Future’s Shapin Up

Things seem to be falling into place all of a sudden; like how I got a bike at Goodwill after wanting one all semester long. I also bought a couch  (40 bucks for both. CHA-CHING). I had to vacuum cat hair and only God knows what off the thing. But its cool. It was 20 dollars. Adjusting to student life was harder than I thought it would be. When I was on the road life was free flowing. I had no due dates or schedules and my only assignment was to do what would make the best stories. And that’s what I did. I am proud of my trip and the stories I’ll be telling for the rest of my life. I’m also proud of how well I’ve adjusted to normal living. I feel like when I returned to Boulder I had more direction and was more goal oriented than I was before I traveled. Four months since school started and I am one of fifty students accepted into the Leeds’ Business of Sports summer certificate program. I also founded a student organization for providing free sports programs to local schools in Boulder. The principle of a local bilingual elementary school is backing my ideas and soon I’ll have a pilot program running at lunch times. I’m really excited to bring sports to the school and kick around and play with kids who don’t get to.

I remember sitting on a train coasting through impenetrable white fog with my friend on our way to Kutna Hora and I told her I was going to work for FIFA and watch soccer matches around the world. I would travel for the rest of my life. The way I see Life is this–if you do it right, it gets more fun with every birthday. This idea is why I haven’t dropped out of school and hit the road again. Honestly I really don’t like being stuck here! But what else can I do?

I feel very fortunate and blessed to take on challenges and opportunities that bring me closer to my dreams. Not everyone gets these chances.

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How Axemurderess Saved My Life

On the 10th of October Axemurderess saved my life. I didn’t know she did until recently, when I learned that the creepy pedophile who prefers Jews to couchsurf with him that insisted I stay with him has erased all traces of his CS profile…

The story begins when I was locked out of my house for the night and the sun had set hours before. Stranded in Berlin without internet my options were numbered. I knocked on all the neighbors doors to offer them the beer and bratwursts I bought for my hosts but no one answered. So there I was, alone, with a six pack some wieners and my day pack trying to wrap my head around the situation I was forced into. Thank God I bought a cell phone that day.

My contacts list was so short that they all fit on my little German talkie’s square screen simultaneously. I had less than five friends in Berlin and none could rescue me from October homelessness. So I reunited with the three girls that I hitchhiked with on my way from Hannover to Berlin at a bar on the other side of the city to take the edge off my nerves. I gave a beer to some guy I met on the tube. And my bratwurst was warm and squishy by then. I was… not happy, as you might guess. When I got to the bar I tapped into its wifi and sent out an Emergency Couch Request to all Berlin members. And that’s when BJ-M and Axemurderess messaged me.

Let’s begin with dissecting what a stay with 47 year-old BJ-M in his “cute” studio apartment entailed. Here’s his accommodation requirements as best I can remember:

1.) No sleeping in street clothes. Then it said if you don’t have pajamas he will lend you some of his own.

2.) You MUST turn off your cell phone at night.

3.) Only available sleeping space is in his bed.

On the continuum of creepy, if BJ-M is on the far right side, Axemurderess was somewhere in the middle. So still creepy but not “wear my pajamas boy!” creepy. But remember… she’s still creepy. You’ll see. So I didn’t respond to BJ-M out of fondle fear but instead I hedged my bets with the Axemurderess. A wise choice. AXEMURDERESS. What the hell was I thinking?

Eventually I found my way back across Berlin to her lair. She invited me in and we quickly demolished what remained of my six pack and half of her stock. Then, just when I was almost convinced Axemurderess wasn’t going to hack off my limbs in the night she did something that moved her closer to BJ-M on the creepy continuum.

She asked me if I wanted to see her scar. I said yes. I’m a man, men like scars. Then she took off her shirt and slid her bra off to show me the 3 inch scar cutting across her nipple. The left one if you were wondering. I don’t know how Axemurderess got her name, but it’s not because she has looks that kill or a body to die for.

Trying to erase a haunting image from my mind I turned the music up and a mini dance party erupted. So there we were, the two of us, in our own little dance worlds, jiving to some Norwegian hipster beats. And just when I thought, AGAIN, that Axemurderess was almost normal, she did it again. This time with a pink bunny onezee and a little pinch of sexual assault.

“Look out! I’m BJ-M!” she said! And with pulsating butt squeezing hand clenches and hot fiery eyes and a crooked smile she boogied towards my little ass. “No! Stop it! Get away!” I cried in a very coy fashion. Trying to box her out with my chest and get my ass as far away from her go-go gadget arms with extendable butt cupping claws. I thought about shoving her away and defending myself, but… I still needed a roof for the night. So I had to bear the ass grabs and play along until her claws released me from her sexual torment.

Axemurderess obviously didn’t kill me. And after that first night I spent two more with here without any more incidents. But even safe and sound away from BJ-M he continued to haunt me.

I neglected to respond to his “rescue” message so he sent me a follow up message. He said, “You read my message. And no response. Enjoy.”… Being the courteous gentleman I am I apologized for not responding. Besides his showing up on my pedophile radar, the truth is that connection to the internet comes and goes and is never guaranteed, specially when I leave the house all day to explore. Hours after sending BJ-M an apology there was a response in my inbox unlike any other message I’ve ever read.

“The reason I wrote you is because I assume you are a Nice Jewish Boy, and I would always want to help a Jew before I help anyone else.” He also said that if I’m still looking for a place to stay I should reread his profile, groups, and sleeping preferences carefully. And now, come to think of it, as I write this I’m remembering that I did look back over his profile and I think I saw he’s part of the Sexual Liberation/BDSM group! WTF!!! But that’s not all, the story gets even more twisted!

Once back home I told this story to my good friend. Wanting to show him BJ-M’s picture and Couchsurfing profile I found our old messages and tried to view his profile. It’s no longer accessible. My guess is that whoever BJ-M, assuming he really is a 47 year old white male named Barry, was keeping chained up in the basement finally escaped and found help.

So Axemurderess saved my life. She also showed me her scarred nipple and grabbed my ass wearing a bunny onezee. It was like an Easter Bunny horror film. But for all I know and don’t, Axemurderess saved my life.

Check out these characters.

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The End.

This is the first of many stories to come! Now that I have some downtime I hope to put up one story a week from my adventures abroad. If you liked this one PLEASE share it with someone you know or someone who’s become a little bit too creepy and needs some perspective! Thanks for the read!

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The downside to traveling solo: I’m Lonely

Three days ago I left again. Like I always do. And I hate it.

I don’t know if it’s this dismal weather above my train or a rain cloud drizzling on my brain that is making me feel this way. I’ve felt sunny days through the past month of weather’s haze. But now things have changed, I’m in a hole so far down in the earth that when I look up the light above me is distant. Looking through my fingers, pinching the light, it’s no bigger than a penny. I wonder when I’ll climb out. In five days I will be in Sarajevo. Together with an old friend we’re going to devour a Bosnian thanksgiving and I’m hoping she will bring me out of this hole. As for now… I ride alone.

I’m not usually so pessimistic. I’m usually annoyingly optimistic. “Always look on the bright side of life” became my theme song in Berlin. “When life gives you grizzle, don’t grumble, give a whistle! And thistle, help things turn out for the beeeeesssst!” If I have any readers in Europe (assuming I have any readers at all), maybe you’ve seen me in my orange jacket whistling a tune in the tube or main square. A man can smile and pretend everything is hunky dory for only so long, especially when he feels alone.

Most of the time I’m not alone. I’ve been blessed with relationships that I will take home to California and Colorado with me. There are people I met who stained my memory with their sweet ways. For the first time in my life I brought a friend to the airport three days ago, it was the first time that I felt like I wasn’t the one flying away. After I waved goodbye to Maja and walked away I stopped to look back at her 100 times because I didn’t want it to be the last time I saw her. Then I left. Even though I will always remember her cutely awkward way of running to catch a tram and the way she says juice with a silent j because she’s swedish, she still left and I still had to say goodbye. Just like with all the others.

All of these goodbyes make me think of the song Beyond the Blue by Josh Garrels. “Sometimes the only way to return is to go where the winds will take you: to let go of all you can not hold on to.” Click the link and give Josh a listen. A real one. Close your eyes and hear him. “Wisdom will honor everyone who will learn to listen to love and to pray and discern and to do the right thing even when it burns and to live in the light through each treacherous turn.” <– That's my favorite part. My bro scrow Jonathon's favorite part is "I sing yellow and gold as a new day dawn like a virgin unveiled that waited so long to dance and rejoice and to sing her song and to rest in the arms of a love so strong." Beyond the Blue is one of my go to whistle tunes when I'm feeling low. I know that when I meet people like Maja I can’t hold on to them. So what else can I do but let go? Even when it leaves me feeling like someone gutted me.

So here I am alone still. Even though Beyond the Blue is on replay it’s not the echo in my head.

Now you know how I really feel. Traveling alone can be incredible but it can also be lonely. Thanks for reading my pointless post (assuming anyone did 😉 )

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The Holocaust, a German Woman, and Me–What they have in common

Finally I have a story worth sharing. I say this one is worth sharing because it’s not one of my own stories which pale in comparison to this continuing story. Not being that my stories aren’t worth sharing, although I do prefer telling them in person so I can see your reactions. This story is just different in the best of ways.

The story begins in 1929 when a group of young Jewish activists for the zionist movement planted a commune in the future territory of Israel. Among their ranks was a young girl from Berlin named Hannah. She stayed and worked in the commune and married. All the while, WWII was in full gear. Even in the Middle East and far from Hitler, Hannah and her husband still didn’t escape the Holocaust. You see, Hannah and her husband were Jews. Which makes their family Jews too. Hannah fled Germany before the Holocaust but it became too late for her family to flee from Hitler’s uncontrolled hate. Hannah’s family was murdered in a concentration camp; probably separated and alone, without dignity or respect.

WWII ended in 1945 and the nation state of Israel was established in 1948. Everything Hannah had been working towards was now hers. The Jews finally had a place to call home, but not Hannah. Her home was starved and tortured and eventually, after the pain became so much that death was a way out, murdered. I don’t know how I would have acted if it was my family dead at the hands of Germans. I certainly wouldn’t have done what Hannah did and invited Germans over for supper. The grief of her bereavement is what I believe drove Hannah to open a foundation for rebuilding the relationship between Jews and Germans (also Jews and Arabs! because why not?). Hannah’s home was the foundation’s headquarters and her home was open to everyone from everywhere. The front doors were literally open for every passerby. And for many years they remained this way and, for many years, Hannah impressed her open mindedness on Jews and Germans alike with her seemingly endless love. I find myself wondering how could a women slapped by such hate turn the other cheek? And not only turn but fight back with a kiss on the hand that hit her. She was an ugly women, short with a sort of hunched back but I heard that her inner beauty was so outwardly that it wasn’t possible to find a single imperfection on her. She was as it seems, an angel on earth, a light in the dark, a ray of sunshine on a cloudy day, the type of person that leaves impressions on people and impacts lives.

In 1968 a young German girl travelled to Israel with some emotional baggage. She carried the pain her countrymen inflicted upon the Jews and hoped to make amends with her shame. Through Hannah’s front doors she walked on her first visit and again many years later she returned with her daughter Anja. Like I mentioned, Hannah was the type of person that impacts lives. Anja was 12 then and it wasn’t until seven years afterwards that Anja made her own pilgrimage to Israel and to Hannah. The relationship between Anja’s mother and Hannah connected her daughter to the angel and after weekdays spent working in a commune’s hospital, Anja spent every weekend visiting Hannah. Spending a lot of time with impressionable people has a way of changing you. Maybe that explains why Anja is a ray of light in this increasingly dark world. Before leaving Israel and long before I met Anja, Hannah influenced her in such a way that changed her perspective on life. And before leaving, Hannah told Anja that one day she will have the opportunity to open her home to a stranger who needs her help to impress upon him the same love, generosity, and compassion. Then she made Anja promise her she would.

In 2013 a young traveller was loitering in Berlin when he was introduced to Anja. She opened her home to him and subjected her sweet innocent family to his crude American ways (her youngest son now yells Shit instead of German curses). She kept her promise to Hannah and continued this continuing story that by now has continued long enough and we’re both ready for it to end. Only thing is it never will. I met Anja thanks to a little womanizing and a lot of luck. Actually all luck, because my idea of womanizing is probably your idea of introducing oneself. And you know what she said to me when I left her home for the first time? She told me that one day I will have the opportunity to open my home to a stranger who needs help and to impress upon him the same love, generosity, and compassion that Hannah showed her. And then she made me promise I would. Albeit that day won’t come for years, I’m sure that one day it will and this continuing story will well; continue.

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Homeless at 220Km/hr: Predestined Afterthoughts

I was going to make my next blog post about how I was scammed and lost €100. I was also thinking about writing about three friends I made at 220 km/h who helped me find a bed when I was temporarily homeless. Instead, I want to take time to reflect on the plan that has been laid out for me. A plan so elaborate and perfectly sewn together that mere coincidence isn’t excuse enough to explain how the stories I’ve woven together are all interconnected. My trip is not a combination of different stories separated by chapters. It is one story with it’s plots so intricately intwined that the endings and beginnings are as distinguishable as a drop of water in a pool… or a black guy hiding in the dark! (unless he smiles of course) preppy white frat boys! two Chinese men standing side by side!.
Before I met with Luise’s God-mother I met Luise weeks before in a different country. The only reason I saw her on the hill behind the European Union Capitol was fate. I wouldn’t have gone on that walk that same day if Jamaar hadn’t messaged me to stay on his couch days before. If he never messaged me, I wonder where I would have been that day, where I would be now.
Any action in my trip can decide who I meet and where I go, might alter every day of the following months. Different hitchhike rides can lead me to different destinations. Just one different Couchsurfing host has the potential to reroute my travels. I’m still in Berlin because of some advice from my last host. That host took me in because I was temporarily homeless for the night, which leads back to meeting Luise in Brussels. Her cousin that she connected me with didn’t have a spare key to lend me when she hosted me the night before I met Cathi. So, I met Cathi because I met Luise’s cousins who locked me out because I met Luise because I met Jamaar… It was Cathi who convinced me to stay in Berlin longer and thus led me to Luise’s God-mother. If I had never met Luise I would never have been locked out. If that never happened I wouldn’t have met Cathi and ultimately extend my trip here in Berlin. If I have to, I can single out all the miraculous coincidences so consistent I’m convinced luck has nothing to do with it. I am following a plan, unbeknown to my decisions whilst directing them before they are conceived in thought.
So here I am again like I always seem to be, sipping a steamy drink and enjoying the conversations that come with new friends, feeling at home. Might you think it is coincidence that I’m now staying with a family of musicians like me, Think Again. I go to Dresden on monday. I wonder who will cross paths with me there.
That’s an interesting expression: cross paths. Every park path I’ve ever walked was already laid out for me, start to finish. I think my trip is like a park path.

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Amsterdam’s Red Light District: the real fucking place. (pardon my French)

This gallery contains 17 photos.

What to say about Amsterdam’s Red Light District? It’s bizarre, normalized, beautified prostitution the whole family can enjoy. I saw children and grandparents slowly strolling through heavily prostituted areas next to sophisticated businessmen undressing the girls with their eyes. Chinese … Continue reading

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Hitchhiking for Amsterdam: King of the road

I felt like the most popular man in Belgium when all three of the first three cars that passed, pulled over to help me hitchhike. After that first car I didn’t get very far before I was back in the rain. I had reservations at a hostel for the night but first I had to hitchhike there and, drenched in rain, the pessimistic sky made my chances of making it in time feel bleak. All of that changed with what happened next.
I was standing there in the rain. Thanks to my first ride I was 20 kilometers further from Antwerp and closer to Amsterdam but I was also suffering unsheltered from the weather at an unfriendly and low trafficked hitchhiking spot. Before Uri pulled over in his big wheeler I was stuck watching car after car pass me by. The unrelenting rain, penetrating my orange gore-tex jacket and reaching my optimism, showed no signs of breaking but the lights on the 18 wheeler that just passed did. I climbed up the door in full gear to be greeted by an unfamiliar accent with a wide smile. Sitting uncomfortably with my back pack jammed between my legs in the front of his truck we pulled back onto the freeway.
Even when speaking broken english, Uri was a talker. We talked about how many languages he speaks. Uri made it a point to teach me the word for apple in Ukrainian, Russian, Polish, German, and Slovakian. He also educated me in which eastern european countries have the hottest girls. And for those of you who might want to know, Uri said in order from best to last; Ukraine, Poland, Russia and Hungary. He is from Ukraine though…soooo maybe find a second opinion on that. 40 minutes into our conversation we pulled over at a rest stop.
As required by European law, truck drivers must stop driving and rest for half an hour every eight hours, or, that’s what I thought he said. I offered Uri my bag of potato chips. He refused to take them and strongly patted his belly. Then, he thrusted a large apple into my hands.. I patted my starving belly and accepted. We got to talking about his hometown in the Ukraine and from what I understood, he lives above the Black Sea near the coast where the weather is pleasant and the girls are beautiful and everyone loves vodka. He started the engine and we were on the road again. 80s music replaced our home sick conversations and the rain began washing away the visibility.
Sitting high above the already small European cars on my mega-comfortable trucker’s chair I felt like the king of the road. Uri carried me two hours and 160 kilometers closer to Amsterdam until we reached his stop. He shook my hand firmly and we said our goodbyes.

If you were wandering where I went and the way I went, here it is.
I took a train from Gent to Antwerp (about €8). From Antwerp I hitchhiked to within 20 km of the border between Belgium and Holland. From a stop near the freeway I got in with Uri and we drove around 75 km until we reached Rotterdam.

My journey with Uri is only half of my hitchhiking story. The second half I’ve decided to keep for me. So to make a long story short, I found myself with a press pass to a soccer game because of the incredible person who picked me up.

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Gay Southern Hospitality in Western Europe

He settled me into his home and said, “Just so you know, the lesbian neighbors will probably keep you up at night. They’re always fighting or having rough lesbian sex. The only difference between the two is that when they have rough lesbian sex it goes for hours. You’ll see. And by the way, their bed is right on the other side of your wall.” In the 10 minute walk to his apartment I knew more about his sex life than I knew about my own. Two tolerance levels of mine increased during my stay with him–my alcohol tolerance and acceptable limit of TMI. I think my knowing the details of his engagement the night before with a sexually experimenting British guy at the bar is not enough information for him. My first impression of Jamaal scared me into sleeping in full clothes my first night on his couch because I did not know what was on my sheets. I’ve stayed with Jamaal for four nights and contrary to what I expected, he’s an incredible host.
Jamaal lived in Spain, France and now Brussels, Belgium; but he hails from South Carolina, the home of Southern Hospitality. English language teachers don’t have much but what he has he shares with me. Including unwanted details about what goes on upstairs (luckily for me, I was fast asleep when he brought a boy home the other night). We laugh together, burp together, vent together and drink together but we would never be together if it weren’t for Couchsurfing. We have an unlikely friendship born from a common interest in traveling. I will miss him. I will not miss the rough lesbian sex though.

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Busting down a Berlin Wall of Language Barriers

While in Normandy doing a work-exchange for a month I did various works ranging from woodwork to vacuuming. Sometimes not sharing a mutual language with my coworkers. One project I was assigned was to help another worker, Leonardo, extend the wood shed and lay a concrete floor. Mike (my host and WWII movie partner) ordained me Leonardo’s Gopher, a role that doesn’t work so well since Leonardo comes from Italy, AND doesn’t speak english, AND hasn’t a clue what “go for” means. Either way, I was Leonardo’s Gopher for four days and we had a serious problem: communicating. On the day after the concrete had dried over night I walked across it to get a tool. I didn’t get very far before Leonardo shouted NO NO NO NO NO NO. No what?! No what!? I asked. Every which way I feigned to step he shouted louder! “WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU SAYING NO FOR!!!”–I wanted to scream! But even if I did scream he wouldn’t have known what I said anyways! What was I to do? Usually the International Language worked for us but trying to speak it isn’t as easy when I’m being yelled at. We had our language barriers and we had our way around them. The International Language.
Meow. Moo. Huh? Ouch! Smiling. Rihanna. FC Barcelona. Pointing. All are part of the international language. Anyone who has mastered the international language is a genius at Charades. Anyone who can is a genius at charades has ingenious hand gestures. Anyone who has ingenious hand gestures can convey basic thoughts. And anyone who can effectively do that, can speak the international language.
When Leonardo wanted a hammer he’d say tac tac tac. When he wanted me to shovel three loads of sand into the concrete mixer he’d hold up three fingers. When he wanted to talk about finding diamonds he’d sing “Shine bright like a diamond.” It was amazing what we could talk about with only a few words. Once a few words were established we expanded our vocabulary. It grew exponentially. Family unlocks brother unlocks sister unlocks sister in law etc… Our language developed into an upside down pyramid from just a few building blocks composing the base.
Leonardo told me he owns a small construction and architecture company in Italy. His brother worked with him but recently quit. Now Leonardo is taking a break from working and is traveling through France. Why France? Because after he passes a French test the Catholic Church will fly him to Africa for missionary work. Before Normandy he was in Brittany, France until his drunk work-exchange host threatened him with a knife. He’s a wiz with a knife. He learned everything he knows about cooking from his mom and from working in a restaurant. On my first night he made pizza for everyone. The best pizza I’ve ever had was made by an Italian in France. An incredible chef he is. When he was young he and his brother had to be very independent. Father was hardly around and mother worked in the morning when he got ready and left for school. He doesn’t remember much about his father. He knows my father is a business man and that my family is from the greater Sacramento area. He knows just as much about me as my english speaking hosts.
Language does create barriers but it’s not the Berlin Wall. Don’t let it discourage you from traveling and finding a way around language. Go under go over go around it.

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Who are you calling Ugly American?

All I wanted was a splash of ketchup for my fries. She didn’t have to respond the way she did. Back home everyone eats their fries with ketchup. That waitress should have respected our cultural differences and brought me ketchup. Of course the same argument applies to me so I should have respected French culture too… but I’m the one with the blog so she’s wrong.
You’ve probably deduced from my bitterness that I never got my ketchup. That waitress forced me to enjoy those fresh crisped salt bathed fries without it and I hate to say: they were delicious and certainly some of the best fries I’ve ever had. “Ne pas tradicional”, with a nice smirk to match her condescending tone she growled and spat the words like a feisty chihuahua wearing a sombrero. “Will you survive?” were her last stabs before she turned and left, spoken in english so condescendingly I felt her poison shooting through my veins. It was like being stabbed with my own sword. She wasn’t only commenting on my etiquette, something deeper, harder and meaner was in her words…
I am an ugly American. I asked for ketchup just like the others. But what about her? She was so rude, so condescending, so snobbish. I’m not an ugly American, she’s a snobby Francias. A simple sorry and explanation wouldn’t have killed her. Plus I would have sympathized and happily forgotten the ketchup. But, asking for ketchup was a slap in the chef’s face. I’m lucky he didn’t catch wind of my sin. She did have a point though. I could have tried the fries before I asked her and I could have left my American habit at home.

Please! Don’t forget to Like me on facebook at: A Seriously Casual Traveler and join my Euro-adventure on Instagram: seriouslycasualtrvlr If you do you’ll receive a cupcake in the mail! Also, if you want a postcard click on the page: project postcard. and follow the directions!

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