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Jamie Jo Hoang - Author & World Traveler

Tag: travel

A Visit to Pablo Naruda’s House in Santiago, Chile

 

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La Chascona–Pablo Narudas house in Santiago, Chile. Fun fact: There are two identical doors at this house, one for him and one for his mistress.

 

A few months ago I went to a beautiful wedding in Uruguay (a story that still needs to be written). From Los Angeles I had a daunting 24-hour flight, which included two layovers before reaching my final destination. The first stop was a quick drop down in Lima, Peru where 70% of the passengers disembarked and new people took their place. Pretty uneventful. Next stop, Santiago. I had an 8-hour layover so I decided to go exploring. There was a bit of a rush in knowing I only had a few hours, was in foreign country where I could barely speak the language, and was risking missing my connecting flight–in other words, everything was awesome! Damn that Lego movie for having such a catchy tune.

Just after clearing customs I hesitated momentarily, then proceeded through the baggage claim area in search of a taxi company. After finding one, I tried to explain what I wanted (mostly with hand gestures and pointing): I needed a driver for 2 hours to take me to San Christobal Hill and Pablo Naruda’s House and then back to the airport. I showed the desk attendant google map printouts of the two places and drew stick figures of me and a taxi driver visiting each one then coming back to the airport. When she still didn’t understand, I cursed my 8th grade Spanish teacher. The poor desk attendant looked at me with a blank stare and just as I was about to call it quits and head back into the the airport, another girl approached saying she spoke ‘minimal’ English. “Well, we’re in luck because I speak minimal Spanish,” I said, and she laughed. I explained my situation again and this time was rewarded with an “Ah…” before she smiled and spoke in rapid Spanish to the attendant. A number was scribbled on a piece of paper: $12,000.

“TWELVE THOUSAND DOLLARS?” I exclaimed.

“Pesos,” she corrected me. Quickly, she calculated the conversion to US dollars and wrote $80 US on the paper. Okay! $80 I could manage. In fact, $80 for 3 hours in a cab seemed like a steal. (Side note: It’s not. My older sister, an obviously more seasoned traveler than I, would later tell me I was severely ripped off–no matter, I was on a high and having the time of my freaking life!)

When I met my driver, he never gave me his name, but for the sake of this story let’s call him Robert. Robert glanced at the 4 receipts I handed him and a look of confusion of crossed his face. Not again, I start to think. But he turned to me and said, “So you want to go to San Cristobal Hill, Pablo Naruda’s House, and then come back to the airport?”

“Yes!” I smiled. “You speak English?”

“So, so,” he said. “You speak Spanish?”

“Muy poquito. Very little,” I laughed.

It was about 7:45 a.m. local time and I was ready for the grand tour of Santiago, so imagine my surprise when we arrived at San Cristobal Hill only to find that they didn’t open until 8:30 a.m. Well crap. Robert told me it’s not a problem, we’ll just see Naruda’s house first. This sounded like a good plan until we arrived at the house, properly named La Chascona, and saw the sign that said, Open at 10:00 a.m. I was about 40 minutes into the trip and my wild solo excursion in a foreign country was turning out to be an epic fail.

“What do you want to do?” Robert asked me. I just paid $80 for his services so I hardly wanted him to just drive me back to the airport. I didn’t say anything for a while and racked my brain for a solution. A few minutes passed and I got the feeling he was becoming super annoyed with me but then he said, “I can take you to see the House of the President? And then probably San Cristobal will be open after.”

“Okay!” I shouted enthusiastically. There was a little guy in the back of my mind telling me he was about to charge me up the wazoo for this little detour, but I didn’t care. When else was I going to get the chance to explore Santiago? We hopped in the car and almost instantly Robert went from taxi driver to tour guide. He pointed out the national library, a famous cathedral, a huge indoor market–popular as a place to get a bite to eat after a heavy night of drinking. He told me if I ever came back I must be sure to check out a stall inside that sells the best crab in the world. Come to think of it, I was kind of hungry…but Robert had already gone above and beyond his duties so having him to pull over would’ve been asking to be abandoned in a foreign city. We pulled up to the President’s Palace, and he pointed out the guards surrounding the building and told me they were the most respected division of law enforcement. I told him they are were quite handsome and he laughed.

When I finally arrived at San Cristobal Hill he took me to the top, parked the car, and said he would a nap while I looked around. By this point, we had a pretty good rapport going so I was pretty sure he’s wasn’t going to leave me there; nevertheless, I looked for his car every time it was within view just to be safe. I hadn’t done a lot of research before coming to Santiago; to be honest, I wasn’t sure I had the guts to actually leave the airport until I did it. So all I knew was that San Cristobal Hill had the best view of the city and man, did it ever. Hundreds of thousands of buildings and roads all sprawled out in front of me. Behind me a staircase led further up the mountain and toward a large statue of Mary, complete with a mini chapel at the base of her feet. The main character in my novel, BLUE SUN, YELLOW SKY, visits Christ the Redeemer in Brazil, something I had yet to do, so as I stood beneath Mary I tried to imagine being in my character’s shoes. I could write an entire blog just about that experience so I’ll refrain from getting into it, but what I will say is this: as a first-time author it was affirming to know that my character’s experiences weren’t wrong.

Robert was in the driver seat playing a game on his phone when I returned to the car. At the sight of me, he shut off his phone with a smile and we headed back down the mountain to Pablo Naruda’s house. After paying a fee, I was handed a listening device that looked like a long skinny telephone before being ushered into a courtyard. There were about 14 stops on this tour of Naruda’s house, but I only had a few minutes before I risked missing my connecting flight so I decided halfway through the first description to skip to the next one. Big mistake. At the end of each section the narrator kindly tells you where to walk next. This left me wandering around the courtyard with a security guard eyeing me suspiciously. I turned down a wrong corridor and get scolded in Spanish, which ironically sounds a lot like a scolding in Vietnamese, but he pointed me in the direction I was supposed to go. I moved through the downstairs portion quickly, past the dining room, small bedroom, his mistresses’ quarters, and then finally I reached the place I came to see. Pablo Naruda’s study.

It wasn’t very large. In fact, it seemed quite small given Naruda’s notoriety and fame. There were wooden bookshelves lining the back wall, a desk, reading chairs, and lots of artifacts that reminded me of Native American relics. Maybe they were? If I’d had more time I probably could’ve listened to find out. His desk was clean with nothing more than a few pieces of paper, his glasses and a pen. It was also tiny, not much bigger than the desk I used at home. The room was brightly lit with tons of windows. I wanted really badly to sit down in one of the chairs and imagine being him; to look out over his garden and think about the words that would flow together into poetry.

For a writer, the 8-hour layover in Santiago was enlightening. I walked in the shoes of one of my own characters and sat in the house of one of the greatest writers in history. AND I did it all with time to spare, so after going back through security, I took a seat at the bar, ordered a Pisco Sour and toasted myself for a layover well spent.

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Travel to Bonaire and Chase the Silence

Chasing Silence (Photo taken by Marvin Lai)

Jetlagged and sweating profusely, I anxiously wait for my luggage to show up on the single snake-like conveyor belt of the Flamingo Airport. Usual hordes of smiling family members at the gate are non-existent here, yet there is a strong sense of community among those disembarking from the plane – everyone is a diver. The dry humidity makes for an uncomfortable arrival but less than an hour later, as I’m peering at a school of fish swimming along the edge of the Buddy Dive dock, I barely register the heat anymore. While being briefed on proper Nitrox tank checkout procedures, I jokingly (but seriously) turn to my dive instructor and promptly state, “We’re here for a week. If I don’t see a sea turtle by Thursday, Friday morning I’m going on a diving marathon and I may miss my flight home.” With only two flights in and out of this remote island, this is a serious threat. I smile inwardly as my instructor tries to read my poker face, knowing that I have just been pegged the “troublemaker” of the group. Swimming with sea turtles has always been a childhood dream; though the decision to come to Bonaire was rather impulsive.

I live in the noisy city of Los Angeles where perspective is one of the hardest things to grasp. Where I had found inspiration before, I was now left feeling incredibly nervous about the future. I spent my 20’s playing hot potato with my career, working a variety of jobs from drafting to legal consulting before finally settling on writing. A restless person by nature, I am always looking for something better and rarely ever commit to something long enough to make it a profession, but my 20’s were over and it was time to buckle down and make some difficult decisions. With this immense pressure bearing down on me and people constantly asking me, “What are you going to do next?” I did what any normal, rational person would do: I grabbed my passport and fled the country.

Bonaire – so famously known for its optimal diving that the license plates even boast the slogan “Diver’s Paradise” – is located 50 miles off the coast of Venezuela. A part of the Netherlands Antilles, Bonaire, together with Aruba and Curacao, are commonly referred to as the ABC islands. Containing a tiny population of just 14,000, the small island (only 24 miles long and 3-5 miles wide) is more urban than metropolitan.The center of town is rich in colors, with buildings painted sunshine yellow, neon blue and cactus green. Covered in artwork reminiscent of a kindergarten playground, the neighborhood atmosphere lends itself to a kind of childhood nostalgia. A vibrant mural on one wall of the local supermarket pays homage to the man considered to be the founding father of Bonaire, Captain Don.

Revered for his work preserving the natural habitat, stories about Captain Don and his conquests, be it islands or women, have become a sort of verbal folklore. With dive site names such as “Leonora’s Reef,” “Joanne’s Sunchi” (Joanne’s Kiss) and “Helma Hooker,” it is no wonder Captain Don stories are always told with a devious smirk. Famed for his work in preserving the natural habitat and known to give stern lectures to anyone who dared break off a piece of coral as a souvenir, Captain Don has dedicated his life to protecting the wonders below.

On a lazy Tuesday morning, I bike across the island along Bonaire’s paved roads, passing large cacti that thrive in the warm climate and a wild donkey that shows little interest in me. I am no different than his neighbor, and so unlike the wildlife in the city that scatter at the sight of humans he looks at me only for a moment before returning to his meal. Peddle further and the fields of cacti suddenly clear, leaving the landscape completely flat. To my right is the ocean and to my left are giant mounds of a pure white mineral. Salt City – developed by the Dutch in the 1600’s, is comprised of large mounds of sodium chloride cultivated from the sea water flowing into the salt pans – and to this day has proven to be a lucrative source of income for the islanders. For me, the discovery of natural salt pans had a different meaning. When I was young my mother used to massage salt mixed with mashed up garlic into my skin as a method of healing bruises. She claimed the salt helped defuse the clotted blood making the wound heal quickly (I have yet to find a doctor who endorses this). Not wanting to regret leaving Bonaire without any salt, should a scientific discovery be made regarding its healing properties, I pour out the contents of my water bottle and begin filling it with salt. I would later come to find that Buddy Dive actually sells this very salt (albeit nicely bottled with a proper label and pretty ribbon) as a bath salt promising smooth skin. Not quite the cure for cancer, but useful nonetheless – Thanks Mom!

Salt in hand, in trek back across the road, past my bike, towards the clear, blue, fresh water on the other side. As the sun beats down on me and a blue-green iguana scurries past towards the shade I am made aware of my close proximity to the equator. Up above, the beams of light push through to the clouds, wrapping their arms around me in a warm embrace. Below me, fragmented coral, drained of its color and tumbled smooth by the ocean water and sand, blankets the pristine shoreline. As I look around, it dawns on me that these long stretches of beach lack any of the garbage or debris that would be expected on unguarded shores. Bonairians respect for oceanic preservation clearly permeates to land as well and visiting divers dare not get caught littering. There is balance here, with humans and wildlife seeming to coexist in harmony. Enough with the beauty on land though; I came to Bonaire to dive!

Descend anywhere along the coast of Bonaire and the marine life speaks loud and clear to Captain Don’s preservation efforts. The water is crisp and clear with visibility at an optimal 80-100ft. I move at an incredibly slow pace, completing only 17 kick cycles every 50ft. but this deliberate crawl pays off as I watch an octopus change from a sandy white to deep green. A baby trunkfish explores his new environment, peeking out a few inches from behind his coral shelter to look around a bit before quickly darting back to safety. I gaze intimately at the intricate detail and color of banded coral shrimp, squint to make out a perfectly camouflaged sea horse and barely breathe as a giant squid ventures toward my mask with the grace of a ballerina. And as if the natural wonders are not enough, Bonaire is also home to a 300-foot cargo shipwreck – the Helma Hooker. Legend has it that the cargo ship, carrying marijuana, docked in bad condition and was abandoned by the owner, leaving the drugs to be confiscated by the authorities and burned on the island. That day, fishermen didn’t fish and smoke covered the island, with a westerly wind carrying the smoke all the way to Aruba, garnishing the island with the slogan, “a very happy island.” Being careful not to scrape myself on the rusted edges I poke my head into a window with a flashlight and am delighted to see that coral anemones have formed. Smaller fish stay close to the coral as large tarpon hover around the exterior like guards making sure their home is not disturbed. As I dove past the large propellers I couldn’t help but be in awe of how the aquatic life could take something foreign and turn it onto a beautiful place for life to thrive.

Happiness for me seems to be intertwined with love. A love of heritage brought me to Vietnam where I learned about my family; a love of history had me climbing thousands of steps to reach the glorious ruins at Machu Picchu; and a love of food steered me towards the decadence that is Paris. It was a lack of romantic love though, that brought me to Bonaire. My friends and colleagues hoped that I might find Prince Charming on this flight to an exotic country and for a minute I indulged in this marvelous fantasy. But truth be told, I chose the solitude of Bonaire and the forced silence that is the nature of diving on purpose. More than finding someone new to love, I needed to discover myself, because somewhere in my last relationship, I had gotten lost. So lost, in fact, that when asked what my favorite music was, I drew a blank. How can I know where I want to go in life if I don’t even know what I like? It’s classical, I love classical music.

It is early morning (before sunrise early) as I grab my iPod and walk to the edge of a nearby cliff to listen to Christopher O’Reilly’s “Tribute to Radiohead” compilation. I don’t know if it’s the beauty in the darkness, the thick warm air or the soothing cadence of classical piano but I can feel a rhythm. I am acutely aware of the gentle waves brushing up against the cliff beneath me, but more than that I sense an uncomfortable beating of uncertainty. My consciousness was kind enough to let me marvel at the beauty of Bonaire uninterrupted, but it was time to at least acknowledge that big decisions lay ahead. Looking at woman in the water beneath me, I wonder if I’ll ever see more than uncertainty stricken across her face. What mediocre job would she take that will stamp her with an ill-fitting societal identity? Hi, my name is Jamie and I’m a…retail associate? Home decorator? Accountant? Nothing fits. I am exhausted. Closing my eyes I try to meditate (not as easy as it looks) only to find myself begging God for some divine intervention. Stop. Quiet the mind, breathe in…breathe out, and let your feelings go. What does that mean anyway? “Let your feelings go?” I give up. Uncrossing my legs, I let them dangle over the edge of the cliff, and lie back. Surprisingly, my body begins to relax, still as a rock, I lay, as the color in the sky slowly changes and the sun peaks above the horizon to gently kiss my skin.

Now late afternoon on Thursday, I realize I have yet to spot my sea turtle. Peaceful meditative state of mind gone, I am feeling antsy. For fear that I may refuse to leave the island (I made sure to inject the playful threat every now and again), Will (Dive Instructor) and Chris (Dive Master) load tanks into the van and the three of us head out to the 1,000 Steps site on a private dive excursion. At 50 feet, Will spots a giant lobster and motions me over for my introduction to underwater photography. The first rule in underwater photography is to “get really close to your subject,” but underwater, depth is deceptive and things appear much closer than they actually are. Camera in hand, I stretch my arms out as far as they can reach before I feel the guiding touch of both Will and Chris positioning me for the perfect shot. As my index finger snaps a picture, my inner monologue can’t help but shout, “Bam! And that, folks, is how you take a picture of a lobster,” but Will isn’t satisfied and I am guided closer, so close actually that I feel guilty for crossing what must be an aquatic boundary regarding personal space. But my buddy Sebastian doesn’t seem to mind as he crawls forward posing nicely for the camera. Above water, the photos seem to tell a different story, most are either blurry or so far away it’s hard to tell what one should be squinting at. No matter, I had enough photographs to keep people asking me “How was the trip?” instead of “What are you going to do?” – and in the interim this was good enough for me.

Photo class complete, I float upwards toward the shallow coral, glad to be looking beyond the scope of my lens. I take in the color and the warmth, flipping upwards towards the shining sun to pay homage to whatever force or being created such beauty. As a school of blue angel fish swim above me, every worry I’ve ever had seems irrelevant and for the first time in my life, I understand what it means to live in the moment. I live my life rarely ever being fully present. My body sits at the desk of my 10th floor office while my mind is elsewhere, worrying. Not right now though. Now, I am thinking of nothing but the cascade of colors filling my underwater experience. Heavy tank and gear aside, I feel a part of something so marvelous that it is downright magical.

A light tap on my tank snaps me out of my trance and when I look up, there he is, the Holy Grail – my elusive sea turtle. Young but bold and free-wheeling, he glides through the water at a leisurely pace, stopping to chomp on some coral before quickly rising to the surface for air and to my delight, coming back down to play. Perhaps it is the colorfully animated atmosphere of Bonaire or maybe just my own juvenile tendencies, but I feel like Marlin when he encounters Squirt in “Finding Nemo,” complete with the urge to high-five the little guy. We swim side by side for 50 meters across a landscape of blue, orange, yellow and purple coral until my pressure gage shows that I am low on air and I am forced to say goodbye.

The Holy Grail…My Elusive Sea Turtle (Photo taken by William Wang)

When I set out on this journey, I was hoping that I would have some sort of “Ah Ha!” moment whereby the clouds would part and Grandma Willow would whisper a predestined prophecy of unending happiness. That didn’t happen. Society dictates the sequence of events that our lives are supposed to follow: Finish high school by the age of 18, college by 22, marriage by 27 (for girls) and 35 (for men) and careers in full swing around that same age. I passed the first two markers with flying colors, graduating high school with honors and finishing college a year early at the age of 21. But even with a full year head start, I’ve fallen behind society’s expectations. As I look around me at a world I might never have seen had I found a comfortable place to be complacent, I know that whatever choices I made in the past were the right ones. Life is not supposed to be so linear and the tick marks of age should be self-defined. If this year is the year I accomplish nothing else beyond this trip then next year can be the year that I find love or the perfect career. Today, I am happy and this moment, right now, is all that matters.

Click here for a link to some amazing photos from my trip to Bonaire.

Note: This article was written in August of 2011 but kept private until now, so it’s a new “old” posting.

Fail – Get Lost

Downtown Houston, TX

The great thing about living in a new city is that you rarely know when you’re getting lost. I moved to Houston 3 days ago and even with the help of my GPS, I always seem to be about 7 miles off target. How is this possible you ask? User Error. How was I supposed to know that EVERY store here is a major chain, whereby the location I chose is never the right one. However; aside from being 20 minutes late to EVERYTHING, I’m finding that getting lost is actually quite nice. Take today for instance, I was trying to find the library (ended up at 2 that were closed on Mondays because of budget cuts, WTF?!… but let’s not get into that) and I happened to pass by the local Chuck-E-Cheese! Now I know this may not seem that exciting to most people, but this was a childhood landmark for me, so even though I was lost, it was quite comforting.

Yesterday too, while I was driving to the local AMC theater (10 miles away from my house! Ridiculous how far people drive here to get to things) I was poo-pooing Houston for it’s lack of fine dining, when I stumbled upon Fogo de Chao. *Noted – I will have to check that place out as soon as I make some friends in Houston.  There are many things I’ll do alone, eating is not one of them. Why do we revel in fine dining, if not to talk about it’s amazing ability to molest ones palette? And you can’t talk about food unless other people are tasting it as well. Sorry, long tangent, getting back on target…

Usually, I hate getting lost. Something as small as missing my turn makes my ears boil and my skin crawl (I am a socal driver tride and true, one wrong turn and you’re sitting in 10 mins of traffic just to get back on track! Grr). But, not in Houston, you know why? Because usually I have no idea that I’m actually lost. My GPS, will tell me to make 8 right turns in a giant circle before asking me to turn left and smugly stating, “In 1000 feet your destination is on the right,” and I would be nonethewiser.

I often find, that once I’m comfortable in my routine, I take the same route to and from work, passing by the same store fronts day in a day out and never actually notice what’s around me. But getting lost nearly 4 times a day now, has turned out to be quite the blessing. I now know the locations of: 2 malls, my local supermarkets, a great steak restaurant, the premier Vietnamese cuisine, 2 major theater chains, the dangerous neighborhoods, and where the “gays” are (as the guy at Midas so disdainfully pointed out as a direction I should not travel – wrong audience, good information).

Suffice to say…I am actually looking forward to getting lost over and over again…

Do Things – Start a Conversation with a Stranger

RyanAir – Cheapest airline both literally and figuratively.

I am at the Edinburgh airport on my way back to Dublin, when I decide to muster up the courage to strike up a conversation with a stranger. Now there were two reasons I do this: 1. Research (one should always practice what they preach) and 2. He was hot. Yes the second reason should be enough to make me do it, but since there is no (caution: spoiler alert) romantic ending the first reason provides the meat of this story.

In the 10 minutes that I have been covertly stalking him here’s what I’ve deduced: 1. No wedding ring (that’s right I looked) 2. He’s a backpacker 3. He carries a Canadian passport. First thought? I could become a Canadian…I do need insurance…  Second thought? I love to travel…he loves to travel…GAME ON!

We’re flying RyanAir which is the cheapest Mother F**ing airline on the planet. They charge you for EVERYTHING (need to pee? That’ll be 30 pence biotch! Forgot to print your boarding pass? $40 euro penalty!) and there’s no assigned seating. So we’re standing in our single file Disneyland ride style line and as luck would have it he happens to stand right behind be. I casually ask him, “so how long have you been traveling” to which he replies “about a week,” in a kind of annoyed why you talking to me kind of way. I quickly tell him that I backpacked through Peru and hiked Machu Picchu, and I had always wanted to backpack through Europe (subtext: hey dude! I’m not some creepy chick that hits on hot men in airports). The mention of Machu Picchu sparks his interest, he’s always wanted to do it, but hasn’t gotten around to it yet. I tell him about my experience in Peru and he tells that me that he’s been backpacking for a week alone, but his girlfriend is meeting him in Dublin in a few days.

Damn! He has a girlfriend. I mask my disappointment, tell him that it’s very cool that they’re traveling together and proceed to exit the conversation. But to my surprise he’s still interested in me (that’s the thing about travelers, we’re all just so damn curious) and our conversation continues. We talk about that fact that I’m a writer, and he, a recent business school grad whose trying to figure out his next step. I notice that he keeps a notebook and ask him if he’s documenting his trip. He laughs sheepishly and says, “No, I should be, but they’re just my random fleeting thoughts about life.”

“Don’t worry,” I say, “I find that even though I don’t remember all the details of my trips, I always remember the feeling that I get in each new city.” He looks at me like he can’t believe what I’m saying, “I know what you mean! I feel the exact same way.” Bingo, we have reached common ground. In fact, I think he must’ve had this thought many times, but had never heard it expressed by someone else.  Anyone who travels in his or her early 20’s is looking for something, wisdom, love, culture, life etc. But we never really know what it is we hope to find. In fact, I’d venture to say to I’m still looking. When you meet someone who recognizes that feeling it’s hard not to want to know his or her story.

We were strangers, but in 15 minutes, we’d connected on a level deeper than a basic friendship. We were talking about things and events, but there was also a subtext in the conversation that we were both privy to.  He didn’t have to tell me that he was traveling because in his own life he was lost, that he wasn’t sure what he was hoping to find while abroad, but that he was indeed looking for something. It was simply understood.

When we left, he asked me for my last name should be ever come across my writing. I told him it was Hoang but that he could find me at my website. Sweet! I just made a new friend!

Of course, given that I have the luck of Bridget Jones, I get home to find that the “contact me” portion of my site isn’t working. Well damn. I’ll never know whether or not he tried to contact me, but I do know that I’m glad I decided to speak to a stranger. I think he said his name was David.

Travel – Make it a point to See the world

The Floating Islands in Lake Titicaca

“You can do what’s reasonable or you can decide what’s possible.” –Unknown

When I was in grade school I remember my teacher had us write down what we wanted to be when we grew up. Honestly, at the time I had no idea what I wanted to be. I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to be, but I knew I wanted to be doing something important so I jotted down careers that in my young mind equaled success: doctor, lawyer, dolphin trainer, firefighter, astronaut etc.

And then life happened and all of a sudden I was 24, working for the man, and in a serious relationship that seemed to leave me feeling miserable more often than not. Where was that wide-eyed little girl who could have been anything?  I was at the point in my life, where I actually had to make a decision about who I wanted to be. I could be a writer and share my wisdom with the world, but wait, what wisdom do I have? I had no great life changing stories or lessons that others could learn from. I was ordinary and borderline boring.

Not wanting to be such a dull person, I had a sudden thirst for knowledge, but not the kind you get from textbooks. Real world knowledge; I needed to travel.

The rational/reasonable side of my brain told me that I was being ridiculous. I couldn’t travel! I barely made enough to cover my monthly expenses! The reasonable thing would have been to find a higher paying job so that I could actually save some money for travel. But who was I kidding? A higher paying job just leads to a nicer apartment, finer dining, and twice as many bills.  As luck would have it, a friend of mine, Eric Batchelor, was planning a trip to Machu Picchu in the winter and was looking for a travel companion. Without hesitation I hopped on Expedia.com and before I knew it I had purchased a round trip ticket to Peru.

I found someone to sublet my LA apartment for the month, used vacation days so as to still collect a paycheck, and traveled to Peru spending the same amount of money as I would have spent on my daily living expenses. Sometimes it is better to make a spontaneous leap, throwing reason out the window, and believing that you will land on your two feet.  Think of a speeding ticket, who has money reserved to pay for speeding tickets? No one, but when you get that ticket, somehow you manage to scrape together money to pay the fine, right?  Think along those same lines and you’re vacation becomes nothing more than a very large traffic fine (or four, if you decide to travel to Europe). That being said, I am not advocating being irresponsible.

In one year I traveled to: San Francisco, Washington DC, Peru, Jamaica, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, London, and Paris. Phew, that’s a mouthful! I know what you’re thinking; I must be miss moneybags, with wealthy parents or a trust fund. I am not. I do not have any financial assistance whatsoever and I made $24k this past year. How did I do it? I made the leap and then was forced to cut out the unnecessary minor luxuries a normal 24 year old would have. No $70 bar tabs, no cable TV, a downgraded cell phone plan, cooking at home, packing a lunch…all of these small things add up.

We have all kinds of reasons for why we cannot do things but I think you will find that when you take that sharp turn towards something you really want, you will figure out how to make the rest of your life fall into place. So do yourself a favor and issue yourself a “life” ticket.

Note: This article was written for and published previously on TinyBuddha.com. The original link can be found here: http://tinybuddha.com/blog/on-making-the-unreasonable-possible/

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