europe: connections

Tuesday, August 31, 1999

Here I am again, crossing the Mediterranean sea on my way back from Athens to Brindisi. I just finished an overpriced dinner in the ship’s cafeteria and I’m beginning to relax in the bar area, which has not become too smoky—at least not yet.

I’m beginning to become convinced that Coca-Cola is poisoning these Europeans. All of its drinks—including it’s Sprite/7up and orange—have twice the caffeine I’m used to. I’m getting wired just drinking a can or two and water is just not looking appetizing anymore. Evil co. indeed.

But to more important things. I’ve done some thinking today that I’d like to try to document. There’s not much else to do when waiting in train stations, ferry embarkation lines, and trains—although I did meet more cool people at the hostel and train station. I can see how traveling could be fun if you meet new people everywhere you go instead of seeing the same people—i.e., Rosie and Gregory—everywhere you go. It’s almost pleasurable to travel.

As an aside, the Australian young people, of which I’ve met a number lately, all seem to take a couple of years off right around “uni” (college) to travel and work in Europe. They’re away for 10 months to 3 years, working some of the time and spending the rest traveling. A totally different outlook. They explain this hiatus as something to do before starting real life, a way to experience more of the world, earn some money, and gain experience. Different. Different and strange indeed.

On to my musings. I was noticing today as I was actually talking to people—which as you’ve probably surmised from my previous journal entries, is not a common occurrence—how mundane and silly connections (i.e., small talk) really is. I’ve always claimed it was, but after “studying” it over the past few days, I now have empirical evidence. Connections with travelers are always the same. Here it goes:

Hi! Where are you from?—Wow, I’ve always to go/been there, loved it. How long you been here?—And in Europe?-Cool (or the home country’s variety). When do you go back?—Bummer. Can you believe—(insert jokes about hostels, unfriendly locals, travel stuff (e.g., hygiene, heavy bags)). Have you been to _?—How was it? I’m going there…, etc.

You get the idea. Repeated for every person who enters the room. Of course, once these preliminaries are out of the way, the general small talk is over. It usually involves weather, plans for day or past days, common acquaintances/experiences, etc.

From this I’m beginning to see that it’s not the conversation that’s important or meaningful, but the social interactions. You generally don’t learn much from these conversations, but you usually walk away feeling good. I guess it can be explained as a basic human pack reaction, but I think there may be more.

When I read the Celestine Prophecy (not worth the read as a novel, but it does have some interesting “New Age” philosophies—if you can get past the writing), there was a-—sorry, had to get something to drink. I even managed to resist the caffeine laced drinks, although even the “lemonade” was Fanta (read Coke) and I’m sure was laced with the drug. I’ll kick it yet!—-section about the exchange of “energies” when people talk, communicate, are near each other. In a way, when watching a group talk together, you can almost see the flows of energy. They come out through laughter and the sense of good feeling when everyone is sharing—even about inane subjects like sports or gossip. Strange, huh.

Not sure where this line of thought leads, but it does explain why I’ve missed talking to people over the last couple of weeks. Talking with oneself—and I’ve certainly done enough of that lately—is never as fulfilling. Hopefully that’ll change—the loneliness, not the fulfilling part.