I was still utterly drenched with sweat. The humidity in Buenos Aires hadn't relented for days, neither had the drive to push our bodies beyond their limits.
I was with two girls in the backseat of a taxi on my way to a drum festival. It's called La Bomba De Tiempo and held in one of the poorest neighbourhoods in Buenos Aires. The taxi pushed through broken glass and graffiti-covered streets. It's the kind of suburb where everything from mobile phones to crystal meth are on offer. With the feigned confidence of the responsible adult, I told the girls to only ever come here with me. At the top of the street, the delta of a river of wet Argentinean bodies opened up. We were here.
I saw everything. I saw the fall where his face met the middle of the road. I saw the bloodstained shirts of his friends as they fought to put him in a taxi. I saw him abuse them in a barrage of insults he'll never remember. It was only early evening and already he had drunk more than any 18-year-old could in an entire night of fiesta. George had lost a lot of flesh, his credit cards and self-respect in that flash of a moment. But he had passed through something far more important. This was a ritual of the travelling youth, and for me, I was on the outside looking in. Was this really what I was like 10 years ago?
The first time you're completely anonymous and a thousand miles from home is like the first time you have sex. You're so excited that you crave and demand it all at once. There are so many things you've seen in images of other people doing that you can't stop yourself from exploiting them all immediately. But of course it all comes undone in front of you, and more importantly, for the person you're sharing the moment with. You'll make that same mistake and so many others, time and again. But soon enough you'll learn the most critical of all skills. Pace yourself.
This night of the drum festival was the fifth night in a row we had all been out. The clubs of Buenos Aires had been abused by this homemade Contiki crew. For some reason the association with alcohol and being a foreigner in a foreign land has long been a decree. But now, at the end of this workweek, I was hesitant to go out. So with a self-imposed curfew I was straight in another taxi home. It wasn't my first rodeo.
This year I turn 30. I have been to the wildest of parties in the last 10 years: from the Full Moon in Thailand to Drum and Bass in Russia. So for me now there is so much in an evening that doesn't come prewritten. After so long of being on the road I always have a basis of comparison. But these connections throughout the world aren't something I can't share with someone who is only taking their first steps. In the eyes of the very young, each day holds something as entirely unknown as the other. But for me, I can make choices.
It's taken close to a decade but I now know how to play the game called the weekend and how to maximize a day in a new city. I've stopped being the hungover passenger, like George, to someone who knows I will never be back in the same time and place twice. My desires have grown from seeking a blind evening to a clear day. It's a hunger to talk to someone in a cafe, rather than through a haze of smoke on the dance floor.
So what? Does it mean there is a retirement age? Absolutely not. Each night is still played out much like the other, but now I choose my own adventure. So excuse me whilst I put down the cup of tea and down a shot of Jagermeister.Add this article to your reading list