A SWEDISH DAMSEL IN DISTRESS * excerpt from the book Wings and Wanderlust

Evading security, I sneaked into a tourist beach at night. From atop a tall 5-star hotel, a maiden saw me fixing my sleeping bag, and, like an angel, descends into my realm.
eastwind memoirs
by Bernie V. Lopez, eastwindreplyctr@gmail.com


Excerpt 07


This is an excerpt from the book Wings and Wanderlust, the Art of Discovering Your Inner Self, a true story of the daring adventure of a Filipino Programmer in New York turned drifter, hitchhiking 25,000 kilometers for 3 years across Western Europe and North Africa. More than a travelogue, it is a guide to discovering one’s inner self.


CHRISTMAS OFFER. Send this book to friends anywhere in the Philippines as a Christmas Gift at a click of a mouse, no muss, no fuss. Only Php 400, including shipping, sent directly to their homes by JRS courier in 2 to 4 days. (US/EU longer, $30). Email the author at eastwindreplyctr@gmail.com on how to order the book.
But first read the excerpt below, and decide if the book is worth it as a Christmas gift.


do not look for happiness, happiness is elusive
do not run away from pain, pain is inevitable
rather look for love, for in love
happiness is assured, and pain is bearable




After two days across the Sahara, I took a boat to Las Palmas, capital of the Canary Islands, where I mingled with Northerners fleeing the harsh European winter – the elite of the Germans, Finns, Swedes. The wild days in Las Palmas was a walk on razor’s edge, which is a story I will defer for now. I had to flee the grip of this tourist town, otherwise I would burn out. For I was exacting every drop of pleasure in my despair for meaning. So I decided to move on. I longed for a quiet place. I heard about drifters living in caves in another island called Lanzarote. That was my target. (The cave adventure is in another memoir –


Hitching had a way of destroying plans. On my way to Lanzarote, I ended up in a place whose name I have forgotten, a plush tourist beach with a tall five-star hotel reaching for the sky. I waited at the edge of the five-star beach until all the Northerners retired to their hotel. After dusk, the beach was empty. The place was all mine. I sneaked in.


From up above the clouds, I was not aware that a Swede, Olga (not her real name), was watching me from her hotel suite in the dying twilight. She watched how I eluded the big tractors cleaning up the beach at night with their bright headlights. She watched me go inside one of the beach cottages which had a roof but walls only on one side. No need to pitch my tent. I went through the backpacker’s ‘bedroom ritual’. I laid out the plastic sheet, placed the foam on top, then my sleeping bag . I took out my portable gas burner, warmed some milk and sipped it as I sat down on the sleeping bag, drinking in the cool quiet evening. All the while, Olga was watching me from her room. I was the size of an ant from that height but she could see every­thing in detail as a nearby lamp post illuminated me. As I wiggled into my backpack to sleep, like an angel, Olga descended upon me from the heavens. She startled me at first. I thought she was the hotel security. I wiggled out of my sleeping bag.


         OLGA – Hello.
         ME – Hi.
         OLGA – I was watching you from up there (she pointed to the tall hotel). I saw you make coffee.
         ME – Hot milk?
         OLGA – Oh, okay, hot milk. I saw you make your bed. I envy you.
         ME – Why?
         OLGA – You don’t even have a hotel. Life is so much simpler for some. For me, it is so complicated.
         ME – Why?
         OLGA – Well, I had to arrange for my trip, get reservations, fly a stupid plane (There was anger in her voice).


We talked for about four hours until I was hoping the pink dawn would come. But it did not. We compared notes. She was a regular tourist with a travel agency arranging every­thing for her, bookings, airfare, hotel, meals, etc.


I talked about my adventures, Tetouan in Morocco, where I met a British guy who was raped. I was warned by backpackers returning to Spain never to hitch in Morocco. I warned the Brit but he pooh-poohed me. Too bad. I did not ran out of stories. She laughed and was totally fascinated.


Stockholm was one of the most expensive places in Europe. Her one month salary would probably pay for eight months of my travel. She came to Las Palmas alone for her winter vacation, perhaps hoping to make new friends. Lonely Swedish girls pick up handsome Spanish guys.


         OLGA – I am an executive secretary in a big firm in Stockholm.
         ME – What firm?
         OLGA – Is that important?
         ME – I guess not. Is it a nice job?
         OLGA – I get a high salary.
         ME- You didn’t answer my question.
         OLGA – I hate it, okay? I have tried to kill myself three times, you know? (In a trembling voice). I am sorry I’m telling you all this. You must be tired and want to sleep.
         ME – Nope. Let’s compare pains.


She talked about how she was ‘trapped’ in Stockholm in a strange world that sounded like New York to me, my spiritual desert. Very gently, she placed her head on my shoulders and, without tears, unravelled a world so full of pain.


I touched her golden hair which had the aroma of flowers. I could feel her chest trembling. We talked, waiting for the dawn.


         OLGA – How nice that you have your kitchen with you anytime.
         ME – Yup. That’s better and cheaper than a restaurant.


When we were exhausted from talk, she gave me a long lingering kiss and stood up and said goodbye. I thought this fascinating encounter would end up with me sleeping in her plush bedroom or she sleeping in my not-so-plush sleeping bag. But nothing like that happened. That would have been a bad ending for such an evening full of pain being unravelled. It was good enough that it ended that way. I was alone to meet the dawn and she went back to her world. I felt very sad for her.


Why was there so much pain in affluence? It was the same in Amsterdam and Geneva and Copenhagen. I would meet so many people in pain. One would think such afflu­ence bred a paradise of comfort and luxury, but no. Under­neath the well ordered cor­porate life, underneath the comfort and decadence, there were chaos and turmoil of the spirit. So I was right about New York.


Olga left as suddenly as she came. I was alone again but I could not sleep. My mind churned. Thoughts came like a tornado, whipping up a violent eastwind. I ended up sleeping for about two hours until the first pink light of dawn revealed a fantastic empty beach. I had to pack up because the children and security guards, the early birds, would come down soon. I hid my backpack in an inconspicuous place and took a long walk across the empty beach. The sea was like a mirror, placid as my soul. Not a sound. No waves. A few seagulls hovered above me, gliding effortlessly, as if wanting to know how I was doing. I was happy that I was free, that I had wings like them. In a loud voice, I told the seagulls that I was doing fine, but that I was sad for Olga. It was time to move on. Hoping the guards would not hear me, I screamed at the seagulls at the top of my voice, “Lanzarote, here I come.” They hovered above me, floating in the wind. eastwindreplyctr@gmail.com


after a few months on the road
i discovered that
the key to discovering yourself
was not to look for new enchanting places
but new enchanting people
for people are mirrors
where you see yourself
in all your beauty and horror


Email the author at eastwindreplyctr@gmail.com to get the book.
Book Cover

Excerpt 14 – CHRISTMAS WITH ARABS AND JEWS, Athens, Greece.
What was my loneliest Christmas became an awesome experience.


Excerpt 03 – PILGRIMAGE TO FATIMA, The 7-day 80-km hike, Portugal.
In search of myself, I drifted through Europe and ended up making a pilgrimage. No tent, no umbrella, just a sleeping bag, beach sandals, and a 1.5-kilo backpack.
Excerpt 02 – BRAWL IN A PORTUGUESE BAR, Vila Real de Santo Antonio, Portugal
Tired from hitching, I peek into a noisy village bar. The bartender beckons. I enter and there is dead silence. I play the guitar and hell breaks loose.


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