Category Archives: Life

One year anniversary

It’s been a year since I left the Balkan Boyz tour of the Americas. Everything I wrote about the trip still feels true. Since the guys’ returned home from their extended trip through Central America, life has changed for them, as well. It certainly was not the tour any of us expected, but it was the tour each of us needed. The travel bug has surely been tamed for the time being, which was perhaps the unspoken goal of all of this in the first place. We’re all firmly into new and different chapters of life.

I’ve found that I remember it all more fondly now. Certainly more so than when I first got home. I’d always wanted to do a big North American road trip, and I’m glad I did it with best friends, and at that time. We all hoped the Balkan Boyz wouldn’t be a one-tour-wonder and I think we’re proving that won’t be the case. In honour of the latest voyage, I’ve made up another poster. I hope that by the time we’re all old men, we can each have a wall full of them.

Thanks for the great ride, Boyz!

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Two years ago

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Thinking back on my ‘big year’ of travel feels like remembering a vivid dream. At times clear, but otherwise foggy. It can seem like it was just yesterday, or a lifetime ago. I’m often glad for the extensive photo journal I kept along the way. Without it, I would have forgotten places, names, and countless other details by now. There are cities, landscapes, trinkets, food. More importantly, interesting people and great friends. What I always notice the most, however, are the changes I see in myself. A photo of me from August of 2013 shows one person, and a shot from August of 2014 shows someone else entirely. Since being back home, I’ve wondered if a younger me would have gotten as much out of that trip as I did at thirty two. I doubt it.

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*Insert cliche about how travel changes you here*

Well, just like stereotypes, cliches exist for a reason. Though in this case, I’m not sure anyone can change unless they’re open to it in the first place. Many people are desperate for a transformational travel experience. Others stubbornly cling to their ‘home’ selves. I didn’t try for either, yet somehow accomplished both. Not that it was easy.

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I still think of that year as the best of my life so far. It was also the worst. There were amazing new friendships and romance. There was also prolonged loneliness and heartbreak. I visited incredible cities and landscapes, and was stimulated by fresh experiences and knowledge. None of that is constant. There were also entire days spent alone on trains or buses. Entire nights in airports. Times when I couldn’t escape from myself, or find a big enough distraction. Places I hated but was stuck in. Days where all I’d want was an actual friend to talk to.

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The Fall after I came home, I had an idea to create an emotional journal of my ‘big year’ using my favourite genre of dance music: Trance. I’d listened to a lot of it during my trip, and certain tracks had taken on new and powerful meanings for me. It took several months, but I was eventually able to string them together into a set. It’s still the most narrative set I’ve done, and a year and a half after recording it, I still give it a listen every once and a while. Every track, every lyric, and every mix and key change are deliberately chosen to tell the story back to myself. I’ve shared it with a few close friends, but have only decided to post it online now. If you give it a listen, I’d love to know what you think…

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Causeway – Thirty Third Orbit

Feeling at home

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So far I’ve found only one certainty about travel. If you go looking for something, you won’t find it. When I left on what became my ‘big trip’ more than two years ago, I hoped to regain my love of home, and a passion for my career. Neither of those things happened. Instead, I was so restless and unsatisfied than I immediately began planning a second departure. This time, the goal was different: there wasn’t one. No lofty ideas. No life altering intentions. Just a chance to enjoy travelling with my friends. Another memorable tour with the ‘world famous’ Balkan Boyz.

I didn’t realize it was happening, but while I was focused for so long on leaving home, my feelings about it began to change. New people and new places mixed with the favourite bits of my old life to create a different perspective. By the time the guys arrived in Vancouver, I was faking excitement about leaving. But leave we did, on what surely was the road trip of a lifetime. From Vancouver to Halifax, through Canada and the United States. Almost three months with best friends in fantastic places.

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I should have been happier, but home was calling louder than ever before.  A great friend passed away, some others were going through tough times, and I was waiting to renew an incredible relationship. Every day away meant wanting to go back even more. It took a year, but home went from being a place I didn’t mind leaving, to one I felt compelled to stay in.

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A month after returning, it still feels right. The Balkan Boyz tour continues through Central America in all of their incredible style. I couldn’t be happier for all of us to feel that we’re doing what we want to be doing. Next week brings a return to work, and next month, a new apartment. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt excited about my future here. Unexpectedly, I got out of this trip what I wanted to get out of the big one. The walkabout is over, and it really does feel like a Happy New Year. It’s time to enjoy being home.

The Big City

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I’ve been in New York City for a week now, and still have a week to go. It’s certainly a different experience to other big cities I’ve visited. I suppose most of that has to do with the scale of it. This place is so big, and so dense, that expecting to get a handle on it in just a couple of weeks seems ridiculous. I can usually feel comfortable with a new transit system in just a few days, but I’m on day eight in New York, and still find myself double and triple checking maps, trains, and stations. There is an incredible, exhausting energy here. I find myself feeling tired, even if I’ve hardly done anything.

I thought I would enjoy the city more. It’s certainly not a place I could imagine living. There are too many things that drain my energy, and not enough quiet or beautiful places to recharge. Central Park is overly manicured. Full of concrete walking paths, roads, and trees that are too small to hide what surrounds it. The constant sirens and horns pierce any sense of calm. Most of the grass is fenced off and unwelcoming. It underscores how lucky I am to be from a city that has so much natural beauty so close at hand.

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I’m curious to see how my second week goes. With a decent chuck of the sights now seen, I’m hoping some more relaxed exploring will make this place feel more comfortable. Right now, another week doesn’t seem like enough time for that. From what I’ve heard, even a few years might not cut it. Maybe that’s what New York City is all about.

On The Road Again

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Well, here I am again. Travelling. The Balkan Boyz reunited in Vancouver, and have spent the last month driving across Canada and the States. We’re about to leave Nova Scotia, back to the US for November, then onwards South. The journey feels different this time. Not as fresh, and sometimes not as exciting, but still a wonderful time. The friendship rolls on, the photos are made. It’s shaping up to be the second half of the ‘twice in a lifetime’ travel experience.

We’ve covered over 7600 kilometres in my car. Having the freedom to access almost anything has been fantastic. I really can’t imagine seeing North America any other way. Tomorrow it’s back to airports, bus stations, and transit systems. I hope I haven’t been spoiled, because we’re just getting started!

Live now

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Atmosphere Visual Effects is a small company. Many of us have been there for a long time. Worked with the same colleagues, and eventually friends, for years. We’ve seen each other’s lives change; seen each other grow as people, and now, we’ve seen one of us die. I won’t forget Tom gathering our attention to let us all know that Denise had gone to the hospital feeling ill, and within a couple of days, had passed away. It was unbelievable. She’d just had her second child a few months ago. It felt like only the week before that she was in for a visit to say ‘hello’ and introduce the new baby. She was energetic and cheerful. She was happy.

A memorial fund has been setup for Denise’s family. I’m glad to see so many people contributing to it.

Death has a way of focusing one’s attention on life. Even more so when it’s the sudden death of someone so young. It’s a selfish reaction, but an understandable one. I was doubting my upcoming travel plans. Not seriously; not considering changing my mind, but doubting if more extended travel was a smart life choice. Is it the best use of my money at this point? Is it the best use of my time? Shouldn’t I focus on my career? On building a more permanent existence here?

“Live now. Make now always the most precious time. Now will never come again.”

A healthy 34 year old, living in one of the world’s best countries, can be cut down by life without a moment’s notice. That’s the reality of our existence. It’s a sad thing that, even with such knowledge, many of us put off living. We spend too much time working. Too much time commuting. Too much time watching TV. Not enough time with our families, our partners, our friends. I finally let work know that I’m going travelling again. At least six months through the Americas with the Balkan Boyz.

We Humans might not be able to do everything in just one lifetime. But we can at least try to make sure that whenever our number comes up, the bucket list has more things crossed off than left over. Go out there and live. Do stuff. It might be your last chance.

Travel lessons

5 Life Lessons From 5 Years Of Travelling The World

I’ve read a lot of blog posts and articles about long term travel. I find most of them to be overly romantic, filled with an exaggerated sense of meaning. Travel is a different lifestyle, but I’d never say that it automatically ‘means’ more or ‘changes you’ more than a conventional life can. People can have wildly different life experiences, whether they’re travelling or not. It’s those experiences that can change a person, and it’s not always important where they happen or why.

I do find myself agreeing with a lot of this Man’s feelings on long term travel. From the idea of a wide and varied, but ultimately thin experience, to the difficulty in committing to other parts of life. I’ve seen many examples of what he writes about, both in myself, and in others. Even with all of the possible down sides, it seems like everyone who travels this way at least once in their lives comes away with a common feeling. They never regret having done it.

Neither do I.

The Outback

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It was one year ago that I started a nearly week long tour through the Australian Outback. Though I tend to shun tours most of the time, the Outback isn’t exactly accessible to a lone taveller without his own transportation. Besides, at this point I’d been away for so long, I was having trouble finding the energy to do everything for myself. Even before arriving in the country, I was a bit surprised to hear that so many people visit Australia’s East coast, but not the ‘Red Centre’. I suppose the appeal of tropical weather and wonderful beaches is a priority for most, and the backpacker infrastructure along that coast is extensive. Still, I always remember seeing Uluru, or ‘Ayers Rock’, in Australian tourism ads. It felt like a cliche I couldn’t ignore.

I’m so glad I didn’t.

The Outback is one of the most unique environments I’ve visited. Red soil and silver grass. Flat horizons broken by immense rocks. It’s interesting how forested mountains can seem similar all over the world, but every desert feels special. There are a lot of countries with beautiful beaches, and a lot of countries with hot weather. This is a place Australia can truly call its own. From canyon hikes to salt flats. Underground towns to rock peaks. Star filled night skies to dramatic sunrises. The Outback offered some of the most striking scenery of my year around the world.

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As much as I like to explore on my own, there is one great benefit to taking an organized tour. The people. Booking during the Winter season meant it wasn’t a large group, and with so many long drives across South Australia and the Northern Territory, there was plenty of time to get to know each other. Sharing it all with a group reminded me a little of my time with the Balkan Boyz, though on this trip, only one friendship will last a lifetime. Sitting around campfires. Sleeping around stoves. Preparing meals. Talking under the stars. Sights, activities, laughs, and tears. I’m all smiles when I look back on it now.

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My Outback tour did confirm a long held belief of mine. If you’re tired of something. If you’re bored, or uninspired, or lost. If you’re not sure whether to stop, or to keep going…keep going. Force yourself forward. Push. Push until you’re absolutely sure you’re done. You can never know what’s around the corner. You can never know what might come tomorrow. If you stop, you might miss a chance to reignite your passion. You might never find what fuels the next leg of your journey. Keep breathing, stay positive, look ahead, and don’t give up.

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