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I’ve heard it said that a person is never their true self unless they are sure they are alone; if this is true, then I must truly be a lunatic.
I have found myself, when walking in fields completely absent of others, reciting and reenacting whole musical scores such as “Jack’s Lament,” from The Nightmare Before Christmas or “If I Were A Rich Man,” from The Fiddler on The Roof. I leap from fences and logs and stumps, thrusting my hands to the sky, becoming quite animated- which made it all the more embarrassing when I walked right past someone I hadn’t seen. C’est la vie.
The Netherlands was a fun country. Rotterdam was cool, Amsterdam was overrated and smelled like tourism, marijuana, and sex but it was the ghostly sound of Dutch that seduced me. I love the way they say good morning, sounding like “Huda Morgen,” with a windy whisp of the throat and tongue on the R. And oddly enough, I thought I could understand them, even though mentally I knew that I didn’t. Such were the similarities between our respective languages.
It was in Amelo, far east, where I met someone that ended up more than a traveling acquaintance. Linda became my friend, and I actually spent more time at her place than I planned!! A first for me, as I am usually constantly moving. She introduced me to her Italian friend, and I cooked spaghetti with my homemade vegan recipe. Frederico said it was perfect, a great feat apparently, that a real Italian enjoyed a traditionally Italian meal prepared by an American.
As I live and breath, my favorite part of traveling is meeting new and interesting people who are willing to share their life with me. I have felt this multiple times with many, a sort of vulnerability that makes possible the great connection I feel- like a secret knowledge we share together. This is still somewhat of a mystery for me, however, and maybe I can understand it as I grow.
I have felt the first pangs of loneliness while sitting in a campsite in Amsterdam. I knew they were destined to come sooner or later- you can´t expect to uproot one`s entire life and not feel even the least bit lonely. But come the morning, I felt quite alright, and ready to take on the world once more. I regret nothing of leaving. I truly feel alive, a little anxious, but blessed all the same. Solitude is a gift, and I recieve it gladly. But it is still okay to miss people now and again.
I walked across the German border and took a train to Munster. Not sure where I should stay, I began walking towards a green splotch on my map (a possible Forrest?) and took a small break in a thrift store; I hoped to find a book in English, as the one I had was almost finished. In broken German, I tried to ask for one when a woman of about 50 or 60 spoke. “I have a book in English in my home if you’d like. It’s one of Steinbeck’s, but it was too complicated for me.,” she said. Of course I accepted. I made myself comfortable and waited for her return. A bad smell lingered on my clothing, and my thoughts were filled with doubts- “where would I sleep? It was getting late. What would I eat? Where can I clean my clothes” and so on. Upon returning, the woman gave me not Steinbeck, but a small collection of short stories, and then offered me a bed for the night.
“I invite you in because you have a good energy in you, and I hope that somewhere someone will help my own traveling son as I help you,” she explained. This isn’t the first time I’ve been told I had “Good energy.” A French man asked me where it came from and I honestly didn’t know what he was talking about. The woman gave me beer, cheese, bread, and other food that night. She helped me clean my clothing, and I slept like a baby.
Hannover was amazing: I met a group of couchsurfers and found a place to stay there after my CS plan fell through. Tip for anyone wanting to use it: Make sure you confirm everything so you don’t misunderstand like I did. All of them were interesting, to say the least. Garret, the guy who helped me, had hosted hundreds of people. There was a Frenchman who, “Didn’t know why he was in Germany.” He was quite hilarious, with a snarky and sarcastic sense of humor. Rebecca, a German shoe maker who invited me for tea the next day was an intelligent and kind woman. Upon meeting her she said, “You’re English is very good!” Which gave us all a laugh because I should hope it’s good- it’s my native tongue!!
I made my way to Berlin to meet with Claudia, one of the coolest, most chill persons I’ve ever met in my life. Actually, she reminded me of my dear friend Alex, and I told her as much. She took me to “The REAL Berlin,” where tourists don’t often go… Ever. This tour included three spots: Tippie Land- a homeless community where you can set up a tent and stay in, Kopi- a punk rock squat, and Yaam an African hang out. Kopi was amazing. The sign on their door read:
“We will not tolerate Facists, Racists, Sexists, Homophobes, Tourists, or Cameras.”
There was a drunk Italian man, fat, with a head too large for his body equiped with a winter hat way too small for his head. Other memorables would be the loud American girl, pierced to the nines, who sleeps in graveyards for their cheap and peaceful qualities, and a Finnish rock musician traveling around Europe.
After playing music with Claudia the next morning, swapping the guitar back and forth, I decided that I couldn’t take it anymore and bought my self a small guitarlini. Decked me 130€ but if I play on some city streets… 😀
I gathered by things and made my way to Karstadt, where, after missing my train twice, I met my first workawa hosts! They took care of six horses: Santos, Argus, Akazie, Arik, Abbe, and Aiva. I spent the next two weeks (ish), shoveling horse crap into buckets, painting doors, cleaning stables, and antagonizing the pet dogs (Not really, but come on, faking fetch throws is classic). One of the dogs, a black and white poodle named Nemo, seems to have taken a liking to me; whenever I would play the guitar, he would find a way to stroll over and lie down next to me. This, as you can imagine, made me feel quite cool. The other dog, Mahjo, was far too cool and highclass for my rugged ways. But after sneaking her some delicious treats, she warmed up to me.
At one point, I was playing the guitar and this huge, fat cat waltzes right up to where I am. It looks at me, and I look at it, and this must have signaled the creature. It jump upon the table in front of me, and steped right over the guitar and found its way comfortably resting in my lap, purring loudly, rubbing its head against me. Thanks a lot, cat. What did I do? The same thing any one who has been chosen by a cat does- pet the crap out of that thing and earn more purs. Teddy was his name.
Steffi, the daughter, works with training horses via positive reinforcement: a system of training that I can definitely support, with no beating, whipping, or otherwise painful wazs of mistreating the animals. She uses a clicker strategie and took the time to give me some basic lessons. I now feel quite confident that I can teach a horse (or any other animal) that a click means a treat, and a treat means I liked what you did, which then causes the action to resurface again and again. I learned so much from this workaway, that I am quite excited for the next ones. You can see her website here. Its in German so beware.
I am back in Berlin, spending a few days here before I head towards Poland and the Zakopane mountains. Packed up my bag again, ready to hit the road once more, only this time I am a little more musical, and know a little bit more in this world of endless knowables. Till next time, share this post, subscribe, comment below.
“Nothin’s gonna get’ch you there! Not your little compass, not the size of your penis- nothin’!”
– was the response I got while asking for directions to Glendelough, Ireland’s National Park.
Fortunately, this was the only bump in my road, in regards to interacting with other people. Besides this, honestly humorous conversation, I have been met with nothing but kindness from the people here. Ah, except at the border control where the man wasn’t convinced that I didn’t want to live here. I was only given two weeks to explore this stunning country.
Dublin, very similar to Philadelphia, was loaded with old architecture, and it came with a certain feeling of openness. Every town I have walked through has at least 4 bars, all proud to serve Guinness. After landing, I walked to my couchsurfing host, Vijay, and we spent the night cooking, discussing religions, and more. He gave me traditional Indian food for dinner and breakfast the next morning, and was an excellent introduction to the community of CS.
I waltzed down and spent the night fairly cold as I got lost in the town of Enniskerry. I slept in a wheat field, fighting off rats, and in the morning I had learned my lesson: Don’t wait until nightfall to find a place to sleep. I found myself in Bray, and was invited by a Couchsurfing group to hike the mountain there. After the hike, they told me that if I had dinner with them, they would pay for my meal. I have my new acquaintance, Namig, to thank for a chicpea burger with “Chips,” (A.K.A. Fries).
Life here has been fun. Often times by accident, I’ve seen so many unbelievable panoramic views that finally taught me the value of experiencing something so massive first hand. I took some photos of certain areas but they simply do not convey the feeling in your soul that you get when you see them with your own two eyes. Here for example is a picture taken on the top of Luggala, above the owner of Guinness’ home-
You can see it and say, “Yeah, that look’s pretty grand,” but you can’t feel the mist soaking your clothes, the wind almost blowing you over (Seriously, the wind here does NOT joke around), or the incredible height at which I am standing. Maybe it’s because my camera is a simple ‘Point-and-shoot,’ but to stand above that was simple breathtaking. I wish I could have shown this to the man I had quoted at the start, because boom, baby, that was taken after walking over 100 Miles to the sight. I have learned that I can do whatever it is I want, that where there is a will, there is a way, and often times, the way is quirky, unpredictable, but undeniably more pleasant that the easier, more modern mode of travel.
It was here that I ran into a group of French folk that here hiking The Wicklow Way. Since I was going the same direction, we joined up and a wonderful time. By the time we got to the village of Roundwood, they offered to buy me a drink with them at the local bar- my very first Guinness in the land of the Irish at a table of French men. Afterwards, we hopped a fence behind a lake to camp out, wash our clothing, and clean out otherwise smelly bodies. I definitely needed that =P
We split ways in the morning after they berated Irish cheese for being pretty much worthless, I headed down to the sea fairing town of Wicklow where, when scoping the area for a place to stay, I bumped into an old man named Sean Cleary. After talking for a bit, he said, “Well, how would you like to stay indoors tonight?” And just like that, I had a bed, dinner and breakfast, and I learned all about this man’s life. Turns out he was a big humanitarian who worked with a woman named Kay Barry in Bosnia, and the former Yugoslavia. He, like every other religious person I have met, is a devout Catholic, although as he says, many young people are turning away from the belief. It’s not often that I am invited to stay in someones home, however, mainly, I believe, because of my suspicious physical appearance and the fact that I probably smell weird (I definitely do miss hot showers every day). But Jane and Emily Murphey were two very kind souls who also gave me a couch to sleep on and food to eat. They were part of a church that was, I think, “Full Latin Mass as ordained by Christ Himself,” which you can take or leave. No matter the case, the people there were as kind as I’ve met and the women were amazing cooks.
Speaking of Catholicism, this group has been the kindest I have met so far. I always stop in at the large church buildings, if only for the complete silence within their walls, but in most cases, someone comes over offering me food. And so far, they always allow me to camp out on their property.
As for everyone else Fate had cross my path, they have all been pleasant. The two women from a coffee shop in the town of Dalkey, the man in the photography display preparing his Siberian trip, the former Irish boxing champion who plays the accordion after Sunday mass, the dog who peed on my backpack, the girl in the camping store, Americans hiking the Wicklow Way, all the above mentioned persons, and more. I truly feel so blessed, so alive, and so full of potential experience that I frequently feel as if my life is not real.
With that being said, my entire time hasn’t been great. I got a bad fever a few days ago but have since recovered, and let me tell you that hiking 15-20 miles a day sucks sooooo bad when you’re sick. Yeah, screw that.
As I said earlier, I only had two weeks for Ireland because the immigration officers thought that I wanted to live here forever. But, I suppose this is the beauty of the way I am going: I have no plan set in stone, and I can work with this life however it comes to me. Tomorrow, I am catching a flight to France, and I have a strong feeling that I might soon walk El Camino De Santiago, if not now, then certainly when I come back through France next year.
Until next time, here are some more photos. Thanks for following, share this post if you want, and don’t forget that you can always pop in and say hello in person where ever I am =] I’m going to France to get some cheese and wine on the recommendation of my French Pals- so until then!!
Oh, and P.S. Fresh Blackberries, like, EVERYWHERE!!!
After E-mailing that couple that’s been going all over the place, they finally got back to me =]
They said that they tried saving about 7,000 dollars to start- they didn’t say whether or not they reached this, or if they exceeded it. Who knows? They did say that they would rather not say how much money they got- understandable since they are still traveling.
They claim that they are not making any money at all through any means other than the Workaway hosts they have been staying at. This is encouraging. Though I wonder why they are advertising those companies on their site… Perhaps they got their traveling gear from them? Mystery of mysteries I suppose.
I asked how they work out the Visa problems and they said,
Woot woot! On the 3rd I am meeting with an agency to get all of my Visa questions ANSWEREDDDDDDD- I think. I hope.
I need to ask about the Shengen zone, and how much money it costs to travel there for along period of time. Hopefully it all goes well and smoothly, but of course, life is flexible so I’ll be prepared to have a rough time.
Let’s see =]
If you live in the United States and want to help me reach my cash goal, click on my eBay page where you can purchase my things if you want to. Once I head out, this page will be empty. Things come and go, so be sure to check back often!