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.
Louis L’amour was more than just a prolific writer of Western novels. He was a boxer, a hobo, a round the world traveler, a merchant seaman, a soldier and a vagabond.
Louis Dearborn LaMoore, better known as Louis L’amour was born in Jamestown, North Dakota, in 1908. He was the seventh child of Dr. Louis Charles LaMoore and Emily Dearborn LaMoore. He was of French and Irish ancestry and the son of a large-animal veterinarian, local politician and farm-equipment broker who had arrived in Dakota Territory in 1882.
The area around Jamestown was mostly farm land but cowboys and livestock often traveled through Jamestown on their way to or from ranches in Montana and the markets to the east. Like most future writers, L’amour spent plenty of his boyhood free time at the local library reading, particularly G. A. Henty, a British author of historical boys’ novels during the late nineteenth century. L’Amour once said, “[Henty’s works] enabled me to go into school with a great deal of knowledge that even my teachers didn’t have about wars and politics.” In addition to history and the natural sciences, the young Louis was captivated by the fiction of Robert Louis Stevenson, Jack London, Edgar Rice Burroughs and others … letting them carry him away to the south seas, the gold fields of the Yukon, the Spanish Main, the center of the earth and the dying red planet of Mars.
In 1923 the family fell on hard times and over the next seven or eight years, they skinned cattle in west Texas, baled hay in the Pecos Valley of New Mexico, worked in the mines of Arizona, California and Nevada, and in the saw mills and lumber camps of the Pacific Northwest. It was in colorful places like these that Louis met a wide variety of people, upon whom he later modeled the characters in his novels, many of them actual Old West personalities who had survived into the nineteen-twenties and -thirties.In Oklahoma he met Bill Tilghman, once the marshal of Dodge City; Chris Madsen who had been a Deputy U.S. Marshall and a Sargent with the 5th cavalry; and Emmett Dalton of the notorious Dalton Gang. In New Mexico he met George Coe and Deluvina Maxwell who had both known Billy the Kid; Tom Pickett who’d had a thumb shot off in the Lincoln County War; Tom Threepersons who had been both a Northwest Mounted Policeman and a Texas Ranger; and Elfagio Baca, a famous New Mexico lawyer who had once engaged over eighty of Tom Slaughter’s cowboys for 33 hours in one of the west’s most famous gunfights. During his years in Arizona Louis met Jeff Milton, a Texas Ranger and Border Patrolman and Jim Roberts, the last survivor of the Tonto Basin War and later Marshall of Jerome. But perhaps most importantly, during the years he was traveling around the country, young Louis met hundreds of men and women who, though unknown historically, were equally important as examples of what the people of the nineteenth century were like.
While still only a teenager, he set out on a journey which took him around the world (you can find out more about it and see plenty of photos at www.louislamourgreatadventure.com/. It was a ten month vagabond adventure that was to shape the rest of his life. He hoped to create a series of stories that would document these times because, even as he experienced them, they were fading. The free, wandering, days of the hobo disappeared with the financial pressure of the depression and, as the world responded to the growing tensions that led to World War Two, customs and immigration officers began cracking down on all travelers. The sense that the world was full of unknown possibilities was vanishing as telegraph and telephone, radio, fast steam ships, and aircraft shrank people’s sense of the world and brought the most remote corners under the supervision of control mad governments. He circled the globe as a merchant seaman, visiting England, Japan, China, Borneo, the Dutch East Indies, Arabia, Egypt, and Panama with the rough and ready crews of various steamships on which he served.
Ultimately, Louis wrote about a world in transition, not a place where anything was possible but a place where the last things were possible, a world that was becoming the world we know now. Like the old west that he would eventually write about, Louis was around at a time when he could experience the last vestiges of a vanishing age and meet the people who had been a part of that age in its prime.
Back in the USA, he hoboed across the country, hopping freight trains with men who had been riding the rails for half a century. He wrapped newspaper under his clothes to keep warm while sleeping in hobo jungles, grain bins and the gaps in piles of lumber. He spent three months “on the beach,” in San Pedro, California
Many of these stories are now published in the collection “Yondering” and there are more in “Off the Mangrove Coast, “”West from Singapore,” “Night over the Solomons,” “Beyond the Great Snow Mountains”.
He changed his name to Louis L’Amour and settled down to try to make something of himself as a writer in the 1930’s. His stories about boxing got him a bit of notice but most of his other stories were ignored and rejected until finally, L’Amour placed a story, “Death Westbound,” in a magazine that was very much the Playboy of its day.
“10 Story Book” featured quality writing alongside scantily attired, or completely naked young women but aside from that, it was hard going until 1938 when his stories began appearing in pulp magazines fairly regularly.
Surprisingly, given his later career, L’Amour wrote only one story in the western genre prior to World War Two, 1940’s “The Town No Guns Could Tame. During World War II, he served in the United States Army as a transport officer with the 3622 Transport Company. After World War II, L’Amour continued to write stories for magazines; his first after being discharged in 1946 was Law of the Desert Born in Dime Western Magazine (April, 1946). L’Amour’s contact with Leo Margulies led to L’Amour agreeing to write many stories for the Western pulp magazines published by Standard Magazines, a substantial portion of which appeared under the name “Jim Mayo”. The suggestion of L’Amour writing Hopalong Cassidy novels also was made by Margulies who planned on launching Hopalong Cassidy’s Western Magazine at a time when the William Boyd films and new television series were becoming popular with a new generation. L’Amour read the original Hopalong Cassidy novels, written by Clarence E. Mulford, and wrote his novels based on the original character under the name “Tex Burns”. Only two issues of the Hopalong Cassidy Western Magazine were published, and the novels as written by L’Amour were extensively edited to meet Doubleday’s thoughts of how the character should be portrayed in print.
It wasn’t until the 1950s that L’Amour began to sell novels. His first novel, published under his own name, was Westward The Tide, published in 1951. The short story, “The Gift of Cochise” was printed in Colliers (July 5, 1952) and seen by John Wayne and Robert Fellows, who purchased the screen rights from L’Amour for $4,000. James Edward Grant was hired to write a screenplay based on this story changing the main character’s name from Ches Lane to Hondo Lane. L’Amour retained the right to novelize the screenplay and did so, even though the screenplay differed substantially from the original story. This was published as Hondo in 1953 and released on the same day the film opened with a blurb from John Wayne stating that “Hondo was the finest Western Wayne had ever read”. During the remainder of the decade L’Amour produced a great number of novels, both under his own name as well as others (e. g. Jim Mayo).
L’Amour’s career flourished throughout the 1960s and he began work on a series of novels about the fictional Sackett family. Initially he wrote five books about William Tell Sackett and his close relatives, however, in later years the series spread to include other families and four centuries of North American history. It was an ambitious project and several stories intended to close the gaps in the family’s time line were left untold at the time of L’Amour’s death.
L’Amour also branched out into historical fiction with The Walking Drum, set in the 11th century, a contemporary thriller, Last of the Breed, and science fiction with The Haunted Mesa.
L’Amour eventually wrote 89 novels, over 250 short stories, and sold more than 320 million copies of his work. By the 1970s his writings were translated into over 20 languages. Every one of his works is still in print.
L’Amour died from lung cancer on June 10, 1988, at his home in Los Angeles, and was buried in Glendale, California. His autobiography, Education of a Wandering Man, was published posthumously in 1989.
Traveling the world used to be a game that only the men played, but as in all fields, brave pioneers broke out of the Victorian conception of women as meek and mild and showed that even the hardest travel makes no distinction among the sexes. Isabelle Eberhardt was one of these extraordinary feminist vagabonds.
Isabelle Eberhardt was a Swiss writer and explorer who lived and traveled widely in North Africa. She is considered to have been an extremely independent individual, who refused normal European ethics and characterization of women. Instead she followed her own path which led her to world travel. Isabelle’s first trip was with her mother to North Africa in 1897. They were trying to set up a new life there on this journey, and during that time they both converted to Islam.
Isabelle’s half brother Vladimir committed suicide and another brother was married to a French woman whom Eberhardt was not in favor of. From then onwards, she spent her life in Africa, she made Northern Algeria and Morocco her home and became a true desert vagabond. Isabelle was in Tunisia for some time as well. She was frequently disguised as a man and there are many who conjecture that she not only lived as a man but loved women as a man does.
Isabelle married an Algerian soldier, Slimane Ehnni in 1901. She was known to drink and fight in the hardest of ways. She died in a flash flood in Algeria in 1904. She had rented a house there which was constructed of clay. The house collapsed on Isabelle and her husband during the flood, she saved her husband but she didn’t survive the disaster. She wrote about her travels in several books and the newspapers of France.
Her books and articles include “In the Hot Shadow of Islam”, “Algerian Short Stories” and “The Day Laborers”. She also wrote a novel, Vagabond which was translated into English by Annette Kobak. The journals of Isabelle were recovered from the flash flood, they covered the final four years of her life and now these journals are also available in English.
Isabelle Eberhard was a nomad in Africa but more importantly she explored the limits and boundaries of gender as well as the deserts of Africa and continued her writing during that time. Most of her novels, books and journals on her travels can be found in English, Spanish, French, and German.
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).
In terms of extraordinary vagabonds, it’s hard to imagine someone who fits the bill more than Harry Franck. This literary vagabond traveled the world and wrote more than thirty books about his adventures during the early 1900’s.
As you can see by his titles, this guy got around and was most certainly a pioneer of the modern vagabond spirit. What makes him special is that he was at that point when mass travel was just becoming an option for getting from place to place. As you can see from the picture above, Franck was a backpacker in an age when there really weren’t any backpackers. Certainly he had to make his own gear and figure out things that would make most modern backpackers quiver with nervousness. Franck’s first journey was after his freshman year of college when he decided to see Europe with just $3.18. Not a lot of money even in the 1900’s. He did it. The next year, on a bet, he managed to work his way not only across the Atlantic but around the world with no money at all to start and then published Vagabond Journey Around the World in 1910.
Harry Franck’s willingness to travel with no money, his keen eye for the details of his journey and the societies he recorded (some of which soon disappeared) make him a welcome addition to our list of Extraordinary Vagabonds.
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).
Going around the world hasn’t always been as easy as it is today. In fact, the great explorers of the past often suffered great hardships to see distant lands. One such extraordinary vagabond was Marco Polo.
Marco Polo was the famous world traveler who traveled on the Silk Road. He mastered his travels through his writing, influence and his determination. He traveled throughout Asia and the journey lasted for 24 years! Now that is some slow travel! He reached more destinations than any of his European predecessors, he traveled further into Mongolia to China. Though he was not a round the world traveler, he was a vagabond who traveled the whole of China. He returned to tell the story, and it became the greatest boost for travel that had ever been written.
Marco Polo is well-known for his travels all over Asia. And he was the first European to travel to Mongolia and China. He became famous for his book where he explained the story of his travels to China on Silk Road. He traveled the whole of China like a nomad even though he was the son of a Venice merchant.
Marco Polo was born in 1254 in Venice, Italy. He traveled to Asia along with his father when he was seventeen years old. On this journey, he became the favorite companion of Kublai Khan, the Mongol Emperor.
He wandered all over Mongolia and China for 17 years and traveled to more distant places in China than any other European traveler. He became a well-known story teller when he returned to Venice. People came to his home to hear his travel stories about the East.
There was a clash between Venice and Genoa in 1298, and Polo was captured and imprisoned by Genoese. Marco Polo read out his stories when he was in jail to a writer and later the writer published. The book was named “The Travels of Marco Polo”.
This book created interest in Europeans to trade with China, and inspired the explorations of Columbus and others who were in search of a quick way to travel to China and India. Marco Polo was truly an extraordinary 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).
World travel was important to Che. Sure, you see his image on all kinds of clueless college kids t-shirts and hoodies and maybe later he was responsible for thousands of heartless deaths, but you gotta love that medical student who set out on his friend’s motorcycle to see the world.
Che Guevara was an Argentine Marxist revolutionary, author, physician, intellect, guerilla leader and was an important figure of Revolution in Cuba. He took admission in Buenos Aires University to study medicine. His interest to explore the world made him a world traveler and it led him to scatter his collegiate interests with two thoughtful journeys which would basically change his view about modern economic conditions in Latin America.
In his first journey he covered 4,500 kilometers in 1950, he traveled alone on bicycle through rural provinces of northern Argentina, and he had installed a small motor on his bicycle. Next he traveled for nine months for about 8000 kilometers on motorcycle through South America. He took a break of a year from his studies to travel with his friend Albert Granado, he spent few weeks voluntarily in Peru at San Pablo Leper colony.
Che Guevara was very upset about the working conditions of miners in Chuquicamata copper mine of Anaconda, Chile. He was surprised by his overnight confrontation with a harassed couple. He as struck by the smashing poverty of the rural area on his way to Machu Picchu in the Andes. Peasant farmers worked on small plots of lands which were owned by landlords in this place.
On his journey, Che Guevara was impressed by the friendship of the people living in the Leper Colony. He roamed as a true vagabond throughout South America . Che Guevara used the notes which he had taken while on this trip to write an account named “The Motorcycle Diaries”, and it became a best seller of New York Times and it was later also made into a movie which won several awards. Che Guevara became a world traveler because of his enthusiasm in traveling adventures.
Before returning to his home in Buenos Aires, Che Guevara traveled through Argentina, Chile, Peru, Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela, Panama and Miami. At the end of his trip Che Guevara visited Latin America.
Later in Mexico City, Che met Raúl and Fidel Castro and after the invasion by yacht rose to prominence second-in-commandof those who deposed deposed the Batista regime.
Guevara helped to institute agrarian reform after the revolution and reviewed the firing squads as well as writing a manual on guerrilla warfare. While trying to foment further revolution, he was captured by CIA-assisted Bolivian forces and executed.
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).
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.
Steinbeck 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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
COVID-19 and the pandemic will be conquered. Life however, will not return to the pre-Covid normal in 2021.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
The internet will be completely broken and unusable causing chaos – innovative technological stretching will bring a replacement in less than a month!
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.
Today 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 for2009-2011 – 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.
The web is full of great travel blogs, travel stories, travel photos and travel videos – the hard part is finding them. I curate the best travel stories I find
While these aren’t necessarily my first choices, I”ve been to most of these cities and found them all to be fantastic. It’s a great list from Around the World L 8 Places to Live Around the World
This post from trans-americas was not only an enjoyable read but was about one of those things on my bucket list, fly fishing. Isla Hobla looks like the right place for me to take it up and learn the ropes, don’t you think?
This was one of my favorite finds of the week just for the sheer awesome oddness of it. I mean, who would think to make a hammock out of crushed beer cans and then say it’s comfortable…but I believe them.
This is a particularly nice page of hammocks – This one of a couple in a single line tree hanging hammock just speaks incredible volumes, but you have to wonder who the voyeur watching them was.
Long ago I met a beautiful woman from Uruguay in Waikiki – we had dinner, took some moonlit walks on the beach and she told me about her country which I had never really thought about before. This article might get you thinking about Uruguay, though probably not with the same thoughts I had.
Finally, I have to admit, I like the collectivist nature of this site and what it is saying. http://indietravel.org/
Welcome to the Vagobond Travel Museum!
The web is full of great travel blogs, travel stories, travel photos and travel videos – the hard part is finding them amidst all the garbage.
Without a doubt, this is my favorite travel related site in recent memory. The site is exactly what it says- Enter two cities from around the world and it will compare the cost of living in them and tell you using a number of metrics (housing, transport, clothing, food, entertainment, etc) how they compare. Check it out and have fun. Expatistan.
Google Earth is awesome, no doubt about it – one thing I love are the sometimes Easter Eggs or surprises that appear on it from time to time….here is a great one. Olympos – The Home of 12 Greek Gods Mount Olympus (Google deleted it!) was formed after the gods defeated the Titans in the Titan war, and ever since the gods inhabited the place. This is one of the Cool Places you can explore in Panoramio Places with Google Earth.
There were some incredible food videos and blogs this week, I particularly enjoyed this video from Viator where they walk through the streets of Athens enjoying wonderful Greek cuisine.
Want to see more international streetfoods? Just check out this Pinterest international street food page which has pictures, links, and much more. It seems that some aspects of blogging are being phased out from what I can see as services like pinterest serve to be curators from around the web. Like this.
Amusing Planet offered this fabulous photo and description “Kizhi is a narrow strip of island on Lake Onega in the Republic of Karelia, Russia. The island is popular for dozens of historical wooden buildings. … Today, the entire island and the nearby area form a national open-air museum with more than 80 historical wooden structures. The most famous among them is the Kizhi Pogost. The Kizhi Pogost enclosure holds two wooden churches and an octagonal bell tower built during the 18th-century. The jewel of its architecture is the 22-domed Transfiguration Church with a large iconostasis—a wooden screen covered with religious portraits. This massive church is about 37 meters tall and made entirely of wood making it one of the tallest log structures in the world. …”
The Independent continues to offer amazing travel with this piece Santiago: Poetry and motion in Chile’s capital -Santiago carries reminders of a troubled past, but Simone Kane discovers that art and architecture are much in evidence too
Another reason to visit Chile would be Easter Island. This great post from Don’t Get Me Wrong highlights the history, culture and some of the mysteries surrounding Rapa Nui. Great photos too.
Finally, I just love this picture from Timothy Allen which makes me think maybe I still want to live in a yurt after all.
And while there were plenty of other great travel stories this week – that’s it for this weeks inductions into the Vagobond Travel Museum.
The web is full of great travel blogs, travel stories, travel photos and travel videos – the hard part is finding them amidst all the garbage. I curated the best travel stories I find and bring you the highlights.
One of my favorite ongoing travel sagas is this ultra long distance cycle trip of Matt McDonald and Andy Madeley. They wander into a Turkish den of iniquity and secure visa entry to Iran on their 13,000-mile trip to Sydney.
This incredibly beautiful post from pxleyes made me long for waterfalls in Hawaii and elsewhere. I’ve been to about 20 of these 50 amazing falls…what about you?
The Guardian also continues to hit travel with an often missing these days journalistic eye. This wonderful piece about Japan from the point of view of a salaryman goes way beyond some blogger getting drunk in a hostel. Kuzuhara-san leads Chris Michael on a tour of the hidden Tokyo where an army of office workers get to let off steam at the end of the day. Awesome read.
In video this week, it was the excavation of this giant ant hill that captured me more than anything else. Believe it or not, this video inspired controversy as rumors were spread that it killed several billion ants…in fact, it was abandoned and not the lost city of Atlantis, though it looked like it might have been.
Okay, back to the non-journalistic exploits of teens and twenty somethings put out on the internet in a show of exhibitionism…let’s have a go at sex on the road! This very funny and incredibly presented tidbit from Finding the Universe is a very worthy induction into the travel museum. Enjoy sex on the road! Why don’t we do it, on the ro-oooad!
This post about Hemingway and Idaho from the slightly disturbingly named Bulls and Beavers is a reminder that sometimes great travel pieces come from unexpected places. Bulls and Beavers is all about hunting and fishing.
Travel Wire Asia brought some pretty good information to the table this week in this aptly titled piece 5 Great Travel Myths. Surprise, leaving your mobile on won’t crash the plane and people in Korea probably don’t speak English.
This older post from Uncornered Market about how to travel outside of your comfort zone is really a great one for those who want to get the most out of their travels. The piece has been around for a while, but since this was the first time I’ve seen it – it gets brought into the Travel Museum. Great advice.
The other day I went back on the road. I quit my job sweeping at a construction site, hopped on my bike, and headed off to the beach.
Words of Wisdom #1: If you have a job sweeping at a construction site, first of all quit it. And when you quit, say: “I quit. I’ll sweep when I’m dead.”
Two of my friends biked with me. The beach was Bethany Beach, in Delaware. The landscape was unremarkable, but it didn’t matter. The beauty of biking long distances isn’t what you see, it’s the intoxicated feeling (that never seems to peak) and the insights, however seemingly insignificant, that come from the solitude.
One friend said
…the thing about biking is we’re moving and can feel ourselves moving, while the people in cars are technically moving, but they’re sitting still. They’re staring blankly out the window waiting for excitement to come to them, and not seeing, while we’re outside the window seeing it all, and actively seeking excitement as we move.
My other friend made a new Rule of the Road:
Shakespeare Rule #1
To bike home or to bike into the unknown: there is no question.
When we arrived, we added some beach rules (because the more rules, the happier you can be when you break them or prove them wrong)
A vagabond must drop down and do twenty before surfing the waves of plenty (pushups).
When sleeping, one must be able to hear the waves crashing in harmonious accord.
Cops with cop souls should be avoided when sleeping on the beach.
To apply sunscreen on one’s own back is impossible. One would be wise to find a suitably attractive member of the opposite sex to perform this function. Skin cancer must be avoided, this much is certain.
The further away I biked from that sweeping job, the better I felt.
There is a negative correlation between distance from the city and mental state. In the city, with everyone driving around and around the cyclical beltway, it is very possible for a vagabond to feel caught unwillingly in a web of sameness, trapped and shackled in monotonous routine.
It is difficult is feel any excitement for the present. But in remembering past adventures, the vagabond is able to shake off the gloom, knowing he doesn’t have to feel like this, that it is possible to separate from the confusion of the city, as a fugitive from normality, by heading back on the road (and yodeling.)
There, especially if biking or walking, freedom is found.
As I biked on the back roads towards Bethany Beach, the quiet all around me spoke to the unquiet within me and allowed my thoughts to be clear and my own, influenced by no other.
I was feeling for the first time since my bike trip in the west that indescribable natural euphoric feeling of movement on the road. I was moving! I was riding onwards.
The Road stretched out in front of us, in all its gravelly glory, and we pedaled frantically, whooping and yodeling whenever we wanted and as loud as we wanted as only vagabonds back on the road after too long an absence can.
As the wind picked up intensely the closer we came to the sea, I realized that nomads and vagabonds are indentured servants to the road. But we do not have to work on the road for seven years as the indentured servants of old did in order to be set free.
We are freed as we work.
We work physically on the road. We hike perilously up to mountain peaks, hoping to clear our cloudy minds by going above the clouds, we bike against the strongest of head winds and up passes that ought not to be biked up, we walk across deserts thirsting for some mirage in the midst of the vast sandy barren lands.
These feats are difficult, but befitting for those who do not wish to simply fit into an already present locked in four by four square spot in society and want instead to unlock what we can in a mind unhampered by the grind.
When the headwinds of fate gust against us off the road, and we wonder what we are doing here, we become unhappy, and we are told:
Why the long face? Aren’t you happy? Why don’t you make a ton of money, get three Lexus’ (Lexi?) (grey silver black), plastic surgery, a silicon wife, and a seven story house with four basements and seventy four windows all with views of the interstate. It worked for me!
But on the road, when the headwinds rage, we simply listen to The Road and he says:
Pedal onwards, climb onwards, move onwards, go forward leave the chains of luxury far behind you in another world.
And we are rewarded by a feeling of success, of doing something worthwhile, of working not solely for the sake of money. We are rewarded after the climb when The Road shows us his valley below, on the long walk as we revel in the solitude of the solo road, after a day of hard biking as we sit and talk excitedly of tomorrow by a raging fire.
As vagabonds, we realize that success as society sees it is succession from the best of life as we see it, so we choose permeability over permanence.
We wander from the straight and known, straying from the narrow in order to experience the great wide open unknown of the road.
And after the headwind tried in vain for many miles to push us back from the beach, we finally made it to the Atlantic. The water was cold (under 60), and the rough waves crashed imposingly as they have crashed for all time.
The mighty perpetual sea did not care how many miles we had biked to see it and was perhaps angry that we had overcome its friend the wind. But The Road overruled the angry sea and said
Well done, my young vagabond riders, you biked along the river to the sea. You pedaled through fierce winds. I will reward you by allowing you to run like insane nomadic sprinters into the Atlantic Sea. First, though, you must drop down and give me twenty before you surf the waves of plenty. It is only right.
So we did twenty pushups, for we were indentured servants voluntarily submitting to the hardships of the road in order that he let us see, in order to be set free. And, zanily yodeling in imperfect inharmonious discording rewarding whoops, we ran like insane nomadic sprinters into the sea.
And The Road looked on with a half-smile, knowing something and knowing we are all searching for the something he knows. But The Road does not tell us, he only smiles his enigmatic smile. We have to find that thing for ourselves. We may never find it, but that doesn’t mean we’ll stop searching.
World travel begins with where you live and this guest post from Gunjan Priya highlights one of the most significant cities in India – Dharbanga, India – Home of the Ramayana.
Located in North Bihar in India, Darbhanga is a fascinating mixture of beauty, history and modernization. Hundreds of ponds, mango orchards, flowers and cattle add to its rural look on the one hand while black serpentine roads, the white buildings of Darbhanga Medical College and beautifully colored high rise hotels and other buildings indicate Darbhanga’s steps toward urbanization.
The original name of Darbhanga was ‘Dwarbang’ which literally means ‘gateway to Bengal.’ People link Darbhanga with the ancient epic Ramayana. Another name associated with Darbhanga is ‘Mithila’ which is originated from the belief that Goddess Sita, daughter of King Mithi was born in this region. Mithilanchal region consists of Darbhanga district, and the neighboring towns Samastipur and Madhubani.
Total population of Darbhanga is around 300,000 of which majority consist of Hindus while the others are Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains. People speak Maithili, Hindi, and most educated people can understand a little English too.
Located in the alluvial plains of the Ganges River, it has several rivers – Kosi, Bagmati and Kareh– flooding the entire district of Darbhanga every year due to heavy Monsoon rainfall. Darbhanga experiences four seasons in a year. From November to February it is winter there, summer starts in May with hottest temperatures and June sets up with heavy rains. Thus, the best time to visit Darbhanga is from October to November and from February to April.
Darbhanga boasts of being the land of famous ancient Indian scholars like Vidyapati and Mandan Mishra.
The economy of Darbhanga is mainly based on cultivation, but the town area has art, craft, paintings, bakery products and cement factories too. The famous folk art– Madhubani paintings or Mithila paintings originated in this region and even today one can find several Madhubani painting and craft centers all across the town. It is a good source of income for people engaged in handicrafts.
A Local dry fruit called Makhana is another delicacy of Darbhanga. It is grown in ponds and contributes to major portions of the Town’s economy.
Spots to visit in Darbhanga
Darbhanga’ Kings Fort is a beautiful copy of Delhi’s Red Fort and still remains in its glorious color and strength. The local administration has used this fort for housing different colleges of Darbhanga University. Lotuses in ponds inside the fort give a heavenly look to this ancient city.
Temples are another beauty of this ancient town. Shyama Mai, Kalisthan are few famous temples here, where thousands of local people make pilgrimages every day.
I had an email from a 16-year old vagabond back in 2010 asking me for advice about how to live his life and ‘escape from the cave’. This is what I told him. I stand by this advice today. I wonder what happened to him?
This is my advice. It’s hard to say for sure, because I don’t know you, but this is the advice I wish someone had given me.
1) Understand that it’s all a rip off. It’s all a rip off that is trying to take your time. You and everyone else has a limited amount of time. We will die, for sure. The biggest traps for me were booze and drugs. Fun, but oh, I wish I had that time back. I could have been camping, hitching, or writing! I could have been fucking! Instead I was wasting my time and my money.
2) College is great. I waited until I was in my 30s, but it would have been cool to do it before. Just get someone else to pay for it. The ideas, the experiences…and the girls. Go to college but do yourself a favor and get scholarships, it’s worth it to put some extra hours in studying to get the grades in high school, since they allow you to get a free ride. If not, focus on any scholarship you can.
3) Take short trips whenever you can. Weekend trips fill the gap between summer months on the road. Go everywhere even if it is only ten miles away.Don’t miss the Grand Canyon because you live in Arizona, know what I mean? The close things are often as cool or cooler than the far ones.
4) Take time to write. Start a blog. Learn to do basic coding.
5) Don’t undervalue your time. Ask for more money and then work harder. Make it clear to employers that you are not ordinary. Do a kick ass job every time.
6) Don’t waste your money. Booze and drugs are expensive. Cars are expensive. Fancy clothes are expensive. Worthless women are expensive. Spend your money on the things that matter and save the rest for your adventures.
7) Women. Write down exactly what you want. It’s only then you will find her. I mean exactly. Height, hair, hobbies, qualities. She is there. Don’t settle.
8) Know when someone will refuse to lose an argument and don’t waste your time. Just say, I see what you are saying and move on.
9) A good friend has these five qualities. 1) You can trust them with money 2) They won’t judge you 3) You can trust them with your woman 4) You can trust them with a secret 5) They are there when you need them. Don’t waste your time on anyone who doesn’t have these qualities. When you find a good friend, be all of the above.
10) Write your own ten commandments. Know your morals and refuse to budge.
I hope this helps. Being in the cave sucks, but it’s got no door on it. Just walk out.
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.