travelling with a fringe and other hang ups

Just before I left London for Buenos Aires, I got a blunt fringe cut into my hair. My hairdresser was worried I’d look too severe. He needn’t have. I look the same as my six year old self, minus the hangover 1970s dungarees and liking for making mud pies and rose petal+water perfume.

However, I’ll admit I hadn’t thought through the logistics of travelling with a fringe…

In the pre-fringe days, I used to wake up every morning resembling Beetlejuice or Edward Sissorhands. Keaton or Depp. I’m more than ok with that. Sure, I looked deranged, but in a cool, off-beat way (I hoped).

Now, with the South American humidity, I’ve gone full Cliff Richard mullet. My fine, rabbit-fur like hair in this weather cannot live up to the hairdressing marketing spiel. It is most definitely not fine. It is thin. And lank. And it looks 3-days-unwashed within a matter of minutes. The four flimsy strands that make up my fringe have decided to pair up, so I look like some two-bit hick from hicksville every time the wind parts it.

everything is alright and uptight…

There’s nothing like travelling solo to reveal your hang ups. The thing is, when you’re travelling with someone, you can always pretend to yourself that, despite obvious signs to the contrary, you are, in fact, an incredibly chilled out, fun, free-spirited individual. And that any problems you encounter must be the other person’s fault.

When it’s just you, it’s a little harder to keep up the pretence. Here are just a few things I have managed to wind myself up over:

Being too skinny in Rio. Yep, for a girl who has spent most of her adult life in the pursuit of svelte, I felt like a freak in Rio, where if you ain’t got curves, you ain’t carioca, my friend. Payback time. Fair enough.

Always arriving places at night. You might think that I’d learn from this one. Arriving alone in a new town at night, when you haven’t the faintest clue where you’re staying, is a bit miserable. And when I say “night”, remember that I’m pretty equatorial here, so I’m talking any time post 5pm. My routine has been thus: get off the bus, concealing all items of value. Find a taxi. Try not to look out of the car window at the scary streets. Get to the pousada. Double lock the door. Hide in my room for about an hour. Psyche myself up to go in search of food. Stick to the closest, best-lit streets, staying alert at all times. Grab whatever food is available. Retreat to safety of room. Get up the next morning to discover I’m in paradise…

Being a foodie skinflint. I don’t like to spend money on food when I’m travelling alone. It seems a waste. But I’ll admit that the three days I spent living on instant noodles, bread rolls and (good) olive oil in Praia de Pipa was maybe a little bit odd.

Going full grunge. When it’s just lil ol’ me, my grooming habits are the first things to go. I figure no-one’s looking at me and if people get close enough to smell me, well that’s their look out. I find myself wearing the same four items of clothing and wondering why it is that I’ve chosen to lug around a whole washbag of toiletries that I clearly have no intention of using. All of which is just fine, until I arrive in a resort that has a bit of life to it. And then I realise it’s all gone a bit Apocalypse Now.

Nao falo portuguese. I’m generally a bit smug about my language abilities. I speak pretty good French, and my Spanish is ok, so I arrogantly assumed that I’d pick up Portuguese quickly. Not so. That bastard child of (to my ears) Russian and Chinese is an absolute horror to learn. I can’t contort my mouth to make the right sounds without miaowing. So I’ve learned 6 mini expressions (3 for “great”, 2 to express “yes, I’ve understood” and one for “perfect”). I use them with abandon in any situation, just changing my facial expression to express either a positive or negative emotion (a bit confusing for the listener sometimes). A couple of them are slang, so I use them when I want to appear cool.

Mozzie killing. I’m level 9 full mosquito paranoia. For good reason. They eat me alive and my body does not react well. I’m still a bit endless-Brit-winter pale, so the bites show up like welts and itch so bad I want to flay my own skin. So between the hours of 5 and 7pm (mozzie o’clock), I barricade myself in my room. All doors and windows locked and the aircon set to arctic. For dinner, I go full burka, leaving just my mouth uncovered for eating purposes. I go to sleep under a mozzie net and hope for the best. And as the next day wears on, I start to feel a little tickle here and there, the tell-tale tingle of fresh bites. And I reapply the deet and the tiger balm and I wonder what the hell’s taking Bill and Melinda Gates so long to eradicate the malaria monsters?

Talking to myself. Talking, laughing, singing. The works. Even sometimes in Portuguese when I’m trying some new words out. Fortunately, I find myself quite entertaining.

Being a girl. This one I should probably be grateful for, given that I’m 35. But it’s tiresome. For the guys out there, repeat after me, in the immortal words of Wyclef Jean: “Just ‘cos she dances loco, that don’t make her a ho, no”. For the non-believers, let me spell it out to you. Yes, I am a girl, travelling alone. And yes, I may be lying on a beach, jigging my head to whatever crap pop playlist I happen to have put together (unsurprisingly, a lot of Usher). No, that does not mean I would like some “company”. I take back what I said earlier about struggling with Portuguese. There are a couple of phrases I learned really quickly thanks to friendly Brazilian men. The order goes like this: “What’s your name?”. “Where are you from?”. “Are you married?”. Nothing short of marriage seems to deter them. However, brandishing a flaming torch helps to keep them at bay.

Unfortunately, It also attracts the mosquitoes…


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