My coworker and friend Brent gave me a CD last week that he recorded with his band. The album was called ‘Life Beneath The Waves’. On its cover, we the viewer see a scuba diver from the underside. The sun is showing just above the water.
I asked him if he could sign it with “Happy Travels” and he did.
I listened to it on the way back from work today. The album’s namesake ‘Life Beneath The Waves’ came on. And throughout the song, the melody and lyrics touched me like few songs do. It sang about not wanting the big house, the big car. It sang about how it’s nice to just be free beneath the waves. That song put a big, fat smile on my face all the way home. I had to play it on repeat.
I’ve spoken about my diving trips to friends. Often times, they have no interest in it or just can’t relate to the feeling one gets being 30 feet underwater, seeing a different world go by. I feel sad that many won’t ever experience this world because they either have no interest or are too afraid to try it.
Me: “Bonjour” Them: “Yes, can I help you?” Me: “Uh yes…can I get combo #1 please… Merci.”
I wanted to impress the locals with my rudimentary command of French but in the end, nobody had time to entertain a tourist. They just want to do their jobs and get on with life. Fair enough. Unless I was planning on going out of the city, I don’t think knowing French is really needed. The Québécois are still Canadian and they need to know how to converse with their fellow Canadians from non-Quebec regions.
What’s there to do in Montreal and Quebec City (QC)? Walk around. Take the subways. Ride a bike everywhere. Eat.
I love diving. I am a certified Open Water scuba diver. I love exploring lands but I also love exploring the world beneath the lands, a world where most of the world doesn’t see.
At the beginning of December 2013, my original plan to visit the Philippines fell through due to Haiyan. As an alternate option, I chose to visit East Malaysia, mainly to dive in Sipadan Island. A journey to Sipadan requires a few connections. One has to fly into Tawau, southeast of Sabah. From there, it takes about 1.5 hours to drive to Semporna, which is the launching point to Sipadan (and islands around) by some dive operators. I had arranged to dive with Scuba Junkies (SJ) and to stay in Mabul Island, a world-renowned location for underwater macro photography (and what a world it is!).
Back in November 2013, I had originally planned to make a 1.5 week trip to the Philippines after spending a few days in Kuala Lumpur to attend my friend’s wedding. Then super typhoon Haiyan devastated the Philippines. Many of the destinations I had originally planned to visit were in Haiyan’s path such as Coron and Bohol. It just wasn’t going to be the same although one could argue that “To see the world as it is, even at its worst” should be a “real” traveler’s motto. I might’ve done so had I had unlimited time but it was a long-awaited vacation and I wanted a vacation, as selfish as it is for me to say that. Thus, after forfeiting $250 in plane tickets, I purchased a ticket to East Malaysia, starting in Kuching, Sarawak.
Up until this point, my blog has always been about my long-term trips (2010-2011 RTW and 2014 South America) but I plan on writing about places that I visited the last few years and really enjoyed but never got a chance to highlight. Forgive me as I write from memory.
Flashback to January 2013. I attended a meeting in Tampa and thought to myself that it would be nice to take a holiday somewhere in Florida. Browsing Googlemaps, I saw that the Caribbean was nearby, so I figured I’d check out a country there. I remember that most flights to the Bahamas was expensive and that I was surprised to find a $160 round trip (from Tampa) ticket to Puerto Rico. I figured it was because they are a territory of the USA and plenty of flights went to and from there.
All those years ago, before I started my first year-long Round-The-World journey, I watched “A Map for Saturday”. It was a documentary about the journey of a backpacker through his RTW trip and the people he meets, their experiences, and life on the road. It opened my eyes and prepared me (somewhat) for my own journey.
Re-watching it after my own journey made me nostalgic. It confirmed many things but I also felt some things were exaggerated. I guess it all comes down to perspective.
I have a ritual which I enjoy doing every few months; go through all my things and downsize. This is part of my ongoing efforts to be a minimalist; buy what I need and fight temptation as much as I can for things I want.
I’ve already downsized a few times and I’m at a point where I just can’t get rid of anymore unnecessary things I’ve accumulated over the years. But I did finally throw away my shoes from my first RTW trip. They had holes in them and keeping them for sentimental reasons just meant that space will be taken up. I have to learn not to be too attached to a material good.
But my REI 55L backpack and NF Borealis backpack are still with me, dirty but perfectly functional.
Got back June 25th, 3 days to the day when I left. It was a 17 hour flight in total from Santiago to Dallas, with layovers in Panama City and Montego Bay. This was after spending 8 hours at the Santiago airport.
People have been asking me which was my favorite place in South America and I usually tell them the Galapagos Islands. But that is like asking “What is your favorite trait of your loved one?” You can always name one but you usually love that person as a whole, the good and the bad. In the same way, I loved South America as a whole. I didn’t love just one spot, I loved the entire journey and continent.
“Bohemian” is the exact word to describe Valparaiso. While Santiago is like someone who works 8-5 in a cubicle, goes home, makes dinner, watches TV, goes to sleep, and occasionally goes out for drinks with friends on a Saturday night, Valparaiso is like a heavily tattooed rock star who lives on nothing but drugs, booze, women, and goes to the occasional rehab session.
If you’re a wine person, then you have to visit Mendoza, Argentina’s wine capital and one of the top producers of wine in the world. I remember having the chance to visit the South African wine country but decided not to as I wasn’t a wine drinker but Mendoza was between Buenos Aires and Santiago so it was a good way to break down my trip. So I took the 13 hour overnight bus filled with noisy American exchange students who were also going to Mendoza for a 3-day weekend.
I think vineyards look best when the sun’s out and when the grapes are still on their vines, full and ripe, ready to be harvested. This happens in March so no surprise when our tour group arrived at the wineries, all the trees were bare, having being harvested long ago and it being the middle of winter now.