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Yearly Archives: 2012
One night, a couple of days ago, I arrived home late. Upon entering the hallway I heard a sound from upstairs. My blood froze in my veins: burglars!
Read the full story here: https://gijsbos.com/its-payback-timeDutch actresses
Macedonian guy bonding with a Latvian kid.
Gay Columbia -Dutch gay couple talking to au pair girl from Peru. Next to Italian couple.
Indian family from Germany
Nice overview picture on the Amsterdam canals
Read more stories here: www.gijsbos.com
Mostly my “fuck it, let’s do it” decisions don’t turn out to be great. As mostly there’s a very good reason why I’ve been doubting so long. This time, it turned out great.Today was one of the first warm summer days in a a long overdue summer in Amsterdam. I was enjoying some quality time in the beautiful Vondelpark when suddenly an idea dawned upon me. Loads of if’s and but’s followed quickly. Fortunately, all thoughts were superseded by a “fuck it, let’s do it”. The big idea was actually quite simple: let’s take my boat and offer people free rides through the canal. The trip would be totally free and there would be only one condition for entering the boat: you can’t leave the boat without finding other people to take your spot on the boat. Pretty happy with the idea, I set sail for the center for Amsterdam, convinced I’d have a full boat within minutes. Upon approaching the first spot that I had deemed to be great, my doubts got the best of me. Many many excuses came up for not asking people: these people looked to boring, that couple is very much in love, that group is to old, a girl alone would think it was a pickup trick etc. I sailed past loads of people puffing next to the canals on this sunny day without asking a single one to join me for a free boat trip. Once I had sailed past the center and entered a quiet spot, I reviewed what was happening. Was I scared to be turned down? Wasn’t it a good idea anymore? Just when I thought I was going to park the boat and return home, I saw one elderly guy and two girls in their twenties. I shouted to them from my boat “You speak English? You want a free canal tour? It’s really free!”. The girls looked at each other and shaked their heads. The guy was sitting on a bench and jumped up and indicated “yes, I’m joining”. The girls looked surprised when he jumped on board. Suddenly, the prospect of free canal tour didn’t seem so crazy anymore. They turned out to be Spanish and said they would maybe call me later. The guy was scruffy looking and a Macedonian living in Northern Germany. He was in his late fifties and had a big belly that obviously came from a lifetime of drinking beer. However, I felt strengthened by my “success” and started asking other people too. 10 minutes later and after a lot of rejections richer, I again started wondering if I had made the right decision and how I could get rid of the Macedonian guy (who seemed quite content with his spot on the boat). Then things slowly turned out for the better. A young German couple hopped on board. In front of the Hermitage Museum we picked up two friendly Dutch theatre actresses, a group of heritage students from somewhere east of Berlin (they came from Columbia, New York, and The Netherlands). 2 olderly couples from Northern California. Minutes later a Dutch-Latvian family with kids joined us. We then picked up a Dutch-Spanish couple whose boat plans for the day had been cancelled. We dropped of the Americans and Latvians near central station. They were replaced by a big Indian family (8 people) living in Germany who we picked up near the “Nemo” museum. Later in the Jordaan we were joined by a random guy of whom I know nothing except that he was reading a book about writing scripts for theatre and TV. We kidnapped a Peruvian au pair from a bench (who started singing with the Colombian guy). And we finally picked up a group of lazy young Italians in front of the Anne Frank Museum. Needless to say that we had an amazing time together on this sunny day. Inevitably people asked why I was giving them this free trip. I repeated the story nearly a dozen times: “I’ve just come from a long trip around the world. During this trip people have been extremely kind to me. This is my way of paying them back.”
It had been a long time coming. My original plan was as follows: fly from Madrid to Gran Canaria, join a (to be found) sailing yacht that participates in the ARC rally, arrive on the other side of the Atlantic ocean by the 20th of December, spend Christmas in the Caribbean.
I arrived safely and happily at the other side of the Atlantic ocean on the 10th of March. A near three months difference. Finding a suitable boat departing from Cape Verde proved to be surprisingly easy, despite that “everybody” warned that the season would be over. A friend and I had the chance to be able to be picky and select the nicest yacht out of 3 without making any boat-searching effort. Two German gentlemen, my friend and I were the entire crew for the crossing of the Atlantic ocean in an 11 meter sailing boat.
The captain had never crossed the Atlantic ocean either, so everybody was tense and nobody knew what and how much we needed to buy. As a safety measure we decided to “overstock” a bit on food. Thijs weer hectic, and the day after carnival I literally had to run towards the ship in order to be on time for our departure.
I guess it took several days to realize what I was doing. The first two days we still saw land and other boats, but then it became quiet. Just the ocean, the sky and the four of us. Once a day we were joined by a single bird, we saw dolphins and a whale, loads of flying fish, but nothing else that indicated that the world around still existed. This lasted for 13 out of 17 days: total Zen.
We were four persons and had 2 hour shifts. This means that you’ve got to steer the boat for 2 hours and then have a 6 hours break and that for the entire day. After sunset we rotated the shifts so once every 4 days you’d have only one shift in the dark.
Experienced sailors warned me that crossing the Atlantic ocean can be boring. In addition, my iPad (also my eBook reader) ran out of batteries during the second day. Without possibilities to recharge (nor printed books) I feared for the worst boredom ever. Fortunately we had a great time, despite/because the ship was “dry” (no alcohol on board), except for one bottle of wine when we were half way. We sailed by hand, meaning no autopilot and only used paper maps (with GPS). The night shifts were especially amazing: full moon, up to 6 meter high waves and alone at the rudder with the rest of the crew asleep. For the entire trip we had the wind exactly from behind, which to the inexperienced ear might sound like a good situation, but this means that you have to watch continuously for dangerous jibes, which is tiring and exciting at the same time. Fortunately, I didn’t get seasick, which was a big relief, as the trip would have been very long otherwise.
Inevitably, during each of my shifts, I’d have at least one of them: a “freak” wave. Coming out of nowhere, a gigantic wave would pick up our tiny boat and do with it as it pleased. It served as a reminder that the ocean, and not me was in charge of what was happening.
I have some experience in steering small open boats (none, with the ship size we were sailing), so I especially enjoyed the sportive sailing parts with stronger winds and high waves. Facing backwards, trying to steer as little as possible and anticipate the waves and wind was my favorite part.
Those of you who are familiar with my cooking skills might be surprised that I participated actively in the cooking (no, not just doing the dishes). It is surprisingly difficult to cook on the ocean and more than once we had to pick our almost ready dinner from the floor.
Crossing the Atlantic in a sailing yacht proved to be one of the highlights of my trip. Highly recommend for anybody with an interest in sailing or a ‘different’ kind of holiday. The cost? 75 euros for the entire 17 days trip (food, fuel, etc. included). Just do it.
Cape-Verdians robbed me of my cash, credit cards and telephone after driving over my foot (and breaking it) with a car. Which meant I stayed on an island of 16 * 24 kilometers for 10 bloody weeks. Cape-Verdians stole my mobile phone (again) during Carnival. I paid near European-level rent for an apartment in a country where the average income is 100 euros per month. I made friends with a local guy, who then ripped off two of my other friends for hundreds of euro’s (they borrowed him interest-free money for moving his street vending business into a store and he didn’t reimburse). My other friends had their stuff pick-pocketed too. People lied multiple times to my face, and loads of other bad stuff. And I loved all of it (except for the robbing). Some of the best time of my 16 months trip (until now) was in Cape Verde. The warmth of the people was amazing. Nowhere on the planet (except for Iran, maybe) have I been invited into as many local homes as here. I felt embarrassed when people with amputated legs apologized on behalf of the entire country when they heard the story of the robbery and my broken foot. Similarly grandmothers with probably not more than 1 year to live from the looks of them looked at me with compassion filled eyes when they saw me walking with crutches through the streets. People offered me rides in their car even when they knew I had less than 200 meters to go.Surprisingly enough, the bar scene in tiny Mindelo (the capital of the island where I stayed) was amazing. For example a late night Jazz Bar with great indie music and an amazing crowd. Or what do you think of a Berlin-style hidden place (you wouldn’t know that it’s a bar if you stood in front of it) filled with French literature, a roof top terrace, topped off with regular music improvisation sessions by the “resident” artists? Sure, I am a foreigner in Cape Verde and will always remain a “white guy” to the locals, but few things in life beat being in a “hurry” and walking 500 meters in an hour due to cheerful conversations with the friendly locals you meet on the street. I’ll always cherish the “live at Laguina” sessions, where incredibly talented musicians played guitar and sang in the living room of my appartment. And then carnival. Sure, Rio de Janeiro’s carnival is bigger and more glamorous. But it will have a tough time beating Mindelo in authenticity. Thanks to a great friend (who’s writing a book and decided on the spot to make a documentary) I was fortunate to get a behind-the-scenes look and experience parts of the preparations of the groups. All of these groups created amazing art projects with (near) zero budgets. One could really witness that passion for what you’re trying to achieve will beat financial incentives any day of the week. And last and definitely not least: the foreigners in Cape Verde. I can truly say I made friends here, which is a rarity as all of us are traveling. The foreigners I encountered were all fellow boat hitchhikers and really special people. We did amazing things together, we saw beautiful sceneries and had thought-provoking conversations. And then I left it all behind. A window of opportunity opened to cross the Atlantic ocean just after carnival. The right people, the right ship, the right destination. But I’ll return to Mindelo to experience Cape Verde once again, that’s for sure!
It was one of those nights of which I’ll think back later and say to myself: “I wish I had more of these”.
Due to my immobility, I decided to move out from the hotel. I had strong doubts: from my hotel’s balcony I had a great view on the main street of Mindelo. “Everybody” paraded there each night. Several friendly bars were near, ever the cash machine and the supermarket were literally around the corner.
Still, it was a great decision to move. I’m currently living in an apartment. Meaning I’ve got a living room, an en suite bathroom and a kitchen (which I’m actually using!).
The best part of the appartment is that it’s a “home”. It’s a place where I live, not just spend a couple of nights because it has the best price/quality ratio. For most of you it isn’t special to have a “home”. Even the poorest people of the planet have a home. Only refugees and people traveling around the world don’t have a home. Moving in here made me realize that the longest I’ve stayed somewhere is around 10 days. This only happened 3 or so times during this (until now) 15 months trip.
If having a (temporary) home made me happy, having great people in there delighted me. Thanks to a French friend, (who has been amazing), I got to know a couple of great Cape Verdian artists. Super cool: they gave an impromptu “concert” in my living room! They’re also working on a project for carnival, which should be a great experience!
I guess it’s universal to feel at your happiest around people who create.