January to July, 2015
Part Two of a recap of the amazing people I’ve met, the places I’ve explored, and the jobs I’ve held over the last 12 months of exploring.
Last week, I explained my six month trip through South America that ended in December. I’ll now pick up in January, after spending the holidays with my family in Oregon.
The next stop on my trip would be Turkey. I didn’t have any work yet, but things have a way of working out. I flew to Istanbul to stay while I sorted through options. Istanbul was the most stunning place I have ever seen. The architecture. The street art. The women. Everything was beautiful.
After three days, I found work in Kas, a port town near Antalya.
I spent exactly one day in Kas. I arrived at the campground where I planned to spend the next couple of days doing construction and promptly slipped on an icepatch. My tailbone broke my fall. Fortunately, the embarrassment was worse than the physical pain. I stayed in this shack that night. It was roughly 20 degrees fahrenheit. I went to bed wearing a jacket, beanie, pants, and socks. You’ll notice I didn’t mention sleep. At 2:00 AM, I gave up on sleep and started facebook chatting with a woman I had met in Bolivia. More on her later. I fell asleep around 6:00 AM, woke up around 8, and told my boss that I quit. If our honeymoon night involved me staying in a room that is too cold to sleep while dressed for Antarctica, I doubted that he would be considerate about other things later. That night I was in Antalya.
I spent two days there in Antalya, another stunning city with charismatic citizens. Free advice: visit Turkey.
As I didn’t have any work leads lined up after quitting the job on day one, I contacted a childhood friend who was living in Kuwait and asked if I could crash on his couch until things improved. I quickly found work in Jordan, but delayed it a week so I could visit him & see Lebanon before starting work.
I arrived in Lebanon to meet a salty immigrations official. We didn’t care for each other. He found ten different ways to ask me if I was planning on staying in Lebanon or trying to teach English there. This was, of course, exactly what I had hoped to do. I told him no. I spent three days exploring Beirut with two French girls, then caught a flight to Jordan.
If you read the paragraphs above about staying in hostels and catching quick flights around Turkey, Lebanon, and Kuwait, you’re probably thinking to yourself that normal people can’t afford this.
Neither could I.
To start getting back towards my budget, I stayed in Jordan working at a hotel for a month and budgeted myself to roughly $2 a day. I worked as a breakfast chef at the hotel restaurant. I made omelets. And sometimes scrambled eggs. Nothing more, nothing less. My three main coworkers were war refugees from Iraq and Syria. While one spoke English (pictured, and awesome), the other two didn’t. I spoke zero Arabic. We conquered the language barrier through sign language and calling each other sharmuta (bitch), zebra (as our aprons were black and white stripes) and the names of recent Israeli prime ministers.
I was there for some amazing anti-ISIS demonstrations, as well as a period when the locals thought I was gay because I wore garish colors.
Next up came Israel. While others had horror stories about the entry process into Israel, mine went quickly and smoothly, with the only hiccup being when Jordanian authorities lost my passport and pulled me off the bus for a whisker over an hour.
I first stayed in Jerusalem for a couple of days. A couple of days will do in most cities, but was a criminally short time to explore Jerusalem. I promised myself that I’d return later. I then had a job lead at an Alpaca farm in western Israel, but stayed a couple days in nearby Beersheba while ironing out the details.
I worked on a farm in a rural area for a month. mostly doing manual labor such as weatherproofing fences and decks, though occasionally feeding animals and cleaning rooms. The area was beautiful and lots of fun to explore.
While I enjoyed my time in the Middle East, I started to realize that, while the people were great hosts and there was a lot to see in each place, I was bored out of my skull. I know the mantra already. I get it.
If you’re bored then you’re probably boring.
But I really missed South America. Salsa dancing, beach trips, live music, and mixing of the genders in public aren’t the worst things in the world.
Fate lined up as Chile featured the Copa America soccer tournament in two months, no visa requirement, and the girl I met in Bolivia and had been talking to regularly since January. I had just finished a no-frills two months of free food and accommodation in Israel and Jordan, meaning that I was enough under budget to afford transportation to Santiago.
But first there was more exploring to do. I went back to Jerusalem to give it the time it truly deserved.
After exploring Jerusalem for a couple days with some amazing people I met at a hostel there, I went to Bethlehem and Beit Jalal for a couple of days to get a taste of Palestine. I was disappointed to not have found suitable work in Palestine earlier and this would serve as a consolation.
The plan was then to cross the border in the south of Jordan and see Petra before leaving the region. My plan backfired on me as I had forgot that Israel’s sabbath stretched from Friday night to Saturday night, making a long bus ride impossible on either day. Instead, I gave Jerusalem one more day, then crossed and quickly got to Amman, Jordan to catch a plane. I didn’t want to fly in or out of Israel as this could give me future visa problems. I’m still crossing my fingers for a continued reconciliation with Iran that will let me visit without being arrested upon arrival for suspected espionage.
Next up was a reunion with a friend from Chile, which also allowed me a cheaper path across the Atlantic.
I flew from Amman to Lisboa, Portugal. I explored Lisboa for three days before catching a train to Madrid. Portugal is number two on my list of places I need to return to. Number one is Gainesville, Florida during Fest weekend, but that is another story and shall be told another time.
I stayed in Madrid for several days with a friend with whom I had previously worked in Chile, with a short trip to Cordoba in the middle. The royal splendor of some of Madrid’s landmarks was amazing. Not only because of the palaces or sculptures, but because the masses didn’t rob or destroy it as the royal family lost all real power.
Soon, I was on a plane to Santiago. I stayed for a week with the girl I had met in Bolivia, then started working at the restaurant of a hotel in the Bellas Artes neighborhood. The mornings were spent preparing the salad, juice, and pebre (pico de gallo) for the day; the lunch hours spent washing dishes, and the afternoon hours cooking bread, pastries, or basic dishes. I worked there for roughly 11 weeks. I left due to an increasing lack of respect and the fact that I could only spend 90 days in Chile without a Chilean visa.
I used the 90 day limit as an excuse to travel to Uruguay, one of the three South American countries I had yet to see. Oddly enough, due to the reciprocity fees to enter Bolivia or Argentina plus the costs of buses both ways, the round trip flight to Montevideo was cheaper than transportation and fees to Chile’s closest neighbors. Peru would have been cheaper, but due to the length of the bus trip from Santiago to Lima, not by as much as you would expect. I convinced my girlfriend, the Chilean who I met in Bolivia last year and kept in contact with during my time in the Middle East, to accompany me.
We spent the first couple of days in Montevideo, then branched out to Punta del Este and Colonia Sacramento the two next days, then spent our final night in Montevideo watching the Copa America final at a Burger King. The scene was a bit less dramatic than the celebrations in Santiago.
While in Uruguay, I arranged for work at a hostel in Santiago, where I work now.
This brings me full circle back to how I started working in a youth hostel in Brasil, and to one of my first posts, when I realized the worst part about travelling.