Air and light and time and space

Air and light and time and space

Click on the above link to read the whole story. Do it now – because the rest of this post won’t make any sense if you don’t know what I’m talking about, and because it’s a potential lifechanger.

I’ve fallen into that trap countless times. Something has always stood in the way

  • In photography: the weather was not right. I didn’t have atelier access. I was out of film. A model was too busy. I wasn’t in a creative mood.
  • In programming: seems that I never had the right development platform. I’ve been using Windows for the last two years to simplify things, and Windows isn’t programmer-friendly. I didn’t have a laptop, so I couldn’t work in a cafe. I didn’t have enough RAM to run that virtual machine. A JTAG adapter was broken and I didn’t have time to fix it.
  • In blogging: I could simply never decide which platform to use. Self-hosted, or a service? WordPress or Tumblr? Photos or words? Private or public? Photography or electronics?

This list could go on and on, but I’m not here to bore the reader. Things went this way for years… then, one day, something happened. I can’t pinpoint the exact moment, but some day I realized I’m actually overcoming all the obstacles instead of creating them. One day, something clicked.

I’m writing this sitting in a crammed kitchen. I’m in the process of renovating my studio and most of my life takes place in the kitchen – so there’s a huge PC workstation taking most of the table, stacks of vinyl LPs and a turntable on the counters, stacks of papers on the windowsill, a guitar in the corner and various boxes containing electronics everywhere around. I even had a TV and an old Amiga A1200 computer on the floor for a few days.

Does this lack of space prevent me from doing my work?

An important part of an artist’s awakening is realizing that living isn’t about creating a perfect world where you can go along with the flow freely. Life is about going forward despite and against the odds and the (sometimes harsh) reality.

It’s too risky.

The most ridiculous piece of advice so far: it’s too risky to simply buy a one way ticket to <somewhere>! Guess what I did just a few days ago. Welcome, Spain!

The problem with perceived risk is that people tend to consider any change as potentially harmful. This is the very same kind of mindset that prohibits any change, even the constructive one, and including the painful one that leads to many good things.

Someone once said that the magic begins outside your comfort zone. If it is so, my comfort zone is a vanishing point on the horizon. I just wonder if there’s any limit to this – if I can actually push myself too far and break.

On The Run

Why is the entire world running all the time? In the last six months I barely had a chance to actually spend genuine time with someone without either of us having some time constraints. I can barely count the times I could stay at someone’s place overnight without feeling guilty of taking too much of their precious time. This is very bad since I find it nearly impossible to connect with someone when our minds are constantly jumping towards the rest of things to do on that day. The art of being there seems almost forgotten in the technology & smartphone era – or maybe it’s just me?

The worst part of this is that even though I’m doing my best to keep my mind uncluttered, I’m still constrained by other people. Everyone seems to have so much stuff to do it almost sounds silly – except that it is insane. And I’m a part of this insanity.

I hereby make a resolution not to hurry unless not doing so would threaten my well-being. Which is ironic considering the fact that most of the time, hurrying actually decreases my well-being slowly but surely.

Scumbag biological clock

There’s simply no way to cheat the circadian rhythm. My peak brain activity is 11PM-3AM and it resists the half-assed attempts to budge it. Guess it’s either all or nothing – it won’t magically move to some other hours unless I put lots of efforts in. The question is, what’s to gain? (and to lose?)


There’s no cheating anyone: I’m running away from this country. As stupid as it may sound, I’m running away. From what? Sadness, loneliness and isolation, mostly. And crushed dreams. Friends all around me are reaching that 20-25 period where you face the life head on and you receive a terrible blow.

I’m not depressed or anything like that; it’s just that seeing it all around me really starts to wear me down. I’m a part of an unlucky generation; I was born in 1987, during the period of dramatic political and social changes and the transformation from communism to democracy. The tragedy is that our parents, in all their good faith, prepared us perfectly… for living in a wrong political and social system.

Of course, this doesn’t apply to everyone. Some people received good advice and started their businesses early on; others became engineers, found their cozy jobs and rolled 9-5 from then on, earning ridiculous salaries. The remaining 80% or so is fucked… and it breaks my heart every time I think about it and it makes me want to wail every time I see people stranded somewhere between childhood bliss and the promised adult life, without any clean perspective of getting out of that pit of despair.

How does one ever live in such place and not become depressed?

A little note on the previous post: it’s somewhat of an exaggeration. The situation in Poland is not appallingly bad – but being immersed in it for years almost makes me believe it is. It all boils down to the point of view and perception.

On meaningless stuff, survival of species and loneliness.

A part of maturing, upgrading one’s life and giving it meaning is switching from meaningless, mindless stuff (watching TV, browsing 9gag, gossiping, drinking) to meaningful stuff (reading, creating, meeting great people). And there’s a problem with this.

There are two ways to approach change: you either start doing something new and find out that the old thing just doesn’t make sense for you anymore; or you do it the other way round – you find meaningless activities, well… meaningless, so you ditch them and start trying to find some other filler for the empty space you just created.

The problem is that if you’re not careful, you can make your life so empty you’ll go CRAZY. The thing is: once you realize some activity is mindless and pointless, you’ll generally either stop doing it, or keep trying to do it but discover it’s no longer that fun. 

What you miss here is that even though some activities are meaningless and/or mindless, they usually have multiple purposes, some of them not obvious – and only after you stop doing something, you discover the emptiness in areas of your life where you never ever anticipated it would appear.

It hit me recently, and hit me hard. I quit my job and quit drinking (I’ll follow up on this subject later) at the approximately same time. After the initial excitement wore off, I realized my social life was reduced to naught. Consider this: a day at the office grants you about 40 man-hours of social contact alone and includes several different kind of interaction (sitting together in the same room; technical discussions; bonding during lunch hours; and even some office politics). A drunk party adds about the same amount (depending on the kind of parties you attend). With the lifestyle I used to have this easily added up to 300 man-hours of social contact a week. Right now it’s more like 10 man-hours of real life contact plus 30 hours of goddamn fucking Facebook Chat.

Now, here is the catch: thousands of years of evolution created a mechanism in our brains which causes great distress whenever we become separated from the rest of the group. It’s wired so deep inside our psychology that the very feeling of loneliness causes a multitude of negative symptoms, of which hypertension, stress and constant anxiety are the most common.

Cutting a survival-critical metric tenfold in three months is never a good idea. In fact, it’s so dumb I can hardly forgive myself for this.

Consult the literature on the subject

As a follow-up to the previous post, here’s a little bit of advice: most common problems of the world are solved – even if the majority of people still have no idea a solution exists. A few examples:

  • Getting fat? Here’s (probably) why.
  • Feeling guilty for staying home on a Friday night? There’s science behind this (brain chemistry & wiring).
  • Still arguing with your artsy friends about whether you are an artist or not? What does ‘artist’ mean, anyway? Enlightened people have figured it out (and it’s an incredibly inspiring piece, by the way).
  • Considering a career as a drunk entrepreneur? Heed the warning. (and laugh all along the way, the guy is hilarious).
  • Got a feeling that the way most companies work is illogical at best? Wondering if there’s any other way? You’re on the right trail.

I could go on like this for a long time. Smart people wrote on almost every subject imaginable – from storing your data the right way to sharpening pencils. All you have to do is reach out for that vast knowledge.

Get a Kindle. It will change your life.

We’re sorry to reject your content, but

you’re not allowed to be sad.

Western societies have drifted as far from sadness and death as possible. Traditionally, the ways to cope with those uneasy feelings were rituals and mythology. In Western society, there’s a mythology too – a myth that consumption helps. This doesn’t solve the fundamental problem – but usually the answer is more consumption. What better solution to getting fat than eating a big pack of cookies?

It’s not hard to break out from this cycle once you realize it’s in place – but then, be prepared to find a replacement. Cutting the overconsumption out means you’ll no longer be shielded – and you’ll have to cope with that somehow.

Of course, I have a recommended reading about that.

Enough talking.

Another trap I’ve gotten myself into: endlessly deliberating over my ideas and/or problems. Yes, thinking before doing is a good idea. Yes, sometimes one needs to think the issues over and find a way out. But right now, the way out is actually doing stuff I want to do. Technically I shouldn’t even be writing this post – I should be doing whatever should be done instead.

I’m leaving the country in 5 days. This means that soon I won’t have anyone to discuss with and the only thing left to do will be either doing something or doing nothing.

the click


The term comes from Tennessee Williams’ play Cat On a Hot Tin Roof. It describes the feeling I know all too well – that moment when you drink and suddenly the peace comes over you and you’re not afraid anymore; you’re the center of the universe. It’s nothing new; you can find it in books, movies and plays if you know what to look for.

– What do you like most about drinking?
– The calm, the peace, the kind of great comfort when one lies drunk on the ground and now it all, that calm and peace comes into him, and there’s a man sprawled .. and he is the center of the universe… (Year of the Devil)

Why mentioning this? Because for the last four months I’ve been sober and I’ve been missing the click; I simply couldn’t enter that peaceful state of mind. It’s was a few days ago that I realized it was missing – realized after my stress levels started rising to alarming levels for no apparent reason – yet I somehow couldn’t even imagine any sensible way of entering that state without a drink. Yet, the seed was planted…

Today it clicked. I didn’t notice when; it’s that kind of thing where you can feel the before and after states but not the transition. Fortunately, I can at least explain what happened.

I seem to build major changes in my life on quitting something. Alcohol, jobs, university, toxic relationships – no matter what I quit, there is a huge relief and a big surge of energy. It lasts for weeks, months perhaps – but invariably wears off at some point. As good as those changes are, this way of living is not sustainable; in order to experience elation this way, one would have to get into bad situations just so that he could get out of them.

The change that happened today wasn’t about rejecting; it was about building, creating and embracing – not quitting. It’s needless to go into details right now – I’ll surely post some results here once I actually get them – but the absurdly simple lesson learned today is: big changes bring more big changes – but it’s the building and creating things that brings satisfaction in the long run.

Oh, and the essence of today’s experience: you can’t do it alone.


Facing a two-hour wait at the airport, I could choose between catching some fresh air (it smells of rain and jet fuel) and catching some WiFi. Guess which I chose. (answer at the end of the post)

The place is weird. There are some crazy renovations going on and there’s NO MAP of the place – so I spent the first 15 minutes wandering and looking for food and coffee. The coffee tasted like dirt. At least Italians speak some English. ;)

Next stop: Valencia, arriving at 23:40. Won’t report until tomorrow, probably – the last thing I want to do upon arriving at the place of my dreams (well, kinda ;) is to take out my laptop.

Answer: both. What did you expect? :)


Proposed Ryanair in-flight activities:

  • Adopting stray dogs and cats
  • Fireworks show
  • Parachute lottery

Seriously. I kept the straight face until the lottery; when I heard the announcement I was all like WAT? Then I regretted I didn’t have any euro with me. I’m definitely buying a lottery ticket during my next flight.

Explanation for those who never flew Ryanair: their tickets are crazy cheap, so they make up for this in two ways: one, outrageous fees for extra anything; and second, making lotteries and selling perfumes during the flight.


Note: this post was written more than a week ago and forgotten somewhere deep inside the drafts folder. I edited it before publishing, removing all the embarrassing details and leaving just the conclusion.

I noticed a pattern a few days ago and now I can’t unsee it, so I’m going to share it with you. The thing is about job quality. The first job in my career was like this (back in 2007):

Position: one of the project fathers: admin, coder, hardware guy. You’re a one-man orchestra when you’re a founding father.

Employment: part-time (¼), mostly remote (but with epic meetings from time to time).

Mode: Hardcore startup – we actually did build our first server in the garage (I have photos if you don’t believe me).

People: Great people, lots of freedom, tons of experience.

Freedom: Choose whatever you think will work best.

Trust: It was fundamental to trust each other. We did review each other’s work if it was essential from security point of view.

Extras: The only job I ever had that paid for business travels – I even visited Amsterdam once and the company rented a vehicle for me – it was a bicycle, of course, but bike is The Way to move around in Amsterdam.

Fame: It was 5 years ago and people still recognize me as that Kosma from that project.

And there’s the last one (don’t cross-reference with LinkedIn or you’ll come to completely wrong conclusions):

Position: backend coder/architect.

Employment: full-time, office.

Mode: Young company, yet with surprisingly strict approach to processes and procedures. Worked on one of many projects.

Freedom: Barely any. Consensus-based EVERYTHING. Mandatory code review procedures, annoying git branching model, work time tracking, no root access for developers.

Trust: each change was reviewed by three people. We had to send daily reports (scrum, anyone?).

People: I didn’t bond with the team at all. They spent 8 hours a day staring at their screen, saying nothing.

Extras: quarterly bonuses.

Fame: Signed an NDA so I can’t tell you anything about that project. I think I’m allowed to mention the name.


This change didn’t happen from job to job; it was a gradual process of losing control, losing trust, becoming a sweatshop worker and earning more and more money I didn’t really wanted to spend because I was so tired, bored, almost depressed.

To make things clear: this is not the employers’ fault; the mistake is mine. Somewhere along the way I forgot what my priorities are. Chasing the stupid dream of earning more and more money, I betrayed my hacker ideals and sold myself – losing the integrity and becoming a whore.

Where do I go from here? The answer is simple: back. Not to the same employers, obviously – you can’t step back into the same river – but to the same kind of job: a place where your talent is put to the test via technological challenges, not via pleasing the management and passing Git hooks.

Discomfort zone

I’ve finally found a boundary I can’t easily cross. Living in a new country, in a town I barely know, at a temperature my body doesn’t know how to react to, speaking two languages and trying to learn third one – all this and I don’t have enough brainpower left to handle social situations. Despite the beautiful English presented here, in real life I’m more like hello, me potato – an unfortunate side effect of being raised by the internet. Add Spanish to the mix and my brain shuts down.


Not blogging much right now, so I thought I’d at least make a little update to let you guys know I’m alive and well.

You see, I’ve never considered myself a tourist. I find museums boring, marketplaces and squares too crowded and points of interest rather uninteresting. Upon arriving in Valencia, I completely ignored the city center and went straight to the marina – and just sat there, looking at the sea. Today I walked just outside the city borders and through the fields of potatoes and onions and orange trees – and I found it the most beautiful experience of the entire trip.

Travels do teach you much about the world and yourself. The thing is, the lesson is often not what you want or expect it to be.


Do you know what makes you happy? I forget way too often. I rented a bike today – and then just went autopilot without map or GPS. My instinct led me to the city outskirts first, then to the beach, and along the quay to the marina. Made lots of photographs along the way without even stopping (this is how I’m going to die, probably). Grabbed a quick coffee or two along the way, too.

What we want from life are simple things. We just keep forgetting what they are.

The first leg of the trip…

…is almost finished. It’s pretty sad to be leaving Valencia just when I was getting acquainted with the city – one week is definitely too little, especially since I spent a good part of it just getting through the adaptation shock. It’s a really beautiful place, one I could maybe even life in if I knew Spanish.

I do have some experiences to share, but they need to mature a bit more – I’ll probably write something on the bus tomorrow, since I deliberately chose the cheaper service without WiFi. Internet addiction is a horrible thing – even though I’m over one thousand miles away from home, I still can’t quite bring myself to get offline completely. Once you get used to the comfort of being connected constantly, letting go seems almost impossible… guess I just need more time. At least Facebook makes much less sense now – all the updates I get are from people so far away I can’t bring myself to care. Which is a good thing. I would probably delete the damn thing if I didn’t have so many services connected to it (and if I wasn’t addicted).

Despite the warmth of Spanish spring I caught a little cold, but with the help of some pills it will hopefully be gone in a few days. I guess my immune system still needs to recover after the long cold Polish winter.

Next stop: Madrid.


Written a few hours ago.

As promised, I’m sitting on the bus to Madrid without any internet access, and at last I share my few thoughts about Valencia and Spain in general.

The place is wonderful. I’ve been in Spain before, but only now I realized how beautiful it is. I grew up in Poland, which – as crazy as it sounds – has basically no buildings older than, say, 150 years. Boy, things are different here. Not only it’s nothing special to live in a house over one hundred years old – more than that, those old houses still retain most of the original decor. Somehow even though the new buildings are modern, yet still have that nice touch of tradition; and although many of them don’t blend in perfectly – glass & metal monsters are hard to get rid of completely – there’s much less discrepancy between the old and the new.

Enough about architecture. What impressed me most is a different matter: the way people live here. Everything – and I do mean everything – is there to make life more comfortable. It’s a completely different level than what I’ve seen in Poland. It feels like a different thought process – people are put first, and solutions and rules second. For example:

  1. People need green areas for recreation. Let’s make many parks.
  2. Parks should be clean, so let’s forbid dogs there.
  3. Dogs need to, ehm, do the dog business – so let’s make designated areas for this purpose.

Another example: Metro tickets. The tariff is so simple I could understand it with one look. It has to be simple because it’s meant to serve people. Compare this to Wrocław, which has three different types of tickets (depending on zone & time of day), single-use tickets, short-term, long-term… also, the metro card can be bought in a vending machine at every station. How could it be otherwise?

Despite all the attempts to make life easier there are almost no signs, marks, or arrows. This made me nervous at first – I’m so used to being guided – and then I realized there’s no need for them. A society is co-regulating most of the time – which also means people attain their goals by cooperation. If you want to survive in a new land, you just watch the locals and follow them. The net result may be the same as reading instructions and using GPS, but cooperation has a tremendously important side effect: it improves human connection. I was a complete stranger when and I arrived, and after just a few days I started to feel a connection with those people – even though I don’t speak their language at all.

Speaking of connection – there houses are built so close to each other that it’s impossible no to be in contact with your neighbors. No wonder there’s no violence on the streets – with this amount of closeness on so many different levels, it’s hard to be angry or jealous.

If you want to travel to Spain, one thing to keep in mind is that people don’t speak English here. There are exceptions, of course – but the majority don’t. It takes some time to get used to it, lots of empathy to communicate despite this barrier, and a bit of persistence to learn enough basics to be able to order beer and tapas without confusion or embarrassment – but you do get used to it. Spanish is easy to learn – especially if you know English (because of vocabulary) and some Slavic language (so that you won’t be intimidated by conjugation and noun genders).

Nothing is perfect, of course. Because of the climate, Spain has a very distinct rhythm of life – if you are used to stores and restaurants being open all day, prepare for a big shock. After a week in Valencia I still haven’t quite grasped the rules: theoretically, work hours are 9-13 + 15-19 for stores and 12-14 + 20-23 for restaurants. In practice, each one is a bit different. My friend Taras (who also hosted me during this week) summed it up nicely: if you decide to live in Spain, you have to become Spanish. The rules of life are well-proven here, and straying from them means a bit of discomfort as you go shopping and realize stores are closed, or want to meet up with your friends at an hour they’re not available. Not to mention that going outside during siesta hours on summers isn’t the smartest thing to do – it’s just too hot.

Valencia is a tremendously beautiful place, one that I will surely miss. But it’s not a place where I could live – not without major lifestyle changes.

# 2013-03-27 11:24
# Highway service point, somewhere between Valencia and Madrid

Another one of those little differences: apparently it’s OK to bring your own food in places like a highway stop or a university canteen. Not only OK – it’s encouraged; there are microwave ovens available for this very purpose. Another example of attitude towards people, not against them.

We’re back on the road after a twenty minute stop. A movie is playing on the bus TV. It’s Spanish with Spanish subtitles, probably in case someone is even more deaf than me – or wants to learn Spanish the hard way.

The weather changed. It’s raining, which means less wandering around the city and more sitting in cafes. Can’t complain. As long as they have power, WiFi and coffee, I’m good.

By the time I finished writing this, the rain stopped. It’s now sunny. I’m not even pretending I understand this climate.


My inbox continues to grow every day. I received 55 new emails since I left Poland – and read maybe 10. The rest is just junk – things like LinkedIn, tons of newsletters, account registrations, subscriptions of stuff I no longer care about.

And to think I used to read all this shit just because it was arriving in my inbox. Getting perspective really puts things in the right places.

Silly me.

Eight hours in Madrid and I’m already fed up. I have no idea what led me to booking five nights in the (party) capital of Spain, but I’m going to try to change it to three and escape to Barcelona.

Madrid pros:

  • People actually speak English here. Kinda. Yay!
  • Lots of interesting places. Visited the Prado museum today (for free, thanks to my student’s card which miraculously is still valid). Going to visit more museums tomorrow.

Madrid cons:

  • It’s like Warsaw, except twice as big. I hate Warsaw.
  • So crowded it’s ridiculous. I’m an introvert.
  • Prices. I’m going to try to find a supermarket and some university canteen – otherwise I’ll have to rob a bank soon.

The good news is that the hostel has great WiFi and unlimited free coffee.


As soon as I wrote the previous post, I went to the reception and changed my reservation from five to three nights. Turns out I was just in time – the deadline for cancellation was at 22:00, and my change went through at 21:56. This means I won’t be spending the Easter morning in Madrid. :)

Now I just need to find a decent hostel in Barcelona. “Decent” means “close to the sea and away from the crowd”.

After one night in Madrid:

  • There are two kinds of coffee, each of them worse than the other.
  • WiFi signal is weaker than an anemic kid.
  • Entertainment is provided by two of my roommates: Spanish chicks who party until morning then scatter their clothes around the room and throw up in the bathroom.
  • What looked like a cold is in fact a full-fledged flu. This won’t stop me from attending the museums, but man, I feel so weak right now.

Choose Your Own Adventure

For those not playing video games: Fallout series is located in a post-apocalyptic world, many years after the nuclear war. The last two releases were located in the bombed-down versions of Washington and Las Vegas. This is how the world looks in-game:

I played Fallout 4: Madrid today. In real life.

It started innocently enough. After visiting the Railway Museum I took the metro towards the local university campus: both because I like visiting universities – they are guaranteed tourist-free – and because it was a potential source of cheap food. Except that when I arrived there, something seemed… odd.

The Ciudad Universitaria metro station was empty. Not empty in the “no passengers” sense – it was ghosttownesque. Stores closed, rubbish bins not emptied for days, gates half open and swinging in the wind. Not discouraged, I made my way toward the nearest institute.


Next one: the same. And so on. At some point I realized there must have been some student vacation – and Spanish do treat vacations seriously. To the point that I walked across the campus for miles and didn’t encounter a single human being.

I bet you never saw a university campus that empty. I was mesmerized.

In one of the previous posts I mentioned that Spanish navigate by observing other people. Since there was no one there – and hardly any directions – I was free to wander in whatever direction I wanted. My instinct never fails when I set it loose; I crossed a little forest area and soon found myself atop one of the highest hills in town. I wish I could tell you the view was beautiful, but it was what it was – a view of a huge city, stretching to the horizon in almost all directions.

At the foot of that hill I encountered an old man feeding pigeons. He wanted me to photograph him, but I didn’t manage to get his address so that I could send the prints.

It was reminiscent of Fallout on so many levels. Without the students, the campus looked haunted – the institutes which used to host so much knowledge were now just old, boarded-up buildings full of desks, blackboards and strange devices. Roads and signs made no sense any more – they used to lead to arbitrary locations, and now all I was interested in was getting from A to B without getting killed by the raiders and drug fiends. Of course, there were no real bandits in my adventure – but at some point I inadvertently crossed the homeless territory. They eyed and ignored me, thankfully, but in my mind I was preparing an escape plan.

No self-respecting Wastelander would start his adventure without a Pip-Boy. Mine featured a color screen and was made by HTC – and it kept losing coverage just like the original. It also shared the same questionable map quality.

Upon returning to the more civilized areas I came upon two buildings which could have as well been standing in the Wasteland as-is: Museo de América and Faro de Moncloa. I just wish I could have continued this exploration experiment further, but at that point the second part of my quest – finding food – took over, so I shelled out some bottle caps euros and ate a hearty meal at McDonalds.

It sucks to be brought back to reality from such a fantastic daydream. I liked the post-apocapolyptic version of Madrid much more.

As usual, I suspected this would happen – and yet it still surprised me. I tend to see the world around me as potential photographs; and today I realized that I also have a little voice in my head which tells the stories I repeat here. I don’t just sit down and invent something – these posts keep growing in my head and at some point I have to write them down.

Compatibility issues

This is a yet another rant. If you don’t like rants, don’t read. ;)

Fresh Madrid experiences:

  • I’m incompatible with Spanish work hours. For some reason, my credit card doesn’t work on ALSA website, so I went to the bus station to buy a ticket to Barcelona. Guess what: ticket offices observe siesta too! Working hours for this specific ticket office were 8-13 + 15-20. Ooh, you’re in a hurry? Too bad.
  • More incompatibility: because of the closed ticket office I had plenty of free time, so I decided to visit Matadero. Guess what? Opening hours: 16-22. I used to think Poland was a crazy place, but it seems every country has its own peculiarities.
  • Madrid is so big I use Google Maps as a GPS all the time. One time I decided to just consult the map once and then just walk and admire the architecture*. Even though it was just one long straight street, I took the wrong turn** and ended up in a wrong place.
  • Even though it’s Spain, it can rain cats and dogs here. And it does.
  • I found a perfect place: English cafe & bookstore. Too bad I’m leaving tomorrow, so I could only drink one coffee there.
  • A few days ago a young black guy selling glasses on the beach recommended McDonalds and KFC to me. I didn’t understand it back then; I do now: they’re the cheapest ways to eat, especially for a foreigner.

Enough rants. Going to Barcelona tomorrow; I’m so awaiting that eight hour bus trip. If only I was a drinking person I could get myself totally hammered like any self-respecting Polish tourist; alas, this is not an option.

*A joke. Madrid is about as beautiful as Warsaw: a few monumental historic buildings here or there and the usual shit everywhere else.
**I kid you not. Wrong turn. On a straight street. On an intersection bigger than a football stadium.

Creative output

Creative output balance during this trip:

  • Photography: fantastic. I carry the camera on my shoulder at all times, shooting roll after roll. Actually, I exceeded my own expectations – I’m running out of film; hopefully I’ll get some more HP5+ in London.
  • Writing: surprisingly good. Although I’ve been writing for years now, only recently I started publishing anything in the form of a blog. I get about 10 visits a day and I like the idea that people enjoy reading it – and they keep coming back for more.
  • Programming: Nada. No, wait – I think I pushed some changes to my dotfiles repository because OS X was choking on Linux-only constructs in .bashrc. I need a quiet, comfortable place and at least some good tea/coffee to write code; hostels provide neither. My friend’s house in Valencia could provide both, but he kept kicking me in the butt every time I tried to open the editor instead of going sightseeing. ;)

TL;DR: I’m a hacker, writing a blog titled Hacker Ideals, who doesn’t hack. However, I shoot tons of black-and-white photos with a film camera and pretend to be a writer.

Not sure if hipster or just an awakening artist.


Arrived in Barcelona. It’s sunny again. Finally!

You know, the one thing that made me uncomfortable in Madrid was that half of the city is underground. Metro stations, bus stations, etc. – all underground, stretching far and wide and usually several levels down. It’s a city built for moles, not humans.

Barcelona has tramways which run on the surface. I’m home again.

Barcelona Fun Time

  1. Never underestimate the power of influenza. I needed to do the laundry today, so I went out to get some detergent. The shops were all closed, and the weather so nice – and before I knew, I found myself on top of Sant Pere Màrtir, a big hill on the borders of Barcelona. Funny what one can do while on high fever.
  2. I spot Polish people from time to time. They are fun to watch; they make dumb comments about other peoples’ behavior and clothes and try to bypass the metro gates. There is only one rule of Pole Watching Game: do NOT reveal yourself. Hilarious.
  3. The British kids are gone; the hostel is now full of young Japanese. By the way, what’s the thing with groups people wearing the same outfits while traveling? Why look like an idiot among twenty other idiots? Safety in numbers?

Considering the amount of kids in the lobby, I’m glad I took my entire music collection with me. Still, if I knew what awaited me I would’ve probably taken the big, noise-muffling headphones instead of earphones.

Level: Hard

Day 12 of my trip. I’m slowly getting used to living in suboptimal conditions. Some things are hard by choice – for example, living in cheap hostels inevitably means sharing your room with obnoxious partygoers who don’t quite grasp the idea that you don’t drink alcohol. At the other side, many difficulties pop up where you didn’t expect them – for example, as I already ranted more than once, I’m completely incompatible with Spanish work/eat/party hours. Finally, there are obstacles one cannot really prevent – like bronchitis.

I thought about this as I was sitting on a bench in a park today, coughing so loud people around probably wondered if there’s another outbreak of swine flu. A question kept recurring: why is it all so hard, and why is everyone around me having fun while I have to summon so much effort just to get through the day?

And then it dawned on me: it’s hard because I chose it to be so.

This trip was planned to be hard. It was a crazy thing from the very beginning, with little to no preparations, no guidebooks, no maps. Basically, I decided to throw myself into the lively Spanish city life without any afterthought. The reason everything is hard is because I’m trying to do everything my way – not the local way or the tourist way.

Why not the tourist way? Because it sucks. I’m not a part of the cheerful crowd – I’m introverted and proud of it. I don’t want souvenirs – they will just collect dust once I get back home. I don’t want anything I can buy, in fact – simply because happiness cannot be bought, and it’s a waste of money, time and life to try to prove otherwise. Tourism is an industry; I don’t wanna be a part of it.

Why not the local way, then? Because I don’t know it, and I don’t have any easy way of learning – except learning the hard way. Take the shops, for example. In Poland, even on the biggest bank/national holidays you’ll find open shops everywhere. Not in Spain. The only grocery I found today was Chinese one, and half of the products the didn’t have a single Latin letter on them.

It’s hard enough already. But I go even further – I’m a hipster of life, and for reasons not yet understood I try to do everything the weird way.

Like when climbing the hill today. I didn’t use the usual approach path – instead, I reached a dead end in some rich suburb, crawled through a hole in the fence and went straight to the top, tearing my jeans on thorny shrubs and losing my footing many times because of the steepness of the slope. When coming back, I opted for the least used path.

Living the hard, non-obvious way has been my goal for some time – but ironically, reaching it doesn’t feel glamorous at all. And even though there’s little to brag about, such little decisions, successes and failures do an important thing: they build the character. Every time I make a decision against the majority, it gets a little easier; every time I succeed, I know I can push things a little bit further.

And even though I may have holes in a new pair of jeans, I’m going to wear them with pride.

PS. We Polish people need to realize how resilient we are when it comes to surviving adversity. From the absurdities of tax system to the extremes of weather – yes, we may complain, but in the end we are alive and kicking. May be we should just cherish this more?