Saturday, October 31, 2009

On the Horizon

For the past several weeks I've been bouncing from one home to another, hanging out with all kinds of interesting people. I've joked around with Jazz musicians and lived in a tee pee. I've had moonshine at college football games and ate chicken feet in China town. I've met some of the nicest, most interesting people in the recent past and I wouldn't trade those experiences for the world. But now it's time for a different type of adventure.

Some of the most emotional times on this trip have come while traveling alone. I learn more about myself when there's no one else around and the spirit of travel can more freely work on me when no one else is around. The experiences are more real, more powerful, and more meaningful when I do not have to share them. Also, it's so much easier to understand what I need to do when I don't have the distractions of companions.

I haven't traveled like this in a while and I could feel that I was missing something and now it's time to get back to the solo experience. No more couch surfing. No more hanging out. No more new friends. Not for a while. And to kick off the next leg of the journey, I'm going to spend a lot of time alone.

The place the Road is taking me next is not near a road at all. I looked over maps of Tennessee, Kentucky, South Carolina and North Carolina and found the most remote location out of those four states... possibly the most remote location in the eastern portion of the country.

In the Blue Ridge Mountains, a place filled with clear streams and black bears, there is a spot that is at least 3 miles from the nearest road or house in any direction. The terrain is extremely rugged and walking to this spot from the nearest road will take several hours. I will not be able to see or hear anything manmade. I won't be bothered by people. I'll be completely and totally alone.

I'm not sure exactly how long I'll be there, drinking from streams, living in the mountains, exploring the wilderness and existing simply, but I'm going to be prepared to stay for 7 days without coming out, possibly more. I'll do this part of the trip just like any other. I'll have no definite plans apart from staying true to the spirit of travel and the desire to experience things as fully as possible. I'll go in to see the area and to reconnect with myself after so many distractions. I'll prepare myself for a lengthy stay and come out early if it feels right to do so, or forage for food to prolong it if 7 days isn't enough. I'll put myself where I need to be and see what happens.

I'll be doing a lot of reflection over the next several days, looking into myself like never before and trying to understand everything that's there. Alone in the woods, examining my conscience, this is what I need to do right now. I need to test myself in a whole new way. I need to continue peeling back the layers. I need to see everything more clearly. I'm not going to guess what the next week will be like, but however it goes, I'm sure I'll have plenty to write about and even more to think about.

I won't be able to update the blog, read or reply to emails, or make any phone calls until I come out of the mountains, so don't be alarmed if you don't hear from me for a week or so.

Goodbye for now. I'll update again when I can.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Plants and more... zombies?

So, while living amongst the tee pee folk I was introduced to an awesome woman named Holly who lives right up the hill and is mega-hardcore into wild edible plants and such. So hardcore, in fact, that she hosts these giant weed-eating feasts. I'm not talking about grazing like farm animals, but 6 course meals of stir fry, casserole, pie, salads, and all sorts of other examples of culinary greatness.

Holly and her son had gathered a ton of various wild plants that grow in the area, most of which are likely pictured on the back of that bottle of weed killer you keep in the garage. She put us all to work in the kitchen dicing and chopping assorted leaves and roots and flowers and seeds and adding them to the various recipes. It seemed we were taking normal, delicious dishes and replacing all the veggies with the stuff that I considered random weeds. It was sure to be a disaster and I was gearing myself up for the disappointment, while simultaneously trying to learn as much as possible. As a backpacker, I wanted to know how to identify and prepare wild edibles in the area. That sort of information is invaluable in the wilderness, though I didn't think it would be much use in a modern kitchen where broccoli and salt could be found readily.

Shows what I know. The meal, 6 or 7 different dishes, not counting the uber-badass apple pie, smelled so good I was about to chew off my own arm just to fill my stomach. When it was all ready and we dug in, I was totally and utterly floored. This was some seriously good cooking. I've been cursed with some bland meals on this trip and as a Cajun, that's something I can't tolerate. In most places I've been, the food has been boring and bland. This meal, engineered by Holly and prepared by the guests, was beyond rock-awesome (technical term). I piled my plate high and ate it down to the porcelain. Everything on there was killer-good and the flavors were so rich and defined. They were also so new. Many of the ingredients tasted similar to something I was familiar with, but different enough to make it interesting.

The drinks were assorted teas made from just about everything you can imagine, like peaches, honey, and about a thousand other things, all mixed together to make about 5 different bottles, each with its own brand of goodness. I took a little of each so I could sample them all. Then we were also treated to some fresh mint tea, made from mint leaves picked earlier, and pine needle tea that I helped gather.

I learned a bit more about wild edibles after dinner, but my education really picked up when I spotted Holly outside my tee pee the following day, foraging in the area. I walked with her, picking things that she pointed out and learned each by name. I wasn't sure when I'd be able to put my knowledge to use, but the opportunity came earlier than I thought. This morning, while walking through the town of Boone, I passed through a vacant lot near downtown. While walking through, the assorted weeds sprang out at me as plantain, mullein, burdock, dandelion and red clover. Even in the dim light of the early morning, I was able to spot the different plants with ease. By the time I had walked to the far end of the lot, I had eaten my breakfast. By the way, red clover blossoms taste exactly like broccoli.

So that was all cool. My newfound knowledge is coming in handy already... and a few hours ago a random guy informed me that tomorrow night is the first annual Boone Zombie March where potentially 150 people will dress as zombies and march on the town of Boone, raiding shops, coffee houses and bars. How do I keep finding myself among zombies?

Monday, October 26, 2009

Riot Punch, Moonshine and Mint Tea

After hanging out in Hickory for several days I migrated northwest to the mountain town of Boone, North Carolina. I rode up there with a guy named Taylor who is obsessed with Appalachian State University and "It's Always Sunny in Philladelphia". So obsessed, in fact, that when one of the characters on that show went to a baseball game toting a drink called 'Riot Punch', he contacted the writers of the show, asked for the recipe, and then after getting a reply, made a gallon of the troublesome concoction and got thoroughly blitzed at the ASU game the following day. I have to say, Riot Punch is quite tasty and when I finally make it home, I'll make up a gallon for anyone who wants to try some.

While hanging with Taylor in the ASU parking lot, a group of tailgaters were building some wicked-awesome barbecue. I wasn't ashamed to snag a plate and devour it. I couldn't let it go to waste. Besides, I consider myself to be quality control and the food needed my stamp of approval. Before the game started and I made my way away from campus, a guy passed through, talked with us a bit, and after sampling the Riot Punch, he offered us some of his own drink, a mason jar full of Moonshine.

I'm not sure it's possible for any bacteria to grow in my body right now. That shit could strip the paint off an oil tanker. I think it cleaned my teeth.

After a little more time wandering the streets of Boone, which is an awesome little town surrounded by mountains, I ran into a girl I'd talked with online and she took me back to her llama farm where her and her boyfriend live... in a tee pee. yeah, you heard me right, a tee pee on a llama farm.

I've been kissed by a black llama named Cusco and squawked at by non-egg-laying chickens. It's a bit different than what I'm accustomed to. The tee pee is pretty cool, made from pine poles and stretched canvas. It has a flap that can be opened to let the smoke out and closed to prevent the rain from coming in. It has central heating (a wood burning stove in the center of the floor) and plumbing (a compost outhouse that's 40 feet away).

When I started this trip, I hadn't heard of Boone, had no interest in hanging with llamas (the ones near my house are plotting to kill me) and didn't think that anyone still lived in tee pees.

I found some mint plants growing on the farm and harvested a few leaves, took some water from a nearby stream, and made some mint tea on my alcohol stove. It was quite tasty, but I should have shredded the leaves more before making the tea (I'm just drinking all sorts of homemade things lately).

I'll be in the tee pee until Wednesday, then I'll be off again, running in some random direction. I'm not sure where I'll go once I leave Boone. I might just hitch for several days and go wherever the drivers will take me. If I make a decision, I'll be sure to let you guys know. If not, I'll let you know where I am when I get there... assuming I can figure it out.

Thanks for following along. It's been a blast so far and each day seems more exciting than the last. There's nothing I'd rather be doing right now.

Thursday, October 22, 2009


I'm backtracking a bit with this post, going back to Providence, RI to an experience I was just reminded of. Possibly the most meaningful experience I've had on this trip. Possibly one of the most important things people can do for each other.

It was a cool day in a public park. My Couchsurfing host drove two other guests and I there and we unloaded several milk crates that were full of produce. We carried it in and placed it on the ground near a walking path. Several other people, including the organizers of this little event, were doing the same. They set up the boxes of food, produce mostly, but there was also cereal, instant mashed potatoes, and even fresh baked bread from a bakery. It all looked so good. The spread made me want to cook soup.

It was all garbage. This was good food that the grocery stores and farmer's markets were going to throw out. It was being bagged to be tossed out when these guys got it, taking it to the park instead of watching it go to the dumpster.

Had the produce been bad, rotten, spotted, etc. it would have been different. But it wasn't. It was just excess. The box of cereal was being thrown out because the corner of the box had been crushed in during shipping. The packaging was unsightly, so the food was being tossed. The box wasn't even breached. It was the same for the mashed potatoes and countless other items. Good food, just some asinine reason for getting rid of it.

After the food was laid out, people began arriving. Homeless people. Poor people. People who didn't get paid enough to purchase all the things they needed, like college kids. They walked up, each browsing the selection and taking what they needed. They placed the lettuce in a plastic bag gathered from a pile of bags and then went for the celery. The potatoes and broccoli were soon gone. The bread, that tasty bakery bread, was snatched up. There were tooth brushes too. And a guy from a local bike shop was doing free bike repairs for anyone who needed it. So many of these people ride bikes because it's cheaper and this guy was helping keep their bikes on the road longer and also teaching them how to do the repairs themselves.

I stood, watching what these guys were doing. They were taking the excess that our wasteful society creates and were distributing it to those who truly needed it. There was no charge, there was no catch, no strings attached. You didn't have to listen to a sermon like the "Food Not Bombs" groups can put you through. It was just food, there, for anyone who needed it. That's it.

I remember quite well what's it's like to be treated like I'm no longer a person. Although it has happened sparingly on this trip, it takes it's toll. It hurts. Some of these people experience that on a daily basis. They can't escape from that. They can only deal with it, whatever way they can.

On that cold afternoon in that nice little park, they approached with a smile, picked up what they needed and thanked the guys who organized the redistribution of excess for their work and for their kindness. Regardless of how the rest of society treats them, for that short while they were people again. Their humanity was restored.

Every week in that park this happens. These guys find excess food that would otherwise be thrown out and bring it to the people who can use it. But in doing so they give them so much more than just a meal.

I'd like to thank those guys and if I hadn't mailed off my full journal already, I'd post their names here. Anyway, thanks guys. Thanks for doing what you do. Thanks for helping those who need it while so many others simply ignore them. Thanks for making a difference to so many people. Thanks for changing lives and doing something positive. Thanks for not letting good things go to waste when people need it. Thanks.

And Nathan, if you have the names of those other guys who help out with this, please post it in a comment.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Worse than Swine Flu

So I've been hanging out in Durham with a Polish guy named Maciek (Mah-sheck). It's a pretty cool area of the country and the nearby towns of Chapel Hill and Carrboro are quite scenic. Also, the people around here are very nice. I picked up a souvenir to send home to my Godson at a local outdoor outfitter and and finished off another 1GB memory card to mail back home.

The small town feel of Carrboro is great, and the compact nature of Durham makes it walker friendly, which is beneficial to a person who is hoofing it most of the time. But there is one major problem with this area...


I hung out with a bunch of couchsurfers on Wednesday, and many of them had never met each other. While I sat back and listened to them, the conversation drifted to the topic of zombies. This has been a constant among all the places where I've made friends, and it's not because of me or my obsession with the walking dead. I didn't start the conversation. I barely even join in. People just start talking about it and I sit back and enjoy. Another common theme is that I keep meeting people named Bonnie, which is significant because I once wrote a short story entitled 'Bonnie Versus the Zombies'.

So I'm sitting there on Wednesday while ten strangers talk about zombies and by the end of the evening they decide that it would be a good idea to dress up as zombies, drive to Raleigh, and invade a bar.

Yeah, I thought it was a good idea too.

So Saturday night, fifteen people, most of which I had never seen before, shambled into The Big Easy in downton Raleigh in full zombie attire... while a live band was playing.

It took only minutes for the walking dead (including myself) to completely take over the dance floor where they danced their zombie dances and frightened the living patrons. The band (Boomerang) made several references to the undead crowd and everyone who walked into the bar stopped for a doubletake as they were suddenly confronted with over a dozen zombies, many of which were decorated with fake blood.

I can't recall the names of most of the people there (I'm like that with names), but they were all great. One standout was a girl whom I had met on Wednesday who had a part in the movie 'Fistful of Brains', a zombie ripoff of the Clint Eastwood movie 'Fistful of Dollars'. I almost purchased that movie about six months ago. She has promised that if I get a copy, she'll autograph it for me.

I told people before that I would be present when the zompocalypse started and few believed me. Well, it's begun and I hate to say 'I told you so', but I did.

I'm leaving the area tomorrow to head west toward Greensboro. The weather is pretty chilly, with lows in the mid 40's. My sleeping bag is only rated for about 60 degrees, but I can bundle up in some thermals. I'm through with public transportation and will begin hitching as soon as I make it to I-85. After Greensboro, I'll move further west and see the mountainous areas of the state. After that... it's anybody's guess. I don't plan that far ahead. Last time I did I took a thousand mile detour.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

North Carolina and More

So far I'm digging North Carolina. Durham seems like a pretty cool city, but I'm spending some time in Carrboro, a small town south of Chapel Hill. It has a real community feel to it. People hang out near a grocery co-op and do their work on laptops while others walk their dogs, play with kids and do yoga. I took a nap on a bench there for an hour and no one bothered me. Actually, the people in general were quite friendly.

I intend to spend some time in this state, exploring Durham, Greensboro, Hickory, Boone and Ashville. I'm not just searching for a way to truly experience the area, but also searching for a place that I might like to move to. I need a change of scenery and with the constant Louisiana summer I can only go camping about two months out of the year. I want a state that actually has different seasons, instead of 9 months of summer and then a few cold fronts in January.

I'll probably be around the Durham area for about a week before hitching over to another spot. Once in Greensboro, I'll spend a few days checking out the small towns that surround it and looking at some of the hiking trails. Then it's on to Hickory and then Boone.

After I've checked out some different areas and experienced a decent portion of the state from the perspective of the locals, I'm going to turn my travels in a different direction. I've scoured maps of the state and found a place I want to go, an experience I want for myself. It's going to be tough, but I think what I plan to do around the end of the month or early November will help me grow as a person and an adventurer.

I'll keep you guys posted as I prepare for the next part of my journey, my next test.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Providence to...

After attending the Water Fire festival in Providence, Rhode Island where several boats ceremoniously lit baskets of oak floating in the Providence River and thousands of onlookers gathered to watch the spectacle, listen to the live music, eat various foods and just hang out, I gathered my things and prepared to depart. The following morning, I bid farewell to my hosts, Derek and Nathan, and set off to catch a bus. Hitching is so difficul in the northeast, so I was doomed to once again take a bus.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that two other couchsurfers, Chris and Brian, were also taking the same bus from Providence to North Carolina. A bus that decided not to work and Brian had to play mechanic and help get the bus rolling. After a half hour dealy at the terminal, we were finally on the road.

In New York, Chris spotted a pizza joint that had jumbo slices for dirt cheap. I ate two slices and had a Dr. Pepper for $2.75. Unfortunately I didn't have cash and Brian was kind enough to spring for it. Thanks dude. I owe you one. The pizza was freaking awesome and it illustrates that sometimes you really can buy happiness.

I managed to make it through the bus terminal in New York without getting robbed, but then again I literally held onto my carry on bag the whole time. Our new bus driver was a complete and total asshole. He was a rude prick and most likely mentally unstable. Go Greyhound!

After an eternity on the bus, which broke down in the Lincoln Tunnel for no apparent reason, I was dropped off at my destination. I said my goodbye's to Chris and Brian and left the bus to be greeted by the cool morning air, a fresh breeze, and the sunrise over downtown Durham, North Carolina.

Now that I've returned to the southern states, I can once again travel the way that God intended. I can stick my thumb in the wind and walk until my feet are sore, hoping for a kind soul with some extra room in his truck. With the sour luck I've had with busses, I'm sure that I was meant for hitching. Besides, it costs $108 to get from Providence to Durham by bus, but it was free to get from Montgomery to Scranton, and it actually took less time.

Not sure when I'll get a chance to be online again. Haven't had any responses from couchsurfers, so I'll most likely go looking for a spot to camp.

It's beautiful here in Durham, and I think I might linger for several days to check the place out. Since I plan on moving to this state, I'll probably be here for a while, checking out towns and cities and forests and trails.

Stay safe everyone. I'll update when I can.

Friday, October 9, 2009

How Far I've Come

It's day 25 of my Walkabout Adventure and I've spent much of the day reflecting on my travels. I read through my journal and added some more entries. It was a good day for reflection and after looking everything over, I can see how far I've come and I'm amazed at it all.

In just this short amount of time, three and a half weeks, I've visited 24 towns and cities in 6 different states. In Louisiana I've been in Sulphur, Westlake, Lake Charles, Welsh, Jennings, Grosse Tete, Chalmette and Slidell. In Alabama I've seen Mobile, Saraland, Montgomery, Alabaster and Birmingham. In Pennsylvania I've visited Scranton, Carlile and Hazelton. I've seen New York City (just long enough to get robbed). I've hung out in Providence, Cranston, Warwick and Newport, Rhode Island. And finally I've seen Boston, Wellesley and Cambridge, Massachusetts.

So far my transportation has cost me a grand total of $104, which I could have saved had the cops not been so anal about hitchhikers. But it's not bad. It's a minor setback and one I can afford. I look at the list of places and I wonder how many more stops I have to make. I wonder where I will be next. I still have so much to do and see and experience and learn. Sometimes I think it'll take a lifetime... or a month. I don't know. I never imagined I'd get this far, but I'd always hoped.

The trip as a whole confuses me, as I don't know what to expect or where I will be next. But right now I'll focus on where I've been and what I've done, seen, learned and experienced. I'll worry about the future when it arrives.

What's my biggest accomplishment thus far?
I'd say it's making it from Birmingham to Pennsylvania in a day, which I owe entirely to a truck driver named Stan whom I saw parked on the shoulder of the interstate outside Birmingham. He was updating his trucker's log when I walked by and he asked where I was going. I told him that I had just decided to go to Rhode Island to watch the leaves change and he said he could get me to Pennsylvania. Thanks Stan. I guess that was really his accomplishment, not mine.

What's my fondest memory?
That's a tough one, but after a little debate I'd have to go with the one that keeps popping up and giving me a warm feeling. A guy named Alex who let me crash at his place when I got into Providence has a beautiful daughter named Allie. I think she's three. I walked into the house one day and she ran across the room and hugged my leg. There's nothing quite like being greeted by a child to brighten a day. Thanks Allie and Alex.

Best time?
Another tough one. It's either the intellectual conversations with Rex in Montgomery, Alabama or riding across Louisiana with Steve and Josh, listening to Ryan Bingham and feeling the wind whip through the open window. Both experiences were cool in completely different ways. Hanging with a couple of good old boys and discovering a new musician that fills you with so much energy is awesome, but so is meeting a kindred spirit who shares so many of the same passions as you. Thanks Rex, Steve and Josh.

Best meal?
That one is easy. I've had some nice feasts, but the best was cooked by Henry in Boston. His steak rocks. It was so juicy, tender and tasty. Henry, keep on rocking. And the meal had great company too.

Hardest time?
That's another easy one. The most difficult part of my trip, in retrospect, was my time in Mobile, Alabama. So many of the people there were so cruel. Even losing my journal couldn't compare to how I felt coming out of Mobile. I didn't even feel like a human being.

Scariest moment?
That's a tough one. I got picked up by a guy named Jerry who was a pinhead who listened only to teenage girl pop music which only served to stir up his numerous emotional problems causing him to punch the dashboard of the truck. I was fine with that, but he also couldn't drive for shit. It was a white-knuckle ride from Saraland to Montgomery. It was a very intense hour. The other scary moment was when the crackhead couple under the overpass north of Mobile decided they wanted to attack me after doing a few lines of coke. The guy was shouting something unintelligible and threatening and marching forward. His woman was doing the same. I think they wanted to rob me but he had a difficult time annunciating. That confrontation lasted only about a minute, but it was pretty scary.

Worst pain?
That would be a phone call I made on the morning of September 17th. I had wanted to make that call on the 16th, but couldn't make it to a payphone in time and slept in a field. I didn't know that hearing a person's voice could cause physical pain, but it can if you miss that person enough. Hearing a person's voice but not being able to touch them can tear a hole right through your heart. I don't think I've ever felt a pain like that before.

Coolest place?
Providence, Rhode Island. Hands down. I went there on a whim, or what I call "Ooh! Moments" and decided to spend 10 days there. The whole area rocks and it's so beautiful. On top of that, the people are so friendly. If you've never been, plan a trip for mid October so you can see the changing leaves. If you have been, you know exactly what I'm talking about.

This trip has been magic thus far. The ups have been great and the downs have been a learning experience. I've seen so much and traveled so far (emotionally and geographically) and I still have lots to do. I have activities to do, things to write, pictures to take and a boss-wicked festival to scope out... and that's just in the next 24 hours. Then I'm migrating south (I think) to check out another part of the country that I've always been interested in and to take my trip to a new level by living in a whole new manner.

I want to thank everyone who encouraged me and believed in me while I was gearing up for this trip. Your words are kept close to my heart and help me when the road gets tough and my feet grow tired. Thanks. And to all those people who have started following since my trip began, thank you. Most of you are people who helped me in some way, large or small. I see people listed as followers who picked me up off the side of the road. I see people who just offered friendly conversation when I was at my lowest. And I see people whose names I do not recognize at all. Your fascination with my blog fills me with inspiration and prompts me to continue writing and giving updates.

Thank you all for everything you've done. Great or small, you are helping me through a difficult but wonderful trip.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Reasons and Explanations

So I read a post on my Brother's Blog and I realize that many people still have questions about me, my trip and my reasons. People have questions and though I don't feel obligated to answer them, I'll do it anyway. I'll explain what it is I'm doing as clearly as I can and I'll explain how I'm doing it. Hopefully this will clear the air and set people's minds at ease. Hopefully this will clarify everything and lend some understanding.

If not, oh well.

"Where is he sleeping?"
Wherever I can. Sometimes it's an overpass beneath a random interstate where the hum of passing trucks lulls me to sleep. Sometimes it's the house of a kind stranger who opens his doors to me for whatever reason. Sometimes it's in the home of a person I met online. Other times it's in the dirt under trees.

"How is he getting around? Is he hitchhiking? Is he walking?"
Yes. I'm hitching. I'm walking. In states where the cops are cracking down on hitching, I try to find alternate modes of transportation, like taking public busses, which I hate. Taking public transportation makes my trip seem fake and as soon as it's no longer necessary, I'll leave the busses behind and get back to stomping the pavement and holding my thumb in the wind. I'm also walking quite a bit. I've had a blister on top of a blister, which I didn't know was possible and I've blown out my right ankle, twice. But I'm walking and I'm loving it.

"What if he gets mugged?"
Then I get mugged. I'll lose some cash, probably about $8 which is about the most I carry on me. If the guy has a gun, I'll give him what he wants. If he has a knife or comes at me with his fists, I'll almost feel sorry for him. The cash I have won't pay for his medical bills and my kukri will dispense more damage than I can pay for.

"He's crazy. Why would anyone want to do that?"
Because I can, damn it. Because there's a hole inside me that must be filled and this is the only way to fill it. I'm missing something and out here I can find it. It's so close I can feel it. Besides, who wouldn't want to see south Louisiana, Montgomery and Birmingham, Scranton, Boston and Providence for less than $300? Who wouldn't want to see Narragansett Bay or the place where Rosa Parks was taken off the bus? Who wouldn't want to eat in the oldest tavern in the country? Who wouldn't want to make a dozen new friends in three weeks? Who wouldn't want to fulfill their dreams? I'm doing it because I want to and I don't want to be that person who sits around at the age of 80 and says "I wish I had done this or that when I was younger." In short, I don't want to be the kind of person who says "He's crazy. Why would anyone want to do that?" Because that's the kind of person I pity.

"What's he doing about... food, water, shelter?"
So far I've never been more than a day's walk away from an establishment where I can purchase some kind of food. Hell, I'm not sure if it's possible in the eastern half of the country to be more than a day's walk away. I can carry enough food in my pack to last two weeks, if not more.
Water is easy. Every building in the country has running water and most have a faucet outside. Even if they remove the knob, I can still open the valve with my multi-tool. Go ahead, ask me how I know this.
I have a small emergency shelter that has kept me dry when it rains, and for the first two weeks, it rained almost every day.

"What if something happens to him?"
Then it happens. Lots of things have happened to me. I had my travel journal, my most precious possession, stolen from me. I'm still alive, though, so I moved on. I pushed forward and bought a new journal and wrote down everything I could recall. If something else happens, I'll continue moving forward until my trip is done. If I die, I'll be dead. The cops will look at my ID and call my family. If my ID is gone, I have a tattoo of my social security number on my hip. They'll see that and call my family.

More on the Walkabout.
I discovered something about my trip and myself while walking. This happened early on and it's still happening. Going walkabout has certain mental health benefits. Walking all these miles, living simply, going by a natural schedule of eating when hungry and sleeping when tired, leaving everything behind, it strips away layers and layers of crap that we call "life". It breaks you down and grinds you to a pulp. It's difficult and it hurts. You can feel yourself breaking, little by little, until you look inward and realize that there's nothing left. Everything has been stripped away. All the details that once made up your life have fallen away. Your habits, your desires, your ambitions, your pet peeves, your friends, your debts, your love, your hate, your routine, it's all gone. All that's left is you. Raw, clean, fresh, whole, you see the foundation of yourself. You see who you really are, what you're made of. You see your strengths and weaknesses. You see the things you should be ashamed of and the things you should take pride in. You see what's important and what's trivial. You see yourself as you really are and you see what's missing.

Then, with all those extra pieces set aside, you can take inventory of your life and decide what you will keep and what you will discard. You can see where you need to grow. You can see what things in life were holding you back. You can move forward with life on your own path without outside influences. You can begin to reconstruct yourself how you see fit, not how society would have you become. You can purge that which is not important.

The whole process is painful, but wonderful. I'm more healthy, physically and mentally, now than I have been in years. I've grown so much in three weeks I hardly recognize myself. I've changed. I've evolved. I've strengthened. I have more confidence because I've had a taste of what I can do and it's more than I had imagined. I've faced some of the most difficult situations and challenges of my life in only 24 days and I've come out better than when I went in. I've limped 16 miles in a single day. I've had my life threatened. I've lost that which I hold most dear. I've left behind that which I love. I've lost my way. I've broken down. I've cried. I've been rained on. I've been cursed at. I've had garbage thrown at me. I've wished I was home.

I've also seen the sun rise over the treetops. I've seen clear, blue waves crash against a rocky shore. I've hugged children. I've been shown kindness. I've travelled from Birmingham, AL to Scranton, PA in less than 24 hours without spending a dime. I've made new friends. I've driven a go cart through a neighborhood. I've lost weight. I've found my way. I've grown up. I've grown stronger. I've seen green leaves turn gold. I've eaten authentic New England clam chowder. I've made people smile. And most importantly, I've learned that all it takes to live a dream is the ability to put one foot in front of the other until you get there.

That's why I'm doing this.

Any more questions?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Your Dreams: Realized

Recently I read an email from back home in which I learned that so many people were talking about my trip. I was told that me, doing this trip and being out here in places I've never seen before was inspiring people. People that I know were talking about how they suddenly wanted to travel, wanted to finish something they'd left incomplete or to just try something new.

That's such an amazing thing, to have that deep yearning to go out and do something new. It's such a powerful, raw emotion. It's inspiring. It's motivating. It's your fuel that drives you to accomplish great things. But just experiencing that emotion, understanding that you have a dream and wanting to see that dream become a reality is not enough. It's only the beginning. Wanting to do something is the easiest thing in the world. Knowing what you want to do and having that desire will only get you so far... and then you're stuck. If dreaming is all you do, you'll never leave your living room.

You have to take that energy that fills you and focus it into planning. You have to choose a direction and chart a course. You have to calculate and plot and figure out how to get from where you are right now to where you need to be. It could be long-distance travel, it could be taking up a new hobby, or simply finishing that project that you started last year. But if all you do is think about it, it will all remain unfinished.

Please, anyone who is reading this blog who has felt inspired by my trip to do something new and exciting and adventurous, don't leave it as a desire. Make some plans, organize your finances and figure out what you need to do to realize your dreams. And once you've done that, set the ball rolling. Start making preparations today. Start gearing up for whatever it is you're planning to do. Start saving money and getting in shape or taking knitting lessons or whatever it is you need to accomplish your goal. Make a bucket list and jump headlong into the biggest, most ambitious thing on it.

One day, sooner than you realize, you will die. And on that day there will be no time for another cup of coffee with your grandmother, sewing lessons, a trip to the Grand Canyon, skydiving, a cross-country road trip or a vacation to the Bahamas. If you haven't done what you desire to do, there will only be time for regret.

Don't be that person who faces death and says "I wish I had done that when I was younger."

Your time to act is growing shorter whether you use that time or not. When your life comes to its inevitable close, will you look back on it with regret or will you smile at the dreams you realized?

Providence to Boston and back to Providence

After several days of exploration in Providence and the surrounding area I hopped a commuter rail up to Boston ($7.75) and started exploring a city I'd heard so many great things about. I checked out China Town and ate some tasty treats there but discovered that I like Americanized Chinese more than authentic Chinese. Call me a sinner, but I feel that food should be enjoyed and if you don't enjoy something there's no sense in pretending you do just because it's more authentic than the alternative. You're only cheating yourself. Not that the food was bad, it's just that I'd rather eat General Chicken than Chicken Feet if given a choice.

There's some nice architecture up in Boston and some really beautiful old churches, but the big difference between Boston and Providence is the people. In Providence everyone is open and friendly and willing to strike up a conversation with you, even more so than Montgomery. In Boston, no one talks. People look straight ahead and march. They nod if you greet them, but there's no verbal response. The entire place seemed so much colder as far as people went. They weren't rude, they just didn't care to talk. I found this to be the case all over the Boston area including Wellseley and Cambridge.

I got to see the Harvard campus which is kind of a strange place. It looks like a nice university but the section of town it's in appears rather run down. It's like Harvard thrived and the city around it died. It just seemed out of place.

The roads in Boston are horrible. There's cracks and potholes everywhere. It's the only place I've seen with worse roads than Louisiana. They're terrible and the only thing worse is the drivers. NO ONE IN BOSTON CAN DRIVE! They drift from lane to lane, oblivious of other vehicles on the road. They stay in the left lane when they need to turn right and then they just turn, nearly causing wrecks. They almost run down cyclists every few minutes. They lounge around intersections when the light is green and then gun it through red lights. It's like all the rules of the road are just polite suggestions that Bostonians never heard. It's worse than Houston traffic. It's worse than Austin traffic. It's worse than anything. At least in Houston those 50 billion people have a general idea of how to drive. In Boston, no. It's like half the drivers are children who can't see over the wheel and the other half are blind... and drunk.

I also checked out the MIT Museum. If you get a chance to go there, go. And it's free on Sundays. The place is action-packed with cool stuff like little electronic devices that were wired by viruses using nanotechnology and odd little machines that do strange things. The coolest things were the robots and the AI. The people at MIT are really smart or really stupid because they're going to build the robots that become self-aware and take over the world and I don't think it's going to take them long... if the zombies don't get us first.

There was also this cool chick named Allie who was working with a team of people to develop the next generation of space suit. It looks wicked-awesome. I asked her tons of questions about it because I find that sort of thing cool. The idea behind a lot of it seems like science fiction, but I know that it'll probably be in use before I'm 50. That's just the way that science fiction works, like all the crazy stuff mentioned in that book 'Ender's Game' back in the early 70's. He talked about touch screens, computer tablets, chat rooms, virtual reality simulations, flight simulators and laser tag. And now it's all old news.

I left Boston on Monday afternoon and returned to Providence. I really like this city and I'm going to spend a lot of time here on future trips. It's a really great place. I'm currently staying with two guys named Derek and Nathan who showed me the Lincoln Woods State Park. It's a beautiful patch of the world just north of Providence. There's rocky woods, sassafras trees and maple. Their leaves already turning red and gold. A large pond on the southern end of the park has several small, rocky-shored islands. It's quite scenic. But everywhere I looked, every time I tried to take a photo of the natural splendor, the view was broken by a road or a sign or a building or a line of boulders carefully arranged by the park service. Why do we feel we need to conquer nature? Why do we set aside a patch of land to be preserved and then tear down the trees to build a field so people can play frisbee with their dogs? Why to we have to damage what we claim to enjoy?

I tried to just enjoy the park, but I wanted so badly to pull up all the signs and tear down the buildings and let nature fix what man had ruined. My relaxing walk in the park ended up leaving me in a bitter mood. I was angry.

Maybe a race of robots from MIT bent on human annihilation is just what the earth needs. Perhaps they would be more responsible with regards to their home than we have been. They certainly couldn't be any worse. Is it wrong for me to think like that? If so, I don't really care. And if you saw that park and it's marred beauty, like an abuse child, you'd feel the same way.