Travel Essays 2017-2018

The following essays were written while I traveled abroad from August, 2017 to February, 2018.

Silver Bullets

I have traveled for six months. I had no expectations about who I would be or what I would have learned at this point in the trip. I certainly have changed and learned so much since leaving home, but ultimately I am still the same person. I have been surrounded by the adventuring type throughout … Continue reading Silver Bullets

Hi Hi’s

We left Marrakech on the 2nd for a small Berber village a few miles shy of the Atlas mountains. We’ve been staying with our Berber host family ever since. Just like the last family I stayed with, this family too has a small child, a girl, who is quite bubbly and friendly with strangers. Our … Continue reading Hi Hi’s

Reggae 

I have never really liked reggae. I remember being seventeen and watching as my friends drove out of the high school parking lot, windows down, playing reggae at a not disrespectful volume but still loud enough for passers-by to hear the echoes of the drums and twang of the guitar. Reggae, I decided back then, … Continue reading Reggae 

New Years in Marrakech 

I left Taroudant on December 27th bound for Marrakech. Walking to my class on that last night I asked the other volunteers if they had any New Year’s resolutions. None of us had any. One volunteer said it would be nice to maybe get buff, but he conceded that it would be unlikely that he … Continue reading New Years in Marrakech 

The Angel of the Household

My host family has a one-year-old son. Despite my general indifference to children I have to admit that this little guy is cute. That is, until I leave my door open for a few moments and turn around to see my toothbrush sticking out of his mouth. He also loves phones. He will take your … Continue reading The Angel of the Household

Group F

I like all the groups that I teach: the little ones, the middle-schoolers, and the adults. I admire the adults the most, however. This venerable group shows up twice a week for their two hour lessons of their own free will. I admit to spending the most time on their lesson plans because I want … Continue reading Group F

Taroudant 

I’m staying in a small city in Morocco. It’s not really much of a city at all come to think of it, at least not in the classic sense of tall buildings and the bustle that comes along with a large population. Taroudant is relaxed. You will find no one rushing from place to place … Continue reading Taroudant 

My Arabic: a Progress Report

Having been in Morocco for little over a week now my Arabic is understandably limited. I am always impressed, however, by the aptitude others show for languages. On my second day here my host told me all about a Korean girl who volunteered for a month and how she was speaking Arabic fluently by the … Continue reading My Arabic: a Progress Report

Etiquette

This is the first time I have lived with a host family during my travels. I’ve always thought that host families are awfully brave for opening their homes to strangers from all over the world, so I want to ensure I pay that kindness back in full.  Forget about teaching—trying to be a good guest … Continue reading Etiquette

Teaching 

I had never taught English to kids before, let alone kids of a different country who grew up speaking a language totally unlike English. So, I prepared a lesson plan and I prepared for the worst. I dreaded having to keep up an air of enthusiasm around the kids, but when they walked in the … Continue reading Teaching 

Intro to Morocco

My passport is four years old. I got it just after graduating high school, and now that I’m fresh out of college my photo naturally looks outdated. My hair was longer back then (I have none to speak of now,) and I didn’t have a beard, so I can forgive the immigration officers at the … Continue reading Intro to Morocco

Sarnath

The ruins of the Buddha’s palace at Sarnath are spread across a few acres of land, and are now an archeological site available to travelers and pilgrims. Dhamek Stupa dominates the skyline, and the air is filled with the singing chants of Buddhist pilgrims, making their way from one ruined pillar to the next. Signs … Continue reading Sarnath

Cows

There really is no equivalent in western countries to the cow situation here in India. I knew that cows were sacred here before arriving, and I knew that they more or less roamed free. I did not anticipate the sheer number of cows, however, and I definitely did not anticipate how moody they can be.  … Continue reading Cows

Chaos

“How is India?”  I’ve gotten that question many times from loved ones and friends. I don’t mind being asked it because every time it crops up I wonder how to answer it, and each time I wonder I come to a different conclusion.  I generally tell people that it’s great. Tough, but great. It’s never … Continue reading Chaos

The Train

The imagined horrors of a two day train ride in India far out-weigh the actual discomfort of the journey. There are endless hours of footage of the desperation, grime, and poverty of the Indian railway sleeping somewhere in news stations the world over. These were the images I couldn’t shake when our tickets had finally … Continue reading The Train

Reflections After Ravandur

“India is everything,” says our host. “Here you can find the best of humanity and the absolute worst, often times on the same street.” If Martians were to land on earth and ask for the best representation of human life, I would point to India, for what our host says is true.  Good and bad … Continue reading Reflections After Ravandur

Yoga

Like massage, yoga joins the ranks of things I was told are relaxing but are really masochistic.  Our host is a yoga pro. He has been practicing his entire life and has taught in numerous places around the world. I have no doubts of his skill and compassion in teaching the art of yoga. However, … Continue reading Yoga

Diwali

The only familiarity I can claim with the Indian holiday of Diwali is what I learned from that episode of The Office, wherein Michael Scott mistakes it to be the Hindu equivalent of Halloween.  Now that I have been in India for Diwali I can tell you that it is nothing like Halloween. In fact, … Continue reading Diwali

Sisyphus

Our host is constructing a pond in his organic garden. I have no experience in pond construction, but when your host asks for help, you oblige him or her. All Billy and I had to do was help the other workers move stones into the ditch. I’ve moved stones before, how much harder could this … Continue reading Sisyphus

The Tuesday Market

Our host took us to a local open-air market that occurs every Tuesday. I thought I might have a sense of what this market would be like, having spent some time in the open air market in Chiang Mai. The market here was much smaller than the one in Chiang Mai, however, and less built … Continue reading The Tuesday Market

Samson

I never considered the power of my own hair until I was shaving it all away.  It is so much easier maintaining a shaved head than a full head of hair, and I need to take all the easy shortcuts I can if I’m going to try and make a full year of traveling. I … Continue reading Samson

Intro to India

I was reluctant to agree to India. I think Billy has always wanted to visit India, but it’s never really been on my list, so he had to talk me into it. I didn’t take much convincing, however, because even though I never planned on going to India, I knew it was a place that … Continue reading Intro to India

Foreigner Anxiety 

Conversation overheard at a bar. I didn’t catch the names, so I’ve just made them up. Harold. Is this your first time in Chiang Mai?  Caroline. No. This would be my fourth time visiting here. May as well move here right?  Harold. I guess so. This is my first time in Chiang Mai. Caroline. How … Continue reading Foreigner Anxiety 

Clothes

I do laundry here about once a week. I only have a few articles of clothing, so once a week is enough. Mostly we rely on the old smell test to know when we should do a load of laundry. Other than that, clothes haven’t been an issue for either of us, a fact which … Continue reading Clothes

The Sunday Market

Every Sunday a section of Chiang Mai’s old city gets sectioned off to become a sprawling open air market. The streets become lined with tents selling innumerable tchotchkes and an seemingly endless supply of tourist bait garbage. Shirts that read “I Love Chiang Mai!” or magnets in the shape of elephants, on which are written … Continue reading The Sunday Market

Strays

I have noticed a fair number of stray dogs and cats here in Chiang Mai. Seeing the wayward dog or cat is always a bit of a surprise to me. Billy remarked that he’s never seen a stray dog in New York city, even though I’m sure they are there. I haven’t seen a stray … Continue reading Strays

Coin Toss

Never in my life have I been to so many restaurants in such a short span of time. We’ve eaten out every night here, usually trying a new place or sticking with a favorite (Kanjana’s). Most of the time we’re able to narrow our choice down to just two options, so we do a coin … Continue reading Coin Toss

The Sunday Service 

Ninety percent of Thai people identify as Buddhist. The remaining ten percent is composed of Christians, Muslims, and Jews. Part of my time spent here in Chiang Mai is dedicated to helping locals learn English, and one of my pupils just happens to be a part of that ten percent. He asked me, “Are you … Continue reading The Sunday Service 

Crossing the Street

The pedestrian crossing lines on the streets of Chiang Mai are mostly decorative. The steady stream of red trucks, tuk-tuks, and motor bikes yield to no man or woman; they will swerve to avoid you rather than come to a complete stop.  Keeping this in mind, the walking time to a restaurant is always a … Continue reading Crossing the Street

Bikes

There are two bikes available at anytime here at our Workaway location. Being free of use, they’re naturally a little grungy. After using them several times it’s become an unspoken rule: I take the bike that has functioning gears and is in more or less decent shape, and Billy gets The Piss. I call it … Continue reading Bikes

The Apartment 

Our accommodation here in Chiang Mai is not a hostel or a hotel. We are living in an actual Thai apartment. Our Workaway location is essentially the garage of a home turned cooking school, and the Workaway staff get to stay in the apartment building next door. It’s essentially just one room with a small … Continue reading The Apartment 

The War for Authenticity 

The older expats of Chiang Mai do not seem to like the young people who travel here. A healthy number of the young people who visit are here to party, which is perhaps not the best reason to travel, but so what? The expats were young once; they must remember what it’s like being young … Continue reading The War for Authenticity 

Expat Intellectuals 

Navigating the streets of Chiang Mai reminds me of hiking in the way that I always have to watch the ground to make sure I have proper footing. The streets here are narrow and uneven, and slope up and down at random intervals. The amount of cheap taxis makes sense once you have walked around … Continue reading Expat Intellectuals 

Foreigners 

Yesterday Billy and I met an Australian guy named Mike who has visited Chiang Mai numerous times over the last ten years. He’s something of a Chiang Mai guru, so we asked him lots of questions in the back of one of the red trucks that drive people all around the city.  Billy. Have you … Continue reading Foreigners 

Intro to Chiang Mai

The Food Network used to have a show called something like “The Best Thing I Ever Ate.” I don’t know if it’s still being aired, but the premise was simple: famous chefs and Food Network personalities would discuss the best food they had ever eaten. The chef gushes about this or that dish and where … Continue reading Intro to Chiang Mai

Goodbye Japan

Elliott. In the future when people ask me “What’s Japan like?” I’m not sure how I’ll answer them. Billy. I’ve thought about that too. When people ask me I’m just going to say “I have no idea how to answer that question.”  Elliott. Right? The question is ridiculous in and of itself. What someone is … Continue reading Goodbye Japan

Karaoke 

Can you even say you’ve been to Japan if you never got drunk at a karaoke bar? I don’t think so, and so on the eve of our last night in Beppu we set out to get wasted and sing crappy pop songs. Ever the innovative nation, the izakayas and karaoke bars of Japan have … Continue reading Karaoke 

Three French Hens

It’s strange when people from other countries perpetuate American stereotypes. A few days ago, three middle-aged French women moved into the hostel. They are on vacation, enjoying the many onsens Beppu has to offer. They are also loud, and one in particular, let’s say she hasn’t been skipping any meals, laughs heartily at her own … Continue reading Three French Hens

Curry

At CoCo’s curry, you get to decide how spicy you want your food to be. Mari claims to love spicy food, and so she recommends we all get level four spice.  Elliott. Is level four really spicy? Mari. No not really. It’s like a good spicy.  Billy. If you think it’s good then I’m on … Continue reading Curry

Eavesdropping 

I want to start a journal of just quotes from Billy. I forget the circumstances, but the other day we were chatting and he asked “Did you feel your bed moving last night?” I said I hadn’t, and he replied, “Good, because I was doing a shadow puppet show to some music and I was … Continue reading Eavesdropping 

Host Clubs

On the way to dinner the other night we passed by some peculiar businesses. Luckily, Mari was able to alleviate my confusion.  Elliott. What are all these shops? And why do they have women in skimpy school girl outfits out in front of them?  Mari. They aren’t stores, they’re host clubs. All of these side … Continue reading Host Clubs

Messes 

We clean rooms and make the beds when guests leave. The more guests checking out, the more beds and rooms we have to clean. There is no consistency to guests coming and going, so sometimes there’s little cleaning, and sometimes there’s a bunch that needs to be done.  The other day there was a mass … Continue reading Messes 

On Beppu Beach

The other day a group of friends went down to the beach. There’s no swimming allowed, so all one can do there is, among other things, sit in the sand and chat, watch people walk their dogs, and after it gets dark, watch people set off fireworks right in front of the sign that says … Continue reading On Beppu Beach

Kitchen Table Moths

During the day the hostel’s kitchen is mostly empty. People filter in to cook a quick meal or make a cup of tea, but they never stay for long.  But, like a fairytale, everything changes past midnight. People are drawn to the kitchen table like moths to a light, and then the interesting conversations begin.  … Continue reading Kitchen Table Moths

Bunk Beds

As much as I enjoy the repetition of the daily tasks like cleaning the onsens, scrubbing the toilets, and lint rolling the stairs, I do sometimes crave a little variety. Now imagine my delight when I was told I would be doing “special cleaning” today. Special cleaning, it turns out, is code for way more … Continue reading Bunk Beds

Similarities 

There could be an entire post on just the small differences between America and Japan. For example, Crocs, it turns out, are still really popular over here. So too are those multi-pens, the ones that have a few different ink colors available at the push of a button; and here, there is a vending machine … Continue reading Similarities 

The Shower Drain

Cho. What did you guys have to do today? Billy. We had to clean all the bathrooms and showers. Cho. That’s never fun. Billy. I try to make the best of it. I might turn it into a game: “Ooh, what sort of gross thing will I pull up out of this drain?” Cho. Hopefully … Continue reading The Shower Drain

Currency Exchange 

The first time I went to exchange American dollars for Japanese yen I got to the second step of the form, the part about the phone number of the place I’m staying in Japan. I didn’t know the number of the hostel and couldn’t connect to WiFi, so I had to mime my way through … Continue reading Currency Exchange 

Octavian

Conversation had at the hostel’s kitchen table. Margaret. You think there are weird people at this hostel? I met the weirdest guy ever at a hostel I volunteered for in Scotland. Billy. What was he like? Margaret. Well first of all, his name was Octavian and he was a thirty-six years old Romanian guy volunteering … Continue reading Octavian

Lint Rolling the Stairs 

There is a perfectly functional vacuum cleaner on every floor of this hostel, but the owner prefers his workawayers to lint roll the carpeted stairs. There are four floors, so I’ve spent a good amount of time today hunched over, lint rolling stairs. Doing this makes me think of details. When guests walk these stairs … Continue reading Lint Rolling the Stairs 

Cleaning the Onsen

Cleaning the onsen in this hostel is nice. The process is methodical. First you fill a bucket with water and add soap. Then you slosh the soapy water around with a brush. Once the soapy water is nice and foamy, you dip the brush and begin scrubbing the floor. You scrub every inch of the … Continue reading Cleaning the Onsen

Osaka 101

I don’t know how much I can tell you about Osaka given that I’m only staying here for just a day, but I know this: it is humid here. And hot. Hot and Humid. The actual temperature reads 96 degrees, but the “feels like” temperature reads 101. Also, according to Billy, wearing shorts in Japan … Continue reading Osaka 101

A Night in L.A.

Doug. So do you remember the last time you were in this car Billy? Billy. I don’t remember a lot from that week. Let’s just hope this doesn’t come full-circle. Doug is of course referring to Billy’s last stay in L.A., wherein Billy, being too intoxicated, spent an evening meant for a pleasant dinner at … Continue reading A Night in L.A.

The Santa Monica Pier

In many ways the Santa Monica pier feels like the end of America. One of the few remaining piers left on the California coast, it features a road sign that reads “End of Route 66,” under which tourists pose for photos. It feels like the desperate end; the country’s last attempt to extend itself just … Continue reading The Santa Monica Pier

Expectation

All day I’ve been trying to remember an old folksy saying about expectation. “Expectation is the mother of …” something. I can’t remember what. Maybe I’m mixing sayings up. Maybe it doesn’t go “expectation is the mother of …” but is rather “disappointment is the mother of …” Maybe expectation isn’t the mother of anything, … Continue reading Expectation

Ten Days

A conversation had recently with a friend. Kendyl. Where do you think you’ll be when world war three breaks out? Elliott. Hopefully Thailand. I feel like no one is interested in nuking or invading Thailand. Kendyl. Unless they’re looking for the motherload of sticky rice and ancient Buddhist paraphernalia. Other than that, yeah, no one … Continue reading Ten Days

Eighteen Days

Driving back to Billy’s house at nine o’clock at night. Billy. It comes and goes in waves. Getting the vaccines, that was a wave. But now, I’m not really thinking about it all. Buying travel insurance, getting the visa for India sorted out, getting more shirts, all that stuff will be waves, and I’ll realize … Continue reading Eighteen Days

Shout-Out to Val

Last night, Billy and I had a wonderful late-night conversation with our friend Jack—a character and traveler in his own right. We were talking about getting from place to place while abroad, and our conversation went something like this. Jack. When you’re at the airport in Japan will anyone be there to pick you up? … Continue reading Shout-Out to Val

A Note to Readers

I get differing reactions from people when I tell them I’m going to be traveling for a year or so. Generally speaking, the older the person the more excited the reaction. People around my age, however, tend to be a little more reserved in their interest. An older person will say something like “That’s so … Continue reading A Note to Readers

On the Term “Loomings”

On the side tab of this website there is a title that says “Places,” and underneath it I plan on providing quick links to all the posts from the various places I visit. As I have not started traveling yet, all these posts are under the category “Loomings,” which takes its name from the first … Continue reading On the Term “Loomings”

Twenty-Eight Days

  And so it was that I hopped in my car to rescue my friend Ellery from the side of the road. It’s a sunny afternoon here in Connecticut, so I rolled the down the windows and played some mellow music, driving past sleepy fields and sloping hills. After the bike had been loaded and … Continue reading Twenty-Eight Days

A Word on Packing

One of the most common questions I get asked about the trip is “how are you going to pack for that??” Since we are going to be in so many different places over the course of a year, packing does seem like a stressful decision making process, but I’m really not worrying about it. Why? … Continue reading A Word on Packing

Thirty Days

In my room I have a whiteboard where I jot down notes or ideas when I’m working. At the moment the whiteboard has been consumed with my crappily drawn hiragana characters. Billy came over yesterday to do more planning for the trip, and upon seeing the whiteboard the following conversation ensued. Billy. You’re writing out … Continue reading Thirty Days

Thirty-Two Days

We’re thirty-two days away from our departure date of August 19th. That seems like plenty of time, but the reality is that thirty-two days is not much time at all. We have thirty-two days in which to try and become as prepared as possible for this year-long (or as long as our wallets will last … Continue reading Thirty-Two Days

A Little about Workaway

I should explain a little bit about what I’m doing. I, along with my friend Billy, will be traveling around the world for a year using a program called Workaway. I call it a program, but it’s really more of a facilitator. Workaway is a website where both hosts and volunteers create a profile and … Continue reading A Little about Workaway

Loomings.

The trip hasn’t begun and already plans have changed. Our original plan was to fly out from Bradley to San Francisco, where we would stay at a hostel for a few days before setting out for Japan. Turns out that San Francisco is one of the most expensive cities in the country, so even the … Continue reading Loomings.