“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair…”
Charles Dickens’ famous opening words from A Tale of Two Cities could just as easily be applied to the spectacular ups and downs of travelling.
Richard Ayoade and his celebrity mates thankfully seem to have more of the former during their whirlwind city breaks in Travel Man, but sometimes for the rest of us, the inevitable downs can rankle like a nest of bed bugs in a cheap hostel bunk bed.
Here we present some of the most unpleasant experiences you can have when you’re travelling.
It seems churlish to complain about crowds at major tourist attractions. After all, what do you expect when you visit tourist magnets like the Charles Bridge in Prague or Piazza San Marco in Venice - places that can be busy all year round.
But damn it, it’s hair-pullingly annoying when you’re trying to catch a glimpse of the Mona Lisa as a swarm of tourists crowd the lady’s space when they realise Leonardo Da Vinci’s masterpiece is much smaller than they thought.
You can almost see her smile turn upside down. But then you remember the irony that you too are a contributing dot to the chaos.
Which leads us to the virus that has infected the world, especially when travelling. It can be hard to see the Taj Mahal for all the selfie sticks. You wonder, as you too look at the magnificent monument through the prism of your phone, why can’t people just be in the moment and soak up the beauty that’s in front of them?
This one’s high on the list of first world problems, but debilitating nonetheless. Suddenly you become a right monster to everyone around you, you can’t think and exhaustion sets in. You realise you’re so hungry you can’t even appreciate an ancient wonder like the Colosseum that looms large in front of you. A cheeky panini later and you’re back to your tolerable self.
Getting the sh*ts
Then there’s the onslaught of WWIII inside your body when your travel surroundings don’t agree with you. It could be a stomach bug from the capsules of germ magnets that are aeroplanes and cruise ships, or a nasty case of the runs from a street curry. It’s never fun to be sick when you’re away from home, especially when you’re caught short in a public bathroom, strung out between basin and toilet.
Fighting with your fellow traveller
Something else that can really give you the sh*ts is travelling with friends, partners and family. Hopefully for much of your trip, it’ll be a truly wonderful experience sharing some memorable times together, but when things get ugly, that’s the real test of a relationship.
Altercations about embarrassing parents, what to see, where to go, where to stay, what to eat, money, who’s slept with whom, who threw up on whom on a big night out, clipping toenails, snoring... the list is endless.
On the other hand, there are times when you might long for some company when wandering around a foreign city, even if it means suffering through the occasional hangry row. As much fun as it is to travel, when you find yourself turning to say, "How cool is that?" to a friend that’s not there, it’s kind of sad. And when you get lost, it’s good to have someone to help get back on the right track. Some people like travelling alone and there’s a joy in that, but sometimes you can even get sick of yourself.
There’s nothing worse than the sphincter-tightening embarrassment of your countrymen acting like right knobs to make you wish you could just crawl into your backpack and disappear. The klaxon calls of “Ayyyyyyeee Maaaaaate!" and “Aussie! Aussie! Aussie! Oi Oi Oi!” are enough to make your ears bleed.
And even if your own accent doesn’t sound ocker at home, you start to notice how ocker you sound abroad when compared to some of the more refined accents surrounding you.
Everyone’s got a story or three about getting swindled on holiday. It’s a right of passage, sure, but it also rocks your faith in humanity. It may be the gypsy at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris who throws their “baby” at you to distract you long enough to steal your wallet.
Or you might get gently ambushed while admiring the Sagrada Família in Barcelona by the “pigeon poo” trick, where a scoundrel acting as a concerned citizen offers you some water and a tissue to clean yourself up after they’ve covertly sprayed you with some fake bird poo. As you fix yourself up, they’re fixing to steal your valuables.
No one likes being taken advantage of, especially if it’s because you stick out like a sore thumb as a tourist. But you can only hope it’s a few dollars you lose rather than all your memories spirited away by a nicked phone or camera.
Season 8 of Travel Man premieres Tuesday 23 July at 9:30pm on SBS VICELAND Digital channel 31), with episodes set to stream at SBS On Demand after broadcast.