By Jason Bourne
This post was written on August 31, 2016
I used to love the solo mission. Some of the best stories I have come from solo travel. They aren’t blow-you-out-of-this-world stories, and I am sure others have more dramatic, but they were good enough for me to remember.
My friends back home were all getting married by the age of 25. I sought a different path and the only way to have any fun in my boring-everyone-wants-to-get-married-and-have-babies-hometown was to seek greener pastures elsewhere.
There is nowhere better, in my opinion, for solo travel than America. I’ve travelled solo in Europe, Africa and Asia (all at different phases of my life to be fair, but still) and the outgoing nature of America is equal to none other and perfectly fit for the solo mission.
There was the trip to St. Louis for the NCAA tournament. On night one, I had a group of people ask me to take a picture of them. I was already pretty hammered from watching the games solo at the bar. I stumbled over to take a picture of them, not realising it was a setup for their single friends. Me, in true failure fashion, snapped the picture and walked away.
Later I was at another bar and a table of two girls sent over a shot to me. I downed the shot and walked over to join them. Things were going well and I was engaged in mid-conversation with them when some guy walked over to me. “Excuse me, can I borrow you for a second?”. He grabbed me and brought me over to a group of two girls that were his friends. They claimed they needed me to settle a debate, an obvious setup. I now had two attractive girls vying for my attention (one target at the previous table and one at this new table).
My head exploded and I wasn’t sure what to do. I downed another shot with the group and went back to the other table without saying anything. This was the working of a pure amateur (keep in mind I was just out of a long relationship and really just getting up to speed on how to be single). At the end of the night, because I am a complete failure, I took a cab back to my hotel with the two girls from the original table and then proceeded to give the girls money for the taxi and went in to the hotel alone. They just looked at me in astonishment (I have a history of rejecting women or not following through with sure things) as they accepted the cash. I can never forget their bewildered look. I cringe now when I write this.
Another night was even more of a fail, if that is possible. I was again drinking solo to start the night, without talking to many people – always a mistake if you ever travel solo, or an adventure if you’re into things getting messy really fast. I was hammered and asked someone where to go for some action. They advised some neighborhood outside of downtown that required a taxi ride.
I’ll take a pit stop on the failed solo mission stories to describe this taxi ride. It was memorable for what he said to me. He was of Indian descent. As we were driving up some hill he was explaining to me how St. Louis is ok for him, as an Indian, but it is not a good place to be black. He mentioned that crime from the black community even in the city is rampant and they always tend to get stereotyped as a result. He pointed in the direction over the water on the other side and said simply “THAT is not where you ever want to find yourself”. He said they never get let in bars if there is a group of them, but he has never encountered any racial discrimination himself, as an Indian. I didn’t think much at the time, but after the Ferguson riots that started a period of racial divide in America I remembered this conversation. It was obvious, to me, that the MidWest of America has become the new 1960s South, as a lot of them have moved to these parts since the 60s.
Anyways, he drives me to a bar. I proceed to pound back the gin and tonics. I can feel myself wobbling. Of course I have said nothing to nobody at this point, because I’m a big, drunk pussy. So I decide to leave, and head to this club that was near my hotel. I get to the front of the hotel and the doorman asks me for $20. I stumble as I pull the cash out of my pocket and all of the cash falls to the floor. I say “you Americans and your money looking all the same”. He asks me where I’m from. At that moment I remembered something.
I remembered that the Edmonton Oilers hockey team was in town and that this guy wouldn’t have a clue who is who on that team. So I said, “oh I am in town for a hockey game, I play for the Edmonton Oilers”. At that moment he says “oh your money is no good here sir”. He takes me into a VIP room that is roped off and I proceed to get double gin and tonics handed to me for free from the bartender. I should’ve come here at the start of the night. Getting these free drinks passed to me at this point is like handing a nuclear weapon to a terrorist.
I don’t remember much of the rest of that night. All I know is I had multiple attractive girls approaching me, ready to sink their fangs in and then they would shortly disappear after I uttered a couple of words. Time and time again. I was handed a golden ticket and I couldn’t even make that work. I guess being a pretend athlete isn’t enough to get laid. Or maybe the slurring didn’t help? Jesus, but fun times nonetheless.
On a last note, I remember the old man I sat next to at one of the games. I was wearing my Duke hat since they were playing that day (but not in St. Louis). He looked at my hat and said, “I like Duke. You wanna know why I like Duke?”. I shrugged and asked why, ready to be given a bout of wisdom from this old man with years of life experience. He looked around, leaned in to me and covered his mouth and said, “because they recruit white boys!”. I had to do everything I could to contain my laughter. He then went on to share his theories on different races in America with respect to College Basketball. Hilarious.
Only in America do people open up to a stranger travelling by himself like I have experienced. Sure these trips aren’t as exotic as you will get in Thailand or whatever, but you just don’t get these kinds of experiences anywhere else. You can learn more about American culture in one weekend than you can learn about any other country in six months. You will get engaged in conversation no matter what, as I’m probably the most unapproachable human in the world, yet it doesn’t stop them.