What’s up next? |

What’s up next?

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25 March 2011

What’s up next?
Good question, glad you ask!
Because next is an 18-day-Western-Balkan-trip waiting for me.
Yay! Whoohoo! And more of that.

To be more specific, on the evening of the 29th of March I’m flying to Belgrade, Serbia and I have a flight back home on the 16th of April from Thessaloniki, Greece.

Honestly, Serbia was not high on my list. I did hear that Belgrade is a great place to be when you’re young and backpacking, but I figured that I’d still be young - and certainly backpacking - for quite some time so it could wait.
Until I noticed that it’s ridiculously cheap to get there from Belgium. So Belgrade here I come!
After Belgrade I’ll probably head directly towards Kosovo  and afterwards I’ll head back (I was there in 2010 also) to Albania.

For years I have been waiting for a chance to see the Spanish folk singer Manu Chao doing his thing on a stage. Never happened. Until now!
It appears that Manu and I will both be going on a Balkan tour, during the same period. This must be fate, right? So on the 12th of April I’m planning to go to the Manu Chao show in the Pallati i Sportit in Tirana, Albania. If anyone likes to join, let me know.

That’ll leave me with four days to get to Thessaloniki, which should be sufficient, I guess. I don't want to spend a lot of time in Greece, the only reason why I’m flying back from there is again because it’s cheap.

Why am I going there?
This is a question I get a lot, what the hell have I lost in Kosovo and Albania?
Well, for one thing to show to myself and the world that those countries are not full of bandits, prostitutes and murderers.
On the contrary, they are very nice people. I’m not going to say that they are the kindest people on the earth,  because that’s such a cliche. I’m just saying that last time I visited Albania I had a great time meeting great persons and I hope to experience more of that.

Another cliche says that nations with very little tourism tend to be very open and welcoming, and I can only agree with that. Albania and Montenegro are good examples, so is El Salvador.
After posting a message on Couchsurfing that I was coming to Kosovo I received very warm reactions from people welcoming me to their country and thanking me for choosing for Kosovo.
I never thanked anyone for coming to Belgium. Just sayin’.

What am I going to do there?
After the winter months I’m in a real need for sunshine. I always get a bit depressed from living the nine to five life in this cold and rainy country, so years ago I made it a habit to go on my own spring break.
But not to party.
Or let’s just say that partying is not the main reason of my trip.

After my trip to Albania I had the feeling that I didn’t really gained enough insight into the social and cultural life of the Albanian people. So I’m planning to do something about that. Similar to Kosovo which is such a secret country. Very few people know something about it and until now only 75 other countries have recognized Kosovo as an independent country. With its age of three it’s also the youngest country of Europe, I wonder how that feels.

Actually, my main objective is meeting people.
Via the forums of Couchsurfing I’ve met quite a few in Belgrade, Kosovo and Albania who are happy to take me on a walk or join me for a couple of beers. I already have some bit experience with meeting people like this, and all of it was very positive. So I have high expectations.
In Kosovo I would also like to meet Todd from Todd’s Wanderings We agreed some time ago on having a beer when I get there, so Todd if you read this, you can expect a mail from me within the next days.
In Albania I have a couple of friends who I’ve met last year. I had promised Ardit to send him some real Belgian beer, but the Belgian postal chose not to send my beer to Albania. So I decided to bring him a couple of bottles in myself. So Ardit, if you’d read this, please act surprised when you get the beer.

Will I bring souvenirs?
Of course all of this means that you’ll have to miss me for some time. You may know that I do not own a notebook or iPad or anything like that, so I have to rely on hostel computers with questionable Internet connections.
Maybe you’ve already noticed that I stopped with my weekly “Story behind the picture” series, I’m planning to get this back starting somewhere around the beginning of may. But writing a weekly post may also become a bit difficult.
I must say that I still have a good one in the queue, called “Which type of traveler should you not be(come)?”, and to lift a corner of the veil: it has nothing to do with the tourist vs. traveler controverse.
It’ll be posted somewhere in the first week of April I guess, watch out for it.

Me being away does also mean that I will have little time to read what you write. I may have to skip a post or two on your blog, so please cut a bit down on the awesome content until half of April, and if you would happen to publish something amazing anyway, let me know so I can read it when I get back.
It can also take some time before I approve and reply to your comments on my blog posts, but be patient, I’ll always will.

What do you get in return for this?
A better me. After every trip I’ve ever made - except for maybe those on magic mushrooms - I felt better, smarter and broader minded than I was before. So an improved me is coming up. Hopefully this will result in better content for this blog.
And then there will be the tons of stories and photographs I will bring home and which I will use to keep you entertained for the following months.
Isn’t that a great souvenir?

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