Panama City, Panama
I have been inside the mind of a warmduscher and lo, it was not good. Until this trip I had secretly harboured the suspicion that I may just be a tight-fisted git, but fortunately I can now declare that this is not the case. Although being a non-warmduscher was initially about the money, the lifestyle brings with it advantages that are impossible to replicate while travelling in comfort.
For instance, all places of interest in Costa Rica are linked by tourist shuttle buses that promise a speedy and relaxed journey for only about three times the price of public transport. Travel times may be cut in half so, discounting the cost, what is the problem with this scenario? The answer lies in experience. The simple act of travelling in a slow-moving, crowded bus full of ordinary people getting on with their daily life gives one an invaluable insight into a country. Some of my most memorable travel experiences have stemmed from such journeys.
I was initially very cautious at first about how Peter would respond to my travelling style, especially in terms of long bus journeys, but after just one of those $25 shuttles he made it clear that he did not wish to impact on my methods in any way. To my every question he will reply: ”We’ll do whatever you would normally do - you’re the captain”. He never complains, ever, even after an all-day, five-stage bus and boat trip. (Of course I use my discretion when deciding what to put him through, hence the ultimate sin of flying from Belize to Costa Rica.) The good news is that he is a non-warmduscher at heart but there are just limits to what a 72-year old should have to endure.
Peter has had trouble spending money his whole life, a trait that I have apparently inherited. In his twilight years though, retired and financially comfortable, he can easily afford to treat himself yet he still has immense trouble doing so. He could cruise the Caribbean on a luxury liner but can hardly bring himself to spend $3 on a nice cup of coffee. When he does so he always offers to buy me a juice or something, which initially I would refuse on principle to remain true to my nWD roots, but then it became clear that doing so was causing him to second guess his own spending. “You’re right,” he’d say, “I don’t really need a coffee”. This was of course intolerable, so I have no choice now but to grit my teeth and accept his offers.
When looking for accommodation we take private twin rooms, in backpacker’s if possible so that I can still meet likeminded folk, but I no longer run around several hostels finding the cheapest price. We just accept the first decent available room. He is very concerned with fire exits though, declaring most places with character “death traps” and demanding a room with several exits.
In terms of food we have come to a happy arrangement: we take turns to choose a venue for our evening meal - he tries to choose half-decent places and pays accordingly, while the next night I take him to a cheapo local dive. It works well.
But is he enjoying himself? It’s hard to tell. Clinically depressed people do not enjoy anything, or so he claims. I know he relishes reading his Kindle, a whisky and ginger ale, and sometimes he even laughs when getting into bed such is the pleasure that that brings. I know he is appreciating the time we are spending together but other than that we could be anywhere in the world. In the last 3 weeks he has had precisely two conversations with other people, one of which he was cornered and forced into while I was zipping around on a canopy tour.
And so on to Colombia. This afternoon we're boarding a yacht which will take us, via the amazing San Blas Islands, across the Caribbean Sea to the colonial port of Cartagena in 5 days. It's a popular journey among continent-roaming backpackers, and probably the single most expensive layout of the entire trip. We didn't even shop around - D'oh!