Apr 292012
 

Santiago, Chili.

Have you ever had the feeling that you were slightly out of phase with the rest of the world? That everything sortof seemed to make sense, but was off by just a bit.

That was how my first night in Santiago felt.

I speak quite reasonable Spanish by now. The people here speak Spanish. Or a form thereof. But not quite.

First, I got invited to a theatre performance by someone from Couch Surfing. It looked really cool, the stage was some sort of old worn down factory. And the actors were wearing working clothes and covered in grime. So far so good. Then they started talking. And I kinda lost it.

There was something with two people being in love, a woman in a red dress on top of the factory, someone getting killed and working in the factory. And most of the talk rhymed (that much I could gather). And then it was over.

Cool, being cultural in Santiago!

After that I was invited to a barbecue by someone I met in Mancora, Peru. Cool! Except that it turned out there was no barbeque. And I hadn´t had dinner. But luckily there was beer. And Pisco. Chilenean Pisco! Not to be confused by the vile drink that the Peruvians produce that they also call Pisco. Chilenean Pisco is obviously way better. And to convince me they kept topping up my glass. Which was a good thing. Because they were all talking in Spanish. Or I should say Chilenean. Rapid Chilenean.

There is something about sitting there and smiling. And laughing when other people are laughing. And saying ´si´ when someone is talking in your direction. And not having a single clue about what everybody is saying!

Cool, being social in Santiago!

Things did get better though! Time for dancing in a very nice club in down town. The Chileneans can´t speak. But they sure know how to party!

And to top things off…

The thing that everybody wants when abroad for a long time…

Making the coldest of hearts melt with happiness…

A taste of home…

The best taste of home…

Hidden between all the different kinds of drinks. Between the rum and Pisco and whisky and beer and other beer and even more beer.

My eye spotted something. Something green. Something familiar. Stashed away in the back of the fridge. A bottle of happiness.

Real, honest to god Grolsch beer from the Netherlands!

Life is good in Santiago.

Confusing, but good!

Apr 272012
 

Santiago, Chili.

Yesterday morning I was at the Laguna Colorado in Bolivia. Now I am in Santiago, Chili. That is just short of 2.000 kms. Quite a lot to do on buses. A very sizable part of the South American continent: Map here.

The best part of it though was that I had no clue where I was or where I was going exactly.

A week ago, my bag got stolen. That included my E-reader. Which contained my Lonely Planet (a.k.a. ´the traveler´s bible´).

Normally traveling works like this:
1) Look up the place where you are in the Lonely Planet and find out what to do there.
2) Do it.
3) Pick another place not too far away from where you are and look up in the Lonely Planet how to get there.
4) Go there.
5) Repeat steps 1 to 4 to your liking.

You can see how the LP is an essential part of the whole program. And now I´m doing without.

No handy maps. Nothing to tell you what´s cool. Nothing to explain where you can find a hostel. What to pay for a cab. Where to change money. Etc.

Only a few more days and I´m getting visitors! My mom and dad are flying in to Santiago to learn the noble art of backpacking! So looking forward to seeing them again and so happy that they dare try a completely new way of vacationing! Love you both!
And I find I´m enjoying it. Asking people how things work. Blindly wandering through a city, hoping I won´t get too lost (I always make it a point to get a bit lost, it´s the best way of seeing unexpected things). Taking a hostel because it seems to be adequate, not because it´s recommended by some book. Asking fellow travelers what a good next destination would be.

The Lonely Planet is a bible. And sometimes it creates the same blind obedience that any religion can. Go to the places where everybody goes. Do the things that everybody does. And yes, you will have a wonderful experience. But sometimes it does feel like being just one more sheep in the herd.

´No, I´m traveling. I´m special.´

True. For a very limited sense of the word special.

So for a little while I´m enjoying the fact that I´m traveling blind. I´ll miss loads of opportunities. And I´ll see some truly magnificent things as well. Looking forward to it all!

Apr 232012
 

Uyuni, Bolivia.

As I wrote yesterday, my bag got stolen. Nothing important was lost, no money, credit cards, passports, etc. I lost my laptop, E-reader, jacket, some other small stuff.

Got a number of remarks about how ´easy´ I seem to be taking this. And I´m a bit surprised about that myself. But it connects with something I´ve been thinking about for a while (6 months now perhaps? ;-) ).

The last few weeks haven´t been the best of my trip. They haven´t been bad, but they could´ve been better.

I think it started with me feeling ill. Ill means no energy. No energy means not feeling like being social. And not being social means having less of a good time than I could be. Which in turn drains my energy. And the circle is complete.

One of the things was that I didn´t really have to be social, as there was other stuff to do. Sit in a restaurant and read. Or go online and send some E-mails. Or write my book. I never got bored. But I wasn´t having as much fun as I could be.

Saturday night was the same as a number of nights before them. Feeling tired, not having done anything the entire day, no energy, not particularly happy. An early night of sleep seemed like a good idea. But that would only make the circle go round another day. So I decided to push myself to go to a pub. Have a drink, talk to some people, dance a bit perhaps.

The first moment of entering a place like that all on your own is always difficult. You´re standing there alone, beer protectively in front of you, whilst everybody else is standing or sitting around in groups, having a great time. Alone in the crowd, a very lonely moment.

But I´ve been there before. And I know the drill. Just start talking. To anybody. And I did. And ended up having a great conversation with an Argentian who had been living in La Paz for a few years. Politics, the difference between South America and Europe, heroes (it turns out that people in Bolivia look up to Hitler and despise Che Chevera. How different perspectives can be!).

When we went for another round of drink our seats were taken by a giggle of girls, who were kind enough to invite us to join them. More talking, some dancing, some more drinking. And somehow it ended up being past 5 before I hit my bed. A great night!

Slightly hung over the next morning I headed for a cyber cafe to slowly wake up. Which is where I lost my bag.

Now, I don´t believe in devine intervention or messages from fate. I do however believe that humans are very good in making connections and interpreting facts in a way that means something to them personally.

Bag and jacket were easilly replaced, La Paz is great for buying stuff like that.

Computer and E-reader were not so readilly replaced. The computer and E-reader on which I had been spending a lot of my time the last few days. The things that allowed me te pass my days in relative contentness. The things that stopped me from having to step up to people to start a talk. The things that in the end stopped me from being happy (or at least happier than I could be).

So am I glad that I lost them? Definitely not. But do I mind terribly? Not either!

Time to hone my courage a bit further. To step up to more people. To have more fun!

Sometimes it´s not so bad to let things go.

Apr 222012
 

La Paz, Bolivia.

10 minutes. That´s how much time it took me to go from complete bewilderment to acceptance.

It was about 10.30 in the morning, at my favourite cyber cafe. Check mail. Check. Post something on facebook. Done. Time for breakfast!

I switch off Firefox. Grab my bag.

Or at least, I try to grab my bag.

Not there.

It was there 20 minutes ago.

I look again.

Not there.

I look around. I look to my side.

Still no bag.

I might repeat this a few more times (actually I did), but my bag failed to materialize.

Fuck!

Now what?

Ask the friendly people around me in the internet cafe. Nobody saw anything. Ask the friendly people behind the counter. Nobody saw anything.

Ok…

In that bag was… My jacket. My computer. My E-reader. Some random unimportant other stuff.

Fuck. Again.

I can buy the stuff again (actually I saw some very nice jackets, but as I didn´t need another jacket I didn´t want to buy one. Now I have the perfect excuse). It´s not the stuff I actually care about that much. It´s what´s on my computer.

Pictures. 6 months worth of them.
A book. Almost 6 chapters. About 50 hours worth of writing.

Now, I have been sortof backing up. A little bit. Most of my pictures are on facebook (for exactly this reason), but that´s a sucky quality. Can probably get quite a bit back from some other people that I shared them with. If I can find them…

And I uploaded my first 4 chapters of my book. So only 1.5 chapters really lost. Still sucks.

But actually, I´m surprised how well I´m taking all of this. Stuff is gone. Too bad. I´ll buy new. I had to go to the police to get something to give to my insurance so that I can get my money back. That was a bit of a hassle but it´s done too. Time to go shopping for at least a new jacket and bag and I´ll see if I can buy some nice hardware here as well.

Pictures and book are gone. The chapters I can write again (as soon as I get a new computer). And in the end, pictures are just ´stuff´ as well. Living out of a backpack has made me care much much less about everything that I left at home and that I don´t seem to really need. Including all the pictures I made.

So, stuff is gone.

Time for another shopping spree!

Apr 212012
 

La Paz, Bolivia.

It’s not where you are, it’s whom you meet.

I wrote that a number of blog posts ago and I stand by it.

I’ve been meeting the most wonderful people.

But I also continue to have to say goodbye to them.

The movie “Fight Club” has a perfect term for it: The “Single serving friend”. Someone you meet on a plane or while traveling or anywhere else. You spend time together and you enjoy it. And then you go your separate ways. With promises to stay in touch and to meet up again. Even though you both know you most likely won’t.

My book writing isn’t going quite the way I want it to. When I get to writing I have no problem of churning out a thousand words. Or more. But actually getting to writing… There is too much to do. Too many (death) roads to drive down, too many jungles to visit. Too much fun to be had! :-)

Sometimes however it really doesn’t go the way I want it to. Bad copy-pasting made me loose a day’s work. A thousand words, down the drain. Sucks! But, if you’re not making mistakes, you’re not learning anything either. So I’ll chalk this one up to experience. And grumble a bit more under my breath…

And that’s getting to me. I love meeting people. But I hate letting them go.

So it’s time to start thinking about something a bit more permanent. Time to “get stuck” for a while. An intermission of a year or two, before I hit the road again.

Not to say that I’m quite done with adventuring. Not to say that I’m quite ready to go back home again. Even though I do miss everybody back home a lot!

My plan was to to travel to see where I felt most at home. And I think I could have answered that question after a week of South America. Still, I’m stubborn and pig-headed, so it took me a while to realize.

I kept coming back to Lima. And I think I’ll keep on coming back to Lima. So, I’ll go back to Lima.

See if I can find a job there (does anybody have any contacts in the Peruvian banking world?), settle down for a bit.

Not quite yet though. Want to see a bit more of Bolivia and then my parents are dropping by so we can explore a some parts of Chili and Argentine. But after that…

Time to get stuck. Until my wanderlust gets the better of me. Again.