Onto the next island! I did not want to volunteer on Kauai but still wasn’t sure what I was doing. I found an outdated travel book full of interesting sounding places, but it turns out every one of them was closed. Well, now I know why it wasn’t updated. I was looking for a sign and unclear of what to do. The next more mainstream book flipped open to “go camping on Kauai!” Well, I’ll take that as a sign.

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I fall asleep on most planes. This time I woke up to this fantastic mythical looking view. This does not look like it should actually exist.

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Beautiful Anini Beach where I spent most of my time camping. The local story is that the beach used to be called Wanini but the W fell off the sign.

After a stop at a Walmart with a strangely cheap rental car, I was full of camping gear and ready to go. Sort of. I’ve only been car camping in California before so this was interesting. Luckily Hawaii is not full of large, dangerous predators so camping is relatively easy and you don’t have to protect your food or anything. The county of Kauai lets you camp for sixty days on permit and I never made it past that or to the hippie enclaves at the end of the eleven mile hike. My days were spent pleasantly in the water, on the sand, and chatting in front of fires with tourists and more long term beach residents alike.

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Sunset off the side of a road. There were endless dramatic sunrises and sunsets.

I soon tired of moving campsites so often and sleeping inside a tent around lots of people was decidedly less charming than the screen meshed hut I was in before. This time around I checked out WWOOF-ing again as I was ready for a bit more work with the land. I ended up on Kauai Authentic Farms and got to enjoy an even closer knit family oriented community on a homestead farm. This means they grew things mostly for themselves and this meant a Noah’s Ark of a small number of each type of critter and lots of interesting exotic fruits and grasses. The latter is because cows like exotic bites too. Oh and I guess the farmer was testing out high protein grasses for the local college.

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The happy pigs that I had arrived to learn about the butchery of. The bottom one was thought to be pregnant for a few months, apparently it’s hard to tell with pigs. She was indeed, not pregnant but happy to get extra food and pets.

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The season of birthing as this calf was born when I was there. There was fresh, unpasteurized milk to be enjoyed and cheese to be made.

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I think I ate a papaya daily but then one month one of my favorite fruits ever, the wax apple, exploded everywhere.

I had never lived off the grid before and it really turned out to be less of an adjustment for me than I thought it would be to use an outdoor kitchen, solar fridge, and not have a running water toilet. The beautiful screen mesh tarp roofed hut overlooking the ocean and secluded on a hill certainly helped. Similar to the Big Island, I also got to enjoying showering outside amongst the plants in mostly hot water. The bevy of friendly folk and children running around was enjoyable as well.

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Camping the last week with farm landmates teaching me about hunting for sand crabs and how to cook them on what my camera made look like a magic fire.

I’m pretty sure I could starve out there and marveled as the others pointed out so many different edible foraged plants and fishes. Time not spent farming was spent snorkeling, picking fruits, preserving and processing veggies, fishing, scraping opihi clams off the rocks and playing with the kids. It was really great to see a bunch of children trying to get me to climb trees with them and getting just absolutely dirty. Things you see less of in cities. I switch quickly between cities and rural areas, but this experience definitely made me wonder if a homestead farm would not be a bad place to be for a while. Unfortunately this time an ankle sprain I got fjording a river multiple times to a waterfall before I even got to the farm got worse over the course of a few months and I could no longer do farm work.

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An end to this Hawaiian adventure.

When I did the round the world trip a few years back I said I was looking for a place to be. I remember the friend I made in Honolulu asking me how that went and I recall thinking Hawaii was the top of that list. So many years later as I wandered about more, I wondered why not Hawaii?

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Paradise much? Spoiler: this was my view every sunset for a couple months. And no, I didn’t get tired of it.

I dreamed of it and jokingly kept asking if people wanted to move to Hawaii but I never seriously considered it. It’s so expensive, I thought. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, where to go. So pulling a very LA move, I went and talked with my Reiki healer. She recommended talking to her teacher, who was an intuitive artist. Great! I called and she asked if I wanted to talk to any dead people. Wait, what? Oh, you’re a medium! Wait, what is that when it’s not a  thing used on a CBS detective show? In the end it meant having someone else tell me what I wanted but was afraid to do: go to Hawaii with nary a plan and hope for the best.

I’ve been a bit of an overplanner, and being in America seems like as good a time to try making zero plans as anywhere. It’s also a good way to be stuck in an eerily Kona airport for hours as the place empties out in-between flights. Landing in a place with almost always high season and hostels that won’t take you without an exit ticket made for an exciting experience. I scrambled into an AirBnB terrified of geckos running around in the room I was in. Little did I know that part would be come normal.

Well, ok now what. AirBNB wasn’t going to sustain me very long when I aimed for an apartment and missed. I started looking into volunteering again through Craigslist and Workaway. There was a promising spiritual retreat on Workaway that didn’t want people until later and an interesting looking farm on Craigslist. I was being driven to the interview for Workaway when two separate people told me I couldn’t go to the farm, it was known for being abusive to volunteers. The horror stories later even included volunteers being beat with chickens. Don’t subject yourself to poultry abuse. Luckily for me, beyond a couple hours I sat around fretting with the ranch owner running errands, I was ok because she was kind enough to take me in that day.

So began my adventure at the Dragonfly Ranch. It was a whirlwind of two months living in a community with a bunch of mostly young people seeking through various esoteric spiritual methods. There’s an awesome rainbow labyrinth overlooking the ocean on a hill in the sacred triangle of the City of Refuge. The national park there preserves an area that used to be a haven of native Hawaii. If you had some issue or done some criminal act, you would be forgiven if you could make it to the City of Refuge. Accordingly, in a culture full of violent warriors, it was not easy to get there. It was a lot easier to get there now and probably serves a similar purpose where I was, for people to sort some stuff out.

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A pleasant and balmy two to three mile walk or hitchhike to the famous snorkeling spot Two Steps full of critters.

I went snorkeling almost daily and saw dolphins my first week there. I got to see them a few times during my stay. I slept in a screen mesh and tin roofed “hale” (Hawaiian for house) and was surprised when I was awoken not just by sunrises and tropical rain but also the full moon. It was a beautiful feeling to be so outside. It was a great balance of helping out with running the B&B in the morning and then having the afternoons free to hike, snorkel or do whatever I wanted to which mostly consists of being outside. There was a pleasant garden and beans and grains were provided. There were weekly community events that often included the guests. It became pretty unclear who was a guest or not, as it seemed more like a gathering place with various ways of exchange to stay. It was a great place to meet people exploring interesting things. There was some friction as the automatic assignment of women to housecleaning and barring them from maintenance did not work out super well with my skills, but we sorted that out fairly quickly. Gotta follow your nature.

Some of us would band together every once in a while to rent a car and explore the island. It is fairly common to see people hitchhiking around the island though, since I learned upon landing at the airport that the bus only ran once a day to take people to and from work. I soon got used to hopping in the back of pick up trucks with tools, toys and who knows who else. One time my friend and I even managed to hitch a ride with a kayak a few minutes after getting out of the water. These are the vital Hawaii skills.

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Big Island has active volcanoes. Unfortunately I didn’t get to see lava but this sulfurous cloud was stunning.

It was also a great to explore everything else on the big island. This may be the biggest island but it’s still drivable all the way around in a few hours. Beautiful hikes, waterfalls, lush forest, exotic fruits and beaches containing white, black and green sand. Unfortunately my phone camera and the cloudy weather didn’t always make for the best pictures of these. Being somewhere a few months was definitely a more relaxed way to see a place than trying to do it in a week or less though. It was possible to stay longer, I think some volunteers had stayed years or even indefinitely. My curiosity about Hawaii and other communities pushed me onward to see the other islands. I wouldn’t mind living on Big Island, it’s a pretty amazing place. Where else can you see land being born constantly?

Edit: And then I made it back to the Big Island while I was on Kauai and crashed the friend’s honeymoon that I had not made it back to California for the wedding of in the summer. Honeymoons are more fun anyways.

 

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That lava is flowing straight into the ocean and causing a whole mess of steam. I wish I had an actual camera to capture how amazing it was to see waves crashing and sending molten lava flying.

I leave England, school and having a flat to hit the road and to parts and plans unknown once more. It was fun to be in one place for a bit, to have friends and a neighborhood again. I miss the road and an opportunity to drive across America came up. I’ve been meaning to do this ever since I drove across Vietnam. Why am I driving across another, albeit much smaller, country instead of my own?

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“What’s in the large bag?” is a fun question to come up with answers that don’t let the baggage person know it is a bicycle. I think “kinetic natural art sculpture” is my favorite answer so far.

I landed in New York just in time to celebrate the Superbowl and Chinese New Years on the same day. This is my yearly or bi-yearly dose of snow that did make me wonder if two Californians would be ok driving through the northeast during a blizzard.

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Because none of my friends live in Manhattan anymore, I get a great view of the island from Queens.

Luckily the northeast and the eight states we shot through went by real quickly and we hit the south for barbecue and warm weather galore. I’ve driven from Chicago to Los Angeles before but mostly missed the south that time.

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We stayed on a plantation our first night, already out of the cold and across six states in one day!

My friend and I would marvel at how many states we drove through. The west coast is not that fast to shoot through so many small states. My European friends were confused that I could drive a whole day and not leave the state

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The lovely car that someone let me drive getting our car mishaps out of the way early on the second morning. We kept the nail on our dashboard as a good luck charm.

The destinations we stopped by were picked by a mixture of places I wanted to eat, national parks my friend and I wanted to see and cities I’ve been meaning to check out to see if they might be a good fit for living in in the future.

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I missed good barbecue… and ridiculous American portions. Food comas during driving are hilarious.

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Seriously though, I would not mind owning a rig to smoke meats this big one day. #LifeGoals

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Outside a small batch whiskey distillery in Nashville. I was here for the hot chicken, design and to be one of those LA people possibly moving to Nashville.

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If I had a bumper sticker, it would say, “Will stop for gravy, biscuits, chicken fried things, really anything you would put gravy on.”

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The famous Cafe Du Monde in New Orleans for beignets and chicory coffee at all hours of the day and night.

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How could you not love the wide open road surrounded by endless sky and water topped with many layers of dreamy clouds.

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We stopped at a gator rescue. This involved getting to hold adorable baby gators. One of two times the trip involved critters on the road not for eating. The other was also in the bayou and involved a black pig ambling across our path at dusk. Somehow I missed going pig hunting in Austin AND getting roadkill pig, but alas, it’s not my car.

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Not quite the season to do all the beautiful art and earthworks scattered through the southwest but we did stop in Marfa. I did not know everything is shut down Monday through Wednesday so we mostly got to see this.

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Well, we also stopped to try to see the missing encounter or alien like lights that are supposed to be visible in the area. With views like this, you do kind of feel unearthly.

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The twisted path down to the Carlsbad Caverns. Or hell. Whichever you want to imagine.

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We zig zagged across New Mexico looking for everything that could be found with the infamous Hatch chiles. A former roommate from New Mexico instilled a love of these particular chiles that the state is so rightly proud of.

This included a stop at Spaceport America in Truth or Consequences. There’s something charming about a former hot springs town that was fading into the dust near a bunch of military complexes. The addition of an abandoned recently built spaceport that was supposed to be the first consumer space flight port only makes it better. The poor disinterested worker there was much more excited to tell us about where to get a great hatch cheeseburger.

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Chile relleno in a burrito, hatch chiles in a burger, Christmas style sauces (both red and green) on enchiladas, I could wax Dr. Seussian about hatch chiles forever. That tiny cup in the lower left corner from Horseman’s Haven was the real killer though. One drop burned my mouth to tears. Worth it.

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We got to the Grand Canyon just in time to see both snow and clear skies for their one hundredth anniversary. Happy birthday canyon!

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I will also always stop for roadside fried foods. This is one of my favorites, known as Navajo fry bread. You can get it topped with butter and honey or with taco fillings.

Nothing like a good road trip to end having a place to live again. Do I want to live on the road in America? I’m not quite sure yet but I certainly keep falling in love with all these places.

My favorite city in Europe on my backpacking trip was Sarajevo and I was thrilled to be able to visit again with a friend. We came back to explore the claim someone made when I visited last time that one could ski an Olympic mountain for $10. It’s jumped to 18 euros now, but that’s still pretty darned good and a great excuse to visit.

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My favorite thing to do a lot of places. Wandering the quiet streets in the morning or late at night when everyone else is asleep.

 

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One of the things I loved most about Sarajevo the first time was waking up to a melange of church bells and prayer calls. It’s still pretty magical.

 

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Sometimes there’s an adorable mosque kitty too.

 

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The first time I mostly remember the war roses, the bomb holes filled with red cement that hadn’t gotten paved over since. This time it was the building decay and bullet holes.

 

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I couldn’t leave Sarajevo without having as many burek as I could fit. Still delicious.

Among the amusing and delicious food finds was a great little cafe hidden on a back street where the young owner and chef regaled us with the differences with former Yugoslavian punk rock and modern Bosnian music. After celebrating new years at a local university craft brew pub, we headed into the mountains to go skiing. There’s a few places one can ski and we hit Jahorina. It ended up mostly being one really long run without the best snow the first couple days, we were a bit early in the season.

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When you think the blanket may be older than you and it’s all the more charming for it.

We stayed at what was the official Olympic hotel full of Bosnian families. The terrible buffet and decor were all I could have hoped it to be. I don’t know that I would recommend anyone go there who isn’t stunned by this.

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Now that I haven’t been traveling for a year, I was not landmark fatigued and made it to some more historical things my friend wanted to go to like the war tunnels. Claustrophobic much? Just in time for the 25th anniversary of the war.

After a year and a half gap I’ve decided to start writing about something that isn’t travel exploration. I’m switching over to exploring things that I’m making and things that inspire me, which will probably still include some traveling.

I’ve started taking note of things that come up at least twice from unrelated sources in my life. One thing that has come up many times is the Oblique Strategies deck created by Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt in the 70s. There was always something a little too prescriptive for me about this, although the idea of having a deck to address creative block seemed like a great idea.

Journeys to somewhere reused for shuffling.

Journeys to somewhere reused for shuffling.

I’ve been playing around the with the idea of how much we know but we forget we know. Creative block is not the time in which I feel fantastic at pulling out forgotten knowledge but it is a great time for some extra self empowerment. I made myself a deck of cards of ideas I’ve had to shelve for the moment and things that inspire me. They become my own personal oblique strategies deck, an extra idea or lens in which to consider where I’m blocked. There’s an extra bonus of a good feeling in giving shelved ideas some space by recording them so they can be retrieved one day. Using permanent markers on slick card also means there’s a “shake it like a polaroid” moment as I wait for it to dry.

I’m using train tickets here because that’s what I had a large stack of sitting at home. I attempted to go to the local stationary store, but attempting to buy things after 6 pm in England is hopeless. The still open pound store had nothing useful. My first thought at upcycling was  using old business cards, but alas I left most of those in America. Any shuffle-able stiff card should work.

This lovely number that I use to hold the cards did come from a different pound store.

This lovely number that I use to hold the cards did come from a different pound store.

Last week was particularly stressful so I also explored the use of this self empowerment for anxiety related purposes. The act of writing down a list of things that calmed me down was calming. Now when I am too stressed to think of anything it’s a reflex to either pull a card or think of something calming to write down to think about.

For when I can't get to these things at the moment.

For when I can’t get to these things at the moment.

Then just for fun I made a deck of comfort foods that I enjoy, branching off from the fact that one of my relaxing cards was “comfort foods”. Not yet immediately useful but perhaps it will be one day when I can’t decide what to cook.

Who knows what other decks I will find useful to make one day. In the meantime, I’ll experiment with adding to my existing decks as I collect more train tickets.

I landed amidst protests into a region I have always wanted to go to but wasn’t particularly sure if it was safe to go alone. As I walked out of the airport three workers stopped me smiling and waving furiously, “The international transports are that way!” What? No, no I came to be here! I guess they must not get a lot of Asian American tourists. Luckily I was soon greeted by the smiling face of a friend and whisked off around so many blockades. I found the assault rifle toting military wandering the streets in France to be surprising and the various military checkpoints here were a reminder of why this beautiful place isn’t more commonly a tourist destination.

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A country in the middle of a trash and refugee crisis.

 

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Wandering the hot, narrow and windy alleys of Sidon past laughing children, vendors and people’s living rooms.

 

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The beautiful view from the sea fort.

 

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The ancient cedars that grace the flag that is proudly displayed everywhere.

 

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The beautiful geometric patterns that I had previously gotten closest to in Spain. Gorgeous.

 

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I left as a sandstorm settled on the country. Surreal.

Don’t let my lack of food pictures for once deceive you, everything was delicious and I’m not sure how I fit it all in. Perhaps more than most places I am visiting friends, I am grateful for the viewpoint and help of a local. Of the generosity of her family and friends to welcome me and make sure I got to see all parts of Lebanon and some amazing home cooking. Someone told me the entire country is the size of Los Angeles county, which boggled my mind. We did criss cross the country pretty quickly to see all of the history juxtaposed with a very modern leaning city. There aren’t many places I go where I feel underdressed anymore, but this whole country did feel more fashion planned than I am used to. There were regions we avoided due to danger, although I never got a clear idea of what was safe or not and have no idea how anyone could keep up. May the region enjoy peace and be able to be shared with the rest of us, a gem that seems off the path to most for now.

How could I pass up a misconception about JFK proclaiming himself to be a doughnut? Alas, I don’t have many photos of Berlin so it will look like I ate a lot, perhaps not untrue either. It was also full of wonderful bicycle rides as we visited a friend who lived here. Seeing a place with a friend is mildly different than the general wander that I do. I enjoy seeing the place through their lens as a local and wonder what I would’ve seen myself. My friend did decline coming to the currywurst museum with me. I do wish I had gotten some pictures as Tempelhofer park seemed to be full of every type of possible strange human conveyance, but it’s hard to capture a guy racing by on a wind skateboard unicycle.

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Why, it wouldn’t be German to me without a schweinaxe and woodsorrel beer.

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The East German crosswalk symbol has his own snack food and store dedicated to his iconic look.

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Communist parks and abandoned amusement parks made for great bicycle rides.

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More pork and beer, this time fried. Well, not the beer.

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An old chunk of Berlin wall showing the city’s diversity?