It's been about a week and a half since I arrived back in the States from México. I've had some time to process my thoughts, deal with reverse culture shock, and think about my next move(s).

Travel is a bit like a relationship. You water it a little each day and it grows. It gets inside of you, it changes you.

México was an adventure that ended rather prematurely for me, but no less made its mark. I journeyed there as a response to a private longing to return after being in Ensenada in the middle/late 2000s. Having accomplished this, I now know more about myself but also of my friends to the South. I'd like less to build a wall and more to build a bridge. México, in all it's weird and shady history, in all of it's varied landscapes, and its multitude of cultures, is an incredibly beautiful place that should be afforded a visit by all. That being said, I think it's time to hang up the hobo hat on the rack and put on another one with less plumage:

“All travel has its advantages. If the passenger visits better countries, he may learn to improve his own. And if fortune carries him to worse, he may learn to enjoy it.” — Samuel Johnson

Part of my reason for travelling is a constant discontent with the States. I was born here but let's be honest: not everyone adores where their parents conceived them. It happens to be a location on a piece of paper I have to show strange people in uniforms who want to touch me every so often when I cross an imaginary line. In the past, I've resigned the country to the following quote:

“There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that 'my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.” — Isaac Asimov

But things have changed. Something happens, Samuel Johnson said, to people who travel.

Perhaps that something has happened to me. It's not that I've suddenly lost my wanderlust, or that I'll be canvassing the streets for voter registration or give two hoots about most news headlines. But I do see a need for real change, both in my trajectory, and in the country I was born in. So in that spirit, I've decided to return to the world of academia, and pursue a degree in Urban Design/Urbanism with a concentration on either Ethnography or Film Studies.

Living The Same Life Repeatedly


It’s Much Easier Than You Think to Live the Life You Want

Photo Credit: Rafael Leão

Originally written by Isaac Morehouse on his site

It’s Much Easier Than You Think to Live the Life You Want

Maybe not “easy”, but entirely possible.

I recently listened to an episode of The World Wanderers Podcast where the host discussed working at a cafe in a great city that a lot of people would love to live in. She mentioned how, had she not moved to this cool, exciting city, the job she had would have made her feel like a loser. In your hometown working retail after getting an expensive degree seems pretty lame. Up and moving to a destination city and working retail to support the lifestyle seems kind of adventurous.

Back home, she would have dreaded seeing an old friend come in. “Oh, so you’re working here?” In the new city when someone she knew came in the question was more like, “Wow, so you’re living here?”

Just a few days ago I talked to a guy who’s biking across the country and loving it. He spent several months in beautiful Missoula, Montana waiting for the weather to improve so he could continue his journey. He worked at a grocery store while there and it provided everything he needed to live the lifestyle he wanted and get back on the road in time. What would his resume look like when, several years out of college, he had “Grocery bagger” listed? Not great, except when put in the context of, “Spent two years biking across the U.S., paying my way through with odd jobs and blogging about the adventure.”

I thought about this phenomenon more in Mompiche, Ecuador a few weeks ago. We found a little place with a sign for American-style pancakes. A welcome breakfast after days of fruit and cereal. The breakfast nook was run by a twentysomething woman from the Ukraine. She fried up pancakes on a small griddle and served them with coffee for breakfast and lunch in the tiny Bohemian surfing village. She lived in a neat little house right above the pancake joint and spent the rest of the day as she pleased.

Imagine this ambitious young woman back home responding to the common, “So, what do you do?” with, “I make pancakes for a living.” Likely her friends and family would be a little worried and ashamed and think something wrong with her.

Contrast that with the same answer to the same question but with a change in geography. “I moved across the world to a tropical surfing village in Ecuador where I opened my own business.” Wow. What an enviable life, right?

There’s something weird about staying in your hometown. It severely limits the definitions you accept for what makes you successful. Oddly, most of the hometown definitions of success have nothing to do with happiness. They have to do with becoming what everyone in your past expects or desires given who you used to be. It’s a sort of tether to a past self that no longer exists.

When the expectations of back home no longer apply you can ask better questions and make clearer connections. What kind of person do you want to be (vs. what job title do you want)? What kind of people and surroundings do you want to be immersed in (vs. where do you want to work or live)?

Many people would probably love to be the master of their own schedule, be in a beautiful outdoor setting with interesting people from around the world, seriously pursue a hobby with lots of their time, and be challenged in new ways daily. Yet most of those same people would be horrified at the idea of playing guitar on the street for money, flipping pancakes, or doing freelance odd-jobs online, any of which might be the very means to achieve the life described.

Most people have this idea that you have to work a boring job in a boring house in a boring city for a few decades, and then if you play your cards right and all kinds of things totally out of your control (like the stock market or real estate prices) do the right thing, you can have some kind of two week vacation cruise or retire in a place where you enjoy good weather and leisure. The weird thing is, all those “someday” goals are available right now with relatively little difficulty. You can afford to live in a cool bamboo house in a beach town just by making pancakes for lunch and breakfast. You can (as was one guy I met) travel the length of South America living entirely off the cash you make playing guitar outside of restaurants.

I’m not claiming this kind of life is for everyone. Not at all. There is nothing wrong with a 9–5 job and life in the suburbs if that’s what really resonates with you. There’s nothing inherently noble about traveling or working some low wage odd job. The point is that it’s too easy to choose things based on an artificially limited option set. It’s too easy to define your life by stupid things like college majors or giant industry labels or titles that will make Aunt Bessie proud at the family reunion or salary levels.

The last one is especially dangerous.

It’s a weird habit to measure your success in life only by the revenue side of the equation. Who cares if you bring in $100k a year if it only buys you a crappy apartment that you hate in a city that stresses you out with friends that don’t inspire you and a daily existence you mostly daydream about escaping from? Your costs exceed your revenues and you’re actually going backward. You very well could get twice the lifestyle you desire at half the annual income. Like any business, the health of your personal life should be measured using both revenues and costs. On the personal level, neither are just monetary.

Only you can know what kind of life you want. But getting off the conveyor belt of the education system, getting out of the home town expectations trap, and opening your mind to measures of progress beyond salary will give you a much better chance of crafting a life you love.

Live, Adventure, Travel and Don't Be Sorry


Home is Where Your Passport is


A Six Month Design

Image Credits: Eric Rothermel

A lot of talk in the latter Gen X and Millenial traveller community over the last half decade has been about "lifestyle design". Others call it life hacking. Whatever the term may be, a great deal of energy has been spent on the topic. I sort of loathe the topic altogether as I don't think there's anything new or evolutionary about it. It's just that this crowd seems to now understand some of the choices available to them previously; very little in the way of operations in modern life has actually changed.

So here's my Lifestyle Design: 6 months in, 6 months out. For reference, that's an ideal shot to the moon. I'm aware, as you should be, that all sorts of items can change on the road, including health, finances, and status. But the ideal is to be 6 months in Canada or the States and counter it with a hefty 6 out in the rest of the world. That can be done in halves, quarters, or even randomly. With the price of oil recently I'm hedging my bets on a straight 6 altogether in Mexico, followed by a quick zip through the holidays, and then another 6 spent getting further into Central America in 2017. If that doesn't pan out, I can always hit high season in Belize and work my way down the coast to Panama. The interior of any Central American country is rife with opportunity for meeting disasters of all kinds. The coast, by comparison, is easy living with needed resources always available.

Oh Baby, I Was Bound for Mexico

Image Credits:Nirzar Pangarkar

The tune by LA band, Cake, played on the tinny headphones in my brain bucket and all I could think about was...

-the time spent watching waves come from seemingly endless viewpoints, maybe even nowhere, to land at my feet. The Sea of Cortez has long been something I've wished to see. The Pacific its big brother and much more deep, the Sea of Cortez shines a glowing blue in many places, making it easy to see the contents of its depths.
-the many conversations with locals in humourous, albeit patch-worked, translation. A lot can be gleaned from an individuals' character when they're under the stress of understanding a different language. Appropriate action can then be taken, whether it be moving on or thereby producing an acquaintance.
-the cuisine and weather. Granted, as a tall-ish white dude, I shouldn't be able to withstand roasting in the hot Mexican sun. I'm not only a good half metre taller than most of my acquaintances in the Global South, I've got the pasty white skin of my Irish, Nordic and German ancestry. As a euromutt, I should burn alive in a matter of moments and return to safety of the shade looking like a lobster. The hat trick here is my Kurdish ancestry which allows me some courtesy, and browns me rather nicely. I'm not an Arab by any stretch of the imagination, but a 'brown berry' I can become in a matter of hours. Cuisine-wise, I can enjoy the hottest dishes with ease like any local. The caveat is an old bout of ulcers sometimes creeps up and surprises me. I'm then left cowering by the toilet like a child punished.

_All said, I leave June 2nd to begin another round of travels._ Now I know when most people talk about travel, they usually speak in terms of business travel or holidays. Going on holiday can be a gas when one needs to escape the toils of day in-day out work and commuting. Even a quick jaunt to a nearby country can be a laugh, whereby pictures can be taken and shared in real-time. Then there's the business travel sect. I've never quite understood why, in this modern age, people still fly for B2B meetings or company seminars. I'm sure there must be some good reason for business travel, but my ignorance probably speaks for itself here. People do it and often dread it. It's a necessary evil of global business, I've been told. I wonder if these people know about Periscope...

It should be obvious by now I'm on my way to Mexico. I'll be doing a 5 month round of personal journeying mixed with service to others (at their eco-camps, hostels, hotels, log cabins, adobe huts, and yes, even the random yacht) via a site called Workaway.

This allows me to keep costs down, keep my work skills sharp, and also make acquaintances along the way. Anyone who says they solo travel and never get lonely or bored is lying or an absolute sociopath. Beware.

Part of my intention with this Mexican adventure is to pick up where I left off in SE Asia, feeling a bit broken, lost and well...in need of a change of scenery. SE Asia is a great place as long as the money keeps flowing in. It's when the spigot of income trickles in slowly, and one is forced to live on the much-advertised $2/a day millions of impoverished families do, is when things turn interesting. Having the courage to pick up the staff again and carry on is my mantra here. It'll be fun getting my feet wet again, and I'm sure trying at times. But if it were all roses and unicorns? Well..

Then I'd just be another spoiled tourist. No challenge (read:growth) in that. Viva La Mexico!

Travelling is like Flirting


The State of Everything

Image Credit:Atlas Green

I'd have to say, to be totally honest, is that travel is my last bastion in my attempt to "never grow up".

The thing of it is, it's not just wanderlust driving me to roam here and there; it's the incessant whine of society's engine trying to push me into debt. So how do I fight back? I hack the system and minimalise my needs, circumvent capitalism by purchasing used items or sharing with others, and switch locations so I don't get too comfortable, start nesting, and then get nailed every year on taxes.

But before I turn this into a political discussion, my purpose is simple: travel and be of use to other people while on the road. If it happens, great. If it doesn't pan out, I still get to experience some great places, and then some pretty vivid memories later on. Travel is the gift that keeps on giving. But only if you give yourself to it first.

Something else I've learned is my entire life philosophy (or rather, how I'd organise compared to how others do) is counter to a good percentage of people I come across. This, in turn, makes me feel like a snobby contrarian, I shut down, and nobody sees me for 6 months at a time. :P What would be the compromise? I don't wanna suck wind for the rest of my life trying to keep up with the Joneses. The alternative is to suck the marrow from life and to do that, in my view, that constitutes a lot of location hopping in order to get a lot of different viewpoints.

I'd leave on a question or something, because that's apparently what drives user engagement, but I can't think of what to ask so I'll leave with this quote instead:

It is what I have done with where I have been that should be of interest. - Joan Didoan

A Thorough Introduction

Image Credit: Lukas Budimaier

Adventurist. Avid Bicyclist. Post Workist. Textual and Audio Artist.

Each of these labels defines me, and yet I aim to constantly refine myself through the experience of travel.

I am an adventurist; I seek that which is different in the knowledge that change is inevitable and a healthy cyclical pattern of living. I am also an endless skeptic, looking for the best way to question the questions of life. In this, there is adventure, even when I am not on the move.

The bicycle was invented in Germany nearly 200 years ago. Since then millions, if not billions, of hearts have flown free. Joyful and smiling faces have shown what the interaction between human and gravity can produce. A result of zero carbon emissions is a handy byproduct of modern thought, but the real reason many of us ride is for the sheer delight of it all. Count me in!

Industrial society has shown us that skyscrapers and great fortunes can be built in a fortnight, when the conditions are right. For many with vast amounts of wealth though, it was amassed over the long term. Many hours of work put in, long nights spent stressing over the consequences of a business decision. The Post Workist believes this is not a necessity in this day and age. The 40 hour work week is meant to suppress the human spirit in favour of the shareholder's financial benefit. Four to five hours a day spent in productive activity which provides long term value to society is the key to a wonderfully meaningful existence.

The average Westerner knows about the Gutenberg press and its effects on the trajectory of society at large. The written word has become not only an informative vehicle of utilitarian means, but also a way in which the mind creatively expresses itself. I am a voracious reader and writer since my youth. Text has been something in which I have drowned myself many an evening, instead of a bottle. Being an audiophile only exacerbates this condition; sometimes hearing the word in spoken form gives it more strength, more valour, more humour, more kindness.

In short, the world needs people like myself. It needs thinkers, doers, and lovers. It needs my analytical mind and the ever-consuming heart. I am good with a wrench as much as I am a pair of warm hands to embrace the sad soul. I can organise the computer and install software, because living in today's frenetic pace of cities demands organisation of the self and installation of helpful devices to accommodate the busy urban/suburban commuter. Good with children, the elderly, and animals, because one day someone will have to take care of me; I am learning as I teach, and teaching as I learn from them. Lastly, the tourist escapes their nest for a spell to see other climes and cultures. My role is to assist them in their goal(s) and provide a pathway of knowledge so they can float with variable ease to their next destination.

If you've made it this far, I congratulate you! Some do and many are left with questions. So go on! Reply and ask me a question, and I promise to answer.

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