None of such was forthcoming, however. “Boring”, I said without even looking at him. No, not the evil sort of boring. The sort when you barely let the information enter your brain, take a fraction of a second processing it, and shoot it straight out. Hiking in Switzerland? A country just a couple of hours from London by plane? Boring. As for the holiday package in Puerto Rico where you’d no doubt bumped into a few of your ex US neighbours in one of those cereal box hotels? Likewise boring, my friend. What else could one ever respond? Boring.
And, going through one of my legendarily grumpy moments, I kindly took my eyes off the screen to bestow my colleague with a glance – not a very welcoming one, mind you – and added that actually his whole life was boring. Very boring, in fact.
Not without some surprise (but very little as most of my colleagues no longer react to my offensive remarks), my counterpart retorted that his life was really a lot of fun. And that whoever’s life was actually boring to tears was “you, Anna”. Following which he walked proudly out. I guess I will be hearing no more of Switzerland. I am a little relieved about the fact.
What do you mean my life is boring?
The incident already half-forgotten (the colleague soon stopped by to check if his tie was okay – I said this wasn’t his worst. I can actually be nice sometimes), I could still hear “you, Anna” ringing in my ears. “My life is boring”, I repeated a few times slowly to myself, as if trying to grasp the full meaning of these words. Somehow I was a little disappointed that someone would ever let it into their minds that my, Anna’s, life could be anything but exciting. A little disappointed – and a little offended, perhaps.
You see, this whole tripping around the world – and the resulting appreciation from friends and strangers alike – have somewhat spoilt me. I hear a zillion compliments addressing my (admittedly amateur, but there you go) photography, my (non-existent, but I play it out well) language skills and my alleged bravery in visiting remote locations (totally undeserved as I mostly stick to midrange hotels and generally avoid hanging out in deserted places). Even my banking career is turning out quite decent for a once penniless student in Finland. I am certainly no longer searching through rubbish bins for plastic bottles every night to earn a bit of extra cash. Seriously, while a healthy dollop of self-criticism is not totally undesirable, I have always thought my life rather an interesting one. An opposing opinion? Please explain.
So no fine dining in Dubai then
Then light gradually began to shine through. Not without some internal struggle, I accepted that one could indeed see certain aspects of my life as boring. Starting with travel destinations – I must admit that I have become an extreme snob when it comes to those. I have no interest in visiting the likes of Dubai or Los Angeles, albeit coveted by many. I did not love New York at all when I was there in 2010 and doubt I am ever going back. Even Rio de Janeiro – the city I flew across to for exactly three days and three nights, for a friend’s wedding in 2011 – is a done thing. I have seen what there was to be seen and my steps are now headed elsewhere. Others may be screaming into my ears how I absolutely MUST go to Dubai or Los Angeles, and how I definitely MUST give New York and Rio another chance – I think not, thank you very much.
Next, I admit I must be dead boring when it comes to eating out. Reservation only? Michelin rated? Mention those buzzwords, and I’ll get depressed – and might even play a sick card. Fine dining in such places is not a treat or a privilege in any way, and it isn’t even a matter of price: I would still feel depressed if meals were on the house. Simplicity, on the other hand, is pure joy. At home in London, my second half and I alternate between local pubs and peripheral Indian joints. On the road, I am more of a supermarket type in countries with higher price levels, and definitely a street food fan when it comes to cheaper locations. India, Vietnam and Thailand boast fabulous street food cultures, and it isn’t a wonder that I thrive whenever I am there. However, most of my friends would fret at the kind of food I routinely consume as a traveller. And I doubt many would sit down on the curb or one of those miniature plastic stools to share a meal with me. Saner people would go for a safer, cleaner, pricier option. I think they might be boring to turn away from street food – they probably think the same about me for avoiding posher sit-down haunts.
Nights are for sleeping. Aren’t they?
Nightlife deserves a few words here. If a newspaper or a guidebook happens to have a corresponding section, then I will most certainly skip it. Nightlife for me is virtually non-existent. I’ll rephrase that: nightlife on the road generally means going to sleep as early as my photos allow me and getting up way too early for most people’s standards. Indeed my alarm is usually set to ring between 6 and 6:30am at the latest; very few people I know would do that to themselves on holiday.
Moreover, I strongly dislike loud, noisy bars – an essential part of a classic definition of nightlife – and, as a rule, do not drink alcohol while travelling. Part of this has to do with being a solo female in a foreign environment, meaning I do not want to (a) send the wrong message to locals and (b) lose control of myself. Another, much larger, part of this is that, well, I simply do not like bars. They rather intimidate me. The idea that you’d have to pay money to prolong your forced visit to any of those simply defeats me. Night clubs take this whole idea to an entirely new level. In fact, I won’t even get started on those. Am I boring? I’d probably seem so to the majority of the holidaying population.
And tonight, Matthew, I will study…
Finally, the way I’d normally spend my free time “at base”, i.e. in London, is not likely to appeal to many people either. Gone are the days when I’d be fashionably toiling away in front of a computer screen together with countless other slaves to an unnamed financial services industry. All my evenings are now work-free – and my favourite way to spend one in London is – tada! – at a language course. I have already tried Norwegian at the University of Westminster, Greek at the Hellenic Centre and Arabic at SOAS (of which the latter two I am still continuing). My next big goal is to sign up for a beginners’ Hindi class at King’s in the autumn. Seriously, nothing moves the brain in the same way as foreign languages do. I swear by my evening courses – but I also see now how most of my friends would probably find such an activity boring. Call me a language geek; I stick to my pistoler. Which is Norwegian for guns, by the way.
Same goes for going out with friends. Fancy meals or, God forbid, cocktails are things I desperately try to avoid. Languages aside, evenings are to be spent with that one crazy person who seems to prefer my company to any other; him failing, there are plenty of Hindi movies on my hard drive to watch and things in my much adored flat to scrub clean. Indeed my preferred ways of socialising are limited to an afternoon coffee or a home-cooked dinner. My most perfect friends are families, whose lives are already well established, homes organised, bedtimes early, children available to play with and fridges well stocked with food. Moreover, my wed friends tend to be older and thus miles more interesting conversationalists than most fellow nearly-30-year-olds. And with “interesting” I certainly speak for myself. Because, to most of my peers, spending time with older people burdened with families is probably boring. Really boring.
I sighed. It was Friday and this lengthy thinking process was somewhat tiresome. Thankfully, my previously offended colleague walked in again – this time to ask if his new trousers were “okay”. For the love of god, the guy had done some serious shopping on Puerto Rico.
I didn’t give him much chance to talk though. In silence I got up, put my hands on his shoulders, shot a meaningful look into his dark Tajik eyes – and said “Maybe your life isn’t as boring as mine, buddy”.
And, as if only to worsen the already terrified expression on his face, I added “And those trousers really aren’t too flared at the ends. Really”.