Canal living

What I’ve been up to.

It all started out of curiosity. “What’s really out there?” Last summer I made a trip through Eurasia out of my savings account and a goal to explore Japan, Amsterdam, and Copenhagen, three places I wanted to visit. I added a few destinations in-between, but the foundation was simple, to make a Eurasian journey overland. As I write this now, I’m finishing the last entries of those travels in the Journey - a travelogue of interactions across Eurasia. 

So, how did it turn out?

I had some of the most intense encounters during these months. I ended up as far as Beijing, but also added many places in-between that were unplanned and spontaneous. With these spontaneous interactions, I began to realize the Journey was becoming bigger than just me. There was an ethereal feeling and I felt as if a Muse was guiding me along my winding path. I started weaving my own thoughts into  stories, instilling my own message of positivity that I gained from my spiritual connection with those I met. However, with each unexpected visit, I would be taking away from reaching my ultimate destination, Japan. When I failed to reach Japan, did that hinder my feeling of enjoyment with the Journey?

Of course not.

The goal of reaching Japan was great, but then again, it was just a goal. As was the ambition to do the whole journey overland. But what it did do was give me something to reach for while still enjoying the journey. It kept me asking myself what the best course of action was to be most present with the people and world around me. Living in the now, being present with the encounters with the many souls I met, that was the true goal. To capture these encounters and share them with you was my hope.

That’s where it left me until about 1 month ago when I decided I would come back to Europe to finish what I started. I’m back in Amsterdam living a very different life than that of the one I did before. I wrote the beginnings of the Journey while I traveled, so they are deeply personal and confronting, since I was confronting much of my own life at the time. But now, I am finally sitting down and putting the untold encounters and the unseen images into a readable travelogue that echos those experiences. My hope is to help others realize that they too can confront their fears, loves, or at least go out and explore them! For if we stay in one place too long, we will never know what is truly out there. I hope I can give my reader the ability to see into my encounters and maybe take something from them they can use in their life. Maybe that’s inspiration to travel abroad, or maybe it’s simply to confront their own hopes and desires.

As I finish this idea of writing a travelogue, I can see other ideas popping into my head about what’s next. But to be honest, I know they are just resistance tempting me to lose sight of the goal. I often get a flurry of ideas when I travel. But as I travel now, these places serve as reminders of the Journey. They bring me back to a journey that has inspired me to continue practicing compassion and has pushed me to find creative ways to positively interact with the world more often.

The process of writing this has been a journey itself. From feelings of doubt, despair, to a generous optimism, it’s important to know a journey is actually very simple; you just need to be present everyday and it will all fall into place.

Canal living

[This is current place I've been staying at in Amsterdam. It is right along the Keizersgracht canal and is pretty much amazing. I found it through Airbnb, an international accommodation website that links travelers and guests to local apartments, houses, or rooms to rent for a few nights.]

Resistance and the War of Art

I write this post because I am facing heavy Resistance.

Resistance is the reason I put off writing my book. It’s the reason I haven’t designed my new blog yet, or given another guest lecture about the Journey.

It’s not because I don’t want to do these activities, but because there is a force, Resistance, in our world that aims to prevent artists, activists, and other change seekers from propelling themselves and their endeavor to a higher level. Resistance is worse than writer’s block, because it doesn’t even let us reach for the pen and paper. Resistance will often tell us to go through the beaten path, to follow where others have already gone. The harder the path and greater the level of change, the more Resistance we will face. Resistance is the enemy that keeps us from truly reaching our Self.

War of Art – Steven Pressfield

Resistance is a term author Steven Pressfield termed in his punch you in the face book The War of Art. I first read the book as I traveled through Iceland. It moved my consciousness more than any piece of art has ever done before. This book slapped me in the face and pushed me to face Resistance in every form that it comes in.

The Bible for today's creatives
The Bible for today’s creatives

The book is split up into three sections, the first dealing with Resistance, the second dealing with how to overcome it, and the third addressing forces outside of us. The most profound reading for me came in the final section dealing with the forces beyond our bodies. Here is a quote that speaks volumes:

“Are you a born writer? Were you put on earth to be a painter, a scientist, an apostle of peace? In the end the question can only be answered by action.

Do it or don’t do it.

It may help to think of it this way. If you were meant to cure cancer or write a symphony or crack cold fusion and you don’t do it, you not only hurt yourself, even destroy yourself,. You hurt your children. You hurt me. You hurt the planet.

You shame the angels who watch over you and you spite the Almighty, who created you and only you with your unique gifts, for the sole purpose of nudging the human race one millimeter farther along its path back to God.

Creative work is not a selfish act or a bid for attention on the part of the actor. It’s a gift to the world and every being in it. Don’t cheat us of your contribution. Give us what you’ve got.”

Continue reading

Reykjavik and meeting the Soul

One of my first interactions of the Journey was with Jona. It all started with a walkabout. What’s a walkabout? It’s me being a detective, explorer, curious kid, on the prowl, out to interact with positive energy or give it. I strolled through the lively Reykjavik evening, filled with Graffiti art at each intersection.

However, I was unprepared for what was around the corner at one spot in particular. There was an art manifested wall. Vibrant colors and a sense of acceptance could be felt through the wall. The art was not temporary. It was part of the space. The Mural reached to the sky with it’s white topped mountain. However, the scene below was truly resonating. A youth were spray painting something onto a car. I stepped towards him and complemented the work, “Awesome man.”

“Thanks.” He replied.

“What’s it for?”

“A rental car company. If you need info, ask Seiner inside.”

Interesting… people just tagging rental cars? As I continued my walkabout, I decided to head inside the one story building that I saw people heading into for materials. There was groovy music outside being played by a DJ. I felt like it was Iceland throwing a welcome party for me! But really, it was just a Friday afternoon. I was naturally excited heading into the building, unsure of what was on the otherside. I walked in to the main room to find an afro-haired white guy wearing a pink karate robe. As I looked in confusion, he smiled back.

“You must be Seiner?” I asked.

“Yes, what is your name?”

“Benji. Nice to meet you. So what do you guys do here?”

“Rent AWESOME cars!”

And so I was introduced to Kuku Campers and the future heartbeat of my Iceland road trip, Shania Twain. After a beer and a good chat, I left with a thought to possibly rent a car and drive around Iceland! I exited after a few beers with the manager, and hung out in front of the Kuku Campers, when in an instant, I am introduced to Jona.

“HELLO! Where are you from?!” She yelled.

“From the USA, I’m assuming you’re from Iceland?”

“Yes, I want you to come meet my friends!”

And so she began introducing her gorgeous friends who I seemed to meet just as quickly as I met the next. Our chance meeting was relaxed and open-hearted that made me feel incredibly warm inside. She then took me to the bar across the street and bought me white wine, her favorite drink. My first encounter with the Soul.

The Soul.

I was saved by this energy so many times. She often helped when I was feeling hopeless, or struggled to move on. She came in the form of various women throughout the Journey. These women exemplified the kind of open-heartedness that I loved. But what was out to save me wasn’t just the people around me. It was nature. The natural beauty of places and spaces seemed to whisper messages to me, inspiring me to act, inspiring me to create, and most of all, giving me the energy to give to others. The positive energy out there was there to the rescue. I call that positive energy the Soul.

Kuku Campers

Street Art
Street Art
Street Art
Street Art
Street Art +  Great Business Idea = Kuku Campers
Street Art +
Great Business Idea = Kuku Campers
Street Art
Street Art
Kuku Campers
Kuku Campers

Kuku Campers

Kuku Campers
Kuku Campers
Stopping in Ulaanbaatar

Moscow to Beijing – Decrystallization through Asia

the Boil

My final day in Moscow was a harsh lesson to swallow. It began as I met  the Boil as we bumped into each other in a shopping center near the subway station. I was eager to cross of things I needed on my list for my 6-day journey on the Trans-Siberian railway to China. After meticulously finding each item, I headed for the cashier. I knew my funds were low, but then the Boil approached me. I was unable to buy anything. The Boil was at it’s peak, and I was at my melting point. I saw my body begin to decrystallize. I felt my body falling apart, my muscles being penetrated by the Boil. I asked the cashier if she wanted me to return the product, and she shook her head and called a man over who quickly took my basket of goods. I began to melt onto the supermarket floor as I exited.

I went to the park across the street, hoping to drain my melting body in the Everywhere as if to offer my body. I was now way past my melting point but when you’re melting, it seems as if nobody ever takes notice. I took shade under a tree away from the other couples on the green grass areas. My spot was filled with more dirt than the other spots, but I could care less at the moment. I just wanted to lean on some tree, to give me some form of support. I sat.

My body became a vase on the tree and on the dirt below me. The Boil had won this battle. A man in the distance fed a group of pigeons by hand. One bird came to me, looking into my eyes as if to say “Why? Why have you taken up residence here? What has brought you to this state?”

I couldn’t answer. I didn’t want to. After about 20 minutes, I picked my melting body off the grass and headed back for the hostel.

the reanimation 

After grabbing my bags, I headed towards the station to catch the train. I stopped off at a beautiful pond. I sat and began to regenerate and recrystallize. I asked the Soul, “How can I continue on with an empty tank?”

The Soul did not respond. I continued to the station, found the right platform and started my search for an ATM. For thirty minutes I looked. Rain started to fall. A light rain, a little more than a drizzle. I smiled. I found a money changer, and thought to ask for an ATM but a man in a white suit cut in front and exchanged his bundle of Benjamin’s. I left.

I walked outside. Frustrated, the Boil was still there. But we often forget that we can change our properties and protect ourselves from the Boil, the Now, or whomever. I saw a man lying on the ground, bleeding from his head. I quickly noticed a Russian woman saying something but I asked the man, “Are you alright?”

No answer. “Hey buddy, are you alright?” His body seemed to move a tiny bit, but still no response. The Russian woman said something and pointed to him. I figured she was watching him so I smiled and left.

Never with nothing, we always have something to give. I went to the platform, smoked a cigarette, and appreciated what I do have.

At 21:15, the train slowly crept to a stop, and I joined the hordes of passengers in search of my carriage. The trains were all a beautiful green color with a yellow strip. Nothing outrageous or modern. Just simple and plain. They would be my home for the next six days. More specifically, my home was carriage 6, room 3. My purpose was to be on the Trans-Mongolian journey and to be mindful in all it’s beings.

Side Note – It’s ironic that here, in my diary is where I literally lost all concept of time. Time and space on the train were completely gone. As we transversed the vast lands of Russia and Siberia, the time stayed within Moscow time. There were days when we would seem to stay up for hours, enjoying beer late into the dark nights in desolate parts of Russia bordering Kazakhstan. But then there were some nights I had no money and I decided not to join in drinking with the others, mainly out of lack of funds. These nights, which were in the middle of the trip were some of the most isolating. I would have difficulty sleeping due to the time, early-arriving sunlight, and other battles with myself. If the poems seem too intense, it’s because this was the most intensive time of my trip. I had just about ran out of money, only having about $30 in my wallet. This battle was internal, external, and most certainly spiritual. I struggled to get sleep and my mind was in disrepair.

Night Three on the Trans-Siberian Train

No freedom.

No liberty.

But to live accordingly to life’s plan you see?

No heart.

No soul.

Let me die in this hole.

For we’ve lost living and lost all care.

How can I go on?

When I’ve given all of me?

No angels here.

Just lines to write.

Write a live away.

The end is close,

but so also a beginning.

The beginning starts where imagination runs wild.

A pen, a line, these are my styles.

To live is to live.

To live is to learn.

Will I ever learn to live?

Yes.

But how is my body to eat.

Continue reading

Berlin II – Are we hidden?

In Berlin on my second day, I strolled through the Holocaust Memorial and wondered.

I am hidden. The concrete blocks that I saw as I looked at the memorial were completely misleading. I figured they were only about 3-4 feet tall, but as I went into the memorial, I discovered that the ground went deeper, and so did I. I was suddenly down below in this subterranean jungle of 10-12 feet concrete blocks standing above me.

I am hidden.

the Invisibles

How many people are hidden everyday? Hidden from the lens of the world view. Their mind altered or forced to believe something not true and forced to take something they don’t need. I realized how this design made me feel. It was so perfectly done to allow individuals to enter in and become completely hidden from the rest of the world. However, just like the Jews in World War II, I feel that there are many who are hidden in today’s world. Even worse, today those hidden victims don’t know they’re being hidden.

Somethings I still question though. One question I do bring up is this, what are the ethics of hiding someone’s true feelings? When Pharmaceutical companies create more and more anti-depressants each year, what are the ethics behind this? If a Doctor prescribes these medications, aren’t we ignoring the problem at the center of the patient’s core? Aren’t we supposed to address the holistic patient? Address their Socio-economic situation, their relationships? Are anti-depressants the only cure in these times? Why is it that today we have so many cases of depression in the world? I would hate to see a world that lacks the whole-heartedness that it deserves. I only ask these questions because I was a patient of both depression and ADHD, and while I did thrive during that time on a person-to-person level, I still struggled with deep-seated issues. These issues were masked by this medication, and I wonder if they are really addressing the core issues of our medical world. To be continued…

Day trip to Utrecht

I left to Utrecht on the afternoon train, hoping to see Tessel and the Opland Haart crew. As I left, I remember the Soul telling me.

“The Journey is time. You’ve made it already. Persevere in your ideas, don’t let others remove them. Seek out your ideas. Sacrifice. Push through the ice, don’t suffice. Will yourself to the end.”

As I look back to my time in Utrecht, I am happy I got to see and support Tessel. That she opened her heart to me. I was alone in Amsterdam, but I was reminded that I am never alone. We always have to put ourselves out there. We cannot stop. Because our lives must continually be open to the world around us. If we close them, we close them to the world of opportunity that lies around us. We may not believe in any of the opportunities that surround us, but only when we believe will we start to get any of those opportunities!

Had I closed my heart off to making it to Utrecht to see them, I wouldn’t of had that joy of dancing all night long with old friends I had made weeks before and the new friends I’d made that night. I’m glad I’m not hidden from these joys. I’m glad I can make my random day trips to Utrecht and back. Despite delays and frustrations, I had made another successful random trip that resulted in all the feelings I yearned for.

 

On my first day in Berlin, I received this email from Antonia, a Swedish woman I met on a train to Gothenburg:

I can assure you I will watch and read more very soon, touched by videos and words and music… Eyeing through your blog I got caught by the part describing your encounters, the Smile, the Everywhere, and not the  least Now…

Watched your Mother’s Day video and cried. You do it well. It’s essential to touch peoples soul to teach, to enlighten, and most of all to ignite.

To do that you have to live, feel, and reflect, to be true to yourself. I almost wondered how you manage to digest all the impressions, as you travel through the world at high speed.

Then again, you handle solitude, make sure you get it, your amazing skill as far as writing… and there is your time for necessary reflection of your own… Preparation time for what’s next to come.

Enough for now! It was wonderful to meet you and to be inspired!

Yours,

Antonia (and of course Audrey)

I appreciated the fact that Antonia sent me this. I barely know Antonia having just met her randomly on a train, but with her email, I was deeply touched. I was deeply touched by so many people over my two months. Those people have made an everlasting impact on me. Some more than people I’ve known for most of my life here in the U.S. This goes to show the power of what can even be accomplished in little time. The Journey spanned only two months but it had more enlightening and uplifting moments than my life had prior to it.  I never know how my writings, videos, and other media affect others. I tend to write it, post it, and whatever, but I rarely hear of the impact. For me, knowing I put it out there is the main point, but I do hope that I’ve touched someone or something. My words are sharp and passionate because I feel that they must be. Our time is limited in life and I feel that I can’t spend my words frivolously. If you ever feel something, whether angered, saddened, inspired, or excited from what you hear on Rancho Balaga, please don’t hesitate to message me.

Thanks for reading!

Balaga

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