Published: May 18th 2012May 9th 2012
The challenge dear readers is not sleeping under a bridge. Its doing it then looking like you didnt the next day and the day after and so on. It is easy enough to go into a situation spouting off about one's toughness and you might be able to keep it up for a day or two. But at some point those hostel beds look mighty inviting. Such was my experience in Spain. I went into that country hot to trot with ideas of living superminimally couch surfing from place to place, living free and easy. From my limited experience it is surprisingly harder to couch surf in Urban areas than in more rural ones. The more popular the area the more CSers go there and the challenge goes up. The people involved can't get to all requests and you get screwed.
I came into this situation with my usual zeal, but due to work constraints I couldn't get any requests out until I was on the boat where internet is slow and expensive. No matter I thought I will send out requests here and check them when I get off the boat. So there I am overloaded (more on this later dear reader) backpack finding some wifi in a lovely cafe in Barcelona and I discovered all my requests had been rejected save for one very nice CSer who could only host me for one night. So after a great evening of retro gamming cyberpunk parites and french bars with absinthe, then a day at the beach. I had to jump a bus south to Valencia Spain's third largest city.
This is where the bridge came in. It was an uncharacteristically rainy evening and roads in spain (most of europe to) are impossible to navigate if you do not know them well. They wind and turn open up into monumental plazas, then shrink to narrow yellow sodium lit allys. All the time buildings tower over you blocking in the sky completely. So it was in this that I gave up looking for my hostel and slept under a bridge.
It's not the sleeping oh no. It's the waking up the next morningf with serious crotch rot feeling like there is a layer of dirt a quater inch thick on your skin. That made the €12.50 expense of a hostel stay seem much more reasonable.
Nothing can compare you for this travel business short of doing it. I would recommend all would be backpackers to a) reconsider using an actual backpack and b) doing a 2 or 3 week test run in a city nearby. Like for us Ontarians, Montreal. This excercise is useful to see what works and what doesn't I certainly could have used such a proving ground.
Which isn't to say it has all been bad. It's a learning process and I have had a lot of fun with my CSing. Especially with my second host Federico in Valencia and the pub crawl at the hostel (a story in itself). The real value of CSing is getting to know a local community well and quickly. One of it's difficulties is a fair chunk of your time goes into just getting yourself organized for the next city. You can easily spend half your time just sending out CS requests, which can be a little frustrating. Especially if you are using a little smart phone like yours truly.
I definatly appreciate the need for vacations from your vacations. I took a 13 hr bus ride to Algecrias after a ride I had arranged failed to show up and my whimsical hitchhiking attempt whismically failed. So once I landed in Tangier about as burnt out as I have been in a good year or so, I cracked I got a proper hotel room. For the outrgeous expense of $15 a night. Which gave me the time and freedom to explore Tangier and collect my thoughts and of course make a plan.
One final note that is difficult for me to write but needs to be remembered anyway. A couple days after getting off the boat, I experienced several moments of what I can only describe as total exsistential terror. I don't know where it came from or what caused it. But I can honestly say I have never fealt anything like it before in my life. I was on the verge of complete mental collapse and I didn't know why. It isn't homesickness or anything like that, I have been away for longer periods of time (indeed this whole trip may very well not be the longest I have ever been "away"). In retrospect it might just be a Dennis specific problem having to do with frustrations about the journey not going exactly to plan. I have made a lot of mistakes this time around let me tell you, but I am getting better at making fewer of them and making sure they are less costly. One final thought as I write this, I pretty much stopped drinking coffee when I came to Europe and it is possible that what I was experiencing was related to caffiene withdrawl. We may never know dear reader we may never know.