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.

 

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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.

 

Bend Sucks! Move Somewhere Else – Around the World Day 39

It has been about fifteen years since I first drove through the town of Bend, Oregon. Back then it was a small town at the base of the Cascade Mountains and thriving in its high desert environment. Not a lot of people had ever heard of this town set in the heart of Oregon, and the people of Bend never thought anybody ever would. They had a couple of breweries that sold their beers to the locals, and you could find a taste from one of them as far away as Portland. But during that fifteen years, something happened and the landscape of Bend has forever ben changed, but within that change is the people who always lived there while they watched their city change from a mountain community into the budding city that it is turning into today.

When I first rode through the streets of this town there were only 50,000 people living there, but according to recent reports there is over 90,000 people living there today. It has nearly doubled in size from those earlier days. What had brought so many people to this place? It can’t be the college there because the branch of OSU didn’t take its first freshman until the year 2015, and nobody moves to a town because of a community college, no matter how good it could be. It can’t be because some company decided to locate there and started to bring in people from out of town in order to run it because the number one industry in Bend, Oregon is still tourism. It can’t be the low cost of housing and cost of living because with the sudden influx of people, housing has risen to ridiculous heights which has caused the costs of food and basic needs to rise as well. There is not much in the way of living that would bring a person to change their lifestyles to come to this place to live.

It has to be the fact that this is just a beautiful spot in the United States. There are mountains all around for people to stare at. It has a great downtown area that has been around since the 1920s and has a feel of a European market. The Deschutes River lazily rolls through the center of town, giving people a place where they can swim or take an inner tube out on to so they can slowly travel the expanse of the city. If the numerous breweries bore you with their outstanding beer, then there is still wine that is brought in from right over the hill from Willamette Valley. The city attracts some great chefs that have opened great restaurants all over the place. There are a variety of outdoor activities from skiing and snowboarding at Mount Bachelor in the winter months to riding bikes, fishing and camping during the summer months. For many people, it is the perfect place to open up shop and settle down.

But that is not what I am here to tell you about. I am here to tell you what I saw on a bumper sticker while I visited this town the other day, that “Bend Suck, Don’t Move Here.” This bumper sticker was obviously from one of the people who had lived through the growth and could remember the quaint town that they once belonged to. They could remember a time when they were able to make a living in the town and did not have to worry about a bunch of people coming in from all the different places in the world and transforming their town into the image of what they thought it should look like. For these people, Bend is going through some growing pains. It is like many places in America where the people who lived there sucked out all of the energy and worth of the place before tossing it away like a used banana peel to go off to find another place to suck out the worth there. They do not care about the community that much and look at it as a place where they can make some monetary gain even if that means the destruction of the people who have grown up there and find identity within its boundaries.

Now, I do not claim to be a resident from Bend. I only get to visit it from time to time, and it is one of my favorite small cities in the United States. I would love it if I got the opportunity to live there someday, but would be just as happy to see it a day or two every year. I do understand the pain they feel as they watch their town transform right before their eyes. I got to see the boom that happened to Denver, Colorado in the early 90s when it seemed as if the city could not build fast enough to accommodate the people who were moving there. I have watched the attitude of the place change from one that was laid back to one where a fight between the east coast and the west coast ravaged to see who could gain control of the city. I watched as the same people claimed that they loved the mountains just outside of the city and then not treat them with the respect that they deserved. I went from a place where I could stretch out to a place where I felt confined by the limited space I had. It disturbed me even more this last summer during my visit as I watched the boom start all over again. The city I grew up in does not even look the same anymore as changes are constantly happening. I see the same thing happening with Bend, and I understand the people’s pain because when the bust comes and the people are forced to find another town that they can exploit, then they are going to be left with the mess they left behind.

The best way I can explain the way they feel comes from a time a few years ago while they were still early into their expansion. I was sitting in a bar in downtown Bend with a couple of friends who lived there. An obvious tourist came into the place and asked the crowd for directions to some other bar. Someone from the back of the bar looked over at him and said, “Yeah, what you want to do is go south from here and keep on going until you reach California.”

I guess the lesson to learn from this is to love these places for what they are, but do not try to grab on to the magic that they create because you can’t if you are an outsider. They know what it is that makes their place great even though they might not be able to explain it to you. What your vision is to make it great is not what is meant to be there. Let the city live, and breathe, and grow at its own rate, and do not change it into something that it is not.

Another Kind of Beach – Around the World Day 38

When I say the word beach to people, most of them with think of a long sandy shore where the waves of the ocean splash up on the shore, and when they look out to the horizon, they see nothing but the great expanse of water. But these would be most of the people that grew up along of the shores of one of these mighty beasts. If you grew up where I grew up, you might have a different vision of a beach.

The beaches that I looked for usually could be found between the tall pine trees in the mountains. The shores might have some sand on it, but it was mostly covered in rocks, and the water only created waves if a breeze blew down from the hill. I could usually see the other side of the water and it was covered with the same kinds of trees that I had to walk through in order to get there in the first place. The water wasn’t warm and inviting, but instead was cold and chilly because it was collected from the melting snow pack due to the hot summer sun. People didn’t go out there to cake themselves in suntan lotion and lounge around; instead, they were many other activities where fun could be found at one of these other kinds of beaches.

Luckily, Oregon boasts both kinds of beaches within its borders, and yesterday I went to the one I was more familiar with in the mountains of central Oregon, Three Creeks Lake. It is a small mountain lake with a nice sandy beach to relax on. It is only about a half an hour drive west of the idyllic mountain town of Sisters, Oregon if you can find Elm Street and follow it until it runs out of road. It was the perfect day to head up into the hills too because the sun was starting to gain in potency and by heading up in elevation we were able to avoid one of the hottest days I would have experienced this summer.

We didn’t have to share the beach with many people, and the odd thing was that the water was perfect. Usually it is very cold, but it was late enough in the summer that it had warmed up enough to be enjoyable. If we had made it to the coast, the water out along the coast of Oregon would have still been too cool to enjoy, so we had made the right choice.

We spent the afternoon paddle boarding out on the lake, but there are many other forms of entertainment out there. There are a few campsites that people park campers at or set up their tents. Many of them bring kayaks with them to use on the lake and it is only a short walk away from the campsites to the beach. If you really like to hike, there are many trails around the lake. You can walk around the lake if you like, or you can take the more difficult trail up the hill into the forest until you reach a smaller lake a little further up or all the way to the ridge that gives you some amazing views of the valley down below. The biggest attraction to the lake is the fishing. Even though there were not many fishermen out there yesterday, there are usually a bunch of them either on small pontoon boats, or getting in their waders and fitting themselves in an inner tube to make it out to the middle of the lake. It is a great place to fish and I saw them jumping out of the water often as I rowed around the lake. The only drawback is the amount of bugs I found in the area, but that was nothing that a little bit of bug spray couldn’t take care of, and yesterday they were not so bad as they were on other days.

It is another of Oregon’s great lakes. The laws make sure that no motors are able to be used on the lake, keeping the water clean and clear, and keeping the noise down to just the small amount of children laughing and having a good time. It was another great place that central Oregon has as it is the playground of the Pacific Northwest and this little gem is one of my favorite ones to visit.

The Pool Life – Around the World Day 37

Sometime during the day, take a step outside of your house and listen really carefully. You can tell what time of the year it is by what you hear. If it is winter a muffled hush will try to make itself heard over the fallen snow. Autumn will have the sounds of cars rushing by as people return to their busy lives that they had left behind during the previous months. But if you hear the sound of splashing water and kids screaming in the distance, you know that it is summertime. It does not matter where I have settled down in the United States, this sound was always someplace in the background during the summer months. It is either the sound of summer for the United States, or I have always lived within earshot of a pool.

It is the same for the quiet community I have found myself in during the last part of my trip around the world, Black Butte Ranch. This place is a paradise in central Oregon. It is full of houses that people either own or rent for a week, and they use it to get away from the bustle that their real lives force them to live. One of the features of this place is the four pools that they have in various parts of the grounds. During the summer months, these are the places that are packed with vacationers trying to unwind a bit and escape the heat. They allow families the opportunity to spend some time together and have fun. It is also the place where kids can play games that have nothing to do with their electronic devices. It might be the last bastion where you can hear the shouts of joy from children left in the United States because it is the one place where Apple, Android and Microsoft can’t invade.

Where I grew up, there was a pool a fifteen minute walk away from my house, and the call of it always sounded in my ears during the summer months as this joy of my friends having fun floated over the roofs of the houses and made it to my front yard. I spent my summers at the pool helping to create that lure. It was my escape. I would spend forty-five minutes of every hour playing some kind of game in the pool, whether it was Marco Polo or some kind of elaborate team game of keep away involving a beach ball. If we ever tired of those games, we would go over to the deep end and show our skills on the diving board for a while. During adult swim, we would find a warm piece of concrete that we could lay down on to quickly dry off before we ran to the snack shack to fill up on candy so we would have energy to run wild in the water after the fifteen minutes was over. If I think back on the summer months of my youth, I automatically go to these.

Going to the pool does not hold the same magic. My wife does not want to walk around the pool with her eyes closed yelling Marco while I swim just out of her reach responding with Polo. It is still a great place for us to hang out during the hot summer months. We just find a comfortable recliner around the pool and bathe in the rays of the sun while losing ourselves in the story of some novel. The children screaming and having fun might reach our ears, but it turns into background noise that reminds us what time of the year it is. We will still grab a treat from the snack shack but it will be a cool drink or some ice cream to cool off a bit. Every once in a while we will dip into the water to cool off a little further, but we do not play games. Instead we wade around the water, occasionally going completely underwater, and talk about what the future holds for us or what the past has taught us. It may not hold the same appeal that I found when I was a kid, but it does not mean that I do not enjoy them any less. It is still the one thing that pulls me to it every summer.

I have not spent a lot of time around a pool this summer because I have been busy doing a lot of other things, but as the sun started to beat down a little more than usual, I was glad that I was able to find some time at one this summer. It doesn’t matter where I am in the world, it is the sounds of pool life that makes me know that it is summer.

 

Looking out my Bedroom Window – Around the World Day 36

Barcelona, Spain

I do have a bedroom window back in my apartment in Korea, but I never open the blinds to it. It is not that I do not like to look at the outside world, or that I consider it the place that I like to run to when it gets dark outside. It is more that when I open it up, it looks out on the room of my apartment that I use to dry my clothes in. It doesn’t even look outside. So when I was given the opportunity to have a window that would look out on many different locations while I took this trip, I was pretty excited, and decided I would take a picture of what it looked like from each of my rooms.

Salamanca, Spain

There was a variety of view that I was given from this trip and I was given a different perspective by looking out these windows. I know that sounds obvious. Of course, if I am in different parts of the world, my perspective will change from the different rooms I stay in. But that is not really what I mean. There is a certain amount of excitement with every new room that I make it to, and one of the first things I do when I get there is to open my window to look outside of it.

Madrid, Spain

In fact, if you ever get taken to your room by somebody that works at a hotel, the first thing they do when they enter it and show you around is to open up the blinds and show you the view that is coming from outside. Now of course they do this for the dramatic effect. The dark room that you had just entered becomes instantly bright and it allows a natural light show you what the rest of the room has to offer. But I think that there is another reason that they do it.

Lagos, Portugal

It shows you what is beyond the hotel room. It is what is beyond the hotel room that we travel in the first place. Granted, I do want a nice place to stay in. I even like the Air B+B movement that is going on now, because all of a sudden I get to enjoy a place that is more like a home away from home. And there is nothing worse than when you get a place that is a dump. I just never want to go back to the room because you just do not feel comfortable there.

Lisbon, Portugal

But the hotel room is not where the adventure lies. It is beyond the room that we talk about it. Very rarely do I come back from a trip and tell people about the room that I stayed in because I honestly do not spend that much time in the room in the first place. I came to the town in the first place so I could see the town that I am at, and the view from my bedroom window gives me the chance to feel the excitement of what the place I am has to offer. Sometimes I can even see the place’s most exciting feature crouched on a hill from where I stand in my room.

Castle Rock, Colorado

It is in those moments after the person who owns the place leaves me to my own devices that I feel the most anticipation of what is about to happen. I want to leave right then and there and get out among the people of the town and see what is out there. But I can’t leave my stuff behind and just run out of the room to join in the fun.

Denver, Colorado

I need to stop and think about what I have and how I want to take care of that stuff first. There is that few minutes where I need to get situated in the place I am staying first. I need to find a nice place for my luggage so I am not tripping over it when I get back. If I am in a neighborhood that might be a little seedy, I have to collect my valuables and make sure they are in a secured place. If I have taken a long trip to get to the spot, I need to relieve myself and freshen up a bit so I am not offending the people who I meet along the way.

West Linn, Oregon

And there is always that lure of what is going on outside of my window, telling me to hurry up with the process. I can see that chair and the table waiting for me. I can see the crowds of people shuffling by and exploring the same places I want to explore. I can see that adventure waiting to happen.

Black Butte Ranch, Oregon

I do not know if it is my favorite moment while traveling, but there is something magically about looking out that window for the first time. It is a snapshot of what the town I found myself in has to offer. It makes me feel like a kid at Christmas time looking under the tree with all the packages stuffed underneath it. They each give a hint of the fun hidden within, and it is only a short matter of time before I can enjoy it.

All of the pictures are from the various places I have stayed at during this trip, showing what it looks like from the bedroom window.

 

 

On the Banks of a Clear Lake – Around the World Day 35

I have taken my last jump west before taking the final leap back to Seoul to complete my trip around the world, and I have found myself in central Oregon. This state used to be one of the ones that many people did not know much about. They thought it was nothing more than a place where people carried an axe to cut down a tree in order to make a log cabin they could live in while they took care of their ranch. And even though there are a few ranches in this state, this is not always the case. That’s when people thought they knew the other half of Oregon where young kids go on crazy treasure hunts in order to collect enough money so they can save their homes from greedy land developers. And this is not the case either. But people think these things because they are never been to Oregon and they base what they know about the state from the pictures they have seen for it or the movies that have been filmed there. There is so much more to Oregon than that, and more and more people are finding that out as they make their way to this part of the United States.

First of all, Oregon supports one of the most diverse landscapes of any of the states. There is the coast with it huge rock formations that hand in the water just beyond the sandy beaches. It has a big city that still holds on to that small town feel while supporting a creative group of people who make the concrete jungle winding it way around the Columbia River one of the more unique cities I have ever visited. It has long plains filled with the grain and wine that makes the rest of the United States happy. And it has my favorite place in the state, a place on the other side of the Cascade mountains, central Oregon. This is where you will find the state’s mighty forests and is the playground for the people who live here. There are many paths that can take you deep into the wilderness, and also support perfect places to rock climbing or camping. It has mountains that in the winter turn into some of the best ski resorts in the nation. Cars always have mountain bikes, or kayak mounted on the back as they go to that perfect spots that they know about.

One of these spots is where I found myself yesterday, Clear Lake. It is this calm lake nestled in the Cascades. The water is a clear blue, and it will always remain that way because nobody is allowed to bring motor boats onto the lake and ruin the purity of its water. The water is fed into this little valley by underground streams, so it always remains a little cool even during the heat of summer, so you will never find anybody swimming in this lake. But it is the perfect place to take a kayak to, or rent one of the row boats that you can find at the docks at the place. It is easily the perfect place to learn how to paddle board. You cannot rent them here so you would have to bring one to the location, but the calm water is ideal to allow a person to wobble on the board without having to worry about the wake of a passing boat to knock them off. There are no real beaches to hang out at but you can find some nice little coves among the tree that allow you to sit back while people take turns with the paddle board. It turns into a nice place to spend the afternoon on a hot Oregon afternoon.

So even though I still expect to see the random log cabin on my voyage through Oregon, I know this state has a lot more to offer than the stereotype that a lot of people think about when they are presented with the name of this place. I am glad that I have ventured to this place in the world as my last destination as I circumvent the globe. It is the perfect last stoop and I am sure will be filled with many adventures to wrap up this crazy excursion.