Category Archives: Life

Live now

2015-07-02 - Denise card

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

2014-06-04 - 149 - Uluru - Desert sunrise

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.

2014-06-04 - 160 - Kata Tjuta - Red rocks and silver grass

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.

2014-06-05 - 211 - Alice Springs - Farewell to an amazing group!

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.

2014-06-04 - 174 - Uluru - Alec taking pictures


2014-05-25 - 171 - Fitzroy - CBD view from Naked in the Sky

It’s already been a year. Unbelievable. Arriving in Australia. Seeing so many friends I’d made during my travels. Being back in a Western country. Not being too hot all the time. I had exactly what I wanted and needed. After travelling for nearly nine months, Melbourne felt like home, without actually being home. I never intended to spend three weeks there, but generous and wonderful friends meant the only hard decision was leaving at all. It’s still one of the only cities I can seriously imagine living in.

Thank you again, Melbourne. To all of the people who made my time there amazing, you know who you are, and I miss you.

Vancouver Trance Family

2015-02-28 - JOC, Kearney @ 560

Making an effort to get out to more Trance events was one of my goals when I came home from travelling. It’s turned out to be a fantastic decision. A few years ago I would never have considered going out to a club alone. My first weekend in London showed me it was nothing to worry about. No one I’d met at my hostel was interested in heading to Ministry Of Sound for Guy J and Cid Inc, and it was a show I didn’t want to miss. I met some great local people in the line, and spent the entire night dancing with new friends. Why couldn’t that happen in Vancouver?

Everyone in the VTF has been welcoming. When you look across the dance floor and see someone recognizing the same tracks you do, singing along with every vocal, and enjoying the music as much as you are, it’s a lot easier to form new bonds. After so many parties since coming home, it’s fantastic that some of these great people are becoming friends away from club. It’s one of those little pieces of my ‘travel self’ that I refuse to let go of.

Besides, I got this great photo of me with Bryan Kearney! Yes!

2015-02-28 - JOC,Kearney @ 560 - 06 - Alec and Bryan Kearney

The Balkan Boyz

I remember sitting in Old Town Hostel in Kotor, Montenegro. I’d been in the town for a day already, and had seen most of it. I did the hike up to the old fortress. I checked out the churches, and the market. I’d come to Kotor on the flimsiest recommendation. Another traveller in a hostel in Bosnia mentioned that they’d heard Kotor was “supposed to be pretty nice”. Once I got there, I didn’t have a single thought on what would be next. It was an impasse. I could never have guessed that Kotor would turn out to be one of the most significant places I’ve ever been. Not just on my trip. In my life.

2013-11-22 - 227 - Kotor - Nic, Fredd, Matt, Alec, Jack, Simone, Hayden, Nikola

Nic, Matt, Fredd, Jack, and Simone livened up the hostel as soon as they walked in. A group of five tends to do that, especially if the place is small. Nic and Matt were lifelong friends from Sydney travelling the world together. Fredd was a young guy from Sweden exploring the other parts of Europe for the first time. Jack and Simone had met each other along their own travels and were enjoying the bliss of backpacker love. They’d all met each other relatively recently, in the Balkans. I spent the next few days with them exploring Kotor. No one knew where to go next and the hostel manager, who was the best I’ve ever met, kept offering us 2-for-1 extra nights. We were introduced to the joys and pain of Rakia, discovered the world’s best triple chocolate lava cake, opened Matt and Nic’s eyes to the wonders of snow, danced to some awful Montenegran ‘Folk Pop’ music, and stuffed ourselves to bursting with delicious roasted meat at the local butcher shop. After nearly a week, the five guys took a momentous photo.

2013-11-27 - 307 - Kotor - The 'Balkan Boyz' are born

Immediately posted to Facebook, it didn’t take long for the comments to roll in.

“Did you join a band?”

“You guys look like you’re posed for an album cover.”

“What’s the name of your new band?”

We wanted an epic shot. We ended up with a lot more. The questions on Facebook deserved answers. After much discussion, it had been settled. We were ‘The Balkan Boyz‘. Yes, with a ‘z’. Feeling that Kotor had given us more than we could have hoped for, it was time to move on. The rest of the guys asked where I was going next. I didn’t know. They were considering Skopje, in Macedonia. There was an twelve hour overnight bus twice a week, and the next one was in two days. “Just come with us.” Done. I wanted to get to Italy eventually, and so did they. It all seemed to fit.

The rest of the Balkans were brief, but eventful. Skopje delivered one of the best club nights I’ve ever had, but the city wasn’t amazing to us, and Macedonia was starting to get cold. We passed through Albania in a day after encountering some questionable food supply chain practices, and before we knew it our ferry was leaving Durres, bound for Bari. Hostel life brings a regular source of companions, but it felt amazing to travel with people who I thought could become real friends.

2013-12-01 - 365 - Ohrid - Balkan Boyz 2013-12-04 - 008 - Bari - Nic, Fredd, Matt, Jack, Alec

Our time around Sorrento and Napoli was fantastic, and the Balkan Boyz theme was becoming more and more pronounced in our group identity. One particularly chatty American man noticed us taking another photo in Pompeii, and declared from a distance: “You guys look like a band!”

2013-12-06 - 068 - Pompeii - Balkan Boyz shot

Matt didn’t miss a beat. “We are a band.”

The man was thrilled, and Matt was all too happy to describe our recent tour through the Balkans, and how we were taking some time away from rehearsal to see the sights. The guy asked for a photo with us, and wanted to know where he could find us on the internet. He was going to tell his young daughter all about it. I felt bad that his search would turn up nothing, so I thought out loud: “We could make a Facebook page.” With every town, hostel, photo, check-in, and page like, the Balkan Boyz legend continued to grow. Everyone who heard the story thought it was ridiculous, and everyone who heard the story loved it.

Matt and Nic had their flights booked for Southeast Asia. Jack was moving to Berlin. Fredd planned to make his way North and eventually…home. After Italy, I was going to Greece for Christmas and some time with relatives there. We had one more week as a group, in Rome. It was my Sister who commented on the Balkan Boyz’ Facebook page: “You should know that, at this point, I’m expecting some actual music.” Little did she know that we already had a group song. It was time for a sneak peek ‘backstage’ at a Balkan Boyz rehearsal…

Our time in Rome was fantastic. It was certainly one of the favourite stops of my year. There are so many great memories, and of course, great photos to go with them. Fredd was the first to leave, then Nic and Matt. It had only been four weeks, but they were dense, important weeks. The goodbyes were tough. I think we all knew it was a special group, and I think we were all sad to let it go.

2013-12-11 - 263 - Rome - Balkan Boyz in the Colosseum 2013-12-13 - 333 - Vatican City - The Boyz and Kate at the Basilica 2013-12-14 - 432 - Rome - Balkan Boyz Pantheon shot 2013-12-16 - 461 - Rome - The Boyz holding on 2013-12-16 - 489 - Rome - Balkan Boyz late night at Trevi Fountain 2013-12-17 - 494 - Rome - Saying goodbye to Fredd 2013-12-17 - 497 - Rome - Nic and Matt off to Asia, Alec and Jack are sad

Before long I was in Firenze, then on my way to Athens. It was great to spend time with family, especially around the holidays. After leaving the city I headed to Rodos, then the West coast of Turkey. It was a lonely bunch of days before I arrived in Istanbul, and even then, it wasn’t the same without the Boyz. I had a flight booked to Israel, but beyond…I wasn’t sure. I was talking to Nic and Matt a lot on Facebook. I had originally planned to visit some of Southeast Asia, so if the timing worked out, why not do it with them? What a silly thought! What timing? We could make it work out. Almost two months after parting ways in Rome, I flew from Tel Aviv, through Tashkent and Bangkok, to Vientiane, Laos. I walked into the arrivals hall to see Nic, Matt, and their good friend Alex standing together singing ‘Take Me Back’. These were indeed real friends.

2014-02-12 - 007 - Vientiane - Matt, Alec, and Nic 2014-02-18 - 124 - Vang Vieng - Saying 'bye' to Alex

I didn’t love Southeast Asia, but I loved travelling with my friends. Those might have been the most eventful three months of my trip. Temples, hikes, bus rides, waterfalls, Tuk Tuks, and many, many parties. We were packing it in. It was a meetup in Chiang Mai with a pair of Swiss Balkan Boyz fans that brought about one of the last band developments. You never know what can come up during a simple breakfast conversation.

2014-03-07 - 152 - Chiang Mai - Matt and Alec meet up with Balkan Boyz fans

Matt was talking about getting a tattoo in Asia to go along with his European ones. I’d never been opposed to the idea of them, but didn’t think I would ever find something meaningful enough to want to stamp it on my skin forever. Sitting there with Matt and the girls, suddenly I wished we could represent the Balkan Boyz somehow. That might be enough to get me under an artist’s gun.

“What if there was a Balkan Boyz logo?”

Matt looked at me as soon as I said it, wide eyed. We knew immediately that we were going to design one, and this tattoo was going to happen. We spent the rest of the morning at a coffee shop with the girls, brainstorming on a piece of paper. We came up with an idea, and I refined it over the next week or so. Matt and I knew that convincing Nic to join us on this wouldn’t be easy. He’s not exactly the tattoo type, and coming from me, that’s saying a lot. Still, Nic has a weakness for symbolism, and the logo was designed with heaps of it.

Balkan Boyz Tattoo

The double ‘b’ shape is obvious enough, and the b’s are in fact musical symbols. Two flats. We’re not great singers, after all. It’s almost the symbol for B-Flat Major, except that would have the right portion higher than the left. We kept it reversed so that it’s deliberately wrong. After all, we’re not a real band. Matt and I presented this to Nic, and behind the wall of stubbornness, I could tell he loved it. It wasn’t long before we were in a small tattoo shop in Kuala Lumpur.

2014-03-19 - 114 - Kuala Lumpur - Alec, Nic, and Matt ready for tattoo day

2014-03-19 - 133 - Kuala Lumpur - No problem

Why were we even in KL, anyway? Oh yeah…’A State Of Trance 650′!

2014-03-14 - 031 - ASOT 650 - Albert, Nic, Alec, and Matt are pumped. 2014-03-14 - 039 - ASOT 650 - Matt and Nic 2014-03-14 - 055 - ASOT 650 - Epic Armin

These guys weren’t just real friends, or great friends. They’d become my best friends. We went back to Thailand for five more weeks. It was amazing. We picked up an honourary sixth band member, and for a while the Balkan Boyz feat. Ry Ry were at the top of the charts on Koh Phangan.

2014-04-02 - 028 - Koh Samui - Band shot, epic poses 2014-04-14 - 196 - Full Moon Party - The Matts, Nic, and Alec at the Full Moon entrance 2014-04-17 - 233 - Koh Phangan - Awesome people

Suddenly it was the last week of Nic and Matt’s year long trip. We spent most of it in Singapore. Even knowing that it wouldn’t be too long before I’d visit them in Sydney, it was tough to say another goodbye after three solid months together. For the guys, it was tough knowing that they were headed home to reality. I was going to Melbourne, and had a handful of friends there. Still, I knew I’d be back to solo travel very soon, and it was no longer an exciting thought. I’d done the solo thing. It was great. Being with friends was better.

2014-05-04 - 062 - Singapore - The Boyz again 2014-05-04 - 071 - Singapore - Alec, Nic, and Matt chillin 2014-05-04 - 080 - Singapore - The classic Boyz shot, goodbye for now

After seeing central Australia and a lot of New Zealand, I was headed to Sydney for one more stint with the Boyz. I would be home in just over a month, and after being away for nearly a year, sightseeing wasn’t my priority. The guys were back to work and back to life, but we still found plenty of time to hang out. It was great to meet Matt’s family, see their friend and flatmate Alex again, and their friend Laura who was with us in Laos. I couldn’t have asked for a better three weeks.

2014-07-09 - 001 - Marrickville - Matt, Alec, and Nic in the Bucket 2014-07-14 - 085 - Blue Mountains - Three Sisters, Three Brothers 2014-07-17 - 101 - Sydney - Nic, Matt, and Alec 2014-07-17 - 103 - Sydney - Almost the entire club in one photo 2014-07-24 - 128 - Wollongong - Alec, Nic, Alex, Matt, and Laura at Skydive the Beach 2014-07-24 - 148 - Wollongong - In line profile shot DCIM108GOPRO 2014-07-24 - 361 - Wollongong - Nic, Alex, Alec, and Matt 2014-07-26 - 404 - Marrickville - Party time!

Nothing about my trip turned out the way I expected. In most ways, it was better. The Balkan Boyz were a huge part of that. It was one year ago today that I met them in Kotor. They’re some of the best guys I’ve ever known. In just under six months, Matt and Nic became the best friends I’ve ever had. They’re family. In honour of that bond, I couldn’t let this anniversary pass unmarked. I created a little something, and mailed a copy to Nic, Matt, Jack, and Fredd. A small memento. Each of us now has a poster commemorating the Balkan Boyz 2013 European tour. Memories that, for the rest of my life, will be some of the best times I could ask for.

November 22, 2013. The day I met my Brothers.

Happy first anniversary, Boyz!

Balkan Boyz - 1st Anniversary Poster - CMYKresize