A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about thoughts

tracks

Of where I've been, bank hurdles and the present track.

sunny 19 °C
View Crossing back & Re-Europe on Zaspirucho's travel map.

For six weeks I barely wrote a word. Not just here, but my journal famished too: only a couple pages to account for over a month; poor thing. But I am on a train again, earth rolling beneath my feet. And moving calls to words in a way that staying put does not.

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So, I arrived in Rotterdam, where I did not find the story I was looking for, yet I decided to stay. With pride I saw the days pass, staying put, not hurrying onward. But there was something missing. Maybe if I had stayed just a bit longer... but by the end of the second week, I was on a plane bound for a warmer place.
The Netherlands I found... strange. For all it's beauty and charm, I kept talking about rat races and recalling old conversations with conspiracy theorists, their claims that Big Brother is no longer watching, for he has no need, since we write the log ourselves. According to the internet's wisdom, citizens of the EU can work in the Netherlands for up to three months, without being formal residents. And it must be all true and easy if you have a set life back in your home country. Which I don't. There is a fun triangle they use to make staying around more difficult for anyone slightly outside the system.

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To get a job, you need a bank account. To get a local bank account, you need an address (and a resident's number usually), and to have an address you need a contract, therefore you need a job. So you need a house to get a job, and a job to pay for your house. And work cash? Forget it. There's places where they don't even take cash anymore. So basically, its very, very complicated to just up and arrive. If you are already part of their system, be welcome. If not, kindly do not try, or be ready to don your rat costume and run.
So I left for Romania. I enjoyed it the first time, and though it was a rash decision, I'll stand by it. It was a month of cooking, enjoying, and just living. I saw many new movies, we watched all of Breaking Bad, and I never repeated a recipe. Some days I did not leave the house, many a day did not own a morning. It was great.
I left Rotterdam with the idea to make this project I've been thinking of for an embarrassingly long time, yet haven't really done anything about it. I want to build a functional vehicle using Theo Jansen's walking mechanism. That's the What. Don't ask me Why. But I had a plan, and my notebook grew rich in designs and ideas. Then I faced reality.

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I decided to fund the thing myself, since I can't explain it well enough to look for sponsors. Then I spent the better part of a month trying to get my money across the Atlantic... Tired of annoying people and Western Union's fees, I decided to take care of it myself. I thought the best way (or rather, the least bad way) to do this, would be Paypal.
So I deposited money into my Mexican Paypal account. Then made a Romanian one and transferred the money. All was fine, so minus a good percentage, I had my money in Europe. Or somewhere. That's when the truth got in my way. See, if I had just lied, everything would have been simple. But since, when I opened my new local Bank account using my Spanish ID, a Spanish address was expected. Otherwise, if I gave an address in Bucharest, I would need some proof of residence. Or something, it was all fuzzy and lost in translation. They even got my name wrong. But I got the account in the end, with fake name debit card and everything... But since it was set to a Spanish address, I could not deposit into it from Paypal Romania, as I later learned. But I am not K., so eventually I got it.
By then I had explored material depots and scoured Ebay for pieces and Chinese made ball bearings. But with my budget, I realized I had to size down. From a house sized project, to a car sized one, then a bicycle thingy. By the time I actually got the money, more than half of my allotted time in Bucharest had passed, and I was no closer to starting than when I left Rotterdam. I decided for a scaled model.

And then, without a warning, the travel bug struck. "I'll leave halfway through August", I said one day, then stared off into distance. By next day it was "the end of July". Then “this weekend”. Once the wanderlust set in, only trickery and a half priced train ticket kept me in place.
And so it is that I find myself on the go again. After a month in Bucharest, I decided to follow the original plan. I made no scale model. Instead, I'm going to meet the original designer, and see his creatures first hand, maybe even ask a question or two. I'm off to meet Theo Jansen.
By train. From Romania, back to the Netherlands.

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Posted by Zaspirucho 03:24 Archived in Romania Tagged budapest netherlands romania plans time backpacking rotterdam goodbyes bucharest working thoughts Comments (0)

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.

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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)

The Traveller's Curse

We talk about what we know

Once, while traveling, I met a philosopher. He’d been on the road for three years, at a time when I had only been out there for a mere three months. This number interested him for, according to his experience and observation, “At three months the journey stops being a trip, he said, and becomes a lifestyle”. I took note of this and started asking other travelers, until I felt the idea somewhat confirmed. Some of them casually referred to this moment as the “three month crisis”. Its effects though, I'd rather them call the Traveler’s curse. Yet it was only after looking at this phenomenon through the glass of Echeverría’s ideas that I could understand and explain some more of the reasons behind this.

In his essay “Juego, arte y fiesta” on culture and society, the late mexican/ecuatorian philosopher Bolívar Echeverría explores the notions of temporality and historicity through the juxtaposition of the common and extraordinary experiences. He defines time as the combination of routine and rupture. On one side we have routine: the moments of automatic behavior, when there is no questioning of attitudes or codes of conduct. And on the other hand, there are those moments of play, of party: the times of uncertainty. Rupture he presents as the moments of joy, of shadow, of unknowing: they are situations during which the history, values and identity of a community may be changed, rewritten. Or reflected upon at least.

Echeverría thought of whole societies; he wrote about their collective experiences, however, I find it that his ideas may be applied to the individual experience too. I find it particularly interesting to analyze from this point of view one of the “extraordinary” experiences of most intensity and transformation a person can experience. Travelling.

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A voyage is, by its very nature, a constant onslaught of novelty for the traveler. Leaving the comfort zone is always difficult for us human beings. Yet even if the change is only geographical, the experience tends to be rewarding. It is even more so when we exit our own culture and encounter different worldviews, idiosyncrasies, and languages. Few things force to introspection and thinking as much as a nearly absolute incapacity of communication with the surrounding people.

He explored three types of rupture moments: playing, party and art. I shall now explain what his three concepts have in common with travelling.
The main element of his definition of play as a rupture in routine is his take on ludic pleasure. Just as some spicy food drive the senses wild, the tongue not being able to define whether salty, sweet, sour or just what, play intrudes into the historicity of daily life. The notion of linearity takes on a secondary note and “the impossibility of establishing whether a fact owes its presence to a causal linking of previous facts, or precisely to the breaking of such causal linkage”, generates an extraordinary moment: it ruptures the flow of time.

Now, coincidence is the queen of traveling. Lack of communication, language barriers and such difficulties, make meetings with people of similar backgrounds something of special importance, even if only for the common language. This encounters shape and redefine the experience, shaking up set plans and opening new paths of exploration to the point that, when looking back, seemingly random encounters tend to feel as predestined. To try and analyze the chain of events leading to, say, two acquaintances to meet on a road on the outskirts of Berlin, or high school friends to bump into each other someplace in Thailand, it could drive someone mad. It becomes easier to just accept the happenstance and enjoy the moment. Thinking decision followed which and affected what is nonsensical, and in this respect traveling has a lot of play in it.

There is also a lot of party, or festive rupture, in the travel context. In this kind of rupture with regular time, the burst of the extraordinary moment occurs during a ritual ceremony, as Echeverría calls the height of the moment. It is an event during which all social values enter in a state of suspense, during which the routinary way of existence is compromised. During this instance, he says, a sort of “fullness” may be glimpsed; it is a sacred experience, a trip onto the land of imagination, to the world of objective and subjective purity, a place to just “let go.

Because of the constantly present onslaught of novelty in a journey, this kind of festive experience occurs during the exploration of new places. The recurring encounter with different ways of living, thinking, eating and dressing expose the own values and worldviews. The traveler naturally enters a state of epojé, of suspension of judgment, which brings her closer to that pure, sacred and ritual, experience. The daily routine is so broken that the everyday is exceeded, it becomes an extraordinary moment full of creative potential; a festive rupture.

And third, art, or the esthetic experience. This moment is much related to the two previous ones. It is not perhaps an activity in of its own, rather the interruption in the daily, for an instant, of that almost divine world of purity and imagination. It is catharsis, and the reconstruction of everyday life around this moment. The search for this rupture is not performed through substances, ceremonies or rituals, but rather through other techniques that project the essential into this functional, pragmatic world.

In this sense, one might think of a journey as a prolonged esthetic experience. Daily life is reconstituted around the encounter with novelty, with judgment-free purity.

So now, back to the “three month crisis”. This moment occurs when one walks through the mirror, so to speak. It happens when, during a journey, poles are inverted. Traveling is the greatest rupture of everyday life; an adventure that has no place in the daily life. But when this experience is prolonged, extended, then things change. Through repetition, everything loses its novelty. Even novelty itself.

Events and moments that were so impressive at the beginning of the journey become commonplace. Deciphering a map, looking for a place to sleep, meeting new people, new strangers, finding one’s bearings in a new city… By being met them time and time again, this experiences lose their edge of extraordinaire. It is now that the traveler longs for home. She misses not having to introduce herself again on every conversation, even meeting someone more than once becomes precious. The traveler becomes sullen and introspective. She will miss her having her own space and to just do nothing for a day. Friendships with people in a similar state will bloom very fast and conversations will turn deep in no time. As both parties tend to be tired of introducing and defining themselves every single time, social norms and procedures lose importance, and the experience takes on a whole new level.

Suddenly, people with whom the traveler has shared just an instant, a few hours or a drink maybe, they become friends for life; even if they may never meet again. The bonds created thusly become stronger than those developed for years with some others. Coworkers, schoolmates, even family may lose their place to someone that is, by any usual standards, a complete stranger. And so, the traveler loses part of her roots, detaches herself from the past and drifts away from her history and all she’s known before.

When, eventually she returns to the everyday life, old friends are met again, family embraced and the traveler thanks the routine just as much as she acclaimed novelty at the beginning of the journey. Everything falls back into place and it feels great to be back. That is, until all becomes commonplace again. It may take weeks, months, even years but one day she will find herself longing for open spaces, seemingly random encounters and unending possibilities. The adventure, the rupture will call to her, and her heart will find no rest at home.

And such is the traveler’s curse. It is this cycle of nostalgia, the paradox caused by the normalization of the extraordinary and the longing for the routine, which makes the traveler a traveler, and no longer a tourist. It makes her gaze return always to the horizon, for she’s realized that she’ll always be far away from someone, from somewhere, no matter where she may be.

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I had this words somewhere in my backpack, I think they're better here.

Here's Echeverrías essay, for you spanish readers: http://www.bolivare.unam.mx/ensayos/Juego, arte y fiesta.pdf

And a good related read! Georg Simmel's essay on Adventure: http://condor.depaul.edu/dweinste/theory/adventure.html

Thanks for reading!

Posted by Zaspirucho 05:21 Archived in Cambodia Tagged sunsets_and_sunrises nature culture travel train road time human philosophy stranger thoughts essay crisis Comments (3)

Slowly but surely

We're leaving!!


View Liberty Goes East on Zaspirucho's travel map.

It seemed like it would never happen, yet now we are gone. The pier was clutter-free, things got stowed. Tanks are full of water, engine running smoothly. We just need to get our papers back, adjust this and that, clear out and be off. But we have a nicer view now, have left that bloody pontoon. It hasn’t really sunk in. We have left the port.

We destroyed this pier

We destroyed this pier

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We had our good share of problems. After a year in India, the boat was covered in a solid coat of gunk. Most metal surfaces were rusty, and some important ones had even rusted away. So we remade them in wood, stronger than before. We cleaned and replaced and threw stuff away. Then we threw some more stuff away. But it is done now, and a new leg of this journey is beginning. Building is done, time for sailing has come!

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It’s not that I don’t like India, but I’ll be glad to see it shrink in the distance. This time here has not been easy. I've never had this many communication problems. Anywhere. It’s not even a language barrier, since most people even understand some English. It’s something else, deeper. A barrier exists that I cannot properly describe… And it doesn't help that this whole experience has been very tiring and tense.
It is incredibly demoralizing to miss a deadline. Especially when it happens not only once, but time and time again. First, we wanted to leave by mid-November, but the weather didn't agree, so we had to change course. The new plan was longer, so we had to prepare the ship better, get everything tighter. Then Ali and Majed left, so we lost a couple of days of work, and two able hands. So that was another week. And then Ryan left. A family emergency called him back to Alaska. In a way, it was even good that we had been still in India, it would have sucked big time to get some bad news in arrival to Timor, or worse, in a remote island in Indonesia where he couldn't even get off the boat. He’ll maybe (he better) meet us back in Timor.

See you soon man!!

See you soon man!!

At least, right before Ryan left we managed to take a day off and explore some of the Kerala Backwaters. There we remembered why we are doing this, and where we want to go. Just getting out of the city made our hearts grow stronger, our lungs filled deeper. We got to a place where people asked How are you? not Where you from? They smiled and welcomed us… We didn't sail there, but were testing the dinghy’s new outboarder. It was an eventful day; we got stuck on shallow waters, motored at night and got in a fight with a fisherman. It was dusk, and a fishing line got entangled in our propeller. Although the net wasn't marked, it was still our fault, and we should have compensated him, after all, we did cause some damage to his fishing net. But he got very aggressive, very quickly. Seeing his paddle raised in front of me, where he could have easily broken my arm, did not make me want to reach for my wallet. So we broke his hold on us and sped off (rather dickishly) into the night. Not proud of it, but it is how it is. We must learn from to be extra careful with fishing nets.

We don't want to get into a fight with them!

We don't want to get into a fight with them!

So we are now three men crossing to Indonesia and beyond. It is not easy, things are tense. There were some motor problems, and last minute fixing of this and that. But it is all nearly done. We cannot clear out on Saturday, nor Sunday, for we must go to three offices, and at least one of them is closed at a time. But at least we have now left the Marina! Port Authority gave us permission to anchor in front of them, so here we are. Last minute fruit buying in town, and then off! This shall be my last post in India...

So now. We have read and listened. We have practiced our knots and ropes. We know what to pull and when to do it. We have ached and bumped and hurt. He bled, we healed. I would say we are ready. Let’s hope the sea agrees!! In the end, it was one month later than what I predicted. But it seems on one thing I was right: we sail on the Full Moon.
See you in Timor!

Lets sail!

Lets sail!

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Feel like funding us a lump of cheese? A funky hat? Click here!

Posted by Zaspirucho 11:47 Archived in India Tagged ocean india sailing done working liberty departure thoughts stowing Comments (0)

Some thoughts from the pier

sunny 19 °C
View Liberty Goes East on Zaspirucho's travel map.

The world of sailing is one of wind and water, wood and metal. The forces of movement and stillness are ever present. It is a world of danger and adventure. Above all, it is real, and it is human.
Sailboats are built in the human scale, not citylike monsters of iron and diesel, but small manageable vessels. In them, most all things are important. Boats are systems, they become almost like living organisms, that exist in a symbiotic relationship with humans, who turn into sea creatures atop them...
The offshore, unplugged life also approaches us to the most basic human conditions. There's many things we have forgotten, living in our cities, condos and buildings...

For one, in Liberty there is no fridge, so we have to remember how to store food that it lasts the passage... At dusk, Tihomir peels off the skin layer of an onion. If it looks fine, it goes to the longterm pile, if it doesn't, he passes it to me. I inspect it for moulding and double cores, clean everything and, if it seems ok, I add it to the medium-term bunch; else I give it to Ryan he'll cut the rot off and cook the rest. In such a manner, chatting in the dark, we go through kilos and kilos of onions... This familiar scene has taken place in a similar way in other places, and in other times. We had headlamps on, others had fire, or maybe no light at all, but we all sat in circles, enjoying the company of others, and the meal to come. We thus engage in the real world, in the human world...

All the food we bought shall be likewise inspected, now and on the way. We must take care to eat what is weakening, not the strong and lasting. Also, before they even touch the boat, sacks are drenched in seawater, to kill or remove all bugs; cardboard boxes are left on the pier, bananas and most others are thoroughly rinsed to later be stowed or, like the now inspected potatoes, spread on deck, to dry. Cockroaches on a boat can be a nightmare, and we already saw one hanging around the machine room. Not to mention rats. You thought it was all buying, storing everything on a coolbox and flying away? Think again.
But food is here, most of it. So it's almost time to go meet those white collared people in that big, tall building, with their papers and stamps. Customs. Immigration. Bureaucrats. The way things have been here in India, I bet they won't let us go that easily...
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Posted by Zaspirucho 11:34 Archived in India Tagged food sailing pier liberty thoughts stowing Comments (0)

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