Tuesday, February 01, 2011

You know what I like about travel?

If you guessed the beer, you would be mostly right. I like a lot of things about travel: new food, different culture, strange modes of transportation, the feeling that every day is fresh and full of unexpected awesomeness. Whether or not that awesomeness actually occurs, that's another story, but the potential for awesomeness is significantly higher, in my opinion, that in my daily life. But something I identified as liking a lot on this last trip to Belize was meeting fellow travelers. This is not an absolute statement, there are annoying travelers, pasty Americans in white tennis shoes, leathery old men who seem to drink all day and who knows what else, and dreadlocked 20 year olds from Europe. But we also met a lot of interesting people with very interesting life stories. Isn't that interesting?

We met a couple who was on a ~9 month bike trip from Mexico to Panama. Why you ask? Well, mostly for the fuck of it, but also because they were planning on opening an eco-lodge somewhere, and so were visiting about 15 eco-lodges along the way to get ideas about what works, what's feasible, and what could be done better. They were full of interesting stories, and after a few days of hanging out, tubing on the river, swimming in waterfalls, they hopped on their bikes and headed south.

We met a couple traveling, and the guy in the couple was the inventor of this thing: http://www.elliptigo.com/ It's like a bike, mixed with an elliptical machine, and he said that riding it was like running. The benefits were apparently great: you could stand up in a natural position, you could climb much better with it than with a bike, and you could go long distances very comfortably. He had been doing something else, but he dropped that to sink all of his time and energy in to this.

Met another guy, a British guy, in a little town we were staying, and it turns out he's a huge sailing enthusiast. His job is, wait for it, to sail rich people's new yachts from the place they are built to where ever they want them delivered. So he gets paid to do something he loves, namely being out at sea, sail multimillion dollar yachts, and at the end of it all, he finds himself in Thailand, or the West Indies, and takes a little vacation afterward. He also had one of the most unique and awesome business ideas I've ever heard. He was planning soon on "retiring" and living on his boat full time, sailing around the world. He was planning on running a low-key "yacht hostel" in which people would pay $30-40 a day for a room, and could sail with him for as long as they liked, to say Fiji, or Thailand. That way he would have enough money for beer and food, and then people could get where they wanted to go in a fun way. And since it would be super cheap, like a hostel, there would be no expectation of him to do shit like change the sheets, or provide any kind of guest service.

I have a lot of trips planned in my head right now: multi-week bike trip through Europe including monastery/brewery tour through Belgium, hiking a large portion of the PCT, southeast Asia since I hardly saw any of it when we were in the Philippines (except for Malaysia and Singapore)... But I'm also keen on a long trip, maybe a year or so, just going around living places for a while. And on a long trip like that, I think I would write these kinds of stories down, because sometimes people are awesome.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Alternative Break donations!

I am the graduate coordinator for Alternative Breaks here at the University of Maryland. We send about 300 students every year to DC, other US cities, and a few international locations for a week or more to learn about different social issues like immigration, HIV/AIDS, environmental conservation, sustainable development, the justice system, homelessness and poverty, and a number of others. The students on these trips learn in a hands-on manner while engaging in service, with the hope that they will gain a deeper understanding of a pressing issue, and bring that new knowledge back with them to the Maryland community. We try to work in a asset-based, community directed manner in which we are partners with the communities, not simply voluntourists. The trips are also completely student led and planned; each trip has two trip leaders who spend an entire year planning the trips, and engaging in weekly trainings about service, social justice, and leadership.

I've seen first hand over the past year and a half what kind of difference these trips make. Students come back engaged, passionate, and for a number of them, completely changed. This program is basically our way to get students out of the classroom, and engaged with issues of social justice.

This year I'm the staff advisor on the the Environmental Conservation trip to the Bahamas. The trip leaders have planned a great trip, partnering with the College of the Bahamas and the Bahamas National Trust to engage in a number of conservation activities, and learn about how tourism has affected a small island community just off the tip of Florida. Because the trip is 10 days, and involves a flight, as well as 10 days of lodging, food and transportation, the trip costs $1300/person. I'm lucky enough to have my way paid for, but the students have to come up with the money themselves. Many of the families of the students don't have the means to pay for these trips, so students are actively fundraising and soliciting donations.

I would love to help out my trip in any way I can, and your donations will go to a great cause, helping shape young minds to care about and actively engage the world around them. Any amount would be not only awesome, but also tax deductible, since the AB program is 501(c)(3) organization. Please consider donating, every cent goes directly to the trip, and is disbursed equally among all the participants. Thanks!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

And, I'm back

Ok, we'll see if I can keep up with this, or if I'll let it slide again. It's not like anything important hinges on my ability to type here, but I do kind of miss it. I got back this weekend from a week in NYC, where I was a staff advisor on an Alternative Break trip with 13 undergrads. Despite being very wary of spending an entire week in the company of thirteen 19-20 year olds, the week ended up being really fun, because I was able to regress and have some fun. I love my program and many of the people in it, but sometimes it and they are just so damn boring. I'm really sick of having discussions with people about intense issues when I'm out at a bar having a drink, so it was fun just to goof around for a week.

As for New York, I went there expecting to love it, and to my amazement I kind of hated it. For starters, the city and all its inhabitants need to chill the fuck out. Everyone I met was so tightly wound that it couldn't possibly healthy to lives one's life like that. I'm sure there are plenty of relaxed people in the city, but they certainly didn't ride the subway or walk around on city streets because all of those people were grumpy little curmudgeons. I think more than anything else, everyone and everything was just putting in too much effort. Too much effort to be cool, to be fashionable, to be making it, whatever. I know, judgemental of me to make those observations after only a week as a tourist, but that feeling was pervasive, and a huge turnoff for me. Highly superficial might be a good/better way to describe my impression of New York. I also hated the tourists. I couldn't imagine living in a city where you can't visit any of your city's attractions because they're swarmed by tourists virtually every day of the year. DC has that problem, but mostly in the summer, so if I want to go to the park, or a museum any other month, I can just stroll in. Going to MOMA on Friday, the line was three city blocks long, and at the end of the line was the most ridiculous and exasperating museum experience of my life. Great art, sucky atmosphere. That sums up my initial impression of NYC pretty well actually: great city, but sucky atmosphere.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A decision hath been made!

Actually it was made a couple of weeks ago, on a day I've named "Get Me The Fuck Out of St. Louis" Tuesday. Abby got the call that they were offering her the job in DC, and so it was really a no brainer at that point. So she'll have a job doing early intervention work with the deaf in DC, and I'll be going to a great program at a great school, and hopefully will be able to network my ass off so when I graduate I can finally get a decent job. My current job sucks so hard I am trembling in anticipation at the idea of putting in my two weeks.

So with that decision, the dam has burst, and the pent-up waitlist of activities that follows is now flooding us with more decisions to be made. We have to find a place to live, Abby has to fly up there to sign the contract, I'm trying to land a graduate assistant job to help pay for school, we have to find a mover and somehow come up with the money to make this move, which is not going to be easy. The fact that hopefully this will be our last dirt poor move is putting my mind at ease though, and I'm looking forward to a new future of savings accounts and a little extra money to visit friends, family and far flung locales. More than anything I'm looking forward to testing the waters somewhere else. I've moved away from St. Louis three different times, for different reasons, and keep ending up back here. It's not that St. Louis is a bad city, or that I hate being here, because believe it or not, over the past 8-9 years, I've really come to appreciate all that it offers. I am, however, ready to explore again. I'm ready to walk out of my door and have no idea where I'm going, or what areas are like. I can form my own opinions of people and places, and escape the world of preconcived notions you live in when you've lived in the same city for 27 years (minus 5 years). So 22 years, roughly.

I'm ready to ride the metro, see the Whitehouse, visit parks and museums and experience for the first time the capitol of our country.