getting around

This was my first trip anywhere with a girlfriend. My female friends said the trip would make or break the relationship. My guy friends said I was bringing sand to the beach. Karen's friends said she was crazy to travel to another continent with a guy who wouldn't even leave a contacts case at her apartment. As excited as I was while packing, a little part of me wondered if I was courting disaster and should be traveling solo like I had talked about so often in my twenties.

So Karen and I landed in Thailand with a strict itinerary that included scuba diving, seeing a shitload of temples, and returning to Los Angeles not hating each other's guts. And to our surprise, we traveled along with no major emotional blow-ups or vacation horror stories. I felt a smug satisfaction as we approached the last day of our trip in Bangkok. The plan was to blow the last of our baht on knockoff jeans and an upscale curry dinner, then get a good night's rest before our morning flight.

But that afternoon, I flipped through my travel journal without finding any seeds for a novel. I clicked through my digital camera and found only the photos I imagine a million couples take each year on the same travel route, more family-album than Vice Guide to Travel — nothing in there to elicit awed, envious comments on Facebook. I'd shot my vacation wad with this trek and we'd had an experience not so different from one my parents would have.

The first vacation of my thirties, and all that was missing was the fannypacks.

The first vacation of my thirties, and all that was missing was the fannypacks.

Flipping through our Lonely Planet book for "off the beaten path" activities, the lame irony of the whole exercise frustrated me even further. Coming to a section on the red-light districts, I wondered aloud if we should check out a sex show. I felt sheepish telling my girlfriend I was even considering them — much less asking her to join me. So I reassured her I wasn't some kind of pervert and, quoting a couple innocuous lines from the guidebook, I promised her that I was only as game for it as she was.

"I mean," I added with all the maturity I could muster, "it is part of the culture."

Karen was nonplussed. "What do you want? Line-dancing and bestiality?"

What I wanted was to get my Graham Greene on. I remembered my old college roommate talking about his solo trip through Southeast Asia. The hostel hook-ups, Full Moon parties, firearms, drug deals with tuk-tuk drivers. Karen and I had seen too many temples and not enough cockfights. One story that stuck with me entailed my friend getting hit in the face with a live goldfish shot out of a stripper's vagina. Karen stared at me. "Is that something you really need to experience? Really?"

Before I'd thought of the implications, I said, "Yes. Yes, it is." She protested, but I pointed out that she'd picked the restaurant for dinner

Commentarium (26 Comments)

Jun 29 09 - 9:24am

- lame -

Jun 29 09 - 11:23am

pretty cool

Jun 29 09 - 1:30pm

lots of guys do that juggle in their head, wondering which is better - single hedonistic adventurer or hopefully happy married guy. and there is danger aplenty in the wicked world out there to fall into if you even half-try. i call this 'chasing a flame' for which you can burn down all your life and name. often i think it's best to stay well within the guardrails.

Jun 29 09 - 1:35pm

Wow. I had so many of the same feelings and arguments on a trip with my gf to Rio. well done.

Jun 29 09 - 1:40pm

EGM is a dick. Not lame.

Jun 29 09 - 2:37pm

Love the Leo thing. Funny pop cult deets

Jun 30 09 - 3:26am

just cringed through that whole thing. that was waaay uncomfortable.

Jul 01 09 - 12:07am

As a female, I found the story adorable.

Jul 01 09 - 12:43am

been there many times. this did a good job and brought me back.

Jun 30 09 - 3:10pm

Sorry, I have to agree with the first comment--totally lame. Single hedonism vs. security in 'wuv' is *such* the false dichotomy, and Duncan's life is obviously all the lamer for believing that that's just the way things are. Some girls enjoy the same things you do, duh!

Jun 30 09 - 3:55pm

I didn't overthink it that hard, besides the fact that the narrator definitely made me laugh quite a bit

Jun 30 09 - 7:04pm

wow. that's pretty much the definition of neuroses. made for very entertaining read though

Jun 30 09 - 7:19pm

Ridiculous. Did you seriously travel halfway across the world just to have "offbeat adventures to recount at dinner parties" and receive "envious comments on Facebook" as opposed to traveling for the sake of your own experience (especially since finding yourself in Thailand is one of the most cliched, overdone North American experiences possible)? This was one of the most adolescent, narcissistic articles I've ever read on here - does anyone past the age of 19 participate in activities solely to come off as cultured and artsy to random strangers? Be more pretentious.

Jun 30 09 - 7:59pm

I had way more "offbeat adventures" on my honeymoon in Central America than on the next trip to Southeast Asia (both with my husband) . . . but we were never looking for these things, they just happened upon us (for better and for worse - including being invited for a night out at the local gas station mini mart by some crazy young Nicaraguans (more entertaining than it sounds), and 2 car accidents in Laos in 4 days - not so fun but met some great people 'by accident')... on your next trip just chill out and let things happen, don't over-plan everything, and try to interact with locals if possible, this is the key to the truly "off the beaten track" adventures. . .

Jun 30 09 - 8:34pm

What? i don't think the writer's pretentious, sg--he seems to be poking fun of himself which i found very funny. i will say the situation was a bit contrived though

Jul 01 09 - 2:20am

hahaha. funny shit. that's bankok to a T.

Jul 01 09 - 10:24am

on the contrary, i think he realized too late that he had built expectations of adventure in his first major trip. Give him a break, he just wanted to experience what he'd only read and heard about. I think this is an honest account of his neuroses and he says what a lot of people are thinking subconsciously when they travel anyway. Of course he actually got what he wanted from the trip- at least one story to tell. Good style, engaging and it made me smile. Next time don't overthink your travels and they'll fall into place.

Jul 01 09 - 2:43pm

every time i almost felt fed-up with this writer, he criticized himself first which was effective. i feel like he's laying on his neurosis a bit thick for the article, but it was well-written enough that i liked anyway

Jul 01 09 - 6:03pm

a "shitload of temples" etc? he's so def playing up the "ugly american" thing for jokes most of which i thought worked

Jul 02 09 - 4:12am

i laughed through most of this! went on a couples trip that was very much similar. the pressure of vacations bring out the irrational.

Jul 04 09 - 1:19am

pretty hilarious. i had 2 forward to an ex.

Jul 20 09 - 8:02am

Umm Karen why are you sticking around with someone who doesn't fully appreciate you? You seem way coooler!

Aug 01 09 - 6:11am

useless prick, should have stayed home! why the hell did you go?? so lame!

Aug 10 09 - 1:24pm

it makes sense that this writer works for film because i found this very cinematic. i agree with the comment that the writer is playing the "ugly american" angle for jokes, most of which made me laugh quite a bit.

Dec 12 10 - 7:59pm

You are a poor writer that conveys the emotional depth of your quandary with the awkward panache of a talented 14 year old.

Jun 15 12 - 10:55am

Wow all that really happened?