Tag Archives: Take it Slow

Goodbye, Colombia

The moment after we jumped in the ocean on our first days’ ride where everyone was drying off in the sun daydreaming about what was to come.

The moment of arriving at our new camp site and all having rituals of setting up tents, jumping in the river, playing music and eating cookies.

The moment of reconnecting after a fantastic downhill where despite whatever else happened on the ride, in that moment we were beyond happy.

The moment of hearing a really good song and we’d all start singing.

The moment of hearing a really, really good song and we’d all start dancing no matter where we were.

The moment(s) of funny situations occurring from not understanding Spanish.

The moment of trying to act cool, but really we all wanted more dessert.

The moment of feeling anger and exhaustion and self-doubt and deciding to push through it for myself, and for my friends.

The moment of sitting around a campfire playing cards like this is just totally normal everyday life.

The moment of getting to the top of a climb or hike and feeling so tired and so awe-inspired at the same time.

The moment of realization that I’d rather be camping with these two people than in a hostel.

The moment of sunsets and sunrises.

The moment of realizing this is something I can, and want to do.

The moment of finally letting go.

The moment of knowing things about the people your with in a way that’s indescribable and then learning from it.

The moment of making friends with dogs more often than humans and not feeling bad about it (…duh it’s an adorable puppy why wouldnt we be happy).

The moment after moment after moment of feeling like all of this is too good to be true and there’s no way this is actually happening.

These moments and feelings are what I already miss fiercely about my first bicycle tour. I cannot express enough how extreme everything felt in every moment; the good and the bad.

I’d like to thank the academy, my travel companions, everyone I met along the way and most importantly, Colombia for this amazing trip. My heart is full and my head is light as I head off to my next adventure.

The Magic of Minca

Having been on tour for about a week at this point, Team Siempre Perdido made their way to Minca; a small town up the mountains about an hour drive outside Santa Marta for some much desired R&R. We stayed at a hostel called Casa Elemento. An oasis in the mountains. A place to rest tired legs and exhausted bodies.

This hostel is known for its massive hammocks. And by that I meant three different hammocks fit about 12 people each and hang off of the side of the mountain. They have a wooden deck that leads out to one and that’s where we three sat for about three days.

imageIt gave us the best view of the valley, straight to the ocean. Everyday at least once we would be completely engulfed in clouds. The bar had local beers (Happy Toucan and Happy Jaguar. Yum). The bathrooms were what we call “a loo with a view”, which had open walls to enjoy the nature. And our meals were family style with everyone at the hostel mowing down delicious food. And after long days of sitting, we needed our nourishment.

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Loo with a view!

There is a hike you can take to some waterfalls. And to the local brewery. And in general, beautiful hikes anywhere you go.

But we did none of those. And I do not feel bad about it. I loved staying in one place. I loved the view and just spending the days in peace and reflection. I got some solid “girl time” with friends made at the hostel. I even played a little Cards Against Humanity.

Our second day at this hostel we were surprised to see our old friends, The Yucky Boys! Our paths surprisingly crossed again. It was great to let them know how we’d been doing since we spilt- how much lighter out bikes were and where we’d gone.

I was also surprised to run into someone from our hostel in Cartagena. He recognized me as the girl that asked him to turn the light off in the dorm at 11pm when he was trying to read. Four of us were trying to sleep, but he wasn’t happy at me for making him move to a common room. Sorry not sorry. Good to see you again, buddy.

At night I heard what I later learned were howler Monkies one night far off in the distance. We saw crazy cool looking birds. And one morning we had a large swarm of bees rise up in front of us, hover overhead for enough time for us to wonder if we needed to run for it, and then fly away. The sound of that loud buzz haunts me to this day.

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Anyways, those days were beautiful in their simplicity. We were still figuring out so much about bike tour, it was nice to take a break from all that.

 

Swing Dancing at Madame Moustache, Brussels

Making plans to use Couch-Surfing in Brussels for a few nights, there were not a large pool to choose from, but the message I got back from one guy had me sold:

“Hi Caitlin, I can only host you for 1 night because I am going out of town, but Tuesday is my swing dancing night is that ok?”

Swing dance in Belgium? Sure!

I left the train station and headed towards Madame Moustachesomeplace I recommend anyone to visit just for the atmosphere. It’s designed like an antique circus, freak show acts not included. A room was sectioned off with glass doors for smoking and there was a large wooden floor just for dancing.

My new host immediately bought me a nice beer and then led me out onto the dance floor. Did I mention there was a live swing band? Because there was, and it was wonderful. My host stayed with me for the first few songs to teach me the basic steps gradually getting a bit more advanced. Since I have been dancing since I was 8, I consider myself pretty musical and a fairly quick learner. However, it didn’t hurt that he was also a really good leader so I had to do was basically keep moving my feet…

There were all types of people there; old and young, beginner and very advanced. And for each song everyone changed partners. The young and advanced danced with the old; women danced with women; people who were very serious with people just there to have a good time. I always had a new partner and each time I clarified “I’m a beginner”, although I did have a few steps under my belt. There was no pressure. No embarrassment for mistakes. No time to rest. And no cares in the world.

Dancing like this, for fun, with no pressure and not trying to impress anyone doesn’t happen too often in the world of dance I grew up in. I’m used to the idea of competing with others around me, or trying to impress the teacher whether in class or auditions. This night I was free. It was bliss. I never wanted this night to end.

At one point in the night I did stop twirling to enjoy a beer so I could stand back and take it all in. Moments like these are not only the things I enjoy about traveling, but life in general.

How to Live in a Beach Town, Part 2

Whether you are there short term or long-term, to live or to vacay, please, PLEASE avoid these things:

1. No posting pictures of any of these things:

a- your feet in the sand
b- your hot-dog legs on the beach
c- a picture of yourself taken while lying down so no one can see your face
d- sunsets
e- your fruity drink with a sunset in the background. or just, at all

Why, you ask?

a- feet are gross. sand is sand. done and done.
b- stupid
c- stupid and narcissistic
d- **unless you can light it properly
e- a mojito is a mojito everywhere. it only looks worse with a horribly lit sunset in the back

To put it simply- no one cares.

2. Don’t wear the same sandals everyday. Tan lines, hellooooo

3. DON’T stand in the middle of the sidewalk. Ever. As a tourist and as a human on planet Earth. Move. To. The.  Side.

4. Don’t forget to eat ice-cream at least once a day

5. Don’t judge me for eating so much ice-cream. It’s summer and I’m on holiday.  Seriously.

Now check out the things you SHOULD do🙂

How to Live in a Beach Town, Part 1

1. Find an easy job. Few hours, or at least with very flexible hours. Make sure you have a good boss. Good location (ie as close to the beach as possible). The goal is to be able to enjoy as much time as possible doing beach town-y things. Hostels are nice.

2. Or don’t. Who needs a job anyways?

3. Buy appropriate clothes. Baggy, light, comfy clothing with variations from ‘bum’ to ‘bohemian’. It’s best to look as though you never had and never will have a ‘real job’.

4. Be vague about your life before this life and what will come afterwards. This helps to create your image of being a long time beach bum.

5. Get tan. If my Casper-white skin can get tan, yours can too.

6. Don’t be afraid to be your true, weird self. This is the perfect opportunity. All of your friends will probably be short term back-packers, so why not? Speak your mind, discuss your nerdy/guilty pleasures**, just let it all out.

7. Eat ice-cream. And lots of it. Just because I said so.

8. Lastly, and most importantly. Slow. Down. Appreciate where you are and how you got there. Your only agenda now is to enjoy the life your leading, so do it. Days spent doing nothing can truly be experienced since all you have to do any given day is, nothing. Drink a beer, read a book, TAKE A NAP and don’t feel guilty about how you spend your time.

**I’ve made a few friends recently by discussing Disney/Musicals which every time results in  sing-a-long sessions and the Song of Ice and Fire book series (Game of Thrones TV show for those that don’t know). I did yoga in the hostel common room. And I am constantly freaking out to guests over the book The Count of Monte Cristo at random times, and probably against their will, because I just think it’s so good.

Deciding to Work in a Hostel

I might not be the worldliest of travelers (just Europe and USA so far, woop!), but I’ve stayed in my fair share of hostels over the years. Along the way, I’ve met many people who have stayed long term in hostels for various reasons. Maybe they couldn’t find a flat in that city, maybe they just needed a break from traveling because they were fortunate enough to be able to take extended (as in many years long) trips, or maybe they are a wandering soul who decided to quit their Au Pair job and move to the coast and work in a hostel instead. *cough*

On my first trip to Europe I made friends with a few people who met each other because they had stayed in the same hostel for a few (…like, at least 6) months.

In my head I was all “whaaaa, that’s crazy why would you ever do that??”
Out loud I was all “Oh wow cool, that’s great”

I didn’t know that was a ‘thing’. Hostels to me where a temporary, cheap place to sleep while traveling, typically used by young people. And then I learned about people living in them (usually for slightly cheaper rates) and also that the people working there are probably doing a work exchange- free room/board for a few hours daily work. Whatever the reasons, I now understand why people do it.

I was very lucky in that in my travels I was able to find a hostel that was looking for summer workers. I came back to a place I knew I liked instead of venturing into the unknown. Hostels can vary drastically from how they are portrayed online and that worried me a bit (especially after my Au pair experience not going as planned).

Each hostel will be different, but some things to consider before deciding to live/work in a hostel:

-The location of the hostel. Is it in the city center or outside? Is it near public transportation? Is it in a city that you like? Maybe it doesn’t matter and you just need a place to stay. Cool. But if it’s a choice to work there, then make sure you will enjoy the full experience.

-Atmosphere. Party hostel? Small family, run hostel? Is there a bar inside or other common areas to socialize? Do the guests feel comfortable to socialize or does everyone stay to themselves? If it’s a place you haven’t visited before see if you can talk to present workers about their experience (maybe do that anyways).

-The Boss. Is it the owner or will it just be someone else like yourself who has just been there a while? Do they treat you like family for like a random, cheap worker? This might not matter so much if it’s short term, but for me I needed someone I could connect with. I’ve learned that the better my boss treats me the more willing I am to put in the extra effort. Work doesn’t feel like work to me (even the parts I don’t like) because my ‘boss’ is more of a friend and I want to be a part of her team.

-The exchange. Most hostels give room and board. Some will even pay! Buuuut do you have to stay in a dorm with the other guests? Or maybe you can be lucky, like me, and sleep in a little cave of a room with no windows or air. But hey, at least it’s my own space.

Check out these sites if you are interested. The response rate is not always the best, but if you find a hostel that seems worthy perhaps it’s best to just contact them directly.
http://www.hosteltraveljobs.com/
http://www.hosteljobs.net/

 

Bucket List Fail

I started trying to write a list forever and a half ago. Every few years I think I start to make a bucket list and never succeed to come up with more than just a few ideas. But here’s the real problem, I want to do everything and go everywhere and there is no way I can pick out all of the ‘best spots’ to do these awesome things.

Now that I have done some traveling I know that it’s no way to travel anyways. Waiting to check items off a list makes that such a focus of your trip that so much is missed along the way. So what if you’ve been to 60 countries? Did you REALLY experience the culture? Did you meet interesting people? Did you do anything more that click a few pictures at places the internet told you to go see?

When some one asks me what my favorite part of a trip was, I tell a story about the friends I made in a hostel…or the 60 year old Japanese couple I couch surfed with that made me an English breakfast…or the last minute trip to Morocco when my visa was about to run out…or the time I slept outside in Venice…and Valencia when I couldn’t find a place to sleep. It’s not about how many famous monuments I’ve seen.

Those amazing moments, the big adventure stories, they happened when I DIDN’T plan them. There was no list I looked at to dictate what I should do. Because if I didn’t do those things, I’d live with a twinge of regret that I couldn’t finish it. That’s no way to travel. Being present where you are and really paying attention to the little things is much more important. Just try not to be too much like me, in wanting to do everything I sometimes do nothing.

Even still, these things, my best memories and experiences, come from the unplanned and the unknown. The interesting characters, random trips and lifelong friends I’ve met, how can I put them on a list? Impossible. So make some itineraries, maybe even stick to them, but don’t be afraid to change those plans and do something new. And no matter what, try to be as present as possible because there are great memories everywhere you go.