Why Travel?

Travel is really important to me, but that wasn’t always the case. My family didn’t travel a whole lot when I was a kid, mostly because the logistics and funding required to get a family with six kids and two adults on vacation made it impossible. I lived several places growing up throughout Washington, California, and Oregon as my father found teaching positions and we moved to be closer to my grandparents, but those places were always “home”. We didn’t really go on vacation and I was perfectly fine with that. In fact, until I joined the military I had every intention of staying in Gresham, Oregon for my whole life. I even turned down an option to be stationed in Italy in the Army but turned it down because I didn’t want to be far from home… Travel just didn’t appeal to me.

All that changed once I got my feet wet and saw a bit of the world. My first travels were in the military and, as such, were a little bit unconventional. I didn’t really get to do touristy things, but I did get to see the beauty of other places and meet a lot of people from diverse backgrounds. I spent a lot of time in a guard tower with an Italian soldier who talked a lot about his life in Italy, he also introduced me to the concept of consensual non-monogamy when he offhandedly mentioned that his girlfriend was sleeping with other men and he slept with other women. It didn’t seem like a big deal to him, though my views were still very conservative at the time and I promised to pray for him.

I also met many interpreters in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as soldiers from the UK. The most influential people on my drive to travel ended up being in my own unit. My squad was made up of an eclectic bunch from all over the US. My team leader was a African-American Muslim from Kansas named Vinnie; the other SAW gunner was from Rocky Mount, NC; my grenadier was an Irish Catholic from New Jersey; etc. We really reinforced the 82nd Airborne Motto of “All American”. This ragtag group of soldiers from all over the country made me want to see the country for myself, and as my belief system shifted to a point where I saw all borders as artificial and all humans as my brethren I became more interested in seeing the world.

In some ways travel is an unending task, and that might be one of the things I like about it. There will always be another place to see, festival to experience, person to meet. Even as we’ve spent two years bicycling around the United States we have only gotten a taste of many places we’ve been. There is no end to travel, even if certain vacations and adventures do end. After each adventure you become more aware of other adventures, like all things as you get deeper into them you realize they are more complex and beautiful than you could have ever imagined. I will never see everything I want to see, and that’s okay.

I pursue travel for lots of reasons, but primarily it is my love of novelty. Travel has allowed to have experiences that I couldn’t get at home and that technology hasn’t reached the point of accurate simulations. Whether it was a threesome at a pagan festival, getting snowed on in the Montana mountains, skinny dipping with a group of nudists in Florida, getting stoned in New Mexico and going to the hot springs, working the “Orgy Dome” at Burning Man, cycling through the Redwoods, or a thousand other experiences that I’ve forgotten, these are all things that I wouldn’t have experienced if I stayed home.

Travel inspires me, it makes me more creative, it keeps me healthy, and it makes me more loving. It shows me who I am and who I want to be, and it gives me greater love and appreciation for the little battles that other people face. The internet has connected us in many ways, but it also isolates us. We see a shadow of a person and reduce them to soundbites and a few views, we don’t get to see the passion in their eyes or heartache. Travel reminds me that we are all human and even if I disagree with a person they aren’t evil.

I realize that not everyone has an interest in travel, but I think we all have an interest in new experiences and getting the most out of life. There are many paths to reach those ends, mine just happens to involve a lot of movement.

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Thankful

I kind it kind of cheesy to list the things I’m thankful for, and to be honest, it feels a little bit like a humble-brag. But fuck it, I want to do it. Thanksgiving is a ridiculous holiday in a lot of ways but I think it is important to think about the things we are thankful for, to kind of take stock of the good things in life.

So, here are some of the things I’m thankful for, in no particular order. Some are things that I have little to no control over, and some are the result of my own actions.

  • My partner, Anna, continues to be the most influential person in my life. She is my partner in crime, adventure, and love. She loves me for me and encourages me to pursue what I am passionate about. Our life so far together has been amazing and I am thankful for the millions of random occurrences that brought her into my life.
  • My dog is the best. He is an asshole sometimes and has no self control when it comes to food, but he is my fur-baby and I love him.
  • I have some amazing fucking friends. People who take me in, provide me with support, and challenge me in every possible way. We try new things together and intellectually stimulate each other, I’ve long had a tribe and having it grow and evolve is exciting
  • I can’t help but be grateful for my biological family and my upbringing. There have been rough days in the past but things are looking better and we are creating new, adult relationships. My upbringing was stable and loving, more than many people have.
  • Living in the age we live in is absolutely amazing. We can pursue free education via the internet and have access to more information than would be imaginable two generations ago. I really believe that we have the potential to live forever (if politicians and governments don’t fuck it up), but even if I do die I am glad to live in a world of such dynamic change.
  • It took years and lots of sacrifices but I ended up with a job that allows me the freedom I need. I can be a minimalist by working only a few hours a week but still have more joy, happiness, and adventures than I would have imagined as a kid.
  • I am healthy. Part of that is my decisions to change my diet and my lifestyle (I am thankful that I made that decision early in life instead of waiting until my 40’s to take care of my body), and part of it is simply genetics. I don’t have a sweet tooth, my oral health is good, I am rarely sick, and my body responds quickly to exercise.
  • I’ve had a life filled with new adventures and a lot of potential for more. There are many options for new drugs, sexual experiences, travel, and accomplishments. I can pursue all of those without much risk.
  • I’m thankful for my military brothers. We have a bond that is beyond what many people can relate to. We certainly don’t share the same views on many things but we all know that we can call on each other in a time of need. I’ll always be a Blue Devil.
  • This last one came from reviewing my list… part of me doesn’t have a very “property oriented” (for lack of a better phrase) happiness response. I own basically nothing and have no desire to own anything more. I just don’t have that drive, and I am thankful for that.

To be 23…

As is often the case a blog crossed my Facebook feed and sparked inspiration into my caffeine-fueled writing gland. The post (23 Things To Do Instead of Getting Engaged) is filled with a glorious rant about how today’s generation approaches long-term relationships and a fun little list of alternatives. While I’m not much of a list maker I am a strong advocate of people forgoing lifelong commitments until they know themselves as individuals first.

So, here is a quick rundown of my past so you know where I am coming from…

  • I’m 32 years old (I know! I’m old, but damn I still look good)
  • I walked into an Army recruiter office on September 11, 2001 and became a paratrooper. I was 19 years old.
  • I was stationed in North Carolina, served for four years, and deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan
  • During my enlistment I got engaged to a girl from South Carolina
  • I started college in 2005 and my engagement broke up in 2006
  • I received a BS in Economics in 2009 from the College of Charleston in South Carolina
  • Moved to DC and worked at a couple of non-profits for three years
  • Got sick of DC, sold everything I owned and rode my bicycle across the country to Los Angeles
  • While in LA I got into a relationship with my current partner
  • After two years in LA my partner and I are going to start a 2-year bicycle ride around the continent

I provided that list because I want people to recognize how much different my life would have been if I got married in 2006 like I originally thought. At that time I was 25 and still didn’t really know who I was. My religion was different, my view on family and life, I was aligned different politically… I had not experienced enough life to find me. I needed time to be independent and have adventures, explore the world, and challenge myself to find happiness.

Human brains are not fully developed even into the early 20’s, the idea that we are mature or ready to commit to a lifetime with someone when we don’t know ourselves is insane. Sure, it works out sometimes (I think mostly due to social and religious pressure than happiness) but as the article pointed out, the divorce rate among those who marry young is twice the average rate.

Previous generations had very good reasons to marry young. That type of support was necessary for security and to provide for a family. But we are not the previous generation. We live at a time when the economy is based on entertainment, service, and information. The internet has allowed us to earn an income from anywhere, survival goods are cheaper, and women do not need a man to provide. Instead, for maybe the first time in human history, the average person can travel, explore, and find their passion.

Now, I have been called selfish for not wanting kids, usually by people who have kids. Aside from the collectivist mentality that I owe an overpopulated society a genetic reproduction (this world has enough people with blue eyes, big booties, poor eyesight, and average height), it is hypocritical for people with kids to call me selfish. Nearly half a million kids in the US alone need adoptive parents, until that is taken care I think the selfish ones are those that somehow think the universe needs more of their DNA floating around. Want a kid? Adopt one.

I agree with the author… get out there and explore while your health and freedom allows you to. While riding across the country I met hundreds of people and by far the most common thing I heard was, “Wow, that’s awesome. I would love to do that, if only I was younger.” The body degrades, obligations increase with marriage (and particularly kids), the time to discover yourself, your boundaries, and your love is now.

Are you with someone you love now? Is your relationship great? That is fucking awesome. I have that same thing and I wouldn’t have it if I got married when I was younger. Your life partner should be someone that you adventure with as mature adults. It is crazy to make a lifelong decision based on 3% of your adult life when you have not fully developed. The odds are that you or your partner will change and the big three things necessary for a long term relationship (agreement on marriage, the amount of children, and lifestyle) will change. You can only be made better by new experiences, and that means you will be a better individual and partner. As the article author puts it:

“If your love is truly eternal, what’s the rush? If it’s real, that person will continue to be committed to you 2 months from now, 2 years from now, and 2 decades from now. Grow, learn, travel, party, cuddle, read, explore. Do. Freaking. Something… other than “settle down” at 23 with a white picket fence.’

 

So You Wanna Go On A Bike Ride…

So, our upcoming bike ride has garnered some interest from friends and strangers. One common question we get asked is “can people join you for a day or nine?”. The answer is a resounding MOTHERFUCKING YES!!!!!!!!!!!! We love our friends, even those that we haven’t met yet and adventures shared are better than adventures alone. I think there is a ton of value in riding with your friends and exploring the world. There are some things potential travelers should know though…

1. We are burners and that means we will take the 10 Principles of Burning Man as guidelines for this adventure. While all 10 will be important I think Gifting, Communal Effort, Immediacy, and Leaving No Trace will be common themes throughout. It would be lovely if our friends who join us are at least familiar with them.

2. We are a dating couple who plan on having sex in every state and skinny dipping in many places. You should be at least comfortable with nudity and tolerate the sounds of us rubbing against each other. To be blunt, I can be a bit loud, particularly when I know I have an audience.

3. We don’t have a set plan and things can change quickly depending on how our minds and body feel or terrain and weather. Also, we will definitely discuss routes with all parties involved but in the end we will follow the path we choose, even if other people don’t like it. Of course we would never leave anyone behind though and when things break or people need to rest we will do that.

4. Be prepared to take care of yourself. As it is put in the pickle back video, we will work together but everyone should have what they need to survive alone. That means having a bike, food, water, and shelter at the minimum.

5. This is going to be fun. There will be hard work and we will all get less fat but it is about the experience and enjoying everything nature and society has to offer. We aren’t setting any land speed bicycle records, rather our plan is 50-60 miles per day on average with many breaks

So, if you are interested let me know sometime… it can be today or 6 hours before we arrive in your general area. We aren’t comfortable anyone riding with us for the entirety at this point but if you want to spend a week or two with us that would be really glorious. Much peace and love to you all.

Pulling the Trigger

I really enjoy autobiographies. I find them incredibly inspiring and often use the lives of others to inspire me to act. Whether it is Karl Hess, Ke$ha, or CG Jung I have noticed certain patterns in the lives of influential people. These patterns may exist in “normal” lives but they get lost in the commonality of the actions.

I don’t particularly want to be known or famous, but I do want to live my life for all it is worth… And that means taking action. I don’t really live vicariously through others, I’m just not built that way. I am a tactile person, I need to feel the breeze, the rush of adrenaline, see the sites, and feel the terror. My imagination just isn’t strong enough, even with photos and videos, to even remotely replace the experience.

Luckily I seem to have a trait that other adventurers do, once my mind is set I act with a ridiculous focus and my mind sets very quickly. When I decided to ride my bicycle across the country the decision was made quickly and I just did it. I’ve applied this to big things like trips and tattoos, and small things like meals (much to the annoyance of my partner, at any restaurant I’ll pick my meal in 60 seconds and she mentally tastes each option over time… in the end I think she has a better dining experience).

Something incredibly striking to me about the people in autobiographies is that they aren’t that special. They are normal people who made decisions to take chances and risk disrupting what is “known”. They wrote their ideas down, they cut loose bad baggage, and they made a personal commitment to do what they think is right, all things that we are all capable of if we try. As Chris Kucher says in the below video “everything around us that we call life, was made up of people no smarter than you.”

Leg 2: From Mounties to Mormons

The second leg takes us over the Rockies into Calgary and south along a rocky path towards the Great Salt Lake. I’m estimating 30 days and about 1800 miles for this but I think that is too short. We only have 5 locations where we are staying multiple days (Calgary, Missoula, Yellowstone, Idaho Falls, and Salt Lake City) but with all the mountains we may not be able to pull loner distance days. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Shuswap Lake Monster
  • My brother, sister-in-law, and niece (yep, there is another generation of Neigers)
  • Hot springs
  • Blayne Bennett
  • Yellowstone National Park
  • Largest collection of vacuum devices
  • Salt Lake

Leg 2

If you have recommendations for this approximate route I’d love to hear them… or if you want to host or know someone with a soft couch we are also always looking for new friends and family.

Leg 1: West Coast, Best Coast

Starting today I’ve decided to try to do a weekly breakdown of my upcoming year-long bicycle ride. Anna and I will be leaving next April after the Lucidity Festival and ride 50-100 miles a day or so visiting the lower 48 states, a few Canadian provinces, and whatever cities and sites we decide are interesting. We are encouraging people to ride with us for as much as they can (more on that in another post) and are basically living by Burning Man’s 10 Principles, particularly Gifting, Radical Inclusion, Radical Self-Reliance, Immediacy, and Leaving No Trace.

Leg 1

 

So, here is our beautiful tentative Leg 1 Route. It is about 2,000 miles and will take about 50 days (including days off in cities we want to explore).

Of course, any of this could change on a day-to-day basis but this route allows us to visit sites and people that are interesting to us. Here is a short list of some of the things we are looking forward to seeing/experiencing:

  • Lucidity Festival
  • San Francisco (Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, etc)
  • Six Flags Discovery Kingdom
  • Lots of breweries and wineries
  • Redwoods
  • Crater Lake
  • Proxy Falls
  • Multnomah Falls
  • Red & Black Cafe
  • MxPx Hometown
  • Space Needle
  • Point Roberts

If you have recommendations for this approximate route I’d love to hear them… or if you want to host or know someone with a soft couch we are also always looking for new friends and family.