The awesomeness and fear of the simple life

Long time no write.

But I mostly only write when I feel I have something to say. If I´m 100% honest I SHOULD have written a lot in the last year because there is a lot to tell. Two Travel Summer Universities with AEGEE, the best way to travel cheap, have fun and make friends, and the rest alone, making friends or visiting old mates on the way. And that was just the beginning of this summer.

Before that I worked for over 8 months to remake my savings, re-organize my life and organize my material “things”, what did I need, what was superfluous. It was an adventure! I look back now on the hard work to save up the money and all thoughts that were going through my mind, and I could´ve written a book.

Maybe someday…

But now I´m in one of those Australia moments. If you don´t know what an “Australia moment” is, here goes the bullet summary. I arrived to Australia skinned, no money. I lived on the streets searching for a job until an old man saved my sorry ass and let me sleep in his cockroach ridden jeep (he also gave me a huge coffee and peanut butter sandwich every morning!).

Those days were tense. I lived on the bare minimum and felt immensely happy for every unexpected helpful piece of information or bit of food that I was given, every new friend or contact that I made. But the possibility of my near Default was always hanging over my head, the axe that was always about to fall, if only one thing went wrong.

But I got through.

And now, again, I´m in a stressful race against my bank account. I must find a job in Prague, Berlin or Vienna, and quick! The only things I can do is send CV´s, talk with people and KEEP MY EXPENSES LOW!

It´s an exciting and scary moment at the same time. You have to check every dime (Cz Crowns in this case) and try to be imaginative and resourceful to not spend more than you need. Find alternatives and keep your hopes up.

It is a great moment to “clean” my body after so much traveling with young AEGEE people. Drinking, eating, no real exercise and…well…you know… I needed some time to just drink water (no vodka), eat healthy and calm down on the parties. And here I am, drinking only water, eating healthy (vegetarian experiment volume 2), doing exercise and, for the moment, not participating in Prague´s awesome night life.

The best thing is the feeling of freedom and opportunities. The worst, the stress about the dwindling savings and nervousness of thinking: “what if I run my money down to 0 and still have nothing?!”

Ups and downs. And in each of these days I´ve gone from “this is Epic, what an adventure” to “what the F*CK am I up to? Who do I think I´m tricking. This is not going to work..” And back up again and back down again.

I decide my days as they go. I have in my mind the possessions that I own. My backpack and all that is in it. There is nothing more than that and some numbers on a bank account. It´s tricky but it´s a feeling that I think most people won´t have in their lifetime. We are taught to have everything fixed and assured, planned and saved. The world hardly seems ready for this kind of life.

But it sure makes people doubt. Me, the first. I´m not bolder or braver than most. Like I usually tell friends. In order to do this you have to either be super brave (which I think I´m not specially), a raging idealist or a bit loose in the head, if you know what I mean…

Am I the only person who has these kind of doubts when traveling alone? I sure hope not! This is so scary, but I remember the feeling when I finally landed a job and thought back upon all these doubts and fears.

p.s. long story short. 560e and counting down….

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88 days a slave

Before someone gets all fired up for saying the word “slave”, relax, I don’t mean it literally. Now that that’s clear…

I’ll never say “this is the worst job I’ve ever had” again!

That’s probably one of the only good thing I can find of this experience as an expendable use-and-throw-away farm worker in Oz. What an experience? Yes. What a great experience? Well….
Working on farm work here in Australia puts you in the uneasy situation of being bullied and lied to be farmers and by “working” hostels alike, and having no other option but to shut your mouth, roll your eyes, and press on.  We are getting tricked and pushed around, nobody to defend your interests. It’s quite impressive what farmers can do to you when you NEED a job for 88 days and they can decide your pay and if you work or not and when.

The farmer that we work for has told us he treats backpackers as mushrooms: keep them in the dark and feed them shit. That is, don’t let them have info on what’s going on and what to expect and treat them like a cheap expendable work force. And with a broad smirk on his face.

I hope not to generalize all too much but through my own experience and that of friends and people I’ve talked to I think it’s fair to say that you are treated as shit. You are promised a higher salary, more hours and better conditions than you will get 99% of the times, and if you complain you get kicked out. No reasons given nor pay. Just from one moment to the other you are on the streets with your back pack and the little you saved up.

Days go by here without you really knowing. I mean, I’ve been here about 9 weeks already and I can hardly make high lights. Days just come and go. You work. You are off. Wake up early. Dress up in your smelly dirty clothes and go work under the sun for X hours. “Smoko”, 15 minute water break. Lunch break, 30 minutes. Come back. Shower. Cook. And then just be too tired to do much more.

On free days things get a bit livelier. We just drink our boredom away as soon as the bottle shop gives us the chance. Sad but true. I can understand why there is such a high rate of alcoholism in this town!

Days come and go. Again. Stand up. Repeat. Tomato picking. Pulling plastic. Planting tomatoes. Getting called “euro slaves” by the boss. Picking tomatoes. Another guy kicked out for complaining. Restart. Shower. Pasta for breakfast, lunch and dinner, again. Another day goes by. New guys. Planting today. Are we working tomorrow?! Repeat.

The great part of all this: I’ve met some awesome people. Great friends, trench friendships. Suffering together rallies all the people up against the OTHERS. Maybe some will even be friends for life. As you can imagine, you get very close to the people you wake up and eat with every day, specially if you are pushed into the shit together. The hostel life is a cocktail of gossip, ping pong matches, game of thrones episode nights and getting off our faces with rum and whine.

I’ll probably remember how this is the only part of my Southeast Asia-Oz trip that didn’t really work out as I expected (well, this AND almost killing myself on that damn motorcycle in Thailand).

I planned to come here, assure myself a second year VISA, make a good amount of money and be able to bring a lot of that cash back to Spain to pay things off, buy a few gifts and have money for a new start.

But here I am, just 3 weeks from leaving, still quite broke. I just have a great tan and lost some kg. I still look homeless because of my beard challenge and always having dirt under my nails.

But, truth be told, if I get back to Spain alive, in one piece, without needing to sell one of my kidneys I’ll be more than happy. Soon I’ll be back to living off of little and making the most out of my limited options. Back to the exciting day-to-day living and not knowing where I’ll sleep the next day!!!

So I guess if 90% of your trip unwinds in your favor and only a couple of things, though important, don’t, you should still be quite happy. What the hell! I’m feeling great! I wanted to try this and make some extra dollars to be able to extend my trip just a little longer. And I am, albeit just barely!

A new adventure is taking shape in front of me. And my best buddy, Pablo, will be traveling with me. How epic is that? We will be traveling hobos together.
Give me 20+ more days. Give me a bit extra cash to survive in SEA. Give me luck with the hitch hiking. LET ME CATCH THAT PLANE!

Get me out of Bowen and back into the click!

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Melancholic thoughts while living the dream

I’m living exactly the life I wished for before that hell of a flight to get to Thailand. Some of the years before this trip were just a preparation. A training. All leading up to trying to live up to what I thought I could do to live a simpler and happier life.

I trained myself to enjoy the little things more, to use more time for myself, to concentrate on my own well-being without the need of other people‘s recognition for it, to sleep less and live more, to buy only the very essentials after giving myself some days to think about if I REALLY need them, etc.

Hell, I even trained myself to live off of only the things that could fit in my backpack (100 items LINK) and eat less!!!

And now I’ve been part of a great team of young meditation enthusiasts for 15+ days. The most friendly, supportive and energetic people I’ve met. Then I’ve traveled around Thailand living the low cost/maximum fun idea. After that I spent 30 days living with the hill’s tribes from Burma(Myanmar) in the North of Thailand, surrounded by the Burmese Army, teaching English in the NGO and at the Public School.

I flew in to Australia with just a hand full of money. I’m more than surviving on it. I’ve only spent $70 in the last week in Australia. This, after spending  $50 the first day on one phone card. I’m living in an old man’s rusty 4×4, eating at a Cristian charity(yeah, I know a lot of people are going to use this one against me soon…), buying the absolute minimum I need, taking my showers at the beach shower and a looooong etc you will only be able to understand if you’ve ever traveled this way..

I’m living it up the best I can. I’m happy as hell. I’m damn proud of myself.

And still I cried like a little girl watching Ice age today when I skyped with my parents, back home, in Spain.

The more I pursue my dreams the more I know they are bringing me further from my parents and my family. I miss my parents to bits. I miss my older brother, even though we normally want to punch each other in the face every now and then. I miss my little brother like hell, even though I’d punch him and run for my life once in a while. I miss my dogs, even though, nah, I just miss them so much…

The more flights, buses and vans I take to go further around the globe the more I’m feeling I’m leaving a good part of myself at home, with my family. Happiness, while traveling, is also a mixture of sadness and missing people back home, buy knowing that you’ll someday be back and will be able to hug them and won’t be scared any more to tell them how you feel about them, because whily you move around you start to understand more and more that everything is temporary, and so are people’s lives.

The further I go the more I miss my family and am scared to push my travels too far and miss the chance to share some moments with them.

Traveling, I guess, gives me this mindset. I’m happy for what I’m doing. I’m traveling. That’s what I’ve always wanted. But I know, more and more, that the moments I spend with my family in the future will be more meaningful and sacred than ever. Traveling isn’t about leaving things behind. It shouldn’t be, I think. It’s about finding that “something” that you are looking for so that you can go back, be at peace with your soul, and enjoy your family again..while time lets you.

Crying doesn’t seem the most manly thing to do for a guy living almost on the streets but…screw you… some girl said it was a plus!

This one, these melancholic tears on the Coolangatta park, go out to my mother, father, odler brother, little bro, Bolo, Rita…and hell, even Sandalia, my Nazi-killer cat.

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Matches burn quick and bright.

A match burns quick and bright

I feel like a match. Matches burn desperately, quickly and then are burnt out and gone.

I’m going to begin the real adventure of my journey.

Now comes the hard part.

I’ve traveled around Thailand and had my fair share of party and fun as well as meditation and thinking. I’ve been able to fit a whole lot of things in these two months. From learning card tricks to running down a waterfall national park, from crashing with my motorcycle to spending days on end reading and meditating. From eating a scorpion to hitch hiking around without knowing where I’d be let out.

But now comes the big deal. A desperate stand-off between Australian prices and my crippled economy.

The chances of failure are big. I even had a nightmare yesterday about not having enough funds and having to raise the white flag.

Huge red numbers are all I dream about. I mean…”nightmare about”. Whatever.

Despite the chances of failure, doing it anyway make me feel nervous in a good way. It’s a long shot to believe I can survive in Australia weeks without a job when I look in my wallet. But this is what I knew I was heading for. A fuckin’ adventure, mate.

Like a match, I’ll try to burn slowly but probably will burn out much quicker than I imagine. I’ll have to use all those little travel tricks I’ve learnt to keep the fire burning just long enough to find a way to make money there. It’s going to be a real race against time!

Oh Spaghetti Monster, deliver me from Evil (Australian prices).

Raaaaaameeeeeeen

Action plan: don’t become a broke hobo.

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Whisky thoughts

And here I am…

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Living an experience I really wanted/needed. I’m sitting down on the grass next to the amazing lake near the village I teach English in. Just chilling. Reading a little bit and waiting for the whisky to wear off. This damn Hong Thong Thai whisky will make my meditation more like a roller coaster experience than an enlightening one. How long does it take for this damn whisky to get out of my system?!

If you are asking yourself “Whisky at 15h of the afternoon?!”. Well, it’s not ENTIRELY my fault. I hitched a ride to get to the lake from my village. The first car stopped and I got up in the back of the 4×4 with an old man.

He offered me whisky. I think in all countries it’s impolite to say no. So there is my excuse! But either I’ve become a pussy when it comes to drinking whisky or the old guy really is tough. I’ve only seen the same in an old man in the country made of alcohol, Polska.

Anyway. Long story short: still waiting until I stop feeling dizzy.

Back to the original topic.

the scenery really makes me think. Like everything lately does, I guess. Maybe it’s also because of listening to the “Inception” soundtracks. Or maybe because of the book I’m reading. Or maybe I just need a little more Whisky…or a little less.

Now I’m far away from “home”…wherever that is. But I’m not the only one traveling. Tons of friends are moving around now and don’t know when they’ll go back home. Some friends are even getting married in some months (gasp!) and might move somewhere else. Other people just slowly fade out of your life because of the distance or whatever.

Normally I’d feel very sad about this. Many of these people are good friends. But it’s normal. It’s just the way it goes. And I have to feel happy that one day they were a part of my life and they shared wisdom and experiences with me.

This doesn’t mean that I won’t try to visit old friends that are far away but there are some people that I will let go slowly. Our lives crossed each other’s path for days, months or years but our stories, for the moment, belong to the past.

I’m saying this in a happy/content way. Not sad. Happy as hell for having had them next to me, sharing stories and experiences and enriching each other’s lives.

Who knows, maybe the future will bring us to another point where our roads will meet again.

Thanks for the memories!

Aaaah. Now I feel better. Although…I might as well get another whisky with the old guy…?

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Living the Simple Life

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It seems that I’ve always been running around from one place to another. Instead of making one plan with one friend I always ended up having to magically divide myself up to catch up with all the plans I made with different people.

On a normal day I wanted to do sports, go to the Uni, cook lunch and dinner, eat while reading the newspaper or watching a documentary, read, meditate, study, watch one episode of a series in German, etc.  To that I have to add all the party plans and social life. I even pressed things into a day which are totally detrimental for each other like meditating or doing sports and then partying.

I never had time to rest and just sit down and chill. And if I suddenly did I just propped my time full of things I wanted to do. My friends and family have always told me that I’m not good at managing my time because I want to do everything and inevitably can’t make it.

I’ve thought a lot about how many times I’ve read about people who were very happy and didn’t have full agenda.

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The fields I worked in

They spend more time just chilling and living a simple life.

I wanted to try it out. Just see if it’s something that will EVER be possible for me.

So here I am now in the most rural part of Northern Thailand, Mae Hong Son province, on my very first work away volunteering experience. I’m living in a Burmese refugee town which was formed by hill tribe’s people who escaped their country during the military coup d’état and the following bloodshed. These people have not been recognized as refugees until just a few years ago by the Thai Government, making it more difficult to receive aid and citizenship.

The town, in European standards, is a little piece of nothing. The houses are half broken, there are holes everywhere, people live surrounded by all kinds of animals, etc. Everything seems old and dirty and about to fall apart!

But the people just sit down and chill. They are happy.

Yep, this sounds weird to any person from the Western world but the people here just sit down and wait in their miniscule shops while drinking tea and chatting for one or two customers to come by a day which will enable them to buy some food and more tea for tomorrow…aaaand that’s it!

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The Chinese Village

There seems to be no mindset of further time investment and hard effort to make more money to be able to invest more money and then again and again.

People just relax and spend time with their families and animals. The simplest life ever.

So I’m trying to get used to it. Inevitably I’m still finding many things to do that make this difficult but I can say that for the first time in my young adult life I have time to do NOTHING. Just sit down and relax.

It’s a new feeling.

I can’t say I fully like it yet. I need the running around, meeting people and noise. It’s difficult to live in a place where nobody speaks English and you are only surrounded by mountains and lakes (and the Burmese Army. Not very talkative folks.)

I can also learn of the varied Thai/Hill Tribe’s Men diet which consists of rice, rice and rice. And the 3 flavors they use in their dishes: spicy, uber-spicy and magma flavor.

I’d ask everybody who has a nervous hectic life to give this a try. Go somewhere where you are almost alone. Don’t bring your music or phone with you. If you don’t have access to the internet, better. After one or two days you will start to feel comfortable.  You will see that actually most of the time you spend on the computer is not necessary and you can chill and be happy with a book.

I’m doing what I wanted. After a meditation retreat and a re-intoxication program in Bangkok I wanted to have time to relax, meditate and see what I want to do with my life. I have a lot of time to think here.

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Only setback: you might have too much time to think.

Or at least I do.

-What the hell am I doing here?

-I have to get on with REAL life!

-I need a beer.

-I’m not making any money!

– Damn if I had my mp3 I’d go running for an hour!

-Why the heck am I not drunk partying in Koh Pi Pi?!

-I haven’t seen a woman in weeks. What do girls look like…?

You know. The usual.

But it’s definitely worth the try! You will see how many of those things you deem necessary in your daily life are actually not. You will learn to be more content with yourself. Your internal dialogs will have to substitute all those long hour conversations with your best friend. You’ll find out the meaning of being lonely and at the same time of being content with yourself and your life.

And you will find out what your priorities are. Suddenly you don’t feel like writing for your blog. You just feel like looking the beautiful sunsets over dim lightened rice fields and Swiss lakes surrounded by dark forests.

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Going from Euphoric to almost in the grave in .5 seconds

Going from Euphoric to almost in the grave in .5 seconds

14th of January.

I won’t forget this day in a long time. I hope more than a long time. I hope I never forget this day.

Today, as I was thinking of the awesome happy article I was going to write about how I really felt alive while driving the motorcycle on my trip back from my VISA run in Pai, I almost fucked up my life.

In the middle of the happiness and euphoria, listening to music and looking at the beautiful scenery, while feeling like Rossi, my front wheel skidded on a patch of dirt on the road while doing a sharp curve. Faster than I could react consciously my body did it for me and made me correct my position to balance the motorcycle from falling on its side at full speed.

But, fuck me sideways, I “corrected” the course towards the metal wall thing that limit the roads on the sides. I hit the brakes as hard as I could and was able to avoid becoming the human cannon ball. But crashing was inevitable. I was already too close and going too quick. I don’t know what hit the ground first but for a couple of seconds I was suspended in the air screaming “shiiiiiiiiit!” before the motorcycle and I hit the floor again.

…..
…….
………

What the hell just happened?! In just .5 seconds I skidded, corrected my crashing course, hit the brakes, and flew a couple of meters while my loyal motorcycle came flying right behind me.

For a moment the adrenaline took control of me and I jumped up and ran to the motorcycle. Kill me please! The hand break had been torn off. And the right mirror. Shit, the left one too! Oh man! Oh shit! And the thing you put your foot on on the right side. Crap, the left one too!? And wait… why is the wheel looking to the right if the steering system is looking straight forwards? Oh,…crap.

And then I suddenly felt the pain in my left knee and felt it was wet. I let myself fall to the ground and checked my jeans. Almost unscathed. But my knee hurt like hell. I pulled the jeans up and saw that I had an ugly cut which looked quite deep. I checked my head and didn’t feel any blood. Checked all around. Some burns and some skin ripped off but almost perfect!

Ok. Back to reality. What has just happened?! I looked at the road and saw the patch of dirt.

“It was you! Fuck you dirt!”

And then the world fell on me. Oh my God. This is so crazy. This is humiliating. Oh God, how much money is this going to cost?! How am I going to tell my parents!? How am I going to get the motorcycle back?! How am I going to pay this?! How, what, why?!

And then it struck me. Wait. I only hurt my knee and damaged a motorcycle. I was 1 meter away from the edge of the cliff. What’s down there? A 3 meter fall. Wow. And the motorcycle almost launched me like a catapult! Or I could’ve fallen under the motorcycle when it slipped on the dirt patch.

What the heck! I could’ve EASILY lost a leg or an arm on the metal structure or have been catapulted to a pretty sure bone-breaking fall on the road or down the steep fall. And the more I think of it the more I see I could’ve died there. If I had hit the brakes just a little later or hit one of the metal columns of the metal limiting structure I could’ve finished my life on the spot.

Suddenly, in a very weird way, I felt calm. This seems crazy and I’m sure that if I had seen this situation from outside I would’ve thought the person looking calm next to a destroyed motorcycle and bleeding from his knee was nuts. I felt very dizzy (shit, did I check my head for damage well?).

A very uncomfortable nervous feeling was running through my body as my brain started calculating the costs of repairing and my mind told me “hey, this could’ve been 100x worse!”

Now I’m back at the school. I got here by hitch hiking (one country extra to my list!). I had a great lesson with the kids making a girls vs. boys competition in remembering words and expressions from the previous classes. I had an awesome dinner and a comforting conversation with Ten who told me to check my body again. Adrenaline can make you not feel some small bruises that might need checking!

I got a firm friendly handshake and huge smile from my mentor, Ben, when he saw me. He knew that I still needed to shake it off so he calmed me down, smiling all the time, while he said : money to repair a motorcycle you can always find. But all the money in the world can’t give you another life. You should be happy and thankful to God for being here. You are a lucky one!

Although I had been thinking this already on my own, hearing it from a person I look up to so much was a great. I finally calmed down while he laughed and told me:

You are alive and almost unhurt. The motorcycle is being repaired. Be happy with me for the opportunity of being here drinking tea, now, in good health!

Now I’ll have to see what it costs to repair the motorcycle and if my knee is actually ok. This is a big fuck up in my tight budget but I’ll have to manage. And I’ll forget about sports for a few days. And motorcycles. Just for another few days.

Now let’s just go to sleep and be happy for not being in a hospital or a morgue. This must be one of those life changing moments! Yay! I always wanted to have one but didn’t know how they occurred!

Let’s see if tomorrow I have a vision or some paranormal shit. Maybe I’ll finally find faith in something! Maybe I’ll talk about this moment in the future with my friends and kids. Maybe I’ll tattoo “I hate dirt patches” on my arm or declare a holy war on dangerous roads, or motorcycles.

Or maybe I won’t learn anything and take this as just another experience that life gives you. Just maybe this will only be an anecdote of a once-young and reckless Rafa that almost got himself maimed or killed on the crazy roads of Thailand.

What it will be only time will tell.

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