vinceconaway: (Default)
Well, technically the halfway point was a few days ago, but I haven't really had the motivation to write recently. The trip is a real whirlwind, and I'm a little dizzy for it. I'm having a pretty great experience, though, and I'm quite pleased with how things are going. I'm already tentatively writing itineraries for future Chile tours, and I would like to make them a recurring part of my schedule.

There have been setbacks, of course. The PVC couplings I use for joints on my portable dulcimer stand weren't up to snuff, but I figured out a way to use tape on their insides to create a subtle fix. I'm rather pleased with that bit of ingenuity even as I'm a little miffed I hadn't thought to test the new setup before flying ten thousand miles with it.

I'm stressed, of course. Bus travel here is quite comfortable but a bit haphazardly organized. I haven't missed one yet, but I'm never confident until I'm on board and I've been confirmed that I'm in the right place. My language proficiency is stepping back for every step forward, and every day that I feel confident is matched by another day when I feel continually bewildered and lost. There's a race at my temples between my greying hair and receding hairline, and I always come back from overseas tours feeling like I've aged at an accelerated pace while I'm gone. But while I'm here, living on the balls of my feet and adapting to surprises, I feel very much alive. And if past is prelude, when I come home to familiar surroundings I'll feel incredibly powerful for having been away.


Jan. 30th, 2017 08:12 pm
vinceconaway: (Default)
I always appreciate when a child tips me from their own pocket, no matter how small the change. But today took the cake when a little girl tipped me from her own candy stash
vinceconaway: (Default)
I'm torn between disbelief that it's only been two weeks and that it's already been two weeks. I'm covering ground like I've never done before, changing cities every 3-4 days. It was a good choice based on my previous South American experience, where I was several times tripped up by local anti-busking regulations but then stuck for a week because the economics of a long bus ride and losing a room deposit were greater than potential busking profits. Still, it's starting to get tiring.

I think I may take the weekend off. I've had a remarkably successful time so far, and I've sold more than half my CDs less than a third into the tour. Valparaiso, Concepcion, Temuco, and Valdivia were all very good to me, and today I rolled into Villarica.

That trip is itself a bit of a tale, with a bus breaking down part way and an hourlong wait before another bus came along with standing room only. I'm rather pleased at how that came out, honestly, because it shows a lot of personal growth on my part. Earlier in my travel experiences I might have meekly accepted the word of my driver and waited for further instruction, but I was a little more insistent this time and it worked in my favour. As a bonus, after twenty minutes the guy seated beside me got off the bus, opening up the seat and leading to a delightful conversation with Marlena, a Chilean-American who was traveling to meet distant relatives.

So into Villarica I rolled, and it was an interesting experience. The city is lovely, though much smaller and more touristic than anyplace I've yet been. Most interestingly, from a professional point of view, the buskers I've grown accustomed to are entirely absent. After several cities where amplified bands are not uncommon street corner ornamentation, it seems a little odd not to have encountered a single one. This makes me a little hesitant to try my hand and, while in years past I've brazened my way into things with a philosophy of "ask forgiveness, not permission" I don't really want to push my luck. An interesting counterpoint to my experience on the bus.

And I do rather want a break. I'm ahead of my projections, and while I embrace an attitude of "make hay when the sun is shining", I'm about to spend ten of the next fourteen days in now-familiar territory that has been good to me. It may be time to catch my breath for a bit.
vinceconaway: (Default)
It has been a truly wonderful day, performing in Concepcion for the first time. The city is built for busking, and is filled with buskers, but despite their numbers and their amplification I found ample spaces to perform. I had a lot of fun and did quite well for myself, but at the end of the day one memory stands out.

A little girl, maybe six years old, had been handed money by her parents to toss into my hat. I thanked her and made my typical half bow, and she responded with an absolutely florid bow in return. I've been grinning about it ever since.


Jan. 11th, 2017 07:58 pm
vinceconaway: (Default)
What a day it has been!

My plane landed in Santiago shortly before 10am and I cleared customs and immigration with no hassle. I caught a shuttle bus into the city and checked in to my hostel for the night. It's the only night of the tour where I'll be sleeping in a dorm, and it's been fun getting to know some fellow travellers. It's quite a mixed group, surprisingly close to my own age and including a professor and quite a few hikers.

The bed wasn't ready when I arrived, so I left my things and went for a few hours of walking through the city. It was surreal because I know I've been here and spent the night, but absolutely nothing about the city is familiar whatsoever. It feels like total Terra Incognita, and I've enjoyed exploring with a fresh eye. Tomorrow I head to Valparaiso, which I expect to be more familiar since I spent a delightful week there in 2014.

I spent a bit of time today reassembling my dulcimer; I slack the strings for air travel. Its builder has laughed at my abundance of caution, but it makes for much less stressful flights to know that my baby is completely unencumbered and is built to withstand 3000 pounds of tension. In a very rare occurrence, both my flights (CLE>ATL and ATL>SCL) were large enough aircraft that I was able to bring the dulcimer on board with me. Quite often the domestic leg is in a smaller plane and I need to gate check it with the strollers. If I'd known it would be overhead luggage the whole route I might not have spent the time taking the tension out of the strings, but gate checking is always at the last minute and I like to be prepared.

I feel quite well! With only a two-hour time difference I have no jet lag, just fatigue from a very fitful night in a small space. It could have been worse, of course, since I had an empty seat beside me which I shared with the woman on the other side of it so we could both spread out a little. I'm taking it as a good omen for the tour that on a pretty full flight I got such a luxury.

Of course, now that I've arrived I'm realizing my packing mistakes. I forgot sunblock, which was easily rectified at a corner pharmacy (though not before I got a little sun on my afternoon wander). More interestingly, I brought too many dark shirts. I'm used to coordinating outfits with jeans, but this time I decided to adopt a more formal look with black slacks and I probably should have taken that into account when choosing the rest of my clothes. I did run across a gentleman in a similar outfit, however, and his look screamed "musician" so I think I'll be OK.

My phone says that my "strolls" involved 11 miles of walking today, so I'm calling that a win. I certainly feel I've got a better grip on the city, and maybe it'll be a bit less foreign the next time I turn up. Tomorrow I'm off to Valparaiso, the standout city of my 2014 South America tour!
vinceconaway: (Default)
I'm looking over my repertoire and putting together lists of music that needs work in the next few days before I go to Chile. I've been focused on the upcoming 2018 recording session, so I've been writing, arranging, learning, and retaining new material; but now I need to switch gears. In South America I anticipate that I'll mainly be playing original music, with some renaissance and baroque added for flavour, but I've only got about 20 of my songs performance ready at any given time. If I can add another dozen worthy-but-forgotten pieces into the mix then life will go a lot more smoothly for me.

I'm well into crossing t's and dotting i's.
vinceconaway: (Default)
I've solidified my Chile tour details! I spent a few hours last week with my guidebook and previous research, and I strung together a bunch of cities and dates in a way that looks like a feasible tour. My Patreon patrons got to see this last week, since they're a big help in keeping me on the road, but I'm excited to share details with the general public!

January 10: depart Cleveland

January 11: arrive Santiago de Chile

January 12: arrive Valparaiso and the real beginning of the tour

Janaury 16: travel south to Concepcion

January 19: Temuco

January 23: Valdivia (northern edge of Patagonia)

January 26: Villarica

Janaury 30: back in Concepcion

February 2: back in Valparaiso

February 6: Vina del Mar

February 9: third weekend in Valparaiso (the city was the highlight of my 2014 South America tour and a big reason I chose Chile)

February 13: travel north to Copiapo

February 16: Calama

February 20: Iquique (I know I can't busk there because of city law, but the place looks stunning)

February 23: Arica

February 28: Cuzco, Peru

March 2: Day trip, Macchu Picchu and happy birthday to me!

March 4: Lima

March 7: 2am departure back to Cleveland

I'm getting really excited!
vinceconaway: (Default)
I've written about my first trip to South America when I went to Buenos Aires on vacation and missed my dulcimer the whole time. In 2014 I went back as a busker, and had an amazing experience.

I hit Buenos Aires, Montevideo (Uruguay), Rosario, San Luís, Córdoba, and Mendoza, plus I dashed across the Andes to briefly visit Santiago de Chile before hitting that country's cultural capital, Valparaiso. I fell in love with Valparaiso and had a really fulfilling experience, but I lost my shirt.

My biggest issue was that South America is really big. Most of my busking has been done in Europe, which is remarkably compact. In Italy, if one city doesn't work I'm within a reasonable train ride of another city I can try, even as repeated day trips if I've prepaid my lodging. In South America that doesn't fly, and it was a better financial decision to eat the loss than to wrack up bigger bills to roll the dice again.

So, when a cop would tell me I was not allowed to busk, I was basically up the creek until I was scheduled to move on. This lead to some really great experiences, but as I said I lost a lot of money on the trip. I'm taking those lessons into account as I plan another South America expedition.

I'm booking a lot more cities, so instead of a week in each place I will spend 3-4 days. It will be a much more hectic travel schedule, but lessens my risk from individual cities not working out (even if I'm busted everywhere I go I'll still get 2-3 days of playing a week). I've done my homework and none of these cities have regulations regarding buskers, but that means nothing when an individual cop decides he doesn't like what you're doing.

I'm also looking to bring some CDs with me. Lacking CDs would have been manageable if more cities had worked out for tips, but they significantly improve profitability and could have helped me with my limited playing time. Also, Argentina has serious trade barriers but Chile has a free-trade agreement with the US, so that will be a huge help as well.

Finally, I'm budgeting with the idea in mind that I'll lose my shirt. Rather than projected grosses, I'm planning on minimal income so that anything above that will be a bonus. Losing money wasn't my problem in 2014, losing money I couldn't afford was my problem.

I'm excited and nervous and can't believe how quickly the dates are approaching!

August 2017

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