Category Archives: Travel

On being alone in the world

On being alone in the world

No matter how much we surround ourselves with people, animals, and thoughts of religious deities who validate our existence, we are indeed alone in life.  We rationalize the opposite instinctively.

It is a survival mechanism to utilize the imagination.  Without imagination we’d all be in loony bins because it is a shock to the system to see that no help is coming and there is far more to fall before we hit bottom.  Once we’ve reached the limits of our capabilities and related control over our life situation, there is nothing more than hope that Fortuna, the goddess of fortune and luck, will cruise in and sway her tiller in more a fortunate direction for us.

The fortune of humans.  Being in the right place at the right time does require showing up, but no guarantee that you’ll ever actually get there.

“When your prospects for the future solely depend on luck, you know you’ve screwed up.”  I quote myself.  I believe it to be true that luck lies in the realm of the gods, those mystical creatures who never show themselves to us in their true form. People pry and worship because they are at our lowest of lows and have exhausted all capabilities within ourselves to further our self-created cause.  If this is you, you are low.

Failure is a harsh term at times because it is usually attributed to personal failure as if it was someone’s fault.  In reality, failure is the world’s fault.  This person, a creation of this world, somehow was genetically programed to pursue a dead end cause.

There is a parasite in the Amazon jungle that reproduces by attaching itself to a specific ant specie.  These ants typically fallow along normal army ant (get food, build ant hill, attack enemy) behavior on the ground. Once this parasite attaches itself to the ant, suddenly the ant (for no genetic reason of its own) climbs a specific type of leaf growing off the Amazon floor and dies.  The parasite lays its eggs inside the ant’s body and when the eggs hatch, they eat the leaf before finding ants of their own to commandeer.

It would be great if my failed career attempts could so easily be attributed to a parasitic demon that drives me on adventures all over the world that consequentially spiral me into years of debt repayment AKA indentured servitude, but in reality, it is just me, in my head doing whatever it takes to make myself feel good, alone.

 

Summoning past lovers

Summoning past lovers

In a brief moment of despair at not being in love for far too long, I summoned up my favorite lover from my memory.  After dancing the softness of his skin and reliving the sparkling spot in my soul where his memorizing eyes met mine, I finally remembered what it felt like to be in love again.  For a brief second the portal between us opened again, long enough for me to whisper “but i love you…”  Swooning once again in a state of ecstasy, he awoke from my spell, “Mareks…Mareks, darling are you still there?” said a sweet voice over the phone. “Hm, hmm, yes yes, uh blue, blue is a great color for the guest bedroom, look I’ve got to go, I’ll call you back when I’m on my way home” he replied….”Love you too….cheers….bye”.  He nervously stood up and looked out the window over Sydney Harbour.  He remembered too.

Clocks and the Market for Other Worlds

Clocks and the Market for Other Worlds

This world is highly evolved, I’m still amazed by the existence of the clock.  I think it is funny that one day someone looked up and realized that time exists and we can track it.  I think it is even more funny that people write about different worlds because seriously this place exists and has a history (proof of which is given in the existence of a clock) so other places must exist too, right?  What I don’t understand is why this idea of other worlds became embedded into everyday life; here is my guess for how it got started:

I think that once everyone realized the odd existence of this world and postulated other worlds, the idea sparked the dawn of a new industry.  Everywhere people started preaching of what they thought other worlds would look like.  Since technology didn’t exist back then, there was no way to answer the question of “But how do we get to these other worlds?”  So the smartest preachers said “You get to them when you die!”  “When we die?” shrieked everyone in the crowds.

The farmer preacher said “yes! but only if you plough my field really well for your whole life, will you be able to get there.”

And the Doctor preacher said, “Only if you maintain your health and the health of your family will you get to see the best of the other worlds.”

And the evil preacher said, “only if you give into temptation, will I let you have power in the other worlds.”

And the scientist preacher said, “If we can build a space ship together, we can fly past the stars and take a super nova wormhole to travel to other worlds.”

By this point the idea of other worlds had become so prevalent in the society of humans on earth that no one dared question it.  Over time certain preachers gained larger followings than others and we able to wield power over larger and larger groups of people.

It just makes sense to me to stay living for the real world… the one we know exists, then figure out the other worlds when we get there.  But maybe that’s just how I travel.

 

Change in the Air

Change in the Air

I sat outside the Sydney Airport, scanning the rather empty parking lot for the shuttle to the city that seemed to have forgotten about me, when a old Australian man struck up a conversation with me.

“Got a light?” he asked,

“no, sorry, sir, but that man on his cell phone over there just finished smoking, he probably has one,” I replied while motioning in a direction off to my right.

The man got a light and returned to the bench where I sat.

“American or Canadian?”  He asked me while blowing his smoke the opposite direction of me.

“American,” I said as cheerfully as I could having just been deep in thought about how I just landed half way around the world alone, “I’ve never been to Australia before, I’m excited.”

The man looked around as if he too was in a brand new world, “yeah, change is in the air.”

At first I thought he was being sarcastic in a way that I just didn’t understand, but in that moment I realized he was really being contemplative, basing his words off some sort of wisdom that I had yet to acquire.

I looked around not feeling change being in the air because my arrival was the result of a natural progression of events for me, and said, “well, everything seems normal around here, like, I’m sure this is how this place normally operates.” My voice cracked midway as I spoke as the emotion of realizing that I had really flown here alone hit me again, it came in waves.

“But you’re here,” the man said, “that’s a pretty big change, and not just for you, I tell you change is in the air, I can feel it.”

Just then the man’s ride pulled up.  He put out his cigarette and a woman, who looked to be his daughter, helped him load his luggage into the car.

“You take care of yourself, and enjoy Oz,” he said to me with a grim as he got into the car.

“I will!, thank you!”I responded just before he closed the door and the car drove off.

I sat there for a few minutes thinking, “I have really done this.”

On Flashforwards

On Flashforwards

I woke up two months ago and it was all brand new, the light shook my hand with a smile, changing everything so that nothing before felt as if it actually happened.  Then freedom set itself in through my calmer routine.  Once the stresses of busy times subsided and I could sit back and reflect on the things that used to bother me, I found that not only did they not bother me anymore, but I also couldn’t quite remember why I was bothered by them in the first place.  This joyful forgetting has happened before.

Liberated, I’m ready to go explore again.  I just can’t yet, but I can taste it in my imagination.  This tinge in my mind sets in only when I am not engaged in conversation or distracted by some other task.  It is torturous, the constant salivating over something that you know you can obtain, the hungry knowing that so much time must pass before the harvest, and the painful tingling of possibilities of what will happen in the mean time…

I sit and go about my everyday life, routine after routine, carrying the thoughts of what has been and what could be both floating simultaneously with every movement and every word.  Dreams have turned into strategic scheming and gathering of data of how of how to get where I want to be.

I must admit there is still one thing bothering me.  But i think it is normal to be bothered by being told to go away before you have been given a proper chance.  I don’t know how long it will take until my psyche stops tossing that thought into my completely unrelated existence.

On Meditating with a Buddhist Monk

On Meditating with a Buddhist Monk

While meditating with a Buddhist Monk in New Zealand, I was watching my thoughts about the recent conversations I’d had with all these foreigners I’d met at this stop in my journey. If someone could take a picture of the thoughts floating around me as I saw them in my mind, they’d see heaps of little scenes floating fluidly around my head:

—-

The french guy talking about how he doesn’t like girls who have square football player shoulders, then, realizing that I do, he backed down off the topic and said, “But with bodies, all that really matters is how it feels.”

—-

The annoying little 11 year old boy, who, after insisting to his parents that he could help me dig a trench across the driveway, didn’t help. He just wanted to tell me stupid dirty jokes that only an 11 year old would find funny.

“Why don’t you find my jokes funny? Everyone else does.” he wondered.

I replied, “Everyone else is just humoring you.” Frustrated, he stormed off.

“Good,” I though, “it worked.”

—-

How the people I was staying with for a few days insisted that I carry buckets of water up the hills on their property from their stream to water the newly planted trees.

“You should really invest in a water pump and a long fireman-type hose, you wouldn’t even need to lay in pipes, just plug it in, walk it up and you’re good.” I suggested to the owner of the property, as he struggled to carry two buckets of water with his back brace on.

“No, a little hard work never hurt,” he said after pouring water over the last of at least 30 newly planted trees that needed to be watered.

“But it would save you’re back,” I said as it started to sprinkle.

—-

The man’s wife asked me to hang up the new drapes she bought.

“Do you have an iron?” I asked, “these creases won’t hang-out anytime soon. I can iron them really fast and it will look so good.”

“Oh no!” she condescendingly said, “you can’t iron this fabric, it’s polyester, a type of plastic, it will melt. The creases will hang out in a week or so.”

“Umm, I’ve ironed plastic before, you just use a low setting.” I replied looking really confused, but then remembering that she just doesn’t know I am the master of fabric, I command and fabric obeys, “But okay, I’ll put them up like this then.”

After hanging the curtains, I smiled at how shitty it looked. And thought, this is business, the customer has to have it their way.

—-

That same french guy who, when asked if he’d want to take home a New Zealand girl with him after his year-long visa ended, responded, “No, I could never make a woman choose between me and her country.”

—-

When the meditation ended, I boldly asked the monk a question. “In yoga they teach to clear the mind of thoughts and to give the mind a break from them, but you said that in Buddhism, one is supposed to embrace the thoughts as if you are one with them and think them through. How do you cope with having too many sad thoughts in succession? How do you keep pushing through the same sad thoughts that come to mind every time?

“You just keep thinking them through…all the way to their end, every time, until the the mind is satisfied with it, then it will no longer plague the mind. And you will be free of it.” He replied.

On My Way to Prague

On My Way to Prague

As I got to my seat on the plane taking me from Barcelona to London, an elderly woman was desperately holding her plane ticket in the stewardess’ face while speaking in some eastern European language. The stewardess was desperately trying to tell the woman that she didn’t understand the language the woman was speaking. I interrupted the situation and blandly told the stewardess, “She’s going to Prague and she’s worried that she will not make her connecting flight in London.”

Suddenly the woman turned to me, thinking I spoke Czech, and pushed her ticket at me. I then found myself desperately trying to motion to the woman that I didn’t speak Czech. Through body language, I got the woman to calm down and showed the stewardess the proof in the ticket that the woman was indeed going to potentially miss her connecting flight to Prague.

The stewardess, Britishly, asked me, “Do you speak Czech?”

“No,” I replied, “I just heard her say the word ‘Prague’ and since I am probably going to miss my connecting flight to Prague, I just guessed that this woman is worried that she will miss the same flight.

“Ohhh,” said the stewardess with some sort of amazement in her voice.

That was just the beginning.

The Czech woman took a liking to me and suddenly, with wide eyes, I had agreed to rush through Heathrow with her in an attempt to make our connecting flight. Chances were that I couldn’t run fast enough on my own to get to my connecting gate, let alone with a tiny 60 year old woman flanking me. Regardless I wasn’t gonna leave her stranded, how difficult could it be?

We were let off the plane first and rushed down the miles and miles of terminal passageways only to find chaos at security. (yes we had to pass through security again)

“No Druggas! No Druggas!” The woman accentedly kept telling the security agents while she kept attempting to grab her bags from them. Meanwhile, they were wondering why this random American girl was hanging around waiting for this random Czech lady who was giving them so much trouble. There was no telling her to calm down, she still thought we had to hurry to catch our flight, which, at that point, I realized we weren’t going to board. No big deal because at least my luggage would be going with me to Prague.

In questioning me, I honestly responded with hands confusedly in the air, “Our airline requested that I stay with her.”

“Then tell her to we have to check her bags,” the security guard told me.

“I Can’t, I don’t speak her language, we’re just on the same connecting flight,” I said, palms up with a shrug.

After rolling his eyes, the security guard got someone to pull the woman from her bag as they checked it. All the while, the woman was telling them, “No Druggas! No Druggas! Aeroplane, Aeroplane” as she pointed in the direction of the terminal.

After security had checked her bags and found no druggas, I took her straight to the ticketing counter (as I was instructed to do had we not made our connection) to get the tickets issued for the next flight available.

The ticketing agent indicated that the woman had reserved a wheelchair and wanted me to ask her if she still wanted to use it. I tried explaining to yet another person that I don’t speak Czech, but the ticket agent said, “We need to know if she still wants to use it.”

Creatively I tried speaking in body language by making a sitting motion and waving my hand in a circular motion around where my knees bent, only to get a blank stare from my new found Czech friend, who kept pushing her passport at me, “Passa? Passa?” Apparently she had no idea that a wheelchair was ordered for her. Even drawing a wheelchair on paper didn’t set off any light bulbs. So I asked them to bring one out for her to see, upon seeing it, her face lit up and she pointed to me saying “aaahhh,” as if to say “That’s what you were asking.”

She tapped my shoulder in thanks but indicated that she didn’t want to use it.

I was hoping my duty was done at that point, but more work was to be done. The ticket agent asked, “Since you’re on the same connecting flight, would you mind showing her to the waiting area? She seems quite attached to you.” I agreed, wondering how these airlines function without traveler assistants who actually get paid to do this sort of thing.

By the time we got to the waiting area, I was exhaust as I usually am when confronted with situations requiring all my attention to be focused outside of myself.

We sat down, she grabbed my pillow (I travel in comfort) and jacket from me, and indicated that I should go look at all the shops and that she’d stay and watch my things. I took my backpack (I wasn’t going to leave everything with her) and went to the bookstore. After buying a Czech to English mini dictionary I returned to my friend with the page open to the translated word for “food” to see if she was hungry. Then to “water,” then “bathroom.” She assured me she was fine, but took the little book and found the word for “name” and I told her my name was Stephanie, she brightly repeated back “Steffie” as she motioned her hand toward me, then said her name (which I don’t remember) as she motioned with her hand towards herself. I shook her hand with smile.

For the next three hours we took turns going through the dictionary, communicating through single words. Eventually we made it to Prague where I met up with my American friends. While waiting for my bags the woman came up and introduced me to her family members who met her at that airport, they all said, “Thank you,” as if I was some sort of hero.

And that was what happened on my way to Prague.

On the Magic Tyre Shop

On the Magic Tyre Shop

By the time I got to Christchurch, New Zealand, I was done living in people’s houses. Not because of the people, but because of all the food I felt obligated to eat. I don’t normally eat breakfast, yet house rules require I wake up and join everyone for breakfast and eat it too. So I was intent on staying in a hostel.

Luckily the YMCA (which allows females to stay as well) had open space for the next 5 days with a really reasonable rate. I was in an eight bed female dorm room. I was alone the first night, then the next day I returned from my exploration of the city to find an elderly lady sharing the room with me. Her name was Margret, and she was staying there because she had moved out of her apartment to take a job down south and for some reason needed to stay in the area for a few more days to wait for her place to live down there to be vacated.

She was a nice, talkative lady with heaps of stories to tell. So talkative in fact that I had difficultly telling her that I had to leave to go find dinner because I was starving. She said she had a car and if I wanted she would drive me around the next day and show me the city. I said I’d think about it over dinner and let her know.

At this point in New Zealand I become accustom to trusting strangers. After all she seemed harmless. I came back from dinner to find her sleeping and woke up the next morning to find she had gone out, but had left a note on my night stand.

“Girl, if you’d like, I’d be delighted to take you on a personal tour of Christchurch. I’ll be back around noon, you can let me know then.”

I decided to go. It was a Sunday and everything was closed anyway.

Later I found myself in her car full of all her personal items (remember she was moving down south and had all her things packed in the car, ready to go).

We stopped at the grocery store to pickup snacks, then around the area we went. First stop was the beach which had a long pier. It was cold but she insisted that we walk all the way to end. Along the was she told me about her life: ex husband, daughter, siblings, etc. She told me how when she was 12 her younger brother (who was 10) died in some sort of accident. I said “oh that is so sad,” and she replied, “yeah it was at the time.”

We stopped by her old apartment to get the mail. She wanted me to wait in the car because if I went in her old roommate would talk me ear off and we’d never get out of the place. From there we went to the neighboring mountains along a road that she had never driven on before. There were great views of the city and she was so excited about pointing out where everything was from there and how the landscape all fit together. We stopped at some old Tudor house, which was build only in that style about 50 years ago. It was now a restaurant, but she insisted that I at least peak inside the door to see the decorations.

She filled me in on all her views about life and how it works together and shifts into new forms. How there is always going to be something to look forward to and life often just mends itself.

By dusk we were driving down the mountain. Near the bottom, one of her car tires sounded like it was going flat because there was a reoccurring flapping sound. I told her to pull into a parking lot so I could check it.

I was kind of excited because I was finally going to get to use my tire changing skills, but after checking the tire I realized it wasn’t flat at all. I had her reverse and pull forward just as an extra check to find where that noise was coming from, and nothing seemed wrong. So we figured we’d cautiously drive our way back to the YMCA. As we pulled out of the lot she noticed that it was Tyre Shop parking lot and she exclaimed, “The tyre shop fixed my tyre!” I laughed because, well, it was true, the noise was gone and everything was fine.

In celebration, she bought me an ice cream cone from MacDonald’s and we continued on our way.

On Caving

On Caving

In New Zealand I suddenly found myself wearing a wetsuit, standing outside the mouth of a cave surrounded by bright green rolling hills, being given a rather short tutorial on how to abseil down a waterfall in the dark. It was one of those moments where I did realize that I was present for everything leading up to this moment, yet I still wondered how I managed to get there.

Next I knew I was in a cave, with the guide’s headlamp flashing in my eyes as he roped my harness for my first decent.

“How far down is the bottom?” I asked.

“This is a short one, only about 10 meters,” he responded.

Down I went, rather slow at first, because I thought I should take my time and enjoy this. Then once I got the hang of it, “Shwoosh.” I landed with a giggle rather suddenly to the worry of the guide at the bottom.

We made our way through tight passages, following an underwater river which caused us to have to dive completely underwater to stay on it trail.

It was the first time I had seen glow worms, though the guides said that there were other caves which had heaps more of them, which I did end up seeing eventually in my journey.

For the next waterfall I volunteered to go first, headlamp off. I didn’t go so fast this time because there were no lights to see where the bottom was and the freezing water was strongly pouring down on me the entire time. In the pitch black I ended up swinging somewhat awkwardly and touched down in a sitting position, in a two foot pool. From there I had to un-rope myself, signal with the rope that I was unhooked (the water fall was so loud that even yelling couldn’t get the message through) and feel my way around the cavern that I had lowered myself into tog et myself away from where the next person would land. The idea was to keep my headlamp off so that everyone could experience the process in the dark. So from there I waited, and waited for the next person. I oddly enjoyed sitting in a dark cavern full of water alone. The wet suit kept me warm enough, though there was definitely holes in the boots, but at that point there are much bigger issues at hand, like, where is the exit?

Finally the rest of the group made it down and we could continue on our way. For an hour and a half we repeated this process of roping down waterfalls, I going first each time because I’m like that.

Then there was a point were we had to start going up and it was then that I hit a wall. Literally it was at least a 14 foot wall we had to climb. I didn’t go first this time. I tried and tried but I couldn’t get my footing, the wetsuit wouldn’t let my legs stretch up far enough for the next optimal spot to push up from, frustrated tears were building my eyes just as my belt got stuck on a ridge, rendering me helpless and forcing me to step down and start all over again from a different section. So there I was analyzing this wall, with the realization that there was no other way to go but up and I had to do it. Everyone was waiting at the top, so up I went, with a little boost from the guide below me, exhausted, I managed to get my upper body over the top, just as my belt got stuck AGAIN, AGAIN. I was shaking and stuck. With a little pull from inside the small opening I had to get through, I finally made it out of the water fall.

The guides gave us some sugary candy of some sort and of electrolyte drink to boost our energies. Reinvigorated, we proceeded to make our way out of the cave. Next I remember being born into a sunny green sheep pasture. I sat down once I was out of the way of those behind me and watched each of them slowly drag themselves out. And I couldn’t help but laugh at how it would look for a random passer by to suddenly see a bunch of people in black suits and helmets emerge out of the ground like aliens.

On Despair

On Despair

I sat on the balcony of a cafe next to my work in Sydney gazing out at the puffy clouds in the sky to the west. It was lunch time, well, the end of lunchtime, I was in the habit of taking lunches later to make the rest of the work day go by quicker. I had tunnel vision, meaning I didn’t care to look around and see if anyone I knew was sitting nearby; all I could think of was how horrible it was to be in this situation.

I just wanted to cry but I was tired of crying, I cried for three days after every phone call because I couldn’t stop habitually ruminated over every detail of the call. He wanted to pretend like nothing was wrong; wanted to call me as if I was happy he dumped me and was now off doing what he thought was what I wanted to do all along. I couldn’t do it anymore. There was no reassurance, no mention that the problem existed other than a Freudian slip followed by a nervous laugh when he accidentally said April 4th (the day he dumped me in a smokey bar) instead of August 4th (the day he was planning some sort of backpacking trip). Regardless of him making such a big deal about leaving me behind for some life experience that he couldn’t do tied to some girl back home, he still insisted on calling me every few days to tell me of his adventures and listen to what I was doing.

It was that day, 4 months later that I realized he dumped me after 7 years to go on vacation.

So there I sat, plagued by cyclical emotions. The current emotion I was in was rather analytical and dry of energy. I realized that the only reason my mind was sick was because this voice kept creeping into my life from far away offering nothing more than a hint that it might come visit. The thought of which only filled me with dread.

Then the phone rang again, as if on cue. There it was again, apparently sitting in some cafe in Tibet or some country near there, expecting to get what it wanted out of me for the time being without leaving me with something of value in return. I was mad at it, but I didn’t know how to get rid of it. So I just started talking about all the boys that I’ve encountered to make him jealous (because I knew it would work regardless of how he denied ever being jealous). I went into detail about how the boys all loved me and complimented me on the strangest things and how they were all so different and all such good friends even though I had only known them for the few months I’d been in Sydney, and how I was really fascinated by one in particular.

Then I just came out with it and asked, “Why are you calling me?”

There wasn’t much of an answer, so I just kept talking, “I don’t understand why you are calling me, you were so mean to me, you said such horrible things, and now you want to call me like none of it ever happened, you just want to go on as if nothing happened.”

Somehow the subject of another girl came up, who I knew he had a crush on because he hadn’t stopped talking about her for an entire year. Then he said, “you always get in a such a rage when [girl] is mentioned, you know you’re just going to have to get used to her and I being friends.”

“No,” I said, “I don’t because I don’t want to talk to you anymore, this whole situation is driving me crazy and I don’t want to deal with it anymore.”

“Whoa…. What!?!” he responded almost with a slight laugh over me saying I was being driven crazy because he always called me crazy for having normal female emotions, “But [girl] and I were going to come visit you!”

“What the fuck do I care about seeing [girl], why the fuck does she have anything to do with this?” I said.

It was at that point someone (the fascinating one in particular, of all people) walked by and tapped me on the head with a rolled up newspaper, as if to say what specifically I am not sure, but I perceived as if, to say “hey I’m here and take it easy.”

“Great,” I thought, “I tried to keep all this away from new people, I tried as much as I could to not be broken, but I’ve failed by being stuck in this tunnel vision of a fog all because the phone happened to ring when someone I knew was nearby.” If I wasn’t pissed off at my situation before I definitely was now. And I wasn’t going to put up with this shit any longer.

“But I’ve been carrying gifts for you for three weeks until I could get to a post office, what am I supposed to do with them now?” the voice pleaded.

“Throw them away, I don’t care, I don’t want them anymore, give them to [girl] sounds like she’ll appreciate them,” I snapped back.

“Well okay,” he said, “If you’re going to be like that then I guess this is goodbye.”

“I guess so!” I retorted.

“Okay, then, bye.” were the last words from the voice I’ve ever heard.

“Bye,” click.

Then sometime later… the phone rang back in Huntington Beach, California.

It was the voice on a train to his next city, calling a friend back at home.

“Friend! It’s [the voice],” came a solemnly desperate voice

“Hey man, What’s up?” asked the friend.

“Stephanie,” sob, “said she doesn’t want to talk to me anymore,” he cried.

Just as the friend was about to respond the call was dropped and there was silence.