Tag Archives: adventure

A Hostel Environment

Hostel 2I spent the night in a hostel in Lone Pine, California, last Thursday. Lone Pine sits on the eastern edge of the Sierra Nevadas and is interesting in its own right, but let’s focus on the first thought: I spent the night in a hostel.

It was my first. I texted my youngest daughter/world traveler in advance for any advice for an old man, and she replied, “Don’t be one of those weird old men who just stays in the hostel all day.” Quality feedback. So I chose to be one of those weird old men who does not stay in the hostel all day. She asked why I was staying in a hostel, and I answered truthfully: Because I am cheap. It is surprising that this personal trait had not led to previous visits. That could be because I am also an introvert, and the prospect of zero privacy may have overcome my cheapskatedness prior to last Thursday.

Well, I arrived at 7pm and was assigned to Bed #4; thankfully, a bottom bunk in the small room outfitted for ten occupants. There were several men there when I arrived, engaged in a natural hiking/climbing conversation given the mountain location of this particular hostel. I, the Introvert, used our one bathroom and then immediately left for dinner.

When I returned a couple hours later, it was a different story: still several men, but zero conversation. I dropped my backpack, laid down, and got my bearings. Six of my new roomies were around—one tall, Danish-looking young man out on the balcony, and five others in their respective beds with the lights on either reading, snoozing, or on cell phones. Two were older than me (although I’m not sure if either spent the day hanging around the hostel!). The room stank, which is unsurprising when several men, most of whom had spent the day backpacking, take off their boots. There was a mini-fridge and a microwave and a television—none of which were in use. The two older men soon fell fast asleep. One immediately started snoring. Great. Otherwise, there was a lot of awkward silence.

There was one very brief conversation that included yours truly. A young man of Asian descent in Bed #1 dropped his metal water bottle with a loud clatter, and I crawled under Bed #2 to retrieve it. He said several things in a language I did not understand until he said clearly and carefully, “Thank you a lot.” Not a problem, my new friend.

Eventually Mr. Great Dane came in and turned off the lights for the seven of us, and the night that followed was eventfully uneventful. One of the older men had a coughing fit that seemed to last for an hour. There was a bit of a snore fest to which I may or may not have contributed. At one point I noticed a stealth Roomie #8 arrive for the night and when morning dawned I was surprised to notice that at some point apparently a Roomie #9 had claimed one of the two remaining top bunks. And with morning this band of hostel brothers arose one at a time and left in silence. Upon reflection I decided that maybe hostels are actually designed for introverts. I was number seven of nine to hit the road, thirty-one bucks poorer and one experience richer.

I have not formed a strong opinion on the hostel experience. My daughter/hostel fan calls it “an underdeveloped industry in the U.S.” and I suspect that is true. At least I now know what to expect. And if I learned anything, maybe it is that I am not yet too old to try something new.

Pictures. Or, How Instagram Might Unwittingly Save Our Collective Soul.

I blog, tweet, share, post, connect, friend, update, and everything else related to social media, so my occasional rant about how technology may be destroying the world comes with zero credibility.  If we’re all going down, at least I am on the train with everyone.  It is bad enough that for many of us “work” and “email” are now interchangeable concepts, but my greater concern is that “social media” and “life” might follow suit.

I immediately understood Facebook.  And LinkedIn.  And blogging (via my friend, John Dobbs).  And, with a little effort, Twitter.  But Instagram confounded me.  I found it Instaweird.  But like a sheep with a Smartphone, I signed up, and now, surprisingly, think Instagram might represent hope for the future—simply because it is all about pictures.

My interest in photography came late because, well, we were poor, and listen closely boys and girls, it used to cost actual money both to purchase film AND develop the pictures.  When digital cameras arrived on the scene, I joined the revolution.  After splurging on a clunky camera, sets of rechargeable batteries, and a bag large enough to carry small pets, I was free to take as many pictures as I wanted without the worry of paying for multiple reminders of my terrible skills.

In that glorious freedom, I started venturing to new places—just to take pictures.  There was no rule that said I couldn’t enjoy nature or a park or festival or sunrise without a camera, but there was something about capturing a place or moment in a photograph that led me out into the world on adventures that simply wouldn’t have happened otherwise.

This is why I have Instahope.

At least, given the terrible development of living our lives heads down staring at a screen, Instagram encourages us to venture into the world to see what there is to see.  Sure, after we take a picture, we stare at that silly screen to fret over filters and tags and the like, but at least we are there, occasionally looking up.  And that is something.

Exotic India

Taj Mahal.jpg

The fun folks at Merriam-Webster define exotic as “strikingly, excitingly, or mysteriously different or unusual.”  I now just picture India and call it a day.

I followed two colleagues to the other side of the world last week to cultivate relationships on behalf of the law school, and from a business perspective it was a successful trip.  From a personal perspective, I brought home extraordinary memories of…

  • Monkeys swinging over shoppers’ heads at a bazaar high in the Himalayas.
  • The snake charmer on his punji serenading us and his little, slithering friend.
  • Children playing cricket in the dirt in the searing heat.
  • Men paving a road by hand.
  • The “mad poetry” of Indian traffic (as my friend Jeff calls it), where cars, buses, scooters, bicycles, pedestrians, cows, dogs, auto rickshaws, motorcycles, and tractors dance to a symphony of horns.
  • The morning sun peeking through the haze on the road to Agra.
  • The stunning majesty of the Taj Mahal.
  • Being one of only two people not wearing a turban in a large business meeting.
  • The powerful aroma and flavors of rich Indian cuisine.
  • Camels on the roadside.
  • The unlimited potential of a scooter, from the wedging of toddlers between adults to beautiful women in colorful saris precariously riding sidesaddle to hauling more people and goods than a typical pickup truck.
  • Cows everywhere—and the jarring appearance of a McDonald’s.
  • A military man carrying a rifle grabbing breakfast in a convenience store.
  • Conspicuously arriving at a skills center in full business suit and the stares from the long line of poor people awaiting an exam that could change their lives.
  • The noble India Gate.
  • Going behind the gates of the President’s House and seeing the formal guard dressed in bright red uniform with a feathered hat standing at attention.
  • The magical city of Shimla at night.
  • Colors.  All of them.  Bright and vibrant blues, greens, yellows, reds, oranges, purples…

I don’t really know what to do with all of these memories just yet.  They are almost too much to process.  Sadly, I suspect that I have already forgotten images that in any other context would be unforgettable.

What I do know is that the world is filled with exotic places.  And that they are worth checking out.

The Ride of Your Life

[Note: I have been faithful to a twice-a-week posting rhythm on this blog but am about to take a week off for a business trip—a trip that should produce enough writing inspiration for another year at least!]

I still consider it one of my better ideas.

It was our anniversary, and I am nothing if not a romantic.  My wife loves (note: loved, but still loves—the use of verb tense in this sentence is telling) roller coasters, and I didn’t mind roller coasters, at least the last time I checked, which admittedly had been several years ago, so we blocked out a full day with zero distractions and beat the early morning traffic to Six Flags Magic Mountain—the real Walley World in the original Vacation!—on an absolutely gorgeous day.  What could go wrong?

We were there early with our faces plastered against the front gates until they opened and strategically shot over to the backside of the park to conquer several big roller coasters before long lines formed.  Our plan worked to perfection.  No waiting for ride number one.  No waiting for ride number two.  I wasn’t sure anyone’s stomach should ever feel exactly like mine felt after ride number two, but there was no waiting for ride number three . . . .

After ride number three, I concluded that it was best for all park visitors that I not attempt ride number four.  My poor, poor wife.

With time, and 7-Up, and sitting V-E-R-Y still, I concluded that I might not die at that exact moment, which at the time felt like a significant victory.  Eventually, I was able to walk around the park, albeit slowly and sadly, holding my wife’s purse as she boarded several other apparently fun rides with complete strangers.  I am such a loser.

At the end of the day, I found the courage (and, literally, stomach) to join her for the Superman ride, although the irony of the name was not lost on me and made the achievement a little less satisfying.

I remember this sad story because the state of my life at present reminds me of how I felt boarding that first roller coaster, i.e., excited, with a few butterflies, but more than willing to go hurtling through the crazy twists and turns, and I confess that a part of me is nervous that it might end up like that day at Six Flags Magic Mountain.

Upon reflection, I have concluded that there is only one way to find out.  So here we go.

I still consider it one of my better ideas.