Posts Tagged ‘Amsterdam’

45. Bedbugs

Friday, November 19th, 2010

Allen Brisson-Smith for The New York Times

Photo: Allen Brisson-Smith for The New York Times

Recent reports of bedbug issues in major cities (New York, Toronto, Montreal, Prince Albert — you know, big cities — etc.), stirred a faint but disturbing memory of my first run-in with the aptly named bloodsucking pests, which are as familiar to globetrotting backpackers as communal bathrooms.

It was in Amsterdam, on the last night of my buddy Mitch’s and my first backpacking trip to Europe (beenou). We were set to fly home to Canada. We’d wanted to stay at the Flying Pig Hostel ‘cuz it was recommended by an English dude we met in Prague as “the best party hostel in Amstahdaahm,” but given its bacchanal reputation, it was full. So we picked the cheapest place(1) down the street, and it was a little grimy(2), but would have to do.

Of course, we partied like rock stars that night and passed out in a fog, in our 16-bunk dorm room(1). I vaguely remember a burly, hairy orc of a man(3) drunkenly opening the dorm door to the bright hallway lights, stumbling in with a giggling wench(3) literally carrying her over his shoulder, caveman-style. Our cohabitants sneered at the light like vampires, rolled over and went back to sleep. He grunted and tossed her onto his bed, incidentally the bunk below Mitch’s. He proceeded to make it with her(3), beneath Mitch (a light sleeper to begin with), who was tossing and turning, kicking the creaky aluminum bed frame out of sheer frustration.

As white Greg Oden thrusted away, I lied there on the hostel sheet thinking: a) I hope they fucking wash these sheets well, and b) THIS is why you bring a sleep sheet — what if there are bedbugs in these mattresses?

We eventually fell back asleep, awakened by the alarm, the sunlight coming in and the disgusting stench(2) of 17 drunk people’s unconscious breathing. Always running late, we didn’t have time to shower(3); we simply grabbed our bags and rushed to the airport. On the train to the airport, I felt itchy under my t-shirt. Really itchy. I peeled back my shirt to find red little welts all over my chest. Bedbug bites. Just as I was coming home. Perfect. These were itchier than mosquito bites. It was terrible. I didn’t want to scratch them, ‘cuz I would’ve easily scratched ’til the skin broke, so I remember slapping myself constantly while checking in and going through customs.

But then on the plane, my face got mumpy and flushed. My cheeks were hot to touch. Mitch got worried, saying, “Dude, drink some water or something. You look terrible. They’re gonna think you’re an OD’ing drug mule.” It was unbearable. I asked the flight attendant for some anti-histamines(4), which she promptly brought me. I kept slapping away at my chest, arms and behind my knees. Then, my face cleared.

“Oh, the anti-histamines must be working. You look better,” Mitch said. I peeled back my shirt and my whole chest was mumpy and flushed — the rash was just moving downward. Mitch was laughing his ass off. “Sorry to laugh, man. It’s just so funny.”

Mitch later wrote, in an e-mail: “This bedbug thing is true. On our way home, Al developed some strange rash from what we think are bedbug bites, making his skin swollen and red. He looked like Woogie from Something About Mary. I was also covered in tiny bites but didn’t develop quite as painful a rash.”

In closing, I’ve compiled a list of reasons/red flags/considerations for possible bedbug encounters while backpacking:
1. Low budget
2. Second-rate hostel hygiene
3. Second-rate guest hygiene
4. Allergic reactions

- Nov. 22: It seems for some people, hostels aren’t all “dirty, noisy (or) packed with party hounds.” Jane E. Fraser of the Sydney Morning Herald explains: Youth hostels: how the dorm became the norm

Backpacking in the News

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

Link to article: What Type of Backpacker Are You?

matt-from-boston1

That's Matt, in Australia

This article was originally posted to Nomadicmatt.com in July 2009 by Matt from Boston, a self-professed travel junkie.

Some things I like about Matt (from his About Me page):

  • His favorite country is Thailand and his favorite city is Amsterdam. Both solid choices.
  • He’s down with buying bootlegged movies on the street in Asia.
  • Everything he owns fits into one bag. Very Clooney, on Up In The Air!
  • He hates people who brag about travel. “(They) are insecure and aggravate me,” he writes.
  • He wishes he had a better ear for languages. Don’t we all.
  • He doesn’t have a strong desire to go to China. I’ve also felt this way.

27. One-uppers

Thursday, November 12th, 2009

Traveling to a cool place is like going to an awesome concert. The experience is so good that you wish everybody could see and hear what it’s like. This type of feeling gives one a false sense of superiority, the delusion that other people are missing out big time. “You really shoulda been there,” or “OMG, I wish you were there,” or “You would have LOVED it,” are common manifestations of this feeling.

Don’t be fooled. These statements are stone cold, back-handed beenous. The back-handed beenou is a standard backpacker conversational maneuver. The speaker feigns a desire to share, but really it’s a need to gloat, so he tickles his uvula and pukes out a quick beenou for all to behold.

kristen-wiig-as-penelope-snl-kristen-wiig-323108_1024_768But even when somebody hasn’t missed out — when they’ve actually been to that place or seen that concert — it doesn’t compare. This is one-upping. Somebody sneaked out a little horn toot, which led Mr. Big Shot to pull the tugboat foghorn. The exchange takes on a sudden “check, check mate” silence, leaving everybody feeling stunned and staring blankly at the table.

“I absolutely loved Amsterdam,” somebody says.

“Yeah, Amsterdam is pretty amazing,” says Mr. Big Shot. ”I met a Dutch guy when I was backpacking in Indo. His mom was born in Indo when it was still a Dutch colony. Anyway, he was in Indo trying to get in touch with his roots. On a jungle trek we went on, he got bit by a snake and I sucked the venom out; saved his life. Years later, I went to visit him; he lives in Amsterdam. His dad like owns Shell Oil. So we got blazed, ate krokete and drove Maseratis through the streets of Amsterdam all fuckin’ day.”

You see, one-uppers can’t help but shit all over a perfectly good conversation between well meaning travelers. It’s a collegiate thing, sort of like how the goof with the ponytail challenges Matt Damon to an intellectual duel only to get absolutely demolished by Damon, who cites plagiarism and famously proceeds to get Minnie Driver’s number. My boy’s wickid smaht.

The point is: One-uppers will do whatever it takes to make conversation revolve around themselves and their enlightened, shoulda-been-there experience.

The weekend after we ran with the bulls (beenou, see 1. Aussie Guys), my buddies and I went to San Sebastian. The place was awash in backpacker overflow from Pamplona. We ended up partying with some Americans and amid the drunken blur of pub hopping and running into a number of annoying Brit lad parties with matching t-shirts or rugby shirts, I recall getting caught in a heavy downpour.

We retreated to an apartment a few of the Americans had been renting for the past month leading up to the Running of the Bulls. We proceeded to keep drinking and people were playing CDs. Completely dating myself, as this was pre-iPod era. Somebody put on Dave Matthews Band. And an interesting wrinkle in the time-space continuum gave rise to a compound beenou of unseen magnitude: A backpacker bragged about an awesome concert.

“Oh this song reminds me of when we saw Dave in some dive bar in Memphis,” said the backpacker, a fat dude from Georgia. That’s right. He called him “Dave,” like he knew him, not Dave Matthews. “This was way before Crash, before college radio made him huge and lame. He and the band were only doing small shows in tiny little venues. Blahblahblahblah…”

I wish I had more quotes from this guy, but I was drunk and, as a habit I tend to block out one-uppers.