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

Collecting those memories.

A friend of mine asked me the other day what I used for cameras while traveling. This seemed a good topic for conversation, as I would image that everyone does something a little different. To start this I would think that there are probably two types of people taking pictures while traveling. These two camps can be defined as professional photographer, and the rest of us. The main difference between these two camps is equipment (and the willingness to lug it around).

Definitions being established, I can attest that I am firmly in camp two. I own a nice camera. It’s in a laundry basket in the storage unit, I think. Needless to say, I don’t use it a lot. I tend to use a nice DSLR and lens system when I am going somewhere that I am sure I am never going again or if luggage weight/size is not an issue. If I am driving and my bags are behind the seat of the truck, the big camera is a good idea. If I’m doing something that is only going to happen once, like watching the space shuttle lift off from Kennedy, I take the big camera. These are situations where I have made a conscience decision to carry extra weight and go for quality. There are times when quality is important.

The vast majority of the time, photo quality is a position of compromise. A thing where, good enough is good enough. Let’s be realistic about some things. The majority of us do not take vacation photos and enlarge them to 36×48, so heavy pixel density isn’t necessary. My largest enlargements tend to be 11×14. The vast majority of us don’t use our vacation photos for promotional brochures or book covers. I have used many photos for book research, but none for inclusion in finished books. The vast majority of us, me included, post or photos on Facebook, Instagram, in blogs they write, and twitter. I do all of the above except twitter. Then, they get stored in a digital file and left to wait out the ages.

I have spent a long time traveling. When I was young, the military taught me to travel fast and light. It was a lesson that I learned so well, that I still do it to this day. If it doesn’t fit in the ruck or the ruck is too heavy, it gets left behind. This mode of travel limits the amount of electronics that I tend to bring along. I almost NEVER travel with a laptop computer. I don’t carry a tablet or gaming device to pass the time. Weight can be much better utilized. My inclusions, currently, consist of an iPhone, a small digital camera, and a GoPro. I have also added a Bluetooth shutter button for the phone camera. I did this for purely practical reasons. The timer function on my phone takes a burst of between four and five pictures at one time. This chews up storage space on the phone that I can use for more pictures, if I use the Bluetooth button.

At this point in time, I use the GoPro (Hero 5) almost exclusively for underwater footage. This is because I haven’t owned it a long time, and really haven’t come up with a good alternate use for it. I am very comfortable using my phone and my canon digital camera. The canon is your standard pocket sized digital with an 8x zoom. It works well for all the tourist architectural photos and landscapes. And, as stated, fits in my pocket.

I find these three cameras to do everything I want them to do. I rarely run up against a situation when traveling that cannot be handled by one of these three cameras. Now, I admit, cameras are kind of like clothes. EVERYONE has an opinion about what is best. Everyone also has firm views about bad ideas. All I’m saying is these work for me. And, considering there is limited room in the backpack, they work well while requiring little room and adding little weight. Like I said, I travel fast and light.

That’s just my two cents.

For full disclosure, I took this with my older iPhone 4 so my current iPhone 6 could be in the picture. This explains the lack of picture quality. (I know. I can’t tell the difference either. 😬)

Get out there! Take lots of pictures!

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Good Morning World.

Well, I made it back to my apartment by 11:00 pm. I talked to the roommate, and watched the end of the Roma v Liverpool match to wind down before I crashed.

A quick 5 hours later and my alarm was going off. Ah, yes. That work thing needs doing again.

I think this is one of the great unspoken elements of travel. It seems many people tend to plan extra out time before going. No one likes to be rushed getting out of town. You want to check your bags one last time and make sure you didn’t forget anything important (passport, etc.)

Not too many people ever seem to add this consideration to the back end of a journey. To leave a little time at the end to decompress and get it together before wading back to reality. I used to do it a lot. I’ve been forgetting it lately.

So, now i’m up with bloodshot eyes. Catching my ride to work, so I can spend the morning wading through a sea of unread emails. Good times.

Hopefully, coffee will fix this?

Get out there! Go see stuff!

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Headed back to reality.

I was up before the alarm this morning. Good bed. Good sleep. Great room.

The morning has consisted of a shower, a very nice breakfast, and a taxi ride to the airport. Taxi driver didn’t have change for a 1000B, so he went hustling off to find some. The migration from sidewalk through tickets/customs and on to the gate area took all of about 15 minutes. Koh Samui airport isn’t very big, and all the people along the way are quite friendly.

As I always overthink the airport connection, I am here way early. I’m gonna learn how to arrive on-time, at some point. Now I’m just sitting here, drinking a complementary coffee. Bangkok Airways, for the win!

The flight from Koh Samui to Bangkok was trouble free and comfy. As expected, transitioning inside Bangkok airport was easier than last time. I’m learning to navigate this place. I haven’t decided if that’s good or bad. They say that if you travel the world for any good amount of time, you will end up at Bangkok airport. Check that box.

Turned the leftover Bahd back into dollars. Yup, took the hit in both directions. Its wasn’t much, so it’ll be okay. I kept some miscellaneous Bahd, as I did Cambodian Reil, for the collection. About enough to get a couple beers somewhere. You just never know when you’re going to need airport currency.

So, I’m at gate number 2, waiting on plane number 2.

Well, changing in Sri Lanka was chaos. My plane landed when my other plane started boarding. Fortunately, it was only one gate. Got there and they had thrown a breaker or something. No power to the x-ray machines, so no one could go through into the waiting area. Got it up and running after a minute, and there was a gigantic line trying to blister their way through. Apparently, the desk scanners went down too, because nobody went anywhere for a little it.

In the end, plane ain’t leaving without the pilots, and they were behind me. I will make the plane. Good. Good. Don’t want to be spending any more time than necessary here.

Well … I made it on the plane. What a crazy show that was. They made everybody wait while they pushed some old lady down in s wheel chair. That was nice. After, they just opened one door and everybody ran at it with their seat stub in their hand. Men, women, whatever, whoever made it through the door first won. Crazy!! Get me out of this country.

Planes fly, and so did mine. It went something like Entourage (Movie), Pacific Rim, and half of Thor Ragnarok. Kuwait airport was packed but moving fast, and I walked out the door to waiting taxis. After two weeks or so in Asia, the traffic in Kuwait City is positively provincial!

Good night!

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Island Hoping, Again.

Realized that the ferry off of here and my plane flight out of here were not going to mesh, so a decision was made to get back on the same island as the airport. Booking.com to the rescue with hotel options. Found something decent for the last night in Thailand. Also set up a transfer to the hotel with the ferry ticket. Very cool.

The not so good news is that the ferry doesn’t leave until 1630. So, I’m killing a day before the ferry. I thought about rescheduling the diving for today, but if the ride back in was slow, like it was the other day, I’d have a problem with the ferry connection. I’m actively trying to avoid that.

Got up late. Walked out to the beach and chilled for a little while. Went back yo the room, showered, packed, charged the phone. Went up and checked out. The Thai guy running the place doesn’t really speak English, but I’m pretty sure I got the point across.

Rucked up, the walk from the hotel to the Pier area is a quick twenty minutes. Not sure how adding a couple t shirts and a scarf made the pack so much heavier, but it seems that way.

The Pier is active this morning. Seemingly, more people coming than going. I’m sure it’s probably fairly equal. The Hub, a corner beer, pool, food, hangout joint is stop number one. I like a large portion of the current crowd, plan to hangout. Breakfast and beers for a while, anyway.

General note: in a land built for backpacker, big roller suitcases are basically everywhere. I can’t see how it’s practical, but it seems to work.

A load a casual day drinking, followed by a hangout at the ferry terminal, a kidney jarring ride across to Samui, and I am finally on the same island as the airport.

Got the ferry transfer to my hotel. It was a twenty mi its twisting turning affair that oddly reminded me to Ireland. Well, if you had your eyes closed. This place looks nothing like Ireland!

The hotel is …. damned nice! I mean I have a room with my own pool, nice. The bed is super comfy too! Why didn’t I start here? The Samui Resotel Beach Resort is, in a word, FABULOUS.

Watched the end of Ghost Protocol and wandered over to the restaurant. I need food. And, a beer wouldn’t hurt.

Now, go. Find your own beach.

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Koh Phangan. Killin it, Day 3.

Got a message from the dive shop last night. Seas are planned to be to rough to go out in the morning, so the diving is cancelled. These things happen when traveling. The seas of the world can be unpredictable.

That put the Full Moon Party back on the table. Well, right up until it started raining. I do a lot of crazy shit, standing in the rain drinking ain’t on that list. Do like getting rained on. Ain’t doing it. Kept drinking at the beach hotel bar on the sand.

Today is pretty predictably quite in Thong Sala. The party in Haat Rin run till around noonish. The party crowd that has returned are sleeping or packing, it would seem.

Showered, shaved, checked the email for the first time this trip (only 65 unread messages), checked FB, and Insta, then wandered into town like Bowie’s sacred cow.

It should be noted, there are only so many ways to get around Thong Sala. You can rent a scooter (250B per day. They are literally everywhere!), take a truck taxi if you have luggage to move, get a scooter taxi ride if you can find one (they’re mostly at the Pier), or you can just walk. Walking is my preferred method. He town isn’t that big, and you can walk across it in about 25 minutes. But, I digress…

I stopped in at the dive shop and inquired about the brand of sea sickness tablets they use. They gave me enough information to go find them at the next door 7-Eleven. I get drug tested way too much to not know what they are. Job security first!

After the dive shop, I wandered though town and back to the Pier, where I took up residence at a corner open-air bar right before the rain set in. Needed breakfast anyway.

Small groups of survivors from last nights mega party wander by, all looking like zombies from a B movie. They have far away stares and possess smatterings of day-glow paint that the rain still hasn’t washed off. They’re young and diehard. I appreciate that about them. They come in twos and threes, or by the taxi truck load, all headed for the Pier and a ferry off this island. Its cool for the locals. It would seem that each ferry coming to pick them up is full of another group willing to take their place. Beach drinking on a tropical island has a constant appeal. The incoming ferries are proof of that.

Its a steady downpour now. I order another beer. My plan for the day: sit here and drink till the rain stops. I don’t like the rain, but its a necessity during monsoon season. I guess. I’ll just day drink, and watch the party zombies walk around in the rain.

Decided not to wait it out and walked home in the rain. The constant sweat and heat and water has turned my toe sore a ripe red color. By the time I had walked the beach back to the hotel, I decided to go find some anti-Bacteria cream or something for it. It took a walk halfway back into town and two 7-Eleven stops before I found a bottle of Providine-Iodine. Not leaving home without the first aid kit again!

Since I was back in town, more food was in order. The local food court was just next door, so I stopped for food. Sweating bad today. Must be the post-rain humidity. Chicken and rice is the name of the day. It looks bland, but is tasty enough.

Since I left my rain coat at the hotel, the entire walk back turned into a soaking rain. Now I’m wet and stinky … again! You just gotta love monsoon season. Oh well, a little down time and then maybe a beer or two on the beach.

Sitting at the beachside hotel bar. The wind is whipping up something fierce right now. Not sure if it blowing one in or blowing one out. Its been raining most of the day.

Later, if the monsoon doesn’t blow me away.

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Koh Phangan, day 2, I think.

I decided to take a chill day today. This whole thing has been pretty on the move since it started. So, a leisure day won’t hurt anything.

I Laid in bed to my hip hurt. That signaled it was time to get up. Its pretty quiet at the hotel. The young party group when coming in early this morning. Good for them!

My first conscience decision of the day was do I go to the Full Moon Party tonight or go diving again tomorrow? After serious thought, I came down on the side of more diving. I have spent my time in the party scene, and thought his one is supposed to be infamous, I’m pretty sure I’ll be just as well off passing it up. Probably. Besides, I like some decent sleep before the action sports.

Second decision of the day. What do I do about getting off this island and to the airport on time. When I set up the hotel, I just ran it out to my leave date. I figured that I would figure it all out once I got here. There is an early ferry on my last day, but it lands on the opposite side of the island of Samui. It just seems like a risk leaving that kind of connection window to chance. Getting to the ferry on time and off Koh Phangan, then figuring out how to get around Koh Samui in a timely fashion, to get to the airport with enough time to catch my plane.

I opted for going over to Samui the night before. Found a nice hotel with booking.com. Then, walked down to the ferry office and looked into a ticket. They have a ferry heading to the airport side in the afternoon, and can even get a hotel transfer from the ferry dock. Transportation sorted.

Made a bar stop and a food stop on the lazy walk back to the hotel. Charging the GoPro and thinking about beers now. Probably throw the phone on the charger nice and go to the hotel bar for a couple. Maybe that will take the edge off not going to the Full Moon Party. Maybe.

Get out there. Drink beers.

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