As a result of hundreds of tongue-in-cheek, boastful comments I’ve made over seven years of sharing my life online, my handlers are telling me that I’ve managed to convince many of you that I’m some kind of badass. Well, this is entirely true. I am a badass. Among the innumerable asses you’ll encounter over the course of your life, I’m likely among the baddest.
But all badasses have their vulnerabilities. Superman has kryptonite, Republicans have fact-checkers and I too have a powerful Achilles’ heel: I’m sensitive to noise. Whether it be a sustained, skull-pulsing racket or an unexpected bang, noise at the very least agitates me and at the very most actually pisses me off. This is why I so rarely like huge, teeming cities. Or teenagers. Or preteens. Pretty much all non-mutes from ages zero to 22, come to think of it.
While I’m in this rare mood for sharing personal details, I’ll also admit that I’m not too thrilled about being touched by strangers, either. Barring a cheerily drunk episode or unmistakably clear prior authorization (should Scarlett Johansson be reading this), I prefer a brisk handshake with new acquaintances and that’s it. I’m happy to make the leap to hugging with the right people in short order, but things like cupping my face in your where-have-they-been? hands probably won’t ever be OK, so Romanians, keep those things below the neck please.
And here’s a new twist in Sensitive Leif Land: I’m developing into a fairly serious homebody. At first I thought the powerful homesick sensations that I was feeling on the road were a result of the type of travel I’ve been doing lately: long, solitary, exhausting, Lonely Planet research trips – the kind of travel that would even make Genghis Khan homesick. But, quite unexpectedly, wistful thoughts of my quiet, cozy condo emerged fairly early on during my just-completed, mostly pleasure trip to Colombia.
This, I felt, was not a good development. “That’s it,” I thought. “I’ve lost the love of travel. All I wanna do is stay home, where the TV is big, the bed is plush, everything is familiar and easily available, and I control the cleanliness, environment, food preparation conditions and when and to what degree drunken antics will transpire.
However, before I could seriously explore job opportunities that would allow me to work from home, with the shades down, the door fused shut, receiving all food and supplies via an air-tight, pass-through carousel, coated in a microbial organic growth neutralizing compound, I found deliverance in a timely epiphany.
While I’m sure that homesickness played a part, it occurred to me that the primary cause of my discomfort was that I was privacysick.
One of the cruel realities about being a badass travel writer is that swank hotels stays are exceedingly rare. We’re largely obliged to stay in hostels, which, in moderation of course, is all part of the fun. However, when you’ve been 28 years old for as long as I have, maintaining a positive outlook during an extended absence of privacy can be challenging. Even when staying in private hostel rooms I’ll eventually get privacysick, due largely to the indignity of picking through filthy shared bathrooms and kitchens, not to mention the especially audible comings and goings of those travelers who prefer to conduct their cultural explorations exclusively from the insides of nightclubs.
Someone I know with exceptional needs for rejuvenating alone time once described the effort of being social as holding two bowling balls out at arm’s length. He could do it, but not for an especially long time and he needed significant recovery time before he could do it again. As I age, it appears that my travel style requires similar pacing.
So, for the time being, I’ll be hanging onto my travel writing badass badge, thank you very much. Though on trips of more than 10 days, I’ll have to start scheduling regular retreats to proper hotels where I’m confident that all surfaces are reasonably clean, there’s a semblance of peace and I can unselfconsciously stare longingly at the numerous pictures of my condo that I keep on my Blackberry.