Travelogues – TOCD (Travel Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder)

The problem with people who have no vices is that generally you can be pretty sure they’re going to have some pretty annoying virtues.

 

I’m always in the right seat and make sure of it. Double check. Triple check. I want to be comfortable and settled for the journey ahead, be it, on a plane, train, or bus. Without fail someone comes up to me and claims I’m in their seat. Assertive yet politely, I explain, “Oh no sir/madam! I’m in the right seat. Here is my ticket.” The other party generally replies with an apology or some sort of mea culpa, but I understand, it’s easy to be confused and often things are made unnecessarily difficult. I help whenever I can but rarely do I need to. Most travellers quickly realize their mistake and course correct immediately. However, on my way back from Porto by train, an older couple fought me, while the train rolled on the track towards Vigo, a pair of retirees stood in the aisle steadying themselves for the light rocking motion of the carriage, and refused to believe me and my ticket that correctly placed me in my assigned seat.

The aged Canadians clad in their finest camping gear and requisite backpack failed to understand the proof in black and white. The only evidence that matters: my ticket. Solid, unequivocal, without a doubt proof that I belong in this seat on a particular journey and I am NOT moving.

The ticket checker came by and I asked him to verify their ticket. I was attempting kindness in an awkward situation. The ticket checker agreed with me. I was right. They remain unmoved and unfazed by this support of a member of the system they are trying to buck for the sake of a window seat.

The ticket checker relents and allows the couple to sit on the aisle opposite me, even though, they are assigned to car 6 not car 1. This is the same man who made two older men move yet let these fools swipe a prime seat.

“See? It doesn’t matter!” the male Canadian idiot retorted as he flung his bag in the empty seat next to me when there is a huge luggage rack lining both sides above the seats. I know this because I put my luggage and heavy coat there, NOT next to me in the empty seat.

“I was just trying to help you, sir. This is my seat. I am not moving. Enjoy the trip, ok?” I spit out the words in a flurry of annoyance and exasperation, fuming mad for the first time in weeks. I refuse to let this fucktard ruin my final day of vacation. I am going to read The Last Pope and relax if it kills me.

“Where ya from?” the female Canadian asks me in an attempt to decode my behavior since my voice is clearly that of a native English speaker. As if it matters. Right is right. Wrong is wrong. This little incident is over a seat: what else do they think they are right about but are actually flat-out wrong? At no point am I trying to admonish or humiliate this couple or older foreigners, in general. I endeavor to keep to myself. Read a book or space out looking through the window at the zipping countryside without the hazard of conversation.

***

I obsess about timely arrivals and departures simply because of the lack of solid time management skills on my first solo journey. Running to your gate in international airports the size of a small city is not fun nor is missing a flight entirely. My last adventure has molded me into a creature of habit: planning ahead of time, mapping out my route, and packing as light as possible, in the unlikely event, that I do arrive late. My time and money is precious. I do everything in my power to “come correct”, if you will, and thus far, I have been successful.

Since I moved to Northern Spain one question has pervaded my thoughts: How can I see and do as much as possible with limited resources (time, money, etc.)?

I call it TOCD or travel obsessive-compulsive disorder. (Not to make light of the seriousness of OCD syndrome, by any means, while I do not suffer from this particular disease, I know what it is to obsess. Trust me, I know, to a painful degree.) Before I took off and travelled the world, I didn’t know I had TOCD. I fell into it. Like how I fell into traveling and the consequential bug to see it all. This new personality trait has only helped ease me into a better solo lady traveller. It pushes me to dot my I’s and cross my T’s when I often cannot see the forest from the trees. Although its not altogether a bad thing to put an effort into time management, it can get out of hand and remove the optimal trait in any traveller: flexibility.

When I have done all the necessary legwork, I foolishly believe that everyone should, too. Most experienced travellers, almost effortlessly, find their correct gate, seat, route, etc., like its second nature. I strive for this effect. Perhaps that’s another reason I obsess about travel plans: for the appearance of road knowledge. There is nothing more satisfying than being right in an absolutely foreign situation. Mainly, since my Spanish life is so completely humbling at all times, I relish the moments when I’m mistaken for a local, use the right word, and function without wanting to run home and hide under the covers.

All this travel and living away from my home country has thickened my hide yet there is still this marshmallow fluff inside quoting Shakespeare to myself, daydreaming of poems and prose of a future writing project, and framing mental photographs of this strange life I have now. That’s probably why I don’t feel like I belong in the expat community or with the coughsurfing nomads. I don’t wear rose-colored glasses and consume but leave nothing of value behind. I want to leave as a better person and imbibe this mysterious world into my art, preferably, without sounding like an absolute idiot.

***

I recorded my train ride with two older travellers, retirees. Notating the frustration I felt was not inline with the traveller philosophy of so many other blogs and articles involving the subject. You’re supposed to be loving and caring and sharing to a selfless degree. There is a hippy dippy ethos that is flimsy at best, but tantalizing all the same: we’re ALL in this TOGETHER. A commune of sorts; a traveling circus of mostly heterosexual, white, young, native English speakers likening themselves to a pack of gypsies (not real gypsies, mind you, rather the white-washed Aladdin version of street urchin) living like those in the musical Rent not La Boheme.

It hit me, on a travel home from Porto, that I’m very much stuck in my ways and while my mind is more open and I’m tougher than ever, I still don’t have time for bullshit. Don’t get me wrong. I will help whenever possible. I have great care and compassion for humanity as a whole. But if you accuse me of taking your seat faced with proof in black and white, well then, I hate you and refuse to be altruistic. I won’t apologize for being correct and polite when I could have been rude.

Sorry not sorry is the unofficial motto of Spain. No one apologizes unless they really mean it. Actually, it’s more honest and refreshing, really. Even though at first I was quite put off by such seemingly abrasive behavior. There is an air of zero fucks given that thickens the air and I simply inhale. If I hadn’t had the staunch Spanish air fresh in my lungs, then I might’ve moved for them, to honor my elders and appease an obviously oblivious pair of people. But living abroad has taught me to stand up for myself saddled with the strength to be firm in the face of others trying to take advantage. Now, if it was a crowded metro or bus, I would have given up my seat without hesitation yet that was not the case.

 

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