Leaving Berlin this morning, a mountain of gear in hand, legs flying in circles headed south on a map that’s was more fit for a car than a biker, I experienced my first gulp of heart wrenching doubt. I did my planning at breakfast with a newly minted friend from New Zealand who had been living nomadically for 3 years now, circling cities on the road to Dresden, hoping that I would actually find myself close to one. As I left the Heart of Gold Hostel, unfortunately without the appropriate song playing on my I-Pod but instead ‘Don’t Fear the Reaper’, my stomach sunk as my luggage swayed. I inched through the crowded streets of Berlin on a sunny Saturday, the void of feeling and excitement. My mind was more settled on how the hell I was going to make it to this point on the map with no idea of how this whole cycling tourist thing works. Can I take highways, should I learn the appropriate hand signals, surely I should abide by the traffic lights on Germany’s bone rattling Autobahn?
My stream of thought melted away as the lactic acid in my thighs started to build and the bigger picture started becoming clear. I would be doing this for the next couple of years, if my dream of cycling to Beijing was going to be realized. Suddenly I found my mind wandering back to Chicago, living in a cozy apartment, eating hot Thai food on the regular, the comfortable life that I left behind. I told myself that when this is all over, I can ease the pain for a few years with a comfortable job in a comfortable US city, take a break from being nomadic. As I started to get the hang of the German road system, I felt a bit more confident in my direction, knocking off cities on the map, actually starting to get excited about reaching my first major city. The more tiny postwar German cities I crossed, half of the buildings bright in color and condition, the others ominously dark with their pre-war charm, the more I started yearning the big city life again. I started actually missing the dirty hostel beds I’d been living in, the diet of street food, the filthy but hot showers that I’d grown accustomed to.
Then it dawned on me, this is temporary. This feeling, this state of mind, this situation is temporary, and the next difficult position I find myself in, that will be temporary too. Waking up the second day on an abandoned airbase behind a brick wall off the freeway, I started to realize that this was the contrast I’d been looking for, and the magic of life resides in pushing the limits of that contrast. I’m currently writing this from a warm, stylish hostel in Dresden itching to get back on the road and back to the grit and grim of the journey. My temporary relapse of yearning for the comfortable life has past and I am setting off tomorrow along the Elbe river to the Czech border, passing through my first natural spectacle, Sächsische Schweiz, and hopefully getting to experience some of the Bohemian countryside before reaching Prague for a comfortable birthday weekend in the city. I think it’s in our moments of pain and discomfort that we learn that we really don’t need the comforts our ego convinces us of, we just start to feel a need to listen to our egos cry. Once you get past it and fall back to reality and your self, there is always a desire to reconnect with that feeling of being on the edge and experiencing this type of transformation. While I wasn’t excited laying in my tent, stiff with pain the first day out, I am excited to see what experiences will continue to test my limits of comfort and reality.
We all have moments where we connect with a feeling that there may be more to the simple sights and sounds of life, something hiding under the surface of our perceptions. About a year ago, when I committed to learning more about connecting with that feeling and amplifying it’s volume, I had no idea that it would lead my mind down such a radical path of beliefs and life experiences. I’ve been a skeptic in the past, but my life experience over the past year has instilled a certainty in me that the inner voice we all question and doubt its worth, truly is the source of miracles and amazement in our lives. The spiritual lessons I’ve learned seemed to have came to me at the perfect time, and while I’ve explored these aspects of thought in the past, they’ve never sunk in quite like they have for me recently.
The way I’ve been living my life, and I can say that I’m happier than I’ve ever been, is by accessing the feeling of gratitude for everything I have and want in my life and just witnessing the story that unfolds. It was something I was certainly skeptical about in the beginning, until I started to experience the immense love and joy inherent in this process, and I’ve never looked back. By focusing your energy on the life that you know really exists under all the societal, egoistic, selfish clutter created in the mind, you get inline with the power of your life outside of your body, your bank account or your preconception of the world. Once you convince yourself of the power that you have over your reality, and witnessing it first hand is the best way to convince yourself, there is a sense of peace and joy that begins to flood your inner-being. At first I thought that this peace came from not having to worry about bad things happening because my mind was in control, but I came to learn that that rational was rather nonsensical. We experience bad, challenging thing that often times feel horrible given our narrow view of our lives, but when we consider the cosmic purpose of our souls and actually feel that purpose through love and gratitude, we take every event in our lives as steps along the way to unleashing the bliss that resides in all of us, and realizing that bliss is the birthright of our planet. Accessing this spiritual power is simple, you focus your energy and intention on the things you want out of life, courageously follow the coincidence that happen moment to moment surrounding your intentions, and constantly fuel the people and circumstances of those coincidences with that positive, universal energy. The more energy you give to people and the events in your life, the more clear the answers and insights will come to you through the universal intelligence we are all apart of.
When you first learn about the power of the mind and your personal ability to manifest anything you can conceive into your life, the obvious initial desire is to manifest a great life for yourself; plenty of money, lots of friends, loads of free time to do what you. As you continue to connect with this universal energy through focusing on gratitude for everything that is, you start to realize the deeper levels of fulfillment that exist and your previous desires seem less important, you start being more interested in connecting with other creative beings, feeling love for the simply things and inspiring others in the world to feel equal beauty that you’ve discovered. In my spiritual coincidental searching I have met people who claim that the only thing they need to be happy is water, and freeing themselves of the delusions of the body leads to even higher spiritual vibrations. Now, that’s going pretty far down the rabbit hole, but as I’ve been asking questions and watching the answers manifest in my life, I’ve opened myself to radical ways of thinking that I would have previously dismissed. The more and more we witness the miracle and magic that our life really is, the more willing we are to accept more seemingly out-of-the-box ideas.
For some reading in, you may think what I’m proposing is pretty pie-in-the-sky, an overly-esoteric idea. Others reading along couldn’t agree with me more as you have witnessed everything I’m talking about. When I started this blog, it was originally to get comfortable communicating these ideas to the world, an outlet to face my fear of people thinking I was crazy or just a hapless dreamer by illogically following these beliefs. I’ve learned to deal with these opinions, and have come to see that we all have our own paths in life and I want to share my experiences to empower anyone else who has felt the same thing I’m going through and hopefully to open some other peoples eyes to these soul experiences I’m convinced I’ve witnessed. I’d love nothing more than to hear from people who have some belief in this concept, but are struggling with certain doubts about the absolute nature of our mind and the universe. The true power lies in that belief, so I’d love to explore everyone’s beliefs around the topic, strengthen all of our beliefs, answer any questions people have, and hear some stories of peoples magical life experiences. Love you guys.
I was honored to be interviewed by Veron Graham of ExploreTruth.com about long term travel, the journey of spiritual and personal development and just chatted about life and the world. Veron is a great person who showcases his journey of personal discovery through his blog, and I’m really happy to be connected with him.
At Explore Truth, Veron examines some of the most meaningful life questions; the spiritual journey we all need to be on, looking for purpose in life, commitment to health, lifestyle design and understanding the truths of the world around us.
Thinking back a year ago, feeling stuck in an office in Chicago not sure what I was doing with my life, I never would have dreamt that I would be in Jerusalem right now reflecting on a month of travel, looking forward to the possibilities and experiences that lay ahead. I have absolutely made a dream of mine come true and it gives me the feeling that I need to keep dreaming bigger and going for more in life. New Life Travel was just a dream of mine a year ago, and the fact that I have even 1 person reading along is astounding to me, I never set a goal for myself, I just simply followed the signs of the dream I had. Goals we set for ourselves always have some control element where we look for realistic means to the ends. The problem with the goals that we set for ourselves is that they are based in a reality that may be limiting our true potential due to fears and doubts that were created out of years of upbringing and social conditioning, uninspired bullies telling us weren’t good enough, naysayers, doubters, the media convincing us that the next person is better. Most of the world that we know is created out of a reality that is selling our true potential short as human beings, and recreating that reality is the hardest part. Your personal growth depends on breaking out of this reality, that’s why I propose we let go of our goals and start unleashing our dreams. If goals where constructed from a limited concept of reality, our dreams will bring us closer to what is really out there, all while testing us along the way.
This approach to life may be viewed as reckless and irresponsible, with things like families and the economy weigh us down, but we have to realize that there is a major misconception with the word “responsibility”, the misunderstanding that it means building the safest life for ourselves possible, where nothing can go wrong and we will be safe and comfortable. I think my generation uses the term responsibility as an excuse for not doing the things they want, instead following the stable options, leading a more “responsible” life. The thing that we don’t get is that the word responsible translates to “response able”, or the ability to respond to events and circumstances. Building a life of stability and safety is making it so we never need to respond to anything. Two problems with this are that by striving to create a life of little response, even the most stable and secure person will have to face major challenges in life and they may not be able to respond to it in the right way when it happens. Secondly, our spiritual development as humans is rooted in how we respond to life as it unfolds in front of us. Being a truly responsible person means being willing to put yourself out there and deal with every situation positively as it comes up. I truly believe that fulfillment comes from the process of going after an intuition or feeling, facing the fears and doubts brought up by it and learning to deal with problems better as you repeat the cycle. By creating a stable life, someone may feel secure never having to worry about material things, but they will most certainly feel emptiness outside of their material lives. Thinking back to the travels I made from Jerusalem to Cairo, a lot of unexpected, scary circumstances came up. Leaving Israel I was worried that getting the Israeli passport stamp on a separate sheet of paper would be a major issue. The customs agent said there was nothing that could be done, so I was willing to take the stamp and deal with the circumstances, then in the last minute, two German travelers came to the rescue and told me how to get a separate stamp. When my friends’ motor-scooters battery died in the Sinai desert, I was fully willing to spend the night under the stars with no food and little water, when a car appeared in the desert night that ended up being a truck full of cops. These two instances were the scariest parts of my trip and also seemed to be the parts where I was most, what some would consider, “lucky”. When we are responsible, we respond to the events in our life calmly and with certainty, and the result is either a positive outcome, some positive spiritual fulfillment, or both. The one thing we can do in life to ensure that we will always have something to respond to is chase the huge dreams we have in our head. And due to the spiritual light that comes from our learned ability to respond to even the most horrific trails, responsibility will usually turn our dreams into a reality.
In the video I said that the reason I love this blog so much is because I get to put my big dreams out there and continue to dream bigger. The truth is, the reason I love this blog so much is because it allows me to connect with all of you and learn about how everyone else is making their dreams a reality. I would love nothing more than for this blog to be a bit of motivation to get people excited about chasing their own dreams, and a way for me to hear if my theory about chasing ones dreams is really true. So I would absolutely love to hear what some of your dreams are at the moment and I would love to hear about all of you going after those dreams. Leave a comment and put those big plans for your life out in the open, and then start thinking about how you’ll respond to everything that comes along with pursuing those dreams. Here are some of the big, out there, seemingly ridiculous dreams that I have in my head right now and would love to pursue:
-Turn New Life Travel into a widely read blog where I can influence some of the worlds’ problems, through collaborating with non-profits, influential givers and keep giving myself as I grow.
– Becoming a published traveler writer, combining travel stories with a spiritual development message.
– Write a book about unconventional approaches to creating your ideal life and finding your purpose.
– Become an awesome photographer with not-so-awesome gear, I’m starting another website called Facingtheglobe.com where I want to post just pictures of the faces of people in every country I visit. The site will help with my fear of asking strangers, in strange lands to be photographed.
– Create a travel documentary.
– Start a non-profit that uses social media to connect the affluent world with the impoverished world.
– Become conversational in Arabic and Mandarin.
– Never stop traveling.
Before leaving the States, I was originally drawn to Tzfat, Israel after hearing that is was the birthplace of Kabbalah, with all of the great Kabbahlic mystics buried there. So when I discovered that there was a week-long program in Tzfat, I knew it was something I had to do. I discovered that the program itself ended up being about exploring more traditional Judaism, and while not directly about Kabbalah, opened me up to new experiences and inspired me to ask questions about religion and spirituality. I got to experience a full Shabbat ceremony, cooked kosher the entire week and even went to an orthodox Synagogue on Sabbath where I sang and danced with about 60 dapperly clad Hasidics, singing at the top of my lungs, dancing around in my plaid wool shirt and hiking boots. Now I don’t follow religion, and am not bias to any particular denomination, but being open to every experience really brought me back to the spiritual connection that I thought I lost when I first experienced the loneliness of being solo in a foreign land. By experiencing religious traditions, I was able to uncover the spiritual energy and joy surrounding these practices. Everywhere you go in Israel, you see different people practicing and living their religions. Even though I still don’t understand certain things, like why Orthodox men are always dressed like their going to a wedding or why Mosques have green neon lights attached to the top of their ancient towers, I have learned that there is a spirituality and a value of gratitude that all religions connect with.
The program may not have been entirely about Kabbalah, but the town of Tzfat certainly was. People from all over the planet come to Tzfat to feel its energy. Most of the people who’ve found their way to Tzfat become artists, having met painters, potters, poets … they all said they found meaning in this quiet mountain town in the Galilee hills of northern Israel. They all set out on a mission to find themselves in the world, and they all ended up finding themselves in Tzfat. It made me consider whether contentment comes from searching and holding on to the meaning you find, or from just continually searching. Seeing myself living in the same quiet town, even after finding what I was looking for made me think of the value of contrast. When we go through transition in life and are constantly stepping into new shoes, we get to experience the beauty of contrast and grow from the new things we learn about ourselves. Transition teaches us to relish the moment, because when we don’t expect permanence, we are a lot more conscious of how we experience things while we still have them. I may find meaning in different places in the world, but I also know I’ll find just as much meaning in searching for the next answer. So while I had to say farewell to Tzfat, with a week of memories and joy burnt into the past, I’m happy to be stepping back into solo and continuing my search for more meaningful experiences.
Sitting up in my hostel bed after my first night in Tel Aviv , I look around the room at the passed out bodies and sprawl of backpacks. A friend from the night before pulls on his clothes for the door, and greets me about ready to leave for the day. Before I can rub the sleep out of my eyes, we are in a deep conversation about life and spirituality, this seems to be the norm with the traveling-set. After discussing for a few minutes, he presented me with a book that he claimed to be his recent favorite. The books he pulls out looks like it should be apart of an elemtray school curriculum, with a bright yellow cover and block text, titled “Self-Discipline in 10 days.” Having a disproportionate amount of trust for my new friend given the time I’ve know him, I ask him to borrow the book with full confidence in his recommendation and head for the beach. Sometimes things come to you at the perfect time, and while this book might not have spoken to me back home, it was the exact lesson I needed for this moment in my life.
The books’ main concept is that self-discipline in our lives, or more the lack there of, is controlled by an internal character that resides inside all of us. Some may refer to it as the ego, delusions or that nagging voice, but this book in classic Psychological fashion refers to it as Hyde. Hyde is that voice inside us that brings up doubt, fears and apprehensions whenever we are faced with an obstacle or something challenging. Such a basic concept presented to me at such a perfect time. The ‘aha’ moment occured when I realized that the cycling frenzy of negative thoughts about what might happen down the road, whether or not long-term travel is something I’ll enjoy, if I’m going to really complete the goal of making it to Beijing, these were just Hyde rearing his ugly head. With the main antagonist inside us identified, the task at hand becomes pretty easy as far as Self-Discipline goes; don’t react to Hyde and give him what he want; be proactive and face whatever Hyde is steering you away from doing. When I first found myself on my own, thoughts of future loneliness, mishaps and failure popped into my head, Hyde was winning the battle. It wasn’t until I identified that it was Hyde who was causing these reactions, and not my reasonable true self, that I started getting control back over where my life is headed and control over my happiness.
This morning I received some very wise words from an Ex-Buddhist, British potter, who moved to Israel 35 years ago; found God, Kabbalah or whatever it was that made him happy and hasn’t left since, residing in a humble art studio where he works and lives with his family. His experience in life taught him that happiness comes from realizing that we have our personal plans in life, but there is also a greater plan for us in life, the reason we’re on Earth. The art of living is being able to let the greater purpose take over sometimes and let go of your own plan. It’s almost like following the plan and vision for our lives is necessary to discover the actual purpose, and greater reason that we are here. I’m still searching for that greater meaning, but for now I’m sticking to my plans regardless of what Hyde says.
Over the past year, I experienced a lot of wonderful things as a result of saving and planning for my upcoming journey. Once I committed to a direction, I found it really easy to cut out the luxuries in my life that I thought I needed, and live an incredibly simple life, originally as a means to save. As I traded gym memberships for a cinder block and expensive lunches at work with colleagues for a Tupperware full of cold pinto beans, I began to discover some important things in life. With the restriction of not being able to spend a dime, which I obsessively kept to, I started to look for free means of filling the time that I wasn’t spending out at the bars or shopping for crap I’d use once or twice. Some free activities that I found in the city were salsa dancing, which I’ve become quite good at and love, meditation, which has led to wonderful things and simply joy, reading and learning, which has opened up many spiritual and life directions, and Couchsurfing, which has opened me up to the world without ever leaving home.
Sure, this aggressive saving method may seem easy for a 23-year-old with no real responsibilities or obligations like kids or a mortgage, but I would argue that a spendthrift lifestyle becomes more powerful as we take on responsibility in life. Taking your kids to a free philosophy book reading instead of Chuck Cheese may not be the easy road, but it will ensure that your children will grow up enriched and not rely on mindless entertainment and quick fixes for contentment. All I know is, that the world of free has opened my life to the possibilities out there, that money, while important to cover needs and other circumstances, is nowhere near as important as the time that can be used to learn a language, discover a new way of thought or to run into a freezing lake in the dead of winter with close friends, all activities which are free.
Now given the anti-materialism tip that I’ve been holding too over the past year, I was incredibly surprised to find the joy that I felt in putting together some of the gear that I will need for a long-term nomadic lifestyle. I think the pleasure I got from finding the perfect pair of zip-off travel pants, or in buying expensive non-stink boxers relates to the fact that these items are going to support my life for the next couple years. No more apartments, no more closets full of clothes I barely wear, my pack contains incredibly useful possessions that will without a doubt serve a purpose in my journey. It made me consider how materialism could be controlled in the city-setting, with this concept of having only the best of what you need being utilized. I think when I make it back to civilization, however long or short that will take, I will have an apartment with only the highest quality, most essential items. No soap holders, no plasma T.V’s, because I want to learn to find happiness outside of these things, and that involves stripping your material life to the core. With such a light pack in hand, it’s funny that I feel like I have the world on my shoulders… Drop a comment with any thoughts on preparing for long-term travel, finding happiness in simplicity or just to say “Hey”!
Clothes – for all of the clothing I picked up, I made sure that they could be easily washed by hand, were quick-dry, wicking and most importantly, smell-proof.
1 Salomon Raid LS Zip Tech T
1 Salomon Trail Runner Zip Tech T-Shirt
1 Nema Boost Bike Short
1 Obey Cotton T-shirt with an old-school bike logo
1 Icebreaker Sport320 Original Zip Top
1 Virgin Wool Pendleton button-up long sleeve shirt
1 pair of Ex Officio Amphi Convertible Pant
1 pair of Levis jeans
2 pair Ex Officio Give-N-Go Stripe Boxer
3 SmartWool PhD Outdoor Medium Crew Socks
1 button up T-shirt w/ cutoff sleeves
1 Columbia Glacier to Glade II Jacket
1 Cabela Down Vest (doubles as a pillow)
1 Northface wind-proof biking jacket
High-power LED flashlight
Princeton Tec Quad Headlamp
Sea to Summit Tek Towel
2 Moleskine Notebooks
Sigg Metal Water Bottle
Kealty 0 Degree F Down Sleeping Bag
Swiss Army Knife
Medical Kit with all the fixin’s
Mosquito Head Net
Doxycycline – Malaria Medicine
Rifaxmin – Travellers Diarreha Medicine
Tissues to Go
Bag Balm for Caffeing
Dr. Bronners “Magic” 18-in-1 Hemp soap (for washing clothes, body, teeth, stripping grease, starting camp fires, fending off packs of dogs)
Sentimental – They add a little weight to the pack, but are arguably my most important gear
A burgundy satchel filled with loving notes from my closest friends.
Various herbs and stones meant to attract positive energy
A little Pyramid statute give by my mother that represents following ones “Personal Legend” (For more details read “The Alchemist”)
A gold coin given to me by a new friend with a guardian angel engraved
All of your blessings and wonderful support, Thank You!
Looking out into the icy Lake Michigan boat harbor my heart dropped for a second. I could already feel the icy sting in my toes, the cold shortness of breath as the shock takes over. There’s that moment before doing something you really don’t want to do where your brain is complete moosh. The conversation in the car didn’t really sink in as I thought of what was about to go down. The polar bear plunge is an excellent way to face pure fear, and to put yourself in a position of doing something no matter how much you want to back down. The car full of friends and the drive of my friend Alvin to go through with it were helpful in getting me into the water, but it’s tough to say if I would be as scared as I was if I had to jump into that water out of necessity.
There is this bizarre desire to experience these feelings of life on the edge, I guess as a way to test how resilient we really are as humans, and to test how little there really is to be scared of. These experiences on the edge also ignite an animal instinct in us that is an addictive feeling, the state of mind where decisions are just made and you are experiencing the moment at its fullest. Despite the grueling pain of the cold, and the short fear that I would never regain the feeling in my toes, doing the plunge was a great way of connecting with that feeling that anything is possible. It also provided the general rush of panic after sprinting back to the heated SUV only to discover the door to be locked.