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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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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Bangkok Day 3 Extra.

This is probably gonna sound crazy to most diehard travelers but, I’ve spent the last 3 days in Bangkok wondering where the Thai Food is. Serious, the kcal food is well did in the city. There is an endless amount of street food to be had. I have been looking for not street food. It has been a challenge I thought I was going to lose. Last night, having dinner at Burger King, I wondered if I flew all the way here to eat fast food?

In an interesting bit of accident this afternoon, I managed to temporarily solve this problem. I exited the metro from the wrong exit and did not realize it until I was back down on the street. Knowing I was wrong I stopped and reoriented myself back toward the hotel. During my walk back underneath the metro, I stumbled across a sign next to the Subway that said Thai Kitchen. It wasn’t obvious to tell where it was, but there was nobody in the Subway so I kept walking.

After taking my ease back at the hotel, I decided food was in order. So I collected my kit and headed back out to find the mythical Thai Kitchen. The Thai Kitchen did truly exist. It turned out to be a nice little, albeit empty place the floor above the Subway. Entry via the tiny, and well hidden stairs in the corner.

As I ordered, I wondered why there were 5 people at the Subway downstairs and nobody here. Didn’t matter for long. The food was outstanding. Fresh, and spicy hot! With a beer to wash it down, it was filling and reasonably priced. With tip, it was 600B for two dishes and beer.

I walked home quite pleased with myself. Mission successful.

Nice little out of the way place.

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Hiking around Bangkok. Day 3.

More bad cabbies. Everybody speaks English, until you want someone to speak English. Then, they look at you like you’re stupid. It can be aggravating.

I knew this was coming today, so I emotionally armored myself before walking out of the hotel. As I was standing in front of the hotel waiting to flag down a cab and get raped for a ride north to the Harley dealership, I had a though. Maybe, since I just spent a quarter of my days spending money on sunscreen I should have bought a week ago, maybe I would go adventuring instead. So I turned toward the metro station and an adventure was what I received.

I walked down to the metro and bought a ticket to the National Stadium exit, which is the terminal end of the green line. From the station I walked north and found the Saphan Hua Chang Pier to catch the water taxi. I road the water taxi East several miles to the Charn Issara Pier. From here I walked out to the road and caught a cab the rest of the way to the Harley shop. It took my phone god and to more cabbies before my cabbie could drive the 15 blocks over to the shop he couldn’t find.

The Harley dealer was shockingly overpriced, but I had made the journey for a reason so I bought a t-shirt and shoved it in my bag. The shirt cost me the rest of my day’s spending money. Running on a couple hundred Bahd leftover from the last couple days, it was time to make my way back.

So far the trip over had cost me 30B for metro, 13B for water taxi, and 53B for a cab. All of this to buy a 1300B t-Shirt.

I waited outside for 5 minutes or so until an empty cab came along. Of course, he spoke no English. He had no idea where the Pier was. He didn’t understand the google maps image of Bangkok. He didn’t get any of my money or exasperation.

Now, in a great feet of under-thinking, I said screw it and decided to walk. It seemed like a good idea at the moment. I headed back the way I had come, and made it 80% of the way there before I could go no farther. So I ended up walking west to walk east, down the side of the street which had no sidewalk and no real street edge. DO NOT DO THIS! IT IS UNWISE!

As I stopped, trying to figure out where I was (I was not in the good part of town and shouldn’t have been stopping to check such things!) I realized I was right next to another Pier, so I went there and grabbed another water taxi west. 15B for a ticket back to where I had come.

Hopping off at the Saphan Hua Chang Pier, I pulled out the phone and gps’d my way over to the Jim Thomson House museum. For a 150B entry fee with included tour, I definitely recommend this one. It is a very nice tour of the house and gardens, and then time to wander and take pictures. The guide’s English is good and the tour is enjoyable. Fortunately for me, there was also maybe 20 minutes of cool down time before it started. I was starting to overheat. I sweat so much, I had sweat all the screen back out of my skin. It was kinda nasty, and is now wiped all over my pant legs.

Catching the metro back to the hotel, I drank all the bottled water in the room. Now cooling down, while watching the FC Dallas v Philadelphia soccer match, and writing this.

All of that to save about 800B in cab fairs. (400B each way) oh well, I wanted an adventure and I found one. I have just about enough money left for some food and maybe one beer. I’m thinking its a chill out day.

You don’t really notice it from the photos, but the river taxi is not necessarily the best thing ever. The river is polluted and marred with floating trash. The taxi boats are all super loud, and basically exhaust-free. They are long, thin vessels, so the bob up and down at speed end encountering any amount of wake.

That being said, the are cheap! They are also easy to use. Just locate the Pier and climb on a boat heading the way you want to head. You literally have to hop on and hop off, as the boats don’t completely stop moving when they come in to the Pier/Dock. Watch getting on and off. Once on, a young and industrious deckhand will make his way down the side of the boat and sell you a ticket. Just tell him what Pier you’re headed to and he will charge you accordingly. I paid 13B going out, and 15B coming back. From what I understand, about 20B is the max ticket price. If you’re headed east-west, it worth the time to take the water taxi. All of the people on it are working Thai people, coming and going. It gives an interesting view of daily life you don’t get by other travel means.

Nap time.

Get out there. Do stuff!

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