Hey can you introduce yourself to YouthTime readers?
My name is Alex, I’m originally from Venezuela but at this point I’m not even sure where I’m really from, since I moved to Spain at the age of eleven and lived here for more than half of my life. Also throughout my travels I’ve picked lots of little things I now identify with. I’m a content creator but professionally what I do the most is filmmaking, currently freelancing around Madrid (and/or where I’m needed, just give me a call).
Can you tell me more about why did you decide to leave your job & travel?
As cliche as it might sound, I felt that I was falling into adulthood too fast and too hard, and as an avid traveler (at least I considered myself so) I thought I still had so many things to see before secluding myself in a tiny cubicle for the rest of my life. Me and my girlfriend Valentina left our day jobs and set sails to this amazing adventure. My girlfriend Valentina is from Uruguay, but she’s been living in Madrid since 1 year old. She is a video producer and also writes for pleasure, her style is pretty poetic and intimate.
Maybe it was a bit too naive of an idea but looking back I think it was the right moment to do so, because all this opened our eyes and made us realize that, while living that cliche and daring to do what everyone says they’d love to do but actually never take the step to, we came to discover the light and dark sides of leaving it all behind. I know now that things are not as dramatic as they seem, one tends to demonize office jobs and city life thinking that there’s a revolving world out there and you are missing out lots of things, but that’s really all up to you and this is one of the main lessons I learned from this whole experience. You must find a balance by yourself because too much of anything just won’t make it.
Which places did you travel to?
It started as a “travel around the whole world” idea but we soon realized that we like taking it slow and after 7 months just in Canada we came to the conclusion that the end goal had to change. We were no longer collecting countries, but filling our backpacks with new experiences, new flavours, new friends and lots and lots of sunsets.
As I said, we started in Canada, west coast, where we got to work in a cherry farm for six weeks (read on to catch this story later). We bought a 20 year old minivan, threw away the seats and built a comfy bed. This minivan, which we named Pepino Galáctico/Galactic Cucumber, became our home as we went to the Rocky Mountains, West Coast mainland and also Vancouver Island where we ended up working in a vineyard for a month or so before crossing the border to USA.
Right before crossing the border Valentina had one of our good friends we made in the cherry farm (who is an amazing artist) make her a poking tattoo so she could carry with her the greatness of the rocky mountains. It also got immortalized in video.
Our American adventure was fun, we did most of what we were supposed as we drove through Seattle, San Francisco, L.A., Las Vegas, Death Valley, yadda yadda yadda, but what we cherish the most of this part was finding the big jem of the crown, Slab City.
After this our dear spaceship collapsed. We rode 15.000kms of amazing places on it but everything ends so we flew to Miami, where I have some family and spent the holidays together. There isn’t much I can tell about Miami apart from the fact that seeing people I love for the first time in almost ten years was amazing.
With the new year came a new destination, so we flew to Mexico where we spent the best eight months of our trip. That was such a diverse and amazing country, and though it’s so troubled, it’s still got so much beauty in it and so much will to show it. Of all the places I got to see there, Oaxaca and Chiapas were the best. In Oaxaca we did a pilgrimage of sorts around some tiny towns based in the North Sierra called Pueblos Mancomunados de Oaxaca. The interesting thing about them is that they formed during the Mexican Revolution and were built by hand by refugees. Every one of them has something really special about it.
As for Chiapas, we planned to stay three days there and were so amazed by it’s raw magic that had to book a place for a whole month, maybe a bit more. The ruins are amazing, yes, and the zapatistas were quite a sight, but what we loved the most was just the tiny daily things that conformed regular life there. What we loved most of this whole trip was being able to have different daily lives in many many different places. Finding our usual grocery store, bakery, bar… When you do this every few weeks, it’s kind of magic.
What was the most fascinating place that you visited? Why?
It has to be Slab CIty, for sure. It’s located past Salvation Mountain, and I think that more than telling you why, you should see for yourself here.
Any upsets throughout the trip?
The main upset has to be the cherry farm. We were a couple of city youngsters that jumped from office jobs to the rough part of physical work (at least the roughest we’ve had yet). We lived in a tent for six weeks, got up at 3 A.M. and worked for 10+ hours filling and emptying sacks of ten kilograms of cherries, dragging around ten feet ladders and going up and down very steep hills.
It was hard, we made good friends, lost the excess of weight, got fit and healthier but at some point I started to develop a very ugly case of tendonitis which, mixed with my stubborness and that unhealthy “don’t-ever-quit-anything” attitude we have for some reason, made the situation worse.
I’m a guitar player, and when it got to the point that I could barely hold a fork without shrugging in pain, I knew I had to stop. Fortunately this happened towards the end of the season so I only missed a couple of days and by the time we were on the road again, it took me around five long and painful months to recover full control of my hands. Tough.
There is a popular term nowadays… “Digital nomad”. Did you consider yourself one?
I couldn’t really consider myself one since my job right now is based in Madrid and most of my clients are here. I did some things for people in Australia (remotely) and Mexico during the trip but I think I can’t consider myself a digital nomad yet.
Why do you think this trend is rising nowadays?
I really think it’s both because of just people becoming able to afford something like this (generations ago, even the concept of childhood wasn’t a thing, and nowadays we are emancipating closer to our thirties than our late teens) and traveling just becoming cheaper.
Internet makes everything easier, and travelers are no longer seen as brave adventurers cutting their way into the jungle with a rusty machete and cargo short khakis, but real people like you and me, so I think that empowers everyone out there.
Do you ever consider repeating this trip and doing it again?
For sure, same but different. I’d do it again, but knowing what mistakes not to make again. It was such an amazing experience, that I don’t want it to be a “once in a lifetime” thing.
So going into the mistakes… Anything inexperienced travelers need to know?
Cold is your worst enemy, so try to avoid it. You are going to make a lot of little mistakes but it’s not the end of the world, so don’t feel too frustrated. Never take anything for granted, especially working hours, maybe in your country stuff is opened until 10pm, but that’s not universal and might end up being the difference between a night with and without dinner, so be careful. Invest in good shoes, good backpack and good headphones, it’s ok if you cheap out in the rest.
What is your biggest dream?
Honestly I can’t say I have one, and I feel this is what keeps me moving. I don’t want to have big goals in life because if I become so unlucky that I achieve them, from then nothing is going to have any meaning.
Instead of that, I’m constantly trying to do too many things at the same time: personal projects, lots of work, music both by myself and in a band, some friends I’m very lucky to have, my beautiful family and physical exercise.
This always leaves me wishing days had 30 hours or more so actually maybe my biggest dream could be that, having more time to cram even more stuff to do in it.
What advice can you give to young people who are reading this and want to have the trip around the world just like you did but don’t know how?
Question everything always, and not as in “screw the system” brat attitude but as in “there are so many sides in life that no absolute truth exists”. BE HUMBLE. You can’t trust the system we’ve built around us, and definitely we can’t even trust ourselves so PLEASE don’t just sit down and accept the “truth” others tell you is absolute because what works for them won’t definitely always make you happy.
Traveling is not the answer, staying home isn’t definitely either, and as always it’s just a matter of perspective. Keep pushing to eventually find that no answer is going to cut it, and that’s the real beauty of life.
Also call your parents often.
Photos: Alex Moreán