Guatemala, Jaguars, Youth hostels and El Salvador…

We entered Guatemala on the Holy Friday of Easter and immediately felt better about leaving Belize early. Unlike the border town of San Ignacio, there were no shortage of open shops, places to eat or people on the streets. However, another problem arose because of the holiday – public transport was non-existant at the time. The taxis offering rides at customs did not look trustworthy, so we decided to hitch-hike again.

After getting our hands full of some local Quetzals, we walked at least 5 kilometers unsuccessfully stopping cars. Scorching heat and no shade was too much to bear until we gave up and accepted a ride from a random local. Entering the National Park of Tikal after 3 PM allowed us to stay overnight in the camping area where we rented a few hammocks. A deck of cars, couple of beers and a nice fire were the ingredients for an easy evening.

Staying overnight 17 kilometers deep into the Jungle of Tikal is a different experience in itself. Surroundings come to life slowly – from the greenish blinking firefly in the grass to the scary roars of Jaguars all around you. Even a few steps inside the Jungle in search of wood makes you shiver and hope there aren’t any eyes following your steps. Once I am asleep, not many things can wake me, but my friend was afraid even to get out of the hammock the whole night. The next morning we had one of those breath-taking moments, while enjoying amazing views of the endless Jungle from the Temple IV. It was perfect weather to explore one of the largest archaeological sites of Maya civilization, which is believed to have had a population of up to 90,000 inhabitants in the glory days.

Next stop was youth hostel in Flores – a tiny island on the Lake Peten Itza. Meeting fellow backpackers is bound to make you drink more beers and share awesome stories. I treated myself to some tasty and cheap food throughout our stay, while topping it with more puffs of the green stuff. Our decision on the next destination was influenced by other travelers from hearing stories about this place, called Semuc Champey.

The whole journey to the town of Lanquin took 9 hours, quite a trip, considering the fact that we drove 256 km. Funny how Google maps label it as a 3,5 hour ride. Just so you know, central Guatemala has a few mountains, combining it with crappy roads and way too many speed bumps, oh, our shuttle managed to run out of gas as well. However, everything was forgotten from the first sight of our new place. The Zephyr Lodge is located on top of the mountain, with the river flowing at the bottom and the picture perfect scenery can be soaked in from the bar, room, patio or even a shower (!).

The first night started gazing at the stars and the “reversed” Big Dipper with a guy from US and a girl from Birmingham along with the shared spliff of peace. The morning hike took care of the hangover remains, a swim in the natural pools of Semuc Champey washed all the sweat and an expedition to the underground caves made for the perfect day. Four nights in the hostel were plenty of time to party hard, achieve the world-class laziness, smack beers tubing down the river, test out hammocks or continue promoting Lithuania as a travel destination.

After another 9 hour ass-torching ride we reached Antigua – the most touristy town in Guatemala. Having breakfast with the volcano in the background or admiring the architecture of Spanish Baroque were not the worst ways to spend time. We also met at least 10 people from our previous hostels, confirming that we are in that same Gringo Trail. Antigua is perfect for a day trip, but if you are not planning to climb any volcanoes around, enroll in Spanish lessons or party hard(er), there is not that much to do. Add to being way over the travel budget and two nights sound about right with the last destination in this country looming.

Lake Atitlan is an actual crater of a Volcano and is considered one of Guatemala’s true gems with mountains, other volcanoes and settlements creating one-of-a-kind environment. The town of San Pedro is a tiny rendition of Amsterdam (or Vancouver) for another specific matter. Even though we didn’t hit the weather on the spot this time, there were plenty of activities for the three days. Boat rides around the lake, random hiking/climbing, benefits of the sauna or horse-back riding combined with frozen chocolate bananas or to die for. Since the sky wasn’t gracious enough to give us at least one clear day, we decided to move down south, skipping a few other things. After a quick introduction to the Pacific ocean in Monterrico it was time for another coastal town in El Salvador.

The original plan of an overnight stay in El Tunco was broken up instantly. A simple hostel at the heart of town, steps away from the beach and a whole bunch of cool people. From locals to Aussies, crazy Germans or chilled out Americans. Quite a few first times too – hitching a truck, riding the waves, jumping waterfalls or making out with Salvadorian chicas. I would lie if I said my leg was never shaking before getting airborne from a 15 meter waterfall to splash into the water. I would also regret if I would not push myself that extra step in moments like these. Lots of fruit for breakfast, smoothies with rum, beers overlooking the waves, getting smacked by the pacific waters and flipping the crazy switch for Saturday’s fiesta loca. Saying the four days were just entertaining would be a vast understatement, at least.

We left El Tunco by sticking out the thumb once again. A few rides in the back of a pick-up truck, arriving in Honduras in total darkness and the tale continues…

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12 days in Mexico – Vamos a la Playa, Maya and Hitch-Hiking…

Starting the summer early this year was something I planned to do for a while. It is hard not to fall in love with a lifestyle, where flip-flops are more important than my beloved black coat. The beautiful beaches in Vancouver made me addicted to sand and the ocean, so I planned to visit Thailand after my Working Holiday in Canada. My friend wanted to travel to India, so we decided on Mexico. Mind you, Caribbean Sea is not too shabby of a destination as well.

It all started when I met my friend at the Cancun airport. I brought two  mickeys of Fireball (yes, that disgustingly awesome cinnamon whiskey) from Canada and we popped one open immediately at the bus stop. We met our first Couchsurfers¹ a couple of hours later and decided to get some more beverages for the evening. The next few days were filled with a lot of sun, street tacos, little sleep, oh, and did I mention the color of the Caribbean? Truly amazing Sea, combined with the warm breeze and soft sand. Bob Marley songs, chicas morenas, micheladas², stupid things at night and a totally different approach to daily life.

Next stop – Playa del Carmen, another party town going south, just an hour away. This time we stayed with a friend back from my high school, who has been working and enjoying the benefits of Playa for a while. Three Lithuanian party animals in Mexico sounded just too good. Once again, plenty of Dos Equis beer buckets on the beach, tequilla shots, food of the local specialty and even more night clubs. This town definitely beats Cancun in the convenience category as the beach is just steps away from anywhere you walk around. After four sleepless nights, we thanked our friend for the stay and moved on.

The first break from partying came when we reached Tulum, a backpacker rather than a tourist destination. The Mexican host took us to the (in)famous Maya calendar in the Town square and of course showed the cheapest place to get beer. We rented bikes the other day, enjoyed fresh fruit on the beautiful beach, had the first taste of Mexican marijuana and  went to wash the salt of the sea away in a cenote.³ I would recommend Tulum for everyone who is tired of the constant clubbing in resort towns and wants to just relax on the beach. At least for a day trip.

Hitch-hiking was something we decided to try next, since the Yucatan area in Mexico is one of the safest, there would not be problems. Sure enough, waving our host goodbye and sticking our thumbs out, we had to wait just 10 minutes for the first ride. The guy was driving home to Merida for the weekend and spoke only Spanish, which was perfect for improving my language skills. I realized that I lost my Spanish – English phrasebook in Tulum, which literally sucks, although I am over it now. Along the way, we made a stop at one of the new Seven World Wonders – Chichen Itza. It is believed to have been one of the largest Mayan populated cities, with a lot of secrets covering the surroundings. We came at a very touristy time, when there was a bunch of people walking around, inspite of that, the whole are takes your breath away. We were driven straight to the address of another new place in Merida.

I guess you get the picture by now – couchsurfing usually turns to beers as the starting point, continuing with a party well into the night. Oh god, they do like to party in Merida. After an introduction to the nightlife on the first evening, our host took us to a house where everybody was preparing to watch the Honduras – Mexico football match. The day started by curing hangover with micheladas, swimming in the pool, enjoying 40+ degrees and meeting a lot of great Mexican people. We were invited to different homes and treated very nicely, the whole day was full of house parties and went on without stopping. To be exact we came back home at around 7AM the next morning. One of the worst hangovers. Ever. A party that lasted around 20 hours and dehydration coupled with heat and humidity in Merida made us stay there one day extra. We still feel bad that we went to see the cool colonial city, but ended up just partying all the time. It was amazing in another sense though, just two random Lithuanians and a bunch new Mexican friends.

The next day, we managed to catch a couple more free rides before we reached Tulum. We went to say hi to our friend and stood on the road with a sign saying “Chetumal”, once again. When it seemed we were destined to spend the night in Tulum, another car stopped. It was a couple from Europe travelling around the world, lucky enough, they were going to the same destination. We enjoyed the great conversations from the start, views of a lightning storm like never before and a great dinner after the drive. We reached the only available youth hostel in town just before midnight and went to sleep immediately after the shower. Exhausted and happy, with the thoughts of Belize coming next.

The whole experience now feels like a big, endless party. There is still a long way to go, many places to see, many people to meet and more fun to be had. Time for youth hostels, for unexplored places, for travelling. Mexico was great, but I feel we are just getting started…

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¹Couchsurfing - for those of you who do not know…you are missing out. It is a safe, unconventional and an awesome way of travel, while meeting locals at the same time. Check it out!

²Michelada – a popular Mexican drink. Tomato/clamato juice mixed with beer with a lot of variations available – tabasco, salt, lime or whatever you feel like.

³Cenote – deep natural cave with fresh water, surrounded by stalactites and stalagmites. It is believed the sinkholes formed, because the meteor who killed dinosaurs hit the Yucatan area.

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That feeling is back or…from Cancun towards south…

As I am writing this piece, I find myself on one of the true gems of Canada. Sea-to-Sky Highway in British Columbia mesmerizes with a combination of snow covered mountains, ever green forests, frozen lakes, curvy rivers and blue skies above it all.

I still remember my first moments in this country like it was yesterday. I wanted to live in Vancouver, Whistler and experience the benefits of Road-tripping. I had no clue, but I had an idea, which was exactly what mattered most. Things have an unexplainable way of working out, as long as you believe and take action. Perfect way doesn’t exist for a traveler, but as Rolling Stones would say:

“You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometimes well you just might find
You get what you need…”

There’s a reason to use the word Beautiful whenever British Columbia is mentioned, just like on those license plates all around. Beautiful people, beautiful nature, beautiful life can be truly appreciated only by the ones living here. I feel very lucky to have had the opportunity of spending an amazing year of my life in Canada.

However, all good things come to an end, time to move on has come. The normal way would be to pack my bags and go home, but I am not prepared to take the easy route just yet. I feel like that junkie on the corner buying drugs, travel seems like an addiction.

A new journey awaits impatiently and I get goosebumps just thinking about it. The wait is finally over, backpack is ready, basics of Spanish are in my mind, no more planning is needed. Next stop – the country of tequila, sombrero and a lot of spicy experiences. If you go for it – you might as well go big!

This is the blueprint of my upcoming journey. It WILL be changed several times, for sure.

Hasta luego!

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Travelling, hangover of life and bears

After my summer in Vancouver, working hard, partying and enjoying downtown, I saved up a little money. Theoretically, I could’ve gone back to Lithuania and live for half a year without worrying about my budget. But what‘s the fun in that? So I went along with my roadtrip plans and moved to Whistler in November.

My new home is a three story house, surrounded by forests and mountains, a 10 minute bus ride away from the always-busy Village. I switched my ocean-view room, to a cozy corner in a basement. I met the warmest and most awesome elderly couple yet. The landlord is a true 75-year old Canadian, smoking doubies with his wife everyday from 4:20 PM. We also have a 50-something roommate who loves baking fresh brownies and cookies from her pot-butter reserve. A total of 9 people are living at this house, where days become slow and peaceful.

Whistler is a luxury resort town, attracting skiing and snowboarding junkies from all over the world. Endless count of restaurants, shops, pubs and disco’s make the Village a never-boring area. Every sign reminds you this being a bear country. Never feed them, never pretend dead and, most importantly, try not to surprise them. It’s not a problem through winter, but I was lucky enough to encounter one before the snow. Yes, lucky. Imagine standing outside of a bar, while an enormous teddy-bear shows up at the alley, looks up and glides past, 3 meters away from our group, only to disappear in the dark. Not your usual cat or dog.

While I brought back a lot of memories on my SD card from the trip, my other card reminded my bankrupt balance, enough for maybe a rough week. I can call October the best month of my short years, while November has to be on the other side of the list, starting from scratch once again. It‘s not fun barely making rent, getting 2 shifts a week or making pasta every day. The struggles are inevitable, but the way they are chosen to be tackled is a definition of oneself. Without anyone to lean back on, if you ask me. Sometimes I think, I put myself into a difficult position on purpose, only to see if I can climb back up. I would recommend this medicine as a cure to general bullshit and the unimportant things in our lives.

Travelling looks as glamorous as it is hard. If you don‘t have the discipline to replace a beer at the bar with a tea at home, gas in your car with a bus ticket or consider not buying an iPhone every year…it’s not for you. I may be wrong… but you never know until you try. The bulb lights up when the switch is flipped.

All of it won‘t matter when you are 50, right? By then, you can afford any hotel, travel any country and have even more fun. As if you are in your 20s…

I bought a new backpack yesterday, it doesn‘t seem wise taking my rolling luggage for the next destination. I feel unprepared for what lies ahead, but the unknown becomes more exciting. Summer should start in March this year…

San Francisco, CA

San Francisco, CA

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Roadtrip Story. Part III. West Coast and F’d over in Vegas…

I made the last train to Newark Airport with 5 minutes to spare, just enough to figure out how to get a ticket and hop on. My flight was due at 5 in the morning, so I spent the time thinking about what lies ahead, while abusing the most widely available drug there is – coffee and cigarettes. Because of the time zone changes, my 8-hour real-time journey from New Jersey to Seattle actually took 5, a chapter for my own time travel.

My Canadian friend from Vancouver was already waiting for me at the airport. It was great to see Roger, catch up and get down to business – booked a hotel in Las Vegas, bought some snacks, water, fruits to keep us alive on the road. We knew our destination was Sin City three days from now and we agreed to not plan too much and just go.

We reached Portland in the dark after 5 hours of driving. Imagine the excitement on our faces when we found Dockside, a saloon with the same name as our restaurant in Vancouver. Few beers later it was my turn to drive. We didn’t stop through the night, driving more than 1000 km until the sunrise. It was long ride that included me almost hitting the wall with the car and being stopped by a state trooper somewhere in Oregon. Through the other part of the night I kept making wishes… a meteor shower was in full swing – shooting stars were showing up in the sky every few minutes, beauty at its best.

Next morning we arrived to Twin Falls – a little town in Idaho. After breakfast and some back-flips into the local pool we had an eyeful of the local attractions, met some lovely people and refilled our resources in the car with some Jim Beam. With new tires we were prepared to face the roads of south Utah and another night drive was on the way. Salt Lake City turned out to be one of the worst experiences. Upon the exit of Utah’s capital, an endless road of works with police vehicles on every corner continued for around 100 kilometers. A sense of relief appeared when we finally found the right direction and sailed into a cool and calm desert.

On the second day the scenery had changed dramatically – from ever-green forests and clear lakes to endless prairies, enormous rock formations at the desert. Lithuanian flag was proudly sailing in the wind hanging out the sunroof as we entered Arches national park. We hiked up to witness “Utah’s business card” – an amazing natural rock sculpture called the Delicate Arch, formed in centuries by Mother Nature. Up next was Valley of the Gods and a 17 mile dirt road with breath-taking views and a drifting performance from my friend on the twisty turns. We stopped at a souvenir market at the border of Arizona and ended up staying until the sunset. Our new friends – a bunch of native guys helped us to finish the Jim Beam, killed our thirst with their own beers and even sang some traditional songs. Best of all, we got to shoot some guns in the desert at empty beer cans and bottles. At a point, the natives just wouldn’t let us go, they seemed to be bringing more and more beer, so we couldn’t leave until we finished. The time was tight because we had the hotel booking and there were a lot of miles ahead. We chose the south rim of Grand Canyon as our next destination to save time, I passed out and Roger drove through the night.

Dreams of an actual bed and a shower were put on hold immediately after entering the Grand Canyon national park on the 3rd morning. We were admiring one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World breathless and excited at every stop. Just crossing to Nevada we stumbled upon a little town called Williams, the last one on the historic Route 66. A six-pack of Coors Light and we are on the way again!

Welcome to fabulous Las Vegas!

I didn’t really know what to expect. Casinos everywhere, luxury, free drinks, beautiful ladies? Yes, yes and yes. Vegas cannot disappoint, or so we thought. Vodka&Cranberry, beer, tequila with “Bison Shit”, cigars…what a night it was, completely out of control, reckless and joyful, creating one of those experiences that you don’t forget for a while. You know the movie “Hangover”? Yes, the first part. Well, my story was not that far off, in the morning: freaking out about losing my passport (my Lithuanian ID was not accepted at some tables), remembering to have bought cocaine last night, finding the passport, realizing to be robbed. (The details will not be disclosed to keep author’s good name). I would also remember contemplating pros and cons of sleeping on the sidewalk, be reminded of dancing in front of the Valet and then followed by the security, god, shameful…We lost our party money from the room because of me, the morning sucked and our visit was effectively ruined, but we still had 1 more night booked in the hotel. Trying to free our minds from thinking about lost cash, we went out as true tourists, got drunk in public (which is allowed in Vegas), admired the Strip, Bellagio fountains, amazing mix of lights and beautiful architecture. The night ended after multiple tequila shots with new friends from Abu Dhabi.

We checked out of Stratosphere the next noon and couldn’t wait to get out of the city that was so disappointing. We couldn’t have been in a worse situation and decided to hit the Roulette table with one last 20 dollar bill. If there’s a place to turn luck around – this is IT! In the next 4 hours Roger was up 400 dollars, and we were getting coronas, wine, cigars, cocktails and more chips! Oh, what a godly feeling it was to finally forget about the first day, to laugh again, to be energized. We spent the next 16 hours hoping from Casino to Casino on the strip, wasting money, having the sickest time and just not caring. Sin City took a lot of us, but we ended on a high note, winning some money back and actually enjoying ourselves.

Vancouver was 2445 kilometers away, so we decided to go back without stopping as much. We took off on the Interstate-15 towards Los Angeles, through Mojave Desert. The horizon was mesmerizing throughout – shade of blue perfectly blended with the golden rush of sunset. Spending 4 hours in San Francisco the next day was not enough, making me want to come back. No doubt, it’s one of those cities where you can feel a good vibe right away, see happy and laid-back people.

The roadtrip was coming to an end and were enjoying the warmth of California, wine fields, road by the ocean and sunshine. Deep into the night it changed to a dark, extra-curvy road through the heart of Oregonian forests. My reflexes were put into use, managing to avoid two deers in the middle of the road just staring at oncoming lights. We spent one last night in the car and came back to Vancouver – rainy and cold reality. It felt like being home, except that it was not anymore. Next day, Roger drove me on the Sea to Sky Highway for my next journey in Canada. I will spend the next 5 months living in a small party town, Whistler, host of 2010 Winter Olympics, one of the largest Ski Resorts in the world. No job, no friends and 200 in my pocket…let’s see where this takes me…

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Roadtrip Story. Part II. Windy City and Empire State of Mind

The harsh and hung-over reality of the morning in Milwaukee was a forgettable experience. Next destination, Chicago is a 2 hour drive south from Milwaukee…I remember calling my aunt around 11 AM, checking-out of the motel, only to reach their house 7 hours later. It is not always smiles and fun when travelling, especially if the car won’t start…

We had no idea what was wrong and how to fix the problem. Even worse, it was Sunday and Monday was supposed to be Columbus Day, so finding a mechanic seemed difficult and expensive. It was really frustrating to try stopping vehicles in the empty streets and asking if they could pull our car with a rope (battery is dead, we assumed). Then it all just flipped. Dan budged over a wire connected to the battery and the car made the magic “beep” we wanted. With our luck back, we hit the road again.

First impression of Chicago – endless highways, rushing drivers, construction works and the forsaken tolls! We ended up spending at least 20 dollars and stopping 7-8 times, just to pay for the road. I was getting anxious to finally get to my godparent’s, who I have seen just once since they moved a decade ago. It’s hard to explain the sudden rush of warm emotions and the strange feeling of using mother tongue in a non-Skype environment after 6 months. After bidding farewell to Dan, I spent my next 4 days in Homer Glenn having the time to reflect on the road past, while looking ahead.

The weekend in downtown Chicago with my cousin was filled with two things – sightseeing and partying. We did our fair share of Jäger-bombs, whiskey, bars, beer, clubs, but I am not all bad. Tourist mode hadn’t been forgotten as well, The Windy City has loads of attractions to offer. Starting from the usual suspects in Millennium Park, Navy Pier to John Hancock Observatory, Michael Jordan statue and so much more…Remembering now, the whole weekend was a perfect mix of getting loose, partying and seeing the sights.

Random Rhetorical question. What gets you feeling like a champion? Hint: Usually occurring in New York. Hint 2: Jay-Z.

Prior to leaving to Chicago’s downtown, my aunt gave me a 2 dollar bill to put in my wallet. She considered it as a sign of good luck, since the bills are really rare in daily use. Once again, the last morning before leaving…my wallet was nowhere to be found for 5 hours! Hard and long hangovers were becoming a habit.

Up next – figuring out a way to be in Seattle in 5 days for another roadtrip. I also knew there was no chance of leaving east coast without a glimpse of the Empire City. Keeping a low budget in mind, I booked quite a multi-destination flight for a fair price. My itinerary:

 Chicago > Charlotte > New York >> 40 hours in NYC >> New Jersey > Charlotte > Seattle

The strange feeling when I came to Chicago overwhelmed me upon departure as well. It felt weird visiting one of the biggest U.S. cities and being surrounded by Lithuanians – my cousin’s friends, my aunt and uncle, their friends. It was incredible at the same time too. After promising my aunt another visit, I left O’Hare airport with the majestic scenery of Chicago’s bright lights through my window…

The plane landed in LaGuardia airport around noon. Once again, I had no idea where and how I would get around, but the excitement to explore the most famous city on earth was above everything. The plan/hope was that my Couchsurfing host would give me some sound advice on sightseeing. My new friend Robert met me at the gate and became my tour guide for the next two days. We got on the public transport. I would recommend any traveler to choose the underground to get by in NYC. New York subway is one of a kind, really old, enormous and stretches throughout the boroughs. Street musicians, break dancers, businessmen, true New Yorkers, any ethnicity, any color…30 bucks for a week pass is well worth the money, even with my 40 hours.

Manhattan astounded with skyscrapers, which look even taller than in the movies. With all its screens, Times Square is an enormous pedestal for commercials, information and entertainment. Rockefeller plaza is one of the top tourist attractions with the skating-rink in the center (already constructed in mid-October). Shops on the 5th avenue represents luxury and high-class with the most known brands worldwide. Central Park is a piece of nature to run away from the busy streets where red traffic lights are non-existent and 1/3 of all vehicles seem to be taxis. The night continued through Madison Square Garden, New York university area, East and West villages, a Saloon meeting some more couchsurfers. Pricey Stella was well worth having at 230-fifth on a Rooftop Garden soaking in the breathtaking view of night skyline, with the highlight of Empire State Building.

The next day I had one of the most random and incredible run-ins on the street. I was taking a picture of the One World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan when I recognized Dutch and the voice behind me. It was my friend who I partied in Vancouver three months ago, visiting New York. Random!!! Back in Midtown Manhattan the streets were closed for good 20 minutes. Barack. Everyone had to yield for Mr. President, along with an entourage of at least 20 vehicles and 10 motorbikes following him. Later, I went to the rooftop of the Rockefeller Center and met my host after work. After dinner in Koreatown and a cup of a latte in Brooklyn, admiring the Bridge and skyline from the other side of Hudson River, I still had 7 hours before my flight. We decided to share one last beer on the balcony of my friend’s office.

Quick check on the internet showed the last train to New Jersey was leaving in less than three hours. Depending on luck, to get my luggage and catch the last train should take me exactly that. We had to leave, immediately…

Here we go again…

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Some of the best moments from both cities

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Roadtrip Story. PART I. Vancouver to Chicago

Vancouver to Chicago

Preparations for the biggest road-trip of my life were ridiculous, without any plan in place. I had to move on from my life in Vancouver as well. First thing I messed up was forgetting to give a 14 day notice to my restaurant that I’m quitting. Then I told my landlord that I’m moving out, without any idea what’s next. Just knew I’ll get to East Coast somehow.

I remember e-mailing a random guy through craigslist, who was supposedly leaving on a road-trip at the end of September. I had 5 days left to move out (Sept. 30th) and still had not heard anything from him. My search for transportation was unsuccessful, everything seemed so unclear. I decided to have one last summer blast at one of the Gulf Islands nearby Vancouver. Party the problems away.

Wise decision (thankfully) it turned out to be. Mid-week getaway filled with a lot of electro music, sunshine, kayaking (oops!), shooting at cans, passing out, playing beer-pong, watching deer running around, emptying the keg…Couldn’t have asked for a better good-bye to Vancouver. Shout out to two damn awesome Canadian dudes! In the midst of all the relaxation, I managed to contact the random traveler and we agreed to meet up for a beer. We met after work around 1 AM on 29th at Two Parrots.

38 Hours later my new travel partner Dan is picking me up at a gas station in Kitsilano. From the looks of it, there are three of us! A girl from Germany, Antonia, who’s going all the way to Winnipeg

After driving all the way to Nelson, avoiding some animals on the road, we found a parking lot to sleep at. My long legs were not happy about me sleeping on the back seat, but I would soon be re-energized. Morning was rough and cold. The conditioner of the car was not working and we couldn’t see anything because of the steamed windows and the morning sun…which we realized when we got on a busy road and it got dangerous. We needed to stop immediately, which we did. I opened the door to see that we were standing around 15 centimeters from the cliff, almost rolling the car over. Our trip could have ended here. Phew.

Still sluggish and slow, we needed some positivity for the trip. A hike up to the Pulpit Rock seemed perfect. We got the muscles working again and reached the top after good 40 minutes. Soaking in the breathtaking views of Nelson in the Beautiful British Columbia, hitting the beach and jumping into the lake to refresh ourselves. Now it feels like the Trip has started!

It was my turn to drive. The road for the next 3 hours was amazing. Admiring enormous forests, taking curvy turns, putting the gas on the straight line with Rocky Mountains in the background. It all lasted until the sunset upon entering Alberta. Except for a few road-kills, there wasn’t much to see. Decided to drive as far as possible and stop at Moose Jaw. Note, the province of Saskatchewan has some funny city names, like ‘’Swift Current, Uranium City, Yellow Grass”, to make it interesting. Not impressed by scenery, however, I must mention that people in these provinces are actually even more helpful and friendly, compared to the fast pace of Vancouver. I pass out at 4 AM, not far from Manitoba.

Arrival to Winnipeg is a fairly early one, afternoon-ish. With the GPS making us drive meaningless circles, we finally reach Starbucks, to kill the thirst for internet. We are greeted by a huge fire spreading right by us at the railroad tracks. Chaos in the air. Car keys get locked inside our Ford Escort, but two meaningless hours later, the good old crowbar&hanger method saves the day. After another hour, we finally find my hostel and the smelly, angry, tired crew parts ways. Too dull, too boring, too cold and windy. That’s how I remember the city, waiting for the road-trip to continue. Meanwhile, when there’s nothing to do, imagine two Frenchies and a Lithuanian borrowing a couple Manitoban license plates, so they could hang in a garage in north France. I said, Imagine, right?

On the road again, just two of us, no females aboard this time! Boredom of Trans-Canada highway and snowstorm alert in Ontario change the plan to go south, entering USA. After getting fingerprints taken and answering several questions at the border, we enter the land of cheap gas, cigarettes and liquor…or, welcome to North Dakota!

Friday night and we find ourselves in Minneapolis? Off we go into some more trouble. Long-islands, jack&cokes and a few beers, helps to forget the promise not to split up, as we part different ways in downtown. That was fast. A bruised lip on my face reminds an Epic fall on my face in front of the club last night. I know, disgusting! Memory’s still blurry, a good thing, I guess…We calm our stomachs with some fast food at Mall of America – the biggest one in the world. Food court is packed…the sheer amount of American families spending their weekend gobbling burgers and french fries. Sad. But hey, have fun, while we get out of here.

Random wisdom. America has 48 different states. Liquor store closing times vary.”

Autumn theme and 5 hours in the car through Wisconsin takes us all the way to Milwaukee. Known for its brewing traditions and Water street bars, the city makes you feel guilty if you don’t party. 8 Jameson shots, some beers, the damn long-islands, vodka redbulls…Bar hopping takes us to the famous Coyote Ugly. Crazy women dancing on the bar, next thing I know, my hands are tied with a bra and we’re doing body shots of tequila. Not surprisingly, splitting up again and fading out on my own. I’m still wondering how did I catch a cab that night…or how a hooker night worker ended up in the seat next to me…or why did she…? (part of this story has been censored by the author, in order to keep his good name among peers)

Next morning, my headache is banging from inside, the shower floor is covered in wet clothes and its 11 AM – motel’s worker knocks and tells us to get out. My dollars are gone, my friend lost his Canadian bank card. After failed attempts to find it, we decide to block it and get out of the city. Our final destination of Chicago is just an hour drive, or so it seems…Starbucks comes in handy once again, as we contact the bank through Skype to block the account. After spending 3 hours in Milwaukee trying to figure out ourselves we can finally go again. Except that when I put the key in ignition, the car won’t start…

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