Tag Archives: america

Occupy Wall Street

Standard

I have been a horrible blogger lately.  But life has been crazy, yo.  We finally arrived back in Ohio last Sunday, after six weeks on the road.  There wasn’t really any relaxation in sight though, because we promptly took off to New Jersey on Tuesday to trade cars with my sister.  She bought mine so I wouldn’t have to worry about keeping up on payments on it while in South America.  Thus the complete cross-country drive from San Francisco to New York City was complete!  While on the East Coast we had whirlwind day of galavanting around the city (Occupy Wall St, Williamsburg, etc.) then drove to Nyack that night to see my dearest college roommate, Erica.  The boxed-wine-drinking and Big-Lebowski-watching was glorious.  On the way back to Ohio we stopped in the middle of nowhere Pennsylvania to hang out with my brother at his college for a night.  Went hiking and had a grand old time there.

I still have so much to catch up on as far as recapping our big road trip, and now we are in the throes of final South America preparation!  So this is where I throw some pictures up just to make this post seem less lame.  I’ll write more later, I promise.

For now here are some pics of Occupy Wall St.  What does everyone think of this movement???  I’m undecided about it and would love to hear your views!

Burning Man

Standard

The reason it has taken me so long to write about Burning Man is because the task seems impossible.  To get it, you honestly have to be there.  Words cannot do it justice, and neither can pictures (which is good because I barely took any).  All I can do is ineloquently try to give you a glimpse of what our first burn was like and try to show you that despite the media’s portrayal, Burning Man is more than a bunch of drugs and sex.

For those of you not in the know, Burning Man is an annual week-long arts festival that takes place in the desert of northern Nevada.  In recent years, more than 50,000 people have attended the event.  One of the core principles of Burning Man is “radical self-reliance.”  This means you must bring EVERYTHING you need to survive for one week in the Black Rock Desert.  The only service Burning Man provides is porta-potties.  We arrived with all our camping gear, baby wipes galore (our bathing method), 20 gallons of water, 4 cases of PBR, and plenty of food.  Burners call the Black Rock Desert “the playa.”  The playa is an otherworldly environment.  Nothing but flat, white, sand for miles constantly blowing dust.  The dust was the hardest thing to cope with.  We had to wear bandanas around our mouths and noses to avoid breathing it in.  We kept all of our electronics in Ziploc bags in the car.  Our tent, ourselves, and everything else was immediately coated in dust.  Sometimes it would blow so hard that you just had to stop and close your eyes until it stopped.   Sound miserable?  It was, at times.  But keeping Burning Man here prevents a lot of the people who shouldn’t come from coming.  You have to be able to deal with the conditions physically and mentally, be prepared, be radically self-reliant.  That’s part of the purpose.

Another basic tenet of Burning Man is environmental preservation.  This was a huge issue, as it should be when 50,000 people descend on a barren desert.  Yes, 50,000 people come to Burning Man, but EVERYONE follows the “pack it in, pack it out” rule.  No garbage facilities to be found.  No trash was supposed to hit the playa and it was AMAZING how well everyone did at this.  Even by the end of the week, there was hardly any M.O.O.P. (“Matter Out of Place”, as trash is referred to in Black Rock City).  I was impressed.

The absolute BEST thing about Burning Man for me was the sense of genuine community and connection that I felt.  Everyone is there to interact with and help each other.  As soon as we got there, as we were struggling to set up our shade tarp, an old guy from a couple camps down rode over on his turtle car (made from a lawn mower engine and a kids’ turtle sandbox) and loaned us some poles to use.  Our neighbors were all seasoned Burners and they all kept checking on us to make sure we were having fun.  I think the thing that really fostered community the most was the “gift economy” setup.  No one uses money at Burning Man.  The only things that are sold are ice and coffee.  Everything else you get all over the city is “gifted.”  It is hoped that everyone will bring some type of gift to share, but that’s really on the honor system.  We brought five gallons of homemade peach wine and used that s our gift.  But it was really nothing compared to what we received everywhere we went.  The best way to give you a sense of what a “typical” day at Burning Man is like is to take you through a sample day of ours, so that is below.  Also, I didn’t look at a clock the whole week (radical, right?) so that’s why there are no times written.

Morning: Wake up when it gets too hot to sleep more, try to make ourselves presentable with baby wipes and crazy clothes.  Head down the road to Java Johnny’s.  He was an older guy with an RV who made tons of coffee for everyone every morning.  He also collected mugs all year and sandblasted them with the Burning Man logo and gave them away with the coffee (“to avoid doing dishes,” he said).  His mugs became our reusable cups for everything all week.  We would sit there and talk to people and listen to Java Johnny yell ridiculous things into a megaphone periodically.  (Ex. After several military jets flew overhead, something they always do just to check out Burning Man, he yelled, “Fly over again boys!  Spend another $5 million!!!!)  People kept bringing breakfast contributions (we brought fruit), so by the end of the week you could get coffee and a full breakfast there.  It was a great way to start the day.

Mid-Morning: After Java Johnny’s we’d go wandering for awhile.  Black Rock City was HUGE and we never even saw it all.  The main attractions were theme camps–big group camps that had planned and built amazing structures, art cars, you name it.  There was a camp for everything–circus performing and lessons, hula hooping, yoga, chanting, meditation, a whole LGBT neighborhood (the “Gayborhood” lol), many bars with outlandish themes (sake bar, whiskey bar, homebrew bar, Bloody Mary bar, etc.), henna and body artists, places where you could relax in hammocks, musicians performing, massages, giant swings, towers to climb, snow cone camps, diners, and enormous nightclubs with DJS and massive sound and lighting systems.  You name it, there’s a camp for that.  Sometime before noon a camp down the road from us would give away amazing fresh-baked bread they made in an awesome portable oven, so we’d usually try to get some of that.

Noonish:  After walking awhile we’d head home to chill a bit.  Sometimes we’d make some lunch, try to nap, or read.  Two times, we set up a ghetto wine stand in front of our camp.  We made a little sign, put it on a card table, and bought ice.  We’d yell at passersby, “Homemade wine??” and many would stop, provide their own cup, try our wine, and chat for a bit.  This was our little gift and people said they really loved it.  It was definitely one of the most fun things we did because we got to talk to so may awesome people!  On other days, we’d do other things…one day our neighbors had a “Chuck ‘N’ Cheez-It” party with “two-buck Chuck” wine , Cheez-Its of all varieties, and a foot wash (Woot!).  That was really fun.

Evening/Night: That same night, another camp had a “Spaghetti Taco” dinner party that went to.  We’d usually chill ’til almost dark then head out again.  The first night we went and looked at all the art, which I can’t even begin to describe.  Find some pics online for that.  We’d hit some bars and try to hop on some art cars as they drove around the city.  We’d go to some parties and dance for awhile but we never stayed up all night like a lot of people do.  I like sleeping too much.  So we’d wander back exhausted and pass out.  On Saturday night we did stay up late watching the man burn.  It was crazy–triumphant fireworks and thumping music and neon lights.  Everyone was in a frenzy that night.  After the burn we saw a psychedelic rock band play at the big Center Camp venue in the wee hours.  They were amazing.  It was a beautiful night.

So on to the tricky part–sex and drugs.  Were there people doing lots of drugs and having weird sex there?  Obviously, yes.  Burning Man is also about freedom and open-mindedness and people really embraced that.  BUT this was not Woodstock; it was not everywhere.  The people who wanted those things found them but they were not in-your-face 24/7.  The Black Rock City census they take every year also showed that it is a minority of people at Burning Man who engage in drug use and/or sex with a new partner.  Although present, these activities were not the emphasis of the event, as the media would have you think.  You can have a perfectly amazing experience at Burning Man while staying totally sober and totally abstinent.

It takes a certain type of person to enjoy Burning Man.  You have to be energetic, adventurous, and able to rough it.  But more importantly, you have to be willing to jump into the community and give of yourself to really get the true experience.  The parties are rocking and the art is inspiring, but I believe the one-of-a-kind community spirit is the reason seasoned Burners call Black Rock City “home.”  Burning Man was like glimpsing the way the world should be.  It was the better, more child-like, more cooperative, and more generous side of humanity.  Being there gave me faith and made me question, “Why can’t the rest of the world be like this?”  That’s a question for another post, but suffice it to say that until the rest of the world gets it, I’ll keep returning to the playa.

Yosemite

Standard

A quick Yosemite recap is on Zach’s blog.  Perhaps I’ll add more later, but for now I’m relishing the clean feeling I got from my last shower until next week.  Bringing back the Africa style, yeah!  We are just chilling near Lake Tahoe and trying to sleep well tonight before heading to Burning Man tomorrow!!!!

Nevada Falls at Yosemite. I'm pretty proud of this photo!

116 and no shade!

Standard
Death Valley was a crazy place!  It took us about 2 hours to drive through it, stopping a few times to take fun pictures with my new tripod.  We didn’t hike or anything because it was literally 116 degrees!!!  We blasted the AC in the car and still sweated the whole way through.  Any time we got out of the car we could instantly feel heat radiating off of everything and the sun sucking every last drop of moisture out of our bodies.  I was chugging water the whole time and still thirsty all day.  What a crazy place!  Here are some pics:

That's Zach, way up there!

Death Valley is the 8th lowest dry land in the world. The lowest point in the valley is 282 feet below sea level.

Starting to try crazy things with the tripod and timer.

This could be an album cover pic, I think.

So long, Arizona

Standard

Do me a favor.  Start here.  Meg’s post about doing things we’re afraid of is so well written and TRUE.

There was a short but bright rainbow in the sky tonight.  A sign of good luck for the start of our journey tomorrow!  It’s been a weekend of goodbyes and wrap-ups.  Packing sucked.  As usual, I found myself with a way-too-big pile of “essential” clothes and a way-too-small suitcase.  Trying to convince myself that I don’t need these, I really don’t need these, I don’t!  Who cares about variety?  The car is packed to the gills with camping supplies, clothes, food, and camera equipment.  But I’m sure we’re still forgetting something.  The rest is in boxes in a closet here.  So of course I’ll come back, because after a year of only what I stuffed in one suitcase, I’m gonna want to see the rest of my clothes again!

It’s been a year.  A seemingly quiet one compared to last year, but I still can’t believe all that’s happened.  I’ve learned how to live with someone in a real, day-to-day, “in this for the long haul” relationship, survived our first real fights, and found myself more in love than ever.  I’ve worked two new jobs and started my own business.  I’ve learned to snowboard, tried rock climbing, hiked long distances, cliff jumped from 50 feet, and climbed my first two mountains.  I’ve been to Mexico for the first time.  Biked many miles, saved many dollars, made new friends, started to integrate into a whole other family.  Tasted western microbrews and Spanish wines.  Shared so many homemade pizzas with couchsurfers from around the world.  What a year.

The next one is going to be even better.  A circular journey that will take us through two continents and back.  The western US, Ohio again, all of South America, and back to Ohio by August 2012.  After that, who knows?  These next six weeks we’ll be living out of the car, couchsurfing, exploring new national parks, and going to Burning Man.  I do have several goals for our time on the road:

1. Study Spanish every day.

2. Hike or run every day.  Work my way up to running a 10k.

3. Dumpster dive.

4. Keep the car clean and organized.

5. Take amazing photographs.

6. Keep up this blog.

7. Eat healthy.

8. Enjoy myself!!!!!

So tomorrow we begin.  First a quick stop in Las Vegas, for Zach to sell some of the scrap copper wire he’s collected at work.  Yes, we really are that poor.  And as Zach said “What great story doesn’t start with driving to Vegas to sell something?”  Lol.  Then to Death Valley NP in California, where apparently the highs can be over 120 degrees this time of  year.  Yikes.  Now it’s time to share a bottle of wine in hopes of being able to sleep tonight.  I’ll catch up with you again from somewhere in California!

“So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservatism, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more dangerous to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.”-Christopher McCandless

Two Maps

Standard

On our walls right now are two different world maps:This one is our Couchsurfing map.  Every time we host someone, we have them put a pin in the place they consider “home.”  In the last year, we’ve hosted over 50 people from over 20 countries!  I don’t know where everyone who wants to see the Grand Canyon will stay once we’re gone!  As you can see, the majority of our surfers have been from Europe, many from North America, and some notable outliers from Australia, New Zealand, Israel, Nepal, Taiwan, and China!  Many of these pins also represent awesome new friends who we hope to see again on our travels!  We already have couches almost everywhere we’ll want to go in Europe someday!

This is our map.  The 3 different colors of pins mean something here.  Pink is for places I’ve been, brown is for places Zach’s been, and green is for places we’ve both been.  We intend to add a lot more green!  The past year has been spent building up good karma by hosting so many travelers.  One week from today we are getting in the car.  Our year of travel-as-a-lifestyle begins in California.  It’s time to work on our map, baby!!!