New Year 2013, celebrating with 24 travel memories and pictures

It is that time, the one to look back and try to make a brief sum of the experiences of the year past. It does not feel like it but today is precisely one year I left for travelling around the world.

Considering to spend an hour reminiscing one single event, today I will comply a 24 memories’ list for this first day of the year. This is a random list, absolutely incomplete, but something to look at, at least for me for years to come.

During this year of travelling I did:

1)   Visit 13 States and 4 Continents

2)   Get my first freelancer job as photographer

3)   Meet countless amount of wonderful people

074)   Attend 2 Gay Pride Parades

                      5)   Watch a Marathon passing12

IMG_20120701_082905

6)   Sleep a total of 12 days without accommodation

  7)   Work in a farm

8)   Work in a zooBinturong

Hornbill29)   Photoshoot my first calendar (Wild Life)

                      10)  Risk arrest and deportation twice                                        (one of which an ongoing issue)

11)  get Padi Open Water and SSI Advance OW licenses

                                                              12)  Drive a tuktuk

13)  See a typhoon and a IMG_20120706_090108house on fire

14)  Pet, feed and fall in love with a tiger 121111_Kampot_0540

15)  Bathed in a body of water in nearly every LakeBathplace I visited

16)  Get sick 4 times

1717)  Attend 2 ceremonies of Royal relevance

18)  Spend a grand total of 12800€

IMG_20120624_220324         19)  Behave shamelessly one time too many and still counting

20)  See the sunrise birth and death in: a desert, a tropical island, Angkor Wat,Angkor2 Tokyo, a lake at 9000ft, at -28ºC in the Finnish countryside and many more other places

The day the cubs were born He was feeling a bit left alone

21) See 5 calves and 2 lion cubs being born

22)  Have a smoothy with an old school real Super Model and her family

23)  Cook deep fried courgette’s flowers, a speciality from Tuscany, in Japan

24)  Went out at sea for a traditional fishing night in Cambodia120711_Fishermans_0386

Washington DC the memorial city

My time in Washington DC has been one of the best ever, I was visiting a very good friend of mine and I found great new friends and people. At first my impression of the city has been one of a huge memorial site. All the buildings, stations, statues, parks and fountains appear to be a memorial to some war or some military corps and so on. The fact that the very same day I went out to discover the city was Memorial Parade day enhanced the sense of celebratory architecture of the city.

Summer in Washington DC is hot, so plan to visit Washington DC accordingly if you don’t want to experience a subtropical temperature with humid sticky weather at times drizzly yet still hot. I have never sweat like that.

Back to the parade, we waited the passage of the parade about middle way and it was quite a long wait, I mean between two carriages or music bands there were long period of nothingness that took away the parade momentum in my opinion. Yet, the show was there, the army troops in uniform marching orderly, the bands with colours, standards and ensigns. I could not but sympathize  with how hot they surely felt and admire their determination.

My favourite part was the historical divisions but I caught only a couple of those. However, one interesting thing was to observe how Americans manage to get the show bizz even in a Memorial parade. The old generals waving sitting on the bumper of vintage looking cars, the “sponsored” heroes usually surrounded by flashy and fringy clouds of metallic red white and blue and the hovering eagles, the music stars, yes you read me well the American Idol winners or something like that were there too, I think they were suppose to be somehow related to the army in some way but I found them to be quite out of contest and I think they felt it too.

All in all it has been a nice experience but I would not plan a visit to Washington just for the parade that we left before the end because of the heat and scorching sun. I discovered instead a plethora of museums, galleries and artistic events that constellate the city scene and this is a very valid reason for visiting DC. The Smithsonian institutes even presented me with the chance to see a full exhibition on Japanese prints of mount Fuji by Hokusai among which shine one of my favourite art pieces ever: The Wave. It is truly mesmerizing in its simplicity.

I strongly suggest to include Washington DC in your itinerary if you are a museum traveller, from painting to ancient pottery, sculpture gardens and portraits passing by space related technology and the biggest collection of aircrafts I never thought possible to find in a single building, Washington surely has something for you.

I am looking forward to hear your stories and views about Washington DC.

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Drag Queens are taking over the sport field

Cheerio,

Following leads to get kick started on one of my project I stumble upon the Drag Kick ball match in Washington DC as part of the gay pride week events. SDB and I both thought that such an event ought to be interesting and fun, I mean  how often do you see Drag Queens doing sport? To be fair I didn’t even know what kick ball was until I arrived at the field. For who is wondering, kick ball from what I gathered is a sort of baseball played with a football and no bats. The event was a hit with the local judging from the amount of public in and out the fences. A Drag Queen team is great fun to watch, the warming up looks like a cabaret show with jazz hands and all the trimmings. It is all about swaying and stretching as if you do it while dancing in a disco club with a kaleidoscopic motion of glitter, feathers and unconventional sporty outfits. One of the ladies even went as far as wearing high heels prompting the organizer to state that any liability for injuries were totally up to the players. The game was quite fast paced, the weather unpredictable as usual in Washington went from sunny to drizzly but the overall show was quite amusing. On base two the lady was bitch slapping the air dancing her way through the game, whereas on the next base the queen was giving attitude in retribution. The most glamorous of the pitchers won her round and headed back to the team corner swagging in a way worthy of Victoria Beckham. The running between bases was at time hilarious with uncoordinated and choreographed  chase enriched by screeching reminiscent of mid-century ladies playing sport for the first time in their life. The public was cheering and laughing and few lucky ones won gym subscription and a ticket to the Madonna concert; the guy who won it didn’t get very popular by admitting publicly that he was not a big fun of Madge.

The only thing that let me down a bit was the lack of commenting during the match, I would have loved to hear some real dry Drag Queenish humour commenting the event.

All in all it was a great afternoon and fully worth it the low price of the ticket. I could not but think at last year when I did attend the Bear Race in Helsinki in which bearded Drag Queens race each other in various running styles. I am adding some exclusive pictures never seen before just for you. If you will ever have the chance to attend a Drag Queen sport event I cannot but suggest you to go because even if you don’t like to watch sport like me, you are going to be in for an amusing treat.

Oh yes, I nearly forgot, the Drag Queen team was the winner of the match, go DQs go and next year please bring it on with a Cheer-Queen-leader group!

Highlights

Indeed I did set sails (well wings to be precise) and started the “on the road” part of my round the world trip. First stop USA. These first days have been overwhelming and I had to adjust to this new life style so I did not have much time to think at posting. But I am back on track and now I know a bit better how to manage my schedule. So here some highlights from my first couple of weeks in the US of America.

The Flight

Getting on the flight I felt full of expectations and dreamed plans were running wild into my head. I could not yet fully grasp the reality of the situation. In the days before my leaving I got so tired that I actually felt asleep for the most part of the flight but not before getting a glimpse of the amazing farewell that Europe organized for me. The afternoon was dying and it did it in a glorious poem of golden rivers and lakes in between the clouds. I was quite surprise of my falling asleep as I am usually not that good at that particular task but I arrived far more rested and ready to rock than ever before in a long haul flight. So I strongly recommend to get so tired in advance of a departure to be knocked out during the flight.

NY Garment District, Manhattan

I spent my first three nights in NY, it rained a lot. When I left from Italy I booked only my first night in a hostel thinking of finding something once on location. I ended up spending a third of my time finding a new place where to sleep. Beside the suggestion of not doing something like this if you have only a short time to spend in a particular location, I had the time to discover places I did not know. I visited the Big Apple a couple of times before and I did what tourists do, this time it was a completely new experience as I did not have a schedule and I am not allow to indulge in shopping. Wondering around Manhattan I came across Bryant Park. This park is a little gem, the very nice and calming ambience is enriched by a table tennis area, a free to browse open library, a wi-fi hot spot, tables, chairs and live music again free of charge to enlighten and refresh the resting workers or the lucky tourists that found their way here. A very nice, and apparently highly appreciated by the locals, sandwich bar is also located in the park with prices in the average for the area.

NY Greenwich Village and Soho

A stroll across these areas during a rainy day made me discover scenic streets views and some street art. This vintage inspired mural was the backdrop for a parking lot. My mind could not stop making up stories about these two characters, how did they end up together? What their life was like? Why was she with him and was it willingly or not? And so on. So I decided to pay my respects and take some shots of it. Not that far from this location and probably inside the limits of Little Italy, yes I kept getting lost, I found a more “professional” sculpture. This art piece consisting of a young woman afloat on an inflatable ring stroked me quite as random but even more so when I found out what it really portrayed according to the artist’s view. The sculpture in fact named Survival of Serena” honoured Venice and its former name “La Serenissima.” Despite the sculpture is actually quite nice and it won prestigious prizes, I found the link quite weak and slightly insulting considering Venice’s beauty and history, but there you have it, modern art is not my favourite cup of tea.

DC and the Eurovision Song Contest

After my period in NY I moved on to visit one of my dearest friend from my time in London, SDB in Washington DC. Unexpectedly we found out that the Austrian Embassy was going to stream the Eurovision song contest live, so amused by the idea we immediately decided to go and join this event. We actually found out once there that we were part of the history of Eurovision as this was the first time ever that the contest was streamed live in USA soil. Now for who does not know what the Eurovision Song contest is, I am not going to try to explain it as you have to see it to appreciate it. However, I want to point out that this yearly appointment with the so called Eurotrash (and I do not intend this derogatively I love my Eurotrash and camp events) is usually relished best with a huge amount of alcohol and good company either at some friend’s place or, even better, in gay clubs with wide screens and a cheerful loud crowd and flashy disco lights. Now, the Embassy did actually offer a bar and a mostly European crowd, but I would not say the environment felt as relaxed and appropriate to the Eurovision experience, especially because here it was in the middle of the afternoon with a whopping tropical heat outside. Nonetheless, Eurovision worldwide broadcast services and Austrian Embassy staff thank you very much for making me part of Eurovision history and allow me to be one of the few that probably has ever watched the contest in an Embassy.

The County Fair – Virginia

A Sunday out and about from DC brought me and SDB to the DeLaPlane strawberry festival. A Washington in locked down for a non advertised bike rally delayed our escape from the city of a while but I got to see more of it so no big deal. Finally we drove up in the countryside hills of Virginia, beautiful and serene surroundings and still a tropical temperature. Now, if you have ever asked to or heard Americans speaking of county fairs and such events, you will have probably encountered the funnel cake subject. They all seems to have a craving for this delicacy. For the Finns out there the funnel cake is a slightly oversized (oh well it is the US in the end) tippaleipä, for the rest of Europe it is a sweet deep fried unleavened batter traditionally served dusted with powder sugar. For the Italians I would say it is a variant of our cenci di carnevale. The fair was not the most exciting ever, quite small and interestingly enough all the strawberry boxes were marked “produce of California” but I want to believe that they were as local as they were passed for. Nevertheless, I had a jolly good time there, observing a country style events, people strolling, eating and interacting, stands of traditional food of which my favourite was the crab-cake sandwich and an oversize, even for my hands, strawberry-lemonade. Oh and yes you are correct, the funnel cake stand sells also deep fried Oreo and twinkies…I guess a take on the healthy Scottish deep fried mars bar.

So for now this is all but stay tuned for reportage on the Drag Kick Ball match, the Memorial Day in Washington DC and many more events that are stirring in the cauldron on this side.

Stuck in the mud

When I wrote about the 5 reasons that kept me from committing to the final step of phase 2 of my Round the World Trip (RWT) I shook off my inertia. So in the past few days I have been planning, unplanning and replanning to get going. I finally came up with something and booked my flights. I was quite surprise with the result.

I decided for flying to Milan from Helsinki to take care of a couple of things there. Then from Rome to NY on the 20th of May and from LA to Osaka on the 19th of August. I used an internet site that a fellow Bootcamper suggested me in Cape Town, Cheapoair. It has a great advantage, it allows multicities option and that means that it is not required to have a round-trip that go back to the starting point. I checked everything, I went through the booking and without even realizing this, I came to the confirmation page. I started shaking having suddenly realized that I actually got through it and I was in.

The euphoria and nervousness came to an end 10 minutes later when I received a sms from my credit-card company that notified me of a “transaction rejection”.I was in the barn and I cursed profusely in front of the cows. No I am not proud of it. It came to my mind that this is probably the third out of five times that I have used this credit-card and I did not get a positive result. It is a good thing in the end, I am probably back at square one with the booking but at least I know that probably I should get a new credit-card before I hit the world.

Now you will think that the title is a reference to this matter but actually on a quirky side, it doesn’t refer to it fully. I actually meant to write about the fact that today I got asked to drive up the hill and bring a bale back to the barn. I drove the tractor once before since I arrived at the farm and I managed that fine, so I said yes and hopped on. Unfortunately little I knew that in a few minutes I would have found myself stuck in the mud with no mobile on me. Luckily enough the neighbouring house owner lent me a spade and I got the tractor out from the mud, twice! Yes, because I am quite stubborn I tried again to get the bale out from a different angle.

In the end after nearly 45 minutes I got back to the barn bale-less and feeling quite defeated. AK laughed at my poor face and explained me that he forgot to mention that in case of troubles there was an extra lever to activate the 4wheels drive. I have no idea if any of you have ever saw the inside of one of these new tractors, there are more levers and buttons than in an arcade room, obviously it did not even cross my mind to look at them. Oh well, everything went well in the end, I managed to come back and AK told me, once back, that it was quite a difficult drive for an inexperienced tractor-driver.

How to Travel Around the World for $418

How to Travel Around the World for $418.

I am reposting this article I have just stumbled upon looking for the best credit-card to have with me because it is rich in information and tips. Moreover, I know that I am not the type to go for the credit-card points or reward systems as up till now I thought learning how to use them properly was not worth the time invested in the process. Now that I am jobless I obviously would have probably benefited of such knowledge, yet I am still quite skeptical about this subject.

Anyway, in case you are into travel hacking or interested in it, this post can be a very good start. I also wish for you to let me know how do you feel about this sort of rewarding systems and if you have any tips on this matter or if you have any good stories about using them.

Thanks a lot to Steve Kamb that actually shared this info with all of us.

5 problems that keep you from leaving for a Round the World Trip

Greetings,

It is approximately 2 months now that I have committed to a year of Interactive Travelling around the world. I am still as excited as day one and I am trying to plan the first part of it. I wanted it to be as unplanned as possible. I knew this choice was romantic more than realistic, but I am now completely aware that it is just a mythical goal and the path to it is paved of procrastination, sleepless nights and commiseration. As a result, enough with this romanticism and let’s make my walk on that path so far, a positive part of my journey.

Being a scientist I am good at analysing and deconstructing problems to more manageable ones, so why not start doing precisely that? Well, here lay the mind trick, is easy to say but difficult to do when you keep stressing about the results and details.  I already started my adventure by relocating in a farm and working here but I will consider myself on the road only when I will have broke free from Finland. Realizing today that despite all the pointless details I was stressing about I fully overlooked the need for visas for some countries I want to visit, tipped the balance on my favour. So here my list of problems that I feel kept me from committing to my final step so far.

1) Say goodbye to friends and the old style

You have probably like me dreamt and waited for something like this a long time, you finally leave your job, box your stuff and notify friends and family of your plan. But after that the time start to slow down in your mind and only every now and then you realize that it has actually flew by and not slowed down at all. In my case I put this down mainly to the fact that I am quite unease to say bye to my friends. I have great people around me and despite I am use to move from country to country I am the ultimate sentimental when it comes down to friendship. The only thing I can say about this is to embrace the fact that it is not a goodbye, you will be seeing them again, no matter where or for how long, the good ones will stick around and your relationship will just evolve in a different direction; but that is how things go in life anyway.

For the old life style, well yes I already kind of kissed goodbye to that with no regrets but some of the old me is still trying to resurface at times and the only thing is to keep looking forward and probably start to speak to myself into the mirror repeating “Mirror mirror on the wall…” oh no wait this is the wrong quote, but you get what I am aiming at. I will start from tonight, let me know if you get any results yourself in case you try.

2) Reading blogs to plan carefully and find the answers to all your questions

Now, this can sound contentious but actually it is true. Because I found out that there are many people that have experienced a similar journey and they wrote about it, I convinced myself that all their knowledge would have provided me with all the answers I need. I am actually sure that would be the case, there are very good ones around and I got some great tips but I also spent hours if not days on checking them, studying them and ping-pong myself from one link to the other. All good stuff, and I am happy I did it and I will keep doing it but first and foremost this is a PERSONAL journey and I have to find my way not patch together other people ones.

So stop reading to plan, just plan your own things and read others’ stories to enjoy, be inspired and share. But just in case, Rob from Stop having a boring life (SHABL) has a very good list of travel blogs that you can see here if you want a taste of them.

3) Bureaucracy

There has to be a reason if my brain ignored the visas issue so successfully. I like bureaucracy as the next person and I am trying to avoid it and postpone it as long as I can. This is the wrong approach. I luckily never got in trouble and I am trying to straight things up, but a healthy relationship with bureaucracy is critical, especially when you will have to deal with it on foreign and unknown soil.

Prepare yourself, take copies and PDFs of all the documents you need and send them to you by email for online access to it as well, just in case your hard-drive will give the ghost on you when you most need it (and we all know they have the tendencies to do that sort of thing). By the way, Jodi at Legal Nomad has a very good resources page from which I quote here about the visa issue so I suggest you to go down there and have a look for more info.

For American Citizens, entry requirements are here; for Canadian Citizens, entry requirements are here. IATA’s global visa database is also a great resource for anyone – plug in the country you’re from, your resident country and where you are headed.

I am not an American citizen, but go figure you probably are.

4) Looking for the needle in the haystack

I found myself researching the most trivial things. I am postponing the open travelling because I am not sure which portable hard-drive is the best, which online backup service to use or which kind of bag to buy for a year long travelling in unknown conditions…really?! I mean come on stop fidgeting START booking flights! That’s what I would suggest to anybody telling me something like this so I will take the lead myself and drop now all this researching. If a bag is no good I am sure I will find a better one if needed in a new place.

By the way, do you have any practical advice on any of the above issues? I can do with some help.

5) What about the end?

We all have jobs, we are all experiencing the economical crisis, we are all preoccupied for the future. Well I am, and there is a part of me that keep screaming that I am crazy and that a year of travelling will be a black hole in my CV. I will not find a job. I will find myself having thrown away years of studying and a safe future.  Mmm, not sure about the last point, safe future in Postoc-land is an euphemism.

The point is, if you have the opportunities and you find yourself in a situation in which a crazy but dreamt about experience is at reach, reach for it. Will I regret the choice? I don’t know. Will I regret having splashed around money instead that having focused on ways to keep them? I don’t know. Will I think forever that with my knowledge I should have found better ways to change my life? I don’t know. The list of I don’t know may well go on endlessly, and I think there is no solution to this circle of thoughts. What I know is that sitting here and procrastinating is not helping in anyway, so better go on with the plan and invest in things I will certainly enjoy and myself.

I don’t believe in future telling glass orbs nor I actually believe in the power of the 8 ball answers, despite I would trust the latter more.  Thus the way out is a no-brainer, stop stressing about what will be because you will know it only when you get there so you better sit and enjoy the ride and scenery as long as you can. At least you will know you are the one who sat on the driver sit of your life and this thought is soothing and empowering me.

I will end with a quote from Maria Robertson that I think sums it all up:

‘Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.’