Interview with Techno-Vagabond Anil Polat aka Fox Nomad

Anil Polat, aka Fox Nomad, is one of the best known of a special breed of technomad Vagobond who travels perpetually with tech gear. His very popular blog FoxNomad.com is one of my favorites and tends to focus on not only getting more out of your travels, but also getting more out of your technology while you are on the road.  If you have questions about technology (like how to bypass a YouTube ban or use proxy servers in heavily censored countries) Anil is the guy you should turn to.

Vagobond: Where are you from? What’s your family background?

Anil: I’m from Turkey but spent much of my childhood moving back and forth between the US and Turkey with my journalist parents.

Vagobond: What got you into travel? What got you into technology? How did you come to mix the two so well?

Anil: I guess the travel comes from my parents! Aside from the physical movement, we were always talking about world events, politics, and it gave me a global perspective. Travel indulges my curiosity about humanity and what makes us ultimately human. As for technology, I’ve always been a nerd and playing with computers, and programming is easy to do growing up when you don’t have too many friends to play with 🙂 I was also very fortunate to have an uncle who helped guide my natural curiosity toward technology.

And finally, I can’t discount my love of Star Trek as a kid and now. If I could have a dream job it would be as science officer on a star ship. Being a hacker and full-time traveler are the closest I can get for now…but I’m still holding out hope 😉

Vagobond: Do you make your living strictly from travel? The web?

Anil: Yes and yes. I make a living by selling advertising on my websites and my ebooks primarily but don’t limit myself.

Vagobond: What’s the gadget you won’t travel without? What’s a gadget you’d like to try out?

Anil: I travel with everything I own, which for me is a lot of gadgets 🙂 The next major gadget I’ll buy is likely the new iPad, whenever it comes out to replace the second backup laptop (Dell Mini 10v) I carry now.

Vagobond: What’s your personal travel philosophy?

Anil: Hmmm, I’m not sure I have one. I suppose keep an open mind and be adaptable would be my general guidelines.

Vagobond: How many countries have you visited? Any countries you have no desire to visit?

Anil: I’ve visited almost 50 countries now and do want to see them all. In the past some of the ones I’ve been least interested in have turned out to be the most memorable so I’ve learned not to make travel conclusions without testing my hypothesizes.

Vagobond: What are your top 3 cities in the world? Since you are in the US, which city strikes you as the best there?

Anil: My favorite 3 begins with Istanbul, which is where I’d like to end up when this phase of my travels is over. After that I’ve got many favorites, it’s hard to choose but some recent ones have been Granada, Spain and Cairo, Egypt. My favorite city in the US is Seattle.

Vagobond: What’s your scariest travel moment?

Anil: I’ve had tense moments but not scary that I can remember. (But my memory is terrible.)

Vagobond: What’s your funniest travel moment?

Anil: One that immediately comes to mind is from my trip to Iraq with Wandering Earl (http://www.wanderingearl.com/). While making our way through a heavily guarded check point we came across an American soldier who was bewildered that anyone would want to travel there. His exact words were in heavy Texas accent, “Holy sh*t man, what the hell are you doing here!?”

Vagobond: What’s your most astounding adventure?

Anil: Again, it’s hard to pick just one although Iraq is certainly one of them.

Vagobond: What’s your dream destination/vacation/trip?

Anil: I’m so incredibly fortunate to have traveled as much as I have. I don’t feel like I deserve to answer this question honestly, I have really been incredibly lucky, I can’t ask for more.

Vagobond: Are you a traveler or a tourist or something else? What’s the difference if there is one.

Anil: I don’t see the difference. I’m just a guy who travels and writes about it for a living. Traveler sounds cooler but I’m not going to kid myself.

Vagobond: What’s a great travel tip most people don’t know?

Anil: Traveling isn’t that hard or expensive. Get specific on where you want to go and what you want to do – stir – then add in dash of planning, put in an oven of effort, wait a bit and you’ll have yourself a trip.

Vagabonding Vagabond Blogger – Our Interview with Rolf Potts

If you’ve done or thought about doing any long term travel in the age of the internet, chances are you’ve heard of Rolf Potts.

Rolf was blogging about travel for Salon at the dawn of the 2000’s, but he is best known for the publication of Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to Long Term Travel in December of 2002. The book struck a chord with the internet generation and became a runaway hit amongst those who had missed the days of the hippie trail. The book is about taking serious time off from your normal life to discover and experience the world on your own terms. With sections on  financing your travel time,  determining your destination,  adjusting to life on the road and handling travel adversity, the book addresses travel as inner development tool rather than travel as something that you simply do.

In the spirit of Ed Buryn‘s Vagabonding in Europe and North Africa, Potts book captured the imagination of a generation that was finding its way on the internet and wandering what the meaning of life truly was.  Coming right after the dot com bust and on the eve of the financial crisis in the US and Europe, the book fit the bill for filling the gap between living to work and working to live and offered the opportunity to turn your life into your work through travel.

Since then Potts has piloted a fishing boat 900 miles down the Laotian Mekong, hitchhiked across Eastern Europe, traversed Israel on foot, bicycled across Burma, drove a Land Rover across South America, and travelled around the world for six weeks with no luggage or bags of any kind. He has also published a second book Marco Polo Didn’t Go There: Stories and Revelations from One Decade as a Postmodern Travel Writer and continues to travel around the world between rest stops at his farmhouse in Kansas. Rumor has it that Rolf has something new in the works for 2012 but he is keeping mum about it for now. I caught up with the vagabonding vagabond blogger via email and he kindly agreed to answer a few of my questions for Vagobond readers about life, travel, authenticity and himself.

Vagobond: What were you doing career wise before you started blogging for Salon (before the publication of Vagabonding)?

Rolf Potts: My last job before I transitioned into a full-time writing was teaching English in Korea. It was a key job for me, since in addition to earning me a decent amount of money for travel, it allowed me to live in and get to know an unfamiliar culture for a couple of years. My two years in Busan wasn’t always easy, but it was an essential experience that made me a better traveler down the line.
Before that teaching gig I hadn’t been following a single career path — I worked as a landscaper in Seattle for awhile, and I worked at an outdoor store, selling backpacks and fly-rods, in Kansas. This was all building up to what I really wanted to do — writing — and eventually that happened for me.

Vagobond: My first book was all about living in a van and enjoying time instead of money. I understand your first travels were in a van too. What were some lessons you picked up from living in a van?

Rolf Potts:I think traveling and living out of a van during my first vagabonding trip taught me some essential lessons about minimalism and keeping things simple. Since I was sleeping in the van most nights, I didn’t have a lot of room for extra “stuff”, so all I brought were some clothes and camping gear in a couple of laundry baskets. And even the gear I had in those laundry baskets wasn’t always necessary — I quickly learned that the American road provided me with most everything I needed experientially; my gear played a fairly minor role in my most interesting experiences. This was a lesson I applied while packing for my later backpacking trips across Asia, and even my no-baggage journey around the world in 2010.

Vagobond: In Vagabonding, you wrote about the philosophy of long-term travel – has that changed in the decade since then? How has technology changed your philosophy?

Rolf Potts:I don’t think my philosophy of vagabonding has changed — and in fact I wrote it in such a way that technological and other changes wouldn’t ever alter its core message, which is about keeping things simple and seeking one’s wealth in time and life-xperiences. Those are values that would apply in the 19th century as easily at the 21st. So regardless of what new tools and gadgets arrive to make travel easier, the core principles of vagabonding won’t change much.

One interesting thing about new technology — like social media and smart phones — is that it is making independent travel a lot easier.

More people are doing it now, I think, because it feels a lot safer and easier and more accessible than it used to. The flipside of this is that the conveniences of travel are more and more making travel and extension of home. In many ways we don’t have to psychically leave home” when we travel — we can keep in such close contact with our friends, family, and social networks — and this can diminish the experience of travel to an extent. So much of what is transformative about travel comes from confronting — and working through — being lonely and bored and lost. The less we’re forced to encounter those little challenges as travelers, the more travel tends to become a consumer experience.

Vagobond: Do you see any problems with the massive growth of independent and long-term travel? What about the huge growth of tourism?

Rolf Potts:There will invariably be problems with the growth of any industry, and travel is no exception. There will also be benefits. Indie travelers spend a lot of money in the “mom and pop” economies of faraway places — which is a good thing — but the presence of so many travelers can also strain the local culture and environment. Islands are particularly vulnerable to large influxes of tourists, since scarce resources like water get diverted to tourist needs instead of local ones. I don’t think this means travel should be curtailed to these places — its an important cultural and economic force — but it does mean that destinations should take care in planning tourist

facilities, and travelers should be cognizant of the impacts they bring. In a way I think indie travelers are better equipped than standard vacation tourists to wander in a mindful way, since a vagabonding-style traveler emphasizes going slow and keeping  informed.

Vagobond: I realize I’m supposed to ask you about the best destination, your favorite country or something like that – but instead, what’s your favorite tourist area?

Rolf Potts:Tourist areas tend to disappoint some travelers — at least early on in their vagabonding careers — since the presence of so many tourists at these sites can be depressing and feel less authentic. But over time I’ve come to appreciate the dynamic of these places, each of which are unique to their own culture, even as they host a crush of visitors during high season. New Yorkers may complain about Times Square, but I think it has a great energy, even after having visited it dozens of times. The Champ de Mars area around the Eiffel Tower is always swarming with tourists and trinket vendors, but you’d have to be a pretty cynical soul not to enjoy a bottle of wine and a picnic there on a summer day with friends. Similarly, I found Machu Picchu in Peru to be utterly amazing, despite all the tourists there. So as much as I like getting off the beaten path when I travel, I still like to cultivate appreciation for these tourist areas.

Vagobond: What do you miss when you are on the road?

Rolf Potts:Ever since I got my home in Kansas, one thing I miss most frequently is the view of the prairie from my front deck. I know this might sound like a strange thing to miss, but over the years I’ve found that part of my enjoyment of faraway places extends from my affection for a single place that I know better than any others. When you find a way to attach yourself to a small part of the world, it can energize the way you see and appreciate other parts of the world. I have literally spent years away from my home in Kansas, but having that home gives me perspective and helps me appreciate all the other places I discover and experience in more far-flung parts of the world.

Vagobond: Do you think ‘staged authenticity’ is destroying the authentic travel experience? Is the world being Disneyfied?

Rolf Potts:Interestingly enough, I think there’s something weirdly authentic and satisfying in “staged authenticity,” when local cultures “perform” a more colorful version of their own identity for visiting tourists. Even though it’s this absurd fake charade, it says a lot about how Westerners long for a kind of authenticity they feel they have lost, while at the same time reminding host cultures about certain aspects of their own traditions. Staged authenticity will always exist, to some extent (I’d wager it existed in some form when the ancient Romans visited Egypt), but it transforms in different ways in different places. Some cultures, like the Embera in Panama, have managed to use staged authenticity in the face of tourists not just to empower themselves economically, but to redefine their own sense of identity and pride. It’s a dynamic process, like all aspects of global culture, and no sooner do you mock a thing like “staged authenticity” than you’ll begin to see it in surprising new ways.

Vagobond: Speaking of authentic, how would you recommend that today’s travelers find a more authentic experience in their travels?

Rolf Potts:The world is chock full of authenticity; it is literally everywhere, if one would just slow down and endeavor to experience it. It’s also a phenomenon that has a lot of nuance, and what at first might seem to be inauthentic — an Ethiopian Mursi tribesman wearing Nikes, for example — might end up being a very authentic part of how that culture is living today. So the best advice I can give to travelers is to simply be where you are. Turn off your smart phone, stop chattering with your companions, leave your digital camera in your pack: Stop, look, wait, breathe in; don’t overanalyze. It’s all authentic in its own way.

Vagabond Hiker Scholar – Francis Tapon

If there is a modern day heir to the great traveler/scholar Ibn Batutta – I would say that Francis Tapon is the guy. His latest book is a masterpiece of travel and will surely be quoted and referenced for the next decade- especially as the Eastern Europe that he has spent so much time coming to know, slowly goes away. The Hidden Europe:What Eastern Europeans Can Teach Us is more than just a travelogue- it is a cultural and historical guidebook which is both intensely personal and incredibly helpful in coming to understand the places he has visited.

This is not a small book – it is a massive tome filled with economic, historical, and political data that somehow manages to come across as entertaining and at times even light reading – don’t expect to read even a single chapter in one session – in fact, I would say that this book is something that you will reference again and again – especially if you have an interest in Eastern Europe or if you are traveling in Eastern Europe.

Francis not only spent three years cris-crossing through Eastern Europe, hiking, making friends and coming to understand the people and the cultures – he has also walked across America four times, thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail, and in 2007, became the first to do a round-trip on the Continental Divide Trail. He is the author of Hike Your Own Hike: 7 Lessons from Backpacking Across America and The Hidden Europe: What Eastern Europeans Can Teach Us. I can hearily recommend both – start with this interview and then get his books at WanderLearn with Francis Tapon – just cruise his site for a few minutes and you’ll be hooked.

Vagobond: I was introduced to you when I was doing research on the great vagabonds of the past. A librarian I met in Portland, Oregon told me – “Never mind the dead vagabonds – you should interview Francis Tapon.” Francis, when I looked at your site and started reading your adventures, I was simply blown away. At that time I think you were sleeping in a tent outside of Venice….Can you perhaps tell my readers how you started traveling? Was it always in this (pardon this) completely awesome style you travel in now?

Francis Tapon: I started traveling since I was born. Because I had a Chilean mom and a French father, my family would have to fly 10 hours to see a relative. My first independent trip was right after I graduated from college. It was a standard rite of passage: 75 days in Western Europe with my best high-school friend. Although we went to Prague and Budapest (which was somewhat unusual in 1992), most of the trip was pretty typical for college grads. We stayed in hostels or cheap hotels most of the way. My travel style didn’t change until after I thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2001. Once I learned to camp in the wilderness for months, getting a bed/shower/roof seemed optional. And once couchsurfing.org took off, it added another dimension that helped me meet locals more easily than ever.

Vagobond: One of the things that always hits me about your writing, both on the web and in your books is the academic nature of it. I always feel like I’m there with you, but at the same time, I feel like I’m attending a lecture at the explorers club because of the history, culture, and texture that you bring to your travels. Do you have an academic background? Also, in terms of reading, what writers/authors influenced you the most?

Francis Tapon:Although I went to Harvard Business School, I don’t have an academic background (I have no PhD). In fact, I dislike how academia writes, which is why my style of writing is extremely casual. Michael Krasny called it “idiosyncratic” and “unorthodox.” While I like to tackle intellectual subjects, I try to do it in an entertaining way. Academic writing is usually boring and long-winded. I prefer a punchy style that still remains informative and profound. Whether I achieve that is for the reader to judge.
Bill Bryson has influenced me the most. I love his books. The biggest difference between us is that I tend to get more dirty than he does and I take bigger risks when I travel. His style of writing is refined than mine too–I can be more crass and controversial than him.

Vagobond: Did you always know you wanted to be an explorer and adventurer? Did you ever get blown off track? How did you find your way back?

Francis Tapon:Until I hiked the Appalachian Trail (age 31), I lived a pretty standard life. That journey transformed me. I did get blown off track twice. First was after the AT, when I consulted for Hitachi for 2.5 years. Then again after my first trip to Eastern Europe (2004), when I consulted for Microsoft for 18 months. Those four years of work weren’t wasted though: I’ve been living off the money I earned in those two jobs ever since. I always knew those would be temporary gigs, but it still takes discipline to leave a job that pays well. Income is addictive.

Vagobond: In reading The Hidden Europe, I was particularly blown away by the sections on Serbia and Russia. Russia, I kind of expected to be incredible, but with Serbia, I learned more about the country from reading your book than from traveling there myself! I had terrible experiences in Serbia, but reading The Hidden Europe made me want to go back and re-experience it. Can you perhaps explain why the Serbs are so completely misunderstood by the world? I ask because after reading your book, I certainly feel like I misunderstood many things.

Francis Tapon:Whenever we fight a war, we nearly always demonize the people we are fighting. It makes it easier to justify attacking a nation when you tell yourself that rotten things are going on there. The Western media demonized Serbia during the Yugoslav Wars instead of trying to understand them or to explain their point of view. This doesn’t mean Serbia was flawless, but I sought to understand the Serbs.

At the same time, as travelers we have to be careful about drawing broad conclusions based on a few encounters (or many encounters in a small region of the country). Perhaps I was lucky and met a bunch of wonderful Serbs while you met a bunch of jerks. I lived 18 months in the ex-Yugoslav countries so I feel that my assessment is pretty accurate, but I could have been lucky.

Vagobond: As a writer and traveler, there are a few destinations I keep to myself. I don’t want the world to know about them. Sometimes, though, I let people know about a hidden gem here or there. In all your travels in Eastern Europe, did you come across any of these gems you might be able to tell us about?

Francis Tapon:I loved Kotor, Montenegro. It’s a magical place for me.

Vagobond: Narrow escapes. Anyone who has traveled a bit has had more than a few of these, or else, they probably wouldn’t be travelling any longer. What about you? In your travels, can you tell us about one narrow escape?

Francis Tapon:I went for a 16-mile day hike in Olympic National Park, but ended up getting lost for 3 days. I had no sleeping bag, no shelter, no light, no food. It snowed. I saved my partner’s life twice. We both got frostbite and infections.

Vagobond: The subtitle of The Hidden Europe is ‘What Eastern Europeans can teach us.” – First of all- when you say ‘us’ who are you talking about? Secondly – while I found the entire book to be thought provoking, can you perhaps point to three of the most important lessons of it?

Francis Tapon:“Us” is mainly “us Americans,” but Western Europeans don’t know much about Eastern Europe either. Even Eastern Europeans don’t know much about Eastern Europe! So ultimately “us” is “everyone.”

Three lessons:
1. Communism doesn’t work. For over 40 years, many countries throughout the world experimented with various flavors of a tightly controlled state – none of them worked. Let’s not forget that when people declare that we need a revolution that delivers us a paternalistic government.
2. A simplified tax policy. Most Eastern Europeans have flat taxes. I never met an Estonian who took more than 10 minutes to do their taxes. This helped fuel their growth in the last 20 years.
3. Celebrate depopulation. Eastern Europe is depopulating faster than any other region on Earth. Although many countries are fighting it (by giving incentives to reproduce), a few are accepting it and seeing the benefits: more resources per capita.

Vagobond: I love that you created a section about ‘Eastern Germany’ – today it’s very easy to forget that it was just twenty years ago that Germany was two different countries. There were a few moments in this section where I actually guffawed (Evil Santa and the smell chair in the disco era) – can you tell me your funniest moment in the former East Germany?

Francis Tapon:When I asked a East German if I could interview him, he agreed to give me 5 minutes and was not pleasant at first. However, in the end, he talked with me an hour, toured me around his city, took me into a church, and dropped me off at a train station in Poland! It’s funny how much he changed.

Vagobond: Turkey – I love it. It probably comes from going to the police and being offered a cup of tea and baklava even though I was in the wrong office – but anyway, I’m curious about your thoughts on the idea that Turkey is forming a sort of ‘New Ottoman Empire’ and the perception that the Turks are becoming more Islamicized? Also, what’s your favorite Turkish destination?

Francis Tapon:Turkey is just doing what most countries have been doing after WWII: extending its influence through economics and diplomacy rather than brute military and political expansion. If someone wants to call such policies the “New Ottoman Empire,” that’s fine, but don’t expect Turkey to militarily invade other countries–certainly not Europe. However, just like Latinos have been “invading” the USA, Turks will continue to “invade” Europe through immigration. European xenophobes will continue to resist the Turks, most of whom are not Islam fundamentalists. Most Turks are continuing down the path of secularism–a journey that started nearly 100 years ago. I’ve only seen western Turkey, but my favorite destination is Istanbul–it’s the third biggest city in the world.

Vagobond: I had an incredible experience in Pernik, Bulgaria where I got to get drunk with a retired communist coal miner who regaled me with stories of the glory of the communist days. You’ve traveled much more in Bulgaria than I have, do you think there is a danger of nostalgia moving Bulgaria backwards? Also, just curious – what, in your opinion is the best thing in Bulgaria?

Francis Tapon:Yes, there’s a danger that Bulgaria (and Eastern Europe) will move backwards. However, I don’t think that will happen. Change must happen to Bulgaria, but few Bulgarians think the solution is to go back to communism or heavy government control. The best thing about Bulgaria is how they shake their head from side-to-side to say “yes” and nod to mean “no.”

Vagobond: What about family? How can you travel for three years? Vagobond readers want to know things like where do you get the funds? Do you suffer from travel fatigue? Do you get lonely?

Francis Tapon: I worked for four years at Microsoft and Hitachi, lived like a monk, and saved up enough money to travel for years. I describe my travel secrets more in my article about how to travel for years. I don’t get fatigued because I take breaks whenever I get tired of traveling. For example, I parked it for 4 months in Tallinn, Estonia and several months in Slovenia and Croatia.

Vagobond: Finally….how about three solid travel tips that people may not have heard before.

Francis Tapon:

1. Always carry a tarp and a sleeping bag/pad. It weighs just 2 kg (4.4 pounds), and it liberates you from the pressure and worry of finding a hostel/hotel. It allows you to be spontaneous when you travel.

2. Consider discreet urban camping. Camp in a city park or in the city’s outskirts right at sunset and leave no trace by sunrise.

3. Always offer cash after you hitchhike. Most drivers won’t accept it, but it shows that you’re not a freeloader and that you appreciate their help. It’s better than a “thank you.” Also, when you’re a guest at someone’s house, shower them with gifts and generous actions. You’ll always be invited back.

Vagobond: Okay, one last question. If you disappear, what country should I come looking for you in so we can go drink a few bottles of wine together?

Francis Tapon:Montenegro. But here’s the catch: I’ve never drunk any alcohol in my life. So let’s get guzzle sparkling water instead. 🙂

Vagobond: Thanks Francis. Absolutely love the book – still have been jumping around with it, but it’s seriously awe-some.  Hope it sells millions of copies.

Francis Tapon:Thank you Vago!

You can purchase Hike Your Own Hike: 7 Lessons from Backpacking Across America and The Hidden Europe: What Eastern Europeans Can Teach Us at WanderLearn with Francis Tapon – where you can learn a lot more about this incredible modern Ibn Battuta.

Happy Fools Day! Fools take risks! Be a fool!

As you all know, I am a member in full standing of the brotherhood of fools. This is our day. In honor of that, I would like to point out that the key trademark of fools is that we are not averse to risk. We tread where wise men dare not go. We take the risks…in honor of that and dedicated to all my fellow fools, I offer the following quotes on risk. Live large fools, for tomorrow we will surely die.

Don’t refuse to go on an occasional wild goose chase – that’s what wild geese are for. ~Author Unknown
To dare is to lose one’s footing momentarily. To not dare is to lose oneself. ~Soren Kierkegaard
I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it. ~Pablo Picasso
When in doubt, make a fool of yourself. There is a microscopically thin line between being brilliantly creative and acting like the most gigantic idiot on earth. So what the hell, leap. ~Cynthia Heimel, “Lower Manhattan Survival Tactics”
I dip my pen in the blackest ink, because I’m not afraid of falling into my inkpot. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
Progress always involves risks. You can’t steal second base and keep your foot on first. ~Frederick B. Wilcox
Why not go out on a limb? Isn’t that where the fruit is? ~Frank Scully
Yes, risk taking is inherently failure-prone. Otherwise, it would be called sure-thing-taking. ~Tim McMahon
Many great ideas have been lost because the people who had them could not stand being laughed at. ~Author Unknown
The fear of being laughed at makes cowards of us all. ~Mignon McLaughlin, The Neurotic’s Notebook, 1960
You’ll always miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. ~Wayne Gretzky
I believe in getting into hot water; it keeps you clean. ~G.K. Chesterton
What is more mortifying than to feel you’ve missed the Plum for want of courage to shake the Tree? ~Logan Pearsall Smith
A ship in harbor is safe – but that is not what ships are for. ~John A. Shedd, Salt from My Attic
To eat an egg, you must break the shell. ~Jamaican Proverb
To win you have to risk loss. ~Jean-Claude Killy
The torment of precautions often exceeds the dangers to be avoided. It is sometimes better to abandon one’s self to destiny. ~Napoleon Bonaparte
If you’re never scared or embarrassed or hurt, it means you never take any chances. ~Julia Sorel (Rosalyn Drexler), See How She Runs, 1978
Take risks: if you win, you will be happy; if you lose, you will be wise. ~Author Unknown
Prudence keeps life safe, but does not often make it happy. ~Samuel Johnson
This nation was built by men who took risks – pioneers who were not afraid of the wilderness, business men who were not afraid of failure, scientists who were not afraid of the truth, thinkers who were not afraid of progress, dreamers who were not afraid of action. ~Brooks Atkinson
The more chance there is of stubbing your toe, the more chance you have of stepping into success. ~Author Unknown
The healthy being craves an occasional wildness, a jolt from normality, a sharpening of the edge of appetite, his own little festival of the Saturnalia, a brief excursion from his way of life. ~Robert MacIver
Of all the people I have ever known, those who have pursued their dreams and failed have lived a much more fulfilling life than those who have put their dreams on a shelf for fear of failure. ~Author Unknown
Nothing will ever be attempted, if all possible objections must be first overcome. ~Samuel Johnson, Rasselas, 1759
Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly. ~Robert F. Kennedy
It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare, it is because we do not dare that they are difficult. ~Seneca
What great thing would you attempt if you knew you could not fail? ~Robert H. Schuller
You must lose a fly to catch a trout. ~George Herbert
The knowledge of the world is only to be acquired in the world, and not in a closet. ~Lord Philip Dormer Stanhope Chesterfield
Never be afraid to try something new. Remember, amateurs built the ark; professionals built the Titanic. ~Author Unknown
If one is forever cautious, can one remain a human being? ~Aleksander Solzhenitsyn
Dare to be naive. ~Buckminster Fuller
It is only in adventure that some people succeed in knowing themselves – in finding themselves. ~André Gide
Every man has the right to risk his own life in order to preserve it. Has it ever been said that a man who throws himself out the window to escape from a fire is guilty of suicide? ~Jean-Jacques Rousseau
There are those who are so scrupulously afraid of doing wrong that they seldom venture to do anything. ~Vauvenargues
Do not be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better. What if they are a little course, and you may get your coat soiled or torn? What if you do fail, and get fairly rolled in the dirt once or twice. Up again, you shall never be so afraid of a tumble. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
One does not discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time. ~André Gide
Behold the turtle. He makes progress only when he sticks his neck out. ~James Bryant Conant
You might as well fall flat on your face as lean over too far backward. ~James Thurber
We fail more often by timidity than by over-daring. ~David Grayson
Living at risk is jumping off the cliff and building your wings on the way down. ~Ray Bradbury

Bicycle Vagabond – Dave Stamboulis

This is an excerpt from my book “Vagabonds: Sometimes Getting Lost is the Point” . It’s available as an ebook for kindle or ebook readers. Over the next several months we will be exploring some of these amazing vagabond characters from the past (and present).

Dave Stamboulis was born a traveller. Born in Greece, raised in Berkeley and on the road taking pictures and notes for most of his life since then. He  rode his bicycle around the world and his narrative of that trip Odysseus Last Stand won the Silver Medal from the Society of American Travel Writers. Dave lives in Thailand and is a featured contributor here at Vagobond.com. His books, articles and photos will blow your mind when you check them out at DaveStamboulis.com or at Flickr.com/photos/davestamboulis

Vagobond: What’s your first memory of wanting to travel? What about the first time you realized you wanted to capture the world on your camera?
Dave Stamboulis: I can’t say I really have much of a first memory of wanting to travel, probably because my parents took me traveling from a young age. My mother always had a great story about me that I thought explained it all. When we crossed from Greece to the US a year after I was born, the boat we were on ran into very rough seas. All the passengers were lying inside, all prone and sick as dogs. But I was out on deck crawling around. I guess it was a sign of things to come!
Vagobond: On your website, there is a great quote by Rudyard Kipling “There are basically two types of men in the world. Those who stay at home, and those who don’t.” What’s the hardest part of being one of those who don’t?
Dave Stamboulis: The hardest part of being a constant traveler is missing the time and energy necessary to put into relationships at home. Close to that would be a few other things, such as people, even friends, being jealous of your lifestyle, and subsequently dealing with those feelings, and also the fact that travel, when it becomes a lifestyle and living, is no longer exactly the fantasy and pleasure cruise that it once was.
Vagobond: Riding your bike  around the world is one hell of a way to break into travel writing – what was the most difficult part of that journey?
Dave Stamboulis: The most difficult part of riding a bicycle around the world was actually finishing at the end. I never intended to spend seven years wandering when I set out, it just happened. And in year six, riding across Central Asia as winter set in, with bursitis in my knee and endless days of frigid frozen sleet out on the road, I could find nothing enjoyable about what I was doing. In every way I wanted to stop, but I was pretty dedicated to the finish line at this point, so I put my head down and ground it out.
Vagobond: Did you ever expect that Odysseus Last Stand would get the acclaim and praise that it did? How much of that was part of your vision for it?
Dave Stamboulis: I had absolutely ZERO idea that Odysseus would do as well as it did, and basically launch my career as a travel writer and photographer. I basically wrote the book because when I returned home, I wanted to figure out what had happened to me and to somehow gracefully lay seven years of travel to a peaceful rest. Further on, I just wanted to share my adventures with friends and family. Then, once I had a 130,000 word manuscript that took over two years to write and edit, I figured it wasn’t going to be much of an endeavor if it just sat on a shelf taking in dust. In retrospect, I did put a huge amount of time and energy into it, and I researched and followed all of the proper steps in trying to become a first time publisher, and I guess it paid off. But I never expected it to do as well as it did.
Vagobond: Are you a goal setter? How much planning do you do to get your trips to go the way you want them to?
Dave Stamboulis:  I am a goal setter, but my goals are more like whims or dreams that aren’t necessarily overly concrete. I finished a cross country US bicycle trip that changed me quite significantly, and after that I wondered what could be next. A world trip came to mind, but the only real goals or aims of the trip at the time were to get to Tibet, India, and across the Himalayas, places I’d always wanted to go to. Once I got to Japan and started saving a lot of money working, then the planning got a bit more concrete, but most of that was based around weather patterns, monsoons, hot and cold seasons, and trying to avoid extremes wherever possible.
Vagobond: On a related note, how do you start your day? Do you have morning rituals?
Dave Stamboulis:   I guess I have always had morning rituals. I did yoga for many years, I did Zen meditation for a spell. While traveling, starting the day at a cafe, drinking a good cup of coffee and writing my notes became something to cherish. These days, being based in Bangkok, I usually get up and watch an NBA basketball game online in the early morning while having my coffee! (being a lifelong basketball fan and having the night games come on in the early a.m. here is a great way I find to warm up the day before I start working.
Vagobond: I was in Bangkok back in 2001 – it was obviously on the rise and from what I’ve heard, is now one of the most comfortable cities in southeast Asia in a Western sense…what challenges do you face living there?
Dave Stamboulis: Bangkok, in 2011, is probably 100 times more comfortable to live in than 10 years ago. I live 5 minutes from the Skytrain, so I virtually never deal with the infamous traffic, my nearby mega-supermarkets stock products from around the world, and I can find just about any kind of camera or computer gear that I need for work at reasonable prices. On the other hand, the Thailand that I fell in love with, the Thailand where people never honked their horns, smiled all the time, and just took it real easy, has drastically changed. It has become far more like the west or developed world in terms of stress, crime, greed, and focused on money rather than on anything else, and this is a very sad thing in my opinion. Also, given the decline of the dollar along with inflation, Bangkok is no longer the bargain paradise that it once was.
Vagobond: Back to that Kipling quote – what about family life? How does a man who goes build relationships? Or does he?
Dave Stamboulis: It is very difficult to sustain intimate relationships as a road junkie. I have had my share over the years, and have even cut down on my trips and time away during the times I have had steady companions. But I think it is tough to share the lifestyle, and probably the only way I think it really works is if you end up with someone who is in a similar line of work or way of thinking, perhaps another writer or photographer. I saw a documentary recently about Lemmy, the zany singer of Motorhead, and he was basically saying that as a touring rock star, there was just no way a relationship with anyone other than another musician was going to work out, and I think that is somewhat true. Artists tend to be rather committed to their passions, often at the expense of partners and friends in their lives.
Vagobond: Can you offer three travel tips that Vagobond readers may not have heard before?
Dave Stamboulis: I don’t know that I have any new tips, but
1) as I have gotten older and more “comfortable and convenient” I have resolved to take myself out of my comfort element at least once a year, it usually is rather life changing and reaffirming to go get on a rustbucket bus on a potholed road in the middle of nowhere with few amenities. It is humbling and reminds oneself just what real travel is all about.
2) Try going precisely to the places that don’t interest you. Years ago I didn’t have any strong draw to spending time in Africa, as opposed to Asia or S. America, whereas now, for me, Africa is somewhat the last great place to adventure in.
3) I think it is pretty important to combine some sort of project or focus with just a relaxing escape. I actually no longer really enjoy the “motion” part of travel. Too many hours on bad buses in bad hotels eating bad food without any of the comforts of home. But going on trips with the purpose of taking photos and gathering material for articles, it gives me a focus and gets me through those bad moments.
4) And I am sure this has been said, but I can’t stress the importance of it: TRUST PEOPLE. 99% of the people in the world are good, and if you open yourself up to them, you will be rewarded with amazing kindnesses and great memories.
Vagobond: Your forthcoming piece on the Kazakh Eagle Hunters (here on Vagobond coming Monday!)  was the kind of travel piece that I used to eat up when I was a kid. I would dig through 80 years of my grandmother’s National Geographics to find stories like that – what are some of your other awesome adventures?
Dave Stamboulis:  Probably the best adventures to me involve a bit of physical hardship. In Mongolia, it might have been the extremes of temperatures and landscape, a million miles removed from home in a harsh landscape with no amenities. One of my most outstanding adventures was a crossing of the back side of the polar ice cap in Fitzroy National Park in Argentinian Patagonia. I was with a climbing friend and we had finished several months of trekking and climbing throughout S. America and I was really spent and ready to go to Buenos Aires and go sit in cafes and read books. And my friend basically pressured me to do this final trip, which involved slogging huge amounts of gear across highly crevassed ice completely away from civilization. The trip was very hard, but the scenery, solitude, and sense of adventure was enormous.
Vagobond: I’m not going to ask you how many countries you’ve been to or which one is your favorite – instead, if aliens appeared and told you that you had to spend the rest of your life in just one place (let’s assume it has to be on Planet Earth) – where would you pick?
Dave Stamboulis: Put it this way, for most of my life, I always thought of places in the world to be a bit like stations on a train journey. Some stations merited getting off and staying in, some worth more time than others, but eventually, one would have to get back on the train and enjoy the ride. Well, Thailand changed that for me. This was the first place I ever said to myself, “I will die here,” meaning it as a place I felt based in and very at home. The other place in the world I have a very strong connection to is Nepal. I spent several years living there, teaching there, cycling and climbing there. I loved the people, the culture, the landscape. I went back for the first time in 12 years a few years ago, and actually had as much of an enjoyable time as the first time. The mix of friendly people along with the Himalayan landscape and culture is something I love.
Vagobond: What does the future hold for Dave Stamboulis?
Dave Stamboulis: The future? Given continued decent health, I am sure I will do more of the same, getting out and seeing the world, and trying to keep an open and fresh mind. On the one hand, it is horrible to go back to places that were paradises 20 years ago and see them destroyed by tourism and development greed, yet on the other hand, travel exposes one on a daily basis to lots of wonderful human interest stories, far more hopeful than the garbage we tend to read and be spoon fed on a daily basis on the internet, newspaper, and television.

Vino Vagabond Writer – Linda Kissam

This is an excerpt from my book “Vagabonds: Sometimes Getting Lost is the Point” . It’s available as an ebook for kindle or ebook readers. Over the next several months we will be exploring some of these amazing vagabond characters from the past (and present).

Linda Kissam has brought Vagobond readers exclusive stories about travel in the world of wine since 2012. She is a professional travel, food, and wine writer based out of Southern California.

Linda specializes in easy, breezy destination stories focusing on what makes each destination special through it culinary and wine, beer and spirits scene and the soft adventures that surround those pursuits. She loves sharing her favorite things about the places she visits. She never knows if a story will end up being based on finding the perfect latte, ordering Pommes Frites with Parsley Butter in a small French bistro, searching for an Internet cafe in Sicily, or attending a wine seminar aboard a cruise ship. She never travels without a notebook, camera and a great pair of Brighton flats. She has an addiction to personable people, interesting wines, gourmet coffee, fabulous chocolate and spicy foods. Anyone who knows her will tell you that she loves traveling anywhere, by any means, and is somewhat obsessive about jewelry and a good taco.

Welcome to Vagobond, Linda!
Vagobond: What’s your personal travel philosophy?
LK: Commit to the regionality of the trip. Appreciate the moment and circumstance of what is being offered.

Vagobond: How many countries have you visited?
LK: I’ve been lucky to visit over 15 countries so far representing 4 continents

Vagobond: What made you start to travel?
LK: I became a travel agent on a whim one year. I was sent to Thailand to better understand the activities and accommodations offered there.My eyes and soul opened to the universal possibilities of international travel through that gift. I was hooked from that point on.

Vagobond: What’s your scariest travel moment?
LK: Circling the Atlanta Airport for an hour in a thunder storm. We couldn’t land until the thunder storm was over and we couldn’t go to another airport because we didn’t have enough fuel.

Vagobond: What’s your funniest travel moment?
LK: The day the shuttle driver misunderstood his instructions to pick up my writers group ASAP.  The four of us writerswere in a small golf cart on a very restricted one lane, no vehicles allowed, nature trail which incidentally included alligators on each side of the trail. The thirty something year old, 20 passenger shuttle driver breached the “Do Not Enter” warning signs and blockades. He came rumbling down the trail, lights on,pedal to the metal, until he found us, loaded us up and backed out the entire winding, twisty road, which at that point was probably 3 miles. It wasn’t until then that he shared he was the lead fire truck driver for the local fire department and there were never any passengers left behind whenever he got the call!

Vagobond: What’s your greatest adventure?
LK: That’s like asking me which of my children I like best, or what wine I like best.  There is no definitive answer. I believe that each trip has a message to share.  I love every minute of every travel adventure.

Vagobond: What’s your dream destination/vacation/trip?
LK: I’ve yet to take a cruise around the Greek Isles, go on a safari & do some wine tasting in South Africa, or experience UK Canal boating.

Vagobond: Are you a traveler or a tourist? What’s the difference if there is one.
LK: I am a traveler. I enjoy the opportunity to explore other places through regional activities whether in my home state or in far away places. I am there to do more than vacation. Long ago I learned not to expect toilet paper — but carry my own with the cardboard roll removed, paper pressed flat.

Vagobond: What’s a great travel tip most people don’t know?
LK: Pack light, in one color palate, and think & do regionally!

Vagobond: What are your travel plans for 2012?
LK: 2012 looks like a great travel year split between North America and European travel. My travel schedule is just starting to firm up, but on the boards now I am looking forward to visiting Oregon, Las Vegas, Arizona, California, South Dakota, Germany, England, Switzerland, Berlin, Canada,and France. Anywhere I can find an interesting wine region, spa, or train ride…calls to my soul.

 

Vagobond Predictions 2008 – 2021

Hi Vagobonds and Happy New Year! This is my New years post. I will keep adding to it every new year. I’ve highlighted those predictions I’ve done well with in previous years as you scroll downward.

Predictions for 2021

2021 predictions

How did I do predicting 2020?

Once again, my New Years predictions last year didn’t quite hit the mark, I’m obviously not psychic. No Bernie Yang vs. Trump Gabbard – and I admit -that was a pretty wild prediction. Looking at 2020 though – it would have been some of the less wild things that happened. I was right about the roaring economy and thankfully I was wrong about Trump cheating his way to a win – at least so far. I think it’s fair to say that climate disasters did indeed rock our world but that was less a prediction than a certainty. I nailed it with the antitrust suits on the tech giants. I nailed it with Bitcoin. On some of the other things – I was jumping the gun a bit. I didn’t predict the pandemic – it changed things. Amazon didn’t spin off AWS and the race for Mars didn’t take off.I don’t think an animal became a new pop star and I don’t think a new internet or underground economy took off.

Let’s make some predictions for 2021 now

  1. Trump will not concede. He will set up a shadow government at Mar a Lago and his loyal followers will begin making preparations for secession. He will have help from within the shadow government he has put in place during his awful tenure as POTUS.
  2. Bernie and AOC and other Democratic Socialists will split with the DNC and form the first viable 3rd party in a hundred years. The DSA will have record enrollment from the left leaning progressive wing of the DNC.
  3. The DNC itself will become a sort of haven for Neo-conservatives like the Lincoln Project and moderate Republicans as they distance themselves from Trump and his far right proto-fascist agenda. There will be high profile defections from the RNC to the DNC and from the DNC to the DSA.
  4. Industrial automation within healthcare, food service, and transportation will knock (or keep) millions of Americans out of work. The movement to create a Universal Basic Income will grow as Biden’s promise to create 10-million jobs to slow down climate change becomes hard to fulfill due to crippling legislative gridlock.
  5. Stock markets will continue to flourish while tens of millions more around the world fall into poverty. It will become more obvious than ever that poor people don’t own stocks and the health of market economies has nothing to do with the health of populations.
  6. COVID-19 and the pandemic will be conquered. Life however, will not return to the pre-Covid normal in 2021.
  7. China will officially surpass the USA as the world’s largest and most important economy. There will be flare ups as the two countries’ naval vessels inch closer to open conflict but no war between them in 2021.
  8. The dollar and the pound will crash as Bitcoin, a digital Euro, and the Digital Yuan start to take on roles as the world’s reserve currencies. All three will soar.
  9. Major hurricanes will strike Florida, Hawaii, and the Atlantic Seaboard. Record size typhoons will hit Japan and the Philippines. A major earthquake will happen in North Carolina and the largest earthquake on record will strike somewhere in the Pacific – hopefully far from inhabited places.
  10. Facebook, Google, and Amazon will all be broken up either voluntarily or involuntarily. Tesla will spin off The Boring Company, Solar City, and Spacex – which should cause prices to drop on the parent company but instead will drive shares higher. Tesla will acquire Volkswagen.
  11. Exxon will become the world’s largest environmental repair company and will divest from the majority of their fossil fuel holdings. They will use their technology to capture and store CO2 directly from the atmosphere. They will start to pull plastic from the oceans on an astounding scale.
  12. The Saudi Royal family will be overthrown and Saudi Arabia will be rebranded as Arabia. (This one comes straight from Kim Stanley Robinson’s book Ministry for the Future – I love it.)
  13. Natural gas from cattle and hog farms will actually become worth more when harvested than the animals themselves. Renewable Natural Gas Farms will actually become a thing.
  14. The internet will be completely broken and unusable causing chaos – innovative technological stretching will bring a replacement in less than a month!
  15. I’m sticking with my recurring prediction of an animal pop star taking the world by storm. It will happen someday, maybe 2021 is the year.

Predictions for 2020

Here are my predictions for 2020 – part fear, part hope, part visionary insight, part ridiculous

1) The economy will soar as Trump pulls out all the stops to give himself a huge re-election claim. 401ks will roar, records will be broken, regulations will be rolled back, hello Roaring 20s!
2) The biggest sector of the economy will be business services from banking to tech analytics. Start ups serving other start ups will be the vunderkind of the investor sector.
3) Andrew Yang will be one of the last Democrats standing but Bernie will get the nomination. His VP will be either Yang, Booker, or Warren.
4) In a surprise move Trump will fire Pence as his VP and take Tulsi Gabbard – the lone Democrat who did not vote to impeach him.
5) I’m predicting a US Presidential Race no one else sees coming Trump/Gabbard vs. Sanders/Yang – though ‘Sander’s Yang’ sounds like something only Bernie’s wife would want to see. Lol.
6) Sorry to say that Trump will win. He will cheat but he may not have to.
7) Trump will be impeached – again.
8) Climate disasters will rock the world.
9) A new form of ‘internet’ will appear – decentralized, non-commercial, free. My guess is that it will be based on radio and mesh-networks.
10) An animal will become a huge pop star
11) The race for Mars will kick off in a big way between China the USA
12) Antitrust against Amazon, Facebook, and Google – Amazon will break itself up by spinning AWS and possibly Prime Video as new companies.
13) Angry white guys will again kill people
14) The US surveillance state will kick into high gear with a sort of social capital system that claims to be free-er than the Chinese version
15) Bitcoin will soar to new highs and become a standard investment holding
16) A new sort of underground economy will start shaking things up.
I’m not going to predict any wars. Reality is stark enough without predicting new wars.

Predictions for 2019

The holidays are at an end (for the time being) and I wanted to take this opportunity to thank the readers and followers of Vagorithm. Vagorithm was born from the idea that change is happening faster than we can recognize it. During the coming year, I will do my best to keep you up to date on the latest in technological, economic, political, social, and cultural change in the world around us. Both personally and professionally, I’ve declared 2019 to be ‘The Year of Change’.

Now that the holidays are through, I will resume my regular schedule of a new post each Thursday at 12 pm HST. Posts on this site will be focused on book reviews, forecasting, and looking more closely at political, economic, and cultural change as it happens around us. I will continue to monitor the world with the Vagorithm Index and will certainly make some changes to the algorithm as the year progresses.

As the year begins, we are in a deep rut which I fear may go deeper. From an all time high of 907 under President Obama’s leadership and vision, we have sunk to a near all time low of 271 with multiple countries around the globe seemingly ready to collapse, century old powerhouse corporations like General Electric, Sears, and Ford struggling to stay alive, and a global wealth disparity that is growing faster than at any time in the history of our species – so, we have some challenges ahead.

My predictions for 2019 are not hard to predict. I believe that multiple modern stable democracies are in danger of collapsing. I think that cryptocurrency will move faster on the pace of adoption than anyone expects after the big collapse of 2018. I worry that those who need the most protection in our world will suffer the most in the coming year. Finally, I think we are going to see big breakthroughs in gene-editing, self-driving electric vehicles, and industrial automation – those kiosks in McDonalds are going to be showing up everywhere.

Economically, I think the U.S. and Global Equities Markets have one big bubble ahead of them before a spectacular collapse and the U.S. Dollar is going to lose a lot of value before the year is done. Gold should approach the $2000 mark again with other metals following. We are going to start seeing the effects of workers being replaced by automation in 2019 and it’s not going to be pretty.

All of that being said – things are looking good for 2019. This is a year of new things being born and change coming hard. It won’t be easy, but there are huge opportunities for a better world in the next 365 days.

I have a number of predictions for 2019. They are worth considering in any event. First a fun one – I think that in 2019, celebrity stock and crypto traders will become the new celebrity chefs. In the past most notorious traders have either been criminals or niche market – I think this year they will go mainstream. Think in terms of Rachel Ray, Anthony Bourdain, and other chefs who made the leap to stardom from the nineties to the oughts.

Alright – moving on:

1) While it sounds hard to believe in light of the ridiculous predictions, the boom and the bust, and the bear market of 2018 – I believe that Bitcoin will end 2019 worth more than $100k per coin. Adoption is happening, regulation has not killed it, and bitcoin retains the advantage of being the most useful of all cryptocurrency – and the world financial system needs it.

2) The fragmentation of the internet into national and regional separate internets will continue. We will see distinct American, European, Chinese, Japanese, and African internets emerge – it’s my belief that the I2I communication this creates (internet to internet) is going to be where the most remarkable autonomous A.I developments take place in 2019.

3) The #metoo and #blacklivesmatter movements will grow in strength – large numbers of established white dudes will be taken down for offensive and toxic past behaviour. This will lead to a bit of a backlash and two distinct movements by white groups – one inclusive which attempts to show that not all white people are bad and one that is reactive and pushes back with negativity, hate and fear.

4) Impeachment proceedings and formal charges lie ahead of Donald Trump. To distract and rally his base he will either use Taiwan or Mexico to create a distraction.

5) Marijuana will be decriminalized in the USA – this will create massive debate about those incarcerated for marijuana offenses

6) The stock market will rally in the first two quarters of 2019 breaking previous all time highs and then crashing hard and fast in the third quarter.

7) Crypto markets will skyrocket and the price of Gold will approach $2k USD again in 2019. Both Facebook and Amazon will implement their own cryptocurrencies and start gradually accepting Bitcoin for payments.

8) Amazon share prices will soar going past $1.5 trillion USD as the full scope of Amazon’s investments in health, hospitality, and transportation become known.

9) A centrist third party will appear bridging the gap between the left leaning democrats and the fascist leaning Trumpists. They will field a viable third party candidate that appeals to broad swaths of both red and blue voters.

10) The automation of fast food, self driving cars, and other A.I. driven worker replacement strategies will accelerate in 2019 leaving record numbers of low skill workers with nothing but low paying options for employement.

 

Predictions for 2018

The sectors below are the sectors which are shaping the future.

1. Bioengineering and Genetic Engineering – At the moment, this sector is moving relatively slow in comparison with others because of the important regulation that constrains what would otherwise be volcanic growth. Our ability to change life itself is moving faster than the regulation can keep up. Not only does this affect things like disease and aging but also the ability to grow food, to repair(or destroy) the environment, and much more. Not only can we change the world, eventually when regulations are satisfied or bypassed, we will be changing ourselves and will no longer be Homo Sapiens of any kind.

2. Distributed Ledgers and Blockchain – IBM is doing amazing work with blockchain and food production – as well as many other sectors. While the jury may seem to be out on Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies – players behind the scenes are building the future of finance, ownership, and wealth. Do not underestimate the power of distributed ledgers to topple governments and corporations.

3. Renewable Energy – our world was built on fossil fuels. It was fossil fuels that gave the greatest wealth and power to men and nations. Now, like it or not, they are being phased out. Renewable energy on a massive scale is coming and it will being new power structures, new ways of living, and new problems.

4. Artificial Intelligence (and Augmented Intelligence). We already walk around with assistants in our pockets that know everything. The interfaces are getting better. Our brains no longer function like the brains of our grandparents but we still use the same structures – not for long. And then there is the singularity – A.I. will surpass our ability to do everything – and will make everything happen much much faster than it already is.

5. Industrial and Labor Automation. In all liklihood, you are going to lose your job. We are all going to lose our jobs. Things will become cheaper and information will become more expensive. Our entire concept of economics will have to undergo a radical transformation.

6. New Materials. Nano-carbon fibres, lab grown meat, more conductive materials, better building materials. A.I. and automation along with renewable energy sources and bioengineering will change the materials we use in almost every instance. Legacy materials will be like hand made woks, a luxury or oddity – not the norm.

7. Virtual Reality, Artificial Reality, Augmented Reality, Combined Reality. In the not too distant future, you won’t have to put on a headset to enter a virtual world and there is a pretty good chance that the virtual/artificial/augmented world will spill over into the ‘real’ world. Will your self driving car be able to crash into the giant billboard – no, because it won’t physically be there – but it will be there – as real as your cousin that you have only seen on Facebook for the past ten years.

These are the main factors that I’ve incorporated into the Vagorithm. There are a couple of other factors that seem important to me. Is this a financial tool? Maybe. Over time you may be able to use it to chart good entry and exit points for the stock/forex/crypto markets – but my main purpose in creating it and sharing it, is to be able to quantify the level of future that exists in the now over time. For what it’s worth – since I began keeping track of these factors (shortly after the election of 2016) – the level of innovation has decreased by 42%. So, by my reckoning – right now – we are in a period of doldrums when heavy resistance to technological and societal change is feeling it’s power. Ignorance is at its most powerful level since the McCarthy Era when people wore blinders and feared what they didn’t understand. The good news is – when the forces of ignorance are defeated – the level of change is going to be  almost blinding in its speed.

I’ve introduced my Vagorithm Index previously, but it’s a good time to take a bit of a deeper dive into what it is looking at. Rather than focusing on a breadbasket of currencies, stocks, bonds, or economic indicators – the Vagorithm Index is built to indicate overall mental and cultural trends with regards to advances in technological adoption, societal inclusion, social justice, and distributed economic benefits. So, in a nutshell – when the Vagorithm Index moves higher – it means that we (humans as a whole) are progressing towards a sort of Star Trek Federation ideal where you can have your favorite food assembled in a kitchen gadget, where the color of your skin or other physical features don’t matter, and where life is valued over individual wealth. When the Vagorithm Index goes down, it means that we (humans as a whole) are moving backwards towards a more feudal state where dictators of nation states, entitled nobility, and the 1% get to do whatever they want to the rest of us.

 

But don’t worry…we are already far below the all time high of 908.13 (Nov 6, 2015) and still a little bit above the all time low of 318.84 (August 14, 2017). What does this mean? Well, it means that despite the crowing of the left over the ‘blue wave’ last week, that what progress was actually made is being sabotaged. Now, here is the thing – the left doesn’t actually want to live in a futuristic utopia…they want to live in a very similar economic world to the right – the difference is that the left acknowledges scientific evidence about climate change, the obvious roles of racism and sexism in power politics, and doesn’t tend to be as buffoonish when it comes to things like religion and sexuality.  This is what gives the V.I. a boost when Dems win – the problem this time is that there is an entire camp within the democratic party who are every bit as dangerous as the Trump-know-nothings who are currently in charge – yes Hillary Clinton would have been a better option to Donald Trump, but she would still have driven the index lower if she continued to follow the neocon pathway laid out by her husband, the Bush’s, and Reagan.

It might seem strange to group Clintons, Bush’s, and Reagan together but they are one and the same. Trump is a completely different category. Obama was a completely different category though he followed much of the neocon playbook when it came to war, defense, and international relations – where he was different was on his domestic policies, his views towards science and technology, and his attitude towards religion and sexuality.  So essentially, we have four parties in the USA.

Trumpism – essentially fascism and strong man politics based on fear, xenophobia, and racism

Neo-Conservatism – The politics of the Reagan, Bush I, Bush II, and the Clintons with a focus on corporate control of the military industrial government complex

Obamaism – Neocon Foreign Policy with Liberal Domestic Policy

Democratic Socialism – This is the domestic policies of Obama combined with a liberal foreign policy which has never been tried – this could be incredibly dangerous if it becomes evangelical in nature meaning if the Demsos want to export their world view.

Unfortunately, all of these are flawed because they all start from the basis of nationalism and the priority of one nation over all others. There is no viable political party in the USA which views the interests of all people with equality. Right now, there is a massive battle going on between the Neocons and the Demsos for control of the Democratic Party. It does not seem that there is anyone capable of the balancing act which Obama performed for eight years.

We are at an inflection point with a great unknown ahead of us. The unknown lies with the Democratic Socialists – they could lead us to a place of greatness or – if they are rash and can’t figure out how to navigate the ship of state in a safe manner – they could lead us to catastrophe. The next 60 days will be key in figuring out which of those things will take place.

 

Special Midterm Election Predictions:
Like everyone in the U.S. – I have become unecessarily stressed out over the election tomorrow – which is really stupid because I voted two weeks ago and the rest of it is out of my hands now. There is literally nothing I can do about what will happen. Unless you haven’t voted yet – there is nothing you can do. If there are people out there who haven’t made up their minds – maybe you can try to convince them to vote for your candidate – but good luck with that unless they already support your candidate or your candidate’s views – because the U.S. electorate is totally polarized and the U.S. system has completely failed anyway – so even if your candidates win or lose – it doesn’t really matter.

The Democrats and the Republicans are mostly owned by the same corporate interests. There is a narrow path that is acceptable to those corporate interests and candidates who deviate from that path will find themselves financially castrated or euthanized or isolated (because the rest of the elected officials walk the corporate line).

So, with all that being said – these are my predictions for the election tomorrow.

1) The Blue Wave Result There will be some big wins for Democrats and then there will be lots of crying foul by Republicans, cries of corruption, cries of election meddling, cries of voter irregularities, cries of criers crying – and then a big exhausting process of recounts and yelling and protests and things will take place. Of course, Mr. Big Mouth will get involved and then his brown shirt brigades will do some atrocious awful shit – like they’ve been doing the past two weeks – killing people, sending bombs, and awful deplorable things.

There probably won’t be any results overturned, but there will be enough questions raised to put shadows on any candidates who defeated fascist party candidates that their voices will be limited. The Democrats will cfy foul, but they’ll do it very politely. The stock markets will suffer some heavy losses before completely recovering and than imploding sometime in 2019.

2) The Red Wave Result The Russians, the North Koreans, the Trump machine, and the other forces of evil already have complete control and the expected blue wave will be destroyed. ACA will be gutted, more tax breaks, big wall built, war with Mexico, slaughter of the migrant train, concentration camps in former shopping malls, and maybe slavery will be reinstated. The stock markets will rocket straight up and then a cultural revolution will begin where the educated, liberal, and multi-cultural elites will be rounded up and slaughtered.

3) The Purple Wave Result Democrats make minor gains and take the house, Republicans keep the Senate. Minor version of Blue Wave Result. Nothing really changes. We move closer one step at a time to becoming the worst country in the history of humans. Stock markets rally until the next crisis of whatever nature.

As you can see – I no longer think positve results are possible for the United States. Personally, I’ve lost faith in the American people and the American Dream. But, I still hold out hope for one result.

4) The Tech Rebellion Amazon, Google, Facebook, Tesla, IBM and the rest of the tech companies on the West Coast and the Northeast decide they’ve had enough and use their amazing power to bring about a secession from the USA. The West Coast, Hawaii, New York etc declare a Tech States of the U.S. and start the world’s first Techocracy and tell all the old white politicians to go fuck themselves.

Happy Voting and Good Luck.

This was the prediction I made in October of 2018 about the 2nd American Civil War:

When I was in gradeschool during the 1970s and 1980s – it was fascinating to look at the American Civil War. What made it so fascinating was the unthinkable concept of ‘brother versus brother’- my teachers, my classmates, and me – none of us could imagine political ideologies so strong that they could rip families apart and cause brothers to shoot guns at brothers. It was simply unthinkable and thus – fascinating. It remained unthinkable throughout my life – until the election of 2016.

When I say it was unthinkable, what I mean is that I couldn’t conceive of any cause or concern that would create enough animosity between Americans that they would risk ripping up our 200+ years of democracy and take up arms against each other. Sure, there were stark differences about the environment, labor, corporatism, civil rights, and things like abortion – but only a small fringe of nutcases actually took these differences to a violent level. It was rare to hear about families who no longer talked to one another over their political differences.

It’s not rare anymore. We may not (yet) have brothers taking up arms against one another, but there are countless families where people no longer speak to each other, friendships have ended, people have moved to different regions because of political concerns (my family did) and never since the 1850s has there been such polarization in the United States of America. We may be bound together by our government, but we are no longer united. And that’s just the way it is.

More than anything – the division seems to be about the power of Christian white people in the United States. One camp feels that Christian white people are being disempowered unfairly and the other side sees the playing field as being leveled as disempowered people of color, LGBQT, women, latinos, and non-Christians are given an equal voice in determining who and what the USA is. It’s not a coincidence that the major Trump policies have been about empowering white ‘prosperity’ Christians and disempowering immigrants, Muslims, women, Asians, African Americans, the poor, LGBQT, Latinos, and other groups that rose in political power during the Obama years.

I am not saying that this is a strictly racial divide. It’s a religious divide as well. It’s also a profits versus people divide as one side believes that as long as business prospers the citizens will do well and the other side believes that the government’s primary objective should be to take care of citizens directly. But mostly, all of that is a bit like saying the civil war wasn’t about slavery but about state’s rights versus federal rights – it’s true, but the civil war was mostly about slavery – we all know that. The next civil war will be about white privilege. Since the colors have already been assigned – we can say that instead of blue vs. grey or North vs. South – the next civil war will be Red vs. Blue and unfortunately for the blue side – there is no cohesive geographic area. If anything it seems to be a Northeast Coast and West Coast vs. Interior and South.

In general, it’s something like the 2018 map of state legislatures:

So, what sets it off? Personally, I think the John Brown moment will be the moment that Donald Trump refuses to give up power if he loses the 2020 election or retains power through 2024 or gets impeached. I don’t believe he has any intention of stepping down. His refusal to step down will cause the State of California to secede. This will cause chaos as there are a number of important U.S. bases in California. What happens in that situation? Do all the California loyal troops rise up and take the bases? Are the Californian troops on those and other bases rounded up and put in camps? Does the U.S. evacuate California? Do the troops turn on each other? I have no idea. It’s almost inconcievable except that the catalyst event is not hard to imagine. It’s such a confusing situation that it’s not hard to imagine shots being fired as U.S. troops and California loyal troops try to navigate through the situation.

I believe that Hawai’i, Oregon, and Washington would quickly side with California. It’s not unthinkable that Illonois, Massachussets, Rhode Island, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Vermont, and Maryland would follow. Politically, the city of Washington D.C. is much more aligned with blue states but since it is the U.S. capital and currently held by Red – it could easily be a major flash point. None of it would be as simple as this. From Redding, California all the way up to Eugene, Oregon and everything east of the Cascade and Sierra Nevada – this is all deeply red territory. Cities like Miami, Atlanta, and Austin are solid blue.

So, the flashpoints and battle fields are probably going to be military bases in blue territories and areas like those mentioned above where red people are in blue territory or blue people are in red territory. If actual hostilities break out – red sympathizers will quickly form ad-hoc militias. It’s no secret that most of the anti-government, gun hoarding, militia forming preppers are either vocal Trump supporters or at the least fundamental Christians with sympathy towards white nationalism. These folks won’t wait for orders. They’ve been waiting and training for decades. The Northern California/Southern Oregon region would probably quickly secede from California and create their long desired State of Jefferson.

So, here’s the big question. How ugly does it get? Fire fights in the streets of Sacramento? Bombs from F-18s leveling the skyline of Los Angeles? Washington D.C. in flames? One side using nuclear weapons? Yes, that’s a very real danger in an American Civil War. The militias might be the biggest danger of escalation.

So, all of that is conjecture. The hard and fast truth of the matter is that we have reached a point – in 2018 where it no longer seems impossible that brothers would take up arms against one another. The college educated brother in the city versus the brother who stayed on the farm. The brother who goes to church versus the brother who is agnostic. The brother who votes Republican versus the brother who doesn’t.

God help us all.

Predictions for 2017

2017 is going to be an interesting year. I’ve given up on trying to predict what is going to happen – or at least that’s what I tell myself. I can’t help it though…playing the predict the future game is too much fun. It’s like a slot machine, you usually lose, but when you win – even a little, you want to do it again. And when you win big…well, that’s when you are in danger of losing it all. So, here is my prediction… in about two weeks all hell is going to break loose. The enemies of the USA (and we have lots of them because of the way we’ve been meddling in the affairs of the world for the past 75 years) are going to hit us from all sides shortly after Trump is inaugurated. Since Trump has more or less fired every Obama appointee from the moment he takes the oath, there has never been a moment when we have been more vulnerable. Since he has not been getting security briefings and has refused to acknowledge the reality of our national security, he is uniquely positioned to fuck everything up in a crisis. Within days of his taking office we can expect attacks within the US and upon US interests outside of the US. We can expect cyber attacks that will cripple our banking, electric grid, and information systems. The economy is going to get slaughtered. Foreign enemies will use this state of confusion to undermine the goals of the USA abroad in places like Ukraine, the South China Sea, Iraq, Europe, and the Korean Peninsula. And then….well, isn’t that enough? So there is my all in prediction. If it doesn’t happen, I’m happy wrong. If it happens, I’m psychic and right (but not happy). Either way, there it is. Here are a few more predictions for 2017 – Dick Cheney will come out of the shadows. A nuclear bomb will destroy an urban area. The internet will let us know it is awake and aware (I believe it already is, but is keeping it from us). A billionaire will be kidnapped and murdered. A virus will wipe out the entire US chicken supply. A millennial movement advocating violence towards baby-boomers will shock the internet and go global. And finally, a cat will record a grammy winning song with Yanni.

That’s it. Have a great year. Be safe, be cool, don’t be surprised. See ya later.

Predictions for 2016 – Somehow I lost these. Bummer. 

Predictions for 2015 

Once again – I’ll try my hand at predicting the future – and once again I’d like to start by telling you that if you want to know the future – you have to go there.

My predictions for 2014 weren’t all that close – but I did score a few hits. Let’s look at those first:

1)A Duck Dynasty party called ‘Quackers’ did not form.
2)Gold did indeed drop but not to the $700 I had predicted.
3)There were several crazed gunmen but none attacked the supreme court.
4)Syria’s civil war DID spread into Turkey and surrounding areas most notably into Iraq with ISIS – but not significantly into Lebanon.
5)Obamacare did fail, but not formally as predicted
6)Miley Cyrus did not overdose
7)California did not conduct a tax revolt against the USA
8) The internet did not wake up and call everyone on their cellphones.
9) America was not won over by a homeless singer
10) My predicted Twitter religion did not appear and dominate as I predicted.

Now – on to my predictions for 2015

1) This will be the year of the “American Fall” – there will be a serious attempt at disunion in the USA come autumn
2) The Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) will make dramatic advances in Lebanon, into Baghdad, and also into North Africa via Libya and Algeria.
3) North Korea will detonate a nuclear missile on a Pacific island – most likely the uninhabited islands north of Japan
4) The price of gold will drop below $700 before autumn and then rebound above the $2200 threshhold before year’s end
5) A reality video game show where contestants compete live for top tier position will make it to the airwaves and become the entertainment phenomonon of 2015
6) The internet will wake up and give a very dramatic “Hello World!” speech
7) A secret Russia, China, Iran, Syria, and Turkey military and economic alliance will be revealed.
8) Amazon.com will be subject to a number of anti-trust suits from cable television providers, retailers, and the music industry
9) A major airline disaster will happen as a result of unregulated drones in a major U.S. urban area
10) The cost of milk will go up nearly 300% by year’s end. This will be a huge problem for those looking for a cheap latte or those with many youngsters.

That’s it – As always – the best way to see the future is to go there – so let’s wait and see.

Predictions for 2014

If you want to know the future, you’ve got to go there. Vago Damitio’s predictions for 2014 are for your enjoyment only . Any investments or life changing decisions should only be made after doing your own due diligence. 

Vago Damitio's Predictions for 2014Today is the last day of 2013. I made a number of predictions over the course of the last few years and to be honest, I’m usually pretty far off the mark. The reason for that is that I like to make HARD predictions – not the easy kind like ‘Your shoelaces will come undone” or “Iran will cause problems” or “Someone you love will suffer some hardship.”

My predictions will prove without a doubt that I am looking into the future with supernatural abilities.  Of course, if you are to judge by my predictions of 2011 or predictions of 2012  or even predictions of 2013 – I’m not seeing very clearly. In fact, unless you argue things very broadly, one could even say that I’m not seeing the future at all. Of course, that’s what THEY want you to believe.  Have a look and decide for yourself.

Without further ado….

 1) A ‘Duck’ Party will win seats in congress. Members will wear long beards proudly and wear camouflage suits. They will make the Tea Party look intelligent and liberal. Members of congress will literally start to quack.

2) Gold will drop to $700 per ounce  or less in 2014 . Silver will drop to $11 per ounce.

3) A crazed bug out gunman with an AR-15 will attack the Supreme Court. His manifesto will bring broad based support among quackers.

4) Syria’s civil war will spread into both Lebanon and Turkey. Israel will get involved and commit the worst atrocities since Hiroshima.

5) ‘Obamacare’ will completely fail as the majority of Americans refuse to sign up and those who have signed up realize they are put on the bottom of the emergency waiting list because their insurance is the last to reimburse them.

6) Miley Cyrus will overdose and almost die, when she recovers she will dedicate her life to Jesus and change her slutty ways. Billy Ray Cyrus will still support her decisions.

7) California will allow citizens to pay federal taxes directly to the state, but then default on paying the bill to the Federal government.

8)  The Internet will wake up and call everyone with a smart phone at once on August 23, 2014

9)  A homeless singer will win the hearts of America  and the world with her beautiful voice and youtube videos.

10)  A new major religion will be born on Twitter.  It will attract more converts than any religion has ever gained in one year.

Predictions for 2013 – These are also sadly missing. 

Predictions for 2012
Despite the dire predictions of doomsayers, I’m pretty sure that 2012 isn’t going to mean the end of the world. In fact, I don’t even think that world travel is going to end, though I suspect that the costs of travel are going to go up significantly by year’s end.

Where did the predictions go?

Predictions for 2009-2011 – I know I did these, but where did they go?

Predictions for 2008
It turns out that Obama has clinched the nomination so my theory that they would give it to Clinton, piss off the Obama supporters, and then let McCain win seems to have been wrong. I’m happy to have been wrong on this one. As to my predictions about gold reaching $1600 by the end of summer…well, it looks like I was wrong on that one too. Once again, I get to learn that I am not a psychic.

Around the World with 40 Bloggers – From Lonely Planet

I’m pretty stoked to be one of the 40 bloggers featured in this. Thanks to everyone who worked so hard to make it happen. Thanks for reading. Thanks for tweeting, liking, stumbling and sharing Vagobond with your friends. Thanks for commenting.
Back in 2008 Lonely Planet picked their favorite bloggers around the world and began featuring their blogs on the Lonely Planet website.

Those bloggers (blogsherpas) have come together to showcase the best that travel blogging can offer. Around the World with 40 Lonely Planet Bloggers.
These aren’t 40 backpackers or 40 anythings. This group is diverse with focuses on family travel, expat life, volunteerism, art, budget world travel and long term backpacking too. Lonely Planet has said that they wanted to shine a light on the very best travel writing and photography on the planet.

Around the World with 40 Lonely Planet Bloggers introduces readers to the world of professional travel blogging. Lonely Planet knows what it takes to produce amazing travel writing and photography, and these bloggers are producing up-to-date live content from around the world while still managing to travel.

The new ebook shares a collection of stunning photos and descriptions that captures the essence of travel. It walks the reader through almost 70 countries and 40 unique ways of experiencing the world. It lets you research your next destination from a variety of perspectives, depending on your own interests and needs.

I could go on and on describing the book, but it’s better to just dive into 88 pages of colour, excitement and passion for travel. So download the book now!

Happy travels and see you on the road.

Tenerife Playa De Las Americas

The Playa de Las Americas inthe Canary Islands just off of Africa’s West Coast is a divine place for tourists, especially the beaches. It was built in 1960 and it’s geographical location during winter is the main reason many Northern Europeans come and visit this. It is somehow different from the other Canarian culture. Concerning the budget, it is sometimes affordable for some people and expensive for others. Tenerife Playa De Las Americas is a favorite spot for many tourists. And because of its security and safety, many people bring the kids with them too.
Canary IslandsWalking on the streets you can find British pubs, restaurants, pizza and fast food parlors. For the Brits it is as if they are already home – but warmer. Anyone will enjoy going to the beaches and partying. Other spots like Fanabe and Costa Adeje are great for people of different nationalities. And for those who love shopping there is El Duque.

El Duque is a beautiful place almost like paradise with sunny weather and entertaining activities. The beaches are full with people all the time and even at night you’ll find those who love to enjoy the nightlife out and about. It is a nice and warm place even in the winter.
Canary IslandsIn Playa de Las Americas you’ll find lots of exciting and fun stuff to do for entertainment, but to make it easier for you, we are going to list a few places here:
1.Eden Catamaran is a tour by boat, famous for whale watching and dolphins. You can even snorkel and swim.
2.K16 Surf Shop: Famous for shops, monuments and water sports.
3.Piramide de Arona: A theatre.
4.Wannadive
5.Golf Las Americas: For those who enjoy golfing and it is not that far from the city.
6.Exit Palace: Theaters that include dinner along with watching performances.
7.Veronicas Strip
8.Linekers Bar is a well known chain of bars.
9.Freebird Sailing
10.The Patch: A place where you can find lots of bars and restaurants to eat.

Canary Islands BeachesAnd in case you are looking, here is also a list of nightclubs that you might like:
11.Babewatch Lap Dancing
12.Bobby’s Club
13.Busby’s Club
14.Crows Nest Club
15.Jumpin Jacks Club
16.Sound of Cream Club
The Playa de Las Americas is an amusing place where all kinds of people, of all ages and from different countries will love spending their time. Everything you want, you will find it on this unique island. Happy Vacation!

A Moment in Istanbul

Today is my 49th birthday. Here is what I was doing nine years ago. Wow. The world has changed. My life has changed. And my daughter? She has changed into an awesome nine-year-old. I’m super grateful to still be around and to have her around. I’m grateful for my life in this crazy world of 2020 that I never saw coming back in 2011. 

A Moment in Istanbul

This is all real life you know. Whatever that means. Sometimes I forget and for that, I’m sort of thankful but sort of confused. I’m not even sure how I feel about that. Or what it means.
the view from my Istanbul windowWhat I know is that my wife, who I love and miss, is in Morocco looking for a house for us while I am working in Istanbul, staying in a small apartment that looks out on a city state of ships at rest in the Marmara Sea waiting for their chance to go up the Bosphorus and reach the Black Sea and the many Russian and Central Asian ports it holds.
As dusk comes, the lights on the ships come on and instead of hundreds of ships on a sea, it begins to look like a city. Amazing. I miss swimming every day. I miss being in the water, but being able to see the water when I wake and when I go to sleep, even if it appears as a city populated by all the countries of the world, is a fair trade.
And so I work while my wife carries our daughter who will hopefully be born healthy and sound in a few months. Both of us doing our part to make the family we will have in the future a reality. I wonder what things would be like if I were more responsible. What if I’d simply gotten a job after graduation…
Well, then I wouldn’t have met my wife. What if I would have stayed in Morocco? Well, what if? I didn’t. Here I am. There she is. Where we are. And that is what we will have to see. I do wish I were independently wealthy, born into wealth, or lucked into it, or even had the connections to make it big. I didn’t. I don’t. But that doesn’t preclude it from happening sometime in the future. And, since the Ayzan just begain, I should point out that my wife says that whatever you are saying when the call to prayer sounds is supported by God…so, there is always hope.
I’m watching this international maritime city come to light and my wife is looking for an apartment for us for when I finish this job…meanwhile our daughter is growing and becoming more real each day and hopefully, she will understand all of this more than I do….to be honest, I understand less every day, but then maybe that is the way it is suppossed to be.

Hold the Line, I’m 49! My Birthday Blog Post

2020: 49 Years and 50 birthdays

I don’t have much to say here. 49 is a great number. Anything with a nine in it, I call good. I’m already looking forward to 50. I’d rather not look back at all, it turns out. Australia was wonderful. I feel blessedly lucky that we live in Hawaii. Having the opportunity to be a home school teacher and not send my 8-year-old into awful distance learning has been a complete joy. I wrote several new books this year and edited several others that had been waiting in the wings.

Turns out though that 48 was more about learning to exist in a cocoon than emerging from one. I didn’t buy a house or become an awesome ukulele player or a tai chi master in 2020, but did pretty amazingly on all the other goals I set for myself. I did some form of meditation and exercise on nearly half the days this year.

48 was just fine. I’m ready for 49, so hold the line.

I like this number 49.
It’s funny that our age counting system works like it does. Essentially when counting ‘birthdays’ we ignore the actual day of birth or count it as a zero – or non day. In actuality, we should all be saying we are a year older than we say (in the US anyway, I know some cultures do it differently) – so in my case – in our parlance, I am 49 years old today, but actually – this is my 50th birth-day unless we ignore the actual day of birth. Tomorrow, I will start living my 50th year and I will complete it on my 51st birthday, when I will ‘turn’ 50 – next year. I’m guessing we do it this way because of the math for example 2020 – 1971 = 49, therefore, I ‘am’ 49 – which is a pretty cool number – it’s the square of an amazing prime number and when you add the two digits you get another prime number, if you subtract the smaller digit from the larger – it is yet another prime number.

2019: 48 years old

47 was a really rough year but like a caterpillar spinning a cocoon, avoiding getting eaten by birds, and all the other death traps. I made it into my cocoon. The chrysalis was formed. At 48, I’m emerging. On my 48th birthday, my mom and step-father called me  – which was very thoughtful of them. My sister sent me a couple of nice gifts- which was also thoughtful. I had a couple of texts and a couple of social media Happy Birthdays. My wife brought me coffee and said Happy Birthday in the morning but the most important person – my 8 year old daughter made me a card and wrote a story with the characters we’ve created and then we spent the day together ( my wife was working). It was all that mattered. My daughter did adulting with me – we went to IHOP and neither of us finished our breakfast, we paid off a bank loan, we got used tires put on the front of my car, we went to the post office, and we had Japanese ramen for lunch where she said “Daddy, if I had money, I would pay for your lunch”. I melted. It was a great birthday and I think it’s going to be a great year. As for 2019 – I’m glad to see it going into the sunset. I learned a lot, I set the stage for a better life, and I wrote a new novel, started a couple of businesses, quit working for other people, and have taken control of my life in ways that I never have before.

I’ve done pretty good in life. India and South America remain as places I want to travel – but I managed to hit Japan, Egypt, and many more since my 40th. Australia coming up. I managed to move my family to the USA, get my wife citizenship, and even manage to keep us going in very expensive Hawaii. I’m a great dad and an innovative entrepreneur. My mission is “A healthy life of joyful liberty questing for wisdom, knowledge and positive relationships with self, others, planet, and being.”

Everything that came before was just preparation for what is coming. I’m excited about the future.

2011: 40 years old

Man oh man. Hard to believe that I’m hitting 40 today. To tell the truth though, it doesn’t seem to matter very much. Age is just a random way of keeping track of things.

So far, it’s been a pretty good run. While I didn’t quite hit the mark of 40 countries by my 40th – I did reach 37 of them! Not bad.I’ve got a loving wife and a beautiful daughter so by 40, I became a family man. I even managed to get my daughter US citizenship and a passport.
I’ve written and written and written – so far without much in the way of commercial success – but a writer is a writer because they write – it’s not really a choice. It’s what we do.

Back to my 40 years of reflection. I managed to graduate from the University of Hawaii while in my 30’s with an Honors degree and a laundry list of awards and titles – that was pretty cool. In my twenties I was a US Marine, Air Traffic Controller. Thank God that’s over. I’ve been a stock broker, a house painter, a DJ, a chauffeur, a bartender, a waiter, a hotel manager, a bellboy, and worked in film – hell, I’ve even seen my name roll on the credits of a few big Hollywood films.

Most recently, in this past year, I managed to support my family, pay for my daughters birth, take care of all of our needs (house, medical, dental, utilities etc) and do some pretty cool travel (Paris, Spain, Italy, sailing in Greece, South Korea, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Switzerland, Turkey, Bulgaria, Serbia, Macedonia and here in Morocco) all with my own two fists. No boss, no job – just taking care of us with what I do. I’m proud as hell of that.

So, in a word – I feel pretty good about my accomplishments.
What do I want next? Well…let me think about it. Off the cuff –
– Get my wife a US Residency Visa
– Buy a house and property – somewhere
– Actually find some commercial success as a writer (see above to help with that :))
– I’d like to visit Egypt, Japan, India and the countries of South and Central America.
– and be able to get a really nice car before my midlife crisis hits…
Thanks for all your birthday wishes! Lordy Lordy, I’m 40.

Neither a Traveler Nor a Tourist – Are You A Moovist ?

I don’t like to be described as a traveler nor as a tourist. I’m something else. Since no word exists, I’m going to coin it here. I am a Moovist (pronounced Moove-ist).

I’ve met lots of people who are away from home. Among the backpacker crowd there is always that cute declaration that they’re not tourists, but travelers.

touristIf you’re like me, you’re neither a traveller nor a tourist. Not really anyway. I never knew what to call us so I decided to make up a new word – Moovism, Moovist. We’re not on our way around the world (at least not with a timetable that falls within 1-2 years or with a set agenda), we don’t have the money for fancy travel gear or cameras, we aren’t even really traveling…we’re moving. There is a big difference.

If you want to tell me I’m wrong and point to the many places I’ve been, then you need to look at this blog a little closer.

Reread some posts about the places I’ve been.
In 1995 I moved to Raleigh, North Carolina thinking it would be great. It wasn’t what I expected.
In 1996 I moved to Bellingham, Washington. It was and is great, but I wanted to be more than a big fish radio guy in a small pond. Besides, I wanted something different in terms of culture and weather.
In 1998 I got rid of my things again and moved to both Alaska and the UK with the intention of staying, though I didn’t.

In 2001, I got rid of all my possessions and went to Asia looking for a home. I wandered from China to Laos, Thailand, Malaysia, and a few other places and ended up in Sumatra where I took a job teaching and started to build a life. This was at the point that George Bush was starting to create problems for Americans living in Muslim countries and I took the advice of my friends in Parapat and ‘went home for my own safety’. Only when I got back to the USA did I realize I had made a terrible mistake.

Later that year, I again got rid of everything and jumped to Hawaii with $100 and no plan but to escape the insane American patriotism that was gripping the USA post 9-11. I didn’t have enough money to go back to Asia, so I went to Hawaii where I thought there would be less fervor and insanity. I was right.
I admit that while in Hawaii I did some ‘traveling’ and some ‘tourism’ while exploring the other islands and going to Tahiti although with the Island of Kauai, I moved there for almost 2 years.

In 2003 I went to the Philippines and planned to stay but when the plot of my girlfriend’s brothers to kill me and my brother was discovered, I had to abandon my plans of building a mead empire in the barangay and my bride to be too, after all, when you marry a Filipina, you marry the family and if they want to kill you with big knives, it’s not a good sign of things to come.

After that, I stayed in Hawaii until 2008 when I achieved a degree in Anthropology from the University of Hawaii and once again got rid of all my possessions and set out to find a new home outside of the USA.
I made my way to the East Coast of the USA in the cheapest way seeing the people and places I didn’t want to miss and then I jumped the pond to Spain, started exploring Europe in search of a place to live (Granada almost had me!) and then to Morocco where I fell in love and lived for nearly two years, though I did have to make a trip back to the USA to fix my paperwork so I could get married and I arranged my necessary movement to accommodate seeing some places I’d never been (travel and tourism – see? I’m guilty too) Germany, Ireland, France, Belgium, Ireland, Luxembourg, Spain, Portugal, Quebec, etc.

Are they travelers? The point is that I was actually on my way to someplace for the purpose of living there. I wasn’t just traveling to see, though I admit that in all of my moovism there is an element of both the touristic and the travelistic. I mean, I want to see places and things along the way. I believe that the journey is just as important as the destination and in some cases, more important. I’m a traveler and a tourist and for that, I deserve to be insulted and belittled too. Maybe I’m just confused. Somehow though, travel and tourism just seem – fucked up.
I came to Turkey- not as a tourist but evaluating if it would be possible to move here with my wife. Sure, we did a lot of travelistic and touristic things, but mainly we were looking to see if we could live here. We decided yes and so back in Morocco, I got rid of just about everything she would let me and I moved again.

Look, seriously. I’m not dissing you travelers out of spite. I love that you go out and see the world. I’m not dissing the tourists without a purpose either, I love that they are expanding their worldview (and their wastelines). If they hadn’t of shown those slides, maybe you never would have left home, but what I’m saying is that I don’t feel at home with travel or tourism as it exists anymore. You both make me envious, excited and slightly disgusted at the same time. We need to rethink global tourism.

So, by way of closing here is my new ‘cute’ breakdown of the difference between travelers, tourists, and moovists.

Tourist – Someone who has a set agenda, knows what they will see, where they will be, and when they will return to home, family, work, etc.

Traveler – Someone who travels without as many known details as the tourist but still plans to return at some point to home, family, work, etc.

Moovist – Someone who gives up home, family, work, etc. and sets off to another place with the intention of staying for an indefinite period of time and no plans of returning to home, family, work etc. I suppose, you could also say a Moovist is a vagabond.

I’m a Moovist although I admit, I’ve also been a tourist, a traveler, and of course, I remain a vagabond.

Maybe I’m worse than a tourist because I don’t spend as much money and worse than a traveler because I don’t go away at the end of the day. I don’t know.

What about you? How can we improve the act of travel? What is wrong with global travel today? What is right with it?

World travel in a hundred different ways!

Certainly there is no shortage of ways to travel the world. You can buy a jet, walk, stay a long time, pass on through, or choose to do those things in between.

You can volunteer, charge money, pay money or figure out how to do it with no money. The travel world is filled with options. If you don’t believe me, all you have to do is surf the net and you can find people who have left home, are heading home, hate their home, miss their home, don’t have a home, don’t want a home, or have the world as their home and travel as their vocation instead of their vacation.
travel the world, world travel
In fact, it’s easy to see that there are as many ways to go about world travel as there are people (and we won’t count the sheeple that simply do it as everyone else does). As always, my goal is to get those of you who have thought you were ants to realize you are really grasshoppers. The world is yours for as long as you live and it’s a shame if you let those who lived before you or entered the world before you define your world without your say so. Travel is liberation and even though we have to travel the world with some nods to the rules set by our predecessors, world travel should be something you definitely make your own.
If you have any doubt about that, here is one simple link you can visit that will show you what world travel is all about.

The bloggers of Lonely Planet (yours truly humbly included!) have banded together to create a Squidoo Lens that gives you an easy way to see what is happening in all of our worlds, how we are traveling the world, what we see in our world travels, and ways that you can be inspired to start your own world travel.

Lonely Planet has selected the cream of the travel blogger crop to take part in their blogsherpa Beta program. All of the bloggers below syndicate their content live to the Lonely Planet website so that you can view their articles by location as you research travel destinations. The LP bloggers have banded together to bring you a complete, up to date view of the world by syndicating their content live to this squidoo lens. Sit back and take a trip around the planet with the premier world travel bloggers on the Internet…

If you are ready to start thinking about your own world travel, maybe you should pay this link a visit for some inspiration…

http://www.squidoo.com/world-travel-lonely-planet-bloggers
world travel, travel world, visa stamps

Surfing Fuerteventura, Canary Islands, Spain

Surfing Canary Islands

(Editor’s note: I don’t think I’m going to make it there in my 40s – my 49th birthday is coming soon – but maybe in my 50s)

Don’t get me wrong, I’m no surf honcho, but it used to be that one of my birthday traditions was to go surfing. This year, landlocked in the interior of Morocco, I’m looking back nostalgically on those days as my 40th birthday comes up. With the baby and family obligations, I’m not sure I’m going to be able to get away, but I’m doing a little bit of online dreaming about paddling out and one of the closest places to do that is in the Canary Islands.

Flights to Fuenteventura are just a matter of getting to Spain, although you would think there would be flights from Morocco as well, but the cost is such that it makes much more sense to just go to Spain.

Now, the places I used to go surf on my birthday were either Cockroach Bay on Oahu’s windward side which always offers the kind of long gentle rides I prefer or if the conditions were right, up to Punalu’u where often I was the only one in the water. In terms of Fuerteventura, I have to wonder if there are huge crowds in the line-up, currents, tides, waves closing out, scary reefs, sea urchins and then there are things like the water temperature, board rental, wetsuits, and more. Yeah, I’m a bit spoiled – that’s what happens when you learn to surf in Hawaii, but sometimes, those things kind of make the whole experience even more appealing – or maybe not.

From what I read, Fuerteventura is a good place to surf if you know what you are doing – which is probably an overstatement where I’m concerned. The Canary Islands in general have the reputation of being the “Hawaii of the Atlantic”, but I’ve been to enough “Hawaii’s of…” that I know there can only be one. But, apparently, in Fuerteventura there is a powerful winter swell that breaks into shallow reefs near to the shore, often in beautiful crystal clear waters. So, it could be that I could re-establish my surf-warrior persona by coming out of water with some bloody surf rash- if I manage to get there.
It sounds as if the east coast at Los Hoteles around the village of Corralejo offers mellower but less regular waves with a northwest swell. Kind of like Punalu’u actually. And, I’m going to be honest here, while I love the thrill of catching a great ride, more than half of the reason I surf at all is for the chance to paddle out beyond the lineup and just contemplate the sea and sky from board top. No phones, no radio’s, and no people bothering you for a smoke or some spare change. Heaven is being adrift on a flat sea – with land in sight of course.
Surfing the Canary Islands Fuenteventura
El Cortillo on the west side has a reputation as being a fast, dangerous break. Probably beyond my meager abilities, but worth considering if the conditions are right. A couple of video’s I watched though make it look like Sandys on Oahu though with a closeout shorebreak, so the chances of a broken neck seem fairly high.

I’m also curious about the locals attitude. Spain has such a macho kumacho thing that I can only imagine when you combine that with surf culture, the localism goes rampant.

Having gone to “North Shore” Elementary and spent some time playing around on Oahu’s North Shore, I’ve got to wonder too about the North Shore of Fuenteventura….sounds like it’s pretty rocky and filled with dangerous rips and undertows, but one has to wonder. Is the perfect, uncrowded ride waiting there? Hierro and Rocky Point – both have the reputations for the locals being serious dicks…so, probably not for me.

Now, the big question is can I get this trip set up and actually go?

Islamic Aesthetics Unleashed – Asilah, Morocco

Asilah, Morocco
Asilah, Morocco is a great little funky town that hosts a mural festival each year. It’s a gorgeous little town on the Atlantic Coast of Africa. I was going to share about 30 photos of the gorgeous artistic town of Asilah, Morocco when I realized it would be better and allow me to fulfill one of my New Year’s Resolutions (make more videos) if I put them in a video slideshow for you. I hope you enjoy it.

Just 31 km from Tangier. Its ramparts and gateworks remain fully intact. Its history dates back to 1500 B.C., when the Phoenicians used it as a base for trade. The Portuguese conquered the city in 1471, but John III later decided to abandon it because of an economic crisis in 1549. In 1692, the town was taken by the Moroccans under the leadership of Moulay Ismail. Asilah served then as a base for pirates in the 19th and 20th centuries. From 1912-1956 it was part of Spanish Morocco.

 

Great Hostel in Seoul, South Korea – Kimchi Hongdai Hostel

Travel has changed a lot since I began to roam around the world back in the 1990’s. For one thing, the internet was new back then. Most businesses didn’t have websites, there were no blogs to speak of, and certainly there was no Facebook, or Trip Adviser.

hostel in Seoul, South KoreaEven the things we looked for in a hotel, guest house, or hostel were different back then. To find a hostel we could look in a Lonely Planet (if there was one for that country or region) or more likely we would pay to get a Youth Hostel Association membership and then go to the hostels they had listed in their book. Yes, in their book. No kindles, no laptops on the road, no pdfs, or websites.
These days, finding a hostel is easy. You can simply search for hostel and the city name and a list will come up.

kimchi hostel SeoulEven better though is that you can come to Vagobond and see if we have a personal recommendation for a hostel. For example, if you are heading to Seoul, South Korea and you want to stay in a friendly, clean, safe, and centrally located hostel. I fully recommend that you stay in the Kimchi Hongdai Hostel.

This is another hostel that I found through my social network. I made contact with the owner, David who opened the hostel just a few weeks before I visited. David is a Canadian of Korean descent who has come back to Korea where he and his brother are running a couple of hostels based on their successful guesthouse in Vancouver, Canada.
I’ve said it before, but the key to a great hostel is to have a great owner who is involved, hires a great staff, and interacts with the guests. Actually, it’s the key to having any great business from hotels to blogs. David is a great example.

It’s easy to see that his number one passion is making friends with the many guests he hosts. He doesn’t do this in an intrusive way, but in an inclusive way, such as organizing outings and if he sees someone asking them if they want to come along. He’s also readily available for offering tips of where to go and what to do. His staff, Jun and Steven are also both the same way.

best hostel in Seoul, South KoreaKimchi hostel is new and developing in all the right ways. I stayed in both the mixed dorms and in a a private room. There is wifi throughout and the signal is strong on all floors. There are plenty of bathrooms, showers with hot water which are kept clean and tidy, and the lots of slippers to make the typical Korean ‘leave your shoes at the door’ policy comfortable.

There is a small TV area, free computers for guests without laptops to surf the net, a washer and dryer (coin operated), a small kitchen, and free tea, coffee, and water available all day. My only complaints (and this is a new hostel, so it’s possible these things will have changed by the time you get there) were that there was no free breakfast and in fact, not really any decent place to take your meals aside from the TV room. David told me that the hostel is expanding into some neighboring apartments, so I’m sure there will be more space in the future. Probably, the computers and reception will move out of the kitchen and some tables and chairs will move in.

The Kimchi Hostel was five minutes from the subway and David’s directions were crystal clear. I arrived at around 11pm and had no problems finding it.

best hostel in South KoreaThis was a quiet, clean, newly furnished, friendly, and centrally located place. There are convenience stores very nearby along with banks, ATMs, tons of cafes and bars, easy access to the airport by bus or subway within 5 minutes walking, the popular Hongdae clubbing area five minutes away, plus movie theatres, parks, and the many universities located nearby. No extra charge for towels, linens, or wifi and a great staff with plenty of information. In addition there are guidebooks available for those who don’t have one to use.
Kimchi Hostel gets my highest recommendation. Great job David! Thanks.

Kimchi Hongdai Hostel.
Seoul, Mapo-gu, Yeonnam-dong, 570-16
Tel: 82-2-6082-6059 / 82-10-6315-6696

Originally published in 2012.

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