Posts Tagged ‘blogging’

I know why I left home early to travel the world, it was to escape my pain and find freedom among strangers. What I realized was that no one I’d left behind was interested in my pain, they envied me for my escape. They thought I was ‘getting one over on them’ and enjoying life more than I deserved. My closest relations envied me for where I’d been and hated me for the stories and scars I’d bring back. The squalid objects in my rucksack were items that disappeared if I let my guard down. I found it hard to believe at first that anyone would covet the talismans of my poverty.

In the earliest days of my traveling ways the people I knew all thought I was taking more than my share from life, because we’d come from the gutter, and as a child I was the lowest of all things, among a hierarchy of creatures, myself being less deserving than all, when in fact most days I was laying my head down tattered, torn and hungry. To many I’d become a  revenant, showing up unannounced and unwelcome at a crowded table… and then a despicable stranger when years of absence had gone by without contact, proof of life, or regard. The truth about travel is that it’s a life…lived day to day, on a budget, on a shoestring, often precarious and dangerously, not a lifestyle…something you share with no one as you’re always alone.

A young person I know on Face Book recently posted ” If travel was free you’d never see me again”. I laughed, knowing that travel has always been free if you let it control your life, give yourself freely, unabashedly, and leave everything and everyone you know behind to pursue the path. It’s the possessions and people you leave behind and conversely come home to that control the amount of time you spend ‘on the road’….not money or desire. You’re either a traveler or a tourist…you can’t be both. Being a ‘traveler’ isn’t a euphemism for ‘travel’…or for having fun while others work…being a true traveler is a calling, a thing, it’s who you are because you’re not ‘one of them’…a different person than the rest, a light in your heart that no one will ever see. Travel is a lonesome profession  you’ll rarely be paid for.

If you’re one of the lucky few who organizes their personal lives to become a traveler, and equips themselves with the will, the wherewithal and skills to ‘never come back’, and the instinctive knowledge of how to deal with abject loneliness by making friends with bar fly’s and street walkers, then you’re a rare bird indeed, and the people who knew you will hate you for it. They will respond to you with veiled contempt and palatable envy.

The distance grows day by day, the vibrations in the air between you and where you came from will have changed, the correspondence between you ‘and them’ is less frequent and shorter until it’s cut off into bit’s of necessity. The money you make while working away will find itself fueling another leg of your journey, never a return ticket. There’s never enough time to go home. I’ll tell you what it’s like to forget the street names of your home town and why it’s suddenly so strange to call a distant capital ‘home’. There’s someone living in your room.

Because of the social status and symbolism we decadent westerners put on the ability to travel to rare destinations , to work in foreign countries, change the world you once knew when others can’t….you will become the focus of peoples envy and contempt. You will become the despicable stranger. Ex-friends who’ve had a downturn of fortune and can no longer ‘keep up’ will avoid returning your emails.

What was once home will become alien ground, salted and lifeless. The tribe will have circled inward and abandoned the notion of kinship with an outsider. “If travel was free I’d never go back”, that’s both funny and sad. Always be careful what you wish for. Because once you’ve gone down that rabbit hole my friends there’s no going back. By the time you decide it might be possible to return you might find the world you left behind has changed so irrevocably that there’s nothing to go back to. To travel is to be taken by the wind.

Because traveling is not somewhere you’ve planned to go or somewhere you’ve been. It’s a state of mind, an act of being true to your inner voice. It’s a statement that describes a poem written in the flesh of your soul. It’s the essence of who you are. The traveler is by nature and practice a loner….like driftwood. Travelers are willing to addict themselves to the journey without looking back at the havoc and consequence. It’s not about how much it costs or much you have left in the bank. The clock is never ticking down for the traveler because time is irrelevant.

You seek to refine yourself. Your peers are people who own nothing and carry nothing other than the bare essentials. Travel is not about coming or going. It’s about where you’d like to be next. The journey begins to explain why you don’t fit in anywhere anymore…because you’re fragments of all the places you’ve been and not the mirror image of a place where people seek to emulate each other for security. Travel is that fragile state between life and longing to be somewhere else.

Petroglyphs of modern saloon culture

Petroglyphs of modern saloon culture

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Robots scare the crap out of Stephen Hawking. “Humans are evolving so slowly that artificial intelligence will walk all over us”, he says. Personally, I’m more afraid of humans who switch their moral and ethical compass off when they leave for a ‘third world vacation’. Artificially enhanced intelligent robots of the future might be frightening in theory, but in practice human beings who conveniently forget to be human while on vacation do a lot more damage in the here and now. I don’t know about you…but I live in the present.

I was scouting competing travel video the other day and I wasn’t impressed. There’s a social algorithm popular with a certain alphabet demographic… that accessible hedonism is available at the end of every commercial flight, like unicorns are attracted rainbows,  that it is ‘a right and an entitlement’ to express oneself without morals or ethics in every imaginable way, while on vacation in the third world, where apparently…’everything goes’. Wow….I am not a person to be throwing ‘isms and ‘ists’ around…but the idea that ‘everything goes’ when you cross an international boundary’ is crazy weird.

One of the You Tube video’s I watched was a popular travel blog, plenty of views, with two passably blonde girls tittering excitedly about whether ‘ to go or no’. The topic du jour was whether watching a woman/girl pull razor blades out of her vagina in a Bangkok bar was a ‘go or no’. They enthusiastically doubled pumped one another to the affirmative…’GO’. OK… I’m choking back a little puke here… is it possible that two women can get excited about a razor blade vagina ‘show’ knowing the depths of depravity the performer must have plumbed to get to that state where pulling razor blades out of her vagina was her last option? Isn’t that on the moral level of ‘snuff porn’?

These were women talking…about another woman… having to pull razor blades out of her vagina..in order to make a living…for the sake of a few petulant, bored tourists amusement. How is it possible for anyone from any level of society to become so jaded and obvious awareness of the depravity they were watching…that they could laugh… not cry. It’s robotic…moral brain death…depraved to an nth degree of evil, it’s mind numbing. You shouldn’t be laughing when you see a woman have to sink to that level.

You should want to tell the bar owner to fuck himself with the business end of a garden rake and walk out..at the very least. Would you want that happening to any woman in ‘Your Town USA’? Why would you ‘rescue’ a dog at home and yet sit through a ‘show’ where a woman is pulling razor blades out of her vagina? Is it because the dog won’t bore you with his life story or need an education to find a better future ?

The depravity we see isn’t a ‘white/ brown’ thing. Tourists on holiday strictly for sex related purposes come in all colours and are of every nationality and social strata. They are equal opportunity exploiters. Today’s sicko social media is extolling us it’s OK to compete on experiences, where no limit of exploitation or depravity should hold us back from having ‘the best time ever’.

The travel video blogs are replete with solicitations to get the drunkest, the wildest…the most depraved regardless of the consequences to your moral being and the nasty crap you leave behind. Are today’s tourists just dehumanized robots on holiday, hyped by social media to ‘go one better’…to leave their humanity behind for the sake of a ‘good time’? Stephen Hawking has more immediate reasons to fear for the future of humanity.

robot holiday

robot holiday

The worst has happened. Our property managers have drained our swimming pool. This is a disaster !! No not really. We just have to find another pool somewhere in the neighborhood. I had to bus around today looking…and found quite a few that are either frog ponds or not as advertised…the search continues.

I should have seen this coming…they’ve been talking about resurfacing the pool for five years. In Thailand…it’s common to hear of great plans afoot…while very little ever gets done. In honesty the pool does need a few new tiles.

Of course they didn’t tell us because we’re renting and all the strata minutes are posted in Thai. It’s a hell of a thing to wake up and find you daily ritual has changed. Like I alluded to..plenty of pools around, while ours is out of commission for 6 to 8 weeks…..bummer. Or have I gotten so lazy I can’t even travel around my own area….some of that for sure.

BTW…wrong about the silent ninja Gecko’s…they’ve started to sing.

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Our little perch in Bangkok is surrounded by a wide green space. I can smell the Gulf of Thailand on the morning breeze. The rising sun resembles an expanding supernova. Bird song and Soi Dogs are the melody of this neighborhood. 7 AM and already 90 degrees F. I hung our towels out last night and they haven’t dried. Humidity during this late monsoon month is well over 100%. What a shock to have transitioned so completely from Dallas in such a short time. We were away two years and it feels like we never left. This is the anniversary of my 40th year of coming to Thailand.

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November is a month that brings change to thousands of peoples lives who live in northern latitudes. Call them snowbirds or escapee’s, they all have one thing in common, a driving compulsion to leave the northern latitudes for sunny southern climates. The exodus of Boomers, those born between 1946 and 1964, is as predictable as the migration of birds. Leaving Canada or Finland for the winter months has become a cultural norm… a statement of your financial status. Those left behind are considered ‘unfortunate’.

Suntan holidays became popular when soldiers returning from the tropics after WWII arrived home from the Pacific with ‘sunshine skin’.  There was a huge demographic shift  in the late 1940’s when rural populations moved en mass to the cities. The balance flipped from 80%  rural and 20% urban to the exact opposite. The changing economy and increased post war wealth introduced a new aspect to the North American culture…recreation. Suntans on the streets of New York and London became a status symbol. It said you could afford to get away.

It was fashion mavin Coco Chanel that put tropical leisure on the map for the masses. She appeared on the cover of Life magazine sporting a suntan. This was a shocking display at that time, rather like a Lady Gaga moment. The confluence of adventure seeking ex-soldiers, sudden wealth and a new found societal acceptance of sunburn bloomed into a tourism crush in between the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn. It was suddenly cool and possible to winter in Mexico and the Caribbean. Aviation technology produced long range commercial passenger planes and locations like Hawaii and the South Pacific became accessible.  The cruise ship and retirement community industries were born.

In November the Boomer generation of Europe flock by the million to the southern shores of the Mediterranean, the North Americans focus is on Florida, Mexico and S.E. Asia. The post war economy has been very generous to the Boomer generation. It was a time when education and competition for seats in university was cheap and easy. Industries were still wanting for a few good men and opportunity for advancement was abundant. Inflation has made many Boomers rich with the passive holding of real estate investments. A prosperous and beneficial retirement is within sight for a great many  because defined pension benefits were once the norm.

We take the tourism industry for granted but it didn’t always exist. It wasn’t until the advent of ‘sunshine skin’ that it became possible to visit the undeveloped islands and continents of the third world. Now when  millions of tourists flock south for the winter they have forgotten the struggles of a preceding generation who didn’t enjoy the access to infrastructure available today. I shouldn’t take for granted that I can fly to Mallorca or Bangkok on a whim, because it wasn’t always  so easy. When the cold wind begins to blow we should thank a diminutive fashion mavin named Coco for the birth of modern tourism and the post war economic boom that produced the incredible wealth and leisure we enjoy.

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I can’t resist the open road. My Camaro is like a fresh horse kicking the stall, anxious to run. The weather is fantastic,  I feel driven to burst out the door with the morning light. My most recent road trip included Gainesville, Decatur, Krum and all points north on the TX HWY 35 towards the Oklahoma border. In the past thirty days we have shot our silver arrow into Terrel, Wills Point, Grand Saline, Mineola, Hawkins, Big Sandy, White Oak, Longview, Hallsville, Marshall, Jefferson, San Antonio, Blanco, Johnson City, Marble Falls, Burnet, Lampassas, Hamilton. Hico, Glen Rose, Cleburne, Alvarado, Rock Wall, Grande Prairie, Greenville, Farmersville and Midlothian….among other market towns, gas station stops and historic markers along the way. We passed the Frank Buck Zoo…..a holdover from a TV show in the 1950’s called ‘Frank Buck-Bring ’em back alive’.  What a hoot !

The Texas landscape is dotted with tall water towers announcing clusters of civilization in every direction like mushrooms rising out of tall grass. There are so many freeway off ramps that it’s easy to veer off and see what might have been unplanned for. Often it’s the happy accidents that make a road trip truly special. This is another reason why I like having my own transportation, unlimited time and not be stuck on airports, trains or bus schedules….it’s necessary to have the freedom to discover whats beside and between major cities. I have talked about the tactile experience of an open cockpit. The road-song of screaming rubber on melting asphalt and passing traffic is an exhilarating cocktail mixed with burning sunshine and turbulent wind. We talk about directions we might never have considered as they come into view. Turnpikes are like a sirens calling us into the unknown. There are moments during our passage through small town America when life is transcendent.

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A coming film… The Worlds End….just happens to be written around my favorite pub which happens to be situated in my favorite neighborhood in the world… and coincidentally The Worlds End pub on Camden High Street, London appears in two of my novels…The Bloody Oath,,, and The Enablers. Now is that weird or what? Great travelers find great places wherever they may be. I remember traveling in the days before guide books and backpackers when there were only a few travelers, the world was still relatively pristine and unsullied,  and we’d meet in the oddest places simply because there were no other foreigners to be seen.

A small village in Bali for example….it was simple enough to ask a headman..”Is there any other foreigners here?” And they would send a child to find them. In Bangkok, the Malaysia hotel was the place to run into your friends and the odd CIA or KGB agent. Now of course such places are overrun with tourists looking for coincidental fame and we travelers do our best to avoid them. Strange as it may seem. in the late sixties and early seventies there were under a dozen hardcore travelers, all traders and traffickers of the exotic of the world, and we would meet constantly in airport bars, woodworking villages, gem mines, clothing districts….. And now the movie industry has ‘outed’ The Worlds End…and I’m sure the ancient dive will be awash in backpackers hoping some ‘cool’ will rub off on them…..argghhhh:(

The Worlds End has hosted Charles Dickens who set many of his novels in Camden…..Percy Shelly lived around the corner. The heavy oak floors are bowed from being stepped on since the seventeenth century, The ancient stone tred on the door step is swaybacked with use. I liked to sit looking out the imperfect panes of glass into the street and watch the world go by along the high street. The interior walls are black with five hundred years of pipe smoke. There are few places in London like The Worlds End…..I’m conflicted that they’d made my old haunt a movie set. Of course I say that about all the places that should have rested instead of being commercialized…..oh well…..sometimes it’s true…you can’t go back.

Enablers

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Bloody Oath