Sometimes we don’t need to actually read an account of a great traveller in order to feel inspired. Sometimes all we need is music.
This time the music that inspires is this awesome piece by Parov Stelar, just listen to the lyrics and you will understand what makes this a great tune to play loud in your headphones.
For more travel-inspiring music, keep watching this space.
Man it sucks getting back. But it’s also really great. I don’t know which. Nothing beats seeing new things and experiencing the world around you, meeting new people and finding new bars to get drunk in. But then there’s getting home to a safe haven. A place where you feel protected, a place where you know all the ins and outs. Nothing can surprise you. Except your little brother who came back early from Australia and now occupies the room you thought you’d be spending the next month in. Lucky for him I really like him.
Also this coming home stuff has made me realise that as much as I love travel blogging and writing I also hate it. It’s time consuming and you never find the time while on the road, and if you do you’re not a true traveller. How can you find time to publish an entry every damn day? You must really not have a life at all and never go explore the real city. I bet you just sit there and copy from the guide you grabbed at the airport.
Off with the rant.
I have realised something on this trip however. I have in my mind really worked on how I want this blog to grow and transform. My decision is that it will only be a blog, a personal account of my wild and stupid and also extremely boring adventures. I don’t aim to earn any money from this blog. It’s just a way for my narcissistic ego to shine. So don’t expect to find any click bait here, no posts titled “First he did this, watch what happens next” or any other crap like that. This is a cost I will eat just to make myself feel important and to give you something to read when you’re sitting there at home, wherever that may be, wishing you were somewhere else.
I do appreciate having random people like what I post, and read what I write, even though I rarely think it’s any good. So keep doing that. I promise I will put up some more stuff from the trip, like make a narrative or something like that. Hey, I need to feed my ego man. Don’t judge me.
Ok, I need another beer now. Time’s up.
I see the connection; the obvious teachers of Australian construction workers: the English. The houses are of the same poorly insulated quality. In Australia it almost makes sense, the southern parts of the country are only cold for a couple of months every year and the northern don’t even get cold at all. But England is a cold country, so to have single glass windows is a big mistake. Not that the walls are much better insulated. The heaters don’t work and even when they do there’s so much heat that’s wasted because it can’t be contained in the house.
Other than that I shouldn’t complain, the architecture of the old school English houses is really cool. One of the best things about travel is when you walk around in a new city and you realise that architecture is different all over the world, at least the older buildings. It gives each place it’s own atmosphere, it’s own soul and it speaks to you, the lonely traveller on the road. It tells a story of a city that once stood as the capital of the world. The center of a huge empire that spanned the globe. In fact, Sweden is one of only 22 countries that has never been invaded by England. A statistic that bears witness to the true global scale of this crumbling empire.
I suppose it’s easy for me, being Scandinavian and all, we build houses to stand through an ice cold wolf-winter, the last winter before the end of days, before Ragnarök. We don’t need to house millions upon millions from all over the world (although our population has passed the 9 million mark and is approaching 10 in the next 5 years or so if I remember correctly). Also, we get virtually free heating as we burn all our rubbish and convert it into heating. Some things just make me proud to be Swedish, other things not so much. Like our most recent hollowing out of the freedom of speech. Our politicians can reach an agreement on that, but when it comes to the most basic things for how to run the country they stand divided, or apparently so. It’s a sandbox, a farce, it’s a big fat joke and most people have invested too much of themselves in the joke, thinking it’s real, to start laughing. It’s embarrassing really.
But I digress, it’s too strong a tendency when you’re sitting cold by the window, wearing a beanie and scarf inside the house, looking out at the grey sky of London with a runny nose and a sore throat. I’ll be fine, it’s just the common cold. After walking 20-30 kilometres in the past couple of days I think I will take this day as a day of rest, go to Camden Market, have a cup of coffee and study my course. Maybe even pick up a souvenir for that special someone. London has been great so far, although quite cold, inside and outside.
I will definitely come back to this city in the warmer time of the year. But for now this is all you will hear, just a quick update from the road.
Beppe Karlsson, London
Things are shaping up on the road. One piece after the other is falling into place. I love setting out without a means to get from point A to point B with stops in between. Only a date and a flight out. It gives me that bit of pressure to perform and finish my goal, but also the flexibility to do as I please. Most often it means I miss out on a sight I was hoping for, but in every single case it means I get to spend more time in a place I really enjoy.
The next leg to Hamburg is booked and ready. Only a few hours left until departure. Got a couch to crash on and a friend to guide me around town. Amsterdam is going to be a massive wing, both how I get there and where I sleep while I’m there, I got some connections that I’m trying to use, new friends are always good though. So whatever happens, happens.
The leg from Amsterdam is for me the toughest. I will take a ferry to England and my biggest fear is water. But I figured it’s time for me to face my fears and get on that boat!
Well, anyway, I ain’t gonna bore you any longer. It’s time for me to sleep unless I want to be completely dead by the time I catch the train tomorrow morning.
Beppe Karlsson, Malmö
If you want to try something that will be far beyond your comfort zone; try hitchhiking. I haven’t felt that much anxiety about anything in many, many years. Not because I was afraid to be molested or murdered, but simply because I was afraid to talk to strangers.
Hitchhiking Made Easy – A Big Portion of Luck
Forget everything you’ve seen in movies about how psychopaths pick up hitchhikers and chop their heads off, that’s movies. This is reality: people are good natured, at least some are, and luckily for you the good natured people are the ones that are likely to stop and pick up a hitchhiker. Well, you don’t have to tell me, as a former bartender I know how shit people can be, but the assholes out there don’t tend to stop to pick up a hitchhiker. Although I’ve heard stories of them verbally abusing hitchhikers, not that it has ever happened to me. But some people are just small in so many ways that they think the only way for them to reach the light is by stepping on other people. You’re more likely to have to deal with these people in basically any job.
So armed with nothing but my firm belief in the goodness of my fellow humans, and the awareness of the bad, I took to the pavement with nothing but a small backpack, hiker boots, warm clothes and my thumb. The first step was to get a ride from Lagan, my tiny home town, to Ljungby, the larger town about 10 kilometres away. I’ve done that stretch a few times before so that was nothing new to me. Just walk along the road with your thumb out and hope that somebody will stop to pick you up.
I had a ride within 15 minutes, a bus driver. He must be used to picking people up and the fact that I was only about 50 metres away from a stop probably made it all the more natural for him. He wasn’t driving his bus mind you, he was returning to work after his lunch break. We had a little chat in the car, I kept the focus away from myself as I didn’t want to jinx my good fortune by talking too much about my tough challenge ahead: get to Nottingham, England by rail and thumb in less than a week and a half. Through 7 countries with 5 major stops on the way. So I only told him I was going to meet a friend at the petrol station by the highway. It was true, only I’d mistaken my friend’s schedule and he had actually finished work by the time I thought he started.
My plan backfired on me right away. I had no clue how to hitch a ride by the highway. I had been hoping my friend would be able to help me. I was going to chat to him and casually start conversations with customers and see if they could offer me a ride to Malmö. But when that didn’t turn out like I wanted I started feeling anxiety building up. What was I going to do now? How do you get a ride? Was I supposed to just go up to people and ask? They were not very likely to go in the same direction as I wanted anyway, and since I was only a couple of hours away from Malmö I didn’t want to catch a ride for a part of the way. So I decided on a different tactic: write a sign, drink a cup of coffee and sit outside the petrol station reading a book. Let them come to me, and if I don’t get a ride in let’s say a couple of hours I’ll change the tactic.
Turns out that was a perfect tactic as I had a ride within 15 minutes of sitting down. I hadn’t even finished my coffee, nor the first page of the book, by the time I had been offered a ride with 2 musicians returning to Malmö from a gig. We got along really well and chatted about this and that over the couple of hours we shared the road. It felt like we had made a new friendship and we parted ways in Malmö only after I got the details on how to find their music as I was genuinely interested. They played Swedish and Arabic folk music. An interesting combo and apparently they were quite good at it too.
Now I’m sitting in Malmö, the Swedish gateway to Europe, waiting to catch a train from Copenhagen early tomorrow morning to take me to Hamburg by noon. I still have many challenges to face on this trip but I have a feeling it will all work out well in the end.
Beppe Karlsson, Malmö
Autumn signifies the end. After comes rebirth.
It’s rather fitting that I finish up my time in Stockholm with the passing of autumn. Right now I’m gearing up ahead of my future travels. I’m a tech freak, so I have acquired a few new things to help me document my future trips; all second hand mind you, I’m on a budget.
I got one of those little lenses, the ones that connects to your phone via WiFi; for what seems to be a good deal. It takes excellent images (the featured image for this post was taken with the new lense) but it is a little bit slow. It is however a lot easier to carry around on a trip with limited space and carry capacity than my dSLR, which now also sports a battery grip. Of course a longer journey can’t be done without my trusted companion but there’s been many times when I wished I had a smaller, less conspicuous camera, especially in cities and when I only want to bring a small backpack, like for my upcoming hitch hiking adventure. Basically, down sizing was necessary.
With this latest addition I should be able to bring only my smaller backpack, since everything I’ll need for the North Sea Loop should fit in that one.
The major stops have been decided, but the dates haven’t been set yet. I aim to travel as goes:
10 major stops where I plan on spending at least one night. Travel time in between will vary as I intend to hitch hike most of the way, but have found myself defeated by a few obstacles I’m not able to get over. The first being the bridge from Sweden to Denmark. I guess I could go hitch hiking across, but then I run the risk of becoming a drug mule (not that anyone brings drugs from Sweden to Denmark; it’s usually the other way around) so I just think it’s a hell of a lot easier to catch a train across the bridge.
Next up is how to get from continental Europe to England. I will be taking the tunnel and I haven’t even looked into how that works yet. A train is all I know so far.
After that I was planning on going by boat from Newcastle to Gothenburg or at least to Oslo, but it turns out the ferries stopped running a few weeks back. That means, regrettably, that I will not be able to make the same voyage my ancestors did about a thousand years ago. Instead I had to look into flights; it’s about 100 euro cheaper to fly to Oslo from Manchester than to Gothenburg. So I will work my way from the capital of Norway down to Gothenburg, and then on home.
I know, this is another boring post where everything is about me. I promise I will have something better for you soon. I’m just too excited right now to think straight.
But with this I can announce that I will soon be bringing in a “Guide” section to the site with information on things such as how to get a visa, how to hitch hike, how to find work on the road and all other things on how to be a backpacker; at least through my eyes.
Beppe Karlsson, Stockholm
So another place is left behind, another ending and another new beginning. I look forward to 10 days on the roam. Going from one place to the next, couch to floor, you got it? I’ll sleep on it.
Such is the life of a drifter, roaming through life; hanging on by a thin thread. I’m used to this by now, so used to it in fact that losing one couch means nothing as I always have a backup plan. This is my town, like any drifter owns a place, I own this one. The class shows through, the rich owns the property but the rover owns the streets and everything else. Life is ours; matter is yours – but what matters is life.
Once again I happened to have some alcohol left and instead of carrying the extra weight in my bags I decided to drink it and funnel it into the toilet. Space is scarce when your life needs to fit into a backpack. Still I failed, miserably.
Once again, the conclusion was that I have way too much stuff, and that still means I have less than most people. I now carry one big backpack, one smaller backpack for my camera gear and one laptop bag. On the side I have some other stuff that needs to be stored with my parents. The changing of the seasons and what not. At least that’s what I blame.
I think everyone should do this every now and then, and instead of putting most of their stuff in storage they should donate or throw it out. This time I had too much of the luxury of keeping things so I didn’t donate as much as I usually do, I didn’t throw out as much as I usually do. Even though I can think of a thing or two that should’ve gone, I couldn’t; you get attached to things when you become stable, even if it’s only for a little while.
Lesson never learnt, even though I’ve gone through this over a dozen times by now. Move in, move out. Acquire things, leave it behind. Time goes by and all I need is my creative tools and some clothes on my back, but still I stock up, too much in my pile. I need to share, so that’s what I’ll do. A few shirts will leave my hands in the next week. I don’t need them, I have what I need and then some. The season’s changing and there’s no reason for hoarding for a time when I won’t even be here. So on it goes, and then on again.
There are some exciting times ahead, I found my old bracelet with the message: “Let the journey begin” so I put it on just to let the world know: I’ve begun my journey, even though I might seem to be in the same place – I’m really not. I’ve moved on, I’m just tied down for another few weeks by the fundraising aspect of travelling.
I look forward to seeing you out there in the real world.
Beppe Karlsson, Stockholm
For anyone who doesn’t spend their life roaming the globe in search of new, beautiful vistas to lay their sore eyes upon, life has a steady rhythm, a solid ticking. Change is going to come, no matter what you say, and change might seem like a constant. Slow and steady wins the race. But it’s not true, not even for the settlers among us.
The Transient Nature of Friendships
For someone who is always on the move, this becomes all the more apparent. You’re constantly making new friends, and they may turn into your best friends in a very short time. You find yourself sharing your most intimate inner thoughts and feelings with this person who was a complete stranger up until a few short, but eventful, days ago. Then you both move on to the next place, maybe you share the road for a while, but you both know that it will end at some point.
You promise to keep in touch, you make friends on Facebook and you might send each other a message every now and then. But you know even that is doomed. Thank God for Facebook, it has enabled the modern day traveller to record all his new friendships and see them fade away in the distance of the real world. You build a community of virtual vagabonds who all enjoy sharing their hobo-like existence with their friends and family, some are better at it than others, and all in all it helps create a more dynamic feed with the mix of babies born all over the world and the latest shots from Asian backpacker destinations.
When you’ve done this for a while you become tired. Especially when you return and catch up with old friends, realising they’ve all moved on in different directions. Some have great, intense and tight friendship bonds with others, a painful observation to the lonely traveller on the road with no one.
But it’s not all bad. Sometimes you reconnect with someone you used to know a long time ago. Maybe you even find a new friend among your old acquaintances. Things change, and sometimes the change can bring two people together again.
The Transient Nature of Change
In the end, you realise the transient nature of travel is just a quicker and more intense representation of the transient nature of life itself. If you go looking for change, change will come in full force. Nothing is constant, not even change as even change changes. More and less, a baby is more change than a new coffee mug. Some days are almost the same as the one before, others are completely different.
Why is that such a bad thing? Why do we feel the need to only raise the long lasting and steady constant to the sky? A brief but intense moment is not worth any less than all of eternity. We’re not put on this Earth as immortals, we are by our very nature transient beings. We will pass, and so will our experiences and relationships, some more quickly than others.
Instead of fighting to make them last and thereby living in the future, you should embrace the now and enjoy the moment as it happens in time. Extend it if you can, plan for more further down the line. You need to let go and not live in the past. Stroll down memory lane every now and then and smile at experiences gone, and then return to the present. Neither should you live in the moment alone. Even though our current culture seems to celebrate that notion with the juvenile phrase yolo being flung around as an excuse to act like an ass. You can not forget the past and the future, because you’d never learn and you’d never live. It all needs to fit to make a life, because time is an illusion; time is not constant because time is only experienced.
If you learn to embrace and love the intense moments when life is real, no matter how breif, you learn to live life itself.
In the summer of 2011 I came in safely on the Greyhound to Los Angeles from San Francisco and for once the terminal looked like it wasn’t in the dodgiest part of town. So I decided to walk toward downtown, determined not to spend any money on a taxi. A decision I would both regret and praise.
It must’ve been a sunday because everything looked dead and empty. I’d noticed the route the bus took through downtown and over to the Greyhound station a couple of kilometers away and decided the streets looked safe enough. So long as I could just double back along the same route.
I hung the camera bag over one shoulder and my laptop bag over the other, threw my big and heavy backpack on my back and started walking, the skyscrapers making it obvious which direction I should take. At first the streets were nearly empty, hardly even saw any cars driving past me. The weather was sunny, but not too hot, much more pleasant than a month earlier as I arrived in New York City on the end of a heat wave.
Somewhere along the way I must’ve taken a wrong turn. I no longer recognised the buildings and I started seeing more people, poor people, moving about in the street. But as I could still see the tall towers of LA reaching for the sky I kept on walking. More and more people started to appear, I thought nothing of it. It was a huge city after all. Soon I walked past the first movie shoot I was to see that day (2 more later followed). I was excited, but instantaneously the feeling subsided.
I was greeted by the hard truth of the city of angels, the city of dreams: the people that have fallen between.
The street was filled with people now, but they were not going from one place to another; they were living there. Shopping carts, clothes racks and sleeping bags were scattered all over the sidewalk. I held on to my bags and kept on walking. Avoiding eye contact almost as fiercely as I realised the poor inhabitants of this street were doing to me. Hardly anyone looked at me, and those who did quickly looked away, eyes averted in shame. Their society has told them they are so low that when a traveller from a different country stumbles upon them they are ashamed of their failure to fit in with a country that doesn’t love them. The shame becomes theirs when really it should be the nation’s.
Strangely I never felt unsafe; there was just nothing there to threaten me. I kept on walking, looking around in complete astonishment as I walked past thousands upon thousands of homeless people. No doubt in my mind that many of these had formerly been members of the middle class who lost everything as the crash on Wall Street 3 years prior had lead to the worst recession the world had seen since the Great Depression of the 30’s.
All of a sudden the congregation abruptly stopped and I was greeted by a police station and a sign that declared that it was a crime to sit, lay or otherwise occupy the streets of LA. I was amazed at the contrast to what I had just seen. Skid Row had ended.
Almost immediately after I passed the police station I saw the second movie shoot of the day as a car came driving past, cameras on cranes and filming the back of the truck where a car was parked. That’s how they do it. When you see a car driving around in the movies it’s really on top of another car, allowing the actors to focus on acting rather than driving.
Downtown Los Angeles
It might seem remarkable and strange that it wasn’t until leaving Skid Row that I was harassed for the first time. A rough looking fellow came up to me while I was waiting on the light to change so I could cross the street. He was asking for money. When I said I had none he refused to take no for an answer. Luckily he must’ve thought better of the situation as there were plenty of people about and he quickly moved on, almost running from the scene which forced me to check my pockets. Everything was still there.
I had just lost my wallet on the Greyhound coming into San Francisco and had only managed to get to LA by the fluke that my money was split between 2 different accounts and I had kept the cards separate. So I was in no mood to repeat that stress, even though I only needed to get to the airport by now, I’d wisely decided on largely skipping LA. The city of angels didn’t beckon me. I had a ticket out and I wasn’t intending to stay.
After a walk down the near deserted ghost town that is Downtown LA after office hours, I bought a carton of cigarettes as I still hadn’t been able to kick that habit back then. I wanted to save money as smokes were more than twice the price at my next destination: Melbourne, Australia.
Realising there wasn’t much more to see I went looking for a taxi. But I couldn’t even find that. Instead I walked past a skyscraper that had a warning plaque posted outside saying something or other about a carcinogen that had been used in the building. A typical American disclaimer allowing the owner of the building to swear off any responsibility on people getting sick while working there. They knew what they were getting themselves into, they had a choice.
Good Bye Mr. America
I finally managed to get a taxi and told the driver to take me straight to the airport. As we got further away from downtown I looked back through the rear window at the experience I had just had. I knew I wouldn’t miss LA, and in a way it was a great last stop on my tour across the USA, coast to coast over land. It fit in with the perspective I had already gained of the huge economic disparity that prevails in the Greatest Nation on Earth. I skipped out on Hollywood as I didn’t feel that it was the real LA. I saw the real Los Angeles that day, it wasn’t pretty, but I am glad for what I saw – the real, hard truth about the American dream: Some people fall between.
Beppe Karlsson, Stockholm
This is the worst part. You’ve set a target, you’ve got goals. You know your next move and you’re really looking forward to it. But for one reason or another you can’t get on with it just yet. You’ve got some old shit to take care of.
Maybe you’re getting a new job, but you’ve got to sit out the time at your current one first. Or maybe, as in the case here as this is a travel blog, you’re waiting to get started on your next adventure. Sometimes you start planning several months, or even a year in advance. The problem then becomes how you survive.
A Walk Into Imagination Land
The goal is always just out of reach, over on the horizon, like some damn mirage, an unattainable dream. Something you want but can’t have. At least not yet. It’s enough to drive you bat shit crazy. You keep on dreaming, spending every spare moment wandering off into the dream, deeper and further you go, it soothes your ache, it helps you get by. Hell, I’d even encourage you to dream: it helps you guide the experience once you get there. Before going to Canada I dreamt about working in an electronic store, meeting new, interesting people on a daily basis. Within 2 months of arriving I did just that: worked in an electronic store and met tons of interesting people.
Imagination land has one problem though – it is not real. Nothing can ever be as goood as your imagination, never forget that, but use it. It helps you get by, but it also increases your thirst. So you start looking deeper into what you’re going to do, what you want to see. You get into the planning stage. You search the web for images and seem to randomly find your path is crossing with others who have been to your destination, or people that want to go. Some would call it the universe sending signs, or bringing you together. Some would call it chance, or possibly the law of attraction. Maybe you’re subconsciously searching for these chance happenings. You can call it what you want, but truth be told: this seems to happen all the time. Make the most of them, make connections, find friends, and inform yourself. Book your tickets before they become too expensive, solidify your plans, set them in stone.
Embrace Your Life – Just the Way It Is
Soon enough you will find yourself in the insufferable time a few months, or weeks, before you leave. You’re still stuck in the same old routine. Nothing new under the sun, but at the same time that far away horizon has definitely gotten closer. Now you can almost make out the shape of things to come. But not quite yet. This is the tough time. These days all you want to do is go, step outside and wander off into the great unknown. This is when you need to anchor yourself in the daily grind. Spend time with friends and family alike, you never know how long it will be until you see them again. My most recent big trip was planned to span 18 months but ended up lasting over 2 years. People asked me if I didn’t miss my family when I was away for so long. Truth be told I did, but also I didn’t. We all have our own lives, and while it hurt that I couldn’t give my parents a hug at any moment, I am an adult and I live my life just for me and not for them. I wouldn’t say that homesickness was a big issue for me, I don’t think it ever has been.
Now is the time to start tending to practical matters. Sort visas, reach out to contacts and sort out your mail and other boring stuff for while you’re away. It’s all these boring details that will help you get through this part, it will remind you the goal is near and will keep you occupied until the time runs out.
Regretting the Decision
The last couple of weeks, and especially the last few days, is a time for regret. You question why you’re doing this. What you hope to accomplish. You sow fear in your heart, and reap the worries. You wonder if you’ll make friends, or if you’ll be alone. You wonder if you’ll find a job, or end up poor, a beggar on the street, homeless without a roof, cold in the night.
You already start missing your loved ones, even though they are right there – next to you every day. You’re stressing about the little things you’ve left to sort out before you go. You worry you will be detained at the airport, or that you’ll forget to pack some essential item. You worry that some bill will go unpaid and give you a welcome back home after a year overseas with a big fat debt to repay. There are so many things that can go wrong and they’re all playing in your mind right now. Let them, and know that the worst that could happen will still give you a hell of a story to tell, an experience gained and wisdom to never make the same mistake again.
The Soothing of Leaving
No matter all the things you worried about, scenarios dreamt up in your stressed out brain, it will all wash away on that fateful day. The day when you wake up, bags packed next to your bed, a flight to catch or a train to ride. The only feeling that washes over you, immediately as the vehicle starts rolling towards your future, is one of serene bliss. You’re on your way, excitement builds, euphoria explodes and you find yourself feeling more than just a little high. Life is good and nothing can stop you from realising your dreams, the ones you’ve had, over and over in all those hard months past.
The wait is over; now is the time.
Now is your time.
Beppe Karlsson, Stockholm