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
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?
After 4 years traveling around the world, I’ve had some wild and crazy and scary experiences. But it was my flight to New Zealand — my first flight abroad ever, that was the scariest moment of my life. Besides a panic attack on the plane, there was another big reason I was so scared.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!
Hello Lost Ones,
It’s been quite a while since I posted on the blog. Though, with a two-week long insane road trip around India, and then bouncing around India to places with non-existent wi-fi, and then throw in big tremors felt from the Nepal earthquake, getting any writing done has been hard.
So, firstly, I apologize.
The big goal while on the Rickshaw Run a couple of weeks back was to live blog and live tweet/gram/vine all the action. What happened? Well, much of that didn’t happen. The team made a point to tweet or post photos to Instagram when possible, but driving through northern India — which roads tend to resemble a battlefield of gaping potholes — there was almost no reception. And when we would pull into a hotel, most places offer paid wi-fi at high prices that 90% of the time failed to work anyway.
Live blogging was an impossible feat.
Also, nightly, we were supposed to film brief recap videos about that day to supplement a bit until videos were edited, but with the state of wireless internet in India being the way it is, uploading a 5-10 minute video always failed. After filming and editing a couple of these recap videos and attempting to post them, nothing ever worked and we always found ourselves days past that specific recap, leaving it useless to post. So they weren’t posted.
Then there is the physical toll of the trip.
While driving across India in a Rickshaw, you run into all sorts of issues. Cows or goats or bricks or trucks always in your way. And whatever other obscure obstacle you can think up. Accidents were always a near miss. Sickness. Dehydration. Bandits. Yes, Bandits. There were some days where we would leave at 5am to get an early start, thinking we would eat at some point mid day and stock up on supplies, but usually we drove 12-16 hours per day with minimal stops, minimal eating, and would arrive completely mentally and physically exhausted. The only desire at that point was a shower from all the dust and grime and gasoline on you, and sleep. There were a couple of times that I suffered illnesses or a severe bout of dehydration that was crippling. So, to put it briefly, the Rickshaw run was physically and emotionally and mentally taxing — more than we had expected.
Even sandstorms were thrown in…
Although we were unable to meet the goals we had set for blogging on the Rickshaw Run, we did record multiple terabytes of footage, and have hundreds of photos to share. Now it is just the task of organizing and editing them. But, all of that insanity will be making an appearance on this blog soon enough.
For the past couple of weeks after the race, I tried to sit down and write or edit, but my mind was so fried from the race, that I couldn’t conjure up a sentence. Everything was blank. I needed a couple of weeks to relax and get to the point where I could go back through photos and footage and experience the journey again, because while driving, your only concern is survival. Looking back on the race is being able to actually experience it now.
Goa has been my little retreat for the past week, with a big private bungalow to call home and a beach to escape to. I don’t normally have “vacation” like travel moments where I sit on the beach and sip cocktails, but that is exactly what I’ve done all week. Mindlessly watching the waves lap onto the sand and eating great seafood and not thinking about anything has helped me reset my brain, and now I’m feeling enough energy and mental capacity to write again.
Also, I have some exciting things to announce!
Sometimes, or quite often, a life on the road will throw you curveballs — and you have to react on the fly. My original travel plans after the Rickshaw Run was to link up with Derek in Nepal, explore the rest of India, and then move on to traveling through all 7 ‘Stan countries. I didn’t expect to have a few budget issues arise. Without going into much detail, some unexpected costs have arisen and hit my travel budget hard, and though I still have enough money to travel the ‘Stans, I’d come out without anything left to keep going. Also, meeting up with Derek was a failure because of the immensely sad tragedy that struck Nepal, killing more than 6,000 people and leaving the country in shambles. Luckily, Derek was fine even while in the capital that was leveled, but for me to enter the country in the days that followed turned out to be impossible and not recommended at all. With that, and now not having enough funds to travel the ‘Stans and be well enough afterward, I’ve decided to make a decision.
[custom_headline type=”center” level=”h4″ looks_like=”h1″]I’m moving to Australia![/custom_headline]
Tonight, on a whim, I submitted my Work Visa application for Australia. That country had nearly been my first country, but last minute I chose New Zealand. Ever since, I’ve always considered spending a year or more in the country working and exploring. Now, hopefully, I’ll have that chance. After being lost as to what to do, or where to go now, and how to have an income, I followed a few signs. Over the past month or so, I’ve met handfuls of people that happened to have lived in Australia and worked there, and all they could do is gush about how much they loved it. And up until tonight, I hadn’t connected the dots.. Sometimes, the universe sends signals and I saw tonight just how many signals about Australia I had received. It will, given my approval, give me an opportunity to stay abroad, while having an income, and save up for the next adventure. I’ve heard so many amazing things about Australia, and though some have found finding work hard, I am confident in my ability and drive and the fact that I can live on a few dollars a day when need be.
I felt like all of you deserved an update as I start writing again. On the blog in the next couple of weeks I’ll be posting plenty about the agonies and ecstasy of the Rickshaw Run and traveling around India, so keep your eyes peeled. In the meantime, please email me with any questions or if you also have advice about Australia!
On my second trip to Haiti, we travel from Port Au Prince to the south and explore waterfalls, Jacmel, beach towns, and pristine islands.Read More