Off The Grid

Dear Reader,

I'm writing this at 3pm and someone is coming to buy my laptop around 7:30. Tomorrow morning I will be on the road after spending 2+ years in Hanoi. From Hanoi to Europe I plan on taking 2-3 years and going through India and Africa, but there are some twists...

I have always been very inspired by the likes of Che Guevara, Charles Darwin, Marco Polo and Ernest Hemingway not for what they did or wrote as much as how they traveled. They wondered the globe long before telephones or emails and, in some cases, before postal services were available. I spent new years eve 2013 alone on a small island in the Philippines not long after I split up with my girlfriend in Saigon. My body was in such a beautiful place in a new strange country, but my mind was definitely not there. Picking up WiFi means using Facebook, reading updates from people on the other side of the world, emailing, watching you tube and reading blogs and news articles. All of this is great, but not if you want to travel and fully immerse your body and mind into a place. At midnight that night I wrote in my diary that "after working in Hanoi, I will cycle from Vietnam to Europe with absolutely NO internet or contact with anyone outside of posting letters to close friends and relatives."

Now, in March 2015 on the eve of leaving Hanoi, I still have that same drive and will that I did on that beach in Siquijor. I will not use any internet or any other electronic devices with 2 exceptions: My camera (Nikon V1) and my kindle (I've got about 7000 ebooks and cannot bear to travel without them!). This means getting information must be done first hand and in person. In fact, all human contact will be done face to face (I have promised mom and dad that I will try to find a phone and call them every few months when in a city just to let them know that I am alive and well).

I'm excited to see the changes and effects that not using internet will have on me. I have been online consistently since I was about 20 years old, so that's ten years of staring at a computer screen! Looking back at my browser history I can list the things that I use internet for the most in order of time spent:
1. YouTube
2. Chess
3. Facebook
4. Porn
5. News and blogs
Anyone who knows me well will know which of these will be the hardest for me to give up.. Definitely chess!

In addition to not using modern communication, I plan to never stay in a hostel or pay for sleep in any way, no matter what! This may sound a bit full on and over the top, but I always preach about how amazing budget travel and guerrilla camping are, so it's time to really practice it with no lapses. Also, I plan to buy grain and vegetables at markets and make all my own food, only eating meat when I catch and kill it (fishing, trapping, bird-fishing, chicken theft?).

All said and done, I plan on an in-country budget of about 1 USD / day, which excludes visas and bicycle parts. I will keep very strict records of my spending over the next couple of years and I'm curious to see the effects of getting offline!

Goodbye dear reader, see you on the other side!



2 Years in Hanoi

I arrived in Hanoi 2 years ago from the Philippines with one main goal: work and save as much money as possible. With a bit of luck, a few great opportunities and some hard work I've managed to pass my $20k goal and am happy to report a budget of world conquest proportions and hope not to need to work again for 2-3 years.

After arriving I got right to it and picked up work teaching young children at a language center through Dogi, my good friend and long time pool rival from Saigon. I loved the kids and ended up working there part time for the whole 2 years. Shortly after that I met Chi, my sunshine in a cloudy Hanoi, while she was working at a shoe shop near my house. I returned several times to buy house slippers until she agreed to give me her phone number. Chi was 24 and a divorced mother of 1. She was extremely considerate, funny, and selfless, always willing to help anyone and everyone. And so after being in Hanoi for only a couple of months I had went from being an aimless road vagrant to having a 'normal' life with an apartment, job and a girlfriend. Quite an adjustment!

My biggest break came when I landed a job teaching IELTS and Presentation skills at the University of Science and Technology in Hanoi. The courses where seasonal and the pay was far better than any work I had had up to that point. I had an opportunity to be very creative in choosing the content for the courses and to meet, teach and influence so many bright kids. It was here teaching 18-20 year olds that I really developed a love and passion for teaching and so decided to stay in Hanoi for a second year.

In the second year I lived in a great house and developed some friendships that I hope will continue far into the future. At this point my Vietnamese was pretty functional so Chi and I bought 10 desks, a white board and a projector and opened classes in our living room for other expats who wanted to learn Vietnamese. We did weekly classes for a few different levels and focused on bringing a modern style of teaching (Lots of games, fluency and listening activities and a “no English” rule ) to a Vietnamese classroom. I took on the role of Chi's assistant and tried to help her with methodology and logistics. Every class we ate awesome food and drank lots of beer, but the best thing about the classes was that we met so many cool people from all over the western world!

Hanoi can be quite a beautiful city with lots of trees and lakes, but during my second year here I did begin to develop a frustration with Hanoi and the attitudes of a lot of the people here. The traffic here is notoriously bad and lawless, which doesn't bother me that much aside from the younger guys (aka young buffalos) who fly around laying on their horns weaving in and out of traffic like maniacs. I have a hard time controlling my emotions when I feel that someone is putting people in danger just to be a douche bag and I've had several arguments in the street and even punched a kid in the face once for knocking an old lady off of her motorbike while driving drunk. A portion of the people here have a very hard, cold, Chinese-like attitude (this is mildly ironic because they hate the Chinese) which I find very different from the rest of the country, and not so appealing. When I left Saigon I was very sad and said heartfelt goodbyes to all of my neighbors and all the neighborhood people I saw from day to day and I really felt a connection having spent time living among them. I wish I could say the same for Hanoi. 

All in all Hanoi has been a great place for me to bear down and continue funding my travels. Also, both my sister and brother were able to visit me here which was so amazing. Sitting here writing this I feel sad and as though I'm permanently closing a long chapter in my life, but at the same time extremely excited about the road ahead through Asia, India, Africa and beyond!



I didn't get to go to nearly as many places as I wanted to in the Philippines, mostly because it rained everyday, my bike got pretty rusty, and I spent most of my 2 months playing pool in Manila (the Mecca of pocket billiards).
Manila is a pretty crazy place indeed, here were my first impressions:
-Homeless people everywhere, mostly children
-The majority of women seem to be prostitutes
-The food sucks

On my first night I went into a bar and was attacked by 'freelancers' (prostitutes who don't work for the bar, they just work for themselves and are usually older.) I met an American guy named James, he was a stocky ex-marine and he really played the part. He talked a lot, maybe a hundred words to my one, and he liked to tell me lots of stories, mostly about how many asses he has kicked or about prostitition. He would say things like: "It's like McDonalds bro, you look at the menu then order what you want, same thing with these girls, you discuss exactly what you want and how much it's gonna cost before you leave the bar."
James was not a very likable man, but interesting none the less and I quietly listened to his crazy ass stories at various bars till about 3am when I decided to call it a night and head home. As I was leaving he gave me one last little gem for me to contemplate on my long walk home through Manlis's backstreets and alleys: "Be careful walking home bro, if they're this big (he held his hand to his waist) then they're beggers, don't worry about them. If they're this big (hand at his belly button) then they're pick pockets and if they get to close just give 'em a little smack in the back of the head. And if they're this big (hand at his chest) these are little fuckers you really gotta watch out for, 12-14 year olds are addicted to crystal meth and they make guns out of rat traps and 22 bullets and POP! (jamming 2 fingers into my kidney) and thats it bro, you will watch them run off with your backpack while your bleeding in the gutter"
"Okay thanks" I said, "I'll keep an eye out for the rat trap ones." I put on my backpack and left. 
Fried tofu was one of my favorite things to eat

Pork Sisig was also pretty good, it's a hash with a fried egg. I asked the guy what the meat was and he said 'The pig face'

Getting my bike fixed, it got pretty beat up on the flight from Japan

Jeepneys and pedicabs are the main forms of transportation in Manila

Pretty sweet bike

Jeepneys are covered in shiny metals and usually lights and loud shitty music

A pedicab driver

No jeepney would be complete without a reference to 'god' or 'jesus'

A little girl who lives on the street and carries around her little brother asking for money

One of thousands of brothels
Luzon is the main island in the Philippines and after a couple weeks in Manila I was keen to get out and see some of the nicer parts of the island...

A lazy afternoon near Lucena

A sweet rice cake steamed in banana leaves

I assumed the elevated roads through the villages were designed for flooding

Everytime I want to get a photo of some nice power lines there always seems to be a volcano ruining the shot

A typical meal in the countryside is rice with liver or kidney in a tasty sauce

The island of Masbate was pretty cool, no tourism and pretty laid back...

Pork belly marinated and spit roasted with crispy skin, oh yeah!

Bohol - Siquijor
I had some pretty close calls going through security check points as I took ferrys from island to island. Going from Cibu to Bohol I was putting my bags throught the x-ray when I noticed the 2 police dogs waiting for me inside the gate. I was nervous because of the ounce of grass riding shotgun next to my manhood in my bicycle shorts, luckily they were bomb dogs! whewwwwwwww!
An old church left behind by those Spanish bastards

Vegetables in a spicy coconut sauce

King and Queen of Siquijor
A small city on the island of Negros where I spent a week relaxing, smoking pot, and reading books...
The harbor had very rough water and people lined up to watch people being shuttled off of a sinking ship


Japanese Food (a la Osaka)

With regards to travel Japan is an amazing place; beautiful and tranquil with a very unique and progressive culture. But at this point in my life I much prefer cycling countries like China, Indonesia and Vietnam because they are cheaper and offer much more in terms of adventure and excitement. My first 40 days in Japan I was on such a tight budget that I ate only at supermarkets and my diet was mostly made up of fruit and rice...until my mate Jon met up with me in Osaka, at which point he and I went nuts and ate everything we could and Japan became possibly my favorite food country on earth...

I've divided this post into 5 sections:
Street snacks and diners
Shabu shabu
Street snacks and diners - On the cheaper (but still expensive) side of things there is a ton of street food on offer all over Osaka where a typical meal is around $4-$7 with sit down diners costing slightly more.
Tako-yaki (octopus balls) is definitely the most famous street food in Osaka

The batter forms balls around chunks of octopus as they cook

The finished product is covered with a spicy bbq sauce, mayo, and dried fish flakes

Seaweed ice cream

Gyoza (fried dumplings)

Street pancakes made from egg
The best late night meal that a drunk person could ever ask for: a big raw steak with pepper and butter sizzzzzling on a hot cast iron pan

Noodles - Hot bowls of noodles on a cold November day are extremely pleasurable



More ramen

Okonomi-yaki -These 'pancakes' are made of a batter with rice and various kinds of stuffings, pretty much anything you can think of can be put into these things, and then they are cooked on a hot griddle in the middle of your table. The Japanese seem to love restaurants that have a 'hands on' aspect to the meal, meaning that you cook it yourself at your table, which I really like.
Batter and slabs of bacon go on the grill

covered with various sauces..

...and a thin mayo..

..and finished with more sauces and fish flakes

cheese doing what it does best: oozing

Shabu shabu - One of the best meals of my life. All you can eat raw beef and pork, which is dipped quickly in a simmering broth and then into a citrus soy sauce, and all you can drink beer/sake/plum wine for about $60/person. I wouldn't be surprised if this particular restaurant decided to revoke it's all-you-can options after me mate and I ate 10 plates of meat and drank about 20 drinks in 1.5 hours. 
Preparing to devour a massive meal

Jon Doig pictured here with a beer, a cigarette, and chopsticks full of thinly sliced pork. He would be a pretty shitty Muslim,  but an ideal dining buddy

Oh yeah

Sushi - My favorite of all, you sit in long narrow restaurants and small plates of sushi slowly pass by you on conveyor belts with each plate costing about $1.50, Jonni and I averaged well over 30 plates per meal and were quite proud of our 'stacks' which serve as concrete evidence to the other patrons of the restaurant, as well as the employees, that we don't f#$% around.