July 27, 2014

Enlightening Self-inflicted Ruin Travel

JakartaPunkMarcoFerrarese

The air is unbreathable, hot, and terribly humid. The air conditioner perched at the top of the wall at my right is just an empty plastic shell that reminds me that there could be some extra comfort, if someone had cared to replace the wiring. Instead, rivulets of sweat pour down my forehead and temples, sliding down my spine and flowing over the small of my back, soaking into the elastic of my underwear. I had to take my shirt off to endure this first Indonesian live test.

               “Cut the set short, I can’t breathe…” Sam screams from behind the drums, his man-boobs twitch, lucid with sweat.

               “Why man? They are loving it!” I answer screaming on top of amplifier white noise between two songs.

               “I said cut it fucker, I can’t fucking breathe! I am feeling sick! There’s no air!”

OK then, roger.

This is the best travel I have done recently, hands down.

We are at the back of Khansa Studio’s rehearsal room in Pamulang, somewhere in the sprawling suburbs of Jakarta, nestled between a row of halfstacks and a small melee of young Indonesian hardcore punk believers. They are probably twenty, but the room’s so cramped it feels like they are hundreds, all blowing hot air in our faces. One has just finished walking up the wall to my right, supported by a bunch of other lunatics pushing him at the small of his back. From my perspective, I believe for a moment that the room is rolling sideways, and this guy’s trying to run with it. When Sam hits the last of four strokes with his sticks, we launch into the last song of the night, and I wonder if this still makes sense. Looking at how the kids spin and jump and crawl on top of each other, forcing me to step back against the amps, I am tempted to say “yes”. But reflecting on the fact that I am sweating as if I were playing guitar inside of a Finnish sauna, our drummer is having a respiratory crisis, and tonight – and for the rest of this tour – we will never get paid a single rupiah, my European heritage materializes with a hammer to smash the bubble of underground dedication right before my eyes. Why are you doing this, Marco?

I don’t know. Probably because these days I only conceive traveling as a concoction of brutal anthropology, self-inflicted ruin and mind-numbing exploration of the weirdest fringes available in the world. But it does indeed make me feel good, for I know that I’m probably not the only one, but certainly one of the few, to have had this vision and this cross. Suddenly all of the problematic divides among travelers and tourists disappear, because they are not important anymore. I’m only trying to make my time on Earth meaningful to my own self, I guess. Is there anything wrong with it?

MARCO FERRARESE is a metalpunk guitarist who travelled extensively and lived in Italy, the United States, China, Australia and Malaysia. Since 2009 he’s been based in Southeast Asia as a writer, hardcore punk musician and researcher. He travelled from Mongolia to Australia in 2009, and hitchhiked from Singapore to Milano through Silk Road routes and the Middle East in 2012. He blogs at monkeyrockworld.com. Marco’s first Asian pulp novel Nazi Goreng  was published in November 2013 on Monsoon Books. Follow him @monkeyrockworld

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Category: Adventure Travel, Asia, On The Road

July 25, 2014

Lost in the crowd when traveling?

Lost in a Crowd

(Lost in a Crowd – photo by Keoni Cabral)

This week I’m in San Francisco, after riding my motorcycle from Washington. First, I have to say – the ride down the PCH was in-damn-credible! Thanks to a friend’s suggestions, I got off the PCH near Fortuna and took the Avenue of the Giants scenic route. Who would have thought that there was a scenic route to an already incredible scenic route? I’ll write more about this another time. Take my recommendation, though, if you are ever in southern Oregon, take 199 West and to 101 South, then just take that as far as you’re able. Here’s a couple pictures to wet your appetite.

Trinity at the Pacific Ocean

(Trinity and I at the Pacific Ocean)

Avenue of the Giants

(Avenue of the Giants)

Now – this week, I wanted to ask a question. When you travel to busy, vibrant locations (big cities and such) – do you feel a bit lost? A bit secluded?

The other night, I was talking with my friend Boris, who I met when trekking through Siberia (a real awesome guy, btw). Anyway – we were discussing what it was like to visit a large city like San Francisco when you’re traveling solo. We both felt that if you don’t already know someone there, it’s easy to feel a bit alone. It’s the reason he gave me some things to do in SF; recommendations that would get me started and he also introduced me to some of his friends.

Truth is – often when I’m traveling solo, I feel the need to some alone time to acclimate. I remember going to Göteborg, Sweden a few years ago. It was a great place to hang out with a vibrant night life. Before I could venture out, though, I had to spend about a day alone in the hotel to absorb the new environment. Only after that did I feel comfortable in going out to explore the city. Yet, on every adventure I’ve been on, I’m often traveling as part of a small group. In those instances, I felt comfortable in most situations (well – except for some really sketchy ones). I was able to jump right in and explore the surroundings.

I noticed the same thing at World Domination Summit a few weeks ago. I was fortunate to have a lot of friends to hang out with and springboard from; but, it’s something that I would have struggled with otherwise. I find that with small, intimate destinations it’s much easier for me to get involved and to be a vibrant part. Once there’s too many people, I tend to step back and observe, rather than participating.

I’m interested to hear your thoughts – is this just part of my introvert tendencies – or is this a more common feeling?

Chris Plough writes and podcasts at oznog.com, where he shares stories and advice from his adventures and from the incredible people that he’s met along the way. You can also follow him on twitter: @chrisplough.

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Category: North America, On The Road, Solo Travel

July 22, 2014

Long term travel with a family: You have to really want to do this

Camping with kids

“You really have to WANT to do this, don’t you, Dear?”

Ann’s words have echoed in my mind as her sweet, octogenarian face has pleasantly haunted my afternoon walks. We wandered slowly through the natural bridge outside of Waitomo with her and her husband, Ross. I quietly got the kids’ attention and encouraged them to walk more slowly behind him, and not press forward as he did his aged best to step over tree roots and up the rocky stairs to the high meadow where we laughed together about the crazy idea of standing in the presence of 3 million year old oysters. Tony gave him a leg up over the fences. He laughed, good-naturedly, when the boys leapt out from behind blackberry bushes with a roar, as he had undoubtedly done forty years before I took my first breath.

Ann was hand washing for the two of them in a little tub out the back of her camper van, using water that Ross was bringing, one bucket at a time from the bridge. He’d lower the bucket the twenty or so feet to the surface with a long rope and then haul it up, mostly full, hand over hand before delivering it to his white haired wife. By the time she was done rinsing he was there to help her wring out his trousers, one on each end, twisting hard, and hang the clothes from a line he’s strung under the awning.

She commiserated with me over hand washing for six, producing meals for an army on two burners in a three foot square space, and the difficulties of adventuring with children. She’d raised a tribe too, in her day, and they’d camped the length and breadth of their island homes. Perhaps she’s a premonition of myself.

You have to really WANT to do this.

I’ve been thinking about that statement, and the layers of meaning it embodies.

Truth be told, living this way is a lot of work. Staying home is far and away easier. But the best things in life are always the things that require the most from us, that we have to work our rear-ends off to achieve. The things we are proudest of mean so much to us because they’ve cost us the most.

Marriage is like that.

Raising kids is like that.

Traveling is like that.

All three together is the perfect storm of all that and two bags of chips.

There was so much encouragement in Ann’s face as we talked and washed and shared “mama” stories. The older I get the more I appreciate the stories of old women. I think because I’m just beginning to understand the many-layered thing that a woman’s life is, stretched thin over the better part of a century. Perhaps it’s because I can see myself in their eyes more clearly than I could at twenty, or thirty.

You have to really WANT to do this.

So many people give up. They give up on the thing they really, really want to do. There are so many reasons: It gets too hard. It costs too much. It hurts too badly. It isn’t what we signed up for. Someone else fails us. We fail ourselves. It’s inconvenient. It’s easier to stay home, in some capacity. We feel that we don’t deserve it, aren’t “worth” it. It’s a fight.

I’ve been thinking lots about the things I really want to do. The big things and the small things. The hard things and the harder things.The things that seem mundane, like staying married until I’m in my eighties, raising kids who are productive citizens and learning to write. The things that seem like pipe dreams too: seeing Antarctica, changing the world, and successfully handing my parents’ legacy to my grandkids.  I really, really want to do these things.

For tonight, the things I really want to do included cooking 3 kilos of meat, enough potatoes, cheesy cauliflower & salad for an army, making a double batch of ginger cookies and making my husband laugh until he was squirming to get away from me, which is an accomplishment. I want to sit and sip my tea, munch my still warm ginger treat and thank the gods that be for friends who love me enough to mail me the exact type of tea that keeps me from killing the children; who I want so desperately to strangle sometimes when we all are living in 126 square feet. And I’m willing to live in 126 square feet of rolling space because I really, really want, quite desperately, to make their childhood epic and not to miss a moment of it.

What do you really want to do?

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Category: Family Travel, Oceania, On The Road

July 13, 2014

Lessons from a tour guide, part I

This week I returned from a month and a half overseas working as a tour guide, helping to lead two different groups on an epic Best-of-Europe grand tour. The experience was a new one for me; after years of exploring the continent’s cobbled backstreets and ancient cities as a solo travel writer, I found myself with the unique opportunity of being a guide for one of America’s most well-respected touring companies.

plane image for blog

A couple of concerns dogged me as I flew over the Arctic Circle, the plane making its slow path from my home base of Seattle to the tour departure point of Amsterdam. Questions like, how would I be able to handle a large group as we steam across the continent day in and day out? And, how will the mechanics of moving groups from one site to the other in an efficient way work? But these concerns paled next to the most significant challenge: Helping the scores of American travelers connect to the history and culture of the places they came so far to experience.

Staring out my window at the endless expanse of the north Atlantic, I began to feel the weight of the responsibility settle into my gut. How do I curate this experience for our flock? I’d always done it for myself just fine; teaching others how to appreciate the richness of Europe was something I’d never needed to do beyond my writing. It was easy enough to crank out articles about the places I’d visited and about the treasures—the food, the history, the people, all the things that make up the culture—those places had to offer. Would I be able to help our travelers connect to them and appreciate them in the same way that I did?

A final goodbye to the group near the Eiffel Tower at dusk.

A final goodbye to the group near the Eiffel Tower at dusk.

The teaching I’d done before—giving free travel talks at public libraries to would-be travelers who were interested in learning how to create their own independent European adventure—was indispensable. The classes I’d taught had given me a sense of what tickled a traveler’s fancy and what common-sense issues they worried about. This gave me the advantage of being able to anticipate questions and concerns, sometime before the group members even knew they had them.

The true challenge was facilitating the tour member’s experience of the culture. It was in trying to cast new food experiences as a part of good travel, as “sightseeing for your palate”. It was in helping them fend off museum overload by urging them to see the art of the Louvre and the Accademia with their hearts rather than their mind. It was in not rushing through another “check the box” locale (don’t rush through St. Mark’s square, I counseled, just take your time and find your own way to relate to the space). And it was in fending off cathedral overload by teaching that architecture was art we walk through—art that took generations of devoted believers and craftsman to create—rather than just another drafty old building.

Helping the group appreciate the elegant, historic decay of Venice is a challenge when the city is crowded and hot.

venice 1

Finally I kept the old teacher’s maxim close to my heart: “The task of the teacher is to honor the integrity of fact while at the same time igniting the student’s imagination.”

Over the course of the following weeks I’d work on striking that balance, always trying to bring long-ago stories and long-dead people to Technicolor life. Success for the tour guide also means the tourists returning home knowing that the struggles, the tragedies and triumphs of those who inhabited the majestic castles and cobbled city streets so long ago set the stage for the world as we know it today.

The trick to achieving that was helping them forge an emotional connection to the events a given site had witnessed; that its history was not just a collection of faceless dates and facts, but human beings with hopes and dreams who lived in similarly dramatic times of war, economic uncertainty and dramatic social change. Those folks tried to make the best of it, and somehow got through it. We can too. But more than just the appreciation of history, it’s the appreciation of the culture that really informs a successful travel experience. My hope is that the tour members came away with a renewed perspective on how Europe’s endlessly varied tapestry of cultures, while wonderfully diverse, are similar to our own in the most fundamentally human ways.

If you ever find yourself in the trying but satisfying role as tour guide, I think you’ll find that those lessons are your tour members’ best souvenirs.

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Category: Europe, Languages and Culture, Notes from the collective travel mind, On The Road, Travel Writing, Vagabonding Case Studies, Vagabonding Life

July 11, 2014

Lesson from Siberia: making it till morning

Camping in Siberia

(Camping in Siberia)

Earlier this year, I rode a Ural motorcycle and sidecar through Siberia, up 1800km of ice roads and ending in the Arctic Circle. It was one hell of a journey which taught me how to survive in extreme sub-zero temperatures. More importantly, it expanded my limits and showed me what I was capable of.

One of the most important lessons happened on the second night of the trip – our first attempt camping out. Now, I don’t know about you, but I had never camped in extreme cold before. Sure – I had tested out my equipment on a -20C night in South Dakota, but there is a world of difference once you get below -30C. That night was mild, compared to the rest of the trip, but it still hit -32C.

So – we setup camp and tried to building a fire. We could make a lot of smoke, but couldn’t get a strong fire blazing. Fortunately, with the help of a good MSR camp stove, we were able to boil enough water to fill our bellies with pelmeni. Around 9pm we called it a night. I was riding solo, so I had a tent to myself. Quickly I stripped down to base layers and stuffed the upper layers into my sleeping bag to keep them from freezing. After the long day, I fell asleep quickly.

Waking up inside the tent

(Waking up inside the tent)

Around midnight, I woke up and realized that I couldn’t feel my toes. Now, one of my biggest fears was getting frostbite and loosing a few digits. I could feel the panic rising; but, after a few slow breaths, I was able to get it under control. I tried flexing my toes, but they wouldn’t move. I took a moment to think about my options – get up and try to get my blood flowing? Aside from my feet, I was warm enough in the sleeping bag. I didn’t know how much body heat I’d lose by getting out. I wasn’t sure how well I’d be able to stand on my numb feet. Too many unknowns, so I decided to stay where I was and move my legs to get blood flowing. After a few minutes of that, my core was getting warmer, but my toes were still numb. Time for a different tack. I had just enough room in my sleeping bag to bring one foot at a time up within reach. I used my hands to manually flex my toes and warmed them up by contact. After a few minutes, I could feel them again and was able to move them just a bit. I switched feet and repeated.

Each time I would put a foot down to work on the other one, it would go numb again. I just couldn’t seem to keep them going without working them with my hands. I kept at it. After I was sure eons had passed, I checked the time, only to be disappointed that only a few minutes had gone by. I began to think things through – I had several hours to go until the sun would come out and temperatures would begin to rise. Would I be able to make it until morning? Did I have another choice?

So that eternally long night, I kept at it – switching feet every few minutes and wishing I could fast forward to morning. I couldn’t control time, though, all I had control over was my will to endure. I began to relax and just focused on the task at hand.  Eventually, the sun began to rise. As soon as the inside of the tent began to glow, I breathed a sigh of relief and knew that I would be okay.

The moment I knew I'd be okay

(The moment I knew I’d be okay)

I’ve been taught that lesson before – but sometimes a reminder is necessary. Relax, breath and just focus on what is right in front of you. Keep at it long enough and you’ll eventually make it through to the other side.

Later on during the trip, I camped out in harsher temperatures (-43C) but had a much easier time. Partially I’d say it was due to my body acclimating the the environment and also because I learned a couple tricks — like filling a water bottle with boiling water and putting it at the bottom of your sleeping bag to warm it up. That definitely prolongs your comfort and allows you to get a bit of sleep – but trust me, either way, the mornings are still painful.

It’s funny how that these moments turn into a fond memory. Time and distance do strange things.

Chris Plough writes and podcasts at oznog.com, where he shares stories and advice from his adventures and from the incredible people that he’s met along the way. You can also follow him on twitter: @chrisplough.

 

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Category: Adventure Travel, Asia, On The Road, Vagabonding Advice

July 9, 2014

Vagabonding Field Report: flat tires and bumpy road adventures (while pregnant) in Costa Rica

Playa Bejuco - 21

Cost/day: $50/day

What’s the strangest thing that’s happened lately?

We left the beach life in Nicaragua and are housesitting in the mountains of Costa Rica, above San Jose.

I’m 8 1/2 months pregnant, but that doesn’t stop us from taking a trip to the beach after we’ve been here a couple of weeks. You can see the ocean from our house in the mountains of Costa Rica, but it appears deceptively close. What we think will be a short drive to enjoy the sun and waves, turns into a 2 hour bumpy, off-road adventure and a flat tire.

I hope I don’t go into labor. ;)

Playa Bejuco - 06

Describe a typical day:

Our days have been spent at home at the mountain house, preparing for the birth of our sixth child.

But today we decided to take a trip to the beach today. Two bumpy hours and a flat tire later we finally arrived. The beach was large, the sun shone high, we picked fresh coconuts from the tree and found sand dollars in the sand.

Playa Bejuco - 41

What do you like about where you are? Dislike?

Like: Costa Rica is a beautiful country. We love being back (we lived here in 2007-2008). We’re excited to explore it once more — the beaches, rainforests, oceans, waterfalls and rivers.

Dislike: After living in Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua for the last 1 1/2 years, Costa Rica is comparatively more expensive — housing, food and activities… but I think we’ll adjust. We’re loving it here.

Playa Bejuco - 32

Describe a challenge you faced:

I’ve had all my babies at home (except for my adopted daughter ;) ) I’d like to have this one at home in Costa Rica, but we’ve been working out logistics… can the midwife make it in time? Is there a hospital nearby?

Greg Rachel Pregnant Costa Rica

What new lesson did you learn?

Every travel experience offers joy and disappointment, pleasure and pain, beauty and the unsightly. Traveling well is learning how to embrace both… still true.

Where next?

Staying put here for a while… I’m sure you can guess why. ;)

Learn how to become location independent this year, connect with me on Facebook, or join our Fantastic Family Fridays.

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Category: Central America, Family Travel, Vagabonding Field Reports

July 8, 2014

How to make the most of your Australian Working Holiday Visa

For many graduates, myself included, a year out to travel the world is seen as a stepping stone on the path to adulthood. Post degree but prior to entering into the working world, a year abroad can provide a few life lessons that are seldom taught within the curriculum of modern education.

The ability to adapt to new circumstances, overcome challenges and stride out forging your own path in life, travel educates in a way that not even the most accomplished and engaging teacher can.

One of the most popular opportunities for graduates seeking the chance to travel is a twelve month Australian Working Holiday Visa. Available to residents of over twenty five countries this visa provides the chance to live and work abroad, explore one of the most diverse continents on the planet and take a class in life that forces you to leap outside your comfort zone.

nullarbor-sky-wanderlusters-com

The Milky Way seen from the Nullarbor Plain by Benjamin Jones

Planning twelve months in Australia

One year sounds like ample time to explore one country. However thanks to the sheer scale of the Australian continent and the wealth of landscapes to explore, twelve months will fly past in the blink of an eye when you’re Down Under.

If you’re considering taking the opportunity to sample life in Australia then I highly recommend you take the time to consider exactly what you hope to get out of your stay.

Do you intend to base yourself in one place and seek employment in the field in which you studied while at University? Fly by the seat of your pants and take cash in hand work as you travel across all six states? Perhaps there are certain parts of the country you’re desperate to see and so want to plan an epic road trip?

Whatever you want to do while you’re Down Under here are a few suggestions to help you make the most of your twelve month stay.

Enhance your CV with foreign employment in your field

A working holiday visa is not something every country offers foreign nationals visiting its shores, so consider making the most of the chance to gain employment abroad. If you’re considering immigrating to Australia making connections within the industry you intend to work is invaluable.

A few months prior to your arrival research employers in your sector and reach out to them with your CV detailing your skills and qualifications, and inspiring them to hire you during your stay.

Check online job listings regularly and apply before you arrive. Don’t limit yourself to one location, search countrywide for the greatest chance of success.

Note that under the terms of the visa you are only eligible to work for any one employer for a maximum of six months.

Useful links;

http://www.gumtree.com.au/

http://www.simplyhired.com.au/

http://www.jobsearch.gov.au/

http://www.seek.com.au/

Take an epic road trip across all six states

If you’ve managed to save a few dollars prior to your arrival in Australia then a road trip of epic proportions is one way to maximize your time on the red continent. While the adventure itself will offer an education of unimaginable significance, the experience will help to shape the person you are as you stride out into the big bad world.

Take to the highway and immerse yourself in the heritage of Victoria’s Great Ocean Road, head Ouback and explore the barren red center, explore shipwrecks off the Queensland coast and swim with Dolphins in Western Australia.

Consult the Vagablogging guides to buying a campervan in Australia and selling a vehicle at the end of your stay to ensure you invest wisely, have a hassle free trip and potentially earn a small profit when your adventure is over. Don’t forget you could also earn a few bucks towards your fuel costs by providing a cost effective transport service to other travelers heading the same way as you!

winnebago-nsw-australia (Custom)

Winifred the Winnebago by Benjamin Jones

Live rent free and see Australia by House Sitting

The concept of house sitting is fast becoming recognized as a tool that can subsidize the cost of accommodation when travelling. In short it offers house and pet owners a low cost option for property and pet care, while providing rent free accommodation for travelers.

If you want to see numerous parts of Australia but don’t have the desire to be on the move for your entire stay, then house and pet sitting is something you should consider. With the chance to live like a local on a reduced daily budget, a house sitting assignment could provide respite from periods of travel and employment.

It’s important to note that some assignments are unsuitable for sitters who are not financially self-sufficient for the duration of their stay, so if you intend to seek employment while house sitting you must mention this in your application. Consider also the logistics of travelling to and from assignments, as well as your transport needs during your stay.

Volunteer for unforgettable experiences

Volunteering is something many associate with charity work but there are a range of volunteer options for those who visit Australia on a working holiday visa. Those travelling on a reduced budget should consider the benefits of an exchange arrangement whereby you donate your time in exchange for room and board.

Australia is well known for its seasonal work and backpackers are often recruited to pick fruit, tend to livestock and assist on rural properties. HelpX is an online listing of host organic farms, non-organic farms, farm stays, homestays, ranches, lodges, B&Bs, backpackers hostels and even sailing boats willing to offer backpackers free lodging in exchange for their help.

Further useful links;

http://govolunteer.com.au/

http://www.conservationvolunteers.com.au/

http://www.wwoof.com.au/

fossicking-qld-wanderlusters-com

Fossicking in the Queensland Outback by Benjamin Jones

Have you spent twelve months or more in Australia? How would you recommend those on a Working Holiday Visa maximize their stay in the country?

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Category: General, Oceania

July 2, 2014

Vagabonding Field Report: UNESCO World Heritage Site, Luang Prabang, Laos

Cost/day:

$30/day per person

What’s the strangest thing you’ve seen lately?

A stroll through the Luang Prabang morning market brought something different to my senses every time. One morning, I saw a woman with a pile of chickens on the ground for sale. I thought the chickens were dead, but one of them started to get up and the woman shushed it like a dog and it laid back down. A little further down, a large tub of massive frogs awaited purchase next to huge cuts of fish and pig faces staring back at me. Most of the food lay on the ground on tarps.

JuneVaga10

Describe a typical day:

After breakfast, homeschool and work are completed in the morning, we head out to do things like swim in the Mekong, visit the unexploded ordinances center, take a hands-on class in traditional weaving and natural dyeing or rice farming. We did a lot of wandering around the beautiful, quiet town just getting lost and finding little gems as well as riding a motorbike on the outskirts of town.

JuneVaga4

 

JuneVaga2

Describe an interesting conversation you had with a local:

It was interesting talking with our guide from the rice farming course. He graduated from college, spoke English very well and told us he could have chosen to work in an office. In fact, for a time he had worked in an office. But he grew up near the farm and the idea of being able to work outside everyday was more appealing to him than sitting in an office, even if it meant he would be paid less.  (more…)

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Category: Asia, Vagabonding Field Reports

June 27, 2014

Enjoy the ride

 

Chris Plough - Guadalupe Mountains - 2014

(Riding past the Guadalupe Mountains)

I was planning to write about learning to throw axes during my last trip to Toronto. About how it reminded me to get out of my head and flow in the moment. That the moment I started laughing, that’s exactly what would happen and my throws became more accurate. I’ll write about it another time, though, because today I learned that my grandfather has passed away.

He had an incredible impact on my life and is a large part of why I’ve become the man I am. Though he was a great man, I’m not going to write about him either. First – it’s much to fresh and I don’t have perspective yet. Second – this blog is about us, learning about how travel has made our lives better.

Instead, I’m going to write about why I’m grateful that I’m able to ride my motorcycle across three thousand miles of this beautiful country. Right now – I can’t imagine anything better than cruising through the incredible landscapes of the Southwestern United States, then up the Pacific Coast Highway.

I don’t know about you – but for some reason, I’ve always found driving and riding to be almost meditative. After a few hours on the road, it always seems that the gates to my subconscious pry open and I’m flooded with thoughts, ideas… emotions. All those things that we seem to seem to suppress during our minor-crisis and Facebook filled days.

How about you? When do you find that moment? I know some people who find it when running; others when meditating; and more than a few after a judicious portion of psychedelic drugs.

This is one of the main reasons that I love traveling. I mean, aside from meeting interesting people and seeing/smelling/hearing/feeling a new place. The act of traveling – of being on the road – brings me a sense of contentment. Of course, even that has its limits. After 14 hours in a truck, I’m usually beat and need to pull over for a nap. On a bike, anything over 7 hours makes my butt ache – a lot.

Again – how about you? Do you seek the destination or the journey? Both? Think back on your last few trips – which memories burn the brightest? Were they from the destination — or from somewhere along the way?

All I know is that I’m grateful that I get to spend the next couple of weeks in the saddle, flying across long stretches of highway. Right now it’s about the journey.

Chris Plough writes and podcasts at oznog.com, where he shares stories and advice from his adventures and from the incredible people that he’s met along the way. You can also follow him on twitter: @chrisplough.

 

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Category: General, North America, On The Road, Solo Travel, Vagabonding Life

June 22, 2014

Roadtrip: Czech Republic to Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, and back

I recently had the experience to travel by car from Czech Republic to Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, and back. I was in the company of my fiance and his mother, the latter speaking only Czech, while I speak almost only English. Our situation had an interesting dynamic, but we had a lovely week camping, walking around cities, passing time in the car, and trying out local food. Unfortunately the weather was colder and rainier that we had hoped for, and camping in thunderstorms and snow was quite an unexpected adventure.

We started in Prague, and headed south to Austria. We didn’t have much of a plan, just a week to spare for traveling, and our first night we wound up camping on the side of the road. We cooked a small meal and went to bed somewhat early to get a quick start the next day.

We stopped briefly in Mariazell, Austria, but other than that we were in a rush to get to Slovenia. We found a campsite in near Lake Bled that was really really nice. They had showers, a pub/restaurant, free wifi, and the grounds were well kept and clean. A few miles walk through the woods and along the road would lead you to Lake Bled. The weather was perfect.

Lake Bled was probably one of the most picturesque places I’ve been. There are swans, castles, a thick forest, and the sunset over the lake was perfect. The campsite near by was fun, but I can imagine that staying in a hotel right on the lake would be a very nice experience as well.

After a couple of days in Slovenia, we headed to Croatia. Our first stop was at the waterfalls in Plitvice. The entrance fee was around $30, but the views were worth it. We only had a couple of hours because we got there later in the day, but again, worth it. We camped in Plitvice for the night, where it stormed non-stop.
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