Grampians National Park

When Craig isn’t adventuring around the world, he’s working as a tour guide near Melbourne. He began a three-day trip to the Grampians, one of the area’s nicest national parks. Before he left, he lent me his van and told me to pick up Cain and meet him in the park! Despite his generosity, there was a small issue: I had never driven on the left. I was really nervous when I got behind the wheel, like it was my first time ever driving. The good news was that the shifter had the same pattern I was used to (first gear was top-left), and the pedals were in the same location (right foot = gas/brake, left foot = clutch). I pulled onto a busy street and drove with extreme caution, thinking: stay to the left, stay to the left…

Read More »

Catching Cricket Fever

I had never watched a cricket game, and seeing that it’s Australia’s national sport, I figured I should take in a match while I was here. Craig, being a big fan, was happy to oblige. I met him and his friend Cain outside of the famous Melbourne Cricket Grounds (MCG) to watch a test match of Australia versus India. It was the second day of the match, and Australia was still batting in the first inning…

Read More »

An Antarctic Reunion

I meandered to the train station at dawn, bleary-eyed after a night of drinking and three hours’ sleep. I caught the subway to downtown Melbourne, then bought a cup of coffee from a 7-11. A couple of guys were still out from the night before, stumbling through the streets in search of a bathroom. A bus pulled up to the corner where I was standing, and out walked Craig Martin, the man himself.

Read More »

Another Day, Another Continent

The sound of suitcases rolling past my head woke me. My flight had landed in Melbourne, Australia in the middle of the night. After clearing customs, I walked outside to get my bearings, then I quickly scampered back into the airport. I had flashbacks of my night in the airport in Miami, which I wrote about in 1000 Days Between. Unlike in Miami, I found a few other backpackers, sleeping in a quiet hallway. I blew up my air mattress, crawled into my sleep sheet and joined the others in their quiet slumber.

By 5 a.m., I couldn’t take it anymore. The “quiet hallway” turned out to be one of the main corridors that led through security. It just happened to be closed when I first had seen it. But now it was open, and there was a constant chatter of over-caffinated travelers, dragging their luggage across the floor.

Read More »

Observations From Five Months in Beijing, China

You can’t visit a new continent (let alone two new continents) every year. This year is special for me, my only multiple-new-continent year. After spending nearly five months in China, I’m due for a break. I’m heading to Australia.

Friends back home are always asking what I think of Beijing. To be honest, even after living there for nearly half a year, I still don’t know how to respond. I’ve written about many amazing experiences in China (the best so far being my trip to Inner Mongolia). In fact, there are many more facets of China that I love and have yet to write about. But almost every day, I find myself in a situation that makes absolutely no sense to my Western eyes and ears.

I could go on and on about China, but for now, I’ll give you 10 observations from my limited experience in the country:

Read More »

Beijing Hutongs, Part III

On a crisp autumn afternoon, I went for another walk around Beijing’s hutongs, this time near the Drum and Bell Towers. I really enjoy walking through these neighborhoods because they give a glimpse into traditional daily life in the modern capital city.

Here are some photos I took during my walk:… Read More »

Happy Memories

Back in April, my friend Amy organized a flash mob in Madison, Wisconsin for her birthday. At noon on a warm and sunny Saturday, “Happy” by Pharrell Williams spontaneously blared from an outdoor speaker. The crowd dispersed from the street to make room for a group of boisterous dancers.

Read More »

Manzhouli’s Cabbage Bazaar

One day while walking through Manzhouli, I stumbled upon an outdoor bazaar. Like most markets in China, this was a vibrant place, with a wide variety of fruits and vegetables for sale. It was also crowded, with hordes of people and vehicles jockeying for position in the street. I love walking through bazaars; they give me a sense of day-to-day existence in faraway places. Cultural differences can put up barriers between me and the local people, but markets also help me connect me with others in this shared journey through life.

Here are a few photos I took in the Mazhouli market.

Read More »

Blood Moon Train to Beijing

After the sun had set, I tried to explain a special event that was about to take place: a total lunar eclipse, where the sun’s rays would be refracted upon hitting the Earth, turning the moon red. I took out my phone and showed my new friends the Chinese character for “eclipse.” Then I showed them the character for “blood,” since this type of eclipse is known as a “blood moon” in English. One of the men immediately understood and explained it to his friends. Some people sitting near us overheard the discussion and started making comments about the eclipse. Soon everyone in our car was looking for the blood moon.

Read More »

Hangzhou Ultimate

Last weekend my girlfriend Katie and I traveled to Hangzhou, China for an ultimate frisbee tournament. OK, to set the record straight, she played and I came to watch. This was a “hat tournament,” where teams are chosen somewhat randomly, although they make sure every team has a few experienced players and some beginners to balance it out. It was a fun tournament with lots of competitive play. I broke out my telephoto lens to photograph one of Katie’s games. Here are the highlights:

Read More »