This weekend weather has been relentlessly dull. Grey clouds, constant drizzle, and oh so hot. I dragged my sweaty ass out of the apartment, nonetheless and enjoyed myself (gasp). The subway stations in the summer time are arguably the most uncomfortable place in the city. It feels like you’re in a sauna, only the lovely smelling oils are replaced with piss and garbage. Going down into that sewage heat cellar after the gym is by far the worst. All I can think is why nobody around me is sweating. What the fuck kind of pores are these people sporting? I mean, I’m drenched in sweat trying not to touch anything and begging the universe to make my train appear like 5 minutes ago and the people next to me are just chilling on their phones. No sweat. Not even one drop. I don’t get it. It’s not just hot, it’s steaming. By the time I get onto the train I’m one sweat drop away from looking like I just stepped out of the shower. Continue reading “Heat. Goals. Snap Chat.”
Ok, so I needed a break. Sue me. It took me 13 blogs before I created one that actually stuck; for over a year! Alas, I grew tired of writing about the same old drudgery that became my life in NYC. With the Honeymoon phase over, I needed a real break from constantly admiring my surroundings and give myself time to really hate this place. You know, like a real New Yorker. Not that, by any means, do I consider myself one. Continue reading “Alas, we meet again.”
BRING WHAT YOU ARE WILLING TO PART WITH
Your traveling pack is your only truly inseparable companion on the road. Be morally and emotionally prepared, nevertheless, that it too can uncouple from you. Airports, for example, are notorious for losing bags, so carry essentials ‘on’ you. Theft, especially in crime-stricken areas and high-flow hostels, is not to be underestimated. When adventure calls, water and forest obstacles can also cause severe damage to your luggage, sometimes beyond repair. Sometimes, even the smallest dysfunctions in your luggage can be an extreme inconvenience, which will either force you to halt the adventure or abandon the baggage.
BRING NO MORE THAN WANT TO CARRY
It is easy to over-pack; it can be overwhelming to grab everything you deem essential. The fine line between bringing too many (unnecessary) items and omitting to bring certain essentials is a personal decision. You can always re-up or lessen on supplies, buying or shedding articles along the way. It is optimal, however, to bring the bare minimum of what you’ll need – no more no less. Continue reading “GUEST POST: TAKE IT OR LEAVE IT, ADVENTURE’S HAPPENING (Bring no more than want to carry)”
I’m on the B train on my morning commute to work, it’s somewhere around 9:45am. Normally, I don’t like to sit on the ride to and from work seeing as how I’ll either have the whole day to sit at a desk or I’ve come from a long day of sitting, but this time was different. For the first time in a while, my morning commute involved a crowded train (not having to commute during rush hour is a saving grace). I’m not complaining, piling into a packed train has it’s perks — I often feel a tiny thrill while shuffling into the train with playback flashes of NYC movies romanticizing the shoving and jamming of people into tiny spaces (it pays to be small in this city). On this particular day, the train wasn’t spectacularly packed or anything, but enough folks kept bumping into me that I snagged the first seat I could find . [On a side note, if you’re in NYC please check around before grabbing that sought after seat in case someone else may actually need it first. Yes, I do this. Always.] Continue reading “My Daily Commute on the NYC Subway: The Investigators.”
LEAVE THE CONTRABAND
It is uber-helpful to remember the exact positioning of each item in your luggage, to save vital time in drenching moments. It is an even more important, complimentary wont, to know the exact contents of the bag. This is crucial, for fast packing/unpacking, for example, not to leave things accidentally in hostels. If the habit of keeping track of possessions is not developed, it is also quite easy to bring prohibited items in the carry-on into the airport.
TAKE IT OR LEAVE IT, ADVENTURE’S HAPPENING
Boy Scouts’ slogan got it right! With a small adjustment: be prepared for the unknown. What do you need to bring on the trip? Really, there are only two musts: make sure your brain is working and positive attitude is turned on. All else is for extra comfort, since you will likely be roughing it without a bagful of personal belongings. Careful packing is a crucial way to anticipate and smoothly overcome possible hurdles on a badass journey. Play the trip out to yourself over and over again, visualizing the euphoria and the challenges. Think of the material necessities that should accompany those abstracts. This way, you will mitigate the stress of the unknown.
There is no ultimate way to prepare for what’s coming on the adventurous path — that’s the point. It is possible, however, to make arrangements for imaginable encounters. Everyone has different wants, preferences, and pet peeves about what to bring on a trip and what to omit. Consider those nuanced details! If you thoughtfully prepare according to your likings, luck will likely follow; even if some object will be missing. Continue reading “Guest POst: TAKE IT OR LEAVE IT, ADVENTURE’S HAPPENING (Bring the saving grace)”
TAKE IT OR LEAVE IT, ADVENTURE’S HAPPENING
Boy Scouts’ slogan got it right! With a small adjustment: be prepared for the unknown. What do you need to bring on the trip? Really, there are only two musts: make sure your brain is working and positive attitude is turned on. All else is for extra comfort, since you will likely be roughing it without a bagful of personal belongings. Careful packing is a crucial way to anticipate and smoothly overcome possible hurdles on a badass journey. Play the trip out to yourself over and over again, visualizing the euphoria and the challenges. Think of the material necessities that should accompany those abstracts. This way, you will mitigate the stress of the unknown. Continue reading “Guest POst: TAKE IT OR LEAVE IT, ADVENTURE’S HAPPENING (Bring small size nick-knacks)”
The photos in this post are not related to the text… just some photos I’ve been taking this week randomly.
I’ve been living in NYC long enough now that I’m starting to take my surroundings for granted. I get annoyed and flustered at the idiocy of others constantly surrounding me and the weather has been crap. Even summertime heat that I was so longing for during the treacherous winter months has worn me out (being completely drenched in sweat before my work day even begins is not great). This all makes me pretty sad. I love this city. I do, I really do. I love it for the exact reasons that are wearing me down. I love the people, the noise, the dirt, the inconvenience of it all. I wanted to do something to make me focus less on my discomfort and more on my surroundings so I started sitting down every chance I get to write about my what I see, smell, and hear. Every now and then my emotions find their way into these exercises too. Continue reading “New York City Senses”
For the next 5 months, I’m going to be posting a series of guest posts called Vital (cliché) steps to adventurous travels from someone who has a lot to say about spontaneity, facing fears, and traveling with tips on how to embark on an adventure of your own. I hope you enjoy!
the tiny village/town behind Igor is Jelondi, Pamir, Tajikistan
Igor Postrekhin is a (seemingly fearless) world-traveler and professional adventurer. He is also my brother. Having a travel journal including more countries and cities than most will ever even contemplate visiting in their life-time, Igor has a unique perspective on wild experiences, facing fears, cultures & people, and most importantly living life without the constraints of society’s rulebook. A direct quote from his About Me section on his Couchsurfing profile (which has an overwhelming 142 positive reference list) says “Passion is the fuel that keeps me going. Extremes and adventures exhilarate me, obscure the norms.” He is currently living in Xinjiang, China.
Here’s a list of said countries in case you were curious.
Afghanistan, Argentina, Bahamas, Belarus, Bulgaria, Burma, China, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Estonia, Finland, Georgia, Germany, Guatemala, Honduras, Hungary, Israel, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Latvia, Lithuania, Mexico, Mongolia, Nicaragua, Poland, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Tajikistan, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine, United States, Uruguay, Virgin Islands, U.S.
Vital (cliché) steps to adventurous travels:
- Conquer your fears! Ok, difficult, start with practice. Begin with overcoming some smaller seemingly impossible challenges on your list. Those which will involve testing self, looking for self-trials. Ultimately, I think, every adventure involves coming out victorious over something that you thought YOU couldn’t do. To happily spend endless hours and vast resources on the perfect adventure, you have to desire new remarkable experiences, and dare yourself (even if just a bit) to be victorious.
“There is no illusion greater than fear.”
― Lao Tzu
Life after Phi Tha Kon
I was volunteering as a teacher at the Nong Khai base in the Isan province of Thailand. As a group of new friends and colleagues we took a weekend trip to the top of Dan Sai mountains for the famed Phi Tha Kon festival. This was week three of my first solo exploration abroad. For months building up to this trip, I’ve dreamt of these locales, customs, experiences, of Thailand, of exploring jungles; I was more than excited for exoticism and adventure ahead. This was my first life-defining travel adventure.
Phi Tha Kon is a crazy festival dedicated to scaring off evil spirits and summoning up the protective ones. The ritual processions and celebration run practically nonstop for three days and nights: everyone wears myriads of wicked masks and costumes, and carries ligneous phalluses — also in an immeasurable variety of shapes, colors, and sizes. The sojourn ambiance, open air, friendly beer markets, and the tradition of poking each other with wooden penises, especially from behind, culminated in an unforgettable merrymaking. To top off this special outing, it was the weekend of the FIFA World Cup ’06 Final – we watched the match on a fifty-foot projector screen, full of emotions, exploding for the unforgettable Zidane finale. Our international Nong Khai family of young travelers was extremely joyful, bonding together, building lifetime friendships.
On the last day, shortly before departure, I had a typical Isan meal – with very spicy, deep flavors stemming from the core ingredients. (Som Tum papaya salad from this region is still the spiciest dish I’ve ever enjoyed.) Well, it wasn’t digesting properly as we were riding back home. The dilapidated, packed bus rocked hard side-to-side, constantly hitting bumps on the only road from the high up village-town. I was standing among dozens of others in the crammed space between the seats. Bodies swayed with the motion of the bus and I suddenly felt the whirling transfer into inside of my belly. In an instant, the centrifuge in my stomach was turned on and I immediately felt repercussions of that lunch coming. Without delay, I vehemently barked at Nick to ask the driver to stop the bus and let me out.
Nick, our young native group leader and translator, looked puzzled and did not react. In agony of inevitable release, I yelled “STOP THE BUS!” My foreign friends glared with surprise, the rest of the passengers began chattering in Thai, probably something along the lines “loco Gringo”. I informed my friends with an obvious “I gotta go!” facial expression. This time Nick was urgently conversing with the driver. “How will you get home?” he turned to me, “the driver won’t wait for you. There’s no more buses from here today. Few cars go by this road at all this time of evening.” The bus was slowly pulling over at the straight away between a wavy chain of mountain bends. I pushed my way to the door, not seeing another option. My companions were a bit stunned as I jumped out at a slow roll, not trusting the driver to actually fully stop soon enough. Nick’s response was to shout something at me as he threw a translation booklet and a telephone (I traveled with only pen and paper back in the day). I sprinted into the bushes out of sight of rolling away stares and started taking care of business.
This wouldn’t be the last time that TP isn’t on hand and leaves serve a hygienic purpose. These leaves were large though, unlike any that I’ve ever seen, luckily smooth, and springing right out of the marsh-covered ground. Once I composed myself, I began to evaluate the situation beyond the foliage at squatting level. I was in the mother freaking jungle!! Frightful loss was one of the strong initial emotions. Then I reminded myself about what I came to Thailand for: to experience tropical wilderness. Everything was quiet except for ubiquitous cricketing, snapping, croaking sounds of the forest. “How dare I be fearful?” was another attempt to rid mind of worries. Humidity was peaking after just-passed rain. The evaporating moisture off the omnipresent green surfaces enhanced the lush fragrances of all surrounding flora. It was a few hours before sundown, although gloomy clouds lingered with darkness behind the recent downpour.I found a spot with little over-brush to take in the stunning view of the high rolling hills of South East Asia. The sun was lurking about a foot above the mountain at four o’clock bearing, looking directly down the slope. The road a few feet behind me zigzagged and disappeared into the jungle oblivion to the right, towards the sun. The last of the rattling of the bus’s broken exhaust pipe was also fading from the same direction. A few hundred yards lower, this serpentine road reemerged on the other side of that mount, and then was seen wagging in and out of sight far down the valley below.
“What if I cut straight down the mountain through the forest? …And maybe be lucky enough to catch up with the bus on the switchbacks below… while the bus is going the long way around the sun mountain?”, I pondered, “…this could be a reasonable hike… I should hit the road a few hundred yards down… and this’d be the best chance of passage home.” An inexplicable desire to manifest this idea was pleading me to proceed into the brush. “Can I do that?” Doubt and an injection of nervousness magnified the insanity of the thought. Anxiety driven, I was on a verge of running after the sluggish bus, for a split second regarding it as a more rational idea. Confounded, I looked at the road, continuing to leer at the entrails of the forest. Powerful exhilaration kept trickling through my veins, trampling “I can’t”.This plan struck my naivety as an ideal adventure, a chance to fulfill a dream of crossing a jungle. I carelessly rushed into the forest; backpack still hanging over the right shoulder. I hadn’t done anything of the sort before — was a bit clueless of the forthcoming. Ten meters from the road, twelve, fifteen, I’m advancing inwards, looking for a pathway all around except under my feet. “I never thought I’d actually do something like this”, I thought, this is one of those gnarly experiences I’ve only envisioned. “I can…” was my last thought. Boom! There it was: I stepped on the false ground. The shrub collapsed under my right foot, slippery floor had no friction, and my butt gravitated hard down into a natural trench, with backpack in tow, into a slide down the slope.
Down I went, at a steep angle, fast, feeling at once powerless against the force of nature; yet all senses heightened to function in unison and survive… The sensation was familiar from wrestling matches in high school: thinking turns off, instincts kick in, muscles tense up, joints unhinge… My right arm was stuck in the upward position to prevent loosing the backpack, yet both hands were karate-chopping an onslaught of branches hurling at my face and torso from all sides. I was zooming down in an inverted catapult, quickly accumulating bruises and scratches. Branch – chop, branch – chop, tree root – kick off ditch’s side as hard as I can and scoot. This was a roller coaster without safety belts. The initial jolt sent me straight downwards, but soon the pathway of the massive cartless bobsledding track – the rut – steered me rightwards. My body shifted into a skid sideways, thumping a formidable hump or two in the process. That slowed the motion. I quickly shuffled my feet against the banks to avoid more upcoming obstacles sticking out of the flanking ground. Still rushing down the mist-lubricated water slide, I started reaching for lianas all around. Missed one, couldn’t grip onto the second one, the third one gave in and dragged with me… that effort was enough to slow down the momentum. Another veer rightwards and the ride was over: I was sitting on the bottom of a ten-foot wide ravine, with the backpack a few yards behind, trying to regain clear-headedness, if not consciousness itself.
“That was WICKED!” I was sitting in a sapless pile of mud on a flat grassy patch. I adjusted my pants, shaking off whatever was crawling inside them. They were completely soiled on the outside. A mere single rip in my t-shirt exposed several major scrapes on my right loin. Dirt masked my shirt’s cool design. Several invisible bugs needed to be swapped to stop biting me in the scalp. I was beat up but invigorated. I looked back over the left shoulder: probably less than a hundred yards traveled, albeit the top of the hill was out of sight. It couldn’t have taken more than two minutes. It sure seemed like a voyage! What just happened?!?! I sat there, feeling devirginized, already knowing that a tremendous life event had just occurred. I had the first dose of the most powerful drug in my life – overcoming an unexpected, extraordinary, unprecedented to self, challenge.
I took several deep breaths, inhaling the pristine air of the jungle forest. Tiny purple flowers scattered all over low grasses and serene chirping of the birds perfectly complimented the internal feeling of success. Peace and euphoria. Humanity was far out of sight and out of mind at that moment. I would probably be groaning from multiple bruises on my hips if it wasn’t for my soul’s complete satisfaction. I fulfilled a dream, and it happened so naturally. I wasn’t thinking of any other dreams at that moment, but instinctively was certain that they would all come to fruition in some similarly bizarre turn of events.
“Now what?,” hints of panic began sifting through as reality of whereabouts sunk back in. Distance ahead became scary. A prospect of again falling down and not being so lucky crossed my mind once or twice. The obvious horror of being stuck in the bug infested woods overnight flashed in my imagination. Nonsense! “I must have about two-three hundred yards to go down… and to the left (since the slide kept bending rightwards)…. Very doable.” I was ready, eager to get back to the paved road, to cross paths with the bus and tell all about the happening to new friends. I fastened the bag onto my back and walked down at eleven o’clock bearing. Already clearheaded, only minutes after the rush, this time a sense of simultaneous confidence and cautiousness dominated my mind. Vigilantly I probed every step, but moved fast, using tree trunks and branches for security and stability. My shoes have been soaked for some while now; sweat was dripping off me faster than I could wipe it. I had to hop down a small scarp at one point, although otherwise it was an easy and smooth hike. Suddenly I heard a vehicle’s humming not too far below in the distance and my newfound contention of hiking in the jungle was trumped by excitement of ending the trek and sharing the experience with comrades. I deeply wished the sound was that of the bus, as I imagined a heroic return.
I sauntered onto the road – to be extra suave in case of witnesses. It wasn’t the bus, but an old loud truck approaching from the right. I faced slightly rightward – facing the left-sided traffic – and hesitantly raised my left thumb. I’ve always coveted hitchhiking, the freedom and adventurism that it entails. This was the perfect opportunity for trying it out, better than any I could’ve imagined. Ok, another first for me! It’s always different, however, being out there and actually doing it: courage was now wavering. As the contours of the truck drew closer I realized that it had a tiny cabin, full with three persons, and a chicken coop in the back bed. Within fifty meters, chicken clucking from the back of the obnoxiously painted red-orange striped rig became audible. Perhaps because this scenario was never part of my dream, the idea of having my muddy appearance covered with chicken feathers, whilst riding in that cage, appalled me. I quickly retrieved my hand and simply smiled at the locals as they drove passed.
I didn’t have to wait longer than thirty seconds before another vehicle popped out from around the bend in the distance. This one did not make any noise and was rapidly gliding towards me. I squinted to make out a black European sedan stylishly zooming along cliff side. It was a new model C Class Mercedes Benz. With no hesitation, the finger went back up into the flagging stance. I had zero worries on my mind, my mini-dreams were stacking one on top of another, happiness of these moments had already penetrated the subconscious. Within seconds, the Finish driver and his pretty Thai front-seat passenger were motioning me to enter the car for a ride.
I wouldn’t have let my dirty self into the interior of this sleek mobile, but this family was not a bit bothered by my stained appearance — white skin, even muddy, truly is a ticket to much in the Third world. The couple’s mixed-race teenage son, seated behind the European father, greeted me with a friendly smile, and then drowned back into his iPod. We exchanged few words with the driver’s wife, but silence was clearly the preferred mode of this trip. A chilly stream of AC air cooled me into ultimate comfort of the spacious leather backseat.
Indiscernible tunes of pop rock from the kid’s headphones to the left prompted me to also pull out my player. I started listening to the White Stripe’s new-to-me White Blood Cells album on the way to Phi Tha Khon few days prior, so I put them back on. And then the magic moment, when music solidifies an event, enthralled me. “We’re going to be friends” came on. It wasn’t about a girl, or a person, it was about trip-taking and adventure-making. It was about seeking shortcuts, getting off on thrills, and breaching new horizons of personal possibilities. The roots of a deep friendship within myself were planted. The kid and me incidentally exchanged looks and a more genuine smile this time — he was bobbing to my waves, clearly contaminated by my joy from this song. I was drifting in Zen, with eyes shut, as I heard “where? Drop off you where?” from my kind chauffeur.
I stepped out back into the steam-bath of SE Asia at the conspicuous bus station in the middle of an insignificant town-village. This is where we were supposed to change buses on the way back to Nong Khai, I realized. As I walked through the bus terminal, to my extreme amazement, I first heard the rattling of the old exhaust pipe and then watched the familiar decrepit bus pull into its gate. Musky and blue in the face from the fatiguing journey, the crowd began tumbling out of the bus. I stood there, glowing, welcoming my surprised co-travelers with the grandest grin. I was joyous to be back in their company, they were awed by my wicked reappearance – jubilation reigned the moment. As they began bombarding me with “what”s and “how”s, Nick quickly herded us into the departing coach for our last leg of the trip to Nong Khai. On the way home, during a much more comfortable and relaxing ride, I told all of my misadventures, with fulsome gesturing. I didn’t mention, however, anything about initial fears; this is a tale of the undaunted conquering of Thai jungles, and, secretly, self in the process.
2. ‘Be prepared!’
3. Make it your own!
4. Be open-minded!
5. Have fun even if it doesn’t seem like fun in the moment!
The 1st guest POst in the Vital (cliché) steps to adventurous travels series from someone who has a lot to say about spontaneity, facing fears, and traveling with tips on how to embark on an adventure of your own.
The other POsts in this series can be found by following these links: