I’m a (geographical) commitmentphobe. Recent months have left me struggling to follow necessary new life directions, and acting (or rather, not acting) extremely indecisively. It’s a really challenging time for us all; and long term travellers have lost a little bit of our identity. Either we push ahead with what travel we can, perhaps unfulfilled when arriving in vibrant new places that might have lost some of their vibrancy for the time being. Though I’ve tried to use this time to be a little more rooted, building towards a future I very rarely think about or am able to see. Though it isn’t easy – I’ve devoted 4 years of my life specifically to avoid such planning and existentialism.
These times have been something of a looking glass for many, and I’m certainly no exception. It’s led me to reflect on my travels these past years and the way my adventuring styles have modified, as I’ve become more seasoned, more professional in what it is I’m doing. This may also be affected by my growing up a bit, to become more risk averse, to plan more, and however much I try not to, to think about the future!
I began my adventures busking around the world with no idea exactly where the road would lead me, and hoping only that my violin would take me everywhere. I considered myself a yes-man, and any fresh opportunities I would grab straight away, without much thought. This spontaneous approach to travel took me to the Caribbean to play at a restaurant, and it was from there that my romance with sailing began. I hitchhiked the entire island chain over those coming months and a seed was planted of a truly sustainable and adventurous future, perhaps with more longevity than my wild camping and busking travels which, eventually, my back, contactless transactions, and increases in administrative complications for those living life in ‘grey’ areas, would draw to a halt.
So here I am in Mallorca while the world takes a breather. And I’m working towards something that will fulfil both my sailing desires, and ensure I maintain an adventurous future for the years to come. There is no better time to be doing this, but it doesn’t change the fact that, at least right now, I’m not sure I’m meant to be sticking it out in one place. I’m bored, and this insatiable wanderlust, my darned itchy feet leave me desperate to hop on the next boat out of here (both figuratively and quite literally!).
Finding work on yachts, it turns out, is not nearly as easy as it may seem, no matter how well connected you may feel you are; how well you think you know aspects of the business. A couple of quals and a couple of weeks out ambling around the docks and the yachtie bars will only get you so far. Though ill advised unpaid sailboat rides to Brazil, apparently, can fall right into your lap. I’m honestly quite tempted. Granted, Brazil’s ocean border is currently closed to all foreign vessels (goodness knows how the captain plans to sidestep that one); the country is in lockdown-lite; and all neighbouring countries won’t touch new arrivals with a barge pole (not to mention Mr Bolson-arsehole). But there is something to be said of the naïveté I held only a few years ago, the Dan who might have taken up the offer without second thought. Is it a good or bad thing that maybe he’s not around so much any more? I’m not so sure really.
This summer, during the Lukashenko protests, I tried to visit Belarus. A chance to visit Europe’s most volatile nation to try to understand, hands on, what was really taking place there, far from western media bias, excited me enormously. I was feeling unfilled by my recent European busking trips and wanted to ruffle some feathers, to feel the revolution in the air. Miraculously, my visa waiver was approved and at 3am I’m woken from my grotty-night-bus-quasi-sleep at the frontier checkpoint. My cyrillic and Belarusian fail me, and English fails the immigration officer. A combination of the following, no doubt, led to an unsuccessful entry attempt, proven by a large DENIED stamp now sat proudly in my passport: the pandemic, civil unrest, my crooked smile, what the guard had had for dinner that night, and the bag of cannabis left in the guitar case of my travel companion after she failed to recall its existence or think to dispose of it.
We made the most of the situation, of course, and so a 4am hitchhike from no-man’s land – we’d officially left Poland and thus the EU – with a German/Belarusian accordionist followed. Then came an equally-grotty-train-station-nap in the very exciting town of Tiraspol (we gave up trying after security woke us for the 4th time!), and discovery that Eastern Europe, too, has a monsoon season. The rest of the day was spent either soaking wet, just wishing for a ride, or en route and in the company of misogynists (plural) who were obsessed with my ‘girlfriend’, while we just wished that we were back out in the now very appealing thunderstorm.
Oh, and then I contracted Covid.
The two week state mandated post-Soviet hotel quarantine in the middle of nowhere in Eastern Poland left plenty to be desired, but really wasn’t all that bad. It was just a shame I couldn’t make use of my already purchased entry to the ‘Confiscated by Customs’ museum in Brest – one of the many bizarre stipulations to acquiring the Belarusian visa waiver!…
It was a good trip really, packed full of a lot of nutty turns of events that many will never come to experience (for better or for worse), which left me feeling more inspired, frustrated and alive than I have in some time. Now, I’m hardly recommending a trip to Belarus to catch Covid, but it certainly illustrates the kind of hands on, unique, and character building experiences that may come to pass when choosing to do slightly stupid and inadvisable things.
That being said, I’m still unconvinced of a trip to Brazil right now.
Back here in Palma, I’m irritatingly comfortable in my flat. No, I’m not making rent with the minute amount of music work available here. No, my best friends aren’t all here with me. Though the soft and numbing pleasure of having my own space for once, a fully stacked shelf of books to read, and all the while complaining that travels aren’t taking me exactly where I want (not that I can articulate where that feasibly would or could be!) seems to reluctantly suit. I’m not totally fulfilled, and that makes me tetchy. But weekly adventures around the island by bicycle, touring the village markets, violin in hand and nattering with the locals, whilst slowly chiselling away at a future career in yachting and dreaming of the mad travels which are soon to come again, is more than enough. It’s quite a fine existence, all things considered, though sitting somewhat still really doesn’t come easy to all of us.
I’m probably not hopping on a boat to Brazil next week, but it’s a shame that I’m not. And you probably shouldn’t head to Belarus right now either, though it’s a shame if you’re not.
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