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Back in the Saddle– Misadventures to Come

In less than a week, I’ll be either sharing a ride or hitchhiking to Los Angeles, California to fly out to Bangkok, Thailand for a self-supported bicycle trip around the country of Thailand. I’ll be cycling in Thailand-Malaysia for a month and ending the first segment in Singapore. On April second, I will be flying out of Singapore and into Darwin, Australia. The next three months or so will be spent cycling and exploring the Outback and the eastern coast of Australia. (that is the plan anyways!)

Here is a picture of my intended route of Thailand-Malaysia and Australia (up for improvisation of course!) Solid lines are intended cycling and broken lines are intended bus/hitchhiking.

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I’ve never traveled to either one of the countries ever in my life, and I do not speak a lick of Thai. If you have been following the news, Bangkok has been going through a sort of people’s revolution at the moment, so things might get interesting. I will be winging it and hopefully meeting lots of locals and wild camping along the trip, in both countries. I’ve been living frugally and saving for this trip for some time. I’ll also be living frugally during the trip in order to stretch my funds. It makes it for a more interesting trip and more adventuresome– I won’t be staying in any five star hotels, although I might give in and stay in a hostel or two here and there.

As I said in my earlier post, I’ll be bringing a Dahon folding bicycle as it can be shipped easier (and hopefully for less hassle and without bogus fees!) on the airplanes. My plan is to package the bike each time into a cardboard box, which I can discard once I reach my destination. Three flights- one from LA to Bangkok, one from Singapore to Darwin, and one (that I have not yet booked) most likely from Darwin back to LA. I’m not sure that I’ll find time to post here as I travel (or want to, really) but I will be posting some pictures and reflections if not during, definitely upon the return from the trip in about four months.

I’ve been thinking about and dreaming of this trip more or less since I returned from previous travels, and it’s hard to believe it’s around the corner. I’d like to connect with other travelers on this blog and swap stories, especially with vagabond- bicycle tourist-musician type travelers.

Where are you traveling? Why are you going there? I’m interested in your stories.

Why not go on the trip you’ve been dreaming about? I’ve always been interested in Australia and Southeast Asia. I think bicycle is the best form of travel in my experience and a great way to meet people and move at a decent pace as you go. Not to mention that you get exercise and stay healthy as you do so. You are able to travel with goals and you don’t waste time just lounging on beaches with the other tourists. I can’t wait to eat as much Thai food as I possibly can!

It’s about following passion, it’s about improvising with limited resources and using your imagination. Being committed to following what you love and honestly, thinking for yourself, listening to but also developing one’s own opinions through travel. Supporting everyone else who stays true to who they are. I’ll be bringing a small travel guitar, of course. (gotta keep chops up and I’m sure I will meet musicians on the road)

Who knows what’s going to happen along the way. Misadventures are bound to happen and they’re always the shittiest things to go through when they happen, but the best to talk and laugh about in hindsight. I’m going to have the time of my life no matter what.

What I’ll Be Bringing

Life on the road will include the following: (I’m going minimal as possible this time to save weight!)

1 Dahon folding bicycle

1 spare tube ( no more, I figure I can patch them as I go and buy more if needed at a local bicycle shop)

1 mini bike pump

1 sleeping bag

1 bivvy sack (in case I get stuck in rain in the middle of the country!– this replaces the bulk weight of having a tent)

1 pair of pants

1 nice shirt (for going to dinner, stuff like that)

1 shorts

1 shirt

3 boxers

3 pair socks

1 tire lever

1 bicycle lubricant

2 bicycle panniers

1 toothbrush, tube of toothpaste

1 raincoat

1 pair shoes

1 pair lightweight sandals

1 Martin travel guitar (weighs 2 pounds!)

1 journal, 1 I-Touch device (for pictures and Wi-fi connection)

If anything goes majorly wrong with the bike– which I hope it doesn’t but could happen– I’ll just hitch into the next town and have it fixed. It’s not worth it to me to carry heavy tools around to fix it myself on the road. Every kilo counts! Life will be simple– the less the better. Really, what more does a person need?!

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(The bike, loaded down. )

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(Makeshift backpack for carrying my guitar and food/ what-not. A good use of an otherwise junk backpack.)

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(More or less everything I will be carrying on the trip.)

In First Review: The Dahon Folding Bicycle

ImageThe Dahon folding bicycle fits well into place along San Diego beaches.

 

Have you ever been in the position where you’d like to take your bicycle somewhere but transporting it to that place hold you back?  Take, for example, fitting a full-sized road bicycle onto a crowded train that has no designated area for bicycles during rush hour in a city.  Or bringing your bicycle overseas to bicycle tour in a foreign country.  Or commuting by bicycle to work but having no convenient area in your small office to store it safely while working. Dahon offers a possible solution to these problems for cyclists. 

Personally, I’ve toured the United States and Europe a few times and folding bicycles and it truly is nice to have over twenty gears to choose from, especially on long stretches of rolling hills or mountain passes– this, of course, is a no-brainer.  However, I’d reached a point in my bicycle touring adventures where I had to come to a compromise.  

Developing my style of travel, I’ve decided that it’s nice to have the option to hop off the bike and take a train or hitchhike whenever one feels like up.  It can help to change the pace and also break up what can become monotony while cycling– which is, ironically, usually the very reason one jumps on a bicycle and starts riding cross-country in the first place.

So enter the Dahon folding bicycle, pictured above.  It folds at four key points in less than a minute, making it for easy transportation.  It can fit easily into any car (which is often a problem unless one has a proper bicycle rack), it can fit easily into trains (without taking up too much space), and it can easily be transported from one country to the next on planes (hopefully without excess fees, more to come on that!).

So I took the Dahon folding bicycle on a mini-adventure to San Diego from Denver, Colorado to really test this bicycle out.  I could ride it around locally all day long, but the real test for me is how it holds up on long-distance trips– the ultimate test is coming up soon when I fly into Bangkok, Thailand with it at the end of this month and start cycle touring Southeast Asia.  

So, after a mix of hitchhiking and cycling from Denver to San Diego and back, I’ve got the results in my experience to all interested!

Portability- This bike has proven to be extremely portable!  I fit it into a tiny little Mazda hatchback with four passengers total and extra luggage without a problem.  The Dahon bicycle folds once in the center, and at the front fork so the handlebars come down.  The pedals also fold inwards.  In total, the bicycle weighs close to twenty pounds–extremely light!  The model I have also has a rear rack for touring or town commuting.

ImageDahon bike folded nicely along the road while hitchhiking in northern-inland California.  

Rideability-  I was questioning this one when I bought the bike.  I thought it might feel like a cheesy kids’ bike and not something truly roadworthy.  To my pleasant surprise, I was wrong.  It handles and feels like a real bicycle, and I’m confident to take it touring with me.  It handles bumps smoothly, doesn’t make any strange squeaky noises, and moves at a surprisingly quick speed.  Hills, however, can be more challenging, but nothing that will make someone determined enough quit.  The steering can take some getting used to– a bit different than a regular road bike for sure.

Affordability-  There are a variety of models available online starting around $500.  One site worth checking out is nycewheels.com.  

Touring Worthiness? -  In my experience so far, yes.  I only had one flat so far, and since the wheels on mine are only a size 20, they were thoroughly easy to change tubes on (sure beats fighting with a mountain bike tire!) and maintenance on this bike is very simple.  Only having seven gears to choose from keeps things simple, although slightly a bit more challenging.  

Overall, I would give these bicycles a 9 out of 10– 9 being because there doesn’t seem to be a place on my bike to install a simple water bottle holder.  Perhaps I’ll have to drill installments myself!  More reviews to come on this bike, and follow the blog to track my bicycle trip through southeast Asia on a Dahon folding bicycle!  

In the meantime, check out the bicycles available on Nyce Wheels here:

http://www.nycewheels.com/dahon-folding-bike.html Continue reading

Hitch-biking adventure- Denver to San Diego and back

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I’d been thinking about visiting San Diego for some time so a week or so I set out on a short trip to actually do so. San Diego has some of the best weather in the country for active living, cycling, and outdoor activities. Outside of this, I was curious as to how the San Diego music scene currently sits and the overall local scene. Hitch-biking from Denver to San Diego and back in a short mini-adventure, I would find out.

First, I met Gary in an Albertson’s parking lot in Denver and helped him change out the tires on one of his wheels to one with better tread. Gary and I made contact through a Craigslist post– he was heading to the Oakland/ San Francisco area. It sounded close enough to me, so I agreed to ride along, helping with the driving and unloading of the items he was delivering through U-Ship across the country.

Gary drives an old Ford F-250 pickup truck with a homemade trailer on the back. He is shipping some furniture to Salt Lake City, Utah and also a piece of exercise equipment to Oakland, California. On Gary’s dash sits a clutter of items, one including what Gary refers to as a “dash frog.” Gary says that it is important to always keep a dash frog on one’s person during a long journey.

We pass through a part of the desert of Wyoming and it somehow feels like we have been temporarily transported back in time fifteen years. Gas attendants stand around bored and BS-ing, one girl comments something about a Facebook post someone made. Gary and I exchange stories on the road. Some of the best are when Gary met the actual Craig of Craigslist at a wedding reception in San Francisco, and another of a bear that broke into his tent while he was camping in the mountains with friends as a boy.

We crash in Reno, Nevada for the night at one of Gary’s friends house and I roll out my sleeping bag and sleep on the floor. Gary’s friend’s house is filled with interesting art collections, world maps, cats, and a box in the corner that is sealed and reads : DEPARTMENT OF FUCK YOU.

In the morning, we try leaving the small town of Reno, Nevada and as forgotten episodes of Reno 911 play through my mind, we hear an unsettling sound coming from Gary’s trailer and realize that the bearings on the axle have actually broken apart and we won’t be going anywhere till we fix it. So we pull up to an RV business and re-pack new bearings and set the axle back together in a hurricane-like wind that shoots down the mountainside directly at us. An hour or so later and we are back on the road.

We make it to Lake Tahoe and find out that chains are required for the mountain pass. We are now entering the state of California from western Nevada, and we find ourselves regretting not have purchased chains beforehand, because the price isn’t “discounted” when you are forced to buy them at the mountain pass. A worker sets up our chains and we are off, through ice and snow. A Suburban nearly slides off the cliff as we make the summit and descend down the sharp hill. After the mountain pass, the snow disappears and the scenery begins to look more like what I envisioned of California.

We soon enough arrive in Oakland, California and Gary gives me a short tour of his home town and the former steel factories that have been converted to industrial-type art studios. Giant creatures forged and welded from metal stalk the slums of the city, and someone has added “Studios” at the end of “American Steel” to make it “American Steel Studios.” We are distinctly in Oakland, California.

He sets me off at the trolly station and I purchase a ticket to head close to the highway where I plan to hitch hike with my Dahon folding bicycle the next day. I ask one of the local riders for directions, and he asks me if I have a place to stay for the night. I tell him I do not, but I’ll be alright, but he kindly insists that I can stay at his place and crash on the couch if I want. Sure beats sleeping on the streets!, I decide. One night while in San Diego, I decide to sleep in Balboa Park, which is enormous and one of the largest public parks in the United States. I nearly step onto a homeless man who is sleeping near a picnic table. “Sorry! Just looking for a place to crash, didn’t see ya!,” and I laugh to myself and move on.

So I meet Andrew and his friend Silvia, and we end up having a great night going for Mexican food, jamming on guitars, and drinking some whiskey.

The next day, Andrew and Silvia give me a lift to the start of Interstate 5, which goes directly south into Los Angeles and San Diego. I try hitching out of the exit for an hour or so, with no success in my efforts, so I decide to take a moment and hang out with the cowboy playing banjo in front of the gas station in the middle of the desert. “Name’s Red,” he tells me. ” Welcome to the armpit of California.” He tells me his stories about train hopping, his life on the road. ” I’m just trying to get to the coast,” he tells me. “It’ll get better from there.”

For me, it only gets better when I finally decide to take Plan B and cycle out of this hole of a rest area, and I make my way south for about 40 miles along the five until it is fast-approaching dark. The weather in California plays tricks on you in the winter time, since it feels like summer but gets dark early because it’s actually winter. I get a flat tire on the rear of my bike just as night approaches, and I really luck out when one of the Craigslist rideshare calls and says that they are headed southbound for San diego and I can ride with them. I push my bicycle one mile to the exit that they are parked at and we head off.

It turns out that both of the guys riding are college students heading to San Diego to surprise their girlfriends with a visit and flowers, which we stop at a local grocery store to pick up while ” Love Song” by the Cure ironically plays over the speakers. We crack jokes and laugh about the whole thing, and eventually I get dropped off at Lestat’s coffee house in San Diego, a 24-hour coffee shop I had researched prior to arriving. Overall, I have nothing but positive things to say about this coffee shop, first being that it seems to be one of the only 24-hour coffee shops in the city of San Diego. The air is pure, and comfortably warm for the month of January. The weather stays perfect throughout my entire visit.

The next day, I meet Corey and Barbara, my couch surfing hosts for my stay in San Diego. They are a super-friendly couple, Corey being from Australia and Barbara a native to San Diego. They offer me insights to the city that I otherwise would not have discovered, and Barbara’s mom makes a fantastic dinner for us.

I spend a lot of time just cycling around San Diego exploring– it proves to be a great city for that. On one day, I go see the band Pinback perform at the Casbah along with the opening band Deathfix. They were both spectacular live bands.

One day, I decide to go to Tijuana and visit Mexico. Despite the fact that Tijuana is only a long southern trolly ride away from downtown San Diego, once you cross the border, it is very much Mexico and it becomes clear that one is not in Kansas anymore. I walk freely across the border without anybody asking for a passport or any proof of identification. This is a double-standard, and not the same process when one crosses back into the United States, but even so, they only asked for my passport on the way back and it was relatively painless.

A woman apparently on drugs lays on the sidewalk and babbles about “propane” as I walk along the walkway into the border. There seems to be a lot of people traveling from Mexico to work in the United States for the day. I’m overwhelmed by the amount of people bustling about; the smells of garbage, of food, of old rusty shopping carts filled with anything and everything imaginable, with Mexicans running up to expensive-looking cars and rubbing them down for a tip (which seems to make it dirtier than before), of people dressed as clowns in traffic and juggling for tips, of cars honking, of the pace of the morning traffic as the sun slowly rolls over the horizon– most of the shops seem to still be closed for the day. At eleven o’clock, doors seem to open for business and more people bustle about.

I wipe out on my bike as the tire gets caught inside a crack on the decaying sidewalk and just get back up like nothing happened. A local guides me to downtown as a rush around on my bicycle, sometimes dodging traffic and taking the only detours that we possibly can to get off the busy streets. My Spanish is limited, but I do speak enough to understand mostly what people are talking about, and I gather that my “guide” is going for food and has work in about an hour.

I spend the day touring Tijuana and eating as much authentic Mexican food as I possibly can. I count about 30 people that ask me “Cuanto diner la bicicleta?,” (How much did you pay for the bicycle?) which I begin to respond with “No say, es mi coche, gracias.” (I don’t know, it’s my car, thanks.)

Despite it’s rawness, pollution, noise, traffic, and standing out somewhat uncomfortably as the distinctly ONLY gringo walking around Tijuana at this time of day, I do easily fall for the city and it’s mysteries. I stopped at a place called Nikki’s, which is a local establishment that serves food and soda and is a low-key place outside of the red-light district. The owner comes over to chat with me, and I feel comfortable and at home at this place. Highly recommended if you ever make it to Tijuana!

I’ve met so many different people during my travels that I can’t possibly talk about all of them here– but the experiences will surely stand out for the years to come. While talking to a San Diegan at a street corner for five minutes, we are approached by two policemen on foot who question us as to how we know each other, what we are doing, if we are carrying drugs, and seem to stick their nose around, digging for any kind of dirt. There is none, and they go on their way. It’s a bit like looking at a cute cuddly grizzly bear face to face– seems perfectly harmless, but one can sense that the situation could easily change for the worse in the form of intended bribery– a common occurrence in Mexico, unfortunately. All goes well and they walk away and let us be.

I make it back to San Diego and the next day I get a lift from Sreka, a college student in Indiana who is originally from western India; Bombay to be specific. Sreka tells me about a bike ride he did with some friends along the western coast of India and his experience actually falling asleep while riding a bicycle! ” I had about two hours of sleep the night before,” he says. “.. and I guess I just kind of got into the rhythm.”

We pass giant cactus and deserts of Arizona, which all seem a bit like driving on planet Mars to me. How is this area of the country even hospitable for humans?, I find myself asking. We make it to Albuquerque after nightfall.

In Albuquerque, I meet up with my great friend Natalie and have dinner with her family. We also go out to a nice sushi dinner packed with New Mexican green chili. I try hitchhiking out of an Albuquerque truck stop, but have no luck and the attendants end up trying to run me out, although not in an aggressive kind of way. I do end up getting a ride from three people from Amarillo, Texas who left Texas for various x boyfriends and girlfriends and other drama. ” I caught my x in bed with anotha’ man,” one of the girls says. ” So I just up and left.” Leeroy insists on telling me that he knows federal agents who will “take care of any of his problems at the drop of a hat” for some reason. Everyone in the car chain smokes cigarettes as I struggle to keep my nose as close to the open window for precious fresh air. All drama aside, they seem to be good people and I roll with it. I give them gas money, but at every gas station they insist on flying a cardboard sign for money. Surprisingly, this tactic actually works. They are people kind enough to give me a lift, so I roll with whatever comes my way. Leeroy and his new girlfriend argue in the front seats constantly as myself and another girl remain crammed in the back seat. Eventually, we finally make it to Denver, and the trip is over– back to the normal life.

Through this short trip, I’ve met people and characters that I’ll never forget, experiences that will probably always stay at the forefront of my mind. I’ve decided to move to San Diego after seeing nothing but positive things about the local music scene, culture and of course the weather. First, I’ll be traveling to Thailand and Southeast Asia for another epic bicycle trip.

(A fun jam with a Mariachi band in Tijuana, Mexico)

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Jamming with red at some filling station in the California armpit

Jamming with red at some filling station in the California armpit

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Cruising on a folding bicycle in california

Cruising on a folding bicycle in california

Everything you could ever need on the road.

Everything you could ever need on the road.

Driving through utah

Driving through utah

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My ride from Denver to Oakland.  Slow and steady at 55 mph gets the job done.

My ride from Denver to Oakland. Slow and steady at 55 mph gets the job done.

Chains on the tires required along the Lake Tahoe mountain pass-- and for good reason!  Chain installers "hablo espagnol!"

Chains on the tires required along the Lake Tahoe mountain pass– and for good reason! Chain installers “hablo espagnol!”

Welcome to sunny California!

Welcome to sunny California!

Jamming with Andrew, who I met on the Bart while traveling from Oakland, california

Jamming with Andrew, who I met on the Bart while traveling from Oakland, california

"It's always important to have a dash frog," Gary says.  Various uses range from blocking the sun, softening long road trip seat belt rash, and good luck charms.

“It’s always important to have a dash frog,” Gary says. Various uses range from blocking the sun, softening long road trip seat belt rash, and good luck charms.

Travel By Two Wheels- Donkurque to Paris

I handed the officer my passport, where he took it back to the police car for computer examination. A few minutes later, the officers came back and they told me that I could not ride on the highway anymore and I had to take a detour. I would have not ridden on the road if it had not been the only choice available and the one that the nice Swedish couple had recommended to me. From head to toe, I was drenched with a thick rain.
“Where are you riding to?,” one of them asked.
“Paris,” I told him.
“Paris?!”
They pointed me to a trail just off the highway that seemed to just run around in circles. “You can ride there,” they told me. “This might take you to Paris.”
They handed me back my passport after making it clear that I couldn’t ride on this particular road anymore and drove off. An hour later, I realized that the trail was definitely not going to take me to Paris and I was more or less riding around in circles. Also, the weather situation showed no signs of turning for the better, still. The highway seemed like the only way to get there, but it wasn’t an option anymore.
I took shelter in an abandoned barn for a few minutes. There was a huge hole in the top of the roof, and all around me the skies were grey, lighting streaked in the distance.
An hour or so later, the sun finally decided to peak out fromt eh clouds a bit. I started riding through the farmland into the city area. The small villages in northern France were like ghost towns; I rode past empty parks and houses stood still with often times no trace of life whatsoever. It was like time was at a stand still. One could only assume that the people were indoors spending time with their families on this dreary Sunday day.
I stopped at a boulangeries (French pastry shop) and got some bread. I started talking to the store owner and he told me that he was also a lawyer but had opened the store so that he could “create jobs for his family.” After buying a few pieces of bread, he added a few extras and said,” These are for you my friend. I wish you safe travels and welcome to France!”
It wasn’t too long until I ran into a German guy who was bicycle touring for a week through the French country side. He was taking a week vacation off his job to fullfill his dream of cycling France. He was upbeat, and he spoke English well—much better than my lack of German. I made an executive decision and decided to purchase a train ticket to make it to Parist and bypass some of the bad weather.
So the German guy and I rode about five miles into the central area of Donkurque together, passing by parksand businesses that the locals would call “home.” That’s one of the great things about cycle touring—you can meet up with another bicyclist and immediately make a connection based on the simple passion of biking. We both enjoyed our ride together, and after the ride he headed off towards the direction of the campsite he was staying at that night.
I opted for the five-star stay underneath a bridge along the river. I woke up around nine o’ clock, bought some local food and was well on my way to Paris.
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You can read more of the bicycle travels by purchasing the book “Travel By Two Wheels” at the link below:

Hitchhiking Colorado- Another mini-adventure

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A picture I drew when I was bored the other day.

Friday, October 25, 2013
Time: about 4:00
Wait: about 40 minutes total

I catch the light rail far south to Lincoln exit, which has turned out to often be one of the worst spots in Denver for hitching, mostly because it is “upper-class” in its traffic and they seem to be mostly lame. To my surprise though, a guy pulls over in less than ten minutes and gives me a ride to Castle Rock. His name is Eric, and he says that he now has a son and has a “new kind of adventure” now than what he used to.

From Castle Rock, I am picked up after waiting for about 20 minutes from a lady who appears to be in her early fifties. In the back seat, a two-year old kid blabs and talks to us as we ride. ” We have a d-dowgie,” he says. “Oh, and I have- have a gold feesh.” He likes to talk, Jane tells me. As it turns out, Jane is not his grandmother as I assumed, but he is what she refers to as their “miracle baby”, the sixth child between her and her husband, over ten years after the first five were born. She sets me off in Monument, where they live.

Five minutes of waiting or more, and two pilots pick me up. One of them flies for Frontier Airlines and has summited Mount Kilamanjaro in Tazmania. They crack jokes and talk about their hiking trips as we make it into Colorado Springs.

Date: October 25, 2013
Time: about 4:00 (Colorado Springs to Denver)
Wait: about 30 minutes

Saturday is an eventful evening filled with tequila shots, Jaiger shots, mucho cervesas, and dressing up with some friends as the Intergalactic Beastie Boys– a great evening, but a sour end to the night that involved myself realizing I had consumed to much fire water and the next morning wasn’t any better. Therefore, my original plan of cycling from Colorado Springs to Denver to get my mountain bike back to the city just wasn’t an option anymore. If I had tried, I surely would have passed out from dehydration. So thinking it over for a bit, I opted to try my luck at hitch biking back to Denver.

In less than 30 minutes, a friendly guy named Sam pulls over and together we get the heavy mountain bike into the hatchback of his car. He tells me that his brother owns CS Bikes in Colorado Springs, and he used to occasionally work for him. I wish that I could listen and be involved in this conversation more intensively to be polite, but my head is throbbing and I have a tingly sensation running up and down my spine as we increase and decrease in elevations– the necessary aftermath from last night as my body tries to compensate. He points out a couple mountains along the way that he has cycled on with some of his friends. Soon enough, we make it to Denver and I hop out of the car, eager to get out of the cramped space, although I am appreciative of the ride. We bid each other farewell, and based on the happy looks of the folks at the light rail wearing Bronco jerseys, it appears that the Broncos have won the Sunday game.

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TEN REASONS TO TRAVEL!

After some considerable thought and some planning to come, I’ve decided to head south after this semester and backpack through Mexico and Central/ South America for four or five months.  I’m still debating whether to start a completely new blog or to continue on from this existing blog.  The question arises of how much time I will find (or want to find while traveling) to add to these posts.  Surely, when I return I will commit myself to writing about the adventures.  As always, it will be on a shoe-string budge, and I’ll be bringing nothing much but the bare necessities and a small acoustic travel guitar.

I thought it would be appropriate to reflect on my own top ten reasons for choosing to travel, rather than pursuing other endeavors.  (Remember, this is a matter of opinion, not ultimatums)

1)   It’s a better way to meet people.   Not to say that you can’t meet people in your home town or city (of course you can), but it’s the way you go about meeting these people while you travel, I think.  The question of “what do you do?” and of status become irrelevant, and the question of “where have you been?” become more relevant when you travel.  I think this is a much more honest, genuine way of meeting people.  That’s just speaking of meeting other travelers– of course, meeting the locals is even better because you are forced to move out of your own culture and listen.

2) You’ll have more memorable experiences than you would if you stayed home.  Bicycling across North America on two separate trips and bicycling and hitchhiking through Western Europe for three months brought me more memorable experiences and life lessons than one year staying in one spot could ever offer.  There is, of course, a difference between travel and vacation.  Budget traveling is the type of travel that I do, and prefer, and it requires creative solutions to problems more often than vacationing does, since you are paying the extra amount to essentially have no problems, right?  For example, having my shoes stolen while sleeping on a park bench in Rome one night forced me to figure out how I was going to put shoes on my feet without actually buying shoes.  That brought me to a Catholic Church that one of the locals told me about, which brought me to listen to two guitarists practicing in the cathedral, which led me to the pastor, who offered a pair of shoes too small, of which I cut holes in the back side to transform in makeshift sandals. 

3) An average day abroad is never an average day.  Even the experiences of buying milk at the grocery store or buying food is an experience.  Things, places, people you’ve never seen before and may never see again– you can’t help but have your eyes wide open in a situation like that. 

4)  Education.  You’ll get edu-ma-cated.  Seriously though, my travel experiences are more valuable to me than the five plus years I’ve spent at college universities.  Not that these things aren’t also beneficial (of course they are), but school doesn’t give you as much life experience.  Spending one session listening to a German professor lecture on engineering for one and a half hours was possibly more eye-opening than a whole semester spent at an American college learning on the subject of “cultural diversity.” 

5)  For a breath of fresh air.  Humans were nomads for thousands of years.  We have become stationary only in recent human history.  I would therefore theorize that it’s in our blood to crave movement, and the desire for a house, two-car garage, and white picket fence is overrated.  Sometimes a breath of fresh air is what people need to get them moving again.  The movement of travel allows for a change of pace from your dreary office job, your stagnant life, the things that we all take for granted.  Spending a night in the mountains of Toledo, Spain by myself truly let me breath in an air I otherwise never would have inhaled had I stayed home and remained stagnant.

6) Exploring yourself.  This one sounds cliche and maybe a bit overused, but there is a lot of truth in it.  If you do the same things, day in, day out, you’re not challenging yourself, only merely forming and enforcing habits.  Same job, same place, same people, same language, same church, same opinions– the list goes on and on.  Traveling makes you question the bias and engrained opinions and dogmas that we ALL hold, whether we choose to admit it or not.  With patience, just maybe, travel can make you a better-rounded person.

7)  Inspiration.  Riding all alone on my bicycle, through the dry deserts of Texas with my favorite music on my Ipod, and open land of possibilities.  Cycling through the rolling hills and vineyards of France and California, breathing in the open air.  Nothing matters but where you are, right then, and the senses, perception and experience you are having at that moment.  You feel your blood pressure rise, in a good kind of way.  Waking up after camping behind a building you thought was abandoned in France, to a man in a forklift calling his boss on a cell phone (presumably) and speaking fast French.  The many people you meet on the road, and the stories they share.  This is inspiration that you find from experiences through traveling, and taking risks. 

8)  You don’t need that much money to do it.  Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to be a millionaire or own a Fortune 500 company to travel.  By working for a while, and living minimalistically, one can easily save up enough money in a year for a lengthy period of travel.  How much travel, however, is entirely up to the particular person, and how much comfort they are willing to give up.  Essentially, the more comforts you can put to the side, the longer you can travel on limited funds.  In my experience, great travel adventures have never happened in a sanitized, Corporate-cloned hotel room; they’ve happened on the dirty, dusty, and sometimes unforgiving road.  The road less traveled only costs that you spend your imagination. 

9)  This world keeps spinning, and your time is running out. (To put it bluntly) If you go with the premise that every reason not to travel is an excuse, this alone is a great reason to travel.  Everyone I’ve met has confirmed that the older you get, the faster time seems to move.  This means that your forties will seem to speed by faster than your thirties, your sixties faster than your fifties, etc. etc.– and there are no guarantees that you’ll have a chance to do so once you have other commitments.  Through travel and experiences, you might learn that there is more to this life than ideologies and the pursuit of acquiring material things and stuff.  You won’t bring your “classiness” with you when your time is up. 

10)  Just cause.  Travel because you don’t need to justify why you are doing so.  Travel because you know that is what you need to do after recognizing that you have the option to do so.  Travel because people said that you shouldn’t.  Travel because you know that you should.  Travel because you WANT to get lost, because you want to have that feeling of isolation and being forced to ask for directions to somewhere in a foreign language.  Travel because there is a part of you that is afraid to travel– of getting robbed in some far off place, of being judged for not fitting into the normal modes of where you’re from by leaving it.  Travel because your spirit is worth more than a nine to five, and you are underpaid and undervalued.  Travel because you want to get the hell out of dodge, and dammit, you deserve to!

 

* If you would like to read more about the travels of the author, you can find the book “Travel By Two Wheels” here:

Hitchhiking Colorado- Lost on Mt. Shivano

Date: Sunday, September 29, 2013

Time: about 1:00

Wait: about 20 minutes

 

This week I waited about twenty minutes on the way back from Colorado Springs to Denver.  It was a clear, cloudless, bright sun-shining day, and almost 100 cars passed me on by without stopping.  One man stopped and was heading to Monument, but I passed because the chances of getting picked up at that particular exit can be slim.

A girl swings over in a slightly-beat up heavy-duty Dodge Ram truck, says “hop in!”, and I do just that.  Her entire left arm and shoulder are covered in fresh bandages, and she informs me that she has just been freshly covered in new tattoos.  ” Some of it hurt like hell!,” she says.

The most captivating story she tells me is of when her and two friends climbed the 14-er Colorado mountain, Mt. Shivano, which is a class-two climb, meaning it is one level of difficulty above an easy climb.  ” We were climbing in the winter, and I had foolishly given my survival supplies to my friends to carry because they were getting too heavy,” she says.  ” Well, I somehow tripped in the snow and slid down a huge portion of the mountain, and I was lucky it was covered in fresh powder, otherwise what may have happened may have turned out worse. There was enough snow on that peak to make for conditions of an avalanche potentially. I got lost and hiked by myself for over ten hours, and was starting to fear the worst, that I might even die out here… and then I ran into some other climbers, finally, and I literally fell down on my knees and couldn’t help but cry.” 

At first impression, Julia seems like  a pretty tough girl but anyone that has climbed a mountain knows that the mountain will show no mercy to anyone, regardless of who you are or who you think you are.  She laughs.  ” My friends said they were an hour away from calling in search and rescue,” she says. 

Julia tells me that she does some kind of security work, and works over 120 hours every two weeks.