A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about philosophy

Who Am I?

In My Own Words...

all seasons in one day 70 °F

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I get around, you know? I'm a professional visitor, a homeless (is that a typo?) romantic, a voyageur of sorts, a guy who wonders what‘s around the next bend. I spend most of my time outside. I've yodeled under a glacier. I've walked around in a blizzard in Antarctica. This makes me sound cold, but I am not. I once took a spelling test which received two gold stars on it. But, so what? We’ve all done great things. I like creativity in action. I love pointless challenges. What makes you happy? Why aren’t you doing that? It’s all in the details. I'll probably skip the small talk. Keep in mind that i am not a serious person, though I can be sincere. I'll probably make you dinner at some point. My sense of humor is irrepressible. I've been known to say the wrong thing at the wrong time. I am a work in progress. I'm not sure I belong here...

Given the opportunity, I’d rather whisper secrets to the trees than go through the motions. I like giving honey to injured bees. I like picking up trash and I never use bug spray. I’ve become a social creature. Who knew? The path of life takes interesting twists, doesn’t it? I’m not the same man I was three years ago. Can I tell you the truth? I’m enjoying writing this.

If you were to ask me how old I am, I won’t give you a straight answer. I tend to get a deeper look into humanity than most people. I think it’s the questions I ask. But people tell me things I would never ask about. I give strange advice.

If I stay awake for over 20 hours I develop amazing powers of concentration. If I drink during this time, I become chatty. I like to jump into really cold water, yet I am obsessed with hot springs.

One of the best conversations I’ve ever had was with a mountain man from Oregon. We talked about ghosts, living in the woods, heaven, beer, hamburgers, jobs and wandering.

My brother taught me at an early age to keep my mouth shut. Since then, I’ve been a safe harbor for gossip. I can’t remember everyday that I have lived, but sometimes I try. I think it might be possible. People tell me I look like a Viking. I tell them they look like themselves.

Balance is important to me. I’m not sure if its an obsession, or simply a way of life. My head empties with the sound of a gong. I like to tie knots. I have many talents. I’ve read many books. Ask me anything, I don’t mind. I eat out a lot, though I prefer to cook. I love the ritual of coffee, especially in the morning.

I have an accent but its hard to place. Do I interest you? Think about that. Where does that feeling come from? “It’s better to live a short life doing something you love than a long one doing things you hate.” Alan Watts said that. I say it too.

Did I tell you I feed birds from my hand? My niece is dying to know my secrets. Speaking of secrets, I’m only ticklish on the bottoms of my feet. Oops. Say that backwards. That might be my next tattoo.

My hearing isn’t so good. My eyesight is worse. I’ve never met anyone who is famous. I love graham crackers in milk. I write long emails. I like hard work. Give me your shittiest job, I’ll do it. What do I care? I’m here to help.

Life doesn’t follow my Illusions. I need to be right here, right now. “Where do you see yourself in five years?” I see myself sitting on a park bench in Strassburg sharing an ice cream cone with you on a beautiful spring day. You can’t tell employers that though, can you? I think I might start…

Posted by Rhombus 12:31 Archived in USA Tagged me history photography philosophy vagabond writing Comments (0)

Bus Thoughts

On Buses, Thinking Too Much and the Unpredictable Future

overcast 36 °F


I’m inspired. I would give almost anything for a pen right now. Sadly, I am pen less (which is almost as bad as penniless), and my journal remains unopened. Ah well, I’ll have to do this electronically and transpose it to paper later. This is the opposite of how this normally works.

I’m on a bus rolling north on Interstate 35. I’m a passenger. Why am I not a “passager”? Why is that “n” there? Now that is a perfect example of a bus thought. I’ve spent a lot of time on buses and trains this year. I’ve gone from the top of Michigan to the middle of Florida by bus or train. This has given me a lot of insight into the nature of this style of travel.

Here and Now

Parallel streaks of water slide down at a 15-degree angle from the top of the window. It distorts my view. The heavy gray ceiling hangs over drab landform of the plains below.

I’m listening to tunes on my I-pod. My songs: “Truth” by Alexander. “Some Say I’m Not” by Mason Jennings. “Skinny Love” by Bon Iver. “How to Disappear Completely“ by Radiohead. “Islero“ by Crooked Fingers. The music creates a soundtrack to the movie of my life. I picture past events and put music to those moments. I’m vain enough to think it would be a cool video.

A minute ago, we passed an abandoned farmhouse and barn along side of the road. It would have been an easy scene to establish mood in a photograph. Three “D” words come to mind: Decay. Decrepit. Dreariness. Sadness hangs over that place, even the trees don’t want to grow. I wonder about it.

The dark afternoon suits my temperment for this ride. I’m a bit hung over today. I’m also a bit tired. Last nights adventure took my nephew, his future bride, and myself into downtown Kansas City. We ate and then went to the Blue Room over in the Jazz District. Have you heard of the Blue Room? It’s a Kansas City landmark, right on the corner of the Jazz District. Many Jazz legends have played the Blue Room. The proof hangs on the wall in the form of vintage black and white band photos. The music is good, the mood is light, the conversation flows. Two events surprise us: Free cake and a saxophone player. The latter being a musician of modest fame, who happened to be in town, and was packing his horn. The former was delicious. Both surprises are delightful.

My memories, the soothing landscape and my music are the order of the day.

On Thinking Too Much

Buses offer a lot of time to think. Alan Watts reminds us that, “A person who thinks all the time has nothing to think about except thoughts. So he loses touch with reality and lives in a world of illusions. I’m not saying thinking is bad. Like anything else, it is useful in moderation. A good servant, but a bad master.”

So true.

What do I think about? My future. As a Zen free spirit, I find it amusing that I suffer from mild anxiety about my short-term future more often than I want to. I haven’t convinced myself that there isn’t anything to worry about. Everything will work out, as it should. Ram Dass has mused, “Isn’t that interesting? Far out, I still get uptight about this.”

Four Repeating Thoughts

My finances are dwindling. I may have to give up being a mariner. I don’t have another job lined up yet, though I am working on it. I’m tired of trying to figure out where to go.

These thoughts aren’t all that scary. I don’t know why I’m worried about it. I offer them to give a little insight into the mind of a wanderer. My life is different from most, and sometimes its not easy living on the very edge of stability. I feel like I’m coming to crossroads of my life. I can’t see the next path, yet, but I sense it is there. Which path should I take? And there’s the rub.
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This last paragraph has brought a smile to my face.

Posted by Rhombus 13:52 Archived in USA Tagged travel bus jobs philosophy roadtrips Comments (1)

The First Adventure of the New Year

A Mid-Winter Midnight Bus Ride, "The Road Home", Heading to Chicago

semi-overcast 10 °F

This adventure begins at midnight on a wintry night in the small city of Hancock, Michigan. I stepped out of the warm comfort of my brother’s car (and life) and crossed the empty street carrying my mystifyingly heavy bags. It was frigid outside. The snow crunched loudly underfoot - an indication of very cold temperatures. I greeted the bus driver, and I loaded my bags under the bus before stepping aboard.

I found a seat near the back on the right side of the aisle. I prefer the right side because I can read road signs out of my window. That way, I know where I am. I was one of only two passengers that boarded in Hancock. The driver closed the door and we sped off into the night.

I smiled as a current of tingles flowed up and down my spine. I love setting out on the next adventure! I can’t help but think of the line from the Shawshank Redemption, “I find I’m so excited that I can barely sit still or hold a thought in my head. I think it’s the excitement only a free man can feel. A free man at the start of a long journey whose conclusion is uncertain.”

It was late, but I wasn’t tired. I called one of my other brothers (I have five), and we carried a good conversation until I lost phone service.
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The bus wasn’t very comfortable. I couldn’t get the seat in the right position. The heaters were blasting and I became too hot in my wool sweater. At the back of the bus, there was a weird blue night light left on for those who wanted to use the head. The light was annoying. I was bathed in a bright blue light for the whole ride. I should’ve moved out its glare, but I didn’t think of that at the time. I caught a catnap here and there, but really didn’t get any solid sleep.

What the bus lacked in comfort, it made up for in speed. The hours flew by, in a bluish blur of wintry scenes and bizarre dreams. I woke up after one small catnap in Escanaba. I gathered my stuff, and stepped off into the cold. The stars were twinkling above, and I admired them for a few minutes before stepping inside the station. I realized it had been too long since I stopped to admire any starry nights. A fool I am.
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The lobby of the bus station had an odd shape, yet warm and bright. The first thing I noticed was a small stack of books sitting on the bench. I sat next to them, and picked one up. It was “The Road Home,” by Jim Harrison.

Harrison is one of my favorite authors- a master artist with words. I thumbed through the chapters trying to decide if I had read this book, and I was pleased to realize that I had not. The title gave me pause, “The Road Home.”

Lately, I’ve been thinking about what “home” means to me. I haven’t come up with any revelations. I’m not sure. I’d love to have a home again one day, a base camp to recuperate and relax between adventures. I’m also keen to turn it into an amazing place to host other travelers, a kind of unofficial couch surfing hostel. I’m not sure what form this takes, or where it is…yet. I do know that I want to share this project with someone, but haven’t met them…that I know of. It’s very unclear. However, finding this book in such a random place and time has made me think. Is this book a sign? Am I on the road home? It’s far too early to tell, but it is fun to think about.

After a brief layover, I boarded the bus, one book heavier.

I stayed awake for this leg of the trip. It isn’t far from Escanaba to Menominee. I listened to tunes and watched the road ahead. When we reached Menominee, the bus pulled over and I got off. The driver handed me my bag and wished me a good morning. It was 5 a.m. and I had been up for a very long time.

I shivered. My breath swirled around my face and started to freeze to my beard. I called my nephew, and we worked out a place to meet. I walked a couple of blocks back northward and met him at a gas station. The station was bustling with early commuters stopping in for coffee and cigarettes.

It was a pleasant walk through the quiet neighborhoods of north Menominee. The houses stood still and quiet. We chatted, we reconnected, and we reached his house after a ten-minute walk.

At Rex’s house, we sat in his dark living room while sipping hot coffee pressed in the French style. We made a hearty breakfast of bacon and eggs with toast covered in homemade blackberry jam. We drank more coffee. I think I had four cups.

Rex put on a movie, “Tucker and Dale VS. Evil” which was stupid enough to be hilarious. I passed out into a beautiful slumber even after drinking four cups of coffee. I was exhausted. When I awoke, there was a gigantic cat nestled next to me, happily purring away. This cat was huge, it couldn’t started at left tackle for a division two college football team. It was unexpected, but not the worst way to wake up. It was noon, and the adventure was off to a fine start.

On Tuesday, Rex and I are going to Chicago to visit his sister. I’ve never been to the windy city in winter. I’m sure it’s going to be cold. I’m also sure it’s going to be fun.

Posted by Rhombus 15:53 Archived in USA Tagged snow winter home bus ice road trip michigan philosophy Comments (2)

Post-Adventure Vacuum

A Quiet Week, Adventures on Ice, What's Next?

overcast 25 °F

I think I’m in a post adventure vacuum. I’m content to while away the hours with a book, a ukulele, a big pile of bread dough or my computer. This seems natural after five months of travel. This is my time to decompress and reflect on where I’m at and what happens next.
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I haven’t come up with anything.

I’m not about to force another trip. I’ve made that mistake before. I’m happy to wait this one out. In the past ten days, I haven’t written one word in my journal. This is rare. I don’t have anything to say right now. I’m enjoying the stillness - the quiet days of torpor.

I came “home” to get my knee looked at by a doctor. I have something called osteochondritis dessicans, which means I have some bad bone in my knee. While this explains my long-term issues I’ve had with that knee, it doesn’t explain my recent pain. After bending it all around, the doctor wasn’t able to reproduce the pain I had. Go figure. Two days later, it was aching again. I’m not sure if I should bring it in or not.

Eagle River

I went to my family’s vacation home yesterday to get some fresh air and get out of the house. The sun doesn’t rise very high in the sky in January; the low light cast long blue shadows across the white snow. It’s been a weird year here in Michigan. It hasn’t snowed much at all. There have been times when I’ve had to strap on snowshoes to get to where I was standing in shallow boots.

The property runs along a small section of the Eagle River. I walked across the snowy lot, eventually making my way to the river. I always find myself by the river. The river is cold, smothered in ice and shadow. The ice was clear in places and I was able to see that it was about four inches thick. In other areas, the ice was frosty or covered with snow. I gingerly tested its strength, and found it held my weight just fine.

I love the chuckling sounds of a healthy river. In winter, the melody of the river changes as the ice muffles the pitch. It’s a beautiful sound. I hunkered down next to set of rapids to watch air bubbles slip along the underside of the ice before surfacing at the next air pocket. This was a treat for the senses, and soon I was lost in the moment.

Ice
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There were little air vents in the ice. The ice that formed around the vent was like a ring of polished white diamonds.
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Investigating further, I found old coyote prints frozen into the surface of the river and filled with snow. I tried several angles, but I couldn’t find a composition that worked for them. I once attended a lecture by National Geographic Photographer Jay Dickman. He said to us, "Sometimes our goal as a photographer is to make the best photograph we can given the conditions." I like that. There are times when there isn't much to shoot. Do the best you can with what you have available.
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When I arose from the prints, I took a step backward. I heard the unmistakable “CRACK” of ice. A small shot of adrenaline coursed through me. I’ll never forget that sound. The first time I heard that sound, I fell through a crack in the ice shelf on Lake Superior. I was able to catch myself with my arms, but my feet were dangling just above the water. I moved fast, hauling myself out of the crack before I fell in the water.

This episode wasn’t nearly so interesting, but I moved slowly back towards shallow water all the same.

I ended my afternoon by sitting in the warm sun and having lunch. I ate a Cornish pasty, sipped a good beer, and read my book for an hour. This was time well spent.

The camp (as we call it) has always carried this good vibe. While I still don’t have any ambitions with my life right now, I know I’m in a good place. As Watts would say, “Murky water becomes clear, only when left alone.”

For now, I’ll continue working on my baking skills, jamming on my new ukulele, and hanging with my people. It might be a good time to finally look into my own photographic website. Let me know if you have any ideas...

The Ghost
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One morning I walked down the stairs and saw this beautiful light coming through the stained glass window. I liked the scene, and decided to see what I could do with it. It turned out to be perfect light for ghost images.

Have no fear. I only haunt good hamburger joints, friendly pubs, libraries, hostels, and of course, my brothers staircase.

Have a good week!

Posted by Rhombus 17:50 Archived in USA Tagged snow winter rivers reflections ice photography michigan philosophy Comments (2)

The Dusty Vagabond's Photographic Review of 2012

It's Been An Amazing Year. I Love My Life.

This is my 2012 Photographic Review. I originally started this project with intentions of explaining where I was and how the photographs came about. When I started going through my files, I realized there were too many photos that I wanted to share. The entry would’ve been the size of a telephone book for elephants.

I will let the photographs speak for themselves. Many of these photos I’ve used in my entries during the past year, but there are a couple in there that I have not shared, until now. If you have any questions or comments concerning any of the locations or technique involved, please let me know and I’ll be happy to tell you everything I know.

With that, I offer you 2012 in review.

January - Baja, Mexico
I was in Mexico in January. I was finishing my last month as a full time employee for the cruise ship I work on.
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February - Idaho
In the beginning of February I headed west from Michigan to Idaho where I planned to become a ski bum for a couple of months. In Idaho, my life revolved around two of my favorite pastimes: skiing and long boarding. I skied when the snow as good on the mountain, and long boarded when the mountain was closed, or without fresh snow.

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March - Baja Mexico
After a year and a half of living and working on a ship, I became a social creature. In Idaho, I fell into a bit of a funk. I was lonely and I missed my ship friends. Fortunately, I had an opportunity to rejoin the ship for a month down in Mexico. I got out of my funk and let those bad thoughts float away on the tides. March is one damn fine month to be in Baja.

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April - Baja, Mexico, American Road Trip
My last week in Baja was about as good as you can get.

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April Road Trip - 2000 miles
After Baja, I travelled across America in my van on a rambling 2000 mile trip that turned into a 4000 mile trip.
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Chicago
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May - To West Virginia, Birthday in Seattle, Alaska
In May, I went down to West Virginia for some rock climbing and white water rafting. I celebrated my birthday in Seattle with my birthday twin, before heading north to Alaska to explore Denali National Park.

West Virginia
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Seattle
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Alaska
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Haines and Homer
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June - Isle Royale, Colorado
In June, I hiked I trekked on Isle Royale National Park before heading south to Colorado. In Colorado, I found incredible heat, forest fires, and amazing sand dunes.
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Colorado
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July - Michigan
In July, I returned to Lake Superior to embrace summer.
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August - Southeast Alaska

In August, I returned to work on my beloved SeaBird for another three and a half months. The wild landscapes and incredible beauty continue to draw me back.
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September - Southeast Alaska, British Columbia, Columbia River
In September, I saw some of the best that Southeast Alaska has to offer.

Alaska
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British Columbia
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Columbia River
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October - Columbia River
In October, I watched the summer turn to autumn along the famed Columbia River.

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November - Falkland Islands, South Georgia Island and Antarctica
In November, I took a three week epic cruise to the Falklands, South Georgia and The Antarctic Peninsula. The two years of blood sweat and tears I shed for my ship was completely repaid with this wonderful excursion to the Antarctic.

The Falklands
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South Georgia
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Antarctica
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December - Patagonia, Argentina
In December, I took my first steps on land in four months. I started in Ushuaia, and began travelling north into Patagonia.
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When I look back at everything I have experienced, I laugh. I can't believe it. How the hell do I get so lucky? I want to thank all of you
who have given this project any time at all. It's my sincerest hope you find some joy in whatever it is you do for fun. At heart, I'm a writer, a rambler and a photographer, and I'm happiest when I'm walking through an unknown landscape with beautiful light. Thank you, Happy New Year, and I'll see you in 2013.

Posted by Rhombus 12:08 Tagged landscape travel seascapes love photography philosophy Comments (9)

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