Photo Set: Northern Ireland

The trip to Northern Ireland was by far the most important part of my trip. I was going to meet a “new” friend, someone I’d written about extensively over the last five months, to interview him and speak with him about the project. This is what I love about writing! 
Our adventure started at Waterloo Station…

Northern Ireland is picturesque, with rolling green hills of farmland and trees. It is a place of tradition, simple needs, and simple wants. Life on the family farm. Animals.IMG_1445  This is the cottage my friend Colm built, by hand, on his family’s land, which he can trace back thousands of years.… and these are his cows!The first night he took us to Brysons for dinner and a couple of pints (of Guinness, naturally). He’s well known around there, and rightfully so, he’s been going to that same bar for over 30 years!After a morning spent working, we decided to break for the afternoon and do a little exploring around Northern Ireland. We had a couple destinations on our list, but we were up for the adventure! Colm told us some great history about the places we visited!
This is the Northern Coast!
As a Game of Thrones nerd, Matt absolutely had to see The Dark Hedges!We also checked out Dunluce Castle!The last night was really special though, when Colm took us to The Crosskeys, a bar that’s been operating since 1654. Yes, 1654. The history there is never-ending, and there’s even a ghost that haunts the bar! We stayed late (like 3 AM), long after the bar had closed, drinking Guinness and singing songs with the a group of guys and the owner. It was one of those nights when I was given a rare opportunity to get a peek inside someone’s idyllic life, and it felt like a scene from a musical. Despite the downsides, and Colm’s had many, his life is rather wonderful.

Unfortunately, we had to leave early on Sunday, but spending the weekend with Colm was an experience I’ll never forget. Until next time, he’ll just be “going with the flow.”
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BONUS: In the picture below, I am holding an actual comm, a letter written on cigarette paper and smuggled out of Long Kesh Prison in the early 1980’s. These tiny pieces of history were integral in spreading the horrors of what happened inside those walls.

This finishes my European trip! Relive the beauty, starting back at Photo Set: Love in the South of France!

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Photo Set: Mont Saint-Michel

Mont Saint-Michel is an island commune located approximately a kilometer off the Normandy coast of France, and it looks like a goddamn fairy tale. (It is, nearly, a fairy tale, as the city was the inspiration for the Disney film Tangled.)IMG_0399Part monastery, part fort, part village, Mont Saint-Michel is designed to mirror the feudal system, with the monastery at the top, the village at the bottom, and there were allegedly houses outside the walls for farmers and fisherman.IMG_0407We arrived in the afternoon so the tide was still low, allowing you to walk around the outside of the walls (if you so desired). It was really rocky and muddy, so I decided to pass, but inside the walls is unbelievable… yep, that’s a drawbridge!IMG_0409Narrow, steep streets, lined with little shops, restaurants, and cafes.IMG_0412According to the legend, the archangel Michael appeared in 708 to Aubert of Avranches, the bishop of Avranches, and instructed him to build a church on this rocky islet. From then on, it was referred to as Mont Saint-Michel.IMG_0418Saint Michael, considered an “archangel,” was not only a healer, but also a defender of the people, famously depicted slaying Satan in the form of a serpent. The Eagle represents Saint Michael himself, so there’s gorgeous gilded statues interlaced with the architecture. Here’s the Eagle head!IMG_0444IMG_0462Behold… the abbey! A destination for monks (and once used as a prison), the abbey is breathtaking, silent and still, a series of Gothic rooms and vaulted architecture. Since the island is somewhat small, and flat land is difficult to come by, the sacred space is divided into many rooms for their individual purposes!IMG_0467

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The dining hall had a beautiful overhanging installation of feathers, hanging over the middle of the room. It was easy to imagine the long tables of monks dining here.IMG_0496IMG_0512One of my favorite parts of Mont Saint-Michel is the giant tread-wheel, which required six workers to power the hamster-style wheel, allowing the monks to haul up thousands of pounds of stones and supplies from the landing below!

IMG_0533IMG_0521IMG_0575IMG_0473From the ramparts, you can see (intruders?) for miles! The tide’s starting to come in!IMG_0558IMG_0557The bridge to access the island was built in 2014, allowing later access to the island and helping with the tidal flow around the island. (See how the water came in?!)IMG_0607
Walking along the walls and ramparts, it’s hard not to feel a little romance, right?IMG_0632
Cemeteries in magical places like these are especially fascinating to me, when you consider the small population (under 50) that has lived here consistently over the generations, and those that have fallen here by chance, now remain forever.IMG_0657IMG_0660Mont Saint-Michel is by FAR one of the most magical places I’ve ever been to in my life, so I had to snap this panorama before I left, and I think it’s the best photo I got.IMG_0685And the trip continues! Where to next you ask? We take a somber, rainy trip, to the American Cemetery in Normandy.

CHE

Did you see the photos from Chateau de Bouthonvilliers and Saint-Malo, The Walled City? You gotta check them out!

The Person I’m Pretending To Be

“You are what you pretend to be.” – Kurt Vonnegut

tumblr_nzok6g7MX41rt7qgbo1_500At this point in my life, I’m doing a serious amount of introspection. At 30 years old, I feel like I’m caught in the first of my life’s major crossroads; there’s the person I currently am at 30 years old, the person I thought I would be at 30 years old, and the person I want to be after 30. For whatever reason, some people my age have given up on becoming the person they wanted to be and have been forced to settle into the existence of the person they’ve become. I fully recognize those two perspectives of myself are vastly different, but rather than dwell on those differences (and personal failures), I’m still mainly focused on the third road: becoming the person I want to be.

Some established businessmen (like Mark Cuban) may refer to me as a “want-repreneur.” While I was initially offended by this title (think “poser” of businessmen) I eventually realized that while somewhat patronizing, it’s also a truthful badge of honor about where I am in the process. I am, by every definition, a “want-repreneur,” mostly because I don’t believe my purpose on this planet is to help somebody else actualize their dreams while my own lay dormant. I want to be in control of my own destiny, and ultimately, that means being in charge of my financial gain and work situation. In the meantime, I have to make the best of my need for a consistent paycheck, so I work a day job.

The person I want to be will travel the world and experience different cultures. While the experiences of traveling are hard to “fake,” the desire, motivation, and information I can collect about all the places I want to go, and live, are more easily available then they’ve ever been before. I may not be able to go to Bali later this month, but in the meantime, I can do research into the local communities, see pictures and videos of people visiting Bali, learn about the local cuisine, and pick up tips on places to stay in order to make the traveling experience truly unique. When I get to wherever I want to be, I want it to feel like home. That’s the life I want. I won’t lie to you about where I’ve been (New Zealand!), but I also won’t lie about how badly I want to go to the exotic places I haven’t been yet. (I wanna go to Chile really bad!)

Then there’s money. I’m definitely living paycheck-to-check, but that doesn’t stop me from occasionally picking up a round of drinks. My true desire is to be affluent to a point of actualized creativity. I think there’s an important line to draw here when it comes to “how rich do you want to be?” I don’t want to be rich enough to have 12 sports cars, rather I want to be rich enough to buy all the pieces, and the personal time, to build my own sports car. I don’t want to eat out at restaurants every night, I want to cook at home with the freshest, best ingredients! I don’t want to be rich enough to put people down, I want to be rich enough to pick people up. I don’t want to be rich enough to have priceless art on my walls, I want to be rich enough to make art whenever the inspiration strikes me. That’s priceless. The type of affluence I am striving for is the freedom to create art without boundaries or limitations, until then, I’m having hot ramen for lunch.

But what about happiness? I truly believe sometimes “pretending” is super important when it comes to happiness. If you let every little speed bump knock you around, you would never drive your car. If you let every little conflict, every difference of opinion, every squabble redirect the entire course of your day (and happiness), you will never ever be happy. But if you “pretend” you’re happy, even when you’re not, the low-points won’t seem all that low. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating that you turn into an over-positive psychopath or something, but positivity breeds positivity. Give yourself some perspective and realize all the good in your life. That should make you happy… just a little bit?

So, until that time when I am where I want to be, I will have to follow Vonnegut’s wisdom and just pretend. This post may have pulled back my curtain a little bit, but honestly, I don’t mind. Outside of this post, however, in the real world’s meetings and social gatherings, I will continue to do what I have to do to be perceived as the successful entrepreneur, traveler, intellectual, and financially flush guy to live a great life and create the spur-of-the-moment art as I please. In maintaining that facade of control, the right opportunity may one day present itself to me.

That day, I won’t be pretending… I’ll just be me.

CHE

Photo Set: Surviving Elk Mountain

Our friend Jamie came to visit us in Portland over Labor Day weekend, so we hit up all her favorite spots in Portland. Powell’s Books. Sizzle Pie. Por Que No. It was our first playing the “host” in the city we just moved to.

On Labor Day, we decided to travel over to Tillamook, to go hiking in the Tillamook National Forest and stop by the Cheese Factory. To be perfectly honest, I didn’t even know Tillamook was an actual place, let alone an entire county in Oregon. Furthermore, I was always under the impression that Tillamook was boutique cheese company… boy was I wrong.

Our was supposed to be a short, fun one. Elk Mountain Trail. A loop of only a few miles, something to build up our appetite before heading over the factory to fill up on Colby Jack. As we hiked up the mountain, it was gorgeous, but we kept going higher and higher. Once we felt we got “to the top,” there were a few signs to send us back down to camp. What happened from there turned into a full blown assault on our bodies, and one of the hardest hikes I’ve ever gone on (everybody else seems to share the same opinion). There were sections of cliff drop offs, overgrown trees, narrow precipices to tiptoe across, sections of full blown climbing and equal sections of “bottom scooting” down the steep declines. We thought we were headed home, when we came upon the summit of Elk Mountain. It was truly majestic.

My knees hurt on the way down the mountain, but the views were absolutely breathtaking. These pictures, although there are many and beautiful at that, will never do justice to the expansive mountain views we saw around many of the corners and when we finally reached the summit. We wrote our names in the book along with the many travelers that had made it to the same spot, most likely intentionally.

I’d highly recommend it if you’re looking for a long hike on a beautiful day followed by an evening of sore muscles, painful joints, and fond memories.

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CHE

If You’re Reading This, I Moved to Portland

Screen Shot 2015-08-09 at 3.14.17 PMSometimes life doesn’t work out as you’d planned. Plans change. People disappoint. Emotions flare and mistakes get made. This is life. You can’t possibly prepare for every circumstance or outcome, so the true test of one’s character is how you respond to these unforeseen obstacles in life. Hope for the best, prepare for the worst. Will I crumble under the pressure of mounting financial debt? Will I wallow in despair at my “jobless” status and diminishing savings account? Should I allow the actions of others to destroy my personal image and self worth? No.

What did I do? I packed up my shit and I’m moving to Portland.

Yep, that’s right, I’m moving to Portland, Oregon. Like right now. And much like everything else in my life, the decision wasn’t easy. First I was headed to Santa Cruz, then pondering Boulder, Colorado and for two shakes of a lambs tail, Austin, Texas. It was hard to decide, but ultimately, I found the things I truly value in a place to live (and thrive) is a creative, energetic community with more nature than skyscrapers. There are of course pros and cons to each of these cities (I’m well aware Portland has their own), but as a soon-to-be-transplant, Portland fits my bill at the moment.

MaslowsHierarchyOfNeeds.svgThe few people that did know about the move were concerned about me. They just want the best for me (Thanks, “G-Unit”). So I found myself going through Abraham Maslow’s “hierarchy of needs,” attempt to examine my major life choice to move to Portland

  • Physical NeedsThese are the physical necessities I need in order to survive living in Portland. I am, and will, stretch these definitions if I need to, but for the most part, I’ve got all the bases covered.
    • Shelter. I have signed the lease for an apartment in the Hawthorne district of Portland. It’s a one-bedroom, which is going to be a big space for me but I hope it’ll help me keep my mind, and projects, separate. Worst case scenario, I could always sleep in my car, right?
    • Warmth. I’ve got a few sweatshirts, and wool socks, and apparently I’m gonna need them to start procreating. Portland averages 222 overcast days a year (not all are rainy), so I’m sure I’ll need to stock up on some more long sleeve shirts. For the most part, I think I’m good here, too.
    • Food. True that! This is one that I will need to be creative about. I can really dig in and work eating well (while saving money) by cooking a majority of my meals at home. I’ve heard there isn’t a lot “bad food” in Portland (yay, no fast food!) so it looks like I’m going to be stepping up my cooking game. That could be great, because the apartment has a really cute kitchen.
    • Drink. Clean water? Check. Coffee? Double Check. Beer? You bet your fucking taste buds! I can’t wait to dig into the Portland beer culture. Just thinking about it makes me hoppy. (*weh weeeh weeeehhh*) No really, I might get back into home brewing. Who knows. (It’s starting!)
  • Safety Needs. Safety comes in many forms, whether it be physical safety, economic safety or emotional and physical safety. These are slightly less solidified in my current plan, but I figure it’s only a matter of time.   
    • Personal Security. I’m not really sure that this means, but I used to be an advanced greenbelt in Tae Kwan Do, and lately I’ve been feeling like if I really needed to, I could “defend myself.”
    • Financial Security. This is the key ingredient which I am just steps away at this point. I’ve got a couple projects to keep me busy and moving forward toward a payday, but there is nothing like the security of a regular paycheck. I have had both kinds of jobs, and honestly, I felt creatively stunted when I had a consistent, biweekly paycheck. The pressure to hustle, the pressure to find work, the pressure to create, is greater when there’s more on the line.
    • Health and Well Being. I’ve (kind of) got health insurance and my overall wellbeing at the moment is just above average. I’m about to turn thirty so other than a few aches and pains, I’m in pretty good shape. Getting into better shape is definitely on the agenda for a new start in Portland.
  • Love and Belonging. This one is far more complicated than it sounds, and may ultimately end up being the most challenging “need.”
    • Friendship. According to Facebook, I currently know four people living in Portland, two of them I haven’t spoken to in seven years, and the other two are more aptly titled “acquaintances.” As I join the workforce, or get drunk at my local pub, I’m going to start finding social groups and places to feel welcome. It’s intimidating as all hell, putting yourself out there to make a new friend, but that’s how you gotta do it (outside of Twitter has tags, #bemyfriend).
    • Intimacy. I’d rather not speak about this in too much depth (my mother reads the blog occasionally), but let’s just remember that love, or the search thereof, makes even the smartest people do the stupidest things. Hopefully Portland will fix all this.
    • Family. Of course my family won’t be joining me in Portland, they’ll be back in Ojai and Los Angeles, but I couldn’t possibly make this move without their undying support and enthusiasm for the next chapter of my life. They’ve been talking to their friends, friends-of-friends, reading up on the hottest places, and (hopefully) starting to plan a trip to come visit.
  • Esteem. The ideas of self-respect and self-esteem are rooted on who’s looking at the “self.” Respect is how you feel about yourself, esteem is based on how others feel about you. These can come from a number of things, including:
    • Status. I just moved to Portland and I’m technically unemployed.
    • Responsibility. I currently have no responsibilities, other than to my projects and my debtors.
    • Reputation. I’m brand new in Portland. They don’t know me! The only thing they’ll be able to use to learn about me is the internet, and maybe my blog, which means they’ll probably read this post. (If you’re in the future and we just met in Portland, let’s hang out! I’m a nice guy!) 
    • Respect. This concept could take up an entire post (as these all could) but I feel the respect will come when I consistently put my best self out there, under promise and over deliver, in the workplace and in my new social spheres. Basically, don’t be an asshole and always keep your word. Got it.
  • Self-actualizationHow is moving to Portland going to help me become the best version of myself? I think the creativity going on there, coupled with the unique culture, is exactly what I’m going to need in the coming months to push out my biggest projects to date. I truly believe being in Portland will help me achieve my short term goals and set me up for success with my long term goals.

Screen Shot 2015-08-10 at 5.44.13 PMI think I’m good, so I’m going for it. If you’re reading this soon after I first posted it (Tuesday, August 11, 8:00 AM-6:00 PM) I am currently driving up the 5 highway toward my new home, Portland, Oregon.

If you’re in Portland and I haven’t reached out to, it’s 100% because I don’t know you live there. Please, let me know you’re in Portland! I want to see you!

And if you’ve got the time, maybe try giving me a call during my 10 hour car drive today. I promise, I’ll really appreciate the company.

CHE

Photo Set: Tahoe National Forest

I recently spent a week in the Tahoe National Forest. First with my family in North Lake Tahoe, and then two days with my friend in Echo Lake. The effects of the California drought were staggering. The Truckee River was lower than I’ve ever seen it. The mountains were more gray then green, beautiful in its own, eerie way. We adventured into the mountains to find the spring the fed our house and spent some time being one with nature.

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Rollercoasters and Cirque

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With Ayla soon departing Circus Center and Eve performing in the Cirque Dreams show at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom, we had run out of excuses… it was time for a day at the amusement park. I hadn’t been to an amusement park since “Senior Ditch Day” back at that Thacher, so I was definitely excited about a full day of fun.

Around 9:45 AM, we piled into the bus, had a few mimosas, and before we knew it our bus was driving circles around the Discovery Kingdom parking lot looking for a place to park. We arrived just in time to get in line for the 1:00 Cirque Dreams show, but not before a small group of us broke off for a quick ride on the Tasmanian Devil.

The cirque show was fun! Eve was great. The hand balancers were legit. The hoola-hoop girl hoola’d a ton of hoops. Oh yeah… did I mention dolphins?

After the show was over, Eve came out and grabbed a few of us for a “surprise.” Backstage, we got to meet some of the dolphins and they showed us a few tricks. Lu Yi loved it!

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Now it was time for the rollercoasters. I’ve been bungee jumping and hang gliding, but I always used to be scared of rollercoasters. This time, for some reason (probably being with my girlfriend or now working at the circus), I was somehow able to keep it together. Somewhat surprising, the lines weren’t that long so we managed to get on most of the rides; Medusa (2x), Superman, V2: Velocity, and Skyrazer (or whatever it was called). I had the obligatory Corn Dog and Dip N’ Dots.

It was a really fun day and I would highly recommend Cirque Dreams for anyone who likes fun…

If you don’t like fun, don’t go to Discovery Kingdom.

CHE