Let me tell you one truism about backpacking. You can guarantee you are certain to meet some utter freaks on your journeys. They are the hallmark of the budget travel experience and are bound to stick in your memory for longer than you’d hoped. My advice? Embrace these weirdos! Enjoy their bizarre, off-the-wall company and savour their outlandish behaviour. Not only will these people be fantastic for your self-esteem, they will provide you with a whole host of stories to carry with you on your journey to other like-minded people you meet and will serve as an entertaining aspect of your travels your family and friends will lap up on your return.
I could tell you about the old lady, travelling with her daughter in Bled, Slovenia; who thought it appropriate to wear the shortest nightwear going in a shared dorm room, as well as leave her false teeth in a small plastic tub on the shelf I shared with her. Or the Belgian girl in Port Macquarie, with a rather skewed view of British eating habits, who asked my friend, if only English people ate English muffins.
Mushy was perhaps the weirdest, though. Let me take you back to Airlie Beach, Australia – September, 2005. A moment I remember vividly. I was in Airlie Beach; a place that marks the jumping point for the Whitsunday Islands three day sailing trips. On entering my hostel room, I was met by my fellow roomie, a young-ish, drink and drug addled guy who told me his name was ‘Mushy’; so called thanks to his love of the hallucinogenic fungi! I could hear the alarm bells ringing softly in my head, but thought nothing of it as he asked me about my travels so far and where I was heading to after Airlie Beach. Mushy then went on to tell me about his life and how he had worked at a local hotel resort and was on his downtime and aiming to enjoy himself in Airlie Beach. As I sorted out my stuff, Mushy piped up that he was a talented singer and had made the later rounds of the hit Australian show, ‘Australian Idol’. The alarm bells were ringing loudly now. As I had already established the guy could barely speak let alone sing, I humoured him and said, “Really! What did you sing?” He told me he had wowed them with a performance of the Oasis hit ‘Wonderwall’. I had to see this. I sat back on the bottom bunk and readied myself for this stellar performance. Mushy kicked off his song, wailing the verses like a cat being strangled by an excitable pig and then come the chorus where he broke into some high energy dance moves that involved him spinning round a lot and touching the floor. All the while, my fingernails are digging deep into the palm of my hand to stop myself from laughing. He suddenly stopped, looked to me and gave me the ‘what do you think’ face, to which I replied, “You were robbed, Mushy!” He kindly offered me some ‘shrooms. I politely declined, made an excuse and got the hell out of there. I returned after an hour or so to find Mushy had, thankfully, taken his talents elsewhere and that an Aussie and Dutch man had turned up in the room. We chatted for a bit and I then went out to meet some people I had met earlier on my trip up the Australian east coast. The next morning I woke up with a start to hear the Aussie guy, from the bunk above the now departed Mushy, yelp, “Aw, shit!” I got up to find him looking at his feet and back at the floor. “F***ing *****!” While everyone was out enjoying the nightlife in Airlie Beach, Mushy had clearly decided to have a night in to clip his toenails. And, rather than clear them up like any normal person, he thought it best to leave the clippings on the floor where they fell…for everyone else to tread on! Freak!
Maybe it was the place, but on returning to that very same hostel three days later, I was accosted by a young South Korean guy who leapt out of his bunk to photograph me. So, so strange! But, that’s travel for you. I urge you to expect the unexpected and, most of all, enjoy it!
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