I´ve been travelling for some time now. Something like 14 months, I
think. It´s been wild to say the least. I´ve been to South East Asia,
India, Northern Africa, Europe, South America and Central America. As
I´m writing this I´m sitting in a little Internet shop in La Chorrea,
Panama. When I left for this trip I had no desire to come to Central
America. But, here I am, it´s kinda strange how things turn out.
A few months into my trip I made a commitment to myself to take a
few months and do some type of charitable work. My initial thoughts
were to spend some time in an orphanage in South America. After
witnessing the extreme amounts of poverty in India and elsewhere I knew
that I had to do something to give back. After doing a bit of research
I found that companies ¨offer¨ to place you with a non profit
organization so that you can do some type of charity work. The only
downfall to this is that this ¨offer¨ comes with a price tag. These
companies charge you a monthly fee and some even charge you an upfront
fee. I don´t know about you but I´m volunteering my time here and I
don´t feel like it should cost me any fees up front. What´s up with
It was about 3 or maybe 4 months ago when I was in Santiago de
Chile. It was time to make a decision about the charity work that I
wanted to get involved with. I had just finished a Bikram yoga class, I
was in the shower, cooling down (great visual right?) when this idea
came to me. Instead of my original idea I wanted to do something that
used my talents and skills. I also wanted to incorporate travel and a
physical challenge. But more importantly I wanted to do something
meaningful for an organization that was helping people, especially
kids, who are living in poverty. I wanted to create.
So...I´ve decided to ride a bike, yes a push bike (no motor) from
Panama City, Panama to San Francisco, USA. I´m doing in hopes to raise
awareness and money for starving kids in Central America. I´m working
with an amazing organization, Plan USA, who´s mission it is to
eradicate the problems that children are facing who live in these
horrible conditions. The ride is going to take 3 months. It´s about
5,500 kilometers and goes through 8 different countries. It is by no
means going to be easy. It´s going to be the most difficult thing,
physically and mentally, that I have ever done. It´s a wild idea. It´s
possible and I hope to raise $15,000 for the cause.
I´ve been preparing. I´ve been training. And today I finished my
first day. About 35 kilometers from Panama City to La Chorrea. I´m
lucky enough to have a great buddy, Mike, accompany me for the first 2
weeks. Mike and I go back to San Francisco State University. We were
having fun, telling stories, having a bit of a laugh but when our taxi
driver dropped off us on the shoulder of a freeway (the starting point)
reality set in. Were both prepared, have the proper equipment, and good
bikes. But nothing really prepares you fully for the first day. So here
we were near the Bridge of the Americas about to start a journey of a
lifetime. Big rigs, buses and cars flying by us on the Pan American
highway. Life doesn´t get much better than that...right? We took it
slow, dodged a few buses and narrowly missed an assortment of road kill
and finally made our destination. The first day was a bit slow,
tomorrow we will pick up the pace.
My hopes are that by doing this I will be able to show to people
that there are problems in this world that need attention. But more
importantly there are people and organizations that are doing
everything they can to make a difference for the children that face
these problems on a daily basis.
How do you poo in a co-ed bathroom that has 4 stalls when there are 100
people trying to use those 4 stalls within a 45 minute time frame?
Aaahhhhh...the art of pooing!
I'm on the Camino de Santiago. A 30 day trek across Spain that is 790 kilometers long.
stay in places called Albergue's. There specially set up for
peregrino's on the pilgrimage to Compostella de Santiago. Amazing
right! Tons of fun, right!? Hahahahah!
Most of these places hold
between 50 to 100 people and most of them have shared and co-ed
bathrooms. On top of that...a lot of these places are open large dorms
with bunk beds. Many of those have bathrooms that "share air space"
with the beds. OMG this could be a serious problem!
So what if the tapas don't settle with you so well?
What happens if you had a little to much bean soup the night before?
Jesus...stay away from the shwarma's!
Here's the options for pooing in a co-ed bathroom.
- Make a break for the bathroom in the middle of the night.
- Try to beat everyone to the toilet in the morning.
- Be a true backpacker and dig a ditch behind a hedge on the trail...bushwacker style! Remember: carry your TP out.
- Hope to God that there is a cafe on the trail. Like to gamble?
- Wait until everyone leaves and start the day in the back of the pack. Loser!
- Run the 27 kilometers to the next aubergue to beat everyone there. Maybe this could be the next exercise craze in LA?
But what if none of these options work? Here's my tips...
Scope out the bathroom before committing. Calculate the approximate
time that the people will be in the bathroom versus the time it will
take the people packing to arrive. If someone is brushing their teeth
that takes maybe 2 minutes. If someone is stuffing their sleeping bag
that may take 3 minutes. The window of opportunity is slim. Wait until
only a few people are in the bathroom and slyly sneak into a stall.
Wait until you hear the footsteps of the last people leave. PUSH AS
HARD AS YOU CAN...TIME IS SHORT! Get out ASAP. Hopefully your
calculations are correct and no one or maybe only one or two people
know that you are the culprit. Hopefully you didn't forget to wipe.
Lie! If you had a little too much wine the night before and your
calculations are incorrect...lie! If you find yourself in the middle of
a stinky poo and there a tons of people in the bathroom...lie! Do the
dirty deed. Take your time. Facial expressions are key here. As you
walk out of the stall pretend to zip up your fly like you only took a
piss. KEEP YOU HEAD UP! If your head is down then everyone will know
that your guilty. As your washing your hands...turn to the Australian
guy next to you brushing his teeth, and who is about to throw up from
the awful smell, and say "that damn French woman is blowing it up in
their". Squint your eyes, force a slight frown, shake your
head...pause...and then say "jesus...these europeans have no respect".
Then quickly walk out. Maybe, just maybe it will work and you'll have
friends for the day.
- Do as the Italians do.
They don't care! Forget about it. Everyone has to do it. Handle your
poo with pride. Walk in, take your time, and walk out.
I'm on a year and a half trip around the world. Today marks exactly 6 months since I left for my trip.
As I'm writing this I'm sitting in the bus station in Pamplona, Spain.
I'm about to spend the next month of my life navigating myself across
this amazing country. I'm embarking on the Camino de Santiago.
I have Latitudinarian ideals. I'm open to various religions and views.
Until perhaps a few hours ago. I stumbled upon a portent... I found a
Scallop Shell. Perhaps it was the timing, perhaps it was the manor in
which I found it. But this simple discovery made me question my beliefs
and for at least a quick second made me believe in God...ya...the
traditional flowing white robe dude that sits on a white marble throne
past the pearly gates.
Sorry to drop the "G" bomb!
Anyway...here's what happened.
I'm in Geneva, Switzerland for a few days before I head to back to
Spain. I'm going to doing the Camino de Santiago. Its a religious and
or spiritual pilgrimage. Its from Roncesvalles (on the Spanish side of
the Pyrenees) to the church at Compostella de Santiago. Its a hike. The
total distance is around 800 kilometers and if all goes well its takes
around 30 days. I'm doing the hike because to tell you the truth it
sounds fun. Great scenery, interesting people, a physical challenge and
a time to clear my thoughts a charge the soul...so to speak.
Since I'm in Switzerland I thought it would be a good idea to get some
training in for the journey. I woke up kinda early and decided to walk
along Lake Geneva. The plan was to walk for 3 hours...stop...and then
turn around. I didn't have a map, I didn't know really where I was
going but I figured if I got lost, no worries, all these Swiss people
speak like 9 languages so ill be able to get help.
It starts to rain.
My path takes me away from the lake...I don't know where I am.
I'm getting pissed.
I've been walking for about 2 hours at a brisk pace.
My only company are German cars whizzing by me at 60 kilometers per.
It starts to rain harder.
Walking is getting boring.
Here I am in kinda a miserable state of mind. I actually start to
question my entire "pilgrimage". I start to think about the tiresome
783 kilometers that I must walk to complete it. I start to worry about
getting lost somewhere in Spain.
What if I freeze? What if I have no food? What if I get lost? If my
foot is frozen and gets gangrene can I eat it? These are only a few of
the doubts that are lingering.
"Wide open spaces" by the Dixi Chicks comes onto my IPOD. This is funny
for 2 reasons. 1) I was listening to my 2Pac play list. Kinda random
right! 2) I hate country...why is this even on my IPOD?? For whatever
reason I don't change it. I keep listening and it makes me think about
Spain and the hike.
Should I even do this Camino?
Right at the height of my doubt, I see something on the pavement ahead.
Something white and kinda dirty. I stop. I look around. I'm on some
kind of freeway next to a cement wall with a gate going into someones
house. No one is around. Only the stupid German cars that keep spraying
water on me. I bend down and pick up the object. Why? I don't know! 9
times out of a trillion I'd keep walking.
Its a scallop shell.
Its broken at the top. The rest of the pieces are scattered around. It looks like it fell out of the sky.
I pause for a minute. Another minute goes by. I look around again. No
one in sight. I look up to the sky. Its grey. Another minute goes by. I
clean off the shell. What the fuck is this doing here?
Someone...I don't know who...gave it to me.
Why do I give a shit about this?
The Scallop Shell IS the religious symbol of Saint James. The Scallop
Shell represents all the various paths that pilgrims take, with all
paths leading to one point. The Scallop Shell IS the symbol of the
Camino de Santiago. The Scallop Shell IS the symbol of the pilgrims
that have traveled to the church at Compostella de Santiago for
thousands of years.
I was just wondering when I'd get my shell.
Now I have it.
Not to drop the "G" bomb yet again but maybe...just maybe...there is a...