Living with depression is hard enough, but traveling with depression can be much harder and even dangerous. And I’m followed by its shadow around the world.Read More
Budget travel allows you to see the world on the cheap, but sometimes that extreme low budget travel breaks you. This is one of those times.Read More
Depression can hit you hard at any moment, but when it hits while traveling, it can be even more difficult to handle. And it’s just hit me more than ever.Read More
There are times when traveling challenges you, and other times when experiences break you and make you want to quit traveling. Here’s my hellish experience.Read More
To say that travel changes you is a vast understatement. Whether you like it or not, long-term or frequent travel will have some impact on your life and your mentality — but it is up to you to be open-minded enough to absorb and grow from those experiences. And travel did more than just change me. So what life lessons have I learned after 4 years of travel?Read More
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.
[icon type=”angle-double-down”]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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
It’s now been four years since I began traveling the world, and it has more than just changed my life. Here is an epic supercut video that will show you exactly why you should travel, and hopefully inspire you to hit the road!Read More
We do so much worrying on the daily basis that it can literally kill you. If not kill you, it can make you go made. More importantly, worrying about the future can prevent you from doing anything you truly want to do. So I’m here to tell you, from experience, stop worrying about the future and think about now.Read More
[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.
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.
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.
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.
Need some inspiration? Check these posts out!
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!
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!
Ooh, those are some fighting words aren’t they? Did that hurt?
It is a touchy subject when somebody takes your New Year resolutions and categorize them as trash.
Except I am right — and by the end of this post I guarantee you and I will be in agreement. Then you’ll be ready t take on 2015 punch for punch.
It’s a sick cycle that happens every year like a skipping record.
Another 365 days are scratched off that paradise calendar; and after drudging through another year of living on this planet in misery, people are in dire need of some something more.
Well, usually the bright light of inspiration that promises a better year than the last is just a gigantic disco ball distracting you with shiny lights.
Then just like a broken record your goals may be going smooth, and sooner than later you skip a beat.
Each year goals are set, and each year goals are not accomplished.
The promises made to yourself, the glorious feats you are determined to beat, the changes you decide that need to happen to live a better life; 90% of people will fail. And then it’s brushed aside until the next New Year, and next failed attempt.
Trust me, I’m not saying this to get you down. I just want to slap you in the face a little, because I have done the same thing I’m writing about, and I am damn sick of failure.
Are you sick of failed resolutions?
Pay attention. This is how we are going to get shit done this year.
The issue begins by putting your faith into thinking that promising something on the first day of the year is going to suddenly change your life.
Somehow, the 1st of the year is going to pump you up full of life mojo like Neil Armstrong on steroids, and you are going to blow away every obstacle leaving problems in the dust.
Only YOU can start to change things.
Only YOU can continue the change.
Only YOU can do the work it takes to live your dream.
“Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.”
So how the hell do you take on your 2015 goals?
The bottom line is that New Years Resolutions are just a big fat excuse to procrastinate more. I am always hearing, “Oh well, maybe I’ll give it another shot next year…”
What kind of crap is that?
Just because you set a personal and you missed a beat, that means you need to wait for another couple hundred days to give it another shot?!
Quit waiting for that magical date each year, because it’ll come and go each year and you are going to still be sitting around doing the same thing.
A New Day Resolution.
One of the biggest attributing factors in the failures of resolutions is that you bunch up goals into a giant clusterfuck and think about it the terms of the whole year.
If I thought of all the things I need to accomplish before I travel again, I’d lose my freakin’ mind! Pay off debt, buy my Mother’s gravestone, save money for the actual trip, get in shape to bicycle across the United States. The list goes on.
Yeah, it’s a mess; and there is nothing that saps your motivation more than being overwhelmed with tasks. Even typing that gave me a pang of stress.
So go in small steps and work toward a goal each day. Wake up and start realizing each sunrise is a new day, each day you have a breath in your body is a fresh start, and each day is a chance to meet that next goal on the journey to your dream.
Make Daily Resolutions Matter
Nothing is going to put a stop to you momentum more than doing something that isn’t fun and most importantly isn’t something you give a damn about.
Some people want to lose weight, or quit smoking, or buy a new car, or stop eating meat, or get a raise. And they are all bad resolutions.
How will you quit smoking when you are still stressed? How will you get in shape if you aren’t happy? How are you going to be happy if you are still working a shit job you hope to get a raise in to buy that shiny car to fill a void that will temporarily make you happy?
How about you start connecting the dots with the end goal at your life dream?
-I want to Travel
-Believe in working to Live not Living to Work, I know everything I do contributes to my dream.
-Knowing this, I can focus on staying positive
-I work more because I am now not working for nothing or miserable
-I make more money because I work more
-I spend less because I don’t need shiny things anymore
-I pay off my bills because I have more money
-I save up plenty of money because I worked hard and knew it was worth it
-I can now travel!
It’s as easy as that.
And many other travel bloggers can attest to this. How did all of these people break free of their corporate confines? They did it step by step.
Once you map out the steps it will take to accomplish your goals, and as long as your end goal is something you truly want that will make you happy, you don’t need to wait for a New Year.
So this is what I want you to do: Write on a piece of paper “New Years Resolution” and then cross it out. Hell, scribble it out if you are pumped up. Then write down “New Day Resolution” and begin your first step today.
Each day see it as a new chance to create a better ending. Then repeat.
Here is an inspirational video to watch. You have 84,600 seconds in a day. What if that was money, and it disappeared at midnight? Wouldn’t you try to use every last penny?
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Need a little OOMF to buy a ticket and start traveling? Here at my Top 10 travel quotes that are sure to inspire you to quite your job and see the world!Read More
It was a strange feeling sitting atop the jagged rocks in Great Falls National Park — fighting for breath after running and jumping and climbing through the Billy Goat Trail. I was beside one of my best friends and we had just scaled a rock face 20 meters high. We were exhausted. Sprawled out and catching our breaths, we looked out over the river below; at some points it was rabid, frothing and surging through the gorge, and others it was calm and flowing gently. The water from millions of years ago in the ice age had carved its path through solid rock, little by little. Now it was following a path, sometimes calm and other times ferocious, that it had created against an otherwise opposing element.
A path it had created little by little.
I sat there thinking about all that I had done the past 8 months abroad, all of the places I had seen, all of the amazing people I had met, and all of the experiences I had. Also on my mind was the path that led to my unplanned return to the United States. My mind rewound through it all during that short rest.
Two days ago I had arrived back in Maryland after taking a 15-hour long bus ride from Toronto.
A week before, I had taken a flight from Munich to Madrid where I stayed overnight, and then flew Madrid to London, and London to Toronto over the course of 24-hours.
Two weeks before, I had taken a train from Rome to Munich where I spent my last week in Europe where I had decided to ultimately return.
A month before, I was just beginning to travel around Italy.
Two months before Italy, I had arrived in Europe after being forced to make the decision to leave Thailand just as I was about to begin teaching English.
And it was a little more than 8 months from this very date that I had taken a 7-day train journey across the United States, DC to Los Angeles, and flown out to Thailand to teach English.
Somehow it seemed so long ago, yet at the same time still raw in my mind. Not nostalgia, because it wasn’t a stinging pain that hit me thinking about an adventure coming to an end.
So why is it that I’ve found myself back in the United States?
There were many things that contributed to my early return: a lot of cause and effect that factored in, a lot of missteps on the road and mistakes made, and many things that I hadn’t planned for that I should have.
The main reason comes down to money. I had almost completely run out of money after returning to Italy for the second time.
When I first left Thailand I had a vague idea of what I would do next, and even less of an idea of what to expect in Europe. I wasn’t headed back to Thailand any time soon, and though I thought about teaching English in another Southeast Asian country, I had a friend’s wedding to attend in two weeks in Slovakia. I figured I’d find a cheap place in Europe to lay low, somewhere in Eastern Europe that wouldn’t rock my dwindling budget that was causing me a slight bit of angst. I knew nothing at all about Europe in terms of travel; it was a new and unknown place and one I had dreamed about seeing as a little boy.
Sometimes the world steers you in different directions, ones completely opposite than what you had planned. It turned out that the cheapest last-minute flight into Europe from Thailand was Rome. Sure, Rome wasn’t the main destination in Europe I was headed for, and it damn well wouldn’t be the cheapest, but excitement filled me. I was veering off from my original plan and leaving Southeast Asia and I didn’t know what would happen next. Italy was always the country I wanted to visit the most. I would go to Italy.
(Teacher Ryan in Thailand)
When I arrived in Rome, I immediately began on the wrong foot.
As is my normal travel behavior, I didn’t plan a single bit for Europe. I would just roll with it and figure it out as I went along. Immediately I was gobbled up by the new surroundings and spat out. The first few hours were filled with self-induced misery as I wandered lost about lost in the Eternal City since I hadn’t pre-booked a hostel, my electronics were dead, and I had no clue where to look for accommodation. Oh, and that I had lost my adapter in route from Thailand to Italy. So, besides nobody around the city knowing where a hostel was, I couldn’t charge my electronics to search for one.
Then the shock of the Euro slapped me.
You cannot compare Italy to Thailand at all. Just don’t. Well, maybe with the insane drivers and the bum-guns on toilets, but price wise it is drastically different. Right away I could see my wallet weeping as the cheapest hostel I could find was 30 Euro a night. That cheap flight to Rome would be outweighed by the prices to stay there. I kept trying to tell myself that I shouldn’t compare prices, but I couldn’t help but think about how I was paying $3 USD a night in Thailand. Even trying to eat cheap I was spending well over 50 Euro a day with hostel and food.
I was freaking out a little.
But I told myself it would be fine. I’d enjoy being in the city I always dreamed about visiting, and in a week I’d head over to Slovakia and spend much less. And I did. I visited the ancient Roman sights, explored the Colosseum, and wandered the city for hours in the day.
Except I left Thailand with $2,000 left which was my budget for 4 more months at least, but within a week in Rome I spent nearly a quarter of that in accommodation and food.
Instead of heading directly to Slovakia, I took a flight to Prague and met up with a friend from the US who had been traveling with me in Thailand. We hung out and explored Prague for around a week until heading to Slovakia after enjoying the gloriously cheap food, beer, and accommodation in Prague.
(exploring the Colosseum of Rome, and super giddy)
Fast travel makes a slow traveler panic.
At least, it makes me freak out a bit when I didn’t know what to do next, and I’m one to usually call myself chill about most situations. But, I’m usually quite the slow traveler. Spending months on end in another country is what I like to do, and it isn’t often I bounce around from country to country every week. And after going from Rome, to Prague, and then to Bratislava, I could feel a slight anxiousness settling in. I was pin-balling from one country to the next without a plan, and that turned out to be more expensive in doing so. I had no clue what to do, and I was watching my budget sink from a comfortable $2,000 to below $1,000. When we arrived in Bratislava, we were both shocked at how expensive the country was. Hostels were on average 20 Euro, and food was comparable to Italy in price. Both of us were low on money, and had to think of how to last it out until the wedding.
We went to Hungary for a few days since I had found a few hostels that were advertised for 6 Euro a night. A bus ticket to Budapest and sleeping in those hostels, and then busing back, would be cheaper than staying in Bratislava. But when we arrived in Budapest, these cheap hotels seemed mythical. They didn’t exist. The only ones we could find wanted 20 Euro, so we were again in the same predicament.
In a predicament, but still in Europe, and still exploring as much as our broke asses could.
This is when the bread eating began.
We did eventually find one of those cheap hostels in Budapest, but they are so hidden and usually tucked into an apartment complex with no sign that it was only within the last few days we discovered one. They do exist! But it was too late. We both had been eating cheap rolls of bread and only drinking water since we both couldn’t afford much else. Though my friend had already planned on returning to the US after the wedding, I was hoping to keep the adventure going afterwards and find a place to base myself to keep traveling.
Though staying in Europe or continuing traveling was fast becoming unlikely.
I was getting extremely low on funds and I didn’t even have a ticket back to the US even if I did run out of money. I attended the wedding, and went back to Prague since it had been the cheapest destination I had visited in that part of Europe to come up with some sort of emergency plan to keep going.
(one of the “signs” for the hostels, painted on the ground where we didn’t look)
There was a back-up plan. Though not a great one.
Just before leaving Thailand, I had announced that I was brought on by a popular travel booking company to be a content writer. It was, and still is, a sweet gig with a high pay-per-word rate and a promise of a long-term writing contract. I assumed that this would be the ticket to traveling long-term around Europe and offer me a bit of padding while I figured things out. Well, I had fully banked on this, but it would turn out to be a bad gamble. Not bad at all because of the company, but because I was relying on a job that was just starting, and if you are a freelance contractor, you know it doesn’t happen quickly. And I had naively thought it’d be instant return.
Since they are a major travel company, I hadn’t realized I would need to be added to a payroll and file taxes in the US, which means payout wouldn’t be as soon as I wanted
*I still write for them and love it, and it was silly of me at the time to think I could just hope for them to pay me a huge amount after only a couple of weeks on board.*
What was I to do when faced with no money left?
While I was in Rome the first time, I had attended a few Walks of Italy tours around the city where I had met a guide who was setting up her own travel blog tour in Italy, and she had invited me to attend one in June. I promised her that I would attend, it seemed like an amazing opportunity to explore more of Italy. Yet, here I was in Prague, broke, and I had to figure out a way back to Rome while only having around $200 left. Once on the trip, most of the expenses would be included, so I gambled again. I told myself that if I could make it to Rome and get on this trip, I should have my paycheck by then. And after, I could decide better how to make my next move.
I used $175 of my remaining budget for a flight to Rome, and used my last bit of money to book a hostel. For a day and half my only food was a sole banana.
Finally I could eat again.
For that week and half before returning to Rome, I had been living on bread rolls and ketchup (for flavor) and stayed cooped up in hostels since I had no money. I had already explored every inch of Prague and most parts of Rome that I could walk to, so I just waited it out until the blog trip. I couldn’t even afford a coffee so I could go to a café and write. And cafés are my creative zones. To be honest, I felt a bit trapped leading up to it. But the day came where I linked up with the group of other bloggers to kickstart our gnarly #ThisIsYourTime blog tour of Umbria and Ponza. I was stoked. If I had to leave Italy without actually exploring other parts of the country, I would have been super bummed.
To say I gorged might be an understatement. We were in red wine country and I drank my weight in wine from vineyards like Fontanaro Farms and stuffed myself full of pasta and meats. Sometimes people would comment with something around the lines of, “Wow, you must love to eat!” and my response would be to smirk through my bulging cheeks and declare, “You never know when you’ll be living on bread and ketchup!”
South of Rome we visited Ponza Island where Prosecco flowed like water and I ate some of the most delicious seafood of my life. I was again in the company of amazing people, tasting the flavors of a country and of the sea, and sleeping in comfort knowing I had a bed for the night.
(cheesing in Ponza, and happy to have food again!)
Of course it wouldn’t last. It couldn’t last.
The blog tour had been an amazing 10 days, and during that time my worries had faded and I was enjoying the experiences to the fullest. What else should you do in that case of course? I had to soak it up baby! But once it was over, I was back in the same position. I had no money and I was in Rome, the most expensive place I had traveled thus far. Linnea, our amazing blog tour guide and now a person I am happy to call friend, had a boyfriend on the tour that was equally an amazing person. Knowing my situation, he offered me to stay in a tiny loft above a theatre he owned in the heart of Rome. It would save me from finding a quiet alleyway to sleep every night, and would give me time and a bit less pressure off my shoulders to figure out my next move.
Again I was eating bread and ketchup to save the bit of cash I had. Some family sent a bit of money at random to which, they may not have known, helped me eat for the day. And allowed it to not be just bread once or twice a day.
(my little theater window)
This was the moment where I began to think that I might have to return back to the United States.
However much I wanted to try to keep traveling, and however much I stubbornly didn’t want to return earlier than I had intended, I had to consider my position. I had little to no money and no income at the moment. Living on a tight budget is not at all a difficult thing for me. Though I love eating the dishes of all the countries I visit and exploring, I also have no problem surviving on instant noodles and toast and exploring. But when you have no budget at all, when you are completely bottomed out, and you know that bread roll is what you’ll eat for the day because you can’t afford something else, it saps a lot of the fun out of the experience.
Some people can do that, and I definitely have been down that road in New Zealand where I slept in my hammock above Wellington and nibbled on what I could afford because I was out of money. Even though bits of that were wonderful, like waking up in the woods everyday to the sun rising over the city, most aspects of being forced into that position weren’t pleasant.
I sat each day atop that theater looking out of my small window watching people wander around, and each night watching groups heading to go grab a drink or a bite to eat. It was an absolutely romantic scenario living above a theater in the heart of Rome, but I still felt trapped. If I wandered around and met new friends, I couldn’t do anything they would be doing around town. I couldn’t explore parts of Rome I hadn’t seen since I couldn’t afford the subway. And I couldn’t relax in a café in the city while I wrote.
Even though there was a play every night in the theater I lived in about a brothel romance with ladies in lingerie strutting around.
(why yes the theater came lingerie ladies & nightly plays about a romance in a brothel)
That’s when I decided it was my time to head back to the United States.
If I was going to explore more of Europe, I wanted to have a budget that would allow me to do even the most minimal things around the city. Some opportunities presented themselves for possible work, and working in Rome would be a dream come true, but I had already used up 2 months of my allotted time in the Schengen Zone and I would have to leave soon anyway.
Now it was time to figure out how the hell to get back to the United States. During that last week in Rome I finally received a chunk of my pay from my freelance contract, but it still wouldn’t be enough to pay for a last-minute flight back. A friend I had met while traveling in Thailand invited me to come visit them in Munich, and after realizing flights were drastically cheaper from there to the US, I said farewell to my friends in Rome and took a train to Munich.
During the week spent in Germany, I sucked up my pride and asked friends back home if they could help spare a little cash for the difference I needed for a flight. I knew that in Washington DC I had friends I could stay with and that I could have two jobs in a jiffy, so that would be the plan. Return, work my ass off again, save money, leave.
And after three flights in 24-hours and a 15-hour bus ride, I was back in Washington DC. I was somewhere I never thought I’d see myself again that soon.
But, I also had never thought I’d see myself living in Thailand or exploring Europe either.
(at the John Lennon wall in Prague)
So, was running out of money all a mistake?
Or going to Europe a mistake?
The thought of course had crossed my mind a few times. I could have planned better, or come up with one that would have allowed me to stay abroad. There are times when my thoughts about this beat me up, and that I feel bummed about returning to the US. Maybe I should have gone back to Southeast Asia to teach English. Sometimes I think “dammit, I could have saved money better here by not doing this” or “if only I would have done this than I’d still be traveling.”
Then I have to shake that bad mojo off. I left what-ifs and I-could-haves behind, they are all useless thoughts.
This is the essence of travel. This is what makes it exciting and demanding and difficult. And ultimately, why traveling is so rewarding. If it were easy and everything was laid out before you, then the soul of the adventure wouldn’t be there. Was it all for naught? Absolutely not. Are there things I would do differently? Yes.
Lessons on the road are the best lessons learned, because it is a trial by fire. They are situations you may never find yourself in at home, and whether it be figuring out how to save money for something special you want to do, or budgeting just so you can make it to the next destination. Traveling the past couple of years after leaving the United States for the first time taught me to open up my mind to the possibilities that are out there once you begin to look for, and follow your dream.
I gained knowledge and important lessons about Southeast Asia and Europe that couldn’t have been read in a book. And being quite new to travel, each lesson will make the next trip better.
(looking out over Loh Dalum Bay in Thailand)
This trip also showed me another key piece to my life.
When I began traveling just a mere 3 years ago by going to New Zealand, my heart and mind were filled with sudden possibility and inspiration. But my heart was also still filled with things that always held me back. Though that first trip was life-changing, it had also been used as an escape from something I was running from most of my life — however much I told myself I wasn’t running.
When I had to leave New Zealand after 9 months of traveling the country because I was out of money, I berated myself for failing. I had told everyone that I was going to travel for a year or two, and I snubbed my nose at my brother after he had disowned me for wanting to travel. I would prove the world and my brother and society’s demands that I was better than it all and could chase my dream. In that sense, my dream became about other people and other things, it was no longer in pursuit of my own happiness. When I returned early from New Zealand, I faked that it was no big deal, but inside I was crushed. I had felt like I failed at pursuing my dream. And worst of all, I was thinking about how I had set out to prove others wrong and failed.
By being consumed by this fear of failure, something I always struggled with growing up, it had taken the true meaning of my dream and replaced it with self-loathing. The fact that I had traveling nearly across the world, and the fact that I was the first in my family to leave the US, and the fact that I did it for 9 months — that all didn’t matter. I had failed at something I set out to do. I had failed at my dream.
As was one of the first articles to be published on this blog when I began it again last year, I shared how this exact mentality and demoralizing view of my own self drove me into a dark place, a place filled with depression and monster that I had hidden away. It was a place where self-worth did not exist, just personal demons I created and that I succumbed to. During this period, things I had never dealt with — the deaths of my parents, the feeling that I would never be good enough, and the feeling that I had failed myself — it brought me into an abyss where the choice of living or dying was the only thing left.
When I shared the affects of keeping this all hidden in far corners of my mind since I was a child, it was after a time when I had hit the lowest point in my life. My drinking had gone beyond bad. I felt worthless and ashamed. And I was also facing a possible jail sentence because I had been drunk and broken into a house, one which I thought was mine that I had simply and drunkenly locked myself out of.
After months of facing the consequences of those actions, and looking at the internal monsters for the first time that manifested, I knew I had to make that decision to live and change, or else end up dead. There was a choice to be made, a choice that could only be made by me and carried out. The day I walked from the courtroom found not guilty, I vowed to live my life for myself and do whatever possible to chase my dream. A vow I had said before when leaving for Thailand, but one I had said while still holding onto things from my past.
(standing atop a temple in Angkor Wat)
The significance of this trip was that, this time, I don’t feel like a failure.
Months before I had even began planning my trip to Thailand, I began to share personal memoirs about those struggles I had faced, and some of the most personal events from my childhood that had haunted me for years. That had led me to that dark place. By sharing the stories, it was almost like self-counseling. I finally revealed to myself the things I never could face before, and it helped me discover clarity and strength.
Sure, before I left I had told people that I wanted to travel for a year, teaching in Thailand, and then maybe moving on to explore other parts of the world. It was a rough plan, and though teaching in Thailand was a main goal of mine, everything was truly up in the air. I was just ready for another adventure. Even with my trip only lasting 8 months when I wanted to travel for a year or more, it was still 8 months abroad. I still lived for 8 months in other countries. I was able to experience multiple cultures and make friends from all over the world and share experiences and laughter with them.
I was pursuing my dream. I still am pursuing my dream. Because a dream isn’t a destination or a finish line, it is the journey of the body and mind and heart and soul in pursuit of what makes you happy. In pursuit of what you love. It is something that, if you are truly chasing, you can never fail by not reaching some peak or apex, since the glory of a dream is never-ending. You can only fail if you choose not to follow it.
And this is why returning. Though it is something I didn’t think to do this early, it wasn’t something I am going to let bring me down this time. The choice was made by myself to return, and though eating bread and ketchup everyday could have helped with that decision, I know that I will make my time back in the States another piece of the adventure. A catalyst for continuing my dream.
What comes next in the journey?
Well, I’ve come back “home” as I can say, though I know that even if I grew up in Maryland, my home is somewhere else out there. It’s in the wind and the mountains and the forests and the road and everywhere else. Fernweh, that longing for a place I’ve never been still holds on tight. So my goal (which I don’t often set goals unless relating to travel) is to work and save and travel again soon.
To be honest, I am also very excited to be back for fall in the Untied States. Autumn in the US has always been magical for me — Halloween is my favorite holiday, pumpkin flavored everything is my obsession, and the beauty of the changing leaves. And since I will be in the US for a bit, I’ve been considering going much more in-depth about travel around the US and places I’ve been. This is the perfect time to add this aspect to the blog, and maybe a perfect time to become a tourist of my own home country.
Where might I be looking to go next?
Since I had always wanted to visit Europe, the good thing about traveling there and spending two months hopping around different countries is that it gave me a sample. A tantalizing taste. Of course I want more. And it also clued me in on what to expect and what to plan for when I do save specifically to travel Europe. So that is an option, but there are many others. Each time I embark to a new countries, my mind changes and grows and evolves, and I discovers different possibilities that suddenly change my desire or course.
Maybe I’ll want to return to Southeast Asia and explore and teach in Vietnam or another country. I also will be researching what it takes to stay longer in Europe without having the 3-month cap to worry about. Also, I’ve always wanted to explore Central America and South America, and Africa. Hell, I want to see it all!
During my time back I’ll be doing exactly that: deciding where to go on the next trip. I’d like to give myself 6 months to save up, so I’ll be working hard to accomplish this. I’ve already had two interviews at previous jobs, and this month my freelance writing contract should finally have the kinks ironed out.
There is also the idea of moving to New Orleans after fall when it cools down and the festivals take over. New Orleans is one of my favorite places in the world, and I’ve been wanting to spend a few months living in that city for a while. It’ll be crazy busy and should be a great place to make some money.
All of this did, in fact, pass through my head during that brief rest in Great Falls.
Not nostalgia at all, but a pang inside my spirit of a sudden excitement — the excitement of a new adventure and continuing the chase.
We had been scrambling up fissures in the stone formations, leaping over moss-covered logs, bounding off angled boulders from one to the other, scaling sheer rock-faces, swinging from branches, and running full sprint while dodging sharp outcroppings. We were hot and tired and slightly cut up, but invigorated. We had been running free for the sake of the spirit and for the challenge. We were creating a path where no path existed. Sometimes head-on, and sometimes with caution.
We were creating our own path in that forest and in the gorge even though obstacles stood in our way. Yes, it felt strange being in Maryland again and sitting atop the high jagged rocks, but as the water below us flowed forward, and the breath came back to my lungs, and the memories raced through my mind, I knew one thing for sure — little by little I would keep carving out my own path.
Though the adventure seemed to end, it hadn’t. It never does if you don’t let it. Step by step, little by little, I will keep pushing forward.
Here is to today, and the adventure it holds wherever I find myself, and wherever you find yourselves chasing your own dream every today following.
If you also want to check out another article by a travel friend, Flora of Flora the Explorer Blog, it shows another perspective as she suddenly is returning home after traveling 3 years. Read: After two years of travel I am returning to London
Easter has come and gone. Just another western holiday forgotten. Before that, Christmas came and went. Before Christmas, there was Thanksgiving that went by without notice. And at the beginning of this trip, my birthday was gone before I knew it.
Most individuals of the traveler breed began traveling for a few main reasons; some vague calling, some draw from a mysterious thing, some hope of adventure, some desire to discover culture, some to discover themselves, or some because they were just fed up with their old life. Reasons can expand infinitely into the horizon of why one travels, but these are the main examples I hear from most wayward wanderers.
An overarching theme seems to come down to one point — people who are travelers deep down just don’t want to have to wash their clothes as often.
Okay, that is not the true conclusion I came to, but that definitely is something I see (and smell) often. You know who you are smell testers. I’m one too.
No, it seems like a constant with most travelers is the feeling that they just don’t fit in.
Or I should say we, because I’m sitting here in another country as well pondering the same damn thing.
Whether it be a job, or a city, or a lifestyle, or society — all seemed like they were square blocks trying to be slammed by an angry baby into a round hole.
And yet, down the road I talk to many travelers who catch the dreaded “homesickness”. Everybody is on a high cloud nine where they jet set out for that first time, gung-ho about breaking away and never going back. Then, something begins creeping into your brain. There is usually a point that hits where you go, “fuck, I miss my family and friends”. Most likely this happens when a holiday from home rolls around, or when new travel compadres part ways. It’s okay to admit this. Even the most hardcore traveler can miss something from home.
When this happens, there is suddenly a small sense of loneliness where your mind wanders back to the familiar things — the places we grew up, old family gatherings you hated at the time but would kill for now, that bed that will forever be your bed and the best fucking bed that ever existed.
I never thought this would happen to me.
I’ve come to realize a few things after traveling for a year in New Zealand, and especially now while living in Thailand during key holidays back home. Big holidays usually spent with family and friends like Christmas and Easter kind of just…come and go almost without notice while traveling. At least for me. I forget what day it is, now that most days are spent on the move or writing. I completely forget upcoming holidays usually due to the fact that I don’t have a job reminding me of it everyday.
Another thing I’ve noticed is that during the times when I do remember — it makes me miss home and miss family even more.
And not just the house with the yellow asbestos shingles and brown shudders I grew up in. I grew up in many houses — friends and families who took me in throughout my childhood and into my adulthood because I needed it. The families which I would spend weeks on end with sometimes because I didn’t want to be at my actual home. Holidays, summers, birthdays, it didn’t matter.
Yet, even with all of this, I still didn’t feel like I fit in.
Then something strange occurs. When some of us return home from a trip, we are drastically different, and though you are excited to see family and friends, soon you get that feeling that you don’t belong there. You have changed. Everything else has not.
When I was a wee lad, my mom and pop would always take the family to one of our aunt or uncle’s houses to celebrate Thanksgiving, or Christmas, or Easter. And during those holidays I really didn’t care to much to be involved in any of it. I wanted to run outside or play while they all watched football, drank, and chatted. I guess I was a tad bit introverted, but at the same time I felt a little out of place and I could never explain why.
In my head I was always immersed in my “pointless imagination” as my father called it. I was always escaping even when I was physically present.
Once I got old enough to work, my family was more of a functioning cog; each person had a job and duties and outside obligations or lives. My father, my brother, and I would rarely eat dinners together. On occasion I would be able to go and visit my mother, but she always had to work two jobs to survive which left me usually laying around at her apartment. Between my father, my brother, and I, just normal conversations with each other didn’t happen much. We each worked and we each came home and we each would go to our “spot”.
My father would occasionally share stories of mischief he had caused or something when I was younger. My mother would share little things on occasion as well, but usually things that weren’t very important. In reality, my parents were people I had known all my life, and yet I don’t know anything about them. The whole family thing was of course a strong bond, but in everyday life there wasn’t much of being a family.
After my father passed and it was just my brother and I, we would do a dinner at Hooters on Christmas, but the majority of the time I spent holidays with my other families; those families that had lived across the street from my house, or down the street from my house, or behind my house. They had all been an integral part of my life. They still are now.
I spent Christmas and other holidays with them, and they would treat me no less than a son. I would enjoy being around them, and I would smile and have a good time, but for some reason I always felt out-of-place there as well. And though I love them as my own family, I couldn’t ever shake that feeling for some reason.
The same happens with my aunt and uncle. I look forward to each time that I can see them. When I do see them, I really enjoy it, but sometimes I still get that underlying feeling. I know I belong there. They have also done so much for my brother and I after the death of our father that I could never thank them enough. And I love them immensely.
Was it envy?
I still have that feeling of not fitting in sometimes. It’s as if I am false. I want to jump in and be engaged and be a part of the conversations and the family stuff. I just don’t have a clue how to show or express it. I know what it means to be family and have those strong bonds, yet I don’t know how to be a part of a family and truly show it.
I used to think it was envy. I used to think about why I just couldn’t shake that outsider feeling. I used to think that I envied how close or happy or connected their family and other people’s families were. I knew that once we left their house on holidays, or once I left a friend’s house, I would go home with my brother and my father and it would be back into the grind. My brother and father weren’t to blame, it was just the normal thing for all of us to be separate in the same house.
Envy wasn’t it. Maybe a small piece, but not the deep down reason. It’s crossed my head often lately and after talking with friends about it, I may have discovered another clue.
I don’t know how to be a functional piece of a family.
Though me and my brother’s relationship has become dramatically better, when we were in our teens the family was very one way. We wouldn’t eat breakfast or dinner together. When we’d ask the obligatory question of “how was your day” each of us would respond, “good” or “sucked” and go into our personal spaces.
When around other friends families or other parts of my own family, I just don’t know what to do. I want it dearly to come natural but I sit or stand there separated and have no clue how just to be a part of it. Because we never did that. It makes me uncomfortable. I feel awkward and unsure. Not unsure that they are all family, just not sure what the hell to do. How to be a family member.
It just wasn’t how I grew up, that aspect wasn’t there because my father had to support us and my brother worked since he was fourteen. It was just life as we knew it. And the fact that I don’t know how to be an active family member has taken a toll on a lot of close family relationships or families that were like my own. I just don’t know how to be. And it’s so frustrating.
But traveling and being on the road now makes me yearn for it. For all of those times I missed out on the connection of family and love because I was too nervous or silly or whatever this feeling is. Too nervous and unsure to open up.
Can travelers fit in? Can I?
Some travelers don’t have this issue at all. If not, then I am so very happy for you. Now leave. Just kidding, but it is a great thing when your life and your family and friends just click right. That doesn’t happen to all of us.
I do know one thing though, I miss all of my family and friends on these days now more than ever, and I would truly love to give being a functional family member a shot, however rocky it may be for my emotional state to jump right in.
Not for anything except for the fact that it is important to me. I missed out on that connection for too long, and pushed it away after that. They are all family whether blood or not.
I know us travelers have reasons why we travel and many of us feel as if we just don’t fit in back home. You want to escape so badly that you up and leave everything behind.
Except there is always one thing that we will always be a part of, something you should never run away from — family and friends. Even if we may not fit in perfectly.
However misunderstood the travel lifestyle may be to them or however much they are against it, they will always be family. Your friends that you can’t keep up with on a daily basis because you are globe-frolicking, they’ll be there too. There might be Grannie Marge that likes to knit unicorns and says cuss words more than a sailor, or Uncle Danny that enjoys a few too many beers and likes to scream about politics, or maybe your older brother or sister that thinks it is utterly irresponsible for you not to have a stable job and bitches about it constantly. But then they spend thousands of dollars on a television.
Then there is you.
You. Yeah you. Amongst that crowd of strangelings, the people you think you are so different and will never understand you, you’re the one who sold everything to live in 12 bed hostels and wear the same shirt three days in a row. Who’s strange now?
You don’t have to worry about trying to fit in, you may never come to an agreement or an understanding. Family and friends may never get why you want to do what you’re doing. The same reason why you don’t get why they are doing what they do.
The bottom line: All you have to do is to be family. Accept it.
I don’t think I’ll ever fit into a normal career job since my mind will always be pulled aloft to far away places, but I do know that I want to make more of an effort to be a part of people’s lives that mean something to me.
And I’m trying to learn how to do this. Well, actually how to allow myself to.
Even though families can be arduous or dysfunctional or annoying or chaotic or bat-shit crazy, don’t forget while on the road after leaving everything behind that there is still something back home that is a part of you forever.
I’ve made myself a loner for too long, and though I’ve always felt like I didn’t fit in, fuck it. Because this is what matters…
Have you ever missed home, and then returned to find yourself feeling out of place?
Are you feeling like everything in your life is spiraling out of control? Are you lost as to how to defeat depression and rebuild your life? Here’s How.Read More
If you have followed this blog from the beginning, or if you have read my article about my brother disowning me because I moved to New Zealand for a year, then you will know just how badly this dinner tonight could go.
In a couple of hours I will be meeting with my brother and his wife at a restaurant for the first time in months. I have been trying to meet up with him to break the news that I will be heading to Southeast Asia for at least a year, but all attempts to meet up have been futile.
I last saw him at his birthday where we all went out for drinks with his friends, and after the explosive reaction the last time I revealed my travel plans at a party before New Zealand, you can be damn sure I wasn’t going to with drinks in us that day.
Then, I had a chance to go out to dinner with my uncle, aunt, and my brother and wife. But alas, I couldn’t get off of work that night. Last month my uncle wanted us all to come over before he had back surgery, and I was going to go, but my brother bailed out and I didn’t have a ride. And for the past couple weeks my brother wouldn’t come out because him and his wife had been furloughed.
Ever since I returned home early from New Zealand to surprise my brother on my birthday, we still haven’t seen each other much.
So, as the trip creeps up closer and closer, I’m left with under two weeks to tell him I am leaving for a year or more.
I would be lying if I told you I wasn’t anxious at all. I’ve grown up emotionally in the past few months after writing about and facing a lot of my demons, and I am more confident than ever about my dream to travel the world, yet I know how my brother.
I know last time I told him, he stated over and over again, “You are no longer my brother.”
I know for a fact that he thinks it is highly irresponsible of me to travel the world instead of getting a secure job with benefits. He and his wife have always hark on me about saving for a car and for a house and about how important credit scores are.
Well, I can tell you one thing. All of those things listed above have never made me want to save up for it. They have all never created a fierce fire in my heart like travel does. There is no way a car or a house could motivate me to save up the $8,000 I have in the past 5 months, with another $1,500 to come hopefully these last couple weeks.
And I will tell him that.
The difference this time around is that I know why I was traveling before. Of course I loved traveling, but I was still not traveling for myself. I was still traveling to escape my past that haunted me. I was still traveling to prove to my brother that he was wrong. I was still traveling to show the world I would end up in a labor job breaking my back like my father for most of his life just to get by.
I was never truly traveling for me.
Now, I am more confident than ever about this crazy, irresponsible, and overall fulfilling dream. And I am confident this time to tell him, and to accept any reaction he has. After tonight, if he chooses to react the same way and disown me again, there is nothing in this world I can do to change that. Sure, I’ll be heartbroken again to have my brother say such things, but this is my life and my dream, and it is time to live it.
I will try to approach it differently though.
You see, my brother and I have NEVER once talked about my mother and fathers deaths. I have never told my brother how finding my father’s body darkened my soul and was etched into my brain however much I tried to forget it. I’ve never told him about how seeing certain colors brought up flashbacks of that day.
But I will try today.
I am going to try and ask him for just 15 minutes of silence as I talk about the past five years and how truly dark it was.
I will tell him about how I lied to him all of those times about being fine and dandy when I was honestly depressed.
I will tell him about my denial of it all just because I wanted to prove to him and to the world I could be great.
I will tell him of that day when I nearly killed myself because I had locked everything away for so long.
And then I will tell him how I have grown up.
How I am finally talking about our childhood and our parents deaths, accepting it, and how writing has helped me face it.
How this trip is different than all the other trips, because it is now transformational and not supplemental.
How travel gives me purpose and drive to work harder at something than ever.
How I know that he is trying to be the big brother that watches after his little brother after both parents passed away.
How I know the pressure that put on him, and seeing me potentially be reckless is frustrating.
How I was reckless, and drank into oblivion at times because I couldn’t face what happened to us.
And lastly, I will tell him that I love him, and respect his opinion, but that I need to be my own man and I just need him to be my brother and accept me for who I am.
I now believe I can be great, and it is time to pursue greatness for myself. Not somebody else’s measurement of greatness.
And then, after that speech which I am envisioning I will give in epic fashion and grandeur, I will tell him about moving. Hopefully talking about all of the things we haven’t in the past will help him realize just how serious I am about this lifestyle. I am tired of trying to prove my worth by spouting out all of the things like finances that he measures me on, but if he asks I will tell him about teaching English in Thailand. But typically he has no care to ask about my pursuits.
So then I will leave it at that.
And in a few hours time I will have my reaction, and I will tell you how it goes. I will not ask to be wished luck because even though it is a kind gesture, there is no luck that will decided the finale of this night. Just two brothers talking, and two outcomes possible. One outcome will be not talking afterward. Again.
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.
This very second exists.
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.
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?
Definiton: Proc-la-ma-tion |ˌpräkləˈmāSHən – a public or official announcement, esp. one dealing with a matter of great importance.
My friends, dreamers, travelers, and warriors of the Live Gnarly Army; today is the day to proclaim your intent to the world. One of great and profound importance, one that encompasses your hopes, dreams, aspirations, and purpose. One that will send shockwaves from your soul, through your body, and out to the world. One that will set forth action for you to start traveling and living that dream.
This proclamation was the end result of my recent memoir about one of the darkest periods of my life that travel helped eventually pull me out of. And as a fierce ending statement, these words below flowed out like a raging river bursting through a dam. I had no forethought, it just came to me.
So I present to you, My Proclamation Of Intent to Live Gnarly. And if you relate, there are blank proclamations below, and I hope you will proclaim your intent to Live Gnarly with me!
Pick your Proclamation, and share it with the world!
Do you blame other forces for your lack of ability to start traveling or chase your dreams. Snap out of it and stop blaming Fate. Here’s why.Read More
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
-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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
It’s been a short period of time since I discovered my interest in writing, and it’s been equally as short a period of time since I discovered that I could grab life by the…erm…horns and I had the power to do what I want in life.
For a while there until I traveled for the first time in 2011 to New Zealand, life was on auto-pilot. I was drowning in un-happiness, buying up all the shiny things I could, working at a job I hated, and scouring dating sites to fill an emptiness that seemed like a bottomless pit. There was no “I’m doing what I love”, just doing what distracted me.
Then I found travel. The story of how that came about will come in time, but nevertheless I discovered something that for the first time since I could remember made my heart freakin’ cry out for.
The “enlightening moment” came to me while I was on a Nakedbus (just a name :P). You would think something so profound might smack me in the face while sitting amongst tall grass swaying in the wind on a cliff-top somewhere.
Nope, it was amongst the snoring people, stale bus smell, and the tacky print seats on a bus ride through New Zealand when the realization came to me that I was finally holding the pen, finally creating my own story.
Inspiration can come from the darnedest places huh?
And it inspired this quote, something I’ve come to live by, and something I wanted to pass in to you.
Are you the author of your own life story? Or are you ready to be the author of your own life story?
“When we are born, our tale begins. The path we choose is the black ink that scratches and swirls across blank leather-bound pages from a golden tipped feather. Never foretold. It follows your will; letters and words form from your hand to create chapters. After the last sentence is scribed, the quill set down, the cover closed, and the book shelved, will you be happy with the story of your life?”
When was it that you realized you had control of your life, and started living the gnarly life you wanted?