Splette's Travel Blog
  • Couchsurfing
  • March4th

    Indigenous people blocked the only East-West highway in Panama with tree branches. We had no idea how long the blockade would last.
    The great thing about living on a tourist visa in Costa Rica is that you have to travel to another country every 90 days. I decided to visit Panama City for a week. I stayed at the amazing Hostel Mamallena again and visited my friend Rychy. Besides that, the week in Panama wasn’t very eventful. Unlike the trip home.
    Because I am travel cheap, I decided for a long bus ride rather than a flight. Then again, I am not that cheap and like to travel with a little bit of comfort, so I booked a bus ticket in the clasa ejecutiva (business class). Including the border crossing the trip was supposed to take 14-15h. The bus was half empty, so I got the seat next to me for myself. Great. Soon after we take off we got served a hot meal: Steak. It was surprisingly good. Only, the fact that we were provided with a plastic fork but no knife made me feel like a caveman gnawing on a chunk of meat.
    Next on the menu was the obligatory movie. In Latin American long-distance buses it’s usually one of the following categories: Action movie American style (Stallone, Schwarzenegger, etc.), Action movie Asian style (Jacky Chan, etc.) or Comedy with black American actors (Eddie Murphy, etc.). Since I paid $10 extra for the ‘business class’ I was hoping for some better movie. Well, I ended up watching ‘2012: Ice Age‘. It’s kind of a bad remake of The Day After Tomorrow (as if that wasn’t bad enough). In the movie the climate goes crazy and a glacier is approaching New York City with 200 miles per hour. No kidding. This is the worst movie I have seen in full (unlike the cinema, I couldn’t just walk out) in a long time. IMDB gives it a whooping 2.3/10. Here is the trailer, just to give you some idea of how bad it is. One last fun fact: The boy (I don’t dare to call him an actor) who plays the son of the main characters has the second longest tongue in the world. Exactly, WTF…

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  • June24th

    Revised itinerary – cheating my way to Guatemala

    I’m on my way to Guatemala. By plane! Violating my self-set goal of not using airplanes to advance my itenerary. But well, I had to. Already a month ago, I had decided to not cross the Mexican border by bus for safety concerns. To be able to re-enter the US a second time in April, I had bought a one-way ticket from Los Angeles to Mexico city. But as always my plans changed again and I stayed in San Francisco for a little longer. Eventually I had to fly from there directly to Guatemala skipping Mexico altogether to meet Marissa, my long-term couchsurfing friend (she surfed mine, I surfed her’s). Marissa is going to accompany me for the next three weeks in Guatemala. Finally, I got a temporary travel companion again. She also a Spanish teacher. So, there is a slight chance that poco a poco I might pick up a bit of Spanish along the way…
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  • May20th

    Texaco thunder storm - 5 min later I got wet

    Texas thunder storm

    …or so they say here. The Texans are very proud people. How painful must it have been for the proud Texan soul when Alaska joined the union in 1959 and claimed the title ‘biggest U.S. state’ from Texas.
    My Texas experience had some major surprises in store for me and I loved that. Initially, I had no intentions of going to Texas but when I changed my plans and decided to take a Southern route to go to California it was clear that I would be passing through. When I thought about Texas the first three (rather random) associations that came to mind were: the TV series ‘Dallas‘ that I watched a lot in my childhood, G.W. Bush and Big Oil. I did realize that probably a thing or two have changed in the ~30 years since ‘Dallas’ came out – and maybe that series was never an authentic depiction of Texas in the first place… But these were my random associations. Another one was that Texas is a very Christian state. When the Greyhound bus pulled into the parking lot upon my arrival in Houston in the middle of the night, the first thing I saw was a gigantic neonlight cross next to the bus station. I couldn’t see if it belonged to a church or hospital or something else. Thankfully I did not stay in Houston but transferred to a bus to San Antonio. San Antonio is in South Texas (some people claim it’s already Mexico). Although the city is very large it doesn’t feel like it at all when you walk around downtown. I was amazed how clean, pretty and walkable the city is. I arrived at 6 am in the morning and had a few hours to kill before meeting my couchsurfing host, Jake. He lived right in the city center in a former hotel that was converted into an apartment building. All the old hotel interior etc. were still there. This was the best couchsurfing experience in a while. Jake took me to a local brewery (some of the best beer I had in the U.S.), the riverwalk, the Alamo, Tower of the Americas and at the end of the day of course… margaritas (good, strong and too many)!

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  • May1st

    The movies 'Batman Begins' and 'The Dark Knight' were shot in Chicago.

    Chicago / Gotham City

    They call it the windy city and not without reason. Chicago is certainly one of my Top 5 cities in the U.S. This was my second time here and I was visiting Marissa again who I met three years ago when she was couchsurfing at my place in Heidelberg. Marissa lives in Bucktown, a very hip neighborhood of Chicago with plenty of good restaurants. Since my last visit she got a cute black shih tzu. His name is Igby. I’m not much of a dog person by the way. But that wouldn’t stop the dog to fall in love with me (according to Marissa that is). He insisted to sleep with me on the couch and once even on my chest. And he passionately liked to lick my ears… for minutes.
    Marissa also took me to her yoga lesson once. I had never done yoga before and was curious. This was an advanced course and I had a hard time to follow all the exercises. The teacher did a great job and was quite encouraging but at some point I thought I’m going to faint. Yet, it was interesting and I wouldn’t rule out the possibility to do it again some day…
    Chicago gets freezing cold in winter and although this time I was visiting at the end of April I still experienced a few chilly days. I decided that I have had enough of the cold and do not want travel any further north. Therefore I have altered my travel route significantly. Instead of going to California via Minneapolis and Vancouver, Washington and Oregon I decided to go South, visit my friends in Knoxville, Tennessee again and then go to New Orleans, Texas and Arizona.

  • February11th

    There were 20 people in front of the queue but it was worth the wait. Tasty!

    Philly cheesesteak

    Today I reached Philadelphia. Just got here 3 hours ago but the first impression is very good. I am staying at a hostel downtown. Somehow I find $35 to share a room with 15 other guys a little steep. But I had no choice as all my (20+) attempts to Couchsurf in the U.S. have failed so far. To be fair, I should mention that indeed I was offered one couch in Washington DC. But this guy said in his email that we would share the room and that he sleeps naked. Errr… I decided to turn down his generous offer…
    It’s time crash couches of friends I am visiting (Evelyn & Stephan: I am on my way) or move on to Central and South America for my wallet to recover.
    By the way, I am stupid. Part of my 1 year mission here is to make some contact with other science illustrators. I recently came across the website of someone who is freelancing in this area just like me. This was the reason I decided to stop by Philadelphia. Today I tried to remember the website of that guy, went through my list of bookmarks one by one but guess what: I can’t find it! I have no idea what his name was or website was called and a google search didn’t help. Oh well, my life is as chaotic as ever…