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Tales of thirty-something, wannabe backpacker, part 2

Written by Jesse Wilkinson

 

Recap of part 1: landed in Honduras; took a bus; took a ferry; got a dirty hostel room on the beach; smoked cigars; drove a scooter; saw some fish; drank bourbon; got a tan.

Now judging from part 1, you might be thinking ‘what is there left to do in Honduras?’  But there was one thing left to do, and that’s shed the last vestiges of my youth. I’ll get to that now.

So, if there’s one thing to say about Hondurans, it’s that they’re persistent. If they want to sell you something, they will try until you either say yes, or you leave the country.  Christine, the older toothless woman selling massages, approached me ten times a day, her 12 year old daughter in tow, both trying to offer a free ‘sample’.  The six year old selling cigars should run seminars for used car salesmen.  The two men selling water taxi rides to the West Bay (remember – the nice, resort-laden part of the island) weren’t quite as good as the six year old or Christine, but the wore us down eventually (as did Christine and the six year old…oh, and the guy selling banana donuts who finally got us on the last day – his approach was a little more relaxed though, because, really, who doesn’t want a banana donut?).

The water taxi guys asked my girlfriend and I from the time we walked by them on our way for our morning coffee at the German-run café, to the time we walked home from our late night drinks/cigars/music/sunset rum punches.  In the end, we didn’t want to leave the country just yet, so we finally just said yes.

The ride cost $3 each but that $3 would actually cost us close to a grand and, as I said before, the last remnants of my youth. This is what we in the English Lit crowd like to call ‘hyperbole’.  I wish it was an exaggeration.

So, we were in the water taxi with a few other women from Calgary (this island is f-cking full of Canadians) and we rounded the point that separates West End from West Bay, and seeing that beach was like seeing your first Playboy: it captured your attention and you knew things were going to be different from here on. And just like one peek at a Playboy wasn’t enough as a kid, one afternoon at this beach wasn’t enough for a thirty-something, wannabe backpacker trying to escape reality for a short while.  I was given a peek at what I’d been missing and now I wanted a longer look.

Here’s a shot that won’t come close to doing this beach justice:

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The classic ‘looking off into the distance’ shot.

So the beach was long and bursting with activity; I have seen some great beaches in my day (Whitehaven Beach in the Whitsunday Islands, Montanita Beach in Ecuador, etc) and I even live near two of the longest fresh water beaches in the world.  This one is right up there.

We wandered up and down the sand for awhile before grabbing a beach chair and settling in for some relaxation.  At first we figured we could just spend our days here and return to our cheap hostel room each night and still call ourselves backpackers.  I was fine with that.  Then after about a minute of relaxation – just as we had put our feet up and opened our books and accepted the sun onto our pale bodies, a security guard approached and asked if we were staying at the resort – the gig was up.  You know that feeling when you’re not sure you deserve to be somewhere? We had to leave our chairs for the people with the wristbands, the real adults – we were just dirty backpackers trying to scam a free piece of real estate.

It wasn’t soon after that we realized the water taxi only runs until sunset.  We couldn’t stay at West Bay and watch the sun go down from the massive dock or the floating bar; we couldn’t hit the restaurants and beach-side bars and just return to West End to sleep.  Our plans were melting away like the ice in our rum punches (now there’s a simile for you!)

We had some serious thinking to do.  So we did it over a couple mojitos.  But we still couldn’t decide, so we had some rum punches.  It took all the way until a round of monkey lalas before we convinced ourselves that we could spend two nights at the fancy resort just to get a little taste of the highlife, and then return to our end of the island and the cheap rooms.  That way, our backpacker titles would still apply with only a slight indulgence in the good life.

We were not old enough to be full-blown resort-goers yet.  The general scene on the West Bay beach was trending towards middle aged or retirement.  They sure did know how to have fun, though….until 10pm.  That’s when the band stopped (and presumably went back to party at West End).  My favourite moment watching this band was when a middle aged guy dropped a dollar in their tip jar and requested ‘Hotel California’.  The singer laughed and told him ‘Hotel California’ would cost a lot more than a dollar….at least $12!  Can’t blame a guy for hating the f-cking Eagles, man!

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These guys were able to combine the Beatles with Eminem….it was legendary when you’re a few mojitos deep on an afternoon in paradise.

 

I think the element that sealed the deal for us in the end was the pool.  It was just so nice and quiet (okay, it’s official – I’m old).  But when you wanted a break from all the mayhem on the beach of cruise ships stopping and locals selling you everything you don’t want (Christine and the six year olds), the pool was perfect to get some serious chill time reading or napping or doing both in the hammock (hammocks take a relaxing afternoon to a whole other level….you can probably get to a 10/10 without one, but if you want to get to an 11, there aren’t many other ways….the afternoon depicted below went to 11)

Reading Marquez

 

So, we spent our two days lying by the pool, reading in hammocks, walking the beach, and sun tanning on beach chairs that we were finally allowed to sit on….we had wristbands now, bitch! (sorry, that was directed at the security guard).  We started getting caught up a little in the life of luxury, forgetting our roots.  We started to get used to the nice bed, the fresh linens and towels, the balcony (it was overlooking the power lines in the alleyway though – we weren’t that spoiled).

The rooms actually had water that ran all the time and there were no animals living around/under our place that kept us up all night (although the rich old man’s partner sure was a cougar and they kept us up a little at night).  Our cheap little abode at the West End had a few feral cats that meowed all night, which was quite soothing compared to the competition of roosters that crowed at each other from 4am to 9am every morning.  But that was what being a backpacker was all about! I had dealt with much worse in my younger adventures; why was my sleep so important to me now?  Could it be my age?  Am I really that reliant on getting a solid 8 hours these days?  Do I turn into a grumpy old man when I don’t get my rest?  I think I remember my girlfriend saying something to me in that regard.  Shit, are my really rough backpacking days behind me? No, I reminded myself – we were only staying two nights at the resort, just for healthy contrast.

But we even started to spend money on drinks outside of happy hour!  We started thinking that having surf and turf most nights was necessary. We didn’t even bat an eye at a bottle of wine with dinner.

What had happened to us?

We came down to this place for a cheap trip, intending to slum it from one disgusting hostel room to the next, eat out of cans and drink convenience store-bought beer.  When I backpacked Europe, I bought my meals from grocery stores; when I traveled across Canada, I survived on one cheap veggie sub a day stacked a mile high  and saved the Subway stamps (anyone remember those days?) and then redeemed them for the most expensive, meat-laden meals for my ‘fancy’ dinners; when I backpacked Australia, I got around by relocating camper vans for $2/day and slept in them every night on the side of roads.  I was pretty good at this ‘roughing it’ thing.

I have always stayed in hostel rooms over hotel rooms, but when our two nights at the resort were over, we couldn’t see any other way than to pay for another night.  And when that night was up, we reasoned quite convincingly to ourselves that we should do another.  We stayed in the resort for the rest of our trip!  We never went back to our hostel room, a room that had only cost us the equivalent of a Mojito each per night!

I think this is when it finally happened…I could no longer call myself a backpacker.

We had fallen in love with the resort lifestyle and turned our backs on our transient,  budget traveling ways.  I knew I wasn’t a part of the young, hip crowd that knew to go to Utilla instead of Roatan, but I still thought I was young enough to mock the middle-aged resort lifestyle.

I take fully responsibility for what I have become….it was inevitable, I guess.  I’m a thirty-something, wannabe backpacker who secretly prefers resorts.

So we returned home and the whole time on the plane, I could feel this gnawing presence in my gut that something was wrong.  It turned out to be a parasite from accidentally drinking the water, which ruined my intestines for a week, but when that finally subsided, the feeling was still there.  My inner backpacker was disappointed with me.  I had grown out of him and his desire to rough it on little sleep, cheap food and dirty lodging.  It was a sad parting of ways, an important point in every man’s life – a sad graduation to real adulthood; but then I started to think about everything that that guy had to deal with as well: cockroaches, stained sheets, canned food and warm beer. It started to make things easier.

I am not sure if I can go back now – I might just be a guy who reads by the pool, takes hot showers, and eats lobster when he travels.  Part of my spirited youthfulness might be gone forever, but my body is a lot happier.  I gotta say – I’m looking forward to retirement!

 

 

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Jesse Wilkinson

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