smileytraveler

Things I learn about the world from 13 years of continuous travel.

Fear drives a lot of our actions. And like anything in this world, it can be good and bad at the same time.

The fear we feel when the kids go out to play is good fear. Our fear serves to protect them from things they're not yet aware are dangerous. It keeps them alive.

Some fear, however, is bad. Well, maybe not “bad”...let's just say misunderstood. It causes some of us to lose sleep at night. I suffer from this kind of fear daily.

During my 20's I worked my little lady nuts off and socked away money like it was going out of style. It was the era of Enron and Bernie Madoff, so I didn't dare invest it in the markets. No, instead I let it rot away in savings accounts and real estate. I was married at the time and we both worked hard on our own businesses, lived simply, bought everything with cash and managed to each save quite impressive little nest eggs for ourselves.

Yeah, there were a couple of years where I succumbed to the I earned this! mentality, so I bought some fancy things, lived in a fancy house, and basked in all the dumb shit people do to feel successful. It really wasn't that great.

I quickly grew bored, and maintaining all that shit was a real pain. Not to mention, really expensive. I didn't work so hard to support all that crap. It was like having a brood of full-grown adult kids living with me at home and draining my bank account and will to live.

So slowly and steadily we sold off all the nonsense and rejoined the simple life. The savings now had to go somewhere.

I was so exhausted from “investing” for myself, and furthermore, horrified at the amount of money I'd lost. I'm a terrible investor. Terrible! It would make your head spin if I told you how much money I incinerated because I thought I was smart. Nope, I needed an adult to step in and save me from myself.

Time to join the markets.

Get Your Geek On

Being a childless wanderer means I have a lot more free time than most. A lot of time to read and a lot of time to think. I spend most of this time reading books on sociology, economics, history, and all sorts of topics in between.

I'm fascinated by economics and economic theory. It's like being able to look under society's hood and understand what all those weird little wires, valves, and belts are doing, and how they work together to make the engine run.

Once I got the basics of economics down, I ventured into economic history and all of the crazy stuff that our forefathers went through. The booms and busts, the bubbles, the famines, the regulation, the groundwork for our current financial laws. Good stuff.

There has been and are some really awful people responsible for a lot of money. The life savings of teachers, firefighters, and broken blue collar workers which made its way into their accounts drip by drip over many, many years. Since none of us know much what to do with these savings, we have to sit back and pray that those we entrust to invest it for us are not complete psychopaths.

The good news is, 99% of them are not. They are honest, skilled, educated folks who've studied money and how to grow it and know how to keep their hands out of the cookie jar.

But what if that one little steaming turd gets his hands on your retirement account? Oh man.

It took me a long time to develop trust in fiduciaries and markets. And, honestly, I had no choice...I would have driven myself into the poorhouse. I had to grit my teeth and send my precious little dollars out into the world, hoping they'd return to me someday...and bring friends.

Ever since I did this I've spent a lot of time worrying that my retirement fund would be stolen or disappear in some kind of horrific market event. I would be so, so incredibly screwed.

But what am I supposed to do? There's nothing I can do. I have to sit on this plane and let the pilots do their thing. Worrying all the time won't make a crash less likely, so I try my best not to.

What I fear, and what I'm sure a lot of others fear is not necessarily the loss of money. It's the result of that loss. What we fear is poverty.

I love sharing stories that changed my life here. And this is one of my best. Hope it helps somebody else out there deal with fear...even in a small way.

Getting to the Bottom of Fear

I'm sure we all can recall a handful of moments in our lives that changed the course of our thinking. One of these moments for me was about eight months ago when I was listening to a Tim Ferriss podcast.

Tim doesn't really have a “schtick”. His topics range from working out, to entrepreneurship, to relationships, to philosophy. He's just a really interesting dude. He's what I call a “macro-thinker”. He's brilliant at looking at a ton of different life themes and being able to weave them all together. I imagine macro thinkers are like winged souls who are able to rise above the world, look down, and see the human condition as a whole.

On this particular day, I believe he was doing some sort of random question show in which listeners ask whatever they want. I had headphones on and was probably cleaning or something, vaguely listening to his voice in the background.

As I recall, the question had something to do with a listener wanting to start a business and being afraid. Afraid that it would blow up and he'd end up in the poorhouse.

Tim's response was so wise and profound, I had to stop, sit down, stare out the window and process it for quite a while.

I'm absolutely paraphrasing here, not quoting him, but it went something like this:

*“Ok, so you're afraid. That's cool. Let's think about this for a minute. What are you actually afraid of? Let's assume the absolute worst-case scenario. This business doesn't work, you lose everything. Ok. What does that look like? Again, imagine the most terrible outcome.*

Are you homeless? Are you starving? Do you have zero options? Will nobody you know take you in? Will you be unable to procure food and shelter under any circumstance? Will you die in the streets?

My guess is none of these things will happen. Even if you lose every last penny to your name.”

What I gathered from his answer was that we tend to imagine things will be a whole lot worse (or better) than they actually will be. Our brain really doesn't know the difference between “bodily harm” fear and “fear of poverty” fear. It's all the same: nauseatingly uncomfortable.

But what Tim said next was the real gem (again, paraphrasing from memory):

*“If you've imagined the worst case scenario and you are still afraid, think about this: try living your fears. If you are afraid of the electricity getting shut off, shut it off yourself. What do you do?”*

I followed along with this thought experiment. Perhaps I'd do all the things that required light during the day, when abundant light streams in for free. I could read at night by candlelight, or with the headlight from my bike. I could cook on my camping stove, wash laundry by hand, and leave it to dry outside when the hot sun came back.

No matter which scenario I ran, I was never defeated, destitute or naked.

If I needed to work on my laptop I could go to the library and use their electricity and internet. My work would not have to stop.

Even if I cut myself and needed stitches, perhaps I could work out a trade with the local doctor. I have many valuable skills. I know I could produce something worthy of my medical bill.

I ran what-if? after “what-if?* and couldn't seem to get to death or nakedness no matter how hard I tried.

The exception was a life-threatening accident requiring hospitalization. That scenario meant death. So a few days later I purchased a cheap, high-deductable medical policy that would cover that and a separate policy that would cover devastating chronic conditions such as cancer, heart attack, or stroke. As long as I could make $74 a month to cover the premiums, and had $7500 in the bank to cover the decuctables, I wouldn't die. I was pretty certain I could find a way to make $74 a month in cash, so a crazy thing happened...I was feeling alright for the first time in years.

This experiment was indeed liberating. But, as a weirdo who's never satisfied, I had to go further.

My January was looking a little barren. (I have a business at the moment that's feast or famine. When the work rains, it pours. Otherwise, crickets. Maybe my clients all conspire to dump work on me at the same time?)

So I'm looking at my calendar and the crazy starts flying. Above all, my biggest fear about poverty is losing the ability to travel like I have for so long. So I'll take Tim's advice:

I will become voluntarily homeless. Additionally, I will travel with only the equipment I have. My bicycle and my legs.

If I can do this, I don't have to be afraid anymore.

It's winter in Florida and Key West is calling.

I really wanted to write a serious post on Universal Basic Income, since there's been much sniveling about it lately from our overlords in Silicon Valley.

Y'all, it's awesome! Basically, this group of rich nerds are feeling guilty. Guilty that they are building robots to replace human jobs. Their logic is: with so many robots, we won't need humans to do these jobs anymore. Our robots will cause their jobs to go away. We need to make sure they are taken care of. So let's tax the robots and give that tax money to the less fortunate humans! We'll decide on an amount that will eliminate poverty and everyone will be equal! Free!

Years ago I would have been horrified by a proposal like this. But now, I think it's freakin' awesome. If some dumbass wants to volunteer to give me money, why be so principled?

They want to give me money. I'm ready to take the money.

I've spent a lot of time and tears in life fighting lefties. I'm tired. They are going to make me a victim whether or not I agree with them. So...why the hell not?

For example: if somebody says something I don't like, I can just call them a sexist. Or, better yet, a misogynist. My great awakening (coming soon) made me realize I don't have to muster the energy to argue a well thought out, logical, historical and factually accurate reason as to why women can “do things”! It's so much easier to just call them one of a grab bag full of names, make them feel guilty, and get them to shut up, thereby winning the argument by technical knockout.

People don't want to hear that you are strong, capable, smart, tough and you'll figure shit out because you're a badass. People want to make themselves feel good. So I say let's let them do that.

I love seeing narcissists at work.

“My [insert Silicon Valley cliché du jour] is going to change the world. It's going to “disrupt” your livelihood. Truth is, I feel bad that I'm awesome and you're not. Understand this: you are the poor schmuck and I am the awesome one. Well, that's unfair, man. So, tell you what I'm going to do. I'm going to lobby for a tax on my WORLD CHANGING THING to throw you some scraps so you can feel good. Better yet, so I feel good and remain awesome and admired for being so compassionate. Don't worry, mortals, you will be fed.”

I love this. We can live out our days on the farm. Frolicking and chasing birds while the smart people make their robots.

Would Henry Flagler ever have proposed such nonsense? Hell no. But that's okay...he didn't know any better. The fact that our modern-day tycoons have thought of this for us proves we've evolved. They see our future selves, digging around in the mud for our supper after their awesome “apps” have disrupted our lives and are just doing the right thing. They're just trying to save us.

I say bring it on! I'm tired of working for my food. These robots are obviously so superior I don't know if I'll ever be able to keep up.

For the low, low price of $1500-$2000 a month, I, a peasant without robots, can finally be secure in the world. That means I can finally stop struggling and still eat. I can finally rid my mind of the ideas, the dreams, the anxiety of where I'll be in five years. My food will just appear.

I will be able to wander off into the wilderness and make art. Ponder things. Be without poverty and without worry. All while my patrons in the dusty valleys do their world-changing things to benefit the poor saps who are still compelled to work for their living and dignity.

I say. Bring. It. On!

I feel bad. Bad for sitting there in silence. Bad for the patronizing smile I gave them when they came over and waved “hi” with little hands. Bad for looking bored. Bad for feeling bored while looking bored. Bad for thinking over and over again, I don't belong here. Bad for smiling genuinely only when the doggies came out to play. Bad for cringing at the chaos. Bad for imagining that every waking moment is chaos. Bad for getting up to take a walk so I could think about something else. Bad for getting utterly depressed on my walk to think this is what my life would be. Bad for getting grossed out when the baby licked me. Bad for wishing desperately that we could talk about something else besides babysitters, schools, and all the cool things the kids do. Bad I didn't really care what cool things other people's kids could do. Bad for wanting to get to know them better without being interrupted every two seconds by someone waddling off, someone falling, someone needing more food to stuff into their face, someone crying, someone hitting, someone...

Bad that I'd go insane. Bad I couldn't stare at the flowers, trees, and playing doggies and just drift off. Bad that I'd not know quiet and peace for a long, long time. Bad that I'd have to wake up tomorrow and do it all over again. Bad that we'd be expected to go to a special place to play where everything is powder-coated and perfectly geometric.

Bad that I probably look like such a bitch right now and I'm probably embarrassing my best friend in front of her friends. Bad that I wish this blanket weren't covered in Cheerios and cheese.

Bad that I feel like I'll have to practice for next time...in front of a mirror.

Me: Wow! How old is he? Her: He's sixteen months! Me: (Big smile, head tilt.) Wow! That's so interesting!

But I really have nothing to say, nothing to add. I can't relate. I can't ask questions because what if I accidentally give away my insincerity? I can't ask questions because the answers aren't interesting.

I tell people there are very good reasons I'm not a mother. They don't seem to take me seriously. Just going to a park and watching the dozens of little bodies (and their moms) depresses me.

I'm the broken one. Not them. Not you.

The best part about traveling isn't the adventure. I'd say, without hesitation, that it's the exposure to all kinds of different people, cultures, and ideas. If I'd stayed in my hometown I would be a radically different individual than I am today. Traveling has made me a human sponge, absorbing ideas and ways of life that I then mish-mash and morph into my own worldview and personality.

The biggest reason to start writing things down is to document how I've changed as a person. I no longer hold many of the ideas I did when I was 24. Had I remained in the “monoculture of ideas” of my hometown...well, you get the point.

Hopefully writing down old travel stories will help me remember where I was mentally when they happened. I have a lot of projects going now, but I have a feeling this one, purely out of desire to reflect on the last 13 years, will turn out to be one of the best.

Traveling physically is phenomenal for developing into a well-rounded person, but time-traveling might be even more important. I've recently come to believe that if one has x hours in a day to consume words/ideas, at least 50% should be spent on consuming the stories and lessons of those who came before us.

When I think about what a small blip of nothingness my life is compared to the whole of the human experience, instant humility sets in. To list all the examples would be impossible. There are too many.

Nothing has done more to help me understand others and take a more compassionate view of the world than has the study of history. Full stop.

I've always been a fiercely independent person, even as a child. And for reasons I may or may not discuss in the future, self reliance, toughness, and creativity in navigating the world have been an absolute necessity.

As such, I became drawn to libertarian ideology as soon as I was old enough to “take a side”. (If you're not from the US, basically you are either a Republican or Democrat. You need that “D” or “R” after your name, otherwise other Americans have no idea whether or not they're supposed to hate you. So you help 'em out a little.)

So growing up I observed that one was expected to flock with one's fellow birds, right? Lutherans hang out with fellow Lutherans. Goths hang out with fellow goths. Nerds hang out with fellow nerds. Bored soccer moms hang out with fellow bored soccer moms. This makes complete and total sense when you think about it: we want to be in the company of people who are like us. Additionally, we tend to like and trust people who are like us. It ain't bad...it just is.

So as a fresh-faced, fiercely independent adventurer, for the first time in my life I was charged with “finding my tribe”. I was no longer under the spell of the homeland and could now choose who “my people” would be.

I chose the libertarians. After all, I desperately wanted to meet more open-minded, freedom loving, accepting, self-reliant, tough individuals. I wanted those types of people as my friends and adopted family. (That's another really cool thing about being a single, childless wanderer...you can choose your family. You'd be surprised how many other single, childless wanderers there are out there. We all need someone to have barbecues with.)

So, after a very short time I had my tribe, but it was an interesting one. For one, the tribe is big and its scattered all over the globe. When ex-hubby and I lived on the sailboat, for example, we'd meet all kinds of fascinating characters while on shore in marina lounges and picnic areas. We'd have drinks, share travel stories, and break bread together. I adored quite a few of them. But then, for the first time, it struck me: we're probably never going to see this person again. It was a feeling unlike any I've had before. Making a new friend and then losing them the next day.

This happened over and over for several years. We always stayed in touch, and promised to visit each other should our paths ever cross again. And sometimes we did. We developed a large network of kindred souls scattered all over the globe. I'm still in touch with many, many of them to this day. (I really want to share this part of my journey in more depth, as its important to the way I view friends and loss.)

Alrighty, I'm way off topic. Back to libertarians.

A year into the globetrotting, I meet future hubby, and a few years later we settle down (whatever that means) for a while in South America. We find our local tribe, which is held tightly together by ideology, nothing more. There are Germans, Canadians, Italians, Hungarians, South Americans, Australians, Lebanese. There are black, white, and every shade of brown in between. There are rich, not so rich, and poor. There are families and singles. Ideas are what bound this disparate crew together...and I. Was. Hooked.

Like any group bound by ideology, this one had its “radicals” and its “moderates”. I always believed myself to be pretty radical. That's until I met actual radicals.

So I'm humbly back in the “moderate” bucket. I mostly want to engage with those who mind their own f'n business, do for themselves, try not to legislate others lives, and base their existence on untethered freedom.

Now, to be fair, most of them were normal, sweet, moderates. But there were also those who would bite my head off if I said I didn't believe 9/11 was an inside job. Not in this group, but some of them had friends (or were members of online groups, I can't remember) who believed it was morally wrong to break into a neighbor's apartment to escape a burning building. In other words it would be considered a violation of said neighbor's rights or freedom or whatever to force your way into their property to access their window through which to escape. (Geez, those last two sentences are abominations...apologies.)

Some of these more radical libertarian principles were hard to deal with at first. But I didn't dispute them or condemn them. I was open-minded after all! What I did do was think a lot about them – ponder, if you will – and a whole LOT of reading.

Trying to learn more about these mysterious and fascinating libertarian principles was a noble venture, I assure you. In my innocence, I did what any rational person would do when they want to learn more about a subject. In my case, I read more libertarian authors and thinkers. And then some more. And more, and more. And, lucky for me, I had a tightly-knit tribe of comrades, real and virtual, to reinforce and stoke the embers of my newfound ideas.

And just like the real world, a good percentage of these authors were rational, moderate people with well-considered beliefs. Others, however, were angry. Very angry. And very frightened. And they shared their anger and fear freely and passionately. The more angry and fearful they were, the more anger and fear they spewed. Anger and fear: two of the most potent human emotions that exist. They're riveting, they're highly addictive.

They're so powerful and addictive, they can take the strongest, most logical human being under their spell.

I can't claim to have never been a drug addict, because many years ago anger and fear, dealt by captivating, trusted drug pushers got me real good.

I have to wrap up for today, but I'm sure you can see where this is going. I'll continue with my unfortunate descent into the “monoculture of ideas” in a future essay, as well as how reading history and traveling saved my blighted little mind.

Best Friend: Your loins will be burning for a child by the time you leave Portland.

Me: Bwahahahahaha! Not gonna happen!

My best friend has two kids. The last time I saw them, they were barely out of babyhood. Her eldest, a daughter, was the first diaper I've ever changed. I was 34.

The first time I announced to the world that I didn't want kids, I think I was around 18. I have no idea what my reason was back then. It might have been some kind of shocking way to rebel against society. (Knowing me, that's exactly what it was.)

My family and friends assumed I'd change my mind when I got older. So did I.

It was curious how, when I hit 30, that “my loins were not burning” yet. I'd been married for 3 years at that point. That was actually a good thing, because my then husband had convinced a doctor to perform a vasectomy on him at age 28, six months after we met.

Then 35 rolled around. I literally did not think about it. Ever. But its amazing how many people think about it for me. And remind me about it.

You know those movies with the wacky, single, childless “Auntie” character who rolls up at Christmas dinner on a motorcycle, fully decked out in camo and feathers, fresh off a three month hike through Nepal? Well, that's me.

I fully embraced my “crazy aunt” truth many years ago. I've meticulously designed the lifestyle I have and have no intention or desire to adopt the suburban, structured life 99% of my family and friends have. To do that would be throwing away the years of sacrifice and fighting I endured for the dream: the life of a wanderer.

A lot of people mistake my not wanting children with my not liking children. You don't want kids? Oh, you don't like em, they'll say, smiling. They just can't wrap their heads around the disciplined thought I've put into the decision.

For the record, I find children gut-wrenchingly annoying. I don't like being around them. This is not the same as “not liking them”. They're alright, and they bring a lot of joy to those who choose to have them. And whether I like it or not, they are in fact, our future.

But the high-pitched, whiny voices, the constant need for approval, the stomping, the shitting, the messes, the toll they take on their parents, the expense...uh, I'm happy to let someone else do that job.

But, it's different when they're yours! Oh, if I had a dime for every time someone has told me this. And, yes, I believe them. Of course it would be different...without question.

What a lot of people don't know is the real reason I don't want kids. I don't dare explain it to them, because it would take too long and move polite, boring chit-chat into a philosophical realm most people don't want to enter.

So I'm perfectly happy letting them think, she doesn't like kids, so she doesn't have any.

Whatever.

The real reason: I like my life too much.

I've done the impossible in my family. Since I was a teenager I've dreamed of a life of freedom, fluidity, serendipity, and discovery. Like a killer whale in a giant theme park tank, I knew I had to commit to die fighting for the freedom (and danger) of the open ocean. Any thought to the contrary I quickly beat from my mind. Simply put: I'm one of those whales who will go mad and start maiming people if I'm kept in a tank. It's better for everyone involved if I go.

I've had some fantastic adventures, which I can assure you, 100% would not have happened if I had kids. And the thing is, I'm hungrier for more.

I would love to have my own family. If I could be assured that my life wouldn't change too much, I would do it in a heartbeat. But that's not possible. My life would change a lot. And right now, in this moment in time, the benefits to having a family do not outweigh the joy I get from exploring the world unhinged. Think what you like...that's the honest truth.

I've told my best friend this a thousand times. She doesn't seem to agree.

Best Friend: Your life wouldn't have to change that much if you had a baby. I want you to have a baby!!! She says with big, excited blue eyes.

Me: You know how things would go? I'll tell you. As soon as the umbilical cord fell off, I'd throw that shit in my bike basket and we'd go on adventures!

Best Friend: That's fine. You can do that.

Me: You mean to tell me that if I took a newborn infant on a multi-month road trip on a bicycle, they wouldn't call DHS on me and lock me up?!

Best Friend: No! Well...as long as the baby was wearing a helmet.

I start cracking up at the vision of a tiny baby in a basinet on the back of my bike wearing goggles and an itty-bitty helmet. And you know it would be one of those helmets with a mohawk on it, too!

Best Friend: It's Portland! People do all kinds of crazy shit with their babies and nobody cares.

Now, this, I can believe.

*Me: Fine! But you know what else? I'm deathly afraid of messing this person up. I would be one of those moms everybody thinks is a huge weirdo. I wouldn't allow them to watch TV, have electronics, play with Pokemons, or whatever the fuck. They'd eat paleo, spend all day outside building forts and inventing stuff. I'd judge all the kids they played with...big time. And they'd judge me.

“Wow, your mom doesn't let you watch Disney (whateverthefuck)? That sucks!”

Don't you think this person deserves a chance at being normal? Knowing what's “cool” in the world? Not being some kind of traveling intellectual weirdo none of the other kids will relate to? They might even be hated or feared by other kids.

Sorry, if I have a baby, I'm going to do things my way. And I'm not sure I'm okay with being responsible for raising a social outcast.*

Best Friend: Lots of people make decisions like this for their kids. There's nothing wrong with it.

Me: AND I have to deal with their father having his own desires about how they should be raised. If I have to agree to things I'm not comfortable with, will I just end up miserable?

Best Friend: You figure this stuff out as you go! Seriously. You are so damn serious and afraid. We love you anyway. She laughs at me, sympathetically.

Best Friend: You'd be an amazing mom.

This, ladies and gentlemen is why you don't want weirdos having babies! (Just kidding. I have to laugh at myself for being so overly analytical and computational when I regularly accuse others of being robotic and losing their humanity.)

But, seriously. I don't want to raise cute little consumers. I want to raise warriors. I want a five year old who can grow his own food, set up his own tent, and find his way out of a forest, unharmed. Hell, I'd probably leave him in the forest just to see if he could do it. That would make me a proud parent. Not how “polite” he can be in a classroom full of sugared-up dickheads. Not how well he did on some standardized test based on regurgitation. Not how “cool” the car is he picks up his first date with.

Plus, if I had a baby, I would commit 100% to raising him. I don't feel comfortable with the “baby as accessory” I see with so many couples. You bring this person into the world and then throw it into daycare? And when it's not in daycare, it's sitting in front of a screen with all kinds of colorful, loud lunatics bouncing around, forced to consume ads for plastic, squeaky garbage?

That means my career would drastically change...something else I've worked very hard for. Not that I'd be the sole breadwinner...both parents need to be equally involved. I don't like the thought of one parent working all the time and one raising a child. So there would have to be some financial challenges to overcome. I can live incredibly simply and cheaply, and think a child could, too. But, traveling, my friends ain't cheap. Unless you are willing to ride a bike (or walk) and camp every night. Wait! Did I just prove myself wrong? We're back at the baby bike adventure again!

I have to go, but there's lots more to explore here. Including how my best friend may not be so far off in her predictions about this trip.

A paper-and-ink journal entry from May 3, 2017.

Long Key State Park, Florida

A mosquito got trapped in the tent last night and we were eaten alive.

As I scratch my skin raw, I imagine the little bastard rolling back to his village all fat, bloated, and burping. The other mosquitoes are puzzled.

Fat Mosquito: You'll never believe this, guys! Last night I flew into the humans' tent and got trapped. At first I panicked, but then I looked down on them and realized I hit the jackpot! I was alone, so I just fed on both of them all night. Beeelllllllccchhh!

And those little gnat things. Sand fleas? They're quite awful, as well.

I sit at the picnic table, still scratching uncontrollably, watching the Florida sun rise slowly. It, too, will destroy us shortly. It's brutal.

On the fence, a little lizard is sticking out his weird little lizard red neck thingie. I see a bird above, sights fixed, and ready to dive. I want to shout, watch out, little lizard! Save yourself!

I figure it would make me feel good about myself if I saved an animal today.

Meanwhile, this bird hasn't eaten in days.

Hungry bird: That was my breakfast, you bitch!

He flies away to die of starvation.

Quote of the day: There are two sides to every story.

A paper-and-ink journal entry from May 5, 2017.

Key West, Florida

Finally went snorkeling and my dream of just floating around looking at sea creatures has come true. Suspended in the warm ocean, existing where the tide takes me.

They said we couldn't have picked a better day to go out.

Me: Do we have to wear flippers? Snorkel Boat Lady: Shakes head.

(Yes, I know they're called “fins” but the word “flippers” is so much more fun to say.)

No flippers. That's the way to go. Good exercise fighting against the draw of the water. The water silky between my toes.

Glittery light, everything gently swaying together. The fish are rainbows of beauty. You couldn't find better art in a museum.

Man, VR ain't got nothing on this, I think. Today they can put you at the bottom of the ocean, but they can't recreate the sensation of the water, the waves, the sun on your back...

I pause.

Just give 'em time. They're coming for this, too.

A swimming pool. Safety everywhere. Fake animals.

That's what we all want.

Ok, can't 100% remember what point I was trying to make yesterday. That's the beauty and the heartbreak of the muse. When she visits, you must seize the opportunity to write – once she leaves you, the thought might be lost forever.

There was a point, though, swear! Something about the wider internet grouping me into two camps: the “anonymous” camp and the “real identity” camp and how both of these are dangerous to great writing, even for non-writers.

In a perfect creative world, there's a third option, hiding somewhere in the middle. (This really has nothing to do with travel adventures, just something I was thinking about.)

In the last few years I've found myself thinking, why on earth is the internet so shitty? Is it me? Is it because I'm not reading the right people? If so, where do I find them? It's not easy. When I find an author/thinker who blows my mind I frantically add them to my RSS feed, somehow afraid they'll get away.

When the “real identity” internet took off – social media and the like – it was pretty cool, I guess. There most certainly is a place for it. But the more time I spent on these sites, the more boring and vacuous I found the ideas/posts. For a time, I forced myself to participate because...I don't know. But the stuff people share when their real-world identity is on the line tends to lean safe. Boring. Overly polished. Kind of like idle cocktail party chit-chat to avoid disappearing into the corner and being forgotten. Or maybe for attention. I have no idea. I'm someone who shares my professional work on these platforms, which, undoubtedly belongs there. It helps clients who don't know you from a stick on the ground feel more comfortable about hiring a “stranger”.

But, I just can't seem to get addicted to it like I hear people talking about so frequently. Frankly, sometimes it's like torture.

I would love to share my awkward travel stories with family and friends. (I have more than 12 years worth of stories that have never seen the light of day.) But the real-identity internet is just not the place for that. If I had to blend my wacky, adventurer self in with all the stuff I share professionally, 99% of what makes it (I hope) semi-interesting would have to be stripped out, leaving me one more boring, safe, internet person. That's just the way it is.

Then there's the “anonymous” internet, which has more merits than I could possibly list. But this internet has the opposite problem. When people's words aren't tied to a real identity – an identity responsible for those words – they tend to over-share, join mobs, and sometimes act outright disgustingly. It's a one-sided relationship where they get all the benefit of being a jerk, whatever that is, and none of the consequences of real-world harm they do. A system lacking in consequences is an affront to nature. Nowhere else in nature or society can I think of an agreement where I get 100% and you get 0%. (Or less, in this case.)

We need this anonymous internet. While at times dark, it serves to protect dissidents and helps those who need to get stuff off their chests without fear of damaging the reputation responsible for their livelihood and family life.

With Great Freedom Comes Great Responsibility

My dream is an internet where individuals can tell the stories others want to hear in a responsible fashion.

I've always wanted to write a book about my travels. I've found myself in situations where I could only laugh. How the hell did I get myself into this?! But two things have been holding me back. First was the feeling that I couldn't tell “the whole truth” due to the association with my real-world identity. Second is the fact that the longer I wait to write stuff down, the less I'm able to adequately communicate the rage, fear, hilarity, etc. So a “blog” style seems to be the best bet. That's why I love this platform. (Full disclosure: I know the founder of write.as and have witnessed his commitment to internet privacy, which is why I feel confident sharing stuff here I wouldn't elsewhere.) With separate personas and a commitment to truth and real-world respect, I think we could all put some really interesting, helpful, funny shit on the internet for others to enjoy.

Getting out of the habit of over-thinking and editing is so liberating! What kind of art could we make?

Just want to put this out there before continuing the journey of writing and sharing.

I'm not a journalist. I'm not a writer. I'm some schmuck with a computer. None of my stories are fact-checked. I write what I see and what I feel. Everything I'll put here is 100% true, but it's also 100% opinion. If I ever say anything negative it's because that's what my brain spewed out. Lots of times, when I calm down and reflect, I take some of those words back.

Anonymous writers have a huge responsibility, but so do their readers. I can't remember with whom I was speaking or where I was, but an uber-traveler friend told me an interesting thing about communication styles in different cultures. (Probably should have written it down at the time.) Basically, in our culture the responsibility is on the speaker to be understood – to make their words, opinions, and intentions clear so that the recipient can decipher them in the way the speaker intended. In other cultures (again, can't remember which) it's the listener's responsibility to figure out what the speaker's words mean. I thought this was really fascinating, especially in the context of the internet.

Perhaps we're ignoring that some people take it upon themselves to decipher the meaning of our words. Almost like our words don't belong to us anymore.

This essay is getting out of control, so I think it's time to pack it in. I have no idea where I'm going anymore.

I think the original point was why don't I write stuff down? Why don't others write stuff down? Then, as always, my mind wanters into societal, cultural, and sociological theories.

No interesting travel stories in the last couple of days, so that's all I got.

Remember that whole post about not drinking wine, except on weekdays? My intentions were good, I swear.

Remember that whole quote about “write drunk, edit sober”? Of course you do! That's Hemmingway, dawg!

Well, God bless Mr. Hemmingway, whose advice I dare not take at a time like this. Writing drunk and putting it out on the internet for the whole world to see, without editing, is my idea of living dangerously.

So, I ask you, dear reader...forgive the typos, forgive the thoughts.

Let's get down to business...

A Confession

I'm not a writer. I'm not a big shot. I am some schmuck with a computer. Now, repeat after me...

You: You are some schmuck with a computer.

Me: Very good.

If you are here reading my words, I want you to know I appreciate you. Writing is the only way we will ever get into another's mind. (Some other art forms qualify for this, as well. Actually, I'd say most art forms...cause now I'm thinking of music, photography, paintings, etc. Like I said, I'm not editing right now...)

Something writers struggle with A LOT is how to write interesting shit. And, I must admit, the world trained me well. Do we really need another asshole writing a blog about their travel adventures? No, dear reader. The answer is NO.

But you know what the world does need more of? Personal experience. Personal opinion. (Speaking of assholes, opinions are a lot like those.)

Not just personal opinions, but reasoned, no chains, no pressure, personal opinions.

The internet sucks when we're not anonymous. The internet sucks when we are anonymous.

Hold on...

Shit, my best friend just summoned me via her husband to come inside and watch a movie with her. I have no idea if I'll remember what the hell I was about to say. If not, sorry 'bout that. If so, I'll see you tomorrow.

My bear research continues as I plan my descent into the Oregon wilderness. And, like any other (probably) ill-advised adventure of mine, this one will probably require baby steps until confidence is gained.

If you want to learn survival skills it's probably a not good idea to jump out into the sticks and start surviving. It might be a better idea to go on a few overnight camping trips, and then slowly build up to multiple-day and week trips so you can practice your slick skillz and deal with the stuff that comes up. Over time a nice little repertoire of knowledge develops.

A few days ago I told my best friend about my bear fears and how I'm trying to get a little perspective on how dangerous they actually are so I can feel better about the whole thing. I figured she could provide some calming support to assuage my fears:

Me: ...and that's why I'm deathly afraid of bears. Sigh...I don't know, I'm probably blowing this way out of proportion. Attacks aren't that common, right?

Best Friend: Ohhh, did you ever see that episode of “I Survived” where the guy woke up in the middle of the night to crunching noises and there was a bear eating his skull?!

Me: Blink...blink.

Best Friend: It was crazy! So horrifying...

Me: To be honest, I'd totally forgotten about that one. Thanks for helping me remember.

My research then let me to the big boys' bear defense of choice. It's called “bear spray”. Oooh, tell me more about this bear spray, thought I. After some further reading, I swiftly made my way down to the friendly neighborhood REI to get me some.

It was a typical trip to REI. I wander through the store. I want everything. I think of my bank account. I resist. Rinse, repeat.

In the middle of the store, I turn the corner and there it was. COUNTER ASSAULT! “Grizzly tough bear deterrent!” It has a scary looking bear on the label, so it's obvious marketing knows their target customer (me) very well.

So I'm looking at this thing and basically it's a can of pepper spray, about the size of a fire extinguisher, which will launch a 30-foot stream of 2% capsaicin at the poor dear. To put it mildly: it's a far cry from the cute little hot pink canister of pepper spray I carry for dogs and other critters while on bike rides.

I'm fixin' to go on a hike. I need this.

The practicality of this well-intentioned but semi-ridiculous exercise starts to sink in. Where the hell am I going to put this stuff? It obviously has to be easily accessible, else, why carry it at all?

I look to the side. There's no less than four different kinds of harnesses and holsters for your bear spray. Some go around your hips so you can carry it on your lower back, some criss-cross around your chest, some hang by a strap at your side. I have a nice laugh. How exciting! It's like the Wild West again, only instead of six-shooters, we're all sporting assault fire extinguishers.

I decide against the holster. After all, a Lara Croft look might suit me better. A can of bear spray strapped to each thigh, trail mix and cooking utensils strapped to my chest. I imagine myself facing down a Grizzly. I drop down in a lunge position, tightly gripping a can in each hand, pointed directly at the enemy, my bitch face dialed up to Defcon 1.

I'll just get the bear spray and figure out where to put it later.

Walking out of the store, feeling victorious. Now I have to learn how to use this stuff. I'm afraid to even take it out of the package.

After thoroughly reading the directions and watching a few You Tube videos, perhaps I could practice my quickdraw moves in the backyard? Probably not a good idea. That would be more entertainment than the neighbors could handle.

I go on my hike (lovely, by the way), the bear spray still safely in its protective packaging in my bag. I make peace with the idea of certain death should I meet a bear today.

Next lesson: bear bells. I saw them beside the COUNTER ASSAULT. I have no idea how they work, but I imagine that when a bear approaches I just grab the thing and start shaking it. Ching-a-ling. Ching-a-ling. The bear stops, a puzzled look on its face, then starts laughing so hard, it falls to the ground in a furry puddle.

Bear: Cute bell, dumbass! Now, meet my fangs!

Fade to black...