ON THE WRITE PATH: travel journal for Around-the-World in 2015, 16, 18.
For there are many paths.
A tlog. A travel blog. A keeping-track of my trials, er.. travels.
February 26, 2015 until ... June 18,2015.
January 12, 2016 until February 15, 2016.
November 13 to 30 2018
... 2019, 2020...
Will include: Hawai'i, Japan, Australia, South Africa, Untied Arab Emirates, Portugal, Norway, Ireland and... (2015) ... Norway and Estonia (2016), México (2018), Taiwan, Balkans, Baltics, Turkey, Cota Rica, Nicaragua.
Vi får se.
"Where I have traveled, stayed and visited. Over 178 places."
|A recent-travel assessment prodded by Sumojo 1
1. I am out-of-practice with speaking to strangers, youth and fellow travelers. Perhaps others are too. That said, there are more working-nomads less amenable to conversation. Gen-Z hides more behind electronics than Millenials. I think folks find conversation more awkward in general, especially with strangers.
2. My relationship with others has shifted. I'm no longer the quirky uncle... more like the doddering grandpa. I've definitely slowed down since Taiwan 2020 and I was having physical issues even then. That said, Portugal was good for my legs (tiring, but good).
3. I truthfully do not have the energy for 18 hour days. 12 is more like it and even less at times. Less energy = not joining in on activities, not moving around as much in the past. Doing less = less to share, fewer people to share it with.
4. Two years of doing 'nothing' has upped the 'I'm boring' factor. Even at home... what to talk about? Most folks in Montana, here at WdC, at fb, avoid discussing racial or social issues. No one watches Thai TV or is interested in BL series (except Shannon ).
5. I oddly connected with Brasilians. My attempt to speak Portuguese disarmed some, especially Ellison from Bahia, who couldn't believe I've never been to Brasil. I speak with a Brasilian accent. My language skills improved a bit.
6. My natural social-awkwardness was apparent at times. I really goofed in Lagos. I'm good at initiating conversations, but not as good at listening. Matthew from Ireland, who I met in Lisboa at the end of my trip, is a natural connector and 'can opener'.
7. I was sick on-and-off. Coughing in Faro and Silves didn't help much. Vomiting/diarrhea in Evora didn't either. I know people were concerned. I also cough if I over-exert myself. I lost weight and frankly, stank more than usual. Laundry was an issue at times.
8. Being alone in a room (Silves, Castro Verde) and almost alone (Evora) was a godsend under the circumstances; but, being alone doesn't lead to many opportunities for interactions.
9. Stress was a factor at the beginning and end of the trip. Changing my flights and arranging covid tests took up time. Not properly planning led to a couple 'hiccups' (nothing major).
10. In general, the trip did not go as smoothly as hoped for. Social hostels (The Independente in Lisboa and TAGhostel in Lagos) went better than other places. But I did make friends, like Evelyn (Poland/Germany) in Lagos/Faro. I will do a separate entry on people.
|A comment to Stik:
When I wanted to visit Romania it was $500 less to fly to Munich... so I did... but it was Oktober and I stay away from beerfests so I got on a bus and spent my first night in Prague figuring I'd get to see Munich on the way back. I saw a friend in Prague because I was worried about his depression and ate Chinese at his family restaurant. The next day he wanted to eat at McDonalds because he ate Chinese every day. Of course Prague isn't a suburb of Bucharest so I visited Bratislava, BudaPest, and Belgrade (just because it's in between, broke up the trip and it's not a tourist hot spot). I still wasn't in Romania... albeit next door. I continued to Timisoira, Sibiu, Sigisoira and Brasov before finally arriving in Bucharest. I specifically wanted to visit Raluca who I met at WDC. She's an architect and she gave me a grand tour of the outside museum of buildings gathered from all corners of her country. As a student she had spent many hours studying there. Then back to Munich where I watched surfers on the river and flew home.
So much of that trip was doing whatever wherever whenever I could and seeing, smelling, listening, touching and tasting along the way. I never got back to any of those places except Belgrade. I've gone back twice.
For me the purpose was seeing friends, but the journey was to be savored e.v.e.r.y day.
|I was in deep anguish at a school in the Great Lakes. I will not mention it. I despised my roommate; the feeling was mutual. I couldn't drop out unless I wanted a one-way ticket to Viet Nam. My draft number was #49. I was a goner. I decided to switch schools.
I had been invited to visit Yale that January (my only stay in Connecticut) and I knew I wanted to move to a university that was a ... university. I voraciously consumed college brochures. Oh, how naive I was!
I told my father I was going to visit Kansas. My parents must've known how desperate I was. I had never been west of Ohio Rte 7.
My father changed his vacation to March and he drove there in the '68 Dodge Polara (a car I really liked). This was special because we weren't that close (my father tried; I was just unreachable).
So... first time: Indiana, flat as a pancake Illinnoy, Misery, to Dorothy's home where the highway signs were marked by sunflowers, then back through Oklahoma, Cotton Plant, ArKansas, loooong Taenihseeee, West VA and the cold cold Spring of the North.
I only got to visit U. Kansas. My father refused to stop when we drove right past U. Tennessee. So with no other option I chose to become a Jayhawk.
I showed up at Kansas University in August. Can't anyone say heat stroke? My family dropped me off while they continued to the Grand Canyon. I've never been there.
This road trip may have saved my life. I couldn't stay where I was in spite of how lovely the region was with it waterfalls and walnut trees, the lovely view of the Beautiful Valley.
My first semester as a Jayhawk was basking in the sun and healing in the warmth of the friendly people that called Kansas their home.
Posted in "Blogville "
|I'm practicing my breathing today. I'm not all here.
I'm a ghost moving among grandchildren unseen and left to my musings as I sit in the guest house, the hosts young enough to be my children, their own children full grown. I'm invisible, watching time eddy around street vendors and travelers frolicking in groups. I gather my thoughts, as if I could hold them, pretend that the movement around me could be woven into a new life, one full of the promise of tomorrow.
I'm in Bang Saen dreaming of crabs hidden in the mangroves of Ang Sila, the monkeys of Khao Sam Muk, the walk to the temple of Wat Ko Loi in Si Racha. Or I'm in Phimai taking photos among the ruins of the Khmer. A ghost with a camera. Or I'm wherever there is life ... I'm just not here.
I listen to Radio Rad (FM 89.5) in Khon Kaen to try to stay wake. The dishes are washed and I started on the refrigerator. Angie thinks I really need to get back to cleaning. So does Travis. Dalton wanted to visit yesterday; but, I said no. I'm not ready for visitors.
I just don't want to be here. My friend Ann from Washington is in Paris. Anna Maria from Estonia is there too, visiting Isla. Cecilie from Tromso is in Oslo (but I know she'd rather be in Paris). If I left tomorrow could I see them all? I'd settle for Portugal.
I'm practicing my breathing but I did eat. And I've had a couple cups of coffee. I guess I'm not going to have much trouble finding coffee in Thailand (chorreado like in Costa Rica). The culture has some passive/aggressive aspects in common with Costa Rica. This isn't good news; but, at least I know from experience how important it is to not share what I think.
Do ghosts have voices? I'd love to find out. I'm in Maha Sarakham on a rainy day reminiscing about Wat Photaram and its Thai Noi inscriptions as I write my name in centuries old cursive. And I'm drinking coffee at Elefin in Roi Et gazing across the lake. Do ghosts drink? Do they remember their name?
Posted in "Blogville "
|Elfin Dragon-finally published asks: Time to let your Snail Mail friends know what you've been up to and maybe even what you're planning. And here are some other things we're putting in the newsletter as well... "The Snail Mail Forum"
l) Let us know what (or how) you're doing.
18 months of not leaving town ... and you ask?
2) News Around the World - Are there any news items you'd like to share with us which caught your eye? Are there any COVID updates which we need to be aware of?
Numbers sky high in Montana. Hospitals filling up. 63% vaxxed here in Missoula. 43% outside of Glacier Park. Only 50% statewide. Please don't visit Montana unless you are young, healthy and vaxxed.
Lots of turmoil and uncertainty worldwide. Affects travel but not the mail so much.
3) Pen Pal Letter Ideas - Do you have any ideas to share with us on what to send/write for getting that new letter written?
Make a copy of a short story or poem (unless you want to write it out long hand) and include it with a card. Sign it, date it, number it, whatever... Consider stapling it to the card, using the card as a cover.
I may do this because international rates from the US are the same whether it's a postcard or a letter or a card. I have a thousand and one poems. I'm sure I could find a few to send. I could take a piece of paper fold it into quarters and have 8 pages. Or fold it in half. Why am I not doing this? I need access to a printer.
Stamps ... ask Sonali. She's known for postmarks. Pat Boutilier sent me a card with stickers. I just received a rock.
DO NOT SEND FLOWERS internationally or anything that may upset Customs. Same with cards. Cultural sensitivities can create unwanted problems. For instance... I wouldn't send a postcard of the flag of Taiwan to China.
Don't limit yourself to English if you know another language. I accept calligraphy and watercolors. Make your own postcards.
4) New Addresses - Do you have a new address?
Nope. Same-o, same-o. I'm hidden after December, under "others", because I don't give my birthday out. Address? Sure: PO Box 9036, Missoula, MT 59807.
5) Do you have a suggestion for me, for the Newsletter?
Speaking to myself: if you are tired of where you are at, go elsewhere or do something new. This is an issue with covid. I'm learning some basic Thai these days. Plotting a trip.
posted in "Blogville "
|No Thai (or Taiwanese) ever stands alone.
I laugh at the naive notion that a foreigner may have that he can fight an Asian from certain cultures one-on-one. Ain't happenin'. Start a fight? Be prepared for a brawl and a beating.
Few Thais or Taiwanese travel alone. The 'Noble Survivalist' is a North American myth. People survive in family groups, tribes, circle-of-friends or gangs.
Yes, people do walk alone, take the bus alone, do many things alone; but, going in pairs or groups to a bar, a cafe, school, hiking, biking, is the norm.
Criminal gangs, like the Taiwanese triads, can be a problem if someone steps on their toes (as in business, power, or money issues). Travelers and tourists need only be aware that they shouldn't start fights... ever. But exchange-students and business people need to know more. Once a person enters a culture the rules apply. Ignorance is no longer an excuse.
I break rules in the USA and in Costa Rica because I understand the cultures well. When I travel elsewhere I try to mind my behavior.
Posted in "Blogville "
|Seen on the web: "More than a few Americans fantasize about picking up their lives and moving to some seaside villa in a country where your rent is less than a car payment. It's a fantasy because while it might be affordable, few people actually end up doing it. There are things to consider other than rent when moving to a far-flung beach town. Stuff like "does anyone speak English?" Or "is the food edible?" Or "is there Wi-Fi?" Miss these answers and your turquoise-watered fantasy turns into an experience so stressful you end up back in America before getting your first sun burn."
Color me livid, a bruising purplish puce. 😈
First of all...
Why would you move anywhere, especially abroad, without checking it out first? These silly questions, and yes they are silly, can be answered in three leisurely days.
You have a car? You want to rent a villa? Must be nice. Because... most Americans (this article was aimed at Americans) never want to live like the locals. That would be beneath them. Hint: common folks don't live in villas; common folks don't use cars to go to WalMart every day... if they have a car at all.
If you are worried about the language learn whatever the locals speak. In Thailand that isn't always Thai. It can be Pak-dai around Phuket or Lao in Isan (อีสาน). No... learning a language needn't be as difficult as it seems. Speak it every day and you get better! Mavis Moog learned Italian before moving to Italy. Hint: get over your attitude.
Is the food edible... so 24 million Taiwanese are dying because there's nothing to eat? You don't like noodles or rice? You're scared of msg? You want gluten free (eat rice and rice noodles)? You only eat what you recognize? You want to convert the world to Veganism? Hint: either become flexible or stay home.
Wi-fi... your grandparents lived without wifi. They did not starve or you wouldn't be here. However... it has become a modern necessity. For instance, there's a region west of where Robert Waltz lives, in West Virginia and Virginia (National Radio Quiet Zone (NRQZ) around Green Bank) where using wi-fi and microwave ovens is restricted or prohibited. But they don't have beaches. Beaches like mountains don't always have the same amenities as in town. Hint: learn how to ask.
In other words: Visit! Visit again! Preferably in mosquito or blizzard or smoke or drought season. Don't believe tourist bureaus or developers. Rent for a year before making life-changing decisions. Ask about water, crime, customs, taboos, whatever bugs you. Make friends. Advice: if you can't — go somewhere else.
To summerize: these internet articles are written by White Middle Class Americans who never miss a meal. If that doesn't apply to you, don't take their advice without investigating further. No one mentions the hostility towards people-of-color, those who are different, those who are gay or lesbian, those who are of the wrong religion (including Vegan Vigilantes). Visit and ask questions; you will know.
posted in "Blogville "
|McDonalds versus the World...
Tina-launching into the deep! got me thinking about food. I wrote:
Today: leftover chopped-up chicken with leftover rice and leftover pinto beans, green
salsa, finely chopped cashews. Wonderful.
Some animals can digest half-rotted meat but humans don't do as well. It's why smoking, cooking, salting, sugaring, fermenting and pickling were so necessary. Lots of disgusting food out there that's quite edible and harmless. Raw chicken isn't one of them.
McDonalds is quite edible. But is it food?
Disclaimer: healthier than what I normally eat.
But why eat at a fast food place when you have other choices?
2. In Costa Rica = clean rest rooms.
3. Standardized. You get what you ask for.
4. High standards. Corporate HQ is very strict.
5. You're American and have no clue what real food looks and tastes like.
I can't argue with #2-4.
But it's time to get out of your comfort zone.
1. Start at home. Most towns have some sort of local foods, ethnic restaurants, markets. We have sushi, French pastries, Brazilian, Thai, Mexican (Jalisco) among others. At market: Belorussian, Syrian, Greek.
2. When traveling know the substitutes. Pljeskavica in Serbia (spiced meat patty mixture of pork, beef and lamb) will substitute for hamburgers. Batidos in Costa Rica is basically a smoothie (I like mine with avocado). Korean bingsu is shaved ice as is Costa Rican copos dos leches. Hazelnut spread is cheaper than peanut butter in Europe. In the Balkans use ajvar instead of ketchup.
3. Go to markets. You can see the food! In Taiwan try night markets. In Japan street vendors. If there's a line the food is most likely fresh. I've ordered deep fried mudshrimp in Lugang. Takoyaki in Tokyo and Chaiyi. Swiss rosti (think potato cake) in Tromso in Northern Norway.
4. Pasta and pastries are everywhere. From wheat noodles to rice noodles. Rice and bread are common as are caakes and crackers. The toppings, fillings and sauces may look strange and the spices different but 'sandwiches' are found around the world.
5. If you are in someone's home say 'thank-you'. If you have difficulties due to allergies it's okay to apologetically say no (tell them beforehand); same if you don't drink alcohol. If you are vegan... say a prayer and try to be flexible. Try everything if you can stomach it. Locals know how to properly prepare foods you'll never get a chance to eat at home.
Posted in "Blogville "
I made a list of prompts. This was number 29. No hurry. There are 362 days in most years.
|I travel the world... or is that travelled?
Most everywhere I've been they accepted cash... except Sweden... which was going plastic years ago (cashless by 2023 they say).
Cash is actually easier. I give you 100 dinari you give me burek! I give you NT$100 you give me sushi. I knew my numbers when I was 10 years old. But plastic. It seems easier until you don't have the right type of plastic, when you need one for buses, another for trains, one for food, a third to pay for the room... ah, Sweden... you're a p.i.t.a. Cash isn't universally accepted.
So you like paying by phone? Nice! You're also paying fees and your phone knows where you are and that means someone somewhere knows what you bought when and where. It's funny that Americans who demand "freedom" are so willing to give it up when $$$ are involved.
And yes, I do have a debit card for major purchases. I don't have credit because it's too easily abused. Try buying a plane ticket with cash though...
I pay rent by old fashioned check.
When I travel I always hide a $20 in the bottom of my suitcase. I also tend to stash a bill or three elsewhere. I keep track of my foreign money because it cannot always be exchanged easily in other countries. Except in Serbia... where borders with Bosnia, Romania, Hungary, Makedonia, Bulgaria... means money exchangers (it seems at every corner in Beograd). The dinar (RSD) is the only currency acceptable in Serbia.
Dollars are not accepted everywhere. Euros are not accepted everywhere. But neither is Visa or Mastercard or UnionPay.
So... in a cashless society, how does someone, anyone, buy anything without a smartphone, internet connection or a piece of plastic? They don't. I imagine myself sitting on the street corner begging for food because the money in my bank is worthless.
You might want to think about that in a cashless society.
Posted in "Blogville "
You have an opportunity to distribute an etiquette primer to every passenger on your next commercial flight. What does it say?
1. Be courteous. None of us are getting off this flight without the others. Courtesy may vary according to custom. Know where you are going and be aware that passengers fly both ways.
2. Follow the rules. Do what the stewards or pilot tells you to do. Arguments are best settled in court, not at 30,000 feet in the air. Safety is truly their #1 concern.
3. Be prepared. Know what you need beforehand to get on the plane, what you need in flight (like medications), what you need to get off. What you may need if connections are missed. Worry may make you miserable. Most airlines try to make your flight as comfortable as possible. Consult your steward.
4. Be aware of others. Strong odors, loud sounds, inappropriate clothing... anything that impinges on your seatmates may create issues and delay your flight plans. Don't become a character in someone's horror story. Consult your steward. Don't fly drunk.
5. In conversations... know that others may hold views contrary to yours. If you can have a quiet civil conversation few topics are verboten but... never joke about hijacking, hostages, or make fun of fellow passengers. This is neither the place nor time. Eye masks and earplugs, a polite smile can be your friend. Faking sleep... or actually sleeping can resolve many issues.
A. BOOK THE SEAT YOU NEED. If you need an aisle seat, book an aisle seat. Expecting others to get up a dozen times is not okay. On the other hand, if you book an aisle seat be prepared to get up. Practice the virtue of tolerance.
B. If you have personal issues make sure that the stewards know. However, this should be done before you get on a plane, not after. An example is peanut allergies or special food requests. If you weigh 400 pounds then you need to understand the size of the seats. 1st class may be your only option... or paying for two or more seats. This should be done beforehand. Some seats are 17" across. Be advised that this is uncomfortable for many average sized people. (It should be illegal imho, but hey...) As is 28" legroom. Try to book seats with 32" on long flights if this is an issue. Consult SeatGuru. Speak to the airlines. Once seated there is little that anyone can do. If you are literally scared of flying talk to your doctor and therapist beforehand. Or don't fly.