Spirit – Day 19 of the 30 Days of Indie Travel Project

Some places have the power to make even the most die-hard agnostic reconsider their position. Have you ever been in a place where you felt more alive or more connected to nature, the universe, or a higher power than anywhere else?

I would have to say, cliche as it that watching the sun come up over Macchupichu and viewing the ruins high in the Andes with the first light of morning was one of those breathtaking experiences that made me wonder at the nature of ourselves as human beings and if they would have been able to accomplish what they did had they no belief that in a higher power.

Another example that I can think of as being close to nature was a little closer to nature than I wanted to be. We were in Belize and had taken a snorkling trip to swim with nurse sharks, sting rays etc. Once we got to experience that thrill we were left to swim around the reef and see whatever we could. It was pretty wild, we saw barracuda, clown fish and a sea turtle which I kept following to a more secluded part of the reef. There weren’t too many fish in that section so I figured that I’d swim back toward the boat. That’s when I saw a grey shape slowly approaching in the distance. It’s hard to say how far away it was, maybe 75 feet or so until I realized that there was a shark swimming towards me, and not one of the it’s okay to swim with these guys kind of sharks. This was some sort of reef shark, the kind that would make me end up on one of the Shark Week specials on the Discovery Channel. There was nothing I could do but watch as it kept swimming towards me, my stomach had the same feeling you do on a rollercoaster before it takes the huge drop. It’s sad to think that my last words would have been “oh shit oh shit oh shit oh shit…”. I’ve never been more relieved than when the shark veered and went behind the reef. I swam as calmly as I could back to the boat and let my pulse slow. That my friends, is what I call being close to nature.

Budget – Day 18 of the 30 Days of Indie Travel Project

Every traveler has a budget; for some it just might be higher of lower than for others What’s your style? What do you spend very little on and what are you always willing to pay more for?

Budget is key for me, so much so that I’ll choose a destination based on whether it’s more budget friendly than another spot. Yes, we could go to Barcelona…..or we could spend half the money and go to Colombia instead! This is such a weird thing with me that I’ll pick a price point before I even start looking for tickets sometimes. I’m almost OCD with finding budget friendly options. There are definintely limits to this though. While I’m very interested in taking the 9 hour bus ride that only costs $8 sometimes it’s better to opt for the $60 one hour flight.

Typically the lowest expense items on the budget is food. Rarely are there meals at restaurants, most of the time it’s cooking at the hostel or street food. I’d rather go hungry than pay what I would at home for a meal especially if I’m somewhere that’s not in a “tourist” part of town. I’m the guy that will haggle for a taxi or take the local bus even it it might not be quite as efficient. Aside from being part of the adventure how can you refuse an hour and a half bus ride for $1.75!?

What I am willing to pay more for are the occasional splurges on private accomodations or even resort style lodging to take a break from the 10 bed dorms and crowded hostel kitchens with half broken cookery. Most of my travel budget expenses come from taking the various tours and excursions, especially if I’ve never done/seen them before. $60 for ziplining, yes I’ll pay for that. $75 to swim with nurse sharks and sting rays AND it includes rum punch…uh, hell yes I’ll pay for that. I’ll also spend money on flights if there isn’t time for the bus or train. As much as I love the previous options when I’m traveling with limited time the money spent to get somewhere sooner is definitely worth it.

I’ve never found that being very budget conscious has ever stopped me from doing the things I really wanted to do or taken away from the trip in any way. Even if the accommodations are less than luxurious or the food may be just something to fill your belly or the bus ride leaves you with a sore neck and new appreciation for guard rails it all works out to make a good story. To me there’s nothing exciting about staying a four star resorts and eating in fancy restaurants. Give me a good hostel meal with strangers, a drink with one of the local Couchsurfing hosts or any of the other myriad situations you find yourself in when traveling on a budget. I’ll take those every time.

Passion – Day 17 of the 30 Days of Indie Travel Project

It’s easy to be passionate about travel, but does that passion permeate the rest of your life? Do you live and work with passion? Why or why not?

I wish I could say that I did live my life with the same passion that I have for traveling. I work a job that while most of the time I don’t hate it, more often than not I don’t ever wake up looking forward to going in. It’s a well paying job with a good company and for someone who didn’t finish college I have a pretty good situation so it almost seems arrogant to throw that away cause I’m not passionate about it. To be honest I’m not sure what I’d do for work that I’d be passionate about. I also DJ at a nightclub and while I like it, and it’s fun and I do look forward to going it I don’t know that I’d say it’s my passion.

To me passion implies something you have to do, something you can’t imagine your life without, something you think about almost every day and all other events are just precursors to the time when you can indulge your passion. I like a lot of things, music, dancing, playing instruments, reading for example but maybe it’s sad to say that non of those things are a passion per se, not at least the way most people would thing of it. While I can’t imagine not doing any of those things in the course of my life I can go months without dancing or playing guitar and not feel like I’m missing something.

I wish I could find a passion, I used to have a lot of it when I was in high school, when I had the time to do nothing but the things that I was interested and I guess I’ve fallen into the grown up trap of a good job, a mortgage and moderate responsibility. I’m hoping that somehow on the RTW trip that I’ll be doing something will happen, something will spark. That’s not my reason for taking the trip, I’m not one of those people who are running from something or trying to find myself but who knows, maybe on the road I’ll rediscover what I somehow lost along the way from 16 until now.

Baggage – Day 16 of the 30 Days of Indie Travel Project

Mental baggage can weigh us down as much as physical baggage when we travel. How do you travel lightly – either emotionally or physically?
 
Traveling lightly is the way to go on both mental and physical realms. The more stuff you have the more stuff you have to worry about. Likewise for dealing with the mental challenges and aspects of traveling, if you’re weighed down with worries or itineraries or pressue of must see’s or must do’s then it can make the trip much less fun.
 
I find that traveling lightly physically transfers into traveling lightly mentally. You don’t have to worry if your gear will fit into the back of the old school bus. If you’re running late for the next leg of travel it sure helps to not have too much weighing you down so that the sprint to the train station doesn’t seem like an Olympic event. Less baggage means less taxi fees,  traveling lightly enables you to navigate the streets, subways and sidewalks in a more efficient manner and keeps you from being the jerk taking up the whole sidewalk with your backpack, rolling suitcase and day bag.
 
Traveling lightly mentally for me means choosing your travel companions wisely. Nothing can bum a trip out more than someone who’s not flexible or who like to lay down the guilt card if you can’t agree on what to do/see/eat. I find that clearly establishing the “it’s okay to go your way and I’ll go mine” rule before heading out on a trip usually heads off any drama or mental baggage the you may have to deal with for the remainder of the trip if X person didn’t get to see Y cathedral.
 
A trip should be fun, a break from all the normal crap you have to put up with at home. Don’t get weighed down with things you don’t need. Traveling lightly both physically and emotionally will tip the odds in your favor of the trip being great instead of just good.

City – Day 15 of the 30 Days of Indie Travel Project

What is your favorite (or least favorite) city and what do you love (or hate) about it?

Wow, this is like asking your absolute favorite song or favorite flavor of gelato. Most all cities have some sort of postive charm, even if that charm manifests itself in bleakness or sketchiness. Some cities have both things I love and hate about them.

London for example is a great city with a lot to see and do…….so long as you have the money. I lived in London for a brief stint and loved it, I had a good time on subsequent visits but trying to budget travel there tests your wallet and for that reason it’s not one of my favorite places to visit. Riga, Latvia was one of the most depressing looking cities I visited on my trip to Eastern Europe and ranks up there in my least favorite places. No one looked happy, and the post Soviet depression was evident in the run down buildings and dreariness. Then again maybe it was because we went in November.

As for favorites, I always have a soft spot in my heart for Granada, Spain and the Andalucia region. I haven’t been back in many years and from what I’ve heard it’s lot more crowded and lost some of the charm it had 10 years ago. Regardless, I love looking at the Alhambra at night, or hanging out on the Cathedral steps with a bottle of wine and listening to the street musicians. Wandering through the twisting hilly streets and alleys of the Albacin and stumbling into one of the many miradores was always an adventure. Hitting the tapas bars for happy hour on Calle Eshavira and getting free food while getting drunk cannot be underestimated. Granada has been my favorite because it’s tied to so many good memories from long ago.

Quote – Day 14 of the 30 Days of Indie Travel Project

What’s your favorite quote about travel? Why does it stand out to you?

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain

One of the things I usually hear from relatives, friends and co workers after I get back from a trip tends to be a variation of “I wish I could..”  or “I wish I had done that at your age” or “I’ll do that when I have the time/money”. Every time I always think to myself..well you can, anyone can do this, it’s really not that hard. It’s sad to think of people who really could travel abroad and want to are just too cautious or afraid to take that chance. Sure traveling is a gamble, but so is everything in life that’s worth anything.

The Mark Twain quote for me really distills the essence of why I travel as much as I do and try to see as much as I can. I don’t want to be that person who looks back on a life spent in the daily grind with no extraordinary bright spots and be disappointed. Why spend your life filling a house with things that can easily be stolen or lost in a disaster. Nothing short of brain damage or Alzheimer’s can take your memories of the life you have, so why waste your time not taking chances and following your dreams of travel. If I get so old I can barely move out of my rocker I want to able to think back to the time when I climbed all the stairs up to Macchupichu or jumped off a waterfall in Costa Rica.

If you never fail then you’ve never taken a risk. Things don’t always work out but if you at least try and take a chance then you won’t wake up years down the road wondering…..what if?

Home – Day 13 of the 30 Days of Indie Travel Project

For some people, no matter how much they love traveling, there’s always no place like home. Other travelers make their homes wherever they happen to be. Tell us about your home – where is it and why do you consider it your home?

Home is such a hard thing to define. People say it’s where the heart is, or where your family is, or where you were born or where you grew up. In an increasingly mobile society it’s rare and rarer that all of the above end up being the same place. Even growing up my family never stayed anywhere more than eight years and within that time would still move to different houses and neighborhoods.

I used to feel like Hawaii was my home because I “grew up” there, that is to say part of elementary and my junior/high school years (the formative years as they say) were spent on the breezy island of Oahu. I feel like a lot of the things that forged who I am came from those years but yet on any visit back I can’t imagine living there again. So for that reason it’s hard to consider it home.

Some people thought it was weird that I would move from sunny Hawaii to the rainy Pacific Northwest, but that’s what I did not long after high school graduation. I loved the city of Seattle, the friends I made there, the music scene, the mild summers and winters (say what you will about the rain) and it was the place where I learned how to exist as an adult outside of and very far from my family. I made a home for myself there and for many years (and still sometimes to this day) when I step off a plane at Sea-Tac airport I feel like I’m home. It’s been years since I’ve been back though so I don’t know if that’s still true.

I guess that’s why I consider my current city of Richmond, VA home. I’ve only been here for going on 6 years but I feel comfortable here. The city is small enough that you can get around it very easily, there’s a plethora of small businesses and restaurants, there’s a great music and arts scene. There’s a small town feeling in this city where styles of architecture from the 1800’s mingle with early 1920’s up to 50’s and modern day designs. I feel comfortable here, I can’t say I’ll stay forever but I can’t imagine going anywhere else right now. I have what I need to be happy here.

Then again, if home is where the heart is, then I don’t know if I’ll ever find one because my heart loves traveling, and new places and fresh excitement.