Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Wishing I'd traveled the hippie trail

There are a couple of topics that, if you write about them consistently on your blog, I'm liable to be sucked in. These are: James Bond, sex, being young and horny during the years 1991-1998, the beach, unicorns, pop culture, grammar and usage, ABBA, historical fiction, porn, and traveling.

And of these, traveling might hold a dearer spot in my heart than some the others. At heart I'm a frustrated vagabond. I know that a lot of people get bored looking at other people's vacation slides. Not me. I want to see, and while you're at it give me a running commentary. And if your travels consist of roughing it, or going the long way around, or going somewhere tourists don't tend to go, or going by yourself? So much the better. I'm an escapist, I guess: I want to go with you, even if it's only through reading your stories. Hell, one of my favorite people is Rick Steves.

I wasn't sure about Toukakoukan: In at the Deep End when I first clicked on the site. I thought, "Oh, another Long Way Round." The design is kind of clunky and a bit basic. But it gets the job done, with the intro right there on the front page telling you where to start. The About page is informative, but nowhere does it explain Toukakoukan. Also, Sam, add a map -- it's a good way for us to tag along. A search option wouldn't go amiss, either.

You read it chronologically: The trek starts in May 2008, but there's buildup to the trip beginning in August 2007. You can skip the buildup, though, because it's mostly bike repairs and girlfriend drama and, well, buildup.

Initially Sam takes on a motivational-speakerish tone, but this quickly disappears (for the better). At first he seemed a go-getter, which can come across a little frenetic and disingenuous to me, but I'm more cynical than I realize sometimes. But quite soon it became obvious that this is a smart kid. Really smart. And more independent and inquisitive and, frankly, mature than most I've come across, including myself.

It is, ultimately, a diary. The posts, although smart and interesting, are a bit unpolished. This is both understandable and forgivable: he's writing this from the road, stopping in Internet cafes when he can, recalling tales and experiences and people. And though a little slipshod, his writing holds these great little kernels of character and wry observances and keen insights.

I'll admit the discussions about bikes and gear bored me to tears, but I'm a girl. And Sam is so cheerfully game, irreverent, and strangely wise for one so young. I don't normally excerpt in my reviews, but I really liked these:

"...only yesterday I spent the night in a ditch, which is not as bad as it sounds surprisingly."

"I hastily put down my, by now, sodden map of Corsica to wave at a group of eight German overlanders who were passing by just as I realised I’d spent the last 6 hours going in a circle trying to get to where I already was."

"I arrived in Chur, bent down to take off my motorcross boots as they’re as about as suitable for walking in as a chastity belt is for the reverse cowgirl."

"Bumper cars sit gently rusting, never having heard the playful whoops of children in their midst."

So, it's a little scattershot, the paragraph spacing is nonexistent, he goes a long time between posting (hell, he's living on a bike, I'll give him a break for that), and maybe there's a little rambling philosophizing going on, but do I care? No. Not at all. Because this guy's traveling around on his motorcycle, seeing the world and meeting people and having spills and letting us tag along for the ride. I'm a sucker for stories, and this guy's got one. Not to mention the truly great photos.

Yes, it's been done before and documented. But every journey is different, as is every traveler. And Sam is a talented storyteller with an engaging perspective and a unique voice. Once he took to the road, I couldn't stop reading. And I'm not done yet.

Sam, good job keeping track of this once(or twice?)-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Don't let the experience slip away -- document everything with intention. And when you get settled and are off the road, come back to the blog and spruce things up. I hope you're keeping a written journal, too. Take the stuff you've written there, add it to the great things you've got going here, pile in the photos, and really make this a cohesive and detailed documentation of your journey. It's fascinating, you're a great guide, and I can't wait to read more.







*The Hippie Trail

33 comments:

  1. I think its a girl thing to enjoy looking at other peoples pictures. I love flipping through other people's albums. Great review.

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  2. Wow, what do you know. Lady Calamity can love!

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  3. Oh my god, I'm totally obsessed with him now.

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  4. I'm always so jealous of people who have enough financial stability to do things like this. Wandering around for months. Sleeping in parks, couchsurfing. And then I remember that I did it too, and it's their turn. And the fact that it was a goddamn emotional tsunami of uselessness...

    Fuck. I wanna go to effing Turkey so bad.

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  5. I like this Sam more than the 'Lord of the Rings' Sam. Also, knowing the 'reverse cowgirl' at 21 is commendable. Most males don't see that one until their mid twenties.

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  6. People so sure of themselves and their financial futures to take this kind of experience in hand make me feel like a tiny little person.

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  7. If you go where the deals are...I mean, I did three months in Europe for four grand, including plane tickets and everything. If you've got no ties to worry about, then nothing's going to stop you.

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  8. God, I sound like such a douchebag when I talk about wandering. I just miss it.

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  9. Kurt Cobain sounds like a douchebag when he mumbles. Or mumbled. Ha.

    I like backpacking but I love civilization and order way too much too take off for months like that.

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  10. I have a hard time reading about other people's awesome journeys because it makes me sick to my stomach with envy. I'm not saying that this blog isn't awesome, because I trust you on that. But I just...can't even click over there. I think even Travels with Charlie would upset me.

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  11. It can definitely be done, you just (just!) have to plan and save. Of course kids and families and 401ks make this difficult as all hell, which is why it's best done young.

    Although I knew a couple who were in their 40s who did just that. They made a plan, saved money, took leaves of absence, and just went traveling for a year.

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  12. Thanks for the high praise, glad you liked it!

    You're absolutely right about the map, added one to the summary page.

    I'll be sure to give you guys a shout as soon as I'm doing the next one; I like the look of the route between here and South Africa...

    All the best,

    - Sam (Toukakoukan)

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  13. I am really in awe (and frankly, envious of) people who make these tremendous changes and just go. i suppose I did it at 22, when I packed all my belongings into a car and moved across the U.S. to a place I'd never been.

    But I never did anything so glamorous as this. My amazing boyfriend left the navy, and having saved most of his pay, traveled around Europe and western Asia for the better part of six months, including a month in Nepal, during which he partially climbed up Mount Everest.

    I think it's pretty fucking awesome, really.

    And I liked this blog.

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  14. My dude (I still think I can call him that) and I always talked about taking off "one day" and traveling around the world. Of course this all hinged on the both of us being fabulously successful, which so far has not manifested.

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  15. It's kind of sad, but my husband and I just want to buy a house, at a lake two hours from where we are now that is even more closed off from the world.

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  16. I guess what I'm saying, is that it could go either way on whether I end up a recluse or not.

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  17. I kind of like the idea of both, really. My dude (should probably find more appropriate name for him, like Lost His Durned Mind or The Runaway Groom) always wanted a boat, that way we could escape out into the middle of nowhere when the crush of people got to be too much.

    That required winning the lottery, though, which sadly hasn't happened.

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  18. Greeen, just green with envy. Mainly because I know I have that in me. That is what brought me to where I am to begin with, but it's totally supressed now. Ironically, living in Europe for me has made me have to cut off my travel feet, because whenever I have time and money to travel, I go home, because I need to.

    Lovely review, Cal, and I'm adding this blog to my reader if I can get over my envy.

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  19. Until I've got someone or something to anchor me down, I'm going wherever I can, whenever I'm able. I don't care if it's Athens or Iowa.

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  20. Come to Spain, Rassles. We'll fuck shit up.

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  21. [delurk] You know, I curse the day I found you guys via Maggie Dammit's site many moons ago. My reader has freaking exploded after seeing the good, bad and the ugly you all review here. Therefore I at times call your mothers hamsters and then turn around to heap offerings at your feet. *stumbles off muttering* [/delurk]

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  22. Lil: Aaaaaaaand our work here is done.

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  23. Lil - I know what you mean. When I see an "I fucking love you" I think, "damn it. Another blog I have to read."Because I'm already spending too much time on the internet as it is.

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  24. Man, every time I go to fucking Spain I get robbed.

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  25. I'm going to have to agree on "green with envy". I love that people can just pick up and go travel. I would love to be able to do that. Maybe one day. Until then, I will just have to read other people's adventures.

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  26. I love to travel, but even more, I like to get back home to the cave after traveling. I wouldn't have spent so much goddam money on it if that weren't the case.

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  27. Did any of y'all ever read that old Michner book--The Drifters--about a bunch of hippies traveling from Spain to Nepal? (At least, that's where I think they ended up.)That's what wandering around the world reminds me of.

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  28. I've already added him to my reader. Simply amazing. I did my own version of this from '99 through '03. But it was so incredibly LAME compared to what he's doing. I am now going to live vicariously through him.

    HIF - 'Be Here Now'...the wildest trip (and I DO mean trip) to India ever. By Ram Dass

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  29. Franklin, I did! Loved it, of course. I have a hippie fixation. LB would scoff.

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  30. MG--I'll get it for sure.
    Cal--I shoulda known.

    Alas, I'm too young to have been a bona fide hippie. Too old to be a hipster.

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  31. Pos, I'm with you, looooove to travel but love to come home... to my clean white linens and my fancy french cologne.

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  32. I am a bit more formal than you guys i.e straight. i did the trail twice 67 and 72 and had a great time I did not smoke shit but just loved the travelling, can't belive how those crap heads in governments my age are fucking up the world.

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Grow a pair.