Snoring & How to Deal With It!

It’s a SNORE subject (har har har) for all backpackers. Snoring. Some of us snore. Some of us don’t. Personally, I’m a snorer…90% of the time. Now for most people, on a regular night when we’re sleeping alone in our room, the fact that we snore or don’t snore isn’t a problem because we’re ALONE. If you’re in a relationship, ok, one partner will likely wake up every night to alert you of your snoring (which does nothing! It’s not as if snorers can hit the ‘off’ button). And if you’re snoring after a one night stand….it’ll probably end up being just that…. a one night stand….because people HATE SNORERS!!! Now that’s in the regular world of single people and couples. Backpacking is very, very, very different and it would greatly assist the ‘backpacker’ to review some unspoken rules that I’ve put together.

What causes snoring

I will preface this by saying that 2 months prior to my latest backpacking journey I researched remedies for snoring and I religiously went to acupuncture to curtail my snoring (which cost me almost $300 and that’s a lot for a traveler to put into snoring prevention). Did the acupuncture work? Yes. I recorded myself during the time periods between visits and I wasn’t snoring. But….it didn’t last into my journey. So, I wouldn’t recommend this treatment for a traveler. I would recommend it though for stationary maintenance . And now we start the list.

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#1. Most importantly. Know what you’re getting into. If you’re roughing it…you’re going to be sleeping in a tent with one or several people. If you’re staying in a hostel and trying to save money, you’re going to be sleeping in a room with four, eight or possibly 20 different people. There’s a give and take. You’ll get off paying $10-$30 for a bed and will have to put up with snoring, farting, people who talk in their sleep, people who have night terrors, rude people who talk on their cell phone in the bedroom, smelly people, messy people, drunk people, people trying to bang and people having different sleeping habits than your own. Don’t expect it to be ‘your space’. Sometimes you’ll luck out because most backpackers are respectful and hey….they’re just trying to save money while they travel too.. so they ‘get it’. But….know what you’re getting into. ANYTHING GOES. Just like the guy who was talking non-stop to himself in his sleep saying, ‘Tomorrow I have to brush my teeth’, ‘I should’ve taken a shower tonight’, ‘I really need to buy a new toothbrush’…did I find that annoying? No…I found it hysterical and laughed myself to sleep. It’s all part of the experience.

#2. Invest in some good ear plugs. If you’re a non-snorer or a light sleeper. Get some ear plugs! They’re cheap and there are a lot of good brands out there. Get several different ones. If you want to sleep…you’ll need em. If you’re a snorer…BRING EARPLUGS EVERYWHERE. I brought a stock of about 6 ear plugs with me to each hostel. I would write a note that said, ‘Hey. I snore. I’m sorry. Here are some free ear plugs’…and I’d leave it on the desk, sink or couch in the common area of the room. I was just being courteous because I know how annoying snoring can be. At least if you do that…fellow travelers won’t sneer at you when you pass them going to the bathroom in the morning.

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#3. This one is really important. DON’T BLAME THE PERSON WHO SNORES. Seriously dude. They can’t help it. And if they can…there are very few effective remedies for snoring that snorers can employ while traveling (see #4). When backpacking, I feel bad EVERY NIGHT that my snoring keeps people up. Sometimes I even stay up as late as possible, until 3-4am just so most people can have a good nights rest before I start wailing away like a monster. Occasionally, I’ll sleep in the lounge if there is one in the hostel…just in case I snore. Should I (or other snorers for that matter) have to do that? Should we sacrifice sleep and go on 4 hours a night of rest just so the 7 other people in the room can relax? No. Not at all. I mean…we paid for a bed too. But most people give snorers a lot of crap… like this weener. And in reality it’s the non-snorers fault. If you can’t handle snoring…you should do the research & testing and find a pair of good earplugs for yourself. Or book a hotel or B&B where you can have complete silence for your sensitive ear drums. You’re in a hostel. Deal with it. Take some responsibility. Don’t blame anyone but yourself. I love when I walk into a room at 2am and a few people are snoring….it makes me feel like less of an asshole. When in truth the guy who’s tossing and turning underneath me that DIDN’T TAKE THE FREE EARPLUGS I GAVE HIM is the bigger asshole.

#4. This is for snorers. Remedy the problem as best as you can. Are you a fellow snoring backpacker? Don’t have 10 grand for the sinus surgery that probably won’t work? Want to know what works? BREATH RIGHT STRIPS. That’s right. Breath right strips. Invest in them. I brought bag of them with me on the last trip. They don’t eliminate your snoring….but they do cut it down by 20-30% and that’s pretty good. That means your heavy, dying sea animal snore has now turned into a light, waves crashing in the ocean snore, and that’s awesome & acceptable for most people (not that you should care because other people SHOULD HAVE EARPLUGS). What else works? Cut your alcohol consumption. REALLY difficult to do while you’re traveling but…alcohol has an effect on the muscles in your throat and you’re guaranteed to snore (or snore louder) when you’re drinking. So if you’re a drinker, just get DAY DRUNK, it’ll make your trip extra exciting OR just stop drinking 1-2 hours before bed. Lastly, steaming your throat will loosen up your throat muscles and your sinuses. 15 minutes of that before bed and you won’t snore at all. But who has time for that while backpacking? So…a cup of tea or a hot shower will suffice.

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If you’re reading this…you’re most likely wide awake at 3am, scanning the internet on your smart phone to find a way to deal with the snorers in your hostel. And that’s just it. DEAL WITH IT. Go get some earplugs that work. They’re cheap. Some hostels even give them out for free. Don’t complain about how hard you’ve got it because you can’t get your precious sleep while you’re backpacking the globe, something a large majority of the worlds population will never get to do. Suck it up. Train your mind. Put aside your petty troubles. Meditate. Do your best to become a heavy sleeper. Be a sleep magician like me. Once I put my head down on the pillow, I’m usually out in 3 seconds. You’re in a hostel. Anything goes. Someone could stumble into the room screaming. Someone could snore. Someone could break a window. Someone could pee on you in a drunken stupor (happened to me). Who knows…..but ya know what I know? I’m getting my sleep…loud room or not. Once again. Acceptance. Earplugs. Courtesy. Respect. Breath Right Strips. Sleep. Repeat as often as necessary.

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Thanks for reading this M.A.V.B.L.O.G. I hope it’s helped your current hosteling sleep situation and/or enlightened you to the world of backpacking. As always. Do your best. Do better. Be good to yourself. Be good to others. Even plants, animals and rocks. Follow The Golden Rule. Now get some rest…

 

A Backpackers Mind

Life….a series of seemingly significant or insignificant moments that are strung together throughout time forming an individuals very essence, one who will interact with tens, hundreds, thousands, millions or billions of other humans that inhabit this vast and mysterious world that we constantly try to control and understand. Interactions that on the surface, one might think are inconsequential, but possibly lead to events that bring into being the treasures of a life well lived and/or the foundations for opportunity and growth. Life….can you tell me what it is? Can the worlds most renowned scientist, spiritual authority, politician, mystic or philosopher tell you or I the ‘reality’ of what is going on in the world? What does it all mean? Why are we here? What is my purpose? Can anyone answer for you the largest questions that have ever existed?  Absolutely not. They’re questions that only you can answer. And that brings us to the backpackers philosophy and the travelers mind, which I feel is important to cultivate, with whatever label you may give to it. Because it can help you answer those questions that everyone is bound to have and help to improve your life. What I’m saying isn’t entirely new…..it’s just coming from a different person.

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What is backpacking? What is travel? It’s just seeing new places, having fun and experiencing different cultures, right? Yes…..at first. What it really is, is a lesson in risk-taking. A constant lesson (depending upon how much you travel and/or if you can maintain that mystical energy field one can foster around oneself while you travel). Something happens to the adventurer that embraces the fact that he or she isn’t in control of anything. That they are at the whim of the world that they’re about to experience. You’ve got to let go of your plans and travel books and pre-conceptions of what a vacation ‘is’ to tap into that field. You take risks. Risk after risk. Large and small. Why? People who travel are escaping something. A stressful job. A life without flavor. A death in the family. A chance to recapture their youth with friends. A break-up. An overbearing spouse. A dead end job. On and on. People are escaping. What they can unlock when they start to take risks is…. their true essence. The absence of fear. Their human potential. Each moment they will transform into a better version of themselves. Travel is not just about sitting on the beach sipping margaritas. That is fine and it has it’s place…especially if you’ve been hiking for the past 2 weeks. But to find the travelers mind, one must move outside of their comfort zone, in small and in large leaps.

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What am I talking about? I’m talking about those moments where you can ‘follow the white rabbit’. Those moments when you can push yourself. An opportunity gets presented and you can walk through the door, or not. Do I cancel my trip to Austria because the cute girl who was drawing a sketch of me on the train is going to Poland? Do I follow her there? Do I go with the guy to an absynthe bar? Do I cancel my flight to see this once in a lifetime concert? Do I stay in a hostel, even though I’m terrified of sharing my space with complete strangers? Do I walk alone at night for 3 miles through this part of the city or do I take the tram? Seemingly insignificant moments that can have a huge bearing on what you are about to become. Me? I didn’t follow the girl. Maybe she and I would have fallen in love. I did follow the guy, drank absinthe, had wild hallucinations and spoke fluent French to strangers when I was lost, although I don’t speak French (I only studied it briefly in school). I did cancel my flight and had a spiritual experience at the concert, which stirred up emotions from memories past that I needed to re-asses and cleanse. I stayed in the hostel (and many, many others) and broke down my misconceptions that we all live ‘the exact same way’. I walked through the city, in the quiet hours of the night when no tourists are clouding the truth that lay there, and got to observe what it’s like to be a homeless drug addict.

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Are those few moments that I’ve shared from my life really what amounts to cultivating the travelers mind that I talk about? Yes. However unremarkable as they were, they led to hundreds of other instances, where I could have chosen the familiar road or the unfamiliar road. And as you grow and enjoy it….you begin to take more risks into unknown territories. You may even find peace…without meditation. Your meditation was your risk taking. The adventure was your drug. Because that’s what we’re all after too, right? Peace. A life without stress. A life without fear. Complete freedom. That’s why we read so many self-help books, are members of organized religions, take so many pharmaceuticals, go to therapy and exercise like maniacs…..because we want to quiet our mind. Our mind….that is the root of all our problems. Because it’s our mind that is or isn’t afraid, that is or isn’t sad, that is or isn’t accepting of situations. Our mind….is also our greatest ally and given the proper shift, is capable of transforming your perspective into a perfect, dream-like life, where next to nothing can rattle your cage.

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Then comes the hardest part for a backpacker… you realize that the journey has to come to an end. As do all things in life. That’s the second most important thing you learn. How to say goodbye. On a whim you went to a country that you knew next to nothing about…and you found a place that was like a childhood dream. It was a place without equal. And you only had two days to enjoy it. You knew in your present situation, it may be years, if ever, that you return to this place. So you do something that’s harder than a break-up, maybe even harder than putting your favorite pet to sleep…..you say goodbye to perfection. You let go. Constantly. You say goodbye to the great friends you made at the hostel in Prague. ….will it really ever be the same if you meet up with them again? You travel and you keep moving. You say goodbye hundreds of times, to people, to places, to things that you fell in love with. You cultivate a giant garden of fantastic moments. Moments that never would have happened unless you took those risks. And each place you go to….you find more things in this world that you fall in love with…..another town, another city, another person, another bar, another restaurant, another meal, another church, another farm, another mountain, another tree, another hostel, another beer, another wine……and you think to yourself, ‘How can there be so many beautiful things in this world? If I were to see it all, how could I even comprehend how vast and amazing this world is?’ (A blog is a poor excuse I know). You start to let go of all the horrible things you’ve seen and read in the news and start to realize that……for every bad thing…..there are 100 indescribable things that overcome it.

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And however many times you have to say goodbye, is how many times your heart breaks. You get filled up with joy and then torn apart so many times….that nothing can harm you anymore. Your ego explodes and reassembles continuously in the self analysis that inevitably happens as you step outside of your comfort zone…that you forget who you are. You forget where you are. You forget why you were so damned afraid or so damned shy. You burn up and then rise like a phoenix out of the ashes…over and over again. It’s as if you’d been asleep your whole life….and all of a sudden you’re filled with energy and alive. You can become so addicted to this energy, that you yearn for it constantly. It’s not a drug addiction. Or an adrenaline addiction or some other man made disorder. It’s an addiction to life. What life really is. And once you experience it….you want it again, and again, and again. Just like Bill Murray in Scrooged (1988). Because who wants to go back to being afraid and boxed in once they’ve been set free? It’s like a hell in it’s own way to return from a life changing experience. How can one come back to their former life….when their life, rather their perception of it, is no longer the same? How can you be stagnant…living in one place….when you’ve stayed in a different bed in a different city every night for months? It is something that I’ve struggled with each time I return from a journey….

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And ‘an’ answer, not ‘the’ answer, in keeping that favorable aura about yourself, is that there’s always another journey. Even if you’ve been gone backpacking for 2 years…..the coming year upon your return home is another great journey. What is home? There’s no need to be miserable, living in bitterness because you left a great expansive adventure behind you, but to be happy because you know deep inside that nothing is set in stone. Nothing can be controlled. Nothing can be answered but with the answer that you give to it. Nothing is irrational or unrealistic or impossible. Because there is no answer that you can contend with, that is any better than your own answers. You become so in touch with your emotions, your spirituality, your morals & ideals that you feel a step above the rest, but you know that you’re no better than any other human being….you can just see it clearly, is all. And there’s always a new adventure to be had. Sure, you’ll go back to a ‘normal’ life and a ‘normal’ set of ideals, laws and societal expectations. But when you’re there, in the travelers mind frame, you can just sit back and laugh at it all….because it’s all man-made. And the knowledge that you gained….is probably more valuable than all the power in the world. Your family & friends will think you’re the same old person and will treat you accordingly. The rules will pretty much be the same….but you won’t. It’s like The Wachowski’s described in The Matrix…you’ll start to see the code, in a sense. And songs like this will start to make sense to you.

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Gratitude. The third most important thing for a backpacker. Do you know how amazing it is that you were born? That you were formed into the person that you were? That you positioned your life to have the opportunity to travel? That you picked those certain places to travel to? That you met the people you did and experienced very strange synchronicity’s in those places you went to? Do you think a football player like Ryan Tannehill (Go Dolphins!) could just hit the road, backpack Europe, have fun and get crazy without being recognized and criticized the world over for it? Do you think a movie star like Tom Cruise or Jim Carrey could have that same experience? No way! I mean…maybe they could try…..but it’s highly unlikely that they’d go incognito for more than a few days. Do you know how lucky you are to backpack and how unimaginable that escapade is to most people? Be grateful for each second. For each good and bad experience. Each girl kissed and each ankle sprained. Backpacking makes you realize, however slowly for some, that life is REALLY F$*%ING PRECIOUS!! And AMAZING! Just look at it! And if you can transform yourself….each time that you return home you’ll become a better version of you, with a new lease on life. Of course you’ll tell your boss that he’s an @$$hole and get fired. Of course you’ll ask the girl out that you were always shy around. Of course you’ll call an estranged friend that you haven’t seen in 5 years. Of course you’ll tell someone that you love them. Because it’s such a laugh, isn’t it? All those shortcomings and imaginary fears. We all die. It’s inevitable. And we have this gift of a life……to live… and to be free. Truly free. Not the freedom that George W. talked about.

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No matter how perfect you feel after the journey ends. No matter how clear headed you’ve become. You’ll always get dragged back into human drama, pain and suffering (greatest movie ever, watch it). You’ll spin in the same circles that you’ve spun in before. You might make mistakes….but you’ll know why. You’ll take the risks….knowing that things may end poorly….and you’ll do it because you’ll know that there’s no point to life unless you take risks. Big ones. You’ll keep stepping outside of your comfort zone because you won’t want to become stale….so you’ll try to be a little unpredictable, just to hang on to that travelers mind. And you might pull stunts to keep that feeling. And it might leave you. For a long time. Who knows…you might turn into who you once were before the journey began. But if you’re looking for it….it’ll come back around. The winds always change.

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You might be saying, ‘Great. You feel awesome. I’m happy for you…weirdo. You’ve got a good lease on life. Why do I need to save my money and allocate all this time to travel just to find….a better outlook on life? What if I don’t find it? What if I don’t need it?’ Well, you might not find it. I’ve traveled at times and didn’t have the same explosive experience as others. It has a lot to do with your head space when the journey begins. But if you’re open to it….there’s a good chance that you’ll have a great experience. It’s entirely up to you. The meaning of life is your own meaning. Your purpose in life is the purpose that you give to yourself. I can’t tell you who you are. I can’t tell you what to do. Neither can your boss, or your lover, or the President, or the Pope. It’s your call. Always. I’m just a guy sharing my experiences. And I’m sure that you’ll do the right thing for yourself….but I hope that some of my words have rubbed off. And maybe you will go backpacking, however close to or far from your home. And maybe you’ll open your mind to see just how unbelievably amazing this world is, how unbelievably amazing you are and how important you are to this world that you live in. And here I am….trying to push you off the cliff.

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Thanks for reading this M.A.V.B.L.O.G and learning about the backpackers mind. As always. Be good to yourself. Be good to others. And follow The Golden Rule. Have a great day.

Brasserie de Silly

This past month I had the good fortune to visit Brasserie de Silly in Silly, Belgium. Yes….Silly is a real place, just like Fucking, Austria. Silly Fucking Europe! Craziness indeed. The brewery is a little out of the way for train takers… but the beer is just as good, if not better, than lots of the Belgian beers I’ve tried whilst overseas. If you’re a beer enthusiast, a brewer or just a regular dude or dudette who likes cool things…I highly recommend visiting this brewery. Now, when I say brewery, I mean the breweries cafe, which is attached to the actual brewery. The brewery only does tours for large groups so unless you’re with 20 friends…you’re gonna have to just drink at the cafe.

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My friend and I arrived in Silly not really knowing what to expect. When we walked in the doors it kind of looked like one of those random cafes you see in a European city that you don’t want to go into. Ya know, it’s dark, there’s two quiet guys in the corner and one person in the back. It’s pretty empty…..and they don’t speak your language. Not too inviting. (If only I were blacked out drunk to access my fluent French speaking part of the brain!!) So we figured, hey let’s just get a beer and then split. The prices were super cheap….about 1.80 euros to 3.50 euros for a beer. And 2 cheeseburgers were 4 euro. Sweet!! After our first drink the bartender asked us if we were American, we reluctantly said ‘yes’ not knowing what the French speaking Belgians thought of us Yankees. But it turned out that one of those ‘quiet’ guys that we saw earlier was Bernard, the brewer, and he wanted to buy us a round of drinks. Rock on! So there we were, chatting with the brewer and drinking some really amazing beer. What more could we ask for?

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Well…….after about 7 drinks, plus the free ones, some cheeseburgers and a few hours of hanging out……we asked for the bill. Now, previous to this visit I was in Scandinavia so….I was just expecting a normal bill as if we were out drinking in New York. It was 14 euros and 10 cents. What!?! That’s so cheap!! Silly, Belgium man. Silly Fucking Belgium. I mean, it was a small town….and hopefully if Brasserie de Silly gets more popular in the coming years, they’ll raise the prices a little for the oncoming tourists. But hey, for now…..what an amazing deal! Now, I’m no beer guru (when I drink I tend to like ‘crappy’ American beers such as ‘Miller High Life’, ‘Busch’ and ‘PBR’, though I really appreciate and prefer good beers) but I’ll give a quick rundown of a few of the beers I tried.

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Let’s start with the best one. La Cré Tonnerre. Holy crap. Drink this immediately. Next up is Abbaye de Forest. Awesome. Awesome. Awesome. (Hey I said I wasn’t a beer guru) Silly Pils was great as well. A nice, simple pils. Pink Killer is the only one I heard about before visiting Silly….and it wasn’t bad. It’s a fruity beer. Not my style, necessarily…but good. And the last one I had was La Divine. Good beer. Good, good beer. I also tried the Scotch Silly which is very nice. I’m well aware that this paragraph was neither eloquent nor detailed….but do you really need details all the time when it comes to beer? Sometimes, you just need to know if it’s good. I don’t care what type of beer you like. The beer in Silly is good. And most importantly….IT’S FUCKING CALLED SILLY!!!!!! Yes….that’s a sophomoric statement….but come on man. It’s SILLY!!! For those of you that would like a more detailed description of the beers in Belgium I’ll provide a link to my friend Rob’s blog when he posts it.

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Overall….I had an awesome experience in a cool brewery in Silly, Belgium. The head brewer was welcoming and really friendly. The beers were great AND CHEAP. And I’m sure if you visited, you’d have a similar experience…..unless you’re a loud mouth douchebag…. Ya never know.

Thanks for reading. As always. Take care of yourself. Take care of your clan. Be good to animals. And follow The Golden Rule as best as you can.

I have a (backpacking) dream!

I’m not Martin Luther King Jr. nor do I think that I’m the backpackers version of Martin Luther King Jr……but I HAVE A DREAM!! I have a dream that one day the US Government (and all other governments too) will institute a broad, cultural & educational internship/ambassadorship for all its young citizens. As soon as the youth would graduate high school, and before attending college/university or entering the work force, they’d be required to complete a full year of travel, study & work-study, which was completely sponsored by the state. A year where the youth would have the opportunity to broaden their minds, stimulate their brain cells, socialize with foreigners from around the globe, where they’d visit museums and monuments and great feats of architecture. A year where the people of the world would have the chance to integrate their ideas, beliefs, dreams and passions with one another. I have a dream!!!

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I have a dream where all adults would be fulfilled in their lives, de-stressed and content with their jobs because of the opportunities afforded to them by their government when they were in their youth. Where all people would be appreciative of the great memories they’d created while traveling abroad. Where all people would be given the opportunity to find themselves and find their true calling before being shuttled into our current higher education monstrosity. I have a dream where countries would tolerate one another’s differences, without resorting to horrific wars, because of the seeds sown amongst generations of travelers. I have a dream where the youth, whether rich or poor, for one year, would be treated as equals by the entire world. Where they could study, travel, work, go on pub crawls, have relationships, fall in love and go on adventures with one another. A year where the daughter of a CEO and the son of an inner-city factory worker would be in the same strata. A year where the youth would be forced out of their comfort zones into an expansive world that would leave them appreciative and in awe of the world that they live in.

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In short, I have a dream for a brighter future and a better world where everyone gets to know the joy of backpacking, visiting monuments & museums, seeing that street band play in a foreign city, going for a walk in the woods in a different country, drinking glacier water as it melts on the mountain, kissing the girl you met on the train, taking a class at a foreign university, getting into an argument with someone at a hostel and then drinking with them and realizing that your cultures aren’t all that different, going to Oktoberfest in Munich for the first time and just missing your train connection at 1am and the next train isn’t until 7am, eating a pizza in Rome and seeing the Champs-Élysées. It’s a dream that is far-fetched right now but it is certainly possible. Some countries such as Germany have had similar programs during our modern time where you could either join the military or join a volunteer service. So maybe it’s not as outlandish an idea as I think it is?

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Human beings are not just a commodity to be pegged, prodded and used as fodder. Each moment, each word and each step in a persons life has long lasting psychological impacts on them and sociological impacts on society. Parts of the world are broken and intelligent thinkers in charge need to make positive changes or else we’ll see more radical groups like the Islamic State and the reckless governments who view people as numbers and not living beings. Maybe if we were afforded the chance to speak, learn and bond with foreigners, on a large scale, then we wouldn’t view certain cultures as radical, evil or dangerous….and vice versa. I once met a North Korean fellow during my travels….we hung out and drank beer together….he was a funny dude….he told me….’I don’t like George Bush. I don’t like what he does. But I like the Yankees. And I like you’. Well maybe when he went home he told his family & friends….’Hey I had a good time with this American. He was nice. They’re not all bad’. And there you go….tolerance. Progress. One small step at a time. I certainly told people about the awesome North Korean guy who was obsessed with German beer and the Yankees. How he got out of North Korea and traveled? Beats the crap out of me!

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So, how would this dream actually work? Well it’s fairly simple…in principle. Students would have to sign up for their accommodations (state sponsored hostels) and air-fare/train-fare (State sponsored) similar to the way they sign up for classes in college. There would need to be some ‘Backpacking Counselors’, which initially I’m sure the government could find amongst the travel bloggers and travel enthusiasts out there. Those people would staff the hostels, lead tours and help the students. Then eventually, those ‘Backpacking Counselors’ could be staffed by some of our youth that just fell in love with backpacking and they made it their career to assist others in their journeys. Those folks could work at any of the state sponsored hostels around the globe. They’d be viewed as college professors sort of….but KICK ASS college professors. Those counselors would also make sure students were getting enough culture and work-study. Each sponsored hostel could also have a tiny military presence (country of sponsorship or NATO or what have you) just to ensure that student travelers are safe and also to give certain soldiers a better job than cleaning out the latrines at their local military installation. It’s the technological age….so each student would have a data-chip in their ID card, which would be linked to their personal ‘student travel website’. All information would be cached/collected so that their counselors could make sure they were 1. Doing enough cultural activities (museums, guided tours, plays etc.) 2. Doing enough work-study (example: they’d need to work for 2 months out of the year at state sponsored hostels in food service, office work and janitorial duties) and 3. Seeing enough of the required cities on the list (example: each student would plan their own custom trip but would be required to see such places as- Dublin, London, Paris, Berlin, Vienna, Rome, Barcelona, Moscow, Athens, Istanbul, Cairo, Hong Kong, Brazil, Tokyo etc.). Also, for Americans (or any locals and their own country of residence for that matter) they’d be required to visit a certain portion of their own country too. I mean, how can you broaden your horizons when you don’t know about the place that you’re actually from…..right?

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Obviously there’d be some exceptions to the rule. You wouldn’t want criminals traveling around or people who didn’t complete their high school education and were looking for a freebie. There’d have to be some type of incentive to getting this state-sponsored opportunity. (For example, ‘you must receive your high school diploma and have volunteered X number of hours in your community and have a clean criminal record [within reason of course cause cops LOOOOVVVEEE to arrest people these days]) And there you have it. The basis for a world of adventurers that would learn from each culture and eventually work in every industry….from simple people who farm and cut trees, to people who become CEO’s, bankers and politicians. Would this proposed system work? Of course it would. Education fills your head. Travel opens your mind and stimulates your senses. Meeting people from other cultures and walks of life educates you even more, makes you tolerant and expands your world view. And instituting a program like this for the youth of the world….well……give it a try and see how AWESOME the world would be a generation later. You can educate yourself (great!) and watch all the news and all the documentaries that you want, good or bad, but they’ll still never be the same as putting your feet on the ground, smelling the smells, hearing the sounds & conversations, eating the foods and immersing yourself in another culture. And back to those bad eggs or youth with a less than favorable background. We wouldn’t want to exclude them because that’s not entirely fair. Maybe they’d have the option to join a branch of the military and get their world travel through a 2-year volunteer service with NATO or some type of world sponsored guard service. Hey, the ‘World Guard’ just like the ‘National Guard’.

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I’m just a regular guy. I don’t have an ivy league educational background that would put me into a decision making spot in politics, nor do I have the desire nor the connections to do so. I don’t have the fame, money or prowess to create a foundation and lobby our policy makers in this area. I don’t even have a full-time job right now. But what I do have is a voice….and a lot of experience. I know what I’m talking about. And I know that this is something that is progressive, has high potential and that the governments of the world need, especially the US government. It wouldn’t even cost that much when you put 2 and 2 together. Maybe it’ll take 50 years. Maybe it’ll take 100 years or even 200 years. But it’ll happen whether it’s sponsored or not. People are waking up. They’re realizing that there’s no adventure left in the world and the life that we’re spoon fed to live isn’t a life that they want. So, for those of you that read this….maybe you’re already in a place of power, maybe you’re a student who will one day become a senator or a young genius who will become a renowned scientist….and maybe you like my idea. And maybe, just maybe….you’ll go backpacking and have an adventure of your own….so that you’ll know EXACTLY what I just talked about. Turn off that TV. Stop saving up your money for the same vacation to Ocean City that you’ve gone on for the last 10 years… and do something new for a change.

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Eventually we’ll all realize that the various Gods we worship are essentially the same. That some of the religious rules we follow are outdated and need to be amended or thrown away. That the differences in our cultures can be appreciated and tolerated….and some of those differences are merely in text books and in the news and aren’t differences at all. That our own mind is the only thing preventing us from taking that next leap into an unknown realm of understanding and a better existence. The old ideas may not be working anymore…..and we’ve gotta start somewhere new….or else we’ll continue beheading others who in a different world we’d be having a coffee with, running crusades and blowing up buildings that in another world we’d be taking tours and snapping pictures of, having unending wars instead of having unending symposiums and we’ll constantly live in turmoil as if we’re on thin ice instead of living as if anything is possible.

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I hope you’ve enjoyed this M.A.V.B.L.O.G. Maybe you agree. Maybe you don’t. Maybe you’ll give this legs and run with my idea. Who knows? I’m just writing stuff on the interwebs for people like you to find. As always, be good to yourself, be good to others, be good to animals, follow The Golden Rule and have a great day.

Backpacking: Push me off the cliff

‘To travel is to understand that  everyone is wrong about other countries’
-Aldous Huxley

I was 22. Just graduated college. Just broke up with my high school sweetheart. Just moved back home. Luckily, I had a spirited and strong-willed best friend, as well as a worldly and passionate grandmother to push me over the edge and get me to use my newfound free time on an experience that I wouldn’t regret. I was scared of flying. I was apprehensive about going to another country. I was afraid of living life.

London, Amsterdam, Brussels, Paris, Vienna, Munich, Florence, Rome, sleeping on trains, getting on the wrong trains, not showering, walking 15 miles a day and being so appreciative for a piece of French cheese and a seltzer water while you sit on a park bench, getting caught in the rain, having Italian train workers attempt to extort money out of us, getting stuck in a bad part of town surrounded by drunken psychotic bums, drinking with a cute Australian girl we just met, going to Oktoberfest, having my first Vienna schnitzel, seeing the graves of my ancestors, befriending a local Sicilian cat who guided me through town at midnight, getting so drunk I took my clothes off in the middle of the streets of Florence, giving a gypsy money because a stupid American stole some of his roses…this was life! This was real! My mind was blown. I was exactly where I needed to be and I understood exactly why my Austrian grandmother made me go.

I’ve come across so many people in this world, that want and wish and complain and never act on the things that they truly want to do.. and I want to just punch them in the face and say WAKE UP!!! People who could save money for a month, or a year, or two years…and would easily have enough to have the time of their life…somewhere new. Now it is entirely possible that our lives are devoid of choice and are fatalistic. But it is also possible that our destiny is our own. And….I have to remember that I once was exactly like those people I want to ‘wake up’. We just need someone to give us a push once in a while. And if this blog post can do that for one person, that makes me very happy.

It’s now 8 years later and each opportunity I’ve had to backpack again…I have. I knew all too well that my youth would fade and that I needed to enjoy it. I was blessed in my early 20’s with the chance to travel abroad, a gift given by my grandmother. So each penny I could save since then, I did. Each opportunity that came, I took. I’m not going to tell you who to be, or how to feel, or what traveling abroad can do to your mind, your soul and your spirit. But I will say one last thing…..don’t take a tour bus if you can help it. Walk. Bike. Take a train. Feel every step. Smell all the smells. Be open to meeting people. There are plenty of ways….and you’re never too old to begin.

Times will always change and it will take with it the things you once enjoyed. So enjoy them while they’re still here. Don’t have regrets. One day it will all be over. Live your life. And this is me……trying to push you off the cliff. Enjoy.

And if you have no money. There are plenty of volunteer opportunities that will afford you a chance to travel somewhere new. Go for it. I did….and it’s well worth it.

‘We travel, some of us forever, to seek other states, other lives, other souls.’
-Anais Nin