—Be robbers and conquerors as long as you cannot be rulers and possessors, you seekers of knowledge.
THE traditional schooling on cheap travel has always taught us that we are to aim to do as little as possible on as little as possible. The backpacker flies half way around the world to hold before her her daily budget and says, “Today I may visit the Galleria Borghese. If I eat nothing but yesterday’s bread and tomato paste.” Presumably, she was not rich when she was at home. Only a fool would fly 18 hours to be poor elsewhere.
I once thought that it was distrust which best ensured cheap travel—holding concurrently the three assumptions that any native who speaks to you wishes, immediately or in the long run, to rip you off; that only lies come from foreign mouths; that a 200% mark-up is always being added to your big Western eyes. It is not that I now think these to be untrue. But I have found that all their holding does is prolong the amount of time which your billion Dong or thousand pesos will spend in your wallet. As any employed criminal will tell you, cash has no leverage, its value deflates, and as the saying goes (just try paying your water bill in rupees when you get home) you cannot take it with you.
In the poorer regions of the earth not only do the locals not at all care about ripping you off, but they rather enjoy it too. The skill is passed down from a very young age. Its practice is the source of most of their social stratification. Street urchins and hoteliers, hawkers and restaurateurs—all are respected by their peers only according to the preposterous profit margins which they can command of foreigners. For them, lying is a matter of survival. In the sadly progressive world lies, a lie, our biggest—that greater material comfort shall bring greater happiness—is so deeply ingrained in the civilizational fabric that we can no longer see that it has become our entire way of life. For most people in most countries then, lying is a matter of survival or of existence.
But we, wanderers—let us make of lies a matter of luxury.
Our efforts towards cheap travel are not to be aimed at spending as little as possible while doing as much as possible. They are to be fired, fabulously, at spending nothing, and living like a duke.
Let us state firstly that there is no point in being rich. The wealthy die young and live unhappily—their hearts clogged with caviar and wickedness, their families and lovers slutty and estranged. To live a noble poverty I take as the aim of us wanderers. But let us not think that in our material destitution luxury lies beyond us. We have not undergone a century-and-a-half of uprooting, of enclosure, of enslavement, in order to also end up deprived. Boats, leather interiors, uncomfortable shoes—it is towards luxury that the cretins around us undeniably toil. But no, no, no, no, no! They are missing the point. All that work, only to enjoy life when one is hunchbacked and arthritic. No, true luxury—that which is gained entirely without effort—we wanderers alone shall have. It may not be within our grasp at home. Abroad, by falsehood and deceit, by the cunning and condescension which the tourist-workers of the unpaved world reserve especially for us—while travelling we shall not only survive but thrive, on cocktails. infinity pools, and hotel suites.
The one phrase which, were I ever in so barbarous a mood as to get a tattoo, I would have scarred into my forearm is, ‘Be robbers and conquerors as long as you cannot be rulers and possessors, you seekers of knowledge!’ Yes, Freddy, let us make of lies a matter of luxury.
On a trip to any of the superbly barbaric and shockingly inexpensive regions of the world—to Vietnam, to Mexico, to Italy, there are three chief considerations. To the backpacker these are shelter, food, and water. To the spiritual aristocrat—resorts, fine dining, and private beaches. And all for nothing.
The great fallacy of the age of mass tourism is that accommodation must be paid for. When one thinks deeply enough about it the only real reason to actually pay for a night’s stay is guilt—the thought that you are taking food from the desperate mouth of the malnourished proprietor of your homestay. What rot. Chain hotels are owned by multinational corporations run by those lonely caviar-bloated devil-worshippers whose property portfolio keeps you from having a home in the first place. And that mark-up on your Western eyes has already been applied to the dozen other buffoons staying at your ‘family-run’ guesthouse. The manager’s deceit not only invites reciprocation, it factors it in. Always tell the receptionist when checking in that you have on you neither passport nor currency. You shall pay tomorrow. The following day, you spent all your money on a suit didn’t you? And that bloody travel agent still has your passport. Early rising and fire exits take care of the rest. Weeks can be swindled thusly.
Then there is the opposite sex. Most people when drunken are very desperate to have company for the night. Simple ground-work—the preliminary finding out of where they are staying, its Googling in the bathroom—ensures that you can work on a simple line-graph of drunkenness versus star-rating. Eight-beers-in and a three star guesthouse is a much safer bet than ‘taking a night off the drink’ and the Bangkok Shangri-La. Of course no monkey-business needs to take place. Passing out is as easy to simulate next to a drunk person as is promiscuousness straight to their face. If you find that they have a particularly lovely hotel, stick to Espresso Martinis and ply your quarry with jaegerbombs; as they slumber, fully-clothed in their own bed, you will be alert enough to enjoy their cocktail bar, their swimming pool, their massage service. Here again, early rising takes care of the rest. Remember never to divulge your surname. One woman’s routine incitement to intoxication is another man’s once-in-a-lifetime Eat-Pray-Love romance. Your identity known, he shall hunt you down on social media and follow you like a KGB operative across the tropics. Rise early enough, and you will find that this method also quite safely includes a breakfast too.
Fine-dining, then. Firstly, you have the insurmountable advantage of borderline fluency in the English language. Of and by this, waiters across the globe are terrified and intimidated. Four times this author has received a ludicrous discount simply by the instertion of a four syllable word into a farewell; a bottle of Perrier jouet made complimentary by the throwing out there of the word ‘constabulary’; the word ‘flummox’ is practically onomatopoeic, so confusing is its insertion.
The first meal of the day also happens to be its most easily pilfered. Most resorts offer a complimentary buffet breakfast. A little research will point you to your quaint little town’s finest. Arrive early, before all the room numbers have been ticked off, and say confidently as you pass the indecipherable young woman behind the lectern, ‘Room 301,’ before heading straight for the plate station to load up. Ideally, lunch is to be skipped. There are Old Towns to be strolled, markets to be tolerated; often beaches to enjoy. Always there are swimming pools.
Only a simpleton swims in the pool of her own hotel. There are at the traveller’s disposal the most picturesque rectangles of tile and chlorine ever allocated to bathing. Whether it is an incomparable view or the avoidance of band-aids, the most luxurious and the most enormous swimming pools are nothing but a confident smile and fake room-number away.
While swimming be sure to strike up a conversation with a lone man over the age of thirty-five. Find out quickly what he is up to for the afternoon. It should not be difficult to persuade him to have a cocktail nor to become his invited guest. Those long hours between four and six, when the sun has gone but not yet set and dinner is improper, are only to be spent drinking at his expense.
Here we must pay special attention to nationality. Foreign-speakers are ideal. Civilization is predicated upon lies and so the less refined the man the less will he be able to sense your taking advantage of him. For this, Russians are ideal. They are lustful, drunken, misogynistic, and entirely without the higher attainments of grace which make of detecting bullshit a sixth sense. What’s more, they will probably be so plastered by dinner that they are unable to join you and quite amenable to just giving you cash. Most Australians come next—simple and rich. They too shall be unable to detect your elaborate insincerity, and are arrogant enough to believe that you are actually interested in them. Then come the Arabs, joy-loving when out of their robes and keffiyeh, but entirely unused to Western chicanery. And so on and so forth down to the English-speakers—Americans, the British, the educated Australians—they whose very way of life is selling, buying, extending and exploiting, lies. They are the least susceptible to the charms of the cultivated swindler, for cultivated swindlers are they themselves all. Now, soaked, it is time for dinner.
For males this is rather an easier task than for females. The suit, cheaply made in most of the world, renders to foreign eyes the western male completely identical to his companions. Three Englishmen in dinner suits are to the organic peoples as monkeys in a monsoon—foul-smelling, pathetic, indistinguishable. One of you sits alone, the other two together, and by a simply choreographed routine of misdirection and rotation—and much indignation at receiving the wrong check—a trio of gentlemen may dine anywhere in the world on bistecca fiorentina and Amarone for a bill of steamed rice and green tea. For the female traveller dinner may again have to depend on tolerating an idiot. She and two girlfriends could all wear the same dress to a restaurant; from what this author can gather, doing so is considered in the melodramatic world of the gentler sex a form of suicide. We dine upon a horny doofus, then. Suggest a rooftop restaurant, the one you heard was the most romantic spot in the whole world. Order big and from the bottom of the menu, where reside always the finer things in life. Keep the chit-chat to falsehoods. His life is boring; you would never condescend to talking about yourself to him. And as soon as you are full, fake the onset of acute food poisoning. You are not only now unavailable for the rest of the evening, but instantly unattractive. No man will further pursue a girl whose hair he can now only imagine as adorned with the rudiments of throw-up. That wind which once blew your perfume through the air now has upon it for him only the scent of bile. You are free, full, and hopefully by now around the corner. It is time for a drink.
There are certain professions which never pay for a drink. Astronauts, bullfighters, war-heroes, writers—whether through heroism, bravery, selflessness, or the destitution necessary to the practising of his art, those whose lives seldom brush with true romance are always willing to pick up the tab for those whose very lives create it. Obviously certain specialised professions require a specialised vocabulary. Most of the parts of a space station can be invented. There is the flux capacitator, the johnson rod. What’s more, terms such as re-entry, docking, and black hole can be turned by a wink into shot-buying innuendo. You could even claim that it was through your career as a bull-fighter that you met Matt Damon. “Oh you know Matt Damon?” And you’re already off the topic. Americans are here at a distinct advantage. They are at all times conducting so many wars that it is baffling to the citizen of the non-combatant nation that there are not already more war-heroes than civilians. As for pretending to be a writer, this young hack has found that no more than three short passages of Shakespeare are necessary to prove one’s vocation. Often people are keen to see if they cannot outdrink what they annoyingly call ‘wordsmiths.’ They may be able to floor a novelist, they certainly cannot a spiritual wanderer.
And now, as our complimentary day draws to a close, we aristocrats of the soul must turn our attention to obtaining a hotel suite. Here I refer you to six paragraphs previously, from which you may begin again the routine which will ensure that the rest of your days are fabulous ones, spent in true luxury—that gained and enjoyed entirely without drudgery, within reach of all us wanderers simply by the strategic application of a few elaborately constructed and confidently told lies.
And as you are seeing all of God’s earth, do remember to keep moving. We are wanderers after all. And I can assure you that thoseliving a lie will eventually wish very much to do to someone who is merely telling a lie precisely what they are already doing to the planet. Someone, somewhere, will eventually attempt to kill you. Spiritual jealousy is far more violent a thing than racial hatred, or even food envy. But do not be afraid. We know that the spiritual liar cannot kill our spirit. They can only lose their own.
J.H. February, 2016