I – Who am I? For many of these experiences, I feel I am Balaga; a name I employ to inspire my audiences. But in reality with most friends and family, the dialogues we share is “I” from my seat as a human “Benji”; but as I (Benji) finished season three of Breaking Bad, I had an epiphany of unsettling convictions; I am in the wrong seat. I (Benji) am in a place where I (Balaga) cannot thrive. Balaga needs uncertainty, unknown, instability, and a centrality of our world. Here in the South Peninsula of the bay area, I only feel the strain of our Utilitarian society’s progress into the third millennium. I feel no social connection to those around me. No need to empower our next generation to look beyond the text in front of them and see the true problems. Xenophobia, systematic racism, and the inequalities of now are not concerns the students see.
I (Benji) have been at a job in education for 3 + months now, not long enough to see any changes, yet long enough to find that I am not in my element. I want to connect with others at a fundamental level of discussion, not in Algebra. It’s sad I have to have to hold this discussion in a digital space; yet it is because of these issues I do not feel I can connect with anyone outside of it. We rarely get to this level of discourse, you and I, in real life; yet this is the space we will in the coming centuries and millennia beyond; the only space we may have.
So with this space, I say, let’s evolve and move past material needs; daily comforts, and reach for a higher ideal; to live our lives for a higher power that drives us closer to a Utopia, not closer to an equilibrium that maintains our static constance of hate and animosity. For I (Benji) cannot bear this static suicide anymore. If I so allow, it will take the live of others around me as well; in the darkness that consumes me, so it will you too. Then our equilibrium will begin to shift toward Dystopia.
I say we strive toward Utopia and bring our greatest love we have to the table. Dive deep down beneath our primal desires and reach a level of global responsibility (universal responsibility in Buddhism) .
I hope to regain a sense of identity in employing Balaga to move us towards a discussion of Humanism; yet with a firm belief that we are present with an eternal energy that cannot be seen with the largest particle accelerators in the world. I and I are not that different from each other; yet I (benji) am not perfect. I am a struggling body who cannot push humanity on my own; yet I Balaga can move above utilitarian methods and devise more true solutions that well up from the deepest and highest springs of our being.
…I’ve spoken of the shining city all my political life, but I don’t know if I ever quite communicated what I saw when I said it. But in my mind it was a tall proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, wind-swept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace, a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity, and if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here. – Ronald Reagan
Edinburgh, a true city upon a hill, is the grandest of them all. Sitting in Elephant House, the cafe Harry Potter was birthed at, I can see where J.K. Rowling’s powerful imagination for Hogwarts came from. Imagine a medieval walled city, grander and more beautiful than any Calcata, Rome, or Boston. It is the quintessential City upon a Hill in many of the ways Reagan described 26 years ago; affording visitors a beacon of hope with international festivals that draw citizens from around the world, and an art, culture, and people that are as open and harmonious as you will find anywhere.
Castle Rock – A geological masterpiece
Edinburgh evokes a sense of history and power to those below with the shining Edinburgh Castle. Sitting atop the highest rock in the city it is and has been the watchtower of Edinburgh and Scotland for generations. Castle Rock, the piece of rock that the Castle stands on, is the remains of an ancient volcanic pipe that erupted 350 million years ago and cooled as a vertical plug (McAdam, 16).
As a lover of science and culture, I find it interesting to see how the movement of time and space transformed this beautiful rock into one of the most natural and effective city centers of the world for centuries. God’s creations extend beyond man and anything we can see with the blind eye. It has attracted settlers for centuries, with the first settlements being recorded around the 2nd century AD. Today, it holds a population of about 600,000 people within the city limits of Edinburgh, but that population doubles to over one million during the month of August. Why the jump in population?
Edinburgh, an international beacon of the arts
The Edinburgh International Festival in August is an annual invitation only arts festival that grew out of the ashes of World War II. In the words of its founder Rudolf Bing, the festival’s aims were “to provide a platform for the flowering of the human spirit and enrich the cultural life of Scotland, Britain and Europe in the wake of the Second World War” (Wikipedia) The Edinburgh International Fringe Festival blossomed out of the same spirit, as Fringe artists, those who would all be accepted, descended upon Edinburgh to share their talents in alongside their globally recognized counterparts. The main difference was that the Fringe artists would perform in smaller venues like bars, restaurants, and busk along the Royal Mile.
I first heard about the Edinburgh Fringe from my friend Tupahn. Tupahn is a world-renowned busker I met in Boston at Christopher Columbus Square in 2012, and again here in 2015. A busker is a person who entertains in a public place for donations. As I detailed in my first post in July, he invited me to join him on his tour of Europe, where he would be attending the Edinburgh Fringe for the second time. A Fringe festival is defined as ‘an unofficial, often unconventional, arts festival that is associated with another, larger festival’ (Collins). While this seemingly belittles fringe festivals, the Edinburgh Fringe festival is actually the largest arts festival in the world with the 2014 event spanning 25 days and featuring over 3,193 shows from 51 countries in 299 venues (EdFringe.com). How does a city like Edinburgh, with a poor metro system, even begin to accommodate that large of an influx of visitors? A very accommodating culture is how.
Few cities in the world will bring you the natural joy from simply wandering the it’s busy center. Edinburgh’s busy city center brings together an attractive magnet of world class dining, sights, and architectural beauty in perfect form. Edinburgh draws people from all over the world for the festival, but also draws them to live in this beautiful city year round. Here’s how I saw Edinburgh on just my second day there:
Edinburgh, I’m in love [Inspired by The Cure]
You’re medieval charm has me,
the way you turn with grace and evince history with your space.
It’s easy to find beauty here, looking out this window I find we’re in another sphere.
One with elegance and delight, you bring a smile to my face, one unlike in any other place.
Edinburgh I’m in love.
Your accent heeds to be heard, no way to describe you in one word.
You’ve got me in your arms,
let us embrace as you look at me with unyielding charms.
I can’t stop looking at you,
admiring your cobblestone feet and basking in conversation in your cafes, that’s where I hope we’ll meet.
Edinburgh I’m in love.
At night your allure grows more,
attracting onlookers with glowing lights and this inviting Italian Bistro’s open door.
That’s where I met you last night,
shining like the Sun in this candlelit place,
you bring sunshine to those in your grace.
I want to ask you out,
but fear you are too preoccupied.
Catering to others with love and joy,
won’t you share a little with this young boy?
La Locanda – The World at Edinburgh’s doorstep
One of the best experiences in Edinburgh’s charm was tasting it’s multicultural cuisine and harmonious spaces in a beautiful Italian restaurant pictured above (partially blocked by the truck). Tupahn and I were walking along a beautiful curved streeted looking for a restaurant when we stumbled into this candlelit Italian Bistro. It was a small, intimate restaurant where you shared close quarters with neighbors and dined in heaven. The staff were impeccable as they treated us with dignity and openness. While I could sense our waiter, Michealé, was part Italian, the whole staff shared some Italian heritage. It brought the sensations of being in Italy to it’s core; people, food, vino, and long discussions with your neighbors. Rebecca, a beautiful server with a Scottish accent, was my personal favorite, as she was the woman I spoke of in Edinburgh, I’m in love. They all shared a common enthusiasm and grace in how they served their tables.
This type of service was a shining example of the peaceful embodiment of Edinburgh’s locals and internationals in harmony. I met several other internationals, that were transplants from their countries elsewhere that found new homes in this quaint city. Even the police officers around Edinburgh were the kindest we had ever met. If Tupahn and Ken were ever performing in an area that they shouldn’t have been, the officers asked them to move, but in the kindest possible way. Back in Boston, Tupahn would be afraid to be approached by the Park rangers, in fear that he would get booted from his traditional spot, or face criminal offenses. To have such a space of freedom and openness allows artists and guests to be completely absorbed in Edinburgh’s culture and in sharing their artistic creation. Those who wish to enjoy Edinburgh’s geological wonders, art festivals, and spectacular charm should only need the heart and love to explore it. Travel can be as simple as that sometimes. I believe and hope that all citizens should have the natural right to travel to any country they wish to travel to. However, whether each country’s doors are open is up to each country. Edinburgh’s are as open as their hearts are to outsiders, allowing each person to find peace and happiness in exploring and expressing themselves and the world around them. That’s a real city upon a hill.
If, then we would indeed restore mankind by truly Indian, botanic, magnetic, or natural means, let us first be as simple and well as Nature ourselves, dispel the clouds which hang over our own brows, and take up a little life into our pores. Walden, Henry David Thoreau
Imagine coastal granite being eroded by the same glacier water that shaped it thousands of years before. That water, still cold from the Labrador current off the coast of Maine, still slowly erodes small millimeters of granite away into the sea. I see a group of young rock climbers scale these flat edifices with grace and peace. About 15 minutes prior, the smaller child was discussing his ADD and seemed unable to keep his yapper closed. However, they are quiet now, as their focus has shifted from themselves to the piece of granite they claw at for dear life [click on the photos for full size]. Shifting back, moving away from the granite known as Otter Cliffs, I see they are only a microcosm of the beautiful neighboring piles of granite of Mount Desert Island.
Acadia National Park, based mainly on Mount Desert Island, was the first National Park East of the Mississippi. The peninsula is composed of granite mountains, luscious green forests, and open blue sea that protrudes into the Gulf of Maine. I came to Acadia for probably the same reasons that those rock climbing kids were sent by their parents, to engage with nature and be active. As I read about Acadia during my time in NYC and Boston, I knew I wanted to feel the resonance of the beckoning activities that called my name. I find this to be my natural anxiety therapy and allows me to concentrate on all the wonderful things outside of my Self. As I mentioned in my last post, having the space and clarity to listen to my heart and feel the resonance of nature’s power was very important. Heeding the words of Thoreau, I was eager to let life into my pores and absorb energy from this wonderous land.
Hiking Dørr Mountain
I experienced the resonance I sought during my first morning when I scaled Dorr Mountain. As I ascended the mountain, the second tallest in Acadia, I bumped into strangers as we exchanged open smiles and refreshing “Hellos”. It is humbling to meet people that are so keenly aware of other beings and nature’s presence. In our society, it is so easy to get lost in the urban jungle. Just a week before I was in bustling New York City where I bumped shoulders with hundreds of businessmen and women, and locked eyes with only a few all day, but that is life in the city. When hiking anywhere you start making connections with various folks along the unbeaten path; since you rarely see others and are sharing the same path, you connect in the joy of nature in front of you. Connecting in this joy is special when you have others to enjoy it with. You may find yourself alone on a trail, but you are never alone. Life unfolds in front of you as long as you have an open heart. When you are constantly locked in routine or are surrounded by people in it, you rarely get a chance for spontaneous interaction, something I yearn for.
Spontaneous interactions – NYC to Maine
Balaga is made for spontaneous interaction. As our world gets more connected than ever, it’s more important to remain connected with other humans, especially in fast moving 21st century.
An example comes from my time spent in New York City for the Fourth of July weekend. During my stay, I told my friend Vasti I wanted to find this breakfast cart (food truck) operated by an old chap named Harry. Harry and I have never met, but I had found him through this random comic guy named Nick Gallo on a social media app called Vine. With the app, Nick makes six second videos on an account named HarrysBreakfastSpecial where he usually asks Harry for a Bacon, Egg, and Cheese, and Harry replies, “Okay!”
I knew the chances were slim to meet him (especially since I didn’t talk to or ask Nick), but it didn’t keep me from keeping my ears and eyes open for this cheerful old man selling breakfast sandwiches. Then on my second morning in NYC, I found myself scrambling down 50th avenue looking for a decent breakfast joint. I remember sitting down next to the sidewalk to let the hasty businessmen and women past me. I sat down, pulled out my iPhone and started googling breakfast cafes in the area. Then out of nowhere, I hear a voice much like that of Harry’s. I look up and see this old man serving up breakfast sandwiches to the busy 6th Ave clientele. I couldn’t believe what was in front of my eyes! It was as if God had said, “Put down your phone and seek what’s right in front of you.” It was Harry!!! I could not believe out of all the food trucks in New York, I had actually discovered his cart out of the blue. Things like this are too special to enjoy alone, so after I ordered my coffee and bacon, egg, and cheese, I told him I knew Nick.
“Oh, hey you know Nick? How’s he liking California?” Harry replied.
“Um, good I think. ” I told him, since I had never even met Nick.
We continued our conversation, as he explained how he had gotten to meet Nick, and that he hadn’t spoken to him in some time after Nick moved to California. Before I left, I knew I would have a to take a Vine of Harry in memory of Nick bringing our energies together (see the link below).
While it may be a small interaction to some, it proved a point of the powerful resonance that brings people together. He asked me to let Nick know he misses him, and that he would call him soon. It brightened my day to meet Harry and connect the dots. It brightened my day to connect with strangers hiking up Dørr Mountain in Maine. These interactions happen everyday to people everywhere. I believe the energy comes from a greater sphere, and not from us.
But in the end, I believe we provide a baseline of energy to allow a higher power to bring us together. As we face our daily routines, allow opportunity for spontaneous interaction. Whether that be with a beautiful piece of water in your city, with an old man you see playing chess in the park everyday, or with a beautiful flower you encounter on a bike ride. Sometimes you need to know people, but most of the time you just have to open your heart and listen to the beauty of crushing waves or the circus of 6th Ave New York City.
Sunrise at Cadillac Mountain
The day after visiting Otter Cliffs and Dørr Mountain, I met up with my cousin Andrea in Bar Harbor. We had just seen eachother in Destin, FL for our family reunion, and she was was on a road trip with friends through New England, so I took this as another good omen. We shared some delicious Lobster rolls and soaked up the evening breeze at waterfront restaurant. We planned our meetup at Cadillac Mountain for sunrise the next day. Atop Cadillac Mountain, Acadia’s tallest point, you can view the sunrise for miles as it is one of the first places to watch it in the U.S.
I woke up at 4:00 A.M. to reach and meet my cousin and her friends at the summit by 4:30. As we waited for the sun to rise, we looked out on the easterly view below. As you look out, you see much of the same view that Native Americans likely saw before European conquest. Several small islands populate the sea, lighthouses protrude from it, buoys sway and ring from the swells of the sea. The peaceful breeze blows down the mountain into the green and blue below.
For the next two days, I explored Acadia’s incredible sights with my cousin and my camera. What was one of my favorite experiences in Acadia? Swimming at Sand Beach. Sand Beach was a great spot to sunbathe and watch the tide go in and out throughout the day. It was uncomfortable at first since the water was 55°F! But as the day heated up, I just dove right in!
Rock Climbing in Acadia
On one of my final days in Acadia, I had the pleasant opportunity to scale it’s beautiful pink granite with a guide from Atlantic Rock Climbing Co. While the lesson was thorough, the time seemed to be nonexistent as Christian, my guide, detailed the climbing process. He reviewed the knots, cams, and those responsible for creating the quality equipment I would use to make small ascents of slabs of granite along the Precipice trail. It was refreshing being outdoors for my first true rock climbing lesson rather than being in an indoor gym. The fog surprised us as it came in and afforded us a cooler session to climb. Having an opportunity to interact with someone brought up with such an appreciation of the outdoors and climbing despite growing up in New Jersey was humbling.
Christian’s passion for climbing, teaching, and craft inspired me deeply. But more than that was the uncanny connection and interests we shared despite our different upbringings. After listening to Radiohead (a mutual music interest) on the way back to Bar Harbor, he told me about his upcoming trip to Yosemite this fall. I suggested we exchange info and keep in contact in case he would need accommodation during his time in California. It is these connections that I continually embrace as we travel through foreign terrain.
I leave for Europe in two weeks exactly, and will be posting about my plans there within the next week.
It’s the possibility of having a dream come true that make life interesting, Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist
Life is dull when you are unable to dream. I’m not talking about the life when you’re living your dream, doing, doing, doing (and still able to dream bigger). I’m talking about when your brain and mind are unable to even process the images our brain processes when we are REM sleep (rapid eye movement; the time when our brain dreams). For the last twelve plus months, my river of dreams ran stagnant as I smoked marijuana on an almost daily basis to quell my depression. Although I won’t dive into my personal problems, I suffered depressed states over and over again, not much different from other young Americans, and mostly out of fear. But literally, I couldn’t dream until there was a piece of time when I ceased smoking, and was able to dream again.
The dream was beautiful in all the ways our dreams can be. I had been in a picturesque Italian Piazza, a medieval plaza where Italians and other citizens congregate and socialize. The piazza was beautiful, with a medieval clock tower in the center, and other 250+ year old buildings surrounding it. With cobblestone walkways and an Italian Duomo (Church) looking over the Piazza, it was the epitome of a European style town/city. I’m sure if there was music like dreams from Inception, Andrea Bochelli’s Con te Partiro would be playing loudly into this dream of mine. The climax of my dream occurred was when I embraced a beautiful white woman I was with. It was such a rush of energy, love, and passion that caught the woman off surprise. We kissed, became one, and shared the moment of ecstasy right in the middle of the piazza for several seconds. I woke up just moments after this climactic surge of energy from this enigmatic dream.
I woke up wondering who was this beautiful woman? Where was I in the world? Italy? Paris? But I knew it was all but a dream, something you can never rationalize, but just open your own interpretation of it. In my eyes, I saw it as a sign. I knew that if I would ever continue to dream again, I would have to eliminate those detrimental habits of mine. But for months after, the river of dreams still remained stagnant, after I continued my habits to deal with a debilitating attacks of anxiety and depression.
Only now, have I started to dream again. The dream I had months before has now been brought back to my attention. What does it mean? I believe in the dream, the woman is Love, put simply. I believe I will have to play a part in embracing Love like I did in my dream, if I desire that amount of ecstasy. That Love could be music, writing, traveling, or something else. But the dream is a moment of seizing, embracing, and fully committing to a Love so deep, I wouldn’t mind doing so in front of other bystanders in a large piazza.
Recently, I started to read The Alchemist, a novel written by Paulo Coelho. I was recommended the book from my cousin Chris while I was at my family reunion earlier this month. The novel exemplifies the reading into a recurring dream of a young Andalucía boy in search of his ‘treasure’ in Egypt. The book dives deeply into understanding omens, the Language of God, something I experienced along the Journey back in 2013. During my time in Florida, I had time to reconnect with family and had plenty of time to get away from my stagnant habits I formed in Tracy, so it was a great natural time of relaxation. This is when I began to slowly dream again, and I knew I wanted to continue this seemly psychedelic trip I was on, so I booked a plane ticket to visit my close friend in New York.
The first omen I had, was while I was taking an impromptu trip to Boston to see a street performer play. I had been visiting my great friend Vasti in NYC for the 4th of July when I discovered that the musician was performing in Boston the following week. I didn’t have any plans on going to Boston, but I knew this was a sign to continue my journey forward, not knowing when/if I would eventually return to California. I had met the street musician, named Tupahn, when I walked into one of his performances in Christopher Columbus square in Boston Harbor in August 2012. His performance had made me emotional just listening to his smooth, passionate fingerpicking as he played classics like ‘Hey Jude’ and ‘Dust in the Wind’. He was engaging, passionate, and so in his element that I couldn’t take my eyes away for the two hours I spent waiting for our ferry. I booked my MegaBus from NYC to Boston, hoping to hear his soothing melodies one more time.
I enjoyed Tupahn’s performance in a uninterested crowd in Downtown Boston that week. After his two hour set, I took the opportunity to ask him to lunch to chat. It took him a little refreshing to remember me, but when he did, he actually remembered my name!
We shared lunch and discussed what had brought us together in 2012, and what paths we had taken since then. His was a story of death and fear. He had almost died twice, due to heart complications and surgeries. In one near death experience, he remembered seeing a blinding white light and a door in the distance. It was strange to hear these stories, considering how much vitality he carried on stage. He seemed to be more fragile than when I had first met him in 2012. I assumed it results from being in such traumatic experiences; to be so close to death two times, I know anyone would fear the third and possibly final time when their days are finally over as a physical being in this world. I could sense the fear in him as he discussed taking the next few weeks to see if he’d have the means to travel to Europe where he would perform. I knew he had talent, passion, and the skill to play, as I had seen he did before, but often our condition, strength, and state of mind show how much we can connect as an artist. I detailed my own struggle to create and commit because of the resistance and fear I experienced, but kept my tone positive as I mentioned how I embraced the uncertainty, visiting Boston just to see his performance. He smiled and appreciated the sentiment. I shared my intentions and lack of plan going forward with him, but I sensed his fear elevate when he mentioned he might not even make the trip to Europe because his drummer would not be traveling with him.
“Have you ever been to Edinburgh” Tupahn asked.
“No, I actually haven’t! It’s on my list of cities to visit, but haven’t spent much time in the U.K. to make it up there.” I replied.
“Well, I will need help if I plan to travel and perform in Edinburgh and other cities in Europe this summer. Without my drummer, I’ll have to burden a larger load with my equipment. I could pay you a portion of the tips I make.”
He continued on, detailing his experience in Edinburgh. “Edinburgh is such a beautiful city too. So much energy there, and there will be an international arts festival going on in August, but I will be performing at the Fringe festival there. It has so many medieval buildings that really bring you a sense of it’s history. It’s population literally doubles during August!”
I knew in my head, this is the Language of God. It is a binding energy of people from very different parts of the world coming together out of the attractive forces beyond any of our control. It is an energy we only receive when we challenge ourselves to step out of our comfort of our home, and embrace the unknown. Trusting in fate, I told him that I was interested in joining him across Europe, and that I could even use my photo/video skills to help him produce a long awaited music video. I made no commitment, since I really had just met him, but I could sense this was an omen, one calling my spirit to join him in bringing our emotional love of music to the world. We exchanged contact info, as I was heading out to Maine for the next several days. I knew we would meet again, despite the uncertainty if he would even be going to Europe. But I understood that I would have to commit to the opportunity fully for him to be able to travel.
While I was in Acadia National Park I was able to gain some much needed time in nature to listen to my heart (which I’ll detail in my next post). By the end of my time there, I could feel my heart beckoning me to act. I sent this message to Tupahn in the morning this past Tuesday:
Good Morning Tupahn! It’s Benji, from last week in Boston. How are you? Hope Boston is treating you well. So after our conversation last week about Edinburgh, I have been inspired by the chain of events and am committed to helping you in any way possible in Scotland and beyond. Your music brings me joy and I believe everything happens for a reason, so I started looking up one way flights. What are the dates are you planning on traveling? Let’s connect when I come back to Boston 😀
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.
[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.
[UPDATE MAY 2014]
Here is the final version of The Journey, available for iBooks! Enjoy!