Tag Archive | alone

Why I Travel Blog

Church of St. Alexander, Warsaw

Church of St. Alexander, Warsaw

There are the obvious reasons why one travel blogs. To share travel adventures, through photos and words, trying to encapsulate an experience to the reading and viewing audience. To imbue in others the same excitement, curiosity and inspiration that the blogger felt whilst traveling. To pinpoint exact emotional exaltation.

Palace of Culture and Science, Warsaw

Palace of Culture and Science, Warsaw

This is also the general sentiment of why I travel blog as well. The intricacies of it are way more personal. Solo travel for me only started at 24, with a trip to Brno, Czech Republic with a theatre show that ended up, with a very unexpected job in Prague and then a 4-month expedition, tracing my family’s heritage through Eastern Europe. I had never a train before and was thrilled with sticking my head out of the window, letting the wind make my eyes squint, a tornado of my brown hair, like a dog in a car ride. That same trip, I was introduced to couchsurfing. Travel took on an entirely new meaning, where it wasn’t simply placards and buildings and other travelers, it was local people, personal accounts, trans-ocean humour, Ipod music exchanges, one or two dance sessions, a game of golf in Dijon, foraging for dinner in Groningen. All I had read about travel came from books and those books laid out the foundational blueprints of how to travel. Yet there had to be something else, something more expansive and less focused on the MUST SEES and the MUST EATS.

Warsaw Uprising Monument, Warsaw

Warsaw Uprising Monument, Warsaw

So blogs. First big websites like Trip Advisor (which I still use as a base for exploration), then more obscure travel sites like Atlas Obscura (which, if you haven’t checked out, is the best source for Off the Beaten Path travel oddities), to the worldwide blogosphere of adventurers, trippers, dream followers and spontaneity experts. I was hooked to their words, as many of them weren’t simply telling me what they saw, but how they felt, how places impacted them or didn’t. Blogging is personal creative writing, an individual’s take on the world through their eyes, through their pens, through their keyboards. It can be laced with superlatives, poetics, judgment, digressions, failure, no words at all, all visual. I blog, even if only a few read it, to show them my version of cities and towns, of nature and of bike trips. They are my visceral accounts of the world. They are my endorsement of decorative language, trying to squeeze out the true emotion I felt in a singular moment, possibly written days after. I cannot prescribe nor would I ever want to, a reaction to what I write or how it effects where people decide to go. I hope that the few who do read it, have an opinion or an idea that sprouts from it. I hope, as that’s all one can do with putting writing into the public’s glance, that it pushes people to either travel or challenge themselves, ask questions, look unto other blogs to continue planning or imagining a more complete global sphere.

All You Can Eat - Japanese, European and......everywhere else in all time and space? Babalu's in Warsaw. Felt so so so sick after this.

All You Can Eat – Japanese, European and……everywhere else in all time and space? Babalu’s in Warsaw. Felt so so so sick after this.

I frequently embellish memories. I cannot remember exacts, so I shameless fill in the blanks. I blog because I love to write. I love to reimagine what I have seen, to reinvigorate the recollections with verbose imaculations and neologisms (such as imaculations). Though, recent travel, via bicycle gives me the space to write as I travel. I stop where I want and if I feel the urge, I jot down the day, in summation or elongation. I write in a blue tent, where one of the poles is partially snapped due to a crow landing on it, by the waning sun, drifting behind the red mountains just outside of Santa Monica. That is an actual memory. The things that I lock into my brain vault are sometimes obscure fragments. Sometimes, due to my prior habits during travels (drinking copious amounts at night), memories are literally slits of narrow light with broken and blurred images. I write as form of self-preservation, because one of my greatest fears is loosing it all to time. Not necessarily as a legacy of what I have accomplished, but more as something for myself to look back on and simply account for what I have done. Not as somewhat of a CV for pomposity, but more as a timeline that I existed.

Warsaw Uprising Museum

Warsaw Uprising Museum

While my travels include people and places, I also consciously set quests for myself. I blog to uncover gems, maybe not ones that were necessarily covered by layers of sediment, just ones’ that maybe overlooked, underappreciated, the map to get to them has been used as scratch paper or made into papier-mâché for a birthday piñata (what I am saying is that no one cares where this place is). Blogs and websites are full of hints and my duty with these hints is to test them out and confirm their validity. This description seems quite vague without an example. The city of Xian, China, was the ancient capital for hundreds of years. Tourists flock here to cycle the ancient walls and see the UNESCO approved Terracotta Warriors. What very few people know about, is that at the Tomb of Emperor Jingdi, a ways out of city, another burial plot was opened to revealed, miniature terracotta figurines, along with terracotta livestock and chariots. In total, over 50,000 pieces are on display. Along with this amazing experience, is a very beautifully set up underground museum, with large vaulted glass walls revealing the digs, but beside and below you, you are free to trapes around the tomb area, see several of the tomb gates, and watch an AMAZING hologram film about the history of the site (no 3d glasses required). This place is completely under the radar and when I got there, I basically had free range of the place (think Night at the Museum, minus the reanimation of historical items). There were a handful of different directions as to how to get to this place, since it was in an odd location of the highway, leading north of the city. Armed with a few of these Internet found directions, plus the Chinese characters to this place, I ventured out to confirm this place’s existence. Luck had it that the #4, the first bus I got on and was on my list, was confirmed by the bus driver to be the correct bus. For me, that could happen is I end up going somewhere else and possibly exploring something unexpected. So it’s a win win for me.

Warsaw Couchsurfing Dance Party

Warsaw Couchsurfing Dance Party

I blog to interact with people. Blogs are a dialogue, a community of shared experiences and responses, where the responses may come in the form of words or in exploration of what the blogs’ describe. I hope that as this site builds that this dialogue fills the forums and itinerary of the new site (which will be up THIS MONTH) with evolving dialogues and information that result in people testing the waters, unburdening themselves with limits by asking questions and seeing the blog reflect your inquiries, with maybe not always answers, but further explorations, adding points to the map that I will travel to confirm experiences and places or discover errors, saving you the hassle of a fruitless expedition to nowhere. My blogs and my travels will mirror your dreams, aspirations, desires, or highlight your wonderful memories, follow your deep incites, possibly making travel a more tangible possibility instead of something you do on free weekends or something you’ll do when your decrepitly old.

Babushka, Kiev

Babushka, Kiev

I blog, because it makes me feel wonderful. It’s me facing my fears as well. I travel around the world, yet I am scared of publishing my writing. I believe it is good, that it is informative and well written, but am afraid of it being said to be otherwise. This is my version of being bold and it holds more importance that what many would be considered a blip, not part of any creative career. But blips are my greatest assets. Microcosms are my favorite worlds. I am worried about not getting anywhere; I am worried about denouncing things in favor of acceptance.

Orthodox Priest.

Orthodox Priest, Kiev.

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The Guilty Nomad – The Path of Unapologetic Happiness

Heading north to the Wadden Islands along the Ocean. Solo and Alive!

Heading north to the Wadden Islands along the Ocean. Solo and Alive!

It’s hard to consider living on the road without the feeling that you are shirking your duties. What these duties pertain to, at least in myself, relate to a sort of “suppose to” list of life stages that at certain ages in on the relatively short stint on this earth I have been indoctrinated, through all forms of nurture, that I must hit. Part of the process of living on the road is considering the validity of this society-enforced template of growing up. For me, it didn’t work.

Eating on the road isn't always fine dining. But it is, fine dining. Local cheese, meat and some sort of sugar bread sandwich. Nom Nom!

Eating on the road isn’t always fine dining. But it is, fine dining. Local cheese, meat and some sort of sugar bread sandwich. Nom Nom!

Since this is a travel blog, I hesitate to address bold life statements, so I will keep it as a series of personal revelations. I was introduced to travel by my parents. We did the traditional North American family trip to Mexico every other year. It was nice, but felt surreal, cultural mummification, as if everything you saw was in stasis, ready to perform for the next tourist. That sounds quite ignorant, but I was younger back then and that’s what family trips to those tourist meccas kind of enforce. It wasn’t emersion, but simply a dip in a highly regulated pool.

When I was 24, I was invited to perform in a play in the Czech Republic. I had never been to Europe before and had never travelled on my own. As part of the trip, I planned to do a sort of quick jaunt around the country. I planned meticulously and was very excited to finally travel at my own pace.

Foraging with couchsurfer in Groningen for stomppot. http://www.google.ca/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0CB0QFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fen.wikipedia.org%2Fwiki%2FStamppot&ei=j3b7VNbOFYmAsQSgl4GoDg&usg=AFQjCNG2rg_r914SAY-RfyV2FLXlaWrRkw&sig2=Fhfg9U3wLLTp2cHtIxIoHg&bvm=bv.87611401,d.cGU

Foraging with couchsurfer in Groningen for stomppot.

I planned for two weeks and ended up living in Prague for an additional 4 months teaching and then three more months travelling around Eastern Europe. I returned back to Canada for a girl. As I stepped off the plane at the Vancouver International Airport, I realized how seriously mistaken I was for doing so. I felt a sudden void inflate inside of me. And that was it. I was infected with the travel bug. Right away I knew this could not be a sometimes thing. I had to figure out how to make this an all time thing.

The traditional aspects of life weighed upon me. Yet in my own rebellious way I had started to challenge, question and answer them.

TA = Traditional Aspect

R = Response

TA = If you get tattoos, you can’t be buried in a Jewish cemetery.

R= I am dead, who cares where they put me. Throw me into the ocean, I don’t need to waste land.

TA = Okay. Well, if you get a tattoo, make sure it’s something you REALLY want.

R= It’s just skin. And don’t use the “but when you’re old it will look…” Because when I am old, “I will look”.

TA = Get married, have kids.

R= Monogamy works for some people. It sounds nice in a pastoral poem. You have kids, I’ll be the cool uncle that your kids want to be.

TA = Get a stable job, you don’t want to be poor!

R= International teacher and adventurer is a full time job. It’s stability is concrete in that I am not tied to a steadfast location. Contract ends, I find a job here or move! The world is my job market oyster. I am never poor, as I always have enough to eat, cloth and roof myself. The rest of wealth is stored in the emotional bank and I am pretty happy with the numbers.

TA= But that’s not normal.

R= I strive to be as abnormal as possible. No! It boils down to happiness. That is why I hesitate to generalize. If a suit and tie and Lambourgini make you excessively happy, then do it up. For me, a suit and tie are constricting and a car as a representational of more than cutthroat work ethic, an unshakeable faith in class delineation and sad attempt at becoming the human superlative is as confounding as you may find my excessive facial hair at times, my spontaneous tattoos and my amplified emotional states.

Living on the road (Lovely campsite in Arnhem). Note the bike used a drying rack.

Living on the road (Lovely campsite in Arnhem). Note the bike used a drying rack.

This is not a woe as me narrative, quite the contrary. You should be not just proud of the quirks you are allotted, but the quirks you develop out of experiencing life and discovering what you want of it. Because as I said before it’s a short stint, a snap of the fingers and I did not want to wait until I had to sit on a geriatrics filled bus to be hurled around this planet. I want to see it by bicycle. I want to see it in slow motion. I want to see it now and bask in it all.

Extended family dinners are awkward at times. The question, “what are you doing?” is always asked. I respond in earnest and a lot of the times they smile, in confusion, as if that will remedy their feelings of judgement. I know many of them don’t understand me, but at the same time, they all came around and support me. Good family will always do that, so don’t worry about the disowning factor. You can’t live as a source of vicariousness for people anyways.

So dream. If it’s in line with their dreams, great. If it is off the beaten path, unconventional, constantly moving, great as well. Pursue it all. Fail. Pursue more. Succeed. Nothing is damning. Love your careers and families; maybe I’ll see you somewhere on the vast highways. And it’s not our cup of tea, but we’ll understand why each other like to sip it. Because it makes us happy and that’s the crux of it all the why questions you can ask about existence.

Selfies are important to document solo travels.

Selfies are important to document solo travels.

Each Mile – Episode 3 – A Leap of Truck Faith

A Very Unhappy Klalita in Port Angeles

 

Hell on Earth. I am a man of little faith, admittedly so. But man am I happy that hell exists for me to use it as for the descriptive purpose of summing up the worst day I have ever been on a bike. No sugar coating it, no looking on the bright side, so thinking of the starving kids in some less fortunate setting, no. All I could think about was how am I going to make it out of this endless climb and rain and speed demon logger trucks.

There is very little footage of that day. In fact, after I left Port Angeles with an unexpected amount of miles to cover, the next time I turned on the camera was late in the evening, standing half nude, eyes ablaze, red, body swollen, staring at a reflection of myself in a mirror, as if I was a cat or bird who had no concept of self.

It was all in the poor planning, which something I will note in my tips section of this site. Long story short, I ended up on a weaving loggers road, where big ass trucks whizzed by, drivers on triple overtime shifts, beeping at this pea sized biker (me) and almost several times knocking me off the side of the cliff lipped coastal switchbacks. In the back of my mind the voiceover for the monster truck infomercials kept playing as each barreling, multi wheel bullet shot by. I mapped 100 km, which turned into 140km. Rain made the roads slicks, and me a lot slower. My legs pleaded with me to throw in the towel, but my freeze corpse whinnied  my chariot onwards. For some reason, I don’t recollect eating a thing. I remembering using a nameless pub as a rest stop, so I could stand in front of air dryer for a few moments to thaw.

All bike signs lead to the papermill, Port Angeles

A paper mill, a hill, more houses, road, another town, another hill, 45 more trucks. Then, the mile markers ended. The mile markers, small stubby white sticks at the side of the road, with black numbers etched into them that count the miles til the end of the road and in this case to the place I was trying to get to, Neah Bay. I looked, I searched, but no more were to be found. Where was Neah Bay? Maybe a mirage on a map, an ancient city that the forest has reclaimed. Curse you Google Earth. I turned 180 to stare at my load. My blue tarp, drenched and shining, would provide me with ample cover. I stopped at a well, thicketed turnpike. There was barely enough room, but I think I could do it. My eyes welled with tears and the salt from the sea burnt my face, into my brain. This would be a terrible sleep or more specifically a bit of shelter until the rain and trucks let off. If they ever let off. A sudden veto, pushed me a few more miles and thankfully a town emerged, twinkling lights of a waning day welcomed me in.

Neah Bay, The Most Northwest Tip of the US of A

I had no address, but found a pay phone at the one, the only, the Tye Motel. Hiding under the lip of the small bent out of recognition, rain gutter, I shoved my scummy last quarter into the well used rotary time relic and slowly dialled the numbers. Couchsurfer Vicki answered. She asked where I was. Tye Motel. Well let me lead your vehicle to my place. I don’t have a vehicle. How did you get here? bicycle. Hang up. She gave up her bed so that I would have a warm sleep. She fed me elk soup. She said I was to never bike on that road again. Not even her grandfather, who would walk everywhere would set foot on that road. Sleep.

The next day, bright and early ,I was up. Vicki said….no, ordered that I was to stay the day in town and learn about the Makah Tribe, of which she was part of and who were the people of this land. With a past that extends back to the dawn of time, She told me many stories about the goats of Wada Island,  the lighthouse operator and many other tales of peril and survival of living on the most Northwest tip of America. Before I left, I meekly asked her son to help me figure out my tent. He didn’t need to figure it out, he knew. With a smirk on his face, he showed me the paint by numbers version of how to set it up. Then I was off.

Many Ships - Neah Bay

I explored the art of the people at someone’s private home gallery. A sign read please ring the bell. I did and I was let into a single room, full of brightly colored oil paintings of fishing and hunting, hats of earth tones made of bark from local trees. The Makah museum informed of a town near by Ozete, that had had a mudslide and had resurfaced and had excavated in the 70s. 100 of relics painted a beautiful picture of a very distinct and proud nation of hunters and whalers. I sat inside of a reconstructed log house and stared out the window at a fake ocean scene. If someone was teleported here from the past of anytime that had lived in this area, the only thing that stays somewhat constant in character is the sea. Interesting how much cosmetic work we have put into our cities and landmasses. To what avail? To make it our own? Nature seems more individualistic than anything else could be, from humans to drops of water. Too many surgeries, our planet looks fake, over prothesised and all the same.

I purchased a bumper sticker to put on the Klalita. She looked so pretty with it on, I blushed for her. Evening was slowly making it’s lumbering way in. I returned to Vicki’s home to say my goodbyes to her and her family. She was my mother for a mere two days, but her impact and kindness and big heart will be something I will never forget. One of those wonderful people that description does no justice describing. She alone is worth a trip, by car or bus, the mythical shores of that enchanting other realm.

Forks at Night. Go Spartans Go!

Onto the bus…vrooooom! I was in Forks. It was the dead of a cold night when I arrived. I emphasize dead and will continue to make vampire references throughout this paragraph, much to most people who read this’s chagrin. I bet not a person with braces reads my posts. Anyways, why vampires? Well if you love the Lights (the solo artist) and have just acquired a low voice (still with occasional pitch problems) and/or have a Chris Brown moustache, then you know that Forks is where the Twilight Series takes place. Art here, does not imitate life, but the other way around. That movie MADE Forks. Vampire pizzas. Vampire road signs. Even a guy selling wet kindle, saying it will “ward off the dark forces”. Wow. The kindling was tempting to buy, but I restrained myself, as I needed to find a place to sleep.

Fork's Past - Lumberjacks for days

Picking up some vampire pizza, which tasted as bland as Robert Patteson’s character, I got a lead that the Forks visitor centre is left open at night and was heated. So to the visitor centre I went and made my bed on a bench, across from a snoring burly road worker, who smelled  of a couple rounds to many to get back to his wife. The next day it was up with the sun again and off down the road to Amanda Park.

Ever changing plant life on the road

Stopped in Klalaloch for food. Curiosity of the odd had be follow a sign a few kilometers off course. The sign said “Big Tree” and I was curious as to what makes this tree worthy of a sign. Unfortunately the only way I could tell THE tree from all the other trees in the Hoh Rainforest was a placard below with a very distinct arrow pointing to it. The arrow almost seemed to expect that you were looking for Waldo in a forest full of waldos. So, saw the uninspiring tree. Thought positively about deforestation for a second and then I was on my way. Amanda Park was a trust exercise. A leap of truck faith and thank goodness trucks aren’t that sketchy looking thief at the beginning of the Aladdin movie or this story would have never been told (probably would have cut off my ear, cuz they didn’t like my face…it’s barbaric, but hey, it’s home). Check it out:

Even when everything seems miserable, you are reinvigorated by this.