Friday, September 9, 2011

Summer 2011 Update

Note: It's September and I find myself at my childhood home in San Diego for my annual 'visit' of my hometown.    Before I launch into a series of general-interest blogs, I thought I'd give a quick personal update on my travels.  So to explain how I moved from Spain to Argentina to the States, let's start the story three months ago, back in May when I was still living in San Sebastián...

Leaving The Basque Country...

I was getting restless in San Sebastián. After two years of a relatively settled life in Spain I was itching to get back on the road. At night I lay in bed awake, craving more certainty, adventure, and danger.

My closest buddies in San Sebastián
My life was moving in the opposite direction. I was making good friends in the Basque Country, starting to put down roots. My Spanish reached a level near fluency, and now the next step was Basque. And as my writing career continued to develop I began focus more and more and Spain, and I worried about getting pigeonholed. I wrote a guidebook on the Basque Country, opening up even more reasons for me to stay put.

Yet my soul respects no frontiers. Two years after my wanderings through Asia, I felt an irrepressible urge to pack my things in a backpack and go with the wind. I turned long weekends into freewheeling hitchhiking jaunts across Spain, doing whatever I could to hone my vagabonding skills. With my thumb out along the roads of Navarra and Aragon, I felt an inner peace and contentment I had almost forgotten.

With Friends in San Sebastián - Santo Tomás
Summer came quickly and the year was suddenly over. My lease expired on my apartment on May 31st and I had no plans henceforth. With no job and no apartment I knew I would have to get creative if I wanted to keep up the momentum. But what to do? Where to go?

The answer was clear in my heart: I wanted to sail. I'd talked to a few people who had worked as a deckhand – the entry-level position of seafaring – and heard stories of adventure and good pay, up to 2500€ a month with living expenses covered. I was sold - that was over triple what I made as an English teacher. I packed up my life in the Basque Country and booked a flight to Palma de Mallorca, with only a vague notion of how to make it happen.

Practicality has never been my forte. For one, I had very little money. San Sebastián is an exceedingly expensive city and my scholarship paid very little. Much of what I'd managed to save had been invested into writing my guidebook, leaving almost nothing for summertime adventures.

Moreover, over half of my savings would have to be invested in to a sailing certification called the STCW 95, a near requisite for sailors. But it was a “near” requisite, and I was determined to hold off on procuring the expensive piece of paper until I had both my feet on Majorcan soil. If I could become a sailor without dropping over half my net worth, by god I would save the silver.

Previous Sailing Experience
But there was an even larger challenge before me – my painful, glaring, complete and embarrassing lack of sailing experience. I've made some bold moves before, but this bordered on stupidity. Though I'd always harbored dreams of sailing the world, they'd remained just that – dreams. I'd failed to bring them from abstraction to reality. In fact, the only picture I have of me sailing sits upon my father's office desk - a ten-year old Marko piloting a dinghy across a lake, white knuckles gripping the helm, life jacket raising above my ears, and my mouth wide open. Screaming in terror.

In short, this would be a journey of personal growth. There would be obstacles to overcome, but after wrapping up my first guidebook I felt confident and ready for another challenge. Excited, anxious, unqualified and unprepared, I departed the Basque Country and flew to Palma de Mallorca