Friday March 25th, 2011 12:40 vs. The World (Part Two)

Up late as usual, I popped over to Reddit, one of my usual sites. Reading some of the first news stories about of the earthquake, I assumed that everything would be back to normal by the time we would be arriving in Tokyo. Waking up the next morning, I began to read about how the earthquake caused a giant tsunami and that northern Japan was mess. At this point I began to worry. Mike and Alex figured that things would probably be fine by the time we get there.

It’s at this point where shit got real, real nuclear. The nail in the coffin came to me after listening to an interview with two Spanish tourists in Tokyo on NPR. They pretty much stated that the overpopulated city of Tokyo was like a ghost town. The question became “where do we go instead?” Due to cost alone, our options quickly narrowed themselves to Hong Kong or Taiwan. To add an additional feather in Taiwan’s cap, my friend John had been living in Taiwan for the last 5 years and I saw Taipei was ranked #2 in a list of the most underrated cities (behind Detroit). Hours of skype later, we ironed our plans out.

So here I am, sitting at O’Hare staring at this giant airplane that is going to take me to the other side of the planet. I have no idea what I’m in for when I land. Just that sweet sweet feeling of wonder/terror.

Oh and I thought I should mention that I’ve created an account for Mike to post here as well. So If you start reading something thoughtfully worded using the lexicon of a social sciences graduate student or an in-depth description of what a fish’s butt tastes like, they’re probably his words.

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Friday March 25th, 2011 02:05 vs. The World (Part One)

Coming home after a month on the road had me thinking a lot about travelling. Besides missing my friends, family and sweet, sweet fluffy bed, I was hungry for more. Prior to leaving for my trip last fall, I had invited a few close friends to tag along but both passed having previous commitments. One of these friends was Mike Sabbagh. Mike had been accepted to a graduate program in London and the “All You Can Jet” dates fell right on the time he’d need to move across the Atlantic and start classes. After finding out that his university gave him a month long spring break, we agreed that I’d come out to London and we’d go hosteling around eastern Europe. I realized this created an excellent opportunity. “tomayz vs Europe” was beginning to write itself, the only problem being it was months away. Deciding the beginning of the year would be an ideal time to plan for a vacation in April, we put off any further trip planning.

Months passed and 2010 was coming to a close. Mike called and well, I don’t recall his exact words but it was something along the lines of “I’m really sick and fucking tired of Europe, lets go elsewhere. How about Australia and New Zealand?” My brain lit up, oh the possibilities! Kangaroos, dingos, wallabies, platypi, poisonous snakes and scorpions, funny accents, Foster’s, Aussie rules football, “middle-earth” and the possibility of ending up on LOST island. It’s in another hemisphere, hell, it’s on the other side of the world! Plus, they speak English, making it a whole lot easier. I began making a list of places to go: Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Adelaide, Auckland and Wellington.

Another month or so passed and as I found myself a few weeks into 2011, I was reminded that it was trip planning time. Another conversation with Mike was under way and he said something like: “I’m already half way around the world. I was thinking we should go someplace crazier, something more once-in-a-lifetime. My friend Ron teaches English in Korea, we could visit him.” Once again my brain lit up: Korean internet/gaming culture, barbecue pork, Annyeong from Arrested Development, Bibimbap and the possibility of ending up on and island that is almost as rad as LOST island… Japan! anime, Akihabara, weird snacks like Cucumber Pepsi and Butter KitKats… Hell, I could go on for a while and I’m sure you get the idea. Everything was falling into place perfectly. I called my brother Alex to brag and his response really caught me off-guard. He asked me if he could join us. With the exception of family vacations as a child, I have never really traveled with my older brother. When else was I going to have to opportunity to go on a crazy Asian adventure with my own brother? Probably never, so the invitation was extended. Plane tickets were purchased as Australia was having one hell of a cyclone season. A week later an earthquake shook New Zealand up. Catastrophe averted, or so I thought…

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Thursday March 24th, 2011 01:46 Thanks a lot!

While looking through this blog as I was planning to update it for my future adventure, I realized that I had forgotten to do one very important thing. I’d like to thank the following people for going out of their way to help me on my trip:

Mike Sabbagh
Alex Ayzenberg
Dustin Turner
Brooke Travis
Adam Beer
Anne Baynes & Eli Robbins
Crystal Nassouri
Eric Ryder
Bobby Miller
Rob Balousek
Jason Merritt & Annie Gerow
Evan Hanusa

Thanks again guys!

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Thursday March 24th, 2011 00:17 Boston (The Missing Chapter)

Here I am, looking through the outline of my post for Boston. It’s been five months and well, I abandoned you… my poor “readers”. The weather in Boston that weekend (in comparison to the rest of the trip) was dismal. Grey, rainy and in the low 50s. I threw together an outline telling myself I’d tend to it later. Assuming it was the jet lag or the underwhelming experience I had, I never got around to it. In reality, I was burnt out. So I now present you with the “missing chapter”…

Arriving in Boston, I took a bus from the airport to the nearest T station. After a subway car and a transfer to streetcar, I had arrived. My hostel was in Back Bay neighborhood, disgusting close to the Berklee College of Music. It was late and I wanted to have a drink and relax. The hostel staff suggested I check out the “best” dive bar, which was just around the corner. TC’s Lounge was not exactly what I expected. Overpriced drinks, internet jukebox and newer arcade games? How was this a dive bar? Regardless, I watched some Monday Night Football and eventually made it back to the hostel where I met my three roommates. As it turns out, I was the only male in my co-ed room. One of my roommates was a Chinese girl who spoke no english, she was asleep by 9pm every night and was always gone in the morning. Kristy and Kelly were a couple of lawyers from Melbourne, Australia on a 6-month around-the-world trip. Instantly jealous, my month-long trip seeming pathetic in comparison. Laying in bed, I overheard the Aussies complained of the cold. It was a thousand degrees in that room and I remember getting no sleep because of it.

After a shower and a shitty continental breakfast, I took the street and walked along the Charles river basin as the rain gently, yet consistently came down from the slate-colored sky, slowly drenching me. Eventually making it to the Public Garden/Boston Common area, I wandered about snapping a few photos until I decided to do something “historic” and walk the freedom trail. Due to construction and erratic nature of the freedom trail, it is suggested you get map to guide you. The price of this map is $3, proving once again that freedom isn’t free. Deciding this $3 piece of paper would be a waste of my hard earned money, I did the next best thing and downloaded a free PDF version of the map on phone. After an hour on the trail, I found myself bored but most importantly soaked. I took shelter in the Newbury Comics store at Quincy Market. While walking the aisles, I had this sudden realization that this day had already defeated me and it was time to return to the hostel and piss the rest of the afternoon away on the internet.

My stomach rumbled, I wanted pizza and I knew where to get it. Recalling a sign reading “Pizza and Cold Beer” on the walk back to the hostel, I left the hostel and walked about 50 feet before turning to my right to find Crazy Dough’s Pizza. A nifty little dry erase board next to the menu read “PBR – $1 a glass, $5 a pitcher”. That night my dinner consisted of three slices of pizza and a pitcher of everyone’s favorite swill. When I walked back into the lobby of the hostel, I found my Aussie roommates along with a whole bunch of other hostelers. I had made it just in time to join a bar crawl lead by one of the staffers. Sadly, our first stop was TC’s Lounge. A drink a some awkward conversation later, our group couldn’t agree on the next bar to go to, so we split into two groups. Fortunately, my group’s next (and final) stop was Bukowski. Craft beer and a nice mellow atmosphere? Could it get any better? Indeed it did. It was thrilling to see that not only did they have a Founder’s beer on tap, but it was my favorite! The breakfast stout! The rest of the night I conversed with the group which was made up of some Brazilians, an Englishmen and an Irishmen. Getting back to the room before the Aussies allowed me to open the window and cool the room down to a normal temperature. I slept a lot better that second night.

Another shower and a shitty continental breakfast later, I was on my way back to the airport. JetBlue had been really great to me all this time and I was sad to be on that last flight, but after the plane landed as I fumbled through my wallet to find my CTA pass. I was truly excited to be back “Home” in Chicago. Home sweet home away from home?

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