Arusha, Tanzania: (Day 16) Dec-26-2013

Happy Boxing Day.  It's 7:45 am and we are en route to Arusha.  We have been on the road for just under 2 hours and should arrive by 1, making for a 'short' day of traveling-only 7 hours.  I woke up sharply at 5:00 when Debby knocked on my door.  She asked if she could use the shower as hers and Vincent had no water pressure.  I said sure.  I packed up my  'completely unpacked' overnight bag and got dressed for the day.  It was a little chilly here in Lushoto and expect it to be similar in Arusha...though much colder within the Ngorongoro Crater due to its high altitude.  Breakfast at 5:30 and on the road by 6:00.

Today we are arriving at camp just outside Arusha around 1:00 and making lunch for ourselves.  Afterwards we are taking a tour of a local Maasai Village, which also has a snake park.  I'm not sure what to expect, but am excited nonetheless.

I have been thinking a lot about my round the world (RTW) trip over the last several weeks--actually for the last 1-2 years really.  Over the past 2 hours I have been driving myself crazy with thoughts/ideas so I figured I would try to capture some of them in hopes of clearing my mind.

I plan to travel the world for ~12 months.  I would like to go to South America where I can hike Machu Picchu and Patagonia.  Depending on budget I may consider Easter Island.  It goes without saying that every other mainland country will be visited.  Maybe I start my trip going through the national parks here in the US and drive down through Mexico and take busses and trains through South America.  This way I can start my ticket in South America.  Another destination would be Southern India--I've seen a lot of the North and would like to see more, but I may revisit the Northern portion...cost/day is so low here and could probably be budgeted <$50/day for two people for hotel and food....but $25 is also very possible.  Eastern Europe is also a destination I would like to visit.  The unique cultures, ease of traveling within, and central access makes it high on my list.  Western Europe bores me, so I'll visit there when I am older and just want to take a short 2-3 week trip.  Don't get me wrong I really enjoyed Ireland, and London wasn't horrible, but I just feel the US offers more 'diversity' within it's own 50 states than does Western Europe...or least it's not too far off.  I am not a fan of going to "see stuff" so the appeal of the ruins in Greece just does not excite me too much.  Plus I have already been inside the Pantheon and the Parthenon (if you count the perfect recreation in Nashville, TN).  However, I am very excited to Visit Amsterdam next week.  Everyone I have met from the Netherlands seems to possess certain distinguishing characteristics that I really appreciate.  They are light spirited, quirky, educated, sarcastic, goofy, and just plain old fun.  I have a very strong personality so I can pick up fairly easily on if someone wants nothing to do with me.  The dutch people I have met while traveling are not as eager to 'prevent rocking the boat' as many other cultures and this is important to me.  They tend to speak their minds, a quality that is useless in the others as their minds are mostly empty.

Eastern Europe has a different feel and the foreignness of it intrigues me.  I would like to then venture into Russia and travel around for a while.  Russian culture is so beautiful and I have immense respect for their people (nudge, nudge, Ayn Rand).  A country that values science and art to the fullest.  A country where a young male child can practice gymnastics and ballet while not getting picked on has some true merit.  The contributions to the Maths and Sciences brought by the Russians goes largely unparalleled.  Do you think America would ever be proud of their strong chess competition leagues?  Not a chance.  I wont go into the specifics of the types of achievements but just turn on your iPod and listen to you favorite classical music--I'm willing to bet there is quite a bit of Russian influence within your playlist.  I sometimes wonder about WW2 and the cold war.  Why don't we share our victory with Russia, because without the eastern front there could have been a completely different outcome.  Also I really find it comical about our reaction that caused the disaster at the Bay of Pigs.  But seeing as JFK has been recorded as the Country's worst President, perhaps it was just his doing?  If you haven't already seen Stanley Kubrik's "Doctor Strangelove" do yourselves a favor and watch it.  It does a great job portraying how ridiculous things were during the Cold War.  It was such a great time in history that--for the large part--was a time of peace and scientific innovations marching along at an unprecedented rate.  My heart almost goes out to Russia a little bit.  I mean Russia has NEVER used a single nuclear bomb as a defensive nor offensive instrument.  We used two bombs.  Which country to you think was/is more affair of the other using nuclear warfare?

I would like to take the Trans Siberian/Mongolian Railway through Mongolia to Beijing.  I know that it is a 4 day journey and runs around $500 per traveler.  There are 4 people per train cabin and we remain on the train for the entire 4 days--sometimes given 5-60 minutes to get out at stops and breath some fresh air.  Also, there are no showers.  4 days without showers...ha, that's child's play.  I've done close to that in the heat of an African summer while traveling in a non-air-conditioned bus--I think I can handle the train.  I know that I will need to get my visas for all thee countries--Mongolia and China potentially being much more difficult.  Similarly to Vietnam these countries require the visa to have a stated entry and exit date.  If something happened and I arrived in China a day early, they wouldn't let me in.  Same goes about leaving--one cannot even leave before the stated date.  These rules may have become more relaxed, but either way it is a hard restriction on individuals such as myself who wish to backpack through with no set itinerary.

I would like to see some large cities in China as well as the rural areas.  I have reasons for both but I will try to stay focused on my passage (yeah, I meant the double entendre.

From China the logical path would be downwards to Indochina.  I would like to hit up Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and Thailand again (however I would be perfectly fine with skipping over Bangkok).  I've been there a couple times for too many days and there really isn't anything else I would want to see.

From here I would go to a few Thai islands, likely work in a hostel or bungalow cleaning and doing yard work, maintenance for free food and stay.  This sort of arrangement is very common.  I figured a beach may be a good place to unwind for a couple weeks.  I could catch up on emails, follow up on my job prospects, take some preliminary and 1st round interviews via phone, etc.  Maybe freelance some of my consulting, or VBA/model building back in the states for a week to raise some money.

From Thailand I would finish off with the obvious (Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, Fuji, etc.)  Maybe onwards to Australia/New Zealand, but I don't have a huge motivation to visit...not yet.

My planning has been pretty basic thus far.  I have been working out the logistics mostly.  I would sell my car prior to leaving and that would probably be one of the last things I had to sell.  I would sell/donate my bed before and just use a blow up mattress until I left.  I would sell all my other large furniture.  I would probably sell my TVs, speakers, and everything else that can easily be repurchased.  It should be fairly easy to determine which items I will keep and put into storage and which items I will sell.  I will assume, just for this exercise, that everything I have now I will have also have/get once I return.  Thus if the item has a positive NPV I will keep it and if it has a negative NPV I will sell/donate it.  I know the fixed costs will be moving truck and storage rental for 12 months.  As the number of items I have increases these costs go up, but only slightly.  When I return I am not sure where I will take a job.  Moving these items, which are currently in storage, to my new location will vary greatly depending on distance and number/size of storage.  Thus, this is simply an unknown risk I will build into my model.  I will assume I will move within 1500 miles, and I will add upside risk if I take a job overseas and downside risk if I move locally.  I will take the current value of an item, let's say a TV for example, and see how much I can sell it for.  I have enough forecasting experience to be able to project (with a fair amount certainty) how much a NEW TV will cost 1-2 years later.  However, if I would likely buy a used TV as that is the current condition of my TV now.  Thus, selling the TV is the rational thing to do.  Hard to attain items would be given a premium, as would discontinued items.  Then there are things like decorations, which I've accumulated over the years.  These have memories attached to them and I quite like them.  Also, these types of items are small, easy to store at a friend's/family's house.  I'm not sure what I will do with my elliptical though?  Shit!  Plates, dishes, pots, pans, silverware?  Not quite sure?  Would be nice to start over with few pieces.  I would like to save the inside greenhouse I made, but it is sort of bulky.  I will sell it if I can capture at least $300 for it, but I think it's worth closer to $400.

OK SORRY, I KNOW THAT WAS ALOT, BUT I REALY NEEDED TO GET THIS OUT:  Things I will bring with me on my trip.  I will bring 2 pants, 2 shorts, 3 t-shirts and 3 long sleeved shirts.  I'll probably bring thermal underwear/long-t and a light fleece.  I will pick up stuff as I need it.  I've been doing this type of thing a lot so I'm fairly certain I know what I'll need.  I will probably bring my current macbook air.  I'll be able to manage, sort, tag, and post-process my RAWs during the long travel rides I will likely have.  I will have movies, music, and ebooks for entertainment as well.  Depending on the feedback from this blog I may continue keep one.  I was actually thinking of making it a bit more dynamic and building in some features that would allow me to generate a small amount of income to help fund the trip.  Some ideas include, "A small monthly fee to subscribe to the blog...if you don't pay you can't read it", "Provide the blog for free but upload completed and pre-selected photos and charge a nominal fee to view the photos", "Or I could just ask for a donation of $0.25 every time someone read anything in my blog".  In efforts to get more people involved in the blog and to make it more of a back-and-forth experience (as opposed to my just lecturing and you just reading) I could have polls or auctions.  For example I could say, "Next week I'm considering going to A.) place a, B.) place b, .....N.) place n.  I could have people pay $1 to be able to vote where I should go.  Or I could have an auction and the single person that bids the most on a given destination will 'win' and I will go there.  The 'winner' could tell me what they want to see in particular

Here are some examples of how I see it playing out:  Maybe my Grandfather, Papa Gibby, has always wanted to see the TGIF in Moscow--and say he always wanted to know the year it was built and by whom.  He could bid $25 and if he bids the highest I would go to Moscow and use my researching skills to find out the details.  I can take detailed photos/videos and any other relevant information.  I would then incorporate that portion into the blog.  It is sort of a mashup of "Where in the world is Carmen Sandiego?", those 'choose your ending' type books, eBay, Charity, and give you a great chance to Live vicariously via me.  You would be directly impacting the direction of my journey.  The butterfly effect would be enormous.  I am just brainstorming, I would love to hear input.  I like this idea, but I've also been told to just start a blog with many pictures and flood it with adds...but I don't want to do that.

So now that I just ranted on some schemes to raise funds en route I have to touch upon how I will manage to afford the trip before going on it.  I have more than enough money saved in 401k, Traditional/Roth IRAs, and a couple taxable brokerage accounts.  I even have a 519 College Savings Plan for my children who don't even exist yet.  Saving is a drug to even though I can 'afford' to take many years off and travel there is a huge associated cost.  The opportunity cost is the largest.  I would have to sacrifice 1-1.5 years of salary, bonuses, and benefits.  I would have to build a robust dynamic  model to track my budget once I started my trip, but a loose starting point that I think is fair would be $25,000 for myself and $45,000 (if I travel with a partner) for 12 months.  Pretty damn cheap for a year, huh?  I will have to put aside $5,000 for my college loans that I will owe, though I may be able to put them on hold if I say I am 'out of work'....more on this at a later time.

Mt. Kilimanjaro, Tanzania
Just got off the bus to take a bush toilet break and to snap a few photos of Mount Kilimanjaro in the distance.  Tabby says were less than 100km away.

I just listened to Michael Jackson's 'Man in the Mirror' and it has inspired me so much.  I can't even put into words, but listening to the song while being in Africa has really left its mark on me.

We arrived at our camp around 1:00.  I decided to upgrade and got a bedroom with two twin beds...but I will be sleeping in the room alone.  They had asked $45 dollars but I negotiated down to $20.  The room has its own shower so it was worth it to me.  It's funny because I am paying less than the accommodated people since they paid in advance and in full, I am negotiating when I can and staying in tents when I cannot.  Lunch was at 1:30pm.  Lunch meat and lettuce, salad, and shredded cheese for sandwiches.  We left at 2:20pm and went to a shoprite so we could get snacks for the Serengeti.  I'm so annoyed with how often we have to stop.  These families are the least outdoorsy people ever.  I overhear a few discussing how they will split up tasks while at the market.  For Jesus Sakes...we're being supplied water and 3 meals a day while we're gone...these people are starting to get out of my nerves.  I'm glad my trip is coming to an end.  I have one night here in our campsite just outside Arusha, Ndoro.  Then we have three nights in the Serengeti/Ngorongoro and one last night back here in Ndoro.  We then drive to Nairobi where I will be staying one more night and I fly out to Amsterdam the next evening--late.

Our Campsite in Ndoro, Tanzania
After shoprite we stopped at a shopping mall so a few people could look at some tanzanite.  It was overpriced, but everyone was like "Oh, wow, I have to get it".  I tried to explain to a few why it's not in the best interest of the shop owner to be honest with you and used another product as a comparison--they had carved wooden coasters and were asking $35 for them.  In the Mzuzu Market they would have sold it to me for $5.

It's 4:43 (almost two and a half hour after we left) and we still haven't gotten to where we are supposed to be--a Maasai Museum and a snake park.

6:30 now and we're back on our truck  The snake park and Maasai museum were shockingly really enjoyable.  First the snake park.  We saw a variety of crocs and snakes.  There  was a turtle what that was 100+ years old.  I even got to hold a baby crocodile.  I went ahead of the group while they were staring at dozens of snakes that all looked the same and enjoyed a 22oz of Castle Milk Stout.  It was a nice change of pace from the typical adjunct lager I have been drinking the preceding evenings.

Holding a Baby Croc at a Snake Park near Arusha, Tanzania
Next we went to the attached Maasai Museum, which I found very interesting.  I was asking questions and was really enjoying myself.  A few others asked some questions--they only had a few.  Many of my fellow travelers are brainless brainless sheep.  Debby, Vincent, and Cara where in back and couldn't hear anything the Maasai guide was saying.  I was the only person to tip the guide.  Afterwards, just outside where the museum let out, was a trinket shop.  I had wanted to buy a few items--I had bargained down one of the vendors.  I heard a few of the others telling me we had to leave "now".  I looked for the Germans, the only ones remaining, and we walked out of the shops.  She had said, "we've had such a boring day and when something finally gets interesting we have to go".  I told her I was happy to stay along with her and to "screw the others" but we just decided to head back towards to bus.  As I walked on the bus (probably within 2-3 minutes after the others) a few had commented about me being late--or something that hadn't needed to be said.  I said, I have been bored all day and I find nothing wrong with me staying a few minutes at something that was genuinely interesting.  This pretentious Aussie girl (I'll leave her name out for her sake) makes a snide remark about something irrelevant to the matter.  Something like, "you should have been listening, but you were too busy going ahead and getting your beer".  I wanted to call her a stupid twat, but I didn't.  I was actually getting a beer with Godfrey "OUR TOUR GUIDE" and the one giving us instructions.  He wasn't drinking but he had a Krest with me.  She was just trying to be the pretentious little girl she was.  If you've ever seen South Park think of the College-Know-it-all Hippie...that's her...just not a hippie.  After 1 or 2 years of school and she thinks she knew it all.  I'm sure I thought the same thing, and still do, but to be fair I have her easily beat in the IQ department by no less than 2 standard deviations.

I fear I might develop foot and mouth disease, that is, traveling with all these sheep.  I told that girl, "thanks for looking out for me babe, but as you may need someone to tell you what to do, where to go, and what to think I got myself covered".

The Maasai people are so interesting.  I have asked Godfrey about being able to try a typical Maasai meal and he said it can me arranged, but may cost me a bit.  They eat solely the meat from their chickens/goats (not cows), and the milk/blood from their cattle.  Beef and bloody milk...count me in!

It's just before 7, and we still probably have another 45 minutes until we arrive back to camp.  I just asked Godfrey and he told me, "I don't know, it depends on traffic".

I'll enjoy a meal and watching a movie tonight by myself tonight.

Lushoto, Tanzania: (Day 15) Dec-25-2013

Merry Christmas...I guess?  I'm riding on the truck towards Lushoto through Dar es Salaam.  I am listening to the first bit of music since I set 'voyage' 19 days ago.  First song--John The Revelator, by Gov't Mule.  Such an amazing song and quite appropriate for Christmas.  Today has been the worst Christmas I've ever had, probably.

Knock, knock, knock--my day started when Vincent had knocked on my door at 5 of 6:00am.  He had thought about me while everyone was at breakfast (at 5:30) and I was not there.  I was in fact still sleeping (1st mistake).  I must have pushed my alarms off my bed during the night and slept through their muffled sounds.  I got dressed and repacked my entire sack in under 5 minutes.  I got to breakfast at 6:10 and scarfed down some food (2nd mistake) and by 6:15 I was on my way to reception where we were set to depart at 6:20.  I arrived at reception sharply at 6:20, dropped off my $30 replacement key and loaded onto our shuttle van.

We arrived at the ferry in no time and we made it past security quickly.  Since we were early we had our pick of seats.  Some sat outside on the front deck, I sat beside Vincent and Deb in the front of the middle deck--this way we had more room to put our stuff.  It was a slight pain as many people were using this front aisle to move across the boat.

One of the Jason Bourne movies was on prior to departure, but once the ship had left they changed the programming to the safety video.  I had no clue what was being said since it was in Swahili, but they did have some pictures which helped.  However I am pretty sure some of the pictures were indicating not to play cards, not to spit, and not to kick small children?  Perhaps they should have used more informative pictures?

At this point I started writing in this blog, I had to catch up from yesterday...I'm writing portion of my blog on the truck drive over to Lushoto, Tanzania now and it's about 2:45pm.  Charlie Chaplin is playing on the TVs now.  The family next to me--a married muslim family with 2-3 children--were laughing hysterically.  The irony of a boat filled with muslims traveling on Christmas watching and enjoying Charlie Chaplin made me ponder a bit before returning to my writing/ranting.

I knew the a/c was on but the rate at which I was sweating was increasing and I knew something was up.  Although I haven't had my period in 27 years I was still able to successfully rule out hot flashes.  I self-diagnosed myself as being dehydrated--I had not drank much water the previous day.  I drank some water but became increasingly hot.  Soon enough I began to feel a little headachy...and a bit more...and more.  I got up and went outside and sat on the step in the front deck, which helped only a tad.  I came back to my chair to told Vincent and Debby I wasn't feeling well and that I was going to go out back on the side of the boat and maybe the restroom.  Of the remaining 2 hours I had probably spend ~80 minutes here.

I think it's paramount to state that for the last 2 days  all scuba, snorkeling, and offshore excursions have been canceled due to poor ocean conditions--stormy conditions.  I'll put things this way...the ocean was not nearly as smooth as my way the the ladies ;).  The waves tossed the boat from side to side, huge sprays of water crashed overboard soaking people (and me along the way) from shoulder to toe.  Now this is some feat provided this boat is a multiple level catamaran large enough to carry hundreds and hundreds of passengers--maybe thousands.  I was switching off between crouching down with my head on the metal railing and standing semi-erect (in posture you pervs) staring at the horizon.  I could not manage to stand straight up since I felt too exposed and that feeling somehow made me feel worse.

I managed to keep myself 'semi' calm for 40-60 minutes, but I eventually said, 'FUCK IT' I have nothing to prove and just leaned over and tried to throw up.  I had a few mostly dry-heaves and then moved to the back of the ship for better 'positioning'.  Over the side was a bad idea as we were moving quite fast any projected stomach contents would travel backwards and likely back onto the boat.  I got one good hurl over the back of the boat.  At this point a man dressed in all black and a fez hat handed me a sick bag and pointed me in the direction of the bathroom.  I forced myself to throw up one last time before cleaning my face and rinsing out my mouth.  I stayed by the side of the boat for the remainder of the voyage.  The side-to-side rocking of this ship was unrelenting.  Marcia also joined me--She was feeling increasingly sick, but I don't believe she threw up.  I needed to get back to my seat prior to out embarking since I had my tablet and camera exposed alongside my day-sack.

As we disembarked the new German girl had also said she had thrown up and felt like shit.  People all over the place were throwing up and you couldn't go a minute without the sounds of a person's stomach emptying.  I did some quick thinking and figured it was better to not take another Doxy (malaria prophylaxis) at the risk of further upsetting my stomach.  Next time I travel in such turbulent ocean conditions I will take my motion sickness medicine more than 1 minute prior to departure.

Godfrey Moving Between The Truck's Cabin and Front, en route to Lushoto, Tanzania
We disembarked and found our way to our truck--Tabby had left last night to get the truck ready for us.  I was feeling awful and continued to feel as such for the next 4 or so hours.  I knew I was dehydrated and I had just thrown-up all my morning's food/water.  For the first time ever I was able to use a package containing O.R.S. (oral rehydration salts).  The taste was nasty, so I waisted till the truck had stopped and chugged 200 ml several times until the half liter was gone.  I slowly began to feel better, but this was also thanks to the several stops we made for snacks and the chocolate milk I had.  Our first stop for food was unsuccessful since both places at the mall were closed due to Christmas.  The next place we stopped was open.  We needed to get snacks for the day since we were driving straight through till we got to camp at around 7:30-8pm, depending on road conditions.

Marcia and her Henna, en route to Lushoto, Tanzania
There were not many food options at the shop.  I bought chocolate milk, 3 small packets of Oreos (2 packs which have already been eating), 10 prepackaged plums, a Snickers bar, and some local beef jerky which goes by another name.  All this came out to under 12,000 shillings ($8).  They couldn't make correct change so they rounded to the nearest 200 shillings, which is like 7 us cents.  Kind of makes the States look ridiculous considering we have the penny--and a penny for us is much less than 7 cents for someone living in Tanzania.  Australia has a 5 cent piece, but they have just decided to stop using it.  The EU also rounds to the nearest 5 euro cent as well.  I think it's probably a good idea is to buy as many as pennies as possible and hold onto them and later melt them down and sell the raw metal.  I will have to look into the futures market on zinc (that's that I believe is in the center of the penny).  I believe the penny is copper plated (perhaps electroplated) and not cladded...but I'm not 100% sure.  I do know that cooper makes up much less than 10% of the entire coin by weight (and likely volume).  But I digress.

I have taken a Xanax and a half, which equates to 0.75mg--after 3 hours I feel almost no effects.  I took another 1/4 of a pill so I would max out at 1mg (I later discover is still a relatively low dose).  Since the time to peak plasma is short, AKA a short half-life,  the effective dose will only be a 1/2 mg.  I probably need at least 1 mg to be used as a sleeping aid.  Anything lower just calms me having several beers.  Oh well, lesson learned.

We still have 3-4 hours on this truck.  We've been spoiled in Zanzibar and now we have two long days driving day, back-to-back.  Tomorrow drive from Lushoto to Arusha.  Arusha is a city that is a major meeting spot for travelers and backpackers alike that are en route to/from safari.  I think of it as the Bangkok of Asia and the Amsterdam of Europe.

The day after tomorrow we leave for the Serengeti for a two day night stay within the park followed by a one-night stay at the Ngorongoro Crater.

Oh, about the cost of dinner last night.  The octopus tentacle, blue marlin, and garlic naan was 6,000 shilling (~$4USD).  He had quoted something like 9,000.  I said 6,000 and he laughed.  He said sorry not enough, how about 8,500.  I was not in the mood for this game of back and forth and I also knew someone in my position had the upper hand--I was a buyer of a non-differentiated product within a perfectly-competitive market.  I said 6,000 one last time and walked away.  He said ok ok, 7,000.  I looked over my shoulder and said, thanks for your time, but I gave you my only offer, have a good evening.  Three strides more and he was screaming, "ok, ok, for you 6,000",  I turned back, said, "thank you", and waited as he reheated my meal.  He also gave me some hot chili and a cucumber as a side.  Of course I did this for all the other foods I tried--though I often started at a very very low price just to see the lowest price point at which I could get the supplier to bite.  This was the 'field research' I conducted prior to making my final purchase.

My constant bargaining may come across as cheap, but I assure you it is not.  Tourists get charged more for the same product as do locals and this is simple price gouging.  Also, if I would refrain from negotiating I could easily be spending $3-$5 more per day.  This may seem like a pittance to a common American, but part of the traveling experience is to experience the cultures you visit.  People in many parts of the world simply cannot throw money around because they have so much of it.  If I can't negotiate the price down enough to a budget I have deemed reasonable then I should go without the's what the locals would have done.  One last thing, the longer one travels the more important negotiating becomes.

Some Thoughts:

This trip has inspired me to make more of my life.  And I mean that multidimensionally.  I have grown complacent with just existed and have forgotten what it means to really 'live'.  There is so much out there and I just waste so much of my life inside with the TV on, or relaxing.  There is an entire music scene that I'm missing out on.  So many people out there that I haven't yet meet.  I get used to spending my time with my girlfriend and my close friends.  None of this is bad, but it's becoming an issue as I'm not going out and living and experiencing 'life' the way I want to..  I am happy to do these things with my friends, but it has become just TOO east to say, "why don't we just go to the local bar", or "why don't we just hang out here".  I'm really going to force myself to get out and see/do/try more.  I would like to backpack a bit more up the east coast during long weekends.  What's so hard about leaving my home on a sunday evening to driving out to a field with a bottle of wine paired with nice cheese while watching the sunset and listening to nature?  Why have I become complacent to the extent that staying in on a sunday is not just acceptable, but preferred?  There is so much out there and 80% of it is free, or at least super affordable.

Traveling for me is not about seeing things, it's about forcing one to reassess one's values.  What does it mean to be important, happy, valuable...?  What really makes us happy?  Is that sustainable or does it require a significant time investment to keep up with the trends to remain happy.  Case in point--following new technology trends in TV so we can buy brighter, flatter, larger, smarter TVs when they are available.  If we were truly happy with the initial TV then no future TV technological advancement should matter.  BUT IT DOES MATTER...but why?  It's because once we know there is something better and we have the potential to attain it we save and buy it.  Then we are 'happy'.  But are we any happier than when we were after that initial TV purchase?  No we are NOT.  It's the same.  It's that the novelty of the initial TV purchase has been lost as we have switched our focus onto some other gadget, clothing trend, new perfume, new TV series.  During the week we look forward to the weekends because we don't 'enjoy' our work. And on weekends many people enjoy not having to do anything in particular since we just don't have work.  This is not the existence I want.  It's not enough for me.  It's petty and quite frankly it is so sad.  We have become diluted to the point where we attain our happiness through objects we can buy or just pass our time without having to work.  Happiness is a state of life, it's a static feeling we have when we realize how lucky we are to be here on earth and can live life.  You get fired from you job, hakuna matata.  You sleep in and miss your Saturday trip to the Italian, hakuna matata.

Hakuna Matata is a an old Swahili phrase, as many know from "Lion King", which essentially means don't worry.  But more so it means something like be peaceful, life's good, calm yourself, no worries, etc..  Next time you are in the market for a new TV, ask yourself, why?  Did you not want the last one you bought but simply couldn't afford the larger one and now you can?  In  that case you shouldn't have bought that initial one if it wouldn't have made you happy.  If you're buying a new one because you can 'afford' it and just 'want' a bigger one then I think you should do some real soul-searching.  Are you no longer happy with what you have?  Do you think you will be happier with a larger one?  Do you consider how much money was wasted in buying that first TV?  Did you know the highest paid people in Southern Africa (barring South Africa) make $1,000 - $1,500 USD a month?  AND are happier than any of us.  We are so well-off we actually die of 'old age'...a concept unheard of in Africa.  Aids and Malaria are the #1 and #2 killers, respectively, in Africa.  We are lucky enough to die from heart disease, and cancer.  With the exception of patients who have heart disease for reasons other than 'old age' (like people who choose to have it by not eating healthy and/or exercising) we actually die from getting old.  In Africa they have disease, drought, can barely feed their families every day (and often don't), yet they are among the happiest people I've ever seen.  Not to be racists but ever notice how African Americans scream and shout during Graduation ceremonies and in the movies?  Yes this is completely uncivilized, but it's oftentimes the 'american white demographic' who get angry--the African Americans are the ones enjoying themselves to the fullest.  We shove charity in their face and we think we're helping and teaching them--perhaps we should actually look inside of ourselves and ask what we can learn from them.

I have used the TV example to illustrate a point, but the same can be said about new designer clothing, houses, cars, etc..  You know how often my own mother tells me my clothing is 'out of fashion'.  I know she means well and I love her to death for it.  But she is not alone, this is how most people see 'our' world.  My clothing is out-dated?  According to whom?  Some TV show, overpaid model or celebrity?  The entire concept of fashion disgusts me.  If something fits, is presentable, comfortable, functional, what is the purpose of fashion?  The western world derives it's purpose of life through buying things---especially in the US.  If something is in fashion one season and completely 'lame' 2 years later doesn't that reflect on the pettiness of the person making the 'fashion' rules.  If fashion is not objectively measurable and is always changing the ONLY driver of such aforementioned fashion dynamics is people's willingness to absorb what other people tell them.  These people soak it up and believe it and are convinced that in order to be happy they need to then buy or practice these new 'fashions'.  Fashions change because corporate designers need to replenish their products with new inventory, otherwise they face entering a perfectly competitive market, which would bring their average retail selling price down--drastically.  Thus, designers come up with new ideas--oftentimes what they actually are is of no importance, it's just important that they are different.  Using ALOT of money they push these new designs through huge marketing investments (e.g. TV commercials, creative and very strategic product placements, and licensing agreements).  They need to convince you that their brand is valuable and popular.  Now they can charge you 5 times the cost of what it actually costs to produce their clothing.  You think it's more valuable because you paid more, you're a fool if you really believe that.  If they are a publicly traded company, and many of the design houses are, read their annual SEC reports.  You'll learn many luxury brands outsource their actual fabrication to the same factories that make the clothing for Gap and other lower priced brands.  However your $220 pair of Theory pants did cost ALOT more money than those $50 pair of gap pants.  But here is the fucking kicker.  Of the $220 you paid for those pants, $70 just goes to pay for the marketing they had to buy to build their brand name.  Gap maybe spent $5 on marketing.  So now how you have a $45 (Gap) versus $ (Designer).  Since Gap is a larger company they benefit from economies of scale so their cost of material is cheaper as is their labor compared to a smaller company such as Theory.  So you are convinced the theory pants are over 4 times ($220/$50) 'better' than those pair of Gap pants but in actuality the pants are at best 2 times 'better'.  And compared to Banana Republic the Theory pants are only marginally better, with minimally-superior fabric--but maybe the fabric/stitching is 10-20 dollars more expensive, but you end up paying $100 + more because you 'believe' its 'much' better and thus it will make you more happy?

I aspire to live in a the smallest house possible.  I find house purchases an interesting concept.  I understand if money is of no concern, but if that were the case I would want to 'give' my money to my family and friends because I love them and they deserve it ALMOST as much as anyone else.  Not all the money, but wages are fucked up in my country and people doing very hard work are underpaid while you have near-brain-dead morons (think today's music scene, TV reality shows, and athletes) that make ungodly amounts of money for something EVERYONE can do.  And at least 10,000 can do almost as well but don't have the same luck

Ok, I'm done ranting because I'm just getting worked up and probably irritating many people, but I DO hope you think about the next purchase you make.  Please ask yourself, "why am I buying this, do I need or want this.  Do I have anything else that is similar to this and if so why do want this one over that?"

Even if you have the money to buy it, it's not a matter of affordability--it is the parasitic nature of having to buy to be happy and feel fulfilled in life.  I really do pity these people.

ONE LAST IMPORTANT NOTE:  I am not targeting any one person here, I am speaking about western culture (American, more specifically) at an abstract level so there is no reason to take offense.  It's 5:05 now and I'm going to chill a bit.

We didn't arrive at our camp in Lushoto until 8:00.  I upgraded to a hotel room for only $10, hard to pass up.  In this room I had a shower...though I had to take a cold shower.  We have wifi here but I have to sit outside near the bar in order to get signal.

We ate a late dinner--9:30pm--and finished at 10:30.  I cleaned the dishes and put them away, it's been a while since I've helped out.  For dinner we had grilled chicken, sausage, potatoes, grilled veggies, and gravy.  It was quite the feast.  Now I'm sitting outside writing and talking with the new German couple.  It's about 11:15 and I'm about to get to bed.  Goodnight!