Eight Great Travel Books Based on True Stories

Eight Great Travel Books Based on True Stories

Evasion – Don’t Know

A collection of zines published by CrimethInc in 2003. The author travels the US by hitchhiking and train-hopping. He sleeps on the roofs of donut shops, dumpster dives, shoplifts and generally tries just about everything except working to survive as a strict Vegan on the streets. I don’t reccomend you start returning reciepts you found in bins to scam shops into giving you money to buy bagels but it’s definetly a must read soley for the writing. No book I have ever read has portrayed such a desire for adventure, with a vegan anarchist twist. The authors story is interesting too and often funny. Not many regulars of punk concerts living on the streets refuse to eat meat, drink alcohol, smoke weed, shoplift Madonna CDs and hope to find a girlfreind while dumpster diving. Free PDF copies are available around the internet.

 

On The Road – Jack Kerouac

Kerouac’s masterpiece which has immortalised the “Beat Generation”. Apparently written in only three weeks the fast paced book races over and back across the US and down to Mexico. Sex, drugs, shoplifting and Kerouac’s struggles on the road as he more or less followed Cassidy, a rogue car-jacker around the US. A must read even if you don’t plan on living it rough. The Dharma Bums is worth a mention too, if you like this book.

Kerouac and Cassidy

American Shaolin – Matthew Polly

I was left with a burning desire to visit China and learn martial arts after this book. The author comes from the US and is not only practised in martial arts but fluent in Chinese and an entertaining writer. The book is often very funny but provides a very real insight into life within China and the Shaolin Temple itself. A must read if you desire a journey to China.

 

Marco Polo

Again set in Asia, not as relevant to today but still a garanteed page turner for the adventurer. The slow paced travel of the days before the engine will leave you grateful yet somewhat dissapointed. The strange customs and places Marco meet will never be meet again. The way he described strange animals such as a Giraffe filled me with jealousy, he really explored the unkown. An unknown we can never find in the age of the internet.

Marco’s Travels

Hitchhiking Round Ireland with a Fridge – Tony Hawks

He did exactly that after losing a bet to a friend. Tony details the more fun side of hitchhiking just for the hell of it. A great example in how hitchhiking is so easily doable in almost any circumstance with a positive attitude. He stayed in B&Bs and was helped by a radio station so don’t expect anything “backpacker” about the book. Still very funny and definetly worth a read.

 

Travels with Charley – John Steinbeck

Steinback takes to travelling around the US in a camper with his poodle. A very well written and light read, Steinback of course writes in only the way a member of the lost generation writes, just beautifully. He set out to discover more about his fellow country men and along the way he ponders many great questions such as the politics and racism whitin the US and even picks up two hitchhikers.

Steinback and his Poodle Charlie

 Into the Wild – Jon Krakauer

A must read for any backpacker. Wheter or not you believe Christopher Mccandless was wreckless in his adventure into Alaska or a hero that todays materialistic world needs to learn lessons from is up to you.

The book is very well written and goes into far more detail then the movie of the same title bases on Christopher’s adventure on the road. Probably the books that’s most relevant to todays backpackers and hitchhikers on the list.

Chris in Alaska

The Sun Also Rises – Ernest Hemingway

Hemingway was another writer to spring from the “lost generation”. WW1 soldiers left in Europe with little desire to work and plenty of motive to drink.

The book is based on Hemingways life in Paris and travel to Spain to witness some bullfights and to party. Possibly his best book it will leave you craving a walk around Paris to “utilise” bars and speak French.

 

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Hitchhiking from Cali to Ipiales

Hitchhiking from Cali to Ipiales

 Llama Land – July 2015

The Colombian adventure continues, an unforgiving country with dangerous roads and torturing sun, Vamos!

By the way my Walmart camera seems to have commited suicide, frustrated with it´s vagabond lifestyle. Hopefully I will revive her soon and get the photos from my latest trip up here (just the photos from my phone for now).

hitchhiking-colombia
The map does not show of course how windy, dangerous and long the road gets as you climb into the mountains before Ipiales.

So I left Cali around lunch time on a Friday not sure how much work was involved in getting to Ipiales. Taking the local bus South to the University area and following the main road south after a kilometer or two I found a bridge to stand under and made a sign for Popayan.

After about 45 minutes a local guy pulled over in an Astra. In his thirties, he was glad to bring me to Popayan and we had the chats in broken Spanish.

I jumped out on the northern edge of Popayan opting not to enter the city but instead to try hitchhiking the ring road that encircles Popayan. A big mistake.

There was next to no traffic, every Colombian was somewhere for the international football game against Argentina. So I walked…. and walked…. and walked some more.

After about 7 km of walking forwards and then backwards with my thumb out when a car happened to pass me I gave up and hopped off the road. Then I jumped off the road, found some trees and flung my hammock up, hungry, thirsty and considerably pissed off.

I started again early the next morning, after another 4 or 5 km (with help from an old local guy who took me about 2km on his moped). I had finally walked to the other side of Papayan, and stood facing the traffic heading south of Popayan.

I gladly let my bag down and began petting some stray horse to get more attention, I had the blues to say the least after all the fecking walking.

“Hey look at the white guy petting a horse!, lets pick him up”

Is what I imagined the local Colombians saying.

It didn´t work surprisingly, I walked on and finally got collected just before lunch time by two nurses.

A man and woman, both very friendly and chatty with lovely slow and clear Spanish for me to comprehend. They left me by a Viaje (toll stops here in Colombia).

I stood around chatting with a local guy selling water, he presented me with some bible magazine but praying was getting me no-where and I would of preferred one of his oranges. After an hour one of the nearby soldiers ordered a truck driver to take me somewhere else, guess he didn’t like having me around.

The toll stop
Be nice to the Colombian military at the checkpoints and they will be nice back. Often helpful too.

The truck driver left me at the entrance to El Bordo not wanting to take me further I guess, not much going on here. I stood around hitchhiking for about a half hour talking to a little street kid and got offered a ride to Medellin by one truck driver. Wrong way fella but thanks.

Then along came Carlos, he pulled in his truck and waved at me. Then went for a cup of coffee. When he returned I jumped in and we took off.

My truck to Ipiales
My truck to Ipiales

I couldn’t understand a thing he said, and he was convinced I’m dutch.

“Irlanda”

“Olanda ?”

“No Irlanda”

He just gave me a confused look and then started asking questions about the Netherlands. The road to Ipiales especially after Pasto was awful. All curves, dangerous but very beautiful.

We broke down on a bridge and some soldiers came by to direct traffic around the truck. While Carlos tinkered with his truck and waited for her to cool down. I sat around feeding my remaining oatmeal to some famished looking chickens from the local farm that came around to see all the big truck commotion.

The soldiers were friendly too, we smoked and I spoke in my broken Spanish. Everyday the five men stood on this bridge with their machine guns which I weren’t allowed to hold for a photo.

Endles wilderness surrounded the road
Endles wilderness surrounded the road

Two hours later and she was back to life and Carlos tipped the soldiers, it was dark now though so Carlos soon pulled in and I jumped out of the truck. There was no bed so I assumed he would sleep across the seats. He wanted to start again at 4 so that left me almost 6 hours to sleep. I strolled around the petrol station and laid under a statue of the Virgin Mary. Wrapped up in my tarp inside my sleeping bag to keep warm at the ridiculously high altitude.

At 4 a local man woke me up and then the truck driver. They don’t have alarms in Colombia but rather locals guys you give a few cents to and they will lightly kick you at the desired hour. I had slept reasonably well on the concrete under the Virgins statue.

By 6.30 I was in Ipiales (the outskirts) on a Sunday, Carlos would go no further today. I walked into town, wearing a jacket for the first time in months. Ipiales is as cold as Ireland, it’s very high in the mountains. I started to see llamas too and Alpacas for the first time in Colombia. The people too in the Sierra are noticeably more indigenous looking then the rest of Colombia. I stood at least a foot taller than everyone also.

Stopping for breakfast I bought 2 coussants and a big cookie, a grand total of 600 pesos (€0.20). I could hardly believe the cheapness. With the remaining 2000 pesos (€0.66) I bought 40 mins of internet in a cafe, a cup of coffee and a smoke.

Ipiales is nice and cool I thought, a lad won’t get burnt here and it’s crazy cheap. Also there were potatoes for sale everywhere and pretty girls! I have a soft spot for potatoes and pretty girls.

“It’s a shame I have to leave so fast” I said as I walked towards the Ecuador border.

A car pulled over.

“Hello, I speak English, where are you going?”

“Ecuador”

“Come to my house for lunch, I can get you a job here”

Annnd I’m still here, in Ipiales. Taking a break from the road for a month or two to improve my Spanish and earn a little cash teaching English, I got 12 students as I write this to teach later today.

I’ll be most definitely back on the road soon because there’s no pub here, decent wifi or a decent book store either.

Expect some posts about teaching.

Ipiales has a nice Church where the Virgin appeared
Ipiales has a nice Church where the Virgin appeared when she wasn’t busy being my nightwatch.

By the way I completely bluffed everything. I literally put on a shirt and said yes I’m an English teacher (don’t even have a working visa). I would love to work at this Institute. How hard can it be?

Sup Bro
Sup Bro

 

Hitchhiking from Medellin to Cali

Hitchhiking from Medellin to Cali

On the Road in South America July 2015

Hitchhiking in Colombia is quite the thrill as you would imagine. But by God the place is really huge and waiting times can be long. Hitchhiking from Medellin to Cali took me two days for example.

hitchhiking colombia

I was in Medellin at around 7am by the bus terminal with the plan of getting south as soon as possible towards Cali.

I approached a young Colombian guy and asked for directions to the nearest metro and he blabbers some incoherent stuff. Then he took a long puff from the huge joint I hadn´t noticed he was carrying.

“You want some my friend?”

“OK”

I offered him what was left of the weed I had, it had been a gift from a guy from Cork (thanks Eamon) I meet in Minca. He rolled a massive joint, fat as a ducks arse with no tobacco at all. Great I thought sarcastically. I´m going to be baked in time for the sun to rise up.

We smoked the weed then he gave me some deodrant, all the time complaining about the many police in El Centro. He took off again after saying something about needing to get to work. I hope he wasn’t like a bus driver or anything like that, the guy was heavy stoned.

In the center I had completely forgotten about my plans to hitchhike South and instead sat on a bench staring at the sky. It was probably around half 8 in the morning. Next thing a police officer approached me with a big cunt of a sniffer dog. He had a good smell of my backpack. Thank god I had just smoked off the last of my weed, and that I was wearing sun-glasses too.

I proceeded to sit at a cafe, read my book (For Whom the Bell Tolls), charge my phone and admire Medellin. Its obvious why Pablo Escobar based his empire here. The place is beautiful, nestled in between the mountains just grand and cosy.

Around 12 I was back with reality again and caught the metro to the furthest station south (Medellin is well organised and the only city in Colombia with a metro).

Hitchwiki says to jump out at Itagui, but I say don’t. There has been two additional stations built south of Itagui since that article was last updated I think.

I got out at the last stop La Estrella. I followed my compass south, crossed the canal (which flows to the north) and got directions to the Autopista (10 mins walking). The road forks here and if you go straight you will take the autobus route to Caldas, veer to the left and back over the canal towards Cali and Caldas directo. Climb the hill about 2km and you will meet three petrol stations in a row. Heres your best chance of gettting the fuck out of Medellin.

I tried some truckers but none were speaking Spanish I could understand or heading towards Cali. I guess most of the lond distance drivers would of already left by 8am. It was now nearly 2pm. I didn’t see many Cali registration plates, just Bogota, Medellin and some where called Cota I never heard of.

Some of the petrol stations in Colombia have free wifi by the way. I emphasis the some.

A four letter word like Cali is ideal for signage I supposed and grabbed some cardboard then stood by the Autopista. Some locals stopped for the chats, and blessed themselves when I said I was using Autostop, great I`m very optimistic now.

Getting out of big cities is always a pain, maybe after an hour and a half Alexandria pulled over. I didn’t believe my luck, a single lady wants to pick me up? That never happens. I didn’t believe it until she waved at me to come over. Perfecto.

We flew down the Autopista to somewhere near Jardin. She owns a hostel in Jardin teaches yoga and like so many girls in Colombia, is really pretty. She left me off by the river Cauca, I chatted with the locals a little then continued towards Cali. I had to get east to La Pintada and on towards the Pan American Highway for Cali.

An older guy in a security uniform on a motorbike stopped to collect me. If hitchhiking Colombia it is important to pack light with one bag so you can hitchhike motorbikes. After about 30km he pulled in to start working for the night but insisted I eat with him. He pulled a big plate of rice, chicken and cheese from his office and a glass of milk. Brilliant! I had planned on setting up camp by the river and cooking some rice I had, but this was much better. Dining like a king.

I bid my friend farewell, he definitely seemed overly concerned about me, insisting I take water and more food for the road, Gracias, Gracias.

I began walking again and didn’t catch another ride before dark so I picked up a nice dry stick and hopped over a fence, beating the long grass away to warn snakes of the Gringos arrival. I could see their holes in the ground as I carefully stepped down to the river and flung my hammock up.

I woke at sun-rise, gathered some water from the river to filter for the day and took off. I was back on the road before 7am and promptly got collected by another motorbike and by fuck did he drive like she were stolen.

He left me off at Pintada and I began walking south again, after about 3km I came across some speed bumps and decided to hitch there. The mountains climbed up to my right so there was absolutely nowhere for miles that a car could pull in. Speed bumps were my best bet of catching a ride.

Some local kid came to chat with me, people always stare at the blonde haired guy, its usually kids who will come and ask question though. I noticed people say Donde Vivenes here (where the v sounds like a b) rather than donder eres as in the North when asking where I’m from. Spanish is confusing enough, I don’t need Colombians going and changing words around from town to town too.

A trucker soon stopped for me, he used to live in the US 15 years ago driving trucks but had 20150624_100925forgotten English and had six kids. Muy Catholica I told him (very Catholic) and he seemed pleased with my input. He was bound for Manizales so I jumped out somewhere before there at a Peaje, these are pay tolls on the roads. Excellent for hitchhiking just after the cars are forced to slow down.

I stood for a half hour with my Cali sign, more cars for Cota passed. I can’t understand how I’ve never heard of a place with so many cars driving to it.

One truck came past with two guy riding on the back of it in between the cab and the cargo. They shouted incoherent stuff at me and had haircuts like gypsies curled up at the back. They must of literally jumped that truck while it was moving, absolute lunatics.

An old couple who had been eating in a nearby resteraunt called me over in Spanish.

“Where from?”

“Ireland?”

“Ireland?”

“Yes Ireland”

They looked absolutely shocked, probably wouldn’t of been that surprised if I told them I was from Mars.

They took me to near Santa Rosa, driving through beautiful countryside on the way. Coffee, tomato and bananna farms rose up the steep hills which dropped again as suddenly as they rose. I definetly felt some positive feeling emotions as I gazed out the window of the old Renault Clio. Colombia sure is beautiful.

“There is coffee in Ireland?”

“No, just potatoes.”

The lady gave me some lovely baked bread too. While driving through one small village she whistled at a store and the guy brought her a 2 liter bottle of Coke for free which she passed to me.

I was back hitchhiking again under the midday sun with 2 litres of coke I really didnt need. Colombia’s an odd place really.

  • They drink Coke and beer in the midday sun when I’m throwing back litres of water to avoid dehydration.
  • The rivers flow the wrong way all the time.
  • When you take a shit you are supposed to put your dirty bog-roll in the rubbish bin and not flush it.
  • If you can’t salsa then your weird.

I stood there hitchhiking and some kids approached, you can always tell when kids are little shit-heads with high opinions of themselves. Its made a lot easier when they all have Cristiano Ronaldo haircuts.

“Gringo, where from?”

“Colombia”

“No, your foriegn”

“Im from Cartagena, Colombia” (I tried to speak super fast and put on an accent)

Haha they were getting pissed off, now.

“Argentinian, Italian, French, American?”

“Irish”

“You smoke weed?”

“No”

Going behind a shed to smoke weed with a bunch of 14 year olds was not on my to-do list for the day. I did give them my 2 litres of coke though for their party and walked on.

Next I caught a van to Periera, a huge place altogether but luckily I was dropped on the south side near the Autopista and I began hitching again.

Next came my only drunk driver of the day.

“Hello I speak English because I worked in Chicago many years before. Can you hold my beer if I see police, also I have very much Marajuana.”

I turned down the free beer and weed though, I didn`t need to get high or dehydrated on the road now when I was finally making great progress for the first time in South America. He dropped me off by some guys selling pineapples and drove off.

In twenty minutes I was back on the road with Santiago a young fellow who had studied English in the US. Santiago is a cool name I think, sounds like a guy who paints naked women for a living or something like that. He drove me another hour or so and we had the chats about the Cocaine business in Colombia.

My next lift came promptly too, a super cute girl with lovely spanish. I agreed with everything she said wheter I understood or not, she was so dam pretty.

IMG_20150624_164900
See What I Mean

She left me at a Peaje, lots of cars for Cota. Seriously Where the Fuck is Cota?

I caught a trucker fairly quickly. He honked his horn at all other trucks and prostitutes and then at vehicles that weren’t trucks and women who clearly weren’t prostitutes too. I really think the guy had actually no honking standards at all to be honest.

He didn’t go to Cali but instead stopped just outside it in a town called Palmira. It was dark now so hitchhiking had become next to impossible and the area was too sketchy for me to camp.

I was approached by a local kid, around 15 years old. He spoke some English.

“Why are you here?”

“An adventure and to learn Spanish”

“Why, you are from Europe?”

“Yes”

“Then why come here. you have the opportunities in Europe”

Then he just kind of walked on looking upset. I know this isn’t a very long or meaningful conversation but it has stuck with me.

I later wondered why he spoke that much English, even a basic conversation is far more than most people can speak in Colombia. I wondered too about the long term affects of Colonialism on countries in South America? If it had different affects to the countries colonized in other parts of the world (like Ireland)? Is it easier for me to hitchhike and cross army checkpoints because I’m a white European than for a local? Do some people despise Europe a bit? I concluded these questions would be answered with further travel.

A bus worker said I could go to the Cali bus terminal for 6 Mil Pesos, I offered him 2 Mil Pesos ($0.90) and took the lift because the bus had wifi. I googled myself a hostel and walked from the bus terminal in about an hour.

I’m now writing this at the hostel, which has a swimming pool, breakfast, snooker table and computers all for 12 Mil Pesos ($5.00) and I can put my hammock up outside. Sleeping inside here is too warm I think. I`ll get cleaned up and head for Ecuador tomorrow.

Feels good to write again for this blog, I know its been a while but I promise to keep you updated more.

hitchhiking-medellin hitchhiking-colombia

A Dumpster Diving Community in New Orleans

Dumpster Diving in New Orleans

Is dumpster diving disgusting you might ask?

Yes I guess, but if you spent even a day with the dumpster diving community in New Orleans your perspective would be subject to a sharp u-turn.

Think about all the food thats wasted in the US, all that out of date food which is really still very much edible. The pizza no-one collected. The bread with one tiny spec of mold.

I was familiar with the comcept of dumpster diving for a while before New Orleans. The book “Evasion” by Crimeinc gives a great introduction.

I was a rookie at the sport however compared to Tom and Marc.

Tom has built a hut out of materials he has found in dumpsters and bamboo while living on dumpstered food and rainwater.

Marc had a job as a delivery driver. At the same time he constantly scouted the best dumpsters such as whole-foods to provide himself with a healthy three meal a day diet of free food. A soda could be got as he demonstrated in Burger Kin by finding an empty cup in the bin and availing of the “free refills” policy.

Did they ever get sick? No

Did I? No

And they arent the only ones availing of free food, the punk concert are full of dumpster divers who group around campfires sharing their finds from their eveing diving in dunpsters with headlamps on.

On top of all this they both drank rainwater.

A way to eat good food for free, and it helps the enviornment too with all that reduced waste. Probably dosent work so good in less wasteful countries though of course.

Tom´s property is even on Air BnB, come stay in a tent and the food is free.

Hut made from dumpster dived construction materials with mud walls
Hut made from dumpster dived construction materials with mud walls
Dumpstered Food
Dumpstered Food
Dumpstered Drinks
Dumpstered Drinks
Nothing is wasted
Nothing is wasted

 

Boating the Mississippi in an Inflatable Boat

Boating the Mississippi in an Inflatable Boat

 Huckleberry Finning It – March 2015

Looking back at the title of the page I realize how daft it sounds. Of course my mission was doomed for failure right from the beginning, it was a lot of good fun though along the way.

So the back story was that it was the morning after my 23rd birthday and I was in Cape Girardeau on my way hitchhiking from Chicago to New Orleans. I was somewhat tired of the road and a bit more intrigued by the romantic notion of boating the Mississippi Huckleberry Finn style. I had no boat nor raft material, Walmart does however have inflatable rubber boats for about $30, why not? After-all it was just my Birthday.

So I grabbed a boat, pump plus two plastic oars, a loaf of bread, peanut butter, tins of tuna and a couple liters of water.

Boating Mississippi
The beginning

Day 1

I set forth in the afternoon with high hopes for a new adventure, no longer on the road but on the water. I instantly came under scrutiny from a helicopter and fellow Mississippi sailors on barges. Some looked annoyed and some laughed, few seemed to respect their fellow sailor in his little inflatable boat. Like I cared! I was taking the Mississippi one meter at a time and hugging the Missouri coast line.

The water was reasonably calm, I dodged a few swirl pools here and there but never was too close to flipping over even when them barges passed creating big waves. A flip would of wet everything, including my rugsack containing my passport and other less important stuff.

I must of gone about 15 miles (felt like 100) before I decided to camp for the night on a sandy beach area before dark. Beer cans loitered my new paradise however and I could hear rednecks firing their guns in the surrounding woods. I slept soundly though with my boat inside my tent now doubling up as a mattress.

Boating Mississippi

Day 2

I awoke around 8am took a piss and went back to sleep because it was windy outside. A half hour later I was awoken by the sound of two men talking. I had neighbors now so I peaked out and spotted two fishermen, one white and one black trying to catch catfish. We had some chats about the US and fish, then they headed off and I sat around waiting for the wind to die down, it was far too much for my boat.

One of my fishermen buddies
One of my fishermen buddies

A couple hours later as I sat there reading my book a small fishing boat pulled up with three rednecks in it. There outboard engine had failed and they were pulling her in. I sat with one of them fishing while the other two went for their truck. He started a campfire by just throwing gas everywhere and setting fire to half my beach in through redneck fashion. I didn’t care though because he gave me a fish. A sturgeon which I cooked up in the fire real nice.

They talked about hating everyone and guns and pickups and the usual stuff. Asked me how I put up with my life in the socialist and nudist eutopia called Europe. They asked about the strange item wrapped around my neck too (a scarf because I was cold). The rednecks had enough tattoos to keep their arms warm underneath their wife beater vests however.

Finally around 6pm the wind had died down and I packed up my shit and got back to floating. Maybe I got about 10 miles before it was getting dark and I pulled in again, on another sandy bit behind someones house. They never spotted me though, must of been watching telly.

Day 3

So I floated on the next morning and decided to reach a town since my water had run out. I could see a bunch of houses across the Mississippi on the Illinois side. I had always been hugging the Missouri coast until now and hadn’t ventured into the middle of the river at all in case of a barge running me down in its hastiness. I was driven to cross however in this instance and get some supplies.

I began paddling across and initially began grand until I was nearly halfway, then the boat just stopped moving towards the Illinois coast and began pushing me straight down-stream. I paddled and paddled every which way but was going nowhere except where the river wanted me to go. Some people in the small town I was aiming for must of spotted me and started gearing up a fishing boat to come get me.

Miracle of all miracles though at the expense of my arms I managed to diagonally move with the river and also slowly towards Illinois. Eventually I got to the opposite side about a half a mile downstream from where I started. I climbed up on the muddy bank and left the boat tied up as I walked into the town.

All he houses were the very same, small bungalows and everyone had a square lawn. Then there was some RVs too parked by the water. These communities creep me out in the US. No charm or history. All the houses are the same and there is no like statue, pub or old church to just kind of look at.

I approached the first person I saw, an old lady doing some gardening. I asked her where the nearest store was and the old banshee just turned away from me and walked back into her house. Bitch!

I found a friendly guy a couple of square houses away fixing his pick-up and he refilled my water bottle. The nearest store though was 7 miles away, a gas station by the interstate. The little town didn’t even have a shop. On the other side of the river where I just came from there’s a small town behind the hills about a 1 mile walk. For Fucks Sake!

I didn’t want my boat anymore. My seafaring days were done before they started. After that horrific ordeal crossing the Mississippi I really didn’t fancy boating back across. There was a bridge nearby for freight trains and there actually was a train sitting there right now stationary. I resolved to hop on the back of one of the grainers and try hop off again on the other side. Needless to say about 5 minutes before I climbed the steep hill up to the tracks the train suddenly started moving again. I waited two hours by the bridge but no train slowed down again and I didn’t want to catch one on the fly (i’m not experienced with trains) or walk across the bridge. There was cameras everywhere and it was a long bridge I could just imagine me walking across and two trains coming in opposite directions at once to flatten me. So I returned to my boat.

Boating Mississippi

My boat now felt a bit deflated, I gave it another pump and I couldn’t hear any air exiting, then I took off again. About halfway across the boat became harder to paddle once again but not as bad as the first time. Maybe 3/4s of the way though I noticed water splashing on the boat each time I paddled, I was slowly going down.

I fell off the boat as gracefully as I could and began swimming. I near froze my balls off and pulled my boat along behind me so as to keep my stuff dry. I made it though narrowly I would imagine and cursed my boat. I stripped off my wet clothes (now too heavy to carry) and left them on the bank with the deflated boat and paddles. Back to the road.

Boating Mississippi
The end result

I walked back to civilization by someones mansion and hopped over there electric fence (I was breaking out I guess). I wasn’t pissed off anymore. It was a failure in the sense I never got far but I still had an exciting time and got some good memories from those three days.

I would recommend it but just be able to swim, always hug the coast, don’t expect to get far on an inflatable boat and have some sort of waterproof bag too.

A friend of mine called Marc that I meet later in NOLA canoed the Mississippi, Pittsburgh to NOLA, check out his blog here.

Boating Mississippi(1)

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Is Craigslist Rideshare Safe?

Is Craigslist Rideshare Safe?

In the 21st century there is pretty much an app for everything for everything social. If you want new friends, partners or advice you can get it without the trouble of having to meet a “stranger”.

The same applies to hitchhiking, there is hitchhiking groups on Facebook where you can find a hitchhiking partner. Websites exist to finding rides, the most prominent (at least in the US where regular hitchhiking is illegal in some states) is Craigslist’s Rideshare. On the website anyone can post either a rideshare offered from A to B or a rideshare wanted from A to B and a little about themselves.

I have used the service three times, Boston to New York, New York to Boston and Chicago to St.Louis. Three males, one White, one Filipiono and one Black of varying ages. In cities that are difficult to hitchhike out of. Has it been safe each time?

Yes without a doubt, I have ended up grabbing a beer with two of the guys actually because they were just great people who had a long drive and were looking for company, also maybe trying to build up some good karma. Would it be safe for a girl though?

Probably safer than regular hitchhiking because you could in theory request the persons Facebook first through the Craigslist emails and their car’s registration plate so at least you know who’s car your getting in to. I know girls who have used rideshare to get places but never hitchhiked normally.

With Craigslist’s Rideshare are you expected to pay though? is another thing I wondered. I personally have not paid for gas on any of the three rides. Usually if its a Ride Offered gig you are responding to where the persons asks for money towards gas you can negotiate a deal whereby its still much cheaper than getting a bus or just say straight out, hey I’ve got no money and explain why. Say your a broke student or a tourist without many bags and you will still probably get offered a seat.

The important thing here is to demonstrate what a regular human you are. In your rideshare wanted add or in the response to an offered rideshare put in the extra effort to make this person want to sit with you for hours in a confined space. Post a nice photo (very important), your age, name, story (why you are going from A to B) and some stuff you like (music etc.), volunteer work you have done. A link to something else like Facebook, your Couchsurfing a/c or Youtube channel etc. will boost your chances too. I usually offered to send a scan of my ID too if they wanted (one guy requested it).

Then you exchange numbers and organize a place to meet in town at a certain time.

Simple as that and probably more safe than regular hitchhiking or in some cases I bet even riding the bus.

 

Hitchhiking from Chicago to New Orleans

Hitchhiking from Chicago to New Orleans

The snow in Chicago helped me decide that I needed more sun and for that I was always going to head south. hitchhiking chicago new orleans

Getting out of Chicago was going to be tricky, hitchhiking is illegal in the state of Illinois (yes I know, how fucking ridiculous is that?). I used Craigslists Rideshare section to find a ride. A young Filipino guy by the name of Mark took me to St. Louis for free and I hopped out in the downtown area.

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St. Louis arch thing
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An RV Camp Party!

Nothing much was happening in St. Louis so I decided to head for the outskirts of the city and start hitchhiking towards Memphis or Nashville the next morning. I was standing outside a Walmart in East St. Louis because of the
rain, when an elderly guy approached. He warned me about standing around in East St. Louis “Your going get trouble” he worryingly claimed and told me to head a mile up the road and camp at the local RV Camp. I didn’t really fancy walking in the rain but after a minute or so a young lady pulled over and offered me a ride, she never picked up a hitchhiker before (I wasn’t even trying) but didn’t want me out in the rain she claimed and I got dropped off at the RV camp.

I tried to then sleep at the RV Camp but the locals were too kind, I was going to be allowed stay for free and be bought a pint too. Next came a belter of a session with a bunch of rednecks in some dive bar where every guy wore a bandanna with a cowboy hat over the bandanna.

When I did finally get to the road again I started at an on-ramp to the interstate in the Memphis direction (on the Missouri side of town). After an hour of thumbing the only people to stop were two police officers wondering what I was up to. I kind of thought the whole raised thumb was a dead give-away but then I had to explain to them I was merely hitching a ride as they plugged my name into some computer then pissed off.

Just as I was contemplating jumping in front of a car, one pulls over, at last. A young, friendly guy, and he drove me a few miles to a better spot and got me some dinner at the catering place he worked. He picked me up because “I was clearly a European because I was wearing a scarf”. I generally wear scarfs because I’m cold not because I was born in Europe. I think he was gay but yea who cares, maybe wear a scarf if your hitchhiking in St. Louis and you will get picked up by him.

The next spot was an on-ramp again but further out of the city where people might trust. Still all the black folks passed by looking at me like I got two heads and an axe, one group of white frat kids blew there horn and shouted cock or something…. hilarious. Then an old banger pulls over with two women in the front and a guy in the back, very rough looking but genuine I thought. She rolled down the window “You aint got a weapon?”, nope I replied a bit surprised by the question and hopped in the back seat.

Chain smoking and complaining about the government, my kind of people! The woman in the passenger seat had a scar on her face where she had gotten shot before in a failed car-jacking, that memory will remain with me I think for years to come.

They left me off on the interstate and I began hitchhiking again, right on the interstate this time instead of an on-ramp since the shoulder was definitely wide enough for a car to pull in. An animal vet picked me up, real quiet fella who wouldn’t normally pick up hitchhikers but did today, “paying it forward brother”, a very christian guy from my impression. He left me at a truck stop and I decided to find a place to camp since it was getting dark, I strolled up some country road and went into the trees behind a house, I figured the community watch was probably watching telly or something.

I woke up the next morning (on my 23rd birthday by the way) to an angry barking dog and scrambled away quickly and back to the road. I began asking people at the truck stop for rides. The truckers are useless in the US, they always just claim insurance won’t allow them to pick you up. A guy in a pick-up though agreed to take me no questions asked. A veteran, I have found these guys to be very useful for hitchhiking in the South. He brought me further down the interstae and then my next ride took me to Cape Girardeau and I got out there to go sit at the Mississippi River and grab a coffee since it was my birthday after-all.

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Michael brought me to the Cape town.

I got talking to some locals around the coffee shop including some eegit frat types, a cute student girl and a wealthy lady who owned shares in the towns hotel. In the end I set up a date with the student girl for later and got offered a room in the hotel for free with a buffet breakfast (which I really abused, leaving the hotel with heavy pockets). Turned out to be a great birthday really, anythings possible in these smaller towns that tourists don’t frequent with an accent.

The next morning I didn’t feel like hitchhiking though and walked to the nearest Walmart instead and bought a rubber dingy boat. Inspired by the Mark Twain tales of Huckleberry Finn I was bound for Memphis on a $30 Walmart inflatable boat.

I spent three wild days floating on the river passing barges, meeting rednecks and camping until my boat sank (in the middle of the river) and I was back to the road. I’ll write up a full report of the river happenings soon.

Floating the Mississippi
Floating the Mississippi

I meet a guy trash picking on the road outside his house, after some chatting (I complimented the hand gun he carried on his waist) he brought me into his home. I meet his wife and he recalled the childhood sweatheart story and then dropped me back over to the interstate. Memphis here I come!

My lift back to the interstate
My lift back to the interstate

After maybe a half hour standing on the interstate thumbing a grown-up family pulled over to let me squeeze in the back. They were all crazy rednecks, but again friendly enough to leave me at a good truck stop. Again I tried the useless truckers who just wanted prostitutes it seems, hanging around after dark I made some friends including two Hobos also travelling the interstate. They were pretty negative about shit though and smelled bad, I reckoned they were never gonna get a ride or weren’t even trying so I left them to drink beer under their tarp and hung about the petrol station. A worker began chatting with me, I pretended to agree with his narrow minded opinions to gain trust and my cunning plan paid off when he said I could use the truckers showers. Great! But then I spotted an old Mexican pulling in with a cowboy hat and pick-up.

Mexicans are very useful on the road especially the ones who look like they used to hitchhike to work back in their Mexico days. He didn’t speak any English, like literally none, not even hello but had been living in the US 30 years, mostly in Texas. My broken Spanish managed to get me a ride the whole way to Memphis that night. I arrived on the outskirts of the city real late and slept beside an RV Camp. When I say slept beside I mean outside the perimeter of the property under a tree in my sleeping bag so as not to pay the $25 camping fee (ridiculous price!) then sneaked in at 7am for a quick shower and over to the nearest petrol station.

The very first guy I asked for a lift into the city center was a Korea Veteran on his way to the veteran’s hospital. He had a veteran’s license plate on his pick up so I asked him straight away and no questions no problems he dropped me by the downtown. Gave me a bible too. Why do Americans think hitchhikers are automatically sinners?

I kicked it in Memphis for just one night then I was bound for New Orleans. Mark the guy I originally got a rideshare from Chicago to St. Louis with was in town after being in Nashville for a couple days (I knew because we exchanged facebooks). He was driving to New Orleans the next day. I shot down to New Orleans so on the next morning and slept out by the train yard in the 9th ward where I knew there would be other travelers. I got a great sleep on some wooden crates under the stars in the heat not even caring about the mosquitoes the slightest bit. The snow of Chicago was a long ways away.

Waking up in New Orleans
Waking up in New Orleans

Scoring a Craigslist Labor Gig

Scoring a Craigslist Labor Gig

I try to live a life of minimal expense on the road. Never paying for transport or accommodation and sometimes not even my food, yet we still need cash to support ourselves now and then. Unless you want to beg on the street that is, but most of us don’t and if you are willing to work in a country where you speak the native language then you can find cash on the road.

I’m in the US right now, a country which fits the cash on the road criteria;

  • Speak the same language
  • Living costs and wages are high
  • The people are generally lazy

So I hit up craigslist to find some cash-in-hand while in Chicago. If you check out the gigs section you will find lots of once of cash in hand jobs.

I generally search the laboring ones but there’s also catering, driving, “stand around nude if your a hot girl” gigs etc. if that’s more up your street.

Be wary of scams, a real advert will seem genuine and list the general area of town plus the hourly wage, not something like “Make Cash $$$ 5 Easy Steps”

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In this example the advert “Tired of not find jobs” second from bottom is clearly a scam (no info, no address) but the rest look genuine.

Whatever job you find to be suitable, in a good location and at a good time with good rates then be sure to shoot a reply.

The employer probably has lots of enquirers so make yours stand out and write a descriptive lengthy reply.

So tell him/her about yourself, your height and build, list experience and attach a photo of you working. Be punctual.

Let him/her know you can be at the address on time and that you are drink/drug free and have never stood in front of a judge.

The employer will never really care if you have a working visa or not since these jobs are usually cash in hand at the end of the day, just have a working mobile phone with a local sim-card.

I made $250 in one and a half days work for helping to empty truck loads of furniture, it was easy money and your lunch is usually bought too.

I worked the amount of hours described over the phone and was given cash straight away after, that was that.

Istanbul Strip Club Scam with Tourists

Istanbul Strip Club Scam with Tourists

I completely realize my actions were dumb on the night in question and I was asking for trouble, yet I was drunk and held myself well in the confrontation. Maybe the story will serve as a warning to other drunk tourists in Istanbul.

I will mention the fact that I had suit pants, black shoes and a nice shirt on with my hair slicked back. Even though I was hitchhiking at the time I still had got to a hostel and cleaned myself up that day, I definitely was walking around “looking” like a tourist who had money to spend and not a hitchhiker or student.

So on the night in question I was sitting with my pal Connor from Scotland at a Hookah Bar in Istanbul, well there was a girl there too. An Asian chick chatting with Connor, I got up to leave them some privacy because I’m a top drawer wing-man. I also really needed to use an ATM. The ATM in question was a little walk away, maybe 500 meters up the road.

After I withdrew cash a guy pulled up nearby on the road in a nice saloon car, the type of car in question I can’t remember. I was already drunk at this stage.

“Hey, excuse me… do you speak English” he shouted.

“Ye sure, will you drop me back to my friend” I answered.

“OK but do you know where the something hotel is?” Obviously he didn’t say “something” but I can’t remember the exact name he said to be honest and I didn’t know any directions.

Anyway we chatted for a few minutes then he dropped me back, he claimed to be from Kazakhstan and work for Andrea Agnelli (the Italian who owns Juventus F.C.)

When I got out of the car he offered to bring me and Connor to a party and the hotel with many “bitches”. I knew this was a shady deal but Connor was also drunk now and the Asian girl wasn’t sticking around so we were ready for adventure.

Half an hour later we pulled up at a strip-club. This clearly wasn’t a Hotel but I didn’t car because our new friend claimed he would take care of us (i.e. free drink and food). A Turkish guy approached him when he got out of the car and they haggled in Turkish (at least that’s how it appeared) over the price of parking the car in the certain spot.

In we went and sat at a booth, bottles of wine were brought, nuts, cucumbers, you name it. The party ensued and three ladies joined us each drinking from the wine too and sharing our cigarettes.

The place really appeared legit, there were many other Turkish customers sitting and chatting to girls, none of which were topless. Maybe it’s just Muslim strip-clubs but I can hardly call it a strip club when the girls were pole dancing with their tops on.

My girl claimed to be Ukranian, I said how are you in Russian and she looked confused (red flag #1). I told her Connor and the Kazak guy were my business friends, she looked annoyed when I said this (red flag #2, she obviously knew the Kazak guy had picked us up because he’s done this before).

Now I kind of knew what was up but I kept playing along, figuring I couldn’t leave (big bouncer at the door) so I might aswell drink as much of their wine as possible.

Eventually the time came for them to try and fuck us over, Connor was happily flirting away with his girl and I with mine when the bill arrived. 10,000 euros apparently, the Kazak guy turned to us and asked for our cards, the bill was getting split 3-ways according to him.

“”Fuck off, we havent any money”

“Why would you come here with no money? Do you know who I am? Of course you pay, you think your mafia or something?”

I couldn’t believe he was pretending to be Mafia, the Kazak really was pathetic. Next thing he punched me right on the chin as I sat there. Anyone from Ireland has been punched on a night out, this guys punch was really crap (and he was being careful not to leave a bruise I quickly noted). He specifically aimed for the chin.

Another punch, this one to my ear (again nowhere that would leave a bruise).

He hadn’t hit Connor at all, I guessed it was because Connor is huge and I was the cheeky one.

Anyway next thing Connor pulls out his cash €200 in fifties,

“This is all we have”

What the fuck I thought, he’s not getting our money with gay punches like that, I quickly snatched the cash and stuffed it into my boxers. The Kazak went crazy at this and demanded the money.

“Fuck off, you think a few punches is worth €200, I’ll give you €10 at the most for the shitty wine”

Now the Kazak was losing it, the bouncer quickly arrived over telling him to calm down (though it was obvious they worked together). The strip-club manager soon arrived too demanding to be paid the €10,000. I knew they wouldn’t create a scene in front of the customers so I kept on winding the Kazak up, I can remember even claiming I would petrol bomb his car. Meanwhile he threw a few more punches, so I stood up, as did Connor (who is also over 6 foot) and squared up to him.

The manager called me aside into the corner not wanting a scene. He gave me the “what are you doing here” bla bla bla treatment. He demanded my bank card.

“I haven’t got any money, I’m in Turkey because I was in Bulgaria and its cheap, I’m not here to see Mosques”

He demanded to see my wallet, (I had emptied it while at the couch into my pocket and stuffed one of the fifties into it, I figured this would be a fair price to get out on.

He cursed in Turkish, taking the fifty and told me to leave immediately. Outside the same guy from earlier whom the Kazak had haggled with was standing by his car to make sure it wasn’t vandilised.

That’s that, we got away with just spending fifty quid (about 3 bottles of wine drank). I never panicked however and kept the rest of the cash in my boxers, the only way I would of produced it is if they had a knife, which they never did.

I bet they have scammed big sums of money from other tourists doing this though. The important thing is to just stand your ground and exhaust them, also be a young guy so you can convince them your only a student.

I was annoyed at the fact there were other legit customers in the club though who knew this was happening to tourists and didn’t care in the slightest.

 

Do You Need a Return Flight to Enter the US

Do you need a return flight to enter the US

I done some research on whether or not an ESTA tourist visa holder needed a return ticket already booked to get through US customs. Since I plan on travelling onto Canada or Mexico via hitch-hiking I didn’t have proof of onward plans and I needed some answers.

Imagine getting to the US and then having to turn around and return home because I never showed proof that I wasn’t planning on finding a job in the US and staying.

From what my research of the rules told me was that I couldn’t say I was travelling to Canada or Mexico or any island of the Caribbean after the US unless I was a citizen of one of these countries. In fact a booked flight to any of these countries would not suffice to enter the US. Custom’s would think I was scouting for work then flying to Canada and sneaking back over the border into the US.

The rules don’t specify that you must have a return flight to your home however, so I booked the cheapest one possible that wasn’t Mexico, Canada or the Caribbean. It was Miami to San Salvador for €60. Hopefully it would count as proof I was leaving the US (even if I didn’t plan on using the flight).

To get to the US I flew from Dublin to London and then to Boston. At the airport in London when I checked in with Virgin Atlantic at their desk a lady asked to see my return flight ticket. I think she works for Virgin Atlantic’s security team.

I told her I was backpacking central Europe then flying home after that, she asked to see the flight details for my flight to San Salvador which I had printed out.

She was satisfied with this and my boarding pass was printed. She did study the flight details for a minute or two first and asked a couple questions about why I was travelling alone.

In the US the customs fingerprinted me and asked me what my plans were. They didn’t ask to see my onward flight details here.

Then I was in, I saved a lot of money not having to buy a return flight to Ireland.

Without the printed flight documentation for San Salvador I don’t think I could have got onto the Virgin Atlantic plane in London. Best to be prepared if your planning a similar journey.