Seriously Though, Quitting Your Job To Travel?

If you’ve spent even one lunch hour at your desk googling up the idea of quitting your job to travel around the world, then you’re familiar with the heap of anonymous internet people who love to tell you to quit. Most of them sound pretty convincing too. Except the ones that use the term, “free spirit” too often, they just sound like twats. They all love to charm you with tales of how they’ve never felt so alive. The saucier ones will even use clever analogies like how we’re all cubicle zombies slaving for the man until we die. Sheep hammering on keyboards because our herd says that is what we should do. Oh you get the idea. Is it really a good idea though? Or maybe they are trying to convince themselves? Continue reading “Seriously Though, Quitting Your Job To Travel?”

Elephant Wrestling in Nepal, 1995

Yet again, until I get my next trip underway, I’ll have to dig into the archives and post an old travel photo. This one was taken in Chitwan National Park, Nepal in 1995. Chitwan was the final destination of a three day rafting trip down river I-forget-the-damn-name. In the park we had a real nice little setup right on the river with safari tents and loads of wildlife. We spent our days tracking rhinos and anticipating our certain death by crocodiles.

The treks into the bush used elephants as our mounts – which I was dubious about. I wasn’t doubting the elephant’s skills, don’t get me wrong. They flawlessly navigated muddy jungle in the fog with no path to speak of. I was dubious of the relationship between the elephants and their keepers. I’m no fan of captive animals at the best of times, but these ones were rather skinny and showed signs of rough use. The men who handled the elephants used fireplace poker style metal rods – you know the sort, with the point and hook. The elephants showed serious scarring around where the riding hardware was strapped to them. Also, they just looked miserable – it was in their eyes and the way they hung their heads. Watching these elephants was breaking my heart, but there really wasn’t anything to be done. Had I known this beforehand, I wouldn’t have gone there.

One afternoon, I was down by the water watching the handlers wash the elephants off in the river when I was offered the opportunity to help. Myself and another visitor were given an elephant to take into the river and scrub down. Like I somehow knew how to do that or something. I declined the metal rod, grabbed a huge pumice stone and followed my elephant into the river. I could lie and say “lead my elephant into the river” but who am I kidding. It was amazing to interact with such a great animal – and a huge one for that matter. I scrubbed up the spot she liked behind her ears with the pumice stone. For which she thanked me by dunking me into the river while I was on her back. She would lie in the water with only her trunk sticking out of the water just to mess with me. Elephants apparently have a strange sense of humour.

We stayed out in the river goofing around as long as they let us. On the way back in I figured out that she liked to scratch her head by bumping it into me. Trust me, you don’t miss that hint the first time. So this picture was taken as I was being pushed backwards out of the river while trying to scratch her. My feet were bruised all to hell from being smashed across the river bottom, but it was still worth it. She was lead away to her enclosure, and I went back to my tent. I fell asleep that night hoping like hell that this poor, sad animal had at least enjoyed her afternoon in the river.


// shawn

This Week on the Webnets

Since I don’t have any of my own raucous travel tales to share with you this week, I figured I would talk a bit about other people’s tales. While I sit around the house in my pajamas waiting to start my next trip, these are the folks who kept me motivated and entertained this week. As Moses so famously said, “If thou aren’t currently traveling, then thou shouldst read and savour the tales of homies that are currently living la vida loca.”

My heart soared when Rob pointed out that you can live in Bali for $500 a month. I’m not much of a beach lounger, but I bet I could keep myself pretty happy there. Hell, I have $500 and his example budget meal sounds great! – “You can easily get by on $5 a day or less. For breakfast I just had a fried egg on some veg fried rice with side of cucumber and tomato along with a mixed fruit shake for ~$1.80US.”

This week I built a wee tiny piece of a school in Cambodia. Maybe like a pencil sharpener and some bricks. Passports With Purpose have a great fundraiser going on right now to get this school built and outfitted. Get over there if you haven’t already and check it out. Did I mention there is a huge list of sweet prizes for donators? Which do you like better, doing the right thing or prizes? Yea, it’s a tie for me too.

Some other gems are Lillie‘s Ko Phi Phi experience (her whole blog is great too, it’s like hearing travel stories from a friend over coffee!), and the beautiful Cuban car photos that  T-roy has up on GoBackpacking. And finally, this weeks heart warmer was Sherry’s Travel Back in Time, which is a really beautiful story.


// shawn

Après un An à Montréal

MontrealHDRI moved to Montreal one year ago, and thought I would share my observations. I’m originally from British Columbia, but directly prior to Montreal I was living in San Francisco. Montreal was a perfect destination for my move as I was keen to return to Canada, but also wanted to try somewhere new. I quickly found that Quebec has some interesting differences from the rest of Canada. I considered writing a thought provoking essay on the cultural nuances of the various regions of Canada. However, I instead figured I should show some respect to the fifth graders of the world. So I made a simple like/dislike list.

Some of these would be true in general for most folks, and others are very specific to my preferences. Here is just one man’s opinion of living in Montreal for one year.

Continue reading “Après un An à Montréal”

Unsolicited Tips For Getting Rid Of Your Crap

More than once in my life I have woken up, had a bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios, then randomly decided that I need to get rid of everything I own and leave the country. This post isn’t about the psychological issues that cause me to compulsively jettison all my cargo. Instead it’s my abridged, unsorted list of tips for effectively purging yourself of stuff. I got to thinking about possessions and how much we want them from a great post over on Chapter 37. So I next got to thinking about the business end of having stuff, and had started to write up a huge guide on getting rid of it. It kept putting me to sleep though as apparently how to throw something away just isn’t that interesting of a topic. I’m going to approach this brief list from the example of purging your stuff in preparation for a long backpacking trip.

Here are a few tips that help me to easily go through my belongings and get rid of them. Maybe some of them will be helpful for you.
Continue reading “Unsolicited Tips For Getting Rid Of Your Crap”

Over 35 and Want a New Zealand Working Holiday Visa?

nzToo bad, so sad, grandma. As far as I can tell, the cut off age for working holiday visas for both New Zealand and Australia are both 35. The official immigration sites quote the age limit of 30, but the licensed immigration agents seem to be able to pull off 35.

This sort of thing might change at any time, so check these sites for yourself:

Immigration NZ:
Immigration AUS: (use the visa wizard, it’s rad)
SWAP (Canada):

I do appreciate that I can enter both countries for free with no Visa. However, I am rather sad about the working holiday visa cut off. I don’t really see what the point of an age cap is on that sort of visa. Both countries benefit from temporary workers (primarily agriculture), so why cap it? Are they afraid that some 36 year old will break a hip? If you happen to be the Immigration Minister for either country, or the Queen, I would be really interested to hear the logic behind the age caps.

// shawn

ps: I’m 36. I knew I should have gone last year, damnit.

The Actual Rules of Backpacking

This list probably exists in several places and versions all over the interwebs, but whatever. Before you or your mom go off on some backpacking cavalcade, memorize these rules. There’s a whopping 20 of them, so I put most of them after the clicky.

1. (I’m saving the #1 spot in case I think of something that’s actually important.)

2. If it has wheels, it is too big. Leave it at home.

3. Top bunk makes the rules.

4. Rickshaw drivers are not a reliable source of condoms.

Continue reading “The Actual Rules of Backpacking”

Thunderbirds Are Go!

japanmapThere’s something awesome, yet sobering, about the moment you buy the departure ticket for a long trip. Everything is just chatter until you pull the trigger and book that flight.  I just bought my one way flight to Japan from Vancouver. On the afternoon of January 12th February 3rd I will officially be cast to the wind. I don’t have any clue yet what I want to do in Japan. Or when I want to leave there. Or where to go next from there when I finally do leave. All I know is that I am going there, and there is no turning back. I’ll have nowhere to turn back to. And so it begins.

If you have any Japan advice or the such, I’d definitely be happy to hear it.

Edit: I had to bump my departure from Jan 12th to Feb 3rd. Such is life.

// shawn

Whether ’tis nobler to souvenir


How many souvenirs would Sue veneer if Sue Veneer could veneer souvenirs?

Yesterday I had snowglobes on my mind after reading about the TSA’s reminder that we can’t carry them on the plane. I’m not really worried about snowglobes in my carry-on bag. It did make me wonder about souvenirs in general though. Before you start a trip is really the only chance to make the not-even-remotely-important decision on how to handle souvenirs.

The true holy grail of souvenirism is the theme. Personally, I’ve never been much of a souvenir person. Sure I’ve casually flirted with the occassional t-shirt, fridge magnet, or coffee mug. Who hasn’t? The theme collectors are hardcore though. They giggle at us rookies with our mis-matched souvenir collections – 2 Cabo shot glasses, a Bellagio fanny pack, and an unidentified inflatible sperm whale. Pathetic. Theme souvenirists are the type that have a snowglobe from every place they have ever been. Or a picture of them with a ceramic gnome at every major landmark. I met a guy once whose theme was visiting every Hard Rock Cafe in the world. He had the pins and t-shirts to prove it. Definitely hardcore, and definitely dedicated to their theme. Perhaps the closest I have come to a real dedicated souvernir theme is Vegas. When I go to Vegas I gather up as many of those hooker trading cards as I can. You know the ones they hand to you as you walk up and down the strip. I have some really good rookie cards. Anyways, yea, the theme is where the souvenir ascends from harmless tacky trinket to a full blow reason why you will most likely die alone.

Taking this quandary to its logical personal level, and having a bit over a month before I embark on my trip, this is my time to make the souvenir decision. Do I either,

a) Swear off any and all souvenirs. Abstinence is the safest way.

b) Not really make a decision and end up picking up some odds and ends here and there. No theme, no use for any of it. Trinkets, chotchkies, fluff.

c) Latch on to a theme like a diabetic wolverine on Willy Wonka. Embrace a souvenir theme and let it motivate and entertain me throughout my travels.

I’m inclined to answer “a” since I don’t really want to buy, carry, or live with a bunch of snowglobes. What if I come to regret that though. Is there a cool theme out there that I would actually enjoy? What is your souvenir tactic? Do you recommend a theme? Do you perhaps want to buy my gently used ceramic turtle whistle from Nicaragua?


// shawn

ps: I don’t like the hard rock cafe.

What’s The Plan, Man?

Here’s my plan. If you can call it that.

1. Get rid of everything I own (easy)
2. Quit my career/job (last day is Dec 18th) (hard)
3. Fit everything I need and want into my backpack (easy)
4. Live a little. See some places, do some stuff, experience life. (hard?)
5. Write about it here. Maybe take some pics too. (medium)
6. Win.

The only constraints that I know of are money and attention span. I have a limited small savings to milk. So I guess we’ll see how long it, and I, last.

What do you think?

// shawn