TEDx Drobeta-Turnu-Severin (Romania, November ’18)

My TEDxDrobetaTurnuSeverin talk is out 😀 I want to thank my friend Dana once again for bringing all those speakers, volunteers and audience together, and for inviting me to be one of them.

I don’t mind the title given by the publisher, though that’s not quite the question i’m asking — what i’m wondering is whether we’re not confusing privileges for basic needs. Western society sets us up to prioritize the former, crystalizing an ever narrower and more homogeneously accepted notion of what constitutes a position of advantage. Attaining (or maintaining) that doesn’t always yield contentment.

In hindsight, i acknowledge that having the resources to ponder over the distinction between needs and privileges is itself a tremendous privilege, and i should have made that explicit in the presentation — i wanted to emphasize that this privilege is cast wider than many of us notice, and might have made neither point salient enough.

There are some issues with the audio towards the end. Rather than compromising the result, i’d like to think they enrich it. You’re invited to think about the way i dealt with the problem at the event (and the editors dealt with it afterward) as a metaphor for what i wanted to say — indeed, it was when the microphone stopped working that i finally woke up — i wish it had happened in the beginning :p

Other than that, i still stand for the bulk of what i said — i hope i will manage to pack my message more clearly, and deliver it with more confidence and energy in the future. I also hope my name in the video title will be changed to Mika, which is more than just a pen name to me.

Thank you for watching 🙂

Featured photo: courtesy of TEDxDrobetaTurnuSeverin

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Trelograms #28 — Beware of People in [Fill in Your Next Country]

Speaking of borders, i was recently watching long-term traveler Tomislav Perko’s stimulating TEDxTUHH talk. His remarks towards the end resonated with something i’ve experienced myself traveling overland across international borders:

Incidentally, i first remember experiencing that when crossing from Croatia to Serbia as well — i was warned by one of my acquaintances that Serbians are xenophobes to be approached with caution.

Passing from Serbia to Romania, i was advised (at least twice that i can clearly remember) to keep my possessions always within sight, and be very watchful of the sneaky Gypsies, who will take any opportunity to rob me — “they believe they have been cursed, and have no other choice but to live like that,” said one of my acquaintances.

Leaving Romania into Ukraine, i was discouraged by the border officer to proceed into a country at war.

In Ukraine, i was then warned by another host to expect rampant corruption from authorities in Belarus — and so the anecdotes continued . . .

Granted, the Croatia-Serbia-Romania-Ukraine-Belarus outline above was the longest border-to-border streak i can account for. I also don’t know what percentage of the underlying populations is represented by each of these anecdotes — these are just notes and memories from some of the occasional conversations i manage to have at length and in clear English on my way.

If you’ve been following me, you know that my experience has been dramatically different — some Serbians have become my warmest friends from the road, and Romanians have actually offered me money (cash) on the road at a greater rate (times per days traveled) than anywhere else i’ve traveled — that must be the exact opposite of being robbed!

I have also felt safer from violence in West Ukraine than in just about any other place i’ve lived before (except Denmark), and i haven’t had to pay any bribes into, in or out of Belarus, at least not so far.

Just a couple of generations ago, Germany invaded Poland marking what is widely held in the West as the beginning of World War II. I felt especially joyful being able to cross the (now open) border between the two nations along a cycle path and a beach where Germans, Poles and any other affiliations around may refresh themselves without even knowing in which side of that imaginary line they might be peeing.

I hope more controlled borders between nation states will also become beaches, parks, monuments or museums across which nobody feels pressed to give travelers any nationally charged warnings.

Featured photo: cycle touring across the Polish-German border from Swinoujscie to Ahlbeck (Summer ’16)

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Trelograms’ is a wordplay between ‘telegram’ and ‘trélos’ (Greek for ‘mad’)

Trelograms: inspiration; cycle touring, hitchhiking; worldwide

Trelograms #26 — “Don’t Forget to Shower”

— “you may even want to use some soap,” said my partner the other day, just before heading out.

Anybody who knows me will attest that i don’t normally like to shower any more than i enjoy doing the dishes — it’s a largely instrumental procedure. Perhaps for that same reason, bathing when i’m on the road is a priority — i do it every evening, with very rare exceptions!

“And how/where the hell do you do it,” people interested in my process will often ask?

My partner especially loves to bathe — she’ll actually soak in the bathtub for at least half an hour almost every morning — this is one of her greatest sources of apprehension about our upcoming journey later this year. Even if i don’t care that much about a shower at the end of a whole day sitting in front of the computer, a whole day on the road has always been a whole other story — the uncertainty of an evening bath was also one of my greatest sources of apprehension until i got used to the wealth of solutions available out there.

In hindsight, there’s actually nothing exceptionally creative or unusual about them. Besides the occasional “standard” showers you’ll still find at some of your hosts’, you’ll also find lots of lakes, creeks, rivers, waterfalls, beaches, buckets and ladles (photo below), public restroom sinks, rest stops, locker rooms at the local public pool or whatever, portable camping showers (photo below) — plus all the variations and inconspicuous implementations therein — and counting.

I’ll add that, no matter how cold the water is, it’s totally worth it — and i’ve bathed from glacial streams in Iceland to a partially frozen lake in the Romanian Carpathians — “freezing cold” was not an understatement in either of those cases!

Even if none of that is available, or if you don’t have access to much water or it’s polluted (i always ask the locals), i will still take a “surgical” bath with my water bottle (use your imagination) — just about half a liter of water has turned out to be plenty.

By the way, i also change and wash my underwear every day. If there’s not enough water for that where i stopped for the night, i’ll just do it at the first gas station along my way next morning, and then hang it to dry throughout the day on my rear rack 🙂

So, if you want to clean up at the end of the day, you will find a way — many ways — you might even wonder whether it isn’t that shower back home which is the most unusual and counterintuitive of all methods?

Featured photo: A skinny dip in the Neman River, Lithuania ( Summer ’17 )

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Trelograms’ is a wordplay between ‘telegram’ and ‘trélos’ (Greek for ‘mad’)

Trelograms: inspiration; cycle touring, hitchhiking, hiking; worldwide

Trelograms #24 — Checklists

The Check Yourself episode of Hidden Brain (one of my favorite podcasts these days) talks about checklists — a simple productivity hack that hurts the egos of some and saves the lives of many.

Unlike pilots and surgeons, i can’t be sure my checklists have saved a life. They have no doubt saved me a fair amount of time and spared me a fair amount of stress though — even, perhaps especially after hundreds of nights outdoors, i don’t know how i’d manage to pack for a five-day hike (in the middle of unpacking from having just moved into a new place) without a checklist.

I’ve been a fan of checklists for a long time now. I’m particularly fond of my grocery shopping system, which i employ at home as well as on the road:

  1. Anything i remember or notice i need to buy goes first into an inbox where i collect everything else that asks for my attention, GTD-style (more on that some other time);
  2. I regularly process this inbox, adding the “grocery store stuff” to the “grocery shopping list” — tomatoes, toothpaste, if i can get it at the supermarket or from the grannies across the street from it, then it goes on that list;
  3. I regularly budget time to go do the groceries;
  4. When the time for it comes, doing the groceries is then best described as a mission to complete that checklist as effectively as i can;
  5. I allow myself at most one “wild card” item per shopping trip — something not on the list because i only thought about it at the store, an improvised treat to myself, or a random new item to be tried out — believe it or not, anything that comes to mind during the shopping process goes into the inbox, and won’t make it into my shopping basket until the next trip!

I acknowledge this rigidity might have caused some psychological pain to the occasional shopping companion unfamiliar with my process. It has nevertheless saved me a fair amount of time and energy — then available to be spent in situations where i don’t mind inefficiency at all — for instance, long-distance hiking 🙂

Featured photo: (un)packing upon moving in ( Fall ’19 )

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Trelograms’ is a wordplay between ‘telegram’ and ‘trélos’ (Greek for ‘mad’)

Trelograms: inspiration; cycle touring, hitchhiking, hiking; worldwide

Trelograms #23 — I’m Not Special

I’ve heard it many times and rather frequently — and not just from my mother! — that i’m special.

If you think i’m special because i’m willing to relocate, leaving behind family, close friends, career prospects and large fractions of my belongings to follow yet another exciting opportunity, whether it takes me to Scandinavian utopia or post-Soviet disrepair, then you probably don’t follow enough travel blogs.

If you think i’m special because i’ve pledged to donate 10% of my gross income to the best poverty-relief charity that i’m currently aware of — and kept up with that pledge through my self-unemployment — then you should check out the effective altruism folks who have been dedicating 100% of their resources to that and other, potentially more relevant causes.

If you think i’m special because i’m able to travel on a $5–10/day budget for five months, then you must not have met my friend Bogdan, who has done that for two years on about $1/day — not to mention that his tour took place largely in Western Europe, including countries especially notorious for their prohibitive costs such as Denmark, where we first met. There are many others like him you’ll bump into on the road whom you haven’t heard about just because they don’t have blogs or facegrams.

If you think i’m special because i’ve been hospitable (and courageous) to welcome “strangers” from hospitality networks into my home, then you might not have met or heard about the hundreds of literal strangers along my way who have invited me into their own homes (and cars) having nothing on me besides their gut reaction from first looking at me.

By the day, it seems to me that there exist essentially two kinds of people — those who know they’re amazing, and those who haven’t yet found out — we’re all fabulous in varied ways and degrees, and that makes none of us special.

Featured photo: the Bourbaki symbol for the empty set — my favorite Math concept

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Trelograms’ is a wordplay between ‘telegram’ and ‘trélos’ (Greek for ‘mad’)

Trelograms: inspiration; worldwide