11 January 2019

What's it Been Like for My First Year of Travel - Part Two

Current Location: Peru
Next Location: Likely, Southern Argentina

“If you’re twenty-two, physically fit, hungry to learn and be better, I urge you to travel – as far and as widely as possible. Sleep on floors if you have to. Find out how other people live and eat and cook. Learn from them – wherever you go.” 
– Anthony Bourdain

So yeah... 2018 was trial run. Now its time to get serious. And to do that, I have to learn some things, Spanish being chiefest. I'm getting better. I'd say 20% of the Spanish language is familiar to me. I need to work on deciphering the actual words I hear, my Spanish vocabulary, and how to say things in proper tense. Somehow... I have to get used to Peruvian Spanish. I was horridly amazed that I couldn't understand even the basics of words I know already. I feel like I was given all the wrong study material for the test. Fortunately, I have two months here.

Quetzaltenango, Guatemala

Beyond that, I'd say I still have to learn to budget better. I've got to get better with my money and accounting for expenses. Ironically, in my previous profession, I could track millions of dollars and account for the nearest $10. Variable expenses seem to get me the most, but I need to be better at finding deals as well as reducing a compulsion to fly when I can take a bus for a tenth of the cost.

(Whoa...that reminds me... 
Gotta go do this check-in for tomorrow's flight to Lima real quick...) 

I tend to stay in private rooms with private baths in hotels or hostels, but maybe some AirBnB or homestays can be smarter. I'll be checking into this and using these next two months in Peru to talk to other travels and find out how to be better at doing this. Lima's going to be a good spot. Feb and March are going to be interesting. More on that later. Still planning for Patagonia in late March/April time-frame. Gotta get that figured out quickly, as well. It could be smart to trade out all my camera batteries and SD cards before then... that thought just came to me.

Quetzaltenango, Guatemala

Focus and Discipline would be other objectives for my most immediate concerns. I can do better with my studies and training. This will in turn help me find and see the opportunities around me and thus, I can put myself in more advantageous positions that achieve my goals. Oh yeah...I got things to do when this journey is done.

San Pedro, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

But here are the things I HAVE learned, (though still a work in progress...)

1. Its Cool to Take a Break and Do Nothing.
This was the first thing I had to learn. Up to this point, its been either stay busy or try to stay busy. Having nothing on the table or scheduled events was not anything I'm used to. In the Army we'd have a DONSA... Day Of No Scheduled Activity. On these days we'd get a normal day of duty off and could spend that time doing whatever we wanted. But usually, it was still staying busy, just not at work. If you got a day off, you got busy at home. There was always something to do or fix. When I got to Xela, Guatemala in the apartment I was renting, I got to be alone and really on my own. It took me a while to not feel guilty or wasteful of time to just chill. Its good for the mind.

Punta Gallinas, Colombia

2. Nobody Can Live Your Life For You.
I turned 50 this past August. I wanted to make some resolution to myself and the first of which was that I wanted to care less about what other people thought about me. Let me clarify. I've seen a whole bunch of people getting off social media to get more quality time in their lives. I think that's a uniquely fine notion to adopt. For me, I think more quality to life is added with less time considering what other people are going to think about me if I do something or don't do something. From my perspective, people think about you less often than you think. And those that do, when they do so with judgement, are fickle so they don't matter. Leave'em be. All you can really do is YOU. Do you. Be you. Er'body else can go live their own lives and NOT your's.
The question you can ask yourself is, "Does it really matter what they think?"

Christmas, Mompiche, Ecuador

At this point, the only real people that can hurt me are the ones I let stay close and it does happen. But I keep that door open, anyway instead of closing up and keeping everyone out. I find that its less preferable to be a stone-cold bitch. And as we used to say in the Army... pain is what lets you know that you are still alive. Besides, a little pain every now and again only helps you fine tune your choices of inner circle membership. So, WIN! And no, that doesn't mean you spend your time whittling down your circle. Too many people are too quick to do that.

New Year's, Santo Domingo, Ecuador

3. If You Want to Get to the Right Answers, You May Need to Take a Second Look at the Questions You're Asking.
Sometimes this has to do with specificity, but more often than not, its going to be more about perspective. I'm sure you've seen that one meme that is a paragraph of self-loathing, but when you read the same words in the paragraph it becomes a motto of self-realization and confidence. I've had to step back a few times and re-examine why I kept coming up with the wrong solutions and all it took was a different perspective on the questions I was asking. Ask more specifically or change your perspective a bit. Changing perspectives will change your expectations and you won't be surprised with the conclusions.

This is a bible verse from Leviticus 19th Chapter, Verses 33 and 34:

"When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God."

Everybody you see in these shots did exactly that. I am a foreigner in their lands and I cannot even begin to articulate to you the hospitality I have been shown by them. I have been welcomed in their homes, sat and ate with them, given guidance and counsel, a bed, trusted with their families, and I cannot thank them enough for showing a sojourner how people are to act when you come their country and I am forever grateful.

Indeed, I am a work in progress. And you get to see me develop, experiment, try and fail... all the nasty with all the achievements. I hope you enjoy this ride. I want your questions. I want your input. Most of all, though... I want you with me.

So, come on.

08 January 2019

What's it Been Like for My First Year of Travel - Part One

Art Model, @Kayci.Lee, © 2018 Terrell Neasley

“Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.” - Gustav Flaubert

On September 7th of last year, I left the US to begin my backpacking trip around the world. That was a year ago, yesterday. Art Model, @Kayci.Lee accompanied me for that first month flying into Nicaragua. We traveled north up into Guatemala and in early Feb, she flew back to the States. Me...well, I found a home for 6 months in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala.

@Kayci.Lee and I traveled fast to many places trying to maximize time to shoot throughout the month of January. After she left, I sprouted roots. I rented an apartment and settled down in the cold mountains. My beautiful apartment was just what I needed and people were put in my path that definitely helped me along the way.

When did you ever get horse lessons while naked?
Art Model, @Kayci.Lee, © 2018 Terrell Neasley

In no way has this been all glorious fun filled days, but its definitely been an adventure. I've learned a lot about traveling and even more about myself. I've had fabulous escapades as well as sudden pitfalls, but its hard to complain about any of it. I still hear somebody tell me at least once a month that I am living their dream or that they wish they could live my life. Granted... I know they can't be serious because they don't know my life, but I get what they are trying to say. I just don't take them literally or let any of it go to my head. I don't fool myself, at least not in that regard.

I'm glad I didn't start my trip alone, but rather eased into it. It took some getting used to, I can assure you of that and the process wasn't immediate by any stretch of the imagination. My first lesson was simply trying to relax and not feel like I needed to have something scheduled every day. Along with that, I realized that I didn't have to feel guilty about chilling out or not doing something somebody else expected me to do (or not do). Next has been finding the "OVERALL" purpose and goals for this trip. I've still got to be about my business and that starts now.

Art Model, @Kayci.Lee, © 2018 Terrell Neasley

2018 has been a trial period. And for that reason, I say my 5-year stint starts now. I don't count 2018 as part of that. It was a year for acclamation and, as I call it, just learning to breathe easy. Granted I'm still working on that, but I have a much better mindset about it and a more clearer direction. I'm refining and making adjustments as I go. The plan was initially to zig zag my way down through South America. Now, I think its better to hop down as far south as you can go and make my way up again. Its going to be winter there by June, so I'd rather bounce on down there and head back up before the freeze sets in. After South America, I think I will head to either somewhere in the South Pacific or New Zealand instead of Vietnam. I'll see Vietnam now after I cover the South Pacific and come up through Indonesia.

Then, its just keep heading west as the flow takes me. But here's one thing that I've learned and it continues to be reinforced. People are the same. Families here are just like families stateside. Parents love their children. They want the best for them just like us. In Mompiche, Ecuador  during Christmas, a predominantly black family came by the beach house rolling in about 25 to 30 strong. I sat with them and drank a whiskey mixed with coconut water straight out of the tree. Do I need to specify that only the coconut water came out of a tree...not whiskey? Surely not... I digress. When we ran out of coconuts, somebody got 4 or 5 more of the tree and filled the pitcher back up.

Yep. She's in church.
Art Model, @Kayci.Lee, © 2018 Terrell Neasley

I even saw the same characters just like one of my family reunions. There was my cousin Sheila cracking jokes and laughing the loudest. My Mama was there as well as my uncle Ulice Ray. There was one brother who brought his white wife, who in this case she happened to be Cuban, but looked white. They had a girl that looked just like my daughter...no kidding, with that. And a son, named Jeremy...no kidding there either. The only and I repeat... ONLY difference is that they spoke Spanish. Well, that and they were mixing whiskey with coconut water. But we are all the same. Its been the same with all the Latin families I've come to know. I could still identify the same characters in my family with them.

I'm learning much more about black people. Not just African-AMERICANS, but black people from Colombia, Ecuador, Belize, and all over Central and South America. Its been quite the enlightening experience. I'll be talking more on this in the future, but its helping me learn a little more about myself, as well. But back to my point, Americans are no different than Ecuadorians, or Guatemalans, or Canadians. We just have different cultures and languages. Outside of that, we are the same.

Art Model, @Kayci.Lee, © 2018 Terrell Neasley

In each country I find the poor, as well as the well-off. Same in America. Opportunities are better in some countries than others. But I wish like FUCK crazy that we Americans stop looking down on other countries, particularly countries with people of color. Travel definitely helps one's perspective in this. I'm not talking about a trip to Cancun where you get off a plane, travel THROUGH the country to an enclosed all-inclusive resort. So if you listened to that public address from the White House Tuesday night, about the "dangerous people", I'm really hoping you can... damn people ...you can literally Google the facts yourselves. But if you want to believe the racist con man, I guess that's you. But YOU tell me what decent trustworthy human being has ever had his foundation shut down and then gets barred by the courts (along with his family) from running a charitable organization for the next ten years? That's what a CON-ARTIST literally gets busted for. Preying on charity cases! Same thing happened to his "University" just last year for fraud. Racist people market fear. Its like a standard bullet item for them. Stop friggin' giving life to the lies.

Art Model, @Kayci.Lee, © 2018 Terrell Neasley

As for me, I'm going to try my best to get better at photography. Getting my shots is, like...Goal number 1. Outside of that, its experiencing new people, cultures, and landscapes. And that doesn't always involve a camera, but rather just experiencing and appreciating life. Today is the first full day of my two month Peruvian experience. I pray God continues to bless me with great people along my path.

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.” – Mark Twain