A man came to the Hostel I was volunteering at. We spoke for a bit sitting on opposite ends of the room. He did most of the chatting and at one point said,
“You just don’t know how foolish it is to be doing what you’re doing. You can run around and act like a child now because you’re young, but soon reality will hit you and you will realise it would have been better to have started your career and made money to take care of yourself.”
After talking some more, it was revealed that this man was unsatisfied with his personal life, feeling unhappy and empty with his own career choices, relationships, and quality of life. Of course, I said nothing of this, only simply thought to myself, “How strange, that someone who is so unhappy is telling me how to be happy.” Obviously this is a form of false logic, but I read once that we should take advice from those we aspire to be. So far, all the people I’ve admired have all given up the “normal” life and the things that are “common sense” to pursue what they really wanted. None of them had regrets.
A wonderful couchsurfing host in Kiev told me,
“I can find you tons of managers who wish they could quit their job to go traveling, but I can’t find you a single traveler who wants to quit traveling and become a manager.”
And while I don’t necessarily propagate that everyone has this innate sense of wanderlust, there are endless single-row lines of men and women who are dying to themselves everyday for the sake of normality and unoriginality all awhile trying to convince themselves that it’s what they want, or what they ought to want. This guy was just one of millions.
As for myself, I spent most of my winter in Albania volunteering in a cold Hostel with little to no heating, and where temperatures drop to -9 at night. Ha, at one point the water was frozen in the faucet. No water, no HOT water. Believe it or not, this is actually a tame beast compared to Kosovo, which was -24 a week ago, or Ukraine which can sometimes hit -30.
(Yes, those are orange and lemon trees. Nothing like fresh fruit picked in the morning sun). I worked at reception mostly, and I met some of the most beautiful people there. So many of them have come through to this little Narnia despite the frozen roads- cyclists from Scotland, France, Austria, and Switzerland, Motorcyclists from Germany, gap year students from the US and UK, world travellers from Singapore, the Latvian-Irish woman who taught me about bluntness, and a lot of vacationers from Italy and Macedonia, and more. All of them have been incredibly interesting, with all sorts of stories from their personal journeys. I have made several friends here, and as always find it difficult to say goodbye. HSP problems, heh heh.
I realised, after spending time with specific guests here, that travel is an eyeglass which we use to gaze into the great open spaces of ourselves. It is sobering how clearly you begin to see yourself- the good and bad, the pride and the shame, the complications and simplicities- you cannot hide from you. This is terrifying, but oddly relieving as well.
I went paragliding over the edge of a mountain. We were picked up in Tirana and drove south to Berat, and up, up, up a mountain, the road shaving down to a sliver, and I do believe I was more afraid of falling off the edge than the actual gliding. Not to mention that the jeep broke down half way up! Oil was boiling and gurgling out the engine like a bubbling geyser.
I volunteered to be the first to go, though my legs were shaking and my lungs were unsteady with fear. When explaining the coming events, I was told to just run, to book it towards the edge of the cliff. I was geared up and clipped onto the front of the host; my whole body was shouting, “Hell no!” but we pushed on anyway until the wind, like invisible hands stretched from above descended and plucked me off of my feet. Where my feet once had met the earth, they now met nothing, and they kicked in the air- I was flying. I wish I could say my landing was graceful, but in reality I tumbled like a weed. Face first, mud on my clothes, but I jumped up and gave a shout into the frigid air, “WOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!” because I flew. And through this experience and others, I learned something important about possibilities: They are endless.
Only through traveling have I come to this conclusion; the vast expanse, the stars shine bright, and they come out to play, to brag and revel in their prideful glow. On quiet nights, I can look into their eyes and I feel them, I can hear their breathing, and in unison we sigh together- a sort of choreographic dance, basking in all the glory we share between us. Every second, a new opportunity presents itself to be, requesting that we take it gently. And we do.
If I had to give one serious complaint about Albania, it would be the sexist attitude that remains questioned. Unlike America where sexism is at least acknowledged as wrong (“I’m not sexist but…..”) here it isn’t an issue. One guy, when discussing acceptable age gaps in relationships, remarked that a woman should never be older than the man because the man must lead the woman, and how she should never have any authority over her husband. It seems that Christian, Catholic, Islam, and Orthodox fundamentalism still have a firm grip on perspectives on gender in many of the Balken countries.
Winter depression has kicked in, a few weeks ago, as it does every year. The only difference between this year and the previous ones is that I will have to live on without inviting old friends over to me during its occupancy; no cup of tea at the table, or no monopoly fight or community cooking. This is a new experience for me, but I have survived thus far by going to Ballet performances (4.00 Euro tickets?), reading some wonderful books, and watching TV series huddled under blankets, hiding from the cold winds outside. And with a big mug of hot chocolate in my hands, I sit cozy until the spring comes around when I can absorb the sunlight and use the new energy to move up North come this March.
Peace out people, stay warm. I hear it’s also quite cold back in New Jersey, but the Knight Riders are probably still running around “scaring horses and old people.” Till next time, here are some bonus photos:
“It’s dangerous for a woman to go traveling alone! That’s why I don’t travel. Sure, you can travel the world, but that’s because you are a man!”
I have heard this sort of phrase from so many people; it seems to be the ultimate justification to live a life that does not fulfill one’s dream. They let this common myth decide where and how they go- but that’s all it is: A myth. While couchsurfing in Krakow, Poland, I met the inspiring and admirable “Cindy.” She was a nurse living in Korea and decided one day to travel the world to get a break from her “heavy” job. “Working everyday and seeing people die was very hard for me,” she says. And so, she took a break. A very long one: two years. She travels very similar to the way I do- Hitchhiking, couchsurfing, walking, carrying all her belongings in a backpack and experiencing everything there is to experience in this world. She has traveled throughout East Asia and Europe, and now says she is ready to go back home.
When asked how she would assimilate back to a stable and routine life, she replied, “I don’t think I am done traveling. I will go again.” Cindy recalls only once when she had a bad experience hitchhiking. But even then, she did not feel in danger- the guy was just a little creepy, asking for “Favors.” There is no doubt that when you travel there will be dangerous situations, obviously. Nevertheless, we need to remember that there will dangers around the corner of our neighbor hood, perhaps more severe than those on the road. I’ve been reading a book about Jessica Watson, the 16 year old Australian girl who sailed solo around the world, and in it, she stresses these exact same points: You can’t let fear of danger stop you from living an extraordinary lifestyle. John A. Shedd says,
“A ship in harbor is safe — but that is not what ships are built for”
Yes, it’s scary to go out of the Harbor. But Shedd wisely points out that we were made for more. Cindy is now finishing her first journey, and I couldn’t have been more excited for her and her adventures. Let us see these women for what they are: Powerful, but utterly and completely human. Normal, weak just as we all are. Even so, they still decided to take the “risks” (which are no more risky than staying home) and they both regret nothing. Cindy would like readers to follow their dreams, take into account the consequences and dangers, and then travel. As she says, “You will not regret it.”
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.
- Wicklow National Park (And home of the owner of Guiness)
- Wicklow Town
- Frankfurt An Der Oder
- Hiking 700 miles (1,128 km) on the National Blue Trail:
Hello, people! Sam here- and wow; these keyboards are killing me. The layout is completely different, ah well. I do apologize for any mistakes made.
I got to France and it has been quite the sight indeed. I went to a hostel and completely crashed- sleeping for 12 hours straight; explored the city, ate bread, wine, and cheese in scenic view of the Eiffel Tower with a woman I met named Orsola:
And I later met up with a group of vegans who were having a pot-luck dinner in which Couchsurfers could join- so of course I did! and I met some of the most amazing people there like the Woman who collects peoples love stories around the world, the Ballet dancer, and others. Everyone was truly great, and it has been my favorite CS event to date.
The next day, I began walking North towards Belgium and every French person I met was quite kind, contrary to what I was told by many, but perhaps this was because I was trying to speak in French.
But France had a sort of creepy vibe to it. There was a three day period in which I saw very little people. All shops were closed, all doors shut, it was very strange. I would walk into a forrest and get the most peculiar feeling, as if I zere being watched by something in the trees. And I woke up once and had two mysterious bite-like marks on my neck-
In 30 years from now, I will realize that I havent grown a day- Vampires anyone? At one point, during the weird three day period, I got lost and walked up a mountain and found some cool stuff, like this super great ravine/fire pit/cliff, that, to add to the creep factor, had about 50 condoms thrown everywhere
And then I came across this water fountain- it was so truly refreshing after being lost in the mountain for days that I drank and drank, and afterwards I felt very sleepy. I wanted to take a nap, but I was still feeling that strange, almost fairy tale-esque thing, and I remembered a story of the Hero that took a nap but woke up years later- well I didnt want that soooooo, I left.
And literally every church here has a chicken on top of the cross. You all think that I am playing, but no; I am totally serious:
After walking about 100 Miles, I began to hitchhike. Because I was sleepy. Oh, and because of a night of uh, lets say fun. I was sleeping in my tent when I was suddenly awoken by the distinct sound of walking. A deer, perhaps? No. No sooner had I begun to wonder did I hear three very clear and unmistaken sounds- Sniffing, Snorting, and then Squealing. Pigs. Or more concerning, Boars. I clentched my knife and waited for about 15 minutes before they left me alone. Maybe they were just curious.
I have been couchsurfing more often, and everyone has been so kind, generous, and interesting. I ended up singing Karaoke- Disney songs dubbed in French, with another group I was playing guitar and singing in a park picnic. One guy there started playing In The Jungle The Lion Sleeps Tonight, and while they sang their version, I sang mine.
“In english the Lion is sleeping?” they asked.
“Yes, of course.”
“In the french version, the Lion is dead!” and a hilarious laughter followed before one man chuckled, “eternal sleep,” and more laughter ensued.
I realize now that the Vagabond life is not separate from a simple one. Everyday I wake up and follow the same routine of 1. Pack up, 2. Eat, 3. and begin walking. Everyday I ask myself the same two questions: What will I eat today; and Where will I sleep. And in this way, complications have virtually vanished from my life all together. I’ve been thinking quite a bit about the differences between a homeless person and a worldly vagabond. I had gone to a church and during the service I smelled something terrible and after investigation realize embarrassingly: It was me. A man had been standing next to me, but moved his seat hahaha. Both I and the homless, we smell the same, look the same, do the same things, sleep in the sane unorthodox areas, and very often I feel that passer-bys think me to be some sort of drugged and dangerous hobo. Tell me in the comments what the differences are, because I’m having a hard time figuring it out.
Bonus round: Notre Dame Catherdral in Amiens:
I eventually left France and headed into Belgium. I tried hitchhiking, but the Police said that I was reported by people and was not allowed to do it. Darn. So, I have been taking the train- an extra 6 Euros per day. The Dutch don’t joke with their sweets either!! My goodness, chocolate for breakfast. I ordered a croissant and bit down into it, but to my surprise I discovered it to be filled with nutella!
But if France felt like a fairy Tale; Belgium looked like one.
While walking in the city of Ghent, I took a break in a small stadium wherein there was placed a piano locked inside of a cage. Some children were playing it rather obnoxiously, and I began to eat my lunch. As I consumed peanuts, Nutella and more, an elderly couple, I would guess around 95 for they could barely walk, slid past the instrument while it was unoccupied. The woman led the man to it, and he must have been slightly blind as he stumbled quite a bit. He sat on the bench and rest his hands on the keys- I watched curiously. He at once began to play the most beautiful piece of music I have ever heard in my life, and with such grace. His playing must have had a profound effect on my soul, for no sooner had he begun did I find myself weeping; not tears of sadness, but tears of joy. Such was the complete and utter perfection that came from that piano, and from such an old person- weak and fragile. I quite shocked myself- I didn’t know why I was crying so.
A crowd had gathered, and when he finished, we gave a great applause to which he jumped in fright- he did not know there were so many. He bowed, and played a few more. Many people played that day- all beautiful to be sure, but none as near perfect as the old man.
On a more joyful note, I finaly ate a real Belgium waffle with the help of Sarah!- Life goals hahaha
And with the help of my friend Dylan, I was able to meet these guys, who helped me out a ton and were honestly so great:
But right now, I’m taking a train into Rotterdam in a few minutes so, until next time. Thanks for reading, leave a comment below, share and subscribe- See you!!
This post is a test to see if I can add to the site without the need for a computer- just my mobile device.
Today is my last day of work, and I feel… Normal. Like I’m not about to go on this crazy journey throughout the globe. But the reality is that I may never come back to this small town library.
I am filled with tons of, somewhat, conflicting emotions such as fear, anxiety, excitement, new life- I feel full of life.
Departure date remains in effect: August 3rd.