Posts tagged Inspiration

The First Bite of Winter Depression Blues

What is this feeling I get in winter, and why am I feeling it? Some call it the winter blues – this seasonal depression that descends upon everyone when the cold grips us by the neck to steal our warmth and make our bones ache.

I don’t think that’s quite it.

At least for myself.

I know that it’s not just winter that brings me down… I have a feeling that it has to do with where I am right now. I don’t get these winter blues everywhere. Just when I’m home. Or in Washington D.C. which was once-upon-a-time home. I know now it can no longer be called home.

  • A photo close-up of frozen pine tree branches. Photo taken with Canon Rebel 650D T4i, edited in Lightroom using VSCO Film Pack 06.
  • Photo holding a frozen pine cone on a cold winter day with fingerless gloves.

It snowed for the first time this season recently, blanketing every visible surface in white. I stared out the window as it floated to the ground, watching my breathe cling to the window, and then disappear, as if winter outside tried to steal it from me. This was the first time I had been close to snow in over 2 years and it was beautiful. So pure. So fresh. So new. And so finite. There is no doubt that winter in the essence of the season can be something to admire. Even to love. You begin to appreciate warmth. You grasp a hot drink or another person as if you won’t survive without it. Relaxation and coziness become a priority. You shiver and dream of spring as if it’ll never come.

There’s also the never-ending longing for something that I feel here. On cold and lonely days when you don’t have someone to help warm up the doldrums of winter or enough of something in your life to brighten your day in that monochrome world — that longing feels like I’m gripping ice until it burns.

It hurts. It’s a nostalgic cold, one that no matter what I seem to, can’t be thawed. A numbness. A void. I stare out the window at the captivating cycle of change and life and death before my eyes wanting to feel something. Aching to feeling something. Trying to trick myself into it. But I feel nothing. It’s as if I stare out the window trapping myself in this place and I want to leave, yet at the same time I keep myself locked in because I don’t have enough in me to leave. I’m lonely yet I don’t want to see anyone.

I look outward and my reflection stares back at my inward. I’ve been here before, eyes locked at my reflection and wondering what’s wrong. I wait for it to tell me, but I never get an answer. Why am I so cold? Why can’t I feel warmth right now? My whole being from bones to soul aches.

Before my recent return to the US, I was optimistic about opportunities in my homeland. I hadn’t truly experienced winter in years and looked forward to it. When I was in Scotland just months ago, I remember seeing snow on the peaks of Glen Nevis and wished I could touch it. And even seeing it now, I want to be outside in it and feel the bite as it melts on my skin. Yet, at the same time, I can’t gather the energy to.

In my mind, my return would provide me the much needed rest physically and mentally after 2 years of travel. A span of time filled with, to be honest, absolutely cray adventures, but not much time for productivity. Here, I’d have a space to set my belongings down and not have to move every couple of days. Being productive and creative would be top priority.

Instead, each day I stare outward and inward into the void and do nothing. Just stare. Trapped. Not in the house, not in a physical space, but trapped by the nostalgia this place brings. Trapped in the depression I thought I destroyed. Except, we can never destroy it, can we?

Good ole’ Jack can sum it up perfect sometimes. The longing for the road. It calls to me, and as much as I’d like to trick myself into thinking I can slow down for a while, there’s something inside of my that laughs at the thought. Something restless.

On this first snow, I did leave the house eventually. Not far, just into the backyard of my friends house where I’m crashing. I had to touch it. I had to feel it. Everything in sight was ice-covered and frozen in time. Still and quiet and empty. The only noise was a slight breeze that whistled faintly through the crooked branches clawing at the sky. I stood for a while, listening to the wasteland and knew just how much it mimicked my own feelings. I was frozen in place waiting to thaw. I bent over and picked up a pine cone that pricked me. I laughed to myself. It felt good to feel something.

It’s strange how a chaotic pile of rotting, frozen, and splintered wood can relate to you. Some days here I’m devoid of emotion, and other days I can’t pick through the random heap of them all thrown together. For someone who never tries to live too far ahead of himself and the in the moment, I can’t help look into the future longing for the feeling of happiness that I have when I’m on the move. To escape the fragments of nostalgia that linger here, winter or not.

I have yet to visit my parents graves, and I didn’t before my last trip either. Am I still afraid of that reality? Closer to detached. I’ve come to terms with their deaths but I didn’t expect to feel this way again when I returned. I know what my old “home” does to me. When I’m here, I feel stuck and stagnant. I can’t seem to gather my thoughts. I sit around and stare into nothingness. I swipe through dating sites just for the distraction but no real yearning for connection. I watch television without even watching. I think about drinking more than I ever do when I travel.

Was I lying to myself to think that I could come back and slow down? Was telling myself and others that I could supplement it with exploring the USA?

I don’t think so. But I know now that home is not, and will never be this place again. The only warmth and light I feel now when I’m in Maryland is when I’m with my friends and family. Spending the holidays with them has been one of the only times in the past month that I felt. And felt happy. It’s my crutch here. They have been keeping me up emotionally since arrival in November. But it’s not a constant. Home is somewhere outside of this place that I can’t help but feel trapped in. For now, home will live in them and when I see them.

Sometimes I can feel the warmth here and see the lighter side of things. It’s fleeting, like a snowflake landing on my open palm that disappears in moments. I’m in a job I really like. I’m happy to see people I haven’t seen in years. Not so bad huh? It’s not the situation that does this to me. and most of the day I don’t know why I’m up or down. It’s torturous. And difficult to hide most days. But I do, I hide the blue.

Somewhere out there I can call a place home even for a little while and feel just as alive as I do when traveling. For now, I stare out the window beyond this nostalgic prison. Beyond the depression that takes hold of me here.

I’m still waiting for the thaw.

Battling Hundreds of Emotions When You First Start Traveling

Excitement. Fear. Elation. Anxiety. Euphoria. Hesitation. There are many words that can be used to describe the millions of emotions one experiences when traveling abroad for the first time, and when I first stepped foot into New Zealand — my first country ever, I experienced all of these and more.

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I’ve already stated that stepping onto my Air New Zealand plane and flying to the other side of the world was the scariest moment of my life (not because of the Richard Simmons intro they have), but stepping off the plane onto foreign soil for the first time was a whole different bag of emotions. Even though it has now been 4 years since that day, and I’ve flown well over 50 times and traveled to 18 different countries, I still remember that moment vividly.

It sticks with you, the feelings when you first embark on this great adventure not knowing what will follow, or what you will do, or what the country and the trip will be like. There are those of you that have been traveling since you were that crying baby on the plane, and surely there are some people out there that can’t recall the time a country stole your passport’s virginity, but for me everything about life was in a little town with a little town mentality that never thought much about the outside world.

I gave no real thought to the rest of the world. I cut grass on weekends. I worked in a job I hated. I drank more than 3 people should nightly. I obsessed over fleeting hobbies that usually involved get-rich-quick schemes. I dwelled over the small issues, I tried to date everyone I could and then got over them within days, I loved to talk shit about other people and lived in a constant state of anger.

It wasn’t until I started reading travel blogs and flipping through inspirational quote pictures on Tumblr for hours a day that I began to believe there was a much bigger world out there. Ignorance made me think that other countries were only seen in movies and on TV, something of fantasy. Those people, like me, forever stayed in their country and in their home city. Until the passport came. It still seemed like a fantasy — the ability to go to another country, but it was fast becoming reality. A mysterious reality.

<Surprise

Beads of sweat crawled down my forehead as I crossed the gangway and into Auckland Airport from the intense nervousness that had made me gnaw off my fingernails, and probably because I was wearing a winter hat and it was summer in New Zealand. Summer! It was November and I had just left the nipply weather of Los Angeles and it was as if I landed in some mythical land where everything was opposite. It kinda’ was. However silly it is to read that one of my first emotions when I entered New Zealand the surprise that it was summer and not winter, I was then a person that thought getting a passport involved some impossible feat. Until I got one of course and realized it just involved a short trip to the post office. I laugh at things like this now, but it felt as if the plane ride was more like traveling to another planet and it blew me away that 12 hours could make the seasons flip.

 Elation

As I crossed the gangway and saw the words Kia Ora! upon entering the customs area glass labyrinth, I was filled with a rush of happiness. My stomach was tight and trembled, and I was trying to hold back from giggling. My skin tingles with a thousand needles and with this electricity coursing through my veins I couldn’t help but smile gigantically. I’m sure people hated me and were pushing to get by me as I stood in the way fumbling with my Lonely Planet guidebook, passport, and phone to try to take a photo. But dammit, I was going to take a photo of this sign and maybe everything else along the way. Right up until a security guard approached me and said, “Please keep moving and no photos in the customs area.

I got a photo anyway. And managed to drop my iPhone and shatter the glass. Thanks security guard!

Fear

Making my way through the glass labyrinth and into the customs area, I had no clue what to expect. I had never gone through a customs before, but all I saw was the lot of us being herded into queues and fear knotted up into my throat. What did I think? That we were being queued up for slaughter or something? Either way, I found it suddenly hard to swallow and my hands were shaking. It was probably because I had made the mistake of watching that Kiwi show Border Patrol on YouTube before flying to New Zealand about the customs police catching smugglers. At the time I found it hilariously silly, but now I felt as though they would stop me for some reason and I’d end up in jail. Of course I wasn’t smuggling anything at all, but the fear was there.

Do I smile or not smile? What do I say? Do I make eye contact or avoid it. Did I mess up my declaration form? Should I say “Kia Ora” or “Hello“? Does my breath smell? And then I was before the customs guard. I looked down to make sure my feet were in the right place and the blonde female guard with a stern face called me forward.

Passport?!” She called out half annoyed, and I fumbled to give it to her.

Hi how are you?” I blurted out louder than I should have.

Fine.” she said with a courteous smirk as she flipped through my pages.

It’s my first time doing this” I said, and realized as my cheeks flushed how embarrassing of a statement that was, but it cracked her stone facade and she laughed softly.

I can see that” she said, and then stamped me in. “Welcome to New Zealand Mr. Brown” she said with a smile, and handed me back my passport.

With my passport virginity taken by New Zealand and the blonde officer, I strode with awkward confidence through the gate.

Confusion

I was past the gate and into New Zealand, but my confident stride stopped there. Where do I go now? There were signs pointing to go right and so I followed, but there were more queues and this time I had to choose. I ended up in the customs declaration line simply because I didn’t want to somehow get in trouble for leaving and accidentally not declaring anything. Then I realized I hadn’t even gone to get my backpack from the baggage carousel yet!

Either me turning around fast and walking away or blurting out “Oh fuck” must have caught the attention of the customs agents. I went to my baggage claim area and found my bag already on the ground, wrapped in plastic. That was strange. I didn’t before loading it on and I started to freak out a bit like it meant I was caught for something. As I tore away the plastic, two border patrol agents stepped over. “Need help with anything?” one asked.

Uh, I just don’t know where to go after this” I said, secretly looking for TV show cameras nearby.

Can I see your passport please?” the other asked, and my stomach dropped. I was in trouble for something.

Do you have anything to declare in your bag” the one who wasn’t looking at the passport asked.

Uh, maybe my goldfish?” I said

Goldfish?!” he retorted, “You got live goldfish onto the plane?!

No officer, no, these crackers” I said, and pulled them out.

They both laughed. And I chuckled nervously. “First time eh?” the one with the passport stated as he saw my lonely New Zealand stamp there.

Yes, first time outside the United States.

Just head to declaration and show your goldfish” A guard said with a smirk, and handed back my passport. My first time was fast becoming a joke, but I was just happy to move on.

Declarations did take away my beloved Goldfish crackers.

Hesitation

New Zealand was almost there. I conquered my fears and traveled abroad. I made it (awkwardly) through customs and had my passport stamped. All I had to do was leave the airport. And I hesitated. I hadn’t booked any hotels or hostels. I didn’t know anyone at all. I was afraid to speak to a stranger and ask for directions. All of these “what if” scenarios flooded my brain and made me hesitate. It was as if I thought some sort of ferocious beasts lay in wait for me ahead. I couldn’t connect to wifi so I couldn’t just use my phone to make decisions for me on what to do and where to go. And then I met Scott. He saw me standing there, frozen, when he approached.

Hey man” he said with a California cool. I was hesitant to respond to him as well. Was he some slick scam artist? Did he want to rob me? But he seemed like a nice person, and though it was hard to drop my guard I did.

You’re from America too aren’t ya?

“Yeah, DC area but I just got in from LA.” I said.

Me too, we must have been on the same plane.” he replied. “Where are you staying?

I have no clue at all” I said. And it was true. I may have stood there all day, but instead, he forced me from my hesitation and my comfort zone and we left the airport to both find some accommodation.

I felt the weight of fear and hesitation and confusion drift away.

Curiosity

Once I left the airport, I suddenly became curious about everything. It was a rush of excitement and eagerness to just wander and explore and find out more. Just to walk for hours and take everything in. New Zealand, especially Auckland, is a very easy city to have as your first because everyone speaks English and most things are familiar. But everything was still different in a sense. Scott fed that curiosity as well. He was someone who I wanted to be like. I didn’t want to be him, but he had an air of weightlessness about him when it came to talking to strangers and doing something without worrying too much and I wanted to be like that. Though I still had my worries in the back of my head, I was curious about things for once. Curious enough to take a chance even if the outcome could be bad.

That is what travel is and has become for me since; a curiosity, knowing that a decision could turn out bad, but it could also be the best decision ever. The only way to find out is to give into your curiosity and do it. If not, you’ll never know, and not knowing and not taking a chance is the worst thing you can do in life. Desiring to find out about cultures and people and curious enough to talk to strangers and make new friends.

In Retrospect

Since that original trip, every new flight and new country bring a floods of emotions. Not like that first time though. These days, I pass through airports and land in another country and wonder “I’m already here?” because most of that has become automatic for me. I still get immensely excited in airports watching people coming and going and knowing I am too, but the procedural part of it is now automatic. But that first time flying to a foreign country at the age of 23 and only knowing a world that existed in a few states I had traveled to in the United States brought hundreds of emotions at once. Some of them made me second guess my decision, but most of them were overpowering in a positive way. Many of those emotions told me that because I was feeling these emotions, it meant that what I was doing was worth it. There wasn’t a numbness in my heart anymore, it was thudding rapidly with happiness and curiosity.

For those of you that haven’t been traveling and have always dreamed of hopping on a plane and seeing the world — there are plenty of emotions that will try to stop you from doing this. I felt these fears and anxieties and hesitations before my trip to New Zealand, and even afterward. Much of life for many of us, especially if you grew up in the United States, exists only there. And people in your life and societal norms will say that it’s crazy to quit your job and sell your things and pursue a passionate endeavor.

From 4 years traveling around the world since that first fateful day, I tell you to listen not to outside influences, but listen to your heart. There are many countries around the world that the people can’t travel or chase their dreams. Countries where people dream the same dreams as you, but it isn’t fear that holds them back from leaving, it’s poverty or inability to get visas or political instabilities or war.

It is our responsibility as a human beings with the ability and freedom to travel to face our fears. To get over comfort zones of not having secure jobs and not having a big screen TV or not having our Starbucks. To travel to feed our curiosities, which will be the best education you ever have just by gobbling up all observations and experience that come from travel. To travel for people who won’t ever have the chance to, and when you meet those people, to connect with them and share your culture. To share a smile and a meal. To share emotions. Because though you may have these emotions flood you when you begin traveling, in your travels you will see that this is what connects every human being on the planet. We all feel the same emotions and desire the same basic things in life.

It’s perfectly normal to experience all of these emotions when you first start traveling.

In the battle of hundreds of emotions when you first start traveling, once you conquer the conflicting ones and continue this amazing journey, you will then discover nothing divides the human race as a whole except the fear of the unknown — and it is the one thing that was holding you back from surpassing your boundaries as well. You will be a piece in the puzzle connecting the world by surpassing boundaries, on a map or of the mind.

What were some emotions you experienced when you first started traveling?

Life Lessons Learned By Almost Dying

[dropcap]BAM![/dropcap] Dead. It happened that quick. Well, at least it can happen that quick. Today I was nearly run over by a car. Had I been riding my bike just a little faster and had I not braked last minute, I could have been roadkill. After my heart stopped racing and I regained my composure, I began to think about what that meant. And it seems like I’ve learned some life lessons by almost dying today.

I’m guilty of getting caught up in the everyday grind of things when not backpacking through some exotic countries outside of the United States. Though my goal is always the same thing — to save up money for traveling, the daily grind becomes a normal cycle. Working, commuting, dining out, morning coffees, nightly drinks. You get the point.

Even after I moved to Australia a few months back so I could work abroad and save up more money for my next big trip, it’s become somewhat of a stale affair. Don’t get me wrong, Melbourne is a phenomenal city to live in and there are always exciting things to do — but it’s still a major city that I am working in to save money. I’m having a fun time living in a new city and exploring the uniqueness that is Melbourne. But I’m still waiting tables instead of hiking mountains. I did ask for this though. After somehow surviving the Rickshaw Run madness, and after getting so ill in India that I lost 20lbs, I needed a place to recover my body and bank account.

That doesn’t mean living life to the fullest has to stop when you settle down for a few months from adventuring.

You never should stop living each day to the fullest. As I will tell you, something bad can happen in a flash.

I was biking to one of the 5 days of work per week. It was just a normal day like any other has been while living in Melbourne. I woke up and ate breakfast. I took the familiar bike path along the Yarra, admiring a single beautiful black swan that was coasting along with the current. Maybe that was some sort of omen. Everything was as it had been lately. Normal. I came to the freeway crossing and had the green bicycle telling me it was safe to cross, and I biked across to the island in the middle. As I was crossing the median, the bike crossing light began to blink red. But I was midway across already, biking off the median when the light began to blink.

And that is when I was nearly run over.

Just as I was about to hit the 4th lane of the freeway and onto the other side, I noticed all the other cars coming to a slow stop since they obviously had a red light, but not one car. Since I make it a point to be aware of my surroundings, I noticed that one car not slowing down. I thought he would, but he was still going fast, and just as I was hitting the fourth lane I braked and slid. He zipped past me, not even slowing down, straight through a red light which would have been a wreck had there been cars crossing as well. When he sped past me and I braked last minute, the car was less than a foot away from my front bike tire. I could feel the wind on my face.

Once on the sidewalk, I paused and took a deep breath. So much was racing through my head, but I couldn’t be late to work. So I kept on cycling. For the entire day I was frazzled, and I couldn’t stop thinking about that close call. I finished the day, went back home, slept, and went back to work the next day.

But I haven’t been able to kick that feeling. I had a near death experience in a major city that is known to be quite safe, and caters to bicyclist. And though I’ve always been one to express how anything can happen to you at any moment in whatever city in the world, sometimes a close call like this brings it back up.

It makes you realize that you haven’t been taking advantage of life.

That’s why I’m sharing this today, because everyone should know that it isn’t out there in the big and bad and mysterious world that something bad can happen to you — it can be in a city at home while inside your “comfort zone“.

Yes, I have gotten sick a few times while traveling, like in India recently, or when I got a stomach infection during Songkran in Thailand. There has been occasions where I felt as though I would die on some of the sketchier modes of transport in countries like riding in the insane charter buses in India. Usually though, I feel a sense of safety and calm while traveling, because I am more aware and alert and on my feet. But also, I’m actually doing things — not just lulled into a repetition like a “safe” and “normal” life does to you.

Life lessons learned by almost dying. Image of Bungy jumping in Taupo New Zealand.

Everybody told me not to go to Haiti, that Haiti was a dangerous place and I would be killed or kidnapped. After that first trip to Haiti, and shattering all preconceived notions of Haiti while there, I am adamant to tell everyone how much I loved it. And, to make a point, I felt more safe in Haiti then I do walking around at night in Washington DC. That was just the first real realization I’ve had of many that living what some think to be a safe life, thinking that traveling through the world might be inherently more dangerous than working in a cubicle, is completely wrong. Once I thought I would be robbed in Thailand only to come to find out they just wanted to help me.

Life lessons learned by almost dying. Image of myself standing atop a waterfall in Saut D'eau Haiti.

Traveling is no more dangerous than living that idea of a normal life.

This is why, no matter what situation you are in or whatever it is you may be doing; be it working in a cubicle at home or scuba diving in Italy, walking the dog or driving a rickshaw across India — make sure you are doing what you want to do at that very moment. Make sure you aren’t thinking about tomorrow or a week from now or 5 years from now or that retirement in 20 years. Because we never know what tomorrow will bring or if there will even be a tomorrow. We have to stop living in tomorrowland and start living in the now, and even if you have to work that “normal” job for the moment, make sure there is a purpose behind it driven by your dreams and what makes you happy.

Life lessons learned by almost dying. Image of the tattoo Fernweh and waves crashing on a beach below a cliff.

I’ve realized that I was getting too invested in this routine again, and I was lulled into not embracing every second of everyday, so I am going to try daily again to be focusing on my passions and the now. Though I need the waiter job at the moment to save up for future travel plans, that doesn’t mean I can’t be doing something amazing everyday. And more importantly, I can be living everyday instead of existing.

Life lessons learned by almost dying. Image of myself leaping off of a waterfall in New Zealand.

 

Need some inspiration? Check these posts out!


 

LBMinspirationalquotes

10 Most Inspirational Life Quotes over my Travel Photos

Everybody needs a little kick in the mojo sometimes. A jolt of energy to get life shocked back into. A dose of pure inspiration from the voices and the pens of travelers, philosophers, dreamers, and doers. Hell, sometimes you just need someone to slap you and shout, “Get off your ass and chase your dreams fool!Get Inspired Here!

 


 

me-new-zealand-kayak

Death: My Travel Inspiration

Your life can change in an instant.

Sometimes that phrase is difficult to grasp since we get caught up in our daily lives and don’t realize when things pass us by — for example: life. But just like a lightbulb, it can burn out without a hint of notice, leaving the faintest remnant of that light clinging on to the last minutes of what once was before fizzing out forever.Get Inspired Here!

 

Best Travel Blog Articles of the Week – May 4th-10th

People-youre-not-shopping-for-but-should-be-paper-boy

Welcome to your weekly travel digest. Just like a young chap in the early 1900’s, I will be playing the role of town cryer telling you all of the best travel articles hot of the (word)press.

Each week I will be posting up my favorite blog reads that catch my terribly low attention span. No, I will not be in overalls and a golf cap like this dapper young lad on the left.

When I’m not wandering around the world, I’m reading about it, so I want to collect some entertainment to light that travel spirit under your ass!

There will be no “Top 10” posts here, no “Best Beaches” bullshit, just straight up travel adventures and motivation.

Motivation

IF YOU WANT TO MAKE GOD LAUGH, TELL HIM ABOUT YOUR PLANS” — CARPE DIEM EDITION
by Suzanne of Boomeresque

Exceprt: ““Don’t postpone joy” has become so much more than a bumper sticker.”

After a tragic and recent loss in her family, Suzanne and family members rush from across the nation to come together and support each other. But something else is realized in the midst of loss, the need to live your life because things can be over at any moment.

READ ARTICLE

 

Inspirational travel quotes in photos
by Seattle of Seattle’s Travels

Excerpt: None needed.

Seattle takes some stellar travel photos. And now, by using those photos paired with some of the most inspirational quotes I’ve ever seen, this photo essay will make you want to pack your suitcase directly after viewing.

READ ARTICLE

Adventure!

7 things we DON’T miss from Asia
by Anglo-Italian Blog

I love articles that are about mis-adventures and also about the occasional agony of travel. Get real sweet cheeks, not all travel is rosy and you don’t “OMG love” everything. I have plenty of things my own country annoys me with. Franca and Dale keep it real by listing some things that weren’t so awesome about traveling around Asia, even though they loved it.

READ ARTICLE

Travel Photography

Tiny Tighnabruaich and Scotland’s Lost Street Art 
by Wee Wanders

Just look at my site design — I LOVE GRAFFITI! I typically wander around cities I visit specifically searching for awesome street art, and Lisa shares some gnarly examples from Scotland!

READ ARTICLE

Travel Videos

Returning for La Dolce Vita 

by Ayngelina of Bacon Magic

Ayngelina’s videos always amaze me with the elegance of her footage paired perfectly with music to bring a destination to life. Here, she returns to Italy to give you a taste of Bologna.

 

READ ARTICLE

 

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steps to eat safely from street vendors
by Agness of eTramping

Being in Thailand for six months, I have tried some delicious, and sometimes strange things. Street food can be some of the best bits of a destination, but if you aren’t careful, it can wreak havoc on your health. Here are 5 ways to eat safely.

READ ARTICLE

 

The connection between walking lions and canned lion hunting
by Green Global Travel

This was a shocker to read and an eye opener. Though I’ve never “walked a lion” and that I refuse to go to the tiger shows in Thailand, a lion conservation would make me think sanctuary. Apparently not. This is a must read about how lions are being raised by tourism dollars for the chance to walk them, only to have them hunted down the road for game and money.

READ ARTICLE

 

And don’t forget to check out my recent articles! 

 

Does that have ya pumped up?! Find other awesome reads this week or want to be featured next week? Comment below!

 

A dwindling travel budget and fear of failure.

Photo May 08, 8 57 50 PM

Something haunts me as the thunder rumbles deep outside. Lightning streaks across the sky every so often, white-washing the rolling grey clouds like the flash of a camera. The pouring rains rat-ta-tat-tats on the rooftop and weeps down the window front — headlights and tail lights from passing traffic shimmer across that waterfall before me, creating a kaleidoscope-like obscura.

Something else, less literal, hangs dark and foreboding above my head. A cloud looms over me, darkening my mood. It is fear. A creeping fear. The type of fear that waits for the right moment to drill into your brain and tighten more and more. Each time it tightens on your mind, it strips away confidence and positive thinking and replaces with the soul-destroying “what ifs” that fester in the darkest parts of your mind.

Things that you subconsciously create to hold you back.

That fear has caused me to gnaw off my fingernails, and to lay awake at night trying to find distraction from swimming in this melancholy the past few days. Struggling to keep my head above the waters so not to drown in despair.

It is the sudden fear of a dwindling budget.

And I am sure many travelers at some point during their journeys finds themselves looking up above to see that darkness following them. That pressure weighing down on you.

When I first left the United States again to embark on this new and exciting road, I knew what mistakes I had made in the past that cut my trip short.

My year-long escape in New Zealand was cut short when I found myself dumbfounded that my bank account showed $25 as my balance. I had completely run out of money without even realizing it and didn’t even have a flight booked home. Luckily I was able to use $20 of that for a bus ticket to a kiwi picking town in the south, as well as charity from family and friends to keep me afloat until I got a paycheck. After a few months of working in a factory 13 hours a day, I had saved up a little money, and with that I decided to return home and reset. Return home to work again for the next adventure.

I vowed never to make that mistake again.

Yet, here I am haunted by that fear. Not because I have $25 left to my name — after nearly 6 months abroad I still have close to half of my original budget. But at the same time I have no income flowing to my bank account.

One of my goals coming to Thailand was to hit the ground running and to teach English here, guaranteeing me an income and prolonging my budget. And, though I have yet to start teaching, I did not abandon that goal fully. In February I took a TEFL/TESOL course and received my English teaching certificate which unlocks many doors and many ways to sustain traveling. But when I received the certificate, the end of the school year was wrapping up. Though I could have searched for teaching opportunities, it was not practical seeing that I would be coming on board a month before school let out.

So I decided to wait.

All the while I watched my budget dip lower and lower.

Seeing red rising.

I have been pretty conscious of my spending each month. The past couple of months I have managed to keep my budget under $30 a day, some days even as low as $10. So I’m not frolicking about throwing around Thai baht like I’m rich, that’s for sure.

Tracking your spending has it’s downsides though. Obviously I don’t want to be oblivious about where my money is going and how I am spending. But tracking every penny that gets used and having no income adding back to your budget is just watching it slowly disappear. Almost like watching the sand in an hourglass trickle down ever so slowly until time is up. Constantly imputing red mark after red mark. And if you let it, and can become and obsession and a fear.

And that is what has happened the past few days.

On my most recent travel newsletter I discussed this sudden fear gripping me — fear that I would run out of money again even though I am not necessarily close to doing so yet. And this feeling seemed to grow in intensity after I decided to temporarily abandon the English teaching goal in favor of my one true goal.

Finally pursuing freelance writing.

My ultimate goal when I left stateside was to find the time I needed — no, to make the time I need — to pursue freelance writing outlets and to focus on furthering my travel blog.

Except the past couple of months while doing my TEFL training and afterward, I barely wrote any articles. I was caught up with the classes or feeling burnt out and lazily lying around my apartment. I realized that, just like back in the United States, I was letting things distract me from focusing on that main goal.

So dived back in head on.

The past couple of weeks I have felt a fury inside of me for writing. It seemed as though I finally found my mojo rejuvenated and the creative juices flowing. I haven’t been able to pull away from the keyboard, and the only thing that really does is when I need to either tinkle or when I start passing out on my laptop. Sometimes food. I’ve slurped down uncountable amounts of coffee. Café dweller could be a nickname, because it hasn’t been uncommon for me to spend 10-14 hours a day writing or scouring the web for freelance opportunities.

And even though I am in a foreign country and spending my days as of late sitting in a café, my mindset is that the hard work will pay off if I keep focusing on the goal and putting forth all of my energy.

But, like the budgeting downside, that also had an opposite effect as well.

The number of emails I have sent out to companies to write for has been in the hundreds. Every freelance travel writing opportunity that has reared its prospective head, I’ve zeroed in on. The problem is, I haven’t received many responses back. And the responses that I have, the companies aren’t actively looking to bring more writers on board.

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I knew it wouldn’t be easy. Passionate endeavors rarely are. I know that freelancing is like a war zone and you’ve gotta’ fight for opportunities. Or it is who you know. Yet I was finally giving it my all and receiving nothing back. It was demoralizing. I know I can’t expect instant payoff, but I couldn’t shake it off. And as much as I kept telling myself, “it’ll be fine, just keep pushing” the fear of failure was beginning to take hold.

What if I wasn’t good enough? What if they don’t like my writing? What if I can’t find any work and have to give up? What if I have to return home?

That damned phrase “what if” — something I’ve tried to eradicate from my vocabulary — was suddenly grasping my spirit with a death grip. I was beginning to think that maybe I should just give up the hunt for now and take the “easy” route by teaching. Not that teaching English is remotely easy, but it would almost be a guaranteed gig.

Surely I could teach and write? Well, if I did that then I would be focusing most of my time and energy to something else. Again I would be getting further and further behind on my main goal. I’d be supplementing the fear of failure or running out of money with a guarantee. A safer bet.

It’s a sick cycle.

I had been raised in a family where my father was a conservative and headstrong realist. He knew the hardships of life well, and though I do not know what his pursuit of happiness may have been once upon a time, I know that he ended up taking the guaranteed route. Throughout my childhood and into adulthood, he would constantly tell me when I had a lofty dream that it was nonsense. He would tell me to “get your head out of the clouds“. He would emphasize that it would be too high of a ladder to climb.

I used to despise the way he would crush any dream I had that wasn’t a “normal job“. These days I don’t blame him though. Life was hard and we struggled to get by. Maybe he knew how it felt to pursue a dream and have reality slap him across the face. Possibly he knew the effects of a failed attempt at something different, and he just wanted to protect me from that hurt. Maybe one too many failed attempts at it broke his spirit.

But I didn’t face other fears and other “what if” worries to leave the United States for nothing.

So how the hell do you beat this fear? 

That fear is the reflection of your own ultimate being. When you sit there daydreaming, envisioning this person that you want to be doing all of these spectacular things you want to do, what happens? You see yourself as this unreachable entity that far surpasses the limits you have mentally imposed. Suddenly, fear crawls across your skin and you feel like cowering away from what you saw. Cowering from your own greatness.

As that fear takes hold, you may instantly deem it as some crazy idea or unattainable goal. But what you saw — that is the person you are meant to be. That fear that you experience when you see yourself doing something amazing; a slight tingle in the back of your neck and maybe even causing your heart to beat faster — that is the test. Fear of risks stems from fear of something great inside you. That is the a challenge to your fortitude to see if you want it badly enough to face the fear. The fear of failure. The fear of trying out that wild dream you have, but going into it already telling yourself you won’t make it.

Don’t let fear beat you, because on the other side of that fear, is who you are meant to be. And only you can beat it.

It’s full steam ahead now.

I am tired of constantly beginning to pursue my passion only to allow fear to make me turn back and do something safer. I’m tired of thinking I have to do something else to be able to keep inching toward it. The truth is if I focus on it fully, I can gain much more traction.

Though I have been feeling demoralized lately, by writing about this fear that has been haunting me, it has actually helped refocus my mind.

There was also a good opportunity that came my way from the recent writing blitzkrieg I’ve been on. Opportunities I wouldn’t be able to take advantage of if I was focusing on other things. Hipmunk, a nifty flight booking company, has recently asked me to be one of their “destination experts” to create content for their website. And I am super stoked. Though it won’t pay all of the bills, it is a small start to being able to sustain my travels with my writing.

So I will keep at it.

I will keep working hard and even though that fear will surely creep up on me, I will not let it destroy my confidence. I know my goals and I know my self-worth and I know I can do this. And even with my budget dipping lower, I cannot let that stop me from moving forward. I will not be afraid of failure. Because through trial and error you can fail a thousand times, but if you keep at it, eventually you will succeed.

You can only be a failure if you quit.

Photo May 07, 7 56 03 PM

What is your greatest fear while traveling? Have you ever felt this way?


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Something on Koh Phi Phi in Thailand brought me to Tears.

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[dropcap]W[/dropcap]hatever you want to call them; Ghosts or spirits or just hopeful nostalgia playing mind games with a person who yearns for a long gone sentimental period in life — I’ve experienced something multiple times throughout my life.

Something otherworldly. Something I couldn’t quite see or touch, but something I could feel in the pit of my stomach or on the hairs of my neck that stand at attention.

Thousands of miles away from any semblance of scar or soul searing experience from my past, they still found me on the Island of Koh Phi Phi in Thailand.

It used to frighten me much more than it did that Christmas in Thailand. It would usually send goosebumps crawling over my skin and my heart would pound against my rib cage the speed of a machine gun.

Most of the time you cannot see these wisps of residual energy left to frolic about between worlds, or those intelligent enough to taunt and torment the living. And that is terrifying. When you hear a voice as silent as a small breeze, or when you hear a creak in the floor boards as if they creep up on you, or when you catch the last instance of a shadow before it retreats into the darkness.

At those very instances it is nigh impossible to keep hold of your wits and senses because the concept of ghosts elude reality.

The first experience with a ghost would cause me to cower and weep. The second would provide a small insight and re-assurance. But more confusion.

[highlight]This time…it brought me to tears.[/highlight]

It was December 25th. High above the tourist ransacked town of Koh Phi Phi I sat with another backpacker on the upper porch of a bungalow under the dim yellow porch light. We faced out toward the blackness where the hill dropped steep into the now invisible Andaman Sea.

The wind was fiercer than the past few days. It swooshed up the slope to billow and gust through the rows of wooden bungalows. The palms swayed and danced in the darkness like some drunken shaman. Even with all of the commotion from what seemed to be a storm approaching, the night was eerily silent. The bungalow did not creak or make a peep. Our plastic chairs did not shift. Just the noise of the wind.

Here I would be suddenly reminded of those instances in my past where I experienced those mysterious somethings. It would also remind me of the age old book by Charles Dickens which tells a story of a twisted and wretched man whom believed he had no heart, and rediscovered it when ghosts came for a chat.

Men’s courses will foreshadow certain ends, to which, if persevered in, they must lead,” said Scrooge. “But if the courses be departed from, the ends will change.
― Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

Little did I know that by the end of this night I would be visited again, and I’d feel like the changed Scrooge after his ghosts came to see him. My path was so very different now. I had changed course, and it had led me here.

Do you believe in ghosts?

Oh hell yes I do. I’ve had a couple experiences with them” I said.

Now you’ve gotta’ tell me

I stared off into that darkness for a few moments knowing all too well what my stories would reveal to a person I had not shared much with. All they knew about me, as with most people met on the road, was that I was a corporate escapee from the United States in search of adventure.

Twice I’ve met ghosts. One was my mother on Christmas after her death. The second, my father after his death.” I said, very calmly still staring into the darkness.

My hands where now clasped together, and maybe the seemingly nervous writhing of them together like I was kneading dough gave away my discomfort.

Oh, I’m sorry, you don’t have to tell me.”

The surroundings at that very moment almost urged me to tell the tale, like a camp fire does with its whipping orange flames. That night had a very “Are you scared of the Dark?” feel to it.

No, no. It’s okay. I’ll tell you the experiences.”

The nervousness hadn’t been the thought of telling the story of my parents ghosts and knowing that it would lead to more questions. It was more that I was afraid they’d think I was a loon. I hadn’t shared this story with more than a handful of people, and I hadn’t even told my own brother the story. I knew he’d say I was batshit crazy.

But this person, a backpacker I had just met a few days before, now sat at the edge of their plastic lawn chair in anticipation. I could tell they were truly interested.

As I began the first story the wind fell deathly still atop Phi Phi hill. The palms stopped their ritualistic swaying. Everything became quiet as if the wind and the trees listened to the story as well.

[highlight]My mother came to me one Christmas Eve.[/highlight]

As the young and ever so cute little boy I was growing up, I had a Christmas ritual. Every year when the dark green pine would be slung up on the stand in the living room I would eagerly await the night when we could decorate it.

Silver tinsel would fly in a flurry as my tiny self tried to hurl it toward the top of the tree.

You’re making a mess!” My mother would yell.

I can do it!” I’d shout, and would twist away as my taller brother would try to steal my Christmas feat away from me. I could decorate the freakin’ tree. My mother would always laugh at my miniature confidence.

I would plug in those chains of Christmas lights and wrap myself in them like a glowing yellow and green and red and blue neon enchilada.

When you get electrocuted I’ll tell you I told you so...” My mother would say to me. But nothing could snatch the joy of Christmas away from me. Nothing.

Every night up until Christmas Eve when my parents would remove the door handles so we couldn’t shake the present to guess what was in them, I would sleep beside the tree on the couch.

And then that Christmas joy was stripped away.

My mother had committed suicide sometime in my mid-teens. As I’ve told in the past, I repressed most of that occurrence into the depths of the deepest hole I could dig inside my brain which is the reason I cannot remember the exact year it happened. We also couldn’t afford a gravestone for her.

It had occurred in the summer that year, but still sat heavy in my heart as the temperatures dropped and the Christmas cheer was flaunted everywhere in town. To me, it was atrocious. It was a sickening reminder of a happy time long past. A smiling fat bearded man with rosey cheeks stared at me everywhere I walked aching for a punch in the face. I didn’t even decorate our own tree that year, deciding it was a bore.

Christmas had lost all of its joy and light.

But on Christmas Eve I awoke in the middle of the night after everyone had fallen asleep and crept silently into the living room. All of the lights in the house were turned off, and just the glow of the Christmas tree illuminated the room and a golden splendor. Something about it felt warm and calm. Some reminder or echo from my childhood twinkled in those lights and on the ornaments.

I curled up on the couch and sank into those familiar dark green cushions and stared at the tree until sleep overtook me. The lights blurred into a kaleidoscope as my eyelids fell shut.

And at some point during the night jolted awake. Something startled me enough to wake me and send my heart racing.

At first I thought I was dreaming. There was a distinct sound heard loud beside me. I heard two footsteps walk into the room and stop, almost as if admiring the tree.

When I fully came to I leapt upright on the couch shaking. My eyes darted left and right trying to discover who was inside the house when suddenly the footsteps ran past me and continued down the hall.
That distinct sound was one I knew very well. It was the sound my Mother’s church heels. Those tan generic heels that click clacked down the marble floors whenever she went to service, and I was the only one that would go with her.

Sometimes when she came to church, she was the strongest woman I had ever seen. And other times, she was the most fragile.

Those words our minister spoke at her funeral came echoing back with the sound of her heels by the Christmas tree. I didn’t know what to make of it. I was frightened and confused. I knew she had been there at that moment. Just as fast as she came she was gone again.

And an uncontrollable flood of tears poured from my eyes.

Her heels trailed off into the darkness of the hallway leading to my parents old room, as if she was getting ready to go to church.

I wept terribly at her memory in front of that Christmas tree like a child crying for his mother, and then suddenly the tears stopped. There was this immense calm I felt at that moment, as if I knew she would always be with me.

Nobody would ever hear of that story until nearly ten years later. And until the second occurrence, it would confuse me.

[highlight]It was a summer day when my father came to me, like the day he had passed.[/highlight]

Whether it be your eyes that see a ghost, or your ears that hear one, it can also be in your mind and in your heart that you know an experience to be true.

The summer after I buried my father I could not handle the torture of being in that same house anymore. I had to even quit the job we both worked at because every time I saw his empty chair I nearly threw up.

My brother had met his future wife and was always staying at her place every night for months, which left me alone in that great big house with its long and now lonely history.

This was a house once full of love, lies, smiles, violence, laughter, hate, growing up, breaking down, broken hearts, and broken dreams. It was the house of my childhood, and now it was empty. A big brick and wooden void in which most nights I would find myself sitting alone in silence.

The kind of silence that was so loud it hurts your brain and drives you mad. And it was slowly driving me mad.

Soon the DVD movies on the projector got old. Then I’d switch to trying to throw parties to bring some life into the house and then I hated people being there. Then I’d switch to drinking alone instead. I’d try to spark up an old hook up out of some desperate loneliness that might distract for a while, but soon I’d tire of that as well. And soon I’d tire of even watching porn as a distraction. I’d just sit in the loud silence like I was trapped in a cage of sadness.

While living in that big creaky house with the yellow shingles and the brown shudders and the hallowed halls with bleeding walls and the screaming silence, I rarely got sleep.

Most of the time I feared someone would break in. They would take the last bit of my childhood and my family memory away from me and so I never slept. It was just me on my back alone on that leather couch staring at the ceiling into the nothingness. Staring so long at the cracks in the plaster that the began to wiggle and writhe like worms. At the same time I couldn’t ever pull myself together to leave that prison of tormenting memories.

I finally moved out the summer after. Madness drove me to escape with a couple of my best friends, only temporarily, to work at a beach outside of town.

And at some point during that summer of sun and booze and hangovers and blackout hookups, my father came to me in the shit-hole of a beach house we all stayed in.

I was fast asleep on the top bunk of the rickety matchstick construct we all slept on. This time, I wasn’t startled awake by a ghost, but I met my father in the parallel plane where the body sleeps and the mind rules.

It was so vivid and real.

In the dream, the sun was beaming so marvelously bright. Everything was basked in some sort of warm hue, almost like the leaves of fall. I entered the house into the empty living room where the dust danced in the sunlight that peaked through the blinds.

BUBBA!” My father called out to me in his joyful and raspy growl. I ran to him. So fast I ran, but I also moved in slow motion. It was as if I was a child again but in my twenty year old body. He sat in his favorite chair soaked in golden light and suddenly everything seemed right in the world.

He was wearing this familiar yellow shirt; one dotted with holes and oil stains and emblazoned with the faded logo of our weekend lawn mowing company. He always smelled like a mechanic.

I embraced him — clashing against his rotund belly and attempted to wrap my arms around his whole body.

Where did you go, I’ve been waiting for you. I missed you.” I said.

My father patted my head with his large rough hands. I could feel the gristle of his beard scratching my face like the times as a boy when he would sit me on his knee.

I’m on vacation. I needed a vacation for a long time and I went.” He said to me.

And then I woke up. It wasn’t an alarming awakening, more like I slowly came back into my body and was confused as to why I was in this run down beach house and not with my father at home in the golden splendor.

It was so surreal and yet so very real. As I sat there, I could still smell his shirt and feel his beard against my face.

He was just on vacation.

[highlight]Then a ghost came to Koh Phi Phi[/highlight]

After I had told the person those two stories about my parents (the abridged version of course) something strange happened.

Though it frightened me the first time with my mother and slightly confused me the second, it was also a reassurance that they were still with me. That I wasn’t truly alone.

Right as I finished the story and let the weight of it sink into the silence of the night, our bungalows power went out. Every other bungalow, more than 30 on the hill, all had their faint yellow porch lights still buzzing bright.

After a couple of seconds, the power came back on and the wind began to slowly swirl through the trees again.

I’ve been here for weeks and that has never happened” the listener of my story said.

I was turned away facing the darkness as if I was looking around, but in truth I was hiding the two tears that had escaped my eyes.

It was my father and my mother who had come to me again that night, and they were telling me on that Christmas Eve where I felt lonely that I was not alone.

I was not alone.

Whether or not you believe in spirits, or ghosts, or the afterlife — I know what I felt in each of those instances. I believe we are all made up of some type of energy. The universe was created by accidental collisions of energy and atoms and molecules over the course of billions of years.

Those accidental collisions came to form the galaxies and the stars and the planets. We are born of the universe and our bodies are made up of it as well. Understand that we are pieces of the great universe made to be great. My mother’s and father’s bodies expired on this planet, but I believe their energy is still omnipresent. They have yet again become part of the universe.

They are now in the breeze and in the earth and in the trees. For so long I chose not to pay attention, almost yearning for a never-ending loneliness because it comforts you in a dark way.

But now I know for sure as their ghosts or presence visited me on that Christmas Eve. I am never alone.

I was a Scrooge for so very long not wanting to enjoy the company of other family and friends on that holiday — or in most instances. I could not stand to see people happy or successful and I resented everyone. Like a poisonous envy. And anyone that took me in for the holidays and offered their love would fall to break into pieces against my armor. I would sit in a corner awkwardly not knowing what to do with such a tainted holiday like Christmas.

And now I remember those times spent on Christmas with family and friends and it gives me a pang of sadness that I never took advantage of it.

Holidays on the road when traveling are tough. You have flashbacks of the food and the laughter and you yearn for it. You might even feel alone in those instances. But whether you are traveling and you have family at home, or if you’ve lost your loved ones and the nostalgia pains you, you are never alone my friends.

[custom_headline type=”left” level=”h2″ looks_like=”h2″]Have you experienced anything like this?[/custom_headline]

Amtrak Train Across America Day 1: Closure.

Your life can change in an instant, or with one simple choice — like one I made to take an Amtrak train across America. After a year stateside working and saving up money, the pull of my nomadic soul began again. I needed to travel. So, on a whim, I booked a flight to Thailand from California. I just had to get there. And what better way to see the United States than by rail.


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Today began just like every other day.

I woke up at the shriek of my alarm clock.

I peeled myself off of the couch that I’ve been sleeping on for the past 3 months.

I showered.

I brushed my teeth.

And then I looked in the mirror. I smiled.

I smiled at myself because today wasn’t just any other day. Today, looking in that mirror, I knew was a day that was extra ordinary.

Today I was not having to rush into work and serve other people for their own pleasure. Today I wasn’t having to fit myself like a gear into the massive money machine construct that is our dear capitalistic nation.

Today was profound.

Today meant I was doing something great.

Today I would do something abnormal. Abstract. Odd. Unexpected.

Today was the day I take a step that will unravel an adventure spanning thousands of miles and multiple time zones.

Today I would begin spanning different landscapes, environments, and cities. Spanning multiple countries and cultures.

Most of all, today marked the start of a journey spanning the far reaches of my dream. This time, that dream wasn’t clouded in a haze of depression and self-doubt. This day, today, I knew I was embarking on a trip of transformation and discovery.

Today, looking in that mirror, I truly felt alive.

Outside, November was throwing one helluva fit. She wailed and cried, hissed and spit. I woke up early, even though I had a late train, for the sole purpose of visiting my parents at the cemetery to say my goodbyes.

For a lad without a car and carrying a massive backpack filled with his entire life, it was quite a far way. I was determined to continue my ritual of leaving a pair of my worn and torn chucks at their graves before I left.

It always represented me leaving my past behind. By leaving my chucks which were falling apart at the seams, I saw it as myself leaving my tattered heart and soul behind to start anew.

But November it seemed, would not break her chaotic emotions, and by the time the weather lightened up, it was too late to visit them.

I took a deep breath and accepted this unfortunate scenario. Maybe it wasn’t meant to be. Maybe, just as this trip was vastly different emotionally for me than all before, it was time to give up the ritual.

No more was I trying to leave my past behind and forget it. I wasn’t trying to ditch my tattered heart and soul with my dead parents in hopes to find something new. I’ve come to terms with my past and faced my demons as of late. This was a trip to build my self in its entirety into something great.

I’ve accepted my past and I’ve finally found closure.

I finished packing the last of my belongings into my light blue REI pack. Embarrassing fact — it’s a girls backpack, and the only one that fit me.

Another funny thing you realize when you pack your entire life into a backpack is that you see just exactly what belongs. That’s the difference between belongings and possessions people rarely see.

I hauled the hefty pack on and proceeded to do that chicken dance you have to just so you can tighten the straps in the proper fashion.

Hip straps pulled tight. Top straps over the shoulder pulled forward. Bent over, shoulder straps pulled backwards tight. Wiggle until comfortable.

Once situated, I plopped my even heavier tech bag on the front of my body. Every type of electronic you can imagine lives in that, and I know you might think they are all possessions, but they all totally belong in my life. Tech junky.

 

 

After a once over of the apartment so not to forget anything (which I would discover later that I did forget something important) I said my goodbyes to a best friend, and started my way to Union Station looking like an awkward human RV.

I soon found myself within the low-lit vaulted ceilings of Union Station in Washington DC. All of my great adventures have started here, and being around all of the travelers scurrying about like busy ants gives you that feeling of perpetual movement.

Yet, most people in this ebb and flow of bodies were there for business, cycling through endlessly each day, whereas I felt like a stationary being trapped in a timelapse. Everyone was in such a rush and all avoiding eye contact with anybody else.

Some people waited at the timetable boards staring as if their mental complaints about it not showing their arrival time yet would have any effect on the screen. I had no need to rush around anymore. And I had no need to wait around for things to change.

My train, the Amtrak 29 Capital Limited to Chicago, arrived on time and we all shuffled forth to board. We were down a platform between two polished silver Amtrak superliners painted American red and blue, and my eye widened with marvel as we passed by these great hissing steel beasts.

Amtrak 29

The benefit of these long distance trains is the massive amount of leg space provided, easily beating out airlines for comfort.

And to my delight, it seems as though these older trains had been freshersized a tad bit. No more tacky rainbow-colored confetti print that gives you a headache to look at. Ya’ know, that décor that looks like a kiddo with a crayon got a hold of a Rorschach graphic. Now, at least for this train, they’ve dressed it in the dark Amtrak blue that is much easier on the eyes.

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Immediately after departure, I took to the viewing car to kick my chucks back and enjoy the views. The storm had passed giving way to a clear blue sky.

Then we were off.

With a screech and a clunk and a hiss and a few other noises, the train pulled out of Union Station. And thus my gnarly American train adventure began!

From floor to ceiling in the panoramic viewing car I watched ivy covered oaks and sycamores flash by in the blur of orange, crimson, and gold of autumn.

 

Sunlight flecked through one side of the train dancing shadows across my leather-bound journal as I jotted down details.

We passed through a pitch dark tunnel and emerged on the other side of the mountain to cross a rusted steel bridge into Harpers Ferry. A civil war town that I’ve always loved visiting, everybody in the viewing car gathered to the one side to marvel at the old stone houses lining the tree brushed hills of the Shenandoah Valley.

I was already in the infancy of Lewis and Clark’s journey through the wilds of America, and my next train would take me deep into the rugged north still along their path. Here though was where Thomas Jefferson stood and said, “insert awe-inspiring quote here that I forgot.”

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Okay, just kidding, Thomas Jefferson stood upon the rock now named after him and declared, “perhaps one of the most stupendous scenes in nature.”

Can ya blame me for loving this little historic town?

Minutes later we were on our way again. It would be a long distance before we saw much else that resembled a town, so I grabbed a Sierra Nevada and sipped a beer as the trees strobed sunlight through the viewing car like a disco ball. Just the train floating over sprawling golden farmland.

I hadn’t had much interactions with other passengers thus far, but I did spark up a conversation with Melissa who was sitting beside me, fascinated by my selfie recordings via my GoPro.

Guilty

Oh no, I was just staring because it thought it was so cool you could see it on your phone too!

She was an older woman with blonde hair and a quick smile, and she seemed genuinely happy to be on the train.

I’m headed to Cleveland to see the Browns be beaten by the Ravens with my brother.

Oh, so you are from Baltimore?

Oh no, from Indiana, I love them too. But I don’t mess with those…Redskins.

You could hear the distaste of a die-hard fan. I told her about my road trip that I took across the United States when I was 20, and stopping off in Chicago and Cleveland.

And when I was in Chicago, I took the wrong exit and ended up in Cabrini Green. I suddenly realized I had seen that apartment complex on Gangland and America’s Most Dangerous Places.

Talk about a wrong turn” she said, and got up to grab another beer.

When she returned and cracked open a Miller Light, I could hear the similar sound of her heart breaking.

They were out of Corona

I felt sad for her, because it seemed like a dire situation for she was suddenly in, and because of the fact that we had just departed and already run out of her favorite nectar. I always thought it tasted like piss.

Oh the woes of a traveler.

The sun sank below the horizon turning the sky into the color of a melted creamsicle. As the daylight died, the viewing car livened. Cracking beer tops rang out and half the car erupted into song and dance.

One group was blaring their music through speakers they had brought, while two older gentleman bragged about who would be better in a dance off. Soon enough, they were awkwardly moon walking down the aisle as Michael Jackson wooed and yeeheed from the speakers.

Though I was tempted to let loose the dance demon inside and show them how to shake it, I was in a particular mood. And I also didn’t want to show up ever white boy in existence with my divinely bestowed dance skills.

It wasn’t that I was bored or over it. I wasn’t even bothered by the noise. More like I was completely content. I felt a calm over myself being on this journey.

After a couple of hours the music died and the people returned to their seats to sleep. The darkness outside a train window in the middle of nowhere is a fascinating thing. It is like staring into polished black marble, with the faint silhouettes of trees like the veins in the stone.

The rocking of the train and the light hum of the wind lullabies you instantly to sleep. I was startled awake at one point when a train on the opposite tracked whizzed by. It sounded like low and high-pitched howling by spirits, and was as mesmerizing as it was bone chilling.

When we pulled out of the white speckled skyline of Pittsburgh after midnight, a monstrous yawn signaled it was time for sleep. Tomorrow was Chicago, and I needed the energy to hunt down my deep dish pizza fix on a 4hr layover.

To get caught up with my story of triumph from depression to transformation, read Memoirs of a Lost Boy.

Like this story? Get caught up on all of the other days on this gnarly train adventure across the United States!

READ – DAY 2: Discovery

READ – DAY 3: Seeing Clearly

READ – Ginos East vs. Giordanos: A Deep Dish Love Affair

 

**DISCLOSURE** I was not financially compensated for this post. I received a free trip courtesy of Amtrak for review purposes. The opinions, photos, videos, and use of the word “gnarly” are completely my own based on my experience. 

 

Escape From Tomorrowland: Why You Should Travel TODAY!

So many of us live in Tomorrowland.

Tomorrow is another day.

I’ll do this tomorrow.

I’ll start working towards my dream tomorrow.

Tomorrow is a new beginning.

Well let me just voice my opinion about tomorrow.

Tomorrow does not exist.

Now, I’m not telling you that this is fact by some divine knowledge….

I’m just asking you to toy with this idea. Just think about this for a minute.

Tomorrow is a theory.

Tomorrow is a comfortable assumption that the sun will rise.

Tomorrow is a hope that your heart will keep beating and your eyes will open.

Tomorrow is a a fear that we are not strong enough at this moment to do what it takes to pursue our happiness.

Tomorrow is an excuse. A delay.

And as with the seconds of your life not being guaranteed tomorrow, so is the world as we know it.

There is a place in New Zealand called Cathedral Cove; a massive White Sea cave or arch that has been shaped by the winds, waters, and time.

There is only one now where there used to be many. All have collapsed and disappeared, and this one is disappearing piece by piece everyday.

Like most lush rain forests, stunning waterfalls, awe-inspiring monuments, architectural wonders, breath-taking beaches, unique species of plants, animals, reptiles, insects, and marine creatures — they may not be here after today, because life can change in an instant.

We may hope that we will have the time to do something we’ve always wanted, but that something, whatever it is, may not be there tomorrow.

Because like all theories, tomorrow is tentative.

By definition, “theory” is a belief that can guide behavior. Not a fact.

And that “theory” of tomorrow guides the majority of the world into a self-induced coma, one where we will say, “Tomorrow I’ll wake up early and start getting in shape.”

Or, “Tomorrow I will use my day off and not sit in front of a TV, but start molding my dream into a reality.

Or, “Tomorrow, I’ll quit my job and travel the world.

You know what? When tomorrow arrives and you feel good about still being around for one more day, it gives you enough air of confidence to put everything off until tomorrow once again.

Inside of this sickening cycle you are only living in theory.

You are not truly living.

One can only live that very second his or her heart decides to beat. One beat at a time.

Have you ever had your heart skip a beat? That feeling of shortness of breath, or the pain in your chest. That is the consequence of skipping a beat. It is that moment, life itself, slipping away. But luckily it wasn’t your last heartbeat. This time at least.

Tomorrow is a possibility, but not a guarantee.

Yesterday existed, but no longer does it exist.

Today exists.

This very second exists.

Millisecond.

Snap your finger…

…by the time you did that, you’ve already lost a moment, and that is how quick that moment could have been your last.

I ask you, just to consider what the present means, and what tomorrow doesn’t.

So come with me.

Escape from Tomorrowland.

Kick open your cubicle cages.

Rip free from the bondage of corporate chains.

Shatter the glass jars that have trapped your light like a firefly in the summer, and fly into the night to find your place among the stars.

Today awaits.

And with today, your dream awaits. 

“Tomorrow and plans for tomorrow can have no significance at all unless you are in full contact with the reality of the present, since it is in the present and only in the present that you live. There is no other reality than present reality, so that, even if one were to live for endless ages, to live for the future would be to miss the point everlastingly.”

– Alan Watts

“When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: ‘If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.’ It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ And whenever the answer has been ‘No’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.”

– Steve Jobs

Are you ready to live for today?

 

How to Travel the World When You Have Lost Everything.

 

Attack Life, it's going to kill you anyways

I know death well.

Like some damned Divine Comedy, I’ve been through Hell. That dark, fiery, sulfur stinking, lifeless place. And for a long time it seemed like the fate of myself would be that of my parents; self-induced, or by the powers that be who deemed me unworthy to truly live.

I’ve met despair, who caressed my face in a shadowy comfort, enticing me to a darkness of a black hole like existence in which no light would be allowed.

It is much easier to give up all hope than it is to stage an internal coup d’tat to overthrow Depression, the bastard that attempts to rule you in these times.

When all is crumbling around you, it is still possible to climb your way out of the abyss.

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I want to share something extremely personal, but incredibly important, so I can hopefully help you, or anyone else that have been through similar circumstances, or any hardships that make you feel like there is no hope in life.

This is not a realm I like to venture into, memories so far repressed that they seem like a movie reel missing pieces, but it is time to face these things and to give you ammo for courage.

Very recently was the anniversary of the death of my father, and as always, it has been on my mind quite a bit while leading up to my trip to Thailand.

Nothing I say will be able to solve the problems or obstacles you may face, but maybe in the least it will help you stay strong and keep believing that you can do whatever it is you want to in life.

To live your dream, be it traveling the world or not.

So I will begin with something that most people, even people very close to me, do not know. It is a shame, but the course my life has taken until the past few years has made my feelings impermeable to others. Though sometimes I am able to share it to you all through writing.

The only reason I feel the need to include these details is for you to know that I mean what I say when I tell you that it can get better, and that you can live your dream and travel the world if you want.

You gotta’ want it bad though. So bad that you will claw your way through it all. But it is possible.

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 I buried both of my parents before I was 20.

In the early years of high school my mother committed suicide. It was completely unexpected and rocked my entire world, and I still repress it somewhat.

I remember one of those hot summer days playing football in my yard as a young boy when a bearded man in a pick-up truck drove by my house and yelled out his window, “Your mother is dead!

He laughed after yelling this, and then drove off.

You see, at the time I didn’t know he was being literal, I just thought he meant my mother was in trouble with the law.

I’ve re-constructed the scenario over and over in my head, and even wrote a movie script to try to explain it to myself better. I even wrote in a note to me and my brother where she explains her reasoning, and says signs, “I love you.

But there was no death note and no explanation. Just nothingness like the way I felt.

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To this day it is hard for me to remember the exact year this happened and how old I was because I think I tried to forget about it.

I remember crying my eyes out for a week straight. My mother doesn’t have a gravestone yet so I have no reference, and I cannot help but feeling terrible for forgetting.

I was considered the “Mommas Boy” because I would still want to see her after my parents split up since my brother denied all accounts of my father beating her and sided with him. I was the brainwashed child. But I stopped visiting her for a few months because my father was getting on my case more and more.

For a long time I blamed myself for my mother’s death, thinking I was the reason she hung herself because I stopped coming to visit her.

The years before my mother’s death, my family had been the perfect portrayal of a broken home. My father and mother split up because he abused her, and she would bounce from place to place trying to find somewhere to live. She would fall from job to job, and there were mumblings that she was using drugs again.

There were always mumblings she was doing drugs again.

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That is how my parents met, my father was a drug dealer and my mother was buying drugs. Yet, my father would always deny that part of his life, and would try to convince me to ignore my mother.

My minister always described my mother as the strongest and weakest woman in the world, but she always told me she would never leave us because she could never hurt us that way.

And I’ve felt a fiery something…be it frustration…or hate…or hurt…because she left when she said she wouldn’t. Because of that mother fucker who drove by and yelled. Because I wasn’t there for her.

But I was young then, and still had a stable ground under me and a home. Even if part of me was ripped away.

Fast forward to summer of 2008.

The bright July sun beamed through my shades. It must have been hot, because the summer cicadas hissed loud outside. My dry eyes peeled open as I licked my chapped lips. The stale taste of beer was still apparent, and the ringing in my head spelled out a horrible hangover.

I had been out all night at my brother’s friends bonfire kicking back brewskies and playing beer-pong until the wee hours of the morning when we all got home and passed out.

My best friend was rapping on the door for me to open up. We were going to shoot some film that day, so I rolled out of bed and got dressed. I let him in, grabbed our scripts and gear to go shooting, and headed for the front door. Then, I stopped before walking out the front door and told my friend I was going to grab a couple sodas from the deck.

And that is when my life changed forever. Again.

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I flung open the flimsy metal screen door in a hurry and reached down to grab some sodas. Out of the corner of my eye I saw my father laying on the ground.

At first glance I thought he was just adding some more flare to his beloved deck, a place where he would sit everyday, and sometimes sleep at night.

Hey dad, I’m going to go film some stuff!

But when he didn’t respond, I turned back around and noticed his lifeless body, belly down, slumped face first into the railing.

My own scream still haunts me to that day. I ran to my father and yelled for my friend Tony.

I struggled trying to pull my father’s 275lb body upright as I screamed and mewed, wishing I had super-human strength to lift him. When my friend emerged from the screen door, his face said it all.

Call 911!” I screamed out to him, finally rolling my father onto his back.

I know what death looks like and smells like. It has been seared into my brain. And when I see colors that match those from this day, I’ve always had flashbacks.

Some people might see yellows and purples and think flowers. Or blue and think a beautiful sky. But not me, not for a long time.

Not until I started living again.

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The sight of death is something I would never wish upon anyone else. His face was swollen and bruised, dotted purple and yellow. He was biting his tongue which had turned a deep blue. He felt clammy, smelled like an ashtray, and was stiff like a block of hard rubber.

I sat him up and ran into the kitchen to grab a spoon, with some fools hope he was still able to be saved. I could hear the sirens at this point as I ran back to him and began trying to pry open his mouth. At last I was able to get the spoon in and open his mouth.

And there was a breath!

My heart sang as a rancid breath escaped him, like stale margarita, and for a second I thought he would start coughing and gasping for air. And then a wasp crawled out of his mouth and flew away. He was in my arms and I was balling with tears and telling him to breathe when the EMT’s arrived.

I remember the first on the scene was a beautiful brown-haired EMT with bright blue eyes, and I remember her looking at my father, then me, and shaking her head.

She just shook her head, like an angel giving a death sentence, and I screamed like an animal and didn’t want to let go as they pulled me away.

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In the early hours of the morning he had a heart attack, the day after he visited the doctor and she said he desperately needed to stop smoking and change his diet. That night he ate a salad for dinner, and we used to joke that the salad was what killed him.

I was the only one who saw him when he died.

My brother had arrived later on and they wouldn’t let him see him. We were forced to have a closed casket funeral as well because the summer sun was harsh that day, and it was too intense for people to see.

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The days passed and I went through a period of falling asleep drunk, waking up drunk, and drinking again. I remember waking up one day on the deck, hungover in the hot sun, just as I had found my father.

I knew what I was doing was not helping, but it made me forget and helped me cope with the constant fog I felt like I was in. I could see the road ahead for a few feet, but everything was dark.

That sweet serenity of hopelessness. Ever since that day I’ve struggled with emotional highs and lows. I’ve struggled with a monster inside, alcoholism, that is programmed into me to drink myself into to oblivion. I’ve struggled with the fact that I can’t seem to make real connections with people, can’t “feel” anything sometimes, and it affects the way I treat even the family I still have.

But travel has been my savior.

Not fully, not wholeheartedly, not the cure-all for what ails me. But it has given me a hope, something I can feel in my heart and gut.

I can now see red roses, and blue skies, and purple flowers, and golden fields for what they are.

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When you feel hopeless, and you trap yourself with “cures” like alcohol, drugs, sex, possessions, and the like to make things go away, or excuses about why the world is against you, you attract negative energy that feeds on your state of mind. It is that creature in the dark waiting for a chance to rule you.

It may numb you to what is actually going on, but it will never help you. It will push you further away from your dream. Further away into nothingness.

“There is a house in New Orleans
They call the Rising Sun
And it’s been the ruin of many a poor boy
And God I know I’m one”

– The Animals

Right now I am sitting in an apartment choking up while writing this. Tears are fogging my eyes because it’s hard for me to open up and remember these things.

I have been sleeping on a friends couch for the last month, and I will be for the next 3 months. Why do I not feel like a failure anymore? Because I am sleeping on a couch to help save money for my trip to Southeast Asia this November.

Why am I not unhappy working a job serving tables at a restaurant just like before? Because it is for something amazing on the horizon.

That is what travel has changed. For a long time I didn’t feel worthy enough for anything better. I was to grow old, broke, and drowning in bills, working at a job I hated until I could never retire, and die.

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Now I have a hope in my life. A purpose without a purpose — just to live.

I had always dreamed about travel, but it always seemed unrealistic only because I chose to believe it was. A lot of my friends who don’t even know about some of the struggles of my past even say, “I wish I could travel the world” like it is some crazy thought.

Except I am yet again on the cusp of an adventure, and just the thought of it makes me smile.

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This is what I want; to travel the world, to see lands I could never believe existed, to have my soul exposed and naked in a foreign culture, to let strangers into my life, to taste the flavors unknown, to learn to feel again, to hike tall mountains, traverse vast plains, and wander into the unknown.

But this unknown travel provides isn’t into the nothingness, but my path to happiness.

And I fought to get here.

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When I first took my maiden journey abroad in 2011 to New Zealand, it had been after a period in my life where I was unhappy, hated my job, and always made excuses for my mis-steps.

But the day I received my passport, the first ever in my family, and took off for my trip, I felt alive.

I had traveled before across the USA, and even worked on a cruise ship in Hawaii. But up until New Zealand I had just been running.

Everyone can live their dream and travel the world no matter what struggles you have faced. The only way to change your life and situation is to believe in your dream and act on it.

ACT ON IT!

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If you have lost like I have, and feel like your life has been crippled, you can go on.

The only way to actually do it is to keep moving forward, not standing still in time lost in a fog. My parents were great people, but there lives were broken ones early on. And I chose not to live a broken life anymore.

If you look for stability in the form of a “normal” job than that is all you will find. From my own personal experience, and after my father passed, I felt a sudden urge to start a career. Everything that I had known and relied on had gone, and I felt I needed to replace it with something. Careers are fine, but make sure it is something you are passionate and dedicated about.

 

Some ways I found to help me past those tough times

-Surround yourself with positive and energetic people.

Hang out with friends that will encourage your passion. Become dedicated to your goal. If you want to travel the world, make damn sure you save every penny and don’t go blowing it in local bars every night after work.

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-Start living your dream!

After I decided I would leave my old life behind for the one I wanted, I began researching about travel and backpacking. I would wander around to places I had never been locally and meet new people. It got me excited and much more serious about what I was doing.

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-Stay positive.

It’ll be really hard sometimes to think that there is escape from this sick cycle, but you will be the only one that can change it. I had a broken childhood, but I never got into drugs. My parents were chain smokers but I never picked up a cigarette.

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Point is, don’t just take the cards that have been dealt to you. Pick up the cards and reshuffle them and become the dealer. I don’t believe in fate, and if I did, my fate will be what I make. Yes, that was a Terminator reference as well.

Stand your ground traveler, nothing shall weaken your lion heart.

In memory on my Father and Mother.

To my father, I wrote this after his death:
Father, Father
Headstrong Father
Though my last words to you, I could not utter
I know that our bond will never be severed
Now in heaven making drinks for the “Big Guy”
The lessons you taught me help me to survive
Now I’m off to take on the world
Your wind is at my back, my sails unfurled.

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NOTE: If you have read this far, just know that my parents were amazing people, they just lived broken lives early on.

  • My father was one of the hardest working men I have ever known. He broke his back everyday to provide for us, and he gave me my rock hard resolve and work ethic.
  • My mother was amazing, and she would challenge me to live my dream no matter what. She was tender and kind, and worried too often about other people instead of herself.
  • My brother, though we have a distanced relationship now, is still a pillar of strength for me.

Share your own story. What did you fight through to chase your dream? And if you haven’t, are you ready and willing to do what it takes?