A Decade of Wandering Ends, Another One Begins (Part 2)

Derek Personal Stuff 15 Comments

The time has come for Part 2 of my “One Decade of Wandering Ends, Another One Begins” post. I wish to start off by thanking everyone who has already commented, spread the word and helped make Part 1 my most rewarding post to date in terms of the interactions it has led to with all of you out there.

So, here’s Part 2.

Again, this post is part of my list of the first fifty things – places, adventures, thoughts, lessons learned – that pop into my head when I reflect upon my decade of wandering that has now come to an end. Wait, that might not have sounded right. Let me be more clear. The DECADE has come to an end, not my WANDERINGS!

Here we go…the second list of 25…

  • A mango lassi on a hot day or watching an average sunset brings me infinite joy – it is appreciation of the small things in life that has enabled me to draw the strength I need to conquer my larger goals.
  • Anger is useless, forgiveness is vital and an equanimous mind is the most valuable of tools for all good travelers. And we are all travelers on this planet, even if we never step foot outside of our home town.
  • Successfully surfing one wave for at least two seconds makes all the crashing, sore muscles and mouthfuls of salt water well worth it.
  • The moment I officially realized that I will never be able to live a conventional life back in the USA was after watching a holy man drink cow urine directly from a urinating cow while standing on a beach between a human-powered ferris wheel and a full-grown elephant and finding this to be only slightly unusual. Life at home would just be too boring.
  • Hammocks and beach bungalows do a world of good for one’s mental well-being. Just the sight of them seem to bring about instant happiness.
  • I love India.
  • Seeing a wild yak in the mountains is just plain cool.
  • If life ever gets so tough that I am falling into a deep and dark state of depression, I’m going to fly to Thailand. It is nearly impossible for a traveler to be unhappy in Thailand.
  • Having all of your possessions fit into one small backpack is not only doable and beneficial for a life of constant travel, but it’s also remarkably liberating.
  • I’ve never really understood why so few people visit the Indonesian island of Sumatra. Lake Maninjau, with its surreal sunsets that involve a natural phenomenon of color, is one of the most magical places I’ve visited in the past ten years.
  • I’ll never forget my brush with death during a freak blizzard while hiking in the Karaokaram Mountains in northern Pakistan. My friend and I were forced to scramble down the mountain in blinding conditions, losing our way on several occasions and eventually getting separated. After 7 hours of frantic searching, with frostbitten fingers and toes and in a severe state of delirium, I stumbled upon a tiny, abandoned sheep herder’s village and holed myself up in a hut made of stone and dung. Miraculously, my friend ended up in the same village a couple of hours later and we waited until the storm passed.
  • I’ll also never forget when, three weeks later, my bus from the Pakistan/Afghanistan border town of Torkham was ambushed by a group of heavily-armed Taliban while in the middle of nowhere. Luckily for me, I had grown a beard and was dressed locally, with a thick mountain blanket covering my head. I kept my eyes down as did everyone else and after a long argument with the driver of the bus, the Taliban let us pass, without ever realizing that an American was on board.
  • Living an unconventional life involving the pursuit of your dreams is not a selfish endeavor. I used to struggle with this idea quite often before realizing that a happy me, who is out there achieving my goals, is far more effective in helping bring about positive change in this world than an unhappy me stuck in a routine that brings me no joy.
  • Czech beer is in a class of its own.
  • I don’t like to talk while on airplanes. I prefer to sit quietly and do nothing as I find this a perfect time to clear my head of all clutter before arriving at a new destination.
  • Being in a rush is not worth the amount of life I miss while hurrying to get somewhere. I learned to slow down everything – walking, talking, thinking, eating – and I’ve reduced my levels of stress to practically zilch as a result.
  • Wandering around the world in itself is a full-time job, requiring far more effort, know-how, determination and constant training than any other form of employment I’ve ever held. At least there’s no dress code.
  • I’m thankful for my time spent working on board cruise ships, as I was able to earn money while exploring all corners of the globe, gain valuable management experience and form lasting friendships with some amazing people. All while getting a taste of what it’s like to be a gangster!
  • My two favorite dishes: A mountain of ecstasy-inducing vegetarian biryani at Nilar Biryani in Yangon, Myanmar and a divine Gujarati vegetarian thali at Radhika on Relief Road in Ahmedabad, India.
  • Celebrating Thailand’s super-fun, dump water on everybody else for three straight days, would result in riots and violence if it took place in any other country in the world, Songkran Festival during three different years.
  • Minutes after landing in Dhaka, Bangladesh I was kidnapped by a gang of ‘taxi drivers’ while I was in pursuit of an Indian militant who had stolen my car while I had temporarily been living in Los Angeles. (more on this story in a future post!)
  • Learning languages, any language, and even just a small amount, infinitely enhances a travel experience. While I may be fluent in only English, I’m decent with Spanish, ok with my Thai, passable with my Hindi, can get by in Czech, am able to count to twenty in Khmer, buy a bus ticket in German, speak a few words of Arabic and say hello in Bahasa Indonesian.
  • I’ve spent the past 10 New Year’s in such places as Argentina, Australia (three times), Cambodia, Hawaii, St. Kitts, in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, in Boston and in Thailand. And this year will be in Mexico.
  • The excitement of having family and friends decide to visit me in random places around the world in order to know more about the kind of lifestyle I lead. Knowing that I have inspired other people to travel overseas to partake in some genuine world exploration has been a great source of motivation. I already have five people scheduled to visit me here in Mexico during the next six weeks!
  • I truly consider myself a global citizen, where the world has become my home and I crave the education, love the challenges and welcome the unexpected as I happily wander from country to country.

Ahh, sweet decade, must we now part ways? What’s that you say? With every end, comes a new beginning?

It’s been a long time since I was that terrified kid nearly wetting my pants in fear as I ventured out into the un-familiar streets of Bangkok for the very first time.

In two days, when I step, rather LEAP, across that line that separates the past decade from the decade to come, I will no longer be terrified. I will leap without hesitation even though I still have no idea where the adventure will lead. And this time I might actually wet my pants, not out of fear, but out of pure excitement and an overabundance of inspiration!

And now I wish to invite you to join me, to jump on my back, climb on my shoulders, hang onto my legs, or better yet, STAND NEXT TO ME AND LEAP ALONG WITH ME! Let’s all leap into the new year and the new decade with a genuine determination to succeed, however you personally define that term. Let us all avoid adding to our list of regrets and instead add to our list of goals achieved.

I’ll sip my Corona Light to that!

From Mexico, Salud!

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Since 1999 I’ve been traveling and living around the world nonstop. With this blog, my aim is to give you an honest account of this lifestyle – from the brilliant moments to the major challenges – in order to help you achieve your own travel goals.





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Comments 15

  1. Audrey

    Sounds like you’ve been through some scary experiences in Pakistan and Bangladesh, but emerged all the wiser and calmer from it. I definitely appreciate the sentiment that this type of travel is harder than any full-time job you held – it involves constant observation, processing and problem solving.

    And, having lived in Prague for five years I can definitely concur that Czech beer is in a class of its own. So good.

    Here’s to another fulfilling decade of travel and experiences!
    .-= Audrey´s last blog ..The Trip That Was a Bitch: Scratching the Curiosity Itch in Paraguay =-.

    1. Earl

      Hey Audrey – I think most people don’t realize the pain, sweat and (near) tears that goes into such travel, especially when your goal is genuine first-hand experience and not simply the traditional tourists stops. (I think your boat journey in Paraguay is a solid example of this!) And having to digest everything you see and learn, every day, is simply exhausting for both the mind and the body, as you both know…

      To another decade!

  2. Sandi

    Oh, Mister Earl, to be a liberated nomad… Your posts make me smile. Sometimes, I’m even tempted to leave Peace Corps and grab the first matatu that freely moves about.

    You could make a giant post about the ‘universal truths’ of wandering around this planet and about the people you will meet. Having deep conversations with other volunteers from around the world in Kolkata was a brilliant experience- and refreshing to relate to others on a whole different level than our friends back in the states.

    When I’m finished here in Uganda, how about that tour of South Africa? A trip back to India might be splendid as well… This time I’ll be able to stay out past dark 😉

  3. Nate

    Hi Earl. I hope you had a wonderful New Year. Thanks for sharing your adventures with everyone. Again, it is quite inspiring and encouraging to see someone who is just so living in line with their true self, full of passion and happiness. I’d really like to make this year a year of change and transition in my own life. Who knows where the road will take me, but I’m looking forward to it.
    .-= Nate´s last blog ..How to Deal With Stress in Your Life =-.

    1. Earl

      Hey Nate – It seems to me that you are definitely on track to have a year of change and transition, especially given your latest blog posts and the observations you are making about life. Enjoy the ride and I’m sure by this time next year you’ll be amazed at where you actually end up!

  4. Elizabeth

    Well… as my favorite quote says:
    “Valiente no es aquel que no siente miedo, sino aquel que a pesar del miedo lo intenta.” In other words, “Brave is not the person who does not feel fear, brave is the person who, even though they feel fear, makes things happen anyway.”

    You are a brave person… and it is great that you inspire others to become brave as well…

    Happy new decade to you! LOL

    1. Earl

      Hey Liz – That’s an excellent quote and one that I believe to be full of truth. Often, just the decision to move forward despite fear or uncertainty is the hardest part and once you make that leap you realize that there wasn’t much to fear in the first place.

      Thank you for sharing that quote. A great reminder for the start of 2010!

  5. Lisis

    Hey, Earl! I’m totally leaping with you. I’m super excited about this new decade, and a world with blurred borders in which every one of us can be a citizen of the world.

    Maybe one of these days you’d consider writing a guest post for me on that topic? I think the key to global peace is for all of us to realize we are citizens of the same rock. Borders are man-made divisions, not relevant to the human condition. We are all in this together, and you are certainly helping to prove that point.

    Thanks for staying on the path less traveled. 🙂

    1. Earl

      Hey Lisis – All I can say is…exactly, exactly, exactly! Global peace would certainly be a lot easier to achieve if there was a greater level of basic respect for one another. We need to learn to share and exchange ideas instead of trying to impose what we think is right, welcome differences instead of fearing them and realize that only together can we improve the condition of the planet and its people.

      And thank you for the guest post offer…I would be honored to write such a post for your inspiring site!

  6. Simon

    “Living an unconventional life involving the pursuit of your dreams is not a selfish endeavor. I used to struggle with this idea quite often before realizing that a happy me, who is out there achieving my goals, is far more effective in helping bring about positive change in this world than an unhappy me stuck in a routine that brings me no joy.”

    Just figured this out for myself. Doing what you are passionate about brings its own magic to the world.

    Great post buddy.

    1. Earl

      Hey Si – I think this was perhaps the biggest realization I’ve made as it allowed me to move forward with full energy, without any guilt. And as I’m sure you are figuring out as well, once you reach this state, you’re able accomplish even more than you ever thought was possible.

      Happy New Year! (which I guess has already started for you over there)

  7. Abigail

    Hola! Where are you in Mexico? I am in Mazatlan for a few days, moving slowly along the coast. Will return to Sayulita for a week or so, spending all of January surfing (or trying to…) then to Belize.

    I would love to see you :o)

    –Abigail

  8. Shawna Cevraini

    I am so impressed by all the things you have done, places you have been and most of all, where you are going! It is amazing! I am so excited to read more of your stories! You are an inspiration! I have some big “leaps” coming up myself this year! Not too far from home, but I’ll get there!

    1. Earl

      Hello Shawna…Thank you so much for your kind words. I’m curious to know what “leaps” are in store for you this year?? I actually just subscribed to your blog so I guess I’ll find out soon enough! As you say, Rock 2010! I love it…

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