You, the People

My co-worker asked me today what my favorite thing to do was. “And you can’t say writing.” It took me a moment, but when I replied with “traveling”, it was with absolute conviction.

I do, I love traveling. Different states, different countries, it doesn’t matter. I love seeing different cultures, I love eating foods local to the area, and I love feeling the street beneath my feet. When I travel, I walk around a lot. Certain places have the “must-see” landmarks, and I check those out – the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Sangrada Familia in Barcelona, Bill Hickock’s grave in Deadwood – but I don’t do it on a tourist bus or with a group of like-minded visitors. I like to go off the beaten path, I love seeing the city and the people who make it come alive.

I remember being in Dublin with my friend Sean and we got lost wandering around. We ended up in some neighborhood walking past a guy on his back, fixing his car and some kids out playing in the road. I will take that 10/10 times before I take someone pointing out landmarks with a practiced speech that doesn’t quite distract from the half-dead eyes looking through and past the audience.

“I love exploring,” I told my co-worker. “I’m restless by nature.”

That’s why Alaska fucking sucks the life out of me. The nature’s gorgeous, best in the world. Anchorage is easy to grow comfortable in. There’s work here, and good money in it, but it’s not for me. It’s funny how the biggest state with so much open space makes me so claustrophobic. I need variety, I need people, I need new.

“I love seeing new places, trying new things. I love meeting people, man.”

The minute those last five words left my mouth, I realised that they were absolutely true. I update my Facebook and my Twitter fairly regularly with stories about awful customers or asinine questions I’m asked, and people occasionally think I hate my job, or that I hate people. Hell, sometimes I think I hate people.

The truth is, those customers are rare. That’s why they stick out so much, that’s why they make such fun stories to tell and retell. Honestly, though, I work retail and I have worked retail for almost thirteen years because I goddamn love people.

Don’t get me wrong: if I could support myself with my writing, I would in a heartbeat. I’d even take a pay cut if it meant I could write full-time. I’m not a materialistic guy. I love diamonds and flashy shit, I love video games and cushy shit, but if I made enough money to buy a van to live out of, a gym membership so I could score showers, and enough to eat at least once a day, I’d fucking do it in a heartbeat.

But I don’t. Not yet. So I work retail, and I’ve got to tell you, even if one asshole can ruin my day, they are few and far between. You meet loads more interesting, hilarious, tragic, beautiful people working a customer service job. As a writer, that’s the best goddamn material I could have.

And traveling? I love meeting new people. I love the locals, who tell me about their lives and their culture and their families and the holes-in-the-wall. I love the tourists, who tell me of their travels with the same kind of free soul and wide-eyed wonderment I’ve got going on in my own cage of a body.

My first day in Munich eight years ago, Sean and I arrived early. Too early to check into our hostel, in fact, so we tottered down to the laundromat to clean our clothes. The machines were unfamiliar to us and the instructions weren’t in English, either. The German owner didn’t speak a lick of our language either, which was frustrating for all parties involved, but after spending several minutes trying to demonstrate how to operate the machines, he just did it for us. He must have seen the relief and embarrassment on our faces, because the tension immediately left his, and he laughed and smiled.

Sean and I dropped our stuff off at the hostel afterwards and went to Oktoberfest when it opened (10AM, if I recall correctly) and…well, it was an experience. I met loads of interesting people, all of whom I could write about at length, but it was after the festival that stuck with me.

Sean and I wound up at the hostel just down the street from ours. It may have even been next door. That hostel was the party hostel, and where a couple Australians we had met in Barcelona were staying. We hung out there a while, drinking more, and chatting. I wound up dancing on the table with a woman from the east coast. What the hell was her name? It started with an L. Maybe a D. Brunette, pretty. We danced on the table until we got kicked off, and I lamented that I wasn’t able to get a photo. She dared me to jump back up, promising to snap a picture for me. I did and she did and we laughed and bought another round.

The next morning, I was in the lobby of my hostel using the computer. She was on her way out, on to the next destination. I walked her to the door, we chatted a bit, and she kissed me. I kissed her back. She left, and we never spoke or saw each other again. She may never even have thought of me, and that’s fine. For me, it was an experience and experiences are stories. I think you know I love stories.

I fucking love traveling. I love people. That’s where the good shit is at. That’s where all the interesting nugs are buried.

I fall in love every goddamn day with people. Not necessarily a romantic love. I love who people are. I love their motivations. I love what makes them, them: their fears, their hobbies, their weird quirks, their first loves, their disastrous sex stories, their tearful losses and reunions, the girl or boy that got away and the one who didn’t that they can’t stop talking about.

I get frustrated with people who don’t appreciate life, with the things that they have. I get frustrated with people who are unnecessarily mean or who are unnecessarily difficult, and that’s hypocritical, because that has been me. I admit to being an asshole. I’ve hurt people. I’ve talked some shit. I’ve been selfish, and those are all things I try to work on, because I don’t like hurting and I don’t like hurting others.

You fuckers are so goddamn beautiful, so intelligent and creative and strong, you’ve got so much drive. You’re capable of so much, and I love meeting you. I love learning and writing about you. You’re everything that is right with the world, when you want to be, and I’ll travel all over the world to share in a little piece of that.

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