Not long ago, I couldn't even entertain the possibility of doing a handstand. Now, I can hold one for five or six seconds. At a glance, that's really not all that impressive. However, what happened between these two points in time is quite worthy of mention.
Way back when I was a little kid at recess, a bunch of my classmates were doing handstands, cartwheels, and other gymnastic type stuff. One week, it was just what everybody was doing. I'd never really tried or learned anything of a gymnastic nature and, unsurprisingly, I sucked at it. On the other hand, I played a lot of sports at home, and on the elementary school playground I always did quite well. I concluded that I was athletic, but not acrobatic.
For the next fifteen years or so, the belief that I was “athletic, but not acrobatic” shaped my life. I practiced and played all sorts of sports, believing that I was athletic, I got pretty good at many of them. I sought out athletic opportunities, but avoided acrobatic ones—I knew I was bad at those. Many years later, I still am.
I've spent a majority of the past two years traveling and honed some serious ultra-cheap traveling skills. I've bicycled across the United States, lived like a local in Mexico, worked as a deckhand on a cruise ship, and had many other adventures on a shoestring budget.
I am not rich, nor do I have passive income. I just picked up skills, strategies, and a host of resources along the way that make traveling insanely cheap. I suppose you could call me a “travel hacker.” A quick example: I spent two and a half months on the Big Island of Hawaii last summer for $669 (including airfare) without budgeting or “penny pinching.”
Here are 10 rules I attempt to follow that produce some insanely inexpensive trips:
I tried to focus as the professor droned on about enzyme structures in biochemistry class, but I constantly drifted towards it. It consumed my thoughts as I ran. It filled the moments before I fell asleep and the dreams afterwards. I couldn't stop thinking about all I had to say.
I couldn't stop thinking about this website.
A string of events led to this obsession. It started with a mosquito bite. That bite led to an infection of the fluid surrounding my brain and spine, causing it to swell. The pressure caused seizures and a brain-damaging stroke, which began a multi-year struggle of rehab and dedication towards returning to the “old me.” Around the time two years had passed, I began to wonder if I'd made it back to normal. I thought about that a lot. One day, I asked myself the right question, which stopped the wondering altogether—“Why stop at normal?”
Work trade organizations like WWOOF and HelpX make experiencing anywhere around the globe remarkably affordable. In exchange for part-time work, hosts will provide you with food and a place to stay, leaving you with next to no expenses virtually anywhere on earth!
To give you an idea of how cheap we're talking, I spent two and a half months WWOOFing in Hawaii for $669 (including the plane ticket). I worked 20 hours per week, got my own cabin, and our hosts took us around the island quite frequently on days off. However, I met other WWOOFers that summer who picked weeds for 30 hours a week and in exchange for nothing more than a place to pitch a tent.
It's absolutely vital to go over the specifics of your work trade arrangement with your hosts before you go. Know exactly what to expect before you commit to insure you end up in a situation you love – not loathe.
One of the most influential books I've ever encountered is Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig. I knew I would be retracing part of the path of my cross country bike ride as I drove up to my summer job in Montana, which closely parallels the story line of the book, so I picked it up again for a second read on my trip north.
Yesterday, I was hiding out from a thunderstorm in the mountains just east of Jackson, WY. I read a couple chapters as I laid in this remarkably cozy nest of a bed I made with the back seats down in the used SUV I recently bought.
In the book, the main character is riding west on a motorcycle tour and begins recognizing places he can't remember being. His previous self was this philosophical genius of sorts who lost it and had his personality and memories destroyed through shock therapy. As he retraces his old route and returns to places he'd once been, the things he re-encounters drudge up memories and thoughts of that previous self. This previous self haunts him, almost like – as he says – a ghost.
I took this photograph last week overlooking Horseshoe Bend. The view was absolutely stunning, but I must admit, I feel like a bit of a fraud flaunting it.
You see, though it may look like I trekked a dozen miles to reach such an epic view or that I was standing alone pondering life's deeper questions along the cliff's edge, that's simply not the case. The image might make me look like quite the explorer or at least a bit more adventurous, but the truth is I was surrounded by hundreds of people simultaneously taking the exact same picture.
The parking lot for Horseshoe Bend is literally right next to the highway. It's a mere 10-minute stroll to the cliff's edge that thousands of people make every day.
Since the advent of social media, we've all developed this desire to capture and share our most epic moments. We share these images to make our lives appear more interesting and to receive validation. Validation is a great feeling, and anyone who uses Facebook, Instagram, or any other form of social media has undeniably felt this urge.
Five years ago, I almost broke my neck at an indoor trampoline park. I'd always been pretty athletic, but anything that involved going upside down was completely foreign to me.
One of my friends is incredibly acrobatic and he decided to teach our other buddy how to do a backflip on a trampoline. They both encouraged me to join, but I knew there was no way I was going to land a backflip.
“Yeah,” I jokingly replied, “I'll try once Casey lands one.”
Turns out, my acrobatic friend is also a great teacher. Ten minutes later, Casey landed a backflip.
Dammit... I had to try now. I couldn't even begin to imagine myself attempting to do a backflip, let alone landing one. Flipping was not my forte.
I strode out onto the trampoline feigning confidence and got my bearings as best I could. The plan was simple.
Earth Day was last week and got me thinking about this short documentary. It's about something called "the overview effect," which describes the cognitive shift that occurs in astronauts when looking back at Earth from space.
It's an absolutely profound 17 minutes that will change how you think of our planet.
We humans get wrapped up in economics and politics. We worship convenience. Changing how we treat "Spaceship Earth" might not be easy, be the most viable fiscal option, or play to the favor of our political hand, but what's infinitely more important is that we'll still be around to grapple with these issues in the future.
This post won't get much viewership for my site. It might even alienate part of my audience because of the politicization of taking care of our planet. But if a dozen people actually watch this documentary and experience "the overview effect," I know it will stick with them like it has with me. And that would be more than worthwhile.