My favorite part of this blog is that I have a journal of the last years of my life.  I can compare past projections with what actually happened.  I can discover how I really felt when circumstances were completely different.  Your brain has a unique ability to remember your own feelings incorrectly.  (One of the main points of the book “Stumbling on Happiness” by Daniel Gilbert.)  This has helped me identify some disturbing thought patterns…

When I embarked on this adventure in my RV over three years ago, the point was to check out a bunch of places and see where I wanted to live.  I didn’t realize it would extend for the next 3+ years and leave me with more questions than answers.

It took a year and a half, but I was finally ready to try settling in Portland in Fall, 2011.  Just before settling in Portland, I thought I’d be much happier there.  Quickly after getting to Portland, I realized I missed adventure.  I thought I’d be happier traveling again.  A year later, driving my overloaded Subaru with Portland in my rearview mirror, I questioned if adventure was what I really wanted.

The cycle continued.  Living in Medellin, I was excited to backpack through South America.  While I was backpacking, I was excited to be settling down in Europe for the summer.  I landed in Berlin about 20 days ago, and the idea of settling here scares the heck out of me.

In the back of my mind, I’m still searching for a place to call home.  I’d love to have a city where I enjoy living year-round, a core group of friends, more than just a bag of possessions, etc.  I could still travel, but my homebase would be a place that I’d look forward to returning to.  And no, Reno is not this place.

Berlin is not this place.  I don’t speak the language, and it’s impossible to learn.  The winters here are absolutely unbearable.  I’ll have massive Visa issues.  Germans can be boring, impatient and mean.  (I’ve already been shouted at several times in German and it was not a fun experience).  I enjoy electronic music, but not as much as everyone else here.  I’m already having an amazing summer here but just wouldn’t feel comfortable calling it home.

I’ve been a vagabond for the last 3.5 years.  I needed to think more seriously about where I wanted to plant roots.  I could rule out any city without English as the native language.  I could rule out any city that had terrible weather.  I could rule out any city that sucked massively.  I had actually been tinkering with the idea of going back to San Francisco for a bit.  It had just came to me when I was hiking in the mountains of Peru in February and had stuck around in the back of my mind.

That’s it! I’ll be happy if I live in a place I call home.  I had wanted to since arriving in my RV nearly 3 years ago.  I’ll be happy when I can get that car I’ve always wanted.  I’ll be happy if I buy a cabin in Tahoe.  I’ll be happy when I get an awesome bike, a surf board, new clothes..

I’ll be happy if…if… if…  I’ll be happy when…

It finally clicked.

Why couldn’t I just be happy now?  Happy with what I currently have.  All these external circumstances might make me happy temporarily, but eventually I’ll just become accustomed to them and seek something else.  I could see the pattern in my writing.

“I’m so excited to go to city (x+1)!  City (x) is getting old.  But I still really miss city (x-1) though.”

“I’ll be relieved when my todo list is down to (x-7) items.”

“I can’t wait to be making $(x * 1.25) per month.  Or better yet, $(x * 2)!  I’ll be so much happier when I have more money.”

“It will be great to have (different amount of possessions).  It is such a pain in the ass to have (number of things currently possessed).  I can’t wait until I (buy/sell) my car!”

“I miss girl (x-1).  She was better for me than girl (x-2).  And it doesn’t look like it will work out with girl (x) right now.”

“If only I could bench press (x+5lbs).  I’d be the man.  Maybe I could get my 5k time down to (x-0:30)!”

“My life will be awesome when I only have to work (x/2) hours per week!  Working (x) hours per week is the cause of all the problems in my life.”

“I can’t wait to be (settled down/traveling again).  All of this (routine/chaos) is awful!”

With a consistent record of my thoughts on paper, I’m able to look back and connect the dots.  Clearly seeking happiness in external things is fleeting.  I’ve already achieved so many of my goals.  However, I don’t feel as happy about them as I thought I’d be.  It was time to do some research and see what was really going on.

I found Shawn Achor’s Ted Talk: http://www.ted.com/talks/shawn_achor_the_happy_secret_to_better_work.html

“If I work harder, I’ll be more successful. And if I’m more successful, then I’ll be happier.”

And the problem is it’s scientifically broken and backwards for two reasons. First, every time your brain has a success, you just changed the goalpost of what success looked like. You got good grades, now you have to get better grades, you got into a good school and after you get into a better school, you got a good job, now you have to get a better job, you hit your sales target, we’re going to change your sales target. And if happiness is on the opposite side of success, your brain never gets there. What we’ve done is we’ve pushed happiness over the cognitive horizon as a society. And that’s because we think we have to be successful, then we’ll be happier.

I have always been pushing happiness over the cognitive horizon.  The way I was currently thinking needed to change.

I found another great Ted Talk.  The Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VO6XEQIsCoM

Clinical depression has exploded in the industrial world in the last generation. I believe a significant — not the only, but a significant — contributor to this explosion of depression, and also suicide, is that people have experiences that are disappointing because their standards are so high, and then when they have to explain these experiences to themselves, they think they’re at fault. And so the net result is that we do better in general, objectively, and we feel worse. So let me remind you. This is the official dogma, the one that we all take to be true, and it’s all false. It is not true. There’s no question that some choice is better than none, but it doesn’t follow from that that more choice is better than some choice. There’s some magical amount. I don’t know what it is. I’m pretty confident that we have long since passed the point where options improve our welfare.

I have more choices than anyone else.  How to fill my day.  Where in the world to go.  I can do absolutely anything and these unlimited options are paradoxically making my life less enjoyable.

I’m always caught off guard when I’m having a bad day and someone I meet admits that they are insanely jealous of my life.  This has happened several times over the last few weeks.  Just goes to show how much we, as a society, look at external achievements to judge happiness.

The Solution: A Journey Inward

Clearly obtaining more external success and abundance isn’t what makes one happy.  I’ve been learning how to live more presently.  I’m by no means an enlightened Buddha master.  But I’ve made a lot of discoveries about myself the last few weeks and that’s a great start.

I’m reading “The Power of Now”.  So far a great book.  I’m also doing “The Presence Process” and meditating for 15 minutes, twice a day.  I’m doing more research on psychology and happiness and have learned an immense amount.  My inward journey has only just begun.


 

I arrived in Medellin, Colombia on November 13th.  Exactly 6 months later, on May 13th, I’m leaving Medellin.  Who knew it would work out like that.  I like sub-headings:

Europe

I’ve learned that Sweden is very much not South America.  People are tall, blond, and speak perfect English.  Everything is insanely expensive.  I don’t feel like I’m going to die when I cross the street.  The sun is up before 4am and sets well after 9pm.  Busses are very quiet and don’t roar by, spewing black smoke.  Someone has actually mistaken me for a local.  That happened zero times in South America.

I’m currently in Uppsala, Sweden visiting my little brother for the end of his study abroad year.  It actually worked out very well because he stays with his girlfriend most nights (who lives WAY closer to the school/town).  So I’ve basically taken over his dorm room.  It feels a little weird to be the random 26-year old guy cooking in the dorm kitchen.

I’m here a few more weeks and then off to Longyearbyen, Norway for a few days, then to Berlin!  I’ve got housing locked down for all of June, and during that time I’ll be looking for something more permanent.  I should be in Germany until it starts getting cold, and then I have no idea where I’m going after that.  There was some talk among friends about renting a killer pad in Bali for a month, and South Africa.  Or I could do my Spanish immersion experiment (see the Spanish sub-heading).

Writing

Over the last month, I have actually been inspired to write more.  The only problem is that the moments when I have lightbulb ideas, I’m never in a place where I can write that idea down and develop it.  (Bus going down a windy road, about to fall asleep, shower, out for a run, getting onto an airplane, out drinking with friends, etc.)  Also, a lot of these ideas are pretty obscure and trying to string them coherently into blog posts, articles, essays or even a novel would be a challenge for a moonlight writer like myself.  Lastly, a lot of these thoughts and ideas are too vague and meaningless without context.  Context that I don’t always wish to share.

I’ve been writing a lot more in my personal journal.  I’ve actually found journaling to be very therapeutic.  It’s very interesting that I’m embarrassed to put stuff in there when I know that I’m the only person who reads it.  Am I hiding stuff from myself?  Maybe I’m just embarrassed when I actually form these thoughts into words.  Strange.  It’s also great to be able to look back several years and see how I was feeling about something.  The brain has an incredible ability to “forget” how we felt about experiences.

I’ve actually had several moments where I’ve been inspired to write a story of some sort.  Every idea I’ve had would be a first-person narrative that parallels my own life with myself as the main character.  I feel like its a little ego-centric, but whatever, nobody is being forced to read it.  And every time I try to start anything, I type a few words out and delete everything.  This is repeated a few times until I re-decide that writing stories is not my thing.  I did spend a lot of time recently with an incredible writer, so maybe its just her rubbing off on me.  Maybe I’ll just start by writing for my private collection only.

Spanish

I burnt out in February and couldn’t shake it until I left South America.  I had a really crappy experience one day in Peru in February and since then, was too frustrated with myself to be excited about Spanish.  I think it was mainly due to the fact that I thought I should have been much better by then, and I was still struggling.  After leaving, I’m realizing that my Spanish isn’t that bad, and I was just being too hard on myself.  Also, I lived and spent most of my time with English speakers, so it’s no wonder that my Spanish didn’t improve much faster.

I’d really like to become fluent in Spanish, but I know that will never happen until I’m forced to use Spanish and only Spanish.  My plan is to live in a Spanish-speaking country for 3 months, but speak zero English.  I’ll be living with Spanish-only speakers and try to get involved in some sort of organization that does everything in Spanish.  It will take a bit of research to set this up.

Business

I’ve been bumming around as a backpacker for over 7 weeks straight now.  This is not conducive to business at all, however I’ve been able to stay afloat.  I’ve been getting more and more ideas and more excited about living in one spot for a significant amount of time so I can buckle down and start taking my business to where I really want it.

I’ve also been realizing which aspects of my business I enjoy.  I’ve found that I don’t enjoy the sales side of things.  I don’t enjoy squeezing every last dollar out of my site.  I much more enjoy the programming/development side of my business.  Setting up systems and creating a more user-friendly resource, etc.  Statistics.  Data.  Etc.  More to come on this in a later post when I can develop what I’m talking about a little further.

Pictures

So I have an awesome camera on my phone (Google Nexus 4) so I’ve been taking a lot more.  However now I’ve found out I’m terrible at organizing these photos after I’ve taken them.  So you just get one picture of Sweden for now (above).

 

I know it’s been 3 months since my last post.  I’d like to promise to post more, but I know that would be a lie.  I’ve decided I’m not all that excited about giving general descriptions of the places I go.  I’d prefer to tell tales of some of the crazy adventures I’ve had, but I think they might be inappropriate for the general public, and they would all end with “yeah, I guess you just had to be there”.

I finally left my safe bubble of Medellin a few weeks ago.  Took a little trip through Brazil and ended up in Buenos Aires.  All places I went had similarities and differences, bla bla bla.

I’m headed to Ushuaia (southernmost city in the world) in a few weeks.  I’ll make my way up the globe over the next 6 weeks and end up in Longyearbyen (northernmost city in the world), so this should be a fun adventure.  After spending a few days going insane in the midnight sun in the polar circle, I’m going live in Berlin for the rest of summer.

Sorry for the short, stark update.  I promised myself I’d post an update, but just wasn’t able to harness any motivation to write something profound.  I’ve got some cool business and life stuff to write about in the coming months, just a matter of finding that desire.

Anyway, I got a new phone so there are pictures again!

Oh and it’s got one of those really cool panorama features, so every single picture I take from now on will be 8,000 pixels wide by 200 pixels high.  I also went to Peru with my brother, and again, I don’t even take pictures with him because it would be embarrassing.  See his awesome Peru pics here: http://sfnomads.com/2013/03/04/la-frontera/

 

Medellin, Colombia

No, I haven’t been kidnapped yet.  Nor have I joined a drug cartel.  Surprisingly, there’s more to Colombia than just kidnappings and cocaine.

Its been about 9 weeks since I arrived in Medellin, Colombia.  Time has flown by, however it feels like Medellin has been my home for years.  I’m no longer surprised by many of the cultural differences.  I’m just going to start rambling about it all in an unorganized fashion as usual.

Learning Spanish

Trying to learn the language is very humbling.  I know a lot of words in Spanish, however actually conversing with a local is still a challenge.  Sometimes they understand and talk slowly, and pause between words.  Other times you just get someone mumbling incoherently, and they might as well be speaking Portugese.  Although it feels great to have a successful conversation with someone in Spanish.

I have a new appreciation for ANYONE learning multiple languages.  I can’t tell you how ignorant it is when people say “don’t come to ‘Mericah if you can’t speak our language”.  I now understand how much of a challenge it really is to live in a country without being proficient with the language.

I’m getting better at identifying situations where the language barrier is going to be a struggle.  Negotiating the the gym membership.  Telling a taxi driver where to go when I’m not even sure where I’m going.  Trying to get my phone repaired.  I’m almost hesitant to get into these situations because I know it will be such a challenge, but I guess that’s how you are forced to learn.

Living

I get lots of stares here.  I hear things like “oh, people know you are a gringo because you wear shorts and flip-flops”.  Oh really.  That’s how people can tell I’m not a Colombian…  I guess I’ll blend right in with jeans and shoes…

Everything is either extremely simple or insanely difficult.  For example, I had a few holes in my wool shirt that I needed to get repaired.  I walked into this little store that had people with sewing machines near my house and they immediately repaired it for $2.  I don’t even think I could figure out how to get that done in the States.  On the other hand, I spent about 3 hours going to 7 optic shops in 2 different malls before I could find one that would repair my glasses, but they had to keep them for a week.

Dying

The most dangerous thing by far is the traffic.  Cars have the right of way.  As a pedestrian from the states, I’m always walking into dangerous situations.  (Yes, pun intended)  Cabs are constantly running red lights.  Motorcycles weave in and out of cars and are tough to see sometimes.  Any gringo worried about being kidnapped is an idiot.  You’re 100 billion times more likely to die from a vehicle.

One interesting thing about going to the clubs is that buying a bottle of liquor is very popular.  A group of friends can go in, get a bottle of liquor and some sodas and pour their own drinks all night.  In fact, most places won’t even sell individual cocktails.  It’s really easy to drink too much on a night out.

Other Observations

I’ve lost about 5lbs since I’ve been here.  Probably due to more walking.  More fruit.  Going to the gym everyday because it has an absolutely amazing view.  Inspired to eat healthier because of my roommates.

Parking meters are people here.  They sit around the curb wearing these vests and then exchange cash and receipts with people who are parking on the street.  I don’t quite understand exactly how transaction works, because I don’t have a car and have never parked.

There are numbered stratas here.  We’re in strata 5, which is pretty high up.  I was talking to someone who was saying that she was upset that people from strata 2 come into her neighborhood.  I didn’t quite understand everything because it was in Spanish.

Pictures

While I’m not religious, I find a lot of meaning in the Serenity Prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr:

God, give me grace to accept with serenity

the things that cannot be changed,

Courage to change the things

which should be changed,

and the Wisdom to distinguish

the one from the other.

Being a terrible photographer is something that cannot be changed.  I’ve distinguished and accepted that.  Oh, and the camera on my phone died again.  I think that’s a sign.

With that being said, other people take pictures when I’m around so I can still share them.  My older brother, Patrick and his girlfriend Lauren lived across the hall from me for 4 weeks.  It was awesome to have them around, and Patrick is an absolutely amazing photographer.  They also have a blog which I’ve also accepted is simply way better.  Since I’m lazy, I’ll just link you to the posts which have awesome pictures of our time here in Medellin:

http://sfnomads.com/2013/01/03/2013-vamos/

http://sfnomads.com/2012/12/31/momentos-de-medellin/

(Oh, and the guy who looks like a slightly less handsom version of me with big poofy hair is my brother, not me!)

Ok, now pictures from my partially working camera/other friends:

========

Colombian visa expires in February.  I have to leave the country and come back to get another 90 days.  I think I’m going to meet up with Patrick in Peru.

 

Made it to Medellin, Colombia!

After getting  2 hours of sleep my last night in ‘Mericah, I headed to the airport at the ungodly hour of 3am.  It was smooth sailing with Spirit Airlines.  Everything was on time, and the only ridiculous charge I had to pay was the $33 to check a bag, which I had already known about in advance.  PS – Spirit charges for carry-on bags, and if you forget to pay at check-in, they charge you $100 when you try to board the plane.

There were absolutely no problems at immigration.  My two major concerns were that they would ask to see an onward ticket, proving that I was going to leave the country, but they never asked for it.  The second fear was that I’d somehow screw up while talking to them in Spanish, and accidentally say something I couldn’t take back like “I’m coming here to work!”.

Neither of these fears actually came true, however nobody in the airport seemed to speak English.  I was immediately grateful that I had spent the last 6 months studying Spanish when the customs guy told me “No hablo ingles”.

It was a long cab ride to my new apartment, but I was relieved when we finally arrived and found my friend from Australia, Almog, excitedly greeting me at the door.  I’m living in a flat with several other young entrepreneures, all from Canada, UK, Australia or South Africa.  While it isn’t exactly the most authentic Latin experience, it is a great working environment and I’m having tons of fun with these like-minded individuals.

We are in El Poblado, which is arguably the nicest part of Medellin.  Its a very short walk to the center of town, and I’ve never felt unsafe at any point.  People are super friendly, but rarely speak English, and their Spanish is often difficult to understand.  All my roommates speak better Spanish than I, so I’ve never been more inspired to learn even more.  I’m in the process of finding a good tutor, but I’m also looking for some opportunities to volunteer as an English teacher or some other means of getting out of our Gringo apartment and immersing myself in the language.

The absolutely terrible view from my gym…

And the horrible view from the jacuzzi…

PS – I started working on my Travel Gear Post on the plane ride.  It’s coming soon I promise.  I’ve been a little bit bummed out that I spent so much time engineering my travel gear and now I’m going to be living in a luxury apartment for the next 6 months with a maid that comes 3x per week to do laundry.  I suppose that when I do some backpacking around South America, it will be worth all the work.

 

Road Trip Part II

I’ll give the ending away first.  I made it back.  Now I’m just waiting around and getting ready to go to Medellin, Colombia.  I’m finalizing my packing list, which is way more involved than it really needs to be.  I’ll obviously have everything finalized before I leave, then do a travel gear post when I get down there.

Here is me “relaxing” in Nashville.  I think I was literally writing the previous post when this picture was taken.

Birmingham, AL

We met our friend Mike from college and his wife at their house in a quaint suburb of Birmingham.  It was refreshing to relax, eat some home-cooking and catch up with our friends, but it was a sharp contrast to the last week of the trip.  John and I were on our best behavior.  We had to kick the maturity up several notches and try our hardest not to make fart jokes the entire time.

View of the city of Birmingham

Gun shootery.  We got in trouble for taking pics inside…

Getting excited after pumping a few 9mm rounds into zombie Hitler…

Loading up the M16… This thing is no joke.  Not sure exactly why it exists.

All ready to shoot zombie Osama

Like a pro…

Mississippi

We didn’t really stop here other than for Waffle House and beers, so I don’t even remember which cities we went to.  Not that it matters anyway.  Mississippi was exactly as I expected.  Also, along with having no open container laws, Mississippi is the only state which allows the driver to drink while driving, as long as they remain under the legal limit.  Of course we had to take full advantage for this truly once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

The moment that we crossed the border…

Everyone had to get a turn…

New Orleans, LA

This is an interesting city.  Very diverse, lots of culture, history, good food, and of course, partying.  What a way to top off the trip.

A Rabbi, Priest and a Nun walk into a bar…

Bourbon Street and Frenchmen Street were absolutely insane on Halloween.  Sadly, we only saw one pair of boobs on a balcony far away and they weren’t even that great.

We went on a self-guided Katrina-damage car-tour.

I don’t think I’m doing it right.

Swamp Tour!

His name is Larry.  He is one year old.

Loading the car up for the last time!

 

Road Trip!

Eight days into my current trip and the sense of adventure is finally returning.  I forgot how exhausting it is to pack up and head to a new city every few days, however the new gear is definitely making things A LOT easier.  This 16-day road trip has served as a really good test of my gear.  I’m definitely making some tweaks and ordering stuff on Amazon that I didn’t think I’d need (Mica insulated jacket, travel shaver, etc).  I’ll have to finalize my packing list and then I’ll do a gear post for y’all.

Miami, FL

We started our adventure with a flight from SF to Miami.  While Miami isn’t really part of “The South”, it was definitely worth checking out.  Miami Beach was a lot of fun, but really wasn’t up my alley.  It felt pretty touristy, and I don’t think we heard anything but club music the entire time.  The beach was great and the water was warm.  I heard LOTS of Spanish and had several opportunities to practice with non English speakers.

I think we were the only straight roller-bladers on the beach that day…

Everyone seemed to always be trying to out-flash each other.

At least they are getting straight to the point.

Savannah, GA

This was a huge contrast to Miami Beach.  Tons of white-haired folks on tour busses.  I think we were the youngest people in our hotel by 35 years.  The nearby beach was virtually empty with only a few middle-aged couples wandering around and a couple fishermen.  The town was really pretty but we just felt a little out of place.  We managed to find a few local watering holes and even convinced them to play the presidential debate live at one.  It was a pretty tense experience and everyone was relieved when it ended and they put the music back on.

You don’t want to know how hard it was to get these state line pictures.

The local shopkeep…

Watching the debate in the bar.

John singing a non-country song.  Nobody was interested in our Yankee music.

I thought I sold my M5 in Portland.  I don’t know what it’s doing down here…

Columbia, SC

We were originally going to head up to Atlanta, but heard from several different sources that it wasn’t worth checking out.  So we decided to change the plan and spend a night in Columbia and a night in Asheville.  Seemed to be a good choice, but I have no idea what Atlanta would have really been like.

Columbia didn’t seem to be anything particularly special.  Just a medium-small sized city that had a little bit of a blue-collar/college vibe.

I love these places.

Asheville, NC

This was a funky little town that felt a little out of place in “The South”.  It sort of reminded me of downtown San Luis Obispo, but without the college influence and with southern accents.  We were surprised by the number non-locals that were living there.

Nashville, TN

So far, this has been my favorite city we’ve visited this trip.  It feels a little bit touristy, but the tourists seem to also be from the south.  Lots of friendly southerners and really good live music.

I can’t believe how friendly the staff were here.  We need these on the west coast.

‘Merica!

We’re taking it easy here in Nashville today, which is really needed after a hectic 8 days in a row.  Tomorrow, we’re making the 3 hour drive down to Birmingham, AL to visit a college friend and his wife.  We’ll spend a few days with them, and then we’re headed even further south to celebrate Halloween in New Orleans.  We spend 4 nights there and then fly back to San Francisco.  So far this trip has exceeded my expectations and we’re only half-way through!

 

One year ago I was dying to settle down somewhere.  I had become exhausted with bouncing around for months at a time with nowhere to call home.  I wanted to live in a house, drive a car, buy a motorcycle, and have hobbies.  I wanted to have a core group of friends, roommates, and was even willing to entertain the idea of possibly being in a relationship.

One year into this stability and I am itching for another adventure.  The only problem is that I didn’t realize how hard it would be to say goodbye to my life in Portland.  The final few weeks were truly an emotional roller coaster.  On one hand, I was excited to break free from my day-to-day and explore the world again.  Also, the rain had finally returned to Portland, and I couldn’t fathom the idea of another wet and dark winter.  On the other hand, it was incredibly difficult to say goodbye to everyone who I had spent so much time with in Portland.

It has been less than a week and I still can’t think about everyone I miss in Portland without being overcome with anxiety.  While I’ll probably see everyone I want to see again sometime in the future, its so scary not knowing when that will be or if it will ever happen for sure.  I was in a relationship for several months before leaving.  Saying goodbye to her only added to the heart-wrenching departure.  With all the travelling I’ve done in the last few years, I’ve had to prematurely “pause” several relationships, both romantic and friendly.  Right now, I feel like I’m becoming burnt out from this lifestyle.  I’ll probably feel better once I settle down in Colombia, but at this moment, the goodbye’s are still very fresh in my memory.

On the bright side, the sense of adventure is starting to kick back in.  I just spent the weekend in Miami Beach, and I’m en route to Georgia.  Miami was fun, but that place is really not for me.  It was tolerable for the weekend, but the flashy club-scene of Miami Beach isn’t my style.  I did get to practice plenty of Spanish though!

My road trip will continue with visits to Savannah, South Carolina, Nashville, Birmingham, New Orleans, Austin and Dallas.  From there I’m headed straight to Medellin, Colombia to start my new life in Espanol.  Maybe I’ll do all future posts in Spanish from now on.  Who knows.  The adventure continues…

I’ll keep this updated with new stories, pictures and chronicles of my journey.  I’ve loaded up on entirely new gear for this trip, so I’ll be showcasing what items I’ve chosen to bring along this time.

 

I left Rome and flew into Prague to meet my jet-lagged friend from SF, John.  We then proceeded to have the most epic trip of all time.

Prague, CZ

Stayed here 4 nights in the nicest hostel I’d ever been in.  Huge and completely full the whole time.  Built last year, carbon neutral – it was like a hotel that had multiple-room beds.  We went on a few bar crawls, a beer tour, and drank too much absinthe.  It was a great start to the trip.

Chesky Krumlov, CZ

We took the train to this tiny town because it had a castle with a bear moat.  We went river rafting, and as a last ditch effort to escape the sudden torrential downpour, managed to build a fire by the side of the river.

Munich, Germany

Felt like an older, more family-oriented touristy crowed here.  Once we got out of the touristy areas (went to the fair and played ping-pong), we started having a better time.

Ljubljana, Slovenia

We didn’t know how to pronounce the name until the second day we were here.  We didn’t know anything about Slovenia, but picked the capital city to visit since it seemed like it had the most going on.

I was expecting somewhat of a run-down, dirty slummy city.  What we experienced was the exact opposite.  It was beautiful, quaint, not very touristy, small, and the people were so nice.  Tons of people were rollerblading around, and we even saw a girl rollerblade into the club the night we went out.  What a cool place!

Zagreb, Croatia

We were expecting this to be just a bigger version of Ljubljana, but it was not.  Much larger city, and not very pretty.  Not as much fun, people were slightly less friendly, but we still had a great time.  The hostel had a ping-pong table, so we of course played way too many hours of ping-pong.

Vienna, Austria

This is an aesthetically pleasing city, but I found it to be somewhat bland in terms of personality.  Reminded me a lot of Munich.  The hostel was actually a student dorm, but a hostel in the summer.  Of course it had a ping-pong table.  This one was indoor, and probably the best equipment I’d ever seen.  Amazing ping-pong was played.

Leaving Vienna

I left Vienna for Edinburgh the same day John headed back to the states.  There were some troubles with the airline (EasyJet), but now I’m here with Luke at his new place in Scotland.

 

I have been to tons of countries and never really affected by the concept that people outside the US hate Americans.  Yes, people might crack a joke, say something silly about George W Bush, or call me a Yank, but it seemed to be all in jest and I would still be treated with respect.  I could tell that individuals were smarter than to judge someone based solely on the country they come from.  I was starting to think that maybe the world does not hate Americans as much as everyone says.  Until my 3-day trip to Munich.

Our experience in Germany was substantially different than in all the other countries.  What I noticed first was that the wait staff/bartenders seemed to be extremely moody, as if asking them to do their job was a huge favor that they were begrudgingly granting.  Maybe just having a bad day and pure coincidence?  Maybe not.

I realized we were being “targeted” when we tried to get into a number of clubs/bars last night.

The first asked us for our identification.  We showed them our California drivers licenses, they gave them a look, and then requested to see our passports.  The wouldn’t accept a color copy I take with me instead of carrying the real thing around.  I figured it was just their policy and we didn’t think much of it.

For the next one, we waited in line, and when it was our turn, they asked for IDs.  Again, we pull out the California drivers licenses.  This time, the club immediately became full.

“Sorry, we are full”.

“Thats fine, we can wait.”

“No you leave now.”

We assumed they didn’t want two single guys coming in with no chicks.  Totally understandable.  We befriend a group of 3 German girls and head to the final bar.  Being gentlemen, we let the girls go in first.  When it is our turn, they again ask for our IDs, and when they take a look at them, they instantly become full again.

“Hey, you just let all our friends in but not us?”

“We are full, sorry”

“Really?  Then why are you letting all these other dudes in that were behind us?”

“Please leave now”

Finally it all makes sense.

Its not that we were inappropriately dressed; we were probably dressed better than most guys there.  Its not that we weren’t with girls – we had 3.  Its not that we were underage or too old.  Its not that we had been over-served at a previous establishment.  Its not as if we were being rowdy or obnoxious.  Its not because we spoke English, not German.  We were treated different immediately when they discovered our country of origin.

This was a great learning experience.

It does not feel good to be stereotyped.  We only experienced this a little; it didn’t become more than a mild inconvenience, it was outside our own country, and it was still extremely upsetting.  I can’t imagine how it feels for US citizens to be stereotyped in their own country.  How it feels for immigrants trying to lead a better life.  This has inspired me to be even more accepting of people with different ethnic or racial backgrounds.  More intolerant of intolerance.