My worn black high top all stars crunched across the gravel on a crisp May morning, the path wending me out of The Assistens Kierkegaard, and to the end of what had been of a grand bit of life. The journey was over, the return was imminent, my journal complete, legs tired, and soul filled. I had written a concluding post for the journey, as I naturally expected too with the previous being titled penultimate. But through a fitting bit of coincidence it fell astray and there was to be no conclusion to it all.

“The end is nothing, the road is all”

- Willa Cather

Months before I stepped out on the journey I noted that every person I met who had lived abroad seemed a much better person for it. As if they carried something with them that gave them a bit more joy for life. I didn’t know what it was, but I was inspired to go find it. At the end of a long walkabout, I believe I understand it now. They had come to know what gave them life and filled their soul.

The beauty and addiction of living abroad sprouts from a removal of reference. Most everything you have centred yourself and life around is now gone. No social strata and system to fit yourself into, no cultural norms that you have assumed for truth your whole life. The people who had surrounded and informed your life are no longer anything but suspended memories. Without any reference points, your perspective must center on yourself. Because of this, it is inevitable that you come to know yourself better. What and who you really are separates from what isn’t. It is undeniably freeing and terrifying, the terror fades, the freedom remains. You know what gives joy to your life and what fills your soul. And this, is what reflect out to those you meet. This is what I had set out to find.

Suddenly you find yourself laughing into the wind atop a mountain pass in New Zealand, free falling out of the sky over the great barrier reef, perched on a ledge in the cathedral ranges of Australia, tracing your fingers along alleyways of street art, atop a rotating bar in Singapore, sprinting to catch a flight, hiking miles through jungle to reach a secluded beach in Thailand, celebrating fourth of July in Bangkok, at a karaoke bar in New York, wandering through London, singing in a pub, dancing on rooftops, alone on the cliffs of Wales, drinking sangria in the sunshine and staying out until 6am in Barcelona, being enthralled by the trad musicians in a tiny pub in Dublin, lost in the fog in Edinburgh, sharing a meal in Manchester, sitting on the banks of the river Mersey discussing life, at Notre Dame for Easter mass, watching the sun set from the top if the Spanish steps in Rome, bottle of wine in hand, playing soccer on the banks of the Arno in Florence, getting lost and rained on high above Cinque Terre, drinking wine under the archways of Venice, breakfast in the legendary cafes of Vienna, downing litres of weissenbier and singing songs atop tables at  Frühlingsfest in Munich, on top of Jungfraujoch, surrounded by the most beautiful scenery,  hiking along ancient castle walls in Salzburg, writing at a cafe in Bratislava, napping on a hill in Prague, laughing with joy through the neighbourhoods of East Berlin, exploring the counter culture in Copenhagen, and you come to know, that you are free.

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Sunset over the Eternal City

There hasn’t been a post here for a while because there hasn’t been the reason for one. I’ve finished my London semester, I’m in the thick of a journey across Europe I’ve done many things and seen many places. Most of them quite swell, some total downers, but hey, fun stories in retrospect. Sure, there have been moments of note.  A few along the way that have made me stop for a second, appreciate life and the beauty. Moments of light and exception that are simply there, never to be replicated or replaced, near impossible to express. Causing me to appreciate and love those people around me for what they are. Moments and periods of tinkering with myself, coming to terms with parts of me, are they good? Useful? Worthy? Appreciated? Reflective of what I am and want to be?



I don’t believe there is any more gratifying feeling than those moments in which someone comes to understand you. They know you as you are, as you feel and know yourself to be, at least for that unique moment. Maybe not so much later, maybe more so. But that moment, that brings me such joy and beauty of life. I have been able to express myself as fully as I can, such that another can understand me. And they appreciate me. I am worth appreciation, love, admiration, respect, care, brotherhood. I have put the self forth to cause another to take it in. It may seem a selfish moment, but I do know that if someone knows me in that way, it must be that I know them in the same way. Because if I have been able to communicate and express forth myself to them to the effect of understanding, then I must know them in the same, or this expression and understanding is not possible.


Cinqueterre, Italy

I’ve been reading A Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein. I’ve always known I love to read, but I’ve found it to be crucial for personal peace and mental stimulation when travelling or when life gets as life does. It’s a fantastic book so far.  But the concept of ‘grok’ is a large part of the story. And its a concept I find very much applicable on this journey, especially as it truly comes to an end in about ten days.


A stormy day in Venice from under the archways

To grok is to take your time, to meditate, to come to understand to put something in its rightful place. Its the word I did not know was right but is. It’s exactly what I need, its what a large part of this experience has been. To come to understand it all. Maybe right when experienced, maybe filed for later, or still waiting for the right information to put it rightfully into understanding. This is what I have tried to say before and stumbled to phrase. To grok, to understand, to take in, to praise for itself, to see its beauty, its life, its purpose. If you do not grok you are out of balance, off centre, and likely in a pain of sorts, you will feel no peace, not within or without. Take the requisite time to take this thing you encounter, properly see it, understand, place it in rightness, give it praise in itself and purpose.


Looking out over Vienna

To take the requisite time is an ever so important concept, and one that’s been reinforced on this journey. Take your time when travelling, slow life down, it’s always better, sit, have a drink with a friend, or yourself, or a good book, dangle your feet off the Spanish Steps in Rome as the sun sets over the Vatican, kick it under an archway the Grand Canal in Venice with a bottle of wine, on top of Piazza Michaelangelo on Florence, nap in Stadtpark in Vienna, have a stein of beer with good friends at Fruhlingsfest in Munich, sit on a tree trunk in Lauterbrunnen and enjoy the utter beauty of this world. Take your time in life. As much as you invest yourself into what is you and yours, invest your time. Its a currency we all have in equal measure and is only second in value to yourself and person. These are your most valuable currencies, resources, gifts, and treasures. They are the most essential, irreplaceable, and elementary pieces of life.


Tulips in Munich

We spend all of ourselves and all of our time to leave an impact, to create something in this world. What impact, what creation, that is a personal choice, make yours. Take a lesson from the glaciers that spent every last bit of  themselves, and centuries carving out the most beautiful places on earth, from the volcanoes expending and spewing themselves to create islands and mountains, from the tectonic plates waging titanic battles to shape our planet, from the stars literally burning themselves up over millennia so as to give this universe light. Take this from them, the greatest accomplishments of life are those we expend ourselves attaining. And they are the only ones worth pursuing. We are meant to use every part of ourselves in the best way. And there is no better way do so than to create beautiful impacts in the same way comets, glaciers, volcanoes, and stars do. With full force, full intent, and every bit of self and time we possess.


Lauterbrunnen Valley

I should suppose this to be a penultimate post here, maybe one or two more at the end of it all, we’ll see how it goes. And I think a few lines from a song are quite fitting at this point for me.

Well I’ve been down this road before, its been one hell of a ride, the challenge is to balance on that fine line, between the earth and sky, and I will wait for the morning sun till the way is clear as day, okay, hallelujah! – Reflections – bliss n eso


A view from Jungfraujoch, top of Europe


There’s no mystery about a human life. Its not a problem to be solved, but a reality to

– Frank Herbert, Children of Dune

Strange that as such times as this, on a new road in a new place, is when I am most surely aware of what home is. …. And I do wish very much to be back there. But I am also so enthralled to be here. The conundrum that is thus gives insight into a transition I always knew to be coming, but did not see approaching. Its is the fluid movement from moment to moment, leading me forward along many paths. Its is the beginning anew. The shift from middle, to end, to beginning.

One final culmination and exploration of all that has been the last few years. A collection of water from a brilliant stream of moments, a swirling of pure waters and murky waters. All giving, all testing, and all having washed over and carried me along.

Weeks left in London, some spent across other parts of the British Isles, and then a ramble across the continent for a time. A ramble that would seem to stand as an epilogue to this installment of the series I call life. As the epilogue approaches to draw it closed, the installment to be transitioned into comes into focus, at least somewhat. It could entail teaching English in Macau, research in Singapore, a job in the space industry, or the international trade industry, graduate school at a number of schools, UCLA, Oxford, Chapman, anywhere. This is the forward path I look down.

As a pilgrim returned from travels. To return to what is so much of me, bringing back what has become me. All of it synthesising in such a way as to give strength and surety to new actions and moments. To build. To be mayhaps seemingly more grounded, but to be unbounded by the constraints imposed by leaving the ground.

It is seeming that this current way of experiencing the world, while wondrous, is no longer the way on which I must experience the world. Firstly, it is time to move forward and to build out of myself new things. To leave a tangible impact behind me rather than being a passenger in the stream. Secondly, it is again time to free fall. To step out of a plane and say, excuse my French, “oh shit, what am I getting myself into” and come out of that with new knowledge and life brought into myself from it.

I believe that these two are what makes life, to step out and allow yourself to be impacted by life. And then take forward this knowledge and return the benefits in what you build in this world. Then repeat. Such is life.

Self, Life

Its a funny thing when you have no debts to pay, no favours outstanding and no change due; you’re subject to nothing but that which makes you content, that which brings you happiness and real enjoyment, not the kind that people so often mistake for the real thing these days. There is some virtue in being selfish, not selfish as in greedy, nor as in spiteful. But to be selfish in the sense that nothing dictates your actions and thoughts but yourself. Individualistic would be a more apt word. Think, when you meet another who is selfless in that they give and always bend to other’s convienences and leave nothing of them self but a willow waving with the next breeze, what impact had that on you? Does it teach you, does it give you cause to think deeper and understand? No. Those people you meet who have such an impact on you are as boulders in a stream. Standing on what they know to be solid ground. Sure in their convictions and drawing strength from this. These change the course of wispy winds and wandering currents. They will only be moved after encountering a force equal in its conviction and even then only after contemplation of the newly encountered.

Something had been throwing me off for the majority of this semester abroad. And I have had trouble identifying it. It was the one subtle, yet omnipresent difference between here and Melbourne. I believe I’ve come to understand it now. Australia was adventure, it was a disruption of the norm and entirely outside of my experiences to date. And such an environment was my expectation this time around. Despite the much more relaxed lead up to this round, the expectation was that the feeling would be similar to before. Nope. Not a chance. It is simply life. And that itself is so disconcerting. I’m in London, across the Atlantic from my family and home, somewhere I’ve never been before, and none of it seems out of place. It does not feel a monumental undertaking, rather another chapter in my life.

It then becomes extraordinary that this has become ordinary.

Self sufficiency, an understanding of the values and pillars you build yourself upon. These are the things that are learned, some of the most important tools to take along in life. To maintain the body and feed the mind, push the spirit and expand the soul. This is being abroad, this is life.

Life is spending the weekend in Wales out on the Pembrokeshire coast, in kayaking and hiking and coasteering, swimming along the coast in the ruins of an old quarry, leaping from thirty feet high to the freezing water below, being carried and rocked by the current, scrambling over jagged slate. And laughing, with vivacious joy, because suddenly there you are, out on a promontory reaching into the Irish Sea, with the wind ripping at you, then swelling around you with your refusal to budge, accepting that you belong here, the waves surging forth to grasp you from a hundred feet below, before accepting their inability to scale the heights you have, the calls of the gulls crying to above the wind and waves, with the same joy that courses in your laughter. And no one else even seems to realise what it is to be here, upon this one piece of the Earth, to be so alive and to join your voice to the wind and waves out over the vast grey horizon. For some reason, they walk by, and you are alone in this liberating moment. It is wondrous, it is true, and it is life.




Undertake the Uncomfortable

Part of doing something like going abroad, and life in general is about being able to look at yourself and evaluate the ways in which you can improve. It is always possible for you to reason and justify nearly any behavior, tendency, or viewpoint of your own. It is not the natural inclination to criticize oneself.

Hubris, as it were. I am guilty of this many times over. It is less about that which you do well, and more about building up those parts of yourself that are not so strong. I read my previous post and am assaulted by the hubris of it. My complaints are of no fault but my own. I have not made the fullest effort to reach out. I have failed to push outside of the path more traveled. I have not had the courage to undertake the uncomfortable.

And that is so crucial to why I take it upon myself to cross both oceans, to three continents. To undertake the uncomfortable. And yet, I fail in this now, I preach on about how simple this is for one such as me, with oh, so much experience and wisdom. Ha, I genuinely hope that somewhere someone has had a good laugh at me for this. What sort of accomplishment is it to be a medium sized fish in a small pond? No one brags about beating a video game on easy.

Now, I must push myself forward. I have to remember that first step into the LAX terminal last February and what growth came of that. I must undertake the uncomfortable.

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Wander & Rest

Woke up in London today.

It felt appropriate to take a bit of time here before posting, didn’t want to just spew thoughts and emotions, wanted to digest and process things before reflecting on it so far. 

This time around has not started with a free fall. Rather it’s a constant buzz. This not so much exciting as it is enlivening. Feet on the street figuring out the beat of this city. I’m getting to wander again, I love it. Turns out wandering about and getting a bit lost is a handy skill to have in a new city. It helps with getting oriented. And I seem to have picked that skill up pretty well. I find that I have a much better understanding of how to settle and take care of myself and all of the logistics, hassles, and everything else that comes with this. I’m also finding that I handle many of the things that caused some stress last time around, the benefits of experience foster a calmness that I have a feeling will serve me very well.

Then again, it is undoubtedly a different experience from last time. When you’re in a city as large and international as London, at a Uni that has over 50% international students, and already speak the language, there is a lack of challenge. As I’ve been abroad I’ve come to appreciate being American more in a number of different ways. But honestly, when you decide to spend a semester abroad and end up nearly always being around Americans, you run into people you went to high school with, it grates a bit. Look, seeing other Americans is always fun, seeing old classmates is interesting, but I’m pretty sure those things were not high on my list of motivations and things to be excited about. In terms of going abroad, London is certainly the road most traveled. So with that comes a list of pros and cons, and I’ve gotten both. It makes adjustment simpler, but part of me would rather be in a different country, South Africa or Brazil. Yes, I’m complaining about these things as I’m sitting here in London. Yes I know I’m being somewhat entitled and whatnot. If I’m being honest, I don’t think my frustrations have much to do with my setting. It has more to do with the people I am around. I have not met the same type of people as were present in Melbourne. I can distinctly recall the first night at Gilligan’s Hostel in Cairns and the conversation that was had in our room before going out for the night. Religion, spirituality, what are these to you and what do you see them as? And the conversation on the first night here was about fraternities and sororities. A telling difference there. I felt that I was around people with a thirst for life and an excitement and that they would make me a better person. I don’t find that here. It’s hard to say why the difference but it is there. I still know that there are people around me who are every bit worth knowing and will challenge me to grow in new ways. I must take some fault in this for being somewhat arrogant in assuming I know what I am doing from my past experiences, and this results in myself not always being open to others. So I must understand this and move myself forward, this time I can be the impetus in these conversations rather than swimming along with the current. 

On a more day to day note, everyone gripes on the weather and cold, but I have actually enjoyed the crispness, the busy streets, green spaces, squares, parks, haphazard streets, every building being older that the very oldest back home, the sun flitting through barren tree branches down and over the facade of enchanting Victorian facades that have stood many years and give the impression that they will stand many more. Though the very predictable afternoon rain can be frustrating. I’m living in Bloomsbury, Bedford Place. It’s a fantastic location, and a good set up. Hell, there’s a french press here. Gotta have my coffee and instant coffee just won’t cut it for me. I’ve gotten around a good portion of Central London and seen a fair number of sights and attractions. Buses are very convenient and the Tube is impressive. Tower Bridge, Kensingston Palace and Gardens, Portebello Road Market, Columbia Road Flower Market, Borough Market, Westminster Abbey, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Trafalgar Square, Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, British Museum, Regent’s Park, Camden, Soho, Westminster and some more as well. I’ll be in Wales for an adventure weekend in two weeks time. Still working out when to take what other trips when. 

I’ve been to three football(soccer) matches already, Tottenham Hotspur v Manchester City at White Hart Lane, which may be the highlight of this so far, yes Spurs lost 5-1, but the atmosphere was cracking and I loved it. Saw QPR v Burnley over at Loftus Road, another great atmosphere, 3-3 draw. Went and saw Fulham v Sheffield United at Craven Cottage in an FA Cup match, frankly was a terrible match, with Sheffield needing a 120′ header to win it. And the weather was horrid, but did get to see Clint Dempsey. I’ve got tickets to Spur v Everton this Sunday, Spurs v Dnipro and Spurs v Cardiff City coming up end of this month. 

At the moment I’m a bit tired, its been over three weeks of going pretty constantly in New York or in London. I’ve been fighting a bit of a cold or something and everything looks a bit less rosy when you aren’t feeling 100%. So that taken into account, I reckon a bit of rest can’t hurt, and I figure I’m doing alright over here. 



There’s so much room for activities!



IMG_20140117_095719Boarded the plane to London. JFK -> LHR. It’s named Lady Penelope. Didn’t know planes were named. Had a real solid weekend in NYC. Thanks to a tip from the parents, asked for a window seat and got put in the emergency exit row. So. Much. Legroom. Also, got another free toothbrush. So that’s nice.

The Ordinary Man in the Extraordinary World

“Place nothing above the verdict of your own mind.”
          – Ayn Rand, 
            Atlas Shrugged

So its about to happen again. That thing where I get on a plane and don’t come home for 5 months or so. On to London. Cross the other ocean this time. This is the opening page of the next chapter, I hope your next chapter is everything I expect mine to be. It’s a much different feeling this time around, I’m much more relaxed about the whole process, but in some ways that’s worrying. Maybe I’m not as prepared this time around, or maybe I’m more prepared. No idea really. The one unfortunate consequence of doing it again is that a long building anticipation really isn’t there. I’ll see others posting in the Facebook group for the program with all sorts of questions that are ripe with tones of nervousness, anticipation, and that giddy sort of feeling of what in the hell am I getting myself into? There are questions and blog posts and an air of ‘I am exceptional for taking this journey’, not in a haughty or chest puffing way, in a genuinely naïve and utterly optimistic way. Many of these posts focus on what to pack, how to do something, where the author is, what they have done, ‘first I did this, then I went there, and I ate this and saw that and then…’. I can’t help but get frustrated upon reading these posts. They miss so much of what this is. Yes, it is good to be prepared and to document. But this is not a journey of things you already know, this is not about what is in your bag or which website has the best power adapters or which cell phone plan to use. This is not about the list of things you saw and did. It is about what you are, what you will become, what you will change, what you will understand. And many of those I see headed abroad are doing so with friends already known. Some journeys are best embarked upon alone. This is not a journey upon which you bring what you already know. This is a journey of unknowns.

It is about the ordinary man venturing into the extraordinary world.

This is a concerto conducted by seven billion pairs of hands. You will dance to its chorus and crash to its cymbals. Float on the melody, march with the drums.  Breath with the flutter of the harp. You will play many a note on many an instrument, each with meaning, some more, some less. And with each note struck by your hands, you will know that much better the owner of those hands.

The measure by which an ordinary man is deemed extraordinary is the extent of extraordinary he experiences and contributes to this world.

So please, go, play the concerto, know the unknown, be a part of this, this extraordinary world.

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gertrudesSaddleCAFlag“It means something to walk with someone” – Dr. Aaron Bruce

The quote above comes from Dr. Aaron Bruce, speaker at the Lessons from Abroad conference I attended recently. And damn if it didn’t resonate with me. He spoke of what it means when you walk with someone. To walk with someone is to truly be with them, walking allows immersion in the world around, and connection with those you journey with or pass along the way.

Since coming home from the wonderful land of Oz, I’ve been contemplating the experience and putting all of the memories and lessons into some semblance of order. And I keep coming back to one central point.

You see, the beauty of living abroad, and being way out in an entirely new place, is that it frees you. When you are oceans away and know not a single soul, those little boxes you fit into, the labels you wear, the person you have contrived yourself to be, they all crumble away. Daunting to say the least. There is no choice but to express yourself in the truest ways you can, to be free from any preconceptions that shape others opinions of you. Way out with nothing but yourself, any constructed identities hold no water and are quickly discarded. Growth begins.

It can be likened to a potted plant. Life is good, life is safe in the pot. The boundaries are known and life is more or less assured. But growth restricted. And then the plant is moved from the pot to the earth. Boundaries removed, the plant thrives upon the open connection with the soil, expands its being beyond the boundaries of the pot that now seem so arbitrary and limiting. Roots entangle with a myriad of foreign plants, creatures and other things unknown. At first, such contact brings apprehension. But the plant begins to realize not all that is foreign bears malevolent intent. And the plant expands it’s roots seeking, encountering new and illuminating entities and stories all the while. Learning each new sun that by and large the land is populated with bright souls. Before long, the plant finds itself rooted not only to the soil, but intrinsically entangled with others, to the extent that where one ended and another began became rather obscure.

When you get way out, on your own, the walls crumble, the pot is removed and connection happens. These connections are some of the best you will make. Born of a mutual openness and desire to explore. Born by walking in foreign lands with souls previously unknown. The title of “Gone Walkabout” seems ever more prescient with such connections forged walking with others from all parts of the world. To walk with another, it means a mutual openness, an understanding, a willingness to explore, to be well and truly lost, to place faith and trust in a foreign soul.

I suppose this represents the closing of the first chapter of my experiences in the world. And there could be no more fitting title than “Gone Walkabout”, so I implore you to walk, to walk in a strange place with a strange soul. And with this, I begin to look towards the next chapter, a pair of tickets in hand.

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Living Small

You should live small. Live small because everything else is too big for you to understand, too large for you to grasp, too heavy to hold in your hands, in your mind.


We live small because we have trouble looking at larger scale and context. The here and now and the this and that become each moment of out lives. And we get wrapped up in, and let it overrun us, we stop looking at the stars and telling our parents that we want to be astronauts and presidents and settle for being mid level executives with a good salary and benefits.

And I guess that’s a pretty damn decent life when you put it in the context of so many others in this world who don’t have an education, family, regular food and water and are more concerned about surviving the night than when the next quarterly report is due.

But I want to live in a larger way.

I want to live for centuries, I want to see every country and speak all the languages and taste all the cuisines and sing all the songs. I want to plan a revolution and speak for the souls of the people in need. I want to hear the stories of all those people along the way, to know their own personal world and what makes them. I want to see the rise and fall of cultures and countries and to see great men and women leave their legacy behind. And after that I want to board a spaceship, I want to see all the planets, to see the utterly strange beauty that life is beyond our pale blue dot, to flit through the galaxies, and to see each of the gems in Orion’s belt up close. I want to see what happens when we run into something intelligent and very much different from ourselves, and to see the expansion into the stars. And the evolution of our identity along the way. To see what we can push ourselves to, and to be there for the moment when we realize that what we thought were our boundaries are not so anymore, that we can go beyond the edges of the Universe and be overwhelmed by the scope and size of thing out there. And that we can go beyond what we thought were the limits of ourselves, mind and body and soul.

And I don’t see any reasons that I can not do all of this.

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