Madrid > Barcelona

Taylor Thibodeau Speaking…

Heavy-eyed through teal tint lenses, I swallow the vast landscapes of Madrid, Spain. Our high-speed train is Barcelona-bound. Mike, to my left, sifts through photos. He spreads a smile as each image tells the story of a soul-enriching memory preserved.. Josiah to my front left enjoys cool jazz through one headphone- music and earbuds courtesy of the train. Taylor directly in front of me scouts a place for us to lay our heavy heads tonight. A task not often easily achieved when we reluctantly forfeit each Euro for a new pleasure or necessity. Will it be in a high-end Barcelona Hostel? Or perhaps the old couch of a friend not yet met? Will we search for an adequate piece of land to pitch tents? Who knows. The mystery and thrill quenches my cravings for adrenaline and…newness.

Today is the 7th day on our crusade across Western Europe. As anticipated, it feels as if a month has already passed since the four of us said farewell to friends, family, and our homes. An overwhelming amount of life has been lived and stimulation absorbed in a sliver of time. Each day brings with it overloaded new challenges, adventures, friends, growth, and physical taxation. I wouldn’t change a thing. It all matters, it’s all happening, and it’s all so purely part of it. 

lugging around hefty bags through sweltering cities is a lot less romantic in actuality than I grew up believing it would be. Bruises develop, back aches, muscles I never felt before suddenly reveal their existence through sore pain. This has become a burden to the point Mike and Taylor already shipped some weight back to the states…which isn’t cheap…which says a lot, because of the limited euros in our pockets. Making navigational mistakes on foot is a lot more demoralizing with 40 pounds stupid to your back. This is really no issue for us, because navigating in a  foreign country is super easy. HAHA, no, not really…it sucks.

The Eurorail was not what we thought. ‘Hey, let’s buy a pass for month for $800. It allows you to get on any train in Europe and travel from city to city and country to country…sounds easy!’ Not quite. There are reservation fees, and in a lot of cases reservations need to be booked 7 days in advance. We realized this our second day in Lisbon when we tried booking our seats from Portugal to Spain. it was a miracle we were able to get on the train when we did. Each day we grow more and more knowledgeable and efficient.

(all day intermission)

It’s now 1:46 AM. I am sitting in the kitchen/lounge area of the hostel in Barcelona where the Wifi actually functions properly. I’m drinking one of the two beer brands here offered to my by one of the hostel owners. He’s a 29 year old American who visited Europe to study when he was 22 and just never made it back home. He’s a really rad guy who is willing to share all of his non-touristy treasured locations he’s been discovering the last 7 years. He says he doesn’t do that for most tourists. I can’t seem to remember his name…but he seems like a genuine and rad guy. Goodness, I love the people you can meet when you just put yourself out into the world.

(all night intermission)

It’s the next day, tuesday…wait? No, it’s Wednesday at 5:45 PM. 

I didn’t get much writing done, because after he downed 6 beers, Jesse (oh, his name is Jesse by the way) could not stop talking and I just didn’t want to stop listening.

Today we woke up and took a 2 mile walk to one of Barcelona’s beautiful beaches. The expedition on the way to the ocean was…absolutely life-sucking. Such intense humidity and heat. However, the reward was worthwhile. We plopped our sweaty tired asses on the sand, set up “camp”, and prepared to enjoy the water. only moments later I began to notice that about half the women not he beach were topless…thank goodness for sunglasses. Sorry, but like…how does one get used to that? The water was warm and inviting…the waves were wild and somewhat violent. we had an absolute blast body surfing. It felt like every 30 seconds a local would pop on over and ask us if we wanted beer, a massage, water, or tickets to a club. I accepted a beer a couple times…for 1 Euro, I am DOWN with that. 

mi 3 amigos are off to find a grocery store so we can cook dinner at the hostel. Saving Euros every way we can. We will rest for a bit, and then check out the nightlife. 

Documenting has been more difficult than suspected due to the hustle and bustle of each and every day. There is little down time. However, I am going to create more opportunity to post. What’s the point of doing anything if it is only to be forgotten?

Lots of photos coming soon! Thank you for reading…

Take care and have a lovely rest of your day 🙂

-Taylor Mason Thibodeau

Palumbo Perspective

Mike Here…

I’ll try to keep my fingers steady while writing this. I’m not nervous or starving or normally shaky, but I finally have some down time to write now that we’re on the train. The clunky swaying is oddly comforting, but harder to type than usual. We’ve already met some great people on the train that are on their way to Madrid as well. I have this mysterious feeling in my gut that I chalk up to be intrigue, excitement, and sadness all at once. 

Portugal was a fantastic stay. After realizing that I packed way too much crap while hiking down-hill to meet with our friend. I was a waterfall of sweat carrying everything that I had in 2 bags initially on the plane, and realized I’d have to mail some things home after almost falling over a few times. We stored our things in my friend Rita’s car. It was a life saver. We explored a local beach which was beautiful, then met her back at her car after she got out of work. She drove us through alleys and streets so insanely narrow that seems like they winded right into each-other, and at speeds that none of us could imagine going under such conditions. Well, the other guys were convinced I drive through my back roads equally as fast, but I digress. As we were driving through Sintra, I was manic with picture snapping. Everything was interesting to me, even street signs. Rita drove us by the beach near her house, which opens up under a massive cliff overlooking Praia. “You can climb that. There are stairs that go up and you can see the view up top”, Rita explained pretty nonchalantly. “Well, we’re doing that”, I thought. 

Rita, her mother, and grandmother live on the top of the hills of Sintra, overlooking a panoramic view of burnt red rooftops, pink and purple flowers, and not-so-distant mountains. There’s even a castle resting on the horizon, which I was told belongs to a baker who invented a famous “sweet” and owns a reputable shop in the area. The air feels clean and thick, fairly humid, but a steady breeze keeps it cool. We stayed in a smaller cottage mirroring their beautiful villa home in their back yard with our own bathroom, shower, sink, and just enough beds. (though one person had to take turns on the air mattress) Considering the fact that we were literally expecting a backyard that we could pitch our single-person tents in and lay on the ground, we were blown away when we walked through the place. I hadn’t realized initially that Isabel, Rita’s mom, has a steady flow of visitors come in and out of their spare rooms via air bnb. The place is revered. We were being spoiled. The first few hours there we all seemed to spend in awe. That night their family, the other guests, their friends, and us Americans sat outside underneath the orange lamps and moonlight and talked about cultural differences we’ve all noticed within one another. I was in my usual ‘camera tunnel-vision’ that I get when I’m experiencing a new and exciting place – snapping photo after photo under the low light while also trying to engage in conversation.  Taylor Thibodeau looked at me several times and said with the deepest sincerity – “I love this.” 

Rita and her family treated us like what I would expect from my own family, yet even kinder somehow. I almost felt like i was in my Nanna’s kitchen again – Food I’m not used to, copious amounts of red wine and expresso, interesting smells, and a grandmother who seems to be able to cook an entire meal, eat a huge plate of that same meal, clean the table AND do the dishes, all while you get lost in boisterous conversation and freshly grilled sardines. I’m a bit of a foodie, so I could write a whole blog on just the food, but I’ll spare you guys some pages. (It would be more for me to try to re-live the experiences than for you)

The first day we woke up very late, which we realized would be only about 8am back home. After an amazing brunch, some of the most satisfying coffee we’ve ever had, (we hadn’t had much on the trip and I think we all were feeling some withdrawals) and trying to adequately express our gratitude, we set out. Rita’s friend Stefanie, who we had met the night before, wanted to come with us to climb the cliffs near the beach. 

We get down there and start our ascent. After 50 steps or so I realized it’s not a wimpy climb, but was enjoying the burning in my thighs and kept a steady pace. I didn’t think much of it, as the top didn’t seem that out of reach, but once we get to the first outlook, I realized we were in for something special. The V shape of cliffs on either side of the stairs with the ocean crashing towards me peeled away a layer of fog in my mind. Ironically, the sky was thick with gray fog so I wasn’t expecting an amazing view, but I was very wrong. 

Every area of the cliff about 50 yards from each other was a different immaculate ocean view with thin layers of rock stacked on each other. The massive walls on certain sides even had dinosaur footprints imprinted in them. The skeptic in me wondered if that was really what I was seeing, and how the cliff slid sideways after all these years, etc. but I believed them. Some of you most likely saw some of these pictures, and there will be more to see I’m sure. 

That hike was a moment of reflection for me, and I think for all of us. I realized that out of all the hikes in New England or the west coast that I’ve done, nothing quite had this aesthetic. I realized how beautiful the creation we live in is at all times, whether we notice it or not, and just how excited I am for this journey. 

After months of processing, planning, and eagerly anticipating this trip, actually being in Europe is beyond surreal. I’m reminded of the countless times in the last few years that I felt overwhelmed by my future, stressed about work, relationships, etc. and just wanted to impulsively hop on a plane to some-where-else-ville and not look back. Years later, now that I’m out here – it’s so hard to process. The adventurer in me has been given an overdose, the home-body in me has been starved out, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. 

Thanks for the patience guys! Over and out – until tomorrow (or very soon if not). We love you all,

-Mike 

@palumbotography

Day 1: Lisbon, Portugal

As the red sun sets behind the earth, we arrive at Logan Airport with hefty over-packed bags strapped to our soon to be aching backs–Each of us swimming in a cocktail of anxiety and excitement. We follow the tedious, yet necessary process that comes when traveling internationally. Our 6 hour flight is set to take off at 10:40 PM. This being said, we know it’s imperative to get as restful sleep as possible on a musky ‘1980’s scifi movie’ plane. That’s what the 4 whisky nips are for…4 for each of us. Gulp, gulp, gulp, gulp. (mom n’ dad, you’re LOVING this so far.) Portugal being 5 hours ahead of Massachusetts, the jet lag is going to be brutal as it is. I, in particular have an extremely difficult time sleeping in general, so I also throw a Benadryl and an Ativan down the ol’ gullet. Each of us in and out of unrestful sleep, the next 6 hours are a surreal dream-like haze.

The young lady a few seats to my left opens up the window cover allowing a disruptive bright light to shine through. Squinting through sleep-deprived eyes, I realize it’s 10 AM and we are descending into Portugal…the farthest from home I’ve ever been. Gathering up our belongings, I realize my $150 Ray-Ban shades are missing. Perfect. Too tired to care, I cut my losses and exit the plane. Things got kind of weird. Any time I’ve traveled, the plane exit is connected to the airport. Not this time. We exited the plane straight onto Portugal pavement– feeling the ferocious Lisbon sun beat down on us. Not a passenger is speaking…my comrades and I shrug our shoulders and hop on a bus 50 feet from the plane that we assume takes us to the airport. All of us too wiped to express excitement; we eventually get there.. With the exception of Mike, Taylor, Josiah, and myself, not a souls speaks English.

Airports are a dreary place as it is… it’s a lot harsher in a foreign airport where you’re the odd duck(s). I’ve never felt more invisible. First destination: water. MUST DRINK WATER. Mike being the only one of us with the forward thinking enough to have euros, he purchases a few bottles for the crew. Taylor summons an Uber and it’s off to our reservations at the Star Hostel 20 minutes away. As we drove, it becomes apparent we aren’t in Kansas…err Massachusetts anymore. Most buildings have character and color, the cars are small with thin roads to match &… the cobblestone stretches for miles and miles.

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After we checked in, it was naptime. 5 PM rolls around or should I say 17:00? I should. 17:00. Noon back home. We arise and now it’s time to eat. We meandered around our little corner of Lisbon for an embarrassing amount of time, until finally finding a place to eat. We enter a fairly cozy and almost entirely empty room. The proud elderly owner greets us warmly, thus beginning the inevitable difficulty of communication. He speaks no English. Using our hands to gesture that we are hungry, he brings us a limited menu written entirely in Portuguese. His lovely wife full of smiles is behind the counter dialing a number on her cell. She passes the phone to her husband. On the other line is their son who speaks a fair amount of English. He helps us interpret the menu. Still more difficult than one would imagine. Finally, I hear the words “chicken”. I point to a line on the menu…”chicken?” “Yes, chicken.” He replies with an extremely thick accent. “I’ll have THAT!” Mike exclaims. “Yeah, me too!” I agree. There will be plenty of opportunity to be adventurous with my cuisine, but right now I’m ravenous and I want some chicken, damn it. Josiah and Taylor choose pork. While we wait for the food to be prepared, the owner brings over olives and bread and beer. It was perfect. The restaurant owners son walks in with his wife and young son. He greets us warmly and apologizes for his English being “not very good.” Compared to what we’ve been experiencing, it was pretty damn good enough for us. Sure, he may not say words like supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, but that’s not really what we need right now.

When the food is brought to our table, it becomes clear that Taylor and Josiah didn’t order simple pork, but pork liver. The two look at one another with unease. I try a bite of the liver…it was…potent. Not something any of us are really digging. The owners then presented us with 2 large sardines to sample. Delicious…and rather bony.trailing 5

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The priority of the owners is to give us an awesome experience. They have succeeded. Such kind, generous, and warm people. So grateful.

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After the wildly affordable and generous meal, we head back to the hostel. We noticed our room door is closed. I knock and open the door to find a lovely young Dutch gal laying on one of the six beds. The four of us cracked open a bottle of red wine and became better acquainted with this young lass from the Netherlands. We learn she adores travel and has been exploring Portugal on her own for weeks. She takes us to explore the center of the city night life. We walk for a couple miles through hills of cobblestone and beautiful architecture. The city is poppin’ with life. We find ourselves in small hole in the wall bar where we meet an eccentric owner known as “Jess”. His true name is impossible to pronounce for a guy like me, let alone spell. He turns on his dance lights and blasts some Sumblime in honor of his new American friends. “Hey, what’s Ginja?” I ask. He grabs six small shot glasses and pours a red drink. “Hey, unless it’s on the house, I can’t partake.” I say. As he pours, he confidently retorts, “If you don’t ask for something an it’s offered, it’s on the house.” We all laugh and knock back our shot of Ginja. “Hey, it’s not a shot! You sip it.” I look to the left to see a German gentleman educating me on the ways of drinking Ginja. After a couple Super Bock beers…one of only two beer brands in Portugal, we head back to the hostel to sleep.

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The night is filled with laughter and giggles until it becomes time to shut the lights out. To my right Mike sleeps on the top bunk and Taylor sleeps on the bottom. Josiah lays above me. The bed at my feet is Giny. She and I can’t sleep (SOMEHOW), so we spend until 4 AM talking and laughing & annoying the absolute piss out of my comrades. “Hey, I want you guys to have fun, but I also kind of want to throw you out the window”- Mike Palumbo.

At 4:15 AM I go outside to have a surreal moment alone. Soaking in my environment, I take time to feel where I am…and what it all means to me.

I am happy.

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Stay tuned for Day 2.

 

Cheers!

 

-Taylor Mason Thibodeau

Dawn of Adventure

Hello Reader, how kind of you to stop by…

It’s been more than 5 lapses round the sun since Stephen Kerr and I returned to our quiet homes after our wildly emotional & physical 5,000 mile bicycle crusade across America. For those that do not know, at the age of 19 without any training or experience, Steve and I left the North East on January 1st on our bicycles in search of whatever came our way. We then traveled to Key West Florida and then to California ultimately competing in the worlds toughest Ironman Triathlon St. George.

 

 

5 years…damn. life-change can happen in seconds, let alone 1,825 days.  Upon returning home May 10, 2012, I felt as though I had hit the conceivable peak of joy, achievement, confidence, and happiness. Being freshly 20, I foolishly believed I’d reside comfortably in that special place…wrapped up in warm euphoria until my dying days. Life was going to be easy. After conquering such grueling physical and emotional challenges, I felt I unlocked a certain profound freedom. Turns out, I unlocked profound arrogance.

Not even a year being home, a dark mystery pierced its venom-coated fangs deep into my veins. (Mellow dramatic much?) I began noticing that I was tired all the time…and all around, I wasn’t really satisfied. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoyed my friends, and activities…but life just wasn’t as bright and vibrant anymore. After a month of noticing this ever-present fatigue, it got a bit stronger. I would wake up each morning completely “zombie-mode”…and that feeling would remain throughout the entirety of my day, until my head hit my pillow that evening.

Initially, I suspected some form of sleeping disorder. I set up a sleep study, got my thyroid checked, ferritin levels, all the basics. Sleep study revealed I sleep just fine and all my other blood tests came back negative.

taylor sick

The fatigue and the weight of the world slowly got worse over the next handful of months, UNTIL I woke up one (ironically memorable) morning and everything escalated greatly. I couldn’t think right. I couldn’t concentrate. I felt inebriated. I felt totally disconnected. I felt as though I had no control over myself. I lost all drive and motivation. I lost a lot of confidence.  I always possessed an incredibly sharp memory. It was actually something well known about me to those in my family and friend circles. Yet, on this morning, almost all new information could not be retained. Things that happened earlier in the day, by evening, I felt they happened a day or two before. I could no longer recount the activities I took part in. This is possibly the worst of all the symptoms…the extreme short term memory.

For months I visited doctors getting tested by specialists. I visited a neurologist, infectious disease, I had an MRI, & I had about 20 different blood tests. NOTHING. My doctor literally said “I have no idea what this could be. I am beside myself” SOO reassuring! I tried altering my diet entirely to organic and all natural. I continued my workouts and ran 15 miles a week. I tried sleeping even earlier. I tried all I could think of. After a brain scan in New York City, the doctors concluded that depression was not the primary culprit. (I knew that) However, no solution or hope for solace was offered.

I’ve lived with this for more than 3 years now. It’s as much a part of me as anything else. This mysterious chronic illness has hardened me and I’m sad to admit, caused a great deal of cynicism within me.

Would I go back? Would I take it all away if I could? I don’t think so. This experience has made me wiser, less ignorant, and much more empathetic for those that suffer with toxic illogical circumstances. I’m far less critical, and forgiving. I simply don’t have the energy to carry around more burden than I already do.

 

ENOUGH OF THE HEAVY STUFF, TAYLOR!! Ok, ok…I feel you. That’s a lot. I share only to help you, the reader, understand more fully one of the characters in this upcoming story that is about to be written.

On July 25th 2017, a new adventure rises. Linking arms with 3 of my closest companions, I will embark across Europe in the hopes to open my eyes & heart to what more exists beyond our own all too familiar USA. Europe, HERE WE COME!

 

THE RAMBLERS:

Josiah Stinson

josiah

Where do I even begin with this guy? With 2 decades of life together under our belts, he’s a brother. Humble, Generous, Patient, and Kind. And insanely good looking. In many ways, this adventure is happening thanks to him. You’ve been by my side my whole life, I’m elated to share this memory with you.

Taylor Hopkins

hopkins

It was inevitable that Taylor and I would end up on an adventure together… I mean, come on, we have the same name. Quite possibly, Taylor is the friend that most truly & purely understands my wanderlust and pursuit of passions. Many people consider him a great friend, and I’m just glad he allows me to be in his life the way he does. Easy going, and up for anything, he’s the kind of guy you need around you to stay sane. Oh, and he’s insanely good looking.

Mike Palumbo

mike pal

Mike and I first crossed paths just a few weeks before my bicycle trip 5 years ago while we both were walking into Target. It wasn’t for a couple years after that we truly connected as friends, but I feel it was destiny leading to moments such as this. Good-hearted, fun, passionate, and all around sincere, Mike finds the beauty in every angle of life. He has a contagious childlike wonder about him. Oh, and he’s insanely good looking.

Yours Truly

taylor

I warmly welcome you to join us on our journey.

Stay tuned!

 

Cheers,

Taylor Mason Thibodeau

Thank You!

As the adventure of my young life comes to a pause, I have many thanks to give to many many people. Steve and I have had helping hands this entire journey from those we’ve been blessed to meet.

Mom and Dad:

I respect you and love you with all that I am. You paved this yellow brick road I walk on today. Thank you for putting your faith in me.

Sandy Kerr:

I’ve only ever felt welcomed in your presence…you’ve been such a big encouragement in my life. I’d be lost without you now.

Kelly Kerr:

Coolest,toughest, bravest chick around…nuff said.

Visgatis Family:

God sent me to you…so that we could change each others lives. I except to be close with you and watch the boys grow for years to come. Thanks for helping fund this wild adventure!

The Rest of my Family:

Thank you all so much for your initial donations, your words of encouragement and your devotion to the blog. I love you all so very much.

My Bros:

Thanks for the encouraging texts through this journey. In times of despair, I leaned on you. Love you guys.

Kim and Mike:

I fortunately got to know you a bit before the journey, but I feel as though we’ve gotten even closer in our absence. I feel a part of the group…and love it! Thank you so much

Everyone We Stayed With:

You kept us out of the cold, fed us, and kept us company…thank you so much! Sequioa, Michael, Kitty, Gayla, Levys, George and Jake, The lake house peeps, Donna and Al, Everyone from Cedar Key, Eric Allred, Desiree and ZaTch, Grandma and Grandpa Jennings, Grandma and Grandpa Fehser, Sekajipo and Sight (love), Everglades Hostel, Manhattan friends, Jordan Pihl and Kitty, Katie Kjellman, Mimi, Frog Crossing, Myrtle Beach hombres, Gabbi Mello, Joe Fiore, Grandma Idiot and Nicky Parks/Dana and the rest of you!

Mark Wessels:

Mark, you showed us true generosity. “One day it will be your turn.” I’ll never forget you said that. I can’t wait for me to return all the love you showed us! I hope we meet again.

Uncle Ben and Aunt Jen:

Staying with you guys was amazing. I had never seen mountains like that before and never changed a diaper! Thanks Ben so much for letting me use your carbon fiber masterpiece! I hope it gets back to you in the same condition. Miss you Colin!

Hitchhiking:

You could have kept driving, but you stopped to help us. Thank you forever.

Jordan and Avalon:

Your house has been the longest place I’ve stayed other than my own. You guys are the raddest people out there and I’m so glad we got to meet you. Thanks for all the great memories. You better come to Mass!

Steve Kerr:

Thank you, Steve. Thanks for being the best friend I could ever have. We did this together. I’m so proud of you, man. Here’s to our future adventures! Cheers.

The Lord:

I can always lean on you even when I don’t deserve it. Thank your for giving me the gift of life and introducing me to all of the above people…might as well have been angels.

You all are a part of the story…you all aided in the success of this chapter of my life…THANK YOU SO MUCH

*BELOW IS A POST ON THE RACE. CHECK IT OUT! COMMENT!*