First Week In NZ

I  arrive in New Zealand after 20 hours of travel from Taiwan on a Sunday. I have no idea what time it is there now. I have no idea what time it is here. I only know I’m  tired.

 

I wasn’t ready to leave Taiwan. I have a pretty great girl there and we were having a great time together. In fact, the night before my flight, we were out until after 3 AM dancing. Even after spending two and half months together for 24 hours a day neither of us had had enough of the other yet. We both wanted more.

 

We spent April traveling in Southeast Asia. Cuddling on overnight buses, making love in the hostel dorm rooms, getting bored in museums, and playing “Plants vs Zombies 2” in Vietnamese Cafes. The best part about the trip was spending time with her.

 

Sitting in a crowded hostel on a wobbly bunk bed, top bunk. The room is full. No one says hi to me and I’m too shy to say hi to them. It feels so unwelcoming. I keep beating myself up inside for not breaking out of my shell. My mind is rambling. Negative thoughts are flooding my consciousness. I can’t seem to organize them. Blocking them out is not working much either. My mind is full of self doubt and my soul feels so empty.

 

It finally hits me like the weight of an overhead wave crash down: I am totally alone. I’ve found myself clear across the world, far away, from my home in San Diego and I don’t know a single person. Depression sets in. Even in this crowded room I have never felt more alone in my life. Words are flowing at a 1000 miles per hour inside yet I can’t seem to open my mouth to let even the simplest one out.

 

Attempting to control my mind, I start making a list of all the things to do tomorrow to get ready for the working holiday: open a bank account, get an IRD number, get a SIM card.

 

I’m concentrating on my breath to relax while I try falling asleep. I am transported back to a my bunk. A tiny three high bunk in a narrow hostel room in HCMC. The room has 5 stacks of bunks, each three high. There is a three foot gap down the middle, it’s filled with everyone’s backpacks. All the beds are taken buy only about six of us are present.

 

My girl climbs up from the middle bunk to visit me. I had passed out. She reaches out sticking her warm, soft hands on my stomach under my shirt. As she pet me, I awoke with a calm feeling. There is something about being around her that just makes me a feel tranquil. All of my anxiety is washed away. The rest of the world and it’s problems mean nothing.

 

Being in this mental space allows me to peaceful fall asleep.

 

It’s Monday morning, no it’s Monday afternoon. The traveling, the poor sleep, the time change create a force that makes waking up a slow, tiring process. I need to go to start my day. I have to force myself to get up and climb down the bed.

 

I walk 40 minutes to the closet KiwiBank. While opening an account and applying for an IRD number, I begin to small talk with the banker. I’m trying to be social this will be good practice. Turns out he is Taiwanese. Bragging about my Taiwanese girl, I start sharing my experiences in Taiwan with him. He points me in the direction in some cheap Chinese markets for groceries. After the bank, I get my phone set up.

 

Three hours after I start my day I am out of things to do and I am feeling totally lost once again. I starting thinking, “what should I do, what should I do. I can’t waste time here. It has to be used effectively.” It makes relaxing impossible. No matter what I do, my mind tells I should be doing something else.

 

I’m spending the week waiting day after day for an interview that is continually postponed. I’ve been in contact with a company trying to get a job for about a month before I got here. I call them to set up an interview.

 

I try to relax and get comfortable in the hostel. I talk to my Taiwanese girl, I talk to my parents, I talk to my friends. It wasn’t until after socializing at a weekly couchsurfing event that I finally start talking to people in the hostel.

A week later, it’s Monday morning again. I’ve leaving to work in Hamilton. I created a mini family in the hostel after a few depressed days and now I must leave. But I will be back for the weekend.

Bored in Bagan

The plan was to wake up early and buy last minute tickets on the only daily bus to Sittwe. It leaves Yangon at 8AM.

As my alarm starts to go off early in the morning, I reach over and shit it off. Back to sleep.
It’s a and hour and half later. “It’s 7:30,” says Cindy. At this point we have no way to make the 8AM bus. She climbs into my bed and I cuddle her.
We begin to pack up slowly and eat the free hostel breakfast. I’m pissed we missed the bus. I can only blame myself so I keep it inside and try to forget about it.
It’s a 30 min walk to the bus ticketing area or a 5000 kyat taxi ride. So we start to walk. The area is nothing but small shops who buy their tickets from someone else. No one is particularly helpful.
We decide to leave and just go the people they are calling. While waiting for a public transit bus we caught a shared taxing or 1000 kyat each.
We are sick Yangon. We’ve been here for, I don’t know, three days. Most of which have been spent stuck inside a hostel without power because of rain. To venture outside means going to their New Year celebration. Essentially a free pass to dump ice cold water on anyone.
We take the first ticket on the next bus out of Yangon. That’s how we ended up in Bagon at 4am.
We’ve been dropped off way outside the town stuck at the mercy of Taxi drivers with inflated prices. We split a cab with some American girls visiting from Thailand. We found a home and began the trek to the pagodas. As we walk the sun rises over the horizon.
We walk to the first pagoda to take a rest. Some children walking through the bush come over to join. They’re friendly. They ask us where we are from and then pull out their collection.
They collect foreign currency.  They asked me if I had any from the US. I did, but I told them no. They flipped through all the bills listing the countries as they went. Then they were fishing through various coins they had. A few they didn’t know so they asked us. I didn’t know either.
I wanted to give them something. They actually seem like legit currency collectors, minus that part about wanting US dollars. So Cindy and I give them a Taiwanese dollar. They unimpressed. We leave.
After walking to the next pagoda another child approaches. “Hello, where are you from? I collect foreign currency.” And then he begins to start listing off the countries just like the last kid. I can’t help but start laughing. I tell him I don’t have any US money before he even asks. Then I tell him to go away.
It’s been a few hours since we started walking. We’ve made it to the old city. There is a sign that says river view. We decide to walk to the river instead of go inside.
The road to the river is dusty and long in the heat. As we reach it’s terminus we discover a bench in the shade of tree over looking the river. I lay down on the bench with Cindy on top of me.
A few hours later we wake up from the nap. We take our time actually leaving the bench to start the walk back to the old city. As we entered we realize it’s too hot to continue. Cindy sticks her thumb out to hitch a ride back to the city.
After five minutes a car pulls over and offers us a ride back to to town. We learn that the woman is from Burma but lives in Singapore. She accompanied by two male family members. They took pity on us for walking in the heat.
It was 3 P.M. when we got back to the hotel. As we walk in we practically fall onto the beds. Passed out.
It’s 6AM now I’ve just woke up. We decide to get a bus out of here. All the buses to Inle Lake are sold out. SO we pick one up for Mandalay. Neither of us wanted to be in Bagan anymore. The bus is another overnight bus. We are to stay in Bagan for the day again.
Today we rent a scooter and ride it from pagoda to pagoda. It’s the ideal way to see them. Walking was a horrible idea. I have to say my favorite part is riding on the small dirt tracts between them. You see one pagoda you’ve seen them all. The real view of the place is from the top of the few you can still climb on.
From Mandalay we take an early morning train straight to Hsipaw.

Back to the ‘Bei

[The title is like “Back to the Bay” the Bay Area but I was going back to Taipei which is pronounced more like Tai “Bei.” I was trying to be punning. I know it doesn’t make a lot of sense hahaha.]

 

After two weeks more than two years  I’m flying back to Taiwan. Never could I have thought this would happen when I left in June 2015. But this trip is totally different in purpose. My friend, Justin, from exchange is coming here with his brother and we plan to hike Yushan. After that, my dad is coming out with a good friend of his as tourist.

In 2015, I arrived in Taipei at midnight and had to figure out how to get to my school in the middle of the city. Alone. The biggest difference for me is that someone will be waiting for me at the airport. This time, there is a bright shiny face waiting for me when I walk outside the arrival gate.

–     –    –

When I got back to San Diego from Taiwan I signed up to be a buddy for an exchange student.  I was assigned Cindy. Since her exchange I have kept in touch with her. She even came back after her exchange and the two of us traveled together in the states (San Diego, Chicago, and a road trip to camp in Sequoia National Park).

We maintained contact, almost everyday since she left the states. Our relationship had grown to be more than friendly. And, now, I’m here and she’s waiting for me at the airport.

We spend the next few days hanging out in the city eating at all my favorite restaurants from when I was on exchange. The sights and the smells of the city bring back so many memories. Memories of feeling that can never be recreated.

It’s odd to go back to somewhere that meant so much to me. It had a certain energy about it while I was on exchange. I had a certain energy about me. What was once a magical newness is now the familiar. The familiar has also slightly changed. Cities change, but at the same time they don’t.

–    –    –

We  are late to the airport to meet my friend and his brother. It is my fault. I finally found a used bookstore that sold English books. To my, surprise I found The Monkeywrench Gang on the shelf. Being that it is the book I have already reread the most, I decide not to buy it. It’s important for someone else to read it.

–    –    –

Getting to Yushan was a little tricky. We are taking a bus from Taipei to Sun Moon Lake. From Sun Moon Lake the bus to the base camp of Yushan leaves at 8AM. So we have to stay overnight.

We try to leave earlier than plan, hopping on a different bus. The bus arrives at it’s terminus. We haven’t arrived where we need to be. We are in a small village in the mountains with no way out. After a failed attempt to hitchhike we call a private car to pick us up.

Staying in the base camp is cold. We were the only westerners. The Taiwanese preparing for the hike were practicing with their ice picks and crampons. I  watching them, realizing I have none of that. We might have underestimated the hike.

My American friends develop a different attitude. They begin to make fun of the Taiwanese for being over prepared. They didn’t even have rain jackets. Their arrogance is annoying to me, but my Taiwanese girl was on the verge of tears.

The ascent up the mountain is pretty miserable. It rains all damn day. I have two rain jackets on, both fail. I have a rain cover on my backpack, it fails. Everything I have with me was soaking wet and freezing cold. I try to keep how pissed off and uncomfortable I am at the weather inside. I shiver all night.

In the morning, I go get my rain jacket from the area where they hang to dry. It’s frozen solid. We were not allowed to ascend the last bit of the mountain to the peak because of snow and ice conditions.

Cindy and I walk down together. My friend and his brother run down leaving us behind. I don’t say anything, but this is horrible hiking etiquette you never leave your group behind. The two of us were carrying everything. What if one of us fell on the ice and couldn’t walk. That would leave the other to carry two backpacks and a friend. Meanwhile they’re well ahead of us carrying nothing. No good.

I think what’s bothering me the most is I am here to hang out with Cindy and my friends are really just unknowingly cockblocks at this point. If that wasn’t the case this wouldn’t have gotten on my nerves so much, maybe. They’re cool dudes!

Then my dad came.

Last Minute Trip to Chicago

Chicago is probably my favorite big city. Every time I have been there I have a great time. I have been a few time before this trip but it has been eight years.

Eight years ago I stayed with my cousin in her dorm and she took me around to all kinds of really cool spots.  Before that, my trips there were with family and we did all kinds of tourist activities.
This trip I was determined NOT to do any touristy things. I had family and friends who might as well be in the city. I really didn’t give a fuck what we did, I just wanted to spend time with them! So that’s exactly what I did.

I showed up in Chicago the same day as Cindy and her mom. They had planned to stay at my friend Justin’s apartment by he was still out of town. I tagged along with them. I told his roommates who I was and how we met in Taiwan. No problems, slept on the couch.

The next morning my cousin picked me up to drive out to Naperville to see her mom. Cindy was leaving to Minnesota for a couple days and Justin wouldn’t be in until for a couple days. I had nothing better to do then go to the suburbs. But, I am super grateful that I did.

We stayed up all night with her mom drinking wine, eating cheese, and talking about our family history. I learned a lot of things that I hadn’t known. It really puts certain family situations in perspective.

The next night, we had dinner with my cousin’s boyfriend. After that, we went to a bar and played darts. I almost won my first game. Does that count for anything??

The next day, a Friday, I was alone in Chicago. Everyone I knew was either working or not in town. A made myself vulnerable and tried out Couchsurfing’s new Hang Out function.

It was a great experience. I think I met up with the group at around five p.m. and ending up closing a bar at 4 a.m. Couchsurfing makes it easy to never travel alone.

One of the guys I met was named Darren. He was interested in going out approaching people and meeting girls.  I told him the truth, “I am down to go to talk to people, but I am awful at approaching strangers.” “It’s easy,” he said.

He told me, “just go up to this group and ask them what a good bar is.” Before I could come up with any excuse not to, he literally pushed me into them.

We went from bar to bar doing these all night until I left him to go to sleep. I learned a lot from him. It actually is no big deal to approach strangers in a bar. Everyone seemed quite happy to talk. This is not something I have personally experienced in my life before.

I’ve led a shy existence. But, that is changing.

The next day, technically it’s the same day because I went to sleep at 4:30 A.M., I met up with my friend Justin. He had another friend he met in Taiwan, Carina, visiting too. We all went out for a late breakfast. Justin had to go work. I wanted to go to the Lincoln Park Conservatory to see the plants. Carina came with me.

After the Conservatory we rented some bikes and rode by the lake. This was such a relaxing way to spend the day. It reminded me of the bay in San Diego. I wanted to go home and make a point of riding along the bay regularly. (I have not done this.)

The plan was to meet up with Justin for dinner. But apparently Carina is just naturally late. Justin told us to meet 30 minutes early so we would be one time. Fantastic! They went to a play and I went back to my cousin’s to get cleaned up. We met up for drinks after.

Ended up getting drunk. Getting hungry. And, dropping a watermelon in the grocery store. I also through a cantaloupe at Justin while he was trying to sleep. I went to bed at 4 or 5. Two hours later Cindy showed up.

She had pie from Justin’s mom. She feed it to me while I was barely awake. Life can be good sometimes.  😉

I spent the next two days doing some touristy stuff with Cindy and her mom.

I took only four pictures. Mostly of Lego versions of the Chicago skyline.

And a fat Tinkerbell graffiti piece.

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Chicago was wonderful.

Back in San Diego (Again) For a Week or So. I Really Can’t Remember.

Written in October 2016, takes place in July 2016.

 

Coming back to San Diego from Arcata sent my mind spinning out of control. I was envisioning myself running away to a new life in the woods. I was jealous of my friends starting new.

I felt like I have been through a lot in the past few months. It wore on me mentally and physically. How could I not want to run away?

I spent the next week in San Diego working all day, dreaming of the redwoods, and spent my nights smoking DMT. A lot of it…

I learned a lot from my experiences but I am definitely forgetting some of my days.

I ended up canceling my trip to visit a friend in Montreal because I wasn’t sure what was going on and I was pretty sure I was moving up to a farm in Humboldt County. Something about inter-dimensional  travel makes you think.

I decided on a whim to buy a cheap round-trip ticket to Chicago. My Taiwanese friend was to be visiting there, I have a great friend I met in Taiwan who works out of Chicago, and my cousin lives there! I haven’t seen here in eight years.

And, I was a little worried that if I didn’t force myself to take a break I would have just kept experiencing DMT. Which isn’t a bad thing. But, I was letting myself prioritize that over what I knew I wanted to make my priorities.

Probably One of the Most Rewarding Trips I’ve Taken

Arcata, CA July 2016

I’ve been a lot of places and I’ve done a lot of exciting things. I have fond memories from many trips. All of my trips have provide me with that warm tingly feeling we call happiness.

But, I would have to say that the trip that has provided me with more warmth and more tingles (?) is a recent trip I took up the redwoods.

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Just a typical amazing view from up North. Those light green patches are places that were clearcut back in the 50s or 60s. Notice how they still aren’t recovered. People still clearcut.

A couple of friends of mine from high school are moving up to Arcata, California. One for school, the other for love. They’re married.

When I first heard that they were moving, I selfishly volunteered to help them. Any excuse to travel I will take. I told them I could barrow one of my dad’s work trucks to move their furniture.

Months had passed since my  initial offer. During that time two of the work trucks died. There was nothing left for me to barrow. The company was short on trucks. But, I told them I would help them and I wasn’t about to break that.

I rented cargo van.

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I picked up the van late on Wednesday afternoon. Then drove it up to their home in North County (San Diego). I hadn’t been sleeping much since I got back from Montana. I gave them the van keys, told them to load it up, and proceeded to take a nap.

Ten hours later, I woke up. Maybe about half of the packing and apartment cleaning that need to be done was done. I tried to help out as best I could, tetrising in as much of their belongings as I could. Almost everything had to fit in the van because she drives a small Honda and he drives a Fiat.

When it was finally time to leave, we left San Diego just in time to meet up with the LA rush hour.

My aggressive driving style and their frequent bathroom breaks got me about an hour and change a head of them. We stopped in Sacramento for a late night dinner. Only one place was really open so we went their for tapas.

We decided that it was best to find somewhere to camp for the night instead of trying to drive the next six hours (estimated arrival time 4:20 A.M.). We found a small campsite on google maps outside of a town called Collusa, about an hour north of Sacramento. It wasn’t too much of a detour.

When we got there, I pulled out their living-room rug, spread it out on a picnic table, tossed out my sleeping bag and went to sleep.

The morning started lazily. But, soon enough we were headed back out on the road. From the Five we took the 101 to Arcata. I’ve been to Arcata a few times, but never via this road. New is good.

It was beautiful drive in. I don’t know what it was about this particular trip but I couldn’t help but think, during the entire two days of driving, how happy I was. I was happy to be on the road, I was happy to be with friends, I was happy to be a part of huge change in their life.

I missed their wedding when I was in Taiwan. They had it the weekend after finals and a week before I got back. They were to selfish to push it back when I asked, so whatever. I didn’t go, nor did I get them anything. I considered this a late wedding gift, early housewarming, and repayment for that time I was supposed to help you pay for that van we totaled in high school.

 – – –

Arcata is a beautiful little college town in the heart of the redwood forest in Northern California. It’s home to Humboldt State University.

We all pretty much spent the next four, or five, days (I can’t rememeber) smoking weed, taking naps, smoking weed, walking around town, hiking,  smoking weed, and drinking.

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Taking a nap on Strawberry Rock. I slept here. The photo was after I woke up.

This was also during the Forth of July. We met up with some other friends from high school and their friends and drove down to Eureka to see the fireworks.

I would wake up earlier than other people, take the van to a near by beach, and spend some time alone mediating. The mornings were foggy, I loved it. I was alone on the beaches until about 9 or 9:30. I found it very relaxing.

Then one morning, I had to wake up and leave. Almost without saying goodbye.

I drove back down through Avenue of the Giants, Mendocino County, and over to Glass Beach. Glass Beach was two hours out of the way but way worth it!

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I love this picture! I think it is great that the focus is on the dead bugs on the windsheild over the amazing backdrop outside.

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You can see some dead bugs here too lol

– – –

I had this strange urge to move there. To stay in the mindset that was I in. I had been so depressed the past couple months. The friends who were their for me just moved 14 hours away to some redwood paradise. I fantasized about moving up there, working on a farming, dumpster diving, trimming, and selling psychedelics purchased off the dark net.

These thoughts persisted for a few weeks after I returned. I was contacting a friend-of-friend who had a farm job to see if there was work. I signed up for a WWOOFUSA account to find farms to live at. I told my family I was thinking about doing. I even used it to justify canceling a trip to Montreal to visit a friend.

Then I realized something. I was lost. I was just filling my emptiness with another persons dream. After college, after my long-term relationship ended, I didn’t know what to do. I had to much freedom of choice and I attached myself to the first wild idea that presented itself. I paused. Reevaluated.

As much as I would love to live in the moment that was my five days in their home. I can’t. I would have gotten over that novelty. It was their dream to live their not mine. I have wild fantasies of my own I must chase.

And, I am. Stay tuned.

Glacier National Park, Montana

I hate the middle seat. I’m a window seat kind of guy. I enjoy looking down below at the patchwork of farms that makes up America. Also it’s nice to lean my head against the wall pass out.

I was still dehydrated from some intoxicate use the night before.

I was up late last night. Went to a MoCA event with some other couchsurfers. I got stoned because I couldn’t sleep. Now I’m on a plane, with no pillow, in the middle seat, getting shit sleep.

 

Growing up, going over to Montana. We’re on our way to spend 10 days in Glacier National Park. This is the park my dad never got this to his children. He was busy marrying a crazy bitch, my brother was graduating, and I was entering the world of psychedelics.

But we’re going now. I’m here because my dad loves his kids. This is the family trip he’s been wanting. If anyone needs an escape from their life it’s him. [I’m probably projecting here, I need escape too.] My goal is to make sure he has fun with his sons.
Turns out my dad isn’t the greatest at planning trips. We are staying in Great Falls the first night then our next few nights are pretty close, without much to do or see in between.

We ate lunch, after picking my brother up at the airport. He flew in separate from Ohio. The place we ate was mediocre at best. I wold soon learn this would be a trend in Montana cuisine.

 

Afterwards we spent an unfortunate amount of time in a sporting goods store. The time was passed a little quicker with the company of an unaccompanied minor who wanted fifty bucks to put a gun that shoots salt at bugs.

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The next night we stayed in Browning. It was only a two hour drive from Great Falls with even less to do.

We find our residency for the evening; a tipi village. I could tell my dad was underwhelmed to say the least. But once I saw inside teepee I was excited. I love camping. And the foam had they provided was way softer than what I normally camp with.

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We spent the day driving up to Canada.

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Canada has a national park that borders Glacier, Waterton National Park. Together they create one large International Peace Park.

Canada is beautiful. Is it fair that their side of the border is nicer than America? Canadian bacon was right. He didn’t do much there but it was exciting because I got to drive in another foreign country and I’ve now been to national parks and three countries. Possibly for, not too sure what the deal is with the Philippines.

I slept very well in Tipi that night.

 

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The next day few we went hiking in Glacier National Park. My dad was slow because he’s old and my brother was slow because he got sick from a frozen salmon burger. Regardless,  they both impressed me by hiking 15 miles in a day.

We did the Ptarmigan Tunnel Trail. We knew it was closed because a trail marker had said so. In my head I just assumed that meant the trial was closed and I could ignore it. BUT no, they actually have a big ass metal door that closed the tunnel!

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The trail was still fun. We saw some marmot, some goats, and had a hell of a view.

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I spent every night in Montana staying up late because I couldn’t sleep. It was lighter later, a time difference,  and I need time alone to quiet my mind. So I mostly spent my evenings alone, drinking in the hotel lobby.

 

I hope my dad had fun! I love that guy.

 

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We walked all the way around this lake. Pictured is about 3/4 of it

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This is a beaver dam. I recently watched a show about beavers as a keystone species. I was excited to see this.

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Buffalo, outside the park