Τhis is Monday, the 18th of January, 2016
Washington DC – 14:32
I am writing from a Barnes & Nobles / Starbucks – bookstore / cafe right now. If we consider myself and my equipment (all the stuff I carry in this trip) as one, I am so spatially e x p a n d e d at the moment. I am sitting at a very certain seat here so I can look on my left, outside the store, for my unlocked bike, and on my right, 10 m away, for my phone which is charging at the tablets’ exhibition space. All my stuff is at the Hostel, but I can’t really go there right now as I have checked out and I just have my bags there temporarily. Why? Because I would have been going to a couchsurfing host for today and tomorrow, but she cancelled. (However, she told me she is asking a friend of hers if he is available, so I am waiting for an answer now). Not sure where I ‘ll sleep tonight.
Maybe I should be worried, but I am not. If I can’t find a place to sleep I ‘ll stay at the hostel for 2 more nights. I can afford that. [Yesterday I was walking in Georgetown (Downtown Washington) and I could see people sleeping outside… Can you imagine? At -7 °C !! Well, I definitely can handle uncertainty as to where I ‘ll sleep tonight]. I am staying for a bit more here in Washington DC as I need to get some rest.. I had a very intense pain on my right knee and on my left high instep the other day arriving from Baltimore.. That night, at bed, before I close my eyes I was kind of terrified. What if… my knee gets worse.. What if this pain is recurring.. What if.. I can’t continue… Brrrrr…
Thank God, it feels better – I guess because of the rest. I like a lot this phrase of Einstein: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results”. Not being insane myself I went and fixed the way I sit on the bike.. I had no other issues previously, but I really felt I had to change something on the way I ride… I had an appointment for a special bike fit session at The Bike Rack DC, that normally costed 125 $ – they charged me nothing and I am very much thankful about it. I also cancelled my flight from Miami to Bogota. It was on the 11th of February. No need to rush, really. I checked the weather in Latin America and Africa if I go there later and it seems ok.. I am also looking at travel insurances.. It is very expensive (1250$ for 12 months and global coverage), but this is the wise thing to do right now. My body takes me to the next city and I have to respect it.
Despite facing the aforementioned difficulties I can say I very much enjoy the USA. Ι am now close friends with the idea that I am not a tourist and that sightseeing is low in my to-do list. I don’t even like the idea of being a tourist, actually – tourists tend to consume sight-seeings, landmarks, museums. They seem to care more for taking pictures there rather than learning how-what-why and all the specifics. It’s not that I have a… touristic complex, no. Myself is this type of sightseeing-consumer sometimes. But now my priority is to meet people, spend some time with them, go out, talk on politics, on relationships, on the way of life is here, and this kind of things.
Ah! I finally bought a camera – it’s a used Nikon Coolpix A, with 4 buttons that do not work. But I hope it will take good pictures – haven’t really tried it yet. I tried hard to open and service my old one, but in vain.
New York City was fascinating… was… amazing. I planned to stay way less, but finally I spent 13 days there. Although I was kind of negatively predisposed, as New York may be considered the very center of capitalism (and capitalism is not my best friend), I super-enjoyed my time there. I can’t believe I didn’t actually go to the Liberty Statue or the Museum of Modern Arts or… but.. honestly I don’t care. It wasn’t that important for me to go there. What was of greater importance was to feel the city, feel the vibes, meet new people, discuss and have fun. All done. I can’t describe how happy and full I feel for spending time with my cousins there, Christina and Panos -and specially Panos, as I was living at his place. We had our walks, we had our nights out (not so successfully – hehe). I had greek souvlaki in Astoria, I played football with Panos, I met his friends, he showed me all the cool places around to eat.. from pastrami sandwich to chicken n waffle, to frozen yogurt or ice cream with salted caramel, to Shake Shack burgers… I had a glimpse of what his life looks like and I really really enjoyed that – sorry, no details on this 🙂 . I had a lot of walks around the city and even more rides, actually. It was very convenient to navigate in this city, as it is a grid – streets have numbers and not names. Descartes would approve 😉
From multiple conversations with locals I got the idea that money and status do matter in New York City. When you meet someone, some of the first questions usually are where do you live and what’s your job. Or, you meet someone and you feel that he/she is trying to see how he/she can get advantage of you. This may very well not be the norm. But it is certainly there. I have to also let you know that Americans (or at least the ones I meet) are very straightforward. Some days ago, I was told in the Post Office in NY “look young man, I am very very tired and I am not gonna answer same questions twice.. you want this package shipped, yes or no”… Which was ok.. I like honesty. (although it is rumored that people from NYC are rude)
I also have to mention one night out I had…. I went alone to a couchsurfing meetup event.. I met a Lithuanian and a Chinese guys who were currently living in the city. We went later to a Bulgarian bar that was… amazing.. It was just a room actually, not very big.. And you could see so many people from all over the world.. I was sitting at a corner and smiling as I was observing this multicultural atmosphere and as Vilus (from Lithuania) was buying me drinks.. (Thanks man!) You could see people from Asia, African-americans, Latinos, Americans, people from Europe… all dancing… every one in his/her own way… Unconditionally, unconventionally, free.. It was unique… (I am not sure how I made it home, I certainly know though I had a burger on my way back).
On Tuesday the 12th I left New York City to reach Philadelphia.. I had to take the ferry and then ride for 162 km..
I was hosted by Maggie in Philly for 2 nights and I’d like to wholeheartedly thank her for… waiting for me (as I was almost 2 hours late), for making for me a list with things to do and see and…eat!, and for having such a great time, actually.. We put some music we both like, we chat and sung a little bit… she has an amazing voice! We had some beautiful conversations but something I kept was what M. told me about the average American. He/she may not be so interested on, not the President of the U.S.A in himself, but this level of Politics (congress decisions etc.), as he/she is more interested in the local politics, what the state does.
On Thursday the 14th of January I left Philadelphia to ride a good 192 km to reach Baltimore.. Well I didn’t actually did 192, but 172, cause I risked a little bit, and as a result I had troubles with the police…
The only unfortunate with my stay in Baltimore was that it was so short… I am grateful to Christine for hosting… I really much enjoyed going out for dinner with her friends.. I had this amazing crab patty (that I really ignored its existence, I thought it was only in Spongebob squarepants – hehe) and also it was very interesting talking with different people on what they do, if they enjoy what they do, what’s their view on politics (there was a political debate that night)… Christine was so kind to make breakfast for me and, also to take a neat picture of me ready to go.
On Friday the 15th I left Baltimore to go to Washington DC. It was only 70 km and I thought it would be really nice and smooth… Well… not… I had a very strong pain in my right knee, so that I couldn’t really move my leg in a circular way. I was practically pedaling only with my left leg.. and this resulted in strong pain on my left high instep.. So, I took my time here in DC, in order to get some rest… The fun thing is I met in the hostel Antoine, from France and Alberto from Italy (they didn’t know each other) – we went in Georgetown for a drink (that was actually a burger, as I had forgotten my Identity). These guys have already been travelling in the USA for a month or so, and we had a nice conversation on American culture, on European Politics, on refuges, on Muslims.. So very interesting and fulfilling. The view of Alberto was that he could live in the USA as everything is in order and if you work hard you can certainly make money.. Which is indeed true.. But that was a long talk..
* I meet a lot of people and this is so very much interesting as I can spot some things that are in common in people’s thought. In the American lifestyle, along with the social media wave comes the dating app fashion (Tinder, Hinge, Coffee meets Bagel, Hitch, Match, Badoo, etc.). I don’t want to be deterministic or dogmatic here, but I want to make clear I don’t like these apps myself. As one of the persons I discussed about it put it: we forget how we do it (meeting and flirting) in real life as just by holding your phone, you don’t take any risks. I was also told by people that “I don’t like it, but I do it”.
** I mean, my sense of self-space while on the trip is not only about myself. I feel I occupy more space as I kind of expand to encompass my “materiality”. I have to constantly know where all my stuff is. I change places very often and I have to be very aware of my belongings. I ‘ve already lost two bag rain covers, my helmet rain cover, my lighter, and… who knows what else?
23rd of January of 2016, Saturday:
I am in the seventh heaven of happiness. I am now writing being seated on the sofa of the first floor of an egalitarian, anarchist, income-sharing community in Richmond Virginia. Complicated? Well… a great team of lovely people focused on living and working collaboratively under the same roof. I am so happy I ‘ll spend my days with them – So far, amazed by their DIY projects (e.g. bike-powered washing machine!) and their participation in the http://foodnotbombs.net/ (we ‘ll cook food tomorrow for people in need). I am having some very thought-provoking conversations here on all the adjectives above (egalitarian= non-hierarchical -> can be functional?, anarchy -> is it realistic?, income-sharing -> why??), but I ‘d like to stress 2 issues here that struck me the most.
1) It is something Emmett told me… that he actually, by being here he… saves time… Time to spend on things that are really important – on personal growth. On meaningful interaction, on reading/learning, on creatively producing, on building his context of living on a more ecological and sustainable basis. Gaining time for what is more important…… Sounds so simple, but is so unconventional. Gaining time instead of…… well, working like crazy all day…. for who and for what? Intriguing, to say the least.
2) I ‘d like, also, to emphasize an aspect of the “income-sharing” part. And by income-sharing we mean that whatever income a member of the community produces goes to the community. Not a part, all of it. What I liked on this is its self-regulatory power. A system-of-living like this would make myself more conscious on what I spend and how much. E.g. I love chocolates and candies, right. If I wanted to spend 50$/month on sweets, this would be too much for the common-sensical way of distributing money. Same pot would force me not to exaggerate on things. Collective here can be a self-correction tool. Cool?
Oh……. I forgot! Yesterday! Yesterday was an amazing day, honestly.
I woke up in Fredericksburg in a beautiful, comfortable, well-decorated house with lovely people, Beth and Terry, who have a place in my heart now. [I was hosted there for 2 nights and I had a really great time. Apart from the super-tasty dinners and breakfasts, I had enjoyed a lot our conversations! I learned about American History (and in particular, Civil War) and also about the american health care system and more. I also enjoyed a lot our conversation and B&T’s input on personal matters. It is really fantastic how comfortable and close you can be in a matter of hours with some people. With some wonderful, warm, open, friendly people.. Beth & Terry thank you!]
So I woke up at Fredericksburg and I had a rich breakfast (Omelette, cheese, mustard toast and pineapple on the side, coffee cake and espresso – yummee!). And then I had a very beautiful ride in the countryside, with next-to-no traffic, traditional american houses and I also saw 2 deers! I was going as fast as possible cause I wanted to reach Richmond before the snow storm arrives – but the storm came earlier… I was seriously afraid that it’s gonna be very bad and everything will be paralysed in 10 minutes. So I tried hard and I rode in the snow for 2 hours. It was a lot fun and a bit dangerous and I fell once because I couldn’t tell where the road ends. But after a while it was so good because I knew I was close to my destination… even the cars couldn’t move, and there I was, going slowly and smiley..! How cool!
So I get to this super-duper amasing place where I am now. I put my stuff in place, and later we all went to some friends (driving the jeep in the snow – slow and fun!). We ate, drunk, and went outside to slide in the snowy slopes of a park.. (I had none of this cause I was SO full). BUT, WHAT A DAY?!
It’s kind of…. awesome.
I go to bed and I think of my days… today and yesterday and what I am doing, who I meet, how I feel. I am so lucky*. I am close to tears on the micro-realization of how cool is my time now. And then I go to a macro-realization of where I ‘ve been so far and where I am going to be and I am ready to explode, honestly. My inner voice goes like this “gkigthwaefofna – you have work to do when you go back” – meaning, you are the receiver of so much love and you are having so much great experiences. When you go back to Athens you have a mission. To do something that expands. Something that reaches the many. Something beneficial for many. Something that shares the love back.
*Luck is God’s nickname to me.