"Travel" by Benjamin Smith

Originally published in American Feed Magazine

They are at the port now, trying to switch their tickets. Both of them stand at the counter with their backpacks on and stare down at the floor. 

The ticket lady looks up at them. “No good.”

“What's no good?” The woman asks.

“You cannot leave today – only tomorrow.”

“Why not?” the man asks.

“All the seats are full today – only tomorrow.”

The woman places her head in her hands and cries silently as the man leans across the counter. “Listen,” he says. “Our trip here has been a disaster. We are out of money and out of patience. All we want is to leave this place, today.” 

“I am very sorry,” the ticket lady says as she hands him the switched tickets. “You can leave tomorrow. Stay here at a hotel tonight.”

We are out of money.”

“I am very sorry,” the ticket lady says again. “Stay here at the port tonight. You can leave tomorrow.”

The two walk outside and sit in the shade of the palm trees. She wipes her eyes and lays her head on her backpack; he thinks and writes his thoughts in his notebook.

“At least we got the tickets,” he says after some time.

She doesn't respond.

“Don't you want to talk?”

“There's nothing to talk about.”

“Our trip hasn't been that bad.”

“You told the lady it's been a disaster.”

“At least we saw some American ruins,” he explains. “And we drove along the highways, and we sailed across the ocean. And we had our wedding on the Earth, which is what we really wanted in the first place.”

“Our guides robbed us blind.”

“At least we have the experiences. At least we got married.”

Another woman walks out of the port and into the shade. She smokes an authentic Earth cigarette, and carries a bag of souvenirs.

“May I join you two?” she asks.

“Yes, of course,” the man says. His wife closes her eyes and starts to sleep. The other woman sits down across from them.

“Care for a smoke?” she asks.

“No, thank you.”

“Are you two from here?”

“No,” he says with a weak smile. “We're from Brahma. And you?”


“My friend goes backpacking there, and he loves it.”

“It's very nice.”

“So he says.”

“Did you come here to backpack, too?”

“Yes, we did. We were told that everyone must visit this place.”


“There are strange things to see,” he explains. “And there's so much history – it's the cradle of civilization. And we wanted to get married here.” He holds up his wedding band for her to see. “We had always wanted to get married here.”

“How romantic!”

“Thanks for saying that.”

“Where did it happen?”

“A little town in Africa, on the Atlantic.”

“How romantic.”

“First we arrived in North America. After that we went down to South America and crossed the Atlantic to Africa. We wanted to get married in Africa because it's the birthplace of marriage, then spend our honeymoon on the Mediterranean and in the Middle East. So we met some natives there who showed us around and arranged our wedding for a decent fee. But afterwards they drastically raised the price.”

“What a shame!”

“And because they did this, we couldn't afford the rest. So we came to Spain and now we're leaving early and going back to Brahma.”

“What a shame.”

“That's our story.”

She throws her dead cigarette into the cracked flowerpot beside them. “Earth is trash.”

“I wrote in my notebook that it's like a palace under polluted water. there's beauty here, but you have to swim through all this ugliness. The native culture is disgusting enough, but then there's the added materialism of the Western Systems.”

“Trash upon trash.”

“Earth isn't even Earth anymore.”

“It's disappointing.”

“Yes, it's disappointing! But for us the worst part isn't the loss of money or excitement, but the loss of self-respect.”


“We were foolish and fell for the scam.”

The woman waves off his words with her hand. “Are you a tourist or a traveler? Because if you're a tourist like myself then you go to places to stay at nice clean hotels, take nice clean pictures, but nice clean souvenirs, and have a nice clean time. For a tourist like myself, different places are like home, only more exotic. But if you're a traveler like others then you go only for experience.”

The man nods his head.

A voice calls from the port intercom and says that the Minerva rocket will be leaving in twenty minutes, and passengers should board immediately. She stands and grabs her bag. “It was great meeting you. Hopefully your trip home will be safe and pleasant.” She reaches into her shirt pocket and produces a card. “Here's my number. If you ever visit, give me a call.”


The other woman winks at him and leaves; he thinks and writes his thoughts in his notebook.

“Time to wake up,” he says after some time.

She doesn't respond.



“Time to wake up.”

She doesn't respond.

“Don't you want to talk?”

“There's nothing to talk about.”

“This place isn't that bad.”

“You told the woman it's disgusting.”

“At least we can see some Spanish relics,” he explains. “And we can walk around the city, and we can sleep beneath the stars. And we can have our honeymoon on the Mediterranean, which is what we really wanted in the first place.”

She wipes her eyes and lays her head on her backpack again. “Oh, shut up.”

Benjamin James Smith is a writer and editor living in Maine and writing a novel about Soviet time-travel schemes.