Monday, June 27, 2016

is traveling a curse?

In 2012 I met a German guy that said "you are one of the few permanent travelers that I know and the only one from Latin America". I felt proud of that, very proud.

 I always thought of traveling as a blessing. As something not many have the chance or the courage to do it. 

That has changed...

Lately I have been finding out about some upsetting things that made me changed my views about my own travels. 

It all started to change when I went back home from Latin America in 2012. It was very intense, not what I wanted and definitely now what I expected. I spent a few months back home and that made me realize that I wanted to take things slower. Staying in one place and get to know the environment surrounding me. It worked and I loved it.

I got that part sorted. I think I have been successful when it comes to that. 

But there is one more important thing that long term traveling has prevented me from: to have a normal life and a routine and to have a partner. 

Yes, I escaped from that kind of life when I started this journey but after almost 7 years I can honestly say that I am tired. I still love hitchhiking but I don't feel the rush I used to feel  a few years back. Now I always get anxious when I'm about to start thumbing.

It always prevented me to have a partner. Traveling can be very romantic, I could brag about all the places I have been. But when I met someone special and she has to go or I have to go is when it stops being romantic.

Friends can also influence a lot saying things like "you don't have future with him, he's a traveler and eventually, he will end up leaving you".

Or it could be me the one actually leaving. Which has also happened in the past. 

I just did a small week-long trip. No hitchhiking, only buses and ride sharing. It was definitely more comfortable and faster (I didn't have enough time to hitchhike anyways) but I still got tired.

All in all, I think I'm ready to hang the backpack. Maybe this is just a temporary phase.  I don't know if this a common thing when you've on the road for so long. Only time will tell...

Thursday, May 19, 2016

where do I start?

I have been meaning to write something for the past (almost couple of) month(s), but where do I start?

Maybe I should start where I left off...

The long bus ride from Madrid to Lisbon. Ticket lady told me that the bus was full but it wasn't. Was a long ride to Lisbon and a short car ride to Ericeira. I was exhausted after the long flight and long bus ride but I've finally made it! I was in the place that will be my home for the season... who knows, maybe more?

Like many of you know already, I always have a hard and long time adjusting to new places. There had been exceptions but this have been the case lately. I arrived to Ericeira still in low season which made things even harder.

Ericeira was small fishing town. Still have a fishing industry but now instead of fishing the major industry is tourism. Ericeira is regarde to have some of the best surf the world has to offer. I'm sounding like a brochure.

It's smaller than Lagos therefore it doesn't boost the same amount of people. That's where I found the charm of this little town.  It's also home of one of only five World Surfing Reserves around the world. A couple of Kilometres from where I live there's a beach, Ribeira d'Ilhas that host regularly a date in the ASP World Tour.

The first month felt like a year. I barely knew people but that's changing now. I'm meeting more people. There were few guests I could interact with but is beginning to change. Slowly but steady.

A bit over a month ago, a intern started working so I have someone to talk to. At least in the mornings and a few weeks ago, a girl started working here as well,

Things are looking good. I have already found a few favourites: restaurant, pub, snackbar...

Like everywhere in Portugal, here is very cheap as well: beers for 80 cents! They're small but the feeling of paying 80 cents for a beer is unbeatable!!

I have been exploring the area so far. I have been to Cascais and Peniche. Other two surf spots in the country.  Cascais is nice, much bigger than Ericeira but nice. I've heard so much about Peniche and my expectations where so high about it, that once I got there, I was actually a bit disappointed but it not lived to the reputation I've heard it had. Maybe Baleal, not far from Peniche is nicer...

I have three goals for this year: learn how to surf, learn Portuguese and learn how to code.

Let's see how it goes...

I leave you now with some photos I've taken since I arrive.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Home is where the heart is...

I met up with some friends to go to a flamenco show? yup, I avoided flamenco my entire stay in Granada (Andalusia is its birthplace) and I ended up going to a show in my native country... oh well. I was impressed one bit, I don't like this kind of music but then he sang about Albayzín... my old neighborhood when I lived in Graná. Hearing the words about Albayzín brought a smile to my ugly face. Happy days.

Since the "lovely" people at the Mexican embassy didn't want to give me the stupid visa to fly from Cancún and since I was not going to book another connecting flight I had to come up with a plan B. Come up because like most plan Bs, they don't exist until you need them. 

I left JH more than a month before and had been working three times a week in a super nice and cozy pub that goes by the name of Whiskey Den. But the time had come. I had to leave. I needed to leave. It was not all fun and games in these 5 months in Guatemala. Had ups and downs but overall was nice. Met nice people. Met not so nice people, unfortunately.

My aim for the day was to get to either El Tunco or San Salvador. I was leaning towards the beach as it would be easier to leave from there than from the city. 

I probably wrote about this before but I cannot remember 100%. Even if I did, it was most likely in 2012. Hitchhiking in Latin America is super different to HHing in Europe. In LatAm you just need to look like a foreigner and put your stuff in front of you and that's it. My level or paranoia grew quite a bit during my times in Guatemala to the point that I was refusing many rides because I didn't feel confident enough to get inside the car. Surprisingly enough, I felt very confident in Nicaragua but I'll get to that soon.

I had to routes to choose from: the Panamarican Highway that would get me to San Salvador but I would have to cross Guate City with all my shit so... no.  The other route was to leave Antigua towards Escuintla and take highway CA2 towards El Salvador. It was a bit longer but nicer views and it would take me through El Tunco where a friend of mine was waiting for me. 

I chose the latter route.

It was 8 in the morning. I stopped at McRubbish for a coffee to go. By 8:30 I was already on my way. First and second rides came easy. By noon I was about 50 Km from the border. Unlike other times that I don't have a time frame I wanted to be in Nicaragua for the weekend meaning that I had to sleep that night in El Salvador. I was quite in a hurry given I had to take a stupid flight that would take me from Costa Rica to El Salvador to Colombia to the Dominican Republic. Success! By early afternoon I was in El Tunco. Next day's destination: León, Nicaragua.

León was not that far away, less than 500Km but that included two borders. Hitchhiking in El Salvador was a breeze. While I was in the queue for the passport check in the Honduras side of the border, someone offered me a shuttle bus, straight to the Nicaraguan border for 6$. "What time are we leaving?". "Now". That guy had a different concept of time than me. That now was almost two hours later. He was waiting for the bus to fill up. All the passengers agreed to paid 8$ so we could leave straight away. Yay, I was on the way to Nicaragua. The van was overheating so we stopped in some town in the middle to fix it. Yay, we lost almost another hour.

I knew that my tattoos would get me questions asked. Everything was fine until I said I was from Guatemala. Before: "gringo", "traveler", "welcome to Nicaragua". But everything changed the second after I said where I was coming from: "do you have more tattoos?", "what do they mean?", "are you in a gang?".

Finally I was in lovely Nicaragua. I stayed in a nice little hotel owned by an Andalusian guy, the name: Hostal Flamenco's...! León was nice. It was not like I remembered it but nice still. Nicaragua is quite cheap. I was craving for Gallo Pinto. I wanted to spend the most time in Nicaragua and the least in Costa Rica. There is a nice beach close to León, Las Peñitas. Then it was Granada. Not quite my Graná but still as nice as I remembered it. León was exactly the middle point between El Tunco and San José, Costa Rica. 

All good things have to come to an end. I needed to leave Nicaragua and somehow get to Costa Rica to take the flight to the DR. The flight was in the afternoon but I wanted to make it to San José the day before so I could check, double check and triple check everything.

A friend of mine arrived to Costa Rica the day before me. I wanted to meet with him so I went to the hostel that he was staying only to find out that he checked out in the morning. The hostel was overpriced (like everything in Costa Rica), not the nicest. It offered free coffee but it was only free if you ordered the, you guessed it: overpriced breakfast! The staff was far from being friendly: I was not shown the room, bathrooms, bar, anything! I found out what time was check out time through another guest. Horrible and expensive experience. I would've slept at the airport if only my flight was in the morning. 

Ahead of me were 18 hours of traveling, between flights and layovers.  I had to spend my last Colones in some overpriced coffee (3$!) because I couldn't change them into Dollars because they "don't have 1$ notes". First stop: El Salvador... where I was just a few days before! Two hour layover and a flight to Bogotá where I would spend the night at the airport. No point in going outside. Flight arrived at midnight and the flight to Santo Domingo was at 8 something.

 I had never been to the Caribbean. I didn't know what to expect. I had no idea about anything on the island. I knew it had amazing beaches and expensive all inclusives on those beaches. I arrived to Santo Domingo but the flight to Madrid was from Punta Cana, some 200 Km from the Capital of the Domincan Republic.

I had to no idea where to stay in DR. I completely forgot that it was Semana Santa so CS was a no no. Everybody was on holidays or already hosting other people. My older brother used to travel quite often to Santo Domingo a few years back so I asked him if he had contacts.

The DR has a lot of tourism, tourism made for rich people. There is no public transport to and from the airport. The taxi is about 30$ I've read somewhere that you could jump in inside a guagua (Dominican bus) and pay 1-2$ but lucky me, my brother still had some contacts in SD. That's how I had a driver waiting for me at the airport. The guy even held a sign with my name written in it! Never had that before happened in my life. I think it was the first time in the history of human kind that a driver was waiting for a sweaty and smelly backpacker. These people who I'm super grateful not only paid for the taxi but also for a small hotel in the old town part of the city. The hotel was really nice. Fancy, at least for me. I mean, for now. I've stayed in fancier hotels when I was younger and I was traveling with my parents but that was ages ago. I don't even remember when was this. I think I was still in high school...

I only had one night in DR. Or so I thought. I went out for dinner to a fancy restaurant and had a massive meal consisting in pasta. The restaurant was overlooking a very pretty square, everything was colonial, inside and out. DR was expensive, at least for me. Not for the flock of tourists that were drinking and eating everywhere.

The time to leave had arrived. I needed to take a bus to Punta Cana Airport. One thing caught my attention: From Santo Domingo to Punta Cana/Bávaro the bus stopped only at the Punta Cana airport, not the Santo Domingo. The same, coming back from Punta Cana, the bus would stop at the SD airport but not PC airport. What if you needed to get from one airport to the other? You either pay a taxi of you're fucked. I would've been fucked.

At this point I was not impressed at all about the DR. Well, at least not in good way. In Santo Domingo most of the people were rude and not nice. If I was standing in a queue someone would try to cut in the queue. When I was about to board the bus and was waiting for the driver to take my backpack someone try do cut the line!? for fuck's sake man, wait for your fucking turn, the bus won't leave without you stupid motherfucker...

I made to Punta Cana airport with plenty of time to spare. I had everything in order: I had the printed ticket to Madrid. I had a printer ticket out of Europe. I had my passport. I had everything... at leat I thought I had everything in order.

Dominicans are super racists: they had a queue for Latin Americans and one for non-Latin Americans. Finally I made it to the check-in counter:
- Where is your visa?
- I don't need a visa.
- Dominicans need a visa to get to Europe.
- I'm not Dominican.
- You will have to wait until the supervisor (decides to) comes here.
Ok, no worries. I don't need a visa, this will be solved quickly. Flight was at 21:15 and it was still not even 17:00. I still have time.

Well, supervisor showed up more than an hour later and confirmed what I was telling the ground personnel for the past hour: Guatemalans DON'T need a visa! Ok, with that out of the way she began the check-in. I have to say that I had already paid the 20$ in exit tax. "This is a one way ticket, where is your return ticket?". I showed a ticket from Belgium to Turkey. Let me talk to the supervisor (again). I talked to the arrogant and ignorant supervisor and she ignores me. She instead, take many people at a time to some room to ask them question because they suspected that their passports were fake! It was humiliating, I was sitting by a column while all the people were getting their boarding passes. I have to say that were a shitload of Spaniards on holidays taking that stupid plane. After about three hours and just before the plane was about to take off, that bitch tells me that they cannot let board the plane because the ticket is not valid. I try to reason with her that Schengen rules states that one need a return or onward ticket out of the Schengen area, not a particular country, that I could fly into Spain and fly out of Estonia if I wanted to. She doesn't know what Estonia is. Her ignorance is amazing. I mean, the level of ignorance she possesses is just unbelievable. She thought (and probably still thinks) that if a person flies to Spain, the return/onward ticket has to be from Spain because "Spain won't let out to go to another country to take another flight". I missed the flight. I tried one last time to reason with those idiots but there was another woman that was super upset. She was partially checked in but was not let board the plane. Her luggage was on the way to Madrid, she wasn't. FUCK YOU EVELOP. YOU SUCK! YOUR GROUND PERSONNEL SUCK! YOU ARE THE WORST AIRLINE! FUCK YOU AND GO TO HELL STUPID CUNTS!

I had to spend the night at the airport, obviously. I was too upset to even think about what I was going to do. I was stuck in the stupid Dominican Republic. I tried to get some sleep. I'll think of something tomorrow.

Morning came. I asked where I could eat something as there was only ONE restaurant in the fucking international airport! There is a shopping center about 10 minute walk from the terminal. I found a café to sit a loiter the internet. I ended up staying there until closing time. The ladies that work there were super nice. Specially one, Chavela. She gave me water without asking.  I was supposed to be in Spain Sunday morning, instead I was having a coffee still in the DR. Yeah, yeah I know. Why are you complaining, you're in the Caribbean, you're in paradise. Paradise? yeah, for rich people! I sent some couch requests to people near by but it was Semana Santa: every body was out or hosting someone already.

That whole Sunday I thought about what do do. I even thought to go back to Guatemala and send Europe to fuck itself. I was worn out. I was tired. I needed a shower. I changed tshirt because the other one probably (most likely) stunk. Went to the café again. Found another ticket, leaving Monday evening. I booked the ticket with the help of a good friend of mine. Fuck the ticket from Belgium, this time I had a return ticket to Guatemala. I was to leave the stupid island Monday evening at 22:10.

The time came. I showed up at the counter. Again, a queue for Latin Americans and a queue for non-Latin Americans... da fuq DR!? What's wrong with you? I gave my passport. The guy scanned it with some X-Ray/UV/IR device but that is not enough so he asks me for my ID. According to international law, the ONLY valid form of ID for a person in a foreign country is their passport. But I agree and gave my ID.  He scans it with the X-Ray/UV/IR device and finally give the OK. All's good. I've flown Wamos Air before and have no complaints of any kind before, why would I start now. Gave my passport and then I'm not in the fucking system!!! What the hell is going on for fuck's sake!!!??? Come on Wamos, don't let me down. I have high hopes for you, don't let me down.  Supervisor goes to two different terminal but this one is not a bitch, like the Evelop one. Everything's good. False alarm. I'm given the boarding pass. Everything is alright. I'm headed to the X-Ray machines and then to passport control. See you later suckers!!!

Not quite.

The police guy passport control man askes me were I was before. I'm confused and don't know the exact dates. He's testing me, he's looking at the stamps in the passport. He asks me where is my visa. For the millionth fucking time: I DON'T NEED A VISA!!! He then takes my passport to his supervisor. All this is happening when I'm trying to board out of the country, not getting in. The uniformed cunt says out loud, in front of me and other people: "I've always thought of Guatemalan passport as fake, I mean, look at them! they seem very fake to me". I said to myself: idiot. Then he asked me for my ID, which he liked more. While all this is happening the police guy passport control man is always looking angry and serious. Then another guy joins and ask where is the visa to what the uniformed guy says that Guatemalan don't need a visa. I'm nervous. He says that everything is OK. When we're about 1 meter from the control booth he called us back. "How much money do you need to get into Europe?". How the fuck should I know, a shitload that I don't have? I said 500€ minimum between cash and card, while showing my debit card. "OK, cool. I was just asking because not long ago there was a Colombian guy that wanted to go to Europe and didn't have any cash or card with him. I sent him back to Colombia". Hmm, I thought that at least I would get a free flight back to Guatemala instead of getting stuck on the island. Now, the police guy passport control man changed completely his attitude. Now he was smiling and even apologized for all that shit! I made it. Now I only needed to wait for a couple of hours more to board the plane and then 8 hours later I would landing in Madrid.

8 hours later I was landing in Spain but there was something that kept bothering me. I was in plane where half of the seats were occupied by Dominicans. There was probably a valid (and annoying) reason why DR is super tough in letting people board planes. Got to Spanish passport control. I gave my passport. Woman asked me if I had a return ticket to which I showed the ticket I was not asked to show leaving DR. Asked me where I was going to stay. I said hostels but the booking were in my mobile and the battery died. Stamped in. FUCK YEAH! I WAS IN!!

I didn't want to book the bus ticket to Lisboa just in case. I had to rush to the bus station. When I got there I bought the last ticket to Lisboa! It wasn't because during the whole ride no one sat beside me. More space for me.

I celebrated going to a café and bough tostada de tomate y café con leche. It was not the best that I had but I couldn't care less. I was back in Spain and by that time the next day I would be in Portugal, but that's for a different post.

That was the story of how I got back to Europe.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The King Of Bad Timing

I was told that I am a couple of years ago and this years it was confirmed... yet one more time.

The level of stress I have, even tho is high cannot be compared to what I was going through last year. 

Anyways, lately in Antigua everything has been very nice. Met some amazing new people that I get along super well,  like I know them for ages.  Found some friends for life, like the ones I made in Granada and Lagos. You know who you are, you won't get rid of me that easily...

Lately I have been lacking a lot of inspiration to write. Sometimes I have a little but then I read/hear something a puf! it's gone. Happened a couple of weeks ago and happened today again.

Fuck this shit. I can't write anymore. Sorry.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Light at the end of the tunnel...

I thought that things were getting from bad to worse. And when I thought there were going from worse to worst I saw the light at the end of the tunnel. 

I took a deep breath and I started running towards the light. Now that I'm getting closer, the light seems brighter and brighter. While things are still not optimal, I still have a few lose ends that need to be cut for good, what lays ahead of me looks promising. Very promising.

I have been able to sleep good since I don't work in the hostel. Although lately, I've had a lot of shit going through my mind and the lack of sleep made a not so welcoming come back.. yay!

Is the middle of February, 4 and a half went by super fast. I still haven't been to the Lake. It's become one of my top priorities to go there.  I have to go before I leave. Semana Santa is coming, I would like to go before it's full of people.

Not only I had almost no inspiration to write, suddenly I lost the little that I had.

There you go, this is the latest post. Enjoy, or don't.


Thursday, January 14, 2016

stupid visa problem strikes again...

I went to the Mexican embassy the other day to get the stupid visa to fly from Cancún back to Europe. I had one visa before but it was only valid for 6 months. 

I saw an ad on facebook of a company that can renew US visas. I took a look a it and just like I thought, it was very dodgy. But I checked the website of the embassy in Guatemala and indeed the visa can be newed if it expired no more than 48 months before. I'm still within that limit.  Last time I just send the passport to the travel agency along with the money (to pay for the visa) and got back my passport with a brand new visa.

Now, the process is the same as applying for the first time meaning that I have to ask for an appointment and might not be interviewed. Might.

For both countries, México and US I need to attach bank statements to the application. Bank statements that I don't have. Well, I do but they are from 7 years ago and the ones I need to show are from the three months prior. Mexican embassy told that I could go back with the stupids bank statements before noon. Of course I didn't. 

I was very disappointed and sad. I started to think of another way to get to Europe. I thought through Panama and the Dominican Republic but the flight from Panama to DR is double the price than the one to Belgium. 

Then to put the cherry on top of this disappointment cake, I received a message from my former boss in Portugal that I won't be working there anymore unless I have a working visa! For fuck's sake, is there a super natural power that doesn't want me back in Europe!?

Maybe I should go back to South America but then there is another problem: I need a fucking visa to enter Perú!!! And that is a huge country that could stop me from going to Bolivia, Chile and Argentina.


Tuesday, January 5, 2016

New Year

I promised that I was going to try to write more. This is me trying to deliver that promise. 

New year, new post, new crap.

It's been three months and 3 days since I got back to Guatemala. A few weeks went by and I already had the first visitor and in the following weeks a friend of mine whom I haven't seen since Roskilde 2011 is coming in a couple of weeks. A couple of more and a good friend from Kraków is coming! And I'm in the process of convincing a guy I met in Portugal to come to Guatemala. Yes Ricky, it's you!

Three months went by, I have been working for 2,5. The last time I was here, I also stayed for three months but I didn't work. I couldn't find a job. That added the melancholic depressive stage I was going through was not not good. Not good at all.

Things are different now. I do have a job. I can put my mind to other things. My mind can drift away from reality for a few hours and listen to travel stories. 

Once, my good friend asked me if I was envious of people traveling (when I was working in Tallinn). I said that I was not. Actually, guests were jealous of me when I said that I had been traveling for X amount of years.

I'm at the beach. I'm staying in a Surfhouse in the Guatemalan Pacific. Makes me wish I should have learnt how to surf in Lagos. I set myself the goal to learn how to surf when I go back. That and also to go kayaking, it was free for me to do it for fuck's sake!

I'm at the beach. I'm in Guatemalan Pacific. I shouldn't be in front of the laptop attempting to write. I should and go into the ocean. Hmmm, maybe not that but still, I should go to the beach and finish reading The Beach (for the second time). 

Yeah, I should to that. 

Small post but it's the first of the year and I wrote something last week meaning that if I continue at this pace, this year is going to be good for writing... I hope.

Happy New Years peeps!

PS. no beer or Vodka Juniors were used in the writing of this post. Instead, three cups of coffee and a healthy breakfast... That's a first!