Seista Selfie – Around the World Day 46

I have finished the circle and made it all the way around the world. The last leg was a long one, but I am happy to be back home. I got in late last night, and Seoul is hot and sticky like it always is in August, but I was too tired from traveling to worry about it. I just found a soft space on my bed and went quickly to sleep. Thank you for everybody that followed me as I wrote about my travels during the summer. I won’t be posting as much in the future, but if you are interested in reading some more of my work, there is always¬†Tag: A Cautionary Tale that is available right now at Amazon for either a hard copy or a ebook. If you want to get a copy there is a link down below.

Thanks again, and I will see you soon.

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The Last Leg – Around the World Day 45

I haven’t gotten into all of the lines yet or shuffled my bags from one plane to the next. That is what today is for. I am going to complete my voyage around the world today, and the only thing left for me is the long flight home. I am not a fan of airports, or planes, or air travel in general. Airlines sit you in tight spots and shuttle you around like cattle all so you can eat bad food, and land feeling like you have spent the last twenty-four hours running a race that never ends even though all you ever have done is sit in a seat. I am aware of the fact that it is the quickest way to get from one point to another so I should not really complain about it. If it wasn’t for air travel I wouldn’t have been able to see all of the things that I was able to see this summer, and for that I am grateful, but there is a different feeling about getting on that last plane then there was about getting on that first plane.

The trip is now coming to an end, and the adventures are all in the book as opposed to just beginning and the mystery of the trip still ahead of me. I will have to get back to doing work on a regular basis again as opposed to relaxing during the day and looking for some fun way for engagement some time throughout the day. It is the knowledge of this that makes that last flight a bitter pill to swallow.

But there are all the memories I created on the way to keep me company, and the fact that I got to visit people I love along the way. It was great to spend time in the United States again, and to see a part of the world that I had never experienced. I am also getting tired of living out of a suitcase all of the time, and there is a different feeling of being in your own home, living life according to your rules instead of trying not to step on the feelings of those who have been kind enough to share their homes with you during the time you were in their part of the world. In those cases, I am happy to be taking that last flight. It will also feel nice to be doing something that is more important than supporting the local economy by being a tourist, and in that case, I am ready to get back to work.

So, I guess it is time to say goodbye. Thank you for all of the people that shared their homes and their lives with us while in America, and thank you for all of the people that made our experience in Europe such a memorable one, but it is time to take that final step onto my final leg back home.

Thanks.

At Target – Around the World Day 44

As I start to collect all of the little things I have collected on my travels around the world, and prepare to take that final leg back to where I started, I have a little addiction problem that I would like to address. I do not get to spend much of my time in the United States any more, but when I am out here, I like to spend a some of my time at Target. I might even say that it is my favorite place to go shopping. There are many times when I am sitting in my place in Seoul and talk about how much I miss Target. I do not know why I have such a love for this store. It is only a department store after all, but I get all excited when my plane lands back in the states because that means that very soon I will get to visit one of its many locations. In fact, considering I have spent just over three weeks in the States, I have visited five different locations. It is like I see that big red dot on the horizon and I think that I need to stop there and get all of the little things that I cannot get anywhere else.

To my defense, I do go to Target a few times because there are certain things that I like to bring back with me to South Korea that for the life of me I cannot find there. The brands of toothpaste that they have are not as good as the ones I enjoy out in the United States, and it is really hard to get cold medicine. Movie candy absolutely does not exist and I will have to admit that another addiction of mine is to Mike and Ikes. Clothes fit weird for me if I buy them in Asia because of different body types out there, so I do always look for new clothes while I am out in the United States. I get to browse through a whole new set of media that is not in display in the city where I live, and there are thousands of other odds and ends that I can only find there. It is for this reason that I go to Target.

But do I really need to go five times in the short amount of time that I am out in the States? No, I do not, but I do feel a little at home in one of these stores. I know I go in for one little thing and leave with a basket full of crap, but I can’t help myself. Out of the corner of my eye I spot something that I forgot I needed I have to grab it before I forget. And even though I hadn’t been in the one in the town I used to live in before I moved across the sea, I still know where everything is in that store. How could I not feel at home?

I know that I sound pathetic, and as I pack my bags, I start to look at the collection of Target bags I have collected and wonder how I will get all of that stuff back to Korea with me. There is only one answer to that question, and only one solution. I need a new bag so I can check all of this stuff, and there is only one place that I trust to get a great bag that I can use over and over again. Thank God for Target.

Santiam Pass – Around the World Day 43

Yesterday was the last voyage west before the last big one back home to complete the whole circle around the world. It was a short voyage this time that did not involve a plane or a train. Instead I took a drive over the Santiam Pass from Central Oregon to make it over to the Portland area of Oregon. This drive is a beautiful drive most of the way, but there are a couple of places where you can see the skeleton of what was once a great forest but due to recent fires, it is now just a bunch of burned out trees. There are times where this look a little depressing, as if we have lost something great by having the forest fire. It is a little depressing at first but when I found out more about forest fires, they are not always the terrible thing that we think about them.

Forest fires, if they happen naturally, are an important part of the revitalization process. Pine cones need the heat of a fire in order to open in order to plant its seed and create a new tree. The old burned down trees add the much needed nutrients to the soil to let those trees grow. So even though it may look like a devastated landscape right after a fire, if you keep coming back to visit the same places where the fire took place, you will see that they are slowly starting to come back and turn into the amazing forest that you once remembered them as. There are a few places along the Santiam Pass that you can see this progress. There have been many times that I have gone over the pass and I can now start to see a significant change in what left behind. It makes me feel good that something can come out of so much destruction.

But in order for these fires to work this way, we need to let the forests alone and let them go through the process naturally. This means that we should not be cleaning up the ground cover and letting it alone so so can let this rejuvenation process happen. But this can be very dangerous for communities that are near big forests that could go up at any time with one ill placed lightning strike. It leaves an interesting debate. How far should we go to keep people safe, and what does that mean for the forests that we love so much that we moved near them in the first place? This is the debate that is going on in-between the fire fighters whose job it is to protect those homes, and the environmental programs whose major concern it is to protect the forests for future generations. There should be some middle ground that can be reached that would satisfy both parties, because they are both important for future generations. It is interesting to think about, and know that during this crazy time of year where you turn on the news and see another forest fire destroying another community, that people are working hard to come up with a reasonable solution to both problems. But it is up to us to make sure that these fires are not started by us. We need to think about what we are doing while we are out in the wilderness, so we do not leave any destruction behind. That is the important thing that we can do for the future of the beauty of the outdoors.

Back to Bend – Around the World Day 42

My last post on Bend, Oregon might have been a little narrow-minded in the way the people who have lived there for a long time thought about how their town has exploded over the last couple of decades, so I went back to Bend yesterday evening to see old friends and enjoy the downtown area. I would like to give my opinion of that area of the town that does not involve the jaded view that comes from people when their town get crowded. Instead, I would like to look at from the point of view from the business owners who look forward to the busy tourist seasons that bring people to their stores, and how the downtown area caters to those people.

I visited two great locations while there, one to get a drink at, and the other to have dinner at. The first one was a Mexican restaurant called Hola!, and even though the food there looked good, I was really only there to get a margarita. It is almost impossible to find a good margarita in South Korea, so when I have the opportunity to have good one while I am in the United States, I do not turn it down. Hola does a great job with their margaritas, and it even comes in pitcher form. That can be dangerous, but when you share it with three different people, it is fine. We went for the blood red margarita which did not come with the usual off yellow color, but was still delicious. Also, being a Mexican restaurant, they served us chips and two different kinds of salsas. The strange thing about this side though was they used home made potato chips instead of corn chips. They were good potato chips, and it was good salsa, but the combination of the two didn’t really work for me, but I was able to forgive that fact considering the further north I get from Mexico, the weirder the Mexican food gets.

For dinner, I wanted a good hamburger because I have not had one yet all during this trip, and once again, it is an item that is not easily come by in South Korea, even though they are easier to find than a good margarita. I, of course, instantly thought of the many brew pubs that are found the downtown area of Bend. I first went to the Deschuttes Brewery because it was right down the street from where I was, and I remember them having really good food there. But I showed up to one of the major tourist destinations of downtown Bend at 6:30 on a Friday night during the height of the tourist season. I would have starved to death before I ever got a table in the place, so I went down to the other brewery that I knew had great food and was a little more off the beaten path, the Bend Brewing Company, and let me tell you it made all of the difference.

I found a place at the bar, and order an Exploregon, which they market as a hoppy lager. I usually enjoy the hoppier beers, such as IPAs, but the heat that Central Oregon is experiencing lately, made me want to have something a little lighter. This was the perfect choice because it still has a little bit of a bite like an IPA, but gave me that refreshing feeling that I was looking for in a beer. The food there was really good too. I was able to find that hamburger that I was looking for. But the nice part of the evening was that our beers were comped for us because the friend that Christine and I were meeting down there was also in town, but used to live in Bend for over ten years. She was really good friends with the bartender, and he was happy to see one of his old regulars back in town. It was nice to see that some things remained even through all of the growing pains that the town had been through over the years. This bartender was also really excited that things had picked up over the summer. He talked about how it was his favorite time of the year because it got easier and easier for him every year as business continued to grow.

The Bend Brewing Company has gone through a lot of change too since I first walked through their doors. There used to be two large buildings crowding it on either side. They were bought and torn down by another company who wished to create some housing, but the last recession put an end to that idea, and the lots remained empty while Bend Brewing Company continued to do great business. Apparently business had been really good lately because those two lots have now been added to the bar’s grounds. They now have a parking lot, and nice patio that looks out over the river behind its building. It is nice to see that the growth has helped companies that treat their employees well, and create a great product.

After dinner, we wandered down the river and were able to catch a live band that was set up for the entertainment of anybody who decided to come down to the area for the evening. There was an added bonus of them being a Grateful Dead cover band, and we caught two songs of their set, which means we watched about a half an hour of it. They were pretty good, and the lead singer sounded exactly like Bob Weir, so much so that I had to look twice to make sure that it wasn’t him. They had set up a booth where you get one of the many craft beers that Bend has to offer, and another booth that boasted Oregon’s newest industry, marijuana. It created the perfect atmosphere for the perfect evening. So even though there are many people who are angry about the growing pains that the town is going through, there is still a corner of Bend, the downtown area, that has been able to hold on to that small town atmosphere and create a beautiful place to hang out, and meet friends both old and new. It will be hard to keep people away when the town has a place like this to boast about, and maybe it is the duty of the ones who do not like it to try to figure out how to live with it and grow along with it. The fact is that it isn’t going to change. Too much has been set in motion that it would be impossible to go back to the way it once was. I know change might be a scary thing, but it could also be the answer you are looking for. Embrace it and maybe the change that is made is one you are more comfortable with.

Living out of a Suitcase – Around the World Day 41

It is always around this point of my trips where I look down at my little pile of stuff that I brought with me and think, How did I survive for this long with only that much stuff? It is hard to believe that all of my important possessions for the last month have found a place in two small backpacks. I had to make some important choices before I left on my trip so I would not be weighed down with huge bags and could carry all of my stuff onto a plane with me without having to pay an extra price for going over the weight limit. It meant that way back in June I needed to think about what to bring with me and what I really did not need along for the ride. Throughout all of my years of traveling around the world, I have learned how to travel light, and this is probably the most important thing that I have learned how to do because it has made my trips more relaxing, and it has also taught me that I really don’t need much in order to survive in this world.

It basically comes down to bringing along only the basics. Besides the needed toiletries, I usually bring two sets of shoes, one a pair of sandals because it is the summertime and I don’t like it when my feet sweat, and a sturdy, but comfortable pair of long distance running shoes for those days that I want to go on long hikes through town or up a mountain. When I only have two pairs, I only need to pack one at a time, and they are both light weight so they do not take up a lot of space.

I also bring five t-shirt, two pairs of shorts, and one pair of pants. If I was traveling during the winter time, this might change. I also like to bring a long sleeved t-shirt for cold days, and a light weight jacket. I also bring one extra shirt that is nicer in case I find myself going out to a nice restaurant. I also bring a swimsuit with me during the summer months, and I am glad I did because I have gotten a lot of use out of it. Beyond underwear, and socks, this is all I bring with me in the way of clothes. It leaves a lot of open space in my main backpack for any trinkets that I pick up along the way.

As far as entertainment is concerned, I load a lot of good music onto my iPhone because I will not always have streaming service along the way. I try to make sure that it is all stuff I haven’t listened to in awhile because I do not want to get bored with it early on in the trip. My phone also acts as a camera. In fact all of the pictures you have seen on this blog with a few exceptions have been shot on my phone. I also bring with me my MacBook Air. I have another computer with a better word processor, but it is a lot bulkier, and I have not been working on my new novel on this trip, so this is the better computer to write about the things I see along the way. I also want to read while I am out there, and I have found that a Kindle has been the best piece of equipment so I can bring enough to read without having to add the weight of a bulky book. So far this summer, I have read six books and I am about to finish my seventh. Some of these books were beasts too, so it was nice to know that they all fit nicely on a device that weighs less than a pound. I also bring my guilty pleasure with me, my tablet. This has a few games that I have indulged in while waiting around at airports or train stations, and I also have the Comixology app on it so I can read some comic books if my eyes are hurting from reading too much on my Kindle. Otherwise, I find my entertainment out in the place where I am staying. It is part of the reason that I am traveling in the first place.

Of course I bring with me a couple of pencils, a pen, my charger and the appropriate wires to keep my devices going, but I have one that is easily adaptable to wherever I find myself in the world. I also bring the appropriate papers with me, but this is about it. It feels weird because when I have it all strapped to my back, I feel like I have brought too much stuff with me, but then I look at the other people around me, and see them lugging around huge suitcases and duffel bags twice the size of my bag. I think that these people must be going on a long trip that requires them to bring all of this stuff, but then I remember that most people, if they are lucky, get only three weeks off from work a year. Even if they are taking that much time off to go on this one trip, they are bringing way too much with them. I am traveling around the world for a little over six weeks, and I made sure to bring with me just the bare minimum. It has made my travel more enjoyable that I do not need to worry about my stuff and how I am going to get it from one place to the next, and I have used everything I have brought with me at least once. The places I have travelled in the world are well developed countries, and if I really need something like some medicine, or toiletries, I will be able to find them there rather easily.

This does not mean that I still do not like lugging my bag all over the place. The moments where I get to a new place, and try to navigate to where I am staying while I have all of my gear strapped to my back can be counted as some of my worst moments. I have to figure out how this new place’s transportation works while sweating under the weight of my pack, and I want nothing more than to get there so I can get it off. But I guarantee that it would be a lot worse if I had a bigger bag that I had to bring with me. I also get to this point in the trip and I look down at the shirt that I have worn six times over the past month and start to wish that I had something else to wear. It also gets rough having to shuffle through a bag to find the thing that I want. It does have its disadvantages, but when going on an adventure, I would highly recommend learning how to travel light.

 

There is a Place – Around the World Day 40

I have been spending the last few days in Central Oregon, and like always, I have loved the time I have gotten to spend out here. Most of the time when people think of Central Oregon, they think of three different towns, Sister, Redmond, and Bend, but my home base is not any of these three places. Instead, I have been able to stay under the shadow of one of the smaller mountains in the area, but still one of the more prominent ones. It is a quiet collection of houses, a twenty minute drive from Sisters named Black Butte Ranch, and it happens to be one of my favorite places in the world.

This is the place I go to recharge my batteries. After a long, hard school year, I need the time to collect myself and feel like a human being again. It has also been the perfect place to have a vacation from my vacation. I know it sounds kind of snobbish, but all of that running around I did earlier in the summer wore me out, and if I did not take a little time to relax and slow down, then I would not have been ready for the next school year. That is why this place is so important to me.

Black Butte Ranch is located in the middle of national forest, and its borders are limited, so it will never experience any growth, and the people who own places here like it just that way. It does have three different restaurants that a person can enjoy, each having a different level of service associated with it. It also has two world class golf courses that you can play with some of the best views I have ever seen on a golf course. If this is not your cup of tea, there are a bunch of tennis courts, and they have been adding a few pickle ball courts for people who do not like to run as much. There are four different pools, each having a different level of activity involved with them, so you can enjoy a quiet, relaxing lounge next to a pool at one of them, or get crazy with the kids running around and screaming at another one. There are also a great amount of bike paths that will take you to many beautiful spots around the the place, and also make it easier to travel around the ranch on rather than driving a car all of the time. And there is also a small pond in the front where you can rent paddle boards, kayaks, or canoes, or join the other people that go out there with their fishing gear to practice catching a fish or two.

Even though it has all of this to offer, it is not the thing that I enjoy the most about being able to stay here every year. It is the fact that the people who run Black Butte Ranch have made a conscious choice to keep all of the commercial endeavors from the place. There are a couple of shops that will sell some select items, and there is a small convenience store that you can get some basic necessities at, but if you want to do some serious shopping, you need to go off to one of the other towns around the area. It is an opportunity to get back to the simple things in life, and put those other concerns away. Every time I do this, I am happy that I get to slow down for a bit because that is what Black Butte Ranch forces you to do. And even though I do take advantage of the facilities of this place, it is more about getting back to nature, and enjoying what that has to offer. I am glad that I have been able to stop here on relax on my trip around the world. It had helped me get back to where I need to be in order to be effective during the rest of the year.