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countries

a glimpse of what it's like elsewhere intertwined with narratives & notions

(words & photos)

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countries

 

   The country section is my attempt to create an impression of what it's like elsewhere, while interlacing places with narratives. I think that the place itself matters less than our subjective experience there, which shapes our feel and memory. One might prefer the sea over mountains or certain cultural facets over others; yet, what ultimately renders our perception of a place seems to be the experience we live or suffer through there. Hence the concept of the country section: every place is portrayed alongside a story, typically delivered with a notion, punch line, observation or philosophical dispute. Every country consists of regional pages whose titles read something like this:

Rio de Janeiro / No Hard Feelings

The slash symbolizes the symbiosis of place and narrative. This piece, for instance, has the very idea of subjective experiences in places as an undercurrent, presented in form of an anecdote about Rio de Janeiro intertwined with photos depicting impressions of the city from my angle.

These pieces are neither to be seen as destination guides, nor are they plain diary-style accounts. There will be descriptive elements and personal stories in them, but they will orbit a message, a train of thought, or a photojournalistic narrative.

The country category is an even mix of galleries and texts, whereas reads and photos focus on words and pictures respectively. The country section is a stage presenting people, landscapes, architecture and wildlife around the world, putting the spotlight on contrasts and similarities, and reserving a prime spot for normaities that all too often disappear in the shade of the extraordinary and newsworthy.

All content is merely of inspirational character, showing places/stories rather than destinations. It is meant for everyone with a curiosity for the world we live in today and not catered to travelers per se. For those who travel, these pieces are not to be seen as stringent suggestions or guidelines, and by no means do they claim to portray a place or its people accurately, exhaustively or conclusively. They are bits and pieces, personal impressions alongside my road. They are meant to satisfy or kindle an interest in places and lives far from one's societal norms in a world that is more than the bubble one grew up in;

If these pictures and words trigger Fernweh and Wanderlust in you, great. However, they don't advocate following their exact footsteps. Instead they want to encourage endeavors to raw horizons, chance discoveries and explorations of local cultures miles astray the laid out tourist trails; because much of the beauty, adventure and marvel is hidden between the well known guidebook lines. That's not to say you shouldn't visit the world's sightseeing attractions or that you wouldn't see them here. But looking behind touristy facades opens up the view to authentic and captivating worlds beyond easy sights.

 

The country pages are a mix of finished stories and teasers, since MilesAstray unfolds in unchronological retrospect. I started this project four years into the journey, so my writing has to catch up with my living these stories. This helps putting my experiences and notions into a broader and more informed perspective and context, which a classical diary approach doesn't allow for. This is a list of completed countries (all regional pages finished) so far:

Albania, Belize, Brazil, Chile, JapanUAE

 

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latest places / stories

countries | Europe | Albania

Tirana / How Little Can You Learn About a Country in One Day?

passing through Albania in 24h

 

...this is pretty much where the flying visit reaches its maximum altitude of inflight insights, falling short of the point where travel gets truly interesting in my opinion: when it fosters a better understanding of a foreign culture and the people who live it through their habits, everyday rituals and mannerisms. explore

countries | Central America | Cuba

Havana / On the Cusp between Eras

sung patriotism & whispered criticism: torn in a changing nation

 

Transformation is a blurry wave, unlike the crisp ripple of a sudden revolutionary fist. explore

countries | Africa | Rwanda

Kibuye / Living with Explosive Likelihoods

the gamble with odds that aren’t all that disastrous – living near dangerous potentials

 

They are accustomed to the normality of any given day that isn’t the one when calamity strikes. explore

countries | North America | Canada

Port Rexton / Only Passing Through: Unsung Towns of Unknown Dreams

the delusive beauty of scratching a place's surface instead of digging deep

 

...the unknown leaves space for imagination and in the foreigner's head any town can tell any story... explore

countries | South(east) Asia | Indonesia

Jakarta / Beautifully Ugly

inner beauty & authentic travel - less pretty cities well worth the visit 

 

Why pretend that you are easy on the eyes of strangers who are just checking you out, soon off to generic liaisons on Bali? You aren’t Kuta, you don’t wear makeup. You look run down. Your old town has seen much better days. And you don’t smell so nice either. But you have character. And soul. And true Javanese street scenes. explore

countries | South America | Colombia

Cartagena / Police Negotiations

haggling over fines for non-existent crimes & how to break the corruption cycle

 

But one needed to keep in mind that these were still cops, no matter how corrupt. It felt like our bargaining power matched theirs, but at the end of the day they were in charge and would decide over our fate that night: jail or no jail. explore

countries | Europe | Spain

Barcelona / Revolution in the Air, But Where?

people carry on ordinarily while the political stage is in flames

 

...yet, between these societal lines, where the quintessence of our life as human beings dwells, our situation remains largely the same, despite political turmoil... explore

countries | Africa | South Africa

Kamhlushwa / Humans Living Passions – Community Enrichment from Within

meet the extraordinary Imagine Scholars

 

As founder Corey Johnson puts it: “I’m incredibly proud of all the huge successes, but the real goal is to create good people. I’d be more proud if they become good mothers, fathers or coworkers, just good people; because that’s what the world needs.” explore

countries | Northeast Asia | Japan

Tokyo / Lingering Alone

the difference between seeing a place and being in a place

 

...everybody is keen on seeing these picture-perfect places, but nobody seems interested in actually being there, in staying in these moments. Peek, cross off the list, move on to the next aisle... explore

countries | South America | Brazil

Ilha Grande / Distracting Convenience

outrunning comfort to create memorable moments

 

Alas, convenience wanted me back in its enclosing walls for the same reasons it always does – for all the wrong reasons, distracting us from the bigger picture... explore

countries | Middle East | UAE

Dubai / Dark Reality of a Playground for the Affluent – Drawing a Line

diverging gustoes or objective concern?

 

...the former fishing village wears but future on its amber desert-skin. But ever taller comes at a price beyond dollar bills...  explore

countries | Central America | Belize

Caye Caulker / Inflate-Burst-Flux of a Clichéd Island Bubble

the bond of a moment’s fun

 

...not much of you or anybody else can stay there, too little the ripple, too constant the stream. A moment’s fun is the bond and doesn’t ask for any more or less... explore

countries | South America | Chile

Valparaíso / TV, Tsunami, Neruda & the Quintessence of Hills & Timing

a matter of perspective and timing

 

...still, there was no denying that this little TV set now beamed some baffling information at us: an 8.2 earthquake off the Chilean Pacific coast was sending a Tsunami right our way and suddenly we appreciated every meter our journey had led us up the raven hill... explore

countries | South America | Chile

Santiago de Chile / Outside the Fence with a Whisky Flask

the morals of sneaking in and getting what you pay for

 

...naturally, Kant's principals are noble, intact, and upright, while mine dangled lazily between mischievous and preposterous. But, from a pragmatic point of view no harm was done and this factual utilitarian reality was more convenient for me that day... explore

countries | South America | Brazil

Rio de Janeiro / No Hard Feelings

distinguishing between place and experience

 

...my harshest criticism towards many travelers and especially the ones armed with blogs – that they don’t distinguish between a place and their experience there... explore

countries | South America | Chile

Patagonia / Hitchhiking Chronicles & Idle Waiting

why waiting doesn’t feel like leisure

 

Just why do moments of waiting feel so dull and wasted? Why do we have to “kill” that time? Usually we can’t wait to get a break from our duties, but once leisure time imposes disguised as idleness it becomes an annoyance. explore

 

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regions

South America
Central America
North America
South(east) Asia
North(east) Asia
Central & West Asia
Africa
Middle East
Europe
Oceania
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Nepal

Himalayas / Hiking Alone, Astray & Everestless

b/w

when inked in black & white

work on the ground & online

Spain

Barcelona / Revolution in the Air, But Where?