Today marks exactly a decade I’ve been on the highway. On July 26, 2006, I said goodbye to my father, got in my own car, and started my year-long journey all over the world by first going for a road trip over the United States before going to Europe.
Eighteen months later (half a year later than planned), I finally came home.
Back and broke, I acquired a temp job completing for someone on maternity leave. There, seated at work, I knew office and corporate life had not been for me personally.
My soul burned to be back on the highway.
I was a nomad now.
Travel had not been finished with me yet.
There is no heading back.
THEREFORE I did what a person with no money or responsibility would do: I booked a flight and made plans to disappear completely again.
Coming home felt stale if you ask me. I yearned for the excitement of the street. That summer, I traveled to Europe, returned to Thailand where I taught English, and started putting effort and time into this site.
Now ten years has truly gone by.
The last a decade have been an extended, winding road filled up with one happy accident after another: from the people I met who got me worked up about traveling, to the Thai classes I took that resulted in surviving in Bangkok, to the cubicle that got me to start out this website, to learning to be a travel writer.
It’s been one exciting and unplanned adventure.
But a decade is quite a while and, within the last year, I’ve begun to (finally) wind down my nomadic ways. After many false starts, I planted roots in Austin. I no more plan multi-month trips on the highway and I’m now concentrating on another chapter of my entire life: part-time traveler, hostel owner, cook, reader, and early riser (but nonetheless international man of mystery).
As you chapter involves a close and another opens, I wish to share the best stories from the last a decade on the highway:
1. ACQUIRING BUDDIES on a Road Trip
In the beginning of my first trip, I was quite definitely a quiet introvert. I didn’t understand how to meet people, and I spent lots of time driving around the united states and sightseeing without any help. Traveling wasn’t the social amazingness I thought it might be. I was mostly alone and frequently bored.
That’s, until I entered a hostel in Tucson.
There I met a Brit (also named Matt) in my own dorm. We realized we were both likely to the Grand Canyon, therefore we finished up hiking it together.
Back at the hostel, we found another Brit named Jonathan, meet some cool people on visit to Sedona, and, in a hostel outside Albuquerque, an Austrian named Vera. Together we drove through New Mexico and Colorado before breaking up in Boulder.
I recall that road trip with great fondness – singing ’90s pop songs, sharing each other’s music collections, the night time out where we convinced some university students I was Australian, the giant meals we cooked, and the explorations we’d together.
It had been this experience that finally helped me become comfortable saying hello to strangers and acquiring buddies.
2. Living on Ko Lipe
The month I spent living on the Thai island of Ko Lipe in 2006 is, out of most my travel memories, the best. If there’s a heaven for every folks, mine would appear to be Ko Lipe.
While it’s a big tourist destination now, in the past it had been a sleepy little place with one nice resort, a few bungalows, and limited electricity. If you could start to see the island would be another Phi Phi (one massively overdeveloped place), for the reason that moment, it had been still paradise.
I went there to meet up a friend. Included ride over, I bonded with Pat (a mature Irish guy) and Paul and Jane (a British couple). I somehow were able to lose my flip-flops even before we surely got to the island and went barefoot within my stay. “It’ll only be a few days,” I said.
Those few days turned into per month.
Pat, Paul, Jane, my pal Olivia, and I met additional people who never appeared to leave the island too, and we formed a tight-knit group. Throughout the day, we’d lounge on the beach, play backgammon, snorkel, or check out among the other islands in the national park.
During the night, we’d dine on cheap seafood, drink beer, and constitute beach games before lights went. We spent Christmas together, gave one another gifts, and bonded with the locals, who invited us to their homes and sparked my interest in learning the Thai language.
But, when my visa finally expired and I had to perform to Malaysia to obtain a new one, I had to state goodbye. It had been bittersweet, but all good stuff come to a finish sometime. (I did so end up running into every one of them around Thailand in the months thereafter.)
This experience has remained with me forever and taught me that the very best things on the highway happen when you least expect them.
3. The Shit Story
While in Barcelona in 2013, I stayed in a hostel in which a very drunk roommate made a decision to take a shit inside our dorm room, and along the way of cleaning it up, locked himself out. When I woke up to let him in, I realized what happened (because of the shit on my hand), freaked out, yelled, and washed my hands like I’ve never washed them before.
Out of a large number of nights in a hostel, this is the grossest thing which has ever happened certainly to me.
Afterward, I vowed to only stay static in dorm rooms easily absolutely had no choice – and not at all in a hostel with a reputation for partying.
4. Surviving in Amsterdam
In 2006, I visited Amsterdam for the very first time. I finished up staying close to 90 days while playing poker (fun fact: I funded a few of my original trip with poker winnings). Within my stay, I met some wonderful, hospitable people, but none stand out like Greg.
Greg and I usually appeared to be at the casino as well, and he kept inviting me to become listed on him for private poker games he ran. Once you have a whole lot of someone else’s profit front of you, you generally have a suspicious eye if they invite you out later.
However the more I learned all about him and how people talked to him, the more I realized he was only a good guy and that was his method of welcoming me to town. Eventually I said yes, and his social group became my social group while I was there. We’d eat, drink, and play poker.
They taught me Dutch, introduced me to Dutch food, and showed me the sights of Amsterdam.
Sadly, Greg was killed in a robbery a couple of months when i left Amsterdam, but my experiences with him taught me to become more open and welcoming of strangers and that folks aren’t always ill-intentioned.
5. La Tomatina
Back 2010, I visited La Tomatina (a tomato food-fight festival) in Spain.
Entering my hostel dorm, I met two Aussies, two Americans, and a man from Malaysia. We were likely to be my roommates for another week, as the hostel required everyone to remain four nights through the festival.
For the reason that time, we six just hit it off. Most of us quickly bonded and spent another week getting the time of our lives, pelting tomatoes at one another, drinking sangria, nursing hangovers with gelato, and being led around by Quincy, our Malay friend with impeccable Spanish.
Deciding the fun shouldn’t end, we kept traveling together to Barcelona.
There, I recall one girl joining our crew and mentioning how it had been so weird that such a geographically diverse group was so close. “How did you all meet one another?” “We just met the other day!” we replied. “Really? I thought you guys had known one another for a long time!”
In the years since, though we don’t see one another often as a result of geographic distance between us, we’ve stayed connected. Whenever we do visit one another, it’s like we’re back Spain no time has passed at all.
When you click with people, you click with people. Irrespective of where I go, I carry that point with me.
6. Understanding how to Scuba Dive in Fiji
On a whim, I made a decision to fly to Fiji while I was in New Zealand.
There, my pal pressured me into scuba. “You’ve always wished to do it. It’s inexpensive to learn here. Stop being truly a wimp!”
He was right.
I had no excuse, therefore i enrolled in a certification class. However, I was nervous. “Imagine if I drown? Can someone really breathe underwater?” Within my first dive, I was hitting that oxygen tank such as a stoner hits a bong! I experienced the tank within 30 minutes, when it will normally have lasted near one hour.
And – though my dive partner kicked my regulator out of my mouth and I almost drowned – understanding how to scuba dive was one of the biggest experiences of my entire life. Seeing the ocean from below the top was earth-shattering. I had never been surrounded by so much natural splendor and diversity. It had been definitely one of these “wow!” moments in life.
From then on experience, I decided I will be a tiny bit more adventurous. It’s led me to try rollercoasters more (I hate heights), helicopter rides (seriously, I hate heights), and canyon swings (fuck heights); attempt more adventure sports; and get outdoors mor