A party is one musical note away.
A cold, rainy day in Hanoi. Stuck in the hostel with little to do, you decide to put your feet up in the lobby. Your new travel companion appears, guitar in hand. You ask him to play a song. He obliges. You watch his hands move, picking with the accuracy and precision of a dart player.
You look back up, only to find a crowd gathered around you. A Bia Hà Nội, the local beer, is passed to you. The music gets louder, as does the crowd, drinks in hand. You find yourself holding a bottle of rice whiskey at some point in the evening.
The next thing you know, you’re waking up in your dorm with a giant headache — but you know you had a good time. And after doing some detective work to piece together the rest of the evening, you find out everyone else did too.
Music is the universal language.
You find yourself asking lots of questions about this six-stringed device. You learn to play your first song — a simple, recognizable tune.
Days later, you come across someone you’re attracted to, but you have trouble communicating. You point at your friend’s guitar. Your new love interest nods. You play. The song ends and she claps. Using your broken Spanish and makeshift sign language, you hint towards having a meal together. She nods again.
Touring is the ultimate preparation for budget travel.
Much of your time is spent in transit. Every other day you’re having trouble sleeping — on a plane, sleeper bus, van, you name it. Every time you peer over, your musician friend is sound asleep. He might as well be back home in a queen-size bed.
You ask how he’s able to sleep so well in any situation. You’re told that spending months at a time traveling from city to city in a muffler-less “tour van” makes a plane feel like a five-star hotel.
Running out of money is a temporary problem.
You and your new partner-in-crime are running low on funds. You fear having to spend your last dollars on buying a plane ticket back home. You’re told to “breathe and relax” — the situation will be “figured out.”
You accompany him from bar to bar around the city as he asks bartenders and doormen questions. Finally, you see him walk out of a bar with a smile: He booked a gig for the night. You spend the evening watching him entertain, playing cover after cover. You watch as people drop tip after tip into your friend’s hat.
Boredom is an excuse to create.
Every so often, boredom hits you while on the road. Today, you have three hours to kill before your seven-hour bus ride. You pace around the bus station trying to find something to do. All your electronics are out of batteries.
Your musician friend, pen and paper out, is scrawling at a hasty pace. You remain quiet and observe. You ask what he’s doing. “Writing music.” You sigh. You’re told to give it a try yourself.