Thoughts From the Road
Just write. Get the stuff out of your head. Put it on paper
or type it out. Write about the good, the bad and the ugly. Write about the
shitstorm of thoughts in your head. Write about your travels. Write about food.
Write about what you did today and how you felt. Write a story. It's good
to get it out. And sometimes, it's good to share it with others.
My good friend Robert felt inspired to write about his
recent travels overseas to a few European countries. I love the bits
of thought going on here in each paragraph. Remember, there's no right
or wrong way to write. Just share what's going on in your head.
thoughts from the road
Nearing two months on the road and inspired by the openness of my friend Jane's writings.
I'd like to share my thoughts from this recent trip.
The initial decision to jump the puddle started because my art parents were having an exhibition in Stockholm, and I have an open invitation to teach glassblowing workshops in a bite-size town called Nybro. Stockholm is an attractive city that hugs chilly waterways within a maze of islands. In the winter, you can walk or ski from island to island. There's a law that you can camp on any island, as long as you can't be seen by the property owner and don't leave a mess. Swedish people are confidently cold, and like Seattle, hate eye contact and uninvited conversation. Beers are usually around 7 to 12 dollars. I met several talented glass artists and had some really insightful conversations about the state of affairs in the Scandinavian art scene. Next, a train to Gotenburg, which is a smaller version of Stockholm. I was told people have a 'West Coast' vibe, but when the days are short, cold, and grey I would beg to differ. I stayed on an island with a couple from Carbondale, Colorado and continued via rail to Boda to help my friend clean out her recently purchased house. It could probably sleep eight people and at one point had a glass shop on the ground floor. I was told a bucket of uranium glass was found in the basement. The recycling center was confused about what to do with the radioactive bucket, but eventually took it. The house cost about $5000.
Paris is chaos. I saw a bouquet of flowers intact in a trashcan. I got two tickets and hardly understood a word all the while. They just produce a credit card machine and you pay up or go to jail. A drunk Parisian asked me if I was having a nice time. Before I could answer he said "I bet you're not. We are a closed society and you're an outsider, but good luck anyway." That sums up my time in Paris.
Barcelona, after all my travels feels most like home. Siesta is taken very seriously, and I'm still a bit baffled about when anyone gets things done (but that's just my work crazed American culture showing). The streets are clean; someone is always sweeping. The 'revolution' is more media hype that actual protest. At 10PM for a few weeks everyone would bang pots and pans together to remind those listening that there is discontent in the air, but business continued as usual. The harmony of the beating cookware was unsettling, but the world keeps spinning and the showdown seems to be taking place more at the political level. The locals are frustrated because the words 'riot police' scared away tourist loot. I was itching to wear a beret and wave a flag but the opportunity alluded me. Espresso and croissant combo hovers around two Euros. Don't pay anymore than that or you're a sucker.
This has merely been broad strokes of the itinerary, but as the weeks turn into months the debit card-shaped hole in my bank account reminds me that the fairly tale is soon to be over. I will return to the States with about $300. For better or worse, there seems to be standardization in the western world. We (mostly) drive on the same side of the streets. Why bother doing the mental conversion from kilometers to imperialist, the signs say the numbers and measurements are arbitrary; just match the numbers on your speedometers. I'm surprised they don't even give you a pamphlet when you rent a car. You're just handed keys and boom! Welcome to Driving in a Foreign Country! Money is the most commonly agreed upon lie in the world. Euros are paper, dollars are paper. The coins hold more value here but at the end of the day it gets you what you want. Housing operates under the same expectations, schools operate, subways have a loosely uniform design with tweaks here and there. These are perhaps over-simplifications, but have deeply altered my beliefs on the idea of long term travel through the developed Western world. It is like push-ups for you brain to adapt to languages, hear about other cultures, navigate without wi-fi or maps. In those respects, travel is almost necessary to form a more full understanding of the world and lose the American-centric views we are steeped in.
On the other hand, without a deliberate purpose to one's travel it becomes a wandering tour interrupted with window shopping, meals, apologizing for Orange Julius Ceasar, ect. This turns into more of a philosophical debate. I did teach a valuable workshop, and help a number of glass artists achieve their goals for the day, but the percentage of giving back seem ill-proportioned to the benefits of the system I am befitting. Seeing how people generally want the same things: shelter, food, love, community, routine. After weeks of hearing people use different sounds to speak: the baseline ideals are present, and the universality of human nature really sunk in. If I were to give advice to the nomadic subculture I'm a part of, I would implore part of travel be with social service at the core of the expedition. I admire the free will and foot-looseness of van or tiny house folks, but what if there was a common good we were all pursuing that was more selfless beyond inspiring photographs of our lifestyle, which I've been grappling with as somehow selfish? Culturally it is baked into us; be unique, follow one's dreams, and we are all snowflakes. Niche informed us that god is dead so we must create our own, and she probably resides in between the exciting moments of travel and the honesty of a hard days work. I plan to reluctantly return to the US where tensions are high and we check our phones everyday to see the next most offensive thing our woebegone Commander in Chief has done. In those regards, I'm reluctant to return. However, in a way I'm ready to get back to giving back in a more efficient way. When one strips away the cultural and aesthetic difference between people going about their lives, the bigger question becomes, what are you doing? What are you building? Who are you helping? These credentials give one's existence more merit than a wandering gypsy. These options are impossible to separate from one's self and ego, but may strike a note with some wandering souls. And hell, if I meet a lost traveler on the way, I'll show the hospitality I've been lucky enough to receive across Europe (except for Paris).
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