Lifestyle Design

In Search of a Lost Friend: A Study in Human Psychology

Phnom Penh, Cambodia • June 2017 • Length of Read: 5 Minutes

“Hey guys, I've got a hypothetical research question:

Suppose you're meeting a friend in a random European town or city that neither of you has been to before. You don't have the chance to plan a meeting place beforehand and you cannot contact one another when there. You just know that you will both be there on the same day. Where would you go? How do you find one another?

If you could comment below and answer that would be awesome. I'll let you know soon why I'm asking.”

Recently I’ve been burrowing down the rabbit hole of human psychology. Whilst writing these words I’m currently sitting on the rooftop of a quaint and cosy little café in Ho Chi Minh City; what seems like a million miles away from the hectic Vietnamese traffic racing around the streets below. I’ve been on the road for five months now and studying the way in which people interact with one another, in particular strangers, has fascinated me. On a daily basis, I’m subjected to meeting new people and listening to the conversation of others in hostel dorm rooms and bars. In fact, when just trying to write this paragraph I’ve stopped and had a ten-minute conversation with three lovely Germans at the table next to me about my books. So much for productivity and getting into my flow state, I know. There’s clearly just something far too intriguing about seeing a foreign traveller hammering away on the keyboard of a laptop.

Anyway, a while ago I mysteriously posted the above italicised question on my Facebook page with no real explanation as to why. A friend of mine living in Auckland had recommended a book to me called What If?, subtitled: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions and one of the chapters which really grabbed me was regarding the possibility of two immortal humans, placed at random points on planet Earth, actually managing to bump into one another. In attempting to answer this, the author drew upon an American study that was done in the pre-mobile phone 1970s, which puzzled a similar question to the one I asked my Facebook followers.

Back then, the best logical solution to finding your lost friend was deemed to be going to the town’s main post office and waiting at the receiving window where out-of-town packages arrive. The inventor of the puzzle’s logic was that it’s the only place that every town in the U.S. has exactly one of, and which everyone would know where to find. To me, this argument appears a little weak and outdated. There are far too many psychological factors in place to assume that everyone will follow this same thought process. I was curious. I wanted to know what people would do if placed in a similar predicament in the current era of 2017 but didn’t have access to the modern day smartphone and wifi technology with which we are now so accustomed.

Now, by nature of what I write about; my age; and my lifestyle, my primary demographic is twenty-something adventurous Westerners. The suggestions of brothels; pool halls; strip clubs; and Irish bars as possible meeting places were, therefore, inevitable. What could initially be dismissed as stupid, albeit funny, answers, however, have actually collectively formed the second of three categories that I’ve filtered the responses into.

The first category of response is what I will refer to as landmarks. These were the most common and basic responses, with no intuition about what the other person will be thinking required. Someone suggested to wait at the base of the tallest building in the city because it is likely to catch your eye just as much as the other persons, others suggested the main town square; train station; airport baggage reclaim; McDonald's; cathedral, and art gallery. The post office would fall into this category.

The second category is what I call inside jokes. This is more effective as you are actually using what you know already about the person to make an educated assessment about what their thought process is in the same situation. In addition to the aforementioned, ‘go to the equivalent place where you first met them’ was a popular response, as was ‘the common area of a popular hostel’ and ‘a hipster café’. If you and your friend have a shared love for flat whites then it’s highly possible that they will kill some time in a local edgy hangout, just as if your friend loves to get a lap dance at the end of a night out then you may well find them in a strip club. A silly suggestion at first that actually makes sense if you take into account a person’s interest and hobbies; not that I’d call lap dancing a recreational pastime.

There is a third category, however, which unanimously seemed to be regarded as the outright way of meeting your friend as efficiently and effectively as possible. A category that both What if? and the 1970s study failed to address. I call this category, public nuisance. The major flaw with the landmarks category, and henceforth the suggested solution of the post office, is that, even if your friend did decide to embark upon a city sightseeing tour, the chances of them spotting you in such crowded and busy places is extremely slim. Imagine trying to find a friend next to the Eiffel Tower even if you knew they were going to be there. I still lose people in the bloody supermarket. The same flaw is also at play in theinside jokescategory. Yes, there is an almost 100% chance of meeting your friend there if you’ve assumed correctly, but if they don’t make the same deduction then there is a 0% chance that you’re going to bump into one another accidentally. Unless you make yourself known that is…

The highest voted response that I received to my question? ‘Walk around bollocks naked and cause a city-wide commotion’.

What better way for a friend to find you than to stir up an event that draws maximum attention to yourself. Whether we like to think it or not, humans operate primarily under a herd mentality. We are constantly drawn to things that others are looking at, or commenting on things that others are talking about. If somebody decides to get stark naked and run about the town centre, then you can bet your damn ass that everyone nearby will soon gather round for a glimpse of the action. The only question now is, how do you cause such a public nuisance that you find your friend, but don’t have them bailing you out of jail for indecent exposure a short while after?

Perhaps I should just heed the advice given to me by my crazy and psychotic friend Lara: “If you’re talking about a girl, no need to meet her, just stay at home. If it’s not a girl then it simply doesn’t exist, since you have no friends. So there’s no need to bother yourself with this kind of ‘hypothetical research question’. Stay at home and close the door.”

Well, that's me told.

What the Hell is in Your Backpack?

The general rule when packing for any form of vacation or trip is to look out what you initially think you will need; fail to get it into your suitcase or backpack without bursting the zip; get frustrated and angry; re-pack about half of what you initially looked out; break down and cry; then, go away and realise that you didn’t need everything you brought with you in the first place. It’s amazing how things that start out as being ‘essentials’ soon become redundant when space-saving tactics get deployed.

Despite this universal process, however, it still startles me what some people lug around with them from place to place. Some people I’ve met whilst on the road have genuinely been caught carrying around things less useful than the rocks at the bottom of a military commando’s Bergen during a training exercise. From wooden elephant carvings that they’ve picked up for a haggled bargain in Asia; to the entire cosmetics and allergies counter at a drug store; to the type of cultural clothing that should be illegal for anyone but a local to wear, I’ve narrowed it down to the Top 4 ‘most weird shit’ I’ve seen people travelling with that has led me to question, “what the hell is in your backpack?”


I once entered a hostel dorm in Toronto, Canada to find an English lad kneeling down and ironing a flannel shirt which he’d laid out across the dusty hardwood floor.

“I didn’t realise that the reception here had such useful amenities,” I said to him. “Why aren’t you using their ironing board as well, though? The ground is filthy. You’ll need to wash that shirt again before you put it on.”

“Oh no,” he said, “I didn’t get this from reception. It’s mine.”

“Very funny,” I said, giving him a pat on the shoulder.

“No, he’s being serious,” said his friend, lying on a bed in the corner and watching the spectacle.

“You carry a fucking iron about with you?” I laughed.

“What’s wrong with that?” he asked. Looking up at me.

“Where to start?” I retorted.

He frowned, clearly butthurt.

Fake Breast Implant

In March 2017, I spent one month in Auckland, New Zealand drafting my latest book. Lazing about in bed one morning after a pub crawl, I was startled when a foreign object fell from the bunk above me and landed with a thud down the gap between my mattress and the wall. I reached down and picked it up. It was a squishy, round, lump just small enough to fit in the clasped palm of one of my large hands. I initially thought that it might have been some sort of new-age alarm clock, it had fallen from someone’s bed after all, but ruling this out after further inspection I then guessed that it must have been a stress ball, albeit a rather large one.

“Did I drop something?” said the gay Greek teenager above me. He’d arrived a few day’s previous but I’d yet to converse with him.

“Yeah, man,” I said handing him the stress ball with a miffed look on my face. “Are you feeling under pressure at the moment?”

“What do you mean?” he replied in broken English.

“Well, that’s a stress ball, right?”

“No, it’s a fake breast implant,” he laughed. “A chicken fillet.”

“I’m sorry if this is a stupid question,” I said, puzzled, “but what the hell is that doing in your rucksack?”

“One of my friends works in a clinic and gave me it as a going away present,” he explained like it was the most logical things ever.

“Well, it’s very unfair that you get to fall asleep on a tittie every night when I don’t,” I laughed. “You’re not even attracted to them for Christ’s sake.”


“Are you finished in the bathroom?” I asked the old Chinese guy who I was sharing a dorm room with during a trip to Fiji in February 2017.

“Give me a couple of minutes,” he replied. “I’m just waiting on my kettle to boil.”

“Sorry?” I said, thinking that something had got lost in translation. “Not the kitchen, the bathroom.”

“I know,” he said in a tone which made out that I was the moron. “There are no plug sockets next to my bed so I have to use the one next to the sink. It also means that I don’t risk spilling the hot water all over my stuff. I’ve had the kettle for a while and it’s got a few cracks in it.”

“You mean to say that you carry around a kettle with you everywhere you go?” I asked him as he set up a little table next to the side of his bed. “That’s dedication to ensuring that your coffee gets made just the way you like it every time.”

“Oh, no,” he said. “I don’t drink tea or coffee. It’s so that I can heat up my noodles. I have them every night.”

“Every night?” I quizzed, disgusted.

“Every night,” he confirmed, opening up his rucksack to reveal packets and packets of the instant pieces of shit that held the same nutritional values as sawdust. With that, the kettle clicked off and he went about preparing his dinner.

“”I’m done,” I laughed, locking the toilet door behind me, putting my arse cheeks on the seat and letting out a massive fart and shit combo. Bon appetite.

Large Childhood Teddy Bear

“Have you seen this?” I said to the French guy sprawled out on the opposing bunk in our cramped four-person dorm, picking up the giant teddy bear lying on the sheets of the bed above mine. “Who the hell has enough room to lug this stuffed thing around with them? It must belong to a teenager who is on their first trip away from home."

Like clockwork, the door to the room then opened and a brunette Russian girl in her mid-twenties came in.

“Is this yours I said?” caught red-handed holding her prized possession.

“It is,” she replied. “Would you care to put Lisa back where you found her.”

“Sorry,” I guiltily responded, putting the teddy bear back down with the delicacy of how one would handle a newborn baby. “Can I ask why you have brought it travelling, though? Has it been passed down in your family from mother to daughter, perhaps? Or does it carry a lot of sentimental value for other reasons?”

“Not at all,” she said, dumping her bag and turning to leave. “I just like to cuddle with it at night.”

“I didn’t realise that we were sharing a room with a virgin,” laughed the French guy as she closed the door behind her.

A Professional's Guide to Flashpacking: Part II

Labuan Bajo, Flores, Indonesia • March 2017 • Length of Read: 3 Minutes

Having successfully flashpacked my way around New Zealand and the South Pacific, scoffing in the faces of those travel wankers more frugal than Ebenezer Scrooge, I found myself on the island of Bali in Indonesia. My connecting flight from Australia had been delayed, and by the time I got the arrival stamp in my passport I’d been awake for twenty hours, with another four having been lost to time zones. Strolling through the arrivals gate, hordes of taxi drivers surrounded me like bees in a hive, like paparazzi around a Hollywood A-lister; each offering the ‘best price’ to wherever my heart’s desire wished to go. Too tired to haggle, I accepted the first price quoted to me and followed the bewildered driver to his car. Those who get into lengthy barter transactions just to save an extra £0.30 really need to have a look at how they are spending their most important resource: their time

“Do you want to go and see some dragons?” I asked Fraser, taking a sip of export Corona. Local beer in Asia is a lot cheaper than that shipped in, but the taste just doesn’t agree with me sometimes. I could drink Bintang all night and rather than feel drunk my stomach will just bloat up until I look like a pregnant woman. We were sat in the lounge area of our hostel watching a Canadian guy making a bowl of pre-packed super noodles. Why someone would come to Indonesia and cook for themselves is beyond me. South East Asian cuisine is some of the most diverse and tastiest in the world and if bought from one of the myriad street stalls is so cheap that it will make you feel like you’re shoplifting.

“Dragons?” queried my fellow Scot. I’d met him just that morning, having conked out upon my arrival the night before. Both of us had checked into one of the six-bed dorms available which, for an extra £1.18 per night, meant that we got air conditioning instead of a fan. The room was like walking into the large storage freezer of a food production plant, both in temperature and smell. With the sun blasting down rays peaking in the thirties and humidity levels comparable to that of a dense jungle, it confounded me why some people always opt for the most basic and money-saving bed available. How little do you care about your wellbeing that you are happy to sweat like a paedophile in a playground all night just to save a quid?

“The Komodo dragons,” I explained. “It says here in my guidebook that the small islands of Komodo and Rinca off the west coast of Flores are the only places in the world where these big giant 3m long monitor lizards can be seen in the wild.”

“Absolutely man,” nodded Fraser, biting into a white chocolate and almond flavoured Magnum ice-cream. In the soaring heat you need to ensure that you stay cool, and a little treat every day isn’t going to burst the budget. I’m a firm believer that you should never travel until funds are so low that you return flat out broke. I’ve met a scarily large number of people living in hostels and working part-time shifts in cafes because they can’t afford to get back home. At least they are fending for themselves, I suppose, and not committing the number one backpacker sin of calling the bank of dad for additional funds.

“Awesome,” I smiled, happy to have found a new companion. Flashpacking is best done in groups of two of three. This way, at least one person is usually always keen for a night out or a daytime activity and you’ll egg each other on to do cool shit and live like you are dying. When travelling alone, it is easy to hole up and reduce spending at the cost of missing out on potential adventures and on creating memories that will echo down through the centuries for millennia to come.

“How are we going to get there?” he asked as I pointed on the map to where the islands were located. “It looks quite far.”

“Yeah, by boat it takes about four days. You can also fly there in just over one hour, though.”

“And what’s the price difference?”

“Irrelevant,” I laughed. “We’re getting on a plane.”

A Professional's Guide to Flashpacking: Part I

Queenstown, New Zealand • March 2017 • Length of Read: 4 Minutes

From my time spent on the road, I have learnt that there is no one way to travel. And that means that there is no right way to travel either. Far too often, I’ve seen people judge me for what they consider ‘wasting money’. They say that I’ve incurred unnecessary expenses as a result of ‘not travelling properly’. Well, guess what? I didn’t leave home to wander the globe under the strict conditions that I would live off a diet of pasta and noodles every day, only drink beer when it is on discount offer, and get a job cleaning the showers and changing the beds in hostels in return for free accommodation. I came away to enjoy myself. I came away to live life to the fullest. And this is exactly what two lads I met in New Zealand were doing. Every. Single. Day. They weren’t backpacking in your traditional sense, but flashpacking.

“Ditch the rucksack for a start,” said Adam, sipping on a dark n’ stormy. “The wheeled suitcase is the way forward.” We were sat with his travelling companion, Giles, in a fancy rum cocktail bar in Queenstown, shooting the breeze and killing some time before our dinner reservations that evening. “Oh, and avoid local backpacker bars if you can, especially during happy hour promotions. They always run in conjunction with mandatory organised fun activities. I’d rather shit on my hands and clap than spend my evenings gulping watered-down beer that tastes like feet whilst watching dudes take their clothes off in a bid to win a free skydive.”

I’d asked him what it meant to be a flashpacker, and he was spelling out the truth to me. Unlike some weapons that you find on the road who dwindle away money, he hadn’t relied on an inheritance to fund his jaunts around the Earth, but years of saving. A small portion of each month’s paycheck had gone into a separate travel fund and now he was enjoying himself. Road tripping across the United States, the boys had then spent Christmas in Fiji before coming to New Zealand.

“I’m also pretty lazy when it comes to cooking,” added Giles, “and would much rather eat out than wrestle around a kitchen that is more overcrowded than a Taiwanese jail; fighting for the only pan that doesn’t contain traces of salmonella. It also allows me to sample the local cuisine. And when it comes to preparing lunches you can forget it. A lot of people carry cooler bags around with them filled with half-packets of mince, near-empty jars of tomato sauce, and tubs of super saver peanut butter that they will spread on anything more solid than peanut butter. I always find the $9 pizza baguettes and steak pies from roadside pit stops to be much more filling and nourishing. The occasional $10 smoothie can also be very nutritional. We don’t want to be getting sick now, do we?”

Giles was wearing a Ralph Lauren Polo shirt and had his hair perfectly groomed. Appearance was important to him, and he hadn’t let being constantly on the move interfere with his fashion sense. “I mean, I really have no desire to slide on a pair of elephant pants from Asia or an oversized sleeveless vest advertising a beer I don’t even like,” he pointed out. “There are also the standard backpacker activities which we don’t get pure enjoyment from. Instead of playing mini-golf putting, for example, we would rather rent a set of clubs and play eighteen holes of a Championship course.”

“I see where you are coming from,” I nodded, my philosophy very much aligned with what they were saying. The boys were so unashamedly themselves that it was near-impossible not to be drawn into their lifestyle choices. “Some people that I’ve met on the road have changed so much that they would probably be unrecognisable now to their friends and family. If I can return back home the exact same person as I was when I left, albeit more cultured, have more apathy for the world, and have more epic stories to tell, then I will be as happy as can be. I once booked a $600 flight as a present for a friend to come and visit me on a trip, only to find out that they couldn’t make it and my purchase was both non-refundable and non-modifiable. Would that classify as flashpacking?”

“Absolutely,” said Adam. “A perfect example of doing something under your own accord and not because someone else has influenced you. Money can be earned, lost, and re-earned. Time cannot.”

“And what do you do when you want to slow things down and look after the wallet every now and then?” I asked, intrigued.

“That’s simple,” he laughed. “We have a quiet night in amongst the blackjack and roulette tables of a local casino.”

Top 5 of 2016 - A Crobs Abroad Year in Review

Glasgow, Scotland, UK • December 2016 • Length of Read: 2 Minutes


The general consensus seems to be that 2016 has been a pretty shit year and rounding up some of the world events that have taken place over the past twelve months, then, yes, I could see why people may think so. There have been a seemingly mounting number of terrorist attacks; political upheavals; refugee crises; Olympic debacles; doping scandals; and a string of celebrity deaths including David Bowie, Prince, and, most recently, Leonard Cohen.

The truth is, though, we are still living in one of the most peaceful times in history. The reason that we are all seeing the world as this horrible place full of death and destruction is due to the vanishing information communication gap. Nowadays, if something ‘bad’ happens, no matter whereabouts on planet Earth, the media will make it their duty to spread this over every mobile app, newsfeed, and website they possibly can. They are all about the fear mongering, because that it what sells. In reality, it’s not that these attacks and tragedies are on the increase, it’s that previously we were just oblivious to their happening. I'm not saying that 2016 is without its flaws, I'm just saying that it needs to be put in perspective.

Personally, I think 2016 has been a fucking great year.

I rang in the New Year by shooting assault weapons at an old military rifle range in Vilnius, Lithuania. Here, I befriended two crazy blondes who would change my life more than they will ever know. During a manic period at work, I managed to sneak away to Copenhagen, Denmark with them before launching my first paperback book, Crobs Abroad: A Scot’s Misadventures with a Backpack. To celebrate this, and my 25th birthday, I then hit up Reykjavik and New York City for a summer holiday.

A trip to Vienna, Austria in July gave me the chance to catch-up with two friends who I hadn’t seen since living with them in Maastricht, The Netherlands four years prior. It also sparked a deeper connection with an Italian girl I’d met in Riga, Latvia over eighteen months before. The pair of us would go on an autumn road trip through the Balkans and then meet again in Prague, Czech Republic for a winter getaway. These trips combined to form my second publication, We Ordered a Panda: Tales of City-Hopping around Europe.

It’s sometimes those experiences closer to home, though, that really shine through and my weekend spent camping in the Wimbledon queue to get tickets for Centre Court has to be the surprise package highlight of 2016 for me. We met some great people and I can’t wait to do it all over again in the future. It’s something that could very easily become a tradition.

The year rounded off with me leaving my job, packing my life in a rucksack, and starting a world tour down under in Sydney, Australia. Over the course of 2016 I’ve visited 10 different countries, crossed off 7 bucket list items, and created lifelong memories and friendships.

Yeah, by my accounts, 2016 has been a pretty fucking great year. Here are the Top 5 experiences:

  • Firing Assault Weapons at a Rifle Range [Vilnius, Lithuania]
  • Camping out in the Wimbledon Queue [London, UK]
  • Bathing in the Blue Lagoon [Reykjavik, Iceland]
  • Visiting Time's Square [New York, USA]
  • Being Reunited with my ERASMUS Buddies [Vienna, Austria]

Thanks for reading and let's make 2017 even better ;)