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416 days…

Thursday, October 1st, 2009

Right now I’m in Denver airport, drinking a beer and waiting for my connecting flight to Kansas City.  This is the 25th day I’ve spent in airports and airplanes on this trip, it’s also the last.  Today, for all intensive purposes marks the end of this journey.  I’ll be in Ks City for a couple days, staying with my cousins before driving to Iowa with my mom this weekend.  I’ve been gone 416 days in total, that’s 9,984 hours.  After my flights today, I’ll have been in the air for 120 of those hours, that’s 5 entire days spent on airplanes and god knows how much more in airports.


I looked at my calendar and noticed that exactly one year ago today I was in Osaka, Japan.  It was my last day in Japan, concluding my stay in one of my favourite countries of the trip, before my flight to South Korea.  What really gets me is this seems like a lifetime ago.  And if one year seems like a lifetime, I’m imagining what I can do/see in my actual lifetime.  The sky’s the limit (or is it? ;) ).


In the immediate future though I have to turn my energy and focus from travel to more mundane things, like rejoining society (I don’t even have a phone, and I’m only going to get one half heartedly).  Things like getting a job, an apartment, re-opening my guitar cases and kick starting my musical endeavors, though that last item isn’t really in the mundane category.  I don’t think I realized it when I set off on this journey, though it didn’t take me long to realize it, but there was no going back once I started, I could only forward from that point.  So even though I’m on the brink of finishing and returning to the place that I set out from 14 months ago in Iowa, I’m not anticipating going back to what it was before (even if this was possible, it’s not), instead I’m looking ahead to the future.  The next year or two mostly, still don’t have much of a clue what the hell I’m going to be doing in the long term and you know what?  I like it better that way.  Right before I departed on the trip, a friend told me he hoped I found what I was looking for on the trip.  To be honest I had no idea what I was looking for, so I can’t really say I found it.  One thing I do know though, I’m on the path and closer to finding whatever it is I’m looking for than when I left, no question.


Here’s my grand summary.  If this were a book I think the title would be:  14 months, 6 continents, $30k, endless experiences. How to empty a bank account in a year and not regret it.  Many people cannot grasp the concept of spending all of your money on such a, they would say, frivolous, activity as globetrotting, I know such people.  I reject this opinion, and my response to this is, that the experience of the trip, the things I’ve seen, the ideas that have come out the trip, how I myself have changed are all priceless and I am 100% serious in saying I do not regret in the slightest spending all the money.  Money is just a means to an end, and they print more every day.  I don’t buy into the bullshit godly status that it holds in most peoples lives.  Mostly though, I don’t care if people think my trip has been a waste of money.  I know it wasn’t and that’s enough for me.


That’s enough for this entry, I’m getting too philosophical here.  I’m in a positive frame of mind finishing this trip, looking straight ahead in anticipation of what’s next.  I just have to survive this winter first…

The end of the trip

Sunday, September 20th, 2009

As I’m writing this, it’s my last night here in the OC.  Tomorrow I’m flying to Arizona to visit some family before heading back to Iowa.  I don’t think it’s really hit me yet that this is my last stop on the trip.  It’s surreal, so strange to think about having a “normal” schedule or being in the same place for a length of time.  I’ve been on the road for so long now that it’s 2nd nature to me, largely requiring no extra thought that you would have driving to the supermarket.   When I go through airports now it’s as normal to me know as going to the movies once was.  Seriously.

At least if this has to end, I have some goals to go forward with.  I don’t like the term going back in this case, because there is no going back.  This trip has changed my outlook on many things and that’s a good thing.  It’s also changed me in a range of ways that I’m sure I don’t even fully notice and will be informed of by those who haven’t seen me for a year.

My goals are, for reference purposes (I’m writing this for me as much as anyone else), aside from getting a job initially (for obvious reasons) are to finish off the songs I’ve half written on the trip, write more, record a lot and preform a lot more.  That will fill up a large chunk of the time I wont be working, which is good because when I’m busy I don’t think about being in Iowa as much.  Other than that I’ve got ideas about some classes I may be taking in the Spring and all the time working towards a milestone, I’ll be saving money to move away, I don’t know where to yet, just somewhere out of Iowa.  Specifically where I go first isn’t the most important thing, since a major one of my reasons to move is I want to live somewhere new and interesting to me, to experience it.  I have no aspirations to move somewhere and live there for the rest of my life, settling down long term does not interest me in the slightest.

One last thing, I’ll be on another travel adventure soon enough.  I don’t know where my next trip will be to, I’ve got ideas of trips on 5 different continents, and it probably wont for a while but it will be coming.  I’m trying out for travel buddy too, female, 20’s, similar interests, talk to me ;)  One thing’s for sure, I’ll be on the road again whenever I can be.
I hope everyone who has been reading this has enjoyed it as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it.  Signing off for now with a before and after…

Day 1 of trip:
me day 1 of trip

Day 402 of trip (today)
me in an Orange grove

Watch this space for more.

last days in Colombia/South America

Monday, September 7th, 2009

Back in Medellin, we took a day trip to Guatapé.  2 hours there on the bus, through the mountains and by lots of farms.  The area around Guatapé was controlled by rebels until 2006 and the govt still has security checkpoints on the roads in and out of the area.  3 soldiers searched the bus (for weapons) and most of the people on it along with their bags, strangely not me though.  After that 15 minute formality we arrived at the piedra de penol, a massive monolithic rock with a 360 degree view of the lake (reservoir) near the town.  649 steps to the lookout point for the view.

view from la piedra

la piedra

After climbing up, and down again, we walked the 3km along the non existent shoulder on the highway to the town (described in my guidebook as a pleasant lake side pathway).  The town itself was charming, small and full of colorful buildings and a nice laid back central plaza.  Every building in town seemed to have the Colombia vs Ecuador football game on, with everyone in town watching it.  A nice laid back atmosphere strangely, with the most subdued celebrations of the 2-0 win later on that night in Medellin.  Very un-latin American.

church on the main plaza

the town of guatape

Last day in Medellin, meant the last day before my return to America.  Low key day, bought a bunch of weird tropical fruit and ate it all, stuff I’m gonna miss soon enough and had a few beers at the local beer house that’s become our local hangout. That and the formality of figuring out how to pack for the next couple weeks.

Almost one year now since I flew from San Francisco to Japan to begin the intercontinental part of my trip.  I’ll be back in SF one year to the day I was there last year.  Tomorrow morning, early, I’m flying to Miami where I’ll be on my own again (my Uncle’s going home) for my last few weeks of the trip.  Miami, Chicago, San Francisco, San Diego, Los Angeles.  My travel pace will be picking up a bit once I hit US soil.

I’m not too sad to re enter the US at this point, though I wish I could’ve explored Colombia a bit more and not be running out of cash.  Just have to make sure it’s not that long before I’m crossing international borders again.  I’ve already got ideas for my next trip(s).  It’s just really strange to think that in a couple days I’ll be in Chicago in totally familiar places.  Though after that it’s on to California to scout it out some more.

Signing off from the rest of the world, this year has been great beyond belief.  I’ll be back out here as soon as I can.

Byron Bay and the rest of my Oz trip plan

Sunday, April 26th, 2009

I left Adelaide with it pissing down rain, 2 hours later I landed at gold coast airport in Queensland to sunshine and that happily awaited warmth. Hopped on my shuttle to Byron Bay and the yha hostel there, with a large pool surrounded by palm trees and a very laid back vibe, great facilities too, this is one of the nicest hostels I’ve stayed at in Australia. One strange thing, I’ve heard more Kings of Leon songs playing in the time I’ve been in Byron Bay (blaring out of clubs, hostels and cafes, I even heard some on the beach!!!) than I care to for the rest of my life, seriously people, when is that fad going to end?? I also discovered that despite the fact that the weather here is like summer, all daylight is totally gone at 6 something here since it’s actually almost winter here, geez I need to get farther North!!

My first full day in Byron I spent pretty much exclusively (after catching up on the sleep I haven’t gotten the last few days) either reading the guidebook, on the internet or in a travel agency. When I finally had my stuff booked, the sun was almost setting and I was exhausted, mainly mentally and monetarily. I spent more time in a travel agency today that I ever have in my life before, and more money on tours…

Since I usually avoid travel agencies and guided tours like the plague, I should explain. The reason for tours is most of the stuff I want to do has to be a tour, boat trips, 4wd tours etc and secondly by booking all of my day/multi day tours for the rest of my time on the East coast through the agency I was able to get a discount, about 15%, on all of it. I also didn’t have to call all the tour companies individually etc. Now I have every major activity booked, and all my bus trips scheduled on my bus pass I just have to be there for the pickups and enjoy. Here’s the rundown:

* 2 days on Fraser Island (guided tour so I don’t end up like that self drive group the other week)

* 2 separate day boat trips to the great barrier reef with snorkeling, the first one on the Southernmost reef islands and the other one about 1500km North near Cape Tribulation. The amazing thing is, that’s not even close to the North end of the reef, it goes on much farther North (note that I am going farther than the paved roads go to the North when I’m at Cape Trib.) to the far Northern tip of Australia 2300km in total length. If that’s not amazing I don’t know what is.

* 1 day white water rafting on the Tully river (loved it so much in NZ I couldn’t resist the chance)

* 3 day Cape Tribulation/Daintree (far North QLD rainforest area) tour, with one of those days being my second barrier reef trip.

All that in less than 3 weeks, involving more than 2600km of bus travel, before I fly from Cairns to Sydney and then on to Johannesburg, South Africa. It’s a fast pace for sure, but I’m pretty happy with it and got in just about everything I wanted to. I wont be doing a Whitsundays sailing trip, possibly being the only backpacker for a long distance not doing so. Mainly because I don’t have enough time to do it all, and the idea of being stuck (read: crammed) on a boat with 40 other people (probably drunk for most of it) for 3 days doesn’t appeal to me, even if the scenery there is amazing. Essentially I chose Fraser Island (and booked one of the smaller tours there with 1/3 the number of people on them) over the Whitsundays. I don’t think I’ll be lacking in great scenery with my schedule. I’m also stopping in Brisbane, Noosa Heads and Airlie Beach briefly along the way in addition to the major stops I already listed, ultimately ending up in Cairns.

Rottnest Island, last day out West and looking ahead…

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

Since I had another full day in Perth (essentially 2 more since my flight doesn’t go until after midnight tonight) I took a ferry over to Rottnest Island. You can just about see the lighthouse on the island from the mainland, the ferry takes about 45 minutes from Perth. I had a discount from an ad so I got bike and snorkel gear rental on the island for free, not bad.

As soon as I got off the ferry I jumped on my bike and rode away from the mass of families near the quay (it’s still school holidays here this week) as fast as possible, stopped at the first beach I saw that looked amazing, and nearly empty. It was still morning, around 10:30 and there were clouds still hanging around with a bit of a breeze so it wasn’t that warm yet, but it looked too nice not to get in (I’m not bothered about water temperatures anymore, I just get in) and try snorkeling here. I didn’t have that high of expectations for what I was going to see here, given the fact that I’d just come from snorkeling on the Ningaloo reef, but I was pleasantly surprised. Quite a few kinds of tropical fish and a decent amount of coral was in this bay, nothing like the quantity on the reef but still worth a good snorkel around.

parkers point

parkers point

After that I spent the day biking for a while, finding a good beach, checking out the water, chilling on the beach and then repeating the whole process. I got to 4 great beaches, though none of the snorkeling was much good after the first one. The weather warmed up significantly in the afternoon so I spent more time on the beaches later on. Nice little island…

Parakeet bay

Parakeet bay

the basin

After the ferry and ensuing bus shuttle back (during the latter, through Perth’s outer suburbia, I had to keep reminding myself that I wasn’t in America) I headed off into the city for a couple pints of my favourite beer on tap, so rare to find it and so worth it when I do… Now I’m waiting until it’s time to go to the airport for my redeye flight to Adelaide tonight, I’ve got a few nights there before it’s on to the East coast and the last leg of my Australian travels, I’m into my last month here now. I’m looking forward to Adelaide, most of the backpacking crowd here don’t really like it and claim it’s boring (maybe that means they don’t sell goon there? ah wouldn’t that be nice…) so I’m thinking I will like it at least somewhat since I interpret ‘boring’ as, not many nightclubs. I should be couchsurfing and meeting up with a previous travel mate from Tassie there, looking forward to that too, the area surrounding Adelaide is the flagship wine region for Australia too, should be a fun few days before I hit the East coast.

I kind of have a plan for the East coast now (finally), I’m starting in Byron bay and going all the way up through Queensland to Cape Tribulation before my flight out of Cairns. I’ll, hopefully, be hitting the great barrier reef in a couple spots, touring fraser island, chilling on the sunshine coast and finally exploring the rainforest around Cape Tribulation before I fly on to South Africa and beyond. I’ve got a night out in Sydney between flights before I leave Oz, nice way to go out…

Still got 3 continents and (at least) 10 countries (South Africa, England, Holland, Belgium, France, Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Peru, Columbia) to go through before I arrive back in the US and about 5 months to do it in. I’m looking forward the most to, an African safari, the 4 day inca trail to Machu Picchu which I now have booked, Patagonia in Argentina (hopefully) and being back in the UK and Europe for a few weeks in June (I even have a couple weeks off from travel visiting friends and family in there!), and those are just the things on the top of my anticipation list, there’s not really any part of the remain trip that I’m wishing I hadn’t scheduled (which was a fear of mine before), nothing worse than getting halfway round the world to find that due to the travel so far I was no longer interested in a planned destination, thankfully that hasn’t happened to me.

That’s enough for this entry and my battery is almost dead, so I’m signing off from Western Australia, the next time I post on here I’ll be in a (silly) 1/2 hour timezone in Adelaide (just like Newfoundland). One note about my time here in WA, the remoteness out here, driving long distances and lots of time with nothing to go do have called on my song writing, I’ve written quite a few songs out here adding to the ever growing list of songs coming out of this trip, they keep getting easier to write too… I can’t wait to start putting music to them and recording when the trip is finished, I have heard my guitars calling to me from halfway around the world over the last few weeks…

last day in Melbourne..

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

Today is my last in Melbourne, tomorrow I fly to Perth and begin the rest of my trip.  I’ve had a fantastic time in Melbourne, I love this city, but I’m ready for more adventure and to be on the road again.  I have 6 weeks left in Australia and I’ve decided to split it evenly between the West coast and the East coast/Queensland.  I don’t know exactly what I’ll be doing out West, I still need to figure that out but all the options look good, starting in Perth.  The weather in Melbourne the last week has been perfect, every day, and it’s looks to be even better in Perth.

Another month finished today, I have about 6 of them left on the road now and still 3 continents after Australia to see.  This is also my 100th blog post, I hope everyone’s enjoyed reading them..  I may get to 200 entries before I’m finished!

back in Melbourne

Wednesday, March 25th, 2009

Well I’m back in my hostel in Melbourne now, it practically feels like home.  I’ve spent the last 4 days in Hobart, not finding much to do except belatedly celebrating St Patricks day Saturday night with my 2 Irish travel partners, drinking exclusively Guinness for the night.

After that I didn’t get up to much of anything, I saw pretty much what there was to see in Hobart on my first couple days there when I flew in.  So I’ve basically been sitting around the hostel the last couple days, avoiding spending money unnecessarily.  The hostels in Tasmania we had been staying in have largely been good, but the one in Hobart was the exception.  I had to move rooms because the staff didn’t know what’s going on, the kitchen sucked and the whole place was full of the strangest sorts of people…  Today when I got to my hostel in Melbourne I was welcomed back by the owner and given a free beer, that’s more like it!

I’m back here for a week, F1 grand prix on Sunday followed by the Who in concert, and then I’m flying to Perth next week.  As of today I have exactly 7 weeks left in Australia and after Melbourne it is split 50/50 between West and East coasts with a couple days in Adelaide in between.  I really can’t wait to see the coasts after hearing people talk about them for the last 3 months here, but I’m not really looking forward to the travel scene to come, especially on the East coast.  The stuff to see sounds amazing but it seems like such an over backpacked route that I’m not looking forward to the madness of just traveling up the coast there.  I’m sure everything is still great to see up in Queensland though, it’s over traveled for a reason.

That’s enough for now, I have one week here to chill out in Melbourne and party it up at the grand prix on Sunday before hitting the road again.  This will pretty much be the last week I’m not ‘traveling’ for the rest of this trip (except a week back in the UK in June).  The 6 months I have left will be the longest stretch of continually being ‘on the road’ of the trip and I keep on anticipating the places I have left to see more and more.

My rtw ticket

Wednesday, March 11th, 2009

/begin rant

Well I went back to the Qantas office this morning, I thought I would just be picking up my newly reissued ticket… hahaha, right.

They had already called American about reissuing my ticket because all the information they needed wasn’t on the original ticket. (???)
So once I got there they tried to reissue it several ways, failing each time. Eventually they figured out how to reissue it (half of the staff there ended working on it). Apparently the problem was, since my ticket type is no longer offered (current rtw tickets available have a lower total number of flights on them) their system wouldn’t let them reissue a ticket that exceeded the current requirements. Essentially the problem was that the new tickets issued aren’t big enough for all the information the old tickets had, great changeover system they have in place eh?

I also discovered a couple more things I was misinformed about by American airlines personal during this process too, very unimpressed with their service… The last person I talked to there (wish I remembered her name…) gave me blatantly wrong information about:
a. where I could have the ticket reissued
b. the amount I would have to pay extra in destination taxes (due to my change of destination)
Also when I originally booked the ticket with them it took 3 phone calls over a week or so to actually get it booked properly.

Qantas service on the other hand, in the Hobart, Tasmania office I may add, hardly somewhere this sort of issue is going to come up very often and despite the fact that the ticket reissuing was very complicated and took some considerable time, was good.
AA are moving themselves into my black list to join NWA. I still do have 3 flights with them at the end of my trip, unfortunately, though I’ve never had any real problems with them in-flight, I am just angry with them now.

/end rant

The end result was positive though, since it was reissued as an e-ticket, not another paper ticket. Now it wont confuse every checkin desk attendant for the rest of my trip. Since it was reissued it is a totally new ticket. New booking number and everything, and this time it is a Qantas booking, not AA so I no longer need to deal with American for anything. I’m very happy about that fact. Technically I can (and always could have) called any of the Oneworld alliance airlines I’m flying with to changes dates or seats or anything to do with my ticket, but it’s much easier to deal with the people where you have a booking reference number.

On the other issue of the day, I also got somewhere on car sharing. It started with me and one other guy and now we have 4 people all together. Sharing a car for the next 10 days, we’re leaving Hobart tomorrow. Split 4 ways rental cars are very cheap, now I can actually afford to travel around down here.

and just cos I can, while I’m getting free internet while sitting in the road.  Here’s a picture from Hobart…

halfway point, still figuring out the 2nd half…

Saturday, March 7th, 2009

I’m back in Melbourne now, a couple days left here, I’m flying to Tasmania on Monday. I am about half way through my trip now, I saw about because I don’t know exactly what day I will finish traveling. My flight ticket expires on Sept 12th, so that’s when I have to have taken my last flight (to San Francisco) by. I don’t know how long I will be on the road after that flight.

This weekend I am trying to get as much of the rest of my trip, transport wise at least, figured out so I have less to do while I am traveling around. After I leave my (usually) constant free wireless internet at the hostel here in Melbourne my internet access will diminish in availability and increase in price, I’ll also be much busier doing/seeing stuff. I already had a pretty good idea for South Africa, and so far I’ve figured out pretty much everything for the rest of Australia, the few weeks I’ll in the UK and Europe in June and I’ve got a somewhat reasonable idea about South America now.

I changed the last country on the trip to Colombia, instead of Ecuador, essentially due to entry requirements and not wanting a hassle. Unfortunately since I have a paper ticket this means I have to have my whole ticket reissued, I envision a long time at the Qantas ticketing desk at the airport possibly even longer than I was on hold at American Airlines for…

A side note, I am just thinking about this because I’m overhearing some people right now. The conversations in a hostel range so incredibly, last night there were several people discussing physics, atoms and the universe in a relatively in depth manor and right now there’s a couple people comparing asian countries on how easy to get and cheap the uh, hash was.  Never a dull moment!

six months in

Tuesday, February 17th, 2009

I have been on this trip for 6 months now and so far it’s just about all been fantastic, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, New Zealand and Australia.  However the last few weeks haven’t been up to the previous standard.

The two weeks before I ended up in the hospital, I hadn’t really done much, hadn’t had a desire to do much and didn’t have any of my usual desire to go new places and see new things.  Then I ended up being ill, culminating with the hospital stay.

Basically what happened was once the Australian Open finished, which had my complete attention for 2 weeks, instead of shifting my attention onto something else I just slipped into some kind of slumber.  I suppose this was bound to happen at some point on this trip, and since I’ve been in the same place for 6 weeks now it was probably inevitable here.

This trip is all about discovery and experiencing new things, I just had a momentary lapse of concentration I guess you could call it.  The worse thing about it was I didn’t realize it was happening until I was in the hospital, time to think I suppose.  After that I had to reconnect with something, so the evening after I was discharged from the hospital I sat on the floor of my room, the only place no one was around, pulled out the guitar and played around with it for a good few hours, by the end of my impromptu solo jam session I had written a complete song, something I haven’t done in a good year or two.  And it was easier to write than anything I’ve written before.  I reaffirmed the fact that I am a musician and a song writer, that I love doing it and that I am serious about it.  Amazing what a few months absence of that from my life made me discover when I picked it up again in a focused way.

So after that reaffirmation, me other realization kicked in full gear and I started going into travel planning overdrive, and I do that very, very well.. hehehe.  In one day I booked 3 flights, and made a basic outline of my next 2 1/2 months in Australia.  I’m going to Tasmania in 3 weeks, back to Melbourne for the Grand Prix at the end off March and then off to Perth & Western Australia.  I also have a list of all the things I want to do and see in Victoria while I’m still here, 3 weeks is enough time but I’m glad I came to this realization now and not in another week or two!

Ironically, after months of living in hostel dorms, most of the time not knowing where I would be 2 nights in the future, living out of a backpack, carrying said backpack around, dealing with people not speaking any English and all the other daily things that go along with travel I’m not sick of that stuff in the slightest, in fact I relish it.  Sort of perversely it was the fact that I didn’t have to do most of those things the last few weeks that got to me.  I got too comfortable and lost perspective.

Now I feel great, I have regained my appetite for exploration with vigor.  I also get my permit to busk in the city this week, so I can spend the time I’m not off exploring the rest of Victoria, playing guitar and hopefully making a bit of cash.  6 months gone, 7 more to go, never been looking forward to it more.