Words To Travel By

“Buy the ticket, take the ride.”  -Hunter S. Thompson

“Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go.  But no matter, the road is life.” -Jack Kerouac, On The Road

“When someone is seeking, it happens quite easily that he sees only the thing that he is seeking; that he is unable to find anything, unable to absorb anything, because he is only thinking of the thing he is seeking, because he has a goal, because he is obsessed with his goal. Seeking means: to have a goal; but finding means: to be free, to be receptive, to have no goal.”  –Siddhartha

“To put it into so many words, to define it, was to limit it.”  – Tom Wolfe, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test

“If our lives are dominated by a search for happiness, then perhaps few activities reveal as much about the dynamics of this quest-in all its ardour and paradoxes-than our travels.”  – Alain de Botton, The Art of Travel

“What we have in common with others can loom larger than what separates us.”  – Alain de Botton, The Art of Travel


Feast Your Eyes On These…

Perhaps the next best thing to actually being able to travel is reading a great book about it.  Second only to first-hand experience, being sucked into a book that makes you want to pack your bags and get the heck outta dodge is simply a fantastic feeling.  Here’s a list of what I believe to be some great reads all centered around my favorite hobby…hope ya like it!

The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo

This is one of my all time favorite books.  I’ve read it multiple times and during each stage of my life it means something totally different to me.  Highly recommended…it’s such a beautiful story.

The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe

Had I not read this book during my time abroad, I would have probably interpreted it as a great book about a drug I have no experience with during a time period in American history which I long to know more about.  However, for me this book was as much about traveling as it was about anything else.  It was all about the experience and groups of strangers coming together and uniting over a common interest.  Strangers who became friends and stuck together,  traveled together and experienced together.  I couldn’t help but relate all of this to my own life but in a more sober sense.  Really, a fantastic book.

On The Road by Jack Kerouac

Another classic travel read.  This book totally made me want to travel via hitch hiking.  I wish we (in the USA) still lived in an era where this was so widely accepted.  I haven’t read too many books about traveling in my own country of residence, but this one quickly claimed a spot on my “all time favorite books” list.

The Rum Diary  by Hunter S. Thompson

I have yet to actually read this book because it isn’t available for download on the Kindle (best non-human travel buddy ever!), but  It will  be my first literary purchase once I return to the States.  My friend was reading it during one of our trips together and lets just say it shaped our entire experience (and beverage choices) in Ibiza.   I can’t wait to get my hands on this book!

The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton

I am currently reading this book as it was recommended to me via Twitter.  I have barely begun but am already sucked in.  It is written as a collection of essays divided into five parts (Departure, Motives, Landscapes, Art, Return) in which the author is investigating the reason for why we travel. It’s gonna be a good one!

Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide To The Art Of Long Term World Travel by Rolf Potts

This one is also on my “to-read” list.  I am a little nervous to read it until I know I am ready to drop everything and skip the country again.  Not that I would need persuasion, but apparently this book is a good one for those needing the extra push to jump the pond.  I’m intrigued…

The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

I remember reading this book a few years ago while I was studying in Madrid.  Hemingway spent a considerable amount of time in Spain throughout this life, and this story is centered around his experiences in the northern part of the country.  Truth be told, there isn’t a book by Hemingway that I didn’t enjoy, but this one was so easy for me to identify with.

Through The Language Glass: Why The World Looks Different In Other Languages by Guy Deutscher

I actually picked this book up on a whim while I was in Amsterdam.  I saw it in the window of a bookstore and ran in and purchased it without giving it a second thought.  I still have yet to read it, but this topic is something I have thought about CONSTANTLY since I have been learning a second language.  It is all about how our world is shaped and perceived by the language we know to describe it.  It makes total sense, really.  I often have a hard time translating things from Spanish to English or vice versa.  Many times something can make absolutely perfect sense to me in Spanish, but I have no idea how to say it in English (weird, right?).  I’m not saying everyone will be interested in this book…but I for one cannot wait to read it!

What’s on your list?

You Might Be Traveling If…

1.  You haven’t gotten a haircut in over six months.

2.  You dream in 2 or more languages on a regular basis.

3.  You can make an entire week’s worth of meals out of 5 euros.

4.  All of your clothes have holes in them.  All of them.

5.  You can sleep anywhere, under any circumstances.  Bus, train, plane, couch, chair, light on, music on, outside, on a bench…

6.  You no longer care about “making plans”, you just…go.

7.  You truly understand the meaning of the expression “The best things in life are free.”

8.  You no longer stress out about fitting ALL of your liquids into 3oz bottles and one tiny plastic bag.

9.  You know how to handle the unexpected.  Like when you accidentally get off the train at approximately midnight somewhere outside of Budapest and there is nobody who speaks English to help you.

10.  You never stop thinking about traveling.

Hostel Love

Now that my travels are nearly over I thought it would be fun to do a roundup of some of the best hostels I’ve stayed in this year. Generally speaking, I’ve never actually had a “bad” experience in a hostel.  All of them have been pretty good to me…with the exception of London maybe. Let’s just say that 16-bed dorms are not my style.  Now as a rule I tend to not book anything with more than 8 beds in a dorm…6 is ideal….4 is rare. Also, if there is a bar on site that’s usually a good sign.  And as for location…turns out it isn’t everything…don’t be lazy, exercise is a good thing.

Here goes!

1. Snuffle Backpacker Hostel.  [Brugge, Belgium]

Liked:  The friendly staff and the bar that was always filled with locals.  Cheapest beers in the city!

2. Mellow Eco Friendly Hostel.  [Barcelona, Spain]

Liked:  The eco-friendliness, cleanliness and overall atmosphere.  The staff took us out one night and showed us some really fun bars which was awesome.  Oh, and the giant paella.

3. Aventura Hostel.  [Budapest, Hungary]

Liked:  The proximity to the train station, the themed rooms, and the extra large trunks (instead of lockers) to put your stuff in.

4. Goodbye Lenin Hostel.  [Krakow, Poland]

Liked:  The staff, the bar, THE PRICE, the retro decor and the breakfast.
5. Wombats City Hostel.  [Vienna, Austria]

Liked:  The lounge area, private bathroom and fizzy vodka shots at the bar.

I’m definitely going to miss staying in hostels once I leave Europe.  They are all so unique and have so much character.  It’s always a surprise when you walk in…you literally never know what you’re going to get, or who you’re going to meet.  It makes me never want to go back to boring cookie cutter hotel rooms…gag.

Hipsy Gippy Rum Rum [Ibiza]

Oh, Ibiza.  How I love you so. 

I don’t know what else to say besides that Ibiza is, on all accounts,  my kind of island.  After doing some research, my friend Carolyn and I knew we were going to love it, but this tiny little Spanish island completely blew our expectations out of the water. 

We went with a mission:  Playa Benirras, AKA “the hippy beach”.  We booked the closest hotel to the beach which was in the Port of San Miguel (beautiful!), and set out on a couple of wild adventures to find our way there.  One included a failed attempt at mountain biking on the highway.  In theory this would have worked, but we didn’t make it very far before realizing that the hotel offered “free” bikes for a reason.  They were totally janky pieces of you know what.  So, we ditched the bikes and decided to hike it.  After hearing it was a 45 minute hike up and down steep hills, we gathered our supplies (trusty backpack), strapped on our sneakers and hit the road.

 After hiking for maybe 25 minutes, we made it to Playa Benirras…our Mecca, if you will.  We spent the day lounging on the beach, sipping coconut rum through licorice straws (…what?)and found out that we needed to come back the next evening to experience the hippy-drum-circle-dance-party.  Done and done.

Then Sunday came…..beautiful Sunday.  We made it back to the playa around 6pm and enjoyed a gorgeous evening of bongo drums, dreadlocks, dancing, and one fiery sunset.  I kid you not, this experience was probably one of the most unforgettable of all my travels so far.  I highly suggest it. 

Long live the tree hugging hippy liberals.  Peace!

A Bit Of Perspective [Krakow]

Generally, when I return home from a weekend of travel, I am overwhelmed with a mixture of euphoria and enlightenment.  Last weekend, however was a little different.  Throughout the course of my experience here, I have done and seen many things I never in a million years imagined I would do.  Like go to Morocco and camp in the Sahara Desert, for example.  Or bathe in a Hungarian bath house in Budapest.  Mostly, I never in a million years thought I would visit Auschwitz Concentration Camp.  But that’s exactly what I did last weekend in Poland.

When you take a trip centered around visiting one of the world’s most horrific sites of human genocide, it’s hard to return feeling like you’re on top of the world.  Rather, it was a weekend filled with intense feelings of sorrow, disgust, and anger.  Walking through the camp was like being trapped inside a nightmare.  I couldn’t stop thinking about all of the terrible things that had happened in the exact spots where I was walking and standing only decades ago. 

What you have seen, read and learned over the years is, of course, only part of the story.  Seeing in real life the pictures, which were more like mug shots, of  the men, women and children that arrived to the camp along with piles of shoes,  eye glasses, suitcases, and even hair that had been shaved off by the Nazis was bone chilling.  Walking through the dingy basements of the buildings and viewing the tiny cement “standing cells” where four prisoners were kept at a time and left to either suffocate or starve to death made me feel sick to my stomach.  Looking at the exact tool that was used to tattoo the prisoners upon arrival, and then imagining how brainwashed a person has to become before forgetting their own name and replacing it with a tattoo was something I couldn’t even grasp.  The worst, however, was standing inside the same gas chamber where thousands of innocent people were forced to strip naked, and then poisoned to death.  It was absolutely horrifying.

Of course, aside from Auschwitz, I  very much enjoyed my time in Krakow.  It really is a beautiful city, and we found the people to be extremely friendly and open to travelers.  Visiting Auschwitz was heavy, to say the least.  But sometimes gaining a little perspective on your life and the world comes in a hard pill to swallow.

I took the following pictures during my visit to the camp.  Please view at your own discretion. 

"Work will set you free"

"The only way out of Auschwitz"