Every year, Sussex’s long Easter break
conveniently provides its American students
with the unique opportunity to
travel all over Europe, which is really one of
the two main reasons why Americans study
here in the first place (the HotHouse being
the other). After all, what else could be more
wonderful than walking around ancient
cities, seeing the sights, eating the local food,
and getting pickpocketed?
Actually, I’d rather settle for a mild case of
SARS and free beer.
To me, travelling ranks high up on modern
man’s list of the most highly overrated activities,
along with universal suffrage and Footballer’s
Wives. Ever since my family vacation to Quebec,
I’ve always been suspicious of going to places
where one doesn’t have a house key. I was
twelve then and kept insisting in horror, "we
can’t go to Canada; I can’t understand Saved by
the Bell in French!" A near decade of education
and maturation later, traveling, I realised, still
The suckiness (yes, I made that word up) of
travelling can be traced all the way back to the
first ever recorded tourist in history, when a
Phoenician sailor accidentally landed on the
shores of Britain and began taking pictures of the
Druids and Stonehenge with his hand-powered
digital camera, saying, "I like what you did with
them rocks there." The Druids later beheaded
him for being annoying, and ate his eyeballs with
As it turned out, I too decided to pack my
bags and join the eager throng of souvenircrazed
students setting sail to experience continental
Europe. Before this, the farthest I had ever
been from Brighton was Arts B, which limited my
conversations about England with my mom.
"Have you seen a lot of the country," she asked
me once. "Yes," I replied. "East Slope is nice."
Now, some may lead you to believe that travelling
is an enriching endeavour, which rejuvenates
both mind and body by exposing you to
other cultures by day and lavishing exotic women
at you by night. All these, of course, are true - if
you’re Justin Timberlake. In reality, however, travelling
for most students is closer to being homeless.
Let’s look at the similarities:
First, the student traveller is deprived of a stable
source of shelter; without which, he is forced
to aimlessly wander the streets all day. Tourism
propaganda use the euphemism
describe this effect, but ‘miserable
vagabonding,’ I think,
is more accurate.
Secondly, you never know
where your next meal is coming from or what
you’re eating (this is difficult for the picky, homeless
Thirdly, the traveller is reduced to living out of
his duffle bag, which he must fanatically protect
from other preying, grimy travellers who have
run out of deodorant and clean underwear. And
lastly, because of his unfamiliar and uncomfortable
surroundings, the traveller, like the homeless
person, is compelled to drink constantly in order
to be able to sleep at night and forget about the
huge blunder of leaving the luxuries of home in
the first place.
Yet despite these convincing reasons, some
people not only remain champions of travelling
but even pride themselves intellectually on how
much they’ve travelled. These same people also
collect Pokemon cards and routinely act out
scenes from Lord of the Rings.
Yes, they are the omniscient, rambling travel
connoisseurs. They come from everywhere and
have been to every place. In boast, they can
name you cities they visited that don’t even have
vowels and claim authority on where to go for
the best fish-head soup in Kazakhstan. But overwhelmingly
as a whole, they share only one common
salient characteristic - they are all very,
I encountered one of them in my youth hostel
in Rome, blabbing on and on about which
places he preferred over others. I asked him if he
had ever been to Brighton. "No," he said.
Great. Let’s keep it that way," I suggested.
Sad to say, my own ventures fell relatively
short of my stellar expectations and were instead
punctuated by outbursts such as: "You’re going
to hell for sneaking in the Vatican," "We didn’t
walk through the Sistine Chapel already, did
we?" "That’s not The David is it?" and "Zeus has
pretty small lighting rod...some king of gods."
At the Picasso museum in Barcelona, while
refusing to pay the extra three euros to view the
extended art exhibit, I did get to see the basic
works of the famous painter. It was there before
those legendary pieces - witnessing first hand
Picasso’s "bold" strokes, "playful" brushes, and
"daring" use of colors - that I realized I didn’t
know a damn thing about art and felt like a jackass.
Soon after, I left the building and paid a vendor
five euros for a beer.
Of all the places I visited, Venice takes the
cake as the most unforgettable city, despite my
repeated attempts to blot it out of memory.
For those who haven’t been to Venice, the
city is just like Disney World’s ‘Pirates of the
Caribbean,’ only dirtier. If you want a cheap way
to experience Venice, I recommend running a
bath, urinating in it, leaving the concoction to
marinate for three centuries, then tipping a small
log over so your friends can get on and pay an
exorbitant amount of money, while you pretend
to row them away belting out "That’s Amore" in
In the end, exhausted, broke, and my right
toe having turned blue from all the walking
when I was drunk and lost, I was quite glad to go
back home to Brighton. But to be fair, travelling,
in spite of all its headaches, has its advantages as
well. I did, after all, get cheap bottles of Jameson
at the Madrid airport to bring back.