One of the world’s most under-rated talents, particularly in this game, is the ability to sleep anywhere. I’m typing this from the lobby of a hotel, which given what the receptionist is wearing may well be a brothel. It’s where we spent the night up country – me to a full night’s sleep, my colleague barely getting 40 winks. It’s true that there’s no toilet seats, or air-con, and a 4 inch gap between the door and floor letting in all manner of insects, but the fan did the trick for me, and I was out for the count until dawn (or just before – we went out to the airport in a rainstorm at 6am to meet a cargo plane).
I’ve never read or heard anyone praising the ability to be ‘bed tolerant’, but it’s a skill I often count myself lucky to have. In the summer in the Central African Republic, we took a memorable 4 day road trip up country, staying in very basic Catholic missions where all we got at night was a patch of concrete floor and a sheet. I slept well.
I remember touring the US by Greyhound bus for a month in September 2000 with a friend, who couldn’t sleep on the buses. We often spent the nights on buses to save money on hotels, particularly towards the end of the trip. The last two nights we travelled first from Washington to New York (north-east) via Richmond (south) (to extend the bus time) and then on the last night we took a trip to Washington and back from New York, and I got a good four hours sleep each way.
A wider point, both in Sierra Leone and CAR, is that it’s good to be able to live without too much. If you need your cappuccinos and trips to the theatre, you’re seriously limiting where you can live in the world. If you can survive on sardines and bread, and sleep with at best a fan, then your options are wide open. Steve Jobs (whose biography I just finished) used to get his cook to make ten meals on an evening, and then declare every single one ‘inedible’. I’ll eat almost anything. The descriptor ‘easily pleased’ often seems to have a negative edge meaning ‘can’t appreciate the finer things in life’. That may well be true, but it makes life straight-forward, even if it leaves friends confused that you really don’t mind where you eat out. The downside is, perhaps I settle for far less than I could have.