This month's installment of the Talking Travel series is an interview with Derek Logan, or Piecar, as you might know him. I caught Derek just after he arrived back in Canada after a year spent overseas, but he was still kind enough to regale us with stories of his first big solo trip and life in Latin America. Enjoy!
I read in your little bio for Travel Unravelled that your first solo trip was across Toronto, when you were eight. That must have been quite the adventure! What drove you to make that trip, and do you think that impetus still plays a part in your travels today?
When I was eight, and before, I was always fascinated with what was "Furthur" to quote Ken Kesey's bus. I grew up in a Portuguese neighbourhood in Toronto. Every back yard had grapes growing, everybody knew each other. My family used to sit out on our porch and yell stories across to families siting on their porches. We played kick the can and hide and seek in the street and had to be home "When the streetlights come on".
The kid who lived the farthest away was a kid named Manuel Pereira, who lived a WHOPPING two blocks away. At eight, his house, and the corner store across the street from him that sold cheap Freezies was the edge of my world. Past his house, the street signs might as well have said "Heare Thear Be Dragones." And that made me wonder, what was past there.
So I went a block farther. I met a kid down there in the Blasted Zone that collected comics. I can't remember that kid's name now...That's too bad. But he got me interested in comics. Then that wasn't far enough, and I went another block. And I was at a main street. There was a comic shop there. And a bunch of interesting stores. and that was good for a while...
But there was more after that. And so I kept going, a little at a time. One day, well into the sage year of eight, when you think you've got the whole world wired, when you think French Kissing is licking each other, when you are still finding a day's entertainment out of a fridge box and a stick, I decided this piecing my travels off was too damned slow.
One Saturday, I knew I was going to get to the REAL end. And so I just kept walking. I decided I was going to go the direction I saw my mother go to work. I was going to find where she worked at least. I just kept walking. My sense of direction was pretty good, and I walked A LOOONNNNNGGGG way....which today, would come out to be something like 35 blocks or something, which is not that hard. But I was out there by myself and it was great. No one knew where I was, and none of my friends had been this far, and I knew I had experience that they didn't have.
And that was the the beginning. To see the next thing, and there is always something interesting coming up, to know that I had experienced things few get to. That is travel. That same thinking when I was eight is the same way I think now.
You've travelled quite extensively, and you've lived in Honduras, Colombia and Chile. How long do you think you have to be in a place before you really start living like a local? Is that even possible at all?
Can you be a local? I think you have to go farther than I did to do it, but I think it's possible.
I lived in three different countries, but I knew if I eventually didn't like it, I could leave again. I was afforded that option through relative affluence, education, and having no familial ties in these places. A real local, in my opinion, has a tie to the community he's in that he can't undo. You don't have the money to leave, or you have things that are so important to you, that you wouldn't leave even if you wanted to. Being a local, in my opinion, amounts to more than knowing the fruit guy, and the cheap place to shop, and having a job.
I never achieved being a local. I think tons of expats I knew who lived in those three places for ten years or more never achieved it. They always had the idea that they were above the plebes and were amused by the locals' backwater ways.
Obviously you've lived quite a bit in Latin American countries. What attracts you to that part of the world?
Latin America has backwater ways....Ironic, no? That's why I like to go there. Kids still play in the street and have to be told to go inside. They play marbles. MARBLES!
I come from an exploded family. After about the age of 13, my family fell apart and we couldn't wait to get away from each other. Latin America is based on the family. They travel in packs and it not uncommon for three generations to spend days together doing things. Latin Americans carry their babies and young children against their heart always. They grow used to that kind of closeness, is my theory. They still sit on street corners and yell stories back and forth to each other. They still look for entertainment not on the tv, but in each other. Yes, it is ironic that in that environment as a kid, I would try to find other ways, and as an adult I find I spend time searching for that kind of lifestyle again.
Listen, Latin America can get on my nerves lots. I hated Santiago. Chile is a old time Latin American culture fooling itself into believing it's modern. That pretension caused me no end of frustration. And, in lots of places, I would curse people in the street because they didn't know how to walk. People bumped into each other constantly, because they didn't care if they were in the way. A car would stop in the middle of the street to have a conversation with someone they knew blocking everyone behind them. They would ignore the honking of other drivers and finish their conversation...Then they'd take off to the next block, someone would block them with the same behaviour and they would yell and scream and honk at them. I hate how slow everybody is....But that one, I specifically sought out, because, coming from a society where things run on time, I'd love to be able to take that relaxed view and not get frustrated...Never solved that one though........
Latinos are always looking to get out, and the US is often closed to them. They find it interesting to learn about Canada, and I get to tell them about it......And the last thing. I knew I would have to learn a language to be able to be a part of things and to get to know what people were all about there. The language, without a doubt, that opened the largest amount of doors was Spanish. So that's what I did.
Do you have any travel plans for this year?
My next trip is going to have to wait....As I write this, it is less than 14 hours since I got back from my last, year long trip. As Dido would say, I've still go sand in my shoes. My thighs are tired from climbing a Mayan temple yesterday. I will have to discover just how well I fit back into Canada. I am still speaking in Spanish to clerks (which works out, I'm on Commercial Drive in Van. Lots of Latinos here.) And I am no longer the celebrity. The giant gringo quien habla español. I am just some shlep walking in the street. I don't know how long it will take till I wish I was hoisting an Aguila and telling a funny story in some half falling down little bar and eating carne asada. Time will tell. There's always the next thing.
Check out these past interviews in the Talking Travel series:
- Talking Travel with Lynn and Paul
- Talking Travel with Tom Rhombus
- Talking Travel with Grant Gibbs
- Talking Travel with Claire and Chuck
- Talking Travel with Brendan Harding
- Talking Travel with Jennifer Johnson
- Talking Travel with Sander
- Talking Travel with Rob and Pol
- Talking Travel with Michael Johnson
- Talking Travel with Izzy and Marisa
- Talking Travel with Marlis
- Talking Travel with Gretchen
- Talking Travel with Andrew and Courtney
- Talking Travel with Purdy
- Talking Travel with Maria
- Talking Travel with Niels
- Talking Travel with Amy and Wim
- Talking Travel with Hien
- Talking Travel and HIV/AIDS in India with Dave Reidy
- Talking Travel with Utrecht