Category Archives: Round The World

Where the hell is Matt? 2008

If you read the background on this, it just started off as something funny to do and then took off like a rocket. This is his third video, the last one from 2006 was inspiring as well.

More at

Where the Hell is Matt? (2008) from Matthew Harding on Vimeo.


Filed under Adventure, Round The World, Video

Halfway Round : Collected Phase 1 Posts

I decided to cobble together all the posts I wrote while traveling last year into a single page (sorry, multi-page code is broken). The blog always lists the most recent post, so if you weren’t reading along from the beginning it can be pretty difficult to navigate through and find all the pieces-parts of the trip.

Round-The-World : Phase 1 (

I have made no edits to the posts themselves. Cleanup, elaboration, and grammatical fine-tuning still remain goals of mine. Just not today. Also, weighing in at a little over 30,000 words, I have not re-read the collected posts start to finish so I don’t know if it flows or is a herky-jerky narrative experience. Consider yourself warned.

All that said, I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed experiencing and writing it.

Oh, and Happy Valentines Day too 🙂

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Filed under Adventure, Personal, Photography, Planning, Round The World, Travel, United States, Writing

WAC – 2008 International Speaker Series

The 2008 World Affairs Council of Oregon Speaker Series has been announced!!!

This is always an enlightening series. If you’re in the Portland area I highly recommend it.

The 2008 International Speaker Series returns with a diverse roster of influential presenters, each addressing important current topics.

Each of the 2008 ISS events begins at 7 p.m. at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall in Portland.

Tickets for the series are available through, or by calling 503-552-9888.

Vicente Fox · March 19
“Border Crossings: Immigration, Free Trade, and Security”

The election of Vicente Fox to the Mexican presidency ended 70 years of one-party rule. A charismatic reformer, President Fox played a critical role in Mexico’s democratization and economic revival. A successful businessman before entering politics, President Fox sees immigration as a development issue and the mercurial U.S.-Mexican relationship as central to the stability of the Western Hemisphere.

Kim Dae-jung · April 18
“Challenges on the Korean Peninsula”

Often called “the Nelson Mandela of Asia,” Kim Dae-jung survived five attempts on his life, kidnapping, exile, and imprisonment before he was elected President of South Korea in 1998. Winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2000 for his “Sunshine Policy” of engagement with North Korea, President Kim today condemns the North’s nuclear development program, while also questioning the West’s policy toward the two Koreas.

Dr. Sergei Khrushchev · June 4
“Russia after Putin”

Son of Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, Sergei Khrushchev has been an eyewitness to the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the establishment of the Russian state. Originally a missile engineer in the USSR, Dr. Khrushchev is now a U.S. citizen and frequent NPR commentator. Dr. Khrushchev provides a unique perspective on Russia’s future and its changing role in global politics.

Sandra Day O’Connor · Sept. 17
“An International Rule of Law: Balancing Security, Democracy and Human Rights in an Age of Terrorism”

Should the laws of other nations or international bodies have any bearing on American jurisprudence? Do the Geneva Conventions apply to us? Always an independent voice on the Supreme Court, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor is also its most insightful thinker on international issues. The first woman appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court, Justice O’Connor has often been the swing vote on controversial issues, both domestic and international.


Filed under Education, Round The World

The end of the beginning…

I actually started writing this three weeks ago, not long after I’d arrived in Istanbul. While I was excited to be in such a diverse and active place I noticed that my sense of awe and enthusiasm were not where they should have been. I found I spent more and more time in the hostel or the nearby restaurant reading or talking to people I’d met. My drive to go walk for six to eight hours a day was gone. I was only six blocks from the Blue Mosque and Hava Sophia and it took me three days before I bothered to go check them out. I was awash in an amazing culture and I was, I can’t say bored, I was tired.

Back at the very beginning of this trip I talked to my friend Candice, who was very excited for my trip and the route I was taking. She had done a year around the world with someone and gave me some sage advice. “From one traveler to another, don’t drink the water, use hand sanitizer a lot, and don’t be afraid to stop if you get tired.”

In Sofia I met a man from Hong Kong named Kerry Pan. Kerry was on an overland journey from Hong Kong to the Middle East. He’d spent the last few years traveling all over the world. South America, Asia, Japan, etc… He would always return home to regroup after a period of time.

In Istanbul I met a German man named Johan (I think I’m spelling that correctly). He had been traveling regularly for 20+ years, all on his motorcycle. He has logged nearly 1,000,000 kilometers and was presently on a journey from Germany to South Africa. We talked about my concerns and lack of enthusiasm and he told me that his limit was six months. He’d taken longer trips but hadn’t enjoyed them as much. He found that after six months for him it just became living. “What pub am I going to hang out in?” “Where am I going to eat?” that kind of thing. The thrill started to wane.

I’d planned the trip, saved enough to get me through a year or more, studied the routes, bought the gear, sold my car, and put my life on hold. It wasn’t until I’d spent months on the road that I realized I might have an upper limit on my attention span for this kind of thing. You can’t know unless you try. No matter what, I know that I tried, and that I’m not done.

I’m glad I had these conversations, and many others, with fellow travelers. When I first started to feel it, I was concerned, and it was nice to have others with a long term trip under their belt let me know they’d felt the same way.

I know there will be some that are disappointed in my decision to stop early. For them, know that it was not an easy decision. I spent several weeks, and countless hours, weighing everything. Was I wasting this opportunity I’d created? Was I stopping too easily? Could I just push past it? In the end I knew that this wasn’t the end, just the end of the beginning. Anyone who thought this trip would “get it out of my system” or “settle me down” doesn’t know me very well. This trip, as long as it lasted, has only opened the door for bigger, more difficult, travel and challenges. So as to not become jaded to future adventures it’s better I stop now and regroup.

Maybe it would be different if I didn’t have my future wife waiting patiently for me at home. She has never pressured me into any decisions about this trip. Still, being away from Summer has been the single most challenging aspect of this whole adventure. Thanks to technology and the availability of the Internet I’ve been able to talk with her often but it’s not the same. I’m sure you can ask anyone posted overseas or in another city about that. There’s also the “Damn, I wish she could see this” factor.

I’ve learned a great deal about myself and the world over the past six months. You can’t not with this kind of experience. You learn what you can and can’t live without, there are more extreme lessons in the world I’m sure, but this has been mine. You learn what is important to you. You learn about the insignificance of so many things you worry about every day. Similar I think to when you age, you realize how to be comfortable in your own skin, and how all that self-conscious crap while you were young, was crap. You realize how everyone is just a person like you. Loves the same, needs the same, lives the same, just differently.

So, with all that said, sorry for the seemingly abrupt end to the adventure. It really isn’t the end. I will spend the rest of my life reaching this goal. I’m more interested in enjoying the ride than unenthusiastically accomplishing a task. Life is too short.

Pacific Northwesterners! I’m back! and unemployed! anybody want to buy me a drink?


Filed under Adventure, Personal, Round The World, Travel

Cappadocia, Turkey

I booked a 2 day tour package to Cappadocia in Central Turkey. It’s the first “package” tour option I’ve booked since I began this trip and it was worth every penny. Cappadocia is so old and remote that without a tour I fear I would have missed the vast majority of what I’ve experienced without it.

I found a travel agent on the main street next to my hostel. There is no shortage of travel agents so the way I fount this one was totally out of convenience. It was on the corner and hand a friendly looking guy staffing the office 17 hours a day. The people in the shops, restaurants, and hostels in Istanbul work hard for your money.

So it was an overnight bus to get to Cappadocia, actually Urgup, and actually it was four busses. This was my first bus travel during the trip and I’ve never done any kind of long distance bus travel in the US before so this was a new experience. I’ll say I much prefer train travel. You can get up, move around, and take a bathroom break when the need arises. These options are not available on the bus, or the Turkish busses at any rate. I met up with a group of Canadians that would make the long travel more interesting. Two nurses living in Switzerland, an artist from Vancouver and a student from Montreal. We banded together to form an English (and French) speaking team to attempt to decipher the Turkish bus system.

The busses stop about every 3-5 hours for a bathroom and snack break. I’d brought a 1.5 liter bottle of water and some crackers to get me through the night. After finding out about the stop schedule, which was more like “some time in 3-5 hours we’ll stop” I decided not to hydrate too liberally.

We arrived in Urgup about 8:30am after changing busses around 7am. The others shuffled off to their respective hotels and I to mine. They all had tours starting immediately at 9am whereas I had the day off to sleep and walk around the town. I was staying in the hotel owned by the family of the travel agent that booked my tour. For a little while I thought I was the only one staying at the hotel but later I would see proof of other life. On all the brochures they heavily featured the pool in the pictures. Unfortunately, due to the time of year I would be visiting, the pool was off limits except for the Polar Bear Club.

I got situated and took a nap to try and build on the sleep I’d managed on the bus. I wouldn’t call what happened “sleeping” and might have been better off without it. I eventually got up and ventured into town to see what there was to see.

The whole region of Cappadocia is wonderful. Cappadocia was settled some 4000 years ago by the Hittites. They used the soft pumice stone that defines the region to build cave housing. Some 2200 years later (250-ish AD) Christians in the region would use this same tactic to build houses, churches, and even underground cities. During the 8th century ,when the Muslims would dominate the area, the Christians would create massive underground cities supporting up to 5000 people. I’ve been in the largest of these cities and it is truly amazing what they accomplished. We could only go five levels deep, there are 12. The bottom few are currently underwater. Imagine a giant human ant colony. Tunnels and rooms shot off in every direction. Some of the level-to-level tunnels were so tight my knees were touching my chin. Apparently it wasn’t designed for Iowan corn-and-beef fed humans.

Day one of the tour I was introduced to our tour leader. A woman whose name in Arabic means “Thank You”. Her mother had given birth to five boys and when she was born she was named as a gesture of gratitude. She led us though the myriad shelter houses and Fairy Chimneys in the region close to Urgup. They are called Fairy Chimneys because, prior to the advent of geological knowledge, they were thought to have been built, and inhabited, by Fairies. To give you an idea what it looks like watch Star Wars Episode I. It was largely filmed in this area.

We went to a ceramic shop and saw demonstrations about how the products were made and how to tell the difference between a hand made piece and a factory made piece (Hint: price is a big tip-off)

We visited the open air museum, which is actually an old Christian cave city in various states of preservation. From a distance everything looks like little bird holes in the rock. These are actually shelter homes built in the second century. However, there really are a huge number of bird holes in the houses themselves. The Christians would use pigeons as messengers to communicate between these rock cities. I’m thinking they ate the pigeons as well, possibly as a form of evolutionary training. If the pigeon came back with the original message, obviously it wasn’t very good at its job, maybe it would be better at being soup?

Like I said the entire landscape is littered with these cave houses and all the present day cities that surround the area have leveraged the soft stone to build hotels, bars, restaurants, and shops in the same fashion as these ancient settlers. It’s a pretty cool tourism trick as well. I originally wanted to stay in a cave room but was convinced that the Ottoman style room would be warmer as Cappadocia was quite cold this time of year. Unfortunately the heat in my Ottoman style room was out so I got to experience the cave room temp without the actual cave room.

Then there was “Turkish Night” I met up with team-Canada and we all boarded a bus out to a cave restaurant somewhere about 20 miles outside of town. Turkish Night is a for-tourists exposition of traditional dances, whirling dervishes, belly dancers, and the like. All the food is included and all the beer/wine/raki as well. Raki ( is medicinal tasting liquor made from musk pomice (grape juice, skins, stems, seeds, etc…) It also may have been a leading factor in my willingness to accept the belly dancer’s request that I join her and several other men grabbed from the crowd to make her dancing skills look that much better.

Once I was out on the floor with the other men we realized the gravity of our situation. This was no American ethnic restaurant evening entertainment. We were instructed to take off our shirts. I went from terrified to “What the hell, I’ll never see you people again” pretty quickly and tried to make a good effort. After the fact I would be complimented on that effort by several people when I was exiting the restaurant and later the bus. Either I actually had done ok, or they understood, and were coming to the aid of a man who had just taken his shirt off and wiggled about in front of 300 people. Either way, it’s a good story.


Filed under Round The World, Travel, Turkey

Pictures: Istanbul

Here are the pictures from Istanbul. More Turkey pictures coming soon! Such an amazing place.



Filed under Photography, Round The World, Travel, Turkey