When I was around four or five years old, I loved maps. I loved the colors, the shapes and names of the countries. I would color them, and label the countries with little white pieces of paper. I actually still have a couple of them that my mom laminated way back then. The world was a different place, lines have since been redrawn, names changed, new countries created. I remember as a kid loving to look at maps. All the little lakes, rivers, small cities, big cities, parks, and the huge oceans. If I ever got lucky and stumbled upon a globe that spun, it could keep me occupied for hours. Closing my eyes, spinning it, pointing at it, and wherever I was pointing when it stopped would be where I would live someday. I still love to do that. So I think I was predisposed to go on my path. I just needed my eyes opened.
I was born and raised in the small Oregon coast town of Lincoln City, with a population of under nine thousand people, a tourist beach town which overflows in the summer and becomes deserted in the winter, unless there’s a powerful storm rolling in. People love to come over and experience the storm’s power. I was pretty much in a bubble growing up. A beautiful place, but not a lot of mental stimulation. I spent plenty of summer vacations in Illinois visiting family, but this was even more extreme. I’m talking corn and soybeans as far as you can fathom with a sprinkling of people mixed in. A few times a year we would make a trip over to Portland, “the big scary city” to have some fun. I remember it always being a big deal. Like most kids in a town like mine, I couldn’t wait to leave the coast, to move to some great new world, but I had no idea where. I was a teenager and all I cared about was girls, partying, and exploring the outdoors. Kind of a lost soul.
I spent some time at a couple community colleges, but nothing really stuck. Nothing in school interested me, except a couple classes that I loved, which I should have listened to with my heart. Geography was always my favorite, and probably the one I did best at. It was like being a kid again, labeling maps. I loved to memorize every lake, mountain, city, river, and whatever else was asked of us for the tests. But unlike being a kid, now we learned everything about the countries. It fascinated me. For some reason, I didn’t pursue it. Eventually I earned a degree in Horticulture. I ended up with this because I love nature and being in the outdoors, and can’t imagine working inside. I worked on golf courses and landscape construction for most my life, and it fit.
At this point, I was 24 years old and had been out of the country only once, to Mexico. In the previous year, something changed in me. I think it really happened at Christmas, when my mom gave me a travel guide for Europe. I read through every inch of it. When I was finished, I had officially become addicted to traveling, even though I hadn’t even started yet. During my final term all I could think about was leaving. I met people who inspired me. Sometimes a little inspiration can take your life in a completely different direction. I gradually sold most of what I owned. My roommate and girlfriend thought I was crazy. They would say, “that’s your stuff, you need your stuff”, but I knew I needed to free myself of it all. I didn’t own it, it owned me. I would end up moving it, storing it, dealing with it. I wanted real freedom. Almost a kind of fresh start. After working a couple months in the summer, I took off.
I did a month trip through Germany, Netherlands, France, Spain, and Portugal. This trip completely changed my whole outlook on life. I was mad at myself that I had never left before. The biggest thing was the people I met, the other travelers and their stories of South America, Asia, and Africa. The inspiration of someone riding a bike through Europe or climbing some big volcano in a far away land completely hooked me. I wanted to see those places, lose myself in them. I returned home and worked for a couple months, but I was going crazy with the itch. So one day I got on the computer and bought a plane ticket to Costa Rica, leaving in five days. My girlfriend at the time wasn’t too happy about this, but I had to go.
I spent the next three and a half months traveling through Central America. In Panama, I spent time around the Panama Canal, some beautiful islands, and was shaken around some during a couple strong earthquakes. In Nicaragua, I climbed through the inside of a massive Jesus statue to the stunning view at the top, explored Ometepe Island, woke up to scorpions next to my face on the slopes of volcanos, lived with a family on the Gulf of Fonseca fishing with massive nets out in the ocean, exploring the volcanic slopes on horseback searching for old pieces of military equipment and shells left behind and destroyed during the war, and going on beer runs up muddy canals in the middle of the night hoping the crocodiles weren’t hungry. In Costa Rica, I helped rebuild trails in the cloud forest on the continental divide, camped on beaches with massive palm frond fires, and fished in a kayak out on the Pacific coast for rooster-fish. In Honduras, the underwater world was opened up to me through diving, and I celebrated and experienced my first Semana Santa. In Guatemala, I watched lava flow out of the earth and tumble down the slopes, becoming rock while the soles of my shoes melted, explored in the hills as monsoon season arrived, turning everything to mud, and lived through the worst food poisoning of my life from a vegetarian buffet. This trip opened my eyes and heart to a whole new level, seeing how most of the people actually live in this world, the cultures, the incredible beauty, the food, and meeting like minded people from around the world.
Unfortunately, I still had that little pull from society that I should get a good job and live a normal life. After I arrived home, I was offered a really good position at Pebble Beach, the golf course I did my college internship at. I couldn’t say no. It’s an incredible place on the coast, but it just wasn’t for me. I was miserable for 8-10 hours a day, during the mind numbing monotony, I daydreamed about my next adventure. I would go to the bookstore and read book after book about people’s adventures around the world. I would spend hours on googlemaps looking at all the places I wanted to go. Exactly three months from the day I started, I walked into my boss’ office and quit. He was not happy with me, and tried convincing me that it was a horrible decision, and it would ruin my life and all that sensible stuff. I didn’t argue with him or try to explain, because he wouldn’t have understood.
I bought a plane ticket to Argentina. I wanted to really get away this time, really lose myself, and forget about home. I worked with my brother for about a month before leaving, and then I was off. I spent the next five months traveling from the very bottom of South America (Tierra del Fuego, the closest place to Antarctica) all the way to the top in Colombia, traveling through six countries. In Argentina, I spent Christmas on the coast with a group of people from all over the globe, barbecuing like there was no tomorrow. Then in Patagonia (along the southern Argentinian Chilean border), I traveled through some amazing glaciers growing out of the mountains with skyscraper size chunks breaking off at the end like bombs. Had hands down the worst hangover of my life in the Mendoza wine country of Argentina, and hiked and camped in the surrounding mountains with a guanaco chasing dog that adopted me. In Bolivia, I survived a bus crash when the driver fell asleep and flipped it in the mud, chewed mouthfuls of coca leaves, breathed in the thin air around the worlds largest salt flats surrounded by red mountains and lakes full of flamingos, and camped on Lake Titicaca. In Peru, I helped salvage and rebuild homes around Machu Picchu after devastating floods, while drinking jugs of Chicha (fermented corn beer) that the women brought to us, discovered Peruvian cuisine, and got my drink spiked before getting on a night bus to Ecuador. I’m not sure how I was able to cross the border. In Ecuador, I almost drowned trying to surf the massive waves in Montanita, crashed a motorcycle on a gravel road, filling my skin with stone, and had to wear an eyepatch after getting stabbed in the eye with a finger while salsa dancing in the streets. In Colombia, I traveled by bus through the south where at military checkpoints they were very interested in the lone American, then became stuck in the middle of nowhere at dark and had to shack up at a police checkpoint, where they insisted on telling me over and over that I was lucky to have not been kidnapped or raped, proceeded to sleep in hammocks for weeks, and drank late into the evening with old Colombian men who complained about Venezuela and proclaimed there love for America. Then on the Colombian caribbean coast, in a village named Taganga, I met a traveler who was my final inspiration in South America, one of a long list. He had ridden a motorcycle from Seattle, and was planning on going all the way to the bottom. After meeting him, I decided to fly up to Miami, buy a motorcycle, and ride it cross country through the National Parks back to Oregon.
Up to that point, I had never really ridden a large motorcycle, only small dirt bikes. So I found a Kawasaki KLR 650 on craigslist, bought a tank bag, a jacket, and supplies that the internet said were good for long distance trips. I headed off with no license, no insurance, just the dream to do something. Ten miles in, I got a flat rear tire, and camped in the rain next to some storage units. For the next two weeks, my bags and clothes stunk from getting wet and musty, but I was free. In the first three days, I had three flat rear tires, and some chain issues, but I was free, and learning how to fix things. The scariest one was when my rear tire blew out going 60 mph with a cop behind me. Luckily I hung on, and he just kept going and didn’t want to help. I visited and camped at sixteen National Parks. I had been so busy wanting to travel outside America that I didn’t realize how much beauty we have here.
I spent the summer and fall working my butt off with my brother in California, getting myself jacked up again for the next adventure. I had always wanted to learn to sail or work on boats, so that’s what I focused on. I tried to find a boat to get on in Hawaii, but I didn’t know what I was doing, and decided to look elsewhere. My college roommate was building a golf course on St. Kitts in the eastern Caribbean, so I hopped on a plane to get out there. I ended up on the island for three weeks, trying to find a boat anywhere around me. I had an amazing time, hiking the volcano with rasta dudes, helping a friend on her phd project on the islands farms, and partying on the beach, but I couldn’t find a boat. I found a new plan. I had done my scuba diving certification a couple years before in Honduras, on the island of Roatan. I came up with idea to go back and do my Divemaster training. The four months I spent there turned out to be some of the best times of my life. Diving all day everyday, making great friends, and living the island life. It was one of the few places that I’ve gotten kind of choked up when I left, because I knew it was over, and that I could never get that moment back.
I then spent another summer working with my brother, but this time my feet were so itchy I was going insane. I spent all my free time reading guide books, and looking up things online. I was going to go across the pond to Asia. I left as soon as I could in the fall, and went straight to Nepal to trek in the Himalayas. I spent a month in the Everest/Khumbu region doing the three passes trek, which goes over three mountain passes, all between 17-18,000 ft. I met some great trekking partners, stayed with some amazing families, went to Everest base camp, spent a lot of time nearly frozen, grew a beard, lost a ton of weight, got crazy stinky, and saw the most beautifully spiritual scenery of my life. It’s a magical place that blows your mind. When I got out of the mountains, I went straight to a ticket office and booked a flight to Thailand. All I wanted was warmth. For the next six months I zigzagged my way all through SE Asia. I took a motorcycle trip up into northeast Cambodia and rode the Death Highway, getting drunk on local booze with police officers along the way, laughing our faces off. I lived in a shack on the Mekong River in Laos, where I could watch the Irrawaddy Dolphins while eating the greatest spring rolls in the world for a quarter. I bought scooters with four friends in Ho Chi Minh Vietnam, and spent three weeks riding the Ho Chi Minh Trail all the way to Hanoi in northern Vietnam, culminating in a visit to a snake farm, where you eat the heart out of a snake while its beating, then drink the blood in strong rice alcohol, and have an eight course snake meal. In the Philippines I partied and sang karaoke all night with the crew of a large ferry, and then for a couple days hung out in the bridge on the crossings getting to drive the ship, full of semi trucks and passengers. The coconut wine was flowing freely as well. I lived in a beach shack with a friend in Malaysia on the Island Palau Tiomen, teaching ourselves how to freedive with turtles, eating amazing spicy malay food, and drinking cold beers at a sunset bar. Almost killed myself when I jumped naked off a ten meter high platform in Krabi, Thailand, which ended up being extremely shallow. It left me with over 25 stitches in my butt cheek and wrist (which were taken out by a fire dancing nurse), tore chunks out of my feet, cracked an ankle, and was given lots of morphine.
It was incredible, but the northwest US always pulls me back for summer. That summer was spent in Bend, Oregon. Nothing beats the climbing, hiking, and playing on the lakes and rivers in the area. I was only back for about two months before escaping again. I spent most of my time daydreaming about the next adventure. I headed off to check out eastern Europe, and all of the former Yugoslavia. I didn’t really have much of a plan. I had been thinking of getting a motorcycle and doing it that way, but the paperwork and hoopla was more than I wanted to deal with. So that morphed into the idea of a bicycle trip, as I had never really done one.
I hitchhiked my way out of Germany, staying briefly at a trailer park where they were obsessed with American county music and Texas, made my way through the Czech Republic, celebrating at Pilsen Fest, the greatest beer festival on earth and home of Pilsner beer. Passed through Austria, and I found myself in Budapest, Hungary and walked by a used bike shop. At this point, the bike dream was flaring up inside me. I went in and there she was. A purplish blue GT cruiser style bike with gears from probably the 1980’s. Definitely not the kind of bike you want for a long distance adventure, but it had a rack on the back, a comfy seat, and they had some saddle bags to carry my stuff. It was meant to be, and it only cost a little over a hundred bucks for everything I bought.
From Hungary, I rode to Slovenia where I had a mission. My grandma had a brief contact many years before with our family there. A cousin had done a student exchange in Ohio. They only wrote briefly, and then nothing came of it. My grandma wasn’t around anymore, so all I had to work with was a couple stories she told, the name of the cousin, and the name of the village they lived in. As I peddled up a steep hill off the main highway, two policemen stopped me and were very confused as to why an American was heading that way. They must have been 20 years old, and thought I needed a visa, so one call to the police chief and he set them straight. I rolled into the tiny village of Studena Gora, population 25. I showed an old lady sitting outside my last name, and she pointed me over to a house. I knocked on the door and my two cousins opened the door. I explained who I was, and gave them a brief story. Without question I was taken in like family and given lots of delicious slivovitz, the local homemade schnapps my great-grandpa used to make in America. My time there was amazing, spent looking at pictures of my great grandpa before coming to America, going through all the letters that he had sent home from America, learning the history of the family, and eating and drinking tons of deliciousness. It’s the same house that he lived in, and I took a picture in front of an outside door. There is an identical one of him in the exact spot before he left for America.
From Slovenia I rode the Croatian coast, camping on islands in olive groves, watching the most beautiful sunsets of my life, went into Bosnia & Herzegovina, and saw the destruction still left over from the Bosnain Wars in 1992-95. Explored the sniper tower (originally a bank tower) in Mostar that is blown apart and filled with ammunition casings from the snipers who would reign terror over the city. It’s hard to wrap your head around it. In Sarajevo, I rode up into the hills and found the old sites of the 1984 Winter Olympics. Most of which have been destroyed by war. I rode down the entire olympic bobsled track on my bike, only crashing once. The track is covered in beautiful graffiti, small holes in the sides where soldiers would shoot their riffles through with protection from the track, and surrounded by land mines placed during the war. I continued through Montenegro, climbing in some of the most beautiful mountains of my life, and having the sweetest camp hosts bring me into their homes. I just barely made it into Albania, with my bicycle having serious pooping out issues. My first night in the country, I was a bit sick of that bike, and then as fate had it, I met a couple spanish girls with a convertible rental car who were going up into the Northern Albanian Alps to do some hiking. Just the escape I needed, and I left the bike and half my belongings behind. Had to be jeeped in half the way because of the most insanely scary road I had ever been on. Had one of the best meals of my life from a wonderful Albanian family we stayed with. In the morning, I decided to separate and hike over the mountain range towards Kosovo, one of the youngest countries in the world. A friend and I went to the Mitrovica area in the north, where it’s a kind of separation of the Kosovoans and Serbians, a bridge with giant berms of soil act as a border. UN peacekeepers from all over Europe roam the area on foot and in military vehicles. My trip changed paces at this point, and when I returned to Albania to the hostel, I sold the bike to the owner for 20 Euros, returning to hitchhiking and buses. Going through Macedonia, I crossed paths with a girl I met in South America years before, and a guy I met in Kosovo. Along with a friend of hers, we ended up having an awesome group going from Macedonia through to Bulgaria. We did a lot of hitchhiking. Me and one of the guys had a hitchhiking challenge against an Aussie couple to get from eastern Macedonia to the capital of Bulgaria, Sofia. We got a little bit past the border, and then got lost in a tiny town before managing to catch a bus to a train station as it got dark. There were no more trains, so the station master put us in one of the staff quarters for the night, and left us a set of keys for the entire station. Felt like I was in the 1920s. After lots of goofiness in Bulgaria, including buying clown suits, I hitchhiked my way down to Istanbul, Turkey. I will remember Istanbul by the delicious food and hundreds of people fishing off the bridge with minarets glowing around them.
From Istanbul, I flew to Mumbai, India. Spent two and a half months roaming the deserts of Rajasthan, to the Dalai Lamas home in the foothills of the Himalayan mountains, to the southern coast of Goa, living in a shack on a beach having some of the happiest times of my life. From India I reunited with the family for Christmas before heading to New Zealand, work visa in hand. After a stop in Fiji and meeting back up with a girlfriend there, we headed down under. I bought a little old 1987 Toyota Town-Ace van (named Moby Dick) converted into a camper van full of sunroofs. It was the best home I’ve ever had. It took us all over the North and South Island for three months, hunting for shells on deserted beaches for hours, guzzling wine in bed during storms, to beautiful active volcanos, to isolated coastal areas where you felt true freedom, and it brought many laughs.
After selling the van, for close to two months, we lived in the south island city of Christchurch working at a hostel. The city had been completely devastated a few years earlier by massive earthquakes. It was a good home, and we met some great people, but the itch was back on and winter was swooping in quickly. I still had the dream of crewing on a sailboat, so I jumped on a plane to Tonga in the South Pacific.
I stayed at a WOOFing farm while I looked for a boat, learning to make fresh coconut milk, picking the sweetest papayas on earth for breakfast, feeding the chickens, and trying to get the goats to follow directions. Eventually I got on a monohull with a Kiwi couple from Tongatapu to Vava’u. After having to turn around once due to being slammed by a storm (which is a bit scary when you’ve never sailed), we did the crossing north. While on Vava’u I spent some time on a large catamaran exploring the surrounding islands. Then after hanging out at the yacht club, I managed to get myself on a 50’ catamaran that was part of the South Pacific rally, with a Kiwi captain. The boat was like a home, maybe even better than Moby, with dive compressor and gear on board. These times have given me the dream to someday travel the world on a catamaran. We left Tonga and did the crossing to Fiji, and spent time all around the eastern islands of Fiji, which are very difficult if not impossible to do without your own boat. It was an amazing few weeks, but I was then drawn to Australia by my lady friend, which lasted about three weeks before I was on a plane to Indonesia.
The next two months were spent in Indonesia and Timor-Leste, sleeping in fisherman shacks on white sand beaches worrying about saltwater crocodiles, fishing with bamboo poles for 2” long fish for the locals soup, lost in the mountains in the back of dump trucks, getting into local papers for being goofy white travelers, seeing Komodo dragons, swimming and diving with sharks and eagle rays, riding a scooter through Java and hiking up four of the most active volcanos in the world, feeling the eruption through my body like a train on the crater rim, and drinking lots and lots of extremely sweet coffee (and big bottles of beer). A brief pass through Malaysia brought me back to Thailand, where I stayed in Phuket all through the Vegetarian Festival. Not only delicious foods, but the most intense ceremonies I’ve ever seen. At one temple each morning, a group of Buddhists mutilate and stab things through themselves, which is to pay for the sins of humans during the year. Some use large metal spikes to stab large holes in their checks, which make way for swords, poles, and violins. Some hit themselves with axes, bloodying their bodies.
A couple months stateside, and then I was back on my mission for a sailboat in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. I was set to leave on a catamaran to Guatemala, then during dollar beer night the captain called me and had bad news that the engine had to be pulled and might be a few weeks. I got on my phone and looked for the cheapest flight to the caribbean, which was the Dominican Republic. Five hours later, I was on a plane heading that way. The DR is amazing, and it was meant to be because I had always wanted to learn to kite surf, and the north side area of Cabarete is a famous kitesurfing spot. The kitesurfing was amazing, the friends I made even more. I was hooked, so I bought some used gear from a friend.
I flew up to see some family for spring break, picked up some more gear, and flew down to the Yucatan region of Mexico to kite. Spent a little time around Isla Blanca, which was amazing flat, shallow, clear water, but the wind was soft, and I was told of another place on the top of the peninsula named Progresso. I thought I’d go check it out for a couple days. Next thing I knew I had been there for almost three weeks, finding perfect kiting, a really nice real Mexican town, and friends i’ll never forget. I still daydream of the delicious food and mind blowing sunsets there. Besides that, the area has mayan ruins and cenotes everywhere to explore, the later being the most fun and gorgeous swimming holes in the world. The next couple months were spent roaming around in Mexico, staying with families on pacific coast beaches surrounded by authentic food and cartels, and in Belize, ending the party by floating in bright blue waters at sunrise, in Guatemala, stuck on flooded highways, in Honduras, reconnecting with old friends and diving some of the prettiest reef walls in the world, and in El Salvador, hiking volcanos with police escort in front and back and chilling at a friend’s tattoo studio in San Salvador. This got me to the summer of 2014.
I’d traveled or lived in 53 countries around the world, and decided to go after a big dream of mine. I spent a lot of free time reading over forums, looking at maps, and daydreaming about all the little things. I decided to drive a vehicle from Australia to Europe (London), and from there hopefully continue around the world. I’ve learned that you can’t plan too far in advance because you have absolutely no idea what is going to happen, and what might come up. You never want to tie yourself into one thing without wiggling room, because you meet people, you hear of places, and things just happen. When I told people in the US what I was going to do, they would look at me like I had a few screws loose. I loved that, because it further inspired me to do it. It’s not the easiest thing to research or get a lot of information on. I spent hours trying to find out one dumb piece of info or another. I wanted to write about this world and how people actually live, and the beauty that fills it. I wanted to show the true world, not what you see on the news. Also, I love photography, and hoped to capture the beauty of all the regions and countries of the world to share in a book or similar form someday. I try bringing to life the mountain ranges, deserts, lakes, foods, animals, cultures, smiles, all the beauty, the ugly, all the real lives, the suffering, and the stories.
When I headed off to Australia I wasn’t even sure what my transport would be yet. I had always been intrigued by traveling on a motorcycle, like sailing, and I fell in love with it after that some riding trips I did in Vietnam and America. I’ve done a bunch of trips since, but mostly on scooters in SE Asia. When planning for this trip I was 50/50 whether to go with a bike or a vehicle, and was leaning towards a vehicle for some reasons. To make a long story short, I had an epiphany in Newcastle, Australia one night when I first was traveling in Australia. I knew that the trip had to be done on a bike. A vehicle was all wrong for every reason. I have to give a little credit to a friend of mine from back home, Tiffany, who right before I left gave me a copy of Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. A lot of that book is pretty difficult and hard for me to comprehend, but there are sections that grabbed me. One in particular, he talks about the difference of traveling in a vehicle and on a motorcycle. Being in a car is like watching a movie on a screen, but being on a motorcycle is like being in the scene. Being a part of the movie, the smells, the views, and the way your senses are stimulated from all angles. You feel the road, taste the air, and smell the foul and delicious aromas that waft past you. I feel like your connection with people along the way is stronger. You provoke more curiosity. A 2010 Kawasaki KLR 650 was bought, just like the bike I did my cross of American on, except for newer. The rest is history or in my blog 🙂