Table of Contents
Reflecting on the Past
17 January 2021
The country, not the state
A week passed before I realized the importance of that simple statement: I have been exploring the world for more than a decade. Ten years of exotic locations, foreign cultures, and wild adventures. Sipping at a glass of fine Georgian wine I again wander the length and breadth of the world, reliving adventures and feeling how the years have touch me.
As I wander my memories through tales of high adventure, moments of comedy, and sights of profound beauty, I find myself reliving the feelings hidden behind the adventures.
Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind.Anthony Bourdain
The Accidental Traveler
17 January 2011, Boulder, Colorado, USA
I left my home town of Boulder, Colorado, on 17 January 2011, with no clue I was beginning my adventures traveling the world. I was headed to California to work a six month contract after which I would hopefully begin my travels. I was so naïve of what travel is that I didn’t understand I was already traveling on that fateful day.
I had begun my preparations years before. I sold, gave away, or otherwise disposed of everything I owned which would not go with me on my journey. I had prepared a motorcycle for overland travel, The Phoenix, a Kawasaki KLR650. I gave my bank a fortune for the dubious freedom gained by selling a house whose value crashed with the housing bubble. I left my two cats with my mom, said goodbye to friends and family. I left behind all that was familiar.
But of course, this was not travel.
I knew then exactly what travel is. Travel is adventure, setting off into the unknown with minimal supplies, exotic destinations, and strange foreign cultures. Travel is most definitely not driving to the west coast of my own country with an empty bank account for the chance at a contract in California.
Such beautiful innocence. I was so fixated on a dream of travel that I missed the actual event of travel.
I think back often on that day. I had such beautiful Disney-like dreams of what world travel would be. I suspect if in my early days of travel I had found a squirrel on my shoulder advising me of the dangers on the road ahead I would have thought, “yep, totally normal!”
I wonder now, if I knew the reality of travel on that day I left my home town, if I knew what was to come, would I have dared leave on this journey? I have discovered long term world travel is wondrous far beyond anything I could have imagined. Long term world travel is also hardship, sacrifice, fear, responsibility, and many other unpleasant sensations.
I would have it no other way.
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single stepLau Tzu
The Broken Traveler
4 July 2012, Peru
This is the test of your manhood: How much is there left in you after you have lost everything outside of yourself?Orison Swett Marden
I am on a high pass in the Cordillera Blanca mountain range near Caraz, Peru, marveling at the beauty around me and the adventure of the past year. I have traveled about 35,000 miles (56,000 km). A distance that surpasses the circumference of the earth. I find it incredible that I have traveled such a distance, have experienced so much beyond my expectations, yet I have barely scratched the surface of this marvelous world. Truly, I am on top of the world in every way!
Little did I know that three months later in Sucre, Bolivia, my motorcycle would be in pieces with a broken frame while I would be curled up on the floor of a hostel, blackout drunk, raving incoherently about how meaningless life is and how it is impossible anyone could love me. I had explored the world enough I could no longer escape exploring myself.
With everything around me changing day by day I found one inescapable fact: that which remains the same is that which I bring with me. The demons and traumas of childhood were making themselves known. The stark beauty at the darkest depths of my soul was making itself known. My dreams for the future seemed impossible to obtain while the life I left behind seemed impossible to return to.
What is a man to do in such a situation? The kindness of strangers pulled me from despair on that day yet only I could fix what was broken within.
From the deepest darkest depths of broken madness I made decisions I would not understand for years to come. I would face these demons within, diving as deep as I could go, building a better person out of the ruins I had witnessed that day. I would continue to travel the world as I journeyed within myself for I had no other life to return to and infinite possibilities ahead of me. I would seek out love, adventure and beauty, living a rich life that leaves me ever yearning for more. I would pursue this path with no plan, letting fate and curiosity lead me down whatever paths may open.
I had only one expectation:
I would continually transcend myself.
7 June 2013, Buenos Aires, Argentina
I am watching the sunrise on my way home to bed after dancing tango all night. It is still surreal to me that I have spent the past seven months learning Argentine tango; for my whole life I have always known I hate dancing.
Overland motorcycle travel to tango was a surprisingly natural transition. The quick reactions and situational awareness that often saved my life on two wheels permitted me to navigate a milonga floor with an ease belying my skill.
Tango has taught me a lot about myself, about life, about women, and about relationships. I still feel broken inside and some days I break down; just the other day I was in the middle of a lesson when I inexplicably began crying as I danced. Yet I also feel hope for what is to come.
June 2014, Belgrade, Serbia
I am sick with mono (mononucleosis, or glandular fever). My life has narrowed down to the bare essentials: breathe, eat, sleep. It takes all my energy to walk two blocks downhill when I walk to the grocery store and the return trip uphill is far worse. I realize later I should probably have been in a hospital but on this day all I can think is keep moving, keep breathing.
One night my throat is so swollen each breath is a struggle. I am desperate for sleep yet every time I drift off to sleep I wake up gasping for air. I am scared. If I sleep now, will I ever wake up?
Sitting in that dorm room, alone, exhausted, every breath a struggle, I feel death sitting by my side. By morning we are friends and I am beginning to feel better. I sleep soundly knowing the worst has past.
22 August 2014, Corfu Island, Greece
My senses are supernaturally keen. Colors are more vivid, scents are inescapable, the phrase music to my ears has taken on a whole new meaning, everything I touch becomes a sensual caress and each bite of food brings a near orgasmic wave of pleasure. It feels I can sense every living thing around me.
I have just completed a week long tantra retreat, culminating in a mouth massage. When a soft bell signaled the end of the ritual, some part of me realized there was no sense of self, no sense of the physical, no sense of the world around me. Only a connection to something infinite, to something infinitely beautiful.
I have no words for what happened that day on Corfu Island. Science has not studied this phenomena and religion relies on allegory. I remember returning to a physical body with an ego and sense of self was a difficult task. It felt as if I were rebuilding a personality scattered through the universe and wondered if I had found all the pieces.
This day marked a shift in my journey through life. I traveled not simply through the world, not merely into myself, but also down a spiritual path to a destination unknown.
The Chaos Traveler
1 November 2014, Giza Necropolis, Egypt
I have arrived at a destination I have been dreaming of for years: the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt. Over the years I have realized the famous sights of the world often don’t hold much interest to me. Yet no matter how the vision of my travels shifted one destination remained inflexible in my mind: I would one day stand beneath the Great Pyramid.
It is a fantastic time to be in Egypt. Thanks to the recent crisis culminating in the coup of 2013 there are very few foreigners in Egypt. On this day at the Giza Necropolis my traveling companion and I are the only foreigners wandering these ancient wonders. We have become a tourist attraction to surpass the Great Pyramid, a situation which amuses myself and Sarah of Uneven Tenor to no end.
The past two years since the breakdown in Bolivia have been a rollercoaster of changes. Finding salvation in tango dancing, then later Cuban salsa and bachata. Culture shock traveling across Europe on my motorcycle. Doing the unthinkable, leaving my motorcycle in Ireland while I continue traveling with only a backpack. I have found adventure and fallen in love, made friends and discovered new passions, befriended death and seen the beauty of life.
It feels everything I am has been deconstructed. Torn apart and spread across the floor of my soul for examination and repair. It is a bewildering time but not traumatic or dark in the way of Bolivia. This is the beginning of a time of healing. This is a chance to heal old wounds, integrate lost pieces of my soul, and become a new person.
My travels have taken on an edge of chaos. I no longer have overland travel to give me direction and I am determined to keep moving indefinitely. I follow whims and accept invitations to visit far off destinations. I describe it as, “surfing the boundary between Order and Chaos.”
The Spiritual Traveler
My first visit to Southeast Asia in late 2014 followed by a return to South America in March 2015 is a difficult time to describe. I was exploring what I affectionately call “spiritual rabbit holes”. I was improving myself from the inside out through meditation, healing my psyche, learning energy work, reevaluating my view of the world, exploring mindfulness, and many other esoteric pursuits. I dived into the deep end of myself and made discoveries there which put all my previous adventures to shame.
These are tales for the fireside, shared over a bottle of wine.
Whereas the tourist generally hurries back home at the end of a few weeks or months, the traveler belonging no more to one place than to the next, moves slowly over periods of years, from one part of the earth to another. Indeed, he would have found it difficult to tell, among the many places he had lived, precisely where it was he had felt most at home.Paul Bowles
Stranger in a Strange Land
27 March 2016, Boulder, Colorado, USA
Back in June of the previous year I had broken a bone in my foot in Sucre, Bolivia. (What is it about that city that breaks things?) It is a tale of high adventure. Pain, endurance, hospitals, solitude, starvation, connection and salvation. But that is a tale for another day and a mere pretext to my thoughts on this day, as I admire the beauty of the Colorado Rocky Mountains.
After the surgery on my foot I visited my family while healing. This homecoming was a revelation. I was in the city I grew up in staying in the house I lived in as a child yet I felt I was visiting a foreign country with customs I didn’t quite understand. In that poignant moment my love of travel shone brightly and my future was clear: I would travel as long and as far as possible. That my bank account was empty was irrelevant, the choice to travel had been made.
The choice made, everything soon fell into place. I found work that permitted me to continue traveling and plans were quickly set to return to Thailand. I lingered some months to learn of this foreign land I once called home yet moving on was inevitable. I will always love this crazy city with the ever present beauty of the majestic flatirons always visible to the west. Yet my home is on the road. Family, friends, a woman I love, none them were incentive settle again in this familiar foreign land.
The Coddiwompling Traveler
12 January 2017, El Peñón de Guatapé, Colombia
Climbing 649 steps to the top of the Rock of Guatape sounds like an exercise in absurdity no matter how impressive a 650 foot (200 meter) rock appears from across the lake. Then I see a view of the Colombian landscape which takes my breath away. For a moment I can imagine I am flying over that beautiful landscape. I always find it ironic I only get that sensation when walking up to high locations, never when actually flying.
Atop this magical rock I find myself deep in conversation with another traveler. She regales me with stories of her recent ayahuasca retreat. I in turn spin her a tale of my recent coddiwomple1Coddiwomple: To travel in a purposeful manner towards a vague destination through Thailand, Japan, Finland and Ukraine. A journey within, a journey without. The expression of each so similar I find myself wondering, am I talking only to myself?
A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arrivingLao Tzu
Colombia is a nice diversion, a return to the culture of Latin America I fell in love with while riding The Phoenix through this part of the world a few years ago. Yet my thoughts return to Japan and Ukraine. In Japan I discovered wondrous new sights at every turn, a delightful experience to a hardened traveler of six years. In Ukraine I found a culture rich in both the struggle and beauty of life. My time there reminded me of my travels through Romania, Bulgaria and Poland. I feel an instinct drawing me to those east European countries.
The Philosophical Traveler
20 August 2017, Bucharest, Romania
I find certain countries become associated with certain aspects of myself. Before travel I would move around my house. In my computer room I practically thought like a computer, in the garage my disinterest in working on engines turned to delight at tinkering with my motorcycle and in my living room I relaxed with pavlovian ease. Travel is the same on a grander scale. In Thailand my spiritual side flourishes, in Argentina or Serbia I can’t help but dance, and in Ireland I become a musician.
In Romania I am a Philosopher.
I have spent many days at Cafe Origo in Bucharest, sipping at a cup of tea as I write in my journal. I often begin writing of the chaos in my mind, sorting through the lingering broken bits still floating through my psyche. Yet inevitably my pen turns to philosophy. The years of travel have opened my eyes to the world in ways I have found difficult to comprehend within the confines of my own head. Even the most fundamental principles of life have been challenged. I use writing as a form of meditation to understand what the world has shown me these past years of travel. The pen becomes a conduit between conscious and subconscious, illuminating new perspectives on what I have seen and done.
No topic is taboo, no subject so fundamental it cannot be challenged. One day I will write of the link between freedom and responsibility, the next day I outline how to cultivate courage, the day after I wax eloquent on the tragedy of how we often limit love. A theory of small steps blossoms as a guiding principle to achieving the impossible while musings on our masculine and feminine natures shows me a better way of life.
Within those pages I begin to find understanding and a new philosophy of life.
14 April 2018, Chiang Mai, Thailand
I am playing a dangerous game.
Songkran is the Thai new year and water festival. This is an ancient and beautiful tradition which has evolved over the years into a city wide water fight.
The Thai people are adorable. Normally so quiet and reserved, for a few days during Songkran they let loose and play like little children. Everyone from young boys to old ladies gets in on the fun, always with a friendly smile lighting up their faces. The little old Thai ladies are my favorite. They come up to me with a smile and a cup of water. Seeing my camera they motion me to turn around and proceed to pour ice water down my back.
Walking through the city is exciting and dangerous. You never know when a bucket of water or a spray from a squirt gun will be headed your way. You could turn a corner only to find the warm spray of a squirt gun headed towards your face. You could be minding your own business when suddenly a bucket of ice water is poured over your head.
I am out on these streets with a very expensive camera.
Walking through Songkran with a camera taxes quick reactions and situational awareness honed during my motorcycle travels. I risk my precious camera with every step I take into the heart of the fray. I would have it no other way. I am a street photographer, I capture moments of humanity. Songkran was made for me!
15 July 2018, Lombok, Indonesia
I am a mountain boy, more at home in the pine tree forests of Colorado than on long stretches of sandy beaches. Lombok, however, is amazing. Serene, beautiful, and comfortable. Why would I ever suffer the rock beaches of the dalmatian coast or the overcrowded beaches of my own country when I could relax in this quiet paradise?
As I walk down the hillside to a secluded beach, I pause to admire the beauty before me. I could almost imagine myself an explorer on a tropical island never before seen by man. What must it have been like in those days before we had pictures of every corner of the world easily found on the internet? The explorers of yore must have felt the world overflowing with wonders.
Those thoughts are eclipsed by a greater beauty walking in front of me. My girlfriend, a woman from Romania who has traveled with me off and on for the past year. Oh what a delight to travel with someone newer to the world than myself! I am certain I would have visited Lombok without her yet I would never have seen its beauty this clearly. Her fresh eyes lift my spirits and give me new insights into the world. One of the many reasons I love her dearly.
20 May 2019, Tbilisi, Georgia
I am not a wine connoisseur. I know nothing of vintages, I have no clue how to describe the taste I like, and I find French wines boring. Yet I know what I like.
My first love was the malbec from Argentina followed quickly by the torrontes. Many a conversation in Mendoza was accompanied by one of these fine wines. The delightful wines of Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania and Moldova all have a fond place in my heart. Yet my true love will always be Georgia.
For the past month I have spent most evenings in Divino, a wine bar in old town Tbilisi recommended to me by my good friends and fellow nomads Amagi and Beto. Here I learned wine has been produced using the traditional qvevri for more than 8,000 years. The first taste was so alien to my tongue that I didn’t know if this was the best wine I had ever had or the worst. A month later the answer is clear. Wines around the world will forever be measured against the delectable Georgian qvevri wines when they touch my tongue and all too often found wanting.
24 October 2019
I am still fascinated at how I experience different countries. Some countries, my first impression endures forever while other countries I need weeks to decide how I feel about the country and its people.
My love for Scotland was instant, a feeling which surprised me as each visit to England leaves me determined never to return. I am in Scotland for only a week, as winter is fast approaching, yet I am already determined to return. How can two such radically different peoples be part of a single country?
Scotland is particularly momentous as it will bring together two sides of my life that have never before interracted: My mom, who has never before met me in my travels, and my girlfriend, who has only known me as a traveler.
If I listened to Hollywood dramas and conventional wisdom, I would be a nervous wreck yet I find this a very natural meeting. I am proud of myself, my family, my friends and my girlfriend. I am happy with my own life and the lives of people who I spend time with. How could I ever be nervous when two disparate sides of my world meet for the first time?
After all, it could never be half so traumatic as an my own internal meeting of worlds, an engineer coming to accept aspects of spirituality and energy work that often seem suspiciously like magic!
22 September 2020, Black Forest, Germany
I have rather enjoyed the pandemic. It gives a chance to see each country without tourists, a rare and precious perspective I first experienced years ago in Egypt. At times I go a bit crazy not being able to wander the world, yet in these past years of travel when have I not gone a bit crazy in one way or another?
My girlfriend and I settled on Thailand for the first months of the pandemic, an amazing experience which gave many insights into these humble happy people. For all I felt I suffered the heat, humidity, pollution, and travel restrictions, I will forever cherish this quiet time getting to now the Thai people, the expats who have chosen Chiang Mai as a new home, and my girlfriend who chose to stay with me.
This day finds me exploring the serene paths of the Black Forest in Germany with my girlfriend. The clean cool air is refreshing to my soul after months of heat and humidity in Thailand. The forest brings a hint of the pine tree forests of my youth adding a sweet nostalgic feeling to each step. Soon I know life will feel turbulent again as I travel to Georgia while my girlfriend returns home to Romania. But that can wait. For this moment I feel the peacefulness of this lake mirrors the peace I feel in my soul.
The Selcouth Nomad
5 February 2021, Tbilisi, Georgia
I am sipping a glass of one of my favorite Georgian wines, a mukuzani. The past week reliving my travels and writing these stories has put me through an emotional wringer that has led me to one inescapable conclusion: I love travel. The dark days and the light, they are all beautiful; I have never had a bad day traveling the world. I would never have chosen to undergo these experiences yet having lived them I would never choose any other path.
Oh how I love travel!
The world is large, my soul is deep, and I feel in my bones I am nowhere near finished exploring either one.
Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming ‘Wow! What a Ride!
- 1Coddiwomple: To travel in a purposeful manner towards a vague destination