Banos

A few of the Peace Corps trainees and I went to Banos (gringo, outdoor adventure-filled city) for a short weekend trip. I think we all needed to get away from site for a night.

No curfew. No training. No street dogs of Nayon.

Just 8 trainees in an Air BnB canyoning, zip-lining, biking, hiking, drinking craft beer, listening to terrible music and dead leg dancing our way through town.

This is our adventure summed up in a few minutes.

Roadtrip

Two girls. Two states. A few thousand miles of driving. Three national parks. 10 days.

Having the reflex of looking in my non-existent side mirrors as I am walking because I drove over two thousand miles in 10 days. Eating fast-food as that is the only place open. Knowing how far down to put the window while driving so that any flatulence does not disturb the other passenger. Singing songs at the top of our lungs. Listening to a song over and over and over. Sitting in silence. Looking at the stars outside while driving through the desert. Peeing on the side of the road with only a cactus as cover. Looking at a map upside down for five minutes before turning it right side up. Pressing the lock button a hundred times when getting out of the vehicle. Sleeping in hostels, the car, a motel, an old converted school bus.

Oh, and this also happened…

Girls Weekend

It’s 9am and I am on a train to Cornwall for a three day girls only weekend. 

I’ll be honest, I might not survive this.

Also, I am a bit unsteady about walking up to a small town (population 100,000) with a proper born and raised East Londoner and a small town girl from the city we are going to but is now covered in tattoos and probably won’t be recognized in her own hometown. 

It’ll be one for the history books. 
These are the kinds of girls that when you think you’ve had a bit too much, they hand you a shot. The kind of girls that don’t stop and offer you a mimosa at 8 in the morning. 

No, I am not exaggerating.
It’s simple. If you are able to handle your liquor then you were welcome to the weekend. If not, please try again next year. 

I passed the test. 
However, I am not big on drinking but with my departure rapidly approaching, I could not pass up a weekend with the girls who were there at my lows, at my highs, occasionally being my eyes and ears and knocking the sense back into me when I was hung up on stupid boys. 

They are the kind of girls you’d like to have around. 

Also, a born and raised east Londoner will have your back in any situation though I have to give a bit of credit to one of my Irish housemates who when he thought I was upset over a boy, was waiting for a cue from another housemate in case he had to walk in with his bottle of alcohol. It might not be the healthiest method of recovery but we are in England, what did you expect? 
Now only a few hours before we walk into our chalet for the weekend. 

Cornwall, you do not know what is going to hit you.

Goodbye Gothenburg

I had to admit, it was strange waking up and not meeting up with Adam. We had been glued to one another for the past few days that I almost didn’t know what to do with myself when I woke up. It was officially my last day in Gothenburg and I was finally going to spend it alone like I had originally intended for my entire trip…well, almost.

IMG_2553.jpg

I ended up walking along the canal, taking pictures and soaking in the last few rays of sun before heading back to grey old London. I sent a picture to Hugo near the canal as a hint to where I was. Apparently, water, boat, and tree was not detailed enough as he took a while to get there. He then took me on his own tour of Gothenburg which involved sitting next to the famous fish market in the city and eating salad. (He was hungover and slowly recovering). We joked about how watching him eat salad was an event not to miss in the city. We talked and walked around until I eventually had to take my bus to the airport.

IMG_2635.jpg

It was a relatively uneventful day and as I made my way through the airport, I thought about all the people I had met during my stay. I thought about the first night I met Adam. I thought about how two people in similar situations ended up finding each other and spending their entire trip together. Funny how that works. I thought about Hugo and all the people I met at Hops, my local bar. I thought about the conversations we had until 4 in the morning. I thought about how upon meeting him he seemed strangely familiar to me, like we had met before, (he said the same). Sometimes you meet people in completely different situations, in completely different parts of the world, but somehow you meet them again with a new face, in a new city, randomly (or not). I thought about Alex, the person who brought me to Gothenburg. I thought about whether or not I would see him again. Its rare to find true friendship in big cities, especially when its opposing genders but somehow we managed. I thought about how I was supposed to be on my own for the majority of this holiday and ended up never having time to myself. I thought about all these things which to me seemed like hours but in reality only lasted a few minutes.

Lastly, I thought about going home. I thought about how the next few weeks would be the last time I would call London “home”. Growing up, I named several cities, countries, continents home. Then I noticed that when I would move I would always think of home as the place where the person I was romantically involved with was. Eventually that changed and it became the place where I lived. It had taken me a couple years to finally think of London as home and I knew that as soon as I thought of it as that, I would want to move again. Now, here I was. A couple more weeks and I would go back to Paris and then to Houston, back where I started. I would go back to the diving board for a while before diving off again to another country, another city, another job…constantly moving until that one day comes where I don’t feel the need to move anymore. A time where the diving board no longer exists and all that is left is a pool I would finally grow roots in.

 

Last Day

I woke up sweating with the Swedish sun blazing in my eyes. My body ached as I rolled out of bed and into the shower. The day before had taken its toll and I hadn’t had the reparative sleep I was hoping for.

Regardless I managed to get clothes on and take the tram into the city to meet Adam. It was our last full day in Gothenburg and we had plans to make the most of it. We walked around and had coffee in the center and then walked along the canal for lunch near the market. We then continued on and hopped on a boat tour that was to take us through the canals to view the boat along the dock. There was a boat race that had just ended in Gothenburg and we were lucky enough to see them all lined up.

P1016230.jpg

We then walked to the botanical gardens nearby and had a drink in the sun. I dozed off a bit as Adam walked around taking pictures.

P1016228.jpg

By this time it was already 6 pm so we had dinner together and then walked back to Hops, our local pub, for a couple drinks with the people we had met during our stay. Hugo tried to get us to stay out until he closed but my feet were aching and Adam was going to wake up in four hours to take his flight back home. Instead, I made plans to met Hugo the following day for a tour of the city before hopping on my flight later on that night.

P1016249.jpg

This was it. My trip was coming to and end though, now I thought of it as “our trip” for I had spent all my time roaming the streets with my new buddy Adam. We said our goodbyes and made plans to meet up before I left for Houston. Its funny how a trip alone turned out to be a trip were I met a new friend(s).
This wouldn’t be the last time I’d see Adam, that was certain.

P1016232.jpg

Getting Lost in Gothenburg

P1016242.jpgI was knackered and a bit hungover from the night we had roaming the streets of Gothenburg but I was determined to go sight seeing a bit instead of passing out in a park.

I walked along the canal and ended up in the city center. I desperately tried to find a charger but failed and managed to charge at a local coffee shop for a bit before heading down the canal and unto a tram to Brad’s place. He was not in until 5 so I walked further down the waterfront to a museum for lunch and coffee. The sun was shining down hard but the breeze from the water made it bearable. 

I started thinking about what I was going to do on my own for the next few days. I didn’t know anyone and I didn’t know if there was much to do in the city. I had met a few people the night before but we all know how that goes…you make plans but then never hear from them again. (I would find out I was wrong and end up making memorable friendships.) I thought, “well this is what you wanted, to travel on your own.” 

I then walked back to Brad’s when he got home and chatted with him for a bit before making my way down to Hops, the local that I would become a local at during my stay in Gothenburg. Adam, the English man I met the night before and I had a couple of drinks and dinner there and made loose plans for hanging out during our stay (we ended up being glued together during our whole trip). We chatted a bit more to the locals (we all know how chatty I am) and then said our goodbyes (until tomorrow).

Not the most eventful day but at least tonight I would get to sleep on a couch and not the floor. Also, it is always nice to get away from the city of ants where we are all stacked up on top of each other. 

I had no plans for the following day apart from meeting Adam and Hugo at some point. I would just use the Laura method of waking up and figuring it out, going with the flow…it hasn’t failed me yet. 

Just landed 

I have made it to Gothenburg and I already have stories to tell. The plane ride was eventful to say the least. It was a tiny airplane with over half of it filled with Swedish men quite possibly on a stag do. They occupied the five rows in front, four behind and 7 rows next to my seat. I was surrounded. Over 50 tall, blonde, blue eyed Swedish boys and not a single girl in sight. It was safe to say I stood out like a sore thumb. I won’t lie though, there are worse situations I can think of being in but I was exhausted and our half Swedish, half broken English conversation didn’t get us very far but apparently I agreed to have a drink with them this weekend. Also, they were all kind enough to offer their couch if this mysterious “Brad” ended up being a weirdo.

Brilliant. I was not even in Sweden yet and I already made 50 friends, and got hit on about 40 times within the two hour and a half plane ride. 

Upon arriving, I followed Brad’s instructions and took a bus into the city. On my bus ride I finally got a message from my friend Alex, asking me where I was. 

Alex: “Where are you?”

Laura: “I have no idea.”

Alex: “What does the last stop on the map say?” 

Laura: “Gothenburg City.”

Alex: “Well at least you are in the right place.” 

Laura: “It also says beraknad ankomat? Does that mean anything?”

Alex: “That means estimated time of arrival.” 

Laura: “Oh right well I’m lost then.”

We did eventually find each other central and had a drink along the canal. A couple hours later I met up with Brad, who I now know is Canadian and went with him to an after work in a bar not too far from his house. Alex met back up with us and we spent the night wandering the streets with an Irish mate of Brad’s, Adam, a Londoner we met at the bar, and Hugo, the bartender who had just gone on his break. 

Brad left early which meant that at about two in the morning I had no idea where his place was. We had been walking in zig zags for hours through town. I debated sleeping in a park at one point but eventually crashed on the floor in Alex’s living room with his 18 year old step brother and his friend. 

Apparently when you say you are American, it makes you an expert on all things American because I then spent an hour answering all the questions they had about living in the United States, whether or not I owned a gun and if I supported Donald Trump. 

It was a long night. 

The next day, his step dad walked in in the morning wearing a robe and handed me a cup of tea. 

“Welcome to my hotel, he said.” 

This greeting wiped away any embarrassment. 

I then took a quick tour of the house before leaving as it was too dark to visit the night before and realized that my modest Swedish friend was in fact loaded. Indeed, I was in a “hotel”. There were over 6 rooms, huge dining room, balcony with a view of the center.

I thought about all the pints we split and dinners we had together because we were broke in London. I guess I know why he’s back now. 

I left Alex around ten in the morning as he had to pack for his trip to Berlin. We hugged and said “see you later” as if to say we would see each other again. 

Who knows we might end up wreaking havoc in Ecuador together. 

Happy birthday Alex, hope you had a good one.