February 6, 2012

INK? Then freeze your legs off

My First Golden Buddha

“Hey, so, feel like checking out the Golden Buddha tomorrow?  This will be my first golden Buddha experience in the cold, so it should be interesting.  I have ever only seen them in the warm tropics, like Thailand or something.”

This is how my first, official weekend started in Mongolia.  I had absolutely no idea what the fuck she meant, this very cool Armenian-American chick the Serbian Posh Spice put me in touch with who works frequently in Mongolia.  But then after her next point – “It’s getting warmer so it shouldn’t be too bad, and we can climb the tower and see the city.” – I couldn’t help but saying yes.

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January 10, 2012

Mongolia: First impressions

Current temp: -15 degrees

I arrived into Ulaanbaatar (UB) yesterday (I think?  I’m still unsure what day it is) and it was a pretty long journey: 31 hours to be exact from Washington, DC.  But in truth, it kind of flew by (no pun intended).  You’re in such a timewarp when you fly, and I sleep pretty fine on planes, so somehow I survived.  (Free wine and drinks on international flights is a huge plus as well.)

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December 27, 2011

Start a new chapter: Move to Mongolia

So, for those of you who haven’t heard I have gotten news on my next post… yours truly will be moving to Mongolia in February!  I’ll be living in the capitol city of Ulaanbaatar, or UB as the locals call it, which has been dubbed the coldest capitol in the world!  Temps get down to minus 20 degrees for three to four months out of the year, and I am honestly as worried over that as I was about catching malaria before moving to South Sudan.  But, just like I learned that malaria isn’t half bad and I can in fact live through it, I’m hoping I’ll adopt the same attitude when my eyelashes have frozen over and I can’t feel a majority of my appendages.  Truthfully, I had the choice between Mongolia and Cambodia, and originally I was leaning toward the warm, tropical, easy life of Cambodia.  But in the end, Mongolia just seemed like a bigger adventure I couldn’t pass up.  Plus, they’ve got kick ass BBQ.
December 20, 2011

Being Fabulous at the Bottom of the World

The Dead Sea

I am published! Vagabundo Magazine accepted my submission and I couldn’t be more excited!  Check it out!

Being Fabulous at the Bottom of the World: The Dead Sea

Riding along the wide four-laned highway as the cream and toffee colored landscape hums by, you notice street signs continually guiding drivers towards the airport, and then on to the Dead Sea…


November 16, 2011

A Cute Little Dog Story

A couple of weeks ago I was walking my dog, Natati, and exited my building past an apartment that has people cooking and hanging out frequently.  They know Natati and me, and I waved hi.  As I led him to the yard area where he plays, a woman jumped across the divider of the apartment, scooped him up and started kissing him.

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November 13, 2011

Find compassion for all, even the bad

One of the major components of meditation and Buddhism that I have had difficulty grasping is having compassion for all living souls.  I wouldn’t consider myself a Buddhist, but I like learning about different religions, and Buddhism is certainly one of them.  I also get a great deal of clarity out of meditation, so I try to incorporate it into my daily life.  Compassion and forgiveness are an important aspect to almost all religions, but for some reason when I first started meditating and embracing the concept of extending compassion out to even the most horrible people imaginable, it made sense to me.  Because I’ve learned over the past few years, there’s a short distance between compassion and forgiveness.

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October 28, 2011

Why I Still Travel Blog

read an article recently by a travel blogger that essentially complained about all the issues he faces trying to become a professional travel blogger, and why he might just give it up.  While rather depressing, I it found quite insightful and realistic.  The truth is I’m new to this whole travel blogging – well blogging in general – kind of thing and I was thinking about quitting my job and trying to make a go at it for a living too.  But this article really dented the passion I had for it, and made me think – why the fuck are any of us doing this anyway?

Like most of the travel bloggers out there, writing and traveling was not my first calling.  My background is actually politics, US politics to be exact.  I have spent almost 15 years working in lobbying firms and the Republican Party, a Member of Congress, and on political campaigns.  I was in Florida for the recount of 2000.  I advised my boss on how she should vote for spending on the Iraq War.   We were caught up in the Mark Foley scandal.  I’ve been to events with the President and governors, and spared with some of the most prominent political minds in the country.

When I first decided to get into my political career I attacked it with the tenacity of an ambitious 20-something who wanted to take over the world.  I learned everything I possibly could about “how to make it,” and followed almost every rule there was.  I wore dark suits and knee-length skirts because, well like I said, I was a Republican.  I kept my political opinions to myself because I was always working for someone else with a bigger name.  I learned the rules quickly, followed them, and excelled.  I went after jobs and promotions like a shark, and more times than not I got them.  I make great money, I’ve got a great reputation, and I enjoy a professional success I’m happy with at my age.

And I never knew I could write.  I mean, I wrote constantly for work, but I never knew I could write about things I liked or that were non-political, non-work-related things.  Then in 2007, a friend of mine persuaded me to take a trip to Greece.  I had never been out of the country before, and I was ecstatic.  We spent almost two weeks there – two whole weeks! – and when I got back people wanted to know about the trip so I started an email.  I just meant to put some cities in there, say where we went, but when I started writing I couldn’t stop.  I spent the majority of that trip drunk or hung over, but suddenly I had vivid memories of even the smell of jasmine from the house we stayed at in Crete.  And I wrote about it.  I wrote and wrote and wrote.  Someone told me it took them over an hour to read the whole email and look through the pictures – but they did.  And I was shocked that I even had that level of creativity in me.

Did I mention I was a Republican?

Since then I’ve been in 21 other countries – which honestly, I think is pretty fucking badass.  Twenty-three countries in four years?!  Anyway, since then I have quit my job in DC and taken something similar, but one that allows me to live and travel overseas.  And I still have to be professional and toe the line, remain a-political and politically correct.  I have to wear the right clothes and I can’t advertise that this chick likes a good drink on the weekends, and is about as boy-crazy as a 12-year-old teenager.  I have to be professional because I have to make a living, and if someone else is handing me money, then I have to conform at least a little to their image and perceptions.

But when I write this blog, I don’t.  I write about my travels and advertise myself the way I want to.  Sure, I get maybe 30 hits a day on this site.  Sure, I don’t have even 200 followers yet on Twitter.  Tourism boards have never heard of me.  And I envy and look up to the “famous” travel bloggers like @Landlopers@NomadicMatt@ThePlanetD, and @WanderingTradr.  They’re inspiring and when I first started blogging, I tried to figure out their strategies and repeat them.  @NomadicMatt sticks to what I call The Big 3 of Backpacking: South America, Europe, and SE Asia, and does it well.  @ThePlanetD has the couples-traveling thing cornered.  @Landlopers seems like a super nice guy who’s always willing to help out fellow travel bloggers, and I love that @WanderingTradr is going into countries like South Sudan and Somaliland.  I’ve looked to them like the political mentors I followed before, and out of habit, when I thought I wanted to really succeed at this, I thought I’d have to be on their level to feel as though I had.

But I have a career.  I have a job – one I’m quite good at – and I don’t need to do that.  And I blog because I want people like my family who will never see the places I do to feel like they have.  I still write like that first trip to Greece: just telling my story since they couldn’t go.  And if that’s not the way to do it, then you know what?  Fuck it.  It’s just a blog.  And it’s my blog.  I don’t need to ask anyone else’s opinion if it’s the right way.  I probably should stick to one topic – traveling – and not talk about meditating and detoxing like I do on this blog.  I probably should watch my language more.  I probably should put pictures of myself.  I should probably buy the domain name instead of keeping it on WordPress, but I don’t.  Because I don’t want to.  And I don’t have to.

I write constantly now.  About as much as I can and what I see.  I hope those 30 people who are reading my blog daily know how much effort goes into one of those little posts.  It’s hours sometimes, full days.  It’s how I spend my evenings and weekends mostly.  Writing about a memory from Rwanda or Portugal.  I’ve never been to Paris but I can name 20 restaurants to eat at in Amman, Jordan, so I write about that.  It doesn’t advance my career or get me a promotion – hell, I don’t have advertising on my site yet.  But I write because this is the one thing I have found I can do my way, and more simply, because I enjoy it.

So I hope @JasonAndAracely doesn’t stop travel blogging.  I get it – he’s trying to make a living and colorful posts on favorite diving spots don’t put your kid through college.  And this whole travel blogging industry is still so new and no one knows what to do with it.  But you know what?  Thomas Edison, Ben Franklin, all the great inventors – they never actually made money on their inventions.  They just made them because they enjoyed it and because it was cool to them, and found other ways to put food on the table.

I want to be published someday.  I’ve started writing fiction and I have some really cool stories from life in Africa and the Middle East, but I probably will never get an email from someone offering a book deal like @NomadicMatt did.  But that’s ok.  Because there’s just something about doing something you love that I think we all get.  It’s the reason why we start salivating over going to some random city no one’s ever heard of, or how excited I got at the prospect of taking a train across Florida for Christmas.  (Who even knew that was possible?  A train?  In Florida?!)  It’s the reason we hang out on computers and instead of talking to strangers in hostels sometimes.  And it’s the reason it’s better than heading down to the Dead Sea or grabbing lunch with my friend today – both of which I turned down to write this post.

“No thanks, I can’t go,” I find myself saying all too often lately.

I’ve got to get some writing done.

October 24, 2011

INK? Then learn to meditate

A large reason I don’t want kids is that I want to focus way too much time on myself still.  I am forever looking for ways in which to morph into a better version of myself, to challenge the beliefs that make my own constitution, and to expose and confront the ugliness and beauty of myself.  One of the best ways I have found to do that is through mediation.  I have been wanting to write a post about meditation, my journey through the practice for a long time, and why I think everyone should try it, so here it goes.

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