The Cultural Iceberg

Shoutout to Rishi for the recommendation

Credits to Janine’s Music RoomCredits to Janine’s Music Room

One of my aims as I travel is to deconstruct cultural codes for the countries I visit. This image depicts what is easy to decipher and what’s difficult.

May 21, 2022

Should You Force Yourself to Write?

This is a response to my friend’s prompt, Should You Force Yourself to Write?

I started writing daily at the start of 2020. Today, including this post, that’s 868 days in a row. Writing everyday is a part of my life. Similar to how I don’t actively think about brushing my teeth. It’s something I simply do. Writing every day is a habit, it’s automatic, I just do it.

Does it come easy?

Not always. Sometimes writing is the last thing I want to do. I might be in the midst of a difficult exam season, maybe I have a major release at work the next day, or I just hiked for 10+ hours in one of the largest national parks in Colombia. Still, I’ll put pen to paper and write and I won’t sleep until I have something written.

I’ll have these stretches of creative dry spells which is evident in my blog. But I learned that this is part of the creative process. When people ask me how do I have so many good ideas, it’s because I’m not afraid to write about the bad ones. And I trust that eventually the good ideas will come.

Like Jayne says in her answer to the prompt, I don’t think one should force themselves to write but rather develop a healthy relationship with the craft. Personally, writing is the most important thing I do everyday. It’s the pillar of my self development, it’s my creative engine, and it’s a source of joy and fulfillment. That’s what keeps me going.

May 20, 2022

Four Types of Regret

Inspiration credits to Rohan Rajiv

Daniel Pink spent the last few years accumulating a regret” database wth over 20,000 responses from people in 109 countries. He summarizes his learnings from this study in a commencement speech given to the class of 2022. Here’s a summary of the four types of regret:

In other words: Do the work. Take the chance. Do the right thing. Reach out.

May 19, 2022

South America Day 18-22: Cartagena

After spending a few days in smaller, more nature oriented settings like Salento, Minca, and Tayrona, I paid a visit to the walled city of Cartagena, my final stop in Colombia. The first thing I noticed about Cartagena is the weather. The heat and humidity were borderline unbearable. It’s the type of place where you’re constantly sweating and three showers a day are needed to stay fresh in the mid to high 30 degree weather.

The Old Town neighbourhood where my hostel was locatedThe Old Town neighbourhood where my hostel was located

The first thing I do when visiting any new city is join a free walking tour. While I did learn about the city on the tour, the scorching heat made it nearly unbearable.

The streets of CartagenaThe streets of Cartagena

Inside a museumInside a museum

Later that day, I saw one of my classmates post an Instagram story in Cartagena. Though we haven’t talked in class before, I decided to reach out and joined them for dinner. Travelling solo means to be in a constant state of change and it was comforting seeing familiar faces for once.

The next day, I explored the Getsemaní neighbourhood known for its vibrant murals, street musicians, and street foods.

A street in Getsemaní with flags from every countryA street in Getsemaní with flags from every country

Umbrella streetUmbrella street

My last few days in Cartagena, I booked a private room to recharge my batteries. I spent that time reading, writing, taking plenty of walks on the nearby beach and eating some seafood.

Ceviche’s one of my favourite foodsCeviche’s one of my favourite foods

There are street vendors everywhere selling shrimp cevicheThere are street vendors everywhere selling shrimp ceviche

Fried fish on the beachFried fish on the beach

May 18, 2022

Stuff I Enjoyed Recently (5.17.2022)

May 17, 2022

How to Easily Convert from Celsius to Fahrenheit and Vice Versa

I spent extended time in the US and have many friends and coworkers there. My friends and I always found the Celsius/Fahrenheit conversion confusing. The calculation itself isn’t exactly straight forward. The formula to convert from Celsius to Fahrenheit is the following:

Temperature_F = Temperature_C*(5/9) + 32

Recently, I learned a neat trick for converting between the two. If you’re converting between Celsius to Fahrenheit, multiply by 2 and add 30. For example, if it’s 20 degrees Celsius:

(20*2)+30 = 70

Thus, 20 degrees celsius is approximately 70 degrees fahrenheit.

If you’re converting from Fahrenheit to Celsius, do the opposite, subtract by 30 and divide by 2. For example, let’s calculate 100 degrees fahrenheit:

(100-30)/2 = 35

So 100 degrees fahrenheit is 35 degrees celsius.

May 16, 2022

Learning Language Through Immersion

Learning a new language is hard work. It’s a time consuming endeavour that takes sacrifice especially when you’re travelling. When I was taking Spanish lessons in Medellín I missed out on a day trip to a nearby famous town and partying with friends because I had homework to do.

But the frustration of not being able to understand the locals and express my ideas to them or them to me is more frustrating. I see my friends speaking Spanish, in particular my European friends (many of them are multilingual) and it feels like a superpower. A superpower that I want to have.

Being in Latin America, I’m in the perfect environment to learn Spanish. Learning language through immersion is the consensus best way to learn a language. Babies don’t take grammar classes and learn conjugation but they are able to eventually speak and understand because they’ve had thousands of hours of exposure to that language.

Fortunately, I now know enough Spanish to get by but I’m still learning more everyday. If I’m inside a mall I’ll see an exit sign that says Salida” or an enter sign that says Entrada” and now I know the Spanish words for enter and exit. I’ll read the writing on things in the store or stuff I buy like cerveza-beer, jugo-juice, jabon-soap, and now I know more Spanish words. Every time I enter a store the vendor would say Bienvenidos-Welcome, when I say Gracias-thank you they respond with conmucho gusto-you’re welcome.

It’s interesting how one can express a wide range of ideas and desires with a small vocabulary. I can get by when it comes to asking for directions, buying things, or ordering food from a restaurant. I’ve learned that some phrases are incredibly versatile such as Donda esta” or Where is”. Donda esta el baño?” or Where is the washroom?”, Donda esta la basura?” or Where is the garbage?”

While travelling to a country that speaks the target language is important, I can easily just make friends with other travellers that speak English. Often the case, I’ll make a friend that knows better Spanish than I do then rely on them the entire time we’re together. This is a reminder to keep putting myself out there in uncomfortable situations where I’ll need to speak the language.

May 15, 2022

The Carpet Cleaner Who Speaks 24 Languages

46 year old Vaughan Smith cleans carpets for a living and is also fluent in an astonishing number of languages:

So, how many languages do you speak?”

Oh, goodness,” Vaughn says. Eight, fluently.”

Eight?” Kelly marvels.

Eight,” Vaughn confirms. English, Spanish, Bulgarian, Czech, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian and Slovak.

But if you go by like, different grades of how much conversation,” he explains, I know about 25 more.”

Vaughn glances at me. He is still underselling his abilities. By his count, it is actually 37 more languages, with at least 24 he speaks well enough to carry on lengthy conversations. He can read and write in eight alphabets and scripts. He can tell stories in Italian and Finnish and American Sign Language. He’s teaching himself Indigenous languages, from Mexico’s Nahuatl. to Montana’s Salish. The quality of his accents in Dutch and Catalan dazzle people from the Netherlands and Spain.

Here’s the full profile.

May 14, 2022

South America Days 18-20: Tayrona Park

Photo credits to Along Dusty RoadsPhoto credits to Along Dusty Roads

After spending a relaxing few days in Minca, I made my way to Tayrona Park. Tayrona is the largest national park in Colombia. It’s a popular vacation spot for local Colombians and travellers alike because of the surrounding mangrove swamps, forests, and sandy white beaches on the carribean coast.

The Journey Hostel (photo credit to Booking.com)The Journey Hostel (photo credit to Booking.com)

I arrived at my hostel on Sunday afternoon, located 15 minutes away from the main entrance of the park. The next morning, I ventured out to Tayrona with a few friends from my hostel.

Tayrona Park is infamous for its long entrance lines and crowded beaches. But when we visited, the lines were short and the beaches uncongested. On top of that, the weather was beautiful. No rain at all despite the forecast.

En routeEn route

Tayrona has several beaches. Not all of them are swimmable due to strong currents. The most popular beach, Cabo San Juan, was a nearly two hour hike through the park. We hiked, ate lunch, and lounged at the beach until the late afternoon. Eventually, a few friends had to head back to the hostel before it got dark. Lily, Kaya, and I opting to spend a night in the park sleeping on the rentable hammocks.

One of several beaches in Tayrona. This one isn’t swimmable.One of several beaches in Tayrona. This one isn’t swimmable.

The camp was nice and cosy. The washrooms and showers were simple yet clean and functional. Electricity was available in the camp but only for a few hours. There was also no wifi which gave us a chance to disconnect. Usually in communal areas, many people are scrolling their phones. When there isn’t that option, I find we’re able to connect with eachother on a deeper level.

Don Pedro Camp at Tayrona (Photo credits to Pitchup)Don Pedro Camp at Tayrona (Photo credits to Pitchup)

Sleeping outdoors in the wild was a cool experience that I’d love to do again. Once the camp’s generator deactivated at 11pm all I could hear was the jungle coming to life (other than the one dude snoring loudly beside us): insects chirping, animals howling, and leaves rustling. At the break of dawn, the sun and the cuckooing roosters served as a natural alarm clock.

Hammocks at the camp (Photo credits to Pitchup)Hammocks at the camp (Photo credits to Pitchup)

The next morning Lily, Kaya, Doreen - a new friend that we shared our hammock area with - joined us on the Monkey trail guided by Alfie - another friend we met at the camp - but unfortunately we didn’t see any. Instead, we hiked and spent the afternoon relaxing on the beach sipping some fruit juice and eating ceviche.

After eating, we made the long hike back to our hostel, arriving there just before the thunderstorm, sweaty, exhausted, and satisfied.

May 13, 2022

Swinging the Pendulum

My normal life is about work, productivity, routine, and achieving goals.

My travel life is about play, presence, spontaneity, and non-goals.

Many advocate for both the former and latter lifestyles. During this trip, I wanted to swing the pendulum in both extremes and come up with my own opinions.

May 12, 2022

Deep Meaningful Connections

I’ve met more people, and made more friends, during the past three weeks of travel than during any other three week time period.

Here’s a reminder that the key to deep meaningful connections is curiosity and presence.

May 11, 2022

Stuff I Enjoyed Recently (5.10.2022)

May 10, 2022

How to Cook a Can of Tuna

Every once in a while I come across a trick that blows my mind. Today, a few friends showed me how to cook a can of tuna with just five sheets of toilet paper and a lighter using a technique used in the military.

First, open the can of tuna then lay the five sheets of toilet paper on top of the open can. Press down on the toilet paper so that the middle is soaked in the oil. Next, light the toilet paper, the toilet paper and eventually the oil from the can will begin to burn. Leave the can for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes it should be done cooking. Now you have delicious smoked Tuna!

May 9, 2022

South America Day 14-17: Minca

After Salento, I took a short flight to Santa Marta and from Santa Marta I took a taxi to Minca. Minca’s a small town renowned for its natural beauty. It serves as a nice tranquil, break from the classic backpacking trail.

I stayed at Mundo Nuevo hostel, a former coffee farm transformed into a hostel and my favourite hostel so far. Since we were perched on top of a mountain we had impeccable views of the surrounding landscape.

I arrived there in the late afternoon, just in time to watch the sunset. The entire hostel gathered at the viewpoint and watched the sunset in silence. It was a beautiful moment.

After watching the sunset, it was dinner time. Our hostel was a isolated from Minca so everyone eats dinner together which is an awesome way to meet other people from the hostel.

The next day, my friend Paloma and I hiked to the Marinka waterfalls. It was about a two hour hike from our hostel to the waterfall but halfway into the hike it started to pour rain. Along the trail we found a dingy tent and took shelter trying to wait the rain out. After staying there for more than an hour, no end to the storm in sight. We called the hike off and hitched a ride on a passing by Jeep that dropped us off in Minca were we had a nice lunch and some cold beers. We didn’t end up seeing the Marinka Falls but it’s about the journey not the destination right?

Other than the hiking, mountain-biking, bird-watching, coffee tours etc. another popular activity in Minca is to do absolutely nothing. Whether it be meditating, doing yoga, day dreaming, listening to music, or just enjoying the view. Minca is the perfect place to relax.

May 8, 2022

Travel Tales

After a long day of travelling, hiking, and activities, one of my favourite parts of travel is cracking open a cold beer after dinner and exchanging travel stories.

I heard all sorts of stories from other travellers such as a 5-day visit to North Korea, a life-changing Ayahuasca retreat, a three month stint volunteering for a Colombian children’s school, a multiple days hike through the Amazon jungle, and the numerous tales of friends getting lost or scammed. It’s all part of the experience.

Whether I experience it first-hand or I inhereit the stories from others, these experiences make up the mosaic of my travel experience.

May 7, 2022

Tropical and Temperate Forests

The other day I took a mini excursion to a Colombian rainforest. Our guide was an environmentalist that lived in that same forest and told us about a difference between tropical and temperate forests.

The individual flora in a tropical environment don’t live long, but together the tropical forest is lively, thriving, and resilient.

But in temperate environments like Canada, the individual flora live long (think of the evergreen tree) but the ecosystem together isn’t as biodiverse and lively.

In short, tropical forests have weak individuals and strong teams, and temperate forests have strong individuals and weak teams.

I thought that was interesting.

May 6, 2022

South America Days 12-14: Salento

I wasn’t sure where I was going next after Medellin. The last day of my stay there, on the suggestion of my friends Aaron and Kate, I booked a bus and accommodations the next day for Salento, a small, charming town that inspired the disney animated film Encanto. Unfortunately, I got sick and I wasn’t able to join them on the bus ride. After spending two days recovering, I felt healthy enough to travel to Salento.

There, I stayed at the Coffee Tree Hostel which had beautiful views of the surrounding town.

The next day, I took a Jeep from the town square to the Cocora Valley for a day hike to see the famous wax palm trees. There I met Erick and Gary from Costa Rica, they didn’t speak much English but it was the perfect opportunity to practice my Spanish. The park itself was beautiful. There wasn’t much people, the air was fresh, and the landscapes were gorgeous.

After the hike, I treated myself to some trout. Nearly every restaurant in Salento has trout on the menu.

Though I wasn’t in Salento for long, I loved the town. It was a welcomed contrast to the hustle and party culture of Bogotá and Medellin. It was naturally beautiful and I could spend my days doing nothing, guilt-free.

May 5, 2022

Hygge

Recently I learned a new untranslatable word from my Danish friend called hygge.

Hygge is a quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being.

It’s a term that describes the Danish spirit and may be why they are know as the happiest people on Earth.

May 4, 2022

Onward Ticket

Even though I’m on vacation I can’t help but admire interesting products when I see them. One of my favourites is Onward Ticket.

As a backpacker, I’ve only bought one-way tickets, sometimes a day before my actual flight. This allows for flexibility and spontaneity. Maybe I’ll meet a friend and I want to travel with them, or maybe there’s this new destination that another backpacker recommended and I just have to go there. However, when travelling across country borders, often customs will ask for a return flight and they won’t let you pass without one.

Onward ticket solves this problem by booking a fake return flight for 14USD. The flight is even verifiable through the airlines website.

This is a problem that I didn’t even know there was a solution to. It sounds kinda ridiculous, yet, today was the third time I had this service recommended to me. This is an example of a finding a niche (in this case vagabonders, digital nomads, and backpackers) and solving a painpoint they have.

May 3, 2022

First Impressions of Medellin

*Unfortunately, I barely took any pictures in Medellin

I asked a few fellow backpackers travelling around Colombia what their favourite city is and many of them said Medellin. When I was checking out of my hostel in Bogotá, I told the front desk dude that I was going to Medellin next and he said, You’re just getting started”. Before stepping foot in Medellin, I heard a lot of hype about the city. After spending a week there, here are a few thoughts:

While I did enjoy my time in Medellin, personally, I didn’t think it was for me. I was there for almost a week due to Spanish classes and unfortunately I got sick over the weekend but I would’ve left sooner if I had the chance. While I do enjoy partying and clubbing occasionally, I felt like that was all there was to do in the city.

May 2, 2022

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