Karel Kosman

My Life - They Gypsy Traveler

I was born in Czechoslovakia in 1965, when the country was under the domain of Communist Russia. But the local government was liberal minded. The country’s president wanted “socialism with a human face”, and Czechs in general are a creative liberal bunch. After all, that is where Bohemia is located. Unfortunately, the conservative Soviet powers didn’t take kindly to this flowering liberalism, and because Czech is generally a very industrial country and was on the verge of developing nuclear power, in 1968 they sent in the troops to prevent a revert to democracy. Not to mention that Czech, bordered to the northwest by Germany and Austria to the south, has a strategic central location in Europe, which the Soviets did not want to lose (and neither Czech’s industry, which generally produced a lot of weapons for the Russians).
My parents thought it was time to get the HELL OUT OF THERE. Threw their bags and us children into their 2-cylinder Lada and headed for the border. But the villagers, in the hopes of stopping the incoming tanks, littered the roads with nails. My dad had to patch up the tires six times by the time we made it to the border crossing, by which time it was well past the midnight deadline that the invading forces gave the rebel-hearted to leave.
Sneaked through crossing in our secret way and eventually made it to Canada’s capital, Ottawa.
Grew up in French-English surroundings and have fond Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn memories at the cottage in the country during the weekends and summers, or at summer camps in Ontario and Quebec.
Mother remarried to a short-tempered black belt master with really old school thinking. It was clash of the titans and the family pressure cooker started hissing.
Eventually moved out west to Vancouver, and by the time I was in grade 10 the environment was beyond intolerable. For everyone. Suggested they send me to boarding school and they welcomed the notion with relief.
There they would cane you with a sawed off hockey stick if you swore, the discipline of which helped increase my grades from an average of 51% to almost 90 – enough to get accepted in the country’s most prestigious universities.
I chose Queen’s because it seemed like more fun, and fun it certainly was, boasting the second highest per-capital consumption of alcohol on the continent.
But I didn’t know what I wanted to learn, subsequently wasn’t motivated, and ended up taking three years off, during which time I worked at different jobs at different locations in the country. Learned the basics of many trades, and finally decided I wanted to start a business, so I switched faculties and completed my education.
Discovered the high earnings of tree planting ($250 dollars a day if you are a “high baller” like me) and did that during the summers. A crazy group of people and a nice change in environment from the different crazies in university.
The tree planters urged me to take at least a year off after university before starting my career, so I headed to Europe and instantly fell in love with it. Came back to Canada for a grueling 8 month session of tree planting to save up cash and try out my Midas Touch and entrepreneurial skills in the recently democratized Czech Republic.
I call it the magic years. It’s like those glass ornaments with a snowy scene inside. You quickly flip it over and the scene is filled with fluffy, falling snowflakes. This is what it felt like when Czech society turned over from communism to capitalism. There was hope and sparkle in everyone’s eyes. The beer was ridiculously cheap, girls fresh for westerners, and the environment attracted the adventurous and interesting from the west.
Over time though, the girls wizened up to the irresponsible antics of foreigners, the adventurous got bored and followed the wave eastward, and the stagnant stale air of suburbia encroached in on my little paradise of sparkle. It was time to leave.
The internet had come, I found work through that, and decided I could take my lifestyle on the road. I’ve been moving from one place to another my entire life and have developed itchy feet. I masterminded to move my business into a caravan, with solar panels on roof and internet through mobile phone or other means, so I could drift freely around the planet.
Finally received a major project large enough to fund this dream, but first to visit my mother in Vancouver for Christmas, since it’s already been eleven years when I left. With the intention to also pilot test my dream. I purchased a van in Seattle, internet through Iridium satellite phone, and drove down to Mexico, flying back to Prague from LA some three months later. This heightened my itch and it took three years and another major project to make it possible.
Now I’ve been five years on the road (in Europe) and absolutely love it. One person commented that they really admire my lifestyle, saying: “It’s great. You can arrive at a place, decide you like it, and plan to stay there for a few months or so.” I had to correct him: “It’s not like that. There is no agenda. I never decide how long I want to stay somewhere. When I get bored I simply crank up the engine and roll away.” Made it all the way to Cyprus, wandered through the Balkans, and always stay places long enough to make good friends and get a real feel for the local culture.
But the winters of Europe are not what I want and I’ve decided to scale down by buying a smaller laptop which I can easily fit into my backpack. I decided to cut the umbilical cord, leave my treasure truck behind in Europe and head to Asia for at least a year. South to Thailand during the winters and perhaps North Vietnam in the hot summers. Then perhaps to Kenya to launch my Africa Charity Project, which is to teach Africans how to wire a village with solar panel and find work through the internet. Perhaps buy a truck for South America and fly to Europe for the summers. The world is my oyster and I want to swallow all of it.
If you’d like to join me on my journeys, I’d love the company:
Story of My Life – The Gypsy Traveler.
The Gypsy Traveler


All rights belong to its author. It was published on e-Stories.org by demand of Karel Kosman.
Published on e-Stories.org on 05/09/2011.


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