A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about friends

July

On the last leg of this Journey!


View Crossing back on Zaspirucho's travel map.

101_2005.jpg

This blog began with this trip. I started writing every week or so, and kept it going through the US, India and SE Asia. The nature of the travel changed, waves gave way to trains, tracks to wheels, and still I wrote. Yet now, in this final leg of the journey, it feels more difficult and cumbersome to write of what has been; but lets try!

After some months of zig zagging through Europe, finding love and not, I sit on a café in Barcelona. Last entry I had just left Romania and sped towards The Hague. Since then I have lost trains, visited friends, met Theo Jansen, got to Paris in time to recover my new credit card, worked in Belgium, and crossed France. Not bad, ey?

large_101_2007.jpg

Few things will make you feel more stupid and impotent than getting on the wrong train, and realizing it too late. It's just money, you tell your silly self, breathing deeply to stop your heart from bursting through your eyes, as you contemplate the thought of spending the night on a Czech train station. But there will be another train, everything works out in the end, if you only let it flow. Getting on the wrong side of the platform cost me a bit over a hundred euros. Not a mistake I'll make again soon, you can be assured of that.

So after a week of trains I got to the Netherlands in time for the beach demonstration. I biked from Rotterdam to The Hague; it was a windy day, not too good for biking, but just what you need to see a Strandbeest walk.

large_101_2026.jpg

For the creator of a life form, Theo Jansen is incredibly human. He gave his rehearsed talk and demonstration just as playfully and smiling as if it was the first time he talked about the subject. He loves his walking beasts even when they refuse to behave properly. Only his props betray how many times he has shown them, the torn paper and old tubes. I have seen his presentation before on TED, analyzed his design and spent hours looking at diagrams. Still, it is another thing to see the beasts live, walking in front of you or carrying them on your shoulder down the beach.
“Yes, send me pictures!” he said, when told I wanted to build a vehicle with his mechanism. And I will, after I figure out how! The design is not ready to leave the beach, as he put it: “they don't like the rough terrain, just the hard, flat sand.” Well, guess that's where I come in, no? A project is in the works! Just need to settle down for a bit and make it happen.

large_101_2039.jpg

Then I made it to Paris. Three years later, I sat on the same table I sat that first time. St. Christopher's Inn, Northern Paris. A lot has happened in this time. Many roads and countries have seen my feet, on many floors has my backpack rested. That orange rucksack is the only thing that's the same, all else has changed, the carried and the carrier. I met with the past in Paris, had coffee with it, with her, with them. We walked the streets and talked of the future. Then I left, glad to live in the present.

101_2116.jpg

After a year abroad, I must say, I'm quite exited about returning to Mexico. Two years ago I got depressed after buying the ticket back. Not this time though, now I can only think of all the friends and family and food! I don't know how long I'll stay there. At first I said two months, but with projects and birthdays and weddings coming up, there is no estimate I can give anymore. I guess it will be the same as always, a week at a time, living each day until the road calls again.

But for now, Barcelona! I got here planning to spend a mere handful of days, but then heard the talk: I arrived just in time for Las Fiestas de Gracia. And after seeing everyone getting ready for it, streets being closed a week in advance, people making decorations out on the sidewalks, posters appearing on walls... Tension is building everywhere in the Gracia neighborhood, it feels ready to explode. I guess I could hang around a few days, no? Right before crossing the Atlantic, completing this first trip around the world.

And now here are two photos of Arq café, because they are awesome, and it is my most favouritest of places in Rotterdam.

Nice!

Nice!

And delicious!

And delicious!

Posted by Zaspirucho 10:22 Archived in Spain Tagged trains barcelona paris friends netherlands backpacking rotterdam fiesta working past strandbeest theo_jansen Comments (0)

A good week

Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. Just don't stop playing.

semi-overcast 16 °C
View Liberty Goes East & Re-Europe on Zaspirucho's travel map.

Mural in Plovdiv

Mural in Plovdiv


When you journal, the level of detail in the descriptions depends greatly on the time passed between entries. What would be most important in a day, may be but a fleeting comment in a week, or even ignored in a monthly review. Today, and because of the past days, I believe I must not follow this trend, and revisit every day. So this might be a long post.

large_101_1958.jpg

Saturday

Last time I saw my wallet was in Istanbul bus station. That’s all I can say for certain. Seven hours later I arrived in Plovdiv, and set out to my usual wanderings. I did not have a place to spend the night there, but it was still nighttime, having arrived there before the sun. Still plenty of time to figure it out.
So I crossed Plovdiv and its old town, walking up to a hill and enjoying the view. It was a cold morning in a new country. I could already see the contrasts. Different shades of green and cats ran away from me. Not in Istanbul anymore! Still unsure whether to spend the night or exit the city and start stretching the thumb, I came down from the hill and resolved to concentrate on the moment: get some food. That’s when I realized my acute lack of wallet.

Now, had I not couchsurfed, hitchhiked and backpacked before, or well, had I not been me, there would have been frustration and fright and negative feelings. I guess. I just took it as fact. “I have no wallet. No money nor way of getting any. This will not stop me.” So I backtracked to a friendly hostel and asked if I could use their internet, and explained my situation. They gave me wifi and breakfast. This allowed me to cancel my cards and assess my situation. I would have to trust in people and goodwill. In fact, I had no choice.

As I wrote and called, next to me sat a family. As it usually happens in this kind of setting, we started talking and eventually I told them of my plight. I got sympathetic smiles and good-lucks. But later, when getting ready to leave, one of them came to me: “We’re going to Sofia—she said—you can come with us if you want. You have a couple of minutes to decide!” Well, it is my personal policy to not say no to this kind of offers and opportunities, and told her so; so of course I came with them. An interesting group they were: a boy of 14, two of 16, a girl of 9 and another of 18. The adults were three old friends, the two mothers and a male. It took me a while to figure out their story, who was son of who, but on the highway, there was plenty of time! And we did not go straight to Sofia either. First stop was Hisarya, the Roman walls and mineral hot baths. In that rainy, cold day, those baths were bliss!

I learned during the day that I had not come in the best of times to Bulgaria. It was Saturday, yes, but not any of them, it was Easter Saturday in the Orthodox Calendar. That’s why the three friends were together, coming from Berlin and London all the way to Sofia, visiting friends and family. That’s why they were out on a road trip! And that’s why, when the day ended, I found myself in Yana’s aunt and uncle’s home. Yana was mother of three of the kids, a yoga instructor and Vipassana student. She took me in with her family, and gave me a place to spend the night. I saw with her another side to Easter: one of joy, community, family and love. I had homemade raki and ate Easter bread with hot cocoa. We clashed coloured eggs. I think I’ve never won an egg joust. We walked with candles in the street, greeted the neighbours on the way to church and back. No one cared whether I believed or not. No one cared whether I belonged or not. And so, in smiles and warmth, I could barely recall that just that morning I had arrived with no wallet from Istanbul.

large_101_1956.jpg

101_1953.jpg

Sunday

I left Yana’s house sometime in the afternoon. I did not want to be too much of a burden. And I had a mission. Two years before I had left something in a hostel, and being back in Sofia, it would be a shame if I did not at least ask… So I made my way to the Hostel Mostel, to ask them if, by any chance, my phone was still there.
Of course it wasn’t. It was two years! But wouldn’t it have been awesome to find it?

The good thing was that, on the way there I met some staff of the Art Hostel, and was told to come to their bar. So I got a warm place to hang out and even some food (some Bulgarian meatcake with yogurt!). Everyone I met was sympathetic to my case, I mean, it’s not like I’d gambled my savings. They’d just walked away. While dozing in the bar I heard Spanish, and couldn’t resist the conversation. Turned out to be an Erasmus student and her local friend, wonderful people too. I had already resigned myself to leaving at first light, in the cold, so when I was offered a bed in a dusty spare room I hesitated for a moment. Only for a moment.

Monday

I woke in that spare room after a night of chatting and laughter, and looked around me. No wonder they called this “the dead guy’s room”. Full of books and notes and randomness, some oblivious socialist paraphernalia, other very personal, like a boxes full of letters and postcards. I rummaged through most of it. Took a couple of unwritten postcards from the seventies with me, no one will miss them.
Eventually I left to hitchhike, fashioned myself a sign, and prepared to leave Sofia. A bit over an hour of waiting later, I was joined by Velin, another hitchhiker. He later told me that he had just passed next to me on a city bus, going to his usual spot, but when he saw me there, smiling so happily with my little sign, he just decided to come with me. I quickly recognized in him a friend. Sometimes you do so, just by the look in the eyes, you know to be among equals.

In two rides we got to Veliko Tarnovo. The first a simple, usual ride, with a nice guy, software designer going not too far, took us there and a bit further. The second ride though, was the strangest I’ve ever had. They were lovely people, a very nice and friendly couple. It’s just that I never thought I’d ever be picked up by a deaf couple. I could not talk with them, and although they could read Velin’s lips. All I could do was perform my interpretative dance and smile wide. They even gave us Easter bread. I have no idea what their names are.
In Veliko, Velin asked around and got me a place to sleep in a little funky hotel. For free as well. All in goodwill. Warm shower and a soft bed, wifi and homeliness. I had not touched money in three days.

My bed for the night!

My bed for the night!


At some point during the day Velin had asked me why I hadn’t asked some friend or family to wire me some money through Western Union or something. I had no answer. I realized the thought had not even crossed my mind. So sure I was that I could make it with no money, that I forgot there were other options. I resolved to look into this once in Bucharest.

Tuesday

So well rested, I set out for Romania. A two hour hike got me out of Veliko Tarnovo and into thumbing position. It was a nice day and in some twenty minutes a young road-tripping couple picked me up. They actually drove past me at first, but turned around and came back for me! A delightful ride, we stopped at a little ancient monastery carved in the rock, then they left me on Ruse.

I thought it was a smaller town, but it took me a good three hours to walk through it and get to the Danube. Here it turns out you cannot cross the bridge on foot, so I got a ride from one end of the Friendship Bridge to the other. And then, off to Bucharest! Finally I was in Romania! Gruialand at last. I had wanted to visit Romania because why not, because I’d missed it two years before, and because of some stories by Gheorghe Gruia, my former handball coach. So I was finally there! And with no money or a place to sleep!

I could have probably gotten a place to sleep. I was asked about it and half-offered a place by a Chilean family at the McDonalds (they serve some of the best wifi out there). But I was for some reason betting all my cards at volunteering at a hostel. I had particularly the X Hostel in mind. I met the owner/CEO and everything. But sometimes you go all in and win, sometimes you go all in and lose. Turned out the hostel had been invaded by a roving band of young dutch people. Fifty-some of them. There was simply no place for anyone else! Even the staff were sleeping in the storage room for the week. They did take my backpack for me though, so I was free to roam the streets.

So then, what to do if I don’t have a place to sleep? Well I don’t sleep, of course! For a night or two nothing will happen. I’m a designer after all. All that training in not sleeping did finally pay off while travelling. And then some.
The height of the night occurred when, sitting in a Kebap shop, munching on my travel rations and last Easter bread, a girl sat on the next table. Smile. Then her friend, a long haired, big guy, all in black joined her and they started talking. I could hear English. Eventually we started chatting, then suddenly she offered: “Can I invite you somewhere?” She handed me a flyer, I could make out something about a student discount to somewhere. “Don’t worry, you won’t have to pay any entry fee! I’ll invite you.” I had already said yes before turning the flyer around and realizing what it was I had said yes to.

I’d never been to a Strip Bar before. I've always known that it’s not my kind of place. I have now confirmed it. But if I was ever to enter one, this was the best way to do it. Turned out I was invited to the place by one of the girls, Anna, and I was the only “customer” there. On the way I had told her and Barry the security guard, of my peculiar penniless situation. This did not matter, for as there was no one else, we could just chat and enjoy not being out in the cold. I think I was the first man ever to drink tea at that place. Anna even gave me some bananas to eat, and chocolate—all she could find in the backstage. She performed a bit as well, and pole danced. I was amazed by her ability and strength! Barry agreed, “I’m mostly here for the looks” he said, “This girls can fend for themselves!” I would not like to get in a fight with any of them. Those legs can break you in two.

Barry had once been a martial arts master, and firefighter in the ‘States. After all the misery and pain he’s seen on car crashes, gang fights and fire victims, spending his nights surrounded by topless girls is as good a retirement plan as any. This was not a big strip club, just a little corner bar, with everyone relaxed and happy. Not a bad place to spend some time with nice people. The fact that most of them are topless doesn't hurt either. They even let me have a shower in the massage room. And then it was back to wandering.

No photos there

No photos there

Wednesday

When it was day again I walked back to the X Hostel. Came just in time for the Dutch group’s breakfast. Even helped with some dutch-english-spanish-romanian translation. When there’s big groups, there’s big leftovers. I had breakfast, lunch, and refilled my travel rations. It was delicious. What the staff could not offer me in accommodation they gave in welcoming. If I had money I’d consider staying there. But for now, we're Couchsurfing!

That night I got a place to sleep. A couch, a cat and food. Music too, although it wasn't too much to the taste of Andra, my host. A musician herself, she is picky with what she listens to. I would love to hear her medieval music band. I stayed three nights with her, met her friends, chatted with her boyfriend. They all reminded me of my group of friends in Mexico, talking about music, magic and board games. Sometimes you meet these random people halfway around the world, who come from a completely different background, and yet you realize that you are the same.

Friday

Fearing and caring for me as only a mother can do, my mom offered to get me out of my penniless state, and wired me some euros. She sent them to me sometime Thursday, but by I only could get them on Friday. Gratefully, the first thing I did after getting them was walk into a library-café, sit on a small table by the street window, and buy me some coffee.

How long could I have kept it going? There is an impressive amount of people out there, willing to share all they have with a stranger, just because he needs it. Just because he asks and smiles. I have discovered that my story is an inspiring one: people have approached me just because I look happy, and want to hear the stories that make me smile and dance with no music, even on gloomy days and lonely nights.

That first day in Bucharest, I was approached by a French man. A math teacher, he dreams of leaving his fears behind, grab a backpack and see the world. After some minutes of talking, he put it better than I ever could:

"I saw you there and I had to talk to you. You just seemed so happy, I wanted to know how you do it. Now I understand. You are happy because you are free."

101_1950.jpg

Posted by Zaspirucho 06:43 Archived in Bulgaria Tagged night adventure city friends family music hostel road romania medieval poor sofia nomad cold luck bulgaria bucharest easter strip hitchhiking wallet learning plovdiv ransack Comments (1)

On leaving a continent

Things take on a new significance when they are about to end.

sunny 24 °C
View Liberty Goes East & Re-Europe on Zaspirucho's travel map.

Last days of Asia

Last days of Asia


Six months it was. Six months ago I arrived in Kuala Lumpur for the first time. On that day I knew nothing. Coming out of the subway station I was dazzled by the light and movement, and surprised by the great structures looming over me. The Twin Towers! In my frenzy, I had forgotten to read up on where I was going, so I had no idea the iconic buildings where actually located in Kuala Lumpur. Like going to New York and being surprised to find the Empire State Building there. But lo and behold, the famous Petronas!

It takes on a new form, that which is known. It gets blurry and fades away some. I walked that same path several times that first week in Malaysia, and some more in the following visits to KL. The towers became familiar, my friends. When I got lost in the city I could look for them in the distance, be reassured by their far-off presence. When walking under their shadow I needed not heed them, rather I would look at the people, at the cars and advertisements. The great giants a part of the scenery, part of the world.

Then there is a mysterious link between the first and last. The senses get sharpened by the feelings of conclusion, by the coming end. When you’re aware it is the last time (that you know of) that you’ll do this or eat that, and it your senses will sharpen, trying to capture every detail possible. Every sound, every smell and colour. When the world that is known is about to disappear, we strive to experience; to remember. That way it may live on, in our memories at least.

101_1686.jpg

In this spirit I spent the last days in Malaysia; visiting the places I had come to enjoy, and saying goodbye. I saw people I had met six months before, turned some old smiles into new kisses. By now I had my favourite sites too; places where they didn’t need to ask: upon seeing me they’d know whether I required an ice coffee or a double espresso. The kind of places that become a home, where the people treat you as a friend. And to top it all off, I was able to meet with Tihomir, my Bulgarian Liberty crewmate, and with my cousin and her beautiful kids and husband. Thus the trip ended in the same loving manner as it began. The circle is closed now, time to move on.

Countries, food, experiences, thoughts, this has been a trip of many firsts. I’ll surely revisit the region. But for now, it’s time to go back to the west. There’s no need to go all the way there though, so first I’ll stop at the border, there where the two worlds meet. We shall fly through the night and tomorrow I’ll see the Sun rise over Istanbul.

All things come to an end, such is the nature of the world. And then they start again.

Posted by Zaspirucho 06:43 Archived in Malaysia Tagged kuala_lumpur travel end malaysia friends istanbul family trip asia kl liberty thoughts learning Comments (0)

Temples, tuk-tuks and friends

Finding more than I was expecting from Cambodia

sunny 25 °C
View Liberty Goes East on Zaspirucho's travel map.

large_101_1419.jpg

If you want to see the whole world, stay no longer than three days at a place. It's not just me says it. I first heard the concept in the Kino’s Journey series (Kino no tabi anime). But in Europe I put it into practice and realized its wisdom. The thing is, if you stay any longer than that in a place, you will start building bonds, maybe even leaving a piece of your heart behind you. That is if you manage to leave. So when I got to Siem Reap I paid for three nights. Immediately though, I was surprised by the laid back atmosphere, and by the ease with which I could meet people… After Ko Phangan and Bangkok, the vibe felt very different. I can see why people keep coming back to this place, even staying some of them.
101_1355.jpgThe traveler fears not loneliness. Still it's better to have someone to share the moment with.

The traveler fears not loneliness. Still it's better to have someone to share the moment with.


Already since the train to Cambodia I had met an Australian girl, Jo. We shared the tuk-tuk to the border and did immigration together. Having read extensively about the scams that surround that border crossing, we were wary and distrusting. And sure thing, the driver brought us to a “Visa agency” just outside the official buildings. But we just shrugged them off and made the last blocks on foot, knowing we’d get the visa on arrival at the actual border.
Once there, if you have not completed your e-Visa application form in advance, you must first head to the passport control and pay your fee. It is 20$ for the regular one month tourist visa, and you must provide them with a passport sized photo. That is, unless you lose your photos somewhere in the black hole that your backpack has become. Then you must pay an additional one dollar. Or, like in our case, five dollars. Why? Because give me your passport and shut up. That's why.
So we were slightly suspicious when, after the 3 hour bus ride from the border to Siem Reap, they said we could have a free tuk-tuk ride to our hotels. Nothing is free, we thought... But sometimes, it turns out, rides are included in the bus price. The only catch is that your driver will offer to be your official Angkor ride. Which is great if you want to be taken there, I guess--but I’d rather bike myself there, thank you.
101_1500.jpgIt's a good place to bike around!

It's a good place to bike around!


I knew half the name of a hostel to stay in, and Jo had no set plans or bookings, or any idea really, so we made our way to the Garden Village Guesthouse. It is a great place that caters to any budget, from the 1$ khmer style bunks, to 30$ AC bungalows. So we settled in, and before I knew it, we’d met Tyson the musician. I congratulated him on his moustache (not anyone can pull it off as he does!) and invited him to go get some live music, since I'd learned of some couchsurfers that were playing in a bar a couple streets away. It’s funny how things turn out. Tyson brought his accordion with him and joined in for the last tunes. Next day they performed together on a rooftop bar, and on the third morning they recorded some music and a video at Angkor during sunrise. A couple of days later they left to some other musician’s house in a village, somewhere in Cambodia. All because I invited a stranger to go get some music.
101_1357.jpg101_1416.jpg
In such a manner have the days passed. One day I biked to the Angkor temples with Tyson and Jo. Another day I went there again by myself, to later come back to the Giant Puppet Parade, based and organized in Siem Reap and made by local children... Days fuse together. Between the meeting of people and the long conversations, I have found myself to be here in the company of equals. Odd figures all, people that could, but rather not blend in. Travelers, artists, and philosophers of the road. Somehow the three days became six, then ten. But it is now time to move on. Tomorrow I shall visit Angkor for one last time, and then hop on a night bus to some other place.
101_1529.jpgIt's been a good one!

It's been a good one!


From all these conversations, my internet foragings, and by the amount of time spent in silent thought, some semblance of a plan has risen. There is the possibility of work in Italy and France, and maybe in Denmark or the Netherlands. Yet the main realization of this past few weeks is that I have no intention of returning to Mexico. I wish to continue with my education though, so I seek to enroll in a Masters course in the Open University. It is an Online programme, so I’ll be able to work, study and travel, all at the same time.

Lets do this!

Lets do this!


I feel like I’ve been somewhat passive with my learning this last couple of years; waiting for my professors to assign me a task, or to give me the opportunity to prove myself. As such, I’ve been stuck in the same place for three years already. It’s about time I move on, continue looking forward. And since the web is brimming with free learning tools and resources, I intend to overload my brain in the coming months. Something good shall come of it, I can guarantee it. At the very least, I’ll have more think about during those flights and train rides. And there will be lots to read and write. So lets see how this adventure evolves!

large_101_1375.jpg

Thanks for reading!

Posted by Zaspirucho 00:18 Archived in Cambodia Tagged travel cambodia siem_reap friends angkor music hostel parade online stranger scam study puppets learning Comments (2)

(Entries 1 - 4 of 4) Page [1]