Category Archives: Travel

Off to Thailand

I’m so very out of practice. With writing, with photography, with travelling, etc. but I’m finding my groove again pretty quickly. I’ve been on a couple outings since my return from the long trip (aka. Phase 1) but nothing like Thailand.

I was somewhat consumed with work and a certification test prior to our departure so I really didn’t do much pre-trip prep. In fact I packed a suitcase the night before while drinking and video chatting with my parents. I’ve found several things missing from my usual travel supplies, mostly band-aids and antibiotic ointments, but they are readily available at any street pharmacy.

Summer and I arrived in Bangkok early on the morning of the fifth somewhat groggy, me from my spotty sleep and her from the mini-bender at the all you can eat/drink executive lounge I talked our way into before our flight departed. To clarify: I did the eating, Summer did the drinking.

Kind of a funny story… So, we had seven hours to do something with upon our arrival at LAX, and found our way to an overpriced bar – of which there are many – in the international terminal. We found a table near a power outlet and made use of the free Internet while consuming about four pints apiece. During this time we met Nelly, a lovely Kenyan woman, who noticed Summer’s airline crew tags and had some questions about her baggage. She was flying to London for a few months and exceeded her allotted baggage weight limit. “Don’t they want you to shop while you visit America?”

“Yes, we’re pretty sure they do.” we answered. Sometime later through the fog of their cheapest pilsner, and a lot of laughter for a short time, we’d exchanged cards and been offered somewhere to stay in Kenya. We offered our place as well. Nelly, if you’re reading this, you’re welcome anytime!

Ok, so after making our way through security there really isn’t much to do in the international terminal. Summer and I decided to try our luck at the airline lounges.

The first two lounges were a bust as we were either not flying their airline or they weren’t convinced by the confidant-walking-past-the-attendant trick. Third time’s a charm… We aimed for the Thai Air executive lounge with the extra ammo that we were actually flying with Thai Air. However we were informed that flying economy standby did not qualify us for the riches beyond their doors. Nearly defeated we said ok and turned around to find a group of people approaching us from the elevator. I addressed the group and said, “We’re flying Thai Air but do not have access to the lounge, would any of you like to have us as your guests?” Thankfully Hans and Christian, fellow travelers on their way to Munich (in Business Class), understood our situation and said “Sure.”

And we were off to the buffet and self-serve bar that occupied us until our departure…

More soon…

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Filed under Adventure, Thailand, Travel

Perspective

I met a old woman on a plane once that told me a story about her childhood.

She told me of hiding under her house with her father when the Germans came through their town during World War II. She told me of the bombs that fell and knocked down the house around her and her father. She told me about how they waited for what seemed like days for help to come.

She could smell the gas leaking from the pipes into the small crawlspace that they had hidden in.

She told me of the look in her father’s eyes as he handed her a cigarette and took one for himself, pulled out his lighter and prepared to end their wait, when they heard the voices of the neighbors outside as they started pulling the rubble away.

I don’t know why I remembered that story this morning. I don’t know why I’m not aware of it at all times. It reminds me to have perspective on things. I pray I never have to make a decision that hard.

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Filed under Personal, Stories, Travel

Maker Faire: Get your geek on!

Very early this morning I hopped on a plane for San Francisco bound for the San Mateo Fairgrounds to attend Maker Faire. I’ve mentioned Make Magazine before on this blog. It’s a great little zine for the do it yourself tinkerer. Everything from robots made out of junk to kinetic sculpture to well… pretty much everything else.

Maker Faire is the gathering of all these things. Events and Exhibitions include giant flame throwing choreography, steampunk bands, speed soldering contests, inventors groups, and sooo much more I don’t have the time to get into it.

Here’s a summary:

Boiler Bar Stage
Jon Sarriugarte’s Boiler Bar Theater Presents
Craft Demos
Soft Circuit Embroidery • Make Your Own Free Range Mini-Monsters • How to Make Your Own Shoes…the Easy Way! • Making Jewelry • Finger Puppets Who Wish To Not Die • Create Ribbon Straw Flowers on Vintage Flower Looms • Felt Faux Fruit • The DIY Bride: Quick & Easy Wedding Projects for Any Budget • Fashioning Technology: DIY Style • Guerilla Pattern Drafting • Pops! Icy Treats for Everyone • Photojojo DIY Photo Blocks • Create Your Own Photo Flip Book
Festival Stage
The Devil-Ettes • EepyBird • Swap-O-Rama-Rama
Lion Brand Booth
Lion Brand Yarn Unique Activities • Lion Brand Yarn Unique Activities
MAKE Demos
BlinkyBugs and More LED Projects • Making Music with Arduino • LED Camera Light Kit • Make a Vibrobot • Maker Magic • Pong Watch • Home Chemistry Experiments • MAKE Articles by John Edgar Park • SparkleLabs Easy Electronics Kit • Build a Whole LED Clock on Just 6 Wires! • MAKE Projects for Kids • 3 Quick Projects
Maker Made Stage (Expo)
Mystery Phones • Crafty Chica: Squeezing a Dollar from a Dime: How to Make the Most of What You Have • Eccentric Maker • Re-inventing Building Blocks • Alcohol Can Be a Gas • My Brain Machine • Solar Car Share • Self-making • String Theory • DIY Drones • Maker Kits • Chumby • “How to make a Million! (of a thing)” • The Stanford Laptop Orchestra (SLOrk) • Creating Sustainable Spaces Where Anything Goes • Rabbit’s Rum and Chris Warren • Loud Objects • Maker Sessions • Steampunk • DIY Relationships
Maker Main Stage (Fiesta)
Things I Learned from Knitting • String Theory • Five Dangerous Things Your Kids Should Do • Interaction Techniques Using the Wii Remote • MacGyver: The Making of a Cultural Icon • Howtoons • What Happened to the Chemistry Set? • Maker Magic • Contraptor Lounge • The Maltese Falcon • Babbage’s Difference Engine • SETI@home • The Paper Airplane Guy • Backyard Astronomy with Binoculars • Kite Aerial Photography • 21st Century Woodworking Tools • Extreme Craft • The Ultimate Challenge for Makers • Creating Disney-themed Parks Designs • Authentic Innovation • iPhone Hacking Lab • Propane, It’s a Gas! Fun and Fire with the Flaming Lotus Girls • Laser Harp • Judy: My Dinner with Android • Art Lessing and the Flower Vato • The Image of Computers in Popular Music
Maker Shed
Maker Shed Exhibits, Demos, and More
Maker Shed Author Demo Area
Sew Subversive and Subversive Seamster • Pops! Icy Treats for Everyone • What Happened to the Chemistry Set? • The Paper Airplane Guy
Maker Shed Author Signing Area
Things I Learned from Knitting • Alcohol Can Be a Gas • MacGyver: The Making of a Cultural Icon • Howtoons • Making Jewelry • Plush You! • The Maltese Falcon • The DIY Bride: Quick & Easy Wedding Projects for Any Budget • Backyard Astronomy with Binoculars • Pops! Icy Treats for Everyone • EepyBird
Maker Shed Workshop
Herbie the MouseBot Workshop • Brain Machine Workshop • BlinkyBugs Hands-On Workshop (with the Maker) • BlinkyBugs Hands-On Workshop • Needle Felting Kits Workshop (with the Maker) • Build the LED Camera Light Kit (with the Maker) • Needle Felting Kits Workshop • Build the LED Camera Light Kit • Make Your Own Free-Range Mini-Monsters (with the Maker) • Make Your Own Free-Range Mini-Monsters • Finger Puppet Workshop (with the Maker) • MiniPOV Workshop • MintyBoost Workshop • Finger Puppet Workshop • Build an LED Hula Hoop (with the Maker) • Arduino Workshop • Build an LED Hula Hoop • Woolpets Needle Felted Friends Workshop (with the Maker) • Woolpets Needle Felted Friends Workshop • Pick Up Sticks’ Knit-to-Felt Kit workshop • Make an LED Clock (with the Maker) • Make an LED Clock
Maker Square Stage
Cooking with the Sun • Scharffen Berger Chocolate: Meet the Chocolate Maker • Innovation in Beekeeping • Top Chef Season 4 • Molecular Gastronomy • Seasonal Menus and Secret Dinners
Model Warships
Axis vs. Allies: Model Warship Battle
Mousetrap
Life Size Mousetrap

Power Tools/Drag Races
Power Tool Drag Racing
Robo Games
RoboGames Presents: The ComBot Cup
Rocket Launch Pad
LUNAR Society: Rocket Launch Pad
Tesla
Man-made Lightning
Village Blacksmith
The Village Blacksmith

Details and pictures to follow!!!

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Filed under hobby, Random, Travel, trends

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 (http://peopleinpassing.com/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

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?

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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 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raki_%28alcoholic_beverage%29) 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.

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Filed under Round The World, Travel, Turkey