Vagabond Architect – Johann Beukes C

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).

Johann BEUKES is from South Africa and worked as an architect for 40 years before deciding to do a lateral move into the travel business. He is a keen learner through TRAVEL experiences and is the CEO of TRAVELinform & TRAVELwithus.  I caught up with him by email earlier this week before he was heading to Germany.

Vagobond: You spent forty years as an architect – while some might say you’ve left that profession behind – it seems to me that you are still designing and building with TRAVELinform –

Johann Beukes: A great architect is not made by way of a brain nearly so much as he is made by way of an enriched heart. An architect-at-heart has to have a soul, a spirit and a passion for people. Exactly the same principles apply to a traveller-at heart.

TRAVELinform is a unique platform where one can share one’s passion for travel: many wonderful human true to life travel stories as well as travel photography to create the specific mood. And a growing family of equally enthusiastic members, sharing their experiences with one another on the social networking forum.

Vagobond: What made you decide to change gears? Can you tell us a bit of the journey that took you from architecture and into travel?

travel to Machu PicchuJohann Beukes: Since my childhood days I had pen friends in Japan, Germany and Canada; at a young age I started with travel- scrapbooking and became engaged with people in different places. My architecture brought me into contact with international architects around the world; thus making my early dreams a reality.

Various joint-replacement operations of most of my major joints forced me to bid my first love, practicing architecture, farewell. Fortunately I initiated a travel agency some 15 years ago; first as a hobby while travelling as an architect to some 80 Countries, which has now turned into a fulltime profession: the privilege of sharing ones travel joys with other people with a similar passion for exploring the unknown.

Vagobond:I’ve heard it said that travel is a series of near misses – can you share a harrowing tale from your travels?

Johann Beukes: As student, I joined a friend from Namibia on a Namib Desert excursion: our vehicle got stuck in the wilderness between kilometres of dunes. Luckily a helicopter search team discovered us after three days without water and food. No wonder it is also known as the Skeleton Coast of Namibia.

A few years ago I went with only the pilot on a ski-plane scenic flight of Mount Denali in Alaska; as keen photographer I convinced the pilot to land at a high altitude on a solitary glacier. With me in my photographic spell, we slightly overstayed our time. The severe cold quickly fixed the skis to the ice. Normally the passenger would move the ski-base while the pilot is accelerating the propeller. This time however, we had to swop roles, due to my disability to assist with the physical manoeuvre. We managed to escape the ice-trap and I almost deserved my wings!

Vagobond: How is TRAVELinform different from the many other travel sites and networks out there? What is your vision for it in the future?

Alaska Johann BeukesJohann Beukes: I think there is no replacement to first-hand experience; anybody browsing through the multitude of country galleries of stories and photos will soon share my passion.
We have two TRAVEL sites i.e. TRAVELinform as a free Travel Information and Social Networking site, and TRAVELwithus, the unique, dedicated consultant-connected Travel, which will be launched during April this year.

On TRAVELinform we do not sell anything; we believe that through this we will eventually build a platform where people will trust our impartiality with no strings attached. Should they be interested in packages and travel-related products, TRAVELwithus will ensure a trust-worthy reputation.

TRAVELinform has the social networking forum, the unique travel stories and photo galleries, Travel-related links, sanction of many a country’s Tourism Boards. It has been visited by viewers, representing some 100 Countries and the average time spent on the site is 5 minutes at a time; indicating the popular interest.

Vagobond: In terms of vision, can you make a few predictions about where travel is heading in the next 5-10 years?

Johann Beukes: I believe that TRAVEL will become the most important industry world-wide; interaction between customer and professional consultant will move away from traditional consultancy selling air-tickets first, followed by other ancillary sales.

All basic commodities like air, car and bed will be done online by more and more, IT generation customers. If your destination knowledge, input and value as Travel Consultant are not omissible, you will soon become extinct.

The sooner the high street agency understands the many challenges online travel agencies are offering, the more secure their future will be.

Vagobond: Travel has changed in some massive ways over our lifetimes- what are some of the positives and negatives you can see in these changes?

Johann Beukes: Customers have become absolute knowledgeable on their Travel expectations and needs. Guessing and selling products without first-hand knowledge and expertise cannot succeed. For this reason consultants should act pro-actively and professionally: providing a service that will address all aspects of personalised travel.

The positive side is that a far wider choice of options of destinations exist; however, on the negative side is the fact that the exclusiveness of destinations will disappear: destinations off the beaten track will unfortunately become less and less available.

Vagobond: Has travel become too easy?

Johann Buekes in Plovdiv, BulgariaJohann Beukes: My honest opinion is that travel has become a hugely complex and high-risk service industry.
Only the real Travel PROFESSIONALS will survive. Through globalisation everybody becomes a traveller in some or other way. It has become very easy to travel today.

Vagobond: What makes great travel writing?

Johann Beukes: Experience the heart of a country through the eyes of ordinary people;
original, warm and descriptive words will enhance, almost like a picture taken at a scene; though it should always be factual correct; add passion to the most simple theme and people will experience travel through your eyes.

Vagobond: What makes a great travel writer?

Johann Beukes:  A passionate honest story teller; look for stories off the beaten track, among ordinary people.

Vagobond: In terms of press trips with Tourism Boards – do you think there is a magic formula for landing them?

Johann Beukes: Personally, I do not have a problem with press trips organised by Tourism Boards to promote their country. As long as the travel writers act as true travellers and not tourists: a Traveller will always shows appreciation and respect the diversity of the travelled world and the different cultures of its people, whereas a tourist demands attention to their personal needs only.

Vagobond: How do you prepare for a trip?

Johann Beukes: My time is always limited and good planning of time spent is therefore crucial. Through my LinkedIn network, make first-hand contact with connections within the country, communicate my ideas and proposed itinerary; clearly define my objectives of experiencing the country as a traveller-at-heart and not as an insensitive tourist. Many of my travel stories are rooted in the origins of ordinary people.

Vagobond: Can you share three travel tips that Vagobond readers may not have heard?

Johann Beukes: Communicate with the taxi-driver, if local, or the receptionist at the hotel and get first hand local tips of quieter times at tourist traps, eating spots supported by locals etc.
Do a proper research on all to do and see well in advance, in order that you can orientate yourself easily once at the destination; time is always limited.
Rather try and stay in the original old town area and enjoy the real atmosphere once all the tourists have left.

Vagobond: As someone who travels a lot, I realize how hard it is to answer questions about best, favourite etc. Still, having seen more than 75 countries – which 3 would you most like to go back and visit?

Johann Beukes:  Three totally different destinations:

Romania; especially Transylvania, due to the interesting culture and history;
Alaska, because of the unequalled scenic beauty of its landscape, from south to north;
Peru, truly a country with wonderful people; although poverty prevails, they assist each other and where the role of the family is very important.

Vagobond: Do you also have a bucket list of places still to visit?

Johann Beukes: High on my list is an exclusive adventure cruise on board the VIC of the Spitsbergen Arctic zone; for its incredible photographic opportunities.
Then I would still want to travel to Tibet, especially the Shigatse and Nyingtri mountainous areas to stay some time and really meditate within the rural regions; maybe do some new travel writing.

CONTACT DETAILS:
johann@travelinform.co.za
http://www.linkedin.com/in/johannbeukes
and share your travel ideas on www.travelinform.co.za

John Steinbeck – California Vagabond

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).
Steinbeck pirate

John Steinbeck was born in Salinas, California in 1902. He came from a poor family and worked his way through college at Stanford University but never graduated.  As a young man he worked on farms near where his family lived in central California and this most definitely influenced all of his later work. In 1925 he vagabonded his way to New York, where he tried for a few years to establish himself as a free-lance writer or novelist, but, like many freelancers and novelists, he failed and returned to California where he worked as a tour guide and ranger in a fish hatchery. He was a west coast kid and while he was away, he never stopped dreaming of the Pacific and California. Steinbeck was fortunate in that after he was married in 1930, his parents decided to provide him not only with a home for he and his wife to live in, but also even bought the paper and typewriter for him so that he could focus on his writing instead of burning his inspiration at dead end jobs.  One has to wonder how many great writers could have been born with similar treatment and how many were simply lost in the day to day struggle to survive.

Steinbeck had some minor success with a few short stories but became widely known with Tortilla Flat in 1935 – the book was a series of humorous stories about Monterey paisanos. The book was successful enough that not only was Steinbeck able to repay his parents, but he also bought a house for he and his wife in Los Gatos and was able to further devote himself to his writing. Not only that, he began to explore the world further – starting with a sailing voyage around the Gulf of California.

All of  Steinbeck’s novels deal with the economic problems of rural labor, but there is also a streak of worship of the soil in his books, which does not always agree with his matter-of-fact sociological approach. After the rough and earthy humour of Tortilla Flat, he moved on to more serious fiction, often aggressive in its social criticism.

In Dubious Battle (1936), he deals with the strikes of the migratory fruit pickers on California plantations and Steinbeck  followed this with Of Mice and Men  in 1937. The story of the imbecile giant Lennie captured the imagination of a nation struggling with the Great Depression and the second world war. This was followed by a series of admirable short stories collected in the volume The Long Valley (1938). In 1939 he published what is considered by many to be his best work, The Grapes of Wrath, the story of Oklahoma tenant farmers who, unable to earn a living from the land, moved to California where they became migratory workers.

After 11 years, his first marriage failed and a month after the divorce he was married for the second time (hmmmmm…a month). With his second wife, he fathered his only kids – two boys John and Tom. He served as a war correspondent during World War II and was wounded in North Africa. He was one of the first Western writers allowed into the Soviet Union and took many trips there. His writing about the new nation in A Russian Journal, brought him induction into the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Among his later works should be mentioned East of Eden (1952), The Winter of Our Discontent(1961), and Travels with Charley (1962), a travelogue in which Steinbeck wrote about his impressions during a three-month tour in a truck (fun fact: the camper was called the Rocinante after Cervantes classic Don Quixote’s horse) that led him through forty American states with his dog, a poodle named Charley, the book is subtitled In Search of America, the book offers both criticism and praise for America and according to Steinbeck’s son Thom, Steinbeck went on the trip because he knew he was dying and wanted to see the country one last time.

Steinbeck’s last novel, The Winter of Our Discontent , examined the  moral decline in America. The protagonist Ethan grows discontented with his own moral decline and that of those around him. The book is very different in tone from Steinbeck’s amoral and ecological stance in earlier works like Tortilla Flat and Cannery Row. It was not a critical success. Many reviewers recognized the importance of the novel but were disappointed that it was not another Grapes of Wrath. In the Nobel Prize presentation speech next year, however, the Swedish Academy cited it most favorably: “Here he attained the same standard which he set in The Grapes of Wrath. Again he holds his position as an independent expounder of the truth with an unbiased instinct for what is genuinely American, be it good or bad.”

It was the last fiction Steinbeck published, one could imagine because it was unappreciated and largely caused outrage. Why should he waste his time on anything else for people like that?

In 1967 he went to Vietnam and wrote about what he saw of the war there. The American public decried him for a hawk for describing the actions of the American soldiers there as heroic. Both of his sons served in Vietnam. He died in New York City in 1968.

John Steinbeck VagabondSteinbeck wrote of pirates, hobos, Mexican revolutionaries, drunkards, knights, kings, farmers and other unsavory types that have been described by the world as vagabonds. He was accused of being a communist by the right and a ‘hawk’ by the left – one thing for certain – He was a genius and a vagabond himself.

 

Nomad Vagabond – Genghis Khan

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).

 

Traveling round the world doesn’t usually involve conquest of foreign lands but for Temujin, also known as Genghis Khan, conquest was probably just a means of travel. Starting with nothing as an exile and prisoner means he was certainly an extraordinary vagabond.

Genghis Khan was a nomad, in other words he was a world traveler of sort. Genghis Khan’s real name in his childhood was Temujin. When his brother poisoned his father Temujin killed his brother and in punishment he was thrown into forest, he was held in prison by his former friends after that. vagobond genghis khanAfter few years, Temujin rose up as a powerful leader and united the tribes of the Mongol people. With this goal accomplished, he and his Mongol hordes targeted many and far lands. From the time of his unification of the Mongol tribes, the Mongols called him Genghis Khan.

Genghis Khan first attacked the Tangut tribes to the west of the Mongol homeland. His first important foreign venture was not an easy one, but he brought the tribes of Tangut to their knees by 1209, which was the beginning of his empire. Genghis targeted east and south after that, this was the land ruled by Jin Dynasty of China. Genghis Khan captured Beijing, bringing the pressure to the Jin emperor and managing to restrain the complete northern half of the kingdom.

Kara-Khitan which is called “Xinjiang” today by the Chinese government was the next battleground of Genghis Khan. With just 20,000 soldiers, the Mongols brought the surrender of Kara-Khitan by 1218. Now Genghis Khan’s empire extended from shores of China in the east to Kazakhstan in west.

genghis khan mapThis was not enough and Genghis Khan desired more. He set his eyes on his new neighbor, the Khwarezmid Empire. It stretched from Kazakhstan to the banks of Persian Gulf, surrounding most of Iran, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and half of Kyrgyzstan and Afghanistan. At first Genghis Khan tried to establish a booming trade partnership with Khwarezmids, but the leader of Khwarezmid attacked his 500 man caravan. After this, he foolishly refused to pay compensation for his act. Genghis Khan later sent his group of ambassadors to the Shah of Khwarezmid in a hope to have some kind of political trade relationship. But the Shah refused his proposal, Genghis Khan invaded Khwarezmid and executed the Shah. After this horrible conquest of Khwarezmid Empire, he headed across Afghanistan and northern India.

By the end of his life, Temujin had conquered everything from Asia all the way to Europe’s doorstep. Most of modern Turkey, parts of Greece, and even portions of Bulgaria, Romania, and Russia were his domain.

As a world traveler, he spilled a lot more blood than most, but the fact is he controlled the largest contiguous empire in history and saw more of the world than most people ever will.

Jack London – Prince of the Tramps, Patron of Vagabonds

This is an excerpt from my book “Vagabonds: Sometimes Getting Lost is the Point” about the great vagabonds. It’s available as an ebook for kindle on Amazon for just $3.99. Over the next several months we will be exploring some of those characters from the past (and present).

Jack London – Prince of the Tramps

For many, all they know about Jack London is that he wrote dog stories. In fact, he did much more than that. Jack London was born January 12, 1876 and his life reads like an adventure novel.

Jack London was a passionate socialist, sometimes drunk and sometimes a prohibitionist, a sailor, a pirate, a gold prospector, a tramp, and of course, all of that makes him a vagabond.

London started out as a poor kid doing wage slavery in San Francisco but borrowed money to buy a boat and became the ‘Prince of the Oyster Pirates” before his boat sank. From there he joined the ‘Fish Patrol’ and then signed onto a schooner which took him to Japan.

Returning to the USA he again became a wage slave and then quit to become a tramp and marched across the country with unionists before getting arrested and thrown in jail for vagrancy.
Jack London, extraordinary vagabond, vagobonding
To me, one of his best books is ‘The Road’ which details this period of his life. It’s also one of the hardest of his books to find.

London returned to San Francisco and attended Berkley before splitting for the gold fields of the Yukon. One would think that he spent a long time there, but six months of suffering was enough and he returned to California where he wrote his most famous books “Call of the Wild” and “White Fang”

London was one of the original members of the Bohemian Club which met in the redwoods and included such figures as Ambrose Bierce and John Muir.

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London started making money at writing and bought a ranch in California which became a vagabond camp of sorts from which he became a vehement socialist. (John Barleycorn).
London spent most off his life fighting against wage slavery and lived in London amongst the poorest of the poor. His book The Iron Heel, details some of what he learned and saw in this period.

Later he sank most of his fortune into building a ship called “The Snark” which he and his second wife sailed to Hawaii. When they tried to go further, the ship sank. This part of his life is detailed in Martin Eden.

On his ranch, London became an advocate of sustainable agriculture before most people ever knew what the term meant. He also began to drink more and more, which led to his sinking into awful depressions and ultimately probably to an early death.

Jack London Surfing

London made many trips to Hawaii and was one of the first Californians to take up surfing. He learned the sport from the legendary Duke Kahanamoku! (Incidentally, I once met London’s grandson and great grandson on Kauai and they were typical California surfer dudes.)


Unfortunately, like many of the men of his day, Jack London had some ignorant racial views. He is often cited as a racist and the truth is that he was, but so was every other white man living at the time. London just happened to write his views and so is often singled out. He wrote some science fiction which is interesting, one is about China taking over the world by population and a war coming as a result. It seems to be a future that is coming to exist.

London died at the young age of forty years old of a morphine overdose. Some say it was suicide, but what is certain is that he was in extreme pain from illness which is why he had the morphine to begin with.

Jack London was an extraordinary vagabond.

 

If you’d like to write about an extraordinary vagabond, living or dead, past or present just use the contact form to let me know. You can either send me your completed article and I will publish it or you can ask me questions. Here is what I am looking for:
500 + words
An extraordinary vagabond
picture (at least one)
website (if they have one)
about the author (that’s you!)
link to your website (if you have one – but no commercial links, just personal sites please)

Welcome to 2021 – Aloha to the World!

We made it through what may have been the most difficult year of our lives. Here we are.

This year, I’m going to change my focus on Vagobond a bit. My intent is to publish 1-2 articles per week.

Since I’m not traveling much these days – (and who is?) I’m going to start out 2020 by looking at some  of the great Vagabonds of the past for inspiration on the many reasons we travel. I wrote a book “Vagabonds: Sometimes Getting Lost is the Point”  about the great vagabonds several years ago. It’s still available as an ebook for kindle on Amazon for just $3.99. Over the next several months we will be exploring some of those characters from the past (and present).

Vagabonds

Last year my publication schedule was Monday, Wednesday, and Friday – but this year – let’s switch it up to Tuesday and Thursday.

 

Travel Writing – A Dangerous Business

Travel writing is a dangerous business. No doubt about it. Most of all, it’s dangerous for your bank account! Of course, that’s just writing in general. The travel part…

We travel because we suffer from too much curiosity Here are a couple of links you might enjoy about the dangers of travel writing.

First of all, a great article from the New York Times about one of the first budget travel writers in the business- John Wilcock.

Here is an excerpt:

JW: Today everything’s available.
NYT: So what does that make the role of travel writers today?
JW:Everyone’s turned into a travel writer. It started when people who were bankers and people like that went on vacation and realized that if they wrote something about the trip they could maybe take it off their taxes. But today, basically everybody writes about their travel. I don’t suppose you can say there’s nothing left to discover, but it certainly is hard.
NYT:Should we be happy or sad about this?
JW:It’s just an inevitable development. The way the world has gotten smaller all the time, it’s easier to get around. it’s easier to fly everywhere. That Ryanair guy started doing $1 flights to obscure towns that nobody had ever heard of before all of the sudden they became tourist centers.
NYT:You wrote in the 1970s that most most travel writing is just “public relations bull.” Is that true today?
JW: Things have changed a lot since then. One of the things I’d like to claim is that the underground press changed the nature of almost all newspaper and magazine writing. Travel writing today is much more interesting than it was in those days. When I was working at The Times everything was incredibly impersonal. Basically, you weren’t allowed to have an opinion at all. And nowadays it’s almost the reverse, almost everything is written from the personal point of view. So things have changed tremendously.
NYT:What was this Travel Directory you founded?
JW: When I first went to Mexico, I wrote in my column that I’d like to call and see people along the way. From that evolved a directory back in the early ’60s, which eventually had people all over the world in it who were willing to offer varying degrees of hospitality to travelers.
NYT: It sounds like the original CouchSurfing.
JW: It wasn’t called that back in those days, but that’s what it was, of course. I wouldn’t be surprised if you could still Google the Travel Directory. I bet it ended up somewhere. [Note: It did.]
NYT: I assume that at 83, you travel a bit more luxuriously than you used to.
JW: No, I still travel as cheaply as I can. I don’t look 83, I look about 60-something, and I’m actually pretty active still. I’m not really handicapped: my eyes are going a bit and my hearing’s going a bit, but otherwise I’m in pretty good shape and I live pretty much the way I always have. When I’m staying with somebody and they say “I’m sorry, we only have a couch,” I say “Listen, I’ve slept on billiard tables and in bathtubs.” I’d like to think I’m as adaptable as I always was.

So, it’s never been easy, but in terms of competition, there has never been more. Even in the ‘vagabond’ niche which I started writing in in 2001 when there were about three people using the term. Check out this great new vagabond blog.Vagabond Paris

Artemis’ quest has been to “find some new way to define personal happiness.” Answers to life’s big questions, he discovered, require mobility. “When most people are born they are taught they need to own certain things. We’re all embedded in a matrix designed to keep people at work.” People, who admire his decision, always wistfully say, “I can’t be that courageous. I can’t be that brave.” He adds, “But I’m not much any of those things… I’m just a little crazy. It’s a different mental place.”

A space that’s proved instructive. “A day has not gone by that I have not learnt something new, or met someone interesting. I spend a good portion of my time finding out what makes people happy. For some people it’s their kids, for some it’s perfecting juggling, or finding a great jazz concert, or finishing a piece of art.

Why Paris is special

Paris, a hotbed of artists, many living in squats and communes, has proved an ideal base. “It’s friendly to people who don’t have a steady job. Who opt for a free and liberal lifestyle.” The Parisians have also proved to be endearingly open-minded. “Sometimes I’ll be at a bar and start talking to some guy. As we’re leaving, he’ll say, ‘So where are you headed’ and I’ll say, ‘Turn down the street. See that lamp? I’m there.” And he’ll say, “Oh that’s cool. Why don’t you crash on my couch instead.”

And finally, here is a small feature from the blog A Dangerous Business where they showcase a traveler or writer each week and discuss the dangerous business of travel writing. Can you guess who this is?

1. How do you define the word “traveler,” and why would you consider yourself one?

It’s a funny thing, this idea of travelers and tourists. To me, a tourist is someone who has a set agenda. They know where they will go, what they will do, and when they will return. A traveler, on the other hand, operates on an altogether more free form consciousness. Plans can change, and when you travel, if you aren’t flexible, you often miss out on the best things. Yes, I’m definitely a traveler, but sometimes I don’t even like to be labeled by this definition. I almost never have the budget to travel so one way tickets usually get me to my destination. Over the past decade, I’ve learned that as long as I can carry all my possessions, it’s cheaper to actually move to a place. Not to mention the experience of living and working in a foreign culture gives you an even broader perspective than just traveling there. As such, I’m often a traveler, but more often I am what I like to call a ‘moovist’. I move to new countries more often than I travel to them.

Are you a travel writer? What do you think? Is it a dangerous business? Is there a way to earn a living at it?

Yodeling Vagabonds Bike Yellowstone

Story and Photos by Brian Leibold
yellowstone Bike TripDo you own a bike? If not, get one! If yes, do you know how to ride it? If no, learn how! (And question the wisdom in owning a bike and not knowing how to ride it). Now that everybody has a bike and knows how to ride it how about you…
Go on a bike tour! But first read this. Then go, man! Maybe train some to prepare and perhaps learn how to fix a flat tire. Then take off, man, ride on! Actually I would strongly suggest purchasing panniers or a trailer to carry supplies first. Then definitely take off, my fellow vagabond, get, ready, set, go! But don’t leave without first of course deciding where you want to take off. Then by all means, what are you waiting for, you nomadic rascal, go! But I would suggest taking your time and thinking about it first. There’s no rush. It’s not a bike race, it is a bike tour (not to be confused with the Tour de France or similar tours of that racing nature.
Yellowstone River Falls—Words of Wisdom #1: Do not confuse “bike tour” with “bike race.”It is not a race. On a similar but at the same time different note, the words “It is not a race” could also be applied to life. That could be a book, Life: A Tour, Not a Race. Or something.
Some might not know what a bike tour is. It is self-explanatory. A bike tour is when you have your bike, you put all the stuff you need for however long you may be touring, whether it is for a weekend or a year, and then you go! Some people just start from where their bike is, while others ship their bike to another place and go from there (I shipped mine to Montana).

Bikig through Yellowstone— Money Saving Tip #1: It is cheaper to ride a bike that you already have than to purchase a bike that you don’t have to go on a bike tour. Also you don’t really need a great expensive road bike to go on a tour, just a bike that is dependable.
—Money Saving Tip #2: Most bike shops will ship your bike to another bike shop for cheaper than it would be to ship it on the plane. So do that.

biking through yellowstoneLast fall, I took off time from college and joined my cousin for a leg of his bike trip. His was an adventurous epic that began in Washington (state) and just recently finished in Washington D.C.
(On The Res, his blog about his trip). I would bike over 2000 miles and explore the states of Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Utah and Arizona (BML ON THE ROAD, my blog).
It surprised me a little just how easy it was to get accustomed to being on a bike for 6 or more hours a day and putting in as many as 100 miles a day. If I can do it, having very little biking experience, so can you! So go! But finish reading this first.
The first distinctly memorable place Richard and I biked to was Yellowstone, the first National Park in the country. Yellowstone is made for bikers and hikers. While cars have to wait for scenic overlooks in order to stop, where hundreds of other cars create hungry horrid mobs of mass pulsing humanity, the biker hiker community is able to avoid the mobs by stopping at unofficial points to explore off-road.
old faithful in Yellowstone ParkAnd so the first place in Yellowstone we biked was famous Old Faithful, which was not off-road but needed to be seen and so we saw it. We experienced the spouting, spurting, springing, old-in-years-but-still-with-youthful-raw-get-up-and-go-energy, timeless geyser that is Old Faithful, uncontrollable in its pure natural wondrous power exploding out of the ground phenomenally and perpetually, with a sort of violent vigor like a surreptitiously but supernaturally strong Samson shaking and bursting up towards the surface, longing for the open air, to be freed from the shackles and constraints which held it down in the discolored volcanic ground.

—Fun Fact #1: Yellowstone is the world’s largest active volcano.
In that way, the geyser was sort of like some vagabonds who live in the way they do in order to escape from the shackles and constraints of modern day society and by traveling and seeing and experiencing new places and meeting new and wonderful people, they set themselves free.

Yellowstone natural bridge—Fun Fact #2: I just compared Old Faithful in Yellowstone to vagabonding.

We explored Yellowstone for many days, and it never failed to drop our jaws with its geysers and raging rivers twisting with snaky sinewy vigor through the eternal Eden and peaks and mountains and just the general heart-warming wondrous naturalistic beauty of the place. Beauty can be found most everywhere in America if one searches hard enough for it, from big, industrial, neon-brightened cities to small, lonely ghost towns that lay neglected and forgotten off never-ending highways in the western night. But in Yellowstone the traveling vagabond is able to experience a land that is preserved to look like the earth did back before all the skyscrapers and the endless development and the constant construction, and even before there were houses or railroads, and back to an even earlier era still when men and women perhaps lived in caves, or just out in the wild under the stars, reveling in the natural glory of the land around them.

Here is a list of hotels in or near Yellowstone in case you don’t want to sleep in a tent for some reason.

waterfalls in YellowstoneAnd so with our ancestors of yore in their graves or wherever their spirits may lie, we paid our respects to our possibly-cave-dwelling vagabond ancestors by exulting excitedly in the land around us as the sun slapped our sweaty brows as we biked up to precarious peaks and the wind whipped us with a frenzied rush of bursting gusts as we heehawed and yodeled all the long way down.
We would go on to many National Parks on the bike tour, including Grand Teton immediately following Yellowstone, Zion and Bryce Canyon both in Southern Utah, Grand Canyon, and lesser known but no less wonderful in their own way parks such as Craters of the Moon and City of Rocks in Idaho. And at every park, especially when the tourists and sun-setters (those who see only the sunset and then promptly leave) were scarce, I would feel that sensational sensation of experiencing land in its original state.
And so if you wish to live the life of a vagabond biker, I would suggest that you get your bike out of the dusty dark depths of the back of the garage, put some stuff you need on the bike, get on the bike yourself, and go! First maybe see if any of your friends want to go with you. Then take off, man, go! First, though, of course say goodbye to your loved ones, and tell them you love them, and give them a handshake or naw, be demonstrative! Pretend you’re going for the handshake but then give them a big old hug! Maybe even get a little emotional. Then go! Ride onwards, westwards, southwards, eastwards, upwards, downwards, any wards! Jump in the air and fly like an exotic vagabond bird, a nomadic eagle with wings spread!
Words of Wisdom #2: Ride out onto the road! It is open ahead.
Brian Leibold is a student of life and a yodeling vagabond. You can find his work at his blog at BMLontheroad.blogspot.com and maybe even back here at Vagobond.

Santa Claus – Extraordinary World Traveler Vagabond

Real Santa ClausSanta Claus – He’s Not Who You Think He Is

Earlier this year, before her 1st birthday, my daughter had the opportunity to visit the real home of Santa Claus. No, we didn’t go to the North Pole. Nor did we go to Lapland.  We didn’t visit with the elves or travel through the snow.

We were in Demre, Turkey. If you don’t believe me, you can read a little about the history of Santa on Wikipedia or you can just read on and trust me with the facts.

If anyone ever tells my daughter that Santa is a made up person, I can show her pictures of us visiting where he really lived. He was a real person. A person named Nicholas.

If you are one of those people who says Santa Claus isn’t real – you’re right because he’s long dead, but he was real. He was a real person, so if you are one of those people who say Santa Clause is a fictional or imaginary character – you are wrong.

Santa Clause was born in the town of Patara, Turkey on the Mediterranean Coast. If you visit today you will find (much to the surprise of many) Santa shops, Christmas shops, and everything Santa you can imagine in this mostly Muslim town. At the time he was born, Turkey wasn’t yet a country and so despite being Anatolian, he was Greek. A Byzantine Christian to be precise. For those who don’t know, Istanbul was the capital of Byzantium and called Constantinople in those days.

His parents left him as a wealthy orphan and he used his inheritance to help the poor who weren’t as fortunate as he.  In particular, he was generous with children and traveled the known world distributing gifts and help to the needy.

Real Santa ClausIn 325 A.D. He became the Bishop of Myra (Now Demre, Turkey) and was a part of the Council of Nicea who cobbled together the Holy Bible from a vast assortment of documents. He died December 6, 343 A.D. In fact, in many parts of Europe, December 6 is a day to give gifts and exchange presents.

Six Facts You Didn’t Know About Santa (From Natalie Sayin’s Turkish Travel Blog)

 

So, how did he become Santa Clause?

Here’s a story you won’t see in Christmas cartoons…one of the most famous stories of St. Nick’s generosity was when he gave three orphaned girls dowries so they would be able to marry and wouldn’t have to become prostitutes! It was this gift that some say led to the giving of presents on Christmas today!

In the 10th century – Myra was attacked by Italian sailors who carried away all the relics of St. Nicholas to Bari where they still sit today.  He is the patron saint of archers, sailors, and children to pawnbrokers.

After his death, he was attributed with miracles aplenty. He brought boys murdered by a butcher back to life, he kept a ship from sinking with his prayers, and he levitated one sailor from the water to save his life. Hmmm…I believe he can fly!

Clement C. Moore, an American professor of divinity, was the one who turned Saint Nicholas into Santa with his 1823 poem “A Visit from Saint Nicholas.” The poem provided the inspiration for the first portrait of Santa Claus, drawn by newspaper cartoonist Thomas Nast in 1870.

Real Santa ClausAfter he died, he was made a saint and a tomb was built for him in Demre. The Church of St Nicholas was built over that tomb in the 6th Century. It is a ruin now, but still a very beautiful piece of  Anatolian Byzantine architecture. Many of the mosaics and frescoes have survived.  There is a tomb there, but the bones are in Bari.

St. Nicholas is the patron saint of Russian Orthodoxy, so it’s not surprising that on peak days (around December 6th) you can find up to 60 buses per day of tourists – mostly from Russia. The government of Turkey issued a Santa Claus stamp in 1955 and have heavily promoted ‘Noel Baba’ as a tourist draw. It’s a pretty good one if you ask me.

 

World Travel for Almost Nothing #4 – Couchsurfing Friends

If you missed the story of how I met my wife, let me remind you. I was couchsurfing at her family’s house in Morocco.

Couchsurfing likes to remind people that it’s not a dating site, but in fact, it is a place where I’ve met many of my closest friends and the woman I married.

Couchsurfing Morocco

One of the keys to mastering the art of world travel on almost nothing is learning to trust strangers and let them become friends.

World Travel on Almost Nothing Tip #4:  Make strangers into friends.

One of the things that I love about Couchsurfing.com is that it relies on opening your heart and mind to the hospitality of strangers. Contrary to popular belief, most people on the planet are good and want to help you in this life. If you doubt that, look inside yourself and I’m sure you will see it is true.

Couchsurfing in Belgium

I wrote a thesis about fans of the TV show LOST. One of the amazing things I found was that when fans traveled to Hawaii they often found places to stay, free guided tours, and new friends waiting for them. In that case, what brought these people together was a love of a TV show. For the world traveler, you are more likely to come together because of a love of travel.

I’ve made friends just about everywhere I’ve been and in the process I’ve managed to avoid paying for hotels, meals, and sometimes even transportation. I’m not saying you should be mercenary about seeking out and using people, I’m saying that when you open your arms to the world, you often get a hug in return.

While I’ve never been a WWOOFer or used HospitalityClub.com, I certainly have known plenty of people who have. These sorts of communities thrive on the fact that people are in general kind and good natured. If you don’t believe that, then you better keep paying for hotel rooms and guided city tours.

World Travel for Almost Nothing #2

Makapu'u PointThe biggest ripoff of modern times wasn’t the mere stealing of billions by Bernie Madoff, it was convincing most of the people on the planet that they need anything the modern world provides.

In fact, you were born with everything you need and whether you believe it or not you will keep getting everything you need until the day you die. Included in that isn’t shampoo, peanut butter, a new car, a great job, breast implants, or a college degree. I fell for it too…but the truth is all you need is the desire to move to the next second in this life and you already have it or else you’d already be dead.

World Travel Tip #2

Modern nation states are built on a simple lie. That lie tells you that unless you can pay for new goods and services your life won’t be worth anything. It’s complete and total crap.

A look at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs shows what you actually need. Food, sleep, air, defecation, and a sense of who you are. That’s it. The rest is luxury and as such is not necessary. In fact, it often gets in the way.

Nobody is charging you to breathe. Water can be found for free just about everywhere on the planet (though it may take a little umm…digestive adjustment), if there isn’t a free toilet, you can probably defecate on the ground, and if you don’t know who you are, isn’t it time you found out? You don’t need a therapist to tell you, you just need to take the time to ask yourself and listen for an answer. In addition companionship, love, self esteem, and even security can be found for little to nothing.

Step outside and start a conversation with a stranger and I can promise you that if you are looking for food or shelter, you will find them, maybe not with the first person you talk with but certainly with someone. Contrary to popular belief, people are GOOD and they want to help each other. Unless you are a real ass, you’ll find people take joy in being a part of your life and that includes food and shelter.

Tomorrow: Adjusting your pace

Is budget travel worth it? World travel for almost nothing # 1

A few days ago, I asked readers if budget travel is worth it. The overwhelming answer is – yes, of course it is. And, actually, I totally agree. I admit that sometimes you need to bite the bullet and spend a little bit extra to avoid discomfort and inconvenience – but for the most part, if the choice is between no travel and budget travel – take budget travel.

Maybe you’ve noticed that I manage to see quite a few places and you’ve thought to yourself “It must be nice to have enough money to travel like that – I wish I had the money to do that!”

The fact of the matter is, so do I. The other fact of the matter is that I don’t. In the past several decades it has been the exception rather than the rule for me to have a job where my time belongs to someone else. I don’t usually have any savings. I’m in debt up to my ears (but am constantly deferring my student loans) and yet even in that condition,  I’ve managed to travel to 50 or so countries, have a fabulous wedding in the Sahara, and get quite a few little side trips and excursions in too. How do I do it?

Noodle Shop in Chinatown

Honestly, I’m not sure, but the following is some of what I’ve figured out about how to travel for next to nothing. Hopefully, it will inspire one or two of you out there to get off your butts and hit the road like you’ve always dreamed of. If it does and your life changes forever, feel free to buy me a beer someday.

A trip to a theme park costs most than I spend on most of my solo international adventures. World travel doesn’t have to be expensive. In fact, there are many times that it is free.

Of course the travel agencies, cruise lines, and airlines don’t want you to know that. Big hotels and resorts live off of people who don’t know where they would stay without Hilton or Marriott to house them. Those guys and the talking heads in the media earn their salaries selling trips to all-inclusive resorts and big time guided tours of places you can walk through for free.

They are banking on the fact that your imagination stops at your credit card and that most people are just too damn scared to take a chance when they leave the confining comfort of their own home. I’m about to spoil that misconception. Unless those guys start sponsoring me, I’m going to keep giving away tips and tricks that open up the entire world to you.

Nothing holds you back more than fear. Fear of the unknown. FDR said it right, we have nothing to fear but fear itself. Face it, you’re going to die and you’re going to lose everything. We all do. You have very little control about when that is going to happen. The thing that makes most people miss out on the joy of travel is that they think they can control it and so they stay at home watching Netflix until they die of a coronary. They know the geography of the world, but they’ve never seen it. If you don’t open the door, you won’t see anything but the television.

Tip #1 for Cheap World Travel:

Pyramid Paris LouvreLet go of all that routine that arises from you trying to control your own dead end. The best thing about living is new experience and you can have as many as you want for free. Once you step away from your societal imposed responsibilities, you find that the world opens up and gives you more joy than you’ll ever find trying to buy your future security at the expense of the present.

When you start breaking free of your routine, you will discover the wonder of new faces and places, taste incredible new foods, and discover secrets about yourself and the world that you never expected to find.

Each new wonder unfolds before you like a road that was hidden from view and like any road, a new experience will often lead you to another and another and another. When you walk the road of travel, you get to experience life differently from when you take a package vacation or go through the daily motions in your ‘home’. In fact, the world is your home, if only you choose to accept it.

Sunsets are free. Mountaintops don’t cost a thing. Walking through a public market takes not a dime. Striking up a conversation with someone working beside a road you are walking down can lead to adventures you can’t imagine. Just being in a new place will provide you with more insights about yourself and the world than all the new clothes, fancy meals, or well rehearsed tourist trips can ever give you.

Your mentality is the primary reason why world travel costs a ton. Change it and you will find that few things are as cheap.

Next: What you really need!

Vagabonds: Sometimes Getting Lost Is the Point

Vagabonds: Sometimes Getting Lost Is The Point

Now available on Amazon

From ancient times to the present, brave men and women have wandered from place to place without visible means of income, without reason, and sometimes without a clue. They have defined our history. This is a love letter to these vagabond men and women, the lives they led, and the inspiration born of their journeys.

Vagabonds will introduce or reacquaint you with fifty-one incredible vagabonds who have shaped our collective history. Starting with Herodotus, the father of history and moving all the way to the present, these vagabonds and voyagers snake their way from the ancient past into the middle ages, through the Victorian era up to the twentieth century, and finally bring us right up to the present on the edge of the future.

The men and women in this book are a mixture of ancient heroes, famous writers, tech-nomads, overachieving goal setters, and fly by the seat of their pants adventurers who only plan as far ahead as their next breath. Meet them, be inspired by them, and then find a way to dig in for more.

Christopher Damitio is the author of Rough Living: Tips and Tales of a Vagabond and currently lives in Hawaii. He writes about travel, politics, technology, and more at Vagobond.com and Vagorithm.com.

Available for purchase now in eBook form at Amazon.com

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