Sunday, April 17, 2011

Travel Preparations

Next weekend I’m going to go out of town. I say it each week, but I know this about myself, it takes me twice as long to do things that are not in my normal routine. My process goes like this. First, I get the idea of what I want to do. In this case, we’ll say it’s go to the port city of Busan. I ask my co-workers about it.
                “It’s a wonderful city, they have a casino where only foreigners can gamble,” one says.
                “They have a strange nightlife, and there are a ton of Americans there,” another says smiling, insinuating pleasures that are inappropriate talk at a school filled with children watching Peter Pan and discussing the merits of staying young forever.
                “They have a group of women that sell fireworks at night,” another laughs leading into a story about haggling with someone’s grandmother over the price of a Roman Candle.
                The end of the first phase is imagining going. Taking a long train ride and snapping pictures of the passing countryside, stretching at barren train stations overlooking tilled fields and lonely people waiting for a loved one on the platform, and the arrival and relaxing on the beach as I read a novel, drink a beer and watch the sun. Now, I’m certain that I will go.
                Phase two begins next a few days later. This is where I read about my destination and find out everything that could go wrong. In this case there is a large Russian community there. It seems odd that a Russian community would emerge in a country that has nothing in common with Russia. This leads me to believe there is more there than what the book is telling me and they are hinting at something. The books and websites—the few that I read—also worn of some seedy night actions. Muggings, stabbings, street attacks by roving Taekwondo masters looking for revenge—who knows what this could mean. I now have to plan for this by thinking about every scenario. Scenario one: I meet one of these local street toughs and they attack me and beat me and leave me lying beneath a crowd of disgusting onlookers as I curl around my bag and wish someone spoke English and they stopped trying to sell me fireworks, or worse that a large crowd will gather and I will become anxious and worried that this trip was some sort of rouse by Busan to humiliate me by making a fool of me somehow.  When I was seven my brother embarrassed me in front of a group of people by asking me repeatedly if I was going to urinate in my pants and then I did. Since then, large crowds have scared me, and I worry that I might pee my pants. I go through scenario until I find the two possible conclusions. First, the street toughs attack me as a show of strength. It begins when I exit the train station and they are pushing around some small child or young woman. Everyone walks past disgusted and dismayed that no one will do anything. At first I want only to walk past, but one of them yells at me. It’s at this moment I notice they’re all wearing Affliction t-shirts and other apparel with the name of the local fight school. They surround me, and using some quick footwork and objects lying around—bottles, chairs, a monk’s staff from the time of the Ming dynasty—I’m able to defeat them.
Scenario two: they only have one main fighter who challenges me to a one on one battle. He is a goliath, far larger than any Korean, his face cast in silhouette with fight and toss each other against brick walls until we fall in a respectful exhaustion and declare the match a draw. With phase two of my travel preparation complete, I move onto phase three.
                It’s here that I do no budgeting whatsoever, and tell myself that I will spend no more than a certain amount. The idea of spending all of my money could bring unwanted stress. But if I don’t know how much money is in my bank account than I won’t be certain if I have spent all of it. This part takes full commitment in not noticing at any point how much money is in my bank account. To make sure I don’t go broke I make sure to keep my credit card in my wallet. If I start a few weeks before I leave and continue keeping it there I can be certain that it will be in my wallet when I leave. This way if those local toughs do appear and cripple me I will be able to go to the hospital.
                With the planning and budgeting set, it’s now that we begin part three: Procrastination. I can’t leave on the first weekend, but I say I will. This will make people ask me about my trip. I’ll laugh and say that I woke up late, or that I meant I was going next weekend. But really this first weekend was a trial run, in that I wake up and judge how I feel before I leave. My Saturday routine involves a lot of nothing, and it is important that I keep this up. It’s also during this time that I look up how far away my destination is. I often find it is far away, and that once I get there, if I am planning a day trip, I will be forced to leave before I have really done anything. It’s at this time I change my destination.
                “But I thought you were going to Busan?” Co-workers will ask me.
                “I was but then I decided to go to Daegu, because I just want to take a day trip really,” I say. They nod. I tell them that I will leave for Daegu that Friday. On Monday, if someone asks if I went to Daegu I tell them I meant the following weekend.
                Phase four is next. This is the actual trip. The weekend has finally arrived and I’m ready to go. I go to bed early the night before and wake up before eight. I’m packed and ready to go. Before leaving though I check my bag several times to make sure everything is in order. I have my passport, camera, all forms of ID, Nyquil, Dayquil, Zantac, both cell phones, my computer is hidden in a box in the dresser and covered in clothes the back window is shut and shielded with clothes, I’m wearing my hoodie and the gas is turned off. I leave the apartment. I now re-enter the apartment to make sure the heat is off, and then I check to make sure the water in the bathroom isn’t running and the light in the washing room—the size of a closet—is off. I check to make sure the heat is still off. I check to make sure the gas on the stove is off. I check the heat again. I now check the lights by turning them on and off to make sure that I’m not seeing them as off because of the sunlight. They are off. I check the heat one last time, and then I put my wallet in my back left pocket and my key in my front right pocket. My cell phone goes in my front left pocket and I lock the door. I test the handle to make sure it is locked and tell myself everything is off. I now run to get away from the apartment before I check it again. The joys of travel are for everyone, and as soon as I reach the train station and note all possible routes of escape in case of a terrorist attack I buy my ticket. At the last second, I decide to go to Busan, then change my mind and purchase a ticket for Daegu. Once on the train I take out a book, drink a cup of coffee and stare at the passing scenery. I enjoy nothing more than seeing new things, except of course for not seeing them at all.

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