December 14, 2003 – Pilot Three Month Travel/Work Trip to MEXICO
So, as some of you may know, I received a super large translation project about half a year ago, which has enabled me to realise much of the dreams that have been bubbling up in my head over the last few years.
I’ve been stuck in Prague, nursing my baby (my business) for the past more than a decade, until technology and circumstances have finally given me enough flexibility to be able to take my work with me on the road.
I was lying in my tent one Sunday when camping, pondering the fact that I’ll need to get a driver’s licence for my upcoming trip around the world. Since it costs between 250 and 750 USD to get one in the Czech Republic, I figured I might as well use the money to fly out to Canada for Christmas (first time off the European continent since I arrived here more than eleven years ago) and get my driver’s licence renewed there. While there, I can also buy a lot of computer hardware for my world trip, saving a lot of money, and open up some badly needed bank accounts in the US and Canada. And since my aim is to be eventually on the road, might as well make it a test run.
So I maxed out on my open ticket and bought a flight to Calgary on the 12th of December, due to fly back to Prague out of LA three months later.
I then spent two weeks trying to get ready: turn my computer into a webserver so that I can download important files remotely, set up a new website to transfer files etc., and basically all the other preparations necessary to be able to run my business effectively while on the road.
I was also busy setting up my kid’s computer so that he won’t miss me when I’m gone and so that he’d have internet at his place so he could write to me in case anything went wrong.
The last day was busy moving the new computer to his house, making last minute preparations, and then it was off to play with my friend’s band as a sort of going away party before I left. Drank till around midnight and then went back to my place to start winding things up: doing such important things as washing the floor, polishing my guitars, staring at my turtles…
3:00 o’clock rolled around and thought I’d give myself a 50 minute snooze, figuring I should be able to manage the rest nicely from 4:00 (plane leaving at 9:30, so I needed to be at the airport by around 7:30).
So I went to sleep on the couch with my mobile right next to my head. I confirmed the alarm clock setting several times so there would be no mistakes (I was still rather drunk), and rigorously set the alarm clock in my head, since I don’t trust gadgets so much in important times like this.
Nevertheless, it seems that I forgot to turn off the mute button on my phone and woke up aghast at 6:53.
So I ran to the can, took a high pressured power shit, cleaned up the rest of the mess in my flat, started packing and managed to make it out the door in about 35 minutes, where a cab was already waiting for me and off it was to the airport.
The rather obese Gypsy cab driver seemed quite relaxed and not remotely interested in getting a speeding ticket. I gently indicated to him my predicament, as I noticed he was going even slower than the surrounding traffic. He asked me what time my plane leaves. I told him I was informed many times I should be there two hours early for international flights. He chuckled and told me not to worry about it.
Okay, so I was going over my things to see if I missed anything. Was staring at my plane ticket a good five minutes before I realised I was supposed to leave on the 11th, meaning yesterday!!! (Always confirm everything yourself and do not trust the booking agent, for example.)
So now what do I do? Go back to my place and reschedule? He just kept driving forward, not in the least worried about it.
Thinking how this was going to be a doubly expensive and ridiculously useless cab drive, I started brain storming in search of a solution.
“Can I borrow your mobile? I’ll pay you for the call. Perhaps I could reschedule now.” (I didn’t bring my phone with me because it wouldn’t work on the North American system.)
“Sorry, only got five Crowns credit.” (Figures)
Hmm, should I call from a pay phone? Then I remembered I brought my MDA with me, which is a pocket computer/PDA and mobile in one (I brought it with me for reading material on the plane). So I phoned from that and managed to reschedule, leaving that day at 9:30am, a 3,000Kc fine for the rescheduling.
Got to the booth at 8:20.
Time to pay the fine, but she said she wouldn’t take my Visa electron card. So I whipped out my new Lloyds offshore credit card (the offshore account set up so the authorities wouldn’t take all my profits from my lovely large project I received completed). But only two days ago did my customer say she sent me the first batch of money to the account. I was reminding her for almost two weeks that I would like the financial assurance for my travel plans. I sometimes consider her like my other mommy. I would write to her that I have paid a lot of translators, that I am running out of money, and if she would be so kind as to send me another 30,000 bucks. She’d write back two hours later saying, “I just sent you 50,000.” Which would then, amazingly, land on my account the next morning by around 10:00. So I handed the booth woman this other card, she put it through her machine, and then I watched, waiting to see if there actually was any money on the account.
No problem. Thanks mommy.
Made my way through the various booths. The teller looks at my Czech Republic passport, leafing through every page, scrutinising it carefully, until she finally asks me, “Got a travel visa?” I whipped out my Canadian passport. I don’t think she even opened it and said I can go. Okay, Canadian passport good this time.
Then there was the border dude before entering the international flight area. So I thought I’d simplify the situation and hand him my Canadian passport right away. But I had to get that renewed recently, so there were no border stamps in it. He looks up at me, “So how the fuck did you get here in the first place, hyperspace??” I handed him my Czech Republic passport. “Czech passport to get past the border, Canadian passport after that dummy.” One step closer.
Then it’s through the fancy xray machines, metal detectors and squadron of security guards. Emptied out my pockets, put my video camera, digital camera, MAC laptop, PC laptop and backpack on the belt and walked through to the other side to pick it up. Everything was okay, but the guy at the xray machine seemed to have a problem with one small item. Pointing to the tray of all my pocket belongings, he says, “Is that yours?”
Apparently my little camping knife, the one which is about two inches long, with an insy binsy blade, nail filer/screw driver, insy binsy scissors, tweezers and toothpick was “too dangerous” and I was to leave this item behind. I can’t imagine how anyone could take over a plane and steer it into some towers with this small device. I was even told a story how someone had a problem with a nail clipper!!!
Okay, so there goes my camping knife. I am going on my biggest camping trip ever so far, and I lose my camping knife.
On the plane to Frankfurt and then off to the long flight across the pond to Calgary.
Saw two movies and then turned right to look out the window. I remember how a friend told me that night before I was leaving how it is neat that the time doesn’t really change as you are flying out west over the ocean. True. I was leaving at 15:15 and arriving at 16:00 in Calgary. But why on earth was it pitch black outside? There was the almost full moon perched hovering over the ocean, its reflection rippling over the waves towards the plane. Then it occurred to me that we are flying over the northern hemisphere, and that the sun must be to the left. I looked to the left and it was a horizon’s length of what looked like a fantastic sunset. Then I looked up on the TV screen and it showed our position over Baffin Island. I was back in Canada and it was a truly bubbly feeling.
Nice place for Christmas dinner.
Rolled into Calgary and off to a party at my friend’s work.
It was nice to be back in a country where people naturally smile and have a friendly disposition towards you. Beer was okay, although expensive (relatively speaking of course), and we managed to witness two fights, in two separate bars – something which I rarely experienced the decade I lived in Prague. Red neck continent I guess.
The next couple of days were spent buying some needed hardware (WiFi card, antenna, mobile for N.America), still have to buy a used car, get a driver’s licence (for which I may have to do the typical bullshit paperwork and fake wanting to become a resident of Alberta), insurance and all sorts of other stuff, and treating myself to the goodies I was lacking for so long: A&W burger with rootbeer, big fat juicy burger with fries and gravy, old cheddar cheese, a REAL! pizza… you know the story.
I hope to stay here until around Thursday (today is Sunday), and then head out to Vancouver in time for Christmas with mommy (number one). But I don’t think I’ll give her my mobile number once I get it. Already she was phoning me to Prague the day before leaving, telling me to eat lots of echanecia and vitamine C before boarding the plane because everyone sniffles there and it is “absolutely terrible”, to make myself a sandwich because the airplane food is terrible, and, oh yes, “Don’t forget to wipe your ass son.” I can see what I am heading towards. Then there was the long speech how I shouldn’t DARE to buy a car and drive from Calgary to Vancouver because the Rocky Mountain Pass is treacherous and because that stretch of highway is a serious killer. Actually got confirmation about that while here, with lots of colourful stories of trucks piling up in the ditch. But hey, you only live once, and I wanna live the adventure!!
So I got a lot of preparations to do. Still gotta put up some ads in youth hostels and universities looking for a driver to come with me. My plan (as with my super trip around the world) is to have someone drive while I work. I can drive occasionally, as I like to drive, but I need to keep working. So I hope my ride down through the mountains will be pleasant and relaxing. No rush. Certainly don’t want my mom to call me just as I’m trying to negotiate a dangerous pass, stressing me out with all her worryisms. But I’m looking forward to getting to warmer weather, so that I can camp out in my station wagon, or whatever I’ll get.
Well dudes, till next time, keep your fingers crossed and I hope to take lots of pictures of the glazen covered Rockies!!
If you like, you can read the absolute hell I had to go through to get a driver’s licence and all the paperwork and arranging satellite internet through mobile phone, the van, crossing the border (which I assumed would be the easiest in the world, as a Canadian crossing into the US), you are welcome and from there it links to the next page in the chapter, although it is a rather frustrating read. But hey, if you want to accomplish something, sometimes you just need to be persistent and adaptive. At least a good exercise for this simple-seeming pilot trip!
We are a family operation managing private custom boat tours in the beautiful Palawan area, and are happy to help travelers with their plans through the Philippines, having traveled a lot of it ourselves and planning to visit it all. These pages in this section cover my various solo travels through Europe before meeting my wife.