Sep 29, 2011

Trigger: Day 244 - 8 months in review

Its Day 244, roughly two/thirds of the year on the road.
To commemorate this milestone I'd like to share snapshots of a memorable 8 months.
Note: For best effect, click on the links for expanded stories

Day 30 - Venice, Italy
The only time I've worked in the past 8 months was in Venice during Carnevale. It was organised via crafty networking at the hostel I stayed at as a traveler, I returned 2 weeks later working for someone I hadn't intended to. My time here was more educational than social. I learnt about enterprise, hard labour and the goings-on behind hostels. The "Venezia: Vice City" souvenir shirts began to make sense the longer I hung around and met people who lived in this iconic tourist destination.

The city was an inspiration. I took no photos but wrote many poems trying to contain the frustration, fortunes and dreams the city evoked.

Each day in Venice followed a familiar template - hard renovation work by day then hitting the town at night, usually solo. Today I cleaned the attic then met some American travelers at the only night club in town 'Piccolo Mondo'.

Day 60 - Barcelona, Spain
Barcelona was the first city that compelled me to overstay. I would find excuses to hang around, skipping town on the weekends allowing me to return with a renewed energy.

On this day I met with a friend of a friend of a friend. On my last night in Venice, I attended a dinner party hosted by an enterprising Mexi-Can I befriended. The person I was meeting with enjoyed a similar dinner experience on Guidecca Island and it was suggested we get in touch. We had Tapas and Cervesa by her hip neighborhood in Gracia, then solo for live music at 'De Dues' and 'HelioGabal'. Earlier that afternoon I read a captivating book on life lent to me by an American Artist.

Day 90 - Granada, Spain

The overlook at Puerta Monaita
Half of my time in Spain was spent in Andalucia, with a base in Sevilla through family connections I also visited Córdoba, Malaga and Granada. My travels and interest in the arts has invariably led me to several hippies, vagabonds and free-spirits. Of the places I've been to, Granada has best typified this lifestyle.

On this day, with the help of a Vietnamese/German we found entry to a nice lookout from Puerta Monaita overlooking Granada. It was cool finding this spot but more lasting was spending a day with this bohemian who had been "traveling" the last 7 years, learning languages and living around Europe. It was interesting, picking his brain on the pitfalls, joys and freedoms of the drifter way of life.

Day 120 - Coimbra, Portugal

Coimbra Nights
This day was a nexus marking the abrupt end of an unforgettable roadtrip and the triumphant return to Lisboa.

The day previous felt like the Twilight Zone. We were on no sleep and had spent the morning filing a police report after goods were stolen from the front seat of our vehicle (colleagues lost camera lenses and a GPS navigator, I lost my passport and External HDD). We threatened to make a repeat visit to file a Missing Person's report after our running mate was unresponsive and hours late from our agreed rendezvous time.

Coimbra was a student city, the fact it was populated largely by young Lindas initially charmed me. On this day it took an eerie 'Children of the Corn' vibe. I started to believe there was a force exterminating the Adults of the town, suspicious of the constant police sirens. When a motorbike raced past with a blowup doll 69-ing the rider, I completely lost my sh!t.

The following night I was on a bus, returning to my home in Lisboa. Without missing a beat we partied at Bairro Alto for Chilejobs and shot-thieving.

Day 150 - Porto, Portugal
My time in Porto is best summed up by the word 'Comfort', in the best possible sense. I stayed in one place for a month, blanketed by the warmth of 'Familia Feliz' and flanked by 6 Brazilian brothers. We always had guests, countless 20man dinners and had a varied itinerary. As I joined the group for the final month of their Erasmus experience, it was also an emotionally charged time.

Like most of my milestone days, it was quite low-key. I did a night crossing of Porto's iconic bridge for the first time with some German Couchsurfers we were hosting.

Day 180 - Rotterdam, Netherlands
I spent my European Summer in the Netherlands, right in the heart of Festival Season. My impromptu itinerary for the month was governed by the many events taking place around Holland. It was here that I tried the much-raved about CouchSurfing for the first time as some of the Festival cities didn't have hostel accommodation.

On this day I was in Rotterdam, voted as '2010's Best Festival city in the world'. I participated in that evening's 'Wednesday Night Skate' with some Aussie roommates. It was a shambolic performance, thankfully we were all equally hopeless and we fell, got lost and soaked in the night together. The best part is always the afterparty anyway.

Day 210 - Brighton, England

Photo via Todd Geasland
Traveling alone at length, you meet many people. Most times you'll share just the one day - Running mates Du jour.

On my journey I've only really had two long-term running mates, an American in Holland and the incomparable TG in Portugal. I first ran with Todd, ego-tripping from Lisboa, roadside cooking (me: eating) and urban camping. This was the first time I'd reconnected with a fellow running mate and the sequel was just as fun. It's good to hang with someone you have a shared history with, touch base and share adventures had in the interim.

We hit the English countryside in a Triumph, decked in suits and Flat caps. On this night we had a memorable time hanging with street performers, getting tips on the best 'skipping' spots and learning a few umbrella tricks. We closed the night longboarding and some 2 on 2 basketball with three charming lesbians.

Day 240 - Vilnius, Lithuania
One of the standard questions I ask when I've just met people is "How do you guys know each other?". I've found that most times, people really don't know how they're relationships began. I find the most interesting connections are created through an elaborate but ultimately trivial chain of events.

The friendships I formed in Lithuania were achieved this way. Though I stayed in hostels for the most part, the Lithuanian people were so hospitable I had no trouble collecting an amazing set of friends in the cities I visited. I spent this memorable night watching an orchestra, visiting the contemporary Art gallery, watching a Goat burning and daungas žibintas (sky lanterns) being floated.

Other milestone days of a Memento year:
- Day 200
- Day 150
- Day 100

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