THERE is a change coming, can ya feel it?
Actually it’s already started. As a regular cigar tube rider to foreign lands, I was surprised this week to find the fellow herd had undergone an interesting change. For the first time not every middle seat on the plane was occupied by bleary eyed North Americans stranded due to Lufthansa’s strike and begging any available seat into Europe. And, as I descended into the bowels of Schiphol Airport Amsterdam — through the baggage claim and up to the train ticket office — the usual funeral procession of black suited business men flashing credit cards and silk ties were nowhere to be seen.
Instead, the queues snaking endlessly towards platform one were full of youngsters squinting at maps and asking difficult questions like “do you s.p.e.a.k. English”, before purchasing tickets to all four corners of the Eurozone and beyond.
As I navigated the treadmill down to the platforms I was roughed up by a young fella hesitating between East or West, his backpack swinging wildly back and forth, while the treadmill delivered me directly into its path.
Whomp! He was Scottish, or so it said on the sign he had sewn on the back flap. I dusted myself off and smiled sweetly before craning my neck around to check if any backpacks were sporting the Southern Cross. I didn’t see any, but it didn’t matter. For the first time in a long time I was transported back to a time before the internet, before mobile phones and even IPods, when my backpack was my home for 12 months of train hopping, hitchhiking, stowing away and begging a ride.
In 1989 I did my tour of duty, when part of life was rocking up at Poste Restante to hopefully get a letter from home, and Lets Go Europe was the bible of choice to find the best haunts in Europe and find exchange deals for Lira to Francs to Punts to Marks.
We managed to get over 100 journeys out of our 15 journeys on the Eurail pass, as well as be thrown out of Oktoberfest, thrown out of a hostel in Amsterdam, thrown off a bus at the Greek/Turkish border, chased off a building site in Paris and arrested in… etc etc.
Ah well, those were the days. Got to get to a meeting now, and talk about strategic business planning in emerging markets. Thanks for the memories Scottish, the beers are on me.