I’ve been sitting here all day trying to think of what I can say to sum up my trip as it comes to an end. I still have a million more posts to write about our adventures; time just flew by. And yet here I am without words. All of the places and people and views and moments are flashing through my mind on a continuous reel forcing me to relive my time in Colombia.
Despite having lived in California for 3 years, I never went surfing. It always sounded like a cool idea, but I just never got around to it. I finally got the opportunity in Portugal for a free half lesson. Apparently half lessons are a thing…
(In case you’re curious, this lesson came from a fair where I had to take a ‘surf quiz’ to try to ‘win’ a free lesson. I didn’t even know what the phrase ‘hang 10’ meant and received total score of 2/10. I still got the free lesson. They were giving them away)
I had the option to go early in the day with the kids, or to hang out for a few hours and go later with the adults. In a moment of panic I chose the kids.
I was nervous and alone and just wanted to go and get it done with. However, if I had known the coach was going to make us run and warm up on the beach and that all of the kids’ (about 8-12 yrs old by the way) parents were going to be watching, maaayyybe I would have chosen to wait.
Now let’s keep in mind that despite years of ballet training, I am as awkward and clumsy with the best of them when it comes to day to day life. Step 1: put on a wet suit. Step 2: Carry a long surf board across an extremely long and extremely windy beach and get it in the water past all the huge waves crashing into shore? haha riiiight.
I am surprised there is even an ocean left considering how much of it I swallowed or inhaled that day. Sometimes, it was not even because I fell off my board. Sometimes, it was because I was waiting for a wave to pass and it ended up being more massive than I expected and so it tried to drown me. I felt like an idiot. A lot.
I did however actually manage to stand up a few times. I get it now. Surfing is addicting. I always wanted one more wave no matter how tired my muscles were.
After a few more hours (and a slightly less awkward than I expected experience of taking off my wetsuit), the surf company dropped me back at a bus stop so I could catch a ride back to Lagos. And me being my awesome self forgot it was Sunday and that buses don’t run as often sooo I ended up waiting 3 hours by the side of the road…
It was cold and while I was listening to my ipod I started dancing to stay warm. Sometimes I was doing the lip sync for a music video. Sometimes it was contemporary modern. The cars driving by were not impressed.
Overall it was a good day. I want to go surfing again with out a doubt. If anything I have to get one of those mandatory ‘Look at Me Next to a Surf Board’ pictures that I didn’t get my first time around because I was too embarrassed to ask.
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 Moustache, someplace 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.
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.