In theory, the perpetual tourist business sounds great: out and about, on the move, seeing the world foot loose and fancy free.
In reality, I’m sure that it is a state perched precariously in one of Dante’s lower levels of the Inferno.
My sister has helpfully passed along her husband’s 3-P rule for travel: Passport, Pills, and Plastic (money). All the rest can be dismissed as “just fluff”. There is a certain truth in this, of course, until you find yourself, having forgotten your underwear and the one pair of black slacks that goes with everything else in your suitcase in a country full of skinny child-sized people.
Generalized anxiety is the default tourist state. Even waiting for a plane that has a 5-hour delay, you are worried that it will somehow sneakily materialize and silently leave without you. Suitcases and possessions take on lives of their own and mentally locating each item of your paraphernalia fills many hours. This results in the ultimate tourist worry-state which is that worry is actually curtailing the good time that you should be having.
Your self-respect also takes a constant beating. Dignity is impossible as you jump onto and crawl off of a bobbing outrigger in the local harbour (even other tourists, who seem to have transport that has taken them to sedate steps, regard your unlovely contortions with expressions of dismay and disgust); climb the concrete stairs through the crowd of garrulous young men in front of the empty ATM machine; or mistake the price for vanilla pods in the market by a factor of a thousand. You are a sitting tourist duck.
My theory is that most of the above is brought about by a state of acute sleep deprivation. Jet lag takes its toll, but your room (inevitably located in the vicinity of an elevator or a garbage chute) allows jolly laughter and animated conversation to leak under your door at 3 a.m. These other tourists (who are somehow managing to have a rollicking good time) rouse you out of your fitful sleep in your too hot/too cold room on your too hard/too soft bed and you go back to a few fruitless hours of trying to think where your finger-nail file (that you haven’t seen for the past two days) could possibly be.
Add to this the terror of having a taxi driver with the DT’s, a map in Chinese of possibly the wrong city, a mysterious rash on your stomach, curiously stained foot soles, and the threat of a black hairy crab dinner followed by a Chinese Chopstick Massage, then you have to pull yourself together to keep visions of death at bay.
So, you look up at the unusually blue sky and forget about your finger-nail file for a moment. You consider the nameless tropical trees and their flowering canopies and their parasite orchids and their miniscule birds. You plan a trip down the road to the 7/11 for a bucket of green tea ice cream.
And then you start worrying about where the folder could possibly be that contains details of your flight back home. You haven’t seen it for days.