Tag Archives: travel

Berlin Mural – “Arriving”

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About The Mural:

Title: “Arriving”

Where: Comepackbackers, Berlin, Germany

Dimensions: 9′ x 20′ x 0′

Medium: Acrylic Paint, Indoor, Private Mural

Length of time: 1 week, painting 6-8 hours a day.

Artist: Individual, Molly Keen

 

Background: I was working in Mostar, Bosnia with black and white and with a focus on design and movement. It was heavily based on drawings and I wanted to bring in bright colors and focus on creating life throughout the hallway that many people walk up and down the halls hundreds of times a day. I created the mural beforehand with the owner, and came to an agreement and there I was, off to different paint stores in Berlin deciding what type of paint to purchase for the project. 5 paint stores, and some hardware stores later I found the perfect store, and to one of my favorite parts of traveling and painting murals: buying paint from foreign art stores. The paint is the same, most of the time, and the interactions and different ways to mix paints always intrigue me.

I made a time-lapse of the experience as I believe it’s important to showcase the entire process and one can see how it’s not perfect, and always changing.

I loved my time in Berlin, I ended up staying 2 weeks and made some really beautiful friends. Berlin is definitely one of those places where I would love to get my masters or study further. The art scene is incredible and the people are from all over the world and creative!

My Germany Experience:

I traveled to other places throughout Germany besides Berlin. My Grandparents on both of my father’s side have parents from Germany. My entire life I knew that I would make it there, and towards the end of my travels, I found myself in Stuttgart, Germany on an apple farm.

For 5 years its been a dream of mine to visit the farm, with my old friend Lukas. I met Lukas in South America in Peru after a Vipassana (link) meditation retreat. He was my introduction to bicycle touring as it was to my surprise that he had a bicycle loaded up with back and front panniers and he had ridden from North America en route to Patagonia. I remember thinking about how incredible it would be to travel by bicycle and to create that kind of experience. It foreshadowed a lot of what I would create for myself in the future as far as living and ride on a bicycle. I knew he had an apple farm there and it seemed almost necessary to pay him a visit and meet his family.

After Stuttgart, I took a 6-hour bus to Munich, where, my father’s last name, Aigner comes from! I actually met some people with the last name and it’s more common there of course. Munich I met with some friends from Oakland that currently live there. I spent a couple of days with them and eventually made my way to Berlin and stayed with some friends before confirming the 5th mural of the tour at Comebackpackers Hostel. The hostel was a retro, centrally located a hip spot, sold out every night I was there, with lots of backpackers. I met tons of people and really felt at home. Germany was all I ever dreamed of and more. I felt so inspired, and could definitely see myself living in a city like Berlin to get my Masters in Fine Arts. 

 

 

“Into the Ocean” Portugal Mural

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10 days of painting, bicycle rides, rainy afternoons, noisy construction days, sunset visits to the ocean and views across the canal of the iconic city of Porto, Portugal.

The Mural

Title: “Into the Ocean”

Dimensions: 40′ x 10′ x 0′

Medium: Acrylic Paint

Location: Oporto Hostel, Porto, Portugal. 

Length: 7 days, 4-6 hours a day.

The mural was in the common space, in the same room as the kitchen and had a lot of natural lighting and was inside. The wall totaled 40 feet by 10 feet tall. I was able to use a bench to get to the top of the ceiling, no crazy ladders or tight spaces.

  

I had an incredible private room with my own bathroom and nice light. When you travel for more than a couple months, it’s important to have alone time and not always share a room with other people.

   

We purchased acrylic latex paint from the local hardware store, where they mixed paints in the same way I have seen all over the states. The man entered a number that went in accordance with a color, and the machine mixes the colors. I always enjoy this part of the process, as it is a behind the scene look into a new country.

History 

Porto is the second largest city in Portugal with 2.4 million people in the city and surrounding close area. Lisbon is the largest with 2.7 million people. The first known people that built the city were Celtic, around 300 BC. During the Roman occupation of the Iberian Peninsula, the city developed as an important commercial port with trade between modern Lisbon and modern Braga. 

Known for Port wine, art history and waterfront canal and Atlantic ocean views, the town of Porto is full of hills and cobblestone paths. With many gardens and public parks to explore, I took advantage of the city by exploring by bicycle.

     

One of my most favorite parts of Porto were my new friends, including Rodrigo, a beautiful Brazilian friend who was studying at the University in Porto. Even though I travel alone, I never feel alone because of people like Rodrigo! We even dyed our hair purple together.

    

 

10 days of painting with acrylic paint, bicycle rides, rainy afternoons, noisy construction days, with sunset visits to the ocean and canal of the iconic city of Porto, Portugal.

  

I was so lucky to get to see one of my most favorite muralists, Bordalo II, Lisbon Visual Artist that specializes in the creation of  3D mural sculptures made from recycled material. Car bumpers, metal parts of cars, plastic buckets and other parts found from trash. Ironically he had a huge show and series of new murals in San Francisco while I was in his hometown! I will definitely have to check those out when I get back home!

 

Bye California, Hello Barcelona!

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Barcelona was an incredible city and I was lucky enough to spend a little over two weeks in the city! My time was filled with small streets, friends greeting, painting, stunning street art, exciting night life, and the casual beer day drinking. It was truly an unforgettable experaince, and the best part? I got to catch up with my best friend, and old friends from past travels. 2 weeks well spent!

 

I left California on the 17th of January and we a short-term new roommate! Cleopatra! A beauty of a snake huh? Leaving was difficult but who said traveling was easy? I have two backpacks, my computer, electronics, paint pens, stickers, JBL speaker, a large candle and all my brushes! Ready for the muraling world!  

 

The flight from Oakland, CA to Barcelona was 11 hours and easy breezy, way more than I could have ever imagined. The plane, Iberia Airlines or “Level” was a $160 flight one way. The plane was super comfortable with free movies and room to sleep. I even ran into my San Francisco friends Dom and Pinto! They were on the same flight, imagine that?

I was anxious about being on a plane that long but realized quickly how relaxing it was. I slept for a large portion and did not have anyone sitting next to me.

Upon arriving, as my friend Steven (featured above) recommended: at the airport, I took an Aerobus for just 5.99 € and a breezy 20-minute ride into Placa Catalunya where my best friend Steven met me! He had a little sign and everything. We walked 30 minutes to his apartment, set my bags down and were able to catch up for a couple of hours. He surprised me and I was quite the surprised lady! What a great start and introduction to Europe!

   

There is a 9 hour time change, which is quite significant, and I have not felt tired. I feel quite the opposite, settled with the time change actually. Barcelona is about 9 hours ahead so it’s quite a difference. I am pretty adaptable to my environment and a great sleeper so I have been doing great!

We explored the city, as Steven has lived in Barcelona about a year and a half, and we met up with many of his friends. Much of the city reminds me of large cities in South America like Santiago, Chile and Quito, Ecuador for its Latin flair and Spanish influence of course.

   

We visited some parks, churches and walked the city the whole day! Each day my friend Steven and I would explore a new neighborhood and walk around. People here love to take breaks from 2-4 and I love that because it lets you slow down, reflect on the day, catch up with friends, and enjoy life! I think its an amazing part of the culture. In addition, the nightlife is quite incredible I have found myself staying up late every night even though I would not consider myself a late night person.

   

 

My first mural I completed in Barcelona at the Primavera Hostel and I am excited to share more as I complete the images and put them together.

So far all I can tell you is that it is a different style I have never tapped into and it involves flowers, colors, and an outside patio!

I saw many of my friends I met while traveling in Colombia! Beautiful friends that live in the city Rosie and Charo and of course, Fernando! Oh, I also got my nose pierced! Ouch! But glad to have friends that supported me through the piercing. It was a difficult one.

  

Steven and I were able to watch fireworks/sparkler show on a Friday which was incredible! It was loud and a bit scary I have never seen anything quite like it. Large puppets and people dressed up to celebrate. Almost every night I would head to Stevens house and eat some small dinner, olives, wine, and cheese. We would go out late and order my most favorite, Bravas (crispy small potatoes with a spicy aioli sauce). I love bravas! In addition, if you know me, you know that I have a crazy love for salt and vinegar chips. Well, at one bar, they gave us regular salty thick chips and covered it in malt vinegar and rock salt flakes! It blew my mind!

 

My friend Fernando and I went to a Flamenco show which I had never seen before. He also gave me my first motorcycle ride in Barcelona and was the highlight of my trip! In addition, I was able to rent a bicycle and explore the streets that way. This is my preferred way to travel. 

 

  

 

I decided to go to the Sagrada Familia Cathedral, the most famous and longest construction of any building ever! It is a cathedral that showcases Gaudi, the famous Catalonian architect who was 70 when he died in a train accident. His work is gothic and thick but also natural and flowing without any 90-degree angles and using different colors and textures to accentuate lines. He was known for his sculptures and models of works that he wanted to create instead of drawings. An incredible and complicated man, I really enjoyed searching all over Barcelona for his work.

   

Lastly, this is a park that Gaudi designed called Güell Park. It has used the natural materials from the ground to make the buildings and sculpture. He loved mosaics and lived in the park during the years of its construction.

Bicycles, Art, & Updates

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Can you believe that it is December 2017 already? There are lots coming up for mural making in 2018!

As I have been reminiscing about the last year or so I have felt thankful for all of the creative endeavors, cycling adventures and the healing of a year-long a knee injury (yeah it’s better). 2017 has been full of the community including the Biketopia Music Collective and the 7 people that I live in Oakland, CA. Life is good and I can definitely feel winter coming! That means it is time to apply to potential summer gigs for art and sculpture and plan for my upcoming mural tour!

Recap of Biking and Travel: I wanted to share a couple videos with you. Summer 2018 the Biketopia Music Collective, will be starting out on a 3-month tour around Europe. We started the collective about 2 years ago and since have made a journey with 20+ cyclists from Vancouver, Canada to Oakland, CA. The video below is a recap and although the tour was in 2016 it shines a light on all the fantastic happenings that happened and will happen for future tours. We are currently planning and seeking sponsorship and venues that we can play at with our pedal-powered stage.

In addition to the above video, collective member and good friend Robin Applewood made an incredible video with footage of the tour. We created on tour entitled ‘Head Up’. It has video footage from the tour from the Go-Pro that I was into carrying for parts of the tour. It is a must see!

Art Update: I have been super busy creating digital art! Can you believe it? Why? Glad you asked! Painting murals recently have required that I sketch and design the mural before starting to paint. This has become one of the newer processes for me, as clients like to see designs beforehand. What that means is that I am busy expanding my knowledge of photoshop and creating designs digitally. I genuinely enjoy the process and am familiar with it as I minored in Digitial Technology Culture (DTC) at Washington State University.

I am loving diverse ways to express my creativity. But, with that said, I am ready to start painting already!

In addition to my mural making, I have been interested in creating a sculpture based on my experience with pedal power. Sculpture pieces that incorporate bicycle and tricycles with pedal-powered mobile bicycle parts. I am also interested in large structures that you can crawl into and explore with and around. In addition, my murals can be displayed on these pieces as they become more dynamic and interactive with the three-dimensional realm.

Mural in the Desert

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Where: Joshua Tree, California – Joshua Tree National Park at the Joshua Tree Music Festival; 8ft x 10 ft; Acrylic paint; 2016

Hot sticky dry heat; the type of heat that makes you want to shower with your clothes on. Gusts of wind make the sun bearable as live melodic music floats through the air leaving traces of dance moves. Joshua Tree Music Festival in Joshua Tree, California is a unique festival with gorgeous scenery and over 4 unique music stages with quality music from all over the world. I have found myself here for the second season in a row. It is a magical place located in South Eastern California and the park is slightly larger than that of Rhode Island. It is huge! It straddles the San Bernadino county and Riverside county border and has over two desserts, the Mojave and the Colorado each with their own ecosystem and different elevations.

File_000(6)This was the first mural I have painted for the festival and what an experience! There were hundreds of people getting to watch and explore the process with you throughout 4 days. The beginning of my murals are not my favorite as they are just one layer of many and many to come. Sometimes I get frustrated with this process as people immediately judge it and think that it is done. For example here is the start of my mural.

The Progression

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The Final Piece. 
Not much to see, but that is what is so beautiful about the art process. People do not know when it is done. They ask me all the time “Are you done” when I have barely begun. Process is so important because it teaches you not to be attached to the piece and to what the viewer thinks. I go through different layers of my art and it is hard to share this process sometimes. People ask me about it, want to know more. And to be honest, I do not sketch and I myself do not actually know what the final piece is going to look like. I prefer not knowing, and letting the experience of the setting, environment and people around me shape the way that I paint. That is super important to me, and talking about the piece is something I want to do, but more so on what the viewer experiences rather than what I intended the piece to be. We have so many opportunities in life to be told what to do, what to experience and what we should see. I want my artwork to be something that is always right, because it is a feeling and unique to each viewer.

I painted a total of 3 days in almost 100 degree weather and high blowing winds. It was not the easiest of tasks. Not to mention the fact that the board I was painting on was also moving with the wind! It was quite the experience. I had lots of patience and of course, the festival to take breaks and enjoy. I met so many wonderful people while painting. I was quite engaged with a handful of people that would come to me once or twice a day, check in and talk about the process. Many were surprised with the final piece. They would tell me that they would have never expected it to get to that point. I like that element of surprise. I had some great photographers take progress shots which was wonderful.
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My piece was next to a beautiful art installation about two years old. It was “The Swings” that had two large swings and you could play on them and feel child like with them. People loved the swings. They would stop at the swings way more often then they would look at my painting but of course, the painting was an after thought and they did come and see it if they were not too blissed out from the swing. I liked this experience because I could hear laughter of adults, children and older people that were so thrilled to have the swing experience. I think this had something to do with my painting. That emotion of you tummy going up and down, up and down. As well as the feeling of letting go. The laughter. Children saying “THIS IS THE BEST DAY OF MY LIFE”. And there I was, quiet, observing in a secret spot just taking in all of the energy around me. Quite peaceful. It was a stunning installation. I was quite happy to be working alongside of it. The photo above, the rainbow metal structure is the swing.
There was also one interaction that really struck me and I will never forget. I was done with my painting, I had just finished on the Sunday, the last day of the festival. The sun was setting, I had taken all the pictures, cleaned up and was just sitting. I was looking at the final piece, wondering how I even created it and admiring the work, time and energy that I put into it. This was a contrast to the energy of the festival as people were running around and listening to music and dancing and I was able to exist in this alternative reality.So there I find myself admiring my piece alone.
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It is the last day and unfortunately the swings broke! No one was allowed to use them and they still would try to use them. I would do my best to tell people the bad news and ironically they would become more aware of my painting and I met more people this way. There were two women specifically that were trying to swing, and I said sorry-the swings are closed. Their attention was brought to my painting and they were speaking about it in front of it, not knowing I was the artist. I finally let them know that I painted it, and they were excited to chat about it. I told them my story about my mother and how I paint in her memory and the woman told me that she does the same. Her father passed just two years before and we had a wonderful time sitting in front of my painting connecting and getting to know one another. Really special and made me realize that in putting yourself out there, being vulnerable not only with painting in front of people, but in
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The mural took me about 20 hours total to paint, I used house paint that I got from ACE hardware. Just the basic colors and I mixed them. I use paint brushes and all is detailed with hand and paintbrush. I prefer the old fashioned way! I hope you enjoy the mural, whatever you see is what you are supposed to see. It is meant to be specific to the individual. Enjoy and thank you Joshua Tree for inviting me to paint with you!

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 A Mural in Burlington, Vermont

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Vermont is a beautiful and magnificent place! It is the leading producer of maple syrup in the United States, it has forests that cover over 75% of the state! The green mountains are located within the state and the state is bordered by Massachusetts, New York, Quebec Canada and New Hampshire.  I ran into old friends, and made new ones. I never could of imagined it would of been this green and luscious, I am still in awe of the beauty and how friendly people were. Billboards are outlawed and there was no sign of cooperation’s, just tons of farm and local businesses.

I made my way to Burlington, Vermont after New York. We took a ferry about 20-30 minutes across Lake Champlain. I met with my friend, Cody that I met on a bike tour of the west coast and he actually met us on the other side of the ferry. He took us swimming and showed us around town. We got caught in a storm that was so intense but short. We met a woman who let us stay in her garage until it past.

It was great to catch up with Cody, to swap some bike touring stories and he hosted us for two nights. It was such a blessing. We also met wonderful people through warmshowers.org and turns out Ian knew them! Dan and Christine were their names and they help run a community bike shop and a bike shop in town. We ended up staying 1 week with them and so thankful for their hospitality. Their project is called Burlington Bike Project and if you click the name you can check out their project and website.

Their website also features me in their blog. You can click this link to check it out.

Who: Essentially the Old Spokes home is run as shop for just about anyone who needs help with their bike and then Bike Recycle Vermont helps create access to affordable education, job training opportunities, and a supportive and encouraging environment for people who need it!

Where: Burlington,Vermont

  

  

How long did it take: Only 3 full days of painting! This also included a day where many cyclists came through for a celebration of the North neighborhood called “The Ramble”. This included a community BBQ, displaying of the mural and tons of kids and adults asking about the mural. It was a pretty incredible space.

Dan and Christine introduced us to some beautiful people and we were able to plug into the Burlington scene pretty easily with their help. Potlucks, cooking, music listening and making, hair cutting and just hanging out I would move to Burlington because of the people and bike culture. They had a lovely co-op that we hung out at quite a bit speaking with cyclists about bicycle benefits, which Ian helps promote and run where you get benefits for riding bikes! It is as simple as that, empowering more cyclists to get moving and start commuting, touring, or just getting out there and riding. The program is amazing and I feel excited about helping out.

 

The mural was so much fun to create. I really enjoyed it, although its an older style I felt that it was the best thing for the Bike Shop and the community. I was able to paint certain local businesses and community organizations that the clients could relate to.

  
  
  

Here is the mural in detail, this was also one of the first times that I drew people in my painting. It was fun, I met some amazing people and wanted to include them. Ian is also pictured here with doughnuts as he handed out doughnuts to cyclists a couple mornings in the street. I drew Dan and Christine of course, and then I am meeting RJ and his children who helps organize Bike Party Burlington.


     

Here is more on the mural!

  

 I love to ride my bike. It makes me feel the true sense of the word free. I feel alive, I feel free, I feel strong and I feel like I can do anything in the world that I set my mind to. It is a beautiful feeling and a wonderful way to see the world.


  
  

We left Burlington after a week and headed to the state capital, Montpelier which is actually the smallest capital according to population in the United States. There our goal was to check in with all the businesses that supported Bicycle Benefits and make sure that they were still accepting cyclists and just promoting the cause. We tabled at the local co-op again and met some amazing people just encouraging people to get on their bikes. Bicycle benefits program is great it allows cyclists in many cities throughout the U.S. to buy a sticker for their helmet for only $5. Then they can go online and see the different local businesses where they get a discount. Discounts range from 5-20% off purchases, free cookies, free chocolate, free coffee, and more. It is allowing local businesses to support cyclists and cyclists getting rewards for cycling.

  
   

We got to ride through a lot of green beautiful mountains, I felt like I was back in Washington State. I am still in awe of the State.

   

   

Rain, rainbows, libraries, meeting new people!

              

I would absolutely live in Vermont, I loved it there. I think that I would have to live through a winter to actually understand what the state is all about. But either way I would be open. Thank you to all the people and friends that we met and spoke with. What a beautiful life! The plan now is to head east! New Hampshire and Maine!

How to Start a New Adventure – Following Heart

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Traveling is a choice. We can chose to make time for it or leave it for our dreams. It takes making it a priority and follow through.

I say this all the time but you never will have enough money, or enough time, or the perfect scenario for traveling. Just do it, like today. Like right now.

I came back to the United States in May 2014 after being gone one and a half year in South America. I am not going to lie, I was pretty exhausted. I wanted to visit Seattle, my hometown, after feeling the need to connect with family and friends. I wanted to sleep in the same bed for longer than 2 days. I wanted a warm shower with my shampoo! Every time I walked into the same house, to find my bed, my clothes, my jewelry, my food etc, I almost became overwhelmed with thanks and appreciation. The gift of being in one location and building community is such a luxury! Never had I looked at my life from this perspective and still 6 months later I feel the same way. Its ingrained in me. I got rid of almost everything that I own in those months and really love to live the life in a more simple way.

So I worked 6 months in a bar and restaurant and made some wonderful friends and great money. Life was good! I was riding my bike, I was reconnecting with old friends and making new ones. I even displayed my artwork in 3 different Seattle locations. My art inspiration was pouring out of me and my family was feeling closer than ever. Everything that I had dreamed life would be back home midst traveling was exactly the way I thought it would be and more. I got everything that I wanted. Really, it was all right in front of me.  So…why wasn’t I able to live out that life with full happiness? There was a little something in the back of my heart that was trying to tell me…something wasn’t right.

There are constantly times in our life where our heart speaks. It is doing it all the time. Turn left or turn right. This would be good for my body and maybe this would be maybe not the best. We make choices. Sometimes its literal and sometimes its nothing more than a breeze in the air that gives us a certain feeling. It is different for everyone. The heart is a small (or large) feeling in the back of our hearts that pulls on us in little tiny ways, and the only way we can listen is to be silent and trust. It is a small muscle that will grow so strong with practice and patience. And yes, absolutely this sacred gift is within each of us. We already know deep down what we need and want. It is just a matter of listening and acting upon that feeling, and that is what’s so beautiful about life: we are constantly having to make decisions and choices and its all up to our own individual hearts in the end.

The outcome of all choices will be beautiful either way. What is important is that we aware of where it comes from and how it makes us feel. In my life, I listen to my heart all the time. I choose to take risks, become uncomfortable, change the way I see things constantly to understand the world in a more harmonious and deeper way. That way works for me! I want to speak about growth with a stranger, with a loved one, with the nature. I want to soar higher than I ever knew possible. I want to push my body in ways I didn’t know it could go. I want to climb mountains and sail oceans. I want to learn new things constantly. I want to speak Spanish for months on end and I want to live my life the way my heart feels is right. Is there logic there? Absolutely not. Is there love there? Why that is what is fueling it.

So I made a decision to leave the life was comfortable and in January 2015 and was off to Oakland, California where I used to live for 2.5 years. There I found my good friends in a cooperative house living situation. Sharing food, house meetings, garden, giving to the community and working together to live a sustainable and healthy life collectively. Musicians, artists, open communicators, activists and heart followers. In this house I found my friends who were ready to take on a adventure with me. The adventure I had dreamt of – Bike touring.

I met a dear friend of mine, Lukas from Germany while traveling in Peru. We traveled together for a couple of months after meeting at a mediation retreat near Cusco. We shared so much together: painting, singing, trying new things, cooking, learning Spanish, English and German and making new friends. Lukas was traveling by bike. He was the first cyclist I met that had toured. I would hear his stories, see his pictures and how different of a perspective his travels were contrasted to mine (buses and hostels).

Ever since meeting Lukas I knew this would manifest for me in my life. I didn’t know that it would be this soon, and I was not prepared but when are you ever? When the opportunity is there you must take it! So I link up with old friends in Oakland who have made this trip two years in a row, onto their third. I had trust that I could learn the ropes from them, and travel with some friends for a bit. The group we cycle with is a band and we are called “Bicicletas por la paz” translating into Bikes for Peace. We play Latin circus funk and we carry all our instruments and have gigs lined up along the way as we travel by bike. We camp in campgrounds, in random places off the highway, in friends houses, use warm showers (couch surfing version for cyclists) and we meet beautiful people that take care of us.

Its going to be an amazing ride southward and I am up for the challenge. I cannot wait to see the different landscapes of California and Mexico in a new way. I do not have any plans. I don’t know when I will return, quit my job and moved my things into two boxes. What I do know that I will be following my heart and that is what I do best! I don’t have any answers, there is no “right way” to live. We just have to find what is right for us!

To end, as I was preparing for my trip I emailed Lukas asking for advice. This is what he had to tell me: “For your Journy I wish you happynes and fullfilment and that you will meet beautifull people. If the situation around you is difficult, you only have to conact with a silence place inside you. There is no fear, no problems. This is the reality. Loos all fear and trust in every moment, you are so strong! The most important things for a your Journey, is your Opinel knife a good tend and a air mattress…If you buy one, you will love it! But the most impotant thinks you need are not heavy but so beautfull. A huge bag full of confidence and the next bag full of patience and you need always a open heard. If you have this, the material things dont have a big importance.” -Lukas 

Sailing around Cabo de Hornos, Cape Horn.

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Rivers of ink tell the tale of Cabo de hornos, Cape Horn with silent witness of tragedies, victories and illusions. Modern boats, strong tides and weather forecast help present day sailors to round the infamous rock in relative tranquility. The way there can be long and tough with thousands of miles of rough waters and shifting winds, faraway harbors and far from the trades with easy routes. The barren and windswept rock is one of the highest symbols of mans challenge to the unknown.

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Here is the city of Ushuaia, Argentina from the sailboat.

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Again I found myself on yacht Northanger, about to embark on a 7 day sailing adventure with the goal of sailing around Cape Horn, the most Southern tip of South America and known to many as the true “the end of the world”. Many explorers and adventurers have died while trying to round it throughout the last and now boats have more technology and weather knowledge to be able to easier predict the forecast.

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On January 22 Captain Greg and I met up with clients at 8:00am at the docks with luggage. We proceeded to check out of Ushuaia, Argentina to head to Puerto Williams, Chile. This requires a bit of paperwork and passports. Five hours worth of sailing through the Beagle Canal and we reaches Puerto Williams and had to check the Chilean Armada.

This took a little while so we decided to stay in Puerto Williams for the night.

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On January 23 we left early at 5:30 am into the Beagle Canal and sailed till 8 pm. This was the first time I felt sick but when you are heading into fierce winds only moving sometimes 2 or 3 knots against huge swells I’ve never experienced before. Didn’t ever get sick but definitely the pounding pressure hour after hour made me feel crazy. You literally always have to keep a hand on something otherwise you can really hurt yourself. On deck we had a harness and were clipped onto a line because the deck is slippery and the weather unpredictable.

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This part also had a passage with no land. I prefer the coast but this sailing day was different than all I knew.

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We eventually anchored in Caleta Martial, which was the most strong I have ever experienced wind in my life. Apparently in the cove it got up to 60 mph and around the horn the same day to 80 mph. The wind was so strong it was creating whitecaps only 100 meters off shore where the wind was blowing from behind the mountains. The boat next to us in the cove “commitment” actually has their anchor drag about midnight and were sent into a 5-6 mayhem trying to keep the boat safe in unbelievable winds. If the anchor drags you could potentially be thrown into rocks or roll. It’s also hard to navigate as the wind makes it hard to breathe and the winds create a white mist making it hard to see. Boy was the wind impressive that night and made me really respect it. Northanger was on a night watch in case the anchor was to drag. Scary stuff you have to be super careful.

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The wind has a fierce potent punch with unbelievable noises. However the energy I found to be cleansing and healing the land. This is a different world here.

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The next day, January 25 I felt a little seasick over the big swells that later much longer than the waves I was used to. We went around the horn this day and it was rather calm wind-wise with huge swells from the wind the night before. Rounding the horn was a great experience but not as incredible for me as some thee places in the channel. The clients we were with enjoyed it and was essentially why some of them came to Patagonia. But for me, they were rather barren, sharp rocks, and not a lot d beauty. Nonetheless I feel super grateful for the experience. We found a different cove to anchor that night.

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The next day January 26 we took it easy and went for a hike and met the little armada post which had a Chilean family and a pet king penguin. The children were super cute and it was good for me to speak Spanish again after two weeks of English. The hike was gorgeous and the cove made for a great place to relax.

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The next morning January 27 we left on a 50 km sail for Puerto Williams. Had some wind against us and we had to stop in a cove for lunch and wait for it to die down a bit. We made it to Puerto Williams about 7 at night.

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January 28
We headed for Ushuaia Argentina with a 5 hour sail and competed the full circle.

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In Patagonia for the most part there are charter boats which offer tourists and visitors a chance to experience the area and they get paid for taking them. Then there are private boats that typically are travellers themselves maybe making a first time trip to Antarctica or sailing around the world. It makes for lovely conversations on the docks and you meet about every type of person. This is one if my favourite parts of sailing, making these relationships.

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Psychedelic Car Mural in Puerto Natales, Chile

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A new mural in Puerto Natales, Chile and it is my first piece in this beautiful country. It also marks the start of something special for my mural making path. I tried spray paint for the first time and on a car for my first time as well. I had a lot of chances and time to experiment with the new medium. But first a little about Puerto Natales because the energy of the city really inspired and influenced the way I painted the car.

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Puerto Natales, Chile is where the sunsets at 11:30pm for the start of summer begins here. The mysterious glimpses of light disappear not too long after 12:30pm. The crisp air looms wisely amongst the mountains that are landscaped over a cold windy lake. Here the tony black and neon birds play and flutter together.

The town is small. The people here know each other and you are never too far away from meeting another adventure seeker. Beyond the super touristy mask of Natales and away from the boardwalk or Main Street is a lifestyle of tranquility, oozing with peace, long gorgeous trekking, rock climbing and a clean energy.

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Where: Erratic Rock Hostel, owned by Bill native of Salem, Oregon who has lived in Natales 15 years. The hostel has simply a wonderful vibe, homey energy as the Erratic family definitely knows how to make a person feel welcomed. With a limitless supply of classic movies on VHS, a cozy gas fireplaces, homemade bread and peanut butter, Sunday brunches and a wonderful network of interns who work and commit to helping out in the hostel for a couple months a year make the place a unique home that just happens to be a hostel. It’s a special place.

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Here is everyone that volunteers and helps out at the hostel, we took a lovely bike ride against the wind near the coast. Just stunning views, good people, and the outdoors. While my stay at Erratic Rock we went biking, I learned how to crochete, and we never went without an empty stomach or cup of black coffee.

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Side note, I was able to paint a guitar while staying the the hostel as well for a friend. Here is a little peek.SAM_2178

The Mural – Progress Shots and Process

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I was super nervous to start painting, more nervous than I have ever been to start a piece just simply because it was a new medium and a new canvas. Here you can see the hesitation, and just me learning how to use a can. But I knew that I had to keep moving with the piece and not think too much! Here above is when I first just started the piece and I washing the car on the side walk. The police were upset and came to tell me to move the car and wash it in the river. Go figure.

The story of how I got the van gig: I was renting gear for the Torres del Pine trek at Base Camp which is a rental store just next to Erratic. It is actually owned by Paul, Bill’s younger brother. So the rental store wast open at 10am on a Saturday so I had to wait for them to open.

I was walking away from the rental shop when I saw a friend I had made in Puerto Madryn, Argentina. He waved and signalled me to come into the hostel. The first thing I was greeted with was the manager Julie, also from Oregon who said “Want a cup of coffee? You can’t have a real Sunday morning without black coffee.” I immediately was intrigued. Well after 1 hour of playing cards and chatting with one of the employees, Ruth, she mentioned that they had just bought a van needed someone to paint it. I volunteered immediately and made plans to stay at Erratic after my 5 day trek into the national park. It was seemingly simple and effortless. !

Accommodation: Mural in exchange for a bed, food and rental gear. I rented quite a few things from the owners brother, Paul, next door called “Base Camp”. It is a great little business: a bar and rental store which is super successful and a nice pairing to his brothers hostel.

What I learned: How to use spray paint, and more importantly how to use it effectively in the Patagonia wind. What an experience. Because the wind was so strong and it rained quite a bit it was quite the challenge or maybe an excuse to stay longer. The first couple of layers were hard as I was experimenting and getting used to the medium. Once I got rolling and more comfortable it was fast, so much faster than painting and in a different. The concepts of color, content and design are the same, but the process is different and there were shortcuts and tricks I learned.

At first, I kept wanting to put my fingers on the car and change the outcome but the paint dries almost immediately and this was hard to get used to. I realized how much I love using my hands. This is why I like painting so much. The paint brushes and the way the bristols move.

Anyways, with spray you just use a finger, nothing more. Maybe some stencils if you want. Literally my pointer finger and my thumb on my right hand were super sore after the third day painting. Pretty crazy to think that’s what created the whole piece. Just my finger!

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Length of time: Almost 2 weeks including 5 days where I went trekking through Patagonia to get experience. I painted maybe 2-3 hours every other day or so. I will return to Erratic for Christmas. My second Christmas away from home and today marks the first day of Sumer here in Southern Patagonia in Chile and Argentina. Pretty crazy how South I am!

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After I painted the van, and ironically on my last night we got to take the van out (me and some of the volunteers) to go camping. We ended up driving to Lake Sofia, about 45 minutes out of town and I got to sleep in the car. I was so happy that I was able to get into the car, and experaince the van outside of Puerto Natales and on the road. What a gift!

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I feel super fortunate for the experiance. I love all the people that I have met from Erratic and feel super special to be apart of the family there in Puerto and for those friends who live all over the world. Thank you Erratic and watch out for more spray painting murals coming soon! I even went back to Erratic Rock for Christmas. Merry Christmas everyone!

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Puerto Madryn Mural, Argentina

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Where: Puerto Madryn which is the start of Patagonia and known for whale watching, seals swimming, kayaking and visiting the beautiful peninsula where you can see penguins and if you are lucky orca whales (which actually are a species of dolphins and not whales) trying to attach the lazy seals on the beaches. Apparently, it is one of the only places in the world where you can see it happen. I went on a whale watching boat tour where I saw gigantic whales jumping in and out of the water and even a mother and her baby! Did you know that whales are solitary animals that only are found together the first year when a baby is born (mother and child) and when the whale’s mate (female and male). Pretty crazy, they are solitary other than that. After a year the mom just leaves the baby and they never see each other again.

The hostel was called La Casa de Tounens, owned by a young French man and filled with many travelers from all over the world.

What: A large outdoor mural, on concrete and done with acrylic latex house paint. The mural was influenced by the boat tour I took and I found the space perfect for this large whale of a tale.

The length of time: It took one week, about 4 hours a day.

Accommodation: Free food and bed. I was in a 6 person dorm. There was great hang out spaces and a movie room which was lovely to catch up on some movie time.

What I learned: Headphones and music are not always better. I have an idea that I need music to work, but here the birds were so loud and there were not too many people outside hanging out so I worked without music and found a new source of inspiration from it.

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Train -Buenos Aires to Bahia Blanca to Puerto Madryn

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When I heard that you could take a night bus to Puerto Madryn that takes 9 hours I thought, “Are you crazy? I need to cut that trip in half and take my time!” Well, you could say that’s what I did…but a little more than what I wanted.

The experience of taking a train is one that I have always wanted. I’ve never been on a long distance train or an overnight train so I wanted to try it. Maybe I over romanced the idea, but it was something I was determined to do. The train was also 1/4 the price as well.

$95 AR Pesos ($11 USD) is what it cost contrasted to the $430 AR Pesos ($53 USD) for a bus. It was only 4 more hours and for all buses I’ve endured the last year I was up to the challenge.

When I arrived early to the train station (which was gorgeous and made me nostalgic like i had seen in movies) I found my seat next to two people, and thank goodness next to the window. The weird thing about the seat was that it was more of a bench because we were all sharing the same cushion. You could feel everyone adjusting and moving.

No problem I thought. But as more and more people started piling on the train the hot neon lights and noise was making me feel claustrophobic, maybe 150 people were in one car and it was the type of train that had some seats facing each other. So much energy and chaos.

I had a moment right before we left where I thought to myself “Should I just get off now? I know there’s a night bus I can take and it’s just a mere $95 pesos and subway stop away. You have time go go go and get off!!! Go go go! There is no way you can stand this for 12 hours!”

Then the other part of me calmed me down and said “You wanted the train experience don’t cop out and fail before you even try”. So I stayed. Mistake? Some could see it that way. I look at it as an experience I can learn from.

Well sure enough as the train starts slowly, the noise and chatter gets louder. “Surely it will get more quiet as we make our way into the night.” I thought. Argentinians can stay up all night and never get tired I swear. Even the children are up at 4:00 am. So it’s super loud, I had headphones but I could still hear and smell the newly paired couple who were sitting next to me kissing and telling each other their life stories because they were falling madly in love with each other and did I mention smoking cigarettes? So I opened the window but then the surging neon lights were attracting flocks of bugs from outside so now bugs were lining my face waiting for a shot at the light. Calm. Calm. Calm. I told myself. Only 12 more hours. Calm. Everything changes. I kept saying.

I got up to use the bathroom and when I finally entered the bathroom it’s hot boxed with cigarettes and weed and there’s just a whole in the floor which was the bathroom. Yikes.

I didn’t sleep at all. The train turned into 11 hours then 12 then 13 then 13 and 30 minutes then 14 and finally and we arrived. I couldn’t believe that I made it. I really couldn’t. BUT with all that said I am proud of myself for taking the train. I followed my rule of “Don’t let anyone tell you if something is good or bad. You must figure it  out by your own experience.” I got my train experience, I got what I wanted. Now I appreciate buses. Now I understand how beautiful it is I have your own seat and how a dark and quiet bus is paradise.

Then when I got in at 11:00 am the train terminal I had to walk 15 blocks to the bus terminal. Found out there was only 8:30pm buses so I knew I had to stay in Bahia and kill almost 10 hours waiting!

The ticket was $321 pesos ($37.5 USD) and almost 10 hours. Easy breezy ride and trust me I slept the whole time!

The Big Modern City – Buenos Aires

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I planned for one or two days in the city of Buenos Aires before arriving. Well, as most of my travels it turned into 3 weeks. I stumbled upon a lovely friend named Emilia, a native of Buenos Aires; she offered to take me in for ¨one night¨. The universe sends us what we need in the right time and Emilia was it for me. I was feeling tired, I wanted a travel buddy and was thinking I wanted to change a little bit how I was feeling. Emilia was not exactly what I expected, but so much more than what I could of imagined. You could call her a ¨soul friend¨ as we just clicked and I was recharged. Nights out, theater parties, coffee dates, going to plays, dressing up, dressing down, potlucks, cooking meals together, going through a break up together, going to her cabin, meeting new friends, hanging out with her family and just plain living life in the present together, we both found a friendship that will last lifetimes. Really beautiful.

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 I celebrated mother’s day with her family, her mother’s birthday and just little visits with her grandmother, uncle and extended family. Being in Buenos Aires for me was more like a vacation for travelling. I felt so at home, and like I was visiting a family. They really took me in and I could feel all the love and sincerity.

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Emilia changed the way I look at travelers and opened me up to be more accepting and nonjudgmental of people. She has inspired me to take couchsurfers (people who crash on your couch) when I go back home and she gave me a new inspiration to travel and a zing back in my enthusiasm for life! I hope to meet up with her in the North of South America.

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Emilia lived in the neighborhood of Palermo, great area. Super trendy, cafe shops that I would hang in for hours, really interesting murals and great energy. Oh and she also had a cat named ¨Luz¨ (light) who became my good friend.

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At first Buenos Aires reminded me so much of being at home in the States because of its fast paced, stylish and modern lifestyle. The transit subway ¨Subte¨ throughout the city is super easy to use to get around and the city is also bike friendly lined with green pathways. There is a strong Spanish, French and European influence. The architecture is modern; some parts reminded me of San Francisco and some of Times Square in New York. There is a street called 9 de Julio that is the widest street in the world. Huge! I could not believe I was in Argentina. So different than the rest of South America!

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The animals in BA are treated differently as well. It seems as if everyone has a pet and there are tons of dog walkers. I could not handle how amazing it was to see these dog walkers. So serious.

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My friend Courtney from preschool ended up coming to travel and visit with me for a little over a week. We explored parks, saw some an amazing play and a horrible play and it was beautiful to catch up. She stayed in the same place I was, at Emilia’s.

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The two of us stayed at a Yoga Farm for a couple of days. We worked 4.5 hours in the morning, got 4 vegan meals a day, yoga and meditation. The farm was called “Eco Yoga Farm” and was located about 1.5 hours from Buenos Aires by bus and taxi. It was a nice break, met some cute animals and worked hard hours. We only stayed a couple of days but it was nice to get out of the city. Being with a friend who I have known since I can remember was also a great reminder of home and to see how much each of us has changed was incredible.

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On a logistical note I broke my guitar a little while ago and I got it fixed in BA. It takes five days. It broke while I was travelling. Probably from a corner that I knocked into. So for $200 AR Pesos ($22 USD) and got the whole thing fixed! The front part of the guitar, just snapped in half.

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How to get to Buenos Aires from Cordoba: There is a 9 hour bus for $320 AR Pesos ($36 USD) from Cordoba to Buenos Aires. Left at 9 pm and arrived at 7 am. There is also a bus called “ounce” which is cheaper $270 AR Pesos but adds on about 3-4 hours. Depending on if you have time choose wisely!

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Cheese and Wine Country – Cafayate, Argentina

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Just 4 hours outside of Salta, Argentina the adorable town of Cafayate is settled in the dry area great for making wine and goat cheese.

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I took some cheese tasting and wine tours and had a lovely time playing my guitar in all the beautiful nooks and crannies this place had to offer.

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We rented bikes for the day $70 Pesos ($9 USD) a person and hit up as many winery’s and cheese farms we could. Many places were cheap and wine and cheese starting at $15 Pesos ($1.85 USD) a pack or bottle.

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There were tons of baby animals, cats, dogs, sheep and goats. The cheese was some of the best cheese I have ever tasted, and I must admit, some of the best priced as well.

The land around Cafayate is dry, dry, dry. They get rain every 6 months so all is dirt roads and seco (dry in Spanish) plants. Because of this, the grapes produced in this region are one of a kind. Unfortunately many if the wineries we went to only export within South America as they are small and there is no need to send them far.

I want to be just famous enough of an artist to be able to draw on walls of the places I go. Just to draw on walls.

I want to be just famous enough of an artist to be able to draw on walls of the places I go. Just to draw on walls.

I loved Cafayate if I had more time this would for sure be a place where I would spend it. I fantasised about making a mural here. Maybe in the future!

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Cordoba, Argentina

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Have you heard of couch surfing? It’s a online website that connects travelers all over the world with local people that will provide a bed for free. It’s free to use and a great way to mix up traveling as you get to know the culture at a deeper and more intimate level than a hostel beaches you stay with locals. The website is couchsurfing.org and I would highly recommend it.

The lovely couple that let me stay with them a couple of nights

The lovely couple that let me stay with them a couple of nights

There is also another website I used while on Cordoba, only because I was traveling with a cyclist. It’s only for people who travel with a bicycle and its called warm showers. Warmshowers.org is the same as couch surfing just exclusive for cyclists.

I stayed with my cyclist friend Lukas and we joined up with Luciano and Sole who are from the Cordoba county and they are artists. They both own a company called Cassiopeia Ceramics and make beautiful cups, vases, tea sets, hanging pots, bowls, and more. They have a tiny khelm and make all the work in their house.

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When we arrived they were hosting a Ferria (art show) and they had all their friends over, good food, mate to drink, and group dinners. It lasted the whole weekend and they were still so willing to host Lukas and I. I am so constantly blown away at how willing the people are to take care of foreigners. I’ve never experienced this kind of trust and hospitality. Cooking food for us, treating us like a old friend with such love and respect. Makes me think twice about all that I have and how sharing makes everything better. Such a wonderful lesson.

Luciano every other Wednesday goes to one of the local radio stations and draws while the radio announcer sings. Once a week Sole teaches a pottery class in their house and loves to teach people. I feel so inspired by this couple and they do all because they love to, not because they have to.
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While in Cordoba for 5 days we went to parks, cooked a lot, made some ceramics, went to the river, attended art fairs in the streets, and walked all around the city.

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The two will be off with their bicycles next month north through South America and Central America. I wish them nothing but the best and feel so grateful for such light and inspiration.

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Vipassana Retreat at Dolores, Argentina

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Oh the beautiful country side and valley outside of Cordoba, Argentina.  Skin-crackling dry, scattered-spotted playful rivers, lovely local artisan stores selling olives, honey & olive oil, and friendly people all with the infamous Argentina accent (which I am finally getting used to).

In this region I went to the small pueblo of Dolores for yet another dose of Vipasana Meditation. This time is was three days instead of ten but the same rigarous schedule of meditating 12 hours of a day 4am-9:30pm with no talking, no writing, no reading and no contact with the outside world or others. What a beautiful inward journey to spend time alone in silence. You would be surprised how much is revealed whilst meditating.

Many people think meditation is about not thinking, when in fact, it’s just the opposite. Your mind is almost impossible to keep quiet as our daily lives provide stress an responsibilities. Our society has programmed into our conscious little voices that remind us constantly, “be productive,” and “you should be doing something!”. Essentially mediation is looking at the way the brain functions and thinks and learning how to control the reaction to the thoughts rather than the thoughts themselves. That comes with time and isn’t the goal. The goal is to let everything happen naturally, observe and not react.

In fact, meditation is a lot of thinking, constantly judging and craving for outside things and material objects. In a way, we have forgotten how to live in the moment. Meditation provides our minds with a tool in order to remain calm and harmonious with all that our brain conjures up. If you have a “to do” list type brain then through meditation you learn to be confident in the process rather than the ultimate “check off” at the end. If you always have to be moving and can never sit still, you learn how to become peaceful and embrace this over-active part. You start to become a master of your own energy and of that around you. You thought learn how powerful we really are. The best part about it all, are that all the answers that you’ve ever pondered or wanted to know are inside you. We just have to remember how to listen.

When I tell people about meditation they respond always along the lines of “Sitting and meditating that long? I could never do that!” And I respond the same, “Well then you of course you cant and never could, with that attitude!”

It’s simple. All is simple yet we make it complicated. You say you aren’t good enough, then you are not good enough. You say you can’t do it, well of course you can’t. You say you hate your job, why would you expect to love it? When we create simple thoughts in our brains they manifest themselves throughout our life. Be careful what you think and how you spend your time. If you meditated over it for more than 12 hours you would come to realise as a experiential truth that a single thought can transform into a reality.

There are so many things in this life that are dull an full of suffering with oozing negativity. Those things will always exist, all our job here is to do is to focus on the positive. Life will always be negative if you see it that way. But there is always positivity that is waiting to be tapped into, it’s just a matter of choosing to come out of our own misery that we have created. We created it, and we are the only ones that can come out of it. No one else can do it for us. It’s just a matter of our free will and choosing to accept the responsibility.

I don’t think anyone is really ever “ready” to do this course. Just like we can’t prepare perfectly for traveling the world or for death, you are never really be “ready”. But that’s what’s so wonderful about life, you never will be perfect enough, ready enough, sufficiently prepared. All you can do is be who you are and accept every part of that. In this way all the truth will come to you and all the things you do and encounter will become bliss rather than misery. It’s a choice to make!

If your interested in attending a course it’s all run by volunteers and there are courses in every country almost once a month. Free food, bed, and course. They are based on donations and thy require you to stay the full 10 days. Think you could be ready to start listening to yourself on a deeper level? 10 days and your whole world could change.

What the heck is Vipasana? Click Here for more information

Dharma Vipasana Website

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Uyuni – Salt Flats

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This part of my journey was the most majestic, magical, tranquil, serene, silent, breath-taking days. 3 days in salt flats, smooth mountains, flowing rivers, playful streams, frolicking emus, decorated llamas, profound canyons, winding valleys, wind blown snow, hot heated sunshine, freezing cold, dust filled cars, one way bumpy roads, land cruisers, and a delicate full moon against ranges of a sherbet sunset. I was in La Paz for one week with no plans.

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The Salt Flats of Uyuni are the largest salt flats in the world at 10,582 square kilometers (4,086 sq mi). It was transformed through perhistoric lake transformations. The Altiplano is the area where the Salt Flats are and are is a high plateau, which was formed during uplift of the Andes mountains. The plateau includes fresh and saltwater lakes as well as salt flats and is surrounded by mountains with no drainage outlets.

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My experiance before heading to the salt Flats: I was thinking of going to the jungle, or maybe to perfect my Spanish east in Sucre, I couldn’t make up my mind. Late one night I met some friends and one of them when asked what he was up to the next day replied, “I’m driving to Uyuni and doing the 3 day Salt Flat tour in the South Eastern part of Bolivia. I responded “that sounds amazing, can I join you?”. Because he has a car I knew it would be cheaper and we could go to more places and take out time. Three days later and I could not of imagined what was to unfold those upcoming days.

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On the Salt Flat tour we saw a bus turned over, these guys were definately stealing some of the bus parts.

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SAM_0548We left from La Paz at 10 am, one hour out of the busy city and we encounter patrol stop number one. The government official would not let us through because we didn’t have a fire extinguisher in the car. After convincing him we were to go and buy one, he finally let us pass. Next was gas. Bolivia gives a special price to foreigners for buying gas. It’s 4-5 Bolivianos a litre for Bolivians and 9.75 for foreigners. You can get turned down from gas stations too as many gas attendance don’t want to fill out paperwork for that and could potentially get into trouble if they give you a cheaper price.

Eventually after being turned down twice we were able to get gas for 7 Bolivianos. Most of these people end up pocketing the extra gain. 9-10 hours later we arrive in windy, cold, buzzing Uyuni and found a place to crash for $30 Bolivianos ($4.4 USD).

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In the morning we were ready to leave but I realised I lost my debit card, and ironically so did my friend. We ended up staying another night as well because we had issues filling up not our car, but the extra 70 litre tanks. Apparently they think we were going to go to sell gas at the border. So we leave the next morning at 10 am, start out for the salt flats. Anyways, after a lot of hassle and wasting time we finally were off. We didn’t have a map, or the slightest idea of where we were going. The salt flats are huge, I am grateful we did not get lost.

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Many people warned us against going alone on the circuit and we were convinced that we could do it ourselves. The next three days were full of bliss. Two hot spring stops, hundreds of mountains ranges, such varying sizes of lakes and colours. There are four different types of pink flamingos living in the area, and just the silence of the wind blowing through the flowers as literally not a soul in sight for kilometres and kilometres. You become apart of the landscape and it was so easy to connect to the land. The energy, the movement of the breeze and the stillness. I get chills thinking about it. That scenery was the most gorgeous landscape I have seen yet on my travels, I would absolutely go back to these flats and hear that it is even more stunning in the wet season as the whole flats become a lake and you can see perfectly the reflection of the sky onto the lake. It is something I want to go back to.

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For every way to get to a new mountain or river, there were always 2-5 different ways to get there. The roads were so bad, some literally had drop downs into dried up rivers. It could of potentially be dangerous. We did get 3 flat tires, including one that happened when we were close to 50 mph winds and the sand was being blown in our faces. Well, on the bright side, I now know how to fix a flat tire.

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If you go alone: bring a GPS with coordinates already mapped up and downloaded. GPS does not work in the middle of no where. Makes sure you bring enough food and water for the days you go into the circuit. There is no place to buy food, except one touristy place that was an overpriced restaurant near the hot springs ¨agua termales¨.

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We camped, which was crazy cold, probably the coldest I have ever been in my life. I could not feel my numb feet and have never shivered that much. I would recommend bringing fire wood if you can so you can build a fire. If you go by yourself make sure to bring AT LEAST 2 – 70 liter gas cans on your roof rack. There are no gas stations and if you are lucky in San Juan or other small towns you can knock on doors and ask the locals if they are selling any gas. Better to be safe than sorry.

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Tire

Here is John fixing the second flat tire, with such crazy winds it blew the jack off the car!

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Here was a toll that one local town decided to make for cars to pass through and pay. Some towns even have a string or rope to make cars stop. Does not seem legal! This one he is using a rock to raise the toll.

In the end, after 3 days of travelling, getting lost, finding our way again, stumbling upon majestic rivers and pink flamingos, running out of gas, getting 3 flat tires, being too cold to sleep, loosing more things on the 3 day trek than our entire travels, and just being unprepared made for an eventful Uyuni tour for me. I would recommend taking a 3 day circuit from Uyuni to the Chilean border. There is so much competition out there, and tons of horror stories that I head. Like they say in Bolivia, what you pay for is what you get!

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Sucre Mural – BeeHive

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Sucre – Spanish influenced city with clean streets, beautiful parks, energetic plazas and with a modern twist. This is where many foreigners come to learn Spanish. The bus system is simple and slow, the streets are busy with more people begging for money than I have seen in all my travels, and the same old hectic markets and fantastic handmade milk ice cream can be found.

I tasted the best food I’ve had so far at a spot called Condor Cafe. It is a vegetarian non profit that support local communities outside of Sucre. The first time I had their panini sandwich it made me want to stay longer in Sucre. The owners are from Australia and Switzerland and find themselves working part of the year in Europe to sustain to project. Dedication!

BeeHive

I learned how to make an artistic cloth that the local woman make. It takes patience and more patience.

I can see why people stay in Sucre for so long, it’s clean and calm. Honestly this is one o my most favourite large cities. I was pleasantly surprised. I almost missed out on Sucre and am glad I didn’t.

The Mural

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I loved the texture of the paint in Sucre, there was so much contrast.

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SAM_0680Where: Sucre, Bolivia at “BeeHive” Hostel. Not your average hostel as many people stay long term and there is a wonderful sense of community. The two founders, Amanda 28 from California and Suzi, 30 from Sucre. The BeeHive works with local woman of the community through projects such as workshops and volunteering to help woman gain more confidence and financial stability.

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Length of Time: 3 days, 4-5 hours a day and 5 nights I stayed in Sucre.

What: A tree mural logo that will eventually be turned into a “giving tree” where a passport sized picture will be placed on leaves or roots depending on how much you donate to the project. This mural was pretty quick in terms of stay and was a ¨logo¨ piece.

What I learned: You can always plan a mural last minute.

Visa for Boliva, Crossing the Peru-Bolivia Border

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Travellers from The United States must apply for a visa before entering into Bolivia. The U.S. is one of the few countries who are required to do so.

Here are all the requirements one must need for getting into Bolivia, keep in mind that you can stay for 90 days and the Visa is good for 5 years.

  • Pay the Bolivian Bank $160 (or $130 depending where you pay, I paid $160 in Puno) crisp US Dollars
  • Copy of your passport – this means just the page with your information and picture on it.
  • Copy of your passport picture – this does not mean making a scan of your passport again, this means purchasing and taking new photos. Don’t worry there are places everywhere to do this and you can even take one with the Virgin Mary or change your clothes on the extra pictures your $5 soles takes you.
  • Copy of the Malaria Vaccianations
  • Bank Statements – 2 months will do
  • Itinerary – make something up about where you will go on what date and be sure to include in it where you will be staying etc. You don’t have to make reservations just create a word document and make it look like it’s from a tourist agency.
  • Completed application from the Bolivian Consulate.

Then, after they give you your passport and bias you must make a photo copy of it and give it back to the consulate.

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Puno is about 2.5-3 hours away from Copacabana, making it quite an easy border crossing. It was only $20 Soles for a bus ticket. The bus waits for you to stop in the police station and border control then to walk across the border and get your entry stamp into Bolivia.

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La Paz, Bolivia

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Busy, fast, zippy, old and smoggy type of city. At an elevation of 3,650 meters (12,00 feet) with a population of 2.3 million. My most favourite thing about Bolivia so far: The Zebras. That is right, Zebras. I am not talking about the animal, I am talking about the humans who are paid to dress up as Zebras in full body costumes and be the patrol for the pedestrian crossings. Not only do they dance, and flail their arms everywhere, but they also give hugs and little notes of encouragement to people that pass by. There are murals throughout the city in dedication to the Zebras. It is in many Bolivian cities and they are well known and loved by many (including children who I saw hold tightly onto the Zebras). It was just too cute and I could not stand just being friends with these Zebras.

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La Paz was where I went walking and walking and walking and walking. Market after market, stores for buying local clothing, bread, electronics, corner stores, liquor stores, teenager stores, bead stores, string stores, shoes stores, leather stores, and endless amount of stores. Funny thing is that every single store that is similar to one another and sells the exact same thing is always found next to their competition. I still do not understand why they do not separate and get different parts of town and make more money. But this is how it is, one street for one thing in particular. However this makes shopping easy and you can compare prices without having to go far as well.

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One of the markets that was the most interesting was the largest outdoor market in South America in La Paz called “El Alto” which is located just above La Paz and could be considered (but not technically) another city of its own. Many people tell you to not go alone, to not bring a camera, and that people would rob us; but like everything else in South America, people are scared for no reason. We had no problems, only met nice local people, and never felt unsafe. In fact we decided to walk down from El Alto after through the city and that was one of my favourite parts of the while La Paz experience.

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During my visit I went to Mount Chacaltaya at 5,420 meters above sea level. It used to be the highest ski lodge in the world until…about 15 years ago it stopped snowing. Can you say global warming? Now it barely snows there and the ski lodge is abandoned. If you start sneezing, you know that the altitude is getting to you as your brain starts to swell and this is how it releases pressure. The view was stunning and actually the mountain that we saw was the same mountain that Paramount Picture uses in their opening reel. Try running in elevation that high, you cant. Try breathing full breaths, you just cant.

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The same day the tour continued and we continued to the Valle de Luna which was a lake that dried up about 9 million years ago. Walking at the bottom of this lake is incredible as the water formed beautiful statues and sculptures that mirror what the moon would look like if you were to walk on it. It was absolutely incredible to see first hand in one day how the climate changes over time! Mountain weather changing and huge lakes drying up.

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I decided to get a new prescription for my eyes for glasses and contacts as my one in the United States is up. Bolivia is super cheap for getting anything health related and it cost me $30 Bolivianos for an appointment and $120 Bolivianos for glasses. In total costing $13 USD.

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I painted a little canvas with a friend and we installed it at Cafe el Mundo where we would constantly drink coffee and eat delicious food. My friend Roberto is from Sicily and it was nice to be a little creative! We also found some friends to help us paint as well. I think they caused more damage than good, but it was nice company.

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Isla de Sol and Copacabana

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Shimmery glittery glazed sunshine upon the worlds largest and highest Lake, Lake Titicaca. Swarmed by white mountain tops and fluttery joyful birds, Inca ruins, lazy talking llama and sheep-filled fields, the Isla de Sol ¨Island of Sun¨ was a nice break in between two cities, not too expensive and so different than anything else I have seen on my travels.

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The town of Copacabana is where you can leave for the Isla de Sol tour. The town itself has one small touristy street, 6th de Augusto and this can be easily avoided. I stayed at a nice hostel, Sonia Hostel, for $30 ($2 USD) Bolivianos for a private room.

Copacabana is on a little peninsula and you can see the lake from all sides of town. There are tons of sites to see and things to do for day hikes, including one that was 3 hours along the lake. There are ruins in town, and rock carvings, Inca seats where supposidly the Inca empire would sit out and view the lake, and tons of great places to enjoy the views. I did a lot of exploring.

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The first day I was there I decided to go to the ruins around Copacabana and go to all the mirradors, where surprisingly I did not see a soul in sight. I think most people only stay one night and go straight to the island. Here at the top of this look out point there were 3 rocks that were used by the Incas to navigate the stars and decide when the seasons would change. The rocks are still there.

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Llama encounter! The Spanish word for Llama is Alpaca and they are all over Bolivia. What I didn’t know is that they can spit, they have an incredible range for spitting at tourists, especially when they are pissed off. I tried not to get too close but they just look so regal and feminine  I could not help myself!

To get to the Island of Sun there are little boats that go really slow about 3 hours to the North or South end of the Island. It was incredible, named this because the Incas believed that the island was where the sun came from. They also believed that another island just off the Isla de Sol was where the moon came from. Many say the birthplace of the Inca Empire was founded here as well.

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These islands are situated in the middle of this gorgeous lake that almost looks like an ocean because it just keeps going as far as you can see. It’s stunning landscape and turquoise shores remind me of Greece. Is this really Bolivia?

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I’ve been warned about Copacabana- “Don’t go there or the island of the sun, it’s too touristic!” And like I always say, don’t believe everything you hear try it out for yourself.

Copacabana is where all the Isla de Sol boats leave from. The town I will admit is touristy but you can get around it but not going down 6 de Augusto where you are bombarded by people selling bus tickets and telling you to eat in their restaurants. You can avoid it!

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I didn’t want to go from one big city to another so I decided to take my chances on it. This place was definitely worth visiting and Isla de Sol, Island of the Sun was one highlight of my trip. The island was touristy on the south end where people can stay…but nothing compared to what I have been warned about.

I met a man from New Zealand, Mark, and we explored the island through 4 hours of walking discovering ruins, a sacrifice table, and hundreds of lookouts out onto the bright blue water.

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There were three check points where you have to buy a ticket and the money goes to the local community. I was fine with this but it was the children you have to watch out for. They will take a look into your bag at the quickest chance they can. They also ask for money or candy. This was the first time I had seen children like this, interesting to say the least.

I stayed the night on the island, watched the sun set and then woke up at 6:00am for the sunrise over the Island of the Moon. The contrast was just stunning and so breathtaking I did not mind waking up so early!

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Here are the friends I met while on the Island. The boat ride was just beautiful and so lovely to chat with friends and get out of the city. I could not believe how beautiful it was there.

The boat ride there is super slow and was $20 Bolivianos ($2.9 USD) and back was $20 Bolivianos as well.