It really feels like I updated this blog a week or two ago but months have passed again! I’ve been truly busy with my job, and when you add taking classes in addition to everything else I got going on I get behind. So catching up, last month I was able to revisit both England and the Netherlands for work, and while I was there I was able to add a new country to my site; Luxembourg! My favorite parts of the country was all the beautiful mountains and scenery such as the Schiessentumpel falls photographed on the right. Visiting Luxembourg brings me up just a notch in my goal of visiting every country in the world.
p align=”justify”>On to a much bigger challenge than visiting Luxembourg though, is climbing Mt. Everest. I’ve been so behind in my blog that I haven’t mentioned back in September I tore a ligament in my left hip, or at least did something it didn’t like. This was from over-training, and the injury happened after a 15 mile run. As a matter of fact, as I sit here and type this two months later, the pain still exists. I’ve seen a doctor for it, and after taking off an entire month in order to rest I think I’m back on track. With the lingering pain I’m obviously not back at 100%, but I’m feeling I can manage this and work out in a way that I don’t hurt myself again and resume my training. Nothing is yet confirmed but this is what I hope will happen! Next spring I’ll likely try the mountain from the Tibet side and I should know for sure pretty soon since these things need to be organized as early as possible!
August 17th 2014
Finally, I’ve added all 50 states to my website! With my most recent trip to Ohio, I finished one of my major travel goals. I’ve mentioned this many times, but now that I’ve been to every state I’m going to continue to explore my own country. Next month I’m going to return to Rhode Island. Even though I’ve been to the state, it’s the worst on my website and it was more of a day trip rather than a true visit. This time around I plan to do a better job visiting Providence and Newport, and spend some time on Block Island.
Beyond my 50 states goal, I’m still really pushing hard to make Mt. Everest a reality next year. It’s still all so hard to believe, but I promise I’m doing everything I can to make it work. I have to tell my job about it sooner than later, so I’m preparing a new power point for them that should explain everything in detail and after they let that digest I hope to get some positive feedback.
50 States Completed!
July 19th 2014
Remind me to never go to school full-time while working full-time again! My classes aren’t very hard, but still time consuming, so I’ve had seriously no time at all to update my site. Earlier this month, I actually made it to Ohio, completing my goal of visiting all 50 states! This took a lot of effort and time, and I can’t believe I’ve finally achieved it. Now if I only had time to put Ohio on my website…
There are plenty of major cities I still haven’t visited yet such as Denver or Miami, and lots of other national parks as well. I think from here on out, the way I travel in the United States will be very different. I expect to be more willing to stay in one place, resisting the temptation to knock out another bordering state that might only be an hour away, like I used to do. Ideally, I’d like to make Denver and the Rockies my next domestic trip, but first I gotta finish my classes and catch up on so many other things, so we’ll see what happens.
Now back to the important things. I’d consider having visited all 50 states the first major travel goal I’ve accomplished, but it was also one of the easiest. As I get older and my life becomes increasingly busy, I think it makes sense to work extra hard to pursue my travel goals as soon as possible. I’m still very focused on the idea of trying to climb Mt. Everest in the Spring of 2015. For the past six months I’ve been doing well maintaining my fitness level and saving up money, but still have a long way to go!
May 15th 2014
Well I didn’t realize I hadn’t confirmed my Central Asia trip yet. So yes it worked and yes I’m going… tomorrow! The trip turned out harder to plan than I thought and I expect to have some misfortunes along the way and encounter some corrupt police officers. Of course it’s nothing I haven’t experienced before but still some parts of the trip that I’m not looking forward to. Otherwise, there is a lot to see and do that I’m looking forward to. Even though I’m taking off tomorrow I don’t have too much of this trip planned and will be kind of taking it as it goes. For starters, I’m definitely going to fly into Astana, Kazakhstan and fly out of Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan with several other cities and some Tajikistan in between!
April 10th 2014
I’ve officially put in a request for time off next month. It looks like Central Asia might finally become a reality! I don’t know what it is but something has been pulling me to visit this region for a while so I’m excited that I may be going there soon. As long as I get the approval for the time off from my job I’ll be going. My plans are pretty loose at the moment, but I want to start in Dushanbe, Tajikistan and work my way north through Uzbekistan and finish in Kyrgyzstan. Ancient cities, some of the highest mountains in the world, and some culture and ethnic groups that almost never get visited; a lot to look forward to!
March 25th 2014
My climb of the Grossglockner was a success! I’m also happy to share my first youtube video. I’m still new at video so I hope to make better quality ones in the future so this was also a bit of an experiment. Now that I’m off the mountain I’m spending the rest of the time in Munich until I head home. I still have almost a week left, but I was able to see a lot during this trip such as northern Italy and Slovenia, Austria, and parts of Germany. The mountain by the way was extremely important to me as I used it as a stepping stone to get back into shape and continue my training towards Mt. Everest.
March 18th 2014
I’ve been in Europe for a little while now. I was actually hoping to immediately tackle the Grossglockner, but because of high winds I had to delay the climb. Instead of waiting around by the mountain I actually cruised down for a brief trip to Venice and Koper. I didn’t feel bad spending only a few days there since I had been to both places already and I’m sure I’ll go to Venice again someday! So, winds have finally died down and I’m right at the base of the mountain. Tomorrow I’m going to start the climb and if all goes well it will take about three days. I’ve already done a lot in Europe so I have a ton of photos to post and hopefully will also get some good go-pro video from the Grossglockner!
Feb 26th 2014
I’ve definitely gone through some major changes recently. Most of these were personal, but some of are about my travel plans for the next year. Skipping over the personal parts, I realized recently that I’ve had my website for more than 10 years, and it’s been 15 years since I first climbed Kilimanjaro. How did all those years go by so quickly? I have no idea! I do know though, I shouldn’t continue to wait for some of my more ambitious plans in life.With that said, as of January when I returned from my trip I began to work out hard again. To be honest, I was pretty out of shape and found it difficult to run a few miles! In a few weeks time I was able to run for a full hour again and have been doing 7 mile runs in addition to other exercises. I also did a winter hike in the Shenandoah mountains and even had a trip planned for Colorado for some climbing but my flight was canceled.
Next month I’ll be heading to Munich Germany, and while there I will attempt to do a technical winter climb of Austria’s highest peak. What’s all this for? Dare I say it I’m training for Mt. Everest! At the moment I do not have the financial means, but aside from that Everest in 2015 seems like the most ideal time regarding my current situation with work, my age, and where I’m at in my life. I’m going to try to do everything I can to raise the $50,000+ that I’d need for this expedition. I’ll be posting more details about this in the next few weeks.
Jan 18th 2014
Well I planned to start off 2014 fresh and to begin adding video content to my website. I even paid a few hundred bucks for a bran new Go-Pro and then used it for the first time ever yesterday. I did a snorkeling trip in the water in Florid and when I came up…. no more Go-Pro. Well it’s very depressing and disappointing to say the least. I was hanging out with some manatees and even met one who approached me so I think I had some good footage. Oh well, more than likely some other diver will pick it up and keep it, or maybe in a few hundred years some archaeologists will dig it up and laugh at the primitive devices we used in 2014. Only positive spin on this story was I had a second older camera on me so I at least got some photos and footage. Of course I’ll replace my Go-Pro since I can’t do video the way I want to without it, but that won’t be any time soon. For those interested in the manatees, I made the page live already.
Feb 19th 2014
My next mini-adventure is coming this weekend. I’m going to do some ice climbing in Colorado followed by some hiking in the mountains. My main goal is to get back into the mountain mindset. I’m going to try to do everything in my power to try to make Everest 2015 a reality. Though that’s a year from now and seems far away, in many ways it’s not.
I was planning to aim for 2015 regardless, but with a recent announcement that the Nepalese government is lowering the permit costs this makes this climb that much more realistic for me. At the moment I’m happy to say I’ve gotten back into relatively good shape. I think it was a mistake to go to school full time along with full time work. That combination gave me no time to work out or enjoy my weekends and I found myself incredibly out of shape! At the moment I can run 7 miles in an hour, so I’m no where near Everest shape but I’m certainly on the right track. I’d expect to be there within a few months, but will use the entire year and stay healthy.
Jan 14th 2014
Last week I returned from my month long trip to Europe. Over all the trip was absolutely amazing although there was some disappointment from the weather. The Northern Lights had been my main motivation to go into the Arctic during the winter time, and the unusually warm weather created lots of overcast that blocked the breathtaking light shows I was supposed to see. I did see the Northern Lights but not as well as I’d like to!
Moving forward into 2014, I already have my ideas lined up. My goals for this year is to do a trip probably in early summer late spring, I’m thinking something like Central Asia this time! I may or may not do another trip afterwards at the end of the year. Now normally I do at least three major trips this year, so why the slow down? I’m planning to do everything I can to raise money for an expedition at the end of 2014 to Vinson Massif or early 2015 or Mt. Everest, which ever comes first! I will be posting more details on this.
Dec 10th 2013
I’ve been in the Netherlands now for a few days. I spent last weekend in Amsterdam visiting some museums I wasn’t able to go to my first time in the city as well as exploring some other new areas. Currently I’m in Eindhoven, a city in the south that seems to completely shutdown other than restaurants after 6pm!
I’ll be staying in Eindhoven for the rest of the week and then plan to head to Belgium this Friday. Since I had already been to the Netherlands, I’m excited to be visiting a new country in a few days! After Belgium I will return to the Netherlands and from there head north to Stockholm Sweden.
New Website & Camera
Nov 29th 2013
I’m sure I mentioned this before, but I will be converting my website to a new format which has been incredibly time consuming. I estimate to have about 750 pages, and each page takes about two hours, so you can see that if I did one hour a day it would take me several years! So I finally got smart and hired people overseas to get this going, I have about five people working on my site and hopefully instead of four years I can get everything done in four months. I can’t begin to say how happy this makes me, I finally have a realistic time frame and a life again! As far as trips go, I’m all set for Europe next week and will be gone a week. I also bought a new camera that can do video, which is a big deal for me. I’ve been using the same camera for maybe five years now and decided it’s time for an upgrade. As a matter of fact, this photo here on the left of Mt. St Helens that I took while flying back from the Pacific North West might be the last photo I post from my old camera!. I hope to begin posting videos from now on on the places I go to. Aside from that, I had a failed attempt to go to Iraq and climb the highest peak there. The person there offered some insanely high deals to get me on the mountain which is only a day climb. With that fallen apart I’m back to the drawing board on my next trip. Where ever it will be, I expect it I’ll want to go somewhere warm after my Arctic trip!
Nov 18th 2013
After the Redwoods I also visited Crater Lake National Park. I’ve been trying to make it to Crater Lake for sometime now. Click here to see my new page on it. I found some deep snow on the lakes so it make trekking difficult without the proper gear. Of course I did it anyway! Ideally I’d do the entire rim someday which I believe is over 30 miles.
Nov 17th 2013
My new job has me in Portland Oregon once again. Since I’ve been to Portland so many times I decided to do a long road trip this weekend. I made it to the Redwoods! These are the tallest trees in the world, and they truly are an amazing place. Since I’m still in the process of reformating my website it may be some time until I get the new California page up and going, so until there here are two photos from the Redwoods!
Nov 1st 2013
As I continue to plan and make arrangements for my next adventure to the Arctic, I’m beginning to realize that this trip is going to be one of my most difficult ever when it comes to planning and logistics. Because it’s winter, there will be absolutely no sunlight for most parts of this trip which makes finding where you’re going at night time that much harder. More importantly though, there are very few buses are running between the cities I’ll be visiting. What would normally take 4 or 5 hours by car will now take two days by bus because there are no direct routes. One bus might leave at 2pm and arrive at 5pm, where you have to ride the remaining connection the following day. The same goes with flying, without direct routes you have to fly south to the capital then back north again. It would be like flying from New York City via Miami to get to Philadelphia. I even tried to rent a car, but there is a $900 fee to drop it off in another country! Even worse, I began booking hotels two months prior and most of the rooms are sold out and the ones that remain are available for outrageous prices, ($600 for a 3 star room)! I’m confident that I’ll make this work, even if I have to hitchhike and pitch a tent in 30 degree below zero weather. Normally I never book anything in advance and just show up and survive day by day, but with such little infrastructure this trip definitely has a lot of challenges. Now that it’s November, I can say I’ll be in the Arctic next month! For some other news, I’ve still be working at converting my website to the new format. It’s a very slow and painful process, since I have to resize nearly 10,000 photos, edit over a hundred of webpages and then break then up in to about 500 pages and recode everything. It seems that it takes about 5 hours to do each page, so at this rate I might be done within a year 🙂 Michigan has been added to my site! Only one more state to go.
New Website Travel Updates
Oct 11th 2013
Although I haven’t made any updates to my blog in quite some time, I’ve been putting several hours a week into my website like I always do. I’m converting my website to a completely new format which hopefully will make it more interesting, decrease load time, allow me to post a lot more content and other features. This will take me a very long time, perhaps years honestly if you consider I work full time, am taking colloge classes, and all the other personal responsibilities I have. After several weeks I finally figured out how to make this new coding work and am happy to say that I have converted Iran over. Click here to see the new format. Eventually my entire website will be organized this way.
Now for the good stuff. I just completed a trip to the state of Michigan and visited Detroit, Lansing, and part of Lake Michigan on the state’s west coast. With this new format it is extremely time consuming to build new pages; normally I have them finished within a few days after the end of my trip! So I hope to get Michigan up and running within a week or two. Now this whole Michigan trip might not sound like a major accomplishment but keep in mind I have about five major life travel goals, and one of those is visiting all 50 states. Though I’ve stepped foot in all 50 states many times, I don’t have all 50 on my website, and after last weekend only Ohio remains left! So close!
And now for the really good stuff. This coming winter I seem to be all set for a major trip to Europe. In all my travels, I don’t believe I’ve ever intentionally sent myself north in the winter so this will be a first. There is a method to the madness though, I plan to go to the extreme north; arctic circle north that is, and see the northern lights among other winter activities. Because of a Dutch business trip immediately before my vacation, I will have over a month in Europe and as of now plan to visit the Netherlands, Belgium, Norway, Sweden and Finland.
Mission Success! May 23rd 2013
While I’m still traveling in Turkey at the moment I’m wrapping up my trip and have only a few more days to spend in Antalya. My trip to Iran was definitely amazing and there is still so much more to see. If I had several more weeks in Iran I’d climb their highest mountain Damavand at over 18,000 feet, visit the Island Kish in the Persian gulf and go scuba diving, try a desert tour and see some seaside towns along the Caspian. There is truly never enough time, but with Iran being such a vast nation I feel like I’ve only seen a small part of it. can be said for Turkey, I will certainly be back here probably more than once since you can get a visa on arrival and flights are cheap; it makes a good base country to connect to less traveled places in the region!
So my next trip… I absolutely have no idea. If I was at my old job I would consider going to Iraq, Congo or maybe one of the Stans. Since I’m starting a new job as I said before, I want to focus on that for a while and maybe do some small trips here and there to keep me sane. It’s my understanding that I will be going to either the Netherlands or Czech Republic for training at some point for one to two weeks. This would be months down the road but it’s very likely this could be my next international trip. Perhaps I can add a week of personal time to the end of business trip since I’ll already be in Europe and do some more exploring.
Otherwise it’s absolutely my dream to climb Mt Vinson next. The damn expedition cost $40,000! You wouldn’t believe how many creative ways I came up with to try to avoid paying such a hefty price and reach the mountain on my own. Some of these ideas might have actually worked to get me to Antarctica, but more than likely best case scenario would have been a one way trip for me and anyone crazy enough to join me. So there is no going around it, I have to raise $40k. Once I get home I plan to make this a priority for hopefully the end of 2014.
Major Changes May 7th 2013
I took this photo just after taking off from Dulles airport in Virginia as I head to Munich Germany, then to Turkey and finally to Iran. After one of the busiest weeks in my life I can finally relax and let the next few weeks of travel play themselves out. I took 15 credits plus working full time among other things I had going on in my life and was definitely a bit overwhelmed. As a matter of fact I had to take two final exams this morning immediately before my flight. The past four months I’ve not had much of a life and for that reason haven’t had time to update my website or train myself for another expedition. I definitely plan to take it easy this summer.
Now for the big news; I quit my job!!! This is a bit scary for me. I’ve had the same job for roughly 8 years and during that time I visited over 50 countries, climbed four of the Seven Summits and built this entire website. I’ve always dreamed of a long extended backpacking trip after I quit but unfortunately things didn’t work out that way. My new job will begin if and when I return from Iran and Turkey. I’m looking forward to learning new things and having stability in my life. I plan to spend time focusing on my new job before I do any crazy trips. It seems I will have to go to Europe for training at some point and that will almost certainly be my next destination.
Updates April 10th 2013
I was seriously going to update this and say I need to do a better job of updating my blog but then I read that’s what I wrote last time. I’ve been keeping myself very busy by working full time and taking 15 credits at school. I’ve had no time to do the endless updates and editing that my site needs, but as the semester nears the end I can begin to continue to fix things. I took both Level 1 Arabic and Japanese III this semester, if I ever become fluent I’d like to put some of my pages in those languages because it’s a fun way to study and learn vocabulary and would expand my site. As far as my next trip goes, I’ve purchased airfare to Turkey, and unlike 2007 I will not cancel the flight this time no matter what happens. I don’t yet have the visa for Iran but that should be coming in next week. If I don’t get the visa, which I don’t see happening, I’ll still see Turkey and might be able to trade Iran with a trip to Iraq.
Turkey & Iran March 7th 2013
I realize I need to do a better job of updating my blog but I am working full time, going to school full time while also training and doing personal projects on the side. Sometimes it feels like a week has gone by and I realize it’s been two months! Good news is it looks like my next trip will be to Iran and Turkey. Iran will be the focus of my trip but I plan to at least visit Istanbul when I go to Turkey. I have passed the first major background check needed to get the visa for Iran and the second is expected to be fine. In Iran places I plan to visit are Tehran, Yazd, Esfahan, Shiraz and more. This trip is going to be hard to squeeze in between finals and my work schedule but I’m confident it will work!
West Africa January 12th 2013
I’m wasting no time in 2013 beginning my adventures. I’m writing this from Lagos Nigeria at the beginning of my trip. I’ve got nearly a month of backpacking ahead of me and some ambitious plans. Like always it’s interesting to see which ones work and which ones fall apart in the end. In a nut shell I plan to backpack my way north and enter Niger by road. From there head west to the capital of Niamey before heading south through Benin which is where I’d return back to the US. I don’t doubt I’ve plenty of hardships ahead of me but I’m mentally prepared for them. One of my friends from home told me of all the places you go to Nigeria is going to be the place you don’t come back from. Not exactly encouraging but I’d like to think I know what I’m doing at this point! So three countries in a month long trip in West Africa. I expect northern Nigeria and southern Niger to be the most dangerous part of my journey. If I can make it to the Benin border or at least Niamey I’m pretty sure from that point forward I’ll be safe. Updates coming soon!
World Events October 21st 2012
First off let me say I’m proud of myself for making a short trip to Mexico this month but I think I’m coming to terms that I won’t make the 50 states or West Africa by the end of the year. I’ve been gone from home for so long and now that I’ve made it back I feel I have too many things to do and just don’t see myself going up to Ohio or Michigan right now. I don’t want to visit in that ugly in between of autumn and winter so I’ll have to wait for some snow to be on the ground. While this is slightly disappointing for me I’ve at least continued to do things back home, such as visiting the Renaissance Festival last weekend! This makes me want to return to Europe, but definitely not in the winter.
Now the important stuff. As far as West Africa goes I won’t make it there until Jan or Feb because of my work load. I’m still not sure where to go and much of this depends on what is going on in the world. Nigeria is still a likely candidate but I’ve also considered Mauritania, Mali, and both Guineas. Mali’s deal is the north has been taken over by Islamic rebels including Timbuktu. To me going to Mali without seeing Timbuktu is like going to Egypt and not seeing the pyramids. I just read today that France is getting ready to arm the government and try to reclaim that lost territory. I’m not very optimistic but at least it seems there is some kind of possibility that the north will become relatively safe again in the next year or two but not in time for me to go. So with that said Mali is pretty much out.
I’ve also had a personal interest in Mauritania. I don’t see anything that would prevent me from going to Mauritania so the country just has to beat out its competition. I’m also interested in the Guineas and some of their surrounding countries because they are so small. If I can get a lot of time off I’d be able to backpack through several countries in one leg, which would make me very happy. Nigeria is also open, no major reason for me to not be able to visit.
Two to Go September 10th 2012
I’ve made it out to Nebraska and Iowa which leaves me with only two states left to go! Both states surprised me with all they had to offer. I especially enjoyed the tallgrass prairie in Iowa with my macro lens. It’s hard to believe I will seriously have content from all 50 states on my website soon. This is something very important to me and a major piece of my overall travel goals so it’s exciting to be so close. I will do my best to try to make it out to Ohio and Michigan which will be my final states. I’ve been to both before but not for travel purposes. I’ll do my best to make it do Ohio and Michigan during the autumn time period when the leaves are in full color. I think that’d be the best time to visit other than going in the spring which is so far away. I also did by a ticket to Mexico so that will be my next international trip. I’m heading that way at the end of this month. For my next major trip; I’m now considering to avoid Nigeria with all the protests around the world but would still like to go to Africa, maybe Guinea/Senegal or something along the Atlantic.
South of the Border August 28th 2012
It looks like unfortunately I’ll be busy with my job from October all the way through December. As of now I don’t think a trip to Nigeria is possible by the end of the year. I’m still want this to be my next destination and I can probably still go early 2013 without any significant delay. So since I’ll be busy from October through December, I might have some time off at the end of September and I just might take advantage of that and escape from Texas to Mexico. The flights from Dallas to Mexico City are actually cheaper than the flights from Dallas to my home in Virginia! This will be a rather short trip and will still leave Mexico with a dozen major things left for return trips.
Conquering the Homeland August 19th 2012
Last week I did a trip to Kansas after I learned it was only 5 hours from Texas. I’ve now been to all 50 states, most of them two or three times. I don’t have any photos from Nebraska, Iowa, Ohio or Michigan as I only drove through these places. I actually bought a ticket to Omaha for early September where I will also visit Iowa. I won’t have time to do both states properly so I’ll likely only visit Des Moines and leave the rest of the Iowa for another trip. I hope to do a lot in Nebraska and then a month or two later do a similar trip to Michigan and Ohio. This would be a major landmark for me. Of course this doesn’t mean I’ll stop doing trips within the US, I will keep going to new cities, historical places and national parks for the rest of my life. Adding each site to my website has been a major goal of mine, a work in progress for almost a decade. I’m officially making it my goal to add all 50 states to my website by 2013! And why not also throw in another trip to Africa before the end of 2013?
Back on the Road August 8th 2012
I was hardly back from my latest trip before my job sent me on the road. As I type this I’m on a flight beyond my will or control to Dallas Texas to support a customer out there. From here it looks like I’ll likely return to Utah for further work. I might do a drive to Denver from Utah assuming I’m there during labor day weekend. I realized I left my passport at home in Virginia. That can be overnighted to me though. What about a weekend trip to Mexico? I could spend a few days in Mexico City or some other place if the flights are cheap enough. I doubt this will happen but if there is anything available for a few hundred bucks then why not? I’ll probably be on the road non stop until October which is when I might stay home for a while. Like always, when I’m not traveling I’m travel planning. I think my next country should be west Africa. Yes I’ve been saying this for years, but I think I just might do it this time. I was trying to go to Iran next but it seems the best dates for that would be the following Spring. At this point in time I’m thinking about visiting Senegal as a base country then venturing to Guinea-Bissau or maybe doing Mali depending on how much time I get off.
In Theater July 13th 2012
Now that I’m in country most of my stresses about traveling are gone. Of course the risks I will have to take, no matter how big or small, are still to come. But doing things is always much easier than thinking about things. Since this is a very loosely planned solo trip there are a ton of variables involved. It might be interesting to see what I accomplish and what I don’t accomplish. With that said I’m glad to be back on the ground again. Though my last trip to Colombia was only 5 months ago it strangely feels like I haven’t left the country for years. I’m looking forward to having a successful trip to both Pakistan and India. I realized that out of the giant countries I will have conquered Russia, Canada, US, China, India & leaving only Brazil left. As I don’t consider it a dangerous country it isn’t high on my list to travel, but a place I definitely look forward to visiting when the time comes.
Night Terrors June 27th 2012
Most people assume that when I travel to scary places I have little or no concern about my well being. This is completely far from the truth, and sometimes I wonder if I stress about it more than the average person would. With my next trip confirmed to Pakistan the fear has begun to set in. There is a specific bus route that I plan to take and recently read that about 50 Pakistanis were gunned down and murdered by extremists for being Shi’ites instead of Sunni. I take it I wouldn’t earn any cool points for being American had I been on the bus. Other chaos includes a plane crash from Karachi to Islamabad a few months ago which is a flight I will take, to be honest this is tragic but I have little concern of this happening to me. Other better examples are some foreigners who were kidnapped in yet another city I plan to visit. This type of news seems to be pretty consistent and along with the general Taliban attacks and threats from Al Qaeda things start to add up. Islamabad is a very peaceful place where I have no fear of visiting, so that will be a place to relax!
Generally during the day I have my normal concerns but I’m not too worried. I feel I’ve done a reasonable job of planning this out but of course there is always a significant amount of risk that is beyond anyone’s control. Sometimes I’ll wake up in the middle of the night with Pakistan on my mind. The reality that I’m actually going and will be walking around the country is surreal and incredibly intimidating. After I wake up this passes and I’m back to my normal concerns with the trip. I’ve gone through this enough times to know that the most stressful part of the trip are the weeks before then peaking with the actual plane ride there. Once on the ground you feel much better about everything since you’re not longer wondering what things are like.
I have my visa for India and Pakistan as well and I am looking forward to finally making it to these countries. My departure date is in about two weeks from now and will start off in Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city. In some less interesting news I am currently in Austin Texas for work and will be flying to Boise Idaho again this coming Friday. I have a road trip planned for Montana and am looking forward to seeing a new state!
Conquering the West May 30th 2012
I’ve spent almost two months now in Boise Idaho and haven’t wasted a day of exploring when I have the weekends off. My main priority was going to Montana, a new state I haven’t traveled to yet. Unfortunately last weekend was nothing but nonstop rain in Montana, so I directed myself elsewhere and decided to delay the state until June or July. Next weekend I’ll be going to Salt Lake City for work and will stay there for about two weeks. Since I’ve been to Salt Lake City two times, I expect that I’ll probably leave on the weekend and head to a place like Arches National Park and/or parts of western Colorado, also a new state for me. Basically by the end of the summer I think I’ll have completely conquered all of the north western states like Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Idaho, Utah, and Montana. Assuming I make it to Colorado and Montana while I’m out here, that will leave me with only 5 more states to go, Michigan and Ohio, then in the Midwest I have Iowa, Kansas and Nebraska. Of course the traveling doesn’t stop there, I still have a lot to see and do in most states that I have already visited. And speaking of going back to places, I created a page Springfield, Virginia, and when I go home I plan to continue to update it. I decided to create a page for fun of the city that I grew up in, since it’s a place that I know well and can provide a local’s perspective. As far as serious travel goes, I’m still waiting on details to see if I’m going to Pakistan and India or not. I think I should know for sure within the next three weeks.
Return to most dangerous countries! May 15th 2012
I don’t yet have a visa to Pakistan in my passport or a ticket to India in my hand just yet, but I’m pretty confident these two countries will be my next major trip. I had actually at the last minute tried to cancel going to India and fly into one of the Stans in central Asia such as Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, or Uzbekistan since I have never been to that subcontinent before. I found out that despite some of these countries being only an hour or two away flying time from Islamabad there were no direct flights making a trip to Pakistan out of Central Asia a logistical nightmare. The only possible way it would seem is to fly from central Asia to another country such as China or Dubai and then connect to another flight to Islamabad. Basically it would be like trying to fly from London to Paris via a connection in Egypt. I’m disappointed those guys don’t have their stuff together yet so it looks like central Asia will have to be another trip another time. I’m still nervous about Pakistan, but as I have less and less countries on my most dangerous list to visit I have more and more confidence I might actually live beyond 35.
Return to most dangerous countries? April 16th 2012
Not only does it seem like it’s been forever since I visited a country on my most dangerous list, but I also feel like my past trips have been easy ones and I’ve kind of put my most dangerous section on the back burner. I’ve given some serious thought to backpacking Pakistan sometime this summer and figured I could base my trip there out of India. I don’t see anything that will stop me from going as far as work or funds go. The main issue will be any change of stability in Pakistan, and with nearly 400 Taliban members recently escaping prison plus some buses along a route that I plan to take being set on fire and shot at I’m not 100% confident I’ll go. If this works out, there are a million things to be done in Pakistan, and I hope to see some of the highlights and I may even climb a 5,500+ meter peak while I’m there! India would be the base country for my trip so I would probably only visit one or two major regions of northern India with the intention to return to Mumbai and other parts some day. As I said there really isn’t anything that I could see that would prevent me from going on this trip so I’ll just have to monitor the situation across Pakistan in the next few weeks and then make a final decision.
America’s Second Most Remote National Park? April 6th 2012
Just after visiting what I believe to be America’s most remote national park in the continental US, it looks like I’m being sent to Idaho which might put me in a good position to visit Glacier National Park in north west Montana. I might be spending a lot of time in Idaho and I plan to take advantage of that by visiting such places as the deserts and canyons in eastern Oregon, most of the state of Montana including Glacier National Park, parts of northern Nevada, and maybe even taking advantage of the cheaper airfare and flying to places like California and Denver. And without saying, I plan to do a good job of exploring every part of Idaho itself. As far as real trips, I’m eyeing Pakistan for sometime this summer. Beyond the idea in my head I haven’t put any research into it or considered exactly when I might go; this will be determined in the next month.
America’s Most Remote National Park? March 26th 2012
I finally did a road trip from Austin Texas to Big Bend National Park over a long weekend where I went camping and hiking. I feel that this is one of the most remote parks in the continental United States so I’m very happy with myself for finally reaching this destination and adding it to my website. This has always been an important place for me to visit as far as American national parks go. I suppose next on my list might be the Everglades in Florida or Yosemite in California. Until then, click here for photos and information about my trip to Big Bend. Mountain lions and bears are rare sights in the national park and I wasn’t lucky enough to spot one. I did see some smaller wildlife life such as a Kangaroo Rat, blotched water snake and several species of birds and lizards.
Most Violent Region in the World? January 20th 2012
Real planning for future countries that I might visit in the next few months have already begun. My last two trips included a visit to Eastern Europe followed six months later by an important trip to Oceania in order to conquer another one of the Seven Summits. It’s been over a year since I visited one of the most dangerous countries, my last one being Yemen in January 2011.
I’ve been getting a lot of emails with both people agreeing and questioning my choice of Haiti as the most dangerous country in the western hemisphere. I’ve done a lot of research on this and while there is no doubt that Haiti has some serious competition in Central America as far as danger goes, I still haven’t been able to find an obvious pick. Some data or stories I come across make one country stand out as more dangerous than another, while on another site or government report I’ll find other information that makes the same country seem not so bad after all.
Conclusion being, maybe the best way to find out is to simply visit one of these places for myself and see what all the hype is about. I did read a US government report that said Central America is one of the most violent regions in the world, the Peace Corps also pulled out their workers in Honduras after being there for decades. Doing some more research, I found that statistically Central America has the highest murder rate in the world after Southern Africa. This doesn’t mean much to me because though South Africa has high murder rates, it’s easy to safely visit while a country like Afghanistan has some serious and unavoidable risks in nearly all parts of the country.
Anyway, long story short I’m considering doing a trip to somewhere in Central America to personally inspect the situation there and come up with my own conclusions. Since there is a lot of turbulence in the area I haven’t made any decisions on where, when, or how long I’ll go but this very well could be my next trip. Of course I’d love to go to western Europe and stay in a place like ostelli londra, but there is much work to be done before that happens! Also until then I am trying to raise money for my next expedition to Antarctica, with my current most dangerous threat being such creatures as the cookie on the right that I ate. Too sugary yet somehow I couldn’t stop eating it. Fortunately I don’t have an expedition anytime soon and I can let this mistake slip by!
Future Operations December 17th 2011
After finishing my 5th of the 7 Summits, I sadly feel like there might be some long break before I do an adventurous trip again. Of course for me a long break is a year, and even if that turns out to be true which I hope it isn’t, I would still continue to travel to other countries in such places as the Americas or Europe. With Massif Vinson as my next 7 Summit, I need to get extremely creative with ways to raise money if I’m ever going to set foot on this mountain. This along with planning the most dangerous countries still remains my travel priorities. Other changes that are coming along with my website are splitting certain pages in half such as making a Indonesia page 2 and an Afghanistan page 2. This allows me to add more photos, help loading time and no longer feel restricted with the amount of content I have. I’ll continue to update my site with changes like this along with more details on personal experiences while traveling instead of focusing on describing the photos I took. Until then, I expect to stay in Virginia and relax after the torturous trek to Carstensz and will eye a short trip to central America or maybe the Caribbean.
Mission Accomplished November 8th 2011
Wow! I cannot believe I have climbed another one of the 7 summits. Carstensz Pyramid was a serious dream for me, and to have actually been on the trip and stand on the summit still seems surreal to me. The trip was pretty damn rough to be honest. Physically Denali was way harder and colder of course, and Aconcagua obviously devastates Carstensz when it comes to altitude. For those who take the helicopter and make Carstensz a day hike there is little challenge to this peak, but for the rest of us who trek to the mountain the hard cold rain and muddy rainforests and meadows provide some serious misery. Extremely steep and difficult terrain and no rest days means your body is always working hard and has little chance to recover. Anyway, of course I stuck it through and I reached the top of Oceania on November 2nd, almost a week ago! Now I’m still in Indonesia and plan to explore some of this country and head to East Timor and maybe even poke my head back into Singapore. When I get back home I’m going to have to take a serious look at future travel plans and find out how in the world I can get to Mt. Everest or Vinson Massif in Antarctica. Until I do that, I have absolutely no idea what my future travel plans are!
Return to 7 Summits July 24th 2011
My last accomplishment regarding the 7 summits was way back in 2009 when I reached the top of Denali on June 7th, what I believe to be the second hardest of the entire challenge. It looks like everything is in place for me to push forward on my goal and attempt the 5th summit Carstensz Pyramid this coming October. There are plenty of reasons for me not to go, my job is looking less stable than ever, I’m in the process of buying a house which I don’t have enough cash for a required down payment, the severe beating I’ve received the past month from the stock market, and a bunch of other issues that any reasonable person might say it’s best to wait for a better time. Fortunately though, I learned long ago that there are always these issues and waiting for a better time usually means not going. For things to get done you have to realize you’ll likely always have major obstacles in the way and to accomplish your goals sometimes you have to ‘just do it’.
May 8th 2011
To me I feel like it’s been years since my last trip, but in reality I was in Yemen only 90 days ago. Now it’s time for my next adventure, and I’m doing an unprecedented trip to Europe of all places! I’ve been to Europe many times for different reasons, but never for a real backpacking trip, so this is going to be a first. In a way I’m kind of relieved that there is nothing to be scared of in Europe and I don’t have to worry about this trip being my last, since my previous trips have been to Yemen, Somalia, Afghanistan etc. With my luck though, I’ll probably somehow die in Europe but some freak accident so I better keep my guard up. Anyway, I wanted to go to Kosovo for some reason, but because of the recent gas prices every flight I looked up in Europe was over $1,000! Hungary was lower by $400 and easily beat out all competition, so they won the contract for my next vacation; at least the flight. I plan to land in Hungary and explore that country before heading south to former Yugoslavia countries. I think I’ll definitely hit Croatia, I’m considering fixing up Slovenia on my site since I can’t bear to look at it anymore, and if I have time I’d love to make a visit to Bosnia & Herzegovina. This keeps a potential trip to Carstensz Pyramid on track for October, I can do a cheap trip to Europe and then save money and vacation time for another 6 months and be ready in the fall.
April 13th 2011
I’ve been talking about Carstensz pyramid for a long time now, and I still haven’t changed my mind about making that happen. The next expedition date that I can join is set for October, I’m more optimistic that I pull this off since it gives me time to save my and I hope my job will get me the time off then. In the mean time, I must pick another destination to keep me sane, and I’ve been thinking about a trip to eastern Europe, say some random countries like Kosovo, Bosnia or Montenegro? Honestly it’s not looking good time wise with my job, but I’ve canceled a lot of trips for work purposes so I’m going to try to push this. I should know in a few weeks if and where I’ll be going.
Watermarks March 14th 2011
In the past year or so I’ve seen several of my photos appear on other websites without my permission. Of course it’s annoying, especially when the photos are hot linked which means another website displays them but I get charged with the data transfer, but despite that I never took any actions and just let people steal a few photos here and there. The other day I discovered a website that had completely duplicated one of my pages along with the text and without any reference to my site! Another time I was searching for something in Google images and by chance I found some of my photos on some commercial websites well. Sadly I think I have to follow the advice many people have been giving me for a long time and watermark my photos. I hope this doesn’t ruin the content of my site, but it’s about the only thing I can do to keep photos on my site. I’ve also been converting my site to another format, so all you Mac users will finally be able to view my website without any major bugs.
Lost! February 11th 2011
With some major changes coming ahead in my life I’m finding it difficult to choose my next destination. These changes could be anything from a layoff to having to move with my job and/or some other major decisions at home in Virginia. I think overall it’s going to be a good thing, but I wish it’d happen sooner than later so I can start focusing and planning again. I’m pretty busy right now with work until June, after that I have no idea which direction my life is going to go. I’d like nothing more but to attempt to climb Carstensz Pyramid this coming summer, but in all honesty I feel like it’s not going to happen. The expedition that leaves exactly in 2 weeks from today, February 27th, I couldn’t join due to my work schedule. The price was reasonable, but it looks like the next expedition that is rumored to be in going in July is going to cost an additional $2,000. Since I barely came to terms with accepting the old price which would have been the most expensive trip of my life, I think the new price is out of the question. I’ll either have to wait for it to drop or hopefully get some type of sponsorship in the future. Aside from the price, another issue with Carstensz is time. While the mountain itself only takes a week to climb, the 200km jungle trek takes two weeks round trip, and if you add some days for airfare, domestic flights etc that’s another week, coming to a total of a month. I can probably get a month off work no problem but I’d like to do much more than Carstensz. Ideally I’d have two months off, well ideally I’d have two years off, but with two months I could visit other islands of Indonesia, parts of Papua New Guinea and even pop up in the new country of East Timor. Two months won’t be possible, so with no mountain to climb that leaves conquering new countries, and I’m in the unusual situation where I’m drawing a complete blank. I think the main reason for this is not knowing what I’ll be doing in a year from now, but regardless I think I can go somewhere in July. I did have an idea about putting a voting system on my website, and then I’d no longer have to worry about these things and simply let people vote the next country for me and I’d go to wherever people sent me. The only two drawbacks I can think of for this are seasons and the fact that most people will probably pick their own country. As far as seasons go, I don’t want to be sent to a tropical country in the rainy season or to Europe in the winter when things aren’t so pretty outside and there is much less to do. I could avoid this by only putting a limited number of countries to pick from, like 30 or so instead of the remaining 175 I have left. Check back for this, I’ve been thinking about it for a while and just might do it.
Back to the Badlands December 7th 2010
I hate to admit it, but I think I’m finally coming to terms that Carstensz Pyramid won’t be my next trip this coming winter. Not saying I’m not going at all of course, just not as soon as I’d like to. This still isn’t officially over, but since my planned work schedule for the next 5 months has gotten busier instead of slowing down, getting the 4 or 5 weeks off of work that I’d want is all but impossible. Getting two weeks off will be difficult, but since any other trip I take won’t focus on specific dates hopefully I can plan it with a small break in my schedule. I was getting excited about possibilities in Colombia since it’s close and cheap, but as I thought more and more about it I felt like I was losing focus with visiting the top 10 most dangerous countries. After considered which of the remaining 6 on my most dangerous list I could possibly knock out, I came to the conclusion that with visas and flights, Africa is too expensive for me to consider for such a short trip and with both Pakistan and Iraq I’d want at least 3 weeks each to reach most places of interest there. This leaves behind Yemen as a good country to knock off my list (I no longer believe Palestine to be a most dangerous destination), and I’ve given a quick trip to Yemen some serious consideration. This would probably take place in early February or even late January which isn’t too far away, so I’d need to start the planning process pretty soon. Flights to Yemen aren’t that bad, probably several hundred cheaper to Africa, but I still have to hire armed escorts in Yemen and would need a domestic flight to Socotra which is high on my list, so all this will add up to an expensive trip that I might be able to pull off if i get a Christmas bonus this month. Aside from the cash, the time is another issue, since two weeks isn’t that much to begin and I’ll lose a day or two here and there from jet lag and domestic travel so I need to also figure if this is even worth it. With all that said it’s a lot to consider, but the possibility of being in Yemen in a matter of weeks from now is pretty exciting, but does have some serious drawbacks. All in all, I’ll put it at 50/50 right now between Colombia and Yemen for my next trip.
Following my Dreams – Literally November 20th 2010
As the idea of Carstensz pyramid grows on me, I find and more and more difficult to accept that I probably won’t be able to go this March due to a schedule conflict at work. I remember after climbing Elbrus I had given up on trying any of the other 7 summits since I figured the cost and vacation time was too much to handle and not realistic. I slowly got back into the 7 summits, around 6 months later I began to have dreams of Aconcagua. Some of these dreams were about me simply being on the mountain, other dreams were random things like me walking from Virginia to Argentina for the purpose of finding the mountain, and others were me being Aconcagua but clinging on a vertical face of the mountain. After Aconcagua, I wondered if I’d dream of Denali next, and eventually I did. It took 18 months since Denali, but last month I had my first dream of Carstensz Pyramid which just encourages me to make this my next trip. Now those annoying problems with cost and vacation time are what are holding me back, but I know I’ll just dream more and more of Carstensz and the only way to stop is to stand on top of the summit. Hopefully a worst case scenario for this trip is to be able to do it later in the year if another opportunity arises. The Carstensz pyramid expedition leaves on February 27th, so I’d need at least 8 weeks notice if I can go or not, so if by January 1st there is still uncertainty then I’ll have to call the trip off and maybe make a short trip somewhere locally like Colombia or El Salvador to keep me sane.
Return to the 7 Summits October 30th 2010
Alright, I’m back to the drawing board as far as my next trip goes. As I quickly approach the age of 30, I feel the pressure of time and realize I need to push more for climbing the 7 summits. I’ve gotten a lot of things accomplished by having a plan and moving forward and not letting all those annoying challenges that pop up along the way stop me. Despite having a good chance of losing my job in 2009, being in the middle of a recession, not even having a bed and many other reasons why I should have canceled this climb, I still went ahead and conquered North America last June. In order for me to be successful, the remaining 7 summits are all going to be similar, I’m going to have a lot of reasons why I shouldn’t climb and ‘wait’, but it’s in my opinion that things get more complicated in life not easier so the sooner the better. Now that Denali was over a year ago, I worry about the consequences of several more years passing by and losing focus with the seven summits. So with that said, I’d like to make Carstensz pyramid, the summit of Oceania, my next destination of Spring 2011. Unfortunately there are a lot of things beyond my control in order to pull off this trip, but if it doesn’t work out it won’t be because of a failure on my part. If I can’t go to Carstensz I suppose I’ll have to reluctantly head back to a dangerous country, either middle east or more than likely west Africa this time. I say reluctantly since honestly I don’t feel like traveling to a place like that, at least at the moment. Since it must be done though, I suppose I have no choice and I’ll continue moving forward and hopefully scratch another difficult place to travel off my list. Otherwise, if I do pull of Carstensz pyramid, I’ll only have Mt Everest and Vinson Massif remaining, and I hope being so close to completing the 7 summits will make sponsorship become easier, especially since the earliest I could do the next mountain would be in 2012, and hopefully the economy will be stronger by then as well. The next step for Carstensz is to find out how many climbers are willing to go and when. I should get more information in late November, hopefully if I find the total price and dates, then I can start trying to get the time off from my job.
Vacation to North Korea June 16th 2010
I have my next intended vacation to North Korea at the end of August, only two more months away! The longest I’m allowed to visit North Korea is 8 days, so 8 days it will be. I’ll also spend some time in China, but not nearly as long I’d like to, especially for such a large and diverse country. I should at least be able to knock out Beijing and if I’m lucky then some surrounding areas. If I go to North Korea, then next on my travel list would be another one of the 7 summits; Carstensz Pyramid. I could do this in November as I have the money, the motivation, and the gear and the only thing I lack is the vacation time from my job! The stock market has been bad to me the past two months, but overall since I began my initial investing in Jan 2009 I have been mostly on the green side. Not too bad coming from someone who has no idea about investing. So my risky plan of investing in the market to get me up another one of the 7 summits has worked out so far. If I can get Carstensz done then I’ll only have Vinson and Everest left!So, realistically it’s not likely I’ll be attempting Carstensz this November due to a lack of vacation time. Since I really want to do this, I will attempt to take unpaid vacation or maybe even a sabbatical since I worry about not having this opportunity in the future. If I’m able to take unpaid vacation, then I’ll certainly take a lot of time off to make it worth it. I’d use all that time to backpack parts of Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, and maybe even East Timor. I’ll contact HR at my job soon to begin negotiations!
Vacation to Somalia February 27th 2010
With Iraq canceled several months ago I have switched my next destination to western Somalia. I arrived to Addis Ababa last night but with jet lag I found myself fully awake at 4am in my guest house. Today once the sun arrives, I plan to explore this capital and try to immediately arrange a way to enter Somalia. Flying is the best option, but I wasn’t able to book any flights online and a road trip will take several days. Hopefully it will all work out, but right now my greatest fear is coming all this way and either not being able to make it to Somalia or having most of this trip being taken up by planning and waiting instead of exploring.
Vacation to Iraq December 20th 2009
I’ve officially chosen Iraq to be my next destination and if all goes well I’ll arrive there March 6th. My dates aren’t very flexible, and since March 7th are the presidential elections I’m expecting car bombs, drive by shootings and all the other chaos that Iraq sees. I’m not sure if this trip is a good idea, and I have to say I don’t feel nearly as confident about this trip as I have with trips to Afghanistan and Sudan. But my impatience and need for adventure is making me go ahead and do this anyway, so I hope I’m not getting too complacent with dangerous trips. Since Haiti was the last time I left the US, it’s going to be an incredible 14 months since my last international vacation! Horrible! Especially when I was going somewhere every 4 months in the past. But if you count my expedition to Denali in Alaska then its still been 10 months. Places on the list in Iraq are Baghdad, Kurdistan, Erbil, Babylon, and the marsh villages in the south. I’d have about 3 weeks there, so plenty of time to see the country if all goes well.
Post Denali November 29th 2009
I guess 6 months is a little excessive to call this entry post Denali, but nevertheless it’s still my most recent trip and still fresh in my memory. To date, I consider Denali by far my most challenging and greatest accomplishment. A major step forward in my quest for the 7 summits, only one mountain, Mt. Everest, remains more difficult. The remaining other two mountains, Carstensz Pyramid in Indonesia and Vinson Massif in Antarctica are challenging but easier. These two will still be hard work, but for me it’s now a matter of finding sponsorship or creative ways to make money. Realistically, I don’t expect to be able to raise tens of thousands of dollars in the next few months or even year or two, especially while we are still in a recession. So that means that I’ll be focused more on my other challenge of knocking out the most dangerous countries in the world. I have made some significant progress in the past two years by visiting Sudan, Haiti and Afghanistan. I intend to visit Iraq this coming March, but in all honesty I would prefer to visit somewhere else just because I feel like I have put too much emphasis in the middle east. A better alternative which recently started to seem possible is a trip to western Somalia. Even though Somalia is just right outside the middle east I’d feel better going since it is Africa and I haven’t been there in almost two years. I have found some interesting things to do in Somaliland and I found some people to help me, so it seems that this trip is mostly a matter of making a decision to take the risk.
Denali Prep March 4th 2009
So here I am in Washington state about to go on my Denali prep course this weekend. I can’t believe the day has finally come and I’m officially training for Denali next week. Fortunately this course does its best to simulate how life is on Denali including the physical challenges, so it will give me an idea of what is to come in May. The course should be both fun and miserable at the same time. I will be spending a week on the mountain living in cold conditions and doing lots of hard work like setting up camps, learning to cook in the cold weather, and traveling through the glaciers. So despite just being a course, this will be much harder than and even a longer trip than climbing Kilimanjaro! I can’t wait to finish the course and hopefully it will leave me very confident about attempting Denali. The weeks before this course I have been training by hiking with a big pack and recently started dragging a tire as seen below. This should help me get used to the sled dragging, but I have been doing it on relatively flat terrain and with lighter weight, so I expect the prep to be much much harder. I can’t wait to start the course just to see what it is really like and what I’m going to be up against.
Mountain Man January 18th 2009
Now that I’ve gotten Haiti, another dangerous country checked off the list, my next adventure is the Denali climb in May. I returned back from my short trip in Haiti to find the economy slightly worse which was pretty much expected. It does affect me and I find it harder to motivate myself and go to the gym etc. That might sound silly but I have more responsibilities and payments to make as a result and it all takes a toll. I did run 7 miles yesterday at a fast pace which was harder than it should have been. I slacked off during the holidays and obviously in Haiti since I was traveling, but I think in a few weeks I can make it all back up. My next trip is going to Washington state in March for a one week climbing prep course. It’s expensive so I honestly don’t want to pay for it but I’ll do whatever it takes to increase my chances on Denali. I am almost determined to do the presidential traverse this winter in New Hampshire, it is basically a 20 mile trek across the white mountains in some of the harshest weather in the country. The next few months I need to become a mountain man and climb and train as much as possible. I did also put my life savings into the stock market after they declined for a week straight. I read some good economic news and was hoping they would rebound but instead some idiot got on TV with some bad news which sent them crashing. This is more of a long term investment anyway, so if the stocks/economy ever recover hopefully I can make some $ to pay for some expensive adventures.
Haiti – Jacmel Day Trip January 4th 2009
One of my last days in Haiti I set out to find the famous Bassin Bleu waterfall that I had read a lot about online. Actually this day trip from the capital was more about going to the city of Jacmel but after I found out that Bassins Blue was nearby I figured I’d add it to the list. My driver yesterday did not initially agree with the price I set on Jacmel. Originally he set a ‘good price’ of $250, I guess he thinks that’s what I get paid per hour back in the US! I cut it to a fraction of that price but I could tell he wasn’t happy with it. He did have to rent the vehicle and pay for gas which was very expensive, but aside from that he was still making a lot more than he would have if he just stays in Port Au Prince and shoots guns all night. In the morning he never showed up, I kind of figured he wouldn’t come though so wasn’t shocked. I did find another guy in the morning who seemed somewhat sane and agreed on the same price. He took me to the bank first since I needed to get money and said he had to go home which was walking distance and gave me the key to the van which was a good sign of trust. After we were done we headed off on the 2 hour road trip to Jacmel, located on the beach south of Port Au Prince. The two hour trip was mostly uneventful except for a police roadblock who gave the driver a ticket for having missing side-view mirrors. Once in Jacmel things were going well, I visited some places of interest and had a late lunch at a nice restaurant on the beach. Afterwards I decided to walk along the beach for a while and I passed by a group of kids about 12 years old and playing soccer. Most of them had clothes but one had nothing on but tighty whities and another was completely naked kicking the ball. I think at this point I decided if I ever am bored at home I’ll remember what I saw today. There are always a million things to do at home, sometimes people are just too lazy even to have fun. If this kid can’t even afford clothes and plays soccer buck naked on the beach then I don’t have much excuse to be bored at home! So after doing a few more things in Jacmel we decided to head out to the waterfall, and we both had no clue how to get there. I should add that my driver began to act weird ever since the police gave him the ticket. He seemed to go on about it for a long time as if I would feel sorry for him and then maybe agree to pay for it. Our first stop to see where the waterfall was, was at a gas station right outside Jacmel. I went inside to get water and when I returned the driver was talking to a bunch of people who apparently said they would take us to the waterfall. I hoped he didn’t volunteer me to pay anyone so I asked if it was for free and he said yes. The next thing I know we followed a guy on a motorcycle who brought some girl back and began talking to my driver. After waiting I asked the driver what they were talking about. He told me he told the girl she was ugly and not sexy and she had responded with hysterical laughter and got into the back of the car. Apparently this guy was using his hard earned money to pick up a prostitute. I had assumed we were going to the waterfall now but instead we went into some shabby neighborhood and stopped near a house that literally had at least 20 gangster guys sitting on the corner. Another girl came out from a house and a few minutes later a guy on a motorcycle with sun glasses pulled up with another one on the back. I made it clear I wasn’t doing anything with them or paying anything and the driver seemed to think it was my responsibility. Well you can at least buy them a beer right? I told him he could do whatever he wanted but I wasn’t going to pay anything or get involved. We drove off with the three prostitutes in the van while the gangster guys stared at us as we passed by. The first guy on the motorcycle began to lead us to Bassins Bleu, and I questioned if he even knew where it was. We passed through a shallow river that the driver was scared to cross. There were lots of people taking baths here and collecting water for drinking. He had a small boy walk through the river in front of us to guide us threw and paid him some money. Once on the other side we began to drive up hill on a steep mountain which our van barely seemed able to handle. This whole time the prostitutes who didn’t speak a word of English were ruffling my hair and asking me things that I didn’t understand. I didn’t pay them much attention, because I didn’t want them to think this was my idea but I worried the driver had already told them it was. Eventually the hill got too steep to where the van couldn’t take it and the driver refused to continue. He told me to ride with the guy on the motorcycle and he would wait here. I got the driver to translate and the motorcycle guy said it was a 15 minute ride on the bike followed by a 30 minute ride in a boat. Online I had read that there were people offering mule rides up the mountain like the citadel, and this road seemed to be going no where. I also hadn’t heard anything about a 30 minute boat ride, and I questioned what body of water this high up on the mountain could last 30 minutes anyway. My driver kept saying George go with him! He had told me earlier one of his Haitian friends ruined his life by cocaine, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he did the drug also. Ever since I had paid him he had started going crazy with buying small things along the markets and now the prostitutes. At this point I was pretty confident I wasn’t going to make it to the waterfall, and after a failed attempt I could only imagine what the situation might be with my driver and the girls after I returned. I don’t think this is a good idea I told him, and surprisingly he didn’t argue but agreed and we returned back. He gave the girls some money for coming along and then we headed back to the capital. The road back through the mountains was done in the dark, we did pass by a flipped truck and saw some a huge mob of people surrounding another car crash. I guess today was a partial success and partial disappointment, but that’s the way traveling is in these parts of the world.
Haiti – Hike to the Citadel Jan 2nd 2009
My day started at 8am with my driver Mael arriving on time. We spent about an hour going east from Cap Haitian to a small town, briefly passing the Sans Souci palace on the way. The road was actually pretty nice, and made of cobblestone surprisingly. It took us a while to climb the steep hill and without a 4×4 I don’t think we would have made it. There was a place to park, and from here on I was on my own. I had a 7km hike to the castle, and I was immediately bombarded by people trying to sell souvenirs, offer me a ride on a horse, or simply be my guide. I felt terrible because how many tourists can possibly come here, but I preferred to walk, didn’t want a guide and I rarely take any souvenirs. Two Haitian guys walked with me the whole way trying to be my guide anyway, and they did point out a snake along the way so people dropped behind. The two guys with me stayed and one couldn’t talk and was out of breathe and the other finally asked me to slow down. I guess I’m still in decent shape considering I haven’t worked out in a while so catching up for Denali shouldn’t be so bad, small confidence booster! Anyway, the hike was pretty good since I did it at a fast pace, but it still did take some time to reach the castle. Once there, a man who was sleeping outside said something I didn’t understand about the guy with the key to the castle being in the village. I kept asking what he meant and he eventually took a key out himself and opened the door, guess he had just wanted a donation. Once inside I found the castle completely dark. I almost fell a few times and even the light from my cell phone did little to show the path. There were some PVC pipes lined up along the walls inside, maybe they were eventually planning to use those as a conduit for cables to get electricity inside. I spent several hours here, I could write about all the rooms I went into but that would take forever since this place was so big. One of the most interesting places was on the roof were you could get some amazing views of surrounding landscape, and even views of other parts of the castle like the courtyard. The roof had no guardrails, just a drop straight down which would guarantee anyone’s death. In a way this is what I liked about exploring these countries. I was free to do whatever I wanted in the castle, no guides, rules or rails, no rooms off limits. Of course I would respect the castle and not do anything that would damage it but I literally had this whole place to myself. The guy who wanted to be my guide was still following me around sharing what he knew about the castle. I realized this would lead to him asking for a tip later on which was fair I suppose since he did have some good info. He showed me the prison, and a small drawbridge that they had, things that I would have otherwise overlooked. When it was time to leave and we began down the trail he pulled me aside and demanded $60. I was pretty offended that he would ask for so much but still I gave him a little bit of money while I explained I had never wanted a guide. He was really pissed, or was at least pretending to be thinking I’d give him more. This was my 43rd country not my first, I never have a problem giving generous tips to people in places like this, but I’m not stupid and won’t be taken advantage of. He walked with me down the path complaining the entire time and saying how he had 8 siblings and 6 of his own kids. The more he complained the more I got annoyed. Once back in the village an old man with a flute walked beside me paying some crazy song and soon after the mob of people attacked me once again. I jumped into the truck and ordered the driver Mael to pull out. I did give the old man with the flute some change but the rest of the people were all pissed off and disappointed. Earlier in my travels I’d feel really bad but I had gotten used to this. To them, I was simply a naive cash cow and they were all doing everything they could to squeeze a dollar out of me, so we were all doing what was necessary to survive. We drove back down the mountain and the driver dropped me off at Sans Souci Palace. This was one of the president’s palace, the same person who had ordered the citadel built. Both of these places were designed and built by freed slaves, and it was impressive they could come up with something like this. The palace had been destroyed in an earthquake, that had also destroyed Cap Haitian also. There were no rooms deep inside the palace unlike the citadel, so I didn’t spend nearly as much time here. I also had this place to myself to explore except for two men in suits who passed by. They looked serious but after I said bon jour to them they smiled and said it back. There was a main palace structure, and some other surrounding buildings, all that have been destroyed. Most of the vegetation was taking back the palace, and I didn’t trust the mossy stairs going up to the second floor so I left that unexplored. I did spend a little bit of time at the church next to the palace which I thought was just as interesting before heading back to Cap Haitian. I spent the rest of the day back in the mountains until it started to get dark. Then I ventured out alone again into Cap Haitian to find internet. The cafe I went to was still closed but a guy about 30 who was dressed up walked with me for about 20 minutes until we found another one. By the time I was done it was dark, but the guy I met picked me up in a taxi cab because I had taken his number. He was super nice and I was surprised he helped me no questions asked and didn’t want anything in return. So today I had accomplished my goals, seen the citadel and palace, as well as a short hike out into the city, where we both had a beer after I returned.
Pre Haiti Trip December 15th 2008
Two weeks from today I will arrive to Haiti’s capital of Port Au Prince. There is no doubt in my mind that Haiti is the most dangerous country in the western hemisphere, but the scariest part is that as of now I have no reliable contacts or any type of plan or person to help me out there. Normally to places like this I’d never just buy the ticket and plan everything out later but sometimes it’s good to be spontaneous. I read some more scary news about Haiti the past few days. Apparently when you arrive to the airport some gangs are already looking you over for a kidnapping or some other crime, not good for me since I’m traveling alone and as of now have no one to meet me there. The state department says there is a kidnapping of an American every two weeks in Haiti with some resulting in murder. And of course, like all the dangerous countries I go to something has to happen right before I get there or will be there. For Sudan there was the teddy bear, for Afghanistan there were news reports of it being the most dangerous since the US invasion, and for Haiti it isn’t so bad but definitely on the negative side. I’ve read reports about increased murders and random acts of violence during the Haitian New Year and following days which seem to make it one of the most dangerous times of the year to visit. Still, overall I think I’ll make it out of Haiti fine but as I get closer the danger of this trip is starting to become a more reality. My biggest concern is kidnapping, not much I can do about that since I’ll be walking around the shape and do well. Right now the biggest threat to my Denali climb seems to be getting injured in Haiti but hopefully that’s not likely. In the next two weeks I will get more ambitious about finding help in Haiti and already have several ideas.
Post Thanksgiving November 29th 2008
Ever since I returned from Afghanistan I haven’t been nearly as consistent at eating healthy or going to the gym. Fortunately I have still been working out and my run times and things like that have actually gotten better, but I know for sure my body fat has increased. After thanksgiving I feel even nastier, and so I hope for the month of December I’ll go back to my hard core training schedule I was doing from May to Sept. With my Haitian trip exactly a month from today, I plan to focus on eating better and doing more cardio work outs. If and when I get back from Haiti safely, I can then focus on more specific mountain training programs like carrying a big backpack which I can do for Jan and Feb and then take the Denali prep class in March and then the actual climb in May. I find myself stressed about Denali, the climb itself seems overwhelmingly hard and its such a big investment with money time and training I definitely don’t want to fail. It will be interesting to see how hard it really is, but six months seems so far away.
Surviving November 23rd 2008
Nothing has really gotten better, but for whatever reason I feel more optimistic about the future. I also decided to continue traveling regardless of the economy and what ever other warnings signs I should be paying attention. I realize it could be a mistake that I might regret later, but I think I’m more likely to regret putting my dreams on hold and not knowing when I’ll pick them up again. How I travel might change, maybe I’ll stick to my hemisphere for a while which is actually fine since I haven’t done much in Central America or the Caribbean except for one country in each region. I expect 2009 to be a nasty year but I’m prepared for it, stocks went up 500 points Friday which is a good sign. I do expect them to drop more overall, but hopefully they won’t go down 400 points a day anymore and things will get better or at least start to stabilize. I am learning how to use my macro lens, and took the photo below about a week after the first one, definitely enjoying it!
A New World November 10th 2008
Something I did go ahead and buy even though I shouldn’t have is a new macro lens. I did at least get the cheapest one I could learn I’m excited about all the new photos I can take of small objects such as this insect. And happy birthday to all the Marines…
The Mini Depression November 1st 2008
Since the whole world seems to be heading towards what I hope is nothing more than a mini depression, I have found myself worrying a lot about the future. I have always been a big saver of any money I make, with traveling being the only exception. Right now one of my parents is completely out of work so money for travel has been diverted to help and I’ve seen a significant chunk of my savings disappear. Since Denali is already paid for there is no backing out of climbing that mountain in May 09. Honestly though, there is a part of me that wishes I could cancel because of my current situation. Before I say anymore I should add that I’m well aware of the plenty of people out there who are losing their jobs, homes, and having their families break. So I’m still extremely fortunate and grateful that I can even be considering future trips at the moment. However, if things stay their current course then I definitely will have to stop traveling for a while and even the thought of that really depresses me. More importantly if I lose my job, which seems possible, I will certainly lose my house as well. I have no idea where I’ll be living or working, if working at all. I have always been very good with saving money, so good that I haven’t even had a bed in several months! So I have a bit saved up and for right now I’m fine, but its the real possibilities in the near future that worry me. Mostly the worry is about the rest of my family, otherwise I’d probably be happy about being completely free since I’m confident that one way or another I’ll survive. My current plan is to buy some important things I need, and from that point forward begin saving as much as possible in case things continue to go downhill. If I do lose my job and house it’s possible that I could work overseas; maybe a place in Europe or the Middle East. That’s of course easier said than done, but its just one of many ideas I have that can put a roof over my head and keep me exploring earth. And so I just realized that I began my blog on a depressing note; but at least it shows that traveling itself is a challenge and not always easy.