Sunset from the top of Phnom Bok outside the Ankgor Wat complex.
Pack a bag, lace up your shoes, lay down your worries and follow me. The road has ups and downs, forks and bends, potholes and detours. The landscape is ever changing. You’ll see snowcapped peaks and underwater caves, endless desert and frigid tundra, wild jungles and white-sand beaches. This world is a vast expanse of undiscovered excitement. Break free from the chains of fear and uncertainty that hold to you to your desk. Dare to pass through the comfortable confines of your life that surround you like cubicle walls. Discovering what lies outside them will reward you beyond measure.
In my own travels I visited places most people will spend a lifetime never knowing. I walked along the Great Wall of China in the cold silence of the surrounding wilderness, wandered endless white sand beaches in Thailand and sailed the Nile River in Egypt. I relived European history at the Coliseum, the Acropolis, the Berlin Wall, the Arc de Triumph and the mountaintop Prague Castle. I saw natural beauty and grandeur in the farthest corners of the planet that bewildered the senses.
Truth be told, however, the less extraordinary moments were what provided the real substance to my journey and swarm my memory still:
Smoking a hookah and drinking Egyptian tea at an alley café in Cairo. Watching men fill the seats on the other side of the dark street, loosening their ties and crowding together to get a decent view of the soccer match. Thinking how profoundly different our lives were.
In Thailand, dancing maniacally on Haad Rin beach to pulsing techno beats along with thousands of partygoers from all over the world under black lights and a florescent-white full moon hanging overhead. Stopping briefly to look at the star lit sky and realizing I was half the world away from where I’d started. Smiling, and dancing more.
Nursing a terrible hangover while eating potato chips for dinner and reading guide books in a dingy, wood paneled bungalow as Easter passed me by.
Enjoying beautiful sunrises and sunsets everywhere we went. Lying in cool turquoise water in sublime contentedness. Bright orange rays of the new day rising from the horizon and reflecting off the crumpled surface.
Ascending innumerable steps to the temple of Phnom Bok and watching the sky turn from blue to a burst of orange, pink, and red above a deserted Cambodian landscape. Admiring the view from atop the ruins where solitude and stillness enhanced an already surreal sensation.
Getting lost while wandering through the labyrinth of alleyways in Seville for hours.
Often, the traveling was an adventure in itself. We moved by 28 modes of transportation by my count: from planes, trains and automobiles to elephants, junks, and tuk-tuks. I remember sitting on metal bunk beds in a cramped train cabin winding through central Vietnam and sharing a bottle of cheap red wine with friends.
Taking in the scenery of the Bavarian countryside from the window of a train. Rolling green hills spotted with red-roofed, white-walled chateaus and grazing cows.
Climbing over luggage that filled the aisle of the sweaty bus that brought us over unpaved roads from Siem Reap to Bangkok.
Puttering up the muddy brown waters of the Mekong River. Waving back to naked Cambodian kids doing back flips and cannonballs off rickety docks. White smiles contrasting their dark, wet skin glistening in the midday sun.
Navigating bamboo rafts through quick, shallow rapids in the jungle of northern Thailand.
In addition to moments like these, the people I met along the way remain the highlight of my travels. Natives and travelers alike shared their views on pressing issues abroad and in their home countries. Conversations ranged from heated debate to laid-back banter. Everywhere we went we met interesting and exciting people. Listening to a kaleidoscope of different perceptions of life and the world we live in from people young and old, native and foreign, liberal and conservative, helped shape my own. I was able to take glimpses of the world through their eyes and see what was once obscured in my own vision.
Traveling isn’t without risk, but the experience is almost always worth it. So find a way to escape your comfortable surroundings and discover what’s out there. Let the world awaken your senses to appreciate the subtleties that too often go unnoticed. Be bold and enjoy the adventure of the journey. Find that which has always eluded you. Istanbul, Kashmir, Hanoi, and Morocco are only hours away. Dare to lift up your anchors and follow your dreams. Remember that small doors often open up into large rooms. Nothing in life is certain and opportunities can vanish as quickly as they arise. Will you let your chance pass you by? It’s your world. Explore it, live it, and find yourself.
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