Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Home...and it's Pretty Sweet

18 airplanes. Over 37,000 miles in the air. 10 cars, 1 purchased, 2 rented, 7 borrowed. 2 motorcycles. Close to 40,000 miles on the road. 8 ferry boats, 1 yacht and a river boat. The equivalent of almost 7 days spent at sea. 7 trains and an incalculable amount of busses, taxi’s and subways. The earths circumference is about 25,000 miles. I’ve at least tippled that distance in the past 9 months.
From Pacific Northwest...Home Sweet Home

I came home in the middle of my sister’s wedding chaos. I had an awesome welcome home party at the airport with my family who even made a “welcome home” sign for me. We pulled into the driveway around 10pm and I caught my first glimpse of my family’s house since the day I left. The air was humid, the sky was dark and the sounds of rain pounding the roof and smacking the deck kept me up all night. I found it ironic that the day I left in December was basically identical to the weather I came home to. I felt extremely welcome.
From Pacific Northwest...Home Sweet Home

Around 8am the next morning my mother had rolled me out of bed and we were on our way down the hill to a full day of wedding errands. To the dry cleaners for the table cloths, to Costco to pick up wine, to the liquor store for an event liquor license, to the tuxedo shop to get fitted, etc, etc. I think you get the point. No rest for the weary. Maybe it was good because I really didn’t have time to think and let the fact that I really am home, sink in. I’m a pretty busy person in general. I like to fill my life with activity and excitement. I guess while I was away I kind of forgot where I got it from.
From Kelsey's Wedding

This whole time I’ve been gone I would often wake up and have to take my first few moments of consciousness to figure out where I actually was. I had a consistent list of places that I would usually run through in my mind until I figured out where in the world the moment had placed me. If you’ve never dealt with this, it’s a humbling experience. One that makes you truly appreciate your home and your own bed. Although my first week home never felt real. I would wake up and instead of actually thinking I was finally home, I would question that reality and again go through my list of possible places I could be. For some reason it was just so hard for me to believe that I really was home.
From More Kaikoura

I missed home. There is no doubt about that. To prepare yourself to return to a life that exists and has changing and evolving around you while you’ve been away is more difficult than I could have imagined. My thoughts on it are this: you’ll never be ready. I wasn’t ready to leave on this trip, I wasn’t ready for all the challenges that came my way, I wasn’t ready for the amazing experiences that seemed to keep unfolding before me and I surely was not ready to come home. My mind has been spinning non stop since my arrival. However, the only thing that has been giving me solace is the feeling I get by being home and surrounded by family and friends. Yes, I do miss the daily grind of waking up in new places, meeting people from all over the world, trying new foods, exploring new environments and surfing perfect waves. However there is something so good and indescribable about being home and wanting to be there. I can’t honestly say this is something I’ve felt before.
From Kuta

I’ve been away from home in the past, literally since the day I graduated from high school, over 8 years ago, I’ve been on the run. Trying to get away, see and do as much as possible. It’s always been my style and it’ll probably always be what I do. I’ve been gone for months at a time. 2, 3 and 5 months to name my longer stints. This time was big at 9 months. I really didn’t think much of it. Actually I had thought I’d be gone longer so the fact that I was gone less made it feel as though I never really left at all. Every time I’ve left, I always reaffirmed my decision with my simple theory that “home never changes, it’ll always be there.” This is true and has seemed to be true up until now. Nine months is nothing in the scale of a lifetime. How much can really change?
From Catlins

I arrive to find that gas has risen over $1.00 per gallon since the day I left and prices have sky-rocketed for everything else. My hometown of Redmond has gone through dramatic changes as I barely recognize it anymore. The old car dealerships are now the site of new condos, the old gravel parking lot where we buy Christmas trees is now a Whole Foods with a strip mall of other modern, eco-friendly chains that seem to be cashing in on the newly discovered “green movement”. The old “fall city highway” has been basically transformed into a 4 lane freeway. That’s just the physical appearance. Socially, I’ve found that multiple friends have got engaged or married and a multitude more have got pregnant and are expecting really, really soon.
On the financial front I’ve discovered that the economy is in shambles. The state government has a hiring freeze, thousands of homes in the area are being foreclosed on a weekly basis. Banks are no longer giving loans, putting those who rely on these loans for business to seek other employment. All new home building has halted. There are even banks cashing in on the F.D.I.C system that F.D.R established after the Great Depression as a form of federal insurance to make sure the masses don’t seek shelter under cardboard roofs again. Five years ago, my history teacher in college told me that this was a system that’ll never be used because it is impossible for the economy to fail the way it did in the 1930’s. Taking all this into account and viewing my world the way it is and accepting it for what exists, I’m really left with one question: WHAT THE HECK DID YOU GUYS DO WHILE I WAS GONE?
From New York

I tired to prepare myself for the questions. I knew they were coming. I wasn’t sure how to answer them, but I knew that I’d find a way. I honestly thought I’d be ready. Silly me. “what was your favorite place?” seems to be the one I hear the most and it is the question I dread the most. I knew it was coming. I thought of a thousand ways the answer the question but it still never seems to come out right. The question makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. I can’t blame the question, I’d probably ask the same thing myself. I know it’s just another way of saying “Good to see you again, we don’t have a lot of time but in 60 seconds or less tell me about your trip”. I can’t. It’s too difficult. I usually throw out some random location every time I answer it just to make sure that I’m giving the places I’ve fell in love with some sort of dignity. I feel guilty when I name a location and neglect another. It’s like having 10 kids and naming one as your favorite. You really can’t do it. Every place took me by surprise and made me fall in love with it in a different way.
From Rome

New Zealand was the trip for me. I spent 2/3’s of my time there. I feel like I did everything I came there to do (although I still don’t know exactly what that is), but it felt good. I was ready to leave. I felt that I’d spent enough time there to really know New Zealand. I didn’t feel that I needed more time for what I was seeking. I was ready. New Zealand for me holds a sense of home, a foundation for the trip, a place of discovery, both self and location, a realized freedom. All of these I will never forget. I left a piece of myself there and took something new with me. It was a monumental experience and one that will follow me for life.
From Surfing Castle Pt. with Craig

Everything that followed; Australia, Indonesia, Italy, England, Ireland, New York, Orange County, they all seemed to catch me totally by surprise and fly by faster than I had time to really grasp what was actually happening. It seemed just as I was beginning to understand and really feel a place, I would leave. I know that I was in every location longer than most people even get in annual vacation time, but there was a sense of injustice I felt I was doing to a place every time I got on a plane to leave one destination and arrive in another.
Australia took me some time to adjust to. Spending a good chunk of my time in Sydney, I got off on the wrong foot. I had a horrible hostel experience and it took me some time to get over it. I did a road trip with some Kiwi friends up the East coast and saw 1,500 miles of Australia. It was new and interesting and beautiful. I left with the sense that I learned absolutely nothing about the people including the indigenous aborigines. I learned that there was a giant country left for exploring that even a year’s travel would never satisfy. I loved every moment of my time in Australia and it begged me to return to learn more.
From Koala Sanctuary

Going to Indonesia was scary. I really didn’t know what to expect. It wasn’t like showing up in New Zealand where everywhere was familiar in a backwards kind of way, nothing was familiar and it was all backwards. It was the most foreign place I’ve been and the biggest culture shock I’ve been through. I was there over three weeks and it took me almost that amount of time to start feeling comfortable. I found things there that I did not expected to find. I met amazing people, surfed more than perfect waves, dove beautiful reefs, ate incredible food, and found newness and adventure around every corner. Bali blew my mind, to say the least. I can’t help but feel pulled back there for even more adventure and exploration.
From Balangan

Arriving in Italy, I was dazed and incredibly confused. Over 30 hours door to door. Longest time I’ve ever spent actively traveling. Instantly, I was greeted by my best of friends, Brad and Silvia. For almost 3 weeks time I was so well taken care of that looking back, I can hardly fathom the experience I had. I didn’t know what to expect, actually I had no expectations. I came to see friends. Italy took me by surprise and I fell head over heals in love with it. My heart throbs every time I think about it. There was not one thing in Italy I didn’t love. Every place I went, I was in awe. Venice, Verona, Milan, Pavia, Lake Como, Cinque Terre and Rome…Rome. The most amazing city in the world. If you have a list of cities to see before you die, make sure Rome is at the top. There is something there to offer everyone. If you have half the experience I did, make sure to bring someone with you who is able to continually pick your jaw off the ground. Among anything that I experienced in Italy, it was the people that made Italy the unique place that my heart calls me back to. The sense of community and the importance of family to their lives is something we can all learn from. More benches in more places, than anywhere I’ve seen and they are all full, packed from end to end with elderly Italians, laughing, crying or simply just watching the world move by. Enjoying life, loving where they’re at and living for something that is real… the world that exists right in front of them. The inspiration I drew from this land took me by surprise and left me a feeling of fulfillment and purpose, exactly in the same way that you can feel when surrounding yourself with friends and family.
From Vinyards Near Pavia

If there was ever a place I went to without expectations, it would be England. All I knew is that it was expensive and my only goal was to get out of there with at least a few dollars left in my pocket. I went there for a visit with my friend Richard and ended up staying for 2 weeks. I spent almost everyday exploring the magnificent city of London. If Rome is the most amazing city in the world, London is the worlds greatest modern city. First of all the London Underground, which is the city’s subway system, is the cleanest and most efficient mass transit system I’ve ever seen. The Royal Parks network covers vast amounts of prime real estate in Central London. Perfectly manicured lawns and immaculate gardens were never more than a few blocks away. Then the museums. I’ve never seen more museums in my life in one city and I never thought in a million years that the worlds greatest museums would all be free. No charge. The most invaluable artifacts in human history have been free to the world for hundreds of years.
From Greenwich and British Museum

Italy had left me with a new sense of family and being in England I was able to take advantage of seeing some family I’ve never been able to meet. My grandmothers sister, Aunt Irene, lives in Cambridge and in the area is a huge network of other relatives. I was able to only meet a handful of them, but the experience moved me in a way that this trip had yet to do. The previous 8 months I had spent much of my time meeting new people and hanging out with other families. I learned to appreciate their company and the unique functioning dynamics that everyone brings to their own family and friends. Finally being able to hang out with family of my own was a moment on this journey I will forever cherish.
From Cambridge and Family

New York was the first place I arrived in the United States. I had spent the previous 8 months feeling like an outsider, a perspective that I will never forget, but when I arrived in the US, I felt as though it was a place I was supposed to feel at home. I was done feeling like a foreigner and was ready for something familiar. New York did not afford me that luxury and because of it, I was sent into the heaviest culture shock yet to be experienced on this journey. I wondered the streets of New York for a week looking for something, anything familiar I could find to make myself feel as though I belonged somewhere. Brad and Silvia were right there the whole time easing me back into American life, but I knew it was going to be a journey within a journey.
From New York

My last stop was in LA to visit my cousin Heather, her husband James and son Mikey. Upon arrival I was again feeling the culture shock. California feels a little bit more like home to me than anywhere I‘d been thus far, but Southern California can still be overwhelming. Massive freeways, massive vehicles, massive strip malls and massive parking lots. I had to remind myself that it wasn’t California that I came for, it was my family. I hung low and really took in this whole experience. I spent my days hanging, going to football games, watching movies, surfing with my buddy Jason and just trying to mentally prepare myself for the most important part of this trip. Something that any journey would be incomplete without: going home.
From Orange County

The day I left, I felt myself gaining a whole new appreciation for that place. Even though I’ve been there many times before, this time my purpose was for people, my people. They completely took care of me. With their royal treatment, generous nature and positive attitudes, they transformed a place I never really cared too much for, to somewhere I can’t wait to return. Like much of what I’ve learned on this trip, it really is the people that make places special. It gives the reason for why people should travel. It really isn’t the destination that matters, but also I really don’t think it’s all about the journey either. You can find good food anywhere, you can forever climb beautiful mountain peaks, you can always see ocean waves crashing on a pristine beach, and furious rivers grinding away towards the sea are almost too numerous to count. To me, these are all constant. They will always be there. I can find them anywhere and they will always impress me. However, these alone were not enough to keep me going, these alone were not enough to inspire, motivate and stimulate all my senses to keep me traveling. There were hard times, yes, no doubt about that. One does not spend almost a year traveling the world alone without feeling lonely within the world. It was the people though, that kept me there. They kept me inspired with their new ways of life, motivated by the differences in culture, art and language, and stimulated with new conversations and interesting perspectives.
From Tulamben

Not only are people an important mental factor while traveling, they are also very much a vital physical factor as well. Travel is not possible without the generosity and hospitality of good hearted people throughout the world. Without them you would be lost, confused, hungry, always near danger and completely broke.
From McLaren Family

I often get asked the question, “how do you know who to trust?”. This is in fact something I’ve never even considered. Actually, it’s never even entered my mind. To me it’s obvious. You just know. If your gut hesitates, you know. If your heart warms, you know. Believing that good people in this world really do exist will keep them entering your life. However, being skeptical of everyone and fearing that people are out to get you, will only bring negativity into your life. At some point you will learn to let go and trust in the realities of the good that is actually surrounding you.
From Richards Family and Brighton

This trip started as a mere thought in my head 10 years ago as I watched a slideshow in my 9th grade Geography class of my teachers travels to Tibet. It was then that I realized the world was not the small, simple place that Disneyland makes it seem. The thought of a long term traveling experience grew into an idea and formulated itself into an unstoppable force that left me with one dream for the next decade.
From Sailing Trip


It was a quest for knowledge and my goal was comprehension. I had to see the world. I needed to learn from it by exposing myself to new realities that have never been real. I needed to create a vulnerability within my existence that would break me. Breakdown everything I thought I knew of the functions in which this planet operates and discover new truths within the world and hopefully myself.
I’ve always been told that everything will work out perfectly. Follow your heart, trust in your actions and stand by your decisions have been basic philosophies in which I’ve followed for most of my life. It wasn’t until this trip that I truly put these philosophies to the test. In any great task there comes a point where you just need to let go. Let go of your worries, let go of your fears and completely let go of anything that is not a necessity. At one point you will be forced to have faith, the kind in which you trust that you will be ok. The kind that makes you realize that you are being taken care of and the kind that reminds you everything really will work out perfectly.
From Exploding Rocks

It’s a massive world. After nine months of trying to see it, understand it and learn from it, I have discovered just how big the world really is. I have seen more places than my mind can comprehend, I have met more amazing people then I will ever be able to remember and I have made more memories than I’ll ever be able to share. I have questioned everything. I have learned new truths in old ways of thinking and have found traditional thoughts in new discoveries. It’s a big place and there is so much to learn from it.
Almost 200 countries, and 6 billion people exist on this planet. Countless cultures, religions, and languages. It would take more than a lifetime to experience it all. It’s almost too overwhelming to think about. The truth is, that nobody will ever see it all and that alone is a beautiful reality. The only thing we need to concern ourselves with is what’s right in front of us. We need to learn to want what we have. We have one lifetime to live, one mind to expand, one heart to grow, one soul to believe and we have One World to experience.
From Balangan


Thank you:
Everything that has happened in the last 10 months have been more than monumental in my life. It was the most incredible experience I've ever lived though. When I think about it though, it would not have been made possible without the help and support of people from home and the people I've met along the way.
I need to thank my family so much for their full hearted support with everything I was doing. Mom, Dad, I know it's not easy to watch your son quit a good job, sell everything he owns and bail to the other side of the world with no rhyme or reason. You never once questioned my decisions and that support alone empowered me with so much freedom. Thank you. You were there for me from day one, 10 years ago when I came home from my 9th grade class and told you of my plans, you were there for me when I was gone and you were right there waiting for me when I got back. Thank you so, so, so much. Kelsey and Karli, thank you so much for being amazing sisters and for your unyielding love and support.
Thank you to Aunt Ginny and Uncle Craig for all your support and the awesome birthday package. Thank you Aunt Barb and Unlce Stu so much for always being there and all your ecouragement.
I have to thank my Oly folks. Lynn, thank you so much for being there for me and giving me guidance when I needed it most. Thank you for being there to make me press the “purchase“ button to buy my ticket. Jess, thank you so much for keeping me motivated and inspired to travel. Simone, thanks so much for being there...literally and getting me down to Wellington. Thanks for introducing me to your friends and always being a source of motivation. Steph, thanks for the positive attitudes and good vibes and thanks so much for the visit in New Zealand. Your trip changed the course of my trip and I couldn't have seen it work out any better. Brandon, thanks for being the Bro that could listen and tell some of the funniest stories I've ever heard. Amber and Geneva, thanks for being some of the best friends I've ever had. You've always been there for me and I appreciate it more than you'll ever know. Andrew, thanks for supporting me from the very beginning and helping me keep my priorities straight. Thanks for the motivation to get to Indo and thanks for the visit and some of the best times I had on the whole trip. Craig, your visit changed my whole trip. Thanks for coming out to rally N-Zed with me for 6 weeks. Thanks for bringing me a board, taking my stuff back with you and being one best travel companion I've ever had.
Pam and Sandra, thank you so much for your visit in New Zealand. I wish we could have had more time, but it was some of the best times. There's never a dull moment around geographers.
Brad and Silvia, thanks so much for really taking care of me. You've always been there for me even when we've been on opposite sides of the world and even when we find ourselves together on the opposite of the world. Thanks for being family. Thanks so much for introducing me to your family, your friends and just sharing your life with me.
Jake, thanks so much for all the amazing comments and the inspiring emails. They really meant a lot. I’m so sad that I missed your wedding, but so excited to be able to share everything else with you and Lindsey.
Jason, buddy, thanks so much for the emails and keeping me feeling as though you were right there with me. Thanks so much for finding some time in your crazy studies to take me surfing at Trestles, it really meant a lot.
Mike and Lindsey, thanks for keeping me involved with everything going on in your guy’s life. It was awesome to know that you’re always there for me. I feel like your family is my family.
Lucas, broski, thanks a billion times over for keeping the stoke and reminding me of the significance of everything I was doing. You always gave me the confidence boost when I needed it most to help me keep going.
Michelle your friendship has meant so much to me and I’m thankful a thousand lifetimes for you always being there. Thank you for inspiring me to grow and showing me new ways to live and seek out beauty within this world.

There were so many people I met on this trip. So many people that made this trip possible. Actually, without them, I’m not sure it would have been possible.
Hamish, thank you so much for everything. Thanks for bringing me into your life, introducing me to your friends, your family and showing me your Country. Thanks for being a surf buddy, and a patient guitar teacher and an awesome travel companion. Had I not met you, I wouldn’t have had half the experience I did.
The McLarens, thank you, thank you, thank you. I am forever thankful of everything you did for me. You showed me real Kiwi hospitality. You took me in when I needed it most. This trip would not have been made possible without you. Seriously. You are an amazing family and I only hope that one day I can return the same generosity and hospitality that you showed me for so long. Thank you.
Tim and Jennifer, thank you so much giving me a place to stay and helping me plant my feet in New Zealand. Thanks for inviting me to all your awesome BBQ’s and making me feel like I had an American refuge in a foreign county. You guys are so awesome.
Thanks to Tom, Damien, Hamish and Kunaal for inviting me along on the most epic of Australian road trips that has ever occurred. It was an amazing time.
Thanks to Tim Rivers for hooking me up with a place to stay and some work on his farm. It was an experience I will never forget. Thanks to Judy and Mark Frasier for taking Craig and I in for the night, and giving us an amazing feast. Thanks to Susanne and David for inviting us on their sailboat, making us breakfast and sharing your amazing adventures with us. Thanks to Zeta for hooking that up.
Thanks to David from Israel for an amazing week of hiking and some awesome, super inspiring conversation. Thanks to Joel from Santa Barbara for taking me on an awesome surf trip for a couple days in OZ. Thanks to Kim and Kyle Macdonald for one of most random yet incredible conversations of my whole trip, we only had a day, but it was a day I will not soon forget.
Thanks to Mathias, from Sweden for a couple of incredible dives in Bali and some really amazing discussions.
Valerie, thanks so much for the awesome adventures and incredible conversations. I will never forget our experiences. Du sind erstaunlich. Danke.
Luisa and Sergio, thank you so much for your hospitality and giving me a place to stay in Italy. Even though we couldn’t really speak a language to each other, your warmth and genuine good nature was something that is part of a universal language that anyone can understand. Grazie di tutto.
Maria and Marzia thank you so much for making me feel like family and that I was apart of Italy, thank you for showing me your Italy. You have become some of my best friends. Mio cuore รจ in Italia.
Richard, buddy, seriously man, thank you so much for letting me crash and showing me England. England blew my mind and I can’t wait to return. I had so much fun hanging out with you. Your family is incredible and I honestly felt like I had a home in the UK. I appreciate everything you did, thanks again man.
Great Aunt Irene and Peter, thank you so much for putting me up for the night and giving me the opportunity to meet some long lost relatives. Vicky and her beautiful family, thank you so much for making me feel at home in Cambridge. Thank you so much for introducing me to the rest of your family. It was one of the most memorable experiences of my trip.
Kate and Jed, thanks for all the encouraging emails, the rad cup of tea and an awesome afternoon of convo. Lindsey, thanks for meeting up, taking me to Queens and showing me the best bohemian brewery I've ever been too. Jodi, thanks for meeting up and hanging out...twice! It was so fun to catch-up.
Heather, thank you so much for being the amazing person you are. Thank you for showing me your life, your family and giving me the most amazing experience in California I’ve ever had. I’m so thankful that you’re in my family and I’m forever thankful of everything you did for me.
I feel like I’m missing a thousand more people. But I have nothing but thanks for everyone. Not a day goes by I don’t thank God for everything that has happened in my life and the people that have been brought into it. It would not have been possible without you. Thank you. Seriously.

Here is a collection of my favorite photos:
This album is from New Zealand:
http://picasaweb.google.com/ryan.mceliece/FavoriteNZPhotos#

This album is from the rest of the trip:
http://picasaweb.google.com/ryan.mceliece/FavPhotosFromWorldTrip#

Enjoy!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Stay with me

If there is still anyone there reading this I just wanted to say something quick to let you know I'm currently writing a final post for my trip. I've been super busy since I've been home and my sister is finally married off so things are starting to slow down. I have some pictures to share but unfortunately my sister accidentally took off with my camera to Hawaii on her honeymoon and won't be back until next week. So check back next week and there should be something to occupy you with. Until then, shoot me an email and let me know what you're up to!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Last Stop


The quick trip to the County of Oranges proved to be one of my favorite trips to this area of California I've ever had. My supposedly few hour journey to the West Coast turned into the longest amount of time I've ever spent on an airplane. Heavy, gnarly thunder showers closed the airport in New York and I was stuck on an airplane sitting on the runway for over 4 hours until the pilot decided it was safe to take off. No food and they ran out of water to drink, it was a hot and sticky grounded airplane session. I had to go to Atlanta to change flights and once there I had to run to catch the last flight to the West coast. No time to get food. 5 hours to LA and once there it was almost 1 in the morning. No food and one little cup of water for 13 hours in an airplane. I was appalled. 18 flights in the past 9 months and I have not seen it this bad. Our domestic flights need some work.

Groggy and totally hypoglycemic from the days events, I was shocked to find that despite the presence of coin slots, the pay phones in the airport no longer accept coins. Frustrated, I put the receiver down about to seek out a random cell phone and I get a tap on my shoulder. Not only was it my cousin Heather, but her husband James and son Mikey. On a work night they drove an hour to pick me up and take me home at 1 in the morning. I was so thankful for their graciousness.

The next 5 days absolutely flew by. I spent my time being totally spoiled by my cousin, going to Mikey's football games and practices, watching movies and going surfing with my buddy Jason. This trip has definitely gave me a new sense of family and I have never before been able to hangout with my cousin and her family like this. It was more than awesome. I cherished every moment.

Going from New York to Southern California was a huge change for me. I'm slowly adjusting back into American life and feeling more comfortable each day. Right I'm now I'm sitting at the airport, enjoying one of the many luxuries we have in this country, free Internet, and awaiting to board my flight to Seattle. Every emotion possible has gone through me today and the last week. My anxiousness has been numbed by the reality of the day and this moment. I have one thing left to do on this trip. Go home.

Here's a link to my Orange County Picts:
http://picasaweb.google.com/ryan.mceliece/OrangeCounty

For those of you still reading my blog, this is not my last post. In about a week or so I will post a massive conclusion along with some of my favorite picts from the past 9 months around the world. You will not be disappointed, I promise :)
For anyone wanting to get a hold of me, shoot me an email ryan.mceliece@gmail.com or call my folks place, where I'll be until the wedding and while I get stuff figured out. Ciao!!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Almost There


It was supposed to be a significant moment. One that I have been thinking about for a long time. It was probably my last international flight for a while. A monuments moment after 9 months on the road. My taste buds craved of good coffee, beer, massive burgers and burritos. I could almost smell the Costco hotdogs teasing my appetite just before going shopping in a building the size of a small country with a cart bigger than most vehicles in Europe. It was the return to my country. America. U. S of A. Home of the free land of the….this was supposed to be my home.

It soon struck me that this is definitely not my home. New York is a foreign country in itself, but the only thing the familiar sights sounds from my home did, was overwhelm me. It’s as foreign a country to me as anywhere I’ve been. It’s a culture shock only because I expected something from it. Something that I was supposed to know and have figured out. I was looking for something familiar. A language and culture that I understand and am apart of. But it was different. I found myself feeling as out of place and like a foreigner as in any place I’ve been in this world.

My shock came first with the cars. The vehicles are all so big! Even the small ones that I’ve always thought of as small are huge. Walking down the a line of cars parked on the side of the road on the Upper Eastside of Manhattan I counted 9 out of 10 cars in a single row that was some kind of truck or S.U.V.

The shock continued as I was constantly blow away by the size of everything. Not only the cars but the freeways, the bridges, the shopping centers and the buildings. New York is definitely a huge city and everything around it appears to keep in sync with that fact.

Soon, I slowly found myself accepting where I’m at and where I’m from. I started to remember things I love about this place. My friends Brad and Silvia were right there making sure I got everything I desired. It started with a good micro called Sierra Nevada then continued to an even finer brew simply known as PBR. A massive proper burger was first on the menu. Good, free ketchup, mustard and all the toppings known to grow in this land, requiring the need to stretch your jaw before attempting to eat. Sedated and happy, day two brought on a massive, coma educing burrito from a real Mexican restaurant. Day three was good ol’ American Chinese food and last but not least, proper American Pizza. It’s nothing like the pizza in Italy, but the American version is still mouth watering. There is definitely some truth to be found in the statement “fat and happy”.

Day four, Brad and I found ourselves in the possession of free tickets to one of the most massive music festivals New York hosts all summer. It was on Liberty park, a short ferry ride from Manhattan. The moment I saw Ben Harper play, the realities of being back hit me. I turned around, looked back at all the skyscrapers of the city and still couldn’t believe this trip is coming to an end. Jack Johnson then finished the night jamming out with the lead singer of Phish. I felt truly welcomed home that evening, back to the country I’m from and the closest to home I’ve been in 9 months.

My journey is not yet complete though. I fly to LA on Thursday. I’ll hang out for a few days with my cousin Heather and my buddy Jason. Then...choke…gasp…cough… I’ll be home.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

2 days in Dublin


I think it was the dark grey sky's that blended into the old grey, grimy buildings that stick out most to me about Dublin. Walking through the streets of the capital city of the Republic of Ireland, it had a feeling of something that I haven't felt with any city I've been to in 5 weeks of traveling throughout Europe.
It was hard. Something rough about it's demeanor which emanated from it's brick buildings and old bridges. Nobody seemed to make eye contact with you. I didn't see a lot of smiles. If you were able to make eye contact with someone, it's almost like you were able to glimpse into their lives just a little bit and you could see that there was something tough about them. Their lives seemed rougher than any country or city I've been to. Their beards, heavy clothes and deep set eyes spoke to me of hard work and survival.

I don't know as much about Ireland as I would like. I don't know what the people have been through. The flight was a lot cheaper to fly back to the states from Dublin than it was from London. I thought it would at least be worth it to stop in and have a pint of Guinness. I was only there a couple days, but I was so fascinated by my first impressions that I was fully motivated to learn more.

My first stop was the National Museum of Ireland. When I wondered through the 200 year old building and browsed it's exhibits I saw a common theme forming. It seemed that the history of Ireland is full of two things. Invasion and emigration. Dating back over 2000 years ago it started with the Norms, then the Vikings, then the English. Fighting for what was theirs, the Irish have always has some sort of foreign aggression to deal with. Many of you know that still exists today in Northern Ireland. Then there has been the people fleeing the country. Either from war or famine or sometimes both. I read in the airport that almost half of the people ever born in Ireland have left the country. This is more emigration than any country in Europe has ever experienced.

I went back to the streets and watch the people walking around. The pubs the grey sky's and the decrepit buildings. I wanted to understand more. So I went to the place that has become synonymous with Ireland and Irish culture. The Guinness Brewery.

It was a self guided tour through one of the largest and most fascinating brewery's I've ever ventured to. I've been around the world. Literally. I've sampled beer in every country and have entertained claims to the "worlds best beer" everywhere I've been. I'll tell you right now that nothing comes close to the micro’s we have back home in the Northwest, but the one beer that is served everywhere and has huge respect on an international scale has been Guinness. I think Guinness has been the only beer I've seen served everywhere. It's a mind boggling dark brew that looks one way but throws your taste buds off with it's rich, smooth and creamy flavor. I will answer the myth right now for anyone who is curious. Yes, Guinness tastes distinctly better in Ireland than anywhere else. I had a many of conversations about this as I waited for the foamy “head” to slowly dissolve before returning the pint back to the tap to finish it’s age old ritual of a “perfect” pour.

My conclusion to Ireland was that I’m fascinated. Very fascinated and would love a return visit. This country deserves some exploring. I was only in Dublin and I loved my experiences there. I felt I could relate to the people here. I was fascinated to learn of a culture and land that has been through centuries of hard times but has remained intact and true to their traditions and beliefs. I only had two days, but it was enough to know that I will be back.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

London Calling


My time in the UK has seemed to come and gone faster than I could have imagined. Having no real expectations other than hanging out with Richard, I allowed myself to take in everything England had to offer. My first week was spent aimlessly wondering the streets of this giant city trying not to get lost. Never before have I spent so much time in a city, and never before have I found myself enjoying a city more with every day spent there.

My first impressions of London were that is was huge, massively old and super expensive. Everything here costs about twice as much than in America. After roaming the countryside, a short visit to Cambridge and a jaunt to Richards folks place just an hour outside London, I really couldn’t help but wonder what is was that made this place worth so much. Why was it so expensive? And why was the pound so strong? It really confused me cause I didn’t quite get what they had. Other than the massive city of London, England just seemed like a lot of old villages, rolling hills, a few pubs and loads of wheat fields.

It wasn’t until my day trip to Greenwich that I realized what it was. It was an hour boat ride on the Thames river to the village. I sat on the deck of the ferry in the 85 degree sunshine listening to my I-Pod and watched the old buildings of classical downtown London give way to old apartments and condos. The ferry captain who found enjoyment in describing in detail what every building and monument was we passed along the way soon said “from here until Greenwich, there are few areas of interest, so I will shut up and let you enjoy the ride.” Thankful of his generosity and my ability to totally tune out the rest of the ride to my music, I began to see giant skyscrapers appear on the horizon. Upon docking in Greenwich, I took another look at these massive buildings and saw that they were all very modern and all owned by giant, well known international corporations. Thinking nothing of it, I went exploring.

Greenwich is probably one of the most amazing places in all of London. The British Maritime Museum, the Queens Palace and the University of Greenwich were so impressive. Then there is this massive park which is so picture-perfect that it looks like some machine has been designed to manicure its gardens and lawns. In the middle of this park is a big hill which I started to climb. On top there is a place that is filled with tourists taking pictures of themselves standing over a line. Big deal, right? Upon further inspection it turns out that the line marks 0 degree longitude and the beginning of time. You can stand there with one foot in the West and one in the East.

While looking at all these people crowding this line and then looking out over the city and all it’s massive skyscrapers, it hit me. Time. England has time. Without any large-scale export, time is something they have that nowhere else in the world could possibly have. This is why it’s so expensive. Everyone knows you can’t really buy time. But England has come closer than any country in the world. GMT. Greenwich Mean Time. Ingenious.

With exactly a 5 hour difference from North America and a 5 hour difference from all the development in Asia, time 0 or London, is perfectly positioned to do business with the world. In a standard 8 hour work day, your business can coordinate with the industries of Asia in the morning and deal with the markets in Europe and North America in the afternoon. This mean business and not just business but big business. Ones that bring lots of money, enough money to make a small island nation very wealthy.

Originally Richard and I were to do a surf trip up into Ireland. However, he just changed jobs and was unable to get much time off. This actually turned out to be more than perfect because as my whole schedule freed up I was able to go meet some family in Cambridge I’ve never seen before. I called up my Grandma’s 87 year old sister and nervously explained who I was and asked if I could come meet them. “Of course dear.” was her reply. It was a two hour train ride from London and some of the most picture-perfect English countryside you could imagine. There is something about trains that is so peaceful and introspective as you listen to the wind rush past the window going 70 miles an hour, staring in awe at beautiful green pastures, duck ponds and old churches.

I had an amazing evening with my Great Aunt Irene and her husband Peter. We spent most of the night looking though thousands of family photos…always a necessity when you meet family for the first time. I found it awfully remarkable that there were people whom I’ve never met on the other side of the world in a country I’ve never been too that has photos of my family hanging up in their homes. The evening was topped for me when my Grandma back home, who I haven’t seen in about 9 months, called to say hi and I was there to talk to her. She had been battling cancer the whole time I’ve been away and it’s pained me to not be able to be there for any of it. Talking to her really was more than awesome.

In the morning, I was able to visit with Vicky (the grandchild of my great aunt, I‘m not sure what you call that in relation to myself, but she‘s some kind of cousin). She actually stayed with my family for a few weeks back in 1991. I was only 9 years old, but I vividly remember her and was really excited when she phoned up and wanted to meet. She was only 23 when I first met her and she’s now 40, married and has 3 kids. But her friendly smile, peaceable attitude and generous nature had remained unchanged. She has also become an incredible mother to three incredible kids, William, Phillip and George. Hanging out with her, her kids and her awesome husband Rolan, I instantly felt like I was family. I was able to meet her dad, Berry (my dad‘s cousin), briefly and really knew from there that we all really were related. My time with them was way too short. I really wish I could have stayed longer. Vicky and her kids William and Phillip walked me to the train station and watched me leave to go back to London. Sitting in my seat on the train and looking out the window waving goodbye to people I had just met, I really felt as though I’d known them for my whole life. It was more than bitter-sweet because I was so glad to have met them but also sad to say goodbye. It was one of the most moving experiences I’ve had on this trip.

I returned to London sometime after midnight, packed my bags, crashed for a few hours then Richard and I began the 4 hour drive to the beach. We were headed for the county of Devon to surf a beach set in front of a backdrop of beautiful rolling hills, steep cliffs and farm pastures. There was a word of a small swell hitting these beaches, and for this time of year, it’s a novelty to have much surf at all, so we were on it. We arrived to a beautiful sunny day with small, blown out surf. I hadn’t been in the water for almost a month since I was in Indonesia, and I have yet to surf the Atlantic ocean, so we ran down to the beach with our boards as soon as we parked the car. The water was cold but the thrill of just paddling into the ocean on a board again felt better than I could have imagined. We had about 3 really fun surfs in Devon, one sunset session which was more than magical. The sun poked through the clouds the last few moments it was above the horizon. It lit up the beach and it’s backdrop of bright green pastures dotted with grazing sheep. The sun gave off rays shooting in all directions as it snuck behind the clouds in it’s final bow to the finale of an amazing day. We camped for two nights out in Devon. Richard drove me to South Hampton where I caught a flight to Dublin. I only have two nights here as I see some sights and prepare for my flight back to the States but I can’t help but reflect on the last couple weeks spent in the UK.

England to me came as a bit of a huge surprise. I really came here with no expectations. London turned out to be one of the most amazing cities I’ve ever spent time in. I spent 8 days wondering it’s streets and everyday I found something new and mind-blowing. I’d go back in a heart beat. I found a family that I’ve never met in Cambridge, I felt warm and welcome and that I had a home. Cambridge itself was one of those perfect, postcard-like English towns that you imagine only in pretty picture books. And I found amazing times and awesome waves hanging out with a good buddy I haven’t seen in almost 5 years. It was all more than I could have asked for. I can’t wait to come back.


-Please note that this posting is linked with 3 different albums. The Greenwich and British Museum, the Cambridge and Family Album the Devon Surfing trip.