Tag Archives: Hitchhiking

WATCH: Teaser for Doc on Decolonizing Travel Media

Directed by Bruno Brothers Media wth the help of Queens Nation Films, this teaser for a mini-doc about my work as a diasporic writer, photographer and activist exploring the decolonization of travel culture is being released in conjunction with my crowdfunding campaign. With your donations and shares, I’ll be able to do produce more exciting projects that really delve into the issues I bring up here, because struggling with meeting my survival needs complicates that. The full doc will be released soon! Donate here and thanks for your support!

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Super Mega Ultra

Hey people! I’ve got so much to share. First off, I landed back in the motherland (Ecuador) last Tuesday night after 7 tough months of Polar Vortex Lyfe in NYC, and couldn’t be happier to be back. After some much needed beach time and catching up with the fam, I’ll be renting a room in Quito for 2 months – so hit me up if you’ve got any leads.

Secondliest, I’m happy to announce that the fine folks at VONA/Voices have accepted me into their program in Berkeley this June! VONA is the nation’s only multi-genre workshop for writers of color and this is the first year they’ve got a travel writing track going on (with Faith Adiele) so I was quick to apply. Other writers I’m mad about – like Staceyann Chin, Patricia Smith and Junot Diaz – will be there too. So I’m stoked.

My person on the back of a truck, circa 2012
My person on the back of a truck, circa 2012

If you’ve been keeping up with this blog for a while, then you know that I’m almost always broke. For about 3 years now, I’ve been struggling with a chronic pain condition in my shoulder, and I’m here in Ecuador to make use of the healthcare – which still costs quite a bit – and for which I’ll be paying out of pocket. I had surgery last fall (which I’m still paying for) but unfortuntaely, it wasn’t successful, and the pain has extended to my right hand, making regular writing (and therefore making money through work) pretty impossible. But I’m trying to stay positive.

The Fine Folks at VONA were able to grant me some financial aid (THANKS!) but I’m still struggling to pay the remainder of tuition and buy a plane ticket out there. I’ll be starting an Indiegogo campaign in one week to raise the funds to get me there, and any help would be super mega ultra appreciated!

I’ll be launching the campaign in conjunction with an interview series where I discuss race, place, media, belonging, community, diaspora, exile and adventure with other travel writers and bloggers of color and poc thinking about these things, right here on the wonderful platform that is this website. So if you want in, please get in touch. Muy exciting!

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“The Struggle”, from Philly’s Magic Gardens

In other news, the second issue of my travel zine Everywhere All The Time is out and available for order on my Etsy shop Boom For Real Press, so pick ’em up! If you ordered the first issue, waited a long time to receive it and I promised you the second issue free, hit me up! I’m also up for trades (anything related to travel, disability, qpoc lyfe, or latinx shit is cool!)

Finally, you should check out The Body of Jean-Michel Basquiat, a profile I recently wrote for Nowhere Magazine’s blog about how place permeated the artist’s work.

And that’s all for now. Stay tuned with all the goings on going on on Facebook, Tumblr and Twitter @bani_amor. Say that 5 times fast.

Everywhere All The Time #2 Now Available on Etsy!

Everywhere All The Time #2: Bright Sunny Days, Dark Sacred Nights is the second issue of my travel media zine featuring stories from a year spent traveling and living in Ecuador. From hiking in the northern highlands to a shack on the Pacific coast, the zine spans terrain, time and mood through text and black and white photos. The writing is influenced by my identities – queer, mestiza, POC, feminist, writer, weirdo – and is cut by quotes from Junot Díaz, Gloria Anzaldúa and James Baldwin. 36 pages, typewritten/handwritten and some computer writing, black and white with color cover. Order here!

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Year of the Bum

on january first, 2013, i woke up on a couch in quito, ecuador. i was a newbie writer, newly illegal, completely broke and with nowhere to live. i won’t pretend to have had any epiphanies. like life, it was fucked up and awesome all at once, and not a ton has changed, except for me. probably.

i chased stories: through valleys, up volcanoes, across lakes, down jungle rivers, on beautiful beaches, into the pacific. spent the rest stoned in hammocks, swinging on ziplines, sleeping on floors, drunk in bars, dancing at shows, camping alone, touring hospital emergency rooms, talking to strangers, doing nothing, and writing everything down.

it all seems like someone else’s life right now: working full-time hours on a saturday night back in my hometown, watching a snowstorm freeze new york city outside the glass doors. i’m going through all my photos from this past year, and thought i’d compile the best of them into one of those top ten lists i’m always complaining about. it’s a two-parter.

are you a creative-type bum like me? share in the comments the best and worst times you had in 2013!

Call For Submissions: 2 Days Left!

yo! i’ve been so busy recovering from shoulder surgery, getting locked out of my facebook account, moving back to new york from quito  with 3 suitcases, a cat, one working arm and no money – alone – , and catching a violent case of food poisoning as soon as i landed! great, huh? also, also, also, there’s TWO DAYS LEFT to submit to my travel zine anthology for stories from latin america, which will be made available online and in print, in spanish and english, all over da world. SO SUBMIT. i’m looking for:

  • stories about traveling in latin america

  • travel-related art – DRAWINGS, photos, photos of graff/street art around the world

  •  travel ephemera – train/plane/bus tickets, maps, handwritten maps, flyers, magic stuff you bought back from the road

from folks who are:

  • latinx

  • consider yourself among the latinx/chicanx diaspora

  • come from a spanish-speaking country, directly or 2nd, 3rd generations, lo que sea!

estoy aceptando:

  • historias sobre viajes en latinoamérica

  • dibujos, fotos, fotos de graffiti / arte de la calle o cualquier tipo de manifestación artística relacionada con viajes

  • ephemero/recopilaciones de viajes – boletos del tren / avión / buses; mapas, mapas manuscritos, hojas volantes, cosas de magia que conseguiste en el camino

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send submissions/inquiries/fanmail to heyitsbani@gmail.com. yes if you need more time past the deadline that’s cool. si nececitas mas tiempo pasando el 15 esta completamente bien. if none of that stuff applies to you, you still can follow my beautiful exceptional one of a kind tumblr page and like this shit on facebook (on yr right) or order a copy of my travel zine everywhere all the time (all new orders will be sent out next week, loyal people who have ordered! if ya haven’t, it’s only two fiddy on etsy con free shipping) OR do all three. then you get a star.

abrazos,

b

The Rainforest Is Not a Big Mac (and other lessons learned in Puyo, Ecuador)

The Rainforest Is Not a Big Mac (and other lessons learned in Puyo, Ecuador)

By Bani Amor On July 24, 2013

Originally published on Matador Network. Read, comment, like, share, all of the above mofos!

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MY OLD APARTMENT in the capital of Quito is a rather famous hub for travelers in Ecuador. My roommates and I were active Couchsurfing hosts, and incessant streams of surfers from all walks of life crashed on mattresses around the house.

On a recent return visit to La Casa Equinoccio — named after the street we lived on, Equinox — a bunch of us decided to take my friend Omar up on his open invitation to visit Finca Argentina, his childhood home in the jungle. Even though it costs a dollar an hour to travel by bus in Ecuador (Quito-Puyo: 4 hours, $4), the ultra-budget-travel bros I ended up going with were dead set on hitchhiking, so that’s what we did.

Puyo is the biggest city in the Ecuadorian Amazon — or, as deep as you can get into it on four wheels, making it a crossroads for rivers, roads, and indigenous communities of El Oriente — “The East.” The chronological history of oil exploitation in Ecuador can be traced from north to south, with Puyo sitting symbolically in the middle, like the unexposed inch of film between ‘before’ and ‘after’ shots. The northern Oriente is full of devastated oil towns crawling with crude businessmen and a generation coming of age with cancer. Here, at the headwaters of the Amazon, an average of over one oil spill a week occurs. In the south, remote territories continue their now-legendary resistance against that kind of future, under the cover of the rainforest.

Omar

I took Omar’s room when he moved out of La Casa Equinoccio last year, unpacking my zine collection out of crates as he picked classic novels off a wood-and-concrete bookshelf and stacked them lovingly into a leather suitcase, their brown spines strong as the day they were bound. He was struggling through film school at the Visual Arts Institute of Quito and moving into the cheaper place next door with his girlfriend and her brother to save on cash. A conversation on books and films naturally sparked up over our mutual heaps of crap, and never really ended. We’ve been good friends ever since.

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Finca Argentina

He was born and raised on 50 acres of jungle just outside Puyo, in a single-parent household with two brothers and his mom, Guadalupe. When I wasn’t trekking or swimming, I spent most of my time chatting with Lupe at the market or around her kitchen table, half inside and half out. Her father worked there when the land was owned by Germans and inherited it when they moved on to Argentina, naming the farm in honor of their new country. This is one of the cabins the brothers built to accommodate travelers who visit via Couchsurfing and word of mouth.

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Gateway to the wild

Puyo’s exclusive position in the Amazon keeps the wild around it more accessible than it is in most South American countries. You can be dropped in the middle of the city center and wander deep into the jungle within hours. Dive into its rivers’ waters and end up in Peru or Brazil within a few days. Meet folks who live in river villages on the way who don’t speak Spanish, but Shuar, Hoarani, or Kichwa.

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‘The rainforest’

Half the Couchsurfers who Omar invites to Finca Argentina turn him down in one sweeping statement or another, saying “I’ve already been to the jungle – in Nicaragua,” or, “I plan to do that later on in Peru,” as if ‘the rainforest’ were one congruous, consumable destination, like a Big Mac that looks, smells, and tastes the same wherever you buy it in the world. Omar usually responds with, “Oh.”

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Hello, life

A mix of truck beds, tin-can vans, buses, and our own feet took us to a waterfall about 3 hours north of Finca Argentina. A fallen tree trunk sliced cleanly in half and spread open over a tiny tributary separated our party and 555 acres of secondary rainforest at the Hola Vida Ecological Reserve, where the falls waited.

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It’s only sleeping

Crossing the bridge was like walking into a big botanical tent – damp, dark, and quiet on the other side. It was as if everything beneath the jungle canopy had been fast asleep for ages – or just pretending – wrapped in mossy fleece glittered with raindrops and orbited by living particles riding on an absentminded breath, extinguished from the depths of sound dreams.

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Life after death

A regimen of sun, rain, and birdsong keep colors saturated in Reserva Ecologica Hola Vida. Even dead things, like this fallen trunk, show signs of life.

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Suspense

There must be millions of palm-tree bridges or whatever other ambiguous variations of passage over water in the tropical forests of the world, and I’ve carefully inched my way along many of them, single-stepping like a bride. But each one is unique – next time, I could slip through cracks, or end up in a completely unexpected world on the other side. Bridges are the places between places, a title for that transitional space in songs between the beginning and the end. That sensation of suspense, both literal and figurative, is something I like to hold on to, so I photographed each one on our hike. If I jammed all the tenuous, trembling jungle bridges on Earth, or even just in ‘the rainforest,’ into one big box in my head, I would have given up on traveling long ago. Left far behind the group, I got lost in a forest of walking palm trees.

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The walking palm tree

Instead of just one trunk, Socratea exorrhiza, or the “walking palm” tree, has a network of long legs that crawl (over the course of years) toward sunlight and nutrient-rich soil along rainforest beds in Central America and expanses of the Amazon. Their roots sink deep into the earth, getting grounded for a generation or so before dying off at the bottom while younger ones renew the process up top. When a palm walks into a fallen trunk, it just continues growing horizontally until it’s moved a sufficient distance away from its original site of germination, where it then resumes vertical growth.

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Not so much

But as much as I’d like to identify with the vagabond lifestyle of these sol-searching trees, a hard wall of science came down between our romantic metaphor and reality. My later research pointed to arguments relegating the walking palm to myth, while another sizable chunk of evidence still suggests they do walk indeed – just very slowly. I’m not about to sit still in front of one of these with a wooden ruler and a notepad for 60 years, so the walking palms are allowed to drift toward that murky horizon in my mind separating Things I Know For Sure and Not So Much (except that the latter takes up almost all the space).

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Cascada Hola Vida

Starting from 70 feet up, the Hola Vida Waterfall plunges into a warm pool carved from a bed of stones – rose quartz, emerald, and even gold. Like all waterfalls in Ecuador, and in native communities around the world, I expect, Hola Vida possesses a ritual significance. Here, going for a swim is a cultural and spiritual ceremony, one of cleansing.

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After the storm

The name Puyo comes from the Kichwa word for “cloudy” – puyu. It rains about five times a day here, and I mean serious, doomsday-style storms that scrub the flora good and clean before the sun glazes a waxy sheen all over them again. The clouds part and technicolor hues pop up everywhere you look, like this young colca tree that reflects every color of the rainbow in just a few square inches.

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Originally published on Matador Network. Read, comment, like, share, all of the above mofos!