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Once upon a time there was a tavern where we used to raise a glass or two…

Tea drinking in a tavern

Once upon a time, as I was standing outside a pub on the quays  of the Liffey chatting with two young volunteers about life’s opportunities, an Irish man spoke to us and he gave  us a lesson that I’ll never forget. And I am sure the two young friends will never forget it as well.

 

I don’t remember the name neither the face of that man but I remember what he said. He spoke with tears in his eyes, because of the many beers he had but also because what he said was coming from the deep of his heart; the heart of a man going through hard times, that doesn’t want to see someone else going trough the same.

To make it short and simple he said that if you want to achieve something in your life, the best time to do it is when everything seems to fall apart.

It is only then that you can show to the world that, forgive my French, you’ve got balls and it is only during hard times that you take out the best you have.

It might sound a bit rude but what he was saying is absolutely true.

When is not easy to find a job because of the recession is the right time to think: OK, what am I able to do? Which are my skills? What would I like to be?

Sometimes you must leave what you’ve just found

You don’t always have to make compromises or submit yourself to stupid standard rules coming from above. You are almost free.

You can try. You’ve got nothing  to lose.

If you try you might either fail  or succeed.

When you think that in your life something is missing, or even worse, that everything is going in the wrong way, that’s the time to make some changes.

I might turn out well or not, you can always step back or try something else.

The last few months of my life went by quickly as it always happens when you experience a few changes in your life.

I went trough hard times and I had my moments of glory, I tried to settle down then I left again, I found sincere love and friendships, I laughed and I cried like a child, sometimes happy, sometimes sad.

Once again I left everything I knew for something that is becoming part of me.

The unknown or the unpredictable.

Well, in fact I can say now that I know a bit of Ireland after all the time I lived here.

Did you know there are monkeys in Ireland?

However I came back to Ireland with the dream of doing something unusual for this country and I worked for a month in a Monkey Sanctuary.

In Ireland!

Until the cold winter and the Dublin craic got me here again. Dublin fair city.

I can consider myself happy for a few things I am achieving, or trying to achieve.

I spent days, hours, fixing an old useless PC, bringing it back to life (that’s why I can now write again on my blog). It has been hard and I have been very close to throw it out of the window many times. I was even thinking to make a video for youtube like those people who completely  lose it and destroy their office for the happiness of youtuboholics.

Maria and the immaculate misconception of the "Fotonovela"

But I have a lot of patience and I won.

With some friends we are writing a script for an old fashion “Fotonovela” and since we  started I’m enjoying every moment of it. As good almost-Irish-like we take it easy and not to seriously so it might take months before we’ll be able to publish it. But the ideas are there, it’s just a matter of time.

With my flatmate and Japanese teacher Haruka at Bull Island.

I started to learn Japanese with the help of my friend/flatmate Haruka and according to her I am a good student. Everyone told me it is impossible to learn Japanese but I am stubborn and I believe that nothing is impossible if you really want it. So I study, I watch anime and Kurosawa and I talk to myself in Japanese.

I started once again to host people with Couchsurfing and I met some of the best people ever. This is the prove that in life you always make the best encounters when you less expect it.

I have now some new great friends and I’ve learned a good deal from them despite they are younger than me. That proves that age and wisdom are not necessarily connected.

Thanks to Emilie, one of the latest couchurfers I’ve hosted and one of the most beautiful persons I know, I tried yoga and despite my old knee complains I loved it and I will keep practicing it. I will have a chat with my knee…I am sure he’ll understand!

With Erika, another CS friend, I felt like a tourist guide for a day and I loved it. It’s such a great feeling to rediscover the place where you live trough someone else eyes. And she sang her beautiful songs for us in the living room. Singing your songs in my living room might bring you good luck, that’s what happened with Nathalie.

Checking out the aliens signs on the sand with Leo’

Then there is the “Little marchand de fruit” Leo’, former CS guest, now neighbor and best friend.

Yesterday I took her (or she took me) and other friends to the Celt because I wanted them to hear from Betty’s beautiful voice the song “Those were the days”.

I heard that song so many times that I should had known the lyrics by heart by now, but I’ve never managed to find out who wrote it and what was the title.

You know…when you sing because you are drunk the day after you also forget things because you were drunk…

Until 3 days ago I google the lyrics I remembered (or so I thought) and I found the song I’ve been looking for during the last 6 years.

Now…the lyrics are a bit nostalgic but what I like of that song is that “those days” can be “these days” meaning that even if time passes by we always must have something to achieve, because either you can get old (and then remember the old times) or you can get old “trying”.

And is only when you try hard that you really live the life.

Like in that song one day you might meet your old friend in a tavern after many years and still have the same dreams, which means you didn’t manage to achieve them.

There are a lot of things going on in the world right now, so many and dramatic events that my life’s little changes are invisible compared to them.

I think that this is for me one of the strangest times since many years for what is going on around, starting from the revolts in Northern Africa to the earthquake and tsunami in Japan with all  the consequent risks of a nuclear accident, from the economic recession still far to be over (especially in Ireland) to the disgraceful situation of the Italian politic and their supporters (no offense for real politicians and real people of other countries).

I obviously think about all these things with a feeling of sadness having friends involved in all of it.

My thoughts go often to them and their families, friends, countries and, as I have these feelings, I keep thinking that this are those days and maybe it’s about time to take out the best I have inside and put in practice the lesson that that Irish man gave to me once upon a time.

As I’ve said many times before I don’t want to change the world all at once but I can start with little things and so should everyone.

Like a friend said “The sun woke up early this morning”

And so did I with a different energy.

Yes! I’ve got balls!

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Surfing the Couch

One of the things that keeps me really busy these days, is looking for hospitality for the trip I am gonna start in 2 weeks.

People are often asking me how I will be able to afford to travel all this time, taking for granted that I will have to spend a fortune in hostels.

Well…for emergency I’ll have a tent with me. But as there are other ways to travel beside the classic aeroplane, train, car or bike, luckily there are also other ways to find accommodation that helps to avoid spending money on conventional hostels, hotels, B & Bs and whatever else you can think about.

And that’s not the only positive thing!

Couchsurfing is a worldwide network with more than 1.600.000 members all around the planet, that is the best way “for making connections between travellers and the local communities they visit” as the header says when you visit the website.

I joined Couchsurfing while I was living in Dublin, out of pure curiosity, after my Aussi flatmate Zoe (thanx sunshine for that!) told me about it.

It was the best thing I’ve ever done!

The day after I’d signed up, I found two messages of people asking for hospitality, and from the next day on, having people coming from all around the world, became soon something like a routine.

On the main page of Couchsurfing, this is what you find under “about”, pretty much a good description of it:

CouchSurfing is an international non-profit network that connects travelers with locals in over 230 countries and territories around the world. Since 2004, members have been using our system to come together for cultural exchange, friendship, and learning experiences. Today, over a million people who might otherwise never meet are able to share hospitality and cultural understanding.

Our mission as an organization is to create inspiring experiences: cross-cultural encounters that are fun, engaging, and illuminating. These experiences take many forms. CouchSurfing’s initial focus was on hosting and ‘surfing’ (staying with a local as a guest in their home). Alongside these core experiences, we now also facilitate a growing array of activities and events.

Surfing my old couch in Dublin

We have a vision of a world where everyone can explore and create meaningful connections with the people and places they encounter. Each CouchSurfing experience shared by our members brings us closer to that vision.”

As you can see here, it is not only a way to save money when travelling, it really makes connections.

In my experience I mainly hosted people coming to visit Dublin, some of them having been around Europe for a while, using this network to find hospitality and to have some “locals” to show them around better than any organised tour could do, and beside that, it was also a great way to meet new people.

Most of those who “surfed my coach” became good friends, and even when it was only for a short visit, it gave me the chance to build something strong enough to call it friendship.

I am still in touch with all the C.S. I meet so far, I know I can count on them if I ever decide to travel for instance to Quebec or U.S.A.

I was always the one hosting people until I went to Edinburgh once with some friends, and we were welcome by Roberta, an Italian C.S. member living there, like if we knew each other since many years.

Now it is my turn to be the guest, and so far I am happy enough because I am getting positive answers form most of the people I am contacting to have a couch to surf during my walk.

Another thing to mention is that C.S. often organise events and meetings, the monthly meeting in Dublin has always been a great party! Really great people, with a great idea!

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Here we are again.

I haven’t disappeared.

I can’t really lie and tell you I was busy doing something important these days, but despite the fact that I didn’t conclude anything, at least I’ve been trying to and that have taken most of my time. The other thing I did these days was obviously eating a lot! Like always on Christmas time.

I can’t avoid it, good food is something I can’t resist, and thinking about my trip, I better eat something good now that I can because I will suffer having to eat randomly for the next months. I must forget anything like mama’s food for a while!

Anyway, what I have been doing on Christmas time, beside making a snowman with my niece, eating a lot and meeting some friends, was trying to fix a few things concerning my trip and there are some news about it: the main thing is that I won’t be leaving around the 3rd week of January as planned, but some time later. This is because I have some friends in France that I want to meet but they are not going to be there before April, so I must postdate everything.

Then another thing came up. Through Couchsurfing, I got in touch with Alberto Conte who’s the promoter of Movimento Lento, a website and movement that makes of the slow walking, cycling and moving its flag, and he invited me to a seminary that will be held in a village of Piemonte, also one of the stages of Via Francigena, the 20th and 21st of February.

Initially I thought the better way to fit the date whit this event was to start my walk a bit earlier than planned  and once I’d got there I could have stopped for the seminary, and start again after two days.

Now that I need to postdate my leaving date to February, to be able to meet my friends in France, the best thing to do would be to wait even until after the seminary, so that’s why I am kind of getting crazy trying to fix this, checking the road-book, changing dates, change them again, adding stages…

Did I just say “adding stages”?

Yes…that’s right…because one of the insane ideas I had is this: if I have to leave later than what I thought, why not leaving from further away, from L’ Aquila for instance?

I know, it doesn’t make any sense…the thing is that I can’t wait any longer, if I must postdate my leaving  from Rome, I don’t want to stay here too long, boring myself at home when I should be walking already!

I always wanted to go to visit L’ Aquila as a tourist and, since the earthquake happened, I wish I could have gone and helped out somehow.

When I was living in Dublin I didn’t because I simply couldn’t leave my job, now a few months after the earthquake, L’Aquila is not at all reconstructed, like they would like us to believe, so I think I could help out somehow, like promoting charities,  found-rising, whatever is worthy trying to do.

I don’t have big expectations, but why not to try?

So these days beside eating a lot and all the things I said above, I am also trying to get in touch with someone over there and see what we can do to help out, and anyway, whatever will happen, I’d really like to start from L’Aquila instead of Rome. L’Aquila-Rome is only 6 days of walk, not a big difference for a 3.200 kilometres trip!

And I am seriously thinking of adding stages at the end too.

I could decide to walk down to Portugal once I’ll arrive to the ocean…you know…a bit like Forrest Gump does when he gets to face the ocean…

Anyway, I go back to think about dates and stages, I should let you know soon what is the final starting date!

Meanwhile, have a good time and enjoy yourself.

I don’t know if I’ll post again soon so I take the chance to wish you all a  fantastic and happy 2010!

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