The Importance of A Credit Card to A Traveler

Laundry, cleaning the kitchen, cleaning my room, and other forms of maintenance are boring. Necessary, yet boring. I also managed to drag myself to the bank and post office today. I finally submitted my PAL and C.O.R.E forums. One step closer to an adequate Plan B, if my New Zealand plan fails me. I was less successful at the bank. Apparently, I’m not stable enough for a credit card.

This is a harsh reality of the long term travel life. I don’t want a credit card. I never have. Debt has always been one of my greatest fears. My father and co-worker have convinced me building a line of credit would help me in the long run. Especially with how frugal my spending habits are. The other benefit to this mystical card would be the ability to purchase my plane ticket before the prices rise further.

Things don’t always work out sadly. Because I’m never in one spot for more than 3 months; my pay usually commission or piecework, it’s unlikely I would qualify. I wasn’t to cut over this denial to put my life on credit until I wanted to submit my PAL forums. They wanted a credit card, not cash…. So I had to use a drafted check, which added 7.50$ to my bill. Here is a lesson kids, get a credit card before you start traveling. I had the same issue with Adobe Lightroom; they wouldn’t accept a subscription from a debit card. I’ve also had this issue checking into hostels…

Today being a responsible spender only gets you so far. And while the world scoffs at most risks I take. They deny me access to other forms for risks I refuse to take. I guess this is a choir to add to my bucket list in NZ. Obtaining a credit card so I may establish a credit line.

The more I think about it, the more I realize a credit card would come in handy for a traveler. If you’re in a bind; want to jump on a deal; need some new equipment or clothes right this second. BOOM. CREDIT CARD. There have been many times in Australia this would have come in handy. So many times. I’ve had deals, flights, tickets, you name it. All pass me by, because my boss withheld a paycheck and I couldn’t get the thing right away.

I’ll get there someday I guess. On the bright side, my PAL forums are finally submitted. This has been nagging me for a while, and finally, my time in Kelowna has been made worthwhile. I miss those lovely summer nights when I was carefree and loaded. Then again, during those days I had this existential dread I wasn’t moving forward in life. The grass is always greener on the other side, and hindsight brings a rosebud tint to memories and experiences.

I also logged back into my Adobe Lightroom. It was so fun to edit one of my favorite photos from yesterday’s hike. I’m yet to brew a coffee and email myself a dump for Instagram, but that’s a fun exercise for tonight. Tonight I’ll revel in how stoked I am that I finally got around to climbing a mountain; pick a new book to read, as I finished The Compound Effect last night; which I highly recommend. A quick, enjoyable read with a lot of advice and lessons to draw from. I’m thinking about returning to War and Peace. I told myself I would have it read before leaving Canada. While I enjoyed the first 300 pages, it is definitely starting to drag on…

Wes, my old crew boss, told me the book is a huge waste of time. I’m agreeing with him more as each chapter passes by. I’ve lost track of 80% of the characters. All I know is Russia had its first real victory against the French. However, the Crown, or the Russian allies, or someone important, doesn’t view it as a victory. Apparently, France has taken so much additional land, and killed so many units, they’ll quickly close in on the defended space and take it later.

My cold showers are getting easier, but I still hate them. I like saying I take cold showers. And I really like the idea of them. Getting out of bed remains a chore, and the shower is not a pleasant experience.

Now that I’ve gotten one mountain down, I want more. I’m nagging my new ‘Adventure Buddy’ to plan us another trip. They’re thinking about grabbing a team and going winter camping. I’ve never done this before, but the idea has long excited me.

And so I enter the most tedious part of the adventurous life. Planning and plotting. Co-ordinating days off, picking a location, and budgeting groceries, fuel, and labor. I’m excited to face my fear of the cold head-on and sleep in the frozen mountains.

Adventure Returned

Today was a big day in the life of Tyler. I finally got to climb a mountain. I hung out with someone outside of work. I received a bonus and got to sleep in. While I originally planned to work on Mr. Cayley when I got home; organizing my photos from the hike took more time than anticipated. With mental fatigue brought on by two bacon deluxe burgers from Wendy’s (also the only food I’ve eaten all day). I decided to submit to my mental haze and catch up on my favorite show: South-Park.

I didn’t intend to watch cartoons today. I gave myself an hour of t.v last night, and several hours of mindless Youtube through-out the week. I’ve been so uninspired by work. However, a caption came across my Facebook feed “South Park Has Gone Too Far This Time. Making Fun of Trans Athletes Is A New Low.” The episode delivered and touched on an important issue. I won’t go into details but I recommend watching it.

About my day: it started unproductively. I woke up at 8:30 and laid in my bed filled with dread for the cold shower that awaited me. I could have read, but I told myself a cold shower will be how I start every day for now on. This morning I realized this is unsustainable. I stay in my sleeping bag, unmotivated to have cold water pour on me. I get into it, with 15 minutes to spare before the morning meeting, and realize it’s not so bad… Laying in bed dreading that shower how many hours have I wasted this week?

I decided I’ll start my morning now with some push-ups, squats, and other calisthenics. This way, I’ll start getting out of bed at a reasonable time. I’ll get some fitness in, and have a nice sweat before my cold shower. There’s high hopes for this plan.

Anyways, back to the past, and not the future. I had my friend Trey pick me up. We spoke about hiking a mountain together at a bar on Wednesday, and today was the day to do it. The sun was shining, and the temperature warm. When we arrive at the start of the trail, the clouds rolled in, and a light grey painted the background of the snowy mountains. No problem. Today was about exercise. Doing something cool, and getting into nature. I brought my camera along and I knew my shots would be beautiful.

I’m very happy my photography skills have not diminished.

The hike would have been easy if not for the ice. At first a welcomed challenge, it grew into a liability. We slipped and fell often, and slid long distances each time. More often than not, we ditched the trail and bushwacked. It was quicker and safer. A slip isn’t a big deal. However, when your incline feels about 60 degrees, and you slide and fall for long distances into rocks and trees, confidence becomes challenged. The mountain grew incredibly steep, and without the ice, it would have been a good cardio challenge. With it, a test of self-confidence. Do I trust my balance enough to scramble this steep ice sheet? Will that branch support my weight? Can I catch myself on anything if I fall from that spot? We fell a few times but eventually reached the top.

The view, the sounds, and the lone eagle in the background, where what Alberta travel dreams are made of. I was disappointed our trek up the mountain had only taken us 3 1/2 hours. I was hoping for a full days event. Though my partner was winded, and sore from a previous fall. It may have been for the best to turn around.

It got dark, 45 minutes after we reached the bottom of the mountain. And fatigue quickly hit me. It had been well over a month since I preformed any form of strenuous activity. Months since I inhaled fresh mountain air. And a long time since I went a full day without food.

That’s when we stopped for Wendy’s, and I got two bacon Deluxes. My only regret of the day. The food was good, and my company was top-notch. Fast-food goes against my ‘path of discipline’ and achieving a healthy diet. I eat enough Tim Hortons, and sweets throughout my work week, that I cannot possibly justify a ‘cheat meal’. This meal has been upsetting my stomach and giving me a mental haze since eating it.

My legs feel the incline now. Sitting here in this chair, hours later. And so does my attitude. I see the mountain range every day driving into work. After 6 weeks. 6 weeks of defeat, and stagnation, and a diminishing mindset… I finally did an off day activity that is true to me. And I feel FULFILLED!

Ironically, these are the activities I want to blog about. And now that I’ve done it, I find myself struggling to find material to speak of. I know I’ll sleep easy tonight. Tomorrow, I’ll log-back into my Adobe Lightroom, and edit my pics. I’m working for myself again. Not grinding for the sake of habits, but truly working with a passion.

Maybe I don’t need to talk your ear off. If a picture tells a thousand words, then here are several.

These are raw. Edited versions will be available on my Instagram @TheYesMad

A Wedding or Several, and Reality

This time last year, I was helping an old friend from High-school plan her wedding. She was nervous. She nor her husband, nor most of the selected guests had ever left Canada. They wanted a wedding on the beach. In some tropical paradise. She said her friends were eager to meet me. That she was eager I meet her children. She had done so much for me throughout my university years. Offering emotional support, validation, and confidence. “No one thought you could do it, and you’ve gone farther than all of them. Of course there are mistakes in this paper, that’s why we’re editing it… What a great presentation, you’ll kill it tomorrow.” She really wanted me at her wedding. To be there for her big day, as she was always there for me.

We were planning it together last November. When my pockets were still brimming with tree-plant money. I had no plans, only the cemented idea I would one day be a writer. There was no routine, structure or even voice to my style. My inbox filled with rejection emails. With no plans, but more money than I knew what to do with, it was so easy to agree to attend a wedding, across the world in a year.

The Caribean was where my family took me every winter as a child. Its where I learned to haggle, to sail, and to share myself with strangers. The Caribean Sea is very special to me. It was my first solo destination. Its also where my parents met. They met in Cuba, 26, maybe 27 years ago. How beautiful would have been to rock up to Cuba; the mysterious traveler from Aliesha’s and Justine’s past, to attend their wedding? I’ve always wanted to see Cuba. See where my parents met, and the legacy of ‘me’ began. The largest Island in the Caribean, one of the three countries in that region I’ve yet to visit.

Every time I land in Ontario, she asks for me to come visit, if only for a coffee. I always agree I will. I never do. She would have been the friend to see while drowning in self-pity and depression those days in Ontario, months ago. Before she ever became a mother, she was always motherly towards me. A big-sister to me back in the days of high school, I thought of her as bulletproof. The woman no one messed with. I felt elevated in her presence.

I bailed on her wedding. I wasn’t even upfront about it. Her travel agent tried so hard to accommodate me, and my unpredictable lifestyle. Every month I was changing my location to fly out of. Every time she made a plan work for me.

The money I saved with Primus and Tree planting didn’t last long. My job as a roadshow salesman was not nearly as lucrative or stable as I imagined… And this job… Well, you’ve been listening to me bitch daily. I won’t get into it.

No, I silently backed out of the wedding. I wasn’t upfront. Merely a disappointment. We were so close back then. Now more than ever, as the feelings of disconnection, age and loneliness seep into my bones, essence, and personality. I find myself craving to reconnect with those I once felt in such high esteem. Back then. 7 years ago, I thought our friendship was for life. 7 laters and I let her down.

It would have been easy to drive to her place and get that coffee.

I see photos of the wedding on Facebook. She looked so beautiful. So happy. I’m glad; she deserved it. A teen-mom who never let the cracks show. She was happy to be a mother. Happy to have a stable life with an amazing partner.

And then I remember where I am. Who I am. And what I must do. This path I walk is lonely. It has been for some time. Its feelings only intensified now because the haze of alcohol has been lifted, and this writing practice keeps me in a state of constant self-reflection.

Her wedding was not mine to attend because I have not seen her for 4 years. I haven’t seen her since I moved to Africa. I’ve changed since then. And she had another kid since then. Bought a house, and took on two pets. A mother to a full house. A vagabond with only stories and quick cash. We polarize by the day.

I was not there for her journey into suburban life. The stable life. I knew no one attending the wedding, and I didn’t know what I would do other than drink my face off daily at the open bar. Originally Eva was my plus 1. She decided to go to Vietnam; by impulse, I followed. Well, not yet. Our plans shifted from the luxurious wedding in the Caribean to an action-packed week in the northern mountains of ‘Nom.

While Vietnam is a vacation, it is my vacation. Aleisha’s wedding would have been fun, but it’s not who I am. And this person she’s become is not the 17-year old I would drink with at the local beach after curfew.

Landing in Vietnam puts me closer to NZ, and its a cheaper place to kill time while I wait for a cheaper flight into the land of Kiwi’s and volcanoes. Vietnam allows me to work that much longer, and do activities that are more appropriate to me. My one way into Vietnam costed me 1,050$. My travel pack into Cuba would have cost 1,350$, and working days. It would have been my only cost if I stayed at the resort. However, I’m not one to stay in a resort, despite an abundance of free alcohol and lose women.

Besides, I know the wedding guests would have compared themselves to me. “I’m a traveler just like you. I was in Jamacia for a week last year. We took a tour to Bob Marley’s grave. The poverty I witnessed… Oh my God. It changed it.” There’s nothing wrong with vacationers. There’s something very wrong with people thinking a day trip, on a guided tour, is the same as living, working, and loving in that country.

I know its a stupid pet peeve. But while most people have their neighbors to complain about, I have those people to complain about.

That being said. I love listening to travel stories, especially from those who only vacation, or travel rarely. Why? Because its a story of leaving the comfort zone. A story where you can see the wonder in their eyes. Hear the excitement in their voice and the fulfillment, amazement, or fear on their faces as emotions rush back. Those who’ve been in the scene long enough become jaded. We become used to having no stability; no grounding or guidance. We take new things for granted and become bored with routine, if not fearful of it. I would have loved to take several of Aliesha’s friends into town. To local dive bars, and on dive trips and relish in their astonishment, fear, and discomfort. However, my path pulls me to the Southern Hemisphere. Aleisha’s wedding is in the opposite direction of where I’m going and who I am becoming.

It would have been nice.

Achieving my goals will be priceless.

I dream of a day. When my bank account is so saturated I can fly here and there no sweat. When my plans have come together and every day that I’m working feels like a vacation.

Those days are years away, and they require the investments now.

I could have afforded Alieshia’s big day and Vietnam. It would risk my savings, and hamper on my plans to pull everything off in New Zealand.

I played it safe. 2019 taught me its ok to play it safe. I put my lesson to work. Now I keep moving forward and hope I made the right choice.

We Become What We Are

I’ll keep it short as I am becoming a broken record. This job crushes my soul. I’m learning something, yay-for-me. Habits and discipline. discipline and habits. COLD SHOWERS! I want to travel but I’m in a rut. Yadda Yadda. I opened WordPress 3 hours ago; ate a nutritionally void dinner. Loaded on sugar, and watched crap on Youtube for those three hours I wanted to work on this and Mr. Cayley.

I counted down the hours at work, to come home and work on my projects, only to watch other people’s channels. A mindless consumer, whos not even earning funds to consume. Fuck it. I found two things to work o today at work. I’m not as agreeable as I thought I was. But is a staple word in every sentence and objection handle of mine.

I need to fix this shit. But is lazy. A glorified Ummmm. A filler word that buys me time od debt and makes me come off as disagreeable. Worst-case scenario, unconfident. But is a weak word. I agree with this because these are my words damning but. In travel, we learn the importance of language. Word choice may not be as important as tone, but it does carry immense weight. The words we chose can have damning long term effects, and outcome changing short term effects. This applies to sales and communication in general. In my fourth year of University, when I wanted to apply a TedTalk lesson every week to my life, I set out to cut filler words from my vocabulary.

Years on the road and I’ve grown lazy in many ways. As always, I’ll pick myself up, and start again.

And when I think I’m agreeing with people, I turn out to be low-key arguing or debating. My boss and colleagues were drilling this to me at our meeting this morning.

The thing I came to realize today, is grinding won’t get me to where I want to be. Who, I want to be. I have to be conscious. Walking up to doors and knocking, it gets me nowhere if I’m not on my feet. watching the clock hit zero gets me nowhere when I come home if my day has been lacking motivation and ethic from the start.

I think back to my bank account after my third season of planting. Emerging from those cold, lonely trains in the mountains, onto the East Coast Highway of Australia. New Castle, Byron Bay, and Brisbane were homes to my havoc. My funds felt unlimited, my muscles; restless, and time was just there.

End the fourth season and I’m sore, drained and tired. I’m watching almost every dollar, telling my self not to feel guilty for buy groceries. Time. I’ve been out of time since I landed in Ontario.

I wonder if I was as agreeable, then as I am now. Have I let my sour mood, and stress seep into my sales skills? Or has my mood been soured by my enlightenment to how far I truly have to go before I can consider myself ‘decent’ at this gig. I told myself I was a killer salesman before I even got into sales. I’m realizing fundraising is a different game… A much different game.

And so, as I prepare for Otago, and phase two, in my three-step plan. I must remember that these days are not fluff. No. They are the final preparation days before the larger, harder part of this journey. I need to begin sweating the details of myself and correcting all my little flaws. I need to be a killer when I reach Otago. I need to be on that campus not because I gave time to get there, but because of my effort. And my skill won’t be from default. It will be from practice, correction, and perfection.

I Realised Something Today

So I’ve been reading this self-help book, The Compound Effect, and looking at my life a lot lately these past few days. I found some lovely trails around the route that I knock doors on. So Instead of knocking, I walk trails and pet dogs. Today I didn’t walk them with music, nor a podcast or motivational video. Instead, I allowed my thoughts to fill my head, and an image came to mind.

It was of Batman, meditating in a waterfall, somewhere in the tundra, while a bundled up woman sat with a polar bear watching. She said you’ll break. Batman said he couldn’t.

And I reflected on my post yesterday. How my discipline, and showing up willing to do the work every day, lead to my eventual success. It wasn’t like that all season, but there was a turning point, and after that; every day I was there to win.

Earlier that season, I wimped and minged about the cold. The cold has always been kryptonite for me. Give me pouring rain, high winds, or swelting heat. Its the cold I fear. But I told myself early that season, I would find rebirth in the cold as I always have, and emerge something new. Why can’t this experience be the same?

And two days in a row, I’ve taken a cold shower. It’s not much, but I’m really proud of it. I think of it as one more act of discipline and self-mastery. In a way, I face my fear when I do it. I’ve listened to some Youtube testimonials and Tedtalks. They say taking a cold shower is linked to success for several reasons.

1: You feel accomplished afterward.

2: You feel alert and energized.

3: Its another form of discipline.

And it’s that third one I want to elaborate on. In Indonesia and Ghana, cold showers were my only option. Those countries were hot. It was still a big deal to me, however. I used to love 40minute hot showers as a kid. I’d use up all the hot water if my parents weren’t home, or not monitoring it. To this day, my showers normally take 20+ minutes.

Not a cold shower. I can be done in 3 minutes or less. Usually.

The youtube videos talked about doing the shower for a minimum of 5 minutes. The funny thing is, once I jump in, I’m so motivated to get dry, I can have myself scrubbed in three minutes. So I spend the next two minutes, staring at the showerhead, while the cold water pours onto me. I’m in Alberta and it’s November. It’s not hot. It’s not even warm. I’m surprised if I can walk around my corporate housing in only one layer of clothes and not feel a chill most days.

It feels like now, for the first time, I’m really feeling the discipline, and accomplishment of a cold shower. I’m cold entering the shower. and the house feels freezing once you’re wet. And I’m scrubbed after three minutes but I’ve got to sit there and have this cold water pour on me, while I feel the cold all around.

I sit in it like Batman. Telling myself I will not break. I tell myself it’s not that cold. I don’t tense, I don’t shiver and I don’t hate it. To say its enjoyable would be a lie.

But I look at myself, my life and my achievements… I no longer have my parents to pay my way to success. I no longer have seemingly endless circles of friends willing to support and help me. There are no mentors I can turn to. All I have are my experiences, lessons, stories, and habits. The lifeblood of these traits working together will be my mindset and discipline. They’ve given me tools and lessons but now, alone in the frozen prairies, heading to the land of Volcanos, I must find my utilities within myself.

For the first time since I came up with my crazy New Zealand plan, I find myself doubting it. Doubting if I can do it. Doubting if I should carry through. And then I remember. The University is an anchor, and New Zealand is just a stepping stone to the larger goal. Its ok to fail, as long as the desired development is achieved along the way.

So I need to dial myself back to the present. I cannot stress about New Zealand, while great challenges lie before me now. I can only prepare and develop.

On my walk today. Alone in the dark. I remembered a point this summer when I had 7,000 in the bank. This was 4 months ago. Not much has changed since then. I have a plane ticket, and I’m at 6,000 give or take, with two jobs since then. I’ll have more to pay in taxes, and I have less ‘fun’ experiences to speak of. All I can ask myself is “Why didn’t I just go then?”

My Uncle once consolidated me, while I was seeking clarity for what happened in Indonesia. He said New Zealand might be the right place, but the time I chose to go may not have been. I said I was wasting time in Ontario, and backtracking in Canada. He said it’s only like that if you think that way.

And then I look at the development. I healed in Ontario. And I became deathly sick only 4 days after landing. There were symptoms or signs in Indonesia. I returned home healthy then BAM! I was dying. I couldn’t imagine fighting that terrible virus in a hostel bed, alone, yet surrounded by strangers in New Zealand.

British Columbia was an adventure. A coming of age journey, that took me through Alaska. Though I barely saw Alaska, the pride I take in saying I’ve been through it. Driven through it. Is immeasurable. One of those small things we as individuals take pride and accomplishment in, which makes us unique.

And now I’m in Alberta. I’m learning a lot about professionalism. From the dress code to the mindset, to the standards. It’s making me a better salesman, even if I’m not trying now. This stable house, so far from home, and so isolated from friends has forced me to look deep within myself.

The other thing I realized today, is my terrible mindset came from my isolation. I need friends. The thought of being a badass, mysterious lone-wolf, who lives by his terms, and goes where he pleases, when he feels like it, has always enticed me. I thought I was becoming him. It turns out it was a facade. The mentality to sustain such a beast required fuel which had long run out. I had deep jealousy for the friendship my roommates had that I was excluded from. Deep jealousy for the freedom my boss had, that he would flaunt, but never share. The feelings are passing. Maybe because I’m reading so much more. Maybe because I don’t let my numbers get to me anymore, or maybe its clarity from all these subconscious thoughts clicking together at the same time. I realized, my boss is very successful and very disciplined. He’s not special, and he’s always preached he’s an average guy, going hard every day.

I’m looking forward to my cold shower tomorrow. I’m looking forward to conquering my ‘fear’ of being cold one step at a time. The mental strength, clarity, and achievement that will come from such an act.

I’m looking forward to this new inward focus, that doesn’t sustain itself on self-pity and envy. But instead realizing obscure steps I can take to improve. I’ve always loved the obscure.

The Compound Effect and Traveling

The universe has been providing for me in an awfully weird way lately.

Last night at the end of work, I thought I heard my boss say “Be in the car for 9:50am”. At 9:41 he texted me “Leaving now. I’ll pick you up after the meeting.” I didn’t want to go to the meeting. And it upset me he left. This was a weird conflict of internal emotions. Last night I was angry we would have a meeting so early. I got what I wanted. Why the anger?

I toiled over this all morning. Why was I so angry? I got the house to myself this morning. Why did I have this feeling of guilt? I should have been happy and rejoicing in my free time and house to myself. And then it hit me.

It was a reflection of my work ethic and discipline. I have made it a priority to not ever be late for work. It started in Australia, under my Crew Boss Hutch. Hutch was huge on discipline. He insisted discipline was the root and cause for success. He also drunkenly told me one night he had two personal goals for our season together.

“First. I want to help Will control his anger. His emotions in general, but anger is the most important. He’s a great man.. It’s been hard for him… So hard… But he’ll do great things. He just needs to stop hurting those in his way. And then there’s you. My little alien. I don’t know what the fuck you are, but I’ll crack you and make you great. Do yourself a favor, and ditch Paul. If I can put discipline into you. And calm Will the fuck down… I’ll have done my job. Yeah, mate. I’ll have done a fuckin’ sick job.” This was after 2 months of planting together. I laughed it off because I used to pride my self on being a high-functioning hot mess. WIll, Hutch, and the rest of my Australian crew made me realize I’d feel better and perform better with some organization and discipline.

I wash my dishes after using them. Always by hand. I always prep my work gear/clothes the night before. I ensure at least 6 hours of sleep. I try to stretch and hydrate, but sometimes I forget.

I stress punctuality and showing up prepared; like Hutch stressed it to me.

I lost touch with Hutch, and I regret it. He was such an elusive mentor. I didn’t know what to make of him. We had a great personal and professional relationship. Every time I lack discipline, I feel like I’m failing myself, but also betraying Hutch’s memory. He was so proud of me when I highballed the camp. He told me, it was me. Everyone, one by one that night, told me “If anyone deserved to highball Will, it was you.” At first, I didn’t like that. It made it feel like it was handed to me out of courtesy or being recognized for my positivity.

A year later I know now why I ‘deserved it’. I was showing up and giving at least 80% every day. The day WIll slipped and everyone else had fun; I kept going at 80%. When Will noticed and cranked himself up; so did I. And I beat him by 295 trees.

Habits meeting opportunities lead to success.

Since my rookie days, I had always wanted to be the camp high baller. WIll was a legendary planter within Outland. Three seasons in a row, every day at the top. Their number one asset. Will, the ex-military, almost pro-footballer, Brazilian orphan who could; was undefeated. This man was the embodiment of discipline (when he wasn’t lost in rage). And I beat him. For the first time in two years, someone beat Will.

I did.

That day was huge for me. And its a day not many would understand. I was never a man of ‘habits’ at least not positive ones. Anytime I tried a new positive routine in university, it wouldn’t stick past a couple of days. A prideful ‘hot-mess’.

And what a weak achievement it is, to be the camp-highball, for one day. In my hundreds of days in the bush, there was only one full, even day I came out on top. In the grand scheme, it doesn’t seem so grand.

To me, it was everything; at least at that moment. When I beat the man I spent the whole season looking up to. The best-friend I felt inferior to. One of the only people who I can honestly say intimidated me. And I beat him. At his own game, using his own rules. I wasn’t ‘set-up’ Will wasn’t injured. I didn’t use caffeine pills or start early. Nor did I end late. I just hit the trenches with my habits.

It’s funny, because I used to ‘cruise’ all day to 2,000 trees. I was fine with making 200$ and calling it a quits. Will hated that. But that’s a different topic. But if WIll never gave me those chats, I would have never risen. I have so much to thank him for… Not just in planting; but in work ethic and values.

And that’s why I was angry. Although I was ready for the time I thought we were leaving, I missed the real-time. My work ethic, and discipline were proven failable. I wasn’t angry I missed the meeting (I was actually really happy). I was angry at myself, for being late.

I used to be late every day for class.

When I reached the car to go to work I thought I’d recieve an ear-full. “Man. I need to apologize. There was a miscommunication. You’re always early. I know you weren’t being slugish.”

And that was that. My routine entitled me to the benefit of the doubt.

I’m reading a book called the compound effect. It’s hard to maintain habits while you travel. Especially the positive ones. But I maintain the habit of showing up on time, and it’s paying off.

 

 

Was I Supposed to Leave Kelowna?

The other night I spoke to an old friend. Wyatt, from the Farm. He told me he was glad to hear I was writing my short stories again. I told him I was glad to hear he had worked himself out of a rut and things were good in Kelowna. I was happy to see him, months, which feel like a lifetime ago. He suggested we become roommates at ‘The Nest’. Even if I didn’t go there, I was happy and welcome at the International Hostel. It was finding a job that proved difficult, and Kelowna is expensive. Far more expensive than I had planned or budgeted for. I got my PAL course out of it, yet I’ve been putting off mailing the forum… I want to say its laziness but its something else, and I can’t place it.

That License was the only reason I went to that dirty city. To embark on the path of Wildlife Officer, as a plan B. In case New Zealand didn’t work out; my next adventure would be in the cold, cruel artic. ‘Shootin’ shit’ As my old company boss said.

What is it that I need to prove, and whom am I trying to prove myself too? I keep traveling, keep doing these weird, fringe things, and its never enough. I never feel enough of my self… I emotionally invest in ‘normal’ people. Do a ‘normal’ job, and I feel caged. Trapped and hating sobriety. On the outside, I need clarity. I enjoy drinking on the fringes. But my internal conversation is different. I don’t glorify drinking, or particularly get excited about it on the fringes. It’s not what I look forward to; just a by-product of a larger and greater experience. Lord knows my first and second seasons tree-planting wasn’t hazy. And drinking as a traveling fundraiser… it was lose, to say the least. Yet, in my third season. At the end of fundraising. During my couch hopping road trip…. Rangers, 4th season… Ghana. I enjoyed partying but I didn’t live for it. Not in the same way I did while in school. I didn’t crave it the way I did in Ontario when I returned from Indonesia.

I didn’t miss it in Indonesia… But those days are far behind me. Even Kelowna is far behind me… and it was only a few short months ago. I blew so much of my tree-planting money and spent so many summer days reaching Kelowna. I had it in my head I needed the PAL Course. It was in my head I would find stability there. Wine Country. Me, in WIne country. I wanted to write an article, and I held out. I tried so hard to get a short term gig on an Orchid with the intention to observe and write. The season kept getting pushed back.

There was another thing holding me there. The friends I made. This isn’t to discredit those I met in Smithers and the Northern Interior. Just, by the time I met them, I had already sworn off Smithers and sold myself on Kelowna.

My Father said I’m a lot like my Mom. Once a goal or destination is located in my mind. I become stubborn and tunnel-visioned. Obsessed in my focus. The same thing that strapped me in Kelowna I found in Smithers. But I told myself the warm sun, and beaches were what I wanted. I told myself I was done with the mountains. Only to crave the hikes once I reached wine country…

I finished my PAL Course and felt like a total badass handling the automatic shotguns. In fact, I handled every gun far better than I thought I would. I liked the extra-movements, and seeming complexity of a bolt action compared to the other models. If I ever, truly get into hunting, that course showed me a bolt-action is what I want to use. The friends in Kelowna during my first visit had long since left. I made new friends, a solid hostel crew. They all left early in the morning. I missed goodbyes with everyone, as my course was at weird hours… I used to hate goodbyes. In a way, I took power out of being the one to keep them short. But when fate and timing deny them, I feel cheated in such an odd way.

One left, and the whole team disapparated. I’m used to it… But this crew felt permanent… Tass was our ringleader. A wise woman who excited me. I was eager to see the mischief and insight our friendship would yield (She was an excellent wing-woman). We were a perfect misfit team, armed with a loud, cocky and self-loathing Brit ‘Jordan’ a spacey party girl ‘Tegan’, and a loud party girl Emily. And our team grew to attract an Australian research diver Jai, who would teach me photo editing. We had a Kiwi and a group of European girls. And then a German fighter-pilot swept through our hostel. Woed Tass, and brought her back to Germany with him.

Everyone went their own way a week or two after Tass left. Until it was just Jai, Jordan, and I. We had fun, but it wasn’t the same. A crazy french bastard joined our crew and brought cocaine and villainy with him. Cocain is not my scene, but the others loved it. Their nights of partying blurred into several, and they laughed off massive bar tabs.

My budget, and New Zealand goal kept me from going out with them. Their lives became the party and I faded to silence. I was able to focus on writing. I did some reading. But I mostly spent my free time smoking weed, studying for my course, or wandering the beach alone.

There was also Trevor. A man whom I’ll need to write about in separate. I could write about Jacob and Jai, and the crazy french bastard as well. However Trevor and I clicked in a weird way. I was threatened by him, but I also really wanted to be his friend. Someone who I would regard as my competition. Maybe Kelowna made me realize I have no idea what I want.

It was hard to get out of Kelowna even when I wanted to. There was this girl I really liked. And Wyatt found us a cheap place. I met the ‘potential roommates’. We had the right vibes. They were artists in their own rights and liked the idea of a writer living with them. Wyatt told them about my ‘Kispinox Project’, They loved it, and wanted me to do something similar for the Nest. When they read some of my works, they were sold on me….

Yet Vancouver Island called for me. I wanted to visit Poolesland, and Tofino again. So many friends to see. And a traveling sales job promised to take me there. I thought things had worked out…

Even before this, I had tried several times to leave Kelowna. I used rideshare apps. Asked hostel guests. I even booked a bus ticket. Everything got canceled last minute. The more I tried to leave, the worse my situation in the city became.

I remember the day I had to embark. My last possible day to leave Kelowna, or face losing my job for the roadshow. I left for my bus out of town an hour early. I would allow for no mistakes. The transit bus blew past me. It took 40 minutes for the next to show. There was a delay on the roads, and time was getting cut short.

Dropped at the university, I was informed the information on Google maps was incorrect, and my next bus wouldn’t arrive until after my bus to Vancouver left. So I called a cab. Riding the bus from Downtown to the university cut down my fee by 60$. I would be willing to pay whatever extra to finally leave Kelowna. Especially since I couldn’t get my bus deposit back. I would lose my 80$. The cab never came, though the company swore it did. they said another would arrive in 20minutes. By this time, there was only 15 until the bus left. I was a 5-minute drive or a 20minute walk. So I called, begged them to wait, and began running. Bags and all.

I was fighting back tears of frustration while I ran. My bags were heavy, awkward, and leaving bruises. The day was hot and I was slow under their weight. I would miss my bus. At this rate.

Then a car of students rolled past. “Tree-planter! Ayyy Tree-planter!” I turned and a group of fresh students rolled past slowly. This was my chance.

I jumped into their window. Yelled “I NEED A FAVOUR! PULLOVER.” They did. The abrupt stop, with the weight of my bags, threw me onto the ground, but there was no time to waste. I sprinted to their trunk “OPEN UP” they did and I jumped inside. I used my foot to hold the hatch closed while the driver laughed manically “OH MY GOD! I LOVE TREE PLANTERS!” Her passengers were less than impressed.

They drove me to the bus. They blocked it with their fucking car! Treeplanters. We compete with each other in season, but where a giant family in the offseason.

I boarded my bus and left Kelowna. And I’ve questioned since the day I left if it was a good choice. Was the universe trying to keep me in Kelowna? Did I break our agreement by fighting fate, and forcing myself out of the city? Was I to be there for more than a few parties and a gun course?

Working this job, and reflecting on my previous job, and the experiences there and in-between I’m unsure if I made the right call. I know one thing. I won’t get the time, opportunities or money back. I heard a quote last night. It was so profound, and I’m sure it was from Daredevil. to paraphrase from memory “Going back and changing things won’t necessarily make things better, they’ll just be different”.

I need to remind myself of that. I left Kelowna for more than just work-related reasons.

“You remember the good parts.” Words of a vet tree-plater who took me under his wing during my rookie season. I apply that saying every time I find myself reflecting on the past, and asking why I left, changed things or otherwise gave it up.

Because it’s only the good parts that are on my mind.

I wonder how I will feel about this experience that I cannot grind nor auto-pilot. Is this making me more aware, or making me sour?

Looking Back on Ontario and the Unlearning

 

It was easier to stay stagnant in Ontario, as long as the greater feeling of defeat was accepted. Lakes aren’t as beautiful when they’re frozen. Especially when they don’t have scenery in the backdrop. Yes, the vast lakes of Ontario are a sight to behold. They don’t get as big anywhere else in the world. Oceans of freshwater. And yet, despite their economic and social geographic significance, they bear little weight for tourism. The winds are cold, and in the colder months of the year, I want to be further away from the lakes than closer. Though my dad and I, did go for a sled trip across Lake Simcoe, it was super fun.

I can’t be too hard on Ontario, for it was my mindset, more than anything, that was ruining me. It started with needing my mother to bail me out of Indonesia in a panic, followed by significant sickness. Topped with a terrible job, and learning my friends had moved on. Ontario presented internal struggles. I remain mad at myself to this day for giving into my internal darkness as easily and fully as I did. But in other ways, I don’t.

See the Ontario culture, unlike the rest of Canada, is all status and savings. Its the only province that asks “What do you do?” Instead of “How are you doing?” When you first meet someone.

When you chose the travel life, over the stable life you get high earning jobs, that are not glamourous, if not stigmatized. I probably made more money than most people my age; but my title bore no significance or prestige, and for that, I was dismissed. Plus it was my last job, not my current job…

In Ontario, your job is who you are. People would ask me “What do you do?” And I would say. “I work for Primus. I sell internet and home-phones… But it’s just a temporary gig. I make my money tree-planting but my bank got hacked… I’ll make it as a writer someday.” I would panic, or get self-conscious while telling this to people. It killed me, thinking I had a degree, became a top tier fundraiser in Australia, and had traveled the world. All to sell homophones…

My Mother desperately tried to make me take pride in what I did, or join her at the Greenhouse, where she did part-time work for fun. I rejected every offer. It paid less than my sales role and would require more effort. When she tried to excite me on the home phone I would remind her it was obsolete technology… She would try to get me hyped on the internet packages I had. I tried to get hyped on the price. Costco customers would remind me daily how my company screwed them or their family over.

I literally had anxiety over people I sold too, coming back and complaining about the product. This is because it happened regularly.

My parents would get annoyed with my habits and routine while staying at their place. I would wake up late for work. I didn’t keep my room tidy and I hardly worked out. Physical fitness was a priority in my home growing up. Even in his late 50’s, my father plays hockey, paintball, and sleds regularly. My mother goes for walks that take hours. Aqua fitness, and gardening at the GreenHouse. They instilled in me there was no excuse to not utilize my body. Yet in their basement, I could never find motivation. Those few times I did; it felt like a manic episode. My new routines would never last more than 3 days.

I fell out of cooking and stopped writing. Before this blog, I had two books on the go and loved writing ridiculous short stories that were always declined by publishers. I still wrote to friends though. Like Tucker Max, my lengthy facebook messages left my friends, and former lovers howling with laughter. They told me these were what I should have been mailing to publishers. I told them, these stories wouldn’t hold a candle without context.

But even that stopped.

If you are what you do in Ontario, I was a husk of my former self; swallowed by depression, anger, and self-pity. I told myself my only purpose in Ontario was to grind daily, until I achieved the funds for New Zealand. A man with no passion or hobbies, I only had my job to define me. However, my job was nothing to be proud of. Yes, I could sell three services a day. Somehow I was selling home phone services on their own, and I took pride, that in 2019, I could sell home phones on their own…

But it was a weak sales job. Heres why.

1: Selling on price. The thing Primus brings to the table is that it’s often cheaper than the competitors. That, and it does stable pricing. Whatever price you’re contracted on, you’ll retain for however long you stay with the company. It’s a very weak sales strategy, to be using price as your main point of contact. It works; god knows the price doesn’t screw me with this job. However, it’s a horrible habit. Especially if you want to transfer to something quality.

Selling based on value is very different than the price. It’s a different mindset. I would argue selling on value is ‘true’ sales. While selling on price, is, glorified retail. You’re letting the price tag do the work for you, while you twist their arm a little bit. It’s a lazy tactic.

2: The Culture: We had a conference call every morning. We would have to check-in, and listen on the phone for an hour or two, while our boss rambled on about the top salesmen, gave us selling tips. and made us congratulate each other over the phone. In my time with Primus, I met three people. There 25 people in those daily conference calls. I couldn’t care about people I hadn’t met, would never meet, and had no effect on my job. And the advice in those morning calls was awful. The top boss stressed closing the sale as fast as possible. “The longer it takes you to fill out their forum, the longer they have to think this is a bad idea and say no. The more you say no to them, the more likely they are to say no.” Essentially it was on closing as quickly as possible, and not giving room or time for a no. I used to think it was smart. Close the deal quickly. Give them no time to object, or think of a reason why not.

That’s super fucking slimy. The way I see it now, after working this legit sales job. If you can think of a reason to say no to me, five minutes after I’ve sold to you. I have not done my job as a salesperson. I need to make you educated on the product, I have to inspire your greed for the product. You have to walk away feeling like this was a good idea! My customer shouldn’t be manipulated, and our boss shouldn’t be showing such a lack of confidence.

3: Training: I had a 3-hour video class and a shift with my location manager. After that, I was tossed to the wolves. My manager, I’ll call him Kyle, was nice. I really wanted to be his friend. And he was a true salesman. The advice we received in the morning conference was questionable. However, Kyle was something else. He had this sharp look to his eyes, and he could close like a mother-fucker. He knew how to turn on the heat and pressure you in.

I didn’t get to work with Kyle as much as I wanted to. In fact, after our second shift together, which was my 4th shift, I wouldn’t see him for 3 weeks. Everything I learned, was either self-taught or in a panic as I called Kyle for assistance with a sale. All in all, I left that company very disappointed with how little I learned in my three months there.

4: The Pay: I don’t know about you guys; for me, work is all about the money. When I was younger the experience was important. Hell, it was vital. Now I justify everything with the pay. I’ll be bord as shit, sweating buckets if the price is right. Primus paid 15/hr plus 10$ commission per sale unless I bundled Home phone, long-distance, and internet. Then I got 35$. My friends doing their masters earned more than me on average. And they were working towards something.

5: Belief in what you sell. Ultimately, you’ll fail in sales if you don’t trust your product. When People I knew from my life before traveling passed my booth, I would come home and tell my parents about it. They would always say “Thats great! Did you sell them?” It was always a hard no. I didn’t want to bore these people with my pitch. I didn’t want to waste their time or money, I just wanted to chat with them. And that’s why my graduate friends were out-earning me. That’s why I took so little from the experience and fell into a depression. That’s why I used slimy tactics, and price to sell. I didn’t believe in being a third-party provider, and I sure as hell don’t believe in the home-phone.

I understand its merits. But it was 75% of my commission capabilities. The Internet would only pay between 5-10$ per sale. The home phone was a minimum of 10$, taken to 20$ with the long distance. it became 35$ if I could tack on the internet, as well as the calling features (call display, answering machine, call waiting etc.)

This new job, for an employer I won’t name. Well, their policy is a stark difference to those tactics. My boss always cringes when I bring up their tactics. He’s gotten to the point of yelling “FUCKS SAKES THIS IS NOT FUCKING PRIMUS”

He’s been drilling into me to sell based on value for the past two weeks. And for the past two weeks, I have. It was terribly hard at first, but I’m getting better. In fact, out of my teammates, I was the top seller last week. And I have to say; It’s very rewarding to sell on value. The customer gets something they want. You don’t have anxiety leaving the sale, and you don’t need to rush to close. They ok with waiting. Why? Because you actually sold them something and didn’t prey on their impulse to save money and spite their current provider.

I don’t sell on emotion, but I do find pain points. I find issues people are having and offer them a solution to fix them. Its not manipulation, it’s becoming informed of other options.

While I wouldn’t say I’m fulfilled at this job, and the pay sucks. In all honesty, I was probably making more with Primus (due to the hourly wage), which makes me want to scream… I’ve been learning a lot of valuable skills here.

If 2019 stood for anything, it shows career progression in both sales and tree-planting. And at least with this job, I’m cooking for myself again, keeping my kitchen tidy and I’m finally writing. It may feel like I’m owned by this company, but at least I’m not a husk… I’m honestly not sure which is worse…

At least the book is coming along.

 

Landing In Java

There comes a moment in everyman man’s life where he realizes he may be in over his head. That just because it worked in a music video, book, or movie; doesn’t mean it applies to real life. I flew into Java, exhausted. It was meant to be a 12-hour flight from Cairns, Australia.

AN 8-hour flight into Singapore, 4-hour wait there, and then a four-hour flight into Java. It was going to be a rush day. I had a Doctor’s appointment for 3pm, and It was my last possible day to do this appointment. This was for a medical check to qualify for my Working Holiday Visa in New Zealand. I guess I did have a plan walking off the plane. Get examined then find Eva.

However, I had no idea how I would find this Dr’s Office.

There was a delay in Singapore. My 4-hour layover was extended to 8. I didn’t let myself sleep. I was to paranoid I would miss my flight if I slept in the airport. my mom got me a priority pass for Christmas. I hit the open bar for 3 1/2 hours, thinking it would help me on my flight.

At my gate, I learned about my delay. I had the fatigue of hanging out with my old planting buddy Aladin and his newborn. Then flying for 8 hours on a flight that was impossibly difficult for me to sleep on. Only to drink for 3 hours or so, and now sit around for another 4.

I couldn’t get to my chair and fall asleep fast enough when I got on the plane. I felt cheated with how short the flight was. I wanted more time to sleep.

Landing, in the megacity of Jakarta. I was anxious and excited to find this Doctor’s office. I jumped on a bus. While riding the bus, I found out I needed passport pics. No problem. Once off the bus, I got a guy to drive me to a photographer. Getting there was easy, getting out was hard. I was off my mapped plan I had hastily scribbled out in the airport terminal.

It was raining, I was lost, and no one spoke English. My cell phone had no service, and my bags were heavy. I only had 3 hours to find my doctor. After some running I would find a landmark, that aligned with my scribbled map. And I was back on track! I got a bus that leads me to a really run-down part of the city. I was still drunk stumbling into the Dr’s office.

We argued over my papers. We argued over my procedure. We then argued over when they would send my papers. Many say I’m an argumentive drunk… Maybe days like today prove it.

With my most daunting task complete. I now had to find accommodation and Eva. I ran around the beaten-down slums looking for the bus to get on. No one spoke English and I boarded four different busses. I saw a lot of the city and knocked a lot of people over with my bags.

Eventually. Wandering through the light-rain, feeling defeated, I heard a woman cry.

“Bule! Bule! Where do you go? My daughter travel like you! I want to help you! I need to know people help her overseas! I’m old! I no hurt you!” I decided to trust her, as she offered to carry one of my bags.

She gave me a tour of the city and told me about her life. She was a translator in Australia and a private contractor for the military, and now… It’s classified, but really damn cool.

I couldn’t reach Eva that night, so I let the woman take me back to her place. She gave me such a tour of Jakarta in her car. She took me to one of the richest parts of the city. The kind of suburb that has a gate in the middle of if. Excluding the suburb from the inner circle. She lived in the inner cirlce. By the tennis court and park. She taught me Bahasa words, and we drank tea laughing about how tinder sucks, and dating is overrated.

I sadly lost touch with her shortly after departing from her house to find Eva. I hope shes doing ok, and that people are taking care of her daughter. Such a sweet woman helping me out of my mess.

Arriving to Borobudur

It was a tinder date that directed my attention to the Island of Java; after my Christmas vacation with my parents in Australia and Bali. Originally I was going to Thailand for a few weeks. Hang-out and wait for my New Zealand Working Holiday Visa to be approved. However, a girl I met in Bali, invited me on an adventure to Borobudur. The largest standing Buddhist temple in the world.

I’ve been fascinated with Buddhism since I was a kid. My Uncle is a Buddhist. He’s been on several trips to India and Tibet to pray with the Dalai Lama. He would always return with trinkets and stories from these mystical parts of the world; filling my head with wonder.

To go to the largest temple seemed like the ultimate ‘finding myself’ Millenial challenge I needed before heading to New Zealand.  I had already kicked off 2019 by diving the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. With a natural wonder under my belt, it would be great to balance the equasion with a man-made wonder. Especially one, pertaining to a philosophy that always intrigued me. Especially with a girl that interested me.

My first day on Java will be a good topic to talk about tomorrow. I didn’t see the girl, Eva, until my second day on the Island. On an island inhabited by 146 million, in a city populated by 12 million, it was rather difficult to locate an individual 4’11 girl. Especially with a dead cell phone, no set plan of meeting, and no knowledge of Bahasa. Indonesia’s official language.

We met, and discussed the best way to reach Borobudur. Eva suggested flying. To me, this was a no-go. I had such a stigma built towards domestic flights. I always assumed flying domestically would cost a fortune, as well as glancing over many great sights. That is the problem of growing up in Canada. Flying internally is expensive as hell.

Instead, this flight would only cost us 70$ and take 40 minutes. I’ve never been on a flight so short. My excitement was immense. A forty-minute flight, that would wind up being cheaper than a 14hour train ride. How was this possible? I decided to let the Asian do as Asia does and book our flights. I was in a different hemisphere and things were surely different here.

We landed in Yogyakarta. Special Province Yogyakarta, if I’m to use its proper name; and the Yogyakartans are very proud of this title. Yogyakarta, with its small city, and scattered villages, hosts several world wonders, and serves as the bastion of Indonesian resistance to colonial rule (the part of Indonesia to never be colonized, conquered, or infiltrated. Many resistance movements sprung from this tiny mountain valley. That too is for another blog post).

Eva said we should get some rest if we’re to wake up early and catch the sunrise. I was very keen.

But when the 4:30 Alarm rang, I was suddenly not keen. I wanted to sleep. More importantly, I wanted to rent a bike and drive myself to the Temple. The local rideshare app ‘Grab’ said I could hire a personal driver for 15$. Or I could rent a bike for the day at 5$. I had just finished reading Shantaram, and the lead character Lynn had a motorcycle. I thought Lynn was an exceptionally cool character and wanted to ride a bike just like him.

How incredible would it be? Blazing through mountain trails, on a motorbike with a chick clinging to my back? It would cement the image of being that ‘cool, badass vagabond’. Yes. My ego needed this bike.

However, Eva refused to let me drive. She didn’t trust me. She called me incompetent, and cocky and said she would have to drive because mountain roads, were no place for a rookie to learn to drive. I was insulted at first and grew bored clinging to her back. She complained about fatigue while driving. I offered to drive, she frequently refused.

After two hours of blazing the dirt roads into the mountains and jungle, Eva decided I should get a chance to drive. Since my nagging had become relentless and she grew tired.

It took me 5 minutes to drive straight into an oncoming car.

The bike shot up, Eva screamed as my body flung over the handlebars. My chest smacked into the car door, while Eva was thrown across the road. We were wearing helmets, and they paid off. However, our bodies were bruised. The bike received minor damages. The guys I hit were really cool about the whole situation. Despite putting a tear into the metal on their car door, they just gave me a lecture and drove off. Eva’s arm was badly bruised, and this crash would result in her feeling nauseous all day, but otherwise, we were fine.

She insisted she would do all of the driving for the remainder of our time in Yogyakarta together.

When we got to Borobudur, I was disappointed to see how touristic the setting was. It made sense. A landmark such as this would generate streams of tourist revenue. It killed the illusion of being some hidden away temple, deep in the jungles of this unfamiliar island. The roads went from poorly maintained, to pristine almost instantaneously, and the world went from quiet and isolated, to loud and vibrant. We parked the bikes and supported each other to the line of the temple. My ankle was banged up pretty bad.

I was annoyed at the price difference upon arrival. 5$ for Indonesians, 35$ for foreigners. While it felt less attacking than the Ghanian system, where your price is dependant on skin color; very rarely was the difference this stark. Still, it is their culture, their history, and their land. If I can afford a flight that costs hundreds, if not thousands to fly into this Holy Island, I can afford to shell out some additional beer money.

What really bummed me out with Boroubudur was the commercialization of the place. It was packed with tourists and vacationers seeking the perfect selfie. These extra bodies got in the way of my perfect selfie! How dare stand and gawk, in line of where I want to be photographed, standing and gawking. The walk to the temple, from the park’s gates, felt less mystical by the step, with vendors, planned gardening, and information booths in every direction. The illusion of tucked away temple was shattered. This was a meer tourist hotspot.

And then I saw it. Basking in its might glory. Standing over a hundred feet high. This massive stone pyramid. Only fortress would be a better word to describe it. A stone monolith, towering above the trees, and hills!  My only thought was “HEY! Who put that rock there?” For that’s what it looks like. Just a giant rock with steps, overflowing with tourists.

As I drew closer, my opinion changed again. Every stone had detailed and intrisiquite carvings. The carvings told a story, and their detail was preserved miraculously. I asked Eva for an explanation. How was this monument possible. What did the carvings mean? What would we find at the top of this pyramid?

“I don’t know.. I haven’t been here since I was a child.”

“But you said this was your culture! that you learned about it in school and knew about this place!”

“Yea, but that was years ago….”

I was furious for letting her talk me out of the tour guide at that moment. I was so curious about the carvings and their history… I asked tourists as they passed by. They either didn’t know or didn’t speak English. No one was in the mood to give free tours anyways.

So I pulled out google and began looking up everything and anything I could about Borobudur. I gleefully dragged Eva by the hand, up and down its many steps. running to stone pannels, and Buddhist statues to explain their importance to Eva, as I was learning it from google.

“OKOKOK! Look! So this first floor here. It Tells the story of worldly corruptions, and the day to life of humans, as they face distractions and corruption!”

“Yes… Yes… Cool.”

Then I pulled her up the stairs. And made her look at her at more stone carvings, that similar to those on the floor below us, but also very different. “Ok! SO these rocks! These stones here EVA! They’re the Buddha’s life! and each level will show his path to enlightenment.

You can best believe I made her walk the permiter of the pyramid, over, and over, and over. “Look at this rock!” It would have been cringy if I wasn’t so awestrucken, enthusiastic, and genuine. Borobudur is truly a special place. I won’t lie, it began to get a little bored going through the Buddha’s story. The rocks and carvings seemed to repeat themselves. Eventually, Eva chimed in.

“So, this place was covered by a mountain that collapsed after an earthquake. They dug it up around the ’20s. It was built in the 8th century, and there were three dynasties that had to build it.” “Where was this earlier?” “I forgot… You know I was in a motorcycle accident.” And it was then that I noticed the blood dripping from her forearm. “If this fucks me up for practice next week I’m going to be pissed. I have a competition coming up Ty.”

I felt bad. It was becoming clear Eva wanted to go home. I had to see the top though. How could I reach this monument and not discover what laid for me at the top?

At the top there were bells. These belles represented clarity of mind, a wholeness, and realization of the cycle of life. The bells were at the top of the monument to signify clarity and enlightenment. Inside each bell was a statue of a buddha. With a grand bell in the center. Eva was annoyed, but a good sport about following me around as a paparazzi, as I begged for photos with one bell, then another bell, and so on.

The drive home was far less eventful than the drive to the ‘hidden’ temple. However, Eva did surprise me with another stop. She took me to the sunken theater in the middle Yogya, and several underground tunnels. While the tunnels were cool, I longed to have spent more time eyeing those impressive stone carvings.

“So how did they find the temple?”

“There was another earthquake. the collapsed mountain broke down even further, and certain rocks poked out. People began to investigate, and eventually, they dug out this massive temple.” Her tone lightened. She was growing annoyed with my fixation on the pyramid, but speaking of its rediscovery made her chuckle. “It was dumb luck the monument was preserved. It was lucky we found it again. Pramadian temple collapsed from an earthquake, and a lot of its carvings washed away from rainfall. But Borobudur was buried and protected from rain. And then when the second earthquake came, the dirt on top supported it, so it wouldn’t break anymore.”

And it was that conversation that made me realize how lucky we are to live in the 21st century. Where ancient wonders and different cultures are available at our fingertips. What would have been a several month-long expedition back in the colonial days, took hours to plan, and a day to execute in modern times?

I fully intend to take advantage of the gift this generation gives me.