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Travel thoughts

Oh, finally uploaded a month+ of photos, 400+, to Flickr. Haven't sorted and barely tagged them, mind.

Chilean S wrote while I was out, noting how tiring it is to not have a routine, and that I sounded unhappy and in need of a break at least. I've been thinking about that myself, that my irritation to pleasure ratio was soaring and little getting done. Thus the simple joy of discovering the cheese place today, combined with the initial feeling of taking control of my movement. (Somewhat burned out after taking 40 minutes to actually get somewhere else.) The Paris sickness and then lingering cough - which might finally be lifting on its own - haven't helped, of course. Neither has my own nocturnalism, making it difficult to do the usual touristy things. Nor the reality of where I'm staying right now, or the wet cold weather plus my worries about clothing. (I have looked at jackets. They've been €200, which seems high.)

Maybe it's time to take stock.

Positive/accomplishments: Being in Europe! (There's mental buzz just from that. Well, there was.) Experiencing the London Tube. Seeing awesome free museums (Brit Mus, V&A) over and over. Enjoying 60 degree weather in August. Seeing gale-Jill once, though not Wren or Caitlin. Meeting British RPG.netters a couple of times. Seeing historic buildings, at least from the outside -- St. Paul's, Whitehall, Parliament. Taking a houseboat ride. Being in English pubs a few times. Taking a good train system, to Edinburgh, seeing family friend, seeing Edinburgh, with its old streets and buildings. Good zoo. Train again, Glasgow, Kelvingrove museum, Highlands trip, going to the Isle of Skye, Eilean Doner (sp) castle. Having black pudding and haggis, once each. Realizing that the tour bus breaking down in town wouldn't be so bad, there was a surfeit of buses and trains to return me to Edinburgh if needed. Nice bed and breakfast on Skye. Train again up to Mallaig, exploring a town on the edge of the world, conjuring up a phantom Ch to comment on flowers and scenery for me and thus focus my attention. Going to Leeds in N. England. Meeting an interesting girl back in London again. Finding a cute little town center at the end of the line south of London. Argentinian food. Seeing a chalk hillside figure. Taking a train to Paris(!), eating at Parisian bakeries, having crepes, seeing Montmartre and the Louvre, taking the Paris Metro, seeing the beginning of (huge, ongoing) strikes in the old Bastille area, Arc de Triomphe, Eiffel tower (from train). Amsterdam, seeing the famous red light districts, smelling pot smoke spilled out on to the street, seeing urban canals, rural canals, a windmill, taking the trams. Being very, very, rustic as a Something Different.

Annoyances/failures: Everything but bread and mobile service seems more expensive. Things I take for granted aren't present or seem wrong -- street signs, drinking fountains, tap water availability. I didn't go inside any major castles or palaces. No pilgrimage to Whipsnade Zoo. Louvre only once. I've been traveling for 71 days -- counting from touchdown in London; it's more like 85 days since I pulled up roots -- and thoroughly sick for 12+ of those (London, Paris, separately), with lingering effects for another 14. Even when I have a kitchen I don't use it much: too small, too tempting to eat out, not really enough time to make it worth getting the ingredients for proper meals (though that's an illusion, buying groceries and throwing half a way is cheaper than eating out), too sick. I haven't met many people, let alone anyone lasting, or talked to much of anyone in a while, save a Skype to lyceum. Laundry machines have tended to malfunction, take forever, or both. Current place doesn't have any, and is more isolated than I thought, also cold. Being in a wacky time zone compared to all my friends. Trying to connect to the Internet and learning the new quirks and annoyances, plus the ones brought with me because eee/Ubuntu can't handle a common Wi-Fi mode and I do have local mobile data again but I don't know how to set up tethering on this one. Trying public transit city tours of London and Paris that didn't work as well as expected, especially London's.

Yeah, current place really doesn't help. It's a front-runner for most isolated place I've lived, ever. Main competition is Redwood Shores, where it took a 40 minute walk to get out. This place does at least have buses. Far fewer people though, and open farmland near the ocean, scoured by wind, and that scours my soul in a way the baby-blue clones of Redwood Shores didn't. (They did in different ways.) Mallaig is a pimple on the earlobe of civilization; OTOH it's 800 residents + various tourists and quite walkable. Plus I took a train there... This is 8 houses in a lane and nothing for 30 minutes. (Well, nothing but a hotel and cheese shop.) And I thought there would be laundry (my fault, but still) and it gets cold in here. I'd known I'd need buses, but hadn't known it'd be different buses and that I'd be paying 7.50 a day. But I paid already, and due to the hostess's mixup I get two free days. So, er. Well, I'll soon get the joy of leaving a corrective review on airbnb. ("Village: 8 houses. 15 minutes: actually 25 minutes. Note expenses...")

S. suggested a 2-3 week halt somewhere, though I did have two weeks in one place in London and 10 days in Paris (both largely sick, mind.) Tempting, but where, and how much would it cost, and would a break anywhere I can't speak or am not studying the language really help that much? I'm tempted to go to Madrid for a few days for the sun, and then to Boston, to start settling down and cultivating friendships and looking for jobs because oh yeah, I'm not actually independently wealthy.

Though I keep thinking of Belize (tropical! English!) or South America. Cheaper rent? Though I hear Uruguay, being basically like Europe South, is priced accordingly.

Oh right, need better power adapters if I do that.

Speaking of Belize. I grew up with Central America, it was always in the news. Nicaragua and the contras. Panama and the Canal and Noriega. Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras for various levels of guerrillas and nun-killing. Costa Rica for not having any of that. Then in senior year of high school I'm in Academic Decathlon and having to memorize all the countries and capitals and surprise! There's another one I'd never heard of! And they speak English, too! So weird. Guess despite my father's geographic inclinations I'd never looked at a map properly -- or, quite likely, our globe was old enough that it was "British Honduras".

I probably spoiled myself. I was living in central Bloomington, and while that had annoyances (bars, undergrads) the location was awesome. Library, lots of restaurants, easy access to major social events. Saving money while traveling means neighborhoods further out, or grungier, or both. Cheap to live in the center of a small pond. Well, relatively cheap.

Of course, once in Boston I expect to be annoyed by the public transit being not quite good enough, and the crappy weather, and worrying about actual violent crime and bad neighborhoods to avoid... and being in temporary housing for a bit while I search less frantically for a longer term place to live, lest a hasty decision annoy me that way...


( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 21st, 2010 07:53 pm (UTC)
No advice, but Spain is certainly nice and much cheaper than a lot of Western Europe. I suggest skipping Madrid though and doing Andalusia. We spent a month there (with a side trip to Morocco and Gibraltar), loved it, and got by with guide-book Spanish. Madrid was ok, but just another big European city.

If you're looking for a more permanent base to travel I know a lot of perpetual travelers love Thailand. Cheap, large ex-pat community, no one really expects you to speak the language, and a good inexpensive jumping off point for the rest of Asia (and possibly Australia).

Other idea is to just settle down and enroll in a language course somewhere. I got far more out of my 6 months living in China than any other trip even though I only left Beijing twice just because I had a chance to meet locals, and it helped having a reason to be there everyday other than seeing another landmark.
Oct. 21st, 2010 07:54 pm (UTC)
Sorry to hear you got the blues, although given the time you are on the road now, it might have gotten to me as well.

As for prices: The dollar exchange rates certainly don't help but yes, as I said - going out is significantly more expansive. I would probably buy bread and cold cuts (Ham, prosciutto, sausage, cheese etc.) and fruit for my everyday use and at most have one warm meal/day. If that.

With regards to coffeehouses a la Starbucks - I am afraid outside of major cities you are out of luck in Northern Europe. I remember a vivid and lively Café scene in Zagreb and a bunch of other cities in the southeast. Not sure if Spain has them. Skandinavia would be probably better with the language, but definitely more expensive than the Netherlands. With regard to tap: It is considered stylish/semi customary to order a glass of tap withyour coffee. I hope you can find your spirit again an enjoy traveling.
Oct. 21st, 2010 10:28 pm (UTC)
You are on Flickr? rfmcdpei, there.
Oct. 21st, 2010 10:34 pm (UTC)
Yeah, you marked me as a contact back in August. :)
Oct. 22nd, 2010 02:39 am (UTC)
It sounds like you're having an adventure, with the attendant highs and lows. If you do end up in Boston, let me know -- I've got some friends there and might be able to give you some tips on where to live and find a job.
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )


Damien Sullivan

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