A weekly ode to the joys of moaning about your holiday, by Tim Roxborogh.
It took until I was 28 to learn the proper way to get inside a tube of ointment. Granted, the purchasing of ointment has not exactly been hobby of mine, but it was both a eureka moment as well as a highly embarrassing incident that led to me finally finding out.
Luang Prabang, Laos, 2010 and I'd just come off my bicycle in a collision with a young local woman on a motorbike. Miraculously she was fine and I was okay, but for a bruised tailbone and a grazed elbow. Having said my apologies (the crash was entirely my day-dreaming fault) and paid for minor repairs to her motorbike, I rode my now slightly wobbly bicycle to the nearest pharmacy.
This was not a fancy air-conditioned place, but a more humble shop on the dusty outskirts of town. The pharmacist spoke no English, though she could see I'd lost some skin on the asphalt and would need ointment and bandages. I handed over the money and decided to put the ointment and a bandage on then and there. Only problem, I didn't have a pin! How else was I going to prick the little tin foil seal that sits under the lid of every tube of ointment?
Asking whether the pharmacist had a pin (and using some over the top charades-like hand gestures to simulate a pin-prick), she cracked up laughing. Not only was I yet another silly Westerner who had come off his bike, but I was a dummy too! She grabbed the little lid of the ointment and flipped it upside down, revealing a sharp, submerged plastic point. A sharp, submerged plastic point that I'd spent my whole life thinking was for decoration. Simply bung that upside down lid on the tip of the tube and you've got flowing ointment for Africa! Or Laos. Who knew?*
* Conversations since the Laos Ointment Incident Of 2010 indicate many people already knew this.
People who only ever go to the same holiday destination, year after year
We all know people like this. You might be one of them, reading this column right now.
These are the people who both like and can afford overseas holidays, but only if it's to the exact same place, year after year. It's the comfort-zone holiday. It's the Kiwis who've been to the Gold Coast eight times, but not once to Thailand. Or the Aussies who'll never see more of Indonesia than the 15 trips they've made to Kuta, in Bali.
Or the endless international travellers who return time and again to Hawaii but panic at the thought of mainland United States.
As we head deeper into autumn and with winter only six weeks away, if you're planning your annual escape to the same beach and the same serviced apartment where you'll eat at the same restaurants and play golf at the same course — one word: don't.
Go somewhere else. Love sunshine and snorkelling but scared you'll get culture shock in places like Malaysia or Thailand? Don't be. You'll love it and learn a thing or two about the world along the way. Have it in your head America is big and scary and endlessly urban and crime-riddled? Don't be. The national parks in the States are some of the most peaceful and strikingly beautiful places on the planet.
I understand the rationale: we live busy, often stressful lives and if you only get so much annual leave you want to spend it where you feel you're guaranteed to have a good, recharging time. Again, the comfort-zone holiday.
But what this fails to grasp are the recharging properties of being interested in the world; of how alive you feel seeing somewhere new and very different to where you live.
Then the mindset shifts from being "when can we get back" to "where can we go next?"
Tim Roxborogh hosts Newstalk ZB's The Two and writes the music and travel blog RoxboroghReport.com.