Monday, April 25, 2011

New Years Part one: Growing up as a Traveller

I finally let it out. I had been holding it in for so long and I finally let it out to Tracy. I realized I shouldn’t have left all signs pointed to Tracy stay, stay in Canada. There are opportunities here, you can write here, just write, write now! I don’t even know why I left Canada it’s just what I am used to doing...leaving. Most people don’t have the nerve to pick up and leave and start new in another country but that’s what I know how to do best. What I don’t have the nerve to do is stay anywhere or with anyone for that matter.

I left Canada very abruptly I knew I wanted to come away traveling I wanted to travel Brazil I wanted to cruise the Amazon but I didn’t plan a thing. I was writing for GPSmycity making walking tours and competing to be the Air Transat vacationers. I still thought that they were going to call me when I was on the beaches of Colombia. However if they didn’t call it no longer mattered all that washed away because I was on the beaches of Colombia. Everything washes away, responsibilities, relationships turned sour, growing up. When you get on a plane it seems time just freezes, you are refreshed and new. Unfortunately time actually doesn’t freeze, people at home move on and up while I search for my next hostel job or serving on a beach. Life is great when the weather is warm, the fruits are abundant and every hour is beer O’clock. However even though I might not really have grown up in the normal sense like getting a serious job, getting married and have screaming snot nose children it snuck up on me that I had grown up as a traveller.

I have been unhappy traveling with no stability I know things work out in the end but it’s ridiculous to travel for six months and once the money runs out go back to living in my parent’s basement until I can get away again. I have neglected my family and friends for years looking for new friends and family on the road. I was happy to meet new interesting people in hostels but now I’m just sick of it. I want a partner in crime to share it all with and to make fun of the rest of the wankers with. I have always known that Canada wasn’t the place for me but whenever I stay somewhere else for a certain period of time I get restless and want to leave once normalcy falls upon me. I always said I need to leave a place once it starts to feel comfortable.

When will I ever settle down or live in one place? I always answered that with, “when I find that place.” I had some heart to hearts with my Italian friend in Santa Marta who knew Italy wasn’t for him and he doesn’t feel like it is home when he goes back but his life in Colombia is very different, he runs a hostel where all his friends are the guests and they all eventually leave. The locals aren’t so easy to become friends with and the women just want to be in a relationship. He loves it there and wants to make it his home but in the end the best advice he gave me was that I could spend a lifetime looking for that place to live where I am happy but happiness it found within me.

I have a lot of friends who also spend their lives traveling the world and not being the norm. People that really understand me and after I completely broke down in Buenos Aires one of my friends wrote me this:

“It’s the gradual progression of life as a traveler. The world is vast. We've been put here to explore it. Cheer up. Happy New Year.”

Then I got an e-mail from him. I left him years ago but will never get rid of him entirely. Even though we don’t really talk I always have him as my support (or drill sergeant in my head telling me to suck it up and be a soldier)and this instance when I was down and out I actually heard from him. Basically he was telling me the same thing; “You travel the road hard to learn the lessons of life, only to learn that all you've achieved is a delaying action and a criminal neglect of your family. I have also understood the wonder of the 'medium-term travel' - a two month trip which doesn't have the two month 'getting nicely stoned and lying on a beach optional add-ons which I was so fond of. You lose a little something in the writing because your too busy taking it all in and have little time to mull over it but its exciting. Settling down is only settling down in their eyes. You can have a base and still see and do loads. Anyways, at the moment you are on a journey whether you like it or not and if you go back to Canada before winter is officially over, (and I mean when the fucking groundhog comes out to play), I will be bitterly disappointed. So get your shit together and get down to Patagonia.”

Huh well shit, I did get my shit together figured out my travel plans for Brazil and thought fuck Patagonia why the hell would I pay money to freeze my tits off and see glaciers, I’m from Canada. I want beaches, hot men and something new. I want to meet a new culture and challenge myself. I am Brazil bound!

Back in BA

The girls I had met in Mendoza and I were all going to be in Buenos Aires at the same time. The Belgium girl was coming back from Iguazu and the rest of us boarded an overnight bus together. My second time in BA, I felt I knew the city quite well and I was the tour guide something I am way more comfortable doing. I was a master of the Subte, knew the districts, the tourist attractions, where to stay and where to drink.

I took us to a hostel in Palermo which I picked because it would be close to my friend and future traveling partner Tracy, this hostel was also cheap and had a pool. I didn’t feel so right leading the girls and having them put their trust in me, I felt like I had lost my travelers instinct and every hostel I choose ends up to be a dud. This one wasn’t as fantastic as it was described on the Hostel World website. I think that was my problem I had long ago gave up on Hostel World and the Lonely Planet for hostel advice. People who book on Hostel World aren’t real travelers trying to find the hidden gems, they are organized, strapped for time and looking to meet other gringos to drink with. Mini Hostels is an OK site but I am still weary after the Israeli hostel experiences. The Lonley Planet is outdated and overrated. I have always had the best luck on word of mouth but here I was going to a website recommended hostel because I was sick of the heat of Argentina and wanted a pool.

My pool turned out to be a bath tub on the roof top. The girls didn’t seem to mind the practically empty hostel that lacked in character with a bath tub but I couldn’t believe I had done it again. I used to just know where to go and could sense an amazing hostel. I was a pro, I was an old school budget traveller, and this was practically my profession. I knew how to get in with the locals and find the authentic experience. Had I really lost it? Was I one of those jaded travellers who were just looking at things the wrong way?

I was starting to lose all hope in myself but thought the girls needed to check out Plaza Serrano for some Sangria and people watching. That’s when we came across an art opening in a children’s shop. There was music, wine and snacks, I felt like I was back in Oaxaca, Mexico where I used to rub shoulders with the art community on a regular basis at openings. I knew exactly what you were supposed to do in this instance; grab a glass of wine and shmooze! The girls were a bit hesitant but I knew this was open to the public and soon we were chatting with the crowd who were doing exactly the same thing.

We pulled ourselves away from the free wine and found a place in the plaza. After much wine and a lot of girl talk we embarrassingly realized the guy beside us could understand everything we were saying. I guess he didn’t care so much about our endless girly sex talk because after a few more drinks he invited us back to his apartment which was actually close to our hostel. They were nice guys slightly weird and a little nerdy but it was great entertainment driving around Buenos Aires with locals and drinking wine in their apartment playing drinking games. We learned that in Argentina New Years is more of a family occasion even more so than Christmas. Buenos Aires empties out with everyone spending family time on the coast and the river what is left is foreigners. This is the party Capital of Latin America and on the biggest party event of the year the city is deserted?! I wasn’t worried as New Years is highly over rated and I had house party plans but the other refused to believe this.

In the end maybe I hadn’t lost my touch but I was still not sleeping, I was on edge, anxious and morning always brought me down. However it was nice being in BA even though previously I despised it and everything Argentinean, perhaps it was growing on me.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Travel in Bike: Wine Bike Tour in Lujan de Cuyo Mendoza, Argentina

Travel in Bike; Wine and Bike tour of Lujan de Cuyo, Mendoza

Most backpackers go to Maipu to check out the famous wine region of Mendoza. I was lured to Lujan and after much havoc we stumbled upon Travel in Bike wine tours. It was the treasure at the end of our exhausting journey.

I have raved previously about the friendliness of Colombians, the hospitality and warmth of the people which I haven’t found in many other places. I found that here in the small town of Lujan in a little family business. A man and his pregnant wife greeted us with friendly smiles and quickly went about making sure we had everything we needed, getting us set up with bikes, water bottles, booking wine tours and giving us maps. They heard the hunger rumbling in our bellies and sent us next door for the craziest Argentinean wine and culinary experience.

Soon we had set off but we spent so much time with the Crazy Argie Chiqui next door that we were close to our first appointment across the road but not close enough to go so we went in the opposite direction to check out the scenery. The owner Marcos noticed us in the wrong direction and got in his car to make sure we were ok. We were surprised to see him and his concern for us but we assured him we were ok and happily cruising along. We toured Norton’s with the poshly dressed who were staying in local “simply charming” B&B’s. It was an extensive tour and very informative, we toured another winery before peddling like crazy to Chandon, the sparkling wine makers from Moet in France. At this point we skipped the tour and opted for a straight tasting. Upon arriving at Chadon Marcos called ahead to see if we made it ok and if everything was fine with our bikes, another little surprise that warmed our hearts. We made it back to his place all in one piece breezily peddling and feeling ever so bubbly from Chiqui’s homemade wine and the heavenly samples in the Bodegas.

Marcos took a group photo of us before we had to say goodbye to the hobbits and the Prince Williams. We were rewarded with bottles of homemade sweet red wine to enjoy in his beautiful garden with greenery and grape vines. Still peckish we ordered snack plates from his kitchen with olives, peanuts, meats and cheeses. This lovely couple and family to be's outstanding service care and concern was what made my experience so much more memorable. I am always a fan of giving my money to and enthusiastically recommending local deserving people and this couple was nothing but worthy.

I decided to contact Marcos for more background information for my blog he replied right away and remembered exactly when I was there and expressed how happy he was to hear from me. The care for his customers continues even after they leave the stunning wine region. Marcos Ibanez and his wife Paola celebrated the one year anniversary of their business this February. Previously Marcos worked in a shoe shop selling shoes while he studied marketing always with the desire to open his own business and provide outstanding customer service and care. His wife is a Doctor is a small hospital near to the village. She works in the mornings and helps him out in the afternoons. Both Marcos andvPaola’s families are from the Lujan area, the two met thanks to Marcos’ sister and have been together for three years. They have a little baby boy on the way due in two weeks, a future wine and bike tour guide.

If you are in the Mendoza area I highly recommend the Travel in Bike wine tour in Lujan. Stop in and say Felicidades to the new family for me!



Telephone: (0261)153530186/ 153530197 – 686*795/686*796

How to arrive?

You have to take Bartolome Mitre bus (#850) in the bus station, platform #57 or in Rioja St. (Across Alem St. To the south) They are in front of the Norton Winery.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Going the Distance

Alright so I am making a brief pause in my irregularly scheduled blog regarding my adventures in traveling to actually do some current writing. It does get a bit daunting when you have to play catch up with a blog. How does something that you created because you love to write become homework? Now that I am actually back to my writing after my brief hiatus whislt learning all things Brazilian, I should be writing away with my fingers racing across my "Tracy is too cheap to buy a real computer" HP mini. Instead I clean my room, search for jobs, stalk people on facebook and go out for drinks every night of the week just to avoid the homework of memories, people I have met and stories to tell that are piled up in my head. Why did I stop writing...well I will get to that just stay tuned to my sporadic blog.

In another attempt to avoid writing about my wine and bike tour in Argentina I downloaded the movie Going the Distance with Drew Barrymore whom I love and Justin Long who I would definitely go the distance for. Alright I admit it I am a sucker for Rom Coms despite the fact that I am perpetually single they make me all warm and fuzzy inside. It wasn’t just Justin Long who got me feeling the fuzzies this time though I actually got inspired to get off my ass and quit feeling sorry for myself. Drew Barrymore’s character is 31 years old and has returned to school to finally go after her dream at a journalism school to top it off.

The words of a close friend of mine have been ringing in my head since before I went for a job interview for a tour company, “If you REALLY wanted to be a writer you would already be one.” That was a bit hash and it still stings but feck if Drew Barrymore went back to school then maybe I should rethink things. I need to go the distance if I actually want to be a real writer and not a half ass blogger.

PS: Any Justin Long look a likes please apply here

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