Category Archives: Blog

Narrative based articles about my climbing experiences.

Voluntourism

Ever since I landed in Chile, I have been doing voluntourism with a couple different hostels, and I find that this type of travel seems to suit me. Instead of just paying for a hotel, or hostel, I get room (bed), and sometimes board (food) in exchange for 30 hours of work.

One of the hostels I volunteered at was also the office of the owners many other business interests, many of which included cellphone towers, intranet and even a tv movie service similar to Netflix. I found it through the website workaway.info, which is a site that puts volunteers together with hosts who need help.

The workaway was located in Frutillar, one of those cute tourist towns near their lakes district which was founded by Germans back in the 1800’s (I believe).

At first I thought I’d be working on an ERP system, but since I was only going to be there for 2 weeks max, they decided I’d create a animated logo.

Tie Up the Lion,Tie Up the Lion: An Insight Into Voluntourism, Available on Amazon!

It was sort of a throwback to my previous work as a web site designer. But, it almost felt to me like an unequal exchange. Like, I got room and board for a week for an animated logo – right?

I had an entire house to myself – and while quite cold and damp it had 3 bedrooms and I ate meals with the family at their house next door.

For an animated logo.

Just didn’t seem fair to me, which bothered me. The host, though, seemed delighted with the logo. It’s what I used to tell a friend of mine: It may be simple for you, but for someone who doesn’t know how you did it, it is like unimaginable magic.

The gig was pretty good, but the house was located about a 45 minute walk from the tourist village, and after going to the Concert hall, and eating at a few restaurants I found that I exhausted the interesting tidbits about the town.

The animated logo that bought me a free week of room and board!

So, every day I would leave after work for a rainy stroll to town and back, eating one of the specials of the day, drinking a local germanic-like beer, then walking back before it got dark.

Every day.

So, after a week, and seeing another week stretch in front of me into an eternity-seeming repetition of my days ahead, after a week I had had enough. I talked to the other volunteer named Fucundo, and asked him how long he had been volunteering, and he said: ‘One year.’

Blew my mind.

How was that possible? One week for me and I was already going stir crazy. I think part of it was just escaping a Colorado Winter, and even with it being mild as it was it was a shock to go from Spring straight back into another Winter.

But then I found out where Fucundo was from, and he said it was the most southern part of Argentina. From his description it sounded like an alternate universe Alaska – Long cold Winters, and maybe a brief couple weeks where they might see some sun. After something like that, Frutillar must have seemed like a decent place to hangout for a year – or more!

But for me, I had had enough.

The thing about traveling is that you are in charge of the experience that you want, and since the host and I had not established how long I should stay, it was simply up to me how long to remain.

I completed the logo and bought a ticket back to Santiago.

Coincidentally, I received an offer to work in a hostel through a different volunteer service called helpx.net , otherwise known as Help Exchange. La Casa Roja was quite large, with the ability to host nearly 100 hostel guests. I was to be part of around 20 people, some paid staff, and the rest volunteers like myself.

Hey Bar Tender! Who knew voluntourism could be so fun!

The hostel need many different types of help, and so far I’ve done cleaning, grounds maintenance, helped make a fire for a BBQ and even learned some basic bartending!

I actually spent 2 days as a regular guest until my voluntourism gig came up, just to check them out, and found they facilitated alot of activities for the hostel guests, like movie night, arranging guided tours, and had a nice bar with cheap drinks.

And after spending a few nights ona shaky top bunk, it was nice to stay in the staff bedroom with only 3 other people (instead of 7) with a bed to myself, and even a dresser!

The dreaded top bunk!

It’s so pleasant, and the tasks well organized and communicated that I may even extend my stay!

 

 

 

 

 

 

700 Places to Volunteer Before You Die, Available through Amazon.

Being a volunteer also helps you connect with both regular staff, who are typically locals, and also an international contingent of people also traveling by doing voluntourism. I’ve practiced my basic Spanish with the staff, as well as get travel information from the other volunteers. It’s a great combination, because as a guest, while you may interact a bit with both staff and other travelers, as a volunteer you become almost quasi-staff, with more privileges, and some unique to staff perks.

For example, I get free breakfast as a volunteer on top of my free room. And certain volunteer activities allow volunteers extras, such as BBQ night you get to also get a plate of food, or bartending usually gets a free pint of beer as well as any tips. And certain things like bartending are great skills to develop – they travel well, and how cool is it to say, ‘Hey, yeah I learned to bartend in Santiago, Chile…’

I’m sure I will find alternate ways to do work exchanges, or even paid gigs like teaching english – or bartending! But, helping out at hostels and other places that need a hand is turning out to be a great way to facilitate travel in ways you might not have thought of! I certainly didn’t. And if you are planning a long-term travel trip I most definitely recommend that you give it a try.

 

 

Follow blog via Email

Hegira to Valparaiso

“My cousin Roland Blas did the ancestry research and he didn’t find any record on him other than the  name Don Jose Liberato Guerrero born in 1840 and must have immigrated from another country as a spanish soldier and settle on Guam and married a chamorro woman. Spanish records shows that on october 23, 1857 he sponsored a sailor from Val Paraiso City, Chile and settled in Hagatna, Guam. So there is really not much to go by. We don’t even have the name of the sailor he sponsored. It was assumed that he is from Val Paraiso just because of his sponsorship. Another assumption is maybe  from spain as he was a spanish soldier. So don’t sweat it especially if the place is dangerous.”

My mom wrote this to me as I was considering my next move. I had heard from more than one person that the thieves were, well, thick in Valpo. One scam was a person would squirt mustard or water on a person, and while acting as if they were trying to clean or dry the person they would also be pickpocketing them as well. I heard this from more than one person. Facundo, in Frutillar, told me about a woman he met who had everything stolen from her, including her cellphone, purse, and backpack in Valparaiso. Ricardo, my host in Frutillar put it this way:

They have very high unemployment with all the young people there. And whenever that happens wherever that happens, crime follows as a result.

The stories had me rethinking my plan on going to Valpo, but Ricardo told me, ‘You must go. Your great great grandfather is from there. You can’t go to Chile and not go there.’

True.

I know that the theft probably happened outside the tourist sections of town, and I heard that if you stay away from a certain side of town (north?) you’d be fine, but how was I to know what from what?  After contemplating getting a bus on my own, among other plans, I decided to just join a tour.

I’ve always been a non-tour, non-cruise sort of person, but as far as sticking to the tourist areas and being with a group of people with a guide shepherding us all seemed like a good way to check out the city for the first time.

Vina Del Mar

The tour was split to 2 different places, Vina Del Mar, or “Vineyards facing the sea” – something like that – for the first part of the day, then Valparaiso the second.

Vina Del Mar is a big wine growing region of Chile, and our first stop of the day was a vineyard – and at 10 am I found myself drinking a sweet red, a sweet white, and a dry red. Samples, but still – sorta early in the day for that, right?

Vineyard/restaurant

I heart medialunas

Pablos everywhere

Almuerzo. Apparently Chilean Sea bass is just called “Sea Bass” in Chile.

I made a stop in the restaurant inside the vineyard and discovered my old Buenos Aires breakfast food – medialunas, washed down with a nice cortado coffee!

We also visited this impressive rounded stadium, which also had some statues of Pablo Neruda at the entrance:

In fact Neruda was sort of a underlying theme to the whole thing, with photos, paintings, and tchockes galore being sold imprinted with his image. Chile is very proud of their native son, as they have a right to be. He is arguably the 20th Century’s most noted poet in the world. That he is also Chilean has to be a point of pride (and source of tourist revenue).

He is everywhere, and became a sort of stand-in for Don Jose Liberato Guerrero, the abuelo de mi abuelo de mi abuelo…

We also visited a place that had one of those sculpted torsos with the huge heads from Easter Island. And I thought, “Maybe I should go there?” But, as this Dutch person on the tour told me, who had travelled for a year and a half in her younger days, “You soon realize you just can’t go everywhere, and so you go where you can.”

We had Almuerzo (lunch) at the coastal restaurant in Vina Del Mar, and I was right: Chilean Sea Bass in Chile IS just called Sea Bass.

Valparaiso

Valparaiso is hilly and picturesque, with paintings and colorful arty graffiti decorating the walls, and multiple houses tumbled together in bright colors befitting the seaside town of Pablo Neruda. Apparently he had 3 houses he owned, and one of them was a sort of museum that was part of the tour.

The walking tour went past all this great outdoor art, and Neruda seemed to pop up everywhere.

Pablo Pablo Pablo

Mucho gusto enconocerlo Pablo

Todos los Pablos están serio…

You talk to Pablo you talk to me!

Pablo y Yo


Pablo stoned

Pablo en arte

I think a few actually are…;-)

Steep hills filled with art

I am soon stoned!

Flowery clock

Pablo y Yo

So stoned!

Dime Pablo!





Walking the colorful art-filledstreets, I felt that I would have had no issues in Valpo – it is a city like other cities, with all the dangers and precautions one had to take in any city you find yourself in. And as a person who has travelled through New York, San Francisco, Buenos Aires, et al, I should not have been as concerned as I was.

But, like the venerable Mike Tyson said, ‘Everyone has a plan, until they get punched in the face.’

I knew that I would not find any information about Don Jose, but perhaps my photos of Valpo could assuage the searching hearts of my relatives, perhaps show parts of Valpo so that they may see what he might have seen, experienced a bit of what he might have experienced traversing the hills and streets full of art many decades ago.

I feel the spirit of Don Jose here, though. I feel a sort of kinship. What it must have taken for him to travel by ship to a tiny foreign island, marry a native there and start a family. And leave beautiful Valparaiso behind.

 

 

Follow blog via Email

How to buy a bus ticket in Chile if you are from the US

Buying a bus ticket in Chile can be difficult, unless you know the correct place to go. And going to the bus station in small towns in Chile may not work, as they have varying hours of operation. Luckily, there is a new company started in January 2015:

https://www.recorrido.cl/en

Recorrido.cl

 

Unlike the other bus websites such as Thaebus.cl or Turbus.cl, Recorrido.cl allows the input of your Passport number, instead of the Chilean RUT number. Recorrido also allows you to pay for a bus ticket through Paypal.

One thing to remember is that you do need to be able to print your ticket to bring with you to where the bus picks you up, (which may look to you like the middle of the road)! Remember this, because they will not accept electronic tickets.

The other way that works is to go to the station during their operating hours and purchase a ticket there. In Santiago, this worked for me at Alameda Station. I was able to select my seat, and purchase the ticket with my credit card.

There you go! If you know of another way to purchase bus tickets in Chile, please leave a comment below!

Follow blog via Email

Frutillar Baho, Voluntourism and Kuchen!

Who knew I’d be designing logos again a couple decades after I ended my graphic design career?

I had a little miscommunication about the volunteer requirements – I thought I’d be working on Odoo, but I guess their immediate need was to transfer email servers. That, frankly, was waaay out of my skillset.

So, after some back and forth about what I could do (and couldn’t do) it was decided that I’d take a shot at redesigning one of their logos.

I had a bit of a throwback emotion to my old working life – having to discuss what was expected of me, and what I could realistically provide. Just because I’ve worked in the tech industry for 20 years, doesn’t mean I’m also a developer, a network admin, or understand how to transfer to a new email server!

But I do not want to freeload either, I want to be of service. They provide a house, an excellent wifi service, 3 square meals – and I don’t just expect it all to be free.

So, I’m designing a new logo. I find it sorta refreshing to do this again, especially since my career isn’t on the line – I just want to do good work in exchange for their hospitality.

Voluntourism is an interesting way of doing travel. You have interactions with the people of the area, you do some sort of service in exchange for room and sometimes board. And you have a person to get information about the area you are in. I’ve budgeted for about $30/day for the year, and any day I can either do voluntourism, or get paid work is another day I can extend my trip.

Frutillar Bajo

Frutillar Bajo is kind of the main tourist part of Frutillar (I think). There’s also a “Frutillar Alto” which is sort of newer (if 100 years vs 200 can be considered “newer”).

Funny, you start the morning thinking you’re isolated and not able to contribute in any meaningful way, and then you start work on an interesting project, and then find out the town is a pleasant 40 minute walk away!

I was just contacted regarding doing house-sitting for 2 months in Bariloche, Argentina. I planned to go north to Valparaiso and La Serena, and maybe find some desert heat east to San Pedro de Atacama, but we’ll see what Destiny has in store for me…possibly in Bariloche!

But, Bariloche, while in Argentina, is still basically in the same region – a lake region with similar cold and rainy weather right now. And, I need to find some climbing soon – the El Muro gym in Santiago slaked the climbing thirst for a bit, but perhaps made me thirstier in the long run. Will need to find a solution soon!

Iz dat Jeebus hanging from a tree?

Jeebus luvs u!

Take a long walk off a short pier

El Teatro de Frutillar

Kuchen ist bichen

 

 

Follow blog via Email

Can you help me? I am lost

‘¿Puedes ayudarme? Estoy perdido.’

It must have been strange to see this Norte Americano, with the flat-brimmed light grey baseball cap approach her at 10pm near a bus stop where she was playing with her 7 year old boy.

Le Virgen

Earlier, around 4pm, I started the hike to visit “La Virgen” – a famous statue of the Virgin Mary on top of the highest hill in Santiago.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By the time I had started down, it was getting dark fast.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It took over 3 hours for me to hike up, and I didn’t start to head down till after sunset, around 7:45pm or so. In the darkened terrain I didn’t notice how the road down looked different till I was a quarter of the way down. At that point, a certain inertia took over, and I thought: ‘I’ll figure it out once I get to the base.’

But, the surroundings looked completely different – more like a suburb than part of the city center. And there were tall gates lining the highway, with barking dogs to keep people from approaching too close. I passed a couple of guys sitting on an old ratty loveseat who said something to me I didn’t recognize as I passed. I knew at that point that this was not a situation I could get out of by myself – I would have to ask someone for help.

I went into a small grocer and asked, ‘Necisito direcciones.’ I pulled out the map and pointed out where I was trying to get to.

‘Esta lejos,’ he said. It was far. How far? ‘Tan lejos caminar.’ Too far to walk.

He tried to explain how I needed to get to the metro (subway). What he didn’t know was that I had tried to get a metro card earlier, but my card was rejected because I failed to notify my credit card company of my travels. ‘Pero, me gusta caminar.’ But, I like to walk.

A younger man walked in, and asked about the situation. I could only catch a few words in his rapid Spanish, something about it being way too far to walk, that I needed to go down this street, and take a left, and a right blah blah blah.

He seemed to get increasingly frustrated every time I said I wanted to walk. I was wondering why he was getting so worked up, and in my ignorance of language, body language, I thought the worst. I went, ‘Bien, qual modo esta metro?’ Something like: Okay, which way is the metro?

He thrust his arm to the right, and I left.

The route followed more of the high fenced wall, then I moved to the other side, which turned from a sidewalk to a wide dirt path. I passed a construction area, and a security guard took a look at me, then down to his paper he was reading.

I kept looking behind me, expecting me to see the young man with a group of friends after some easy prey. In my anxiety, I couldn’t grant him the benefit of the doubt. I just kept walking, even though I knew that really I should just stop and try to find another place to ask for help.

For all I knew I could be walking exactly away from where I wanted to go.

I thought of the worst. His last known location was a hostel in Santiago, Chile. He told no one his whereabouts. The last photo he posted to his Facebook account is this one:

Le Virgen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A young guy passed, and I was about to ask him, but I saw him stumbling and weaving – casualty of a night out.

Finally, the bus station came into view, with a few people waiting for a night bus, and the young woman playing with her child.

Her eyes were wide, cautious, as she assessed me. I tried to look as harmless as possible as I asked for her help. She was possibly the best person I could have asked. She told me her name, but I have forgotten. I will just call her Mary.

She told me that the men were right: it was way too far to walk. ‘Cinco kilometres.’ 5 kilometers. She didn’t know how far I’ve walked, but walking that far, and not knowing my way, would make things difficult.

She spoke some english, ‘You are in a poor neighborhood,’ she said. ‘I am poor,’ she said and laughed a small laugh. When I speak Spanish or French, and other people respond in English, (like in Monreal) I think they believe I cannot speak their language well enough, and instead of hearing me mangle their language that it would be easier if everyone involved would simply speak English. They are right.

But her motives seemed more simple: she knew I could understand her little english better than her spanish. I responded in my meager spanish for the same reason.

Vive acqui?

Yes. All my life.

Cuanto anos tiene? (pointing to her boy)

He is 7 years old.

Solo uno?

I have 2 kids, my other kid is 3. I am a young mother (laughs).

Como joven?

Fourteen.

Cuanto anos tiene?

I am thirteen three.

Thirty three?

Yes.

I did the calculation in my head. She should be 21 now if her oldest son was 7. Something lost in translation.

A taxi passed. I said I could take a taxi. ‘No, it is too expensive,’ she said. ‘It is very far.’ She saw me take some peso coins from my pocket. ‘The bus does not take money. You need a card.’

Pero, no tengo una carte.

I will talk to the bus driver.

After about 30 minutes, the bus arrived. She stepped up ahead of me, and I could only catch a few words, but the gist of it was: He is a tourist. He doesn’t have a card. Can you take him to the station?

He nodded. ‘He will take you,’ she said, and offered her cheek. I only encountered this in Buenos Aires, the cheek kiss, and I brushed her smooth cheek with mine, air kissing.

I felt so grateful to her. I wished I had given her a card, an email address, something to stay in contact. And I regret not taking a picture. But perhaps this is for the best. She probably had a husband, or not, or whatever. And this way, it was another selfless act from a young woman to a foreign clueless traveler.

I pondered my luck. I have, except for a couple exceptions, felt fortunate in my life.

Then a thought crossed my mind: why was she playing with her kid at 10pm on a Saturday near a bus stop? And then a thought: there probably were no playgrounds in her neighborhood. That she worked odd hours, and this was time she made for her eldest son. And a bus stop with people is a safer place than a random piece of dirt.

I made it back to my hostel, to my Macbook Pro, my iPhone 6s, my ability to make money, and realized I had no problems at all. I turned on the light to my shared room, and my roommate shaded his eyes, and I quickly disrobed, turned off the light, and went to bed.

Follow blog via Email

Santiago – Day One

Some photos on Day 1 in Santiago

It’s been a couple decades since I spent time in a hostel. My funny first thought was “this must be a little what prison is like.” New guy, have to position oneself in the hierarchy, punch out someone, or be someone’s bitch. But “little like prison” really means “very little like prison.” Nice desk person, everyone quiet and respectful as befits a shared space.

 

 

Acrobatic busker act during traffic stops

“Un chico” size is a single small fried donut, 100 Chilean pesos, or 15 cents USD.

A Viking themed restaurant.

Magic of using Google Translate app. This is the “before” photo…

… after Google Translate

Interesting looking busses

I don’t think Tom knows about this.

The airport lounge during my overnight at the Lima Aeropuerto. Could only use it for 3 hrs at a time. Rested there when I arrived, slept out in the main airport seats, then went back prior to my flight.

Market in Santiago

Hamburger Italiano had slices of beef, guacamole, tomatoes and mayonnaise. Not sure what was so “Italiano” about it.

Fried empanadas had cheese in the center.

Would like to find out what mountain that was – largest on the horizon.

Follow blog via Email

I am no longer there

The day of departure I felt an enormous pressure, as if I was under the deep ocean. I checked, and double checked my packing, a third of what I have brought are electronics and computerizations of various sorts: a miniature speaker cube 1.5” per side, my Macbook Pro, noise canceling Bose earbuds, my iPad for watching Netflix, iPhone 6s, a charging brick with 2 USB ports. At the last minute I bought a warmer jacket – a waterproof soft-shell a tad warmer than the shell I bought earlier – as soft as the one I loved so much the zippers no longer zipped, and estimate it will make my trip 10% more comfortable.

I weighed the decision on whether or not to bring my white ExOfficio shirt, or the one that had a khaki pattern and was less likely to show stains. There’s a reason English expeditions went with Khaki.

But I liked the white shirt!

I weighed its heft in my hand, and muttered ‘fuckit’ – brought both at the waning hour.

And still I am sliced thin. A forgotten bag, and coat mistakenly left behind would not spell absolute disaster, but ordinary disaster can be failure enough.

My 2 bags – what’s called a “personal item”, my PacSafe 25 liter backpack with security features, and a 2nd larger Pacsafe roller – my “carryons” are misnomers.

They are my oxygen masks.

At least that’s what the melodramatic side of me calls them. But this I know: because of the additional weight, any of the above could be assigned as an asset or a liability.

I am kitted to do some tech work, some web work for farmer’s in Chile, to build an ERP system for them. I know nothing of Chilean localization and formatting, but I am keen to be a quick learn.

A curious thing happened though: once I boarded the plane my anxiety dropped away. All my preparation caught up with me, and sailed me through Ft, Lauderdale to Lima, Peru, and next: to Santiago & Frutillar, Chile. And while I haven’t set foot in a hostel for a couple decades, I knew now, slash proof backpack and combination lock in hand, I was fully prepared to take that fateful step.

The Peruvian server at the Pachakama Restaurant on the Hollywood Beach boardwalk in Ft, Lauderdale very kindly disabused me of the thought that I might be at all fluent in her native tongue. She herself flawlessly shifted from speaking slowly in Espanol to me, catching me in Ingles when I faltered, then shifted to francesa for the French couple at the table next door.

After looking up traditional Peruvian dishes online, I settled on Lomo Saltado – a traditional beef dish of tender chunks of beef marinated in soy sauce and vinegar – like the marinated chicken I ate as a kid. This dish emerged from the Chinese influence in Peru, and melded into something with a Latin American twist. It even had the molded Chinese white rice, but also a slightly spicy green sauce as a side that didn’t appear remotely Chinois to me – but I admit I haven’t tried everything Oriental.

The beef also had sautéed onions, and not-chinese fries as a side. All washed down with a Peruvian lager. I asked which was her mad favorite postre (dessert) , and she said “Lucuma”, which was very sweet, and tasted somewhat of Dulce de leche custard, but she said it actually came from the fruit by the same name. She told me to find it once I got to Peru.

As a passing gift she wrote on a lined yellow piece of paper

  • LUCUMA IS A FRUIT
  • TUMBES IS A CITY TO VISIT – FRONTIER WITH ECUADOR
  • BARRANCO IS A GOOD PLACE TO VISIT IN LIMA
  • (EL PUENTE DE LOS SUSPIROS)

She also told me to be careful in Lima – it’s a big city with big city dangers.

The kindness of absolute strangers staggers me.

I see what I am doing as if outside my body. I question what the hell I am doing, but paradoxically  have no doubt about what I am doing. I hope to limp with my palsied Spanish till I can walk, with possible visions of running. I hope to rock climb, and know that I am destined to do so, even though it is not clear as yet. I figure providence will hold me aloft to push me towards the right place at the right time.

THE LETTER
I carry a letter from a person I have known for 3 decades and refused to talk to in the past 2 years. One page, typed, packed with as much sorrow as a page could hold. I carried it for 2 months, burning like something radioactive in my bag. I responded with a 4”x6” postcard I got from a tourist shop on the Hollywood beach walkway with a happy “Hollywood Beach” sign, and folks strolling along the beach.
The 4”x6” space conveyed less than I would have liked, but all that I could really express. I failed to fill the last inch, so I drew a picture of what was in front of me: a couple on a park bench on the right – palm trees to the left. It was dropped in a cloth shopping bag marked “MAIL,” the cashier taking a longer glance than I would have liked at the contents, stopped when she saw me watching her scan the lines of what I had writ. I paid for a 2nd postcard to write to a happy friendship to wash the sad taste from my mouth.

A line from my fateful 1st postcard sticks with me: ‘I am leaving the states. Do not write to me at my old address because I am no longer there…’

Follow blog via Email

How to Travel Internationally for Free!


 

I often get asked how much money I have saved for traveling around the world. Besides being a very personal question, I can understand the curiosity factor. A better question is: How much is it going to cost to travel the world, and my answer is: zero. It doesn’t take any money at all to travel internationally. That includes airline tickets, hotels  and food.

A common response: I call bullshit.

No really, if you want to travel internationally for free, you can. But you have to pay the price.

Wait a second, I thought you said “free?” I did, but the “price” you pay is to (maybe) be a little inconvenienced. And I say “maybe” because what you get (World Travel) compared to the “price (Tad inconvenienced) is so lopsided, that the inconvenience is barely one at all.

Here’s how I do it: The first stop on my travels is Chile. By using an online service that searches for the cheapest flights, instead of paying the $1,200-$1,300 cost of a one-way ticket to Chile through Expedia, I am only spending a little over $500 by using Skyscanner.

Now, to offset the cost of air travel, I could use a service like Grabr, basically buying goods for people at your destination. You get paid a fee for bringing items over for people in the countries you are visiting, where it may be difficult to get in their own countries. I’ve heard of one person, by filling up his checked luggage with Grabr goods (Inconvenience) he earned $500 (Benefit=Free travel!). And I haven’t even touched the 100,000 points I received for getting the Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card!

Free airline travel, check!

Well, how about room and board? Personally, I found a voluntourism opportunity, where in exchange for 20 hours of my time and expertise (Inconvenience) I receive free room and board (Benefit=Free room and board, duh).

I got my volunteer opportunity through Workaway.info. I basically just paid a small fee, filled out an online volunteer profile with my information, the countries I was interested in visiting, and what skills I could provide in exchange. I was actually contacted by someone named Ricardo with the subject line: “Chile needs your skills!” Two months later, May 1st, I will be helping him with the User Interface (UI) of his online accounting software project for farmers in the area.

Free Room and Board: Check!

The amount of time I’ll spend there is open ended. Basically up to me, or until the project is finished. If I like Chile, who knows, maybe I’ll stay. Hosts get reviewed on workaway as well, and Ricardo has a perfect 5 star review with 83 reviewers.

Seems legit.

There, that’s how you travel for free!

And the price: bringing gifts to foreigners and get paid for it, and volunteer on interesting projects with the opportunity of meeting locals who can also help your transition to a new country is the price you pay. But really, is it a “price” at all? Personally, I choose this way of travel. After a lifetime of working, like Liam Neeson says in the movie Taken, “I have a particular set of skills…” 😉

But, even if you think you don’t have any worthwhile skills, you can always help clean, or check guests in, or something – all the while receiving free room and board and a built in support system.

Is that even a “price?” Or is the “cost” really a free benefit for helping a brother out? I believe it’s the latter.

 

 

Follow blog via Email

Accidental Minimalist

When I discovered that I could rent my house and make a few hundred dollars profit, I was, as they say, ‘outta here!’ Mind reeling from the posilicious possibilities, I knew that it would take a lot of work, but that I had to simply start walking. After living in a home for fifteen years, one tends to accumulate stuff. And a few of those years were prime earning 6 figure years, where I would simply walk into an REI and just buy anything my heart desired.

And , oh, did my heart desire!

One year I believe I received a $300 dividend. That would mean I had spent at least $3,000 the previous year. That buys a lot of climbing equipment!

French freeing the 1st pitch of Super Nova

French freeing the 1st pitch of Super Nova

But those days are past. My path is now writing and video-documenting my life and interests – do what you love, the money will come, right?

But, calculating the cost, and the revenue weighed against the PITA factor, I realized I could do it

I could be free.

All it would take was dismantling everything that I am.

Because we define ourselves by what we own – our choices revealed through our cars, our houses, how landscaped our yards are, how prompt we are at shoveling our driveways, and do our neighbors sneer at our shrubbery?

Once, I let the grass grow. I thought, well the grass in the nearby Crown Hill Park looks fabulous long! After letting it grow over a foot, the city disabused me of that notion, ticketing me, saying the initial charge was $25, which would increase every week if the grass was not cut.

I calculated: if they increased it by $10/week, after a year I’d be charged $535. After ten? $5,215.

The mower hauled out, the prairie shorn.

I actually saw the guy from the city swing by in a truck, scowl on his face. He hauled ass when he saw me standing in the cropped grass, fists clenched, staring needles.

This gave me a view into how others see my property. That I needed to empty the house, and paint and fix and haul and trash and donate. When I was done, I had a clean slate: an empty home.

My earthly belongings now fit in one-half of a 2 car garage. I live out of my 13′ Casita parked in my driveway, a fiberglass RV manufactured in 2003, but she’s a beaut, doesn’t look a day old in my eyes.

Conchita la Casita

My clothes fit in a single plastic container bought at Walmart. I use a sleeping bag as a comforter, and my bed converts to a small table seating area I use during the day. More often I find myself at a local cafe that has strong coffee and fast wifi.

Soon, I will have less.

Everything I own will fit in a backpack and a day pack. With this shall I roam the earth. As far as clothes, I will be down to:

  • 2 long-sleeved collared shirts
  • 2 t-shirts
  • 2 long pants (1 convertible to shorts)
  • 5 pairs of underwear
  • 2 hats: beanie and a waterproof hat with a brim
  • a lightweight waterproof jacket
  • 1 light stuffable puffy jacket
  • 5 socks

I’ve read a bit about Minimalism, and it struck a chord in me: only have what you need. That this leads some people to a happier life. How some folks pay a bunch of money to hire a consultant to learn how to become a minimalist. I find the idea of hiring a consultant funny: my decisions are born out of whether or not I want to carry it on my back.

Living la vida Conchita!

I have things that have multiple purposes and features: an insulated bottle which can hold both hot or cold drinks. It has a loop that I can attach a ‘biner to, and a flip-top lid for sipping (so I don’t have to unscrew it). I can drink with one hand, while checking Facebook on my iPhone in the other. It’s sturdy and unbreakable, and yes, I thought this all through before I decided to buy it and bring with.

I have headphones that magically transform noise, or music I dislike into blessed silence. They can double as earplugs in a pinch. And yes, I tested that too.

I have failed experiments. I was going to use my hydroflask bottle to hold my wifi extender by dismantling the wifi extender to pieces, and then stuffing the parts into the screwtop bottle. But I found that I never used the bottle because, well, where would I put the delicate wifi extender? In the end I decided to McGuiver a PVC pipe with end caps as a dedicated case, and now actually use the bottle for its intended beverage holding purpose.

I feel like a cosmonaut, being jettisoned into space. Except I armor myself with only the least amount of things, with technology being my only splurge.

I have last year’s Macbook Pro. I have a military grade 4TB external drive that’s waterproof and dustproof, for offloading the videos I will be making to document my journey. I purchased an online backup in case my worst fears are realized. I am debating whether to bring the Kindle or not – probably not. I can read my electronic books through my iPhone.

One from two is one.

I am deciding whether or not to bring my iPad Air – probably not. I can use my Macbook for that.

One less thing is one less thing to carry, keep track of, lose.

As you can see, I will leave behind that which I already have. Maybe not ideal, in a sense, but my back will thank me for it.

And what is it they say? Take what you have, divide it in two – then throw one-half away.

But, when one has so little, one from none is…?

Either tragic, or bliss, depending on your POV. To be free of these shackles. But my revenue depends upon these things, as I am to become a Digital Serf Nomad! Tra-la-la-tra-la-li!

While I will blog, I am also volunteering, a fabutastic way of traveling in my opinion. You are typically provided room and board in exchange for working 20 hours a week. You get to know locals, and have a friendly face to practice my Español phrases like:

  • ¿dónde está el baño
  • ¿dónde está la biblioteca
  • ¿dónde está la lavandería
  • Donde puedo encontrar cerveza?
  • Por favor no me apuñales con ese cuchillo.
  • claro que te amo.

If I get fancy I can combine them as such: claro que te amo, por favor no me apuñales con ese cuchillo!

See, language learning can be minimalist too!

I am stripped bare, decisions pared down to: is it clean? No. Does it stink, No. Can I wear it? Yes!

I think I may like this.

Simplified and nearly sterile, I await the countdown: I am ready for launch!

 

Follow blog via Email

You are not your fucking khakis

“You are not your job, you’re not how much money you have in the bank. You are not the car you drive. You’re not the contents of your wallet. You are not your fucking khakis.” ~Fight Club, by Chuck Palahniuk

For the past year, I have not had a job. After fighting a lawsuit for 5 years I was awarded a legal settlement, and this allowed me to do what I always told myself I would do: take a year long sabbatical. What I was going to do with that sabbatical was unclear to me at the time.

All I knew was that I would come back to myself.

So I climbed at Red Rock, and at various crags in Colorado and New Mexico, all the while tinkering with some of my online ventures, meditating and experimenting with Qigong and climbing, and working on improving Conchita la Casita, my 13′ Casita Patriot fiberglass RV.

And, as my money slowly drained away I contemplated work and life and what I really wanted to become, and while I didn’t quite have a clear picture on who I wanted to become, I knew very clearly what I didn’t want to do.

I didn’t want to work for a corporation, other than my own, for the rest of my life.

“I don’t want to sell anything, buy anything, or process anything as a career. I don’t want to sell anything bought or processed, or buy anything sold or processed, or process anything sold, bought, or processed, or repair anything sold, bought, or processed. You know, as a career, I don’t want to do that.” ~ Lloyd Dobler, Say Anything

Working for corporations is unnatural. People go to school to learn skills to help some asshole head honcho get rich. They work 40, or more likely 50-80 hours a week during the best part of their lives with people they may or may not like – and for what? Retire at age 65, if they are lucky, realizing that they will never realize their big dreams of traveling the world, or some other big dream, if they even had the time to have a dream at all.

We make compromises with our lives, we make peace with ourselves, and scale back our big dreams because, well, reality you know? Need to pay the mortgage, or wait until you save enough, or until your pet/relative/friend dies. THEN life will happen!

I’ve learned, over time, that there is no practical difference between a reason and an excuse.

Both will hold you back, if you let them. And the barriers to doing things that could enrich your lives – learning a foreign language, lack of money, and fears: fears of heights, of travel, of foreigners – are barriers we self-create which prevents us from the kind of experiences that would well and truly blow the hinges off the doors of our complacency.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For most worthwhile things, in order to get to the exciting adventure – you have to be willing to go through the fear.

Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. God Himself is not secure, having given man dominion over His works! Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. The fearful are caught as often as the bold. Faith alone defends. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.
To keep our faces toward change and behave like free spirits in the presence of fate is strength undefeatable. ~ Helen Keller

Helen Keller, for those of you who may not know, was born blind and deaf. She couldn’t see, couldn’t hear, and couldn’t speak. This quote, from a person with true barriers saying security is a mostly a myth.

I was going to roam the US in Conchita la Casita, but while the dream was big, it wasn’t my biggest dream.

My biggest dream was to travel the world.

When you ask people what they would do with a million bucks, a common answer is: I would travel the world. But if you dig a little deeper, the barriers come up: I don’t have enough money, I don’t know the language. Don’t they have terrorists there? I’m afraid.

The last is the worst: I’m afraid. When you say that, barring things that are actively dangerous, what you are saying is that you are confusing what you feel with what is real.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All those barriers are really nothing. Less than nothing. All you need is the will. The will to do what is necessary to be able to do the things you want to do.

Everything else is an excuse.

“At the moment of commitment the entire universe conspires to assist you.” ~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

“a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” ~Lao Tzi, Tao Te Ching

Someone asked me what motivates me. They were honestly puzzled. And I answered without thought: ‘One of the things that motivates me is the idea that I could die at any moment.’

It seems at first like a very negative thought – the idea of dying as a prime motivator. But it’s real. The thought that you could die at any moment should scare you into life.

Last year, I had a cousin die at the age of 42. She died of a brain aneurism in front of her husband and her children. Dropped dead, was unable to be revived. No one, her included, had any inkling that this could happen to her.

There is a brain aneurysm rupturing every 18 minutes. ~ bafound.org

You or I, or anyone for that matter, will die of an aneurism in the next 18 minutes. And that’s just one thing out of a hundred. Let that thought sink in.

Maggie Fitzgerald: She’s tough, I can’t go inside, I can’t get close enough to hit her.

Frankie Dunn: You know why that is?

Maggie Fitzgerald: Why?

Frankie Dunn: Cause she’s a better fighter than you are, that’s why. She’s younger, she’s stronger, and she’s more experienced. Now, what are you gonna do about it?

~ from Million Dollar Baby

Fears can become monumental in our minds. They can seem like insurmountable foes. Stress can also have real life effects on our bodies, creating illness.

But the fear of dying at any moment should trump all fears.

One Life. Just One.

Of course, we have to give unto Caesar what Caesar wants, and that may be – graduate from college, save enough to travel, take care of my kids/marriage/relative etc.

I get it.

Let’s set those concerns aside for the moment. Let’s also set aside the stories of folks who travel with kids, who travel the world with no money, or even the story of a 90 year old woman with a terminal illness deciding to travel the world in a campervan – let’s set those counter arguments aside as well.

Whatever your dream is: to start a business, find the love of your life, rock climb in the Dolomites, travel the world; what is it, right now, that you are doing  in order to achieve this dream? What are the barriers to entry? and the final important item:

When do you plan on doing this?

“A man, a plan, a canoe, pasta, heros, rajahs, a coloratura, maps, snipe, percale, macaroni, a gag, a banana bag, a tan, a tag, a banana bag again (or a camel), a crepe, pins, Spam, a rut, a Rolo, cash, a jar, sore hats, a peon, a canal–Panama!” ~Long palindrome by (possibly) Guy Steele

Because a plan without a timeline is not a plan at all: it’s a day dream. It’s a fantasy. It’s the child when asked what he wants to be when he grows up, and says s/he wants to become an astronaut. Maybe it will happen, but most likely it won’t.

Figure out your wildest dream, make a plan, tie it to a timeline – and off to the races you go! Don’t let anything, or even anyone stop you.

You are not your fucking khakis. You have dreams and aspirations and hopes and things and experiences you want to do.

This is your one precious life – what are you gonna do about it?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Follow blog via Email