Travelversary Part III: Let Go

I’ve been living out of a backpack for three years. Sleeping on couches, having adventures, being unfortunately poor, and man-handling jet lag.
The following is the final part a three part series on hitting the road! Read Part I here.

When I first started writing this part I spent weeks dreaming up all the tips and tricks on how to travel successfully. Here are the highlights:

+Have a bit of a plan and be prepared to drop it at a moments notice.
+Pack as close to nothing as possible. Save yourself the hassle of checking a bag.
+Talk to strangers, as many as will listen. Tell them what you need, they’ll help you get it. Be mysterious, they dig it.
+Be the last one on the airplane and sit in whatever seat is available. No one will bother you. Be the first one off the plane to avoid the line at customs.
+Bring something to comfort you. My staple is a 1 lb bar of belgian chocolate. It also makes a good present for the people who will comfort you even more.
+Do not judge, accept everything and everyone for who and what they are.
+Live in the moment. The past is long gone, the future is a mystery.

However, that’s only the distillation of thousands of words from the definitive “how to guide” that was supposed to give you some insight on how to get around effectively. I scrapped the whole thing after the third draft. Why? I realized that the document was essentially me bragging about my ability to find myself in incredibly unique situations. In order for that to happen it takes something entirely different…

Story time? I think yes!

There is no way to prepare for the moment a panamanian drug dealer stops you and in perfect english explains how “you will be killed if you go any further” because of the gang infestation down the road. I cannot further describe what kind of either stupidity or intuition it took to then ask, “Can I have a tour?” of said neighborhood. After years of dealing with strangers I felt he was okay simply by the way he looked me in my eyes. “You want to go down there?” he asked. “Yup.” He looked me up and down, laughed, then called me crazy.

Most every drainage grate and manhole cover was missing as we criss crossed through alley way after street corner “They sell em for scrap. It’s good money.” The gangbangers stood on street corners like vultures, my guide yelled in spanish to each of them as they stared me down. I couldn’t exactly tell if he was saying “he’s cool” or “don’t worry I’m going to bash his head and steal his wallet”.

“In that house the biggest drug lord was killed a few weeks ago” he pointed down a street with row after row of collapsed apartments. “Down that street a Canadian girl was raped. Stupid tourist.” He spit. “I’ve killed some people too. You got to. It’s how you survive.” I nodded my head, almost approvingly, as if I hear that kind of thing every day.

We stopped at the Central American equivalent of Kentucky Fried Chicken, I bought him some deep fried liver. He squeezed hot sauce into the bag, squished it around, and then dug in with his grime covered fingers. He took me to a bar where the girl commanding the front door didn’t make eye contact. “She’s cheap. She’ll suck your dick for ten bucks.” We wandered around, the whole place was lit in blue. He yelled at some of his friends in spanish. We passed the girl again as we walked out. “Ten bucks man…”

When he took me back to my original destination I gave him 5 dollars and he as he folded the bill to put it into his tattered jeans he looked at me, “You’re fearless kid.” I responded, “nah, I’m just an idiot- thanks for not selling me into slavery.”

After a bit of wandering, I found myself on the roof of a hotel drinking amongst a throng of well dressed men who jeered on the competitors of the future “Ass Queen of Central America.”

Let go. See where life takes you. You’ll always be surprised.

This is the final part of a three part series. Read Part I here: Why Haven’t You Left Yet?.

October 2009

“YOU REMEMBERED TO BRING YOUR PASSPORT?” they asked as they stuffed us into the idling bus. To where we were headed, no one knew.

Most thought we were going to Poland, after all it was the closest country to Berlin. I hoped we were going to the Czech Republic, and was taking bets. I curled up in my chair and tried to sleep, only to be awoken an hour later as the bus pulled off onto a dirt road. A man ducked into the bus and announced in a thick German accent: “You will now need to put on life vests. We will go down the river.” I asked, “We’re kayaking to Prague?” But my voice was lost in the zipping noise of heavy jackets being put on. It was 50 degrees out.

Some of us were more skilled at navigating our yellow canoes than others.

…And then it appeared: The Schloss Tornow castle. Through chattering teeth I thought to myself: “It better have internet access.”

It didn’t. It had a sauna in the basement, tens of bedrooms, a magnificent fireplace that crackled day and night, a piano room, ball rooms, living rooms, room rooms, staircases, and secrets– like the freshly killed and skinned boar we found in the kitchen..

Lunch was being served, and while our guides laughed about how they managed to trick everyone into packing their passports, I went exploring, and picked a room on the top floor.

It was Halloween and although most of the group had been tasked with a big project, a few of us dressed up as Americans (scary), and went out trick or treating. We soon learned, as we knocked on the doors of the seven houses in the square mile surrounding the castle, that Germans adhere to the idea that Halloween is only for the kinder. Arguing that I am 12 years old at heart didn’t get me very far. A man with a junk heap in his backyard gave us four shots of jägermeister, a kind woman gave us each a bottle of beer. We needed it. It was cold.

The others were hard at work creating a face made out of wood. It was destined to be burned to the ground in a ceremony. They had commandeered a tractor and were busy hauling wood cleared from the forest. They brought in load after load, tools were distributed, and they got down to business creating a two-story tall wooden face

Ernst the project leader approached me as the others built, “Kosta, you must make the fire! The eyes, they must glow like a beast. It is very important!” I asked for clarification, and instead of explaining further he pulled out a bag of red powder “Dragon’s Breath” (essentially ground up road flares). The pyro in me twitched with excitement. I asked if he had any gun powder, or explosives, for added effect. “I will make a call,” he said.

Soon I found myself in the backseat of a beat up Volvo driving to the home of a hunter named Paul. He looked me up and down and unceremoniously handed five vials of black powder to me. “You must be careful.” He warned. I could barely blow up a mailbox with the miniscule amount, I don’t know what he was worried about.

The team was frantically trying to put the face onto its support structure. Hans, a severely ADHD wonder, was teetering on a ladder trying to hacksaw through a branch that was in the way. Everyone shouted their opinion on how he should be doing things.

After a few hours of experimentation we decided to fill aluminum pouches with dragons breath, gunpowder for sparkle, and use bomb fuse. They pyrotechnics were wrapped up in bailing wire and tied to the face in the exact location where the mouth and eyes were to be. We dipped them in kerosene to make sure they would catch fire. My contribution was done, and the others were busy writing a note and affixing it to the face. We were to burn our fears, our insecurities, and our egos. The face was not a stranger– it was our own.

I was uncertain whether our pyrotechnics would light. We hadn’t made done any tests—we simply assumed they would work. I affixed a torch to the end of a long stick and leaned it towards our creation. The lips crackled to life, and the eyes soon followed. Everyone cheered.

We huddled together in the bitter cold and watched as our hard work, our fears, and our egos turned to smoke and drifted into the night sky. The moon hung full, watching over us. All was perfect, as it always is, and always will be.


Palomar 5 was a “social-experiment” designed to understand how groups can innovate in unique environments. 30 participants from around the world came to Berlin Germany for six weeks in the fall of 2009. The event described was part of the Palomar 5 experience.

Dumpster Doven

Scotland, 2009

We were sick of the pasta mornings, middays, and evenings—
as we passed by it called to us,
it’s mouth beckoning “climb in”,
so we could taste each other.

Pigeons and doves who had been standing guard scatter walked away,
as it pursed its lips, and smiled wide,
revealing its treasures.

We dove inside,
and stuffed our pockets with new flavors,
our faces gaunt and smiling.

We threw some to the birds,
inviting them back to their post.
And while they neck-walked to us,
the giving mouth closed.

Police Brutality Protest 2010: Montreal

On the fifteenth of March they gathered,

to remember their fallen friends, who were executed quietly.

As they zig-zagged through the streets of Montreal,

they cried out for their comrades, “Lapointe bourreau de Fredy!”

They marched without fear, knowing fully well that this was only a test.

They broke every rule, only to see what could happen,

if they decided to write their own rules for a change.

They wanted only to believe,

that they still had the power, if they decided…

To change our world.


There’s the sizzle of a bacon hitting a hot frying pan, a single thought. And as it’s edges curl inward, while the fat runs, she decides– that it wasn’t such a good thought. And the frying pan is emptied, and a new thought is cracked open, to be pondered and scrambled. As it bubbles and pops, turns from opaque to clear, and steams into finality, the mission is understood: Cereal would be better.

…And as the spoon clinks against her teeth she wonders if pancakes would have been the superior choice.