Welcome to Colombia!

Say what?!

Yes dear readers, we braved Iceland to tell you all about WOW air and glaciers in the previous piece, and now we have arrived in warmer climates.

Welcome to Cartagena, Colombia!

The Kelty bag and I are once again on the road. This time for the first flight on Jet Blue. The process was solid, staff friendly, and the cabins kept extra chilly…which I love! Over all thumbs up to the team at Jet Blue oh this initial run.

Colombia has long been on my list, and I’m super stoked to be here. I want to present this country over the next few weeks outside of the single story we in the USA have heard over and over again. The single story of cocaine and violence. This place is so much more than that, and I want to share all of it with you. Now, I’ve been in country a whole twelve hours, and already I need to tell you a few things. First and foremost, this, (and you) are absolute bullshit if you travel to a place and don’t make any attempt at the language. You can try to at least master “Thank you”. If I can stutter through a few failed sentences, so can you. Assuming everyone speaks English, everywhere and at all times belongs in the depths of wankerdom. The practice immediately builds walls between you and what could be a kick ass local/authentic experience.

The second is another gleaned from my personal arsenal. Airline food sucks. Duh. No point complaining about it, as it’s not getting better. What I want you to do on your next flight is decline that shit. Have some snacks so you’re not all wienery and hangry to those around you. Then when you arrive, arrive famished. Arrive famished, interested and ready. Drop your bag at your accommodation of choice, embrace that hunger, and set out on foot.

What you find, might just change your fucking life. (And no, kick literal rocks Mr. Hard Rock Cafe) get out there and take a chance. There is no better way to begin to understand a place and a culture than its food. Today, after two bags of pretzels and a sneaky Kind bar, I found this.

Absolute Caribbean glory. I chatted in broken Spanish about the menu, and the area. The owner happened to be there. There are a few options I’m stoked to try in the coming days. Carpe that fucking diem. I’m happy to report that after an early morning Detroit departure and being heinously crop dusted in Fort Lauderdale by an evil old woman, I have arrived. Logged a few miles on the shoe lace express, chatted with some locals, and now completely ceviche drunk and content I will wander this city by the moon. Painting a picture of this “gem of the Caribbean”, I hope you’re ready for more.

As featured on NPR…

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Super stoked to announce that I was able to sit down for a chat with NPR local station affiliate WMUK 102.1!  I made the short trek over to Kalamazoo, to sit with Zinta Aistars, for the Between the Lines program. This program focuses on writing and the creative. The hour I was in the studio seem to blast by.    The link is live and up now.

Gypsy professor on between the lines

 

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This was so much fun! Zinta’s interview style is easy and engaging. She picked a great picture for the cover of the piece. Me, eyeballs deep in the mighty chicken fish, the local legend of the hawker stalls of Kuala Lumpur.

We chatted motivation, culture, history, writing, the blog, and a few things in between. I’ve been waiting to announce this, and find this timing perfect, as I leave for Iceland on a twisted weekend adventure this week! If you dont remember that story is here: A Note on Spontaneity

Listen to the interview if you need a smile on your way to wherever, and leave me some Monday motivation! Hopefully not the last time I find myself on the airwaves. I would love feedback.

 

 

Cheers!

 

A Note on Spontaneity

Just fucking go.

 

Seriously.

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There will always be a thousand excuses not to. Some more pliable than others.  Is it the perfect time? Probably not. Do you have wads of disposable income with no other designated purpose than making you smile? Probably not. On the flip side, however, do you need to eat out 3~ days a week? Probably not.  Lease and drive a new wanker mobile? Most likely not.  Do you really need that 5$ a day latte habit? Certainly not. Do any of these things actually make your life better?

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Find a way, buy the ticket, take the ride.  adventure is the one purchase that will always make you richer. Set the goal, embrace the unknown, and love taking the plunge. Love yourself enough to say “Lets do this”!  Even if this means finding yourself post leap, hurdling toward certain disaster, then at the last minute  building your wings on the way down, and coasting into bliss. I’ve never encountered anyone, late in life that said “I wish I didn’t adventure as much” or “I wish I would have spent more time at the office”…because that shit simply does not exist.  This is your life, and its ending one minute at a time. Why are you wasting these precious minutes on shit relationships, craptastic jobs, or toxic friendships?  There is a freaking world out there to discover. Literally billions of people, crazy flavors, insanely great cultures, traditions, and collective experiences.

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I want to help you. In fact, I am dedicated to helping you. In this vein, I want you to maximize those travel dollars and inspire you to get up, get moving, and get into having your mind blown.  I have posted about some crazy airfare deals in the past, its one of the main pillars for cheap travel. In recent years there’s been a monsoon of activity for the LCC (Low Cost Carrier) segment.  What is this all about?

 

Funny you should ask.

 

I will take the plunge for you. I’ve just booked 200$ (USD) roundtrip flights to Iceland…for a weekend…Two weeks from now. This is exam season, and I don’t have a ton of time. Who goes to Iceland for a weekend?! Who books transatlantic travel less than two weeks out!?

The GypsyProfessor, that’s who. I’m going to detail the experience, and let you know how twisted it gets, and how bare bones it can be. Savage plastic lawn chairs aboard an airbus for 6 hours. Will it prove worth it?

This way when the next dirt cheap fare pops, you will have all the info you need to pull the trigger. Just a mini weekend run before we prep for a run through the jungle after the semester finishes!

Reykjavik! Prepare for my triumphant return!

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Wish me luck, and leave some love!

Road trip…euro style.

Well damn.

Sometimes a few amazing things come together. I’ve been slacking the last few days, and desperately needed to post an update.

There are times when things come together to truly make an impression on you.

If you recall, I was all set to hit Europe with a recently retired family friend. Here

We landed in Amsterdam for his very first trip to Europe.

It was coooold in the Dutch capital, but the three of us had an absolutley amazing time. Exploring tiny Dutch pubs and wandering through the red light district. Watching two people take it all in for the first time is fucking magic. I realized that this is my 13th time through Amsterdam (if I remember correctly) so viewing this magnificent city through fresh lenses made me continually smile.

From The Netherlands we planned to head to coastal France, so the next morning we grabbed our car to begin an epic 8 day road trip. Of course, my reservation was “not avail” so an optional upgrade was engaged.

Time to shred across Europe in this big diesel beast. Yes, Sixt gave me a brand new Jaguar with 1200 miles on it. 😈 I’ve never spent much seat time in a Jaguar, and now after logging 2,000 kilometers I can say…it’s rather fun!

To Normandy we headed where we spent the rest of the weekend. Coastal France is fucking gorgeous. Within moments one can slip into fantasy, imagining walking along small cobblestone streets clutching a baguette and enjoying a peaceful life.

For me it was my inevitable return after a decade long absence. Rediscovering this rolling countryside and shredding long car tours through the stunning land scapes has granted me a kind of serenity. There simply aren’t many places quite like this.

I’ve fallen into this routine of driving, talking, engaging these lifelong friends and showing them the amazing features of life here…touring all day, and then stupendous food in the evening, a few bottles of local product and chats long into the night.

Babies don’t sleep this good.

I’ve been completely immersed in the moment, on a different wave length altogether. I haven’t updated like I usually do, but you will have to forgive me.

Coming up next is the galvanizing trek out to the American cemetery in Normandy and Omaha beach. Then down south for a peek into a medieval abbey.

Ready for this??

Leave some love!

7 more days…Travel to soothe the soul

2018 so far, has packed in some monumental change. The conclusions and insight apparent within the first few months have been astounding. The upheaval, transitions, and even betrayal have left me wounded and a feeling like an old tire. Where to go from here? Clarity is needed, and when dealing with uncertainty, clarity becomes rare.

This post is going to be a personal one, but with a twist. I believe travel can be a kind of therapy. The same vein I wrote about previously, upon discovering the glory of solo travel,  Baltic Success on the Solo Road  Showed me how cathartic and solidifying travel can be. I was scattered and disheveled.  That trip taught me a new dimension to self reliance, and embracing the unknown, and its time for me to re imagine those lessons.

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Timing is an odd beast. Tricky, yet at times serendipitous. As i’m dealing with personal drastic and radical change, today’s date reminds me that now we are 7 days away from heading back over the pond.  Timing indeed.

This story goes back years. Ill keep it to the condensed version. I have a near and dear family friend, who retired from teaching a few years back. Shortly before retirement, over our customary Friday beverages, I implored him to join me on an excursion. Having taught history for decades, I knew he would marvel at so many destinations. The food, the wine, architecture and history.  I also had an additional angle. I could not travel with my own father, as since his remarriage he apologetically informed me that he simply would never be allowed to go with me. His new wife forbade it. If he was going to travel, it would have to be with her. (and of course, they promptly never went anywhere)  That was a bitter pill to swallow. That dynamic frayed my parental relationship permanently. The politics and savagery of divorce, and the inherent power struggles native to integrating new relationships left me in an odd position. I have always appreciated the “old guy hindsight” the anecdotes, and the comparisons of days gone past. I’ve got years of formal education, a handful of degrees, and a bit of travel experience, but the older I get, I realize how little I know. I’ve come to embrace the fact that I need to talk less, and listen more.

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So, after imploring my family friend for a few years, he finally went and renewed his passport. Now we were getting somewhere! (his last passport expired in 1977). Late last year, a cheap ticket popped up for Amsterdam. This was it. Time to book, to take the plunge and not look back.  His daughter, whom I grew up with decided there was no way she was sitting this one out and joined in on the adventure. We were now a trifecta heading to The Dutch capital.

Our plan?

This year happens to be the 100 year anniversary of the end of WWI. We have decided to rent a car (diesel, and equipped with a 6sp) to rip across the Netherlands, Belgium, and France. Hitting The major battle fields en route to Normandy. The Somme in particular. What is it about the road, saltwater and good friends that proves so lethal to the doldrums?  A stop in Champagne, Bayeux, Lille, and possibly Bruge, should thoroughly enthrall the senses. I am hoping that in the end, the time on the road, the chats, the wine, and the journey will grant me the clarity I need in choosing my path forward.  I hope you are looking forward to dispatches from the road! A new episode of the Gypsy Professor is fast approaching.

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Monday Musings…a day late.

Today has been a Tom Petty kind of day. I miss that guy.

Fat Tuesday is here, its cold outside, and there are Paczki near at hand. Tuesdays may be the most difficult day of the week this semester. The previous evenings night class ends at 9:30. post the long slog of Monday, I am left to stumble home, a bit numb and wind down before bed. The true endurance is needed for the early morning rise on Tuesday.

How do you stay motivated? Do you look at flights? Pictures from previous trips?

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After much thought I’ve come to realize that the tricky Motivation beast is not a bottomless well, but a battery that has to be kept fully charged, and maintained. While the idea of travel is almost always inspiring, sometimes life gets in the way and then suddenly, your focus has shifted, you’re distracted, your limited supply of fucks have been redirected elsewhere. those are precious fucks, and you have a finite supply from day to day, so keep those eyes on the prize.

I feel as if I’ve had my ass kicked this semester. A month through South East Asia,Holy shit. Angkor Wat. then An incredible and yet taxing time in Haiti, The End of the World…Caribbean style. only to land  back to a full time grind a day later. The day job, running a small business, office hours, grading, the side hustle, writing, reading… who in the hell has time to run down their dreams?!? You know the whole damn point to all of it? I can get easily distracted, and these last few days have been a low point of frustration and exhaustion.

Motivation is important, and I want to discuss it shortly.

When it comes to traveling;

 

3 Quick bits

Research Destinations — Google them, read blogs about them. Here, and all over the web.  These are the initial steps, build the foundation, and eventually you’ll get there. It may sound wankerish, but by always keeping travel on my mind, I have a mental place to focus on, don’t just zone out, keep those eyes on the prize. Be mindful about what it is you want. Don’t worry, there will plenty of people to shit on your grand ideas. Friends and family who have never left the country rarely shy from giving you their input about not going there…because, in fact they have never gone anywhere. This is a GREAT sign. People bag on things they don’t understand. Just worry about getting there. You know when you encounter someone who is actively keeping their dreams alive. They are typically supportive of your endevours, positive and cool to interact with. Those that let their dreams die a twisted death are past even cynical, and their jaded nature finds a way to alter almost every aspect of conversation with them. People will either inspire you, or drain you. Chose them wisely.  I’m constantly researching destinations online, reading news from overseas, and generally getting to know the world better. Refining my “short list”.  The more I learn and absorb about various places, through history, culture, food, etc…Im left energized with a feeling of “So many places, so few years”.

Devote time – Stuff always seems to come up, doesn’t it? Life happens. Life happens fast. Blink and you will be in a long term relationship, picking out matching leisure wear, yelling at kids to stay off your grass. Guess who didn’t climb that goddamn mountain?  Look, nothing awesome comes easy. I spend roughly an hour per day looking at airfare and options for adventure. My dad, on the other hand reads the local obits every morning. (see the difference here)? Instead of wasting time on toxic people, or drowning in the mental masturbation of social media take that time back. Devote that shit to planning your trip. Make it a consistent part of your schedule and develop a habit so that it doesn’t feel like a task you “have” to do; it becomes just something you do automatically. Book a flight. Just do it. Go. You might be shocked whats waiting for you.

Read, Read…Read! — Reading about other travelers’ adventures can show you that it is easier to travel than you thought, provide advice and tips on the art of travel, and teach you about places you’ve never heard of. Start with the history of a particular region, then move onto some of the literature. Your experience will pay off in dividends.  And of course you can read about some of it here. Shameless plug.  Scared of Albania? Read about peoples experience there. I’m sure there are dozens of blogs dedicated to everything from the art/music scene, hidden beaches, solo female travel, vegan food options, etc. You go with a glimpse of history, end up with a talented musician on a secluded beach…how much better than some bullshit Caribbean cruise would that be? Perhaps One day you’ll get sick of living vicariously through others, and you will be all set to go make your own blooper/highlight reel.

This, as well as hanging out on travel forums will also help you tune out the ass hats that tell you “you can do that”. Life is too damn short for that shit. Like i said before, you chose your company. chose wisely.

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Leave some love

Baltic Success on the Solo Road

Some things work out quite nice as a trifecta. When I began thinking about the importance of traveling alone, I thought of my first time truly taking the plunge, and sharing that story became a necessity. Divided into three parts, this my mini narrative.

As you might recall the two previous chapters are On the Path to Solo Travel

and here: The Silver Lining/Solo Travel Pt2

So, after a crushing defeat, we find glory. (A proper silver lining) This glory is two fold. One of the first aspects is that when it comes to travel, toss those expectations right out the fuckin’ window. Toss em. I’ve known folks who have the most insane itineraries, allocating absolute minutia, building in “15 min break” slots into their schedules. Control wound that tight…is going to lead to a tense, frustrated mess.  No thanks.  Learn to embrace some element of flow and flexibility for a much improved experience.

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I had found my ticket, but it was last minute. My Balkan fantasies would be put on hold for a bit, because my only real option was Vilnius Lithuiania…With a 12 hour stop over in Stockholm, Sweden.  This sounded great to me. I was hell bent on embracing this new sense of enlightened adventure. I had completely  transformed my feelings of disappointment and anxiety into ones of wonder and excitement. I was doing this as a personal journey as well as a European adventure. As I mentioned before, this was a starting point of epic proportion. I booked this ticket last minute, and was set to arrive home the night before the fall semester began.  Logistics be damned, lets get on the road!

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I made it to Chicago, and boarded my flight. Watched a few movies, and promptly woke up in Sweden. That morning is mostly a blur. I took an incredibly nice, and incredibly expensive train to the city center. Grabbed a pastry and walked the Swedish capital.  Stockholm is clean, efficient and easy to navigate. Swedes are courteous and a bit cold in an appropriate “Nordic” style. 38894251235_5d6da2898c_b

Stockholm was an appetizer. I was here, and I did it solo. after a day of wandering about, meatballs, and viking heritage, I made my way back to the airport, for the propeller powered jump over to Vilnius.

 

I was only a bit nervous, but mostly excited. I had planned on a few days in Vilnius, then taking a bus to Riga, and then finally onto Tallinn. I had no reservations, no expectations, no damn travelers checks, just my phone and serendipity.

I land, clear customs, and make my way to the ATM for local currency. The person in line ahead of me turns around and says  “Go green”!

I was a bit shocked and tired, so I didn’t immediately grasp his meaning. Pointing to my

t shirt, I realized I was sporting a large Michigan State University Spartan logo.

This guy hailed from Royal Oak, Michigan, and was visiting a friend who had moved to Lithuania. I was stunned.

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His local based buddy had a great group of friends and I was soon welcomed with open arms. I found a local boutique hotel in the old town, and  most nights we met for beers and general debauchery.  I absolutely loved it. Vilnius is large enough to have a plethora of activities, and yet small enough to maintain at least a somewhat intimate feeling. I implored  my new comrades to join me for Riga, and we took the party on the road.

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Before this trek, I was racked with doubt about logistics, about enjoying that amount of solo time, etc. Mid way through this journey, I had embraced the uncertainty and was never going to look back.

” You live like this, sheltered, in a delicate world, and you believe you are living. Then you read a book… or you take a trip… and you discover that you are not living, that you are hibernating. The symptoms of hibernating are easily detectable: first, restlessness. The second symptom (when hibernating becomes dangerous and might degenerate into death): absence of pleasure. That is all. It appears like an innocuous illness. Monotony, boredom, death. Millions live like this (or die like this) without knowing it. They work in offices. They drive a car. They picnic with their families. They raise children. And then some shock treatment takes place, a person, a book, a song, and it awakens them and saves them from death. Some never awaken.”

This was my moment of awakening. On the long bus trek to Riga, and then onto Tallinn, I had decided. This was the road for me.

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After Riga my comrades went back to Vilnius, and I went on to Tallinn.  I want to write a more indepth review of these cities, and this post isn’t that. This bit is meant more to discuss the journey.

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This ten day journey covering a few thousand miles proved absolutely what I needed. By the time I made it back to Vilnius for the flight home, i was already looking at tickets for winter break. I was going for a long haul month long trek after exams to the Balkans. It was going to a twisted savage affair that would change me again forever after.

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Exploring these Baltic streets of the three capitals  in late August has stayed on my mind over the tears. I met so many incredibly friendly and inviting people. I left the region utterly inspired on every level to keep exploring, and never stop wandering this incredible world of ours.