My workbench

My workbench

Monday, March 30, 2009


So, I'm sick. And not just sick of big sky. Physically ill. It sucks, because we've just had two absolutely AMAZING powder days, and I've spent both of them in bed. Oh well.

Saturday, March 28, 2009


I question my decisions frequently, almost constantly. Why am I doing this, why not that? I am fortunate enough to have a plethora of opportunities available; not everyone has such a luxury. Recently, I have been shown three very interesting prospects; a job, a DIY project, and a sustainable farm project. All sound awesome, and they are all very tempting. Instead, I am going to pick up my pack, hitch-hike down to southern Cali, and trek for 5 months across 2700 miles of wilderness. Why?

Why not?

Honestly, one fo the questions which I have been struggling with for a while has been the reasoning behind my PCT Thru-hike. I'm not doing it for a good cause; charity, awareness, or some other activist dream. I'm not doing it as a lst dying wish, or as some far-flung and long-held fantasy. When I was younger, I wanted to hike the AT before I turned 25. That was on my list of 50 things to do when I graduated NHS. I still have not set boots to trail on the AT. Instead, while talking to someone about long distance backpacking in Dahab, Sinia, Egypt, I recalled hearing about the PCT, and said I was going for it. My mind wavered back and forth for a few days, until I finally set in my head that I was going to do it. This is roughly the same reasonign which brought me to my five-year tenure at RIT; no real logic behind it, simply a gut feeling telling me that this is what i want to do. As crazy as that may sound to some people, in my experience, there can be no better reason. Sometimes you've just got to go with your gut.

People have been asking me what I will be doing after the Trail. Thailand, New Zealand, returning to Europe, the AT, the LT, South America...The options are endless. From this place (Sitting on my deck, looking out at the beginnings of a blizzard in southern Montana), warm beaches sound very appealing. Who knows, after a month trekking across the SoCal desert, I may decide that 20 degrees and snow is a great way to spend time. The honest truth is that i have no idea what I will be doing six months from now, and I am perfectly fine with that. One of the greatest lessons i have learned in my time on this corporeal plane is that choices are there to be made, but no rushed, lest they be made in haste. Relax, slow down, and don't sweat the small stuff. I am not worried.

"The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step"

However, the courage to take that step may take more strength than that of the entire journey. Are you up to the challenge?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Arriving at the Casa...

Ok, I totally cheated. I had the money, didn't have the patience, and I took the train from Bremen to Amsterdam. As I stepped off the train and into Amsterdam Centraal Station, I was tired. Tired, sore, HUNGRY, disheartened, and lost. I had Robin's directions to his house, and was so disoriented and lost that I had no idea where I was truly going. I stopped at the kebab shop just outside of the train station to wolf down a small kip kebab, and wandered out into the Amsterdam rain.
I quickly found the correct bus, waited patiently for my stop to come up, and promptly hopped off. It was cold, dark, and wet; I had no idea where I was, and only the vaguest hint as to where I was going. I didn't know north from south, it was around midnight, and I was hoping Robin would be awake. I was not to be disappointed.
After walking down the wrong street, in the wrong direction, twice, I finally found a wifi spot and was able to break out my tablet. DEAD BATTERY~! Or nearly so, a quick charge with my USB adapter brought just enough juice to connect to the wifi and download a map of the area. I found where I was, where I was going, and how to get there. Off I go!
Side note: ALWAYS double-check the address you are going to before you get there. Please don't like being awoken at midnight by strangers. So the Casa is, in fact, at 59, and not 53. Oops, honest mistake! With the slightest hesitation, I rang the bell. An unfamiliar voice answered in a foreign language, most likely dutch. Quickly we ran through French and Spanish, my tired mind too far gone to comprehend anything more than basic English at this point. The buzzing of an electromagnetic lock indicated that I had been let in, and I began a walk which I would repeat daily for nearly a month, up three flights of stairs, to a landing with a smattering of shoes, bikes, salvaged gear and misc stuff strewn about.
I can't even remember whom opened the door, probably Robin? Whomever it was got a handshake, my first lesson in the Casa: hugs rule. Dropping my pack, wet coat, and boots, I proceeded down a narrow hallway into a room filled with people. I was a bit timid at first, old fears and anxiety at meeting so many new people overwhelming me. Some strange tall guy was playing a guitar (Kasper); Lily I recognized from 8/8/8, laying with a friend on the floor chatting. Robin, the gracious host that he is, brought me a bowl of some AMAZING Lentil soup (BTW, need that recipe, it was GOOD!), and I quickly relaxed. [unfortunately] I don't recall meeting Anu immediately, but I'm sure she was in the room, along with others (Anca and/or Aris perhaps?). Names were passed around, tea was had, and began to warm to the crowd. I marveled at the small community I had just stepped in to, and yet had no idea the adventures to come...
"I was wondering when you would visit!" exclaimed Robin. "Wow you really liked that soup?" he inquired, as I finished licking the bottom of the bowl. I looked up, somewhat embarassed, and simply smiled. Like I said, I was hungry, and it was good. Oh, and the tea! Oh, the tea. So good!

The following days and weeks are somewhat of a blur. So many memories, friends, companions. Anca, Rene, Aris, Anu, Kasper, Amylin, Paxus, Marc, Suihela, Grace, Guion... All the faces with names I cannot recall now. Adventures dumpster diving (my first time for food and not simply kit or docs), cutting locks off bikes, inventing, talking, exploring, experimenting, building, dreaming. Ahh, the highlight of MANY years, rivaling, possibly even overshadowing my joy with the OSD. Such trivialities now, compared to the joy at sharing life with friends so dear.
But these are stories for another time. Adnvetures with Grace and Guion; late-night talks with Anu; attempting to learn the guitar (still need to try harder!); atempting, and failing, to write anything meaningful.

Just another story in the line of adventure I call life. With any luck, grace, charm or karma, a line continuing for a very long time.

A series of short stories

I have found that the most effective way for me to record some of my past misadventures is to write short anecdotes, and to write tons of them.

Without further preening, Out Of Egypt.

I said my goodbyes to Max and Sunday, the Scottish Moslem and Nigerian Christian whom I had been sharing a room and some fascinating chats with over sheesha and tea/coffe. Politics, religion, medicine, narcotics, immigration, travel, love, we ran the gamut, hitting every conceivable topic which has even the slightest controversy. Disagreements were plentiful, with constant differences of opinion, and even the occasional piece of constructive criticism. But we were friends, and it was cool. I'll miss them.
The front desk guy asked if I needed a cab; I had a flight leaving at 4:15AM, it was currently 11:30PM, and the bus ride was about an hour, leaving from four blocks away. I wasn't worried, and graciously declined with a simple "La, shukran. I will make it, Inshallah." And off I went, stopping briefly for a bite at the corner shop. The bus was supposed to come every half hour, which in Cairo means it may or may not arrive at all. Tonight, it was an "or not" night, resulting in my waiting for almost two hours to catch the 1:15AM bus to the airport. Fortunately, the roads were nearly deserted, though a brief police blockade caused some slight concern. Naturally, a gaggle of Egyptian men piled off the bus, forcibly removed the road block, and we were back underway.
Arriving at the airport at 2:30AM, I was slightly concerned, but knew that there was no real "check-in time" in Cairo. As usual, touts tried to get me to take a $50 cab ride for the two kilometers or so I needed to cover from Terminal 1 to Terminal 2...The free bus service is, like everything else in Cairo, unreliable, and I ended up getting to Terminal 2 almost 45 minutes later (I would have been smarter to simply walk, but the insane layout of Cairo International Airport dissuaded that thought), after helping a nice French woman carry her luggage off of the bus. Immediately, I noticed a HUGE line at the entrance to the Alitalia office, and as I had less than an hour to my flight, I became concerned. Walking up to the front of the line, I attempted a few times to ask the gentleman letting people into the office one-at-a-time if this was the line to check luggage, only to be rebuffed repeatedly. Finally I shouted at him in Egyptian, using the only forceful words I knew (at the time). He turned and informed me "The flight has already been canceled, please sir, wait in the queue."
Well, ****!
So, I walked to the back of the line, dreading having to spend another night in Cairo, looking forward to my return to nice, cool Amsterdam and my friends at Casa. Slowly but surely, I made my way forward in the line, pushing my nice red backpack infront of me, thankful I had brought a bit of food to gnosh on while in transit. When I finally got in to the office, and spoke to one of the two women behind the desk, I received a pleasant surprise: I could board a flight at 9AM and fly direct to Schipol airport, at no additional charge, on AirEgypt. It was currently 6AM, I had not really slept, and I was overjoyed by the simple thought of LEAVING Egypt, I quickly agreed and received my new ticket. Once again, I haggled with the free shuttle bus driver to get back to Terminal 1, and then fought my way through a throng of people loitering around the first (of 3) security gates. I entered the main terminal, which had a minimal and overpriced cafeteria, but a TV showing the movie "Starship Troopers," and a wall outlet! I sat down, grabbed a sandwich, and plugged in my tablet/phone to charge.
Around 7:30AM, I decided to get in line to get through the second security gate. I still had my rucksack, and did not have a boarding card. I hopped in another long line, and waited my turn. Various people cut in ahead of me, irritating me slightly but not really provoking any reaction. That's the Egyptian way, after all; chaos.
The other side of security gate #2 was truly a sight to behold. Over 50 counters, most without any form of signage on them, and a mob pushing and pulling to get to the front. "Oi! Matt! Hey, Matt!" I heard from the crowd. I had just stepped into what I thought might be a line when the Aussie couple I had met in Siwa appeared further up the line. I ducked a rope, making my way up to my friends, and joined them in the queue. We chatted for a little while about our experiences since Siwa, and the utter chaos of the line and disorganization of the airport.
"Amsterdam! Schipol!" I heard someone call out. I quickly departed my aussie friends and followed a young Egyptian/Dutch couple, along with someone whom looked mildly offical, to an empty stand. Soon an agent appeared, and checked in first the couple and then myself. I was relieved to have made it this far, with 30 minutes to get through immigration and to my necessary gate. It took two trips to make it through immigration, at which point I bumped into my Aussie friends again. They had caught a similar break, escaping the mass mob to a private check-in as well. Again, we parted ways, mildly certain we would never see each other again, but enjoying the times we had spent together. I made my way to my gate...
A third security gate waited for me directly in front of my gate (every gate had it's own metal detector/controlled access setup). This was the second metal detector, and third security checkpoint where I was required to show my passport. Despite all of this, from the front of the building to gate, barring my hour stop at the cafe, it took all of 15 minutes. Amazing how that works, eh? There's one security gate, and one single line, and yet it can take two hours to get through Logan. Go figure.
So the rest of the flight back was uneventful, I slept most of the way there, and was wholly relieved to be back in a clean, somewhat less chaotic city.

Keep tuned for more adventures to follow...

Monday, March 9, 2009

Lily's documentary

I would encourage EVERYONE to check out this link.

My friend Lily made a documentary on dumpster diving and the culture surrounding it. There is a video attached, and I would encourage everyone to watch it. I think it explains a lot, especially about some of the changes I've undergone.

So, once again, check it out.

Monday, March 2, 2009

People like you.

Do you know someone like you? Really, truly similar to yourself? I do. I know someone whom shared a similar passion for travel. I know someone whom shares the same passion for electronics, technology, and new-ness. I even know someone whom shares my passion for stupid human stunts, climbing, jumping, and pushing the limits of the human body.

I even know more than one.

I don't, however, know anyone whom is all of the above.

Except me.

Before I started to travel, I thought I was alone in the world. I was concretely convinced that there was nobody out there as crazy as I was, interested in the same things, thinking the same way. It was only after I started to travel, meeting new people, and embracing the unknown, that I realized I know a lot of similar people.

I try to think of people whom might be similar, and I can only start the vestiges of a list. All the folks I met at Casa; at Fort Willy Backpackers; The Aussies in the snow-capped mountains, or the crazy CSers meeting on an island in Croatia. I think of Ludo, hitching around the world; Anu, lost, and yet found; Robino, trying to make things just a little bit better; Keith, not quite running away from his problems, but simply ignoring them and moving on. Even Sarah, without ever leaving Btown. We are all the same; we all see that there is more to life than what we are told, and we go looking for it, some of us at home, some far far away. And when someone needs help, we're there.

We rock.