Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Hanging up Stu

I guess it is inevitable that life would catch up with me and tie me down.  I figured as much when I got home from romantic-Russia in 2010 and realized I wanted a partner and a 'normal' life.  But then I took off for most of 2011 and had the adventures of a lifetime with Mongolia, Ethiopia and Tibet.

Those that bother to read my previous blog posts will see that I have traveled the world, I have seen more in my 34 years than most people ever aspire to, let alone achieve, in a lifetime.

But just when I thought I had it all - a flexible job that paid enough to continue my nomadic ways - life caught up with me.  A partner, a job that isn't so flexible anymore (but I love you CBC) and perhaps a bit of settling into the routine of a Canadian life.

I'm faced with the prospect of retirement.  I honestly think I'll deal with retiring from my job at 65 better than retiring from my hobby/love of traveling at 34.  For those of you out there who have hung up your backpack and said it's time for a comfortable bed and drinkable water - how have you handled it?

Because, oh my Darwin, does my backpack, aka Stu, summon me.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Stuff I take everywhere

There are things we have to take with us - keys, phone, wallet.  Sure, those things go with me almost everywhere.  But the stuff that I really take with me and that will never leave me are my memories of traveling.

Here I am, procrastinating getting work done and looking outside to the frigid air deep in a Canadian winter and I am longingly reliving some memories.

Today I have been struck by the memory of February 2011, in a tiny village on the outskirts of Konso where I had been invited to share in the bull jumping ceremony.  This is a sacred ceremony that only happens every few years and symbolizes a young boy's entry into manhood.  The festival included a lot of moonshine, face paint, Kalashnikovs and drumming.  I was, with no surprise, one of the attractions of the day being about a foot taller than anyone in the vicinity and probably five thousand shades lighter.  Plus, I had all these gadgets.

An elder from one of the nearby villages came over the talk - or gesture wildly and nod -and as a universal way of communicating, I let him look through my camera.  He was enthralled, mystified, electrified and ecstatic over the fact that he could zoom onto someone's face far away and see detail.  He turned the camera over, looked into the lens backwards and marveled in it's ability to do such non-human things.  It was completely implausible to him that this thing, this inanimate, kinda heavy, strange looking thing could see better than us.  There was a lot of screeching, hand clapping and ear to ear smiling.  

His energy was captivating and I immediately matched his enthusiasm.   I was also enthralled, captivated and mystified, not by my old camera but by the joy that is in all of us.  Here, in the middle of absolute nowhere in the Lower Omo Valley of Ethiopia I found pure, unbridled and unkempt happiness.

It wasn't happiness because of a material object.  It was happiness in the marvel of the world and the continual ability that we have to see a different world everyday.

I carry my memories, my lessons and the changes in me from my experiences.  They never leave me and I hope they never will.


Monday, September 17, 2012

It's only September...

I usually spend Septembers sorting through pictures, picking which ones to frame, admiring the new Lonely Planets on my travel bookshelf and sated from a summer spent exploring.

Today...not so much.

Mozambique was hardly the adventure of a lifetime and after the year I had in 2011, it's amazing that I feel like I have anything left to experience in the world.  But I do, and I want it, badly.

A travel addiction is a serious problem with me.  The monotony of daily life in Edmonton is simple and mindless and I like it.  But every 8 months, on the dot, I get itchy feet and need, absolutely need, to leave and get thrown into the most uncomfortable, unique, new, mind-blowing experience that I can possibly find wherever I am in the world. 

The adventures of the previous summer usually tide me over until the deep dark winters of Alberta when, in February, I find myself weeping in the travel section of a bookstore and knee-jerk book a trip to some crazy destination I know nothing about.  But what is going to hold me over this year?

I still want to write a book about our trip to Mongolia, so maybe I can relive that adventure long enough to find myself weeping in the travel section of a bookstore in December, instead of tomorrow....which is what I feel like doing.

My ideas for next summer depend on the universal two factors - time and money.  Although I'm currently hypnotized about the idea of the Silk Road and doing the 'Stans.  I should go to India just so I can say I've been there to people who always ask.  Or maybe Cameroon.  Who knows?  I certainly don't.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Hosteling 101

There are a set of unwritten, unspoken rules in hostels.  I should know, I'm a 15 year veteran.  To make sure all your dormmates don't stick squid in your sheets or steal your shit...follow these rules.

10) Do not leave open food anywhere but the hostel kitchen.  Bugs, dogs, smell, rot are just disgusting

9) If you leave early, pack the night before

8) Lights are OFF from 11pm - 7am.  This should be obvious - you are sharing your space with strangers, don't piss them off.  If you need light, have a headlamp or flashlight handy, if you are too dumb to bring these, suck it up and go to bed in the clothes you are wearing in with dirty teeth.

7)  Changing down to your underwear is okay, even in mixed dorms.  Stripping is not.

6) Bring earplugs and eyeshades.  Despite these clear and simple rules, people are assholes.  Don't get frustrated if a drunk girl starts flipping on every light in the middle of the night, suck it up princess and be prepared.

5) Claim your space.  But don't take more than you need.

4)  Oh my god, please do NOT pack all your junk in plastic bags....nothing is worse (besides hearing someone's dirty drunk sexcapade) than hearing 30 minutes of rustling through crunchy plastic bags in the middle of the night.  Use old pillow cases to store your stuff, or specially designed pack cubes.

3)  Quit your bitching about the noise, smell or cleanliness, if you want 5 star then pay for it.

2) Don't have sex.  That's disgusting.  Use common shower areas, stairwells or dark alleyways for all I care...no one wants to hear your hookup.

And the #1 rule for a happy hostel stay......if you snore, and everyone knows if they do so don't pull the "I don't know bullshit', get a private room.  Or risk being punched in the gut in the middle of your sleep from yours truly

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Travel Snob

I'm one of those people.  The types of people that travel enough to start comparing destinations.

Mozambique beaches were nice, but not as nice as (insert beautiful locale here) but much nicer than (insert overrated destination here).

I think it's simply a product of experience but this trip in Mozambique really brought it to a head.  I didn't like Mozambique, there was nothing wrong with it; the people were exceptionally friendly, the beaches were actually beautiful and my sister and I had a fun time.  But it wasn't up to snuff, because I'm officially a travel snob.

It didn't have the flavour of Guinea with the rhythms and drumming everywhere, the food was edible at best and not like Ethiopia.  The beaches were nice but lacked character.  The cities were blah, not like the energy of Dakar or the hassle of Bamako.  The sights were modest like Senegal but it lacked a certain soul and root that anchors me in Africa.

Yet, I would highly recommend Mozambique for anyone interested in a beach holiday or a gentle, oh so gentle, introduction to Africa.

Me?  I prefer noisy, stinky, constant hassle, soulful, traditional, spirited Africa of Mali, Ethiopia or even Morocco.

Hate me if you must, I'm one of those.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

En Route

Upgrade #1 complete.

I am currently sitting in the Business Class Lounge in Heathrow after my well-deserved upgrade to business en route to Maputo.

Maputo?  Where the effff is that?  You aren't alone if that name hasn't hit the Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego games.  So far, every airline staff I have spoken with have no idea what MPM stands for.

I just hope it exists.

2 more flights to go.  A 13 hour leg to Joburg leaving in an hour then a quick jaunt over to a-possibly-non-existent city.

My sister has decided to join me on this little directionless jaunt.  I have given her the Lonely Planet so that I have an excuse to have not read a page before arriving.  Randomness is part of the fun right?  It's all about exploring not planning?

I sure hope so

Saturday, February 25, 2012


It's official. I have booked a 6 week trip to Mozambique for June and July 2012. An incredibly quick trip for me but it will have to do.

Where is Mozambique? South-east coast of Africa, north of South Africa and south of Tanzania. What's there? Not sure yet but hopefully some azure waters and oceanside villages to explore, a bit of jungle so I can swing in the vines and learn how to pound my chest, maybe a few wildlife sightings but most of all - adventure.

I have received the 'bible', or Lonely Planet for the country and I plan on reading that a bit before I go...or just on the plane on the way there. Not sure what there is to do, see or experience, but I'll be bound to brag about it when I get back.