An image of the path I took around the world
Inspired by previous travels and Michael Palin's book "Around The World in 80 Days," Starting in Tompkins County, NY on Oct 6, 2010, I headed east. Over the course of the next 330 days, I traveled to 16 countries, took 17 flights and cleared 30 immigration checkpoints. The journey brought me to five very distinct regions: Hispaniola, the Persian Gulf, the Indian Subcontinent, South East Asia, the Sierra Nevada and Rocky Mountains of North America. Get stoked and read more below...
Haiti: I left NY on Oct 6, 2010 bound for Port-au-Prince, Haiti with my good friend Josh. We spent about two weeks there playing soccer, teaching some basic English, and generally living the life of rural Haiti. It was my first time in a non-Latin country in the Americas and it was quite fun. Josh had many existing friends that he introduced me to, of which many were enthusiastic to speak English, French or Spanish with me. I brought a national flag to Haiti and we raised it at the school. I enjoyed practicing my French, listening to new music and learning about the way of life. After the soccer games at the UN compound where we played, a fellow teammate, Jepson, would talk to the guards (from Jordan) in Arabic. "Kaif Halak?" (How are you?) he would yell up to the guards. Oddly to say, I learned my first Arabic phrases from a Haitian soccer teammate. One of Josh's friends gave birth while I was there, which was also a new experience for me to see a very, very newborn child. It was also quite a shock to see the remaining debris from the tragic earthquake earlier in the year.
Dominican Republic: On Oct 15 I took a long bus ride from Port-au-Prince to Santo Domingo. One of my new friends from Haiti said they had some cousins living in Santo Domingo and I should stay with them. I arrived at the bus station in Santo Domingo and my new Haitian friends were waiting there for me. The following days that ensued, I spent a majority of the time very, very confused trying to speak four languages: Spanish, French, Kreol and English. I can't remember a prior language confusion that was so epic. After a few days I left my Haitian friends and joined some Couchsurfers to explore the nightlife of Santo Domingo. Music, dance and late nights ensued. One day I took a bus out to La Romana and hunted down one of my Dad's hangouts from the 1970s, a small beach town called Bayahibe. In La Romana I also got to witness a parade that featured many national flags.
United Arab Emirates: On Nov 6 after a brief stopover in Brooklyn, NY with my cousins, I landed at night in Dubai. I stayed with a Couchsurfer math teacher from Colombia who lived on Sheikh Zayed road in the heart of Dubai. My first taste of the Gulf seemed like India-training. Most of the people I met were from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh or Nepal, which was useful because they often spoke perfect English. I was impressed by the massive amounts of everything in a desolate desert with almost nothing but sand. Air con everywhere, shopping malls, Mercedes and Bentley, etc. Amazing what a bit of oil wealth will do for you. One evening I took a ride up an elevator to the observation deck of the highest building in the world: Burj Kalifa. Within an hour or so, a storm moved in and it was very windy and it even rained a bit. I took some cool photos of the traffic below. I also got a chance to visit the inside of the Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi, just a few hours bus ride from Dubai. Inside there were amazing carpets and ornate decorations.
Oman: On Nov 10, I took a bus to Oman and spoke to my first fellow local on the ride. It was fun to finally practice the Arabic Jepson taught me back in Haiti and successfully embarrass myself. When I reached Muscat, the capital, I stayed with a South African Couchsurfer who was also a teacher of Video at the university. I got to visit the school and meet some of the students in the editing studio. They showed me some video and photography they had been working on. I helped a few students make their own picasa website. I had a moment there in the studio thinking, "This is why I travel." I also explored Muscat on foot and discovered some old Portuguese settlements out on the water.
Bahrain: I planned my flights to have a full day layover in Bahrain. Through Couchsurfing, I contacted an Iraqi doctor who was living and working in Bahrain. We spent the day exploring the desert, museums and amazing food in the lavish restaurants of Manama. We talked about the conflict in Iraq, traveling and culture. I also got some more insight to the overseas workers in the region and found an interesting example of the multi-culture feel of the Gulf in the "No Parking" photo attached. At the end of the night we visited the history museum and learned about Portuguese influence and the history of pearl industry in the Gulf. Although a short visit to the Persian Gulf, I left on Nov 14 with great memories, friendships and photographs. It was a great start to a long journey ahead.
Sri Lanka: Enter the Chaos. As training for India, I thought I'd travel first to Sri Lanka, a more Buddhist, more chill, diet-India. However, directly out of the airport on my first bus ride to the highlands, I got a taste of how many people can be stuffed onto a bus. I have never once felt so crammed into a small space as I was then. I lost count at 123 people on the bus, as I literally couldn't turn my head to count. I met up with some Australian, American and Chinese Couchsurfers and spent almost two weeks exploring the hills, temples and national parks in the central highlands. I learned how to eat with my hand which was good training for India, Nepal and Indonesia later down the line. One of the most memorable Buddhist monuments we visited was on a small hill overlooking the flatland. A large Buddha stands 20m tall.
India: On Nov 24th, I flew to Chennai and spent most of my first day exploring the elaborate and equipped train station. I didn't have much of plan in India except to visit Hampi; ride the rails and visit a Couchsurfer in the Punjab. I had about one month, so I slowly worked my way north. Riding trains during the day in the "sleeper class" provided me plenty of time to interact with fellow train travelers. When I arrived in a town I would find a place to sleep, check out the various forms of divine connections: Hindu, Muslim, Jain, Ba'Hai and Sikh. Highlights of my journey in India include: volunteering in the Golden Temple kitchen that serves 50,000 meals per day to visitors; watching the sunset over the Narmada river in Hampi, and getting harassed on the bus and violently ill in my hotel room. While exploring near Mandu, Madhya Pradesh I took this photo of the landscape and Pashtun architecture .
Nepal: On Dec 22nd I landed in Kathmandu after a few hours circling around the Himalaya due to "visibility issues" at the airport. I wasn't all that disappointed in the additional time spent in the air as it offered me the opportunity to see the Himal first hand. From the moment I landed until the moment I left, one month, I was working pretty hard and spent long days organizing a course for Cornell for a team of 14 students and three instructors. Watching the sunset on Langtang Luri, eating many meals in the homes of locals and deciding to commit to making my website were all highlights of January in Nepal.
Thailand: On Jan 28, after a brief week in Calcutta, India reviewing the 10,000 images and hours of video from the Nepal course, I landed in Bangkok. Throughout the next two months I would visit Thailand briefly twice more, as it was sandwiched between my next the two countries of interest: Myanmar and Cambodia. Although I had visited twice before, I was surprised this time of the Thai style that pervades every small detail I observed as traveler. Quality connections to the internet, ultra-clean hotels and transportation and great market meals were my memories of the brief tastes of Thailand.
Myanmar: Feb 2-28. After a brief flight from Bangkok, landing in Yangon felt like going back in time. Giant-sized and loud diesel generators on the street supplied current to the hotels and banks while everyone else read under candlelight. I spent most of my time in the Shan state trekking around the small villages near the towns of Hispaw, Kalaw and Pin-U-Lwin. During the entire month I was there it did not rain once. Although I read of a country tightly monitored by the government, as a traveler, I felt lots of freedom and unrestricted by the "Big Brother." I especially enjoyed the train rides packed with passengers and cargo, meeting locals, and exploring the many forms of temples.
Cambodia: March 2-10, A brief trip back through Thailand and I crossed the border into to the best market meals and fruits of my life. I ate Mangoes, Dragon fruit, Clementines, Zapote, Caimito and many others. Most of the people I interacted with were overly friendly and helpful. Sunset on the ocean near Kampot, waterfall adventures on a motorbike near Koh Khong and quality BBQ sandwiches in street stalls everywhere were some memories I brought away.
Indonesia: March 23 to March 30 - Visited a familiar scene in Tanah Rata, Malaysia for about a week and then caught a romantic ride across the straits of Malacca in a ferry bound for Sumatra. My first few days in Indo proved a test of my own patience, as I found the touts to be so consistently aggressive it made India look "diet." I changed my plans. Instead of rallying across the island to a mountain town, I caught a boat to a nearby island that seemed pretty chilled out. I found some quality food joints to eat spicy curried dishes with big plates of rice. Leaving Indo on March 30, I caught a boat ride to Singapore. I enjoyed traveling by boat for a change.
Singapore: March 30-April 1 - I had written ahead of time to arrange a visit to the Singapore Outward Bound School. I had had some friends from OB in the USA who had visited and said it was one of the more organized schools they had seen. Hisham, the director of Operations, met me at the pier and we took a ride out to the island of Pulau Ubin where the basecamp is located. We explored the quality facilities by boat and on foot and I also got to meet some field staff and see some staff in action instructing on sea kayaks and a rope course. I stayed with Couchsurfers from the Philippines and Brazil who were both living and working in Singapore. With my new CS friends we got an interesting taste of "Edu-tainment" at the city planning museum. I was again intrigued by the multiculturalism brought by the overseas workers. On my last day in Singapore, I visited some amazing Buddhist and Hindu temples as pictured here.
Philippines: April 2-May 12 - Back on the island of Luzon noticed some similarities from my first trip to "RP" in 2009. Rides in converted Jeeps or home-made motor-tricycles; fat plates of rice and delicious fresh fruits. Again, I went into the mountains of the Cordillera to explore the trails and rice terraces in the Ifuago province and made a short video. I got to visit a very unique (to me) event called a "coronation." In the summer time, at night, the entire village gathers to award a queen and king a special crown for the pair that donates the most money to the community. Its a sort of fund raising challenge. To go along with it, there are confetti explosions, makeup artists, custom tailed suits and wedding-like dresses, as pictured here. My last few days in Asia were spent in front of my screen editing video and swimming in the ocean.
BACK IN THE USA!
USA: May 14 to Oct 6 - "We're going to San Fransisco...hope you wear...some flowers in your hair." Landed after a long journey from Philippines to a beautiful spring day in San Fransisco. Right out of the airport, I met my friend Jon at a bar and ordered tap water. I was so happy to be drinking water out of the tap, as it had been almost eight months of bottled water. Jon and I are sewing buddies from back in the day, and we sewed a ton that week. We made a 80L backpack and a bunch of small cases for my new world of electronics: laptop, GPS, mp3 player, etc. On May 19 I headed out to climb Giant Sequoia trees with the Cornell Tree Climbing Institute and make a small video documenting the expedition. On June 5- I headed to Midpines, CA to work three courses over the summer for the Outward Bound School. 22 day snow-slog through the beautiful high country of Sequoia Kings Canyon NP. 14 day leadership course with bay-area teens rock climb and backpack. 14 day adult backpack into the depths of the Blackcap basin. I also made two short videos about life at basecamp to a amused crowd of field staff. In late August I flew to Colorado to meet my long-lost cousin David and his wife Ginny. We enjoyed swapping travel stories and shared some great food together as well as witnessing first hand the USA Pro Challenge a massive cycling event. I met up with my old friend Alex and his friend Steve and we went went to visit the Colorado Outward Bound School basecamp near Leadville. We walked up Mt. Massive and Mt. Elbert and made short videos. Finally on Sept 6th, I landed back home in Ithaca, New York to complete my circumnavigation, some 336 days after leaving. I now firmly believe the world is round. After a long and disorienting journey, I enjoyed visiting with family and friends. Set out again to circumnavigate the globe on October 29th this time heading West.