A Travellerspoint blog

A Letter to Dad

And to the parent's of those who travel

View Laos 2010 & 2003 Year Away & Canada January 2003 & St Kitts/Nevis March 1996 & Mexico May 1994 & Norway July 1991 & Micronesia January 1983 & The Korea Move & Hawaii 2007 & Peru/Bolivia 05 & SEA 06 & Mexico September 2005 on john7buck's travel map.

Hey dad,

By this time, I’m sure you’re aware that I’m coming home to see you and be with the family this week. I’ve never been very good at expressing feelings in person, and perhaps only slightly better with the written word. But I wanted to let something be known before I walk into your hospital room this week, to avoid an awkward, perhaps teary-eyed conversation. Neither of us needs that right now.

Let’s start at the beginning, or at least the beginning of where memory serves me. It was 1983 and you had made the unusual decision to move your family to a remote Micronesian island in the middle of nowhere. I’m sure many people thought you were nuts, perhaps even mom. But you felt it was important for us to experience that, and for all of the other qualities that make you a special human being, you stick to your convictions. And so we did it. I’m aware that life was not always easy for us down there during that year. Having read Mom’s diary years later, I’m aware that I was sick a lot, not able to hold down food very well. I’m aware that the food we did have, ran dangerously low at times. But you didn’t let us starve. In truth, I don’t remember any of those perilous times. I only remember the good times of playing with Brian and Amanda on the beach and in the trees. I remember nights in that old tin shack, lit by kerosene lamp, listening as you and mom talked quietly outside of my mosquito netting. I remember seeing places so foreign that a 7-year-old brain could barely comprehend. But those incomprehensible images stayed with me. Throughout my life, they have fueled my need for discovery, to see new places and to experience life outside of the boundaries of comfort. At the age of 7, I became a life-long traveler. You gave that to me.

Now let’s skip ahead to 2004. I had begun nurturing my love of travel on my own by this time. I traveled around the South Pacific, lived in New Zealand and experienced life in Australia. As that year wound down, I had run out of money. My plans had exceeded my budget and I found myself in Buenos Aires, Argentina faced with the prospect of needing to return home without being able to travel the continent of which I had just arrived. Placing a call, tail between my legs, I informed you guys that I might need to come home sooner than expected. You didn’t blink an eye, or give me the parental speech (that you would have been well within your rights as a parent to give) to get home immediately and stop messing around with my life. You simply said, “Don’t worry son, we won’t let you starve.” You promptly deposited money into my account, allowing me to continue on my journey and enabled me to experience South America and Patagonia. And what an amazing experience that was! Though we were not particularly rich at the time, and while I would consider myself to be far from spoiled, you never asked for a cent of that money back. In subsequent years, you’ve never reminded me of that, though I’ve never forgotten.

And now here we are in present day. I’ve been living as an expatriate, teaching English in South Korea for about 6 years now. I had plane tickets booked to go to Bali, Indonesia next week for my 3-week holiday. I had been relatively excited about this trip, mostly to notch another life experience into my belt. And then the thing every expatriate fears happened. When I found out that you were in the hospital and likely would be for the near future, I didn’t consider for a minute not coming home as fast as I could. Indonesia will be there for another day, and if I never make it there, well that’s life. The best life experiences can be found at any location in this world, but perhaps none better than those in the presence of your family at a time of need. And so as you sit there in that hospital bed, eating through a tube in your nose, it’s my turn to say, “Don’t worry dad, we won’t let you starve”.

I write this only to say that if there are any guilty feelings about me missing my trip to Bali, I want it to stop right there. You opened my eyes to the world, both literally and figuratively, and have filled my soul with experiences so numerous and beautiful that I can’t adequately express them in words. Though no experience will ever be richer in my eyes than to see you getting stronger by the day.

I’ll be home soon. I love you dad.


Buckley Boys

Buckley Boys

Posted by john7buck 23:19 Archived in South Korea Comments (0)

The Greatest Scam that Never Was

sunny 35 °C
View Laos 2010 on john7buck's travel map.

The trouble with being an American (okay, I'll concede we have a few) is that by birthright we are a bunch of narrow-minded and cynical bastards. We're #1 and the rest of the world is out to get us. As such, I always wait until the last minute to announce my travel plans to my parents, as I've grown accoustomed to the "Oh my, no!"reaction that it usually generates. In their defense, they're only doing their job as parents worrying about me and offering words of (FOX News fueled) caution as I jaunt off to places like Myanmar, Nepal and now Laos. But to their credit, they've also always deferred to my judgement, especially now that this isn't my first rodeo. And even though I have traveled pretty extensively in my ripe old age, I'm no better. Whenever I'm approached by random strangers on the road, my first assumption is that they're out to get some from Uncle Sam, more specifically his treasury. No matter how many times I'm proved wrong, the thought still persists the next time around.

So today, as I rode a cheap, rented Chinese bicycle through the streets of Vientienne my spidey senses were on high alert. As I was doing this, the first thing I noticed is how friggín easy it is to ride a cheap Chinese bicycle around the streets of this capital city. To get to where I was going, I headed down the main thoroughfare of the city, essentially the I-25 of Vientienne. Were I to try to ride a bicycle down I-25 in downtown Denver (a small-sized city by American standards), I'm quite sure there'd be skidmarks and not just the ones being left on the pavement by the myriad of speeding cars. As it was, I was able to just pedal along as if I was Butch Cassidy with "raindrops falling on my head", feeling comfortable enough to even video my progress for short while. The next thing I noticed was how safe I felt whenever I would take a little detour down a side street. Imagine the terror a country bumpkin like myself would feel if I were to take a leisurely bike detour down say, Federal Blvd.

Feeling pretty good about myself, I make it to my first landmark, a structure that is essentially the Arc d' Triumphe of Laos. Having once been a French colony, there is a great french influence that seems to have kept the good and gotten rid of the bad (i.e. snooty Frenchmen). I'm standing around taking pictures and, tingle tingle, there go the spidey senses! Two Loatian guys approach me and seem to be up to no good. One speaks pretty good English and the other not so much, but seems to understand most of it. They tell me that they are students and would like to ask me some questions. I think of playing it safe by declining and moving on. But I'm also kind of a sucker for seeing where things are headed, so I ignore the spidey senses for a minute and tell them I have a few minutes to spare. I take a moment to make sure I'm aware of the security of my wallet and cameras.

The questions start coming and I'm preparing for the moment where they inform me that I should give them money for something or other. But that part doesn't come. At least not yet. After a few minutes of questioning me, the man pulls out a piece of paper and wants me to record the answers that I'd been giving him. So I write down my name, email address and the fact that I like American Football, Ice Hockey, Mexican Food and The Simpsons. After the question and answer period comes to an end, they grab a photographer from nearby and then insist on individual photos with each of them. Okay, here it comes, this seems fishy. Whamo! There it is! Oh wait, nope. . . nothing. They just smiled and let me go on my way. As I push my bike away, I'm working out in my head whether I'm up against such diabolical geniouses that they'll be able to empty my bank account with only the image of my face, my favorite sports and the fact that I dig a Chalupa from time to time. I guess only time will tell.

With that strange, but actually rather enjoyable encounter behind me, it was off to the giant golden pagoda that was my mission for the day (I'm leaving names out for now, as I don't have my guidebook for spelling). As I get to the magnificent site, I'm thinking that this national treasure is going to be an absolute zoo. Wrong again. Barring a few strangling tourists, I had the entire place to myself. Having read in the book that I was supposed to pay 5,000 kip as an entrance fee, I walked around a bit perplexed that nobody had demanded this of me. My sightseeing complete, I didn't want to shortchange Buddha or karma (afterall, the giant golden stupa looked damn expensive) so I tried to find someone who would take my money. An elderly woman selling trinkets pointed at a donation box that I could drop my money in.

With my actual "sight seeing" out of the way, the final stage of my "Tour de Vientienne" was to ride my bike down a lonely dirt rode on the banks of the Mekong River. After finding myself a good way off the tourist path, I stopped into a small riverside restaurant for a drink. As I sat drinking a cool Beer Lao, the lone foreign patron in this shanty bar, a woman from a couple tables over and my waitress asked to sit with me. Spidey senses tingling again. Feeling some sort of "proposition" coming. . . and then. . .nothing! Perhaps, it's good that I never went into the superhero line of work, because my spidey senses seem to be crap. Whatever their intentions (boredom?), they just sat and quietly chatted with me before I finished my beer and went on my way.

Now in Vang Vieng, I'm off to rent another bike and pedal around this unbelievably beautiful country town. I may pass out from heat stroke, but I don't think I'll be needing my damn useless spidey senses.

Posted by john7buck 00:20 Archived in Laos Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

It's the End of the World as We Know

And I feel fine in Laos.

sunny 35 °C

Pooft, pooft. Tap, tap. Is this thing on? Okay, since it's been almost two years since my last blog post, I thought I would just check to make sure this thing is still working. How it has already been almost two years since I last posted in Nepal is beyond me. Curse you easy life in Korea where time just flies by! I ain't getting any younger, so you can slow down just a bit, if you don't mind.

Anyway, some of you might have been wondering what has happened to my relatively on-going blog posts since I moved to Korea. Then again, some of you might have just been happy for the reprieve. To be honest, when I first moved to Korea, everyday was new and exciting, with strange things around every corner. Well, there are definitely still strange things around every corner, but after living in a place for almost three years, these things just start to seem less blog-worthy and just a part of everyday life. So there's that, and the fact that I'm just kind of a lazy sot.

So if you want to hear about Korea, give me a call. Better yet, come visit. I'm throwing down the gauntlet on that one. Three years out of the country and not one visit from friend, family or foe? I'll be there until February and then who knows? So hurry up, time may be running out. Or perhaps not. You just never know. Which leads me to my next point. . .

I meet the wierdest damn people when I travel. According to James Fernandez, a retired commando from the Viet Nam War and current owner of Military Police Security Gear; "America is about to come completely unhinged and the safest bet is to find another country, save up as much currency as possible (actually, now that I remember correctly, he said all currency would be useless in the future, what I need to do is secure gold, silver and jewels) and plan to never return." I can't say I share remotely in his fatalistic views, but I seem to be carrying out his doomsday plan sort of by accident. I'm living a nice, happy life in Korea, saving a bunch of money with no firm date on when I plan to return. But that's beside the point.

So, who is James Fernandez, and how did I get to spend two hours listening to his bizarre rants? Not by choice, my friends, not by choice. The reason for firing up my blog again is that I'm on the backpacker trail again, though this time for only a quick two week holiday from work in Korea. Wanting to return to Myanmar, but finding the visa a complete hassle to procure from Seoul (while living 2 hours south by train), I opted to head to Laos instead for my vacation. I hadn't been and had heard nothing but good things.

As I checked out of my hotel in Bangkok and was a enduring a mild hangover from watching the World Cup the night before, I was just trying to kill some time before heading to the train station to take an overnight train to Laos that would depart at 8:00 p.m. Charging my I-pod on the computer in the hotel lobby, I sat there reading and nursing a bottle of water when old James came and sat next to me. For those of you who live in Vail, he pretty much looked identical to Tom Ricci, although he had chosen not to bald with dignity (as Tom and now myself have chosen to do), so he had really long, wild strands of hair sprouting out from the pretty barren field that was the top of his head. This made him look like a wild-eyed, old man version of a Cabbage Patch doll.

Now, I'm not sure what aspect of my personality or appearance has been stamped with the official "crazy people - come talk to me" stamp, but it's on me somewhere. So for two hours, I sat and listened to this guy (who in fairness, was a hell of a nice guy, just a bit of conspiracy theorist) tell me things like:

"I've predicted every major earthquake in the world going back to San Francisco in the 80's."

Me: "Really, how do you do that?"

"I'm an observer. I watch things. If you just look around, it's plain as day when something like that is about to happen."

He went on to list about 15 places that had earthquakes happen that he predicted in advance, most of which I'd never heard of, and didn't really have an answer for me when I said he should use his skills to let these people know if he saw one coming. I suppose there's too much liability if you get one wrong, the whole city evacuates and then blames you for bringing everything to a standstill.

Aside from the world tearing itself apart, his primary concern was with the Chinese. Predicting the 3rd World War within the next 5 years, he went on about a 45-minute rant concerning his belief that China was going to be the force to push all the dominoes in motion. Scary as it may sound, this argument of his actually seemed the most plausible. Had I been taking notes (or not been mentally tuning in and out) I could better explain his laundry list of reasons, but I was also getting a bit confused as he would interperse random factoids about the CIA purposefully flying billions of dollars of cocaine into America to keep the "drug war" a profitable business, George Bush's secret personal military living on his ranch in Paraguay (made up of the war criminals he pardoned) and his belief that America was going to become the Saudi Arabia of clean water for the rest of the world.

Honestly, I'm having a bit of fun at his expense here (and am now starting to think he might google his name, read this and track me down), but it was two hours of time much more entertaining than anything Thai TV could have provided me. So for that, James, I thank you. I hope you're wrong about almost everything you said, but if you're not, I'll come find you with my gold bricks and ruby staffs and we'll live like kings somewhere far, far away from the USA and China.

But for now, I'm just going to enjoy Laos. I'm here, it's beautiful and I'm off to check out this Beer Lao I've heard so much about.

Later from Vientiene.

Posted by john7buck 00:34 Archived in Laos Tagged backpacking Comments (3)

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