3 months of travel, almost 3 left

Today marks 3 months of travel for me – 92 days away from home! I left my life as I knew it in the suburbs of Toronto, Canada on the 1st of May, and am currently the only living being in the “common room” in the only hostel in the city of Jajce, in Bosnia & Herzegovina, celebrating the 3-month milestone of my travels by enjoying a Nikšićko beer. Perhaps not optimal, but I think three months around Europe deserves at least a beer, no?

During the past three months, I’ve been to Spain, France, Spain again, Portugal, Morocco, Spain again, Switzerland, Hungary, Austria, Slovenia, and Bosnia. And just to remind you (as much as myself) where I’ll be headed to the next few months, I plan on touching ground in Serbia, England, Germany, Belgium, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Serbia again, Montenegro, Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia, Bulgaria, and Turkey.

Highlights?

When I meet people and tell them how long I’m travelling and how long I’ve been travelling, they naturally ask about my favourite moments and experiences. And I’m unable to provide answers. Seriously? Yes! How am I to narrow down and select from the many blessings over the past three months? Every day is amazing, every time I set foot in a place that I haven’t been before is amazing, every time I’ve had the fortune of revisiting a place for the xth time is amazing, every time I’m among natural beauty is amazing, every time I meet a fellow human being in this world who contributes something to my way of thinking is amazing…

Case in point: Today, I took a day trip to the town of Travnik, about an hour and a half from Jajce by bus. After leisurely visiting the hilltop fortress, I met a souvenir vendor who made conversation with me. We ended up talking for half an hour, about where I was from, my life in Canada, what I studied in university, where I was travelling, my last job, his previous job, the War in the 1990s, the political situation in Bosnia (presently and historically), religion in Bosnia, and why ćevapi in Travnik is unique and the most delicious ćevapi in Bosnia…

Before this encounter, this man was just another human among the 7 billion that inhabit this Earth. Now, although in all likelihood I’ll likely never see him again, he’s someone who shared a sincere conversation with me, whose face I’ll remember, who’ll be a highlight of my day on 31 July 2013…

But here are some highlights…

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Short reflections on the Camino de Santiago

El camino que camino es el mío – The path that I walk is my own

I filmed a few short videos while walking on the Camino de Santiago in May and June of 2013. In general, they show the amazing landscape that my eyes bore witness to, and the emotions and sentiments that I felt on the trails. I hope to go into more detail at some point, but I thought that I’d share these videos now (some are over 2 months old already!), lest they remain mere digital footprints on my iPhone that are left unshared. This, frankly, would be a shame – the Camino for me was an incredible, restorative 800-km journey buscando un poco más de la verdad: searching for a little more of the truth – my truth – what compelled me to walk such a large distance in a month’s time, to leave everything familiar and comforting to me behind, to put my faith in the unknown, to question how and why and humbly attempt to find answers, to trust and seek companionship in people who were just strangers before embarking on this pilgrimage…

I don’t pretend to have all the answers or speak of my experience as authoritative, but being an experience all the same, maybe there will be those who will want to seek out answers and search for their truth, and will be compelled to learn more about the ancient pilgrimage route that grows ever more popular in a world of increasing disillusion…

Camino de Santiago, Day 2

Camino de Santiago, Day 2, part 2

Camino de Santiago, Day 3

Camino de Santiago, Day 4

Camino de Santiago, Day 6

Travel updates

Looks like I haven’t posted anything in two and a half months!  It’s not for lack of anything to write, that’s for sure.  Initially, I wanted to take some time out while on the Camino de Santiago, and then I didn’t know where to begin blogging again once I had finished my pilgrimage.  And from there, it was just one place after another, with me overwhelmed about doing my experiences justice by putting into words everything that I lived and sensed and immersed myself in.  This post is a humble attempt to summarize where I’ve been the past few months and where I’m going the next few.

The past that has passed

My trip through France was leading me from the centre of the country down to the southwest to St.-Jean-Pied-de-Port, the starting point of the Camino de Santiago (Camino Frances, Way of St. James).  It was a great ten days exploring different cities in a country that I’d wanted to visit for so long, especially learning French throughout school.

The Camino de Santiago was an intense, unrelenting, unforgettable journey of the spirit that took my body from the Pyrenees all across northern Spain, walking on average between 20-30 kilometers a day with a rucksack on my back through rain, shine, and wind over all sorts of terrain.  I very much hope to write more about this experience because I believe that it has been the most significant thing that I have done with my life, and these mere words right now cannot possibly explain everything that my body, mind, and soul encountered during this blessed time.

I spent a few days in Santiago de Compostela, afforded with the luxury of sleeping in the same bed for more than one night and walking the same streets daily, even having a cafe that I frequented.  After moving around every day for the past month, it was a welcome change!  Then, I headed into northern Portugal for six days.  Portugal is a country that will always be on my list of places I want to return because of the friendliness and sincerity of the people.  Of course, there’s also the food, the port, the cities, the landscape, the Mediterranean way of life…

From Portugal, I flew to Morocco where I spent thirteen days.  Morocco is an explosion for the senses where everything hits you unapologetically and makes you feel more alive!  Everything from the exquisite food, the calls of the vendors in the souqs and its related hustle and bustle, the oppressive desert heat – it’s overwhelming and intoxicating, but somehow leaves you wanting more… DSC00669

After Morocco, it was back to Europe where I relaxed for a couple days in Madrid, then a few hours exploring Zurich and a few days in Budapest, Hungary where I did a few things that I hadn’t done during previous visits, like ride a railway line run by kids!  The conductor, of course, was an adult, but the selling and validating of the tickets were undertaken by kids 10-14 years old…

From Budapest, I took a train to Vienna where I didn’t do nearly as much as I would’ve liked due to an illness that unfortunately had me staying at hostels more often than seeing the city.  After moving on to Salzburg, however, I got my groove back and did plenty of hiking, including a 1400-metre ascent up the Untersberg mountain (part of the Alps), the accomplishment of which highly lifted my spirits!DSC01957

And now, I write this post on a couch in the common room of a hostel in Bled, Slovenia, where I have spent the past four nights.  Bled and the surrounding area is a haven for nature and adventure enthusiasts, and I’ve thorougly enjoyed the past few days strolling around Lakes Bled and Bohinj, taking a dip in pristine waters, appreciating a lazy boat ride, and of course, hiking – to waterfalls, through gorges, through quaint, picturesque towns…

Foreseeable future

There’s just under three months left of travel for me, and I do have at least a rough idea of where I’m going.  I’ll be heading to Ljubljana in a couple days, then southeast to Bosnia and Herzegovina (possibly with a short stop in Croatia), down to Montenegro and the wonderful
Adriatic Sea, then up to Serbia where I’ll catch a flight in Belgrade to London.

I’ll spend a few days in England with family and friends, then fly into Dusseldorf where I’ll meet up with a friend for a couple days before going to Brussels to meet up with another friend.  From there, I’ll fly to Tbilisi, Georgia – the beginning of a one month itinerary in the Caucasus which will also include visits to Armenia, and hopefully Azerbaijan, if I can secure a visa.

After this month, I’ll fly back to Belgrade from Tbilisi, and from there, round out the Balkans with forays into Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia, and Bulgaria before heading into Turkey where I’ll spend my last week or two before heading home!

Anyone care to join me?