The world is the perfect size to bring us together yet keep us apart

Long-term travel has long been romanticized by the likes of Elite Daily or the average travel blog.

And clearly, I agree. Travel is awesome.

I’m such a curious person and there are always more places to see, more things to learn, more interesting people to meet. I love the perspective travel can give you. However it also breaks my heart and I don’t see travel as the end game or the ultimate lifestyle.

And like any other lifestyle, it comes with both positives and negatives – and these aren’t often shown on the internet.

While in a fit of homesickness, I actually wrote a list of all the negatives or bad things that have happened to me since I’ve been away from home. However I don’t really want to subject anyone to that list in its entirety (especially without the positives), or dissuade anyone.

Instead I really want to share my most favourite, favourite, article about lessons learned from travel. (HERE IT IS).

Why is it my favourite? Because its absolutely real, I can relate to each point and I don’t feel that it is try to ‘sell travel’ to it’s audience.

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In a nutshell this guy, Mark Manson, travelled the world for five years and writes of the following five life lessons gained.

  1. Happiness is common – Human Dignity is not.
  2. Travel gives you a perspective on life, but limits your ability to commit to things.
  3. The best part of the culture/country is also usually the worst (Side note: Although not the point, I read that Spanish food is responsible for most cases of food poisoning in tourists not India!
  4. 4. The majority of the planet doesn’t care what you say or do (so just be who you are)
  5. 5. The more you travel the more you lose sight of who you are.

But please read the article! Mark Manson is much more eloquent, articulate and insightful than I am, and those points will make a lot more sense on his site.

2. Is the worst, yet the best.

I feel like I’m a tourist, transient in other peoples lives – getting to view theirs without really building my own. I love to get to know interesting people well, but conversely what I hate the most in the world are goodbyes.

I’m at a stage where I want to start working towards things, and building a life other people would be interested in. However I still want to see the world, and I’m both scared of the temporary and the permanent. I’m still torn – I’m trying to decide whether to go to Argentina and teach English or stay home and get a permanent job.

Anyway. I’m not sure what the point is. In my opinion travel isn’t the utopia, or end goal. Yet it is by all means fun, rewarding and educational (woohoo I feel educational is a cool word)

Despite this you may have to say goodbyes you dont want to say, or go to the dentist, miss more than one place at the same time, be unable to fully support friends/family or worry about money. Im not saying don’t do it – just don’t expect perfection.

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The first shower after 10 days is the best shower you’ll ever have

Sometimes when I’m acting ‘all professional’ in my current office work, I like to think about the time that I lived in an un-powered caravan and didn’t shower for 10 days. Other times I think about the times I hitch-hiked for groceries. Or any number of strange situations I shouldn’t attach my name to on the internet.

Haha. You people don’t know me. I’m even wearing makeup!  You have no idea…

NB: I would never voluntarily avoid showering for 10 days. Except in those cases where the outside temperature and the (deliciously chilled mountain) water is just above freezing and there is no way of getting dry.

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Deciding what to do the week before. I chose the most uncomfortable option

Back in October/November I decided that I would like to have the experience of living and working in Portugal as well as the experience of living on a farm. I was able to organise working on a Permaculture farm through Workaway, although this farm was also advertised on WWOOF (Willing Workers On Organic Farms). If you are looking for similar projects you are probably better off looking there.

The idea behind ‘WWOOFing’ is that one works for 4-6 hours per day on a farm in exchange for food and accommodation. This supplies a farmer with cheap labour yet, also allows for a ‘worldwide’ spread of (local) knowledge and ideas on organic and sustainable farming practises. As with all other work exchanges, it also allows for an excellent cultural exchange and is a means for budget travellers to travel longer and see places they wouldn’t otherwise be able to.

“Permaculture” is organic farming taken one step further. It is hard to find a simple definition on the internet, so I will try my best. It is an integrated whole-systems approach that works with, and involves people, society and nature to ensure the sustainability of agriculture. Was that clear? 🙂

Working hard

The particular farm I chose to work on was un-powered. I don’t mind feeling disconnected from time-to-time, so I thought this would be three weeks of labour and learning, with limited facebook access while eating very fresh, organic, vegetarian food. WORLDS CHEAPEST DETOX.

Yet I didn’t consider the real consequences of the lack of power before signing up.

No hot water. No light. No getting dry. No warmth.

I think I would have been fine if it had been summer rather than late Autumn.

Despite that I’m glad I did it. I’m all for diving into experiences head first, just to see how they turn out. If I hadn’t gone I wouldn’t be able to say I’ve done the following:

  • Showered in 5C water in 5C temperature, and then avoided showering for ~10 day

  • Gone on a hr long road trip for the sole purpose of paying for a hot shower
  • Slept in my ‘holey’ caravan with all my clothes on each night so I was warm enough to sleep (another ‘what am I doing with my life’ moment)

  • Was vegetarian for 2.5 weeks, ate plants I’d never seen and felt absolutely fine.

  • Lived with people who produced 95% of the food they ate, and only worked a few months of the year.

  • Done the dishes for 3 meals, for 8 people outside – at the outside sink, in the rain.

  • Not been able to get dry for hours due to the cold temperature and lack of power.

  • Spoke to the son (of the English immigrant) who said his favourite subject at school was P.E. because he got a free hot shower afterwards. He didn’t shower at home in winter.

  • Walked 45 minutes almost every day to the nearest town so I could sit in front of a fire and get dry, connect to the internet and power and drink 0.50 euro cent coffees (x2) in the little cafe where no English was spoken.

  • Been pitied by the old Portuguese lady who owned the cafe. She would gift us with things like roasted chestnuts and biscuits (because in her mind we’d have to be pretty poor to be working on a Portuguese farm in the middle of nowhere)

  • Seen the absolutely most beautiful scenery on this walk into town, which I could never take a photo of – because my phone would always be dead by this time.

  • Not been able to eat goat cheese,  because it smelt too much like the goats from which it came. That, and the smell reminded me of cleaning all their shit (‘mucking out’) out of their ‘enclosure’.

chestnuts

The trip back into civilization (aka Porto)  was a journey in itself. I had to navigate a taxi, bus and a train while at my peak homelessness appearance. I was just incredibly thankful for the beanie (toque/hat) that I had to hide the 10 day grease on my hair that normally needs to be washed daily. The whole journey is etched in my mind and the shower anticipation was incredible.

Once I returned to society I was just so unbelievably, incredibly happy just to be in a state of mundane normalcy.

Powered, showered warm and with a salty, greasy ham and cheese sandwich in hand I did not venture outside the hostel for 1.5 days.

Hitch-hiking for food in France

Some times you have these moments. Actually perhaps it is just me who has these moments.

I arrived at the camp site at which I was completing a Workaway. It was in a beautiful location in the South-West of France; about an hour by car from Gap and perhaps 10/15/20km from the “shithole” town of Barcelonetta. Apart from those places there was nothing… but beautiful nature and good company.

Unfortunately I had arrived with no food. One of the staff took pity on me, and donated me a packet of pasta, and a bit of butter to tide me over until I could get to the shops. Luckily, a few days later one of the staff gave me a lift to the shops, but being the idiot I am I only bought enough food for a few days, not a few weeks – and no one was heading to the shops again.

A couple of hard-boil egg meals later I was back down to the original packet of pasta & stick of butter. I think I ate only pasta for 1.5-2 days.

Facing another monotonous meal, I remembered that I had some Cola-Cao in my backpack that I had bought months ago. Cola-Cao is essentially the powder for chocolate milk, and the Spanish consume it like it is crack.

Lightbulb idea.

What is chocolate? Its… cocoa, sugar, and butter… right?

Given Cola-Cao is probably just cocoa and sugar, if I added it to my butter pasta … I would have the deliciously different chocolate pasta! Way more interesting!

However, two mouthfuls in, the idea didn’t seem so fabulous any more.

And so came the moment I mentioned. “What the fuck am I doing with my life?”

Oh that’s right: eating “chocolate” pasta, in my caravan home, because I’m working in exchange for food and accommodation. I’m a hick and a bum, and I have to eat this because it is the last of my precious pasta.

I resolved I was going to have to hitch-hike to the grocery store the next day. I would have done so earlier, but I had mentioned to my mum on a previous phone call that I might, and she had freaked out and regaled me with tales of evil people, and hitch-hiker murderers.

Yet faced with the risk of death via a hitch-hiker murderer and the risk of death via self-inflicted starvation, I decided to hitch for groceries.

And it was fine! Good even!

My friend and I (he was also volunteering there, and had hitched before), did this a number of times over the proceeding weeks. Everyone who picked us up was a couple, and nearly all of them had travelled for extended periods of time in the past. The exception was the old French couple (non-english speaking – but my friend could speak a little French), who seemed to think picking us up was a great adventure. Generally speaking it probably would have been nicer to spend more than 15 minutes in a car with our ‘hosts’ – they were all kind people with interesting lives.

I’d still be hesitant to hitch-hike by myself as I don’t want to hitch with the kind of ‘host’ who would only like to pick up single girl. However I’d definitely do it again! And it was another thing I did this past year, which I never expected to do.

Any hitch-hiking stories? Or ‘what the fuck am I doing’ moments?

Spanish 101 for Guiris (From the Guiri Perspective)

Essential Spanish 101 aka Spanish from the Guiri perspective

Interesting Words/Phrases (literal translations in brackets if I know them Additional Spanish in Italics)

Friolera/o: A person who is always cold. Yes, there is a word for that. Amazing! A word that describes me! A person who is always hot is Calentita

Cono: It means pussy.. or ‘cunt’… however the meaning is far less rude than in English. They use it how we use fuck… not literally… just all the time. Its much less rude then c***

Que Cono! Joder!

Me cago en la leche. (I shit in the milk) Yup. If a Spanish person says this they are PISSED OFF. There is also ‘me cago en todo’ (I shit on everything)

La pera, la leche. (The pear, the milk) Basically this means something is THE shit. (But not just shit). ‘Eres la pera‘ (you are the pear)

La mierda de vida: (The shit of life.) AKA fuck my life.

Cutre: Encompasses the meanings of ‘shitty’, ’seedy’ and ‘dodgy’. A bar can be cutre, as can a road, or a person! You can basically use this word for anything… bad.(English doesn’t work quite the same way – a road can’t be ‘seedy’)

Culo: (Ass) The Spanish looove talking about asses. This includes the ass of the milk, the the bread, and other things. Basically it means the ‘end’, the ‘last’ piece. Quieres el culo? (Do you want the end/ass?)

However Toma por culo (take it up the ass) is a common Spanish insult.

Tienes un culo gordo!

La Verguenza: (the embarrassment) In a land of tapas, there is always the ‘last piece’ and this is called ‘la verguenza’ or in English… the shame/embarrassment…

Quieres la verguenza? (Do you want the shame?) 

Foca: (seal) I’m not sure whether this is commonly used in Spain or just among my group. But they use it the same way we use pig. FATTY.

Desaparecida/o: (‘Disappeared’ person) I like how we don’t have a word for this. Aka me when I lock my phone in a room and don’t reply to messages for a week.

Pirulo: Thingymajig according to wordreference 😛 Basically a word for when you don’t know the word.

The things I said all the time:

No entiendo (I don’t understand) Also no te entiendo, no lo entiendo

Que!? (What!?) / general exclamation/surprise/ couldn’t understand

Mi espanol es malo (My Spanish is bad)

No se…. Quizas … (I don’t know… maybe) The answer of a indecisive person (or someone who thinks about their actions)

Holaaaa (Hey!)

No pasa nada (Nothing happens) I’m not sure about this translation. Used like No worries!

De Nada (‘of nothing’) i.e. ‘You’re Welcome’

Que Asco! (How disgusting)

Ya lo se (I already know that!) haha I’m so rude

Que Pasa? (Whats up/Whats happened?)

Que tal?  (How are you/ How is… X)

Tengo que… (I have to)

Gracias (Thanks)

Quiero X (I want X)

Tengo hambre (I’m hungry)

Tengo frio (I’m cold)

Al menos (At least) I’m more optimistic than I thought

Lo siento (I’m sorry) I’m western and I have to apologize for everything.

No me gusta el tiempo pasado (I don’t like the past tense)

Did I leave out any interesting phrases?

Mejorada, San Fernando, Coslada

Mejorada, San Fernando, Coslada

During my first workaway (and during the weeks after) I spent a lot of time in the towns of Mejorada Del Campo and San Fernando De Henares. These places lie on the ‘outskirts’ of Madrid, and I would best equate them to suburbs. Although not  normal tourist destinations, my time spent there has been a highlight of my trip.While I was studying Spanish I took many trips via the metro or train to visit, and as a result I am now very well acquainted with Atocha train station, and the consequences of missing the last train back into central Madrid.

And so… Places I enjoyed visiting:

Mejorada Cathedral/ Catedral de Justo Gallego:

mejoradaThis is an interesting cathedral. My understanding is that one man, Justo Gallego, decided that Mejorada was in need of a cathedral and therefore he was going to build it. He started the work some forty fifty years ago, however the finish date still isn’t in sight, although the creator is approaching his 90s. He has worked almost entirely alone, although he now has help from volunteers, including architectural students.

Yes, it isn’t finished; Yes, it’s debatable whether it is safe; Yes, the council wants to take it town. However I’d definitely prefer to visit an unfinished cathedral (or broken down one) over a perfect completed one. Its also a kind of a cool story.

Here is an article from 1992  about it! And a video (in Spanish) which shows the interior & he creator.

Todo Tapas San Fernando

According to Facebook this awesome tapas place has moved to Coslada,although when I visited it it was in San Fernando.

Ahhh, Spanish hospitality. I could buy one drink and be brought ‘tapas’ and ‘pinchos’ all night. Although I’d normally buy more than one drink because… What? Beer is good, and they were nice enough to bring me free food all night anyway! (Perhaps thats the logic behind tapas?)

You can also buy a more substantial tapa for 1 euro, or a maxi-tapa for 2 euros, and be set for the night. Unless you were a total foca (seal/pig/fatty!) The food is simple but good (burgers, eggs, potatos, croquettes).

It was funny that almost everytime I visited this place it rained – in Spring and Summer….! It almost became a rule: Jade & Tapas = rain.

Hot chocolate place/bar

If you like coffee and chocolate and cream, and all of these things mixed together, you’d like the coffee/chocolate bar I went to. Unfortunately I can’t remember it’s name though. I had one the most awesome coffees of my life here, consisting of purely coffee and condensed milk.

Medieval Market

On a visit to Mejorada, while I was still attending Spanish classes, I  attended a Medieval market. The market wasn’t too different from other Spanish markets, but it was medieval themed, and there was dancing, costumes, music and things for sale. R + A’s parents were nice enough to buy me shirt as a gift of thanks, although I feel like they definitely did more for me than I did for them.

The cool thing about Spain is that always seems to be something on, be it a local market, medieval market, or a fair – all things I was able to attend in the area.

The Irish Bar

Although not a tourist attraction, my friends loved the local Irish bar. I think this was because there was a pool table, a foosball table, and cheap beer with tapas. Interestingly, the tapas weren’t cooked food and were things like lollies, nuts, popcorn and crisps.

I wouldn’t consider it was a ‘real’ Irish bar, and instead consider it a wonderful Spanish/Irish fusion. The Spanish part due to tapas, Spanish beer and the late closing time. I was never there too late – (~1/1.30am), however a bar in the suburbs in Australia probably would have shut by 10pm. I love this about Spain.

The area is perhaps not the place for a tourist – but it is full of great people, and great opportunities to experience the Spanish culture

My Valentine’s to Everyone

So I’m single on Valentines day. Whatever.

Today I was walking along the street ruminating this when I began to think about all the people that have been in my life this past year. And you know what, people are fucking awesome. So heres to my homies at home, the people I’ve met for a short while, and the people I’ve forged deep friendships with.

I LOVE YOU FOR:

  • Your fascination and excitement with novelty and the entire world

  • Making me laugh every time I see you

  • Listening without judgement

  • Seeing though peoples bullshit

  • Your enthusiasm for life

  • Challenging my perception of the world and my place in it

  • Your open mind

  • Your determination despite adversity

  • Supporting me

  • Your self-confidence, and your determination to improve other’s confidence

  • Your kindness, which you do not draw attention to.

  • Your complete fucking weirdness and resultant hilarious stories

  • Making me laugh at myself. Uncontrollably

  • Your unconventional ideas

  • Exploring places with me

  • The strangest hypothetical & philisophical discussions (both at home at away!)

  • Your quiet braveness in what you say and what you do

  • Acting like an idiot with me

  • Introducing me to your culture (in ways you don’t quite realise)

  • Your unique and interesting perspectives

Hugs. I miss everybody in all their places.

Lessons at Inhispania Madrid

I took Spanish lessons at Inhispania Madrid and loved it. I originally planned to stay for 3 weeks, but ending up extending my course to four weeks. I did sign up for accommodation with the course, but I ended up changing to a hostel (Mad4you) for the last week.

If you don’t think too hard, accommodation in the middle of the city sounds amazing. It was right across the road from the Callao metro station, just off Gran Via and a short walk to the absolute centre of Sol and it’s nearby entertainment. It was also only 7 minute walk to class (hello 9.30am sleep ins!)

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Not where the apartment was but Madrid all the same

However. NOISE. I did not think of this. TAPONES is the Spanish word for ear plugs; I had to ask for some in El Corte Ingles. I also can’t forget this oh so very useless word, because what I originally asked for in broken Spanish were “things for no to hear”.

Madrid IS a city that never sleeps, and although that might sounds romantic and lovely and fun (and it is for a time)… I fucking love sleep.

That being said, the location was geographically handy.

However the apartment had many other dealbreakers. It was cold and there was insufficient linen provided, the bed was uncomfortable, some appliances didn’t always work, the kitchen was always a mess. I also didn’t hate my room-mates but we were never going to be best friends. It is also worth noting that the shared accommodation provided is also shared with Erasmus students, not just students from Inhispania. That being said, my classmate had a much better experience with his accommodation.

The lessons were awesome though! My teacher was the lovely Laura and as everyone had different start and finish dates, there was anywhere between 4 and 8 people in my class at one time. The mix of people itself was interesting, as everyone was there for a variety of reasons. For example one guy was moving to Madrid for work and another was there on holiday in the city for a few weeks learning Spanish purely to meet other travellers. Others from nearby European countries simply came over to spend a few weeks learning the language. The age ranged from about 20 (in my class, younger in others) to late 30s, and the average age was probably somewhere in the late 20s.

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Necessary Evils

The lessons were a little under four hours a day, and quite frankly I found it fun to make up stories in another language about the life of a professional male dancer, or a village in which all the children get eaten by a wolf when they turned ten. Lessons included writing, conversation, vocabulary and listening and I actually progressed quite a lot during my four weeks here. I progressed from the middle of A1 to the end of A2 – which meant that I could conjugate in 3 of the 4 past tenses, (the most common ones), talk about the future in the most common tenses as well as use the present.

I essentially got to the level at which I could have a slow and basic conversation. (As well as be constantly frustrated/confused about which tense to use when and know nothing of the subjunctive – to be fixed partially with B1 lessons later on!)

However although I did think my teacher was great, someone in my class had had another teacher previously (at the same school), and had not enjoyed that class at all due to the teacher. So it perhaps depends on the luck of the draw.

The school also provided ‘after-school activities’. Although there were not always sufficient numbers to run these, they did provide a good opportunity to see some parts of Madrid, as well as meet others who were at the school. This was particularly nice, as people were attending the classes for numerous reasons including work. It allowed me to meet other people from other classes who also wanted to meet new people and socialize.

Some activities I took part in at Inhispania included the following, however many more were offered:

  • The Funicular/Cable car

  • A language exchange night at Cafe Galdos

  • Tour of the city in Spanish: (of which my A1 Spanish allowed me to understand very little)

  • Maritine Museum tour

I did attend another school in Spain about 4/5 months later when I came back, and although I enjoyed both I did enjoy the lessons at Inhispania more.

Segovia

Spain is a really interesting place to travel in because it really has it all. The big cities, the smaller tourist-filled beautiful towns, smaller towns which aren’t tourist-filled but at least as beautiful, beaches and amazing natural landscapes. People think it is dry, but really, Spain is just schizophrenic with its beautiful greenery, mountains, and… dry areas.

Segovia is one of those beautiful yet tourist filled towns which also manages to remind me of a Disney movie. I went there on a day-trip with my Workaway family, who were nice enough to take me there. I had a great time, and it has actually been one of the favourite places I have visited.

Copyright 2015

The trip also reignited my forgotten love for alleyways. It’s lovely to look down tiny, ‘stony’ alleyways, to see beautiful scenery in the distance. However it doesn’t quite look as nice on camera.

We arrived and parked some distance, walked into town and then had a look at it’s famous aqueduct. IMG_4545

We had left quite late so it was already time for lunch. Everything on the main strip seemed to cost a bucket load; however a ‘promoter’ told us we’d be able to order a tapas menu, rather than an expensive set menu. We proceeded to sit down, and complimentary bread and some sort of tapa was brought to our table. However after further conversation with the waiter, it was revealed that it was all la hoax and we could only order from the set menu! Mouths ‘a-watering’ , we up and left the complimentary food and fled to a cheap, ‘cutre’ bar. However the company is what matters! (and the food wasn’t too bad after all… although the salchichon wasn’t up to scratch!)

We then proceeded to walk around Segovia and see the castle. A beautiful city.IMG_4582

On the car trip back to Madrid, we discussed various stories (including pieces of people left on roads…) and I was taught some Spanish phrases.  Which was hilarious because I am muy guiri and I knew even less Spanish back then.

“Que pasa Tomasa…

no hay nadie en casa”

Whats up Tomasa? There isn’t anyone home 😉

Teaching English

Helping people with English made me realise just how well I can know something, yet still be unable to articulate it. (For example: You can use this word here, here and here, but not there. Why? I don’t know)

General confusion
Semantics…. general confusion

The following are examples of a few of the questions (of 1000s!) I’ve been asked while helping people with their English

  • What is the difference between hardly, barely, hardly ever?

  • What is the difference is between realize and notice?

  • What is the difference between being seductive and making an advance?

  • What does ‘dodgy’ means?

  • Whether to use dodgy or seedy or ‘shitty’?

  • Can you teach me phrasal verbs?

  • When to use in and on i.e. why is something on a wall, but not in a wall? But why can you be on an airplane when you’re inside it?

  • What ‘kinda’ means? (kind of like = kinda like hahaha)

  • What is ‘tema’ in English? (subject)

I have explained:

  • The difference between shade and shadow

  • What the ‘crust’ of bread is. (My friend ‘understood’ this as crap)

  • What ‘hangry’ is

  • The difference between something being ‘shit’ and ‘the shit’

  • Puns: what they are (juegos de palabras), as well as actual puns.

  • What the word ‘pat’ means

  • All the meanings of the word ‘tip’ (I came up with 5 or 6, see what you can do)

  • Made fun of the Spanish (and other Hispanics) for being unable to distinguish between: beach & bitch, chip & cheap, ship & sheep, heap and hip etc.)

  • That you explain, say and reply TO people, although you only have to tell people

Yep. English is weird, and hard to explain. However I can now make an attempt at explaining most of these things.