Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Subway Sleeping

Quite possibly one of the more awkward and interesting times that I’ve had while traveling was in Madrid, Spain. I think it’s an experience that most backpackers go through at least once during their travels, and quite possibly many more times depending on how long you’re adventuring for. That experience was an uncomfortable sleeping situation.

Madrid, Spain - Day 1

Back in this post here, I mentioned that I didn’t quite care for the Spanish capital. In typical Chad fashion, I didn’t book anything ahead on my trip figuring I’d just go with the flow and be able to leave when I wanted without being locked into a set amount of time in any one place. That type of mentality, however, came to bite me in the ass as I wandered for 4 hours trying to find an affordable place to stay.

When I did find a place, I checked in without hesitation for 2 nights. Now, walking for 4 hours, in 40 degrees Celsius, with a 20lb backpack weighing you down is highly NOT recommended. I think I had a bit of heatstroke and so wasn’t feeling too terribly well. That being said, I took that first day and night easy, staying in the hostel and reading.

Madrid, Spain - Day 2

The second day I was feeling much better. After a brief breakfast at the hostel, I decided to go and explore. And though I didn’t care for Madrid too much, it was interesting to wander through. I saw a street long craft sale of homemade items, all decked out with colourful flags crisscrossing the street from the tops of the buildings. Which, I must admit, was the most interesting thing I saw there. I guess the part I was wandering through was a bit too residential/commercial with not a lot of the interesting bits to see.

After journeying for the day, I decided to stop at a small pub and grab a drink and a bite to eat. After a long conversation with a guy from England and a couple of Americans, I decided to call it a night and head off to the hostel for a good night of sleep. Alas, that was not to happen.

Apparently the hostel that I chose to call home while in Madrid had a curfew for guests and if you missed it you were locked out until 7:00 the next morning. As it so happens, I was about 45 minutes late for the curfew.

Well, shit.

What to do? Well, the pub I was in had free wifi. And I had my wallet. I suppose I could head back there and, if need be, check in to a hotel for the night (where I could have a DECENT shower, finally!!). Yup, that seemed like a good course of action. And so I boarded the metro to get back to the pub I was at for supper.

Getting off the train, which wasn’t busy at all, I was quite surprised that I was the only one to exit on that stop. I didn’t think too much of it until I went to leave the station.

Gated and locked. Closed. Guess no pub for me.

After a “what the hell” moment, I figured I’d catch another train and head off elsewhere. I mean, what else could go wrong right?

Well, I could have taken the last train of the night. And I did. There was no other train until 6:15am the next morning.

Well, shit.

A six hour wait until the next train. What the hell am I going to do now? Pretty much the only option open to me. I curled up on the cold, dirty, tiled floor in some metro station with a Spanish name, and attempted to get a little bit of sleep. And it was not the most pleasant of sleeps that I had while I was away. On the bright side, however, I didn’t have to worry about pickpockets. I WAS trapped after all. And if there’s no way out, there can’t be a way in.

Unfortunately my terribly miserable sleep was interrupted after about 3 hours or so (time being roughly 4:00am) by two security guards. Where the hell did they come from? They were as surprised to see me as I was to see them! After explaining to them what had happened (one of them didn’t speak English and the other just barely, so it took longer than I was hoping), they kindly opened the gate for me to escape my dungeon and informed me that the train station opened at 5:00am.

All good and well, except all my stuff was locked up in the hostel. And that hostel was closed until 7:00am. So there I was, waiting for the train station to open so that I could wait out the hour there until the metro started running and I could get back to the hostel and wait for IT to open so that I could gather my crap only to head BACK to the train station (via metro) and leave the godforsaken city.

What do you think? Lesson learned? Will I book ahead? Will I make sure there’s no curfew? Maybe. We’ll see what happens on the next trip. Feel free to leave a comment and tell me about your traveling mishaps. I’d love to hear them!



Sunday, March 13, 2016

Oh, The Places You'll Go

I’ve been thinking about travel again quite a bit lately. It’s not something that’s new for me by a long shot. I really do enjoy getting away and seeing new and interesting things. Living in Canada, I am so blessed that we have such a varying landscape. Regardless of who I was with at the time, I do have fond memories of being in the Maritimes and traveling around there. It was different and unique from here in Alberta.

However, as varied as our wonderful country is it’s still much the same from one part to another. I want to go and experience new and different cultures. See incredible sights that I could never see by staying in North America. I want to enrich myself in the most rewarding way that I can at this moment in time. I want to go on an adventure.

Of all the books in the world, the best stories are found between the pages of a Passport.

Quite possibly no truer words have ever been written. I’m an avid reader. I read ALL THE TIME. And all the best stories involve a journey. Wandering travelers on an adventure or quest, such as Lord of the Rings, where Tolkien describes vast landscapes and differing cultures. Or individuals traveling and seeking knowledge, such as Miyamoto Musashi traveling feudal Japan to work on his swordsmanship. Or Homer’s ancient Greek epics The Iliad and The Odyssey. The examples truly are endless. But one of the best books that you could possibly own is your passport.

You are, quite literally, the hero of your own adventure. That adventure is what you call ‘life’. Unfortunately too many people in this world settle for the mundane; the ordinary; the comfortable. They don’t actually live and their adventures revolve around living vicariously through other people via books, or movies, or tabloids. They focus too much on what other people are doing and how they are living their lives that they forget to live their own. Their adventure is blindly following someone else around and wishing that they, themselves, could do something fun and exciting. If that truly is the case, then I want to be the person that someone else lives vicariously through.

If you don't get lost, there's a chance you may never be found.

When I went to Spain Barcelona, it was for a completely different reason than why I want to travel now. I was proving to myself that I COULD go alone and, to be honest, I really didn't do much there. It was a bit of reflecting and getting over whatever it was that I was going through at the start of last year. Looking back, it was definitely what I needed at the time, and as grateful as I am to myself for doing it, I would like to experience more and varied things when I travel. I want to learn about different histories and hear stories of ancient heroes from long ago. I want to find new places and possibly new ways of thinking. I want to grow as a person.

Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you rich.

When most people think of being rich, they think of money and physical possessions. When I think of being rich, I think of having experiences and knowledge. I would much rather enrich my life, not my bank account. I just want to have good friends, plenty of travels, and stories based on experience. Really, is that too much to ask?



Sunday, March 6, 2016

I'm Going On An Adventure!

With Games-Workshop’s decision to kill off Warhammer Fantasy (one of my favourite games bar-none) and my reluctance to pick up the replacement game (Warhammer: Age of Sigmar) until they fix the rules everything, I needed to find a game to completely engross myself in and feed my epic fantasy cravings.

Enter Dungeons and Dragons.

I mentioned in this post back in January that I had never really played Dungeons and Dragons before. I’m sure to many people reading this that it comes as a complete shock and surprise. To practically everyone I know and talk to, they are absolutely stunned. No one can understand it. Really, it came down to schedule. When you work a job that had no real set hours, and shifts were always up in the air, how could you commit? I couldn’t. And so I never really got to experience playing a table-top RPG growing up.

The start for this game was a simple text message with a picture from a friend. Literally: “Pick a Class and Race.” No other explanation, no real follow up. That simple question started the story for me. What really adds to it, I think, is that of the 5 people we have playing the game, 3 of us are beginners. Basically learning everything from the ground up. It’s a great way to start, because it’s always nerve-racking being the only newbie to join ANYTHING.

We’ve had three sessions now and it’s pretty spectacular. Our characters are so very different from one another, it’s interesting seeing how they mesh together to form this group. And what I find fascinating is that the characters seem to take on a personality of their own regardless of how you’ve planned them. Much like writing. For example, I’m playing a Half Elf Bard by the name of Flynt. When I first envisioned him, I was thinking he’d be much like the nameless minstrel in my story Gaining Music. But instead, Flynt has turned out to be a bit of a dick. And quite lazy. He doesn’t like to make a lot of effort on things and he’s a bit distrustful of people and new situations. Odd for a bard that's supposed to be the charismatic entertainer. He also rolls poorly when it counts. I mean really, really poorly. For all his flaws, I’ve kind of grown attached to him and I do hope that he survives for a bit so that I can have some more roleplay opportunities.

And so, instead of packing and cleaning my place for the move, I’ve been focusing and thinking about our adventure in a fantastical realm that’s rife with story opportunities and hidden dangers. I can’t wait to head back there with friends, both old and new.