Oct 222013

So I’ve thought a lot about my trip since my last update in Zadar 14 days ago.

Today represents 146 days on the road and I’m starting to get just a bit tired… Tired from living out of my macpac, tired of being woken up during the night and tired of being constantly on the move.

I never thought I would say it but I really miss my routine.

But this blog post is not about me having a whine.  Whilst most people who read about my travels thinks it’s all roses, it definitely is not. Without a doubt what has kept me going so long has been the people I have met along the way and the experiences I have had.

Last night I was out with a bunch of people from my hostel in San Sebastián, and the hostel manager Leo said something that really resonated with me.  He said that travelling really changes a person and the experiences from being exposed to different cultures both develops one’s personality and builds character.  He also told me both people I already know and new people I meet will see this.

And that is exactly what the last 14 days have been about. Hangin’ with the Homeboys.

Meet Christian.

Christian and I at a Borussia Dortmund - SC Freiburg football match.

Christian and I at a Borussia Dortmund – SC Freiburg football match.

Christian responded to a CouchSurfing post I made in the Kraków forum shortly before I arrived in August.  From the very first night we got along like a house on fire and had an insane 2 weeks in Kraków. Towards the end of that stay Christian invited me to come hang out with him at his home town in Düsseldorf and that is exactly what I did following Zadar.

The 4 days I spent in Düsseldorf could only be described as ‘local’ as that is exactly how I felt hanging out with Christian and his friends.

From clubbing at Milch Bar to seeing a Bundesliga football league match to attending a friends 90’s themed birthday party – these are all things I would be doing at home and it was a welcome change from the usual ‘tourist’ type activities.

90's fancy dress birthday party.

90’s fancy dress birthday party.

Meet Pete (Booosh)

The one and only Booosh.

The one and only Booosh.

Pete is not exactly a new friend I made on this trip as I have known him for close to 20 years.  But we certainly shared some experiences together in Berlin where finally our ‘East meets West’ reunion occurred.  About 9 months ago Pete introduced me to the film ‘Berlin Calling’ and we made a pact to spend time in Berlin to drink beer and party.

For the past 6 months Pete has travelled over-land all the way from Thailand through to Berlin and I have been in contact with him throughout that time.  As I had been in the USA heading towards Europe, Pete coined the term ‘East meets West’ very early in the piece.

After 5 months away from all my family and friends it was awesome to see a familiar face in Berlin for just over 2 weeks.  We shared a cool apartment together in Kreuzburg and I learned a thing or 2 about living economically as we shopped in Lidl and Aldi to save our valuable resources for nightclubs and beer.

There were some freaky occurrences in Berlin. Like me getting into a dialogue with Redman’s tour DJ over Instagram and arranging VIP entry to a private show they did for a Converse gallery opening called ‘Cons Space’.  This was the second time I have seen Redman on this trip and seriously could not believe our luck!

Redman live @ Cons Space (Berlin)

Redman live @ Cons Space (Berlin)

Pete also introduced me to the Spätkauf scene in Berlin.  A spätkauf is a kind of convenience store which also sells beer and other alcoholic beverages at very affordable prices.  The better spätkauf’ also have tables and chairs outside where many locals will chill before heading out for their evening festivities.  In addition to the many local beers I fell in love with, I also discovered the “Jaeger-Mate” which is a knockout combination of Club Mate (a German type of fizzy Iced Tea http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Club-Mate) mixed with Jägermeister.  And in Germany you can enjoy a drink anywhere you wish… whether it be on the street or public transport – we exploited that to its fullest.

Probably our clubbing highlight was a Sunday night at a club called KaterHolzig (http://www.katerholzig.de/). Berlin is well-known for its nightlife scene and this club should definitely be on your list if you are ever out clubbing in Berlin.  Whilst some clubs like Berghain are known for waits of up to 4 hours and inconsistent door policy, Pete and I were really fortunate to have some locals with us to make sure we didn’t either wait too long or have language barriers with the  door staff.  The crowd at KaterHolzig was one of the coolest I have seen with zero pretension and the club had a totally relaxed environment.

And finally meet Kevin.

Kevin, Sam and I at Greenhouse in Manhattan. Turned out to be a HUGE night!!!

Kevin, Sam and I at Greenhouse in Manhattan. Turned out to be a HUGE night!!!

For those that have read my earlier posts you may recall I met Kevin whilst in Brooklyn, New york.  Kevin lives in Dublin, Ireland and extended an invitation for me to visit whilst I was travelling through Europe.

So after finding a super cheap Ryanair flight to Dublin from Berlin, that’s exactly what I did.  I stayed a total of 4 days with Kevin and his 3 Irish room mates Gavin (Jerry), Kieran and Ronan (Splinter).  These were a super cool bunch of Irish lads and for 4 days straight I was given a guided tour of Dublin’s finest bars and nightclubs courtesy of these characters.

Gav, Victor, Kav and I at a Spanish party in Dublin.

Me, Gav, Victor and Kev at a Spanish party in Dublin.

So many friends warned me before arriving about the drinking culture in Ireland.  But reality far exceeded my expectations as these guys redefine the term drinking.  But on a serious note the Irish hospitality is right up there with the most friendly I have received around the world and the Aussies are very well received over there as well.

Guinness Storehouse

Guinness Storehouse

I think I also developed an addiction to Guinness during my stay in Dublin with a few pints consumed. I can still remember Kevin telling me to slow down on the stuff as Id be halfway through a pint as the guys had barely had a few sips of their beers.

I was also fortunate enough to have Ronan arrange a tour of the Jameson Distillery as he works there.  I definitely learnt a thing or 2 about whiskey after that experience and am definitely sold on the Irish stuff from now on.

Jameson Distillery

Jameson Distillery

I’m sure some people who read this post may not necessarily understand the collective impact of these experiences on one’s persona or character however I can assure you that it would be near impossible to replicate even with the help of the world’s best tour guide or host.

This is what I define as travel and experiencing local culture.  Not only do I have some fond memories but more importantly I have some lasting friendships to show for it.