Travel

Boxes Of Photographs.

This is a follow up post, of sorts. A little while back I wrote a post about travel photos and wrapped philosophic about what happens to them when you return from vacation. This is an adjacent take to that post. A bit more, present day.
Since returning from the middle east, I have found that I need to reestablish the general level of comfort that I am used to. When traveling from an extended period, one of your primary money drains, at least at an adult age, will be what to do with your residence. This was the topic of an early blog post. Some people find it a good idea to keep their homes and rent them, some sell them and plan to find another later. People living in apartments really need to address how to handle their possession, but still have the issue of unburdening themselves from leases.
Having struck a bargain with a friend for rental of his house, I have handled the where-to-live issue. This prompted a languid trudge over to my storage unit (where all my possessions live) to retrieve the most essential items. I needed a bed and a few pans for cooking. I confess that my cooking is minimal, mostly coming from frozen pizzas and microwave burritos, but you never know when you’re going to want some soup or something, plus I can’t exist without a coffee pot. I pulled out my grandmother’s dinning room table, so I could utilize it as a writing table. It’s the right size. And, almost as an afterthought, a grabbed a large plastic tote labeled pictures. It might be nice to have a picture or two on the walls.
I have numerous totes marked either pictures or photo albums, so I wasn’t sure what was in it, when I grabbed it. I simply assumed that there would be something cool. It turned out to be a good thought. The one I grabbed was almost completely travel photos. There was one of me at the pyramids in Giza, and another from Machu Picchu. I found the catacombs of Paris, the Cysteine Chapel, and Stonehenge. Street scenes from Lisbon, and Dublin, as well as the gardens of the Louvre. There was even me running with the bulls in Pamplona.
I scattered the pictures over walls, wherever a nail was left behind, and filled a couple of empty shelves with frames. As I walk around now, I find that the pictures have two profound effects. The first one is that they make me happy. Sometimes, I sit and just look at the ones from Pamplona and remember the crazy 24-hour street party that is the Festival. Other times, when I am having a bit of writer’s block, I look over at the picture of the Eiffel Tower. It was taken from the park in mid-summer, and really is Paris. Second, and much more real, they make me want to travel. I have places to see, and parts of the map that I haven’t been to. These pictures remind me not to rest too long. Life isn’t lived at a writing table, not even a nice one like grandmas. Life is lived out in the world. It’s a good thing that there is already something in the works for next summer, or the pictures would give me the itch to do something foolish. They can be powerful motivation.
The pictures also have one final power. They remind me of the people that I’ve met along the way. Random people that cross your path and give you something to keep. I spend half of my trip through Egypt partying with this group of Australians. I have completely lost touch with them over the years, but the memory of joking and drinking the night away as we waited for the sun rise over the Nile is permanently locked in my memory. (The pictures of the sunrise did not capture the majesty of the event.)
I guess the question wrapped up in all of this, if there is one, is what do you do with your travel pictures? Do you print them out and display them? Are they topics of conversation when people come to visit? Do they motivate you to travel more? Do they remind you of how good things are on the rainy slow days? I find my travel pictures do all of those things. I would suggest that you print out a few and scatter them about. So many people live in computers any more, that I think we all forget that we also live on the planet. And the planet has a lot of awesome history, and cool people in it. That’s just my two cents.
As a side note, my pictures aren’t super fancy or anything. I’m not a professional photographer, and I don’t do a lot of Kodak processing. I print most of my pictures off my printer, using photo paper. It works, and they look like photos. To me, that’s what counts. It’s the image, not the quality of the image. But, that’s just me. You do you.

Now, you get out there and take some pictures. Go make some memories.

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Travel

Out In Amman For The Day.

Today kind of went a little sideways out of the gate. I got up late and wandered downstairs for the big breakfast. Hey, its vacation, right? After a suitable wait, I made a call to the Jett Bus service desk to check on a bus to Petra tomorrow. The response was; yes we are running tomorrow, and sorry it’s already full. He told me I could go on a standby list if I wanted.

At this point, I paused. Every option i could think of was bad. Check out and no bus, stuck in Amman. Extend stay plus cancel hotel in Wadi Musa plus day trip from Amman, supper bad money deal. Get a private transfer from Amman to Wadi Musa and back, expensive but maybe.

I stopped at the taxi stand in the lobby and quizzed the three gentlemen there. They seemed to like the standby and then private transfer idea. Money is money, so they say.

I decided to check the standby list later in the day. So, I caught a cab down to the Citadel and went site seeing. The Mount of the Citadel sits in the middle of Amman, and dates back to the Bronze Age, though the Romans are best known for being here. The site is sparse, but worth the time. I enjoyed it quite well.

From the Citadel, I walked down to the valley bottom and over to the Roman Theater. The Theater is well preserved and in good repair. I’m betting that it still gets use in modern times. The wood stage floor was in good repair. Due to the holiday, the Theater was kind of overrun with loud shouting groups of kids, throwing water bottles down the stairways to see if they would bust open. It brought the Guards out to yell several times and drove me onward.

As a side note, the city of Amman is founded upon seven hilltops. The terrain is surprisingly steep and changing. You should not look at google maps and assume the you are strolling down a semi-level grade. You, most certainly, are not. The streets are twisting and turning affair that constantly double back on themselves. Between the streets are small sets of stairs ways that allow you to go semi-straight up and down.

The downhill sections are as demanding as the uphill section of the city. It is really designed for taking a taxi or driving a rental car.

From the Roman Theater, I made my way on foot across town to where google maps said the Harley Davidson shop was located. It was not. Also, the up and down steep sections of twisty roads and steps almost gave me Heat Stroke! By the time I found a corner shove to buy water, I was about done for. Half a liter of water and a shady corner led to a wait for a passing taxi. Taxi guy spoke no English. I speak no Arabic. Nevertheless, I made it back to the hotel without a lot of problems. He did super gouge me, however! Got screwed by the cabbie. Think I was back in NY or something.

Air condition and more water have made the heat issue pass. I have to stop and remind myself sometimes that I’m not 20 anymore. I survived. That’s what matters.

A cross-section of Amman, in the form of some walking around pictures.

PM follow up. Just got off the phone with the Jett Bus people. I have a seat reserved for tomorrow. Things are looking okay. I’m off to have a celebratory beer!

Keep after it. Keep the dream alive!

While you’re at it, get out there and see stuff!

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Travel

Picking the right side-hustle.

A couple posts back I was promoting the idea that everybody needs a distraction from what they are doing, now and again. My normal distraction from the realities of daily life is writing fictional novels. There are many times when fiction is much more comforting than the drudgery of reality. This is especially true in the Middle East.

The problem with escapism is when it too becomes reality. (I don’t mean as in mental collapse. Just stay with me for a second.) The writing of stories is cathartic and makes me happy. It can be done basically anywhere, and every new place you go to adds locations and ideas that can be used in new stories. The publishing of those stories, and the book making process in general, too can also be done basically anywhere. It is not, however, cathartic or enjoyable when you are working with a publisher on the other side of the planet. This logistical inconvenience is where fantasy becomes reality.

I’ve been continuing on with the writing while abroad, independent of the work hours. It helps keep me distracted. Somewhere in this, I decided to publish my next book. Where the publishing process is never one I have anything good to say about, I quickly learned that doing it while abroad gave it another layer of issues. Publisher people and consultants all like to talk on the phone, usually at length. They all think whatever they have to say is life altering. Obviously, with the time difference back to the USA, I don’t like to talk on the phone. So, I had to explain to each new person that email was the best approach. I mean, if you can run multi-million dollar project via email, you can certainly publish a book that way.

….. this actually wasn’t intended to be a ranting type of post. Not sure where I started sliding off topic?

Anyway! I guess what I’m trying to say here is that some hobbies are better suited for the vagabond lifestyle than others are. The writing part definitely is. I like to write. It clears my mind of clutter.

Now in my travels, I’ve learned that actually publishing the stories is best left for when I’m back in the states. I wouldn’t have thought that at first, but we learn by doing. And, isn’t that the point of travel? To have new experiences and learn new things?

I find that writing, wether it is books or blogging, is a great travel distraction. It helps compile and organize thoughts into memories. It also hopefully adds something enjoyable to someone else’s day … eventually. Just keep in mind that some distractions are better than others. Some add to the experience, and some detract from it. For me, personally, the writing adds and the publishing detracts. But, as with every new place I go and every new experience I have, I’ve learned something from it. And that, my friends, is why we do this thing call travel.

In an act of shameless self-promotion, which I’m not very good at, Shadow Of The Fall is out now, and available at most online book sellers, in paperback and ebook formats. (I recommend searching Amazon by title and author) (okay, I’m done.)

Keep traveling. Keep doing. Keep having new adventures!

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Travel

Work and Play.

Its been a little while since I’ve been here. Work has been a bit like work lately, and summer in the desert has been brutally hot the last several weeks. So, I’ve been just trudging through life.

One of the things about traveling for work and adventure is that, at the end of the day, there is work to be done. A lot of strings you will read only talk about the cool things going on and skip over the everyday drudgery of life. I’m guilty of this as well. I like hitting the high points. Mostly, because they’re high points. Everybody loves cool stuff. The rest of the time, its work and the daily grind.

It has been this way here, since I got back from Thailand. I pretty much just put my head down and settled into my desk for a while. A couple days ago I decided it was time to take a day. Not a vacation day or a sick day, but a me day.

At the start of my Me Day, I started writing a new chapter of a story. The last story wasn’t holding my interest, so I shelved it for a bit. The writing was good! It came right out of my head like nothing.

After the writing and a pot of coffee, I was out the door. I walked out the front gate of the building and found a ready cab. Cabbie saw me and swung right over to the curb. It took goggle maps and a little hand language to get him to understand I wanted the Harley Davidson dealer on the north side of the city. We got on the same page, he turned around and we headed north.

Fortunately for me, the cab driver was hungry. We no more than got to the dealership and he asked if I wanted him to wait. I said yes, since the shop is in the industrial area. Several hundred dollars later and we were headed south. Traffic was kind of light and the drive was good both ways. Just a nice morning to be out in the city.

The afternoon consisted of a couple movies from the iTunes Store and a large takeout shawarma from the shop next to the apartment. I tried to stay up to watch Shark Week on Discovery, which doesn’t come on until 2300 here, but decided against it.

All in all, a good day off. Every now and again you need to stop and look around. That way you don’t miss what’s going on. Even here, in the middle of the desert.

Quiet traffic out on the mean streets of Kuwait.

Now, get out there. Go do stuff.

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Travel

Distractions? What distractions?

If you’re traveling is tourism, you have a great many ways to occupy your time. I can kill a day in a museum with the best of them. If you’re traveling is work, however, then chances are you will need to find some way to distract yourself from your new lifestyle, at some point. Things become much more mundane when they are a daily occurrence. It’s just the way things are in the world.

Distractions come in many forms. They can be elaborate and well thought out projects. They can also be simple things that someone else would take as a break away from the norm. And, also, they can be more traveling. Escaping your exotic location for another exotic location, as crazy as that sounds, can be quite liberating.

Since I have come to live in the desert, I have used all three of these devices as distractions from my daily grind of super-hot weather, horrendously bad drivers and sand storms. I find that each one has its individual merit at any given point. Sometimes, you need an escape, and sometimes you just need to get your head right.

In a world full of social media, it is much easier to stay both distracted and connected at a distance than when I initially started traveling the globe. Back in the 80s, you called home collect or wrote a letter and mailed it. That was high-tech communications. The rest of the time, you were just wherever you were. These days, you can hop on your smart phone from pretty much anywhere on the planet and talk or text with anyone you want. Still, other times, you need a better distraction from where you are than that.

If I want a big distraction, I travel. Getting away is very liberating. It cleans out all of the bad karma and lets you just be. It usually also has a lingering affect, once you return to wherever you escaped from. If you are a follower of this blog, you already know that I tend to blog when I travel. I find it lets people know I’m still alive (Mostly my mom and dad).

On a more important note for other travelers, it can also be extremely cost-effective. If you have uprooted yourself and moved a significant distance for work, say to another continent or completely across a continent, then exploring new places can be considerably cheaper with the reduction in new travel costs. Once I made it to the Middle East, I realized that I could travel around this side of the globe considerably cheaper than when I was always looking at traveling from the USA to wherever I wanted to go. Since that realization, I have done a fair piece of traveling around. The cost savings for nearby plane tickets make it too good to pass up.

For simple distractions, I usually like to go with movies. I’ve said it a thousand times and it still holds true; every movie theater looks the same in the dark. The coke pretty much tastes the same everywhere in the world too. There may be subtitles running across the bottom of the screen, but that’s okay. Most places tend to have a showing in some form of English. You can usually find one. If you want a social experiment, you can try the native language. When I was stationed in Germany, the local town had a second-run movie theater located just off base. We would find out what they were going to show, go rent the video, watch it a half-dozen time, and then go to the movies and see it in German. It was good fun. Usually, the parts you couldn’t understand didn’t drastically affect the movie.

As far as more elaborate ideas go, find a hobby. I think everyone knows by this point, but I write books. Fictional novels keep my otherwise unoccupied mind in check. I am currently working my way through editing revisions for publishing my fifth novel, while trying to find some time to keep writing my eighth novel. As hobbies go, I find writing books to be extremely cathartic and easy to practice anywhere on the planet. If I have a couple pens and a tablet of paper, I’m pretty much good to go. An internet connection is good for researching idea and items, but at the end of the day, that’s why they call it fiction. I highly recommend finding a hobby that is easy to pack and travels well. As a side note, all the travelling gives me great inspiration for my writing. You never know when the great ideas are going to come along.

I have developed several different distractions to keep my head in-check as I move about the globe. Like I said, if you are travelling for tourism, great. If you are traveling for work, I find a thought-out distraction to be a good way to keep me both happy, and mentally challenged. Find something that appeals to your own individual style and throw it in the bag next time you head out. Having something to distract you from your surrounding can be mentally lifesaving, even in the middle of a holiday (Me going to see Avengers while in Bangkok would be a good example of this. Hahahahaha).

Now, get out there. Have fun!

A picture of my latest creation. Well, the various pieces of it anyway.

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Travel

Koh Phangan, Day 1.

The word of the day is diving! Yup, I had to use the alarm on the phone again.

I was up with the sun this morning. Okay, slightly behind it, but it was kinda close. Threw on my favorite shorts and walked from the hotel to the Scuba Diving meet-up location. It doubles as their gear storage and hostel. Its a casual place.

I signed up with PIDS when I got in yesterday, for a two tank boat dive out to Sail Rock. Its a local diving hotspot. Phangan International Diving School is a well run, 5* PADI Rated, service. I would say that they lived up to that mark.

Its been a couple years since I was diving, so I tacked on a quick refresher course before the first dive of the day. Our Dive Master doubled as my Instructor, and we had a quick, all business, refresher course.

The first dive of the day was a bit dull in color, due to the black cloud cover and the pounding rain we received on the way over to the Pier and on out to the dive site. There was also some good current. That was fine, as the Diving was very good. Nice coral life, and fine fish, and a little bitty shark looking thing.

The swell picked up between dives one and two, and made me happy that I took the sea sickness medication.

Dive two was more colorful, as the cloud cover eased. I took the GoPro with me for the second trip. This will get posted at a later date, as I didn’t bring my laptop with me.

The ride back was long and filled with swells. Everybody took a pounding. The rain came back heavy for a while too. I was semi-soaked by the time I got back to the hotel.

There was a necessary shower, and bit of downtime. After, I walked downtown to find food. Food was found at the local food court. It was every cheap and quite good! A daily stop at 7-Eleven for stuff, and then a walk through the street market. I bought a bracelet, and a beer at a corner open air bar.

Coming back to the hotel, there are more people here now. Migrants in for the infamous Full Moon Party tomorrow. Don’t know if I’m going or not. I lined up the trip so I would be here when it happened, but I don’t know if I’m traveling across the island for that or not. We’ll just wait and see what tomorrow brings. So, I’m gonna sit here and drink a beer.

Get out there. Enjoy the sunset.

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Headed to the Islands.

Today was he first day that I needed to use my alarm on my phone. Every other day I have either gotten up early or just gotten up whenever. Today I needed to be on the move early. I’m outa Bangkok, and headed for the islands.

Got up, packed the bag, scanned the room, checked out of the hotel, and made my way to the metro station. The metro was a quick trip, straight up the green line, to the airport rail link connector. Once on the train, it was a straight shot to the airport.

It took me about 40-45 minutes from when I walked out of the hotel until when I walked out of the train station in the airport. Its the easiest, and by far the cheapest way to get to the airport. It is also completely internal to the airport building, so you just go up the escalators a couple floors to departures and you’re on your way.

Navigating the Bangkok airport as an outgoing passenger is really easy. Everything is well marked, there are numerous people around to assist, and the lines move fast. I didn’t know how much of a headache it was going to be and ended up getting here super early. They only open gate checkins three hours before takeoff, so there’s no reason to arrive too early. The departure area is also quite nice, with numerous shops and restaurants to chose from.

That being said, some general thoughts about Bangkok …

first, I realize I stayed in the wrong part of the city. The Sukhumvit area is the mainstay of cheap bars, prostitution, and stunning urban depression which is only randomly broken up by clean civilization (usually in the form of a shopping mall).

Bangkok as a whole is dirty, rundown, polluted, and with minimal redeeming qualities. The qualities it has are well on display. The shrines, museums, and places of note are all very well-kept, dispute their heavy tourist traffic. The Thai people, almost completely, are generous and outgoing. They make up for a great deal of other issues.

Still, the good doesn’t outweigh the bad. The pollution, especially the water pollution, is staggering. The traffic is chaos, made worse by the cabbies. And the place is dirty. Dirty on a scale that surpasses other cities.

If there is a good side to the city, I didn’t see it during my travels. I’m sure there has to be one.

These are my opinions. I’m sure others have their own. Still, I didn’t leave anything behind. That way, I don’t have to come back.

PM-

Had a nice McDonalds breakfast at the airport and lingered around for bit at my gate. Plane was full but efficiently run. We left on time.

Its a pretty quick 50 minute flight to the island of Samui (Koh Samui). You can purchase a bus/ferry ticket over to Koh Phangan at the airport limousine stand. Its located right by the exit doors after baggage, and set me back a cheap 400B. Limousine van picked up everyone and took us to the Pier to catch the ferry.

Upon landing in Koh Samui, I finally caught up with the monsoon. Its raining a pretty steady clip right now as I wait for my ferry to arrive.

Okay. The ride to Koh Phangan was great. The taxi lady at the ferry landing was overpriced but nice. The ride to hotel was fairly quick. The hotel was …. dismal. Maybe a little less than dismal. Had to pay upfront in cash. Okay, 3100B for 5 days. I should have expected that. The sheets however, are clean. And that, is what really matters. Okay, on this level of seediness, a room safe would have been nice, but beggars can’t be choosers.

Took a quick walk around to find Phangan International Divers School, which was right down the road. I came here to dive, and diving is what I’ll be doing. Tomorrow. Thanks to the hottie with the hot accent. I really hope she’s a dive instructor.

Back at the hotel, sitting out on the balcony by the sand drinking beer. I realize this place may not be so bad. At least the beer is cold. That, my friends, is step one.

Later!

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