Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Living as an Expat

Check out my guest post on my good friend, brother and climbing partner's blog thisisyouth.org. This post gives some insight on my travels and how life is living abroad! Also you can enjoy his great travel blog as well! https://thisisyouth.org/2017/03/18/what-its-like-to-live/#comment-3759

Monday, January 30, 2017

Becoming a Citizen of the World; Why I love Travel


Traveling creates an experience that’s on a whole different level. When you are different parts of the world and witnessing how different and similar we are, how privileged life at home can be and yet still seeing equal amount of happiness you learn and grow a lot. I believe that travel (especially solo) is when you truly see the kind of person you are when you totally get away from all influential factors from home. All that is left is what you have learned in life from your time and experiences there that created you who you are. Travel becomes the challenge of letting yourself go in this world and see how you do. You have thrown yourselves into the categories of an explorer, an adventurer and a student of the world.  You will meet hundreds of people and hear able different parts of the world, gain new friends across the globe which creates further opportunities to explore more with your friends, new and old.


Its an interesting process to watch and coming up close to a year of this experience called life I have been able to see how this experience progress and you knowledge of the world and self increases. You make friends quickly and find people that will become a part of your life for many years to come even though we come from completely different backgrounds, stories and cultures. It is because of these things though create the feeling that you can connect to as you see how despite the difference the way you present yourself to the world and truly be yourself.  Everyone you meet is for a reason whether that be for a brief passing money to sticking with you through the times and journeys to come. You will spend a lot of time with these people, that come latter, and grow closer a lot quicker than you feel you could at home. These become travel buddies; people to visit and explore with, people to discuss things with freely, a companion and even lovers in some occasions.


Another great part of travel is allowing the local people you meet show you the local food, their favorite places to eat, and going on to explore the food and drinks of a region. I have learned to enjoy many new foods and FINALLY learned to use chopsticks after giving up a long time ago. I have eaten bugs, chicken feet porridge, and tons of local Asian foods. I love Pad Thai (Sometimes eating it for breakfast lunch and dinner), Cao Lau, Pho, Mutton Pepper,  Curries and the tarantula was the favorite of all the bugs I ate. My favorite thing to do would be to find a small local family’s restaurant and enjoy their meals and company all the time. This is a good way to try many new things and support the local people in the area you are in. I bought a shirt which contains a great slogan of “think global, drink local” its very true and applies to food as well. Beside the people and foods one of the biggest benefit are the places you get to go and see.


I have seen so many sites that I never imagines I would. I have explored Asian cities covered in trash and smog, seen lives in poverty in way worse conditions than at home. You meet people in these conditions and learn about their lives, their country and their culture. You hear stories like a man that sleep in his tuk-tuk (A small Asian open air taxi) and sends most of the money away to his family back home. He is only able to see his wife and son a few times a year when he has the time and money to stop working and go for a visit. Hearing stories such as this shows you how different life can be. You gain these small connections with the most random people around the world and know that you are helping to support them. You learn about the insides of life there instead of just looking out and making judgement or seeing only what you wish to see and making possibly incorrect judgments. Sometimes things get hard and when you see such horrible things it can be hard. An example of this was seeing the costs of warfare in Vietnam had all over South East Asia and the harm that my homeland cause to this area of the world which is still happening to this day. Learning about this has brought me to tears on multiple occasions. Seeing the effects of terrible things to happen in a country creates another view of the world and can very hard to hear such as acts of genocide or the living conditions creates for million. I have seen giant amounts of skulls and graves of peoples slaughtered throughout a dictator’s regime. I have passed trash piles outside small neighborhoods with children playing on them enjoying life or searching through them trying to find something to perhaps sell. Sites such as these make you think a lot more about the world. Both about how lucky you are to have everything you do, and how we should not waste so much. There truly is over-consumption in this world and we are trashing the earth more than cleaning it up.


On the other side of the equation I have seen beautiful scenes of nature in rain forests, on beaches, in mountains, in deserts, overlooking the hill lands. Seeing these sites are truly amazing and allow you to further fall in love with nature. There have been times staring of onto the open ocean on a beach while lying in my hammock, overlooking beautiful mountains covered in jungle for as far as I can see after a hike or drive on the scooter thinking about the beauty of life and how lucky you are to experience this all At one of the best sites, a beautiful waterfall in the jungle that had the view of paradise, I even began to fall in love with something besides nature. But that is a whole other story….

Besides nature I have witnessed many beautiful and truly wondrous creations of man in the building of temples, monasteries, statues, and architecture of cities. I saw many of temples that were breathtaking. Each contained so much detail and the craftsmanship that went into the creation is very impressive. The ancient cities in Angkor Wat and temples around the Angkor Area in which you can only imagine how long it took to create all this and imagine the life there, thousands of years past.  Now being in Europe I have been able to see old Gothic styles building and castles, beautiful buildings of Parliament, churches, historic Turkish baths and one of my favorites actual old cobblestone streets of the past.

I can go on and on about all my adventures, friends met, and experiences but that is not the purpose of this and I have wandered around in my reminiscing enough. The whole purpose of this is to show why I have loved my experiences as a traveler, how much you can learn, things to truly appreciate and how it can truly show who you are. I have always sought out challenges of live and I believe this is the ultimate. Adventure truly is the test of ones will, not everything that you experience will be easy. You will hit hard times, be low and need some help, and be challenged by life. It is at these times that you prove to yourself all that you can do.  I am very thankful for having been given this experience and hope that I will be able to bring experiences to many in my family, friends group, community and as many people in the world as possible.  In the meantime I will continue on my adventure and continue to learn how to be a citizen of the world.
























Friday, October 7, 2016

Koh Tao and the End of Thailand

The island of Koh Tao is the smallest island in Thailand and even though it still gets thousands of tourists a year it is the least effected by the party tourism culture which is very evident on the islands. Many people come to Koh Tao for their scuba certification since it is one of the most affordable places in the world to obtain it. I unfortunately was not able to do so but still was able to enjoy myself immensely on the island. My very first night there was for Matthias' birthday and we had a really good time celebrating. Unfortunately some asshole robbed me on the beach and I was without a phone for the entire time on the island so I do not have many pictures to show. Even though it was very unfortunate and ended up costing me quite a bit of money it actually made the time there even more peaceful as I did not have the constant draw to technology that we get nowadays. I was able to just enjoy the scenery, the peacefulness and relax.

I spent almost every day on the beach since Matthias found a very affordable place for us to stay that was less than a two minute walk to the shore. With this location and the price it was only a room with a bed and a fan but at this point Matthias and I had no problems about sharing a bed, especially to save money. The bathroom and shower were right next door to the room and since the weather was so nice on the island I did not miss the hot showers.  Almost every morning we would wake up and go to one of two places for breakfast depending on how tired we were. If we were lazy we would go just down the street but if we felt good than we would go to our favorite place that we discovered. It was just a small local restaurant owned by a Thai family called "Mama's". We ate at least one meal there almost every day. She was a very nice lady with good affordable food. We had almost everything on the entire menu by the end of our time there. Another place that we enjoyed eating at was a restaurant right off the beach that had beer for the same price as the stores (which was very nice) and some amazing pizzas that would really fill you up. We went there a few times when we wanted our western food fix.

When we were not eating I was relaxing. As I said I spent pretty much every day at the beach. Some days I would bring my hammock and just read while others we would play with the Frisbee or tennis ball in the water. The beach was pretty long and  we would switch off which area we would hang out in. The water was very warm since it was not too deep and the sand underneath would absorb the sun. You could go out about 30 ft at least and still be up to your waste. We wanted to go  further but after this point there was coral which you do not want to go walking around in! One day playing frisbee we met a french girl named Emile who we ended up spending quite a bit of time with. She was really good as frisbee since she played ultimate back home in France.  Her and Matthias were much better than I but by the end I was able to get some throws to go further along with out them curving down into t he ocean. I've always been the worst at frisbee golf when we go play, which my family can attest to.

There were beaches all over the island but for the most part we stayed on the one by our house. One day we did go to the opposite side of the island and take our scooters to another beach. This was another really nice beach with a little deeper waters, nice snorkeling, and a giant rock to jump off of! It was about a 10-12 yard jump after having to use a rope and chain to climb to the top. It was a very long and tiring swim back to the shore so I only jumped twice. Matthias on the other hand lives jumping and I don't even know how many times he went. While snorkeling around the area I unfortunately cut my foot up pretty bad on the reef and this made me unable to rock climb later in the week which I had been planning on doing since I arrived on the island. Instead there was just more laziness and relaxation. I didn't really mind though since it was the last of my time in Thailand before a crazy busy month in India.


Another part of the island that I loved was that there were dogs everywhere. Since its a small island which has many tourists and many people get stuck there for years and own dogs they were all friendly. There was one big long haired Rottweiler (I didn't even know they had long haired rots!) that was a lot of fun. She would always come try to steal the ball or frisbee when we were playing. There were a few days that we played monkey in the middle with her for a long time. She would swim so much and just be enjoying life. She did end up getting the firsbee one day though and that ended our time playing with it. She bit it right in half. She also punctured a volley ball, soccer ball, and rugby ball. I think its one of her favorite things to do! She was a real fun dog and one night she even followed me home! I had to walk her all the way back and run out of site in order for her to not follow me again. I guess she really liked me too.

Overall Koh Tao was my favorite of all the islands in southern Thailand. I get why it is one of those places that people can get stuck in. Some for many many years. It was a nice place to celebrate both Matthias and I's birthdays, relax to finish my time in South East Asia and I loved finding a local restaurant to go to all the time again. That's one of my favorite things to do when I'm in a city for awhile. Over all I was there for 11 days and was sad to go. I took a night ferry back to the mainland which was a different experience. I just barley made the boat and jumped on board right before the took off. I was very lucky! I go the last "bed" available which were just mats laid out on the floor. It took me quite some time to fall asleep but once I did I slept surprisingly well. When we got to the mainland we were dropped off at some random dock. Here I had to wait for about an hour until a truck came to take us to a restaurant where the bus to Bangkok would be picking us up. That bus ride I slept like usual and woke up once again in Bangkok where it all began. I did not do much in Bangkok as I'm not the biggest fan of the city, but I did go buy a new phone. I was suppose to take  a bus to the airport but they did not show since it was rush hour and there was so much traffic so I began to worry and aught a taxi. I was stressing the entire was there but luckily I made it to the airport on time. I even tipped the driving with almost all of my remaining Baht (Thai currency) since I was so happy and no longer had any use for it. I made my way through the airport and customs without any issues and was soon on my way to India!











Monday, September 26, 2016

Full Moon: Koh Samui and Koh Phangan

After my family left I spent one final night in Krabi before heading off to the airport and catching a flight to Koh Samui to meet up with Matthias and make it to the infamous Full Moon Party on Koh Phangan that night. I arrived to the island and caught a taxi to my hostel. It was a very strange hostel and one that I will never go back to. There was only one other guest with me in the entire hostel, a girl from the UK. The staff was in and out of the hostel and they had self check-in with a sign that read something like "sorry that we are not here to welcome you. Please grab a key and check yourself into room 8." It was quite odd, at least they were there for me when I checked in. They left right after though so I was uncertain about how the rest of my night and getting to the next island for Full Moon was going to work. So with me not knowing anything I figured I should at least go buy some refreshments for the evening and some food. The walk to the Family Mart (like 711 but not 711 thankfully) was easy and it was just down the road. On my way back I stopped at a place to eat off the side of the road with this little Thai lady. I'm sorry to say that the food was horrible. I don't even remember what it was but I ate as much of it as I could in order to not be disrespectful and told her I liked it when she asked. Once I couldn't handle any more I paid and walked out leaving a lot of the soup and whatever kind of bony meat was in there on the table. I tried to get out of sight before she saw how much I left and could tell that I really did not like it.

I made it back to the hostel and met my one and only roommate in the entire hostel. She was also planning on going to the Full Moon Party and once the hostess finally made her way back to the hostel we booked a speedboat and taxi ticket which would get us to and from the party. This turned out to be a very good decision and one I'm glad I made. I was able to leave anytime up until 6 AM with the speed boat and if not I would've had to take the first ferry out in the morning at 9 AM! That would've been such a long night. Since the Full Moon Party is a huge party there is no need to go into much detail but it was a fun time. It was not as great as everyone hyped it up to be but I still enjoyed myself. There were so many people though and the beach was PACKED! It took forever to find Matthias and it was so hard to keep track of him. I believe it would've been a lot more fun with DJ's directly on the beach and not a bunch of bars along the beach playing music and trying to get people to come inside. Long story short I got tired and sick of looking for friends after repeatedly loosing and finding them so I just went back to the hostel and called it an early night. I would not have had the energy to go till sunrise like many did. Too much of a party for me I guess....I must be getting old or something. 


When I awoke in the morning the hostel was completely empty. Not a soul was there besides me as the girl from the UK had checked out. The host was gone doing whatever it was she always went away to do and I just laid around in the dorm room watching tv and movies all day. It was quite odd being alone in a dorm room but was also kind of nice at the same time. I was able to get some alone time after being with my family and before heading to Koh Tao to meet up with Matthias for the rest of my time in Thailand. After my lazy day was when I finally got on the ferry to Koh Tao to meet up with Matthias for his birthday. Unfortunately the ferry I tried to catch was fully booked and they told me the later ferry was also so I was a little upset and was about to tell Matthias we have to celebrate his birthday tomorrow instead but luckily a lady in the back of the ticket office yelled to the girl at the counter saying they could get me on board. And with that I was off to the final island of my journey which I enjoyed so much that I will be stopping here so it can have its own post! 




Monday, September 19, 2016

Thailand Family Time: Coconut Island, Koh Phi Phi, and Krabi

After Cambodia I got to get a nice break from the poor backpacker lifestyle; staying in and out of hostel dorms. With my family coming out to visit for our first family vacation in 10 years I got a nice taste of the resort life.  
View of the resort from the ferry
It was really nice to see my family and be able to spend some time with them. I wasn't aware just how much I missed them until I saw them walk up to the resort. I ended up flying into Phuket the day before my family and spent one final night in a dorm. The next morning I made my way to the resort. Not knowing exactly how to get there I looked at a map and found the way that made the most sense to me and made my way to the ferry that is very close to the resort. Apparently this is not how the guests get to the resort. It was how the employees make it to the island. Coming this way I met a guy name King that was very nice and took quite a liking to me (I believe a big part of it was the fact that I came to them like a humble traveler not someone just in vacation to their resort). Luckily they let me check in for my family though I could not enter the room for some time so I bought some beer and sat down by the pool waiting for the family to come. The ferry for the guest is in view from the pool so I kept my eyes open for them. Shortly before they arrived I made my way a little closer and read and waited for them to arrive, my excitement growing. Once they stepped off the ferry and made their way to me my smile just grew along with all of theirs. They got driven up to check in but I refused to get on the cart for a ride to the desk that took the same amount of time for me to walk there. I'm really not too set up for the resort life, I couldn't stand them all trying to wait on me, I kept saying repeatedly "I'm used to dorms"and "I'm not a sir". It was such a big change in the style of travel. We had a 4 person flat in the resort which was amazing, we just had to share a bed or sleep on the couch from time to time. Occasionally I took mom and dad's bed once they woke up. We had a private pool, a nice kitchen and the master bathroom was wonderful. Overall it was a beautiful room in a beautiful resort.

The crab city
The first night we decided to just keep it simple and eat at the buffet in one of the resort's restaurants. This was ridiculously expensive and was a big reminder that we are at a fancy ass resort. So in order to continue to afford to stay at the resort, which we got a huge deal on to originally stay in, we went shopping. It was a very long and very fun trip to the mall. I was able to show my family a little bit cheaper side of Thailand as we had a nice lunch in the food court for all 5 of us which was less than the cost of one plate at the resort's buffet the night before. After is when we went to the grocery store. We didn't treat it as a grocery trip to have some snacks and food to eat from time to time but a full grocery trip to feed us all week. We paid for a place with a kitchen and we planned to use it. After a few hours in the store wandering around trying to find things, interpret signs and get the best price (just like at home) we got back into the taxis (we had to take 2) and we stocked up with food. Oh yeah, and beer. That was a must. We made burritos that first night and they were oh so good. Mexican food has been and still is one of the things I miss most. I did just make burritos again this past weekend and I must say they were amazing it's nice having a kitchen again but that's talk for later.

Besides having great food cooked by Mama once again we were able to spent a lot of time as a family and enjoyed the pool and slides at the resort, relaxed on the beach at a nearby island, collected crabs all night long on the beach one day and made them their own city, and we're really able to enjoy ourselves. Mom and Dad even gave themselves a spa day. My good friend Matthias (the German if you've forgotten) actually came and visited us at the resort for a few nights and as always we had a good time. My family enjoyed meeting the guy I spent pretty much every day with for about 2.5 months. His first night there he brought us some beef and we were able to make Skyline chili (another one of my food cravings) and like the Mexican it was oh so delicious. When we talked to people at the resort they were always so shocked when we told them we've been cooking, it was always funny to see their reactions. That's just our family though, we all like to save money and we all like to cook. Eventually it became time to leave the resort and we headed to the island of Koh Phi Phi (Pee-pee).

Koh Phi Phi sunset
Mom got to stay in a stilt house which she was very excited about. We saw one of the best sunsets I've seen in Asia and enjoyed the local area on a snorkeling tour. It was a lot more of a tour than snorkeling though but we still had fun.  Unfortunately the island has become a huge tourist and party destination so it was a lot more touristy and crowded than expected and luckily we did not stay there too long. The next and final stop was Krabi, Thailand. We only had two days in this city and I wish we had more. It is definitely a place I could spend a lot more time at. The city was small but still a nice sized city with a good night food market. There was a nice temple and my family got to see their first temple in Thailand. The first day there we went to a beautiful beach called Railay Beach. There were giant cliffs filled with climbing routes that I was very upset I didn't have the time to climb, multiple beaches with great water, and monkeys everywhere. We all enjoyed our day thoroughly and that evening is when we celebrated my birthday since they would be leaving just a week before it.

The final morning of their visit we went on a hike up to a temple on a hill that gave an overlook around the entire area. It was a 30 min hike for Chris and I (about 40 mins for Jesse and an hour for my parents) up many many steep stairs. But the view up top was worth it. After the hike down there were monkeys all over the temple area and there we people selling bananas to feed them. Of course we did. I was real fun seeing them all, feeding them, and having them climb on us, grab the bananas and quickly run away after. We got tons of pictures and laughs out of them.





After this though it was time to say goodbye. Looking back on this all I am very glad that they came. It was great to see my family and get a taste of home. I loved every moment with them and enjoyed creating all of the memories. I hope that they can come visit me once again during my travels but I know it is expensive making your way across the world.  So, thank you Mom and Dad for getting our family out to me and showing your love as you do all the time.

Until next time,