The Perks of Being an Idiot Abroad

There are two types of traveller.

The holiday head hedonist who flows from mojito to mojito, hitchhiking their way from seasonal job to job.

Then there’s the eternal fretter who always carries multiple photocopies of their passport, distrusts the local wine and would wear a money bag if it were socially acceptable to do so.

The laid-back and the hung up.

relax girl photo

I switch from one to the other depending on my mood.

After first landing in Luanda, Angola, I was woken by several thuds on the door during the night. Fellow fretters on the flight over had warned me not to open my door to anyone without prior confirmation of their identity.

After a bumpy night, a friend messaged to say he was on his way to visit, so I warned him to be careful. He came by and translated for a sweaty, harassed looking guy standing by my door. Apparently he’d been trying to get in for ages as the previous tenants hadn’t paid their bills and he wanted to speak to them to find out what was going on. My friend explained to him why I didn’t open the door and he laughed: ‘So, she’s never going to open the door then? No wonder she’s so white!’

Similar paranoia took hold of me in Paris. After a night on the town I was one of the few making their way back home in the early hours in the morning. In the shadows I caught a glimpse of a man walking faster behind me. As I walked faster and faster, he began to run. Of course I ran too and he started shouting after me. After a good ten minute chase, he grabbed my arm. ‘Lady! You dropped your wallet. Damn it, you walk fast! I couldn’t keep up!’

girl run photo

Of course, there have been other instances where my paranoia has actually been justified and I’ve enjoyed a lucky escape. At other times, I’ve been too chilled out for my own good.

In Germany I spent an internship at a facility which manufactured weapons, among other technical tools. Security was oddly lax. Opening the door for the person behind you was not a breach of security but a common courtesy and on busy days, the security might be disabled in favour of a doorstop.

On a quiet day I was researching my dissertation on left wing extremism for my university back home and was leafing through an article on terrorism. I didn’t think before making a few photocopies from the staff copier.

Only when the sirens started wailing and the lights began flashing did I realise something was up. I’d left a copy on the machine and the plant was shut down long enough for my cheeks to burn red with embarrassment. After several apologies to my superiors I was glad that the door was still open for me to run home in shame.

As a medium height, white, blonde girl I’m lucky enough to blend into lots of crowds in the western world. I’m generally inconspicuous enough to get away with all manner of foolish embarrassments. At times, looking stupid is a blessing.

As a guy in the weapons plant put it: ‘Don’t worry, she’s too nice to blow us up. Besides, she’s not smart enough to do it’.

back girl blonde photoPhoto by FootMassagez

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