Where Are My Soldiers?

It was only a matter of time before I started to ease out among the people again. I had gone two weeks after receiving my first shot and I needed to get a couple of errands done before I got my second one, so I drove down to Bend to get them done. This is when culture shock hit me.

Culture shock happens doesn’t only happen when traveling to a new country, but also happens to a lot of ex-pats who come back to the country after an extended stay in another part of the world. It has happened to me every time I have come back to the United States after a year abroad, and I always tend to forget about it until I am in a situation where it smacks me in the face. It was even more pronounced this time around, not only because I had been away for two years, but during those two years, there have been a lot of changes in America’s culture and attitude that I was not expecting.

Some of it I was more normal, such as the over friendly attitude from cashiers. Coming from Asia where there is usually a line of people waiting to check out, even during the pandemic months. The cashiers just want to get through them as quickly as they can because they know that another person will extend the line in only a matter of moments. There is no mindless chit-chat, just a total due and them moving on of the customer. In America, a lot of cashiers believe they need to talk about your purchases in order to make you feel happy that you are making them. It slows down the process which is a little maddening, but it also makes you have to have that conversation that you are not really ready to have. It has been a long time since I have had to have those conversations, and I am a little out of practice.

These things are minor compared to the larger change I witnessed outside of a grocery store in Bend. To understand this moment better, it helps to know that Bend is traditionally a laid back town, but has been growing over the last twenty years. A lot of the people who have lived there for a long time are not happy about this change. It has brought a lot of money into town, rose prices with housing, and has changed the landscape of usually a beautiful part of Oregon. If it continues to grow the way it is right now, Bend will become one of the bigger cities in Oregon and start to swallow up some of the smaller towns around it. With all of that money and growth, it has started to bring the work force with it to support all of this change.

The biggest one I noticed was the southern twang in the accents of a few people walking around. It is out of place in this part of the country, but from what I understand, it is more common that I would suspect. I know that I should not be shocked by this, but when I have gone two years without hearing an accent like that, and then to find it in Central Oregon, not once, or twice, but a few times, made me take notice.

The moment that really stood out for me was when walking by the front door of the Food4Less where I came across one of these accents. It came from a man clearly mumbling to himself who did not see that I was right behind him. He was angry about an altercation that he had just gone through, and based on his appearance and the recent news stories, I could only guess what it might have been. He wore the leathery skin of a person who spent a lot of their time outside whether by choice or not, I could not tell. He did not wear a mask, even though he had just come out of a grocery store that had a sign declaring that masks were necessary in order to enter it. And I couldn’t tell if his wife-beater could hide a firearm, but I am sure he had figured out a way to make sure he was protected.

His mumbling is what highlighted his attitude towards his recent treatment. “They can’t do that to me. I will show them, but I need your help. Where are my soldiers?”

This is when he noticed that I was behind him. I had already started to pick up my pace, but I wasn’t going to stick around to find out what he was really angry about. I am sure that it was nothing too crazy, but the news reports being exported out of the country, and the fact that I had not been around people so outspoken for such a long time, it made me experience that feeling of culture shock. It is something that people who lived through the pandemic from the American point of view might not notice. It was a subtle uphill climb to the point of where the country is right now, so they probably did notice the change. But for somebody who has been away for the last two years, and only in the country for short periods of time while the uphill climb was happening, it is quite the slap in the face when I come across it. I am sure that I will make more of an adjustment as I am able to get out more, but it made for an interesting night the first time I made that attempt since I have been back.

A Walk Down the Metolius River – Central Oregon

Summer has arrived in Central Oregon. The last couple of days have been in the 80s, and it has been the perfect time to get out of the house and see what the area has to offer. There are many places to choose from, and one that is frequented by many people who come this is way is Camp Sherman. It is a campground located on the Metolius River that offers tent sites, RV locations, and the option of renting a cabin for the ones who are not as adventurous.

During the summer months, the campgrounds, and cabins are usually packed with visitors because of the various activities that this part of Oregon has to offer. There are some recreation centers, but from what I am told, they do not get as much use as the river itself. It is here where you can find fly fishing, hiking, either along the river or up the nearby Black Butte, and just general fun from camping. The tall trees and cool water running down the river keeps the place relatively cool even on the hottest of summer days which makes it the perfect mountain destination.

For those of you who like to dip into civilization a little bit, there are a couple of places along the river that you can visit. There is the general store where you can pick up your basic supplies, and if you are hungry, they do have a counter where you can pick up a really good sandwich or burger with a lot of vegetarian options available. If you want more of the sit down restaurant experience, there is Hola, a Mexican restaurant that will serve you some spicy delights as well as margaritas. I have never been to this one, but it is the same Hola restaurant that can be found in nearby Bend, and if the food is the same, it is worth the visit.

If you don’t mind driving, you are only a twenty minute drive to Sisters, a charming town that will make you feel like you have gone back to the old west. It offers more restaurants and shops to browse through. But if you are looking for something a little more educational, there is the fish hatchery as well. You can see where many of the lakes and rivers of Central Oregon get its fish.

But the greatest attraction out here is the head waters of the Metolius River. This river is unique to Central Oregon because its main source of water does not come from snow melt from the surrounding peaks. The river instead spring out of the ground further upstream and you can go up there to wander around a series of paths to see how this imposing force of nature is formed.

Camp Sherman is a great place to stay at if you are looking for a camping spot in Central Oregon, but it also offers a great day retreat as well, the perfect place to take a leisurely stroll along the Metolius River to see some beautiful sights.

Clear Lake – Central Oregon

Tucked up in the mountains of Central Oregon, you will be able to find all kinds of lakes. Most of them have some sort of camping around them and a lodge where you might be able to get a couple of quick supplies or a bite to eat, and usually rent some equipment to take out on the lake. The lakes are used for different reason, so when you look at which one you would like to spend a day at, look to see what activities they allow at the lake, so you are not disappointed when you get there.

One of my favorites is Clear Lake. It is about six miles down Highway 126, off of Highway 20, just a little east of the Santiam Junction. It will get some crowds during the weekends, but nothing so extensive that you will want to avoid it altogether, and if you can make it during one of the weekdays, you can find your own little corner of the lake, even during the hotter summer months. The lake lives up to its name because the lake’s water is clear. Most of this is due to two things, the winter run off always filtering into the lake from cavern water from the surrounding mountains, and the restriction of any motor vehicles allowed on the lake.

Because of this, you are left with beautiful clear water that in most of the places allows you to look all the way down to the bottom of the lake. It gets a little deep in the middle of the lake, making it impossible, but for most of the lake, it is fun to see the life down there, and the many trees that the lake has gobbled up over the years. Because of the clear water, some scuba divers come out to explore the lake, and it threw me a little bit when I was paddling by and saw the bubbling coming up a diver from below me. There are a fair amount of fisherman also on the lake, usually paddling by in rowboats that are available at the lake’s lodge. Most people bring their own kayaks, or paddle boards to enjoy on the lake and there are various places to put them in the water with the parking lot on the western side offering the best spot.

Besides all of the fish, there are a lot of opportunities to see wildlife out there. I have been told that on any given day, you can see bald eagles or osprey, and it is along the path where many herds of deer travel throughout the year. Just because the opportunity exists does not mean that you will always see the more exciting wildlife. I was only able to see fish jumping out of the water, and a family of ducks, but it is always fun to keep my eyes open to see if I will spot something else.

There are many other lakes to explore in Central Oregon, but for the time being, Clear Lake could easily rank highest among the ones I have been to, and it might be hard to find one that can beat what this one has to offer.

A Walk Around Black Butte Ranch – Oregon

Summer has been hiding behind the clouds ready to pop out. It isn’t quite the weather for shorts and swimming pools yet in Central Oregon, but it will come soon. That does not mean that I need to hide in my house and wait for it to come. I could still get out there and enjoy the view of Black Butte Ranch. I just need to plan a little better and make sure I am wearing pants and warmer clothes.

Black Butte Ranch boasts some dramatic views no matter what the weather is. It might even be better during those cool, cloudy days because it add something more to look at in the sky than just a warming blue. It is also early enough in the season that the people have not flooded into the resort yet and taken over the paths. The cool weather reinvigorated me, making the length of this walk tick away with each happy step I took.

It felt as if the empty roads were built for me alone, and each bend gave me another view of the spectacle that is the natural landscape of Central Oregon. I am happy to be out of the towns and cities right now, and am able enjoy these quiet streets. It would be a different scene in Bend, or Redmond, or even Sisters as they get their businesses and restaurants ready for the summer rush that will happen as soon as the nod from the Governor comes, telling them that can ramp things up again.

It will nice to get back to that normal way of life, and hints of it keep peeking out from my periphery. But until then, I will enjoy the lack of crowds and having the feel that the ranch is mine alone.

Elk in the Backyard – Black Butte Ranch, Oregon

It happened last night during dinner. I was finishing up a wonderful meal of curry, when I looked out the back window, and there was a herd of elk grazing in the forest that is essentially the backyard of the place I am staying. It wasn’t the first time that I saw them that day. They were always at the edge of the forest just beyond where a camera could capture an image of them that was worth seeing. But here they were just begging to have their photo taken.

Seeing wildlife in Central Oregon is not a new thing, especially if you are staying at Black Butte Ranch, one of the quieter communities out here, nestled in the forest close to the Cascade Mountain Range. Going a day without seeing a squirrel or a variety of birds in unusual, and there are many days I have run into deer while I am out for a walk, or sometimes just hanging out in the front yard waiting to scamper off when somebody opens the front door. On a hot day, they like to seek shelter under the deck attached to the house, and will dash out if anybody decides to come out on the deck. It is not unusual to see these wildlife sightings, but elk seems to be a new phenomenon out here.

That is not to say that elk have not been grazing in the mountains of Central Oregon before, but to see them wandering through the yards of Black Butte Ranch in new. Elk are amazingly smart creatures. I have come across the herds in Colorado before. They amaze me how they always seem to know when elk hunting season starts as they move down to Estes Park to find safety there during this time, or how a creature this big can disappear in an aspen grove without a trace. It makes me wonder if they have finally found the safety that is Black Butte Ranch and decided to hang out there now. Or is this a ripple that has been caused by the recent pandemic? Did last year, when people were stuck in their houses, give them the freedom to wander around in places where humans used to inhabit, and now they have the courage to reclaim that space? Whatever the reason, it was nice to witness them casually grazing in the backyard while eating dinner. It was a nice feeling, knowing that we could live together in this space and enjoy all that it has to offer.

As a side note, I know that there are a few people reading this that are not impressed with elk wandering through a forest. It is something that they come across at least a few times a year. And there are places where deer is a common occurrence, so they are wondering why I dedicated a whole post to this phenomenon. I get it, but I have not been in the United States for a couple of years, and this is something that I do not get to witness very often. I also have other people who read this post who have never seen an elk or even a deer before, and to think about this happening in someone’s backyard in something that they could never imagine. To those people, I would say that this would be very similar to going to a beach town or the hills outside of Bangkok, and running into all of the monkeys you would find out there. Every place in the world has its wildlife that you run into. It is just sometimes it is such a common thing that you shrug it off as, “Oh, there is another elk, or deer, or monkey!” But when you think about it from the perspective of a person who does not get this opportunity very often, it is something to get excited about. And when it is something you have not seen for awhile, it becomes a new experience again. Maybe, we shouldn’t take for granted these small occurrences, and enjoy them every time we come across them, whether it is a part of our daily routine, or something we can only experience every other year. The point being, enjoy those moments when they come because you do not know when they will happen again.

Heat versus Warmth

Thailand is hot. I think that this fact is not contested very often, but what people don’t seem to understand is that Thailand is hot. I mean always. Yes, there is a little bit of a reprieve in the dry months around December and January, but it is still hot. 80 degrees Fahrenheit feels pretty cool when you have been suffering through the 90s, but that is just a relative figure. There are many place around the world who have suffered through an extremely cold winter around that same time and would beg to experience an 80 degree day.

But before we left, the heat became oppressive. It wasn’t measured in actual heat, but instead was measured in real feel. I would get up at the same time as the roosters in the morning to go out on my daily run before it got too hot out there. I would check my weather app on my iPad I left to see how hot it was out there. It probably wasn’t the smartest thing to do because it drained my energy as soon as saw how hot it actually was out there. Though the real temperature would dip down to 80 degrees at this time in the morning, the real feel would never get below 90 degrees. And this was constant for a couple of months. We never got to experience temperatures below 90 degrees, and it made for a lot of indoor living. The only time that it got bearable outside was when the sun went down.

The strange thing was that the heat was one of the main factors we considered when planning our vacations, especially our longer summer excursions. Because we were working on the other side of the world from our families, we knew that we needed to spend time with them over the summer, and the fact that they lived in two different parts of the United States meant that we had to split our time between two locations, Colorado and Oregon. They are both amazing places during the summer with plenty of outdoor activities offered, but Colorado gets warmer in June where Oregon is trapped in a drizzly cool warmup still. For this reason, we elected to go to Oregon first this time around. The cool weather would be a welcoming change from the heat we were experiencing in Bangkok.

And let me tell you that it has been heavenly. I know that many Oregonians are waiting for this cool weather to break so they can enjoy the warmth of summer, but having a change of season if only for a couple of weeks has been exactly what we have been looking for. Our trip to Central Oregon had the temperatures drop even more. We arrived at my wife’s parent’s house in Black Butte Ranch and it was really cold outside. Once again, we had to scurry inside to feel comfortable, just like in Bangkok. We huddle next to the fireplace and turned the heat up in order to get warm again. But it is a different kind of feeling escaping the cold as opposed to running away from the heat, and I miss that feeling. When I got inside in Bangkok after being in the heat, I would strip off my shirt stand, grab a glass of cold water, and slump in a chair hoping to get cool off, and sometimes achieving that goal. Whereas, coming in from the cold, meant stomping our feet, building a fire, and huddling next to it with a mug of hot coffee as it warmed our hands. It required more activity to get warm and there was a camaraderie that went with it. I know that after awhile it gets old, and I will want warmer weather, but for the time being, it is a welcoming change.

I have looked at the weather for the next couple of days in the place I am at, and it will warm up again, but it won’t be as hot as Bangkok. It means that walks, kayaking and bike rides will be in order. I look forward to getting out there in the fresh air, and enjoy what Central Oregon has to offer. It is the perfect weather to enjoy summer, and I look forward to bringing that experience to you as well. Thanks for joining me, but I am going to go back to that fire to warm up a little more before the sun can do it for me. Until next time.

Seeing the Finish Line

I know that I have been talking more about my career as a teacher lately, but that is because I am finishing up my school year in a remote location. It is not the typical way that I have done it in the past, and with all of the ways we all have done things differently over the last two years, I thought it would be interesting to document my feelings along the way.

I am getting to that point of the school year where things are wrapping up and I am starting to work on thinking about what I will be doing next year. This time of the year is always busy and very stressful, and Covid has not made it easier. Tracking down students to get them to turn in missing assignments and finish up the school year is made more difficult by the fact that I am hoping that they will eventually check their email to see the urgent message I have sent them. I get that the latest video game is more exciting than an email from an English teacher, but I wish they would prioritize enough to make sure they finish the school year before they start playing their game. But I can’t blame them because I would be in the same spot if I was them.

Despite this, I have gotten to the point of where I have checked all of my boxes and completed most of my duties. There are a couple of other responsibilities I need to take care of before I go, but they are minor and don’t add to the level of stress I am starting to shed. Really, all I am doing is waiting around for that final metaphorical bell to ring so I can log out of email account one last time, and get to enjoying the summer. It is a lot of sitting around which has made me feel bored and busy at the same time, but I will take this feeling over the stacks of papers I had to work through a couple of weeks ago. It is nice to know that it is finally coming to an end, and I am looking forward to next step in my career as I switch schools and countries next year. It is the spark I need right now, but I am just not there yet.

It is that finish line that is always the hardest to cross. All of my years of running has taught me this. It is the time of the race where you are spent. You lungs are burning, and your muscles are wishing to seize up, but in order for the pain to stop, you have to keep plugging away at it. The location of the finish line never changes, just your relation to it. I can see that finish line right now, and I know what it feels like when you finally cross it. All of the tension and pushing you have done during that long race is finally released as you can now take life at stroll and collect your breath. Their is always a refreshing drink waiting for you at the end, and the rest of the day can be spent the way you want to. But looking back at the path you came from, you can give yourself the satisfaction that you just finished that race, and accomplished something many people are afraid to. It is a simple feeling, but it is one of the best feelings in the world, and I am looking forward to it.

There are only a couple of days left until I get to cross that finish line, and I will keep slowly plugging away at it until I reach it. And once I cross it, I can go back to the usual posts that having nothing to do with work, and have more to do with taking the world in I get to visit. I hope to see you there.

A View from the Sidewalk

I have enjoyed being back in the cool air of the Pacific Northwest again. It is refreshing after the heat wave that I was experiencing in Thailand. I am in that position of making sure to keep my contact with other people to be minimal, so I have, for the most part, stayed inside. But I have taken a moment every day to get out and walk around. It is nice to walk on these streets free from the crowds, and enjoy the weather.

Every where I look, I see those little pieces of Americana that I have missed during the last couple of years. There are the tree houses and graduation celebration signs in people’s front yards. There is the sound of lawn mowers trimming the yards, and there are people out walking their dogs. I do have to remember to keep to the sidewalks. After two years of sticking to the edge of the roads and paying attention to the sounds of oncoming cars and motorcycles, I forgot that there are places where you are supposed to stay off the road, and stick to the safety from the sidewalk.

It is a different view from the sidewalk. There is always so much to see from there. People like to put a little bit of themselves in their yards, and it is fun to see their personalities. Sometimes the yards are well manicured and sometimes they are a little more sporadic. Every once in a while, there is a little joke that offers up a little laugh. It makes these walks more enjoyable to take.

My favorites are the free libraries that can be found all over the Pacific Northwest neighborhoods. On our little one mile walk, we came across three of these book deposits. People in the neighborhood can take a book or drop one off, and each little library offers a different collection of books to browse from. There are ones that cater to a younger audience, and some enjoy the thrillers that can be found all over the place, while others have a more literary selection.

It was nice to get out to enjoy this activity again, and make it home without being a hot, sweaty mess. I am looking forward to the day when I get back to the more populated parts of town, and enjoy this cool weather even more. But I still have a few more days of quarantine to go through as well as another vaccination shot. It is still nice to know that it is getting closer to enjoying a more normal life, and to be back in America to enjoy it.

Hindsight – The Best Posts of 2020

It is that time of the year again where we all look back at where we have been, and reflect on the lessons learned there. By far, 2020 will be remembered where there was a lot to be learned. I hope that we can take a lot from the experiences of this year and use it to grow not only as people but also as a world wide society.

When looking back at the posts that got the most views this year, I noticed that they had a sense of positivity to them, and I know that not all that I posted this year could say that they had that spin on them. It is nice to know that even though I might have found some dark places in this dark time, it did not bring people down and they still searched for that positivity in their lives.

I hope you enjoy the look back as much as I enjoy presenting it to you, and I hope, like me, that you look forward to 2021 with a new sense of revitalization as to what great prospects it may bring.

#10 To Choose a Side of the Valley – Wangen versus Murren

Most of my posts come from the first few days of 2020 when there was only a hint of disease taking over a small town in China. At this time, the hope of the year was still in front of me and I was wrapping up one of the best trips I have been on in a long time. It was great seeing snow again, and being forced to wear winter weather. This picture was taken on one of the last days on this trip as I sat on the balcony of our hotel room in Murren, Switzerland. My mind often wandered back to the beauty of this part of the world.

https://johncollings.com/2020/01/10/to-choose-a-side-of-the-valley-wangen-versus-murren/

#9 In a Valley in the Swiss Alps – Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland

Like I said, many of the most popular posts come from my trip to Europe and the beginning of the year, and this is no exception. Lauterbrunnen is a small town in a valley in the Swiss Alps and is the perfect home base for exploring these mountains. It is not nearly as cold in the valley as it is when you find your way to the towns closer to the top, and the views from down below are still as dramatic as they are up top.

https://johncollings.com/2020/01/06/in-a-valley-in-the-swiss-alps-lauterbrunnen-switzerland/

#8 A Phuket Sunset – Siam Summer

After a tough semester of teaching on-line and being quarantined, Thailand had done well enough with the world-wide pandemic to allow travel to open up again, but only for those who were living in the country. It was never my plan to get to know Thailand as well as I did this summer, and it was interesting to drive down to Phuket and see how much this island had been affected by Covid-19. It has picked up since then, but it is still wrangling with the devastating effects it had on its economy. I got to experience it with mainly only its residents, and I still wonder what it would be like to see it when it is full with its regular amount of tourists.

https://johncollings.com/2020/07/20/a-phuket-sunset-siam-summer/

#7 Never Forget Dachau – Germany

I am actually really glad that this post had the reception that it had. Dachau was one of the more earnest moments of an unforgettable year. I did not know it at the time that I walked around the site of the Nazi’s first concentration camp, but a lot of the images and lessons learned there would haunt me all year long as I saw similar things play out on the political stages all around the world. It is one of the places that I believe everybody should see at least once in their lifetimes, right up there with Auschwitz and Hiroshima.

https://johncollings.com/2020/01/04/never-forget-dachau-germany/

#6 Koh Yao Yai – Siam Summer

Koa Yao Yai was one of the most pleasant surprises of the year. I was able to travel to this exclusive island in mid-July just as it was starting to open its doors again, and they were trying to entice tourists to come and stay. The prices were too good to pass up on this amazing island, and I am so happy that I was able to stay in this little paradise. I am pretty sure I will never be able to afford it again, but it is one of those things that make me look back at this year and realize that I was pretty lucky to be stuck in Thailand for this worldwide crisis.

https://johncollings.com/2020/07/17/koh-yao-yai-siam-summer/

#5 Fortress Hohensalzburg – Salzburg, Austria

This was one of the more touristy posts I gave on this trip. It is a must do if ever traveling to Salzburg, and it is really hard to forget about because no matter where you are in town, this imposing fortress is staring down at you from its hill. It is a fun way to spend a day in Salzburg and really lets you feel that medieval experience that you want to get when you travel to Europe.

https://johncollings.com/2020/01/01/fortress-hohensalzburg-salzburg-austria/

#4 James Bond’s Peak – Schilthorn, Switzerland

When I was in this part of the world back in 2007, I was on a very limited budget and could not afford the brunch at the top of this Swiss peak. I almost did not believe it was worth the price earlier this year, but I am glad that I decided against being frugal and went up to this restaurant and had breakfast. It was fun going up and coming down this mountain, and I will never forget this experience. The post really picked up after the death of Sean Connery which is weird because this peak is most famous for the first Bond movie after he stopped playing the iconic character.

https://johncollings.com/2020/01/08/james-bonds-peak-schilthorn-switzerland/

#3 Their Insanity

I have only had one of my other poems make the top ten list, but there was something that struck a nerve with a lot of people when I first posted this poem. It was early in the lockdown stage that everybody in the world was feeling, and they might have understood the sentiment I was trying to get at with this poem even though that was not what it was written about.

https://johncollings.com/2020/05/03/their-insanity/

#2 A Toast to the End of the Semester

The image of a half full bottle of champagne sitting in front of this statue on the university campus in Salzburg is what inspired this poem. I did not post the poem with this picture until the end of the last school year, but it was around the holiday season this year that the poem started to gain in popularity. It took a year to get back to that feeling of the end of the semester, but I hope it helped everybody rejoice when the difficulty of both school semesters ended.

https://johncollings.com/2020/05/18/a-toast-to-the-end-of-the-semester/

#1 It’s No Rayong – Siam Summer

The title of this post started as a joke between a few people that I travelled to Rayong with earlier this summer. It was one of the first places that opened up after lockdown, and we went there for a couple of days before traveling to Koh Samet when that finally opened up. Rayong was not the best place to stay, but it was nice to be out of Bangkok. This post was about a comparison between Rayong and the amazing island of Koh Yao Yai, and people must have really loved it because the still visit it today. I do not know if it is because they want to know more about Koh Yao Yai, or if the title makes them laugh, but either way thank you for visiting it.

https://johncollings.com/2020/07/16/its-no-rayong-siam-summer/

Honorable Mentions

As always, these are posts that received a lot of traffic this year even though they were not posted this year. Some of them have taken a couple of years to gain in popularity, but the last one is the one I can guarantee somebody visits on a daily basis. The funny thing about “Bend Sucks! Move Somewhere Else” is that it was a throw away post that has now become one of the ones that gets the most traffic. It just goes to show that I do not know what will speak to the public, and what will not. It is always surprises me which posts do well, and which just disappear into obscurity.

You Can’t Go Back to the Green – The Holidays Day 20

https://johncollings.com/2019/01/09/you-cant-go-back-to-the-green-the-holidays-day-20/

Being Indiana Jone – Hua Hin, Thailand

https://johncollings.com/2019/10/13/being-indiana-jones-hua-hin-thailand/

Lessons from Ankor Wat

https://johncollings.com/2017/10/11/lessons-from-angkor-wat/

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

https://johncollings.com/2018/07/25/bend-sucks-move-somewhere-else-around-the-world-day-39/

Thank you for joining me in my travels this year. I am sorry that it was not as diverse as it has been in previous years, but it has been an interesting year for everybody. I hope that when things loosen up again next year that you find these posts and the other ones that I will continue to post inspiring and that you get out there and see the world. It is a great way to experience life and I would love to hear about some your adventures some day.

Thanks again for the interesting year.

Top Posts from 2019

Well, it is the end of another year, and this one has seen some really exciting changes in my life. I moved from South Korea to Thailand. I took two voyages back to the United States, one in the beginning of the year, and one during the summer break to get everything in order for the move. I got to visit Japan during the Sakura festivals and see what the hype was all about, and I got to fulfill a long dream of mine of spending Christmas in Germany. It has been an exciting year full of highs and lows, and I want to thank all of you for being along for the ride. I thought I would take the time to go through the posts that you enjoyed the most this year and list them in order according to their popularity.

#10 – Cherry Blossoms in Our Winter

This is the first poem to make this list, and it is actually one of my favorite poems that I have written. It really captured the moment that I witnessed during my trip to Tokyo, and I think showed why the Sakura Festival is so important to all of the people who live there,

https://johncollings.com/2019/04/21/cherry-blossoms-in-our-winter/

#9 – Being Indiana Jones – Hua Hin, Thailand

Even though this experience was more of a day trip from Hau Hin, it was still close enough to the place where I set up my base to include it in this area of Thailand. I had a lot of fun on this first trip out of Bangkok, getting to explore the country a little more, and it just showed me what little treasures I could find as long as I took the time to find it.

https://johncollings.com/2019/10/13/being-indiana-jones-hua-hin-thailand/

#8 – The Journey to Ring in the New Year – The Holidays Day 13

This was actually the first post I had during the 2019 year, and it told of the story of the struggle I had making it to my brother’s house for the New Year’s Eve celebration. Snow can be a beautiful thing, but not if you have to travel through it dumping down out of the sky on a holiday night known for people drinking too much and taking unnecessary risks.

https://johncollings.com/2019/01/01/the-journey-to-ring-in-the-new-year-the-holidays-day-13/

#7 – How is This Not a Thing – Itaewon Day 2

I had many unique experiences during my time living in South Korea, but one of the most unique experiences was being sat down in an enclosure with a bunch of meerkats in a cafe in the middle of downtown Seoul. The Meerkat Friends has been in operation for over a decade and it is easy to see why so many people enjoyed a post about cuddling with a bunch of the furry creature.

https://johncollings.com/2019/02/03/how-is-this-not-a-thing-itaewon-day-2/

#6 – Massive Explosions – The Move Day 15

Only one thing can beat cute, furry creatures, and that is blowing things up. It is kind of a tradition in the United States anymore, and it is always a fun to be able to spend it with my family. I was especially impressed with the creativity that went behind some of the fireworks, and I am also impressed with how big, and loud they have gotten over the years.

https://johncollings.com/2019/07/05/massive-explosions-the-move-day-15/

#5 – Ice Cream Asian Style – Back to Japan Day 1

Who knew a pair of chopsticks and a small cup of Hagen Das would have been so intriguing? It was another one of my posts inspired by my trip to Japan and this was even before we were able to experience the sakura. Funny thing about this post was we found a small little spoon in our bag from the store after we finished eating our ice cream.

https://johncollings.com/2019/03/23/ice-cream-asian-style-back-to-japan-day-1/

#4 – You Can’t Go Back to the Green – The Holidays Day 20

I am always surprised by what posts connect with people and which ones do not. This post was supposed to be a throw away about a day at I had to spend on campus of my old college getting some paperwork taken care of, but for some reason, people kept coming back to it over the year. I guess they feel the same way about that lyric to that Billy Joel song that I do.

https://johncollings.com/2019/01/09/you-cant-go-back-to-the-green-the-holidays-day-20/

#3 – The Legacy – The Move Day 1

This was my final farewell to a country that I had lived in for four years. It was a bittersweet departure. During my years at the school, there was a lot of talk about “Leaving a Legacy” behind, and this was my response to that idea while saying goodbye to all of the people that I had met and grew with during my time there.

https://johncollings.com/2019/06/20/the-legacy-the-move-day-1/

#2 Downtown Bangkok

Making the move to Bangkok has given me an opportunity to explore a new corner of the world, and the city of Bangkok has so much to offer that it might take a couple of years to get to it all. This was my first attempt at making a dent into seeing what this city is all about, and I am sure there will be many more to follow.

https://johncollings.com/2019/08/12/downtown-bangkok/

#1 – The Arrival- The Move Final Day

There is nothing like moving into a new place. It is full of excitement and potential, but the only way I could share this moment with my family and friends was to write this post about it. The amount of people checking into it was almost like having a house warming party except I had not quite unpacked yet. It was still fun to show everybody the interesting artwork that was found in my bathroom. He has got a name now too, Smoke.

https://johncollings.com/2019/07/30/the-arrival-the-move-final-day/

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

When I published my first book, I was told that you would never know what would take off, and what would die in obscurity. This post has found a life of its own. There is hardly a week that goes by when I do not have a person look at this post about a funny bumper sticker I saw while in Bend, Oregon a couple of years ago. It has turned into the most widely read piece I have ever written, and I am interested to see if it continues to make a presence in the coming year.

https://johncollings.com/2018/07/25/bend-sucks-move-somewhere-else-around-the-world-day-39/

Thank you for visiting me site this past year, and I look forward to seeing more of you next year.