Views from windows of trains, tuktuks, planes and whatnot while rambling around Thailand… from Pai to Chiang Mai to Phitsanulok and so on.
So many miles I’ve traveled
Just to find two friends
A lover and a sidekick
Who are with me to the end
Vertical feet gained
To find the thinnest air
The porthole is my telescope
any day beyond is your relevant
so I create a religion to explain
The things I cannot see
Then, with brass bolts,
connect to reality
Greetings from Elsewhere: Created for Pete Word who provided safe haven in time of turmoil for a lost healing battered confused version.
A dear friend’s teenage daughter was heading out on her first foreign adventure–as such, i passed along a few thoughts. Sharing as perhaps others will find helpful.
It’s Dave here – and while I don’t have knowledge of all things, I do have a lot of knowledge about traveling… Not about fancy hotels and airline miles and gourmet restaurants but instead, grassroots travel where you immerse yourself in the culture and never really quite return home because much of your heart remains behind.
Now I don’t know all the details but I understand you’re going to a rather “developing” (hate this term but…) with a school group to do a humanitarian project – all that is awesome and, since I’m here, I’ll share a few random tips for you to consider while you ramble.
First off, all that stuff about packing light is very, very important. Consider your clothes a “uniform” and trust me, no one cares what outfits you wearing plus, one of the funnest things to do is buying clothes local and then you come home with a neat outfit. I take clothes which are quick drying, dark colors, and well-worn in so I don’t mind giving them away when I leave.
Since you have this extra room in your pack now you will fill it with something much more valuable: treats for the people. I don’t mean important expensive things but some of the things I take include: sets of pencil crayons, notebooks, pens and buttons with fun designs, postcards from my home town (remember agricultural people around the world love seeing photos of animals and farms and plants and so on), sometimes deflated soccer balls but those are a bit clumsy. My last big trip I printed out hundred postcards of my art so I had something to give to people that really created that connection much more than a “Facebook friend.”
Document extensively but use cameras judiciously. What I mean by this is that photos are often the worst way to connect with the people (there are exceptions like instamatics), as it put something between you and them, and that something is also an expensive piece of technology. Now photos are so important and I’m so grateful for the few foggy images I have from my first travel spots, my rule was to buy one or two disposable cameras, peel off the outer wrappers so is just a plastic black box and then I am limited by those 24 or 48 exposures so each shot had to be very important. Sure lots of them turned out really lousy but the intention was a lot of fun. Now I travel with a sardine can film camera which produces hazy water-colored memories which sort of seemed like how memories fade.
Instead, I love to make notebooks, fill up journals, scrapbooks with all my travel artifacts (ticket stubs, postcards, brochures, signatures, sketches, maps,…) These give you an interactive talking point with folks as you meet them and, of course travel with a pencil bag so folks can sign and add their thoughts to the big jumbo book, plus flip through and see other artifacts of me and my journey. I even throw in a few family photos and stuff like that before I leave to show new friends (as well as stave off the possible homesickness).
This one may sound weird but stay with me: I (usually) have a rule in which once I decide where to go, I learn nothing about the country. This seems super counter-intuitive but, because traveling is so easy now (my first trip to Europe at 21 was before cell phones, Internet, ATMs, common currency etc. ugh) so to keep that “degree of difficulty” up to snuff, I go in naïve so I can feel like an early explorer, there before the masses. Now I realize that doesn’t fit exactly with the logistics of your trip but the thought of going with a clear mind and minimal expectations opens up so many opportunities. Think of the place as white paper or canvas waiting for your contributions rather than pre-coloured with the drivel of guide books and instagram stories. Great examples is: “the most famous tourist site in every country” in which you can line up for hours to see something which you could go to another town and see something less crowded, perhaps not quite as magnificent, but almost wholly to yourself.
In other words, find your version of what’s awesome and discover the story(s) for yourself. Trust going to places you’ve never heard of or never expected, and you’ll find bits of magic which you can feel like you were the first person to document.
OK, health stuff… Like you, I’ve struggled with terrible migraines on and off throughout my life and now I’m dealing with a bunch of other crappy illnessess (fibromyalgia, CFS/ME etc). So, when I travel, I always have my little “safety kit” of killer soft eye mask, best earplugs, lavender oil, sticky heating patches from Japan for my shoulders and back, various oinments and magic to deal with onset of crazy pain. Like your situation I suspect, once it hits, you are done and need to shut down until you sort it out. So make sure you have your emergency escape kit and don’t be afraid to take an extra day in a quiet room when you need it. You are young, South America is just getting going (keep in mind it was a collection of “banana republic” – another lousy term, sorry – dictatorships for most of my life) so you can return again (and maybe again). The important point is to come home inspired and not battered.
Besides my beloved scrapbooks (if you want links to view photos of them just let me know) I also often take an audio recorder and love to record ambient noises of markets and streets and crowds or music or buskers and when I’m home and feeling blue, I put on my headphones and the audio drift you back better than any photo ever could (usually). Also, with my travel artifacts besides scrapbooks I also make big “static montages” meaning a kind of wall-hanging collages with all my bits and pieces floating and stuck on, sometimes with some paint, and a bit of narrative on top.
Anyhow I could go on and on but mostly I’m just super excited to see you heading out on an adventure. Your Mom tells me so much about you and while I met you was a baby, I look forward to seeing you as an adult one day soon.
I am constantly available to offer any bits of scattered wisdom or encouragement… At your leisure…
My pal and long time collaborator at Hootsuite, Chris Trottier and his new crew at “boldkick” – a new social architecture bureau, wrote this little tribute post about me following a talk at Victoria, BC, Canada’s Social Media Camp where i discussed how the “Internet has a Short Memory”. I am truly touched by he and Cindy’s kind words – i am very fond of them as well.
Excerpt pasted below for the record along with a link to the original post.
Raised on a diet of hockey, punk rock, and fanzines, Dave “Uncle Weed” Olson has been writing about his experiences for almost as long as the Internet existed.
A master storyteller, Dave Olson thrives in building communities. His work revolves around being an all-around creative. He is a writer, a podcaster, singer, a multi-hyphenate superstar. Looking at his own website, it’s both surprising and inspiring to see one person who has done so much.
It all leads to one thing, doesn’t it? Passion.
It’s been such an overused word, but it always rings true to the people who have it. Dave’s lifeblood is community, something that we at Boldkick strongly resonate with. Did we mention he’s from Vancouver, too?
As a traveller, Dave Olson has had a handful of experiences with different people with different backgrounds. In a quick interview at Toque and Canoe about his suitcase, Dave Olson shares about his souvenirs in his travels.
“I keep little ephemeral paper objects. Ticket stubs. Crappy postcards. I’ll take an empty scrap book and make it real time on the trip. Then you return home and BAM, the whole trip is documented and you can share it with your friends. I was on a train in the rain in Spain (ha ha) and had my scrap book with me and I ended up partying with all of these great folks. Great way to bridge those cultural gaps. I also like to bring back coins. Little things. I like tiny things.”
Ahoy! Rarely shared artifacts from wonderful times rambling the mountains and canyons and parties and dumps of Utah circa 1987-8.
1) Me and Dane Christensen at the Moab dump which is clearly the world’s most scenic (note this may be my most popular photo on Flickr and been invited to join all sorts of *interesting* groups)
2) Me, barely 17 at the Fat Tire Festival in Moab (was this the first year?) Halloween Party dressed as Santa Claus. At that ti me i did not have an awsum beard so i though the disguise would let me wrangle beers. Totally worked. Note the Nun and Priest in the background blessing my effort and the fact that this is a film selfie taken before many of your were born. #oldskoool
3) Next is “Scenic Tours VWs” – a personal fave remixed over the year starting with a shot of Lin Ottinger’s infamous fleet of split-window/23 window VWs which would roam the Canyonlands long before the thrings of motorhomes, lycra-clad knuckleheads and 2 storey buildings came to Moab. Tis surrounded with other buses i’ve loved, admired, drove and encountered.
4) Back to Fat Tire Fest and Halloween where Brandon G Kiggins and I did the very bare minimum for costumes with drugstore purchases of Mr. T and, i dunno, some space warlord of some kind. I don’t recall bringing a bicycle that year, just a fake ID and a desire for chaos.
5) Mt. Timpanogos towers over Utah Valley (AKA Happy Valley) and is famous for it’s caves, a perpetual ice field, wild mountain goats and is a relatively easy day climb to the summit for hearty folks. Me and pals and brother Bob rambled up this peak from every direction, season and circumstance. Amazed and taken by the splendour at the top, i posed in naught but my tan hide and gazed at the valley below.
6) I wasn’t always nekkid atop Mt. Timp, on a windy day, brother Bob and I captured the successful summit attempt in front of the surveying shack which allows theodolites to calibrate Boyd Christensen correct me if i’m wrong here). Either way, a windy day but two ruggedly attired (exclusively from Deseret Industries thrift stores) disciples of Smoke Blanchard posed for a pic to send to our Dad (RIP).
PS Dane, Eli Morrison or Brandon Kiggins – do any of you have a recording of the Devil Lives in Moab by The (infamous) Trees?