Getting around to following my own travel advice

Deep in the pages of Vagabonding, you’ll discover that I advise readers to avoid fast food and packaged meals on the road. “Brave the open-air food markets,” I implore, “and be healthier for the experience!” This is solid road advice (and the word for “market” is good to memorize in any local language), but I didn’t always follow it back when I was actually writing Vagabonding. This is because my apartment sat just a block away from the EZ Supermarket, which dispensed Western specialties like wheat bread, peanut butter, canned tuna, lunchmeat, processed cheese, and breakfast cereal. Since a cyclo fruit vendor came by my pad in the evenings (and since there are some great, cheap restaurants in the area), I found that I could make my writing day more efficient if I just stuck to the food that was available in my neighborhood, rather than heading to the market in the center of town.

In the time since I’ve finished my book, however, EZ Supermarket has gradually stopped stocking Western food. I bought their last jar of peanut butter three weeks ago, and — despite my doleful looks — they don’t plan on ordering more. Hence, my weekly trips to the market in the #2 songthaew (a type of converted truck that functions as a bus) have spiced up both my diet and my experience of my adopted Thai hometown. I’ve found a fried-chicken vendor in the center of the market who puts Colonel Sanders to shame; I take home big bags of locally grown cashews for pennies; mangoes, longan, and papayas now line my pantry. The fruit ladies know me by name, and I’ve even found a Chinese pharmacy that sells trucker hats. Granted, I lose an hour or two of writing time in the process of wandering around the market each week, but it’s worth it.

And, moreover, I’ve found I don’t miss the peanut butter one bit.

Posted by | Comments (5)  | May 29, 2003
Category: Rolf's News and Updates

5 Responses to “Getting around to following my own travel advice”

  1. Jaynne Says:

    Well I wouldn’t underestimate the qualities of peanut butter. A plastic jar will keep forever unrefrigerated, is unbreakable, is a reminder of home even in the most hopeless, forgotten third world outpost.

  2. Chris Says:

    Trucker hats in Thailand huh? Do you read GAWKER?

    In New York-


  3. Rolf Says:

    Yeah, I saw that Gawker piece — though I was originally tipped off by a piece in the NY Times. If you know of any hipsters in Williamsburg who want Thai-language trucker’s hats, I’m sure we could set up some sort of import/export racket…

  4. Chris Says:

    Oh those Williamsburg poseurs. It’s not even cheap to live there anymore… because of them. Last winter I was waiting for my flight back to JFK @ Schiphol Airport and this ‘artist’ chick starting talking to me about her studio in Williamsburg and how all the rich kids have moved in and ‘ruined’ the neighborhood. She used to have a studio in TriBeCa and commute from her Upper East Side apartment. The whole time I’m thinking; “she is actually talking about herself” and doesn’t even realize it. Anti-tourist in her own town. I looked for her on the plane.. strange I couldn’t locate her. Then I figured it out when she was first off the plane and already in line at customs… she flew business class.

  5. Rolf Says:

    Yeah, one could probably write an entire dissertation about the rhetorical world of middle-class people (particularly upper-middle-class people) who occupy the pseudo-boho world of art, music, and travel. Artists, indie rockers, and backpackers all seem to be obsessed with restoring “authenticity” to their lives, when in fact their self-conscious middle-class presence cancels out any authenticity that might have been there to begin with.

    Of course, there is a certain authenticity in middle-class people trying to convince themselves that their constructed authenticity is authenticially authentic. It’s always happened, and it always will, I’d reckon.