Missouri born Michael is a personal friend of mine whom I met when our globe drifting paths crossed on the island of Lanai. Recently, he went back to the state of his birth to reconnect the fibers of his past with the person he is at present. He shares with us his experience here.
You know what the Midwest is? Young and Restless. Kayne West lyrics from one of his songs, but is it true? I don't live in the Midwest anymore, but I did get really good rest on my recent journey back to my birthplace of "The Show Me State", Missouri.
Guest blogger Eileen Sheets is a good friend of mine from New York. Although she grew up in The City, she managed to escape many years ago with her husband when they moved north into the Hudson Valley. Eileen shares with us one of the many things that brings her rest, relaxation and joy, kayaking down the rivers of the Adirondacks.
Finding out news of what's going on at home while you're away can either be joyful or shocking, and sometimes both. As travelers, when it comes to staying in touch we may have limited resources at hand, and we usually hear of these big events by unconventional means. But the main thing is not necessarily how we stay in the loop, but whether or not we actually do it.
While I was away in Borneo Malaysia, my sister gave birth in New York. Micah-Kai Brandstrom came into this world at 8 lbs 3 oz in a hospital on Long Island at the same time that I was getting on an AirAsia aircraft departing Kota Kinabalu International Airport, Malaysia.
I didn't find out about my nephew's birth until after my 10 hour plane-slash-bus ride-transit, which brought me home to Kaohsiung, Taiwan. I heard about it on Facebook.
In San Francisco there is a man. His given name is Ju-yin, but we call him Julian. His demeanor is somewhat reserved, but extremely aware. His voice is soft and hushed, and his English is broken.
I met Julian through a girl named Char-Mee. We first saw him sitting on a sofa directly across from us in the day room of our hostel. He avoided our eye contact, yet clearly paid notice to our joking remarks directed at one another. But when Char-Mee addressed him in Korean, his eyes lit up and his smile beamed. In their mother tongue, Julian told Char-Mee his story.
It was always his dream to explore North America, so over a year ago he had hopped a flight that took him from Seoul to Vancouver, where he found a job working as a cashier. But the song of the southern road had been calling him, and now he found himself with us in San Francisco, California, having migrated down the coastline from Canada.
Julian has been living out of his van, moving from city to city. He showers in hostels in exchange for cleaning services, saving his precious money as best he can and spending it only on things that he finds uniquely valuable. Everything he owns is in his van.
Tonight, a man asked Julian if he could sleep in his van. The man was from New York, and he had flown out two weeks prior. Things in San Francisco did not work out as he had planned and, his money having been depleted, he only needed a place to lay his head. But knowing that it would be cold out, Julian took this man inside the hostel instead, and paid for his bed overnight. He did all of this as quietly as possible, not wanting to attract too much attention, perhaps in part to save the man from any kind of embarrassment. I realized then that Julian truly is a good man.
About a month before, while Julian was out, a group of kids decided it would be a great idea to shatter this quiet man's life. They broke into his van and took everything, making off with more than two thousand dollars worth of his belongings. He told me this, while having lunch, in a seemingly frank and forthright tone of voice. When I asked him if he was all right, he simply lowered his eyes and nodded, as if saying there really isn't anything else to do but deal with it.
Amongst his stolen personals was a saxophone, on which he had taught himself to play. It had been too expensive for him to buy, so instead he did what he could just to have one, and the best he could think of was to rent it. When asked what made him want to teach himself the workings of an instrument while on the road, he said that it was more because he needed something to do during his solo travels, something that would keep him company whenever his state of solitude beset a feeling of loneliness. Julian is always alone, but it is when he is lonely that he feels the need to play. But someone has made off with this borrowed instrument, and instead of having saved money by renting, now he is stuck with a debt that he cannot pay off.
Yet, oddly enough, he has managed to get himself another saxophone, this time purchasing it. The occasionally overwhelming feeling of seclusion has given him the rationality to spend his savings on what to some would seem a luxury but to him would be a necessity. It is an older sax, and from what he tells us, it is somewhat broken and flat. He tells us that there are some notes it cannot reach, but my untrained ears cannot pick up the difference.
Julian told me today about his Okinawan girlfriend whom he had met during his travels. She could not speak Korean and he could speak very little Japanese, yet they spoke to each other with their eyes. She returned home a while ago after having rode with Julian for a short time, and now he is trying to sell his van so as to meet her in her home country.
I sit here on the curb, listening to Julian play his haunting music on a cold park bench. He plays us a song called Santa Fe. It is a well known tune here on the West Coast, although its melody is unfamiliar to me. His version sounds low and almost tiresome, yet pleased and slightly relaxed. It makes me see how one can understand a language even if it is not their own, whether it is through the eyes of a close companion, or through the notes of a second hand saxophone.
The song Julian plays slowly winds down, and when his solo is done, a German kid named Alex claps his hands in applause. Julian bows his head and shyly reiterates the fact that his instrument is slightly out of tune. But Alex just smiles at him and tells him that his ears cannot pick up the difference.
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And now we ask you: Have you ever met someone that has affected your way of life, or the way you think, in such a way that you will never forget the impact they had on you?
For many of us, the name 'New York' conjures up the image of a line of skyscrapers sprawled out along the horizon from afar, or bright lights and zooming taxi cabs up close. But in actuality, The Apple is just one-third of the whole.
Upstate New York
In my mind, New York State can be divided into three primary sections. The first I consider as Upstate New York. Here you find the Hudson River Valley, Catskills Mountains, Niagara Falls, the capital city of the USA and the Adirondacks. The farther north you go, the more dramatic the seasons become. I am in love with the Hudson River Valley and its neighboring Catskills mountain range. Easily accessible and aesthetically charming, these are great places for a weekend getaway from the often times hectic city pace.
The Big Apple
New York, New York... a mass of ethnic diversity and cultural stimulation. The city is made up of 5 main boroughs all centered around Manhattan Island. In my opinion, this is where the cities of the world are represented most in the USA. Always a sea of heaving people headed upcity, downtown, inner city or out of state, this is the crossroads of the state.The beat is lively, always flowing, and beneath the icy, straightforward stares is a layer of men and women who go where they're headed and know where they've been. It's hard to fit in if you don't pick up the pace, but once your pace is set, this place is inspiring.
This can best be described as an area of economic contradiction, where the very rich rub elbows with the debased poor. Middle class is a series of numbers, and the farther east you get, the more pretentious the lifestyle seems. And yet, underneath it all, if you scratch behind the facade, you will find a history of the people who were there before the onslaught of summer homes and Manhattan elite-come-settlers. It's a history of farmers and fishermen, immigrants and locals alike.
And now we ask you: Have your previous perceptions of a place ever been challenged by the reality of the experience? Comment below and let us know!
I'm JR. I come from a long line of adventurers, some were nomadic explorers of the sea and others wandering cultivators of the earth. Ultimately, this legacy of drifters has deeply affected my view of travel. Read more...