Budget travel or rampant self-flagellation?

Speaking of syndromes, I personally suffer from a number of maladies (real or imagined depends entirely on the eye of the beholder), a large number of which were invented/identified by me, exclusively for me, and anyone else referencing them or suffering from them is required to cough up royalties.

I believe I’ve isolated yet another malady this week which may be one of my most mainstream, accessible cash-cow neuroses of all time; Sado-Masochistic, Econo-Traveler F*ck-Wit Syndrome (sadly, even when it comes to naming maladies, the art of brevity eludes me… but check out all those hyphens! I still got it!!!).

The theory is that Sado-Masochistic, Econo-Traveler F*ck-Wit Syndrome sufferers, whether voluntarily or not, seek out and inflict the most god-awful, sleepless, punishing travel arrangements on themselves under the auspices of saving time, money and/or maximizing convenience.

I’m a classic case. At the beginning of each trip, no matter what the length, scope or distance, I always tell myself I’m going to finally slow down, spend a little more money for comfort and basically consider my mental and physical well-being above all else. This trip was no different. I had 12 days to get myself from Iasi to Paris to San Francisco. A few lazy days in each place, day-travel only, in strictly non-ass pounding environments. Seems reasonable and carefully considered, no?

How long did these good intentions last? Just over two days. In order to maximize time in places I wanted to be, minimize expense and take advantage of a giddying transport perk, I’m now committed to three overnight trips in the space of six days.

I’m just hours away from the second of the three; a seven hour, overnight minibus journey from Cluj, Romania to Budapest Airport. Originally, I intended to take the train to Budapest the day before my flight, get a private room, have an elegant dinner with wine, sleep for about 12 hours and leisurely make my way out the the airport for a noon flight, so I’d arrive in Paris refreshed and ready to do some long-awaited power-eating. However, a truly destructive and avoidable course of action presented itself, my acute Sado-Masochistic, Econo-Traveler F*ck-Wit Syndrome went into over-drive, and now the waking coma ramifications are looming over me.

The upside of this folly; no wasting time in a city I’ve already toured (Budapest), an extra day in a cool city waiting to be discovered (Cluj), save money on transport and accommodations, no coping with exchanging just the right amount of cash for 24 hours in Hungary, and near door-to-door service from the hostel here in Cluj to Budapest Airport’s Terminal 1.

Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? Well it is, because the down side is little to no sleep, my ass pulverized down to the nub, arrival at the airport at 5am, seven hours before my flight, with nothing to occupy me but the 40 remaining pages of the lone book that I’m carrying and no Hungarian currency, thus no hot food.

This decision alone would be reason enough for me to be forcibly committed to the Sado-Masochistic, Econo-Traveler F*ck-Wit Syndrome Clinic in Vienna (under construction), but to make matters worse, for reasons that I still can’t explain, I passed up an affordable, private room here in Cluj, for a 20 person hostel dorm room, which sits at the center of a naturally occurring sound chamber, collecting and magnifying every noise in the entire building and the immediate neighborhood, resulting in roughly three hours of reasonably quiet sleeping conditions per night.

Oh, did I mention that I also took an overnight train just two days ago? I’m already so delirious that I can barely walk straight or cleanly hit my mouth with a forkful of food three out of four times.

Why? Why do I do this to myself? At what stage does budget travel cross the line to intentional self-flagellation? And would it be easier if, instead of diligently inflicting myself with these indignities every few days, I just mercilessly flogged myself whenever I hatched plans like these? Traveling with a flogger thingie probably wouldn’t do (suitcase space is at a premium), so I’d just have to whip off my money belt and do my best with that.

I’d have to develop a disciplinary chart, of course. Walk 5 miles with all my luggage instead of spend 12 euros on a taxi? Three lashes. Overnight, upright, spine-grinding travel instead of a private room, soft bed and civilized day-travel? Ten lashes. Thirty hours of plane travel on three airlines, with four layovers, one airport transfer and zero nourishing meals instead of a single, 10 hour, non-stop flight with free booze? The Chair.

Furthermore, tonight’s odyssey in conjunction with the flight from Paris to San Francisco that I’m taking in three days should just about finish me. I’ll have exactly 12 hours in SF to shake off a week of sleep deprivation and jetlag before I start a three day Lonely Planet workshop. Granted, I’m probably not expected to wow the LP crowd with ground breaking insight, or even contribute much more than the occasional head nod, but I’m sure staying conscious and maintaining drool control would be appreciated and after this week I’m not sure I can promise even that much.

Anyhoo, I’m off. Quasi-dangerous alertness aids need to be acquired and some kind of butt protection will have to be improvised. Meanwhile, the copyright for Sado-Masochistic, Econo-Traveler F*ck-Wit Syndrome is pending. In the interim, my attorney will be Googling for unapproved use of the term and firing off cease and desist orders to anyone trying to exploit the processing float time.

That means you Lucas.

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