Ben From England

People on the Road Series      
Many times, I've heard travelers say that it was the people that made their trip great. In this series, I will write about the more memorable characters that I was lucky to meet and learn from. Some I knew for only a few hours, others a week or longer. 
*I don't use real names.

Ben was my classmate from England that I wrote about in the post School Week 2 and Banking during my CELTA days. His story was the banking part. Read it to get a background. I want to write more of his stories here. 

Obviously, his job sucked, and he was unhappy about losing other people's money everyday and getting chewed out because of it. He and a friend started talking about a backpacking trip to all the places they could think of. 
At first, Ben was afraid of leaving a secure job with a good paycheck (supposedly, one of the most addicting things in life). Well, I guess it got bad enough that after a particularly shitty day he called the friend, and they decided it was time to go. 
It helps a lot to have a buddy or relative, even just one, that you can go do crazy stuff with. It's easier to free yourself of the expectations of your social group. With a first follower you go from a lone nut to a leader. Or at the least, you are two nuts who have something in common. 

They quit their jobs and went on year long trip from South America to Asia. They traveled to 79 cities in 1 year. Quick math: four and a half days for each city. They kept costs down going by bus, which takes multiple hours to travel between cities. 79 cities across 2 continents by bus, visiting each city for an average of 4.5 days. 

The pace had the expected effect: after 10 months, Ben had a nervous breakdown on a 10 hour bus ride. It was a moment of, "I can't fucking do this anymore." I guess he could only go so far without the security of a place to call home. I doubt I could have gone 10 months. 
By that time, he had been to Mexico and met a girl there. So he took the next bus back and spent the last 2 months there. 

An odd story from Mexico City:
He and a friend were invited to a concert outside of the city by a local girl (not his girlfriend) they met at a bar. The concert was that night so they took her car. Shortly after leaving the city they were pulled over by police. He knew a little Spanish and his friend knew none, so they looked to the girl to get them out of it. But she was  gonzo due to drugs or too much beer.* So Ben was left to use his limited Spanish to argue with two corrupt officers. 

For a half hour, they tried to get a bribe from him. Ben just kept saying "No tengo," (I don't have) and tried to look honest. They went lower and lower on their asking price and became increasingly desperate. Towards the end, the police officers were pleading for just a few dollars. Ben stuck with "No tengo." They gave up and left with nothing. 

I couldn't stop laughing when I thought about the same situation happening in the U.S. Two older policemen begging for money from a backpacker. 

*I think she was in on the con with the cops.

A good story from Vietnam: 
Many people told him bad things about Vietnam, but he and his buddy went anyway. It ended up being the best country they traveled through. One of the highlights was a mountain jungle motorbike ride.

They met a motorbike tour guide at a hostel and decided to go. The next day they splurged on a day trip, riding from village to village in the Vietnamese jungle. The best part of the trip was eating lunch in a more remote village that saw few foreigners. The curious village kids, who had never seen a white person, dared each other to touch Ben and his friend, screaming and laughing when they did. 

I didn't know there were still places we white people hadn't invaded. 

After his year long trip he went back to England and later to the CELTA class in Mexico City. 

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