Archive for March, 2012
I was walking home in the middle of a rough week, filled with thoughts of self-doubt that I’ve discussed many times here on Two Passports — what are my goals in this nomadic existence? Is this a respite before the next phase of my life, or is this my life now? How much longer can I do this travel/live/travel/live lifestyle? All existential questions my current lifestyle forces me to ask every few months. In the midst of it, I looked up to the sky and was greeted with a magnificent view of The Southern Cross.
The Southern Cross is the most recognizable constellation in the southern hemisphere. It makes up a large crucifix and points toward the south pole. If you trace a line from the top of the cross to the bottom, then extend that line 4.5 more times, you’ve got a basic reading for where the South Pole is in the sky. It’s easy to see, mainly because Australians reference their big constellation constantly. It wasn’t until I moved here that I realized that cluster of stars on the Australian flag actually represented The Southern Cross (it’s not unique. Wikipedia actually has a page listing dozens of flags worldwide that depict The Cross). Melbourne’s main regional train station is named “Southern Cross Station.” The second verse of Australia’s anthem, “Advance Australia Fair” starts, “Beneath our radiant southern cross/We’ll toil with hearts and hands…”
The point of all this is, the Southern Cross is inescapable here in Australia, but it was also utterly unrecognizable to me before just a few weeks ago. Yet, on this dark night it seemed to be particularly bright, reminding me of how far from home I was, and how much I’d accomplished. The Southern Cross didn’t answer all the questions I was asking myself, it just told me to calm down and appreciate where I was.
Living location independent means losing things. It’s a fact of life for the nomadic, but recently I’ve been hit with a particularly unlucky string of losses. In the course of a few months I’ve managed to misplace a rain jacket (Munich Wombats Hostel bar), a backpack containing an iPod, camera, GoPro video camera, book and dress shirt (London’s SouthWest Train service, Waterloo — Reading line) and another camera I bought to replace the first (Minnesota’s Rasmussen Woods while snowshoeing). Ouch.
But there’s one thing I’ve managed to hang on to for nearly two years: The Puppy Towel. It was my first trip to what would become one of my favorite places in the world, Valencia, Spain. At the wonderful Home Youth Hostel (highly recommended) I made a hostel friend who agreed to embark on an adventure with me. We were going to explore one of Valencia’s lesser-known beaches. It was out of town by about 20 minutes on the public bus, but the trip to the tiny village of El Saler was totally worth it. El Saler is a quaint, unassuming village only a few blocks long, but with one of the most pristine beaches I’ve ever been to. Before hitting the beach though, I needed to find a towel.
I assumed that any beach town would have a place to buy towels, but I overestimated El Saler’s size. The only thing they had available was a tiny general store that seemed to have picked up used towels from the beach, washed them, and resold them for outrageous prices. I was faced with paying close to €30 for the choice of a Loony Toons towel or one embossed with a picture of two puppies.
Hanging from a clothesline.
In a pair of overalls.
It was undeniably cheesy, and I embraced the towel with all the love you have to give such a ludicrously overpriced ugly thing. Since then I’ve taken this towel everywhere with me.
This past summer, while I was working as a tour guide and sleeping in a different hostel every night, I would often hang the towel up in the luggage compartment of the company bus I guided on. It got awfully hot down there, so the towel would emerge dry and my luggage wouldn’t get moldy. Unfortunately, it was also very easy to forget about. On more than one occasion I left the towel in the luggage compartment when I had a day off and the bus continued on. Me and The Puppy Towel would be separated for weeks at a time, and some of my coworkers started to have fun with me. They’d send me ransom notes via email of The Puppy Towel making its way through Europe without me, usually performing some task above and beyond the duty of a normal towel. One picture featured one of the bus drivers cleaning the hubcaps with the it, for example. Sometimes my coworkers (I’m looking mainly at you, Amy) demand goodies for the safe return of the towel.
Eventually, me and The Puppy Towel were reunited, and it’s still a much-loved part of my suitcase arsenal. I currently sits in my room in Melbourne, having made the trip from Europe and the USA to Australia with me. Technology can be a pain to lose, but it’s important for every traveler to have at least one sentimental item to keep by their side. For me, it just happens to be one very ugly piece of linen.