May 28, 2012

Camera Games: Spy VS Spy in Portugal

Most of these photos have migrated from an original 'Camera Games' Anniversary post. I've generally been at peace with not having had a camera for most of the EuroTrip, for the moments that mattered there was usually a photographer present or a Camera I could borrow. I learnt to live in the moment better and mentally just learnt to let shots go. One bummer was not being able to take more 'On the street' candids like these though.

The Spy VS Spy collection
Bird Watching
Behind these castle walls
Totally natural dude
The Camera Games Collection
- Spy VS Spy in Portugal
- Day 177: My second camera's 100 Day anniversary
- The Corner collection in Spain

Which is your favorite pic? Do you play "Camera Games"?

May 20, 2012

Traveling, living the dream and remembering it - The nostalgia for Wonderland and Muscle memory

A Memento Year - My Exhibition of memories and moments in Hamburg
I've been describing my EuroTrip last year as 'living the dream'. It has a double meaning in that its the achievement of a goal but also how the experience now feels like a half-remembered fantasy. Whilst I didn't take many photos, I more than made up for it with a lot of writing online and off. There is no disputing that the events of last year took place, though I've had several moments since that have messed with my reality.

The main reason for this dream-like feeling is that most of the places and people are so physically distant from my daily existence. The lack of shared history has also made the connection seem more fragile than it might actually be. This can be fixed through reunions which I was fortunate to achieve, having reunited with traveling friends I made in Australia around England and Germany. I've experienced how the connection and memory continues on right where it was left.

I've started to get curious about books like Prince Caspian: The Return to Narnia and Alice Through the Looking-Glass, stories that explore a nostalgia for a fantastic place all but forgotten. Looking through photos or writing/reading about these memories never fully captures the feeling of having been there which is why its so important to live in the moment. It might be all we have.

One thing that has given me comfort is that even if time and circumstance manage to erase the memories in our mind they can never erase the feeling of knowing we carry in our body.

Comedians Pete Holmes in conversation with Duncan Trussell references the film 'The Assassination of Jesse James', counting the stars and how our "body knows"

VIDEO: The Duncan Trussell Family Hour - Pete Holmes on how "your body knows"
'The Duncan Trussell Family Hour' - Episode 8: Pete Holmes is a beautiful Dreamer
PETE HOLMES: They're riding at night... he looks at the stars and Jesse James (Brad Pitt) says "You ever count the stars. I can never get the same number". The guy's nervous because he knows Jesse James is about to kill him and he goes "I don't even know what a star is in reality" and this is what Jesse James says before he f*cking shoots him in the back "You're body knows, its your mind that forgot" 
HOLMES: He's riding towards the camera so we can see his face, he knows he's about to die. He knows that Jesse James took him out to kill him. Every f*cking time (I've seen it 30 times probably) the gun shot startles me because I connect with him making his peace, with him commending his spirit. With him being incapable of commending his spirit, with him dying afraid instead of knowing what a star is.
And we see for about the longest 30 seconds in the world, we know he knows he's about to die. He's looking at the stars and he's kind of crying. He looks like he's about to cry and he realises he's going to die. He realises he doesn't know what a star is
Find previous Pete Holmes podcast references below:
Pete Holmes collection: Adjacent experiences
- Zach Cregger: Being a kid again and the power of "play"
- Matt Besser: Travel coincidences and Counting the serendipities
- Duncan Trussell: Traveling, living the dream and remembering it
- Kyle Kinane: Being excited everyday
- The Sklar Brothers: Performing, possibly failing - That's living the dream
- A question answered with a quote: Comedy Podcasts

Have you ever lived the dream? Are you starting to forget it?

May 10, 2012

Scams in Istanbul: The reality of trusting (3 of 3)

<< crossposted on 'The 30 Home Games' blog
Are your Spidey Senses tingling?
My mood definitely shifted, I became suspicious of everybody. I even began questioning the authenticity of my hostel roommate, a down-on-his-luck Canadian traveler borrowing money from newly made running mates. I knew I had to find a way to get out of this mental funk. Attention is a double-edged sword. Being a traveler, a lot of possibilities were opened because people were curious and drawn to me as an outsider. I was welcomed into homes and friend circles, now this attention was being used against me. I was afraid to go out, the simplest chores would be interrupted by the constant initiation of conversation. I imagine this is the reality celebrities and hotties live in every day.

My running mate who escaped the scam unscathed was someone I befriended on the trip from Goreme to Istanbul. We bonded over our love of basketball, he was a diehard Laker fan and former intern for the team. We played a game with locals at the courts in the Nike Beyoğlu store the morning after his ordeal as he briefed me on what happened. I had my epiphany, I would convert scammer invitations into a game of hoops. It dovetailed with my 30 Home Games mission, my quest for a Basketball experience in each Country. He was skeptical, it was asking for trouble.

The genius of these scams are that they're only asking for your time. Its essentially rapport building through good conversation, a few shared drinks which sets the table for the manipulation to take place. Its only when the betrayal happens at the Clip-joint that one begins to question everything. A fellow traveler equated it to a relationship break up, especially one dissolved through infidelity. We start tracing its history, which parts were real? Was any of it genuine? Then we start looking inward, was it my fault for believing? I figured I could entice them to a game of basketball during what they thought was the "real" part.

The following few days I was upbeat, returning to my old self. Instead of shooing people away grumpily, I was looking forward to interactions but surprisingly the attention had waned. I can't pinpoint whether it was my change in energy, my familiarity or random chance. Interestingly I had begun to mutually greet one of the scammers like Ralph Wolf and Sam Sheepdog would in the cartoons. He was a fellow in a blue/green puffer jacket I would regularly cross paths with, usually alongside a new Asian tourist. Our original encounter he tried to open me at Sultanahmet with the line "Hey you look like Michael Jackson".

In the closing days of my fortnight in Istanbul I did manage to find a genuine connection, befriending young artists at a Jazz bar. Over several days we hit the town, was welcomed into homes for dinner and tea and got to crash at a few places. The locals were understandably removed from this reality, they explained that some Current affair shows had shed some light on the scams in Istanbul. As it was a crime of opportunity, Turks from the east unfamiliar with the big city were also being scammed. Most attention was paid to non-Turks because they were ideal targets, distinct, lucrative and crucially - naive.

The charming person I spent most of the time with mindblowingly did her major thesis on 'Hyperreality' - a pet topic of mine. On my final day I was welcomed into her friend's apartment, we discussed scamming and reality as we smoked and drank in their attic. Their roommate, a Syrian revolutionary taking refuge in Turkey arrived late into the evening. He began in the front lines for the cause but decided his powers were best served in media relations. He weighed in on the conversation by showing videos he'd filmed that day presenting two versions of reality for the same event, one for dissemination now and the other truth to be released after the revolution was won. 

It was a memorable way to close my experience in Turkey and it gave me a sobering take on the scamming experience. I've always been fascinated by the power of charisma and the bending of reality but this underlined for me that its ultimately playing with fire. My running mate who escaped the scam had himself conceded, "As bad as it could have turned out, it'll likely go down as the most interesting thing that happens on this trip".

During this time creating genuine experiences with amazing new friends, the basketball mouse trap was the furthest thing from my mind. I never did get to hoop it up with a scammer, I didn't even come close to as invitations had dried up. I'm still intrigued by the prospect of holding court with a scammer but the idea served its purpose as it shifted my mood and I found the genuine experience I was searching for. I'll file it as 'Incomplete' and still hope to achieve it if I ever return to Istanbul. If someone is able to execute it on my behalf I would love to hear your story.

After a great evening capping off my time and saying my goodbyes the morning after, I had one final rude awakening. As I checked in at Atatürk International Airport the teller informed me I wasn't in the system for any flights that day. I scanned my ticket, checked my phone everything seemed fine. It was then I realised that my Calendar settings were set to 2011. My Turkish friend had borrowed my phone 5 days earlier to use her SIM, I must've mistakenly applied the wrong settings when I turned it back on so the dates corresponded to the wrong days. I had been operating a day in advance this whole time, my flight was actually for tomorrow.
Everything is real until the moment it isn't.

- Scams in Istanbul: Why I trust people (1 of 3)
- Scams in Istanbul: Why people trust others (2 of 3)
- Scams in Istanbul: The reality of trusting (3 of 3)

The folks at IndieTravelPodcast have a comprehensive discussion on several possible scams travelers might encounter - Indie Travel Podcast Ep 212: Travel Scams, cons and Travel safety

Have you ever been scammed whilst traveling? Has your sense of reality ever been shaken?

May 5, 2012

Spotted: The 'Fat Boy Slim' Double Decker bus in Lisboa, Portugal

Soundtrack to "Rollin in the streets" 
'Right here Right now' by Fatboy Slim 

On top of the World
Waving to the kids of Lisboa
Portugese Students pause their hazing to wave
Headin' into the water
Rollin' down Avenida da Liberdade
Mr Speaker
Spotted in Lisboa, Portugal. 3pm, Quinta. 12 Maio 2011
You'll find Open Top Double Decker buses at most of the world's popular tourist destinations. In Lisboa, Portugal it comes particular handy for the tourist traffic from the Cruise ships that dock near Alfama. Its an option that appeals to travelers who are in town briefly and want a quick overview of the city.

Personally its not how I choose to travel but I understand its appeal. On a casual Friday chilling at Parque Eduardo VII with a fellow traveler from Madison, Wisconsin. We spotted a promo bus advertising the upcoming Semana Académica (Student week) party headlined by Fatboy Slim. We humbly invited ourselves on the bus and they welcomed us aboard. It was a punk rock way to see one of my favorite cities.

Have you ever gotten a free ride? Where was it?