Saturday, 3 November 2012

Inspiring Encounters

My travels have evolved constantly since the day I flew out of Canada. It started out with a mix of culture shock and adaptation to life on the road. After finding our groove, Amy and I blazed a tourist extravaganza of museums and attractions, ending each day with pained feet and backs, ready to collapse into bed. Consequently, we started to find a better balance, building in more rest time and partying, phasing out touristy stuff. By the time Amy left, we were both pretty sick of the touristy stuff.

Slowly throughout this process, I have realized the true power of travelling lies within the people you meet along the way, which cannot occur in a typical "vacation." This aspect of the trip has become the highlight of my travels. I have met some truly wonderful people and the goodbyes have become much harder and harder.

This blog is dedicated to these people. Below are some anonymous stories of people I have met that are inspiring or just plain awesome, and whose memories will last beyond the touristy stuff such as The Louvre or Colosseum. There really have been too many great meetings to mention them all, and I apologize if I omitted you from here.


Amy and I, after walking around lost in 30 degree heat, weighted by our entire travel packs, finally found our campsite in a small Spanish town, teeming with people in anticipation of La Tomatina, the biggest food fight in the world. Eventually we found our two Couchsurfers but then, somehow, our group swelled into a formidable mini United Nations (3 Americans, 1 Romanian, 1 Japanese, 1 Danish, and us 2 Canadians). What followed was a Sangria-laced preparty, a wild tomato fight the next day, followed by rest, and dinner out with more Sangria, all with the same crew! As diverse as the crew was, everyone was fit in their own unique way and we had a flawless time together. Amy and I visited many of them in Spain afterwards. I intend, hopefully, to meetup with some more of them later on in my travels.

Olive oil tasting at
Salone del Gusto
It started out as two Aussies, one American and I, sharing a cute apartment-style hostel. The beautiful views and relaxing atmosphere at Cinque Terre really brought out the best in each of us. We shared in great chats, first over well-cooked food, then later on the beach. One of the Aussies and I decided to move on to Salone del Gusto, the annual Slow Food convention in Torino, which the American already left for a day earlier. We convinced another American in our hostel to come along with us.

The Aussie was an incredibly thoughtful, passionate and sympathetic person. We discussed our shared disgust for genocide and mutual shunning of technology. The American was one of the most ambitious people I have ever met, becoming a rock climbing instructor and moving out of the house at age 13, being a cook of diverse cuisines, managing her own cafe, managing her own catering gig, studying for two math-related degrees at one time, and living in a common-law relationship with her husband in a 5-acre home, growing organic vegetables, and she is just 23.

The 3 of us had a great time together and was also rescued on two of the nights spent in Torino by a wonderful Couchsurfing host, who impressed us with his cooking, his wine, and, also later on, by his mature outlook on life and the way he lives it.

Truffles! The big one
probably cost more than 500 euro
On the train to the annual truffle convention, near Torino, two ladies seemingly lost, asked me, possibly because I did not look Italian, if they were on the right train. They were heading to the same convention, so decided to follow me. They asked me where I was from and what I was doing in Italy. I returned the question and it turns out they are from South Africa, one makes jam and runs a cafe, and the other spent some time on a well-renowned organic farm and wrote a book about her experiences on it. I expressed my interest in working on farms in the future and, upon hearing this, they genuinely invited me to work on their farm sometime! Now I just need to find a cheap flight to Cape Town.

Upon boarding my train, I noticed some people talking in English, not sure if the train was going to Budapest. I confirmed this. One of them got on the train and, later on, swung by to inform me that we will have an unexpected transfer due to construction on the tracks. We decided to stick together so that we could either make it to our destination or get lost together. We started to chat and it turns out she is about to embark on long term travelling in India. I discussed my travels and eventually found out that she knew the Couchsurfer I am staying with in Budapest, and even once lived on the same street! When we finally arrived in Budapest, she guided me from the train station, by bus, right to my Couchsurfer's doorstep and we wished eachother best of luck in our travels.

Waiting for this Couchsurfing host outside his flat, I noticed another evident traveller, heavily clad in backpacks on his front and back, coat bulging with even more possessions underneath, holding a guitar case, and, strapped to one backpack, a whiteboard reading "Budapest." I knew at once he must be some hardcore hitchhiker with many interesting stories. It turns out he was waiting for the same host, who wouldn't be back for a few hours, so we sat down somewhere to eat and chat.

Well, to call him interesting is an understatement. He is travelling around the world with no money, relying on people's generosity in exchange for human connection and interaction, and is writing a book about it along the way. He plans on hitting up all 6 major continents this way. We chatted not only about his adventures but about eachother's pasts and philosophical beliefs. I gave him two of my bananas to quell his hunger. This man was truly inspiring and I genuinely hope he achieves his goal safely.

The host's place was filled up, with three other Couchsurfing parties joining the penniless man and I. The host himself was a sage among travelers, having hitchhiked to some far out places. You can't imagine the conversation between him and the penniless man about how to hitchhike through Afghanistan and Pakistan, or from Russia to North America. Among the guests there was also a German guy who is a celebrity in China because he married a Chinese woman and, together, rode a 125cc motorbike across China. In the morning I cooked eggs with truffles for everyone, and was rewarded with Hungarian homemade jam.

While in line to check-in for my flight to Tampere, Finland, an old man began talking to me. He lived in Tampere and offered me a ride to the train station so I could be on my way. On the plane I found him and sat next to him and his wife, who couldn't speak English. He talked about Finland and skiing, and I about Canada. I learned that 75% of Finland is covered by forest! After we landed in Tampere, his son picked us up and, on the way to the train station, we talked and exchanged useful info for eachother. After dropping me off, I soon discovered I left my phone in his car, but not long after, the son came back with my phone, thank goodness!

You, my dear, are the last but most special to me of all the meetings. As it started out, I couldn't leave your hostel, it was the most homey one I have stayed at in all my travels, thoughtfully laid out and ornately decorated, luring you to sit down, then discouraging you from leaving. Being in your company was fun and, above all, came easy and felt completely natural. It was a short stay, but only on my second day, I felt that maybe we had a special connection. On the third day, come time to catch my flight, I couldn't bear to leave and experienced my hardest goodbye.
I am not exactly sure if your feelings toward me were mutual, or if the future holds anything in store for us, but I do know that I intend to visit you again as soon as my Schengen rules allow it, wherever in Europe you may be.

Ironically, I just heard one of my favourite Linkin Park songs and feel it is appropriate to conclude this blog with its lyrics:

Weep not for roads untraveled 
Weep not for sights unseen 
may your love never end 
and if you need a friend 
there's a seat here along side me...

Latest photos:

No comments:

Post a Comment