Getting Lost: Mishaps of an Accidental Nomad

Getting Lost: Table of Contents

Getting Lost: Mishaps of an Accidental Nomad - Travel Humor by Dave FoxHere’s the table of contents for Getting Lost: Mishaps of an Accidental Nomad by Dave Fox, with a short quote from each chapter. Chapter titles with links will take you to longer free chapters and excerpts.

Part I: Ready for Take-Off ~ 1976-1977

The Way-Back Machine ~ Lewisham, England
“She hit the motorbike and the ambulance?” I heard somebody ask. “How did she manage to hit the bloody ambulance?” … “Well, listen to her. She sounds American.”

How Can You Have Any Pudding if You Don’t Eat Your Meat? ~ Lewisham, England
The Brits have contributed many great things to society: pub culture, Shakespeare, the Beatles, soccer hooligans. They are also known for their cuisine, but not in a good way.

Masculinity Saved! ~ Lewisham, England
If you must wear tights, always carry a gun

Soul Survivors ~ Hammamet, Tunisia
Camels walk with an awkward swagger. They’re slow versions of those four-legged robots that gallop through the desert in Star Wars. They move with a bounce, like lethargic, mechanical bulls, the main difference being that if you fall off a mechanical bull, it will not spit at you afterward and stomp victoriously on your head.


Part II: Norwegian ‘Hood ~ 1986-1987

Confessions of a Teenaged Smuggler ~ USA ~ Finland ~ Norway
In the 1980s, airport security went something like this: You’d check in for your flight, and they would say, “Mr. Fox, do you have anything in your possession that could be used to bring down an airplane? Knives, guns, cassettes by the J. Geils Band?” You, the hypothetical passenger and/or terrorist, would chuckle, “Nope, not me.” Then the ticket agent would thank you and send you to security, where uniformed high school drop-outs would tell you to please proceed, if they had the necessary English skills to do so.

A Sort of Homecoming ~ Drøbak, Norway
A friend in America had once warned me that when you learn to waterski, water finds its way into orifices not intended for taking in water. Did I want to strap planks of wood to my feet and have a motor boat drag me through arctic waters at high speeds while a group of strangers commented on my performance in a language I couldn’t understand? Oh, yes please.

Learning to Talk ~ Oslo and Drøbak, Norway
We were learning that in Norwegian, “Will you marry me?” and “Will you poison me?” are the same question, with only a subtle grammatical difference to distinguish the two.

Communist Partying ~ Leningrad, USSR
The Soviet Union was a powerful nation with a government that punished anyone who engaged in sordid capitalist activities. Anybody caught with a black market copy of Michael Jackson’s Thriller album, for example, could be shipped off to a Siberian labor camp. That, I thought, was excellent domestic policy; however, my high school teachers, most of whom had crappy taste in music, tried to explain to me this was a flagrant human rights violation.

Intermission ~ Cowering Under My Desk
After weeks of labored reflection, I have reached the conclusion that my tales of Norwegian teenage drinking must remain uncensored for two reasons: (1) As a writer of non-fiction, it is my responsibility to tell the truth. (2) Let’s face it: A massive boycott of my book by radical American puritans would be pretty gosh darn good for book sales. So seriously, dear puritans, come picket outside my home! You are welcome! Don’t forget to invite the media. I’ll brew coffee.

The Snow Must Go On ~ Trysil, Norway
It doesn’t matter what the season is. Norwegians will go out and enjoy nature in any weather. It doesn’t matter that their fingers have turned black from frostbite and their runny noses have formed two perfect, miniature icicles. Norwegians love the great outdoors. They’re obsessed with the nature that surrounds them – the fjords, the mountains, the minus-20-degree temperatures.

Message in a Bottle ~ Ski, Norway
I rolled over on the nagahyde couch and looked down at a fizzy pile of broken glass. I hoped my high school principal wouldn’t be angry that I had just smashed a beer bottle on his office floor.


Part III: An Adult in Training ~ 1989

Journey to the Center of the Earth ~ Heimaey, Iceland
The volcano had not killed anybody during the 1973 eruption. I wondered if I’d be the first. “Quit whimpering,” I scolded myself. “Do you want your eyes to be all puffy from crying when they discover your broken body at the bottom?”

North of Darkness ~ Karasjok, Norway
My tongue seized up at moments like this, rendering me unable to speak any language other than Drool. I hated pick-up lines. Cowering under tables was more sincere. But she was moving – in chick-flick-style slow-motion – across a crowded bar to talk to me.

Temporary Infinity ~ Switzerland – Italy – Yugoslavia – Greece
I didn’t want to be toughened up. I was perfectly happy with my meek and paranoid self, and I was struggling to see the cultural value in getting mugged.

Language Lessons ~ Athens, Greece
Here’s the thing about language barriers: If two groups of people do not speak the same language, and one of those groups has big machine guns, the people with the guns have the upper hand.

Prostitutes, Drugs, and a Magic Vest ~ Istanbul, Turkey
I froze. Was he asking me if I liked Turkish girls, or if I would like a Turkish girl? Saying no could insult all the women of his country. Saying yes could cause all sorts of other problems.


Part IV: The Accidental Nomad ~ 1994-2006

Note: Many of the chapters in Part IV appear in the first edition of the book, but not the second edition. They were cut from the second edition because they are short, stand-alone essays that did not flow well with the rest of the book’s memoir style. They are, however, some of Dave’s favorite pieces, and he hopes to include them in another book someday. In the meantime, a few copies of the first edition, with all of these chapters, are still available exclusively through this website. (Read more about the differences between the first and second editions here.) The second edition also has a different final chapter from the first edition. Chapters on this list with a double asterisk(**) in front of them appear in the first edition, but not the second.

When Salads Attack ~ Ankara, Turkey
My whole body ached — like the flu, but with the added feeling that something inside me was very wrong, like a gang of microorganisms was having a bacterial Woodstock. My stomach had been the main stage. Now the rebellious germies were sneaking into other parts of my body to drop acid and reproduce.

Driving to Europe ~ Interstate 90, USA
There was only one thing to do in a situation like this: Scream. Every obscenity I could think of. Multiple times. I did that for several minutes. Then I remembered the snow was getting deeper.

** International Ping Pong ~ On Tour in Europe
Trees are my weakness. People want to know about trees. “What’s that tree called?” they ask, and the only answer I can come up with is, “Herman. That tree is called Herman.” [Excerpts from this chapter appear in the final chapter of the second edition.]

Door-to-Door ~ En Route to Stockholm, Sweden
CPH is a sprawling airport with a shopping mall, a mini hotel, a sauna, and a prayer room where you can ask the deity of your choice to please create some better airline food.

** Has Anybody Seen My Shirt? ~ Scandinavia
I suspect that somewhere in Europe, there’s a little-known strip mall with a shop called Dave-Mart, which specializes in used electronic gadgetry and fashion for short men. Hotel maids supplement their income by scavenging under beds in hotel rooms where I have slept.

** The Naked Truth ~ Helsinki, Finland
I dreaded the thought of an innocent Finnish granny entering as I sat in an inappropriate state of undress, and having a heart attack at the sight of Dave, the Naked American Pervert.

** Don’t Grope the Pope! ~ Vatican City
I had skipped French class the day the teacher taught us how to say, “This woman is a psychotic freak who is threatening to stab us in the presence of the Pope.”

** Binky the Rat ~ Venice, Italy
I did what any highly trained assistant tour guide would do with an alcoholic rat underfoot. I leapt up on my chair and began shrieking in the shrill tones of a submissive 1950s housewife.

** Peter Cottontail’s Revenge ~ Switzerland – France
Composing myself and wiping tears from my eyes, I announced to the other seven diners at my table, “I just ate something I thought was a mushroom. But I don’t think it was a mushroom.”

** Tackling Lucy ~ Dingle, Ireland
Getting your ass kicked is no fun under any circumstance. Getting your ass kicked by a sheep seemed especially degrading.

** Lost at Sea ~ On the Baltic Sea
This was a state-of-the-art floating island of paradise with 24-hour room service (which the Vikings did not have), and casinos (which the Vikings also did not have) and whirlpools (which the Vikings also did not have unless they were sinking).

** Infiltrating the Beautiful People ~ Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, France
I would go undercover, like that time in the 1980s when Dan Rather disguised himself as a Mujaheddin warrior and slipped into Afghanistan to report on the war against the Soviets. The only difference was Dan had time to grow a beard and shop for a turban. My chances of finding a toupée, leather pants, a thong, and fast-acting steroids on the spur of the moment in this little village were not good.

** The Ugly American Duckling ~ Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, France
This duck has no inhibitions and I’m jealous. I want to quack. Loudly. That would feel good right now.

Arrival ~ Planet Earth
Finally, after so many weeks away from home, I am going to get to snuggle under the covers again… if only I could remember where the hell I packed my keys when I left for the airport two months earlier.