When I get out of the military in December of 2012 my plan is to use the GI Bill and go to school in Thailand. There are quite a few schools that accept the bill but all except one, are located in Bangkok. Bangkok is a crazy city and I think living there would be insane so i’m hoping to attend Webster University in Hua Hin. Hua Hin is a small beach city on the eastern side of Thailand. Its about 3 hours from the port that can access a couple islands as well as 3 hours by train south of Bangkok. I think it will be pretty fun to live there. I was there for 3 days during my last trip to Thailand and the town is nice and quiet and kind of off the beaten path so there wont be too much tourist action. On the weekends or when i’m not in class i plan on scoping out the island in search of a bar/hostel I can buy. That’s my plan. I want to live and work on the beach in Thailand. Ill be going to school for my bachelors degree in business as I hope to already have my associates degree by the time I am out of the military.
I’m addicted to backpacking. There are so many places that I want to go in the world and I really do not see a reason why I will not visit them. Backpacking the best way to travel in my opinion. The basis of it is to travel cheap which in turn makes your money last longer and extends your trip. Backpacking is not for everyone. It involves eating cheap (street food), sleeping cheap (hostels/guesthouses/couchsurfing), and traveling cheap (on foot instead of taxis). There are many reasons why I love to backpack and i’m going to try to narrow them down to five (in no particular order):
The feeling of being out of your element
Those of you who have been out of the country no exactly what i’m talking about. Its the scared/excited feeling when you get out of the airport and realize you’re in a different place than what you are used. The signs are in a different language, the food smells and looks different, the people drive differently and look at you differently because they know you are not from here. Some may be wondering ” why is this a good thing?” Well its really hard to explain but when you get this feeling you know that you better open up your mind get ready for an adventure you will never forget.
Time has no meaning
If I had to pick, this would most likely be my favorite thing about backpacking. There is no specific time you have to wake up and get out of bed everyday. There is no specific time you have to be here or be there. When you are backpacking you are free. Free to do what you want when you want and how you want. I like the saying ” you have no where to be and everywhere to go”. That sums it up perfectly.
Lugging around that heavy backpack
My backpack is much smaller than others but when i pack it, it gets packed full. I mean your backpack is the holder of everything you own while you are on the road so it better be able to fit it all. One of my favorite things to do is walk around with my backpack on regardless of how heavy it is. It feels good to have it on. It makes you feel like you’re part of an elite club that doesn’t have very many members.You’re part of the backpacking club. Now, every time i’m at an airport I look around for backpackers. They are easy to spot not only because they carry a giant backpack on their back but they just have a certain style about them. It’s hard to explain but they just look like a backpacker. It makes me jealous of them when I see them and i’m not with my backpack because they are about to go on an adventure of a lifetime. I just tell myself that that will be me one day very soon.
Street food is my favorite. Not only is it cheap but its authentic. Its what the locals eat. Whenever I go to another country I do my best to eat like the locals. Most of it is really good. In every country i have been to so far there has been the fast food chains that we are used to readily available for all the tourists but why would I travel thousands and thousand of miles to eat like I do at home? I do my best to limit the amount a whoppers and big macs and Subway subs I eat while on the road but I’d be lying if I said I have never eaten them. I usually visit one of these chains once every 10 days or so. There’s no doubt in my mind that if i had never left the country that I would have eaten scorpion, grasshopper, deep fried frog, whole octopus, maggots, and all the countless other great/horrible tasting things i’ve tried. But hey. at least I can say i’ve eaten those things! Can you?
Meeting great people
When you backpack its really easy to meet people. I mean, you already have one thing in common: youre both backpackers. I have met countless numbers of backpackers during my travels so far. Some were just friends while on the road and others I talk to till this day. A great place to meet people is at a hostel or bar. This is why I try to book hostels that have a bar in it. You can meet people there very easily then if you get along well enough tag along in a group to the next city then go your separate way. Once you break out of your shell of talking to people it becomes real easy. I friends all over the world that will have a place for me to sleep if i’m ever in their neck of the woods.
I have done so many crazy activities that I would not have gotten to do if I didn’t go backpacking. some of these include: scuba diving in Honduras and panama, climbing up to and being 2 feet away from flowing lava in Guatemala, white water rafting in Honduras, canyoning in Switzerland, canopy tour in Costa Rica, horse back riding in Nicaragua, elephant riding in Thailand, petting tigers in Thailand and much much more. Life is all about making memories and having stories to tell.
These are a few reasons why I love to backpack and I will always be a backpacker at heart till the day I die.
During my first backpacking trip in 2007 in Europe I decided to go to a town called Bruges. Bruges is located in the small country of Belgium. With a population of just 120,000 people I was very intrigued to check out this city. I arrived via the train from Frankfurt, Germany. It was the longest train ride of my life at that point but I didn’t mind. The views of the country side were breathtaking and I had just arrived in Europe a week earlier so I was just excited to encounter something new. When the train approached Bruges station it was a rainy and dark day. This weather definitely set the mood for this city. Bruges just gives off the feel of an old, medieval city. Its architecture is that of the Gothic style and it makes you feel like you’re actually in the medieval time period.
I had pre booked my hostel here in Bruges ( this is a must during this time of year in Europe because there are a lot of backpackers ) so after getting off the train I now had to figure out how to get to it. The streets here are small and narrow and most are cobblestone. They wind all around and most dont have street name signs ( or at least I could always find them). There are many canals running through the city as well which makes locating a specific building that much more difficult as i would find out. When i finally found my hostel I was tired, wet from rain, freezing and in need a large cold Belgium beer. Luckliy my hostel, St Christopher’s Bauhaus Hostel, provided me with the opportunity to fulfill my needs. I booked this hostel on hostelworld.com because I had just come from one of their sister hostels in London and that hostel was amazing so I was hoping that this one would be just as good. When I walked in there were not many other backpackers there and it was very quite. It was the complete opposite of the hostel in London. I paid around 27 USD for a bed in a 6 bed dorm room ( Europe is crazy expensive) but it was pretty comfy and there were only 2 other people in the room with me during my 3 night stay. The view from my room was pretty sweet. I could see throughout the city and into the country side and considering it was rainy the whole time I was there i spent a few hours a day sitting on my bed reading and sipping coffee while gazing at the amazing city through the rain and fog. An image that will forever be stuck in my mind.
Bruges offers a lot to do for such a small city. On the second day I was there the sun finally poked out through the clouds so I decided to rent a bike and just wander around. I got a recommendation from one of the dudes that was working at the hostel that there was a small quaint town about “20 kms” away that would be cool to check out and have lunch so thats where I went. The road there was long and windy and parralled a canal most of the way but I passed houses and windmills and belgium people going about their daily business. Its odd for me to think about what they must think when they see me ( and I clearly did not look Belgium with my mohawk and flip flops) mesmerizing at all the things they are accustomed to. Anyways, I finally reached the small town and it was indeed that, small. They was on main street that had a bank and bakery and little stores so I
parked my bike and walked around a bit. I had to the tourist thing and eat a Belgium waffle so I decided to get one here. It was fantastic. After about 2 hours the clouds were moving in so I jumped on my bike and made the hour trek back “home”.
In the guide book I had it mentions “things to do in Bruges” and one of them was that this church here has a relic that contains actual blood from Christ himself. Now whether or notthis is true or whether or not I believe it is to be debated but of course I had to see this. The church is called The Basilica of the Holy Blood. Its tucked away in the corner down a small street and honestly if I wasnt looking for it I would have had no idea what was stored in there. There was no entrance fee which was good ( backpackers like free stuff, remember?) but they did ask for a donation so I made a small one because I HAD to see this. There was a small line to see it but when it was finally my turn I walked up to the stage and a priest held the tubular relic in his hands lifted it up to my face. Good thing I paid attention to the people that went before me because the reason he lifts it to your face is for you to kiss it then he wipes it clean. The blood was indeed in there although it looked like red brittle paper. This was very cool
to see and im sure not many people in the world have actually seen this.
Bruges is, without a doubt, in my top 3 cities I have been to. The small medieval town just gives you a feeling like no other and its loaded with old, gothic buildings and tiny roads. Not many cars clog the street and the main mode of tranportation is a simple bike. I love Belgium. Its home to my favorite beer as well. I will return here one day hopefully stay longer than just 3 days.
This past weekend I made another trip up to El Paso, Tx to visit my brother’s family. El Paso is an 8 hour drive from where I reside in Abilene. This time I was lucky enough to get the hookup from my mom’s good friend and be seated in first class. After over sleeping and missing my first flight out of Abilene I finally made it to DFW where I had a layover. When I boarded the jet that was to take me to El Paso my seat was 5E. This was my first time ever in first class. I was extremely excited to see what this was all about but it really was nothing special. The main thing that I observed that was different than coach was the extra leg room. This was a very welcoming sight as im a pretty big dude. The flight was short and within an hour and half I was on the ground in El Paso. El Paso is a pretty big city that borders mexico. You can litterally see mexico and how poverished everything looks. Its quite an amazing sight. Its also very hot, like all of Texas.
When I got off the plane and saw my brother Mike his wife Jenny and their son Landon I was so excited and couldnt help but smile. I love them all so much. First thing we did was head back to their apartment and I got out of my uncomfortable ” first class” attire. Shorts, tank top and flip flops is what I need. Then we headed to one of my favorite fast food joints that they do not have in Abilene, Carl’s Jr. I love that place.
The main thing that intrigues me about this city is all the food places that they have. On saturday we headed to this place called Kiki’s mexican restaurant. This place was featured on the food network and I wanted to check it out and see why it was so popular. To say the least, none of us were pleased with the food. Maybe because were from the state with the best mexican food this side of the border but the food was nothing to write home about.
I love visiting my bro’s family and im real glad he got stationed in Texas as well. El Paso is not the greatest city but its really not bad either, at least I dont think it is. This was another fun weekend filled with swimming, eating, movie watching and just enjoying the time i have with Mike before he deploys next month. Hopefully this wont be my last time here before he deploys but if it is then I will definitely be back to El Paso when he returns.
Back in 2006 I decided that I was going to “backpack around Europe”. I honestly had no idea what backpacking consisted of as this idea was solely for the purpose of trying to make my brother jealous for deciding to cancel or annual Angels Baseball Roadtrip the following season. This was just an idea at the start but the more I looked into it and the whole backpacking lifestyle, the more i was intrigued and realized that it is really easy to do. I mean you all you have to do is: request time off work ( or quit if they do not allow you to take time off ), buy a backpack, buy a plane ticket, and get excited for the time of your life.
Backpackers are budget travelers. We try to eat cheap, stay cheap and find free activities to do. The most expensive aspect of backpacking is obviously trying to find a cheap place to crash at night. That’s where hostels come in to play. I know, I know hostels are scary places where kids get drugged and taken to torture chambers where sadistic freaks pay to brutally kill them right?? Not even close. Hostels are a great way to save some cash when you’re on the road because they offer dorm style accommodation. These rooms are simple rooms with anywhere from 2-20 beds in a room with shared bathrooms. This may not sound too appeasing to many out there but it is really is not that bad. So after weeks of reading travel blogs and forums and getting all the knowledge I could, I booked my flight and booked my very first hostel: St. Christopher’s Village in London, England. I departed LAX in late May, 2006 and arrived at Heathrow Airport in London, England. It was a pretty surreal experience to be thrown into the chaos of London as a foreign backpacker especially for the first time being out of the country. After a hour ride on the London Underground ( subway system ) I made it to the stop I needed to reach my hostel. I arrived at the hostel at a little after midnight local time and I was beat. The time change and jet lag were a lot to handle. When I walked in the door I was blown away at how many people there were. The place was packed and there was a bar, music, chill out room, tables all over the place with random strangers exchanging travel stories while playing cards and drinking beers. As much as I wanted a beer after the 10 hour flight, dealing with customs, the hour ride on the Undergound, and now the overwhelming feeling of being in a foreign place, I decided that I would just lay down and take a “nap”. My dorm room had 3 bunk beds and my bed was on the bottom. It was comfy, especially considering how tired I was I fell asleep rather easily. When I finally did wake up it was 4am and I went downstairs to see what was going on and it was like I never even left. The bar was still packed, the tables still full of fellow backpackers being loud and consuming sweet English lager. I was obsessed with the backpacking scene from this moment on. Since this was my first hostel that could be why my memory of it is so vivid but this is still my favorite hostel i’ve been to to this day. The atmosphere was amazing, the people I met were fun to be with and explore London with and the late night drinking games were more than memorable. The next time im in London I will without a doubt be going back to this hostel. St. Christopher’s Village hostel. Where my addiction to backpacking started.
During my years of backpacking I have been to a handful of islands. While most islands may look the same they all have a different feel to them. Here is a list of my top 5 islands in order of great to greatest:
5. Caye Caulker, Belize
This gorgeous, tiny island is located in Belize. Its by far the smallest island i’ve been on but dont let that stop you from visiting it. It has a great feel to it as there are no cars allowed on it and
the streets are all dirt roads. The vibe here is very relaxed and calm. The locals are friendly and helpful and will point you in the right direction to some very cool local spots. The is so small that you can walk from end to end in a couple hours easily. The only bad thing that i can say about Caye Caulker is that there is not really any place to swim. there is no “beach” if you will. The only place that i found to swim was on the east side of the island and it was a little place in front of a bar that you could relax at. No waves just cool calm relaxing water. I planned on only staying here for a couple days but
ended up staying for 8. This is one of those places that just sucks you in and makes you never want to leave. Although there is not much to do on the island the relaxed chilled out vibe is welcoming and there’s always snorkeling and other excursions you can pay to do so this place is a must stop for any island lover!
4. Koh Tao, Thailand
I’ve only been to Kho Tao one time. When I was there it rained and thunder stormed the
entire time. It was always wet and overcast and dark. So why did I like this island so guess its because of how the island made me feel. Its just very relaxing there. Its a rather small
island but large enough to where you need a to rent a motor bike to get around. The center of town is very welcoming and lots of good bars with good live music and decent food. While I was there they had the annual “Save Koh Tao” festival. It featured many local bands and food and of course, beer. This island is most known around the backpacking community to be a great place for scuba diving. Although I did not do any diving on this island I did have a couple buddies who dove here and they absolutely loved it. With a large number of different dives shops offering certifications and rooms, this is a great place to relax from your travels and go diving for a few days.
3. Koh Phangan, Thailand
This small island on the eastern side of the peninsula is home to the most famous full moon party in the world. Each month the beach of Haad Rin gets filled with thousands
and thousands of backpackers eager to get drunk and party the full moon away. Ive been to the Full Moon Party twice now and each time I can only recall certain parts of it. It gets crazy and is a must stop for anyone backpacking Thailand. Aside from hosting one of the craziest party in the world, Koh Phangan offers much much more. My favorite thing to do here is rent a motor bike and take to the crazy, windy roads on the islands. The best time to do this dusk. Find that perfect spot and pull over and watch one of the best sunsets you will ever see. This is much more enjoyable with a cold Chang beer in hand. This island will provide you with a time you will never forget.
2. Phuket, Thailand
Phuket is the largest island in Thailand and for most backpackers is the starting point for hitting the other islands around. It is really easy to get to from Bangkok or Chiang Mai as it has an airport that both those other cities fly into for relatively cheap. Phuket, pronounced “poo-ket”, is filled with a mixture of old, rich people as well as the younger backpacker crowd. The beaches are lined with giant corporate hotels and small guesthouses. The water is absolutely gorgeous. There is every water activity you can think of available here from jet ski rentals to paragliding over the turquoise water. The night life in Phuket is probably the craziest of all the islands. Because it is so big and there are so many people who come to this island, there are many many bars to grab a drink at. The main street where the bars are is called Bangla Road. Here you will find anything you are looking for and even things you wish you never would have seen.
1. Koh Phi Phi
I remember the first time I stepped off the ferry and onto this tiny island. The only thing I knew about it was that the movie “The Beach” was filmed here. I had planned on staying here for 3 nights and then moving on to the next place but something about Koh Phi Phi made me not want to leave. This island is tiny.There are no cars on the roads, heck there aren’t even really any “roads”. Just dirt paths winding across the island in between shops selling the usual tourist traps and amazing food. The beach isnt really that great. Giant rocks line the ocean floor for as far out as you can see and the its really shallow too. There are no waves so the water just sits there, still as can be baking under the 100 degree sun all day. At night, there are a lot of bars for you to wander to and many things to do. Its a quite island but there’s something mysterious about it that caught my heart and made me not want to leave and also made me go back 3 years later. This island was completely destroyed during the tsunami of 2004. It has since been rebuilt bigger and better than ever. There is a memorial set up on the view point up in the mountains. The trek to this view point is very steep and tiring but when you get there and you over look the entire island it makes it all worth it. I planned on staying for 3 nights but ended up staying here for 17 nights. This, by far, is my favorite island that I have been to.