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What America Feels Like After 7 Months of Foreign Adventure

Last September, I boarded a plane to Denmark. It was the start of a seven and a half month, round-the-world adventure. Yesterday at 10:05am, I landed at LAX. Man, this place is weird.

My adventure led me overland from Denmark to Norway, where I wild camped outside of Oslo, then watched sunset from the most epic ledge on earth while backpacking around a fjord.

Then in Iceland, I chased the northern lights, endured the most brutal daily camping conditions, and nearly died on a glacier.

A stopover in Italy had me hiking in the Dolomites and sneaking onto rooftops in Venezia.

Barely breathing at 20,305'.

Barely breathing at 20,305'.

My two months in Nepal were defined by a successful summit of Imja Tse - a "baby" Himalayan peak at 20,305', and a couple of snow-covered winter treks.

Bangkok was my hub throughout travel in Southeast Asia; as such I spent a lot of time in Thailand. I climbed rocks and long boated around Krabi. Cliff jumped at an old quarry in Chiang Mai. And found a ton of waterfalls.

In Cambodia, I hammock camped on a white-sand, virgin beach — the very definition of paradise.

Finally, I rode a $450 motorcycle across Vietnam - exploring sand dunes, more waterfalls, and Hang En Cave (the world's third largest) along the way.

Before departing, I set a theme for my trip: Exploring the Unimaginable. And I most certainly did.

Have you enjoyed the photos from my journey? I've collected them in a 106-page photo book. Pick up a copy here.

 

 

 

 

 

Now I'm back in LA - and man, this place is weird.

This is normal, non-rush hour traffic in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

This is normal, non-rush hour traffic in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Traffic

I moved to LA after graduating college and lived here for three years before taking off on my adventure around the globe. Traffic sucked, so I got a motorcycle for my daily commute from Downtown to Santa Monica.

Well now I'm back and hanging out at Wes's house in Hollywood — where LA traffic is arguably some of the worst. And all I can think about is how calm it is here. Nobody really honks. There aren't 100 motorcycles racing through each intersection before red lights change to green. In fact, there aren't even really any motorcycles at all.

The Can Tho floating market is pretty "typical" for Vietnam

The Can Tho floating market is pretty "typical" for Vietnam

Supermarkets

While motorcycle touring in Vietnam, there was one particular instance where all I wanted was some ice cream. I had stopped for the night in a city that was not at all a tourist destination; I stayed near the city center.

After sitting in a tiny plastic chair on the sidewalk where I ate my dinner, I began my mission. Thirty minutes later, I finally found a tiny market that was still open and had a freezer. And more importantly, they had ice cream. My selection was limited to a single type of bar. At least it was cheap.

Anytime I got off the tourist track (which was more often than not), finding a particular item proved to be a challenge.

That's not the case however in the land of 24-hour supermarkets. Before Wes and I cooked steaks for dinner last night, we journeyed to Ralph's. Ralph's had everything. All in one place. And things were easy to find.

As usual, the self-checkout scanner said, "please see the attendant," but we didn't have to bargain for any of our prices. Shopping was easy.

This lunchtime feast cost me $3.

This lunchtime feast cost me $3.

Restaurants Are Expensive

For the first couple months of my adventure, I was in Europe. Europe was expensive; as such, I didn't eat out much. Once I got to Asia, however, I ate like a king.

My favorite restaurant in Pokhara, Nepal was a Turkish place called Merhaba. The environment was candlelit and cozy and I could order a massive plate of delicious food, and an entire pot of tea for less than $4.

Restaurants here are expensive. $11 for a sandwich with no sides or a drink seems to be the norm. I don't think I'll be eating out anytime soon, at least not if Wes isn't paying.

Street food is everywhere in Bangkok, Thailand.

Street food is everywhere in Bangkok, Thailand.

Street Food Still Exists

For the last four months, street food has been a staple of my diet. It's delicious, cheap, and in Southeast Asia, it's everywhere. Only thing is your stomach may need some conditioning.

Well, we've got street food here in America too. It's called, "tacos." And they are just as delicious (and almost as cheap) as the Pad Thai in Thailand. I missed tacos so much; I plan to eat as many as I can while I'm still here.

In rural Cambodia, you'll be hard-pressed to find fuel pumps. Instead, gasoline is dispensed from a Johnny Walker Red Label bottle.

In rural Cambodia, you'll be hard-pressed to find fuel pumps. Instead, gasoline is dispensed from a Johnny Walker Red Label bottle.

You Have to Pump Your Own Gas

I drove a good deal throughout Iceland, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam; not once did I have to pump my own gas. Full service fuel stations were the norm everywhere I went.

That's certainly not the case here, where you gotta pump your own damn gas. It's not that I mind pumping my own gas, it's just different.

A Monong ethnic minority family gathers around their stove, made from recycled landmines, in Vietnam.

A Monong ethnic minority family gathers around their stove, made from recycled landmines, in Vietnam.

First World Problems Aren't Real Problems

It might sound snobby, but it's true. Life is good here. Life is easy.

While hiking at 13,000 feet in a remote section of the Himalayas in the dead of winter, I met a yak herder. He couldn't speak any English. In fact, he could barely speak at all. But it didn't take long for me to notice the big cut on his tan, leathery hands. Or that he wasn't wearing socks, despite the below-freezing temperatures.

So I got out my first-aid kit, disinfected his wound, and patched him up. Then I gave him my extra pair of wool socks so he could keep his feet warm. The man didn't know how to thank me, but I could see the gratefulness in his eyes.

Shattering the screen on my phone, running out of gas, or even losing my camera and computer doesn't really bother me anymore. Having those "problems" is just a reminder of how good I've got it.

"It's not who I am underneath, but what I do that defines me." - Bruce Wayne

"It's not who I am underneath, but what I do that defines me." - Bruce Wayne

Nothing Has Changed

The craziest thing about returning to the States after being gone for awhile is that nothing has really changed. Sure, the billboards are different. New buildings have popped up here and there. A new restaurant or two. But for all intents and purposes, it's the same.

Nothing has changed, but it feels so strange. I can't quite put my finger on it. Everything looks the same, but it feels different.

Nothing has changed, except me.

This post first appeared on IndefinitelyWild.

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An Explorer's Guide to Motorcycle Touring

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An Explorer's Guide to Motorcycle Touring

There are few combinations more liberating than two wheels, a humming engine, and the open road. Motorcycles connect riders with their environments in ways that cars never can because of the open-air designs, manual transmissions, and ability to leave the asphalt behind.

As such, touring by motorcycle is one of my favorite ways to explore. Here's how you can do it too.

Get a Bike

If you've already got a motorcycle, you're good to go. Obviously, a dedicated adventure-touring bike will be more comfortable on long-distance rides than an un-faired naked sport bike, but use what you have - it'll work.

If you don't have a motorcycle, you'll need to get one (and, more importantly, learn how to ride it safely.) Depending on where you live, you could possibly rent a bike — or even pick up a used one for cheap on Craigslist.

Try to find a motorcycle with an upright seating position, good ground clearance, and decent suspension travel (basically, you probably don't want a cramped sport bike that forces you to ride hunched over for hours on end.) Modern fuel-injected bikes will likely be more efficient and reliable, but older carbureted bikes are easier to fix in the event of a breakdown. Take your pick.

What To Pack

Packing for a motorcycle tour is an exercise in restraint. You won't have a trunk to fill with junk, so be prepared to leave unnecessary stuff behind — only take the essentials.

Riding gear.

My dad taught me to ride, and he also taught me that you don't dress for the ride, you dress for the fall. That means a helmet (an open-face helmet with a visor will provide a good balance of freedom and protection), leather glovessturdy boots, and a riding jacket. If you don't want the bulk of a full touring suit, Kevlar jeans will give you a decent amount of protection if you go down.


A pack.

You'll need something to keep your gear in while riding that also works on the trail; a pack that's durable, waterproof, and can easily be strapped to your bike will be key. Madden Equipment's Penguin baghas a weather-tight top and tons of pockets, loops, and tabs. Mission Workshop's Vandal pack is another great choice thanks to its waterproof design and expandable carrying capacity. Use bungee cords to strap the pack  to your bike, but use backup attachments as well (like paracord) in case the bungees fail.

A shelter system.

Because of their light weight, compact size, and ease-of-use, hammocks like the Kammok Roo Hammock are ideal for motorcycle touring. Make sure to get a rain fly in case of inclement weather.

The Poler 1-Man tent is a great lightweight option when you're traveling solo. The Abel Brown Nomad Tentis also a great choice for motorcycle touring because it pitches using your bike, allowing you to leave the bulky tent poles behind. It also features built-in bug protection, keeping pesky mosquitoes at bay.


Sleeping System.

Nights in the wild can get cold, even during the summer. To keep the chill out, you'll need a good sleeping bag. Down is the insulating material of choice because its warmth-to-weight ratio is second to none. Down also packs better than synthetic insulation, making bags like the Nemo Nocturne 15 an obvious choice for motorcycle touring.

A sleeping bag will insulate your body from the air around you, but not from the ground. For that, you'll need a sleeping pad; yep, even if you're hammock camping. I like the Nemo Cosmo Air. In addition to providing insulation from the ground, sleeping pads will make your night's rest comfortable, which is important when sleeping outside for days or weeks at a time.

Cooking System

You'll need to eat while out there, and you're probably going to want to eat hot food once in awhile; man cannot live on trail mix alone. A lightweight stove like the Esbit folding titanium stove will provide the heat to boil your water in the event that you're unable to make a fire. The Biolite Bundle is great for cooking your food without needing to use fuel, and it'll charge your electronics to boot.

Don't forget a pot with a lid (I prefer titanium for its light weight and durability) and some eating utensils(you're not a caveman).

Miscellaneous Items.

Carry a headlamp so you you're not fumbling around in the dark. Keep a basic mechanic’s tool kit on hand so you can make simple repairs or adjustments to your bike on-the-spot. I like to keep a SealLine dry bag around as an added level of protection for my camera and electronics in case the sky dumps water down on me. A pocketknife like the Gerber 39 Series will be useful in a variety of situations. Keep a fire starter kit handy for making sparks fly when you want to light up the night. Water is life, so always carry a Lifestraw and have the ability to instantly purify water for drinking. The Goal Zero Guide 10 solar charging kit will harness energy from the sun, giving  you power independence for your phone, headlamp, or GPS.

Where To Go

This part is really up to you. The best part? On a motorcycle, you can go wherever your heart desires and wherever the road leads, and there are lots of roads. You could literally ride from Alaska down to South America if you wanted to.

With access to millions of acres of public lands, your opportunities for exploration are endless. Get a yearlong National Parks pass and get out there. National parks and forests (and even some state parks) will provide plenty of camping opportunities along the way. And if the light's running out and you still don't have a place to stay, don't be afraid to ask permission to post up in someone's yard for the night. You'll be surprised how many times you'll hear yes.

So get your motor running and head out on the highway. Freedom awaits!

This post first appeared on the Huckberry Journal.

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Achieving Himalayan Ecstasy

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Achieving Himalayan Ecstasy

A brutally honest account of my first Himalayan climb — an attempt on the 20,305' Imja Tse — more popularly known as Island Peak. While it's a baby by Himalayan standards only a few other points on earth outside of Asia reach a higher altitude

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The Time That Iceland Almost Killed Me

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The Time That Iceland Almost Killed Me

They say that if you don't like the weather in Iceland, wait five minutes and it'll change. Multiply that by mountains, glaciers and volcanoes and you've got a recipe for adventure. Or a close encounter of the near death kind.

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