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The End Is the Beginning Is the End

Current Location: Louisville, KY, United States of America
Current  Weather: 32°F (feels like 24°F)
Days Gone: 201
Days Remaining: Zero
Home provides its own type of chaos. Perhaps the chaos and uncertainty craved by the traveler is really just a craving for simplicity. Unknown means no planning. It means your time is yours and yours alone. For me, unknown is easy. With too many variables, calculation becomes impossible. You can’t suffer from analysis paralysis if you can’t analyze the situation. I’ve said before that the present is all we have. Well, it turns out that while traveling the present is the only thing worth considering. Even for someone like me, a person who considers every option and almost subconsciously plans for every consequence, travel makes careful planning impossible. With an unwieldy trip such as this, the possible futures which cascade outward from every event are so multitudinous and varied that I can actually allow myself to not think about them. Mental peace.

But home is where I am now. I’ve been breathing cold Louisville, KY air since early December. My trip was cut short suddenly when I received an email that my grandfather was in the hospital for what would be the last time.… Read More

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Terror, Power, and Tandoori Chicken

Current Location: Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia
Current  Weather: 77°F (feels like 86°F)
Days Gone: 199
Days Remaining: 17
 
With less than three weeks until my return the world is beginning to spin faster. It is as if the planet itself is trying to gain enough momentum to launch me back into a society that moves at a different speed. Two days ago I was clutching to the back of a motorbike while it flew through heavy traffic, passing with only inches to spare between bigger vehicles, running red lights, and generally spending as much time in the wrong lane as possible. My driver and cohort was oblivious to my terror. I decided, as I felt the heat of another car’s brake lights on my knee as we swerved around it, that if I survived this journey I would write about it. Thus, you have the above. For I did survive, and in doing so I’ve discovered that I much prefer being the operator of fast and deadly vehicles, not the helpless passenger.

Despite said dangers, our unfaithful steed bore us to Penang National Park, where we trekked into the dense monkey-infested jungle and arrived, at great length and covered in sweat, on a fairly private beach pocked with massive crab holes.… Read More

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Same Same, But Different

Current Location: Pulau Langkawi, Malaysia
Current  Weather: 90°F (feels like 107°F)
Days Gone: 161
Days Remaining: 55

First off we have a tiny bit of business to attend to. If anyone has clicked the Donate link to the right, they have seen that donations are not intended to go to me, but instead to the Wanderlust Lending Team at Kiva.org. For Kiva’s 5-Year Anniversary they are offering a $25 loan credit to anyone who invites five people. If you’ve considered lending before, now is the best time because you can your $25 donation would actually contribute $30! You can read more about Kiva at their website or on the Donate page here. If you are interested in participating, send a quick email to twocents.wanderlust@gmail.com with the subject line “Kiva.” I’ll send you an invite within 24 hours. Just keep in mind that the offer expires at the end of October. You can still join after that time, of course, but Kiva will no longer be offering additional loan credit. Now on to the travel stuff.

I escaped Cambodia the very same day my visa expired, which seems to be a bad habit I’ve formed. But last minute escapes are cinematic, no?… Read More

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Slow Migrations

Current Location: Siem Reap, Cambodia
Current  Weather: 86°F (feels like 94°F)
Days Gone: 143
Days Remaining: 73

I move a lot. Since landing in Bangkok all those months ago, I have spent my nights in over 50 different places, including buses, trains, boats, and even a cargo ship. Due to its small size, spending a month in Cambodia has given me a sort of reprieve. This isn’t to say that Cambodia doesn’t offer many destinations, I just don’t really need another French-inspired river town at the moment. I’m good on jungles and I’ve got more islands in my near future. So I spent a solid ten days recharging my batteries in Sihanoukville, often by having food delivered to me poolside and enjoying a $10 per day lifestyle. Now I am loitering in Siem Reap, probably until my visa expires, and spending even less. Here I have discovered a new and unique type of lifestyle: routine. Back home, I always did my best to avoid routine – it’s bland, conventional, and boring. It’s the rut we’re all stuck in. But I have discovered a valuable exception to this rule.

A routine is only unfulfilling when someone else is writing the schedule.… Read More

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To Hold the Bones of the Dead

Current Location: Sihanoukville. Cambodia
Current  Weather: 88°F (feels like 95°F)
Days Gone: 124
Days Remaining:92

I really hate to gloss over the scuba diving in Nha Trang, the sand dunes of Mue Ne, and the electric chaos of Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), but such is the way of blogging. I had an illness, anyway, in HCMC, which closely resembled a cold but that I’m sure was the result of bad quail eggs found in a few street-vendor steamed buns. Also, spending half a night sleeping on a wooden bench while waiting for the bus did not help my situation. At the end of this series of events I found myself crouch running the length of an American football field through the Cu Chi Tunnels with a stuffed up nose. My quadriceps still have not totally forgiven me for this sin. On the upside, I did manage to divert two separate but very organized attempts to rob me. After a bit of research, I have discovered these attempts were made by members of the Filipino Mafia. So that’s exciting.

I have since crossed my third land border into my fourth country: Cambodia. I spent a few nights in Phnom Penh, the capital, in a cheap room which undoubtedly used to be a kitchen.… Read More

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The Eye of the Storm

Current Location: Nha Trang, Vietnam
Current  Weather: 87
°F (feels like 101°F)
Days Gone: 115
Days Remaining: 101

I am now past the halfway point in this seven month journey. The halfway point, an instant in time like any other. Yet it is a time that begs the past to be weighed against the future, and all the while I sit in the present holding the scales. I’ve seen giant waterfalls and caves and mountains and beaches. I’ve been part of the street-side mayhem in capital cities and I’ve enjoyed the serenity of nowhere. I can flag down a local bus, barter in local currency, and eat elbow to elbow and knee to knee with locals despite having only a smile in common. I can sleep peacefully with a giant spider in the room. I can bathe in the rain. I have excreted sweat in a greater volume in the last hundred days that I have in my entire life. I have suffered swollen feet and bug bites and conjunctivitis. I have eaten a great quantity of bugs. But I have looked into the eyes and minds and hearts of countless individuals, and I have seen truths that press laughter or pain or hope or fear directly into my soul.… Read More

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A City in the Clouds

Current Location: Sapa, Vietnam
Current  Weather: 70
°F (feels like winter to me)
Days Gone: 101
Days Remaining: 115

Not until Sapa has an offer of, “hey mate, ya wanna grab a beer,” escalated into such an eventful and multicultural experience. I had arrived in a daze at sunrise after taking a night train to Lao Cai (on the Chinese border) and then a minibus onward, so I passed out immediately upon finding a bed. After sleeping into the afternoon, I wandered to the open window to discover that Sapa truly was a City in the Clouds. Mist shrouded mountains descended into green waves of rice paddies, with spots of clouds floating both above and below. I wandered the town for a while to get my bearings and was followed all the while by a persistent entourage of ethnic minorities attempting to sell me handicrafts. When I returned to my hotel (which luckily offered an affordable dorm room) I met a dread-locked hippie who had been living in Sapa for two months. He was just heading out for a drink and invited me to join him. I soon found myself in the company of a handful of other foreigners who had found themselves “stuck” in the wondrous mountain frontier.… Read More

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How to Stop Time in the 4,000 Islands

Current Location: Hanoi, Vietnam
Current  Weather: 90
°F (feels like 107°F)
Days Gone: 92
Days Remaining: 124

I have great difficulty doing nothing for extended periods of time. That is, stretches of inactivity almost always leave me anxious and craving some sort of creative outlet or physical exertion. I attribute this to the passing of time, which I’ve always seen as incredibly valuable, something not to be “wasted.” The longer I idle, the need for movement increases exponentially. But I found a place where time stands still. I idled for a full week on Don Det, one of the 4,000 Islands in Southern Laos, and during that time I craved nothing. The following is a passage I wrote while still on the island, outside of time’s grasp; perhaps it will help to explain the phenomenon.

My time here is spent reading, or thinking, or eating, or speaking. We do not multitask. Every morning begins with the croaking guffaw of a rooster, the giggles of children, the thudding of boat engines crawling up and downstream, pushing canoes of people with destinations. We do not feel the pull of time. Our daily decision is what to eat. Everything else is determined by the weather.Read More

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How to Sleep on the Floor of a Bus

Current Location: Pakse, Laos
Current  Weather: 83
°F (feels like 90°F)
Days Gone: 78
Days Remaining: 138

My exit from Vientiane was far from graceful. During the three days I was there I managed to see every nook and cranny of the central city, including their Arc de Triomphe replica (still the tallest structure in the city) and Xieng Khuan (Spirit City), a park which is crammed with sculptures of Buddhist and Hindu deities and some weird shamanistic stuff as well. I also grabbed my Vietnam visa from the embassy, as Vietnam is the only Southeast Asian country that does not provide visas at the border. Punks. Because my 7 AM bus was canceled or full (difficult to discern with the language barrier) I was moved to the 7 PM V.I.P Sleeper Bus to Hanoi, which would drop me off in Lak Sao, one small city away from my goal of Ban Khoun Kham (my base camp to visit the epic Kong Lo Cave). As it turned out, the sleeper bus was also full, and I was given a dirty pillow and directed to a spot on the floor in the aisle. Let me clarify, a sleeper bus is a bus with three rows of beds.
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Fear and Loathing in Vang Vieng

Current Location: Vientiane, Laos
Current  Weather: 79
°F (feels like 85°F)
Days Gone: 70
Days Remaining: 146

Vang Vieng is, without a doubt, one of the strangest, most mystical cities I have ever visited. Equal parts decadence and depravity, Vang Vieng is a city that exists outside of the real world. It is Never Never Land. It is Paradise Found. It is Sodom and Gomorrah. I spent a week there. This is not a tale of cultural encounters, nor of Asian delicacies, nor of philanthropy. This is a tale of the raging Nam Song river, the makeshift bars that line it, and the drunken tourists who ride the current on inflatable tubes. Everything in Vang Vieng is backwards. The town, funded almost entirely by a tourism influx that began in the 1980’s, is mafia run. The tourists come for tubing. The mafia controls the tubes. This is a town where one can walk into a bar and buy narcotics off a menu. Yes, most bars (both on and off the river) offer a “special menu” (an actual laminated menu) off which one can choose to order his marijuana in a brownie, or her magic mushrooms in a milkshake.… Read More

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