One of the questions most frequently asked in the last few days has been whether I will be traveling alone on this trip, or whether I will be joined in the end with any intrepid traveling folk. For a time, Audrey was going to be exploring with me, but life, love and really big, snowy mountains called – and so I will be doing the trip solo. Sort of.
In part, even when you start by yourself, no long term trip is really ever a lone undertaking. There will be meeting people, possibly traveling in short stints and the camaraderie that is the inevitable consequence of just going out onto a path and seeing what you meet along the way. Less obtusely, I will be meeting up with Jonathan in Addis Ababa on the 9th of December at a place-to-be-arranged (how very spy) and exploring the country between Addis Ababa and Bahir Dar together. With that in mind, what follows is a more-entertaining-than-I-could-ever-write background to Jonathan
A bit about yourself
So the worst, the very worst, memory I have is lying, with two hot and heaving bodies to my left and right, in a dirty, dusty, and closed tent
I’m Jonathan. I spend my waking hours pursuing, in parts, a PhD degree in psychology in a land which promised to be more foreign that it was able to deliver. I spend my non-waking hours dreaming of colourful people, intimidating environments, dangerous cuisine and the perfect colour for single malt whisky. Sometimes a little scary, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. So much so, in fact, that I often seriously consider plans in which my waking life can be transformed into my dream-state forms. This isn’t always easy to achieve, so I amuse myself, in the meantime, with activities such as reading, philosophising, adventuring, brewing beer, and sometimes drinking it too, so long as the conversation is up to scratch.
What made you first become attached to traveling?
No particular occurence made me become attached to travelling. I’m not even sure that I am attached to travelling, in that sort of person-category business I always go on about (some other time). I’ve always been adventurous and interested in new things. To be honest, often my motivation for travel is a negative: to get away from not-travelling, or to change scenery, shake things up, and so forth. That is why I love travel, and there are too many specific details involved in travel to pick on just one and say that this was the cause of my attachment. It’s the whole thing. It’s because I am interested in stories. It is because I want to improve my story. To put it in the kind of terms we like to use.
What is the most memorable experience you have had traveling before?
The most memorable experiences are, unfortunately, often just the most recent. I have had wonderful moments of “Quality”, where all elements come together into some inspiring aesthetic nugget, but mostly travel “experiences” are more like persistent travel “states”, where simply consistently being in a interesting place gives your day a twinkle. One of those particular moments, though, would probably be the twenty minute walk that was undertaken in a small sea-side village in Mozambique at two in the morning – walking down a dead quiet road, devoid of unnatural lighting, but guided by the bright moon and stars that the clouds had parted to reveal – with a sweet scent of cool night air washing away the heaviness and sweat of the previous day, walking over a sandy road past shacks and huts on our left and high-walled sea facing houses to our right, senses additionally piqued by an overingestion of sugar and caffeine. It was a pretty picture, but since my camera had been recently stolen (or misplaced), I was unable to take any.
What was your worst experience?
I might tell you about the drinking of “snake wine” which was almost certainly embalming fluid, or waking up drunk on a hostel couch encrusted in mosquitoes, going to puke in a laundry basket. But those were all charming, in their way. So the worst, the very worst, memory I have is lying, with two hot and heaving bodies to my left and right, in a dirty, dusty, and closed tent, practically naked (so far this doesn’t sound so bad) in a sweaty delirium – no wind or breeze blowing, competition for oxygen, humidity soaring, temperature just keeping itself horribly constant, with the knowledge that there were hours and hours to go before day break. Doing this for a second night in a row was equally, if not more, traumatic.
To be honest, often my motivation for travel is a negative: to get away from not-travelling, or to change scenery, shake things up
Do you have any particular pet peeves, or things you really like to do when on the road?
Generally I tend to be quite relaxed, but there are certain bits of group travel that sometimes get my blood boiling. The first is the inevitable indecisiveness and lack of interest in anyone in particular making decisions. Sometimes decisions are made naturally as a group, but sometimes arguments are created by the most trivial differences or simply out of sheer fussiness. To an extent, I believe that part of the whole point is to try something you usually wouldn’t – but I have also been guilty of fueling such discussions on occasion. The other thing that makes me sad is waiting. Not the inevitable and uncontrollable waiting around for the bus that will be here in the next 1 to 3 hours or so, but rather the waiting around for people to get their hair the right way, or to condition but only when there is hot water, or to change this or that item because it is possibly inappropriate – needless to say the individuals creating this annoyance are generally of the feminine persuasion, but not as a rule. Trivial, I know, but annoying nevertheless.
There was meant to be a positive part to this question. What do I really like to do on the road? Not sure. Being on the road is good enough for me!
What made you decide to journey into Africa on this trip?
I live there, for the most part, and wanted to go home! And you were going to Ethiopia, so why not jump along. Other than that, my mother was born in Ethiopia, and having heard some fantastic stories about the place I was very eager to go and see it for myself. There are some places you go because it is convenient and practical, there are others that you go to because you really want to go there. This journey is a bit of both!