December 31, 2007

December 2007

Highlights: Where do I begin? I got to spend five flawless days with best friends Josh and Justin in Denver. We got up to no good and managed to get kicked out of a ski resort. It was wonderful. For Christmas, we left the sun to spend five days with our families. BTW - The last minute plane tickets were purchased just after watching the ridiculously sentimental "Family Stone." It was a great celebration and a much needed time with family. I even squeezed in a delicious breakfast with an old professor (old works both ways). :)

All in all, 2007 was one of our best years.

December Films:
  • Fred Clause - 5/10
  • The Savages - 6/10
  • Juno - 8/10
  • Atonement - 7/10
  • I Am Legend - 3/10
  • Charlie Wilson's War - 6/10
  • National Treasure - 2/10
  • Dan in Real Life - 5/10
  • The Kite Runner - 7/10

    December Reading:
  • Cat's Cradle - 6/10 - Kurt Vonnegut
  • Me Talk Pretty One Day - 3/10 - David Sedaris
  • What is the What - 8/10 - Dave Eggars
  • LA Times - Thursday to Sunday
  • Time/Rolling Stone

    December Miles:
  • 102.2 miles or 3.29 mpd
  • December 21, 2007

    I wanted all things
    To seem to make some sense,
    So we all could be happy, yes,
    Instead of tense.
    And I made up lies
    So that they all fit nice,
    And I made this sad world
    A par-a-dise

    - Cat's Cradle, Kurt Vonnegut, 90

    December 11, 2007

    There was a quotation from the Books of Bokonon on the page before me. Those words leapt from the page and into my mind, and they were welcomed there.

    The words were a paraphrase of the suggestion by Jesus: “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s.”

    Bokonon’s paraphrase was this:

    “Pay not to attention to Caesar. Caesar doesn’t have the slightest idea what’s really going on.”

    - Cat’s Cradle, Kurt Vonnegut, 73

    December 3, 2007

    Gym Euphoria

    You want to hear something true and only semi-related to the rest of this post? I have never, ever, regretted going to the gym. Not once have I walked out the gym doors after a workout and thought to myself, “Well, that was a waist of time.” (For the record, I always feel this way after eating ice cream, sitting on the Internet for too long or after paying to watch Pirates of the Caribbean 3 a few months ago.)

    I like going to the gym. I especially like enduring the sweat and smells at night - late at night - when very few 24-hour fitness patrons are visible. I feel like I have the place to myself. The pool is calm. There are fewer people around to see how little I can actually bench press. And I can hop on the stair climber without waiting in line. It’s like an after hours party at Disney World. But the real benefit about coordinating my workout with Conan’s opening monologue is that I see more obese people at night. And for a variety of reasons, this always gives me pleasure in a classic bittersweet sort of way. Bitter because you don’t see these people during busy hours. I assume at least some come at night to fight off insecurities and stares. But sweet in that there is something inspiring about seeing a middle age fat guy running his ass off on a treadmill.

    I admire these people who have somehow managed over the years to get in over their head. I admire the way they run and lift and sweat. And I’m glad they come at night.

    November 30, 2007

    November 2007

    Let's try this out. At the end of each month, I'll post something personal - a recap of the months activities and some stats. It's a nice way for me to save information, but will no doubt be mundane for most of you. And you'll be subjected to my scrupulous data collecting (though I will spare you data on each item of food that I digested over the past thirty days). Read at your own risk.

    Highlights: My sister Joni and her hubby Mike came to visit over Thanksgiving. We ate, watched movies and all out relaxed. We pretty much did the same thing with best friends Paul and Brooke Kind who were out visiting just after the Holiday. Though we did manage to squeeze in a quick trip to the mountains and play scrabble at a clip of three games per day. Both visits were perfect.

    November Films:
  • American Gangster - 6/10
  • Before The Devil Knows - 5/10
  • We Own the Night - 7/10
  • Darfur Now - 5/10
  • No Country for Old Men - 9/10
  • I'm Not There - 4/10
  • Mr. Magoriums - 8/10
  • Enchanted - 5/10
  • 3:10 To Yuma - 10/10

    November Reading:
  • The Catcher In the Rye - 9/10 - JD Salinger
  • The Perks of Being A Wallflower - 8/10 - Stephen Chbosky
  • The Year of Living Biblically - 5/10 - AJ Jacbobs
  • Bird By Bird - 6/10 - Anne Lamott
  • LA Times - Thursday to Sunday
  • Time/Rolling Stone

    November Miles:
  • 119.20 miles or 3.97 mpd - This includes biking, walking and stair climbing at the gym.
  • November 14, 2007

    Last month it was Avenged Sevenfold. Next month it's David Gray and B.B. King. But two nights ago it was Rob Bell. A preacher. From the Midwest.

    I doubt the famous Wiltern Theatre on Wilshire has ever experienced so many white, middle-class patrons in it's seventy-six years of existence. There were no mosh pits or banging heads or black fingernails. What you did have was a clan of black-rimmed glasses filing into their seats with Promise Keepers like precision and order.

    We packed in - all 2200 of us - to hear Rob Bell speak...or teach, or whatever "The God's Aren't Angry" tour would bring to us. The anticipation was obvious. Cheers went up as the lights went down. One guy in the third row even opened his laptop to take notes. I felt like I was getting ready to experience some yuppie John Mayer type concert, except instead of a drum set and guitars on stage there was an alter.

    Rob Bell has become famous for well deserved reasons. One, his methods are usually unconventional and sometimes controversial. He started a new Church and spent the first year preaching long winded yet profound sermons on the blood and guts of Leviticus. He speaks from controversial books like Honest to God and even did a series on the environment. And his latest book is called Sex God, which incidentally isn't about my friend in High School named Sam. Two, he's a tremendous communicator. He possesses an uncanny ability to assess audiences. Even his pauses and pronunciation seem almost flawless.

    The tour's subtitle states the following: "Part anthropology, part history, part deconstruction - this is new material that Rob hasn't taught before, exploring how humans invented religion to make themselves feel better."

    He walks out on stage wearing all black, shirt sleeves rolled up and New Balance walkers. He was greeted to an anxious-riddled cheer and then dove straight in. And 103 minutes later he finished to a standing ovation and walked off the stage. No q&a, no encore, no book signing. I liked the simplicity of the night.

    What disappointed me was how much the tour subtitle didn't match the talk. I thought he might actually address the age old question as to why humans need religion. I hoped that he would explore the common human experience of creating Gods to understand the world, and by linking the past to the present, help us better understand faith today. Instead I received a devotional voicing the same old ideas in a newer package wrapped in a art-deco theatre with a hipster ribbon. And if this was simply another inspirational devotional, then what's the point? His talks every Sunday at Mars Hill receive thousands of downloads. Why didn't he share this devotional at his Church and let everyone download them for free, saving all of us $24?

    November 9, 2007

    Kari and I made a major deal yesterday that will last for the next seven days.

    SHE GETS: A daily seven minute massage. I GET: Free from doing dishes.

    The following rules apply:
    a. The massage will take place at the time it is asked for.
    b. Dishes are to be done regularly, no end of day pile up.
    c. No whining about dishes is allowed.
    d. The massage has to be done with effort.

    Who do you think got the better deal?

    November 5, 2007

    So I'm reading a book called The Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs. For the book, Jacobs (an agnostic-by-choice) devotes an entire year to living out every rule of the Bible. New Testament and Old. And I mean every last law - from stoning adulterers to avoiding contact with his wife for seven days following her menstrual discharge. Okay, the writing is mediocre and it feels a little publicity-stuntish, but it's an experiment I find interesting, especially from someone who seems to be giving it a fair shot. I especially liked the honesty and subtle profoundness of his thoughts after month three:

    "As I mentioned in the introduction, one of the reasons that I embarked on this experiment was to take legalism to its logical extreme and show that it leads to religious idiocy...If you actually follow all the rules, you'll spend your days acting like a crazy person. I still believe that. And I still plan on making a complete fool of myself to get this point across. But as with everything involving religion, my project has become much more complicated. The spiritual journey now takes up far more of my time.

    My friend Roger was right. It's not like studying Sumo wrestling in Japan. It's more like wrestling itself. This opponent of mine is sometimes beautiful, sometimes cruel, sometimes ancient, sometimes crazily relevant. I can't get a handle on it."

    If words aren't a compelling enough reason to pick up this book, maybe a before and after shot of the author will be:

    October 18, 2007

    I never expected to feel this way, but I guess it was inevitable.

    It was two hundred and sixteen days out in the world and another thirty days in Middle America before we returned home. And in regards to the world vs. home, that's roughly half a year of trying to forget about home and then another couple of months trying to remember.

    As you can imagine, I greatly anticipated syncing back up with Los Angeles. LA meant a city I halfway understood, home meant my own familiar apartment, and a living space meant having a refrigerator again. I eagerly looked forward to sipping wine with people that I had known for longer than an hour. So assuming a breezy transition back into normal life would await me on arrival, I hadn't given home much more thought. Struggle was not something I would have foreseen. But I forgot that life in America moves at the speed of sound, that here we have an innate propensity to accomplish. I guess the world of adult responsibility sort of escapes you after so many months of doing whatever the hell you want.

    In these early days, I find myself stumbling into this new (old) world. My capacity for everyday tasks is far less than it used to be, almost as if every day my body and mind turn off at a certain point, even though I still need to find a cell phone plan and buy a kitchen table. I wrote a post in Turkey about how I felt busy while digging a hole in the sand and ended it with a joke about how I'd have to let you know how it goes when I get to LA. Well, this is how it goes.

    So now as I relearn the burden of obligation, I find myself nostalgic at every turn. Like when my cell phone rings and I grudgingly wish that I couldn’t be found at every single moment of my day. Or how nice it would be to read for hours on end without distractions like bills and the Internet. But the most remarkable nostalgia, the time when everything about the trip comes into focus, is when I'm sitting on the toilet longing for the days when I had to throw my TP into the trashcan.

    It seems finding my rhythm is going to take a while. In the meantime, I'll be posting a commentary of sorts here at jackatrandom – the one thing I did then that I can do now.

    September 12, 2007


    [Before I get to the mildly lame climax, I wanted to let you know that I will be starting a new website where I'll be writing a cultural, political and religious commentary of sorts. When it's ready, I'll be posting a link on this site. Please check back infrequently over the next few weeks to find it.]

    Okay. We're home.

    I've thought about writing this final post many times over the past seven months - pondering the intricacies of wrapping up an entire trip in just a paragraph. Each time I've given my mind to going home, I've gotten emotional. How can I possibly sum up what this epic adventure has met to us? The more I've thought about it, the more certain I am that I am just not sure how this once-in-a-decade trip has changed us or made us more complete - and I doubt you'll want to come back around Christmas when I can reflect with greater clarity. So today I'm afraid there is nothing substantial to leave you with, except that I'm glad we did it.

    What I really wanted to convey in this last post is our sincere gratitude to you, our readers. We started this website as a way to chronicle our travels - we had no idea it would turn into a sources for happiness. It gave us routine when we needed it. It connected us to home when we felt so far removed. And it connected us to you - family and friends with whom we loved sharing this trip. Your comments and emails gave us fuel when we needed it most. So we say thanks, over and over, for making this trip more than we could have hoped.

    We would love to hear from all of you - whether you followed our journey entirely, just for certain countries, or even for a short time. If you have a second, we'd love to hear from you via a comment below.

    All of our pictures are here.

    September 10, 2007

    Day 216 - Mexico City, MEXICO

    [a. Stay tuned for one final summary post after this one - sure to be full of emotion and gratitude. b. In less than seventy-two hours, Mexico City has managed to take our number one spot on the best cities list. With subway rides for .20 cents, neighborhoods like New York, architecture reminiscent of Europe and tacos for a dollar, how could it not be?]

    Some of the following stats defined our trip (see 1,4,6) while others are just, well, stats.

    1. HOURS OF LAND TRAVEL: 539 - In total, we spent 22 full days on buses, trains and other random modes of public transportation. That's 1/6 of all our waking hours. This stat more than any other, perhaps, made our trip what it was. Seeing each country from the ground, mile after mile, bump after bump, will be some of our most memorable moments.

    2. TOTAL SPENDING: $17,874 - Most people want to know what it costs to spend 216 days traveling around the world. Well, now you least in our case. This figure includes every last penny we spent including: health insurance ($1156), plane tickets ($4904) and everything else ($11814).

    3. NUMBER OF COUNTRIES VISITED: 13 - We have now land traveled in 27 countries or roughly 12% of the world. Our new world map of countries visisted now looks like this:

    4. NUMBER OF BOOKS READ: 36 - Leg one reading here. Leg two here. The latest reading from leg three includes:
    Garbageland - 2 stars - Elizabeth Royte
    Middlesex - 4 stars - Jeffrey Eugenides
    Chuck Klosterman IV - 2 stars - Chuck Klosterman
    A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again - 3 stars - D.F. Wallace
    Kaaterskill Falls - 2 stars - Alegra Goodman
    The History of Love - 4 stars - Nicole Krausse
    Shampoo Planet - 2 stars - Douglas Coupland
    The Razor's Edge - 2 stars - W. Somerset Maugham

    5. WEBSITE HITS: 28,451

    6. TOTAL DAYS TRAVELED: 216 - Hong Kong to Mexico City - February 6. 2007 through September 10. 2007

    7. MAP OF LEG THREE TRAVELS: - 35 Days, 7 Countries, 92 Hrs By Bus

    September 1, 2007

    Day 213 - Oaxaca, MEXICO

    As we bear down on the world´s third largest city and our final destination, we have been making a ´best of´ from the last seven months. Enjoy...

    1. Turkey
    2. Thailand
    3. Nepal
    4. China
    5. Mexico

    1. Mexico City, Mexico
    2. Istanbul, Turkey
    3. Antalya, Turkey
    4. Pokhara, Nepal
    5. Hanoi, Vietnam

    1. Delhi, India
    2. Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam
    3. San Salvador, El Salvador

    1. Sihanoukville, Cambodia
    2. Puerto Escondido, Mexico
    3. Bocas Del Toro, Panama
    4. Krabi, Thailand

    1. Bamboo Rafting - Thailand
    2. Motorbike Riding around the Mekong Delta - Vietnam
    3. Lagoon Hike - Thailand
    4. Thai New Year Water Fight - Thailand
    5. Cappadocia Hike - Turkey

    1. Angkor Wat, Cambodia
    2. Himalayas, Nepal
    3. Great Wall, China
    4. Cappadocia, Turkey

    1. Sunrise @ Poon Hill - Nepal
    2. Kari´s Nearly Broken Back - Mexico
    3. India - India

    1. Spicy Chicken w/ Peanuts - $2 - Beijing
    2. Grilled Meat w/ Sticky Rice - $2 - Anywhere, Thailand
    3. Vegetarian Sizzle - $3 - OR2K Restaurant, Kathmandu
    4. Tavuk SiS - $3 - Anywhere, Turkey

    1. Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand
    2. Middlesex - Jeffrey Eugenides
    3. The History of Love - Nicole Krauss
    4. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close - Jonathon Foyer
    5. All Families Are Psychotic - Douglas Coupland

    *After dropping large amounts of cash on canyoning, white water rafting, zip-lining, etc, only the nearly free made the list of best adventures.
    Day 211 - Puerto Escondido, MEXICO

    Before and After, Beginning and End

    February 5, 2007 -

    September 5, 2007 -

    August 31, 2007

    Day 206 - Puerto Escondido, MEXICO

    If you were to take a road trip, and I mean a really big one, say from New York to San Francisco, you would probably make a few strategic pit stops on the way. For instance, you might (if you were me) stop and linger at one of those wonderfully multi-faceted toll plazas off the Pennsylvania Turnpike. You might also slide off Interstate 80 long enough to catch a Cubs game at Wrigley, argueably the best field in America. You definitely wouldn´t miss a side trip in the Lake Tahoe region for some hiking. And when you arrived at the Pacific, 2904 miles after you left the Atlantic, you´d be satisfied. (Despite a new found hatred for the entire state of Nebraska.) But what this metaphor (hooray for symbolism!) is really about is all that you missed - like a stop to gawk at the squeaky clean streets (and people) of Salt Lake City or a detour in Des Moines to search for Bill Bryson´s childhood home, among countless other sites. Yet as you sit on a beach near San Francisco, facing a disappearing sun, the lot you missed no longer really matters.

    And so it is with us.

    As we sit on our beach in Southern Mexico, having barrelled through Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala in under four weeks, what we skipped is irrelevant. What mattered most was the open road and every mile we personally experienced along the way.

    August 26, 2007

    Day 201 - San Salvador, EL SALVADOR

    The first question we asked ourselves upon arriving in El Salvador´s capital, the uniquely named San Salvador, was one we didn´t expect. "Are we in America?" Kari asked as we stood at an intersection that featured a Wendy's, Burger King, Blockbuster Video and Texaco gas station. Even the countries currency is the US Dollar, including quarters and pennies, and the public transportation relies heavily on those hand-me-down yellow and orange American school buses made by Bluebird. (Which, incidentally, are made in Canada. How far South will these yellow buses go?)

    The question that we thought we'd be asking on arrival was "Are we safe?" - which is a completely valid question when you cosider that El Salvador has a strong reputation as the most dangerous place in Central America. And there is no doubt evidence of that danger here. Our bus from the Honduran border was stopped at four police checkpoints (more than Panama, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua combined), most places in the city are surrounded by that war-zone looking barbwire fence and even, get this, mall security guards carry shotguns.

    Of course, we are in the capital where everything is magnified and where these two questions can be asked simultaneously on any street corner in the city. But as I sit down to my second Wendy's Frosty since Christmas, I have to be honest with you, I'm not that fussed about answering either of them.

    August 23, 2007

    Day 198 - San Juan Del Sur, NICARAGUA

    [Crossing the border from Costa Rica to Nicaragua echoed our passing from Thailand to Cambodia. Developing to Surviving. Decades of peace to a history of violence. Plump dogs to rib-cage-visible street scavengers. Recycling bins to trash-lined rivers. And much like Cambodia, we still love it.]

    As we've now been on the road for 198 days, we've begun reminiscing. The people we've spent time with along the way hold their own vivid place in our memories. Our English friends in China, our Aussie companion in Vietnam, our LA crew in Thailand. We spent Panama and Costa Rica with family, and now we're sharing Nicaragua moments with old college friends.

    As for everyone else, here are some gross generalizations of those we met along the way. Please take note that the following is always true.

    Canadians: Socially awkward. We could usually tell a 'friend from the North' in a few minutes as they couldn't stop talking and always seemed to have the insecurities of a less successful sibling.

    British: The English take home the prize for endless whining. I actually heard one Brit say about a certain beach they went to, "It was so great because none of the locals we're allowed."

    French: Yes, they actually lived up to their stereotype. Rude and snooty. We actually watched a French couple ditch out on their restuarant bill because the food wasn´t good enough.

    South Koreans: One word: BORING.

    Israelis: Two words: STONED. LOUD.

    Australians/New Zealanders: Though I would get shot by either of these groups if they ever found out I grouped them together, they both always had a "give it a go" attitude. Whether it was another drink or eating frog legs, they would always try.

    Americans: Without a doubt the most overly enthusiastic and un-informed people on earth. We were constantly mocked for thinking that everything we did was the "best ever." And we often met isolated American's who didn't have a clue about their own country, let alone the rest of the world. Even personally, we often felt many Europeans knew more about our country than we did.

    A few more photos here.

    August 19, 2007

    Day 194 - Santa Elena, COSTA RICA
    [Interesting fact #482: Costa Rica was the first place in the world to abolish it's army - which so far has spelled PEACE.]

    La Pura Vida (translated as The Pure Life) is Costa Rica's well earned catch phrase. This is a country of beautiful coasts, diverse rain forests, and active volcanoes, with an entire quarter of the landscape protected by law from developement. Signs line each tourist street for eco-tourism and adventure sports. The lakes are clean, the water is drinkable, and there is virtually no trash anywhere. It's sort of like being in Florida without the old people. Our adventures included:

    *Zip-lining through the jungle in Monteverde. On some lines, we hung 425 feet over the forest floor.
    *Canyoning near Volcan Arenal in La Fortuna. Repelling 300 feet down through waterfalls.

    August 14, 2007

    Day 190 - La Fortuna, COSTA RICA

    So the other night I was sitting in our hostel reading Garbageland. It was late, maybe 1am, when an Irishman walked in and started chatting with me. We began, as all conversations do, by discussing whether Pol Pot's regime was worse than Hitler's. As it was the kind of conversation that can only be had when many unique variables exist (an Irishman, Passports stamped with Cambodia, the early morning hour), I was happy to put down my book.

    A few minutes later, a twenty five year-old American from Albany strolled into our conversation. He wore his hat backwards and boasted a beard somewhere between full and patchy. I knew early on from his comments that he probably hadn't been out much, which only became more apparent when he shared his plans of exporting live frogs (which he had captured from the rainforest that day) from Panama into the USA through the US Postal Service.

    It was maybe an hour later when the Irishman asked me who I thought would win the 2008 Presidential Election. While I was formulating an answer in my brain (Do I mention Gore as a long shot or Guillani as a fear monger?), the college educated frog exporter blurts out,

    "Well, I just don't know how Bush won't win again."

    The Irishman, perplexed, asked, "I thought Bush couldn't win again?"

    I assured him quickly, "Yes, he was falsely elected once and miraculously elected twice. But thankfully, because of the 22nd Amendment, he can only serve two terms."

    To which the American blurted, "Well, it's not like we're gonna vote for a woman or a black. I just think Bush won't have any competition."

    "No," I said in complete bewilderment, "Bush can't be President again. It's not possible."

    "Well, whatever. I just don't think Bush can lose." My eyes met the Irishman's and we exchanged a nod that was understood in no uncertain terms.

    Our night with stupidity was capped off beautifully, around 4am, when the Irishman asked what volcano's were worth visiting in Central America.

    My brilliant fellow citizen broke from his daze just long enough to say, "Peru. I think they have great volcano's up there."

    August 12, 2007

    Day 187 - Bocas Del Toro, PANAMA

    Julie and I managed to get stuck in the second place that we ventured to. And it seems that everyone else does as well. A girl from our hostel came to Bocas Del Toro ten months ago and hasn't left. A Floridian stopped here on his world trip and is still here. He arrived in 2005. It won't be quite as dramatic for us, but we did manage to turn two days into five.

    The Bocas del Toro Archipelago is on the Caribbean side of Panama, almost touching Costa Rica. We've been spending our days kayaking, hiking, biking, swimming and eating our fair share of local Caribbean dishes. A few shots with our less-than-adequate camera...

    August 8, 2007

    Day 184 - Bocas Del Toro, PANAMA

    [Thanks for your patience - I understand these last few days without a post have not been easy for you. :) Since Turkey, we have been on a whirlwind schedule of flights and layovers, but rest assured, better updates (and pictures!) are coming soon!]

    While Kari is at our best friend's wedding this week (and the biggest College reunion in history), I flew on ahead to Central America to meet my sister Julie. Tomorrow morning we cross into Panama where I (and Kari soon to join me) will begin the long journey home through Central America, Mexico and the USA.
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    July 31, 2007

    Day 147 - Istanbul

    Beloved Turkey, where have you been my whole life?

    Okay, not quite, but that's how we felt upon arriving in İstanbul to a new world full of paved streets, clean air and modern structures. After five months in developing nations (and in light of our last post), you can imagıne our excitement. I think our second wind came precisely at the moment we entered our first public bathroom. It was void of flies, stocked with toilet paper, had a sink (with soap!) and the best part of all - the toilet was the kind that you can actually sit down on. I must have spent an hour in the there.

    A few notes on Istanbul:

    *We traveled through Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran and Iraq to get to here. And by through I mean in reclining seats at 36,000 feet. And on the exit row I might add.

    *We have walked seven miles a day over the past three days, which is around eighteen miles more than we walked in all of Indıa.

    *Today we traveled by ferry across the Bosphorus Straight to visit the beautiful Princess Islands - the famous straight seperates Europe from Asıa. We were back in Europe by the evening.

    *Istanbul is rather incredible. The Blue Mosque and Hagai Sofia were surprisingly more impressive than the Taj Mahal; the waterways, cobblestone streets and hills make Istanbul feel like a cross between Stockholm, San Francisco and Sydney. The people are absolutely wonderful - always helpful, kind and seemingly without alterior motives.

    They say Turkey is the Gateway to the East, but for us it is a much welcomed Gateway to the West.
    Day 151 - Selcuk, Ephesus

    Our five days in Istanbul were incredible. We visited most of the sites, took a day trip out to the Princes Islands, drank wine with other travelers on our hostel's rooftop terrace and ate meat for the first time since Thailand (we went vegetarian in Nepal and India).

    Beyoglu's Main Street

    Blue Mosque

    Fisherman on the Galata Bridge

    Inside the Hagia Sofia

    Our Hostel's Rooftop Terrace

    A few more photo's of Istanbul, the Princes Islands and other sites can be seen here. Photo's of the Taj Mahal are here.

    July 29, 2007

    Day 153 - Selcuk, Ephesus

    Usually when something bills itself as the "biggest" or "best" in the world (or in Florida or Europe, etc), there's a good chance it's going to be crap. Like pretty much anything you see advertised while road tripping across Interstate 80. Or the Yankees. It's not just a place's inflated view of itself that gets you in trouble, it's the expectations such advertising raises. Even a nice hotel can be disapointing when it was advertised as the world's finest.

    So you can imagine our cynisism as we pulled into Atilla's Getaway, which hails itself as "one of the best hostels in Europe." Lying in Southwest Turkey, a few miles outside of Selcuk and just steps away from the ruins of Ephesus, Atilla's boasts a swimming pool, great food and a perfect place to meet other travelers. We coldly figured that it probably once was a great hostel, say in the Clinton Era, that the pool would be filthy and dinner's would be feel rather lonely. These are just the sort of problems we learned to expect from Asia or any place that hails itself as the best.

    We couldn't have been more wrong.

    This place actually is a desert oasis. The pool is a temperature perfect 75 degrees. The showers have hot water every hour of the day. The food is delicious. The staff constantly goes out of their way for guests. The rooms are tidy. And in the evening it's packed full of travelers. It just might be the best place we've stayed in over five months of traveling.

    Swimming Pool

    Fountain (our room in background)


    Backpacker "Living Room"

    If you're interested in our photos from Selcuk and Ephesus, a few more can be seen here.
    Day 156 - Fethiye

    It's an all out British invasion here in Fethiye. So much so that many restaurants and hotels state their prices in the English Pound. But there's a good reason why so many English and European's are flocking to Turkey - as far as ideal holidays go, Turkey is hard to beat. The weather is flawless and the scenery is breathtaking, but ıt's the endless opportunities for excursions that really sets this country apart.

    In the morning we spend our time visiting B.C. dated ruins, architectual masterpieces or natural wonders. In the afternoon we do nothing but lay on a beach and swim in crystal clear water. It's almost perfect - if only we could afford to eat in the restaurants. Bloody English Pound.

    Here's a sample from our last three days:

    The Travertines were an amazing spot where water dissolves into a pure white calcium and has (over the last two millennia) formed cascades of white on a desert mountain:

    We spent a day taking the 12-Island Cruise Around the Mediterranean:

    The Karaköy Ghost Town was formely a home to thousands of Greeks until the town was completely vacated in 1924 in a people exchange between Greece and Turkey:

    More photos can be seen here.

    July 27, 2007

    Day 160 - Antalya

    [A few mostly dismissive notes: 1. Since our arrival in Turkey we have scarfed down 46 Döner Kebabs ($2.00 each), 25lbs of cherries (1lb = $1.25) and 30lbs of grapes (1lb = $1.00). 2. After 160 days of ear cleaning, I used my last Q-tip today. Which is only noteworthy because I must have packed 400. 3. For the first time on our trip, we have been asked for directions from locals. And as a pay back for all the wrong directions we got in India, I confidently point the locals in a random direction.]

    July 26, 2007

    Day 163 - Antalya

    [Our camera broke. It could be three weeks before some wonderfully mediocre photos surface again.]

    So we were talking about this website the other day. I was complaining to Kari about how I wished I had more hours to work on some post ideas that have been rattling through my brain. I explained that in Nepal and India I simply had more time to write and how, in Turkey, we were just way too busy for me to give the appropriate amount of time that each post deserves. And then I realized where we were and what I was doing at the moment this conversation took place.

    We were sitting Indian style on a long pebbly beach with aqua Mediterranean water lapping up to our feet, and I was digging a hole to see how far down the pebbles went.

    This realization and the laughter that ensued led to a further discussion about how when you're traveling, the term 'busy' takes on a whole new meaning. At home, being busy for us means a long day of work and a list of to-dos that runs into the double digits. But out here on the road, being busy might mean a special trip to the Post Office for stamps or a two-hour bus ride to another town. It's nearly impossible for the traveler to be busy. We don't have jobs and we live out of a backpack. The only purchases we need to make are for necessities like sunscreen and toothpaste. And the only to-do list we have require such little effort that it can usually be accomplished in under thirty minutes.

    So I was digging a hole the other day and felt busy. I'll let you how it goes when we get back to Los Angeles.

    July 25, 2007

    Day 166 - Antalya

    We're suckers for routine.

    The need to be repeat customers. The need to have a normal day void of surprises. The need to not get lost. The need to stay put long enough to know where the best grapes can be purchased.

    So when you find a place as untouristy and cozy as Antalya, you end up staying for a while. We rolled into town a week ago and every day have decided to "just stay one more day." Even more, we have held the same mundane schedule every single day at almost the same exact time every day. Which, in this case, includes the following:

    9am - Eat Breakfast for free at our hotel.
    10 - Spend exactly thirty minutes checking email and news.
    11 - Hit the beach for three hours.
    2pm - Lunch at Antiola's.
    3 - Lay around in our (air conditioned!) room.
    4 - Spend two hours on-line doing whatever we feel like.
    6 - Walk around, buy grapes.
    7 - Tavuk SiS for dinner.
    8 - Walk around some more.
    9 - A bottle of terrible wine and a game of Yatzee.

    Sadly, our routine will soon go into hibernation as tomorrow we get on a bus and travel into the middle of Turkey. Unless, of course, we stay just one more day.

    A few pre-broken camera shots from Antalya:

    A few more here.

    July 24, 2007

    Day 169 - Göröme

    There's a saying that I've been using with increasing frequency the more I see the world. Okay, it's not actually a real saying, as in, 'Your breath could kill a cow,' but I think it has some potential - at least in backpacking circles or maybe an AA style meeting for travelers who can't return to normal life.

    Here it is: Everywhere I go, I'm reminded of somewhere else I've already been.

    Obviously traveling doesn't start out this way. The first travels for anyone are fresh and unique, whether it be a family road trip as a kid, or the college students first romp around Europe. But sooner or later, maybe after twenty States or three continents, the landscape is bound to remind you of somewhere else. And while still holding a not-yet-experienced vibe, the new place loses it's spectactularly unique appeal as it blends together with something else you've seen. The ruins in Cambodia echo the tribal cities of Guatemala. The cliff road on Turkey's Western shore weaves a similar path to the Great Ocean Road in South Australia. Dodger Stadium in LA mirrors Shea Stadium in NYC. Ultimately, this is why the veteran traveler goes farther and deeper into the World, craving an ulimately new and unique experience in places like East Africa or Saudi Arabia. "Europe is boring," they say.

    While we're not planning a trip to Somalia in the near future, the reality of the world blending together is becoming more apparant. And yet for the next week, my ridiculous saying has become wholly irrelevant.

    We've arrived in Cappadocia.

    Our overnight bus approached right on cue, as the sun was rising and dozens of hot-air balloons were all taking flight over Cappodicea's magical mushroom-like stones and colorful valleys full of vineyards and natural wonders. By day we hike and climb through volcanic rock that has been shaped over millenia by water and erosion. We peek in and out of ancient cave dwellings and explore 6,000 year-old underground cities that feature rooms carved eight levels deep into the earth. And at night, we retire to our hotel room, which is in a cave carved into the side of a mountain. Welcome to Never Never Land.

    (All pictures borrowed, of course.)

    July 23, 2007

    Day 175 - Istanbul

    Time Out Istanbul Magazine - June 2007 - Issue 6 - Page 18

    The Cycles of Traveling:

    a) Enchantment - the "WEEE, I'm traveling!!" stage.
    b) Normalcy - the "Here I am, still traveling." stage.
    c) Drudgery - the "Traveling, schmaveling," stage.
    d) Annoyance - the "Why can't anyone do anything right!" stage.
    e) Hope - the "I can always go home if I want to." stage.
    f) Indifference - the "Screw it, I'm used to it, I may as well keep going." stage.
    g) Rediscovery - the "It's not exotic anymore, but it's more interesting now in other ways, and besides, I can always go home." stage.

    While we've skipped a few of these stages, we meet long-term travelers all the time who are working there way through them one by one. The funniest travelers to run into are those in stage d - and they're usually English.

    July 22, 2007

    Day 177 - Istanbul

    The complete reading list for leg 2 of our trip (Nepal - India - Turkey). Leg one reading is here.

    Into Thin Air - John Krakauer - 2 stars
    Life of Pi - Yann Martel - 2 stars
    Popcorn - Ben Elton - 2 stars
    Freakonomics - Stephen Levy - 4 stars

    Miss Wyoming - Douglas Coupland - 2 stars
    The Lost Continent - Bill Bryson - 2 stars
    Hey Nostradamus! - Douglas Coupland - 4 stars
    ...and every issue of Time and Newsweek for two months.

    1968 - Mark Kurlanski - 2 stars
    Made In America - Bill Bryson - 3 stars
    Interpreter of Maladies - Jhumpa Lahiri - 3 stars
    A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius - Dave Eggars - 2 stars
    Primary Colors - Anonymous - 4 stars
    A Season on the Brink - John Feinstein - 3 stars
    Day 179 - In Transit

    [Just a quick word: The following post should not be read as THE final post for our entire trip - this is just the end of the asia leg. There is more still to come.]

    What can I possibly say here that would do justice to the wonderfully epic ride that we've taken through Asia over the past six months?

    Without a pre-conceived agenda, we have explored Asia from her Far Eastern coast clear across to the Bosphorus Straight where we tip-toed on the invisible line that divides Asia from Europe.

    We floated on bamboo rafts through a hail storm in Northern Thailand. We hiked deep into the Himalayas to watch the sun rise over 27,000 feet peaks. We raced the sunset on motorbikes in Vietnam and slept in caves in Turkey. We sprained an ankle on the Great Wall of China and threw up at the Taj Mahal.

    We've endured.

    And while the Asia of our pre-trip imagination mostly existed behind ticket booths with admission fees, the real Asia left us with more than we could imagine. Over the past 179 days we spent 446 hours traveling through the guts of Asia, through her canals and dirt paths, on freeways and back roads, on trains through the country and in every other imaginable way to get from one place to another.

    The bottom line is that we did it. We set out to drift, open to Asia's leading, and that is exactly what we did. And I'm proud of us.


    Turkey Stats:

    - 1,679 Total Miles
    - 49 Hours on a Bus
    - $62 a day (for both of us, every expense included)
    - Days 144-180

    June 16, 2007

    Day 126 - Delhi

    [at the bottom of the page, you can subscribe to this new India page, which means that you'll receive updates by email every time we post something new]

    The journey from Kathmandu to Delhi takes only 120 minutes by air. Almost all travelers take this option, because the alternative involves a taxi, bus, rickshaw, jeep and train, and it takes over forty hours. However, in our [probably foolish] zeal to see the world from the ground, we chose the long option. Just a few hours after I wrote a post about feeling safe in Nepal, we started our journey towards the best place on earth to be a cow. You'll never believe what happened.

    The ten hour bus ride to the Indian border started at 7pm on a barely working local bus. Over the first 120 minutes (the same amount of time it takes to get to Delhi by air), we managed three miles. What they don't tell you when you book your ticket is that, when the bus isn't full, it drives in circles in the Kathmandu traffic picking up extra people. By the time we finally left Kathmandu, the exhaust from the stop-and-go traffic left both of us coughing and desperately trying to hold down our dinner.

    And then it happened.

    A rock hit the back of our bus, breaking the back window. Our teenage bus driver hits the breaks and four other teenagers jump out of the bus and chase down a couple of guys - who they start beating relentlessly. And then, as Kari and I watch helplessly from the two front seats, the crew bring the culprits and the fight onto the bus. It was an all out, face punching, drop kicking brawl, in which I took several accidental blows. One of the culprits even went after the driver, who was speeding around huge mountains curves, putting the entire bus in serious danger. Finally, after a few minutes, we pulled over at a checkpoint where we sat for an hour while some army officials interrogated all parties involved. By 11 pm we had only traveled twenty miles. I asked Kari if this night could get any worse. It did.


    Within a few hours of the fight, and in the middle of the night, we hit a mountain traffic jam. We groaned as the driver turned off the bus and went to sleep. And then we sat, for over an hour, until finally the bus began inching forward. After another thirty minutes we saw and then carefully drove over the problem. A huge mudslide had bulldozed over the road. This time, Kari looked at me and asked if the night could get any worse. I confidently told her that there was nothing worse that could happen to us. Wrong again.

    The rain started slowly but steadily built up to a downpour that wouldn't seem to stop. It was after Kari had finally fell asleep that the rain started coming into the bus. A leak in the window had broken wide open and rain started pouring into our seats, drenching Kari and our backpacks that sat on our laps. And so, for the next eleven hours (yes, the trip ended up taking 17 hours instead of 10) we sat in the wet, re-thinking our commitment to land travel.

    It was a night that we'll never forget and one that we hope to never experience again. Twenty-seven hours after we got off that bus, we arrived in Delhi where it's 112 degrees. Things are looking better.

    June 14, 2007

    Day 132 - Manali

    This place looks just like Northern California.

    Away from India's hot arid plains and over populated cities are the great Himalayas, outfitted with all the elements that make a visit to the mountains so irresistible. Raging white water rivers, Christmas tree perfect pines and snow capped peaks in every direction. If Yosemite had a sister National Park, it would be right here in Northern India.

    And it's among this backdrop, seventeen hours by bus from Delhi, that the town of Manali sits. The once peaceful hideaway was first discovered by hipster backpackers in the 1960's who were looking for a quiet place to get high. To the Hindu Indians, it is a much more sacred place, as this is the spot where Manu, Hinduism's Noah, alighted his boat in order to re-create life after a great flood destroyed the earth. Today, Manali is a bonafide resort town, luring Indian's away the rush of the city and backpackers away from the smells and beeping horns of the city. But while this place looks like Northern California, it feels just like Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

    It's really quite odd when you think about how two towns, on opposite sides of the world, could resemble each other so closely. Both tourist traps embrace endless (and grossly overpriced) souvenir shops, numerous junk food stalls, on the spot cultural shows and other symbols of bad taste. What's even more bizarre is that two separate groups of tourist, with completely different backgrounds, could both enjoy buying tacky trinkets like wooden boats that read "Manu was here." It's like there's an unwritten rule between cultures to find the most beautiful mountain valley around and then build the cheesiest town possible right next door. (I guess if we're afraid to actually go 'into the woods' we have to somehow occupy ourselves while we look at them.) And yet, I have to admit, for all it's circus like atmosphere, it still manages to hold some charm.

    And so this is where we've been spending our days. When we're not roaming the countryside, we're fighting off the urge to buy cotton candy and walking through crowds of happy tourists who are proudly filming their kids buying wooden boats. Really, the only thing this town is missing is a Ripley's Believe It or Not Museum.