Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The End of the Beginning

I've been finding it difficult to write a concluding post to our trip around the world. Conclusions are tricky. Though I felt that "Poor Career Moves" was a solid entry, I still need a true ending. Which brings me back to here.

Erik and I returned from England the first week of November. Staying in Leeds with our friend Tara was a good change of pace...and easier on our already barren wallets (actually, my wallet was lost in a river in Laos, so lets just say barren debit card).
We flew from London to Newark, NJ (aka Americas punch-line) and stayed a few days with our friends Nick and Sarah in Brooklyn. Hopefully, my near future will find me living in Brooklyn, so this stop was a good provocation to find a job.

After 14 weeks of traveling we caught our last flight from La Guardia to Charlotte. We made it home. We successfully adventured around the globe (distant cheers across the stadium).


Throughout our trip Erik and I often talked about what we missed most back home.
As with many items, I kept a running list of "Things America Does Best." These are the things that either can only be found in (North) America, or that America has just figured out the best way to do....most of these are food free drink refills. Now I don't have the time to write about every thing I came up with (nor do you have the time to read such a post) but continually, one name kept popping up on the list so I feel an obligation to mention it:

Taco Bell.

If fast food was a religion, Mecca would be a Taco Bell. Between the baja chalupa combo, the grilled stuffed burrito, and the colossal grande meal (with 10 tacos), Taco Bell is in a league of its own.
As many of you know, or maybe don't know, Mexican food is rare outside of the Americas (North and South). Europeans eat Chinese and Indian food like we eat Mexican food, which is to say, a lot. In Asia English food is their Mexican food...which also is why no one eats anything other than Asian food in Asia. In India, well, they generally just stick to Indian food as well.
The point I'm trying to make is Erik and I went without a single taco for 14 weeks...and from the standpoint that we probably ate Mexican food on average 3 nights a week prior to our trip, thats a long time to go without anything containing salsa.

Now you may be wondering, "I get the mexican food thing, but why Taco Bell?" And my answer is two-fold:
A.) Because I like how it tastes.
B.) Confidence. Taco Bell is not trying to be real Mexican food. They're not dressing up their tacos to be passed off as authentic, there's no Dijorno's syndrome. No, they are confident to be cheap and simple. If I want pico de gallo stuffed tamales covered in rice I'll go elsewhere. However, when I need sixteen poorly wrapped soft taco supremes (which really just means 'with tomatoes') and a packet of sauce so honestly hot it can only be labeled 'hot,' I know what bell to ring.

As expected, within the first 48 hours of being home I made a (3) trek(s) to the local Taco Bell...and it was everything I hoped it could be.

Creating a concluding statement on our trip has proved tough. Many people ask questions like, "what was your favorite place you visited?" or "how was the trip?" And I never know how to respond. The trip was unforgettable. I loved something about every place we visited. But within the 14 weeks I have already forgotten things that happened, and in every place we visited there were certain moments that were far from enjoyable.
But I think that's what made this such an interesting experience for me. I let myself go. This trip was an adventure, so I experienced the bad as well as the good. I never expected anything to change me and I think by not expecting and just allowing things to happen, I was ultimately changed. But now I'm focusing on the future. It's time to start the next journey and see where it takes me.
So in conclusion I'm hoping that this won't be my story of a lifetime, just one chapter.

Thanks so much to everyone who followed us through our journaling.
The comments were fun to hear and exciting to know people were reading.
Take care.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Poor Career Moves

I’ve noticed a trend in the last 97 days. People are naturally weird. I would like to think that we each have a peculiar uniqueness, a fingerprint characteristic if you will. However, I’ve realized that there are the chosen few who truly try to bend the boundaries of social normality. The Jackson Pollock’s to our Thomas Kinkaid’s. I would like to dedicate this following list to my top three personal favorites we’ve encountered on this trip.

1. Bush Man: San Francisco-
Here’s a guy who spends his afternoons hiding in front of a trash bin holding two branches of foliage over his face…imitating a bush. Then, as an unsuspecting pedestrian crosses the sidewalk, bush man jumps up with the fury of Mother Nature scaring the poor little nine year old girl on her way to see the sea lions at Fisherman’s Warf.

2. Elephant Man: Bangkok-
On our first night in Thailand, Erik and I took a walk through the streets of Bangkok. Two blocks past our hostel we noticed something in the corner of our eye. A real elephant…standing in the alley. This was the first elephant we encountered on our trip; needless to say we were awestruck.

Now you may say, “but Nick, you’re in Thailand, what did you expect…polar bears?” And my response is, “Relax, I’m getting to my point.”
Bangkok is the Manhattan of South East Asia, the central hub. Now imagine seeing an elephant rolling down Wall Street. Pretty strange (although, unlike NY, the elephant wasn’t followed by a PETA protest).

Now, this elephant wasn’t alone. He was accompanied by his banana sandwich toting friend…let’s call him Steve. Steve’s pastime is walking his pet elephant through Bangkok convincing people how much fun it would be to buy his banana sandwiches and feed it to his elephant. I mean who can say no to an elephant? Genius.

3. The 40 Year Old Subway Rapper: Paris-
After spending the first hours of the morning (the ones usually reserved for deep sleeping) snaking through the endless labyrinth that is the Paris Metro system, I finally arrived on the last train home. As soon as I leaned back against my sterile, pleather seat, I noticed an older gentleman wheeling a speaker through the door in front of me. Before I realized what was happening the doors shut. I was too late.

Old Man: “LE LE LE LE LE (crazy French yelling)”
Suddenly, the speakers lit up. Our car was bumping whether we liked it or not. This man, who looked like a guy that sold insurance and drove a Prius, was now introducing me to the new wave of French Hip-Hop, subway style.

(Un)Fortunately, my metro stop was far enough to experience the ill styles of ‘Le Petite Technique’ through the entirety of two original songs (actually, I’m pretty sure his second tune was just him rapping over an old Gloria Estefan song). Thank you Paris Metro.