I remember he was thin, and pale, and bony. I remember he didn’t speak English, and was stuck out here like me, friendless and lonely. I remember how we met, and how we laughed, and how easily we overcame the language barrier. And that’s about it. He disappeared from my life just as quickly as he entered it.
Holidays are always problematic. Trapped in a tiny space with my parents for that long inevitably turns us into caged animals, out for blood. The arguments rarely cease. But back then, when I was small enough to be snatched up by an Amazon delivery drone, holidays weren’t so bad. I think I may have even liked one or two of them. But this, well this didn’t really count. It was caravanning, in a field. I wasn’t exactly excited about the whole affair.
The campsite was alright, though. There was a little park, all built from wood with a great tall tower we could climb. I went up there, on the first few days, and got to talking with two Scottish kids. Well, it was less talking and more me getting laughed at, but like I say, I was lonely, so took it as a sign of friendship. A few days later, however, it had started to weigh on me. I was annoyed at the pair of them, because they weren’t talking to me, and they weren’t being nice, and to be quite honest I just wanted to go home where people were mildly friendlier. But that day, as I headed to the park and spied the two Scottish kids sitting up in the tower, I noticed they were already laughing. They were laughing at this new boy, one I hadn’t seen before.
It was destiny. Without realising it the two bullies had created monsters that would meet, and moan about their creators almost every day. We ran away from the park together, finding other stuff to do about the campsite. We tried to talk but it was hard, because we could barely understand a word of what the other was saying. But just because we couldn’t talk didn’t mean we couldn’t communicate. We leapt around, pointing and nodding and inventing an impromptu sign language as we went. I think I liked him so much and so quickly perhaps in part because of our hurried method of communication; we were incredibly expressive towards one another out of necessity, and because of this we were really, really clear about how awesome we thought the other was.
And he was awesome. I don’t remember much of what we did anymore, but I know he did something right. Most importantly, I know he was there for me when I was lonely, and little squishy me was desperate for a friend at that campsite. He was it, and it still amazes me today how lucky I was to find him there.
Which reminds me of something that happened on another holiday, something that confused me. My parents and I were at the airport, headed for Lapland, when we started talking to some strangers. When I say we started talking I of course mean my parents did, while I watched in frozen concern.
What the hell was going on? Who were these two women, and why were my parents talking to them? They don’t know each other, right? I couldn’t get my head around it. I just didn’t know what was going on. I followed the four of them closely, listening in to their conversation, trying to work out why they were talking. I couldn’t solve the mystery.
Then, to the horror of my anti-social little brain, the two women got onto our plane. And off it. And then, to top it all off, they were staying in the same hotel.
I couldn’t talk while they were around. If it was just me and my parents I could chat and have fun but these two were strangers. I lost my voice when they turned up because I was weird and anxious and although the holiday ended up being pretty great, I spent the beginning of it terrified.
But, I guess, those two women were my parents caravan boy. They were strangers, who gave them company, and who gave them smiles. That really can’t be appreciated enough. People can be awesome, all over the world. I’m starting to get excited about this, starting to think about the cool people I could talk to for even just a day.
The idea of going travelling has been in my mind for a little while. It’s what teenagers, do, right? And I’m not a teenager for very much longer. The trouble is, when I try to explain to my friends what I want out of travelling, I find it really hard. They ask me where I want to go, and I say I don’t know. They ask me how I want to get there, and again, I’ve got no idea. I think this is the reason, though. I think this is the reason travelling seems so appealing to me.
I want the chance to meet people, like that caravan boy, or like the two women my parents got to talking to. I know it’s a long shot; I’d probably run around Europe not talking to anyone at all. But that idea, of meeting strangers and hearing about their lives, it excites me.
There are a load of really cool people in the world. Some of them I’m already lucky enough to have as friends. But my path might cross with a few more, if I give it the chance. So I guess going off travelling, staying in hostels, and forcing myself to be brave and lonely like I was at that camp site ten thousand years ago might make me actually talk to people. Out of desperation, if nothing else. And I like people. I think for the most part they’re pretty great. So I’d like to talk to them. I’d like to meet one or two more. I’d like to increase the odds of chatting with some awesome people in some awesome places, wherever and whoever they might be.
So thank you caravan boy, and thank you Lapland women. You’re all remembered, by me at least, as pretty god damn cool.