Weird Things I’ve Learned from Travel, Part 1


Things I've Learned from Travel, Part 1

Often I meet people when I visit home and they ask me “Wes, what have you learned in your travels?” The first thing I have to say is that this is a total lie — no one has ever asked me that. They might ask “What was your favorite place?” or “Eat anything weird?” but that’s about it. And after an awkward pause, the next question is usually “Did you watch Idol last night?”

Every hero becomes a bore at last. — Ralph Waldo Emerson

But I think it’s important that we all share our experiences and our knowledge in this life, so I’ve started a new series. I hope you enjoy it. And, of course, learn something.

Johnny Vagabond -- travel, humor, photography

One thing I’ve learned –and this was fairly recently– is that the slightly-charming beach town of Tela, Honduras is home to the world’s ugliest transvestite.

You’ll probably want to take my word on this.

I was having a beer one evening at an outdoor bar while my friend Rich was crashed out at the hotel. I’ve long since forgotten the name of the place (and probably never knew it to start with) but it was our favorite hangout. It was hot and muggy and the waitress was Satan Incarnate but we were the only gringos there and the beer was both the cheapest and coldest in town.

Translation: it cost a buck and was actually below room temperature.

Also, we could pick up a reedy unlocked wifi signal from somewhere nearby on our cellphones. This was an incredible perk in a town where the local network is linked to the internet by a large jar of specially-trained fireflies — they blink in binary. Organic, certainly, but painfully slow.

I’d just ordered a beer –which meant I might actually get it before closing time– when she staggered to the bar and slumped onto a stool just around the corner from me.

She was about nine miles past drunk. And she was just shattered — slack-jawed, sweaty and desperately holding onto the bar. Jerry curl ran down the side of her face as she panted and I saw that her chipped teeth were smeared with lipstick.

And she just sat there. Staring at me.

It was at this point that Satan delivered my beer.

She must have goggled at me, unmoving, for five solid minutes. I slowly pivoted on my stool from side to side wondering (hoping) that she was in fact unconscious. But, no, her eyes tracked me with only moderate lag. Then she shifted on her stool, gripped the bar tightly and stood. After swaying a moment, she turned and started limping my way.

Now, I have to tell you: this is a special kind of fear. This is not an Oh no, I’m going to miss my flight and have to sleep in the airport kind of fear. This is a whole different animal. You’ve never pissed your pants over a missed flight, have you?

And in the five minutes it took her to cross the six feet that separated us, I found religion. Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Judaism, Hinduism, Jainism — I think I covered all the ism’s. I was praying to Zoroaster when she finally passed behind and staggered to the bathroom. (I still owe you that goat sacrifice, Oh Great Prophet.)

I chugged my beer, paid my bill and –of course– ran like hell.

Lesson learned? Never be afraid to run out on a beer. I don’t care how cold it is.

52 comments on “Weird Things I’ve Learned from Travel, Part 1

  1. haha yes, ill have to take your word for it!

  2. Rich Littlejohn on said:

    I wondered why you kept wanting to go back to that bar!

  3. Dude – you seriously have a (fabulous) way with words!!! LOL

  4. Wes, I admit I was a little bit afraid en nervous when reading the tittle…

    well, sorta was picturing one of those Brady bunch brats riding the silver winged unicorns of travel singing ‘I can see clearly now!’,

    you know…

    but then, hallelujah, bars and beers and brats in skirts, you made my day.

    Thank. You.

  5. Oh my god this is hilarious!! Have just read it to everyone in my office and now we’re all chuckling away. I think we’ve all had moment like this when we travel. I’m certainly glad I’m not the only one as I’ve had some right doozies!! Glad you got out alive – and learnt a valuable lesson too! lol

  6. Cindy Knul on said:

    I did a Things I Learned when I went to India last year
    Things I Have Learned

    Cars in India appear to have built in sensors and are able to contract and expand as needed based on traffic. However, when 3 people are in the backseat it remains the same.

    When dealing with Indian friends “No” needs to be said approximately 5 times before it sinks in and you are declared the winner. When dealing with Indian beggars or peddlers there is no magic number. “No” will NEVER get through.

    No matter how many times you tell yourself that the waiter’s hands are no indication of the cook’s hands-you will never fully believe yourself.

    When necessary you can go the entire day without using the restroom until you get home.
    Never mind.

    Fifteen  year olds are the same all over the world. They don’t want to get up in the morning.

    The  fog never lifts if it is actually smog.

    Kellogg’s corn flakes with hot milk isn’t as bad as it sounds.

  7. I wonder if that’s the same transvestite hustler from the traveling carnival in Progresso Mexico? Were her high heels broken? Was the lipstick a waxy neon pink? It’s a small world dontcha ya’ know.

  8. Great storytelling!

    And “Never run out of beer”… classic wisdom. You are a sage :-)

  9. A good example of why it is good to pay your tab as you go! Wish I could learn that lesson instead of just giving it!

  10. Hahaha hilarious! Love this…I must say I really felt your fear! Looking forward to more!

  11. Only you, Wes. Only you.

  12. This is so funny! Luckily you managed to run out. Heheheheeh.

  13. I think that waitress works in my town too. Luckily the transvestite does not.

    Gotta say, though – sometimes it is worth toughing it out for that cold beer. I think I might crack one right now. (Please disregard the time stamp on this post…)

  14. I thought the lesson should be “never look a transvestite in the eyes”…haha

  15. Maumrm on said:

    Some would think the wisdom would be to drink more beer so the ugliness would fade into beauty.

  16. Thanks Wes! Finally a useful and interesting travel discovery. All this crap about discovering your true self, pfff. That’s the real thing. A photo would have been nice though, to stay safe in Honduras.

  17. Oh you do get into the weirdest situations, don’t you!

  18. I really enjoyed cruising last year in the Caribbean Island. The experience is totally different from any other holidays I have had. Its amazing. I really enjoyed myself because I had no idea what cruising was all about. Basically a small city on a sea. lol. Everything was on the ship. From Ice cream to football field. This post have brought back good memories of that day but nothing weird.

  19. paula on said:

    We almost crossed paths? I was near La Ceiba the 1st week of July. At a raw food yoga retreat in the rainforest. WTF was I thinking. An ugly transvestite would have been a welcome relief. Otherwise Honduras was awesome! I must tell you. I absolutely adore your writing style.

  20. Johnny…you’ve taken me back to a dark place that I have tried to forget. When I lived in Mexico City, there was a transvestite prostitute living in the apartment above me (they conveniently forgot to mention this when I signed the lease). He lived with his boyfriend, a taxi driver who dressed like the biker from the Village People. Not a word of a lie. The biker’s job was to bring tricks home for the pro, who would do the business directly above my bedroom. Occasionally I’d see them in the hallway…the pro would give me an exaggerated “Holaaaa” when he walked past. I lived in complete effing fear.

    • Oh man, that makes my current place sound like a 5 start resort.

      • Where in Mexico are you at now? What are your plans for Mx?

        • San Cristobal de las Casa at the moment. Might hit Oaxaca for a couple of weeks, then a quick run into the US for resupply. Somewhere in there, some more time on the Pacific coast. After the US possibly Cuba, then more time in the Yucatan.

  21. Oaxaca City was pretty nice, I thought…depends what you like. Good markets, good mezcal bars…ah, mezcal…my best Halloween costume ever was a lab coat and a bottle of mezcal, which I drank straight all night…hello, Mr. Hyde…Oaxaca also has great eats (mole…if it’s still there, go to “Como Agua Pa’ Chocolate” on the NW corner – I think – of the main square). I’ve also been to Huatulco…you would probably like Escondido more.

    As for more stuff in the Pacific, we really loved Sayulita, north of Vallarta. Little surf town. Rented a kick-ass house there.

    Don’t forget to take in Mexico City (if you haven’t already)! Buen viaje!

  22. Next time you run into your tranny friend, maybe try saying ‘hi’. I’ve found members of the transgender community usually know where best the parties are at.

    Unfortunately, seems like when you found this one he/she had already been to all of them.

    • Well said! If she had been a little more coherent and my Spanish had been better, I suspect it would have been a fascinating convo. I chatted with a ladyboy in Thailand several times and got some insights into his/her life — interesting stuff…

  23. Sounds like you are living the dream:) The best thing about you meeting the tranny and your other unfortunate mishaps is that you make me laugh on what would have been an ordinary and boring work day. Great job, keep it up lol

  24. Great little story! Speaking of ladyboy’s, I’ve always had a great time in Thailand watching sleazy old men thinking they’re getting lucky on the D floor and never realizing that they aren’t dancing with a girl. Great game to watch!

  25. Great moral to the story but I noticed you managed to finish your beer before leaving which is most important. I am looking forward to your second lesson

  26. Cheapcar4Hire on said:

    That was crazy man
    really SOME experience you had. But the way you wrote it made me laugh out loud. :D :D

  27. This is the greatest travel lesson I’ve ever heard. Very wise advice. And I’m still laughing.

  28. Haha! This one is hilarious! :)

  29. I thank you for your amazing blog! Keep up the great work!

  30. Please don’t be purposefully obtuse. Your comments and the comments made by others used those terms. And you responded positively to those comments, thereby condoning the language. But clearly you don’t feel like taking the time to learn something new, so I’m done. Won’t come here again.

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