Aug 25, 2012

Sintra, Portugal: "O mundo gira" - The second chances we get in life and travel

I spent a weekend in Sintra at the start of my time in Lisboa, Portugal. Its a popular day trip destination featuring Castles, Palaces and greenery. My time was quite solitary, Sintra's lone hostel had only one other guest whom I met the morning she was leaving. She was a free spirit New Yorker, a mature lady passionate about Contact improv. In our brief time spent she introduced me to some new concepts that I would unexpectedly later explore. She mentioned dating a Freegan 20 years her junior and how she befriended someone on the streets of Lisboa who took her to an Underground Restaurant.

I was drawn to her zest for life, her curiosity and compulsiveness. As I was accompanying her to the train station she spotted an attractive silver-haired guy in a ponytail, she brought it to my attention several minutes later and convinced herself to approach him. I happily accompanied her as we detoured searching for him to no avail.

I admire people who act on their whims, trusting the feeling and going on instinct. Its like being a kid again, oblivious to risk and the notion of making a fool of yourself. The moment is the opportunity. Whilst I'm drawn to this idea, I also realise there are times when its best not to force the issue. Having faith that the universe will return your boomerang.

A Brazilian in Venezia gave me my first Portugese expression - "O mundo gira" (The world spins). He explained that life has its cycles, we unwittingly repeat journeys or mistakes our parents made before us. How sometimes things come back and second chances are possible. A German in Tartu offered an interesting take on that principle in regard to relationships - "I believe you meet everyone twice but you don't always know it". Its a hopeful way of looking at the world and its possibilities and speaks to a connectedness. I've talked previously about my moments of synchronicity so I've tasted the feeling but I'm keenly aware how easily its forgotten.

Walking around Sintra I spotted this facade for an abandoned building on the outskirts of the town centre. I fantasized about exploring it but wasn't as compelled to without a Partner-in-Climb.
"How the hell could you front on me"
I befriended an American Vagabond at my new hostel upon my return to Lisboa. We would later roadtrip North for a week with another running mate. The American had been Urban Camping and though I had found creative ways to save on accommodation I'd yet to spent a full night outside.

Our first stop outside of Lisboa was a return trip to Sintra. After our first outdoor dinner we began scouting for sleeping locations. Our first spot was in public parklands, we decided against it due to the likelihood of being disturbed by a ranger. Our second find involved scaling a wall and some thick bush. We cased the garden and found it sufficient though we were spooked by the discovery of belongings and the decaying passport of a German woman, the likely victim of a pickpocket. We set up camp and called it a night.

The following morning we began exploring our "backyard". Obscured by darkness, the sight was nothing like I had imagined. We were in the garden of a spectacular abandoned mansion, I felt assured we were alone. It was an intriguing space but I didn't venture too much as the ground looked shaky.

Scouting base camp from the wall

Aug 21, 2012

AV Club's Nathan Rabin talks about Podcast Culture on Marc Maron's 300th episode of WTF

<< crossposted on the 'Let's Get Real podcast' blog

Comedians Marc Maron & Pete Holmes 
I've spoken before about my appreciation for comedians Marc Maron and Pete Holmes as well as my love of Podcasts. I've referenced and excerpted their stories to supplement my travel stories and my own personal journeys.

Inspired by these artists, I'll be starting my own podcast. It will explore similar existential themes found on this blog, talking about the journeys we take and the connections we make. Its a work in progress at this stage so stay tuned.

Marc Maron recently aired the 300th episode of his celebrated 'WTF podcast'. To mark the occasion he spoke to several people to find out what impact his show has had for its audience, his peers and the wider culture.

Maron phones AV Club's Head Writer Nathan Rabin to discuss the show's impact culturally:
Marc Maron's WTF - Episode 300
MARC MARON: (18m 40s) I felt that my voice was valid and that whatever I'd done in my life to get me onto a mic was what I'd bring to it. And its very odd because I don't think how I talk or how I engage is necessarily unusual but as I do it more I realise that there is some sort of craving for organic or frank conversation. That's always been how I've talked to people and that might speak to why I don't have a lot of close friends. Its draining in a way.

NATHAN RABIN: I think part of it is you listen to a talk show, especially a television talk show. People sort of engaging in socially mandated charades, the host is pretending to be interested and the guest can get 8 minutes of television, the guests can promote their product.

You never get that sense with WTF. You never get the sense that you're interested in somebody as an entertainer or as somebody with something to move. You get the sense that you're interested in humanity and you're interested in the shared humanity. You're interested in where you overlap. You're interested in where you clash. You're interested in how you can see the world from antithetical places yet share this thing that everybody shares which is being human
Maron speaks to another of my current rolemodels, Pete Holmes. The two of them are inward-looking but genuinely curious people, Pete unashamedly admits his 'You Made it Weird' podcast is a direct ripoff of WTF. Holmes is one of the leading lights in the new generation of Alt comics, he discusses what WTF has meant for Maron's comedy and podcast successors.
MARC MARON: (1h 15m 08s) You and I need to talk to people to get a sense of who we are. We crave that moment... I always relied on other people to feed - looking for these answers that are gonna make my life easier or better... I'm a pretty selfish and self involved guy and through the course of the podcast from the feedback I get and the struggles I go through and how people relate to it... I'm amazed that whatever I've been accused of which is selfishness - that my struggle with being me in the world is helping people

PETE HOLMES: It's a type of alchemy... we both turned selfishness, a little inwardness, a little navel gazing into something that's actually helping people...
I can definitely relate to their sentiment about relating to the world through conversing with others. I'm the same way.

Find previous Marc Maron podcast references here:
- Adam Carolla - On being sedentary
- Doug Stanhope - On happiness
- Norm MacDonald - On being in the moment

Find previous Pete Holmes podcast references below:
Pete Holmes collection: Adjacent experiences
- 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

What podcasts do you listen to? Any Marc Maron or Pete Holmes fans

Aug 19, 2012

Home Reading: 'Out-of-body Experience' (Astral Travel) and 'What a Coincidence!' (Synchronicity)

<< crossposted on the 'Let's Get Real podcast' blog

I can't recall how my fascination with "consciousness" began. I've always been intrigued by reality, more specifically 'hyperreality'. It has its roots in my love for wrestling and exposure to it in movies. I was formally educated on it in my Design Studies classes in University which was around the time seminal movies like Fight Club and The Matrix were being released.

My year abroad definitely awakened and accessed parts of my consciousness. A powerful sense of Déjà vu struck me at a particular sight on the Main Square in Riga, Latvia so much so that I was compelled to text my Couchsurfing host of it. I read books on mastering memory when I was in Den Haag. I've had my reality shaken by scammers in Istanbul. I've referenced Dreams and Synchronicity in previous posts as well.

Below are two books I've read recently on these themes, I've highlighted passages which resonated with my recent line of thinking:
'What a Coincidence' by Susan M. Watkins 
Ch 5. Random Thoughts, Media Feedback
Thus the vocabulary of your interest determines the symbols used by your inner senses, exactly the way dreams operate. Within the safety of that framework, chosen and adapted by you, coincidence will often seem to cycle around bits and pieces that suggest themes you should be paying attention to...

Again, this is exactly what your dreams are up to, or rather what you are up to in your dreams, even when you don't remember them consciously. In that way, coincidences are the awake world extensions of the dream state...

Or maybe just learning to acknowledge coincidence is enough to maintain a link to the inner, natural workings of consciousness. Maybe coincidences are always there, muttering in the background, forming the internet of our days, a media hullabaloo of their own. And when you do notice them, even peripherally, your intuitions spring to attention and force you to ask questions about your reality: What's going on here? What is it I have access to? Something? Nothing? Everything? And once you've asked these questions, you can never quite go back to thinking of your position in the world as meaningless or mechanical.
My fascination with Astral Travel only recently came about through the compelling conversations I heard between Comedians Duncan Trussell and Pete Holmes. As someone who places a premium on living in the moment and being "present", I later realised it was odd that I'd be fascinated by leaving one's body and going to far off places.
The Out-of-Body Experience by Anthony Peake 
Ch 10. The Physics
Recent suggestions by Professor Stephen Hawking and an associate, Thomas Hertog of CERN, make this an even more fascinating proposition. They have presented a complex mathematical model proposing something that they term the 'observer created universe'. They argue that all these universes do not branch off and exist in isolation, but they exist simultaneously in a state of 'superposition' You will recall that this is the state a particle is in before it is 'observed'. It exists in a superposition of all possible locations where it may statistically be found when the probability wave collapses.

Let us step back and take account  of exactly what one of the world's leading physicists is suggesting - you are creating your own universe as you go along, and so is every other consciousness. And this goes for all the other people you interact with in a lifetime. We are all existing in our own personal computer game in which each decision brings about a different version of reality, but (and this is very important to grasp) the potential outcome of each decision exists whether or not you choose it.
- Find other books in the Home Reading and Road Reading collection here
- Read my previous post on Synchronicity here, Travel coincidences and Counting the serendipities
- Find posts on Consciousness on the 'Lets Get Real' podcast blog

Where do you stand on Astral Travel and Synchronicity?

Aug 4, 2012

Camp Geres, near the border of Portugal and Spain

I spent my month in Porto, Portugal with warmhearted Brasilian Erasmus students. I had been invited to stay after connecting with a few of them in Valencia months previous. I hadn't intended to stay for as long as I did but my wallet was pickpocketed during my transit to their Train stop at Casa De Musica. I was met with nothing but love and generosity and was instantly welcomed into their Familia Feliz (happy family).

An excursion to Camp Geres, Portugal's only natural park was organised by Bruno 3 weeks into my stay. We lovingly referred to him as "Macgyver" for his resourcefulness. That said as most of the crew were from Brazil's south (Rio Grande do Sul) they were no stranger to the outdoors.

From Porto its a roughly 2hr train ride to Braga which is as far North as it goes, then a scenic 1hr Bus ride to the Parque. There is an Information Centre onsite but our Macgyver had printed of his own terrain maps so we were in capable hands. His steady orienteering guided us to some breathtaking views and spectacular waterfalls and assured us when we went off course.

We cooked beans for dinner, went down some hairy inclines, danced under waterfalls and sang in the rain. On the final day we made the 15km hike to the Fronteira of Spain, on the border of Galicia. The pouring rain made us cut our excursion short from 4 days to 3, we met a tripped out Portugese Gandalf who lived in the park which capped off our memorable time.