Snappy title, eh? Oops, sorry about the 'eh', I am in Canada, you know.
It's been a while. And a lot has happened since I got off the bike. I think the last time I gave you an update, I had finished up in Panama City, sent off the bike, and took a bus up to Costa Rica to hang out after a hernia surgery. Well, all went well with that. I recovered well and continued my journey up to Guatemala, Lago Atitlan to be exact. I spent about two weeks with some good friends, Simon and Kirsi, who I had met cycling through many months before. The two had just had their baby, Leo Sebastian, and I enjoyed being around the new family. Before I left Guatemala to return to the United States, my mom flew down to meet me in Guatemala City and help me bring back some baggage. I did a sweep through some of the most popular markets in Guatemala, in Chichicastenango and Panajachel, and picked up some handcrafts to bring back as gifts for friends and family and to sell. When I arrived in Miami, it had been about 10 months since I left San Diego to cycle through Central and South America. Obviously, plans changed a bit and I spent most of my time in Central America, putting off South America for another time. I spent the month of March in Miami, spending time with my family, and trying to get over the reverse culture shock that was happening. I kept busy with projects like building compost bins for the back yard, helping cut down some trees, and other yard work. I did lots of cooking at home. It was so nice to have a full kitchen to use and be able to stock up spices and ingredients for tasty dishes. I applied for some money to help with travel costs to attend the International Fisheries Observer Conference in Sydney, Australia and was lucky enough to receive it. I will be traveling there in November to participate in the conference with a presentation on ObserverNet, a website I set up a few years ago. I am looking forward to meeting an international community of people associated with observing and finding out how other programs work. I am also excited to be traveling to Australia for the first time.
When I was in Miami, I decided I would have to go back up to Alaska to observe for the summer in order to replenish my funds and hopefully finally pay off my student loans. I decided to take at least two years off from cycling South America in order to accomplish other goals and follow through on some ideas I had been thinking about during all that time cycling. I wanted to take all my journaling and over 3000 photos from the trip and make a book, well, at least one. I thought it might be nice to make separate books according to region, North America, Mexico and Central America, and South America would be the third. I also would like to make a children's book so all my friends who are having kids can have some cool adventure stories to read to them at night. Also in Miami, I began discussing a possible business venture with my family. I want to develop a community center that relates to food, community service, education, and health and wellness. It would include a café, a kitchen used for teaching and demonstrations, a library, and an area for community events and projects. Now that I was in the US, I started doing more internet research and even scoping out local cafes and farmers markets. I started to make a plan or an outline and discuss ideas with experienced professionals in the food industry and those involved with community centers. I also discussed these ideas with my family because it is important to me to have them involved. One of the motivating factors in setting this up is to have a place where my family can relocate from Miami to a healthier living environment. I wondered where this place could be and at the moment, I had my sights set on Portland, Oregon.
When April came around, I felt like I had to be on the move again. I was scheduled to be in Seattle for a 4-day briefing on May 17th, which would be followed by assignment to a boat in Alaska. I decided to do a bit of hopping around the States to visit friends and check out some different places, hopefully getting additional inspiration for my project. I had thought about hitchhiking but I had too much stuff with me so I got a cheap ticket through Delta Airlines, thanks to mom. First I flew to Washington D.C. and visited my friend Adrienne. In the airport on the way out, I was asked if I was Santa Claus! I knew Adrienne from college. We had a nice week together and I was able to see some of the capital city and its cool museums. Next stop was Fayetteville, Arkansas. I visited two cool girls I met and traveled with in Guatemala, Kate and Jane. I had never been to Arkansas before. It reminded me a lot of the Midwest, but had a lot of traditional Southern culture too. Agriculture is very big in the region but in Fayetteville, there is a nice pocket of liberal mindedness, hippies if you will, that sets Northwest Arkansas aside from the rest of the state and probably most of the South and Midwest. I felt really good here. The weather was changing and the warm spring weather made for great outdoor activities. I sold some of my handcrafts on the Razorback campus while Jane and Kate were in class and met some great people. We took a trip out to the Ozarks and went canoeing on a beautiful river, rock climbing, and camped out after crashing a wedding on a horse ranch in the mountains. Another highlight was going mushroom hunting with Jane's father. We collected morel mushrooms from under the trees and enjoyed them the same night battered and fried at a wonderful potluck hosted by Jane. I spent a week and a half in Arkansas and it was hard to leave. I felt a great attraction to the nature and the community. After Arkansas, I went to Iowa to my old college to see some friends I had visited two years before. Most everyone I knew was graduating, just like it was two years ago, but these guys were different because I didn't go to school with any of them. I guess I am getting old! I shared my travel experiences with a very receptive audience, which made me feel really good. I was kind of clueless about my future when I was in their shoes and I think I may have helped some of them see that there are some unconventional choices that can be made after college that can be just as rewarding as going after that career. I sat in the commons during the day and sold my jewelry. I did much better than I thought I would. I had some pretty unique stuff for Mt. Vernon, Iowa! Before leaving, and to show some appreciation to my fraternity brothers for letting me sell jewelry under their name, I threw a free party called Reggae Fever. It went perfectly. I continued my trip through the Midwest and spent a week in Chicago visiting friends and getting down to some more important research. I stayed with my friend Kristen and was also able to visit an old college buddy, Brian, who had just gotten a martial arts training center off the ground. We enjoyed many multicultural dining experiences in Chicago, Korean BBQ, Thai, Indian, Ethiopian, and Chinese. I was able to check out a place that taught cooking classes and ask a bunch of questions to help me develop my idea. From Chicago, I flew to Providence, Rhode Island. My first time in that state was to attend the wedding of a friend who I met in Miami during my brief time training animals at a marine park before taking the job in Alaska. Quite a few people came up from Miami to check out the wedding in the small town of Newport, so it was quite a festive reunion. After only a few days in Rhode Island, I flew over to Portland, Oregon. I expected to be checking out this cool town with my good buddy Beth, but she bailed out at the last minute. Luckily I had some good hosts in Portland who showed me around some of the area co-operative groceries, cool cafes, and small scale cooking schools. I had only been to Portland once before but I knew it was the kind of place I could live, a place where people are comfortable being individuals. There is a lot of support for organic agriculture, sustainable living, and a great overall sense of environmental awareness. My mom was on vacation at the time so she met up with me for a few days and checked out the city. It was an unexpected visit to Eugene with mom that brought everything together and made this here world traveler think about settling down and becoming a part of a community.
We drove down to Eugene, about two hours south of Portland and stopped into a café. I noticed a book listing non-profit organizations in the county, most of them education oriented. One program that caught my eye was a cooking school for kids, Le Petit Gourmet. It is part of a charter school network that provides alternative learning experiences for kids that don't fit in the mainstream public education system. I stopped by to check out what was going on and was given a tour by co-owner, Bill, who showed me the large kitchen, café, community gathering area, crafts room, and computer room. Bill and I talked about the program and our goals. With every minute of conversation, I started to feel like this kind of project was something I had to be a part of. Bill told me that he needed some help with the kitchen in order to reduce his workload and concentrate more on his bakery business. He asked me if I wanted to come into the project and contribute my energy and ideas. Absolutely! I told him about my commitments to work through the summer, and my trip to Australia, but that I would be willing to get involved soon afterwards. For now, I am concentrating on the projects I've already planned for the summer, but I am also keeping the kitchen in mind.
After Eugene, mom and I left Portland and spent a couple days in Seattle before parting ways near Vancouver, BC. I broke west to visit my friend Janet in Nanaimo, on Vancouver Island.
That is where I am for now! I hope you enjoyed the update. Now you can tell me what you've been up to!