Sometimes I wake up in the morning and don’t know where I am. It’s not necessarily because I engaged in dubious activities the night before, nor for lack of sleep or the last vestiges of a vivid dream. Instead, I would call it collateral damage resulting from a life spent traveling; waking up every day in a new bed, in a new hotel, in a new city. Usually my inner navigation system only takes a few short seconds to spring into action. The other day, though, it seemed to take longer and I felt something wasn’t quite right. The room I woke up in was devoid of color. The table was white, the wardrobe was white, the chairs were white, as were the kitchenette, the carpet, the vases and the walls. Everything was white, including the milky light coming through the white curtains. I began to feel anxious. Would a figure in a white coat be next? Was this the antechamber to paradise? Was this how the waiting room to the other side looked?
Okay, I admit these questions were more literary than serious. Sartre described things like this and so did Kafka. I still didn’t know where I was but I perfectly recalled what I had read decades before. I sat up, swung my legs over the edge of the bed and scanned the room for a white coffee machine. Before I could find one, something clicked and I suddenly remembered everything. Two days ago I had been in Bangkok, the day before in Hong Kong, and my current city was also worth getting up for and staying in for at least three days – unlike my hotel. I decided to find a new one for the reat of my time in Shanghai.
Our columnist, Helge Timmerberg, an irrepressible globetrotter since 1969, writes travel books and contributes monthly to our magazine.