Hello, it's Siri Paulson again, your international correspondent for Turtleduck Press. I'm currently travelling through India, a long way from my home country of Canada.
One of the most fascinating things about travel, for me, has been talking to people. In this latest trip, my travelling companion and I have run into retired couples who are travelling the world, or who have had travel as part of their lifestyle for years and now have the time to really indulge it – true inspirations for younger wanderlust types like me. We've seen plenty of intrepid young backpackers. (When I was backpacking solo, I used to befriend tons of other solo travellers in the hostels.) But the most interesting people are the locals.
Now, I know that as a tourist, any conversation I have with a local is going to be heavily filtered. They're probably working at the guesthouse where I'm staying, or else they may be providing another service or trying to sell me something. In any case, they're usually keen to make a good impression. Of course I'm not going to get the same level of conversation that two locals would have with each other – and that's even before language barriers. But still, I'll remember some of these people for a long time.
In Malaysia, my travelling companion and I met Suzy, who was running our guesthouse with the “help” of her young daughter, who charmed all the guests and demanded we draw pictures for her. At another guesthouse we met Jay, who took us under her wing. She also introduced us to Jason, a fabulous hiking guide and biologist who spoke English like the poshest Brit ever.
In Thailand, we met two young men working one of the zipline adventure tours. They looked like a couple of young punks, but took great care of all the newbies. They had no fear, though – they would just hook up to the line and hop off the platform and off they'd go. Sadly, I was too busy convincing myself not to freak out to get their names.
In India, we spent two days being driven around Agra (home of the Taj Mahal) by an auto-rickshaw driver named Shabbu. He had a face like a gnome or a trickster, and a good humour, even when we didn't buy anything from the marble shop he convinced us to visit. (The marble tabletops and chess boards and statues were gorgeous, full of inlay work with semiprecious stones, but we weren't really in the market for them. Plus, we didn't know anything about how to judge the quality.) We were also amused by the owner of one guesthouse who kept asking us worriedly if everything was all right, and when we checked out, pleaded with us to speak kindly of his establishment on TripAdvisor. (Actually, we've since encountered more requests like that. TripAdvisor has all the hotels petrified, it seems!)
We have another month of travel to go. I can't wait to find out who else we'll meet....