Archive | United States RSS for this section

Some thoughts on being back

So how am I fitting back into the world?

I’m on a new mission: To make a billion dollars. In that sense, I’m still traveling. Moving forward, trying to absorb as much of my new life as possible. Which is? I live in the bay area. Within a few days of getting back, after having a little shin-dig with about 20 friends or so, I packed up my truck, motorcycle in the back and moved to a new place 500 miles away to head the coffee division of MoreFlavor Inc. My friends know one of the brands well, MoreBeer – but the company has since started putting a lot more beef behind the wine and coffee divisions. I manage nearly every aspect of the division, which requires me to be an expert on everything coffee, in addition to marketing, sales, public speaking and everything that comes along with those. And it’s been a fast paced 6 months. I haven’t really had much time to think about much else.

One of the biggest challenges has been separating the coffee and the wine from a beer website. This implies a lot more than just a site switch. It implies that everything has equal importance and quality. And so in addition to drinking and professionally sampling tons of coffee, I’ve put together the coffee site and nearly all the content within. The site revolves around the idea that people can roast their own coffee. It’s fresher, you have a huge selection of top quality green beans to choose from (I sample many lots before I make a decision on which to carry), it’s 1/3 the cost of the roasted stuff – and it’s just damned cool, fun and interesting. Roasting your own coffee takes 10 minutes and it’s really fun to see how much people get into it.

I just got back from Guatemala in January, actually, for work and that was cool. I visited some processing plants and coffee farms.

And I’m loving the Bay Area. It’s fun to take the train down to San Francisco and hang out every once in a while. It’s pretty cold right now but it will warm up soon and I can go hiking again. There are tons of places to hike around here and I bought a new tent and backpack for the tail end of summer last year. I’ll be away nearly every weekend this coming spring camping and hiking. It’s just so much fun – and I don’t have to fly all the way to New Zealand or Nepal!

So how am I different after a trip like this? I don’t know. I like to think that I have a bit of a better understanding of people. I’ve met a lot more people than many will ever meet in their lives. Observing and interacting with them has given me a lot of experience. I had a lot of time for introspection while spending a lot of time doing nothing while I was gone, too. I like to think that I have a pretty good understanding of my shortcomings and flaws, and what I need to do to work around them. I realized that often times, people have shortcomings that make them who they are, and upon which their strengths are built. Eliminate the flaws and the rest of the person comes tumbling down, great qualities and all. So life is then a process of examining which flaws are parts of those pillars (meaning which you can do away with without consequence – and only makes you a better person) and which you need to either compensate for, or tame – because they are with you forever.

It’s humbling to realize that you aren’t as great as you thought you were when you were younger. At least for me, it is.

I also have no home. And I don’t think I will have a “home” mentality for a long time to come. Right now I am following the money. That may take me as far away as China. Or I might stay in the same place for a long time. But buying something like a house just seems like bad business right now. For one, it ties you down. Two, the housing market is just coming out of a peak. Three, I make very little money. And based solely on that third point, I’ll be renting for a while. I get paid on profit, however, so hopefully my paycheck will steadily increase. Sales are up exactly 156% for the year, after being on a steady decline before I took over. The funny thing is, though, that I could live out of a box if I had to. I’m so focused on this empire that I want to create that a few cold nights would be nothing to me if it meant that I could save a lot more money and put it towards my goals. This is something that very few people seem to understand, having slept in a nice warm bed every night of their lives. For those of you who followed my posts: you remember when I slept in that cave in Malaysia and woke up to rat droppings next to my head. It doesn’t faze me. Anything is luxury, here.

I’m sometimes kept awake at night by my goals and dreams, and a million memories swirl around in my head. Throughout my day, a thousand funny stories constantly want to come out of my mouth because I’m reminded of something in some far off country, but I bite my tongue because I don’t want to sound pretentious, “when I was in (a country you’ve never been too), this guy once said to me….” My experiences have opened my eyes to perspectives and ideas that I never dreamed of. I’ve learned more about myself than I thought possible. But I’m alone in this growth. And there are very few people I can relate to. But I only have to take a look at my pictures – which I will have for a lifetime to be taken back to any moment in time. Staring at each is a private pleasure that only I can enjoy to the fullest extent. Each picture is a moment in time with a thousand stories attached to it. I took over 15,000 pictures on this trip and I’ve narrowed them down to about 230 of some of the most stunning pictures I’ve ever seen. There are no captions and no explanations in this album – the photography speaks for itself.

This will be my last post. I’d like to thank everyone for following me through this saga. But at the same time, keep in mind that the real trip has only just begun. You’ll understand when you suddenly start to see me on the cover of all those business magazines.

And I’ll end this on what I think the two most important things I pulled out of this whole experience: 1) Everyone deserves your utmost respect – and it helps to make your respect for this person as evident as possible. The only way they should be able to end up in a place where you disrespect them is if they slowly chipped away at the foundation you started the relationship with until there is nothing left. And when you disrespect someone, it is best to maintain as profound a distance from that individual as possible.

And 2) confidence in yourself causes other people to have confidence in you. And trust. A confident person will have many more opportunities in life than an insecure individual, but they both have the same potential for these opportunities. Confidence generates luck like nothing else.

I’m back!…kinda.

So I really wanted to go to Pilsen to see the Pilsner Urquell brewery. Although Chandler doesn’t drink much, he was totally down to go see it too – and Dapo (Chandler’s friend) wanted to get away and had a car, so we went together. We brought Genevieve along and had a great time. The brewery is over a hundred years old, I think, and the operation is pretty impressive. The tour was more about the history and stuff and we just got a topical view of the actual operations (no bottling line, etc…), but the freshly brewed beer they poured us from the actual conditioning barrel in the basement (a special traditional brewed batch they do) made it all worth it. The beer was phenomenal, to say the least. Even Chandler, a guy who isn’t much of a fan of beer, loved it. I bought some souvenirs and we headed off into the town to see some sights where Dapo and I played chess and we drank a lot of coffee. The next day, I walked around Prague and did some sight seeing alone which was nice. Prague is a city where you can just wander around for hours and entertain yourself. The castles, incredibly old buildings, statues and cathedrals are endlessly fascinating. Prague was one of the rare old European cities to escape devastating bombing during WWII and looks the part. It’s simply beautiful.

So I saw the Pilsner Urquell Brewery, but I still had one on my itinerary: the Budweiser brewery. “Budweiser??? Ewwww!” you might say. And if you do, you have no clue which is the true Budweiser. It is actually a traditional Czech beer called Budvar that they sell under both names. Budweiser stole it and uses the name…and if you tasted the two you would realize why it’s damned near blasphemy. So Chandler and I were going to go see this brewery, but we ended up getting up too late and missed the bus, so we went to this place called Kalovavary which had all sorts of hot thermal springs that you can drink from a special tourist cup they sell you. It’s called “The Drinking Cure”, and Genevieve made us drink almost all of them, as it’s supposed to fix all your ills, even ones you didn’t know you had. The town itself was nice and Chandler and I had some interesting conversations about God/life/everything else, as usual. It is always fun discussing things with people who actually think about the wide range of things that randomly pop into my head – and seeing as he is pretty religious, he always has a different spin on things, which I appreciate.

The next day I took the bus to Cesky Bedjevice where they have the Budweiser brewery and got a tour of that. It was pretty cool and was a much more impressive operation, seeing as it is a government company. Can you believe that? The government provides beer to the people! The tour was much more behind the scenes, too, and we got to see nearly everything. I really enjoyed it – and the beer was great to boot!

So the next day I bid farewell to my excellent hosts and took the train to Luxembourg. After several changes and a whole day of traveling, I made it to Luxembourg and walked around for nearly two hours trying to find my hostel. It was way down in this valley and I had to do some exploring to find it, but I eventually arrived. The hostel was the only one in town and they were booked to capacity, which meant that there were lots of interesting people wandering around. I met a cool English guy and a French guy and then a bunch of cute Spanish girls and we all went out together to a carnival in town. They spent the whole evening talking to me, because they couldn’t believe that I had been around the world. We had a great time and had breakfast in the morning together. That day, I went to a much smaller town in the outskirts of Luxembourg which was interesting but not terribly exciting. I took their little walking tour with a map I had and saw the city walls and stuff and then got some beers while I wrote in my journal. It was interesting to see how old the city was. The buildings were several hundreds of years old and still standing – and looked it too. When I returned back to Luxembourg, I spent the day wandering around and visiting some sites, like the cathedral and wandering around the park and seeing the old city defenses and stuff. It was really awesome. The city walls are still intact in a lot of places and you can walk all around the city on parts of them. The city itself has a huge valley jutting through it with a nice park at the bottom and I really liked wandering through it. I also visited the Casemates which are little caves dug into the mountain from which you can get awesome views of the city. I really liked Luxembourg. The people were really friendly and the place is beautiful. I will be back.

So that afternoon, I took the train to Germany so I could take my flight to London that I got for like 20 bucks after taxes. When I finally arrived in Frankfurt (the train stops at the airport), I couldn’t find the Ryanair checkin and they all laughed at me when I asked. I was at the wrong airport…I needed Frankfurt Hahn! Who knew? So with 3 hours before my flight, I ran to the bus terminal only to find that there were no buses leaving for hours. Luckily, there were four other Americans leaving on the same flight who did the same thing and so we negotiated a cab for 160 bucks to take us to the airport which we split 5 ways. We arrived on time to catch our flight and then got all checked in. I got called into the back of the airport security office before takeoff because they thought I had a butterfly knife in my bag, but it was only my harmonica. I met a cool English girl in the airport and we chatted the whole time and during the whole flight and before I knew it, I was in London!

I stumbled through customs half asleep, got a bus to town, paid 20 bucks for a London cab to Simon’s house, 5 minutes away and after catching up for a bit, went to sleep in my room. Yes, my room. I had my own room at Simon and Kat’s place in central London! They are great!! You know those bombs that just exploded in London? One went off right below his apartment, and the bus blew up right down the street. Crazy, eh?

So the next morning, I woke up late, messed around on Simon’s turn tables and we talked for a while before going out for beers at a traditional English pub with Simon’s dad. After that, we went to visit some places around London – a few churches, London Tower (the king’s old castle) and the Tower Bridge. We then went to Simon’s dad’s apartment for wine and got into an interesting argument about Wal-Mart (there is a lot of anti-Wal-Mart sentiment around the world) after I got trapped in his bathroom when the handle broke and they had to get all these tools to drill the handle out and rescue me. Awesome!

The next day, Nancy came down and we went around London together. It was really great seeing her again and we had a nice time taking in some of England’s sights and stuff. We all went out drinking that night with some of Simon and Kat’s friends and I nearly exploded after I ate the world’s biggest Doner (a pita with a bunch of chicken inside). I had to go for walks and stuff because I was so full. But I survived and after taking the London Tube back, we crashed at Simon’s place. In the morning, we headed to Nancy’s parents house in Cambridge and went to see the university (where we did this stick boating thing called punting) and then her parents made us a terrific dinner. We watched some funny English comedies that night and the next day headed off to Oxford. The university there was pretty nice and we got some beer at some really awesome English pubs before meeting up with my friend Matthew (who I met in New Zealand and stayed with in Australia and then met up with again in China) and we stayed at a little get together with his friends at the university. We crashed at Matt’s house that night and in the morning headed to a really nice town called Bath before staying in Bristol with Nancy’s cousin. The next day we went to Stone Henge and then a little beach town called Brighton (England’s gay capital, by the way) before heading to Nancy’s sister’s house in south London and spending two days there. We did go back into London to meet back up with Simon and say goodbye to him and Kat, which was cool. I really had a great time with them. And going around England with Nancy was incredible. It was a lot of fun seeing such cool places with such an awesome girl. I’ve had some incredible luck on this trip. England was pretty great. The funniest thing was hearing everyone speak in a funny English accent. It sounds weird to say this, but it is the same feeling as going to a country in South America and being able to understand everyone speak Spanish. It seems like a different language, but you can understand it – but just barely. It was just funny. The English culture is quite interesting too. It was hystericaly funny to see all the English flood to any patch of grass they could find – even the gas station lawn as they gassed up their cars – whenever the sun came out. You see, it is usually dismally cloudy in England and they really savor every beam of light that comes through. We have it too good in Southern Cali! Another funny thing was how incredibly formal everyone is. No one talks in the subway and people are usually very respectful and quiet. In places like an elevator, everyone just kind of looks down at their feet and doesn’t say a word. American voices carry quite far because we are so loud by comparison. You know, the US started as an offshoot of English culture. It was interesting to see how much we have changed…quite an interesting cultural experiment.

So Nancy drove me down to the airport in the morning and after goodbyes, I headed to Dublin where I got a Guinness while I waited for my flight home. The time came and I flew home after 10 ½ hours on the plane. I was already exhausted since I couldn’t sleep the night before, but I still couldn’t sleep. My brother met me at the airport and we were to surprise my parents. I told them that I wouldn’t be getting home for another 3 days or so and I was just going to show up at their houses and surprise them. We went to my dad’s and he just opened the door and without blinking just stepped aside and said to come in. He showed me the changes he’d done to the house and stuff and then escorted me to my gifts. He had printed out nearly all of my pictures, a monumental task, and put them in albums for me! He also bought me an incredible laptop! So I started loading all my pictures from CDs that I sent home onto it and rotated them so I could start a little digital gallery with all 11,200 pictures. Yes…11,200. Crazy!

The next day, after registering my motorcycle, I headed to my mom’s house where I stayed at my Aunt’s next door until she got home from work. When she arrived, I called her and said I was in London and that I would be home in a few days and stuff. The I told her I had to go for a minute and would call her back – and then walked over to her house and knocked on the door. She just about flipped! We went out to my favorite pizza place and talked and since then, I just took care of loose ends, like insurance, buying new clothes and stuff like that.

So now I’ve got to tell you guys all about how crazy and different I feel now that I’m back, right? Well, sorry to disappoint, but I’m not really overwhelmed with emotion. I was really excited to come back, especially seeing my home town from the plane as we came in to LA. I was talking to the guy next to me about my trip and stuff as we came in and talking about the world in general and my mode was very much on the stuff I’m going to do now that I’m home. That’s really how I work. I never really get bored because I’m always planning my next conquest and stuff. I picked two years to travel on purpose so that I would want to come home by the end of it. And I would be lying if I said that there weren’t times when I came close to coming home. But the truth is, that after two years of living in strange places, eating random food, being sick to my stomach and constantly pushing myself and my body to keep taking in more and more, I’m ready to just be in one place and get my life going. I kind of equate this experience to going to university. You don’t always want to do it, even though it’s a lot of fun, because of the studying and the tests and stuff (it’s a lot of work) but you keep at it because you realize that you are learning a lot and it’s better in the long run. Traveling for such a long time provides you with an interesting perspective. You see, when you are on vacation for two weeks, everywhere you go has this magical flare to it because you know you only have two weeks and you want to relax and enjoy it while you can. But when you are traveling for such a long time, time is no longer so precious. You can waste as much of it as you like, because the end always seems so far away. You can stay at places for a long time, a short time, whatever, and you no longer see things as these magical romantic getaways. You just kind of see it how it is in it’s true reality.

Now there is a tradeoff with this, you know. Things aren’t as romantic, but you get a pretty good vision of reality and how things really are, uninfluenced by how you would like them to be. The problem is that when you aren’t going off the adrenaline of romanticism, you get tired. And I am tired. So when people say that you return and you get all stir crazy and emotional, this is probably why I’m not. I’m ready to start working and make my millions. I’m ready to put everything that I’ve learned about the world and myself to use. I’m ready make a contribution to society. And although I’ll still take vacations and stuff to other places in the world, I’m not sure that I would want to do another trip so long. Maybe a few months would be the max. But it was good to do what I did, I think. It was a phenomenal experience and I think I crammed more life experiences into these two years than I would have had in 20 years living at home.

My initial observations after being back home have been mentally noted and I’ll do a post with some summaries and comments after I have time to synthesize it all.

Right now I’m in Lima, Peru, though. I’m on vacation with my dad showing him around Peru and Machu Picchu and stuff. So my next post will probably be about being back in Peru.

My God…this trip never stops!

Shots, Shots & More Shots

Yeah, so I got some more shots. Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Yellow Fever, Polio, Typhoid, and Meningacocus – on top of the TB skin test from earlier. I also got some blood work done. It’s funny how your blood just spurts out into those tubes. All right, not really funny, but crazy. Anyways, I’m pretty tired.

Time to recover.