Tuesday, February 14, 2012


You really can't win sometimes. I was under the mistaken impression that by travelling to different countries, paying my way and cleaning up after myself, I wasn't contributing to the meltdown of the global economy and clanging the death knell of Western civilisation. But there are people who are prepared to take issue with anything, and when you're dealing with someone as indefatigably moral, upstanding and all-round ace as me, you do have to dig deep to find the bad stuff... oh hang on, that sentence alone has proven you don't.

I've been criticised as a dropout and a deserter for leaving my home country behind for so long. It's an overly antagonistic but otherwise accurate assessment - I didn't feel like living in the UK any more, and I had the means to leave, so I left. They don't make it all that difficult to escape, to be honest. But desertion didn't seem to be the main problem - it's that I'm still going and haven't settled down somewhere and got a real job. Again, I didn't feel like setting down and having a real job again, and I had the means not to, so I didn't. This really riles some people up.

By floating aimlessly and carefree (not entirely carefree, as blogs like this prove), I'm apparently not 'doing my bit,' 'giving something back' or 'some other platitude that I feel the need to put in inverted commas.' Like I'm a hedonist raping the world of its resources to satisfy my insatiable appetite and doing more harm than good. I just don't see what I've done wrong.

Reasons I am clearly amazing

Dave lives the ex-pat high life
(Pot Noodles are socially acceptable in many Asian countries)

I grudgingly support my country's economy like any other worker. I paid a tax bill of more than £5,000 in January, so it's not like I'm not 'chipping in.' Since turning 18, I've put more into The Economy than I've taken out - by my reckoning, I've had about seven months on the dole in total (the basic £45 Jobseeker's allowance which didn't cover my outgoings - I wasn't entitled to housing benefit because my landlord was dodgy and I technically didn't live there), and I got a grant to cover my University tuition fees (about £3,500 total - the rest of my living expenses I had to take out a loan for like everyone else, which I've now paid back in full as I can't stand debt). I never needed the services of the NHS, but I used libraries all the time.

So while I may not be supporting The Economy by handing over cash every month to a racist Edinburgh landlord any more, or shopping at an American-owned supermarket, my everyday expenses are going to corporations and private businesses in foreign countries instead. In my naive and probably overly optimistic world view... that's fine, isn't it? Do you really take issue with me using my wage from a UK-based digital marketing agency and redistributing it to buy my daily bread in Asia? (Not literally - they're not so into bread over here. By my reckoning, my sandwich consumption has fallen by over 8,000% since I left Europe). I know there is great compassion for Britain's home-grown digital marketing industry, with all the valuable work they do towards making your Google search results slightly less reliable. There isn't time to debate the ethics of my job here: basically, it loses.

I haven't taken any money from any country I've visited. I'm not one of those backpackers who leaves a hostel covered in beer, sick and semen, partly because I'm not interesting enough, but also because I'm respectful, and dispose of my beer, sick and semen in a responsible manner. By my reckoning, the worst thing I've done is when I travelled to Hualien on Taiwan's east coast and didn't realise it was back to the rural plumbing that can't tolerate toilet paper. There was a polite but clearly aggrieved note left on the door later that day, which was clearly directed at me as I was the only person staying in the creepily desolate building. I'm very sorry, I learnt my lesson.

So what are you going to do about it?

I've been characterised as a lazy, thoughtless hobo, which seems a bit unfair (apart from the hobo part). I don't know what I could do to satisfy these people - if I settled down in a country and got a job as a teacher, I could be criticised for taking advantage of a system that favours foreign workers over nationals, or participating in the Anglicisation of the globe and erosion of other cultures. I've also been accused of being in countries like Korea just because I'm after their women, which is obviously totally partly ridiculous.

If I turned tail and ran back to the UK, people might wonder what I had against Asia, or those other parts of the world I haven't been to yet. Needed home comforts after all, did you? Ha ha, I knew you'd come crawling back, you bastard. Swanning off to see the world instead of being happy to sit behind a desk and listen to the false sincerity of business twats - now you're back with the rest of us, and you can learn to hate life all over again. Let's make sure the shackles are fitted correctly this time, those unpleasantly skinny wrists won't save you again.

Some people seem resentful of my 'lucky' situation. I don't think I'm lucky, and I don't just mean from a sceptical viewpoint. There are certain points in my life when random chance has operated in my favour, from the impossible unlikelihood of my birth to popping out in a country and a time in which freelance writing was a viable career option, and some of the friends I've made have helped me find my way to this career too. But scramble the variables and take a peek into the Omniverse and I'm pretty sure most of the alternative Daves-that-could-have-been would have ended up being similarly content in whatever they ended up doing - travelling overseas or just moving house every few months, always in the pursuit of freedom.

But some people will always find something to criticise, even in the parallel universe where I'm the Eternal God Emperor of Space-Time. At least there I can watch them shriek their repentance as they plunge into the fires of Azeroth. How can you be sure we're not in that reality now? Basically, watch yourself. I should also point out that I've never felt hostility from local people in countries I visit, only people stuck at home who are probably less content with their situation and take it out on me.

I still let dickheads get to me, but I'm content and confident enough in myself these days that they just make me depressed about humanity more than anything, the same way I never let myself scroll down when watching even the most innocuous YouTube video because it's too early in the day for anti-Semitism. Letting it out in self-aggrandising blog form does make me feel better. This life works for me - find one that works for you and get down out of my grill, or something.


  1. Do people really have a problem with what you're doing? I think most people are jealous because they see you living what they imagine is an amazing life, and while I know how hard you work, I reckon a lot of them think you just swan around the world doing as you please, which is ace. You've just had the sense to move your desk around the world with you, meaning instead of choosing between the same dozen shops for lunch every day, you get to see a different culture every week/month. Keep going, you're ace.

    1. 'They're just jealous' was my first attempted parenting comfort to myself, but this guy actually seemed pretty serious about people abandoning their economies, taking cheap labour from overseas, etc. Basically, a racist and a dick, so I'm still better.

      After saying I wouldn't, I've finally reached the point where I'm being posh and upgrading my accommodation from dorms to single rooms/cheap motels so I can actually get work done. This week's 'party hostel' with seemingly no lights-out-at-midnight rule is too much, but I think my decision was made after being woken on two nights last week with a drunk guy's vomit splattering onto the floor and drunk, loud dorm sex.

      My 'amazing life' isn't always peachy behind the scenes. But you already receive my angst-ridden emails, so I don't need to tell you that!

  2. I'm presuming you met this guy in Korea which, if true, makes me want to know why he was taking his hard earned pounds to far east Asia. Doesn't he know he should be holidaying at a Butlins Resort to keep that precious cash at home?

    Party hostels are the worst, especially when there's no common area where you can go and not expect to be involved in the party.

    1. There is a common area, but it's separated from the dorms by a wooden door (that's sometimes lazily left open) in this extremely compact building.

      It might be partly to do with the time of year - Korean universities have two long, three-month holidays (roughly December to March and June to September). Visiting more remote parts of Korea in these months is great for meeting young Koreans, who are encouraged to travel around their country, but in Seoul the hostels are going to be filled with off-work American/Canadian/British/etc. teachers who don't seem to have any interest in the country they're working in (sometimes they're only there because it's easier than trying to get a job back home) and whose dedication to alcohol is absurdly like some crap stoner film.

      Even with earplugs it was difficult to block out the chants of "One shot! One shot!" at 1AM. At least by recounting my adventures here, there's the possibility that someone can be amused by my misfortune.

      I've spoken to a few English teachers who are either there now or who I met in other countries after leaving Korea, who said they basically didn't socialise with any Koreans ever. If they're feeling particularly bold they sometimes elaborate with their views on Koreans, which just reveal their own inadequacies. The ungrateful dicks should sod off back home.

      (I should note that I've met more English teachers who actually enjoy what they do!)

  3. I'll tell you what to do. Laugh at those crazy bastards. So he thinks you're a lazy thoughtless hobo: so what? I think you're doing an amazing thing. I love your bloody blog, some days when I'm sitting at my stupid desk I think "I wonder what Dave's up to?" AND IT'S THE ONLY THING THAT KEEPS ME GOING.

    If settling down in the UK and getting a stupid job in a stinking office and buying bullshit from Asda will make you happy, then come back:

    I'll happily tell you how much of an idiot you are for being here in the cold shopping in Asda when you could be banging hot Asian chicks in the sunshine (or whatever it is you thoughtless hobos do over there).

    But really, if you're happier doing what you are now than you were two years ago, then why justify yourself? Life doesn't have to be utterly miserable. So what if your life doesn't completely suck anymore? It's not your fault that mine does.

    This is me trying to be inspirational btw. Appreciate it, it doesn't happen often.

    1. Very ins/aspirational! I especially liked the subtext that you have some deep-seated personal grievance with Asda specifically (though I was referring to that when I said 'an American-owned supermarket').

      Hot Asian chicks don't like the sunshine, some of them are constantly shielded by parasols and skin whitener... yeah, I get the feeling you'd react in an entertaining way if you walked into a pharmacy in Singapore, the Philippines and other countries where pale is considered desirable and saw that stuff filling the shelves.

      But then, you British women (yes, you are all identical) use tanning lotion and sun beds to get that citrus look. Change yourself!

      Hang on, I've gone off topic again again. I seem to be using these comment boxes as general therapy. I also overheard several angering conversations yesterday where a Dutch guy was dispensing misogynistic 'dating' advice to a newcomer to Korea (dating seemed to mean 'getting girls drunk'), like he was some fucking pickup artist.

    2. I've never used a sunbed or a tanning lotion, thankyou vah much, but that's probably because I'm Scottish not British. Yes, technically Scotland is part of Britain and yes my grandad was most definitely from Essex but WHATEVER man you're just trying to stifle my creativity or something.

      Aye so. Pale is desirable in some countries, you say? Are these the countries where a hotel room costs less than a single ticket on a Lothian Bus? Off to Skyscanner I go!

      Did you ever read the dating advice manual that made the rounds at the digital marketing agency we both worked at? That was a hoot!

  4. Sample conversation that woke me at 03:55AM, between two of the live-in 'staff' (out-of-work English teachers):

    ASSHOLE 1: Dude, I won't tell you again. Put her to bed.

    ASSHOLE 2: Dude, she shouldn't go to bed yet.

    ASSHOLE 1: Dude, I am not leaving you alone so you can fuck her. You told everyone to go to some bar so you could come back and fuck her.

    ASSHOLE 2: Dude, I did not.

    ASSHOLE 1: Then put her to bed.

    ASSHOLE 2: No, she needs water.

    ASSHOLE 1: Dude, I am seriously going to beat the shit out of you if you don't put her to bed.


    If this was a one-time event like the unpleasant dorm sex in my last hostel, I'd overlook it. But since this sort of thing happens every night, and with people who seem to be in charge of the place when the owner isn't around, I'd advise you NOT to stay at

    Kim's Hongdae Guest House - Mr.kim's Branch
    446-7 1F Seogyo-dong
    South Korea

    p. +82-2-773-9095
    f. +82-2-773-9027
    email: ppigaksum@gmail.com

    It is a shithole.

  5. Ignore the comments of the people who are too lazy to change their boring lives. You are doing what you want to do and *** them. I am very proud of you and all you have done. Love reading your blog each week. (So pleased you upgraded from the cheap hostels though, if that's how awful some people behave themselves and to others). Love mum :-) xx

  6. Oh great - first I give myself faux-parenting comfort and then I actually get some!

    It turns out this week is recruitment/initiation/whatever for the new term, which might explain why the expats were being so damn rowdy.

    It's a good job I met lots of good English language teachers in other parts of Korea and other countries, who actually seemed to want to be in these places rather than just relocating reluctantly because of fewer job opportunities back home. Otherwise my opinion of English teachers would be pretty low.

  7. The fun never ends:

    After I wrote an angry but honest review of my experiences at that hostel for the booking website, the owner visited me in my private room at the new guest house (which he also owns) telling me I should have contacted him about it.

    I would have done, but he wasn't there by 11AM the next day and I was pretty desperate to check out. I just used my right to review, like I've done for every place I've stayed at over the last 17 months (only a few of them bad reviews).

    He was pretty outraged, told me I was not a good guy and dropped the F-bomb too (N.B. this means 'fuck'). I remained composed and my usual stubborn self, which must be easy to get angry at.

    Apparently, I'm now banned from staying at his hostels, even though I had good things to say about the two other Mr Kim's places I've stayed at in Seoul. Including this room I'm now slightly uncomfortably inhabiting until Monday. Damn, I was enjoying it until now.

    This is all just to balance out that nice time I had at Nahbi Guest House in Gyeongju a couple of weeks ago, isn't it? Bloody nice times, you always pay for them in the end.