Up until now I have not gotten to the heart of a cities nightlife as well as I did in Barcelona

Going out with a group of people is a different experience than with a small one.  If its a smaller group or a duo, a quieter more relaxed atmosphere is ideal, with a bunch of people, the louder the better!

So meeting a fantastic international group of people on St Patrick’s day set the tone for the rest of the month Barcelona. Also I was detoxing from my self-inflicted Museum Overload in Madrid Syndrome (or MOMS).

It was time to cut loose.and get my drink on.

The Irish bars on that day were a blur. We started out in Barceloneta Fastnet bar at midday. Continued hilarity ensued at my expense, by ordering my beers in my carefully spoken, NZ accented Spanish to the obviously Irish bar-staff.

On to the next Irish bar our group was caught in the middle of a gathering of English that were in town to see the next days football match and some of the native Irish at the bar getting their St Paddy’s on.

The combat was limited to bawdy drinking songs, meters from a children’s playground. Which was more of a curiosity to both the children and their parents. Many pulling out their mobiles to record it.

And right in-between was our table. Covered in embarrassed grins. Pulling our St Paddy’s hats low, caught in the crossfire. Sooner or later it will be on youtube somewhere I’m sure of it.

It turned into a rag-tag UN later in the day. So a Group of Finn’s, Polish, a German, Portuguese, and a New Zealander walk into a bar sounds like a set up to a very convoluted joke.

It was no laughing matter however when on the way to our fourth bar of the evening one of the Finn’s had her purse pick-pocketed right out of her handbag which was then zipped up again. Anywhere else you might be able to blame the alcohol as giving them a cape of invisibility. But no, in Barcelona these guys can pick your pocket in broad daylight, while you are absolutely sober without you knowing until you go to pay for your meal.

I also had a near miss with being pick-pocketed, well it was more of a direct hit but that story deserves its own post.

There were several other bars which were apparently normally dead but had long queues just because it was St Patrick’s day and everyone wanted to drink like an Irishman.

We settled on a bar nearby which was full but had enough room for us to squeeze in. One of the ladies at the bar, already full of Irish spirit, latched onto me and the Polish guy. We exchanged terrified smiles as we were groped accordingly for the next several hours every time we ran the gauntlet to have a cigarette outside. Discretion proved to be the better part of valor dealing with the situation. While our group was leaving and the grabby lady was stalking us, Poland and I both hid behind a recycling point until the coast was clear.

Several more bars awaited but none were as eventful. More pints were consumed, more cigarettes were smoked, more fun was had.

Somehow I stumbled into a taxi and back home at 4am.

Mission accomplished!

To list but a few of the places the people I met during my time in Barcelona shared with me.

 

Fastnet Irish pub in Barceloneta

Situated in the sprawling waterfront area of Barcelona, it is a fantastic place to taken in the sun, the marina and a few pints. Friendly staff and some pretty epic portions of food to soak up the alcohol. Seriously you need mountain climbing equipment and a friend to take on their nachos.

 

 

Can Paixano ( La Xampanyria )

A tiny but heavily trafficked Cava (Spanish Champagne) Bar near Barceloneta. This place had a fast-moving queue to get in and is a tight standing room only Bar and eatery. You can buy Cava by the glass  for a couple of Euro and a plate of mixed sausages to share with it. Its cramped, boisterous and fantastic.

 

 

Polaroid in Bario Gotico

An 80’s throwback bar, covered in memorabilia from the era with a soundtrack to match. You can get a bucket of 5 beers for 10 Euro, or choose from one of the many aptly named cocktails, like the Sarah Conner, the Delorean and the Han Solo, drink enough  of them and you might time travel to the next day.

 

Barcelona Pipa Club in Plaza Reial

This establishment is like a secret speakeasy hidden in plain view within the bustling Plaza Reial. You buzz the doorman via the intercom to what is seemingly the entrance to an old apartment building. Up the stairs and inside it does nothing to convince you haven’t stepped back in time. When I was there, a live band was playing Swing/Jazz with one of the rooms set up as a stage area. A place where you can sit back and enjoy the ambiance.

 

The Bollocks

Our German friends favorite haunt. This is a dive bar you would not be surprised meeting the Barcelona chapter of Sons of Anarchy at. This bar was figuratively made of metal. The clientele and staff are genial enough. The hanging motorcycles, metal band posters, and decor make it a good place to get a Jack Daniels and plan your next tattoo. I also randomly met a fellow kiwi traveler who actually identified me by my accent. Later my German friend recounted “I met her too and she was telling me how strange it was she met someone from New Zealand here. She was amazed when I told her ‘ Yeah I know that guy, hes like the only other one in Barcelona.”

 

Absenta in Barceloneta

Tucked away from the main drag in Barceloneta but situated between it and the beach Absenta is a curio filled Absinthe Bar, which for reasons unfathomable to me now I ordered beer at. Im told they offer a wide selection of the spirit and I will be back to try their best (or worst) absinthe on the menu. Unsure if they will set it on fire for me first because I want to retain some liver function for future outings. The decor of this place is shabby chic, very worn in and comfortable, just like you will be after a few of their Absinthe’s.

 

Bocca Chica in Passatge de la Concepcio

This is a place you might want to don a nice shirt or your best party dress for. Trust me its worth it. Decorated in a mind-bending hunting lodge meets 1920’s atmosphere, Bocca Chica has to be seen to be believed. Situated next to the Bocca Grande restaurant it’s spread over 3 levels, (including the toilets) there is a main bar area, a second bar with terrace and the jewel in the throne room, the toilets. When I was told I just *Had* to check out the toilets my reaction was skeptical at best. But they are indeed a sight to behold, covered in artwork, mirrors and funky Harry Potter basins with music piped from the DJ upstairs, couches and tables. You couldn’t be blamed for having your own party there.

 

 

Barcelona is a place that has a magnetic personality but one where you need to watch your wallet, if not for the pickpockets, then for the endless 5euro pints you will no doubt consume. But regardless of where you go or what you do Barcelona has an unbeatable atmosphere, insane architecture and the happiest people.

Firstly there is no right way or wrong way to travel (with a caveat on travel safety of course).
That said however this is my personal travel doctrine viewed through my unique lens. Other than passing on useful information, entertaining you with my writing and travel philosophy, I really wanted to share the core concept behind what I am doing.

I get asked two questions the most;

#sunset #fadinglight #Madrid #Spain

“Your money or your life?”

Why would I spend longer than a week at most in any city, let alone a month and how on earth can I afford to travel like this?

The answer to both? It’s less stressful and its cheaper.

Living for a month in another country should not cost more than an average month in your home city.

“But the airline ticket costs more than that!”

This is true, the ticket is the largest single cost incurred, next to hotel accommodation.

The only way to get around this is to travel longer. It may seem counter intuitive but once the urgency is removed, your travel costs decrease.

My last 5 months in Portugal and Spain in total, is on parity with what I spent traveling through Italy for 3 weeks in 2013.

Let that sink in for a second.

The way I am traveling currently is not for everyone, there is no one size fits all. Much like everything else in life, it depends greatly on your disposition, your commitments and priorities and most of all, if it works for you.

If you are setting out on an OE, a Career break, or just some extended leave this article may hold something for you.

#StreetArt #Graffiti #Madrid #Spain #urban Money kills my dreams

Money doesn’t kills dreams, apathy does

 

My brief was simple.

I wanted to travel for a long time. 

I wanted to see many things.

I wanted to meet locals and other travelers and learn about them and their cities.

I wanted to be able to change my plans as needed.

I wanted to live in a home where-ever I stayed.

I identified with it as Decompressed Travel.

I’m not sure if through internet osmosis or my own fevered imagination coined the term Decompressed Travel. Probably the infinite legion of monkeys bashing at typewriters (called the internet) has already trademarked it, written a Wikipedia page and has the T-Shirt rights. Much like my site, I don’t care as long as it’s beautiful.

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Hungry Bear licks giant Broccoli

 

This is my take on Decompressed Travel.

To me my previous travel experiences were compressed.
Before, I always had a timeframe. How much leave do I have, How many nights can I afford that hotel. How many things can I see before I have to go to the next location. What flight is the most direct?

And the cost, most of all why does it have to cost so much?
I found if you are committed to traveling, it really doesn’t have to cost much and still live a comfortable life on your journey.

The somewhat irony is, once I removed the restrictions of time on travel by resigning from my job, the primary obstacle of travel spend reduced too.

image

As illustrated in this diagram, wait, thats not right..

 

Some of the highlights so far are:

Freedom from time constraints (other than Visa limits)

Ability to make changes in direction spontaneously.

Getting to know a city well enough you can navigate it on foot by recognising streets and discovering new ones. It’s something that has saved me when my phone runs out of battery.

Being able to cook with local ingredients and prepare fresh foods at least 4 nights a week as much for my own enjoyment than budget. You could survive pretty well on 5 euro kebab combos, but that gets old pretty quick.

Learing enough of the language to get by and then some. I am not conversational in Portuguese, Spanish or Italian by any stretch but I could probably give most native speaking toddlers a run for their applesauce.

As you can see here this is, nope, wrong diagram..

As you can see here this is, nope, wrong diagram..

Discounts by renting at monthly/weekly rates. Hostels are the go to for the budget traveler, for weekly rates in a dorm you might get a good deal and there is the social aspect of meeting other travelers.

For longer term travel however the comfort and convenience of living in an AirBnb home is more attractive and cost-effective to me. Not worrying about forming a long queue for kitchens or bathrooms, having easy access to the comforts of a home environment and most importantly local knowledge from local people has made AirBnB a fantastic experience so far.

Keeping a daily budget diary, just to record your spend, even if to the nearest Euro. Much like how calorie counting becomes second nature to dieters so does budgeting to travelers.  Looking for savings where you can, Menu’s of the day when you are hungry and want a good deal while avoiding the tourist trap prices by walking to the next street from the nearby attractions.

Annnd, Shit.. Never mind close enough, money, time, blah blah blah

Annnd, Shit.. Never mind close enough, money, time, blah blah blah

Being budget conscious and budget beholden are 2 different things. I would not risk my health, safety or sanity trying to save a buck. I realised this when almost booking a flight to Porto that would have required the Heathrow/Gatwick transfer to save a few hundred dollars. The direct flight to Lisbon later dropped in price to the same cost and rail travel in Portugal was very inexpensive if you book early and take advantage of the specials.

The longer the travel timeframe the longer of an average you will have to work with. I know France is likely to be expensive and to spike up my costs considerably, it still won’t dissuade me from traveling there, I know I will have a couple cheap months further down the line somewhere to even it out.

I realize to many the option to not work for an extended period of time just to travel is a situation of privilege.

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Pictured: Not my hotel

 

“You are so lucky!” Is a common response when I mention what I am doing. Luck had very little to do with it in my case, just working and saving with some planning and foresight.

There seems to be a myth associated with travel you either need to be a homeless gypsy or a millionaire. “If I had no obligations or responsibilities, I could go anywhere.”  “If I won the lottery I would travel the world.” Everyone has had those daydreams at least once in their lives.

But the part of that myth being you have to be a carefree on the road nomad by choice or a millionaire James Bond type is romantically out of touch with reality.

On my current projected travel budget I can travel per year for only slightly more than most people spend on just existing back home. Factoring in rent, food, expenses and entertainment it was nearly on par, except I could be in any country or city that I feel like.

I know my decision to go nomad is a luxury not everyone shares, but it is attainable to those that want it.

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Plaza Mayor, home of the 7 Euro, media means 1 litre beer

 

It was years of hard work and saving to have that led me here. At the time I didn’t even know what I was saving for, maybe a business or a house. But when I examined the prospect of doubling down for a deposit on a 20 year mortgage, for a house I would someday completely own in my 60’s, while I daydreamed about far off places I would perhaps never see, taking a leap into the unknown felt more compelling.

Perhaps if I had jumped onto the property ladder in my early 20’s before the rampant housing speculation exploded in my hometown of Auckland, things now may well have gone a different way. No better or worse, just different. But probably more location dependant.

#statues #sculpture #moody #Madrid #Spain

“Takee meee with youuuuuuuu”

I found myself at a point in life where I was metaphorically traveling light. I am single with no dependents and felt I could take a risk with my finances in return for an enriching experience.

Longterm travel is one of the most important things I have committed to in my life, of this I am certain.

I was hardly sleepwalking through my existence before, but at times it sure felt like it.

Prior to my current adventures as a writer and traveler I have been a Music producer and performer, an animator trained by Warner Bros, artist and illustrator, a Video Games designer and Telecommunications Manager in a large corporation.

Now, with only the contents of my backpack and a new city at my doorstep each month do I feel more at home with myself.

It is strangely zen when the person with nothing is seen as privileged by those with everything.

 

It’s inspiring to me as a person deciding to actively set another path for myself, how many others have taken this step. They come from all walks of life and as reassuring to know, they weren’t all Indiana Jones cool, charismatic and collected, at least not to start with. Part of what defines you is how you deal with everyday life. I find when I am on familiar ground so too come familiar patterns and routines. Even when you try to shake things up on your home turf its like reading the same book over and over, you might notice new words but the over all story ends the same.

The accepted norm is do your OE young get it out of your system, come back and build career. Instead of the OE, I built a career, which built someone else’s dream. Problem was after taking a short trip in Italy, the person that went there didn’t get it out of his system and the one that came back felt a longing that defies people or belongings. It was the hearing the wolf’s howl of the traveler.

Where I worked the company’s CEO handed in his notice after spending 20 years building a multi Billion dollar dream. He left to go do whatever floated his and boat and climb more mountains, about the same time I decided after 8 years in different areas of management, it really wasn’t going to get any better, status quo was the best I could hope for. Somewhere amongst the working for a living I forgot about the living part. I was tempted to step straight into a similar familiar role to the one I just left with an even larger multi national.

I realized, just another job, building someone else’s dream, to hoard more money, to buy more things, all this again was again leading to stagnation. In nature if things aren’t growing, they are dying.
Even checking Facebook was a connection to people back home I cared about, not an ongoing reminder of contribution to a society obsessed with itself and its paper-thin appearance.

I wanted to be doing things that resonated with me on a personal level, not just doing things I feel “I should” or “am expected” to be doing. More often than most of us like to admit we continue in situations that aren’t fulfilling because we either haven’t got a better idea of what to do, or we are in too deep into our commitments in sustaining a lifestyle that in turn becomes its own hollow cycle. It was clear I needed a life lived with passion rather than safe and familiar. But being more introvert than extrovert, more bookish than outdoorsy and more relaxed than driven I have a pretty tough road ahead.
I had to change my life by making life change me.

Will it work? I hope so but who can say, when your survival or at least your sustenance and accommodation for the day is akin to being from another planet and telling the locals “We are here to serve man” when you actually mean for dinner. (50’s B movies represent) You learn how to be resourceful, you learn how to relax, you learn how to be present, you learn how notice the beauty around you, things just seem so vibrant and taste so good!

It felt like the rest of my life was a dream and the only time I was awake while I was traveling. Rather than sleepwalking through another day and another week, I was inspired with every step, getting a cup of coffee was an adventure rather than a reflex. Even the fail was part of the adventure, actually especially the fail!

It remains to be seen, will I grow jaded of travel?
Time will tell, but it will be a life lived.

I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.

-Bene Gesserit Litany – Frank Herbert, DUNE

I’m now 2 weeks away from my travel date, the closer it comes the more it seems discussions turn towards the continued search for MH370, the Ebola outbreak and World War 3. As much as you push it out of your mind it’s still lurking in there, asking a single question.

“What if?”

My response.

“So what?”

You catch looks briefly in your friends or relatives eyes, concern in their text messages and oddities in their Facebook posts. My mother posted an article on my Facebook wall about recently deceased Ebola victims reanimating, my response was “Finally I have a useful transferable skill set, I knew my research into the zombie apocalypse someday pay off!” Jokes aside I know the concern comes from a place of caring and is a by-product of the media’s constant psychological warfare.

It can be enough to paralyse you, keep you in a “safe” corner of the world, prevent you from taking risks with your job, following your dreams, your aspirations. To me that just feels like a different kind of death.
Doing anything is risk and doing nothing is risk.
Lets break it down old school.

 

Air Disasters

We have had aeroplane disaster movies, aeroplane disasters, hijackings, terrorism all showing that aeroplanes are just flying coffins ready to  rend asunder on the slightest of whims, its even turned into a parody of itself.
If watching The Young Ones taught me anything it’s “Statistically air travel is safer than crossing the road.”
Without just chucking a pile of numbers at you consider this, the global road toll for 2010 was 1.2 million people.
Just let that sink in for a second before we continue.

If every fatal traffic disaster was leapt on by the media to the same degree you would never watch the news again, it would be 24/7 Mad Max The Road Warrior, crash footage over and over, interviews with distraught family members, investigations into the car manufacturers. It would never end. It would also be demoralising and really depressing.

But we are used to that media’s treatment with air disasters. Why is that?

sms porno

“Oh, right..”

 

Viral Outbreaks

Ebola is the current cause for concern for many, it has killed 3,500 this year, it is no doubt a horrific disease. Again I’ll point you to that statistic of  the global road toll in 2010 1.2 million. If the same level of concern was shown for motor vehicles they would be wrapped in plastic, no one would drive and even stepping onto a road would cause anxiety attacks. Now I am not trivialising it but although there is an element of risk using a car we accept that and move on. Obviously travelling to any of the Hot-zones in Africa would increase that risk substantially and be a very bad idea. Ebola is in fact less communicable than say the bird and swine flu epidemics by not being airborne. Being careful isn’t a bad idea, carry some Purell, wash and  thoroughly cook produce you buy, avoid public restrooms. There is a difference between preparedness and hysteria.

Am I concerned? No more than accidentally looking the wrong way when crossing the street in another country and catching a face full of tour-bus, which nearly happened to me in Italy. Better ban streets as well as cars, just to be safe.

Dog poop sign

And ban dogs too while you are at it

War and Terrorism

“Oceania was at war with Eurasia; therefore Oceania had always been at war with Eurasia.” – George Orwell, 1984

Most people only count the “official” wars in history, the ones with numbers behind them, if you have an even passing awareness of history, there hasn’t been a time when there hasn’t been a war in the last 100 years and possibly in the last 1000.

Sadly until human kind gets over its greed and ego it will likely continue.

Centurion

“Oh shit, late for War again, maybe if I just hide in that tent till lunch no one will notice.”

Like in the previous example travelling to or through a known danger zone is likely a bad idea, however I’ll point out that the United States shoot down of  Iran Air flight 665 caused a low level of coverage and little international reaction when compared to the Malaysian Airlines flight M17 over Ukraine, so apart from lunatics making bad decisions come in all nationalities what do people take away from this. Media coverage.

Travel Guru Rick Steves made a point about the state of terrorism and international travel that resonates deeply with me.

“I think we’re 300 million people and if we lose a few hundred people a year to terrorists, that doesn’t change who we are and it shouldn’t change the fabric of our society. Frankly I think we should get used to losing—as long as we’re taking the stance in the world of being the military superpower, you’re going to have people nipping at you. And if it’s hundreds or thousands—we lose 15,000 people a year to have the right to bear arms and most people think that’s a good deal, year after year. We spend 15,000 people for the right to bear arms. What do we spend to be as aggressive and heavy weight on this planet? We’re always going to have terrorism.” -Rick Steves, source Wikipedia/ Seattle Times

 

We all have limited time left, every birthday is a countdown, what does scare me far more than my own mortality is what I have seen and done with it so far. As much as I would like to write about sitting in the sun with kittens on my lap there is plenty of time for me to do that later in life.

lap kittens

“As tempting as it is to be a cat seat, I must go”

This may not be the most reassuring piece you will read but it should give some perspective. I can travel the world and face the smothering fear that sells newspapers, advertising and drives internet traffic or stay home, worrying about my job, high blood pressure, getting too much sun exposure, getting too little sun exposure, gluten and the economy. I used to be afraid of those things, but for me it wasn’t living just existing.

 

We are the sum of our experiences, in that final equation I want it to balance with how I lived.