Posts Tagged ‘iphone photography’

I haven’t felt like writing since I wrapped up my last novel. That two year experience was arduous, and I’m not feeling the energy to do that again any time soon. My daily life is consumed with personal thoughts about today and tomorrow, but nothing too far down the line. I feel like I’ve done enough scheduling to last quite some time.

Planning the next act of travel is my only obsession these days. I have fantasies and dreams that don’t include security or pride of place. I don’t work anymore, and with retirement I have allowed myself to exercise a degree of ‘I don’t give a shit’, that I haven’t allowed reign in the past twenty five years or so since becoming a husband and father. Getting older is somewhat like being a teenager again, feckless and cynically disorganized.

I just got back from a trip to Cambodia. I was less impressed by the poverty than I used to be. I looked for happy photographs instead of images of misery and neglect. Trisha and I fed the children beggars instead of artfully ignoring them as many tourists do. I saw far too many people working way too hard at ‘getting everything done’ as they grow closer to the end. The simple facts of life lay strewn on the sidewalks and gutters like cast off flowers . I saw  tell tale signs of utter exhaustion, fear and desperation, disconnected people, no where near the completion of their guide book inspired ‘bucket list’. I seek no such frustrations.

When I was young(er) I  left ‘home’ to travel. My passions took me away for so long that I became disassociated from everything and everyone I’d  ever known. After years away I returned a stranger to family and friends who’d moved on. I remember the impression that the streets of New Delhi were more familiar than those I returned to.

Today I live in Bangkok Thailand, occasionally struck by emotions of longing and separation. Returning to BKK from Cambodia was a homecoming to familiar territory.  I walk around my neighborhood and realize I know everyone, everyone knows me. People noticed I was gone. My favorite soup stall vendor, Khun Fa, remembers what I like, it’s endearing.

I’ve lost the familiarity with what was once my home, once again I will have to start over in Canada, where communities change rapidly with new immigration endlessly churning the population and neighbors last for minutes until they’re replaced with someone elses great expectations. I have no idea what to expect if and when I return. Here in Bangkok, people reside in the same area for generations in giant family units, and give life a sense of continuity. That’s how things are going, I’m floating from one day to the next, unwinding myself. The end of the road for a happily homeless traveler has no stop signs. Fringelords

Have you figured out how to travel for free yet? Have you got a plan to get you out and never come back? There’s lots of ways of doing that, you just have to apply yourself. The lucky ones will inherit an obscene amount of money from a parent or grandparent, that’s number one on everyone’s list. And believe me, there are more of these types than most people imagine possible. Next, there are plenty of people who have defined benefit pensions whose cash flow will never fail due to the crazy courtesy allowed by a broken system of government. Some of us have to be smarter and more creative to achieve our goals.

I began to see the possibilities when as a young traveler I spied opportunities to trade goods between countries where things were abundant and cheap and transport them to locations where they could be sold as rare and dear. I stole that line from Adam Smith who had this figured out in 1722 and wrote about international trade in The Wealth of Nations, still a best seller. I was very impressed by this philosophy as a teenager and applied it as a young adult wanting to travel and escape. In most western countries there are open city markets, with the exception of commercial dead zones like Vancouver,  where goods from all over the world can be sold for a profit. A simple way to increase your travel opportunities is to buy trade goods in the third world and sell them to people browsing away their boredom on the weekends. Trust me, bored shoppers will buy any kind of crap that reminds them of the holiday they had in the past.

I paid off my travel lifestyle for decades doing exactly this. My first purchases were leather products in South America.  I later branched into manufacturing jewellery from India and Thailand…even selling Indian goods in Thailand using all the same dynamics of trade I had learned along the way. I sold these items all over the world. I acted as a purchasing agent for people who wanted a steady flow of such goods to their home countries. I traded goods from Pakistan to Afghans in exchange for items of value hard to find in India. I also carried bales of cloth from one boutique to the next selling items in countries as diverse as Switzerland, Spain, Canada and the USA. Shopkeepers need unique products to draw the shoppers into the store. The more unique your products, the higher the margin you can ask. Only during major global recessions did my business ever fall off and I was forced to hunker down.

Nowadays we have become more sophisticated, we are technical specialists and visa holders practicing our trade and getting paid well for it. I miss the old days of being a traveling merchant, but that’s not to say I have foregone my old habits. In every town I go to I visit shopkeepers and ask them what they want. I go to trade shows and find out whats available. It’s best to collect as many business cards as you possibly can. There are opportunities that sometimes appear from out of nowhere and you want to be the one that takes advantage of those opportunities.

Do you hold an undergrad degree or similar certification? If so the world is at your feet. Teach English in Koh Samui with a simple TOEFL certificate. The add on is a weekend class on line but is recognized world wide. There is always a lot of turn over in teachers, and there is a hungry world wanting English teachers….from Spain to China and all points in between. Teaching English is a no brainer and less complicated than trading but not mutually exclusive…..we’ve done both simultaneously. Are you headed for a place where a great many foreigners congregate….have you thought about finding work as a rental agent or a real estate agent selling local properties? Your ex pat community has special requirements that a local doesn’t understand and your knowledge of the language is in demand. Working as a bartender or waitress is a thing of the past in places like Thailand or Mexico…but have a skill and you can obtain a legal visa to work.

At the top of the food chain are the technical specialists who can reside legally. Even the rich ex civil servants on a pension can’t live in Thailand or elsewhere permanently…they will have to abide by the short term of a tourist visa. These types have to leave the country on a regular basis to renew their status. If you are trading in a country don’t mention this to the immigration police at the border, a working visa is difficult to obtain. However, if you can achieve an ‘ex patriot’ status, where you are paid, your bills are covered and the visa is taken care of by the company you work for, then your troubles are behind you. Trisha and I have done all these things, and enjoyed every one of them. The travel lifestyle can be yours. You just have to want it.

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ex pat perks abound if you plan your life around travel

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trade goods can be found in every country…almost

 

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and by all means…enjoy yourself along the way

 

“Be careful what you wish for…you just might get it”, so goes the old saying. Ever since I was young I wanted to travel. I was impressed by two books, The Wealth of Nations , The Travels of Marco Polo and  any documentaries/photojournalism work from the wild world outside my tiny corner. By the time I was eighteen I had been infected by the travel bug so that as soon as I was able to get my first passport and the inoculations necessary  I was gone. I have been traveling or planning to travel ever since.

‘Getting away’ has always been a personal obsession. The preoccupation with foreign countries and cultures has been a distraction. While I should have been in university with my cohort I was exploring my fantasy world. I missed all the usual benchmarks anyone of my generation strove to achieve and the knowledge of those that did has faded like a mist. I have never attended a wedding or a funeral. To my family I existed only as a postcard or a phone call at Christmas time, appearing only in the event of  some catastrophe.

I learned so many things on the road that I can’t share with anyone. My relationships are transient by practice. Time away has severed all ties.   I pay a price for my wayward ways. I am more comfortable in a hotel room or short term rental bungalow than in the house I own. I prefer the company of strangers. I go home and feel like an alien when nothing looks familiar . The cross streets of New Delhi or Bangkok are more recognizable than the place of my youth.

And yet I get emails from people who say they envy the travel lifestyle. I say to anyone who considers what we do as a permanent choice for themselves, “Be careful what you wish for… because you just might get it”.

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Trish and I have a thing for open markets. We’ve visited them all over the world, from folksy parking lot affairs in Finland, the famous Chatachak Market in Bangkok to what is probably the largest open air weekend market on the planet. The cooler fall weather has brought an enormous number of people out to sell their household overflow and sideline business items. Today there are over 4000 vendors on the massive site over one square mile at Traders Village, Grand Prairie Texas…..located about 14 miles outside Dallas. You really have to wear comfortable shoes for this adventure.

Everything from used clothing and toys to tires, mattresses,  Santeria magic concoctions  and live animals are for sale somewhere on the site. This is a primarily Mexican influenced market. People assume you speak Spanish if you’re here. The atmosphere is friendly, familial and raucous. Music blasts from car stereos and DJ bars for sale almost every ten feet. The isles are crowded with children in strollers as the average family appears to have at least six children per unit. Young moms all have a second baby muffin top spilling over their jeans.

If I was to guess I would say that there was at least 350,000 to 500,000 people at the peak of the afternoon . Unlike many city markets most goods are $1.00. I wonder who would buy so many used children’s clothing items and junk stereo equipment but it’s obvious people are packing items into trolly carts and winding through the crowds towards a vehicle. Tools of every kind can be had here…if you want saws , wrenches or landscaping equipment , this is the place to come. If you want to see the Mexican American influence in Texas you simply have to come here.

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I’ve seen where  people go wrong. They fade into  the misery of a life unfulfilled, as if living is a pulp fiction novel that must reconcile predictably.  Trish and I surmounted every false dictum society set in our way.  We did the parenting, the home buying, the career chasing, and the suburban drudgery…. We managed to avoid the usual traps of china figurine collecting, filling a garage with useless junk and hunkering down to wait for old age. We are self-made, having relied on no one and never having received an inheritance by waiting for someone to die. The trouble with inheritance cases as I have observed is that they always live the rest of their lives knowing they haven’t deserved or earned what they possess. Our fight for success has given us self-confidence and we enjoy the crap out of what we’ve earned. Trust me… enjoying yourself when you can stand on your own two feet is the best revenge. If you’re past middle age and you’re not having fun… you’ve done something wrong. It’s late September here in Dallas and life is good.

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I’m living in one of the most under appreciated and most vilified places by foreign ( non Texan) media  the United States and loving it. Most days  we feel as if we have the place to ourselves and couldn’t be happier. The number of tourists in some  global hotspots has depreciated the quality of  traveling there….. not so in Texas.  There is so much to do here , spread out over such a huge area that crowds ( except for sports venues) are rare. The cost of living is extremely low compared to most other places I have been in the developed world and that really takes the bite out of world class travel.

We chose Fort Worth for today’s day trip. It was back in the spring when we were there last. The streets, shops, venues and bars are much more lively now that the sun is shining every day. We added the Amon Carter Museum of American Art to our list of free public facilities to our list. And guess what…the parking is also free and we didn’t have to make any advance reservations or take transit to get there!!!  ! Ft. Worth has it’s roots in the cattle industry, being the end of the Chisholm Trail of Old West fame.

On the way, we stopped at a road side diner for a traditional Sunday lunch of Southern home style cooking…   fried cat fish filets, fried okra, pecan pie and sweet tea. The catfish was excellent, spicy hot, the way it should be. Did I forget the corn bread biscuits and sweet bread rolls with honey and butter…..shame on me. Once down 26th Street in downtown Ft Worth….also known as The Stockyards… we were treated to an antique car show…many groups of street performers…and we stopped into the very famous ( if you’re a cowboy) White Elephant Saloon for a drink and some quality time holding up the bar with the locals. WARNING… MEN WEAR HATS. People have been drinking beer and playing pool to the sound of some of country musics most famous performers for decades. Sure… it’s smoky and stinks like sour beer….but the people are super friendly and you know you’re in one of the most famous Cowboy Churches in the country.

I’ve lived in a lot of places around the world…. but my travelers eye has spied Texas as one of the best destinations for  the unexpected.

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Texas is a widely diverse society. In fact the state leads all others in welcoming immigrants. Surprisingly this is not reported by the general media. Looking back I see that Texas has always been a diverse cultural melting pot. Many native American tribes resided here for tens of thousands of years beginning with the mass migrations of Clovis People after a succession of Ice Ages that swept people south. The Spanish were the first Europeans to discover the land, traveling north from Mexico.

A reverse migration of sorts brought a mixed population of Mexican, Indian, Spanish and Mestizo back to Texas in the early 1500’s. The first mass scale cattle ranching industry was established in Texas. The mixture of people clashing became Texano’s, and they came from everywhere. Small towns still carry the names of small Irish and Czech villages that hopscotched from Eastern US ports across Tennessee and Arkansas into what is today Texas. Lost in all this were the native Americans striving to maintain their dignity and identity after being rolled over by the modern world.

Yesterday Trish and I attended a Pow Wow, a meeting of people and tribes, in Grand Prairie Texas. It reminded me that Texas wasn’t always a maze of freeways and industry.

 

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