Back to Bangkok, Time to Rock

When you roll the travel dice, and tempt the divine powers that be, you can never really tell what’s going to happen. I’ve relied on fate mixed with a bit of intuition, thrown down with a dash of inspiration to steer my wayward ass on countless occasions. This time around, I was coming out of a savage yet rewarding semester. I had taken on more classes than ever, and drowning in bluebooks, prepping like a madman and holding it all together along with the backdrop of an incredible year of change had left me optimistic, yet a touch depleted. More on that shit possibly later.

I waited until the last possible second.

“I need to get the fuck out of here”

“Tickets look kind of pricey”

“Well shit”

I could have stayed home, tended to a few things, prepped for next semester, etc…but lo and behold, after scanning possible routes for a few weeks, in the midst of finals, days before departure what falls into my lap?!

A scuzzy bargain basement fare to Bangkok Thailand. Don’t go and read the reviews. Stop being scared. Stop wasting all of your fucks thinking about what could go wrong. Embrace what could go right, tap into the stunning ass power of ridiculous optimism instead. Kick fear in the dick, and let hope reign supreme. Buy the ticket, take the ride.

Boom. Do it. Don’t look back.

For two months worth of most people’s cable bill, I was out of here. 15 ass numbing hours to Shanghai , then five more to Bangkok, this adventure was underway. I had finally finished grading in the wee hours the night before with my trusted buddy Frank, courtesy of some amazing friends. (Reason #16578 not to be a twat, friends make the world go ’round)

Frank always offers stellar moral as well as academic support

Thus I was able to grab a bit of shut eye. My flight from China landed at 2:00 AM after 25 hours, and 10,000 Miles. All grades submitted, everything graded. 2018, mostly survived. My cab driver despite lack of English kicked on the jams, and him, I and Neil Young rocked into the city.

Late night eats and into my hotel. I’ve been loving the simple things as of late, and so many aspects of Thai culture resonate with that. From outlook, all the way to flavor profiles.

This is my third time to the land of a thousand smiles, and this journey is just getting started.

Ready to get lost with me??

Leave some love, or don’t.

Saved by Jesus…and jetBlue

cartagenaOn most days, the majority of headlines concerning airlines read like pure disaster stories. As a semi frequent travelers, we lower our expectations to the abysmal. And lets be honest, despite certain status perks on whichever team/alliance you’re flying, they are all rather similar. For the jaunt to Colombia, I flew jetBlue for the very first time.  Coincidentally, I ended up in Colombia by an accident, or as insurance/credit card companies refer to it as…”An act of God”.

Two years ago, I booked a super cheap fare to Barbados. I was set to to visit the warm sand and inviting water of the Caribbean island in October. Turns out, a hurricane had other ideas…and a similar itenerary. My travel dates fell 2 days outside of the refund window. I was bummed. On a hail marry effort, I called jetBlue to plead my case. The customer service rep had an easy southern drawl, and I remember thinking “at least the bad news that i’m getting hosed on this run will sound pleasant.”  But she worked her magic, and instead issued me a travel voucher! I was floored! I was in the office on a Saturday, which is never the most fun, and I was ecstatic and my unexpected victory.

The voucher was good for 12 months, and I was incredibly impressed by this airline, which I had never flown and had no status or rewards with had gone above and beyond. one year can be quite a while in the world of travel, so I promptly forgot about said voucher. Until the following year, with about 30 days left to go, I smiled and remembered my good fortune. I pulled up a map of where jetBlue might fly from Detroit, and what do I see at roughly the same price?

Cartagena, Colombia. Boom. Sold.

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I had an amazing time over the weeks in Colombia. My initial dispatch from the sunny paradise, From Cartagena with love.  to making it into the majestic mountains of Medellin. Mysteries of Medellin I love Colombia. I’m excited to go back and spend more time among all the awesomeness there.

If only Colombia was easy to leave. On this particular day, this was to prove both metaphorical as well as literal. My last day in Cartagena, after pulling a muscle in my foot from many a mountain trek on my way out of Medellin.  (Colombia, Getting old, Fried chicken and Serendipity.) found me at the wonderful Hotel Centro. My flight was early afternoon, so I had time to sleep in a bit, grab breakfast, take a long shower, say a  few goodbyes and make my way to the airport.

Or not.

Uber can be a tricky service in Colombia, but I had exhausted my cash, and wanted to make it easy as possible. I realized I was running a bit late, and ordered an Uber to the airport, the app tells me my driver is 22 min away.

“Damn 22 min? its typically 5-10”

So I wait, a bit nervous about getting out of the walled city and making it to the airport on time.  With 5 min left to go, the driver sends me a message from within the app, that he can only accept cash.

Miniature disaster strikes.  What do I do? Do I hobble to an ATM, and then try and find a taxi? Do I try another Uber?

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I request a new Uber. I’m waiting outside with my backpack, in the afternoon, tense and sweating as its 92 degrees and bright. New Uber says 15 min away. Fuck.

I make it to the airport, 55 min before my flight leaves. I know that’s just kinda dumb. I’m limping, hot, and frustrated. I’m still smiling, but in more a resigned way. I make my way up to the counter, and the first attendant tells me “this flight is closed, you are too late”. I know this, and am prepared for the Armageddon options to get home. But then the person next her asks me for my passport.

He spends some time in rapid fire Spanish over his walkie talkie, stopping periodically asking me if I have checked baggage, (carry on only for life!) and other bits of logistics. after 5 min or so, my fate hanging in the balance he asks me to follow him. He prints my boarding passes/tickets.

He leads me through customs, then through security and personally walks me to the gate and deposits me at line for boarding. I have never been treated that kindly by an airline. I was astounded by this guys service. I told him it was my first time to Colombia, and my first time flying jetBlue. He smiled and asked if I enjoyed my time here…Before I could answer, he said ” When you come back, try to get to the airport a bit earlier”.

He shook my hand and left.

 

that’s when I noticed his name tag. It was Jesus.

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Cheers!

The Silver Lining/Solo Travel Pt2

p8cvVmW“I want to travel, but i’m scared to go alone”.

I was too once upon a time, and an unlikely turn of events kicked my ass right out my front door. 

 

Disaster strikes at the most inopportune times.  From my last post, here: (https://gypsyprofessor.com/2018/01/24/on-the-path-to-solo-travel/)

I was all set to book tickets to south eastern Europe, only waiting on my friend to stop by and pull the proverbial trigger on airfare.  We had waited for weeks. I was pouring over Instagram and travel forums looking at pictures of Sarajevo, Skopje, and Dubrovnik. I was obsessed with getting over the pond. It had been far too long. I missed the feeling of the unknown, the swirl of foreign languages and the assault on the senses.  We were all set.

My buddy’s excuses had put pressure on the entire process and played a bit of pinball with my level of anxiety. Almost a month delayed now, he finally  showed up, but not to book…to give me one final, and fatal fucked up excuse.

“Hey man, bad news, I don’t think I can pull it off, I cant get the time off work..etc, etc.

All of the eye roll emojis in the world could not convey my feeling at that moment.

 

I was crushed. 

 

Absolutely crushed.  I felt betrayed, frustrated and pissed. My carefully constructed plans dashed and disregarded. But there was more.

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Now that I was in my doldrums, I walked away from the computer and my buddy  for the remainder of the afternoon. I went for a walk. I  attempted  to console myself with other options, a road trip maybe, or something domestic. I pondered and I plotted. Tied up in a knot of frustration,  and angst, I felt no progress near at hand.

Eventually that night, I ended up back at my place, and in a deep google routed rabbit’s hole. I ended up falling back on some trusted wisdom from some personal favorites. Bukowski, Hunter S Thompson, and Henry Miller.

“We are all alone, born alone, die alone, and—in spite of True Romance magazines—we shall all someday look back on our lives and see that, in spite of our company, we were alone the whole way. I do not say lonely—at least, not all the time—but essentially, and finally, alone. This is what makes your self-respect so important, and I don’t see how you can respect yourself if you must look in the hearts and minds of others for your happiness.”  -HST
I peeled back a few layers of the onion and thought about why I thought I had to rely on other people for this particular dream.  I realized that nothing great comes easy. The people around me had 1,000 excuses not to pursue their dreams. I had reached a point where I refused to be one of them.
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“Fuck it”
“I’m going solo”
This was one of the most defining decisions of my life. As of this writing I have traveled to 69 countries. Some years I travel over two hundred thousand air miles. Travel becomes an obsession. Words like “tourist” no longer have any meaning for you.    The vast majority of these adventures  have been solo. Christmas in Sarajevo? Or Perhaps visiting an elephant sanctuary in Sri Lanka? Few are signing up for that.  That’s perfect.
“Learning to let go should be learned before learning to get. Life should be touched, not strangled. You’ve got to relax, let it happen at times, and at others move forward with it. It’s like boats. You keep your motor on so you can steer with the current. And when you hear the sound of the waterfall coming nearer and nearer, tidy up the boat, put on your best tie and hat, and smoke a cigar right up till the moment you go over. That’s a triumph.”
Either embrace the unknown, or get comfortable in the wet pantload of your excuses to stay stagnant.  It  was time for me to take flight. Lets grab this ticket and make the most of it!
Aw shit. Another hurdle rises in the mist.   My saved routes to Budapest, Vienna, and Zagreb had doubled since the afternoon…I’m in the zone though, I cant be stopped. Embrace uncertainty, shed the illusion of control right?
So I rolled the dice, I frantically dissected the map of Europe, I held my breath for that sheer burst of serendipity, shit, I would have been ecstatic for  divine intervention at that point as well. Into the wee hours of the morning, the siege on my ticket prices finally broke. What a 3 am Rush!   Where am I going to land?!
Ladies and gentlemen… Looks like we are headed to Lithuania!!
Wait, what? Lithuania!?
Giddddddy Up!
Baltic adventure/pt 3  coming up next!
Happy weekend!