Archive: January, 2013

How Traveling Will Save the World

After so many years of convincing myself that “I’m a good worker,” traveling finally made me realize “I don’t wanna work!” Well, to clarify, I don’t want a job, that odious life-sucking devotion to helping your bosses and owners make money. *Enter the New American Dream.

Although the money from teaching English in Asia was pretty good, I’m looking for something new. Some kind of job that’s fun, like chasing hot air balloons through France, driving trucks through the Australian Outback, or raging snowmobiles with adventure-tourists in New Zealand.

I recently heard about a great site called Escape the City. The format is similar to LinkedIn, but it’s geared toward professionally-minded people looking for an adventurous career-break or even career overhaul.

Human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted. –Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

A major part of MLK’s heroic work was his message of non-conformity and soul-originality. Work’s an important aspect of peoples’ lives, and since it takes up so much time it shouldn’t be taken lightly. It seems like the great challenge then is to apply ingenuity to our work. I’m looking towards blogging as a rare and golden opportunity to travel the world with inspired creativity.

How Traveling Will Save the World
Reducing Clutter
For most long-term travelers, the time between deciding to leave and actually making it out the door is one of selling everything we own. Living out of a backpack helps you realize how few possessions you really need.

Me Time

There’s a lot of time for reflection while traveling, especially when you’re flying solo. You can become a master of planning and executing itineraries, or even better in my opinion, you can learn to plan less and let the adventure lead the way. No matter what happens, you can be sure your experiences will mold you into a different type of person. You’re guaranteed to become a better, happier person.

Building Networks

People always ask me, is it hard to travel alone? Don’t you ever feel lonely? There are moments or occasional days where solitude bites, but they’re exceptions to the rule. One of the most rewarding aspects of solo travel is that it puts you into situations where connecting with people is automatic. You’ll make all kinds of friends that you likely wouldn’t have met if you were traveling with others.

The Happiness Contagion
Who doesn’t love a strong smile? While you’re living the good times, it will spread.

Contributing to the Greater Good
Voluntourism has become one of the most popular ways to spend time while traveling. I try to avoid the organizations that require huge lump sums for the chance to work for them, but if you can’t avoid it, focus on the positive change you’re helping to enact while working for them. Taking a mini-vacation out of a long trip to assist some kind of charity or cause can be extremely rewarding. Read more about how to make a difference with volunteer abroad programs.

Even if you aren’t volunteering for international development or conservation NGO’s, traveling is one of the most rewarding things you can do for yourself. You’ll undoubtedly inspire a change in others as well, therefore making the world a better place. Oh that oft-repeated quote from Ghandi:

“You must be the change you want to see in the world.”

Taking on the world’s problem at a global or even national level is a mighty task, but there’s no folly in hoping for meaningful change to radiate from a positive traveling style.

This post is dedicated to one of the greatest heroes of our time, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. His messages of equality and positivity have unequivocally done their part to make the world a better place.

Volunteering in Ecuador

Below you’ll find the photo essay that I submitted to a National Geographic photo journal competition over at WorldNomads.

The Introductory Essay
Photos often capture a single moment in time, but great photos have the ability to tell an evolving story. Exceptional photography reveals a continuum in the subject’s past, present and future, and becomes an art when it invites the viewer to feel and contemplate the scene within.

By American standards my family isn’t wealthy, but I learned the relativity of wealth while traveling. I gained a new perspective by living with some of the two billion people who survive on a dollar a day. After these tremendous experiences, my attending university, teaching English in China, and buying a nice camera suddenly felt like astounding privileges that many people only dream of. The beauty of travel is the people that we meet along the way. Everyone has a story to tell, and particularly in the ‘Global South,’ these stories inevitably center around the improvement of their own lives.

Before entering a developing country, I try to understand their political and economic development. What have they already achieved and how do they want to continue advancing? Have they been able to help themselves, or are they dependent on outsiders for assistance? My natural interest in observing human transformation led me to study anthropology where I learned when and how it was appropriate to participate in social and economic change.

When I arrive in a new country, my camera snaps freely during my first interactions with the new host culture. The excitement of photography is in the simultaneous development in front of the lens and behind the viewfinder. A camera is an intersection of change between a photographer’s internal transformation and the unfolding human saga in the larger world.

My camera is an ever-present companion in my travels, but I feel as if we are still becoming acquainted. With it in-hand during particularly spectacular moments, I feel blessed at the opportunity to share a piece of the diversity, beauty and strife that we collectively create. Travel photography is the best and only way that I know how to educate and inspire positive action in myself and in others.

The Photo Essay

Welcome to Ganquis, a town located in the high cordillera of the Ecuadorian Andes. Although the town has a dirt road connecting it to a highway about an hour away, it is very rural, not even appearing on most maps. The children’s faces are chapped because it takes around 15 years for their skin to adapt to the chilly, windy environment.

We came to Ganquis as a group of students from university associated through Engineers Without Borders. Ten months prior to our arrival in Ecuador was a period of intense planning since our project involved sophisticated engineering. It isn’t easy to design a gravity-fed water system that descends nearly 3,000 vertical feet of steep Andean mountains. The force behind the water would have literally ripped the system apart without pressure break tanks like this one.

Although we applied our technical skills and labor to the system, the locals soon showed us who was boss. I felt that I was making a formidable accomplishment as I hauled a 100lb. bag of concrete around the mountain at 14,000 feet above sea level until I was passed by a man about half my size carrying two bags! This picture captures a local woman in a rare moment of repose.

These two women, Maria and Consuela, faithfully prepared an early breakfast for us before we set out and a tasty dinner after we returned from working on the system. Even though they had grown up in Ganquis and understood the material luxuries of a life in the city, they have chosen to stay in the village and focus on family life.

One of the central ideas behind our project’s goal of sustainability is that the village should be self-reliant in the construction and repairs of the water system. This crew became the first to construct a tap stand on their own. As the concrete dries, their confidence and happiness exudes from bringing clean drinking water to Ganquis for the first time.

Thanks for reading.
You can see a couple more photos from my EWB trip to Ecuador HERE.

Making a Difference by Volunteering Abroad

Volunteer UgandaVolunteering is a great break from the “rigors” of long-term travel, or a nice way to make a commitment while traveling. Sometimes people plan trips specifically for the purpose of volunteering because it presents the opportunity to stay in one place for much longer than you do while backpacking. You’ll learn a lot more about the people, customs, and life cycle of the area you are visiting, and you’ll make stronger social connections than you ever likely would while backpacking.

There are endless voluntourism possibilities out there, and some are much better than others. This is a preliminary and basic list of volunteer abroad programs, but it will be periodically updated and expanded over time.

My Favorite Sites
WWOOF (Worldwide Opportunities On Organic Farms)
WWOOF-ing is a chance to work abroad on farms in exchange for room and board. You can learn a lot about organic farming and make some great friends while WWOOF-ing. With hosts available in over 53 countries, there’s an opportunity for everyone. For more info check out A First-Timer’s Guide to WWOOF-ing.

Work Away
For only 22 Euros, you can have 2 year access to Work Away’s impressive list of host contacts throughout the world. The idea is similar to WWOOF-ing, but isn’t limited to agricultural work exchange. You can contact people all around the world looking for help in the tourism business, construction, animal care, sailing, language teaching, and the list really does go on. Work Away’s strength is in its community of good people.

You can browse and contact Ecoteer’s volunteer placements for £15 per year, or get lifetime access for a one-time fee of £25. It’s the same idea as Workaway except you’ll generally be contacting relief and aid organizations rather than private citizens. There are wide number of arenas to work in, including Ecotourism, Conservation, Teaching, Humanitarian, Research, and Organic Farming. They’ve listed many placements, however you won’t find as many opportunities here as Work Away.

Escape the City
With the same kind of volunteer opportunities as Ecoteer, Escape the City makes a cut above the rest by catering to young professionals looking for a break from corporate offices for real travel adventures. It’s even possible to land good-paying jobs on this site. With the same format as LinkedIn, you can create a browse-able profile to advertise yourself to employers looking for people with a certain set of skills. Escape the City is “on a mission to liberate talented people from corporate jobs that don’t excite them.” How couldn’t you get excited for this one?

Other Volunteering Opportunities
Sea Turtle Restoration Project
Sea Turtle ConservationThis is just one organization amongst countless others where you can bide your time to help protect one of the ocean’s coolest creatures, the sea turtle. Most of these organizations are based at nesting beaches and sometimes even look for help for just one night.

HF Holidays
Volunteer to help with HF Holidays, whose mission is to help people enjoy the great outdoors. They encourage people to take a break from the rat race, and you too can become a part of it by volunteering as a trip leader.

Appalaichan Trail Conservancy, USA
Help protect and promote the health and vitality of the diverse ecosystems of the 2000+ mile Appalachian Trail in east coast region of the United States. Help with trail building and maintenance in return for very basic accommodation and food.

Volunteer at a Kibbutz in Israel
Become a part of a highly social community living off the land in Israel. Experience a different kind of life in Israel and use the time outside of work to explore this controversial country. The site linked to is about an English backpacker’s personal experience at a Kibbutz. He offers a lot of information about going to Israel and what it’s like to live there.

Engineers Without Borders
EWB is an organization interested in promoting development projects all around the world. Their principle goal is to fund and build sustainable projects that help people achieve basic human needs. They collaborate with a number of professionals from a variety of fields including engineering, public health, anthropology and business. If you aren’t a student, it’s possible to become involved as a corporate partner in fundraising and other activities.

I volunteered with EWB while attending university, and traveled to the Ecuadorian Andes to build a water system to bring fresh water to a village for the first time. Read and see more about my experience there in my photo essay from Ecuador.

A Bittersweet Homecoming

Anyone stuck in the cycle of saving big and traveling big knows the pangs of coming home after a long trip. The highs and lows’ll make your head spin.

How To Deal With Reverse Culture Shock
Avoid Value Judgments: Not better, not worse, just different

Reassess the Meaning of Beauty: We tend to seek beauty high and low while we’re nomading, and slack in this department while sedentary. Remember the mind state you had while traveling that heightened your awareness of the things you like. Try to find that head space while you’re visiting home.

Explore Your Hometown: This one goes with the last point of taking your brain home with you.

Learn What You Took For Granted: Running water, reliable electricity, easy (same language) conversations, and relatively less governmental corruption are great things.

Create a New Routine! Routines may break our core creativity and excitement, but they’re particularly important if you have to settle in and start making money again (it’s only temporary anyways, right?) Don’t fall back on old patterns, break out and make new friends. Keep your friends who embrace the changes you’ve made for yourself, and seek out new friends, especially other travelers in your area. You’ll probably have a lot in common with them.

Share Travel Stories Sparingly: What you’ve been through is a big deal in your world, but to most people, it isn’t. If your stories meet glossy eyes, change the subject. You’ll know when someone’s interested, and that’s the right time to share.

Remember Why You’re Home: There is a reason for it, isn’t there?

The main reason for coming home is also the richest: reconnecting with the fam.

But the first few days of being a foreigner in your own country are hectic:
Hold up, everyone’s speaking English?
How can cars be enormous and traffic so orderly?
These crazy prices are real. Stop converting to dollars!

Especially when landing in da Souf: Why is everyone so FAT!!

Some (moronic) people expatriate purely for escape, as if running from who they really are. Coming off the highs of intentional travel and coming home is an asskicker, but it’s essential for maintaining balance and staying grounded. What’s a tree without roots? We got to get back and freshen up on our own cultures from time to time.

Some people say America has no culture. First off, functioning societies don’t exist without culture. It’s impossible. Second, the diversity and history of the experiment of the USA are amazing. And finally, I agree that greed and glamor are on the upswing here, but there’s a lot to love in the spirit of self-aggrandizement. So long as you got a trace a brain in your head and try to offset your negative impacts on the world, then go ahead and stock up on boats, SUV’s, electronics, get rich quick schemes, and infomercial junk. BUT, the more you take, the more you should probably give back.

“A wise traveler never despises his own country. ” –Carlo Goldoni

Coming from the West, homecoming’s a time to count my blessings. After meeting so many people in east Asia with American Dreams, I’ve had to take a second look at the things I’ve taken for granted in the heartland. Running water, hot showers, sit-down toilets and toilet paper have suddenly taken on a new meaning. American civil society is fun as hell, and there’s no doubt that it’s well-ripened, if not past its prime…

To my friends with American Dreams, wherever you may be: every place has its problems. My country experiences a mindless devotion to total work, something like a money cult that’s probably only rivaled in Japan and South Korea. THIS is something that I like to escape because there’s a lot more to life than helping rich people get richer by selling my precious time.

You can earn American bucks here, but you gotta spend ‘em too, and they’re declining against the rest of the world’s major currencies! Quite a paradox. Especially for us.

That’s why it’s high time to embrace the New American Dream.

It’s a pleasure to be back home, but my feet are the new masters of the universe.

All I need to do now is realize where I wanna be before I’m enchanted out the door yet again with caution thrown to the wind. The best adventures are left to chance aren’t they? I can already feel another walk-about coming on.

How do you deal with homecoming and reverse culture shock?
By economic necessity I’m back to total work (for now!)

Travel to Taiwan! (Video)

I’ve got an odd fetish for poor Asian countries, so I’m not sure if Taiwan ranks as my favorite, but it is a fantastic country with all the order, comforts and general pleasantries that are missing from mainland China. There are a lot of things to do here, and if you’re a native English speaker, there’s a good chance you’ll find yourself teaching English and studying Chinese like most of the other expats. It seems like a comfortable, Good Life to me.

Highlights From the Video: A Taipei street party, betel nut girls, Taipei night markets, tasty turtles and snake blood, a Filipino disco, Taroko Gorge, local hot springs and volcanic mud baths.

Places Seen in the Video
Taipei and its night markets, Taoyuan and its dirty Filipino disco (Thai OK), Taroko Gorge and local hot springs.

Best Time to Travel to Taiwan
You can travel somewhat comfortably in Taiwan all year long, but the summer months are especially hot and humid, while the winter months are cool and especially rainy. The spring and fall months have the best temperatures and generally dry weather.

The Taipei MRT (subway system) is very modern and extremely efficient. It’s well connected to Taiwan’s nationaltrain system which again is modern and very timely. The railroads circle the island, cut into the mountains at a couple different cities, and feature some of the world’s best high speed services.

Eats & Drinks
There’s no way to avoid the fact that Taiwanese food is diverse and delicious. You can easily find a number of strange and exotic foods reminiscent of mainland China (can anyone say bull dicks?). If you’re into expensive international dishes, Taipei can suit your needs. But if you want cheaper local delicacies, you can stay on the thrifty side as well, from about 30NT for squid balls to about 150NT for Taiwanese brunches (very similar to English and American breakfasts). Being an island, delectable seafood specialties are never hard to come by.

Meet Dave

Meet DaveUnfulfilled by consumer lifestyles, I left on a really slow trip around the world. As a 3rd eye traveler on the New American Dream, my aim is to inspire and cultivate conscious living along the way....Read More...

Random Video

Travel to Taiwan!

Random Inspiration

What you’ve done becomes the judge of what you’re going to do – especially in other people’s minds. When you’re traveling, you are what you are right there and then. People don’t have your past to hold against you. No yesterdays on the road.
William Least Heat-Moon



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