fast. That’s when I found out “I need to go to the bathroom NOWWW” is THE most important line to know in any language. After shouting it in various tones of faux urgency, that line earned me my freedom. And then I had to make a pretend visit to the traumatizing bathroom of the Havana police station. Anyways, before I digress further, here are some of my fondest snippets of funny interactions with people I’m glad to have crossed paths with (except one or two, which – well – you know who you are):
- Somewhere in Thailand in a dim little restaurant:
“I drug you ONCE and you lose ALL your trust in me. Wow. Okay”. I heard these words leaving my mouth while at dinner with two interesting men. A handsome Frenchman and a no-holds-barred (I have yet to meet any other kind) Russian.
“Yeahhh,” the Russian nodded, “that’s how it works”. The glare in his eyes adding a ton of snarky emphasis. Poor guy, he’d spent the last half hour throwing up in some godforsaken “restroom” a few floors above. He attributed his troubles to this pill I’d given them the night before, and perhaps rightly so. Or not. Anyways, I should’ve shown more empathy, but I cracked up instead (this I will someday identify in therapy as a harmful behaviour pattern I need to break from). In my defence, all I’d given them was the ever-so-harmless PartySmart, an Ayurvedic (FFS!!!) pill I’ve been using for years here in India to take the edge off hangovers and have less of the headache/nausea aftermath that often follows a night of drinking. I suppose the herbal cocktail in it hadn’t sat well with his constitution or maybe it was something else entirely that had wreaked havoc on his insides. Either ways, “we got drugged by the Indian” was a phrase that came up a lot in our few days of island-hopping. What can I say, I guess getting “drugged” has loose definitions these days. More so in Thailand. No one died though, not yet 😉
The “drugs” in question. As with most things in life, exercise caution. Results may vary.
2. Inside a van full of post-trek exhausted-but-alive people, on a drive down a mountain in rural Vietnam.
The Italian sitting behind me: “Let’s fuuuccckkk in the meeeeddle of the ROAD!!!!!”
And you thought romance was dead. Much as I hate to disappoint, her words were less of a suggestion and more of a caption for the scene unfolding ahead of us – two highly excited dogs getting it on right in the middle of the road and splitting up just in the nick of time as we whizzed by. Don’t judge, we all have our kinks. It cracked up every last sleepyhead in that van the way she had subtitled that scene at the exact moment, with all the sing-song cadence you’d expect from her ancestry. Last I checked, she’s doing fine back home. That sense of humour will see her through pretty much anything – even 2020 – if you ask me. And those blessed dogs. I hope they’re relishing every last bone of 2020, going by their taste for danger – and each other.
Turns out I still have this timely pic of those dogs on my phone. They did pick an epic spot though 😀
3. “I ALWAYS respect women, you motherfucker!!!”
Irony has entered the chat.
Picture a big messy apartment in Dubai with a bunch of freshly indoctrinated yoga teachers living together while working for a yoga cult pretending to be a company (more on that in this older post). As one might expect, a ton of ridiculous stuff went on there, so don’t even get me started. One night, my roommate was livid at this older trainer for inappropriately touching her AND acting like he was entitled to do that. To her credit, she did the sane thing, asserting her voice and confronting him with: “You can’t do this to me, Ramshad. Learn to RESPECT women!”
Ramshad (yelling loudly enough for the entire building to hear): “I ALWAYS respect women, you MOTHERfucker!!! How dare you talk to me like that, who do you think you are you IDIOT!!”
I hope the irony has landed on him by now, though I highly doubt it. The conversation went downhill from then on, as you can imagine. This kind of behaviour by “senior” trainers was normalized and even encouraged in that company. This little incident was one of the tinier red flags (among way bigger ones) that eventually led me to quit and start my own freelance Yoga teaching back home, minus any cult nonsense. Speaking of irony, this cult/company called itself “artistic” and still does. Just so we all know, they were/are about as artistic as Trump is feminist.
4. On a tiny wooden ledge, 120 metres above the rainforest floor in Chiang Mai, Thailand a few years ago. “My first day of work today”: The 6 magic words you want to hear from the guy clasping your harness onto the cable so you can zipline across Asia’s longest zipline in the next few minutes. A sea of treetops in every direction, nowhere to run. I had yet to acquire a taste for the madness of voluntarily stepping into the green abyss – 10 times for 10 ziplines making 5 km in all. He was kidding and it’s funny now, but I could’ve sworn it wasn’t funny up there. A little later, I did get dangerously stuck about three-fourths of the way on that zipline and another guide had to clamber over to drag me to safety, so maybe he wasn’t entirely kidding….? Some answers I’ll never know.
Looking happy while scared is one of my most under-rated skills
5. Somewhere in the high mountain passes of Ladakh, where one just has to get out of the car to gawk at the scenery and stretch out a few limbs. We looked around at some impossible-to-exaggerate beauty all around us, mountains stretching endlessly from one end of the horizon to the other. Taking in all that surrealness and also taking a few pointless photos, I said to my then-boyfriend, “There’s just no way in hell a camera could ever capture all of this beauty. Damnnn look at all this!”
Took him a second to offer in all seriousness: “Try Panorama mode”.
Germans, I tell you. There’s always a practical solution in technology, if you just ask.
He wasn’t entirely wrong about Panorama mode, I’ll give him that 🙂
6. “Aise ghoomne se, aapka sab dar khul jaega” (By spinning like this, all your fears will leave you.) I’ll never forget this line.
This was somewhere in the skies of Bir, North India. Above the hills and between the clouds. Not the best place to have your paragliding seat adjusted. By a smart-talking 18-year-old guide no less. You might want to get that seat fully sorted before you go running off the hilltop and into the skies, but oh well, we were young and dumb and lucky. Anyways, to take things up a notch he started spinning the paraglide in crazy spirals. That’s when things got way real for me. Reasoning with teenagers on earth is difficult enough, but try doing that up in the sky with your life at stake. I remember yelling at him to stop spinning but he had this psychological theory he was hell-bent on proving mid-air: Aise ghoomne se, aapka sab dar khul jaega. And oh, did he spin up there. I let out the loudest, most primal screams I didn’t even know I was capable of. But that just seemed to encourage his spinning ways. In his feeble defence, I suppose that’s the only way he knew how to make a girl scream? We can only hope he’s learned more earth-based ways since then.
7. And on my recent (by lockdown standards) Vietnam trip this year, about ten of us sat huddled in the darkest depths of a massive cave, all our headlamps turned off. A few slippery metres away from an abyss or two. Just to appreciate how hopelessly dark the darkness can get. After some pitch black minutes of reckoning with the silence in the cave and the voices in my head, my 24-year-old guide informs me: “If all our headlamps stop working now, we will never get out.” Thanks dude, I needed that. The same guy (from Greenland Tours, Phong Nha) sent me this cute little video he made later (really sweet of him) that day after we all did get out alive and I was clearly very happy to be alive that day 🙂
Here’s what I had to wonder. Why do guides (guides! they’re supposed to be GUIDING!) seem to love saying the most un-reassuring thing to me at the most precarious of moments? I did sense a pattern when this kept happening to me on every other trip. But do I ever learn? No. I keep signing up for these experiences on an impulse and a last-minute waiver form. Often in flip-flops and before coffee.
Experience confirms that someday, these could-not-have-made-this-up moments will crack me up and wrap me in a warm haze of remembrance. And I’ll feel richer for the whimsy and warmth I keep finding in them. More so when that “someday” is one of these pandemic days, and I can be grateful as all hell that I have such a reservoir of pre-covid travel memories to look back on and have good long laughs about. I don’t know about you, but I’m counting on a boatload of humor to get me through this little thing called 2020 🙂 Fingers crossed!
I’d love to hear from you the funny interactions/anecdotes from your on-the-road memories, so let me know in the comments!
And if you liked this post enough to PIN it for later, here you go: