Kathmandu, Nepal is a colorful place rife with activity and buzz. Arriving around noon to smiles and warm, welcoming hugs from Rupak Koirala and Sarah Levine Weinstein of the Jane Goodall Institute Nepal, the long trip was suddenly worth it.
The first, most jostling thing I noticed (besides the absolute traffic malay) is the practice of load-shedding here. I knew it was something to consider from Skype calls with Rupak while I was still in the States but very much did not expect it the first, second, third, and fourth time it happened. Basically, in each area of the city, on some sort of random schedule, in order to provide electricity to all people, for as much of the day as possible, they cut the power for everyone in bursts.
Nothing brings out a sense of privilege in a techie more than not having access to electricity.
Three days in and I'm still experiencing a slight sense of anxiety every time it happens, as if something is wrong. Maybe it's because when the power goes out in the US it's because you didn't pay your bill, someone's hurt because they hit a pole with their car, or because severe weather has taken out the whole neighborhood grid. All scenarios that would be, in other words, bad.
The practice of load-shedding means to share the electricity, something I'm not used to doing. At all. It reminds me that no matter where in the world I am, energy is an issue. It's a different issue in the U.S. where we worry about coal mining and the (often mis-)handling of coal ash. Here it's about having power at all and, upon further thought, I think it's good for all of us to learn to share. The Earth's finite resources are just that; They're finite.
Next time you walk out the door with the TV or lights on, remember that not everyone gets such privilege so be careful not to exploit this privilege by leaving them on. That's super selfish. Turn them off because there's only so much to go around and there's a real effect in this world when you do. If you don't want load-shedding to be a reality back home, don't leave these things on because you just forgot and definitely not because you're just lazy. That's never a good look on anyone, especially not those of us who enjoy energy availability all day, everyday.
Roseau is Dominica's most important trade port, with roots going back to the 14th century. It's heavy French influence from the arrival of Europeans in the late 18th century is evident in the architecture and the teeny, tiny, illegible little streets. The beautiful racket of daily life paired with super vibrant, gorgeous colors on the buildings is a mix of Caribbean and French that is totally charming. Oh and the breeze-in, breeze-out smells of cooking food on this island are incredible.
Bequia means "island of the clouds" in the native Arawak language, and it's no wonder. The clouds constantly roll in, sprinkle refreshing, cool raindrops for a minute, then roll out.
Port Elizabeth, Bequia Island, St. Vincent and the Grenadines is a curious, colorful place popular with cruising yachts, expatriots and tourists from all over. When I first arrived, I needed Internet because being on a ship at night means there's not much connectivity. Not to mention, the food around this area is downright delicious.
Without much effort, I found myself in a tiny cafe called Maria's French Terrace surrounded by futbol-watching French people. The entire island measures only seven square miles (roughly the size of San Francisco proper) so I didn't figure I'd have trouble finding WiFi, and I was right. This place has stunning views to enjoy your lunch overlooking this: [image-1] Better brush up on your Français if you want to enjoy Bequia though, just FYI. I took it back in high school and this was literally the first time in all of my life that I was able to use it in the wild.
There's not much to do on this tiny island except enjoy it's surrounding ocean, which is perhaps its most enchanting aspect. There are beaches, but they're not really for sun-bathing. Why would you lay out on the beach when the ocean is right there? There aren't many clocks, there's a lot of simultaneously relaxing and intoxicating rum punch, and opportunities to do the following abound. Here's 26 seconds of what Bequia is best for:
Bridgetown, Barbados, is a beautiful place full of rich culture and warm weather, unlike the frigid rain Charlotte hasexperienced lately. The island in the heart of the West Indies is a popular destination for those looking to thaw out in the middle of winter, and people hail from all over the world. Subsequently, there are a lot of things to do as a tourist here in the land that gave the world the gorgeous pop singer, Rihanna. Here are some of my recommendations.
Places to look forward to seeing in the coming weeks:
- Bridgetown, Barbados
- Bequia, St Vincent and the Grenadines
- Port of Roseau, Dominica
- Deshaies, Guadeloupe
- St. Johns, Antigua
- Road Bay, Anguilla
- Prickly Pear Island, BVI
- Philipsburg (St. Maarten), AN
See you in Barbados!
P.S. - Did you catch me in the print edition of CL Charlotte a couple of weeks ago? If you missed it, make sure to read Kim Lawson's cover story on urban-exploring, featuring pics and quotes from yours truly, Urban explorers capture the invisible.
For more commentary, follow me on Twitter @dbirdy, for more photos peep my Flickr, if you're into the travel philosophy thing read my website, and to see a bunch of random and fun travel videos, subscribe to my YouTube channel!
Zero, zilch, none and no part of this post is sponsored by any of the above mentioned company or companies, nor would I ever present such a thing.
I've been a field producer on local independent journalist/CL contributor Rhiannon Fionn's investigative documentary project called Coal Ash Chronicles for the past two or so years. Back in November, the project took video journalist Kevin J. Beaty and I out to Delta, Utah, to do a profile piece on nearby Millard County's Intermountain Power Project's coal ash beneficial re-use practices. While we were out in the desert, we found the damndest thing: ECG Utah Solar 1. It's a 300MW solar power facility in the works that is tapping into a coal power plant's infrastructure to bring renewable energy to six municipalities in Southern California, L.A. being the largest.
Considering North Carolina's coal ash woes, thanks to the massive Duke Energy spill into the Dan River a couple of weeks ago, West Virginia's before and after that, ECG Utah Solar 1 offers a model for communities beginning to actively look past coal power. We decided to take a second trip back to Millard County just to cover the creation of what will one day be one of the nation's largest solar power plants. Here's what we found.:
On the road again, this time headed to Los Angeles, Hollywood, and Palm Springs to work the 2014 Palm Springs Photo festival! See y'all on the Left coast!
Sail away on a catamaran in the Caribbean via this month's FREE desktop calendar! Simply click the image below and Save As...
The answer to both questions is the same: In order to live a life that is epic and exactly as you want it, no matter what that looks like, you basically have to not give a fuck about what anyone has to say or thinks about how you live your life. At the end of the day, you are the one who has to be happy with yourself.
A lot of it comes down to changing priorities to travel above (almost) all else: Just do it and don't be sorry about it, at all, ever. If someone wants to gaze down because they have a different standard of living, that's their problem. Why? Because your life will be awesome and exactly as you want it. Everything else falls into place.
As an example, I'll use my "Buying legal weed in Colorado with a North Carolina" ID post. I got some comments on Twitter practically condemning me for doing the piece because, according to their beliefs, marijuana is a gateway drug - regardless of the fact that anyone who's ever been around it knows that it's not. If people are going to get addicted, they're going to get addicted, MJ or not. I'm a travel writer and I just happened to be in a state where a noteworthy event happened - so I wrote about it. This is part of the gig that is also my life. Was I able to sleep that night? Absolutely. Was I sorry at all? NOPE.
People are entitled to their opinions, and aspiring nomads need to know that they are, too. It seems so simple, but people complicate it with excuses. Perhaps it's the human condition. If you want to be a nomad/travel writer/pilot/live on a boat/go off the grid/whatever, do what you've got to do because at the end of every day, you're the only one that can make a happier, less lonely, or perhaps more traveled life.
Are you running away because someone told you you're always going to take the wrong way?
Tiredness. We all experience it, just some of us more often than others. Nomads are no exception.
There's a concept called road-worn and it's an exhausted tiredness that isn't homesickness, but close, that nomads pick up after significant time on the road. It is often relieved by time with friends, some time with a power plug and an internet connection, and a comfortable bed. When you're traveling you can't always get the things you need and hanging out with your phone only makes things worse.
Make time for the nothing to happen.
Road-worn also shows itself on a person's outward appearance, if it's serious. Ever meet a happy long-term traveller and wonder how they stay so care free and light but then there are people who are on the same path who are heavy and pensive in their nature? The size of one's burden from the road is what causes that. It's the fire that makes some people cool, carefree gypsies and others frightened and borderline homeless.
The road will drape herself across your shoulders if you allow. Invisibility, freedom, fear, or madness; It's up to you which kind of cloak you want to be.
I imagine my lungs breathing in
as a pair of wings.
There's a crow in my chest
crying out through my broken ribs.
It's so warm on your forehead
the sweat makes my lipstick melt.
The deep smell of you dangerously
matches the perfume inside of me.
- K. Park, Everything
Image credit: Desiree Kane
Wanderlust is much like this battle of two wolves. It can consume you in one of two ways: Either by freeing you or destroying you.
Wikipedia defines wanderlust as "a strong desire for or impulse to wander or travel and explore the world." I assert that this definition is far too shallow. Wanderlust, once it overcomes a person, is incurable and unquenchable. It's something that propels humans to the ends of the Earth. It's a feeling of yearning, of wanton, of being compelled to go.
It's so much more than just a desire or impulse.
Not everyone understands the intensity of wanderlust, so with it comes its own troubles. When two wanderlusters meets, there's almost always an instant connection - and I'm not talking about anything remotely sexual. For people in a romantic relationship with a traveler, that instant connection can sometimes be hard to understand, especially when a traveler speaks fondly of an amazing experience with someone else in the past. When you aren't consumed with it, it can be difficult to comprehend another person's unquenching desire to roam, to put him or herself in precariously fun situations, to eat delicious, potentially poisonous, street food, to meet the world's colorful, warm people.[jump]Finding deep and fruitful human connections with people who are feeding their good wanderlust wolf is finding friendship on steroids. Such little time is actually available to forge meaningful friendship, so the inclination is to make fast friends really, really fast. Twenty questions in a hostel later, wanderlusters have met their new (right now) BFF and off they go, gallivanting and exploring the world together, doing epic shit.
But inevitably paths must change, and the only thing left is a friendship that is so uniquely intense that these people seek to recreate this feeling together in other places, and suddenly long-term travel companions emerge. I have a few of them. Mario Chammoro, Kris Krug, Ayesha Sayed, Latifah Rahmdel, Kat Haber, and Andrew Hyde are all some excellent examples. We met in Doha, Qatar, and have subsequently met up in other places because that first experience was so life-changing.
Being consumed with wanderlust is manifested in the ongoing relationships you have with others while feeding your good travel wolf. It's not simply a calling or an impulse to travel - it's an addictive, life-affirming ephemera acquired through travel embodied in the ongoing relationships between travelers, no matter where in the world they are. Wanderlust has just as much to do with these friendships as it does actual travel. Speaking as someone consumed by it, I can attest that nurturing travel friendships is likely what keeps me traveling so much. These are also the people that can help nomads and travelers stave off homesickness. James Taylor once said, "I didn't have a home at the time but that didn't keep me from being homesick." That really hits the nail right on the head. Those who can commiserate are the ones to best comfort, sometimes.
Perhaps the most important thing to remember if you indeed are overcome with wanderlust is that not everyone actually gives a shit that you are having such amazing experiences living the rad life. That's a bit of tough love, I know, but it's the truth. It's important to nurture relationships that keep you grounded alongside travel friendships. People might wind up resenting you because they can't, won't, or don't seek the kind of life you do. Gary Arnt of Everything Everywhere wrote a great bit on exactly this in his post called Help Eliminate Pretentious Travel Douchebag Syndrome, which I recommend every traveler read.
Activities like those Arnt mentions - talking about the recent trip you took even though no one asked you about it, trying to one up people with your travel stories, saying how things are better somewhere else, constantly wearing clothing or other items you bought on your trip to show them to people - serve as a good example of what feeding a bad wanderlust wolf can result in: you becoming a pretentious douche that people find annoying to be around. Travel changes us in ways we don't understand until we return. If you don't sense that and become more self-actualized from travel, you're doing it for the wrong reason.
In 2014, I encourage you to feed your good wanderlust wolf, to get out even if it's just around the block, to explore with no map or set path. The world is really, really big - that I can promise. What I can also promise is that you'll be happier for it. If your New Year's resolution is to be happier, consider adapting the mindset that you are a global citizen and that this big rock is your address. The worst thing that can happen is that you turn out better for it in the end, and I think we can all agree that the world is better off with more good wolves in it.
Making sure things line up
if they don't,
I'll be totally and completely
all fucked up.
This is King's Beach in Truckee, California. A serene and silent place, it's an excellent retreat space any time of the year.
Every month I make and give away a free 1200x800 desktop image for your computer! Bonus: it's a calendar! Enjoy!
“Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.”
— Ralph Waldo Emerson
The idea of up-rooting and embarking on a long-term travel adventure seems pretty much crazy to most people yet so many wish they say they could do it. Or, at least they say they wish they could. Why?
Freedom to roam, freedom to run towards or run away, freedom to be who we are, etc.
It's important to always remember that we paint ourselves into the corners of our own boxes when it comes to the things we believe we should or should not do. When you find yourself on the edge, wanting to travel to get away from or fix a situation that is yielding unhappiness because you should or should not do something, all you need to do is remember that you did this to yourself...
...which means you can also un-do it to yourself if you're unhappy. You can travel anywhere, for as long as you want, change, or both, you just have to want to bad enough.
I'd argue that perhaps the majority of people embark on the journeys of their lifetime after breaking out of a jail cell of unhappiness. Not everyone, of course, but many, many people. During my travels I've come across many a-folk who speak with reverence about the time they spent on the road some time in their life. They talk about it like being in a love affair. As if it's a lover you'll never get closure with; The one that got away, if you will.
Being on the road means restless searching, perpetual curiosity, and the unquenchable thirst for experience. It's true that eventually everyone stops traveling eventually but that doesn't make the time spent any less hallowed.
Freedom is a mindset just like being on the road is or being happy is. So, when you think you've gone off course with your life or travel plans, when find yourself unhappy, or when you have lost the freedom to be yourself for whatever reason, remember that none are far off, you just have to seek them to get back on track.