264 Kilometers – www.allenhall.ca

I leave Vichy in bittersweet. The few days I spent couchsurfing at Mathildes flat where spent in enjoyable routine. We ate dinner and lunch together and laughed quite a bit. I got used to the routine there. I even took the time to cook dinner for Mathilde. While Mathilde was at work or dance class I did my own thing at her flat. This included writing, reading, cleaning a bit and cooking. I felt like I was at home. I felt that my routine there could be productive and worth getting used to. I had wondered about staying another night but the discussion never came up. My legs felt ok to ride. I had written in her guestbook. The morning was early and inviting. The time to leave had come.

Mathilde and I hugged and laughed some more while we said goodbye. She drove off in her sedan and I began to strap the luggage to the rear of my bicycle. I hit the road this time with some upgrades. A new smartphone case was attached to my bike so I could view google maps on demand. It also made the headphone cables less awkward. My new GPS watch was an unnecessary add-on. I convinced myself to buy it so I would have loads of data such as heart rate and record keeping for distances, elevations, and speed. It can also control my phone. I bought a towel to replace my chawell. I felt more prepared.

I made it to Roanne with relative ease. Having easy access to the maps on my phone made navigation a breeze. My legs felt stronger on this ride. I journeyed through more farmlands and forests as well as country roads and backcountry trucking lanes. Some of the journey was done on a French highway called the N7. I had room on the road but a few large trucks did pass me by quite closely. I felt pretty comfortable. I took a short break on the side of this highway before heading into Roanne.

Roanne was the largest place I saw since my brief visit in Marseille. The shops where bustling in the city center. People hurried from place to place shopping for clothes, handbags, shoes, and groceries. There were cafes, bakeries and bars. It was oddly comforting to me. The streets where narrow and free of cars and full of people. This was inviting to me. I liked it.

I walked my bike through the streets and found a cafe near the address to my next couchsurfing host. When I connected to wifi I told Georgio I was in town. He said he needed to finish up at work and would meet me in a half hour. At the cafe I ordered a coffee and took to some writing while I waited. Georgio met me punctually in thirty minutes like he had said. He is a tall fellow with a wide inviting smile. He has a warm aura. We walked to his flat just minutes away. I carried my bike up the stairs and parked it inside his flat. There were about five other bikes here, all Georgio’s. He is a cyclist and loves the craft. I am glad to be here.

Georgio offers me some food and I end up grilling avocados with eggs. It is a first for both of us. I gobble it up in a starved manner and Georgio decides to eat something else. We get to know each other a bit at his dinner table. He is an advent reader and teaches French and substitutes other subjects as well. We get along philosophically in general. He is a bit surprised by my military background. Later he folds out his couch bed for me. It looks to be around two hundred years old. The bed of his grandparents he says. It’s perfect. I fall asleep within minutes.

The next day I explore Roanne. Georgio had taken me out to show me around the day before. I saw some boats on the canal that had Quebec flags. I did not see the owners. Roanne is a small city. There are many boulangeries, cafes, and markets typical of France. The city is bright and vibrant during the day despite the abundance of dull grey buildings that frame the streets.

Georgio texts me during the day while he is at work and asks me to meet his friend Mureille. I am to meet her and drive to another city with her where we will meet Georgio and some others that are friends of his. I meet Mureille as instructed and together we drive to St. Etienne. St Etienne is about a one hour drive south of Roanne. Mureille and I have plenty of time to get to know each other. She speaks english well enough but I speak very little french. We are able to have good conversation though thanks to her english. I have to draw a diagram to explain one train of thought but other than that we laugh and get to know each other well.

When we arrive in St.Etienne Georgio greets us at a book fair. We depart there and take in the city from a few different vantage points. We talk about modern art a bit and make some jokes. Mureille is an art teacher. Georgio is an art critic. I am a comedian. The three of us laugh and discuss things until we reach the house of Guylaine.

Guylaine greets us in her home and another resident there also joins in. We are offered beers and sit around a coffee table. The home is occupied by a group of students. It is casual and laid back. Guylaine is probably the most laid back looking person I have ever seen. She does not seem to give any actual fuck at all. That isn’t meant to be a critic on her at all. She just looks so calm and less of a fuck giving than most people. She represents who she is and its very crisp and clean. I’m not sure exactly what I mean.

I talk to the other resident of the house a bit in slow english. He describes his desire to move to Quebec. This is a common theme here in France.  A lot of people seem to want to move to Quebec. They call it the Hawaii of France.

When we finish our beers we take a walk through the now dark city of St. Etienne. The group talks mostly in French so I take this time to think about nothing. We arrive at a small school and enter inside. I am told we are going to see a “feminist acapella group”. Georgio tried to explain more but it was lost on me. I was interested so here we are. Inside the school gymnasium people are serving pizza and beers. A little girl probably around age seven serves me a beer. It is probably the best thing that’s happened to me in France.

On the walls of the gymnasium are drawings and stories by students who are Syrian refugees. Only one of them is written in English and this by coincidence turns out to be the one I find first. The story is harrowing details of the childs memories of how Syria once was before the dictatorship, the riots on the streets to its protest, and, the many deaths that followed. It explained from the understanding of this child a description of the Syrian populace’s want of peace and happiness. It explained the fleeing of his family from the murderous rule of a dictatorship that would not let peace happen.

When the feminist accapala group begins to prepare to start their show Georgio translates for me the words of the oranator. Before each song there is a brief description of the songs origin and meaning. Georgio translates this for me. Although I can not understand the words of the songs I am captivated by the emotion of them. I laugh and cry just as maybe I would if I did know what was going on. Some songs are funny, some are sad, some are angry, most seem to be about the need for freedom.

The women of the feminist accapala group represent a few ages and cultures. There are seven of them. Some are French but there is also a Turkish woman, an italian, and a spaniard. They are simply dressed and wearing white aprons with the between of their legs outlined. Some house a red dot in this area. One woman has nothing on her apron but a red dot. There is something about this single red dot and the strong stance the woman takes that captivates me. There are children in the audience. I think the use of not censoring art. The importance of not censoring education and especially expression. I think about how censorship is not something even possible to that little boy and the traumas he witnessed during his life and escape from the Syrian atrocities. I think about the countless others still witnessing the insane abuse of power and lack of humanities across the world and especially right now in Syria. I think about my own family. My cousins, nephews and nieces, and, how I want them to know just how special their lives are. I think that we can all do something indirectly or directly to make better this world. Just by being honest to one another. Not nice but honest.

After the show we return to Guylaines. At this point most of the discussion is in French and my brain is very tired from attempting to translate. There is however a new member of the group who teaches English. I have a very nice discussion with her about emotional intelligence and finding the center within our own consciousness. We eat a big bowl of baked cheese with ham and potatoes. More residents show up seemingly more intoxicated than us. They join in with the cheese and ham and potatoes. They greet me warmly and say what they can in English. Later people begin to go to bed. I play guitar for those of us who are awake. Murielle, and Marine. I sing Johnny Cash and a couple of old blues standards. I forget to play the French song I wrote.

Upstairs the beds are full. Four of us sleep in one room. I have to share a bed next to Georgio who proceedingly tells me. “Allen I have good news for you. There are two males and three females at this party.” He leaves a long pause and finishes with a cold “and you must sleep with me.”. After an hour of the four of his laughing and singing while laying in bed we decide it’s time for sleep. It reminds me of precious childhood sleepovers. I make some jokes about my new watch and wait for morning.

When morning arrives I am eager to leave. I am a bit uncomfortable and mostly inclined to be anti-social. That is something I want to change but it has proven difficult. Decades of habits are hard to change. No surprise there. Georgio, Murielle and I take a walk to the local baker. We buy croissants, cakes and donuts except the later two are named differently than I can remember. We return to the home of Guylaine to eat breakfast.

Breakfast is a fun affair. I get coffee and eat some of the croissants and cakes with locally made jams. This house is joyful to be in. It is dwelt by artists and open minded youngsters. The affairs are casual and open. Everyone seems to pitch in with the chores. I am sure though that there are conflicts from time to time. What seems typical of young people today is apparent in this house. It is kept clean but there are things everywhere. Myriads of forgotten and sometimes picked up again hobby items. There are makeshift fixes for uncommon problems such as mattresses used to cut light from windows, kitty boxes to gather dirt, and, general clutter everywhere. It seems though that most items are  used often and have purposes.

I depart the house of Guylaine with Murielle and Georgio. We take Murielle’s car north back towards Roanne. On the way we stop at a castle and I take some photos.

Back in Roanne I say goodbye to Murielle. I wonder if I will see her again but I doubt it. I could have exchanged information but I decided to forego the formality. My journey is filled with meetings that never mature enough to properly negotiate friendship. They are left in the acquaintance of hopeful abundance and left with the feeling of something promising. A blessing and curse. Murielle waves goodbye a final time while Georgio and I carry his bicycle and punctured tire back to the apartment.

The next day Georgio and I depart on our bikes together. He has enthusiastically offered to accompany me halfway to Lyon. The 40 km I ride with Georgio are the best of my trip. Riding with a partner is nearly double as fun as riding alone. During this ride I make the longest and hardest climb of my trip. I do not have to dismount and walk though because having Georgio with me is motivation. At one point we play “Water bottle relay”. Georgio offers me his water bottle and when I grab it he pulls me along the way through this connection.

After what seems like a near enturnity of an estimated fifteen kilometer climb we finally reach the summit of the pass between Roanna and Lyon. The descent is unlike anything I have experienced before. I am able to ride at maximum speed for nearly twenty minutes as we make our way down the winding decline of the mountain we had previously climbed. Everything seems worth it when moments like these occur. Bicycling is its own method of freedom and best explored at coming down from high altitudes that were arduous to climb.

As the wind whips past me and I negotiate the turns along the descent my smile is from ear to ear. This is what I am awarded for going on a whim. For listening to my heart as it directed me to do something I did not fully understand. Complete freedom. Although I wish I had a bit of a faster bike and less weight. Well, I do not wish that actually. I just know that one day I will improve these experiences with faster bikes and less weight.

At the bottom of the mountain Georgio must depart back to Roane. He offers me an almond paste bar. We exchange hugs high fives and laughs and I watch him depart back up the mountain. I get lost in the neighboring town while looking for wifi. I find a restaurant that is open on a Monday and order a massive kebab that is stuffed with french fries. After about an hour of being lost I find a wifi signal at Mcdonalds and continue my journey for the next thirty seven kilometers to Lyon.

Georgio found a place for me to stay at in Lyon. A friend of his who is also a teacher. She greets me into her home and offers me complete generosity. She gives me her room and she sleeps on an air mattress. The generosity of people is quite a thing to recognize. It is a highlight of my trip to get to know people in this intimate way. I rely on them and they are more than happy to share themselves with me. It is a beautiful thing.

This is the first 264 km of my trip. I am 2.64 percent closer to my goal of 10000 km to arrive in Thailand. Already the gifts seem abundant. I think back to the tale that helped me make the decision to take on this crazy trip “The Alchemist” and remember some advice the King of Salem gave the boy. “At first the journey will be easy. It is called beginners luck. The universe will do all it can to encourage you to follow your personal legend. After these initial successes things will become exceedingly difficult until they seem almost impossible.”. I wonder with this advice what lies ahead of me on this long road.

264 km down

GPS Signal Lost – Allenhall.ca

I get ready to depart La Malatre holding back tears as we eat our last breakfast together. The emotional wounds endured by this family are opened again. This is a repeated outcome at La Malantre. While we eat breakfast I witness the tears and sadness well up in Evelyn as almost ready to burst. A dam is filling inside her, as it fills in us all – waiting for the inevitable moment when I say goodbye, our dam breaks, and, we all cry.

The family of La Malantre open their doors to volunteers who want to work on the farm and enjoy some hospitality in the quiet countryside of Auvergne France. The volunteers arrive to a family rather than an employer. They are taken into the family and treated like a favorite daughter or son. It is love that is shared here. The method of its transfer is so genuine that one can do all they can to not feel at home and as though they have been family all their lives. If not by acquaintance with the family then as a long estranged child who had returned home and was now engorged by the comforting method of reassimilation into the family unit. The celebrated return of the prodigal child.

Before I depart we give our final hugs and goodbye kisses. Megan the new workawayer set to replace me is filming the whole exchange. I nearly forget to hug Megan goodbye, she reminds me, we hug. Waving goodbye and pushing off my bicycle my mind becomes full of wonder and excitement. It is hard to believe that I am actually doing this. Shoving off on a bicycle with the intent to take it all across France, than Europe, the Middle East and all the way to Thailand. This is not something I imagined myself doing – ever. It was only a week ago that I decided to do this at all. Plans were sparse as was preparation. I have no idea where I’ll be sleeping and eating beyond the next few days. I will have to plan and prepare and adjust along the way.

My first stop is not far from the house that I stayed at in the Malantre. I must return some tools to the local mechanic. I had borrowed some sockets and a wrench to assemble my bicycle two days ago. The mechanic greets me with a smile and handshake. We communicate in broken french and hand gestures. I explain that I am about to depart for my tout le monde (tour of the world). I thank him “Merci Beaucoup” for his lending me the tools. He wishes me luck. I depart.

There is a thick fog in the air. I make mental notes of the importance of adding bright lights to my setup. The road is downhill all the way to commentary. I arrive there within six minutes. On Monday many shops are closed. The streets are empty. I go to the town square because I need to use the free local wifi. I had to update my map and sync my GPS. I had planned to do this at the Malntree but the departure proceedings where confused by heavy emotion.

My plan was to leave my phone tucked into my backpack on the rear tire rack. I could listen to google voice directions while I drove my bicycle. As I departed Commentry at the village roundabout was the first time I heard Google say “GPS Signal Lost”.

My bike is loaded so heavy that it cannot stand on its own on most surfaces. With my headphone cable attached to my pack behind me it makes it complicated to get off the bike without yanking the earbuds out of my ears. Since my GPS signal is so weak I am forced to ride a little down each roundabout exit and stop and awkwardly brace my bicycle then retrieve my phone from the sack and reload the GPS. Did I mention I have no pockets? This is what lack of planning involves. To think I did not buy a handlebar phone mount for my bicycle because I thought it seemed corny! It is definitely on my shopping list now.

I take a few twists and turns repeating the same awkward procedure mentioned above. I do this multiple times for about twenty minutes. The obstacles of this journey are already becoming apparent. They do not seem to bother me however. I can only laugh at my own ridiculousness at this point. I have become more familiar with how foolish I am. I am accepting it. I am embracing it.

Eventually I acquire a strong GPS signal and google begins to guide me through my attached earbuds. Google leads me through town alleys that give way to town roads that give way to passageways and eventually turn into dirt roads. The stoney house structures of France become less and less bunched together. They begin to spread out and become separated by large fields. Once again I am overlooking mass stretches of rolling farmland. The color of the fields and hedges that border them remind me of giant stuffed teddy bears with odd colored patch work stitching them together. The large fields of brown, green, and dark yellow, make up the fur and the trapezoid shaped hedges bordering them make up the patchy seamstress work.

I begin to doubt the path suggested to me by google as it becomes more and more narrow. It’s taking me through a forest now on bumpy grass pathways between the houses and fields and farmland.

After a final strange turn Google insists I turn right but I can not. My path is blocked by a gated fence that encloses a train track on both sides. “Does Google want me to ride the rails?” I wonder. There is a deadbolt that locks the gate. I begin to wonder if I should lift my bike over the gate or turn back and find another way. I wonder if Google is as lost as I am. I begin to wonder if this track is even in use. Just as this thought crosses my mind I begin to hear the rumble and horn of an oncoming train car.

I turn my head to the left and see a single yellow train car with two operators aboard. It is a funny shaped car. It’s awkward appearance matches the feeling of helpless uncertainty of my own mission. The two operators honk and smile and cheer at me as they pass by. I watch them disappear around a bend. I decide that since I am on an adventure that will call for many unorthodox decisions I can not let a simple fence obstruct me. I begin to push my bicycle into the gate and lift it over.

It is a heavy bike. It has over fifty pounds strapped to the back. I have to lift its awkward weight over my head to get the rear wheel over. As the bike falls to the other side my backpack strapped to the carry rack detaches and falls to the ground. I hop the gate thinking it is good that my backpack detached. Since my bag is easily detachable I can use this feature to throw my bike over future gates that attempt to block my way. Simply disconnect bag, toss bag, toss bike, toss self and continue. No problem. Lets go Google.

I throw my bike and bag over the second fence. I reload the baggage and fix my dress. I hop back on the bike. There is a path on this side that follows the train tracks. I ride the path to find a street that has multiple exits and hear that faithful sound from google “GPS signal lost”.

Much of my ride plays out like this. I find myself re-adjusting google quite often. There are long stretches of open road though that make up for all the confusion. When I am out in the open and sure of my way it is the most genuine feeling of freedom I have ever known. “This is the best day of my life” I hear my consciousness say. I find myself pushing the bike up many hills. I get lost in forests. I take lunch in the middle of a farmers field. I nap here a bit and listen to “The Alchemist” on audible book. It is the second time for me to read this book. The first time was one week ago when I was deciding whether or not I should attempt this crazy bike ride. It was impossible to say no to such a thing while listening to the alchemist. I must follow my personal legend. I simply must. One day I will teach you to do the same if you want.

After hours of up hills, down hills, lost in small towns, knee scrapes and running out of water I find myself in Vichy France. This is my first destination. My couchsurfing host Mathilde is not off work yet. I take two hours to lay on a bench in the centre of town and listen to my audiobooks. Tonight my legs burn like when I was a child. I attach medical patches to them and sleep on Mathildes couch. She greets me into her home with warmth. All over her flat is decorated with positive sayings and mantras “Follow your dreams!” “Life is beautiful” “Take care and be well!” things like that. A kindred spirit. A traveller. A lover of life. I shower and fall to sleep quickly waking up through the night to nurse my legs. The next day I sleep nearly completely through. Mathilde and I get to know each other. She cooks me a specialty of france. Bread, cheese, meat, and butter. I scarf it down like a hungry animal.

In the next few days I prepare for the second leg of my journey. I am .87 percent closer to my goal of the estimated 10000 km to Thailand. I am still messaging people for places to stay. Not everything has become obvious yet. I have faith it well. Until next time, Take care!

GPS Signal Lost


On Following The Heart – allenhall.ca

There seems to be two distinct voices in me that I have become aware of. I refer to the voices as something to be aware of and to myself as that which is aware and noticing the voices. The voices, as far as I can tell, belong one to my head and the other to my heart. Without going too far into detail about the biomechanisms that influence all decisions in the human body which include stomach tract, DNA traits, brain chemistry, bacterial ecosystems as well as heart and soul, I will relate the decision making process in this letter only by referring to the heart and mind and/or brain.

It is, evidently, the heart and mind that seem to speak most loudly. It is perhaps in these two organs that all other decision processes flow through for consideration before being made aware to me, the observer.

If a thought passes through my awareness it is just that, a thought, and I am the one who notices the thought. I can make the decision influenced by the thought or otherwise make no decision at all. It is not me that is the thought any less than it is not me that is the hand or the body. It is my hand, my body and my thoughts but they are not me. I am the noticer. I am the observer. I am consciousness.

I will not go into this idea with much detail in this post. I assume I will frequently come back to this idea and speak more to it at a later date. For now we must be satisfied that there is “I” the observer who is consciousness and that there are thoughts and feelings that pass through this awareness. The thoughts pass through consciousness and I observe them. I can feel them, I can hear them, and, I can command action to them.

Some thoughts go away easily if ignored. While other thoughts become louder and louder. They knock in many ways. Some seem to never go away at all.

To compare thoughts of the heart to thoughts of the brain I will relate ideas that can be described as dreams, aspirations and passion as voices of the heart. Things such as comfort, safety and logical reasoning will be attributed as voices of the brain.

These two centers, the heart and brain, in my case, seem to constantly be at odds with one another. At the very best this can be described with a scenario such as my heart will want to run a marathon, or chase after a girl for love. My brain will hear of this and subsequently want to talk me out of it. My heart will want to do things without question as it acts on passion. My brain will filter every decision through logic, judgment, and safety. These two manufacturers of ideas work in tandem. They complement each other. I am grateful for this. It is a good system and when they are satisfied I feel happy. When the balance is off, especially for the heart, things can become quite chaotic. They can become dangerous.

A few years ago I was living what can be considered a very normal and successful life. I made a good wage and I owned a home. I was healthy. I began to feel mundane and bored. My heart wanted something different. It wanted to sing and dance and make art. It wanted to be foolish and experience a completely different life. It had a long list of demands.

In those days I had been practicing how to open communication with my heart. I will soon write about this process in detail. For now understand that I simply began listening to my heart. I gave it space to speak and it became very noisy.

My heart had a long list of of complicated demands:

  • Sell your home

  • Quit your job

  • Travel the world

  • Learn as much as you can

  • Make art

  • Follow your dreams

  • Etc

  • Etc

  • Etc

At times my brain was obliged to help. Together my heart and brain worked patiently with each other to form plans and execute them. Oh the lists I made and completed!

It took years of preparation to get to where I am now. Free, as some would call it, travelling the world with no debt and no liabilities.

I have seen wonderous things since then. I have made countless friends and connections. I have indeed wept at the marvels of life that have been expressed to me on this journey that my heart so desperately yearned for.

It has not been without its price or sacrifice.

There have been storms of mental proportions. I have doubted myself. I have mentally tortured myself. I have been lonely. I often feel that I have given up my future prospects of a comfortable life for the frivolous and meaningless now. I have lost love. I had begun to drink again.

For every great pillar of majestic beauty and overwhelming beauty of satisfaction there seems to be an equally great moment of fear, abandon, and, despair. This is the journey my heart wanted. Not just the good but the bad as well. To feel both ends of the spectrum even if I and my brain curse my decision for days or weeks on end.

“This is what you planned for.”, A good friend said to me on one of my darkest days.

So there you have it. A quick description of how and why I currently find myself where I do; writing this message on a rickety marble table in the attic of a farmhouse in France. I have been living these past few weeks with an amazing couple in Auvergne province of France known for its cows and dairy products. I have even learned a bit about cattle ranching myself and was even called a “cowboy” the other day. More on that later. For now… a decision.

As discussed above the heart will be the birthplace of desires, passions, and seemingly insane thoughts of action. After this takes place the mind and brain with logic will try and repel these ideas and try to break them down. Sometimes it will succeed and at other times the heart will simply become louder and louder. The heart speaks many languages and can make it’s desire known in many ways. It is I who notices all this and must deal with the opposing paths of each action.

Recently I borrowed a bicycle of the farmhouse I am staying at. While riding it I became very happy. “What a great way to explore!” thought my brain. My heart jumped in and said “Why don’t you travel the world on a bicycle!”.

This thought of bicycle travel immediately brightened me up with happiness and laughter. In fact I began to laugh out loud while riding the bike.

I questioned my soul and asked, “Is this something you really want to do?” and the resounding answer was “Yes.” and my heart said,

“I am capable of doing anything! And so are you!”

It has only been a few days since coming to this quick conclusion. My brain has come up with many logical reasons why I should not do this.

“Do you have any experience with long distance cycling?”


“Are you prepared at all for the coming winter?”


“Have you trained – at all?”


“Do you know where you will sleep?”

“Do you know the way?”


Not only does there seem to be countless logical reasons not do this journey there has also been quite a few real life road blocks already. I don’t speak French for one. Visiting local bike shops and trying to explain my plan and shop for a proper bicycle has proven disastrous.

Even though I have a native French speaking translator with me all hope is lost because of both of our complete lack of of knowledge when it comes to cyclist jargon.

I had a pretty decent idea of the bicycle setup I wanted thanks to advice from my friend Brian Allen. This setup was impossible to communicate to the all French speaking bike shop staff. I decided to shop online which proved nearly as challenging.

Translating the French online bike department stores with google translate caused the webpages to become inoperable and non responsive. I searched for the bike and components piece by piece and had to translate every part separately with a separate page.

Because of this process I was forced to accept an inferior bike than I believe I require for my planned journey. Not only was I constricted by language I was also heavily constricted by time. I do not get a test drive. I have no certainty of quality and no expert opinions available. Every decision was operating purely on faith and gut intuition. I was frustrated and becoming disillusioned. I began to consider scrapping the plan.

After my research and purchase plans proved to be very difficult I decided to make the easiest purchase rather than the most informed. This will undoubtedly haunt me later.

I filled my cart online and thought carefully. “Is this really what I want?” my heart spoke up and said “Yes, click buy!” so I did and my card was declined.

The computer I am working on is tremendously slow. It is so slow that when you open a folder from the desktop you are liable to wait a few minutes before it opens. Online shopping is a nightmare with this computer and also the store is in a foreign language. It took nearly forty five minutes to fill the cart and proceed to checkout. I thought maybe I entered something incorrectly. I filled the cart again and was again declined. I tried again. Declined. Hours went by on the clock.

I thought about giving up. I had tried multiple cards and nothing was working. I could not make the purchase. I was stone walled. Perhaps this was a sign that I was trying to do too much in too little time. I felt I had tried everything I could. I simply could not make the purchase.

I began to make new plans. I started looking at flights out of France. I did not know where I wanted to go. My soul weakened. I was sweating. I had no idea what to do or where to go or why. I began to wonder why I should travel at all. I thought about going home. But why go home? To do what? I began to question all meaning. I became depressed.

“No.”. I said. (and so did my heart)

“I will not give up.” “This is my dream and if I give up it will haunt me. It will become a nightmare.”

I called my credit card company. They said they saw no error on their end and suggested it was probably an error with the store and that there was nothing they could do. I tried other methods of payment. I tried paypal but could not verify because I do not own a valid phone number. I felt defeated again. I was laying in my bed cursing myself and thinking what a fool I am to even be here at all in the first place. And then a phone call.

It was an automatic fraud detection service on one of the credit cards I had tried with. I confirmed the transaction attempts. After this phone call I built my shopping cart again for the seventh time and processed the transaction. This time it worked. My order was confirmed.

I expect my bicycle to arrive early next week and hope to be on the road by mid week.

My heart is very happy. My brain is working hard to sort out all the details. I am noticing a good feeling overall.

The purpose of the long intro and middle section of this letter is to illustrate the different state of being I feel myself in with regards to whether or not I am aligned with my hearts purpose. I am not completely sure what the goal of my heart is. It has not revealed that to me yet, although I do suspect it has something to do with inspiration.

I only know that my heart indicates things. Whether or not I follow those indications seems to directly influence my zest for life. When I align with my heart – I feel well. When I attempt to make plans that are not with the hearts desire I become unwell. It is now my indicator of decision making. Does my heart approve?

So what is the plan?


I intend to cycle from France to Thailand. After that perhaps I will cross Canada. Those are the big goals.

For now I am just focusing on getting the bike set up and making it to the next town. Hopefully I will make it to the CERN super collider.

I have no doubt that the likelihood of failure is extremely high. (whatever failure is)

But, I also have no doubt that I am completely capable of doing ANYTHING…





With Love,


Negative Feedback Loops – allenhall.ca

Our brains are artificial intelligence in that they are designed to learn without our knowledge of their learning. Through experience our brains observe life and our interactions with it. Our brains take note, they recognize patterns, they store this information to influence our behavior. This is part of a safety mechanism although this ‘Artificial Intelligence’ serves many purposes.

The information gathering and subconscious manipulation does not just occur over the period of our single lifetime. It occurs over the course of many lifetimes and keeps the information it gathers stored and passed along to the next generation via our DNA. It passes the information along from lifetime to lifetime in order to grow, adjust, and survive. This is part of how we evolve. This is why we have seemingly insurmountable irrational fears such as being afraid of harmless snakes, insects, andm high altitudes observed from the safety of solid ground. This is a remarkable biological defense mechanism. It serves many positive purposes but it can also be quite devastating.

Because the brains stores information in such a pragmatic way it can influence a person’s life dramatically. It can cause what are known as negative feedback loops. For instance it can gather data and form a hypothesis then test this hypothesis and confirm its own conclusion. It does this in congruence with the logical reasoning part of our brain. This is the part that we as individuals have more control over and if our subconcious confirms something through our concious mind our subconcious will make it that much easier to make the same outcome again. Here is an example.

Frank is an anxious woman. When Frank is in a situation she assumes is volatile she becomes anxious. This triggers her deep lizard survival brain to recognize the situation as a threat. This supposive threat than in turn triggers feelings of fear and the ‘fight or flight’ response is proposed to the frontal region of the brain. When Frank flees a situation that causes the anxiety, as she normally does, her lizard brain notes that it was correct in perceiving a threat and documents this data for later use. It notes the geographical area it happened, the colors associated, and, any circumstance that otherwise contribute to the feelings of anxiety and fear.

When Frank is again in a similar situation the lizard brain responsible for the safety of the human that is Frank will again promote feelings of fear and the option to flee. This time it may do it sooner than before. It may produce these feelings before Frank even steps out the door before she is close to the social situation that causes anxiety.

“Run!” it will say “You are in danger! We have been here before!”. Frank will run and the brain again confirms that it was correct in its perception and builds stronger resistance to future attempts at “unsafe” scenarios.

The trouble is that Frank wants to be more social. She wants friends and a community. This is a common and perfectly reasonable desire but for whatever reason Frank gets anxious in a crowd. The subconscious feels this uncomfortability as a threat and recognizes fear. It will then in response promote thoughts that encourage flight. “Run!”. And so, Frank runs, again confirming the brains suspicion.

The next time the brain and its ‘artificial intelligence’ will warn Frank with anxiety even before she leaves the house. If Frank has the idea of doing something social her brain will send signals that this is not a good idea. That it is a dangerous thought. This occurs again and again and is why some people are so devastatingly and hauntingly debilitated by anxiety and fear. It is a negative feedback loop that grows stronger and stronger every time it is allowed to influence the behavior of the conscious mind. Frank will remain unable to pursue her desire to be part of a community. She will believe the whims of her protective subconscious and sadly in response will not experience the joy she deserves from this life. Blocked by thoughts she perceives as her own better judgement Frank will be faced at every turn with anxious thoughts.  It is a negative feedback loop produced by our brain’s built in ‘‘artificial intelligence’.

So how do we break this self made imprisoning cycle? Unfortunately that can be very difficult. It is likely that upon hearing the solution that I propose, if you are a suffer of such loops, you will object and design the suggestion as impractical, too difficult, or that you are unable for such a course of action. All of this is lies of course. They are lies manifested by the protective subconscious brain who has been doing merely its job to protect you. It can be altered and its degree of difficulty will vary depending on the length and severity of the habitual negative feedback loops that you participate in.

To change the feedback loop of ever debilitating behavior we must override the subconscious with the conscious. Recognize these deep thoughts as merely suggestions. Walk through the fear. Do not allow the protective nature of your subconscious mind to dictate the course of your life. Your subconscious is doing its job by attempting to protect you. You must do your job to listen to that subconscious thought but not be dictated by it. You must enjoy this life. To do that you must take control. All you have to do is live your truth. There will be resistance but in the words of Andy Warhol “So what?”.

You are not weak. The belief that you are is a true statement to the iron will of your resolve. If you can believe something so completely, like the notion that you are weak, then you can come to know its opposite just as completely. You are not weak.

This world needs you. There is no escaping that. Whether you choose to step out of your protective feedback loop or not you affect your surroundings and all the people in it. Regardless of what you choose you are as equally important as every moving part of this universe. Your meaning will reverberate through everything and everyone. You have the choice to tone this meaning. You know what you have to do. Your heart screams for it and your soul yearns for it. They have (your heart and soul) placed in you the trust to seek out and fulfill. Listen to your subconscious. Consider its warnings. Do not let it dictate your life. It does not have the capacity to fulfill your desire or your meaning. Only you can do that. It is your responsibility.

You do not need to be happy. Happiness is a quick fix – it is chocolate cake. Happiness is why Frank never approaches fear. Her subconscious claims that if Frank does something uncomfortable she will not be happy. So what? Happiness is deluded and its value is exaggerated.

We can create positive feedback loops to counteract and reverse the effects of negative feedback loops. A good strategy for this is to create a reward system. Determine a negative habit you would like to change and break it down into small parts. Reward yourself for completing each of those parts. Do not overlook your reward. If you create a reward system but feel you can forego the reward this can cause a great problem. Use the reward you set up or you will disappoint yourself and hinder the process.

This reward system can be as simple as “I am going to the mall today even though it is scary. I am going to purchase things I need. When I return home I will reward myself because I did something that is not easy for me. I will reward myself with a bowl of ice cream or glass of wine.”.

Be wary of over indulging in your reward system. Keep it simple, short, and, practical. Tomorrow you can reward yourself for not rewarding yourself too much.

It can be extremely helpful to practice this habit with a partner. It is beneficial in many ways such as serving the reward based positive feedback loop, strengthening the relationship, and, being a practice of better communication. Reward yourself if you accomplish this with your partner.

In this article I mainly used anxiety of social interaction for my examples. However there are very many habits that form negative feedback loops. What is important to note is that many of these feedback loops get tied into our personality. Such as thoughts like “I do not go to dinner parties because it is not in my personality to go to dinner parties.”.

To me this is bullshit and there IS NO PERSONALITY. There are just thoughts, ideas, habits and neurons that get thought of and deemed as being a personality.  

You can be be whatever you like as long as you work at it and form the feedback loops necessary to strengthen what you desire.

As always listen to your heart and your soul. They will guide you. Listen to your fears. Fear is real but it is not a master. Ask yourself “Why do I fear this?”. You know what you want. It is not easy to get what you want but consider that a salmon swims upstream constantly because in their hearts and soul they know it is what they must do.

Do not let your subconscious dictate your life.

You can do it.

Break the cycle.

I love you.


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The Universal Language of Love In the Mountains of Morocco


During my stay in the Mountains of southern Morocco inspiration to write came to me in abundance. I will start this post off with two quotes that I wrote while enjoying the familiarity of love and friendship amidst foreign customs, language, and comforts.

As I watch an an Oud player weep after each song,

“To be completely satisfied, to not need appreciation for art but to feel it so completely and natural like the vein of life itself.  Allow it to wash over you like the first life understood by the newly born person.”

As I watch a father delighted and satisfied with the company of his family, friends, and their myrth together.

“Ain’t life almighty? Do we not enjoy to rise to such height because we fear such a long fall? Does not darkness exist without light? Love speaks the same language across all that is and this thread that binds us unites us as children under the same sun. And the sun loves us because we love it. For what does not exist does exist because the mind of our kind is eternal as is our soul.”.


My new friends and I travel further up the mountain to a village whose name I forget. This is a common stop for people who live around and also the occasional tourist.  The attraction here is a watering hole carved in a cavern that provides a narrow but deep pool of crisp cold water surrounded by steep rocks which serve as jumping points.  The pool I estimate to have a diameter of about eighty feet and makes a more or less circle with water that depths, they say, at forty meters. The water is like ice and runs off in from underground passageways carrying melted ice water from the mountain peaks.  It is the only cold thing I’ve seen since landing in Morocco. The pool provides much needed refreshment and a chance for me to get to know Reda’s sister and their family a bit more. I learn that Amina does speak english and we have a chance to chat here and end up going over the marvels of my Chawell.


We stay in the pool for about an hour and as the sun begins to dip we make our way out and back to our vehicles. The road trip commences again and this time we take Outman and Abdolla along with us. They like to leave the side doors open as we curve around steep mountain sides on narrow roads. Smiles illuminate all of us constantly, we are enjoyers of summer and I feel like a child. Along the way we stop for pictures and I continue to snap the beautiful vistas and breathtaking sights.


We follow the car of Ali, Sihame and Amina as the paved road gives way to dirt, potholes and boulders.  We weave in and out of this terrain and the sun hides behind the mountains that surround us. Darkness consumes most of our visibility while dust consumes the rest. We arrive, after what seems like an hour, at the wrong house and turn round to try another dwelling. I notice that some addresses are simply spray painted on rocks that face the road suggesting there is a house around the jutting rocks.


When we arrive at our destination we are greeted by a family whose every member I hug and kiss. No one here speaks English, I think, except the party of us whose members alose speak the native language. The house is beautiful and blends in with the surroundings. The main entrance brings us in a rectangle made of high walls but lacks a roof.  I stare at the stars and bright moon while I am led into the main receiving area of the house. The roof is thatched with bamboo, clay, and cement. We are led to the living room area and asked to sit while we wait for our first meal.


There are about thirteen of us dining in this house. We are served traditional tagine with lamb. The father of the house welcomes me and asks my translator, Reda, if I need a fork or knife.  Reda tells the man that I do not and I have no idea this conversation ever takes place. Later Abdel-Slam, the father, tells Reda he is happy to see a foreigner eat with his hands. I tell the man his home is beautiful and he tells me that it is my home.


We eat this meal and it is delicious.  I become stuffed quickly and am not used to eating such large meals. I have to keep eating though, due to politeness and general taste infatuation. I am told I have to ‘strategically’ because if I finish they will serve me more but if I stop they will wonder why and cut my meat for me and put it in front of me.  I eat until I am ready to burst and the plate is finished. I am told that this was just the first meal and we will eat again in a hour.


During our wait period I laugh and speak as best I can with my hosts. I get to know Ali and his family more. I use the washroom and everyone laughs. There are no toilets here and the facility is the cleanest I have ever seen. The host family notices a scorpion, they corner it, defang it and chase Outman around with it. We eat again and I overcome my belly’s resistance and do what I think is a good job of tackling the cous cous. I am found out though to be feigning as I do not eat as strategically as the rest. They begin to cut meat and serve me directly. I force it down which is not exactly difficult due to taste.


Once this second meal is finished the family brings out plates filled with fruits of apples, bananas, peach, nuts, dates, and plums. I am baffled that we are still being served. The young daughter of the house catches on that I am very full and trying to be polite by still eating.  She cuts my apples and serves me bananas while I eat them. I ask Reda to take me out back and shoot me but he declines.



I hope one day to come to my memories of this place and describe them further.  There are so many little details that I would love to share but have to cut out due to the brevity required of these posts. From the way we wash our hands before dinner to the way we eat all together from the same plate with our hands. The magic these communal practices drums up seems abundant to me but then again it is foreign to me.  A different practice to what I have become comfortable in. The intention of these practices though rings similar feelings of my time with my family and friends back home. Our desires to please each other and provide shelter, warmth, food, and most importantly love. That is why I have chosen the title of this post. For when I look at the father of this house. Abdell-Slam, and see him resting comfortably along his couch, surrounded by a beaming family whose friends come to enjoy upon the supply of his labor, his practiced smile and relaxed eyes speak a very easy to understand language.  He is satisfied. There is no alcohol here. We enjoy each other’s company with bursting laughter and togetherness. Abdell is satisfied and it so plainly written on his face. I see here and now that the language of love is universal. That if it was it would be God’s tongue. I love you. I want to you to be well and taken care of. Let me share this with you because it is my greatest pleasure.


Community and the universal language of love.


Reda and I, his sister and husband Ali, Amina, Abdollah and Outman depart the house with lengthy goodbyes.  We twist and turn again through the blackened night turning up dust with our vehicles to again another location.  We arrive at the house of Ali deep in an ancient mountain town. We prepare matts and blankets on the roof and sleep outside staring at abundant stars.  I watch stars shoot across the sky as morning begins to break.


Reda, Ali, Outman, and abdolla sleep soundly next to me but I find it difficult to sleep. The dogs barking and snoring of my compagnions begin to slightly annoy me but at that point the morning prayer broadcasts.  The voice on the loudspeaker, before the sun even cracks, seems to me to be the voice of god and somehow silences both the dogs and the men’s snoring. More stars shoot across the sky as the moon’s reflective light no longer blinds my vision. I sleep.


In the following days in this mountain village we enjoy robust breakfast of barbecued lamb, rice, fruits, and bread that is freshly baked and offered to us by the adjacent neighbor. For dinner we eat at the neighbors house. It is here at these dinners that Amina translates the voice of its owners to me. The conversation I have with the women here after the males leave is what inspires me completely to believe that love is the same across the world. They express great gratitude to dine and eat with me and I return that as best I can. I feel completely blessed to spend time here and that I must aspire to spread this kindness.


I spend three days here and am privileged to take a hike up the mountains led by Outman who climbs its heights with ease while Reda and I lag behind in the laborious sun. Outman out paces us so much that he rests in the shade while Reda and I catch up.  The view at the top is congruent with the journeys constant beauty. The land gives a constant refreshing zest of life. I observe the town and watch it inhabitants and how they live. The commerce of this town rides on the backs of donkeys and the fruits of its labor assure fed bellies and the assurance that you will live to work another day.  The people are happy, grateful, smiling and friendly. They remind me of home.


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Ascending Mountains in Morocco

The air is hot and the sky is dark. After an amazing first day Reda and I prepare our beds in the living room of his parents apartment in Rabat. I do not sleep. It’s not because of Reda’s impressive snoring.  It’s not because of the jet lag. My mind usually races at night as a rule. I make plans for business, for investing, for life, and, I think about love.

When morning begins to paint itself across the sky I finally begin to fall asleep. I know it won’t last long. Everyone will be stirring soon. Reda and I had plans to get moving early in the morning. We where to leave Rabat and head towards Agadir.

Reda and I are late getting a move on as per usual. This time it is mostly my fault. His parents serve us a bountiful breakfast of homemade breads, jams, fruits and coffee.Our comfort as a group is growing yet I still feel just a bit of unease. I express my gratitude. We depart soon after this to load the car with groceries for our trip.  We buy tomatoes, apples, plums, grapes, baguettes, cured meats, bananas, cheese and twenty litres of water. Everything here is grown and produced locally. We pay in dirham and the total cost equivalent to canadian currency is twenty five dollars. Split both ways at $12.50 and I call this a steal of a deal.

The drive takes us south on the Moroccon Highway on the interior of the country. We pass by Casablanca within a few hours and Marrakech a few hours later. There are many tolls along the way and we have to fill the gas tank on our borrowed Peugeot. Including gas, food and tolls the initial cost of this journey is around $70cdn each. For a lengthy five hour drive and about two days of food I consider this pretty cheap.

Although I find the beauty of Morocco evident as soon as I landed yesterday it really opens up to me as we drive further south along the highway.  A few hours in and we have navigated ourselves from all the major city connection highways including Rabat, Casablanca, and Marrakech. The road and scenery opens up to display endless stretching farmland carved into the dry red soil that eventually gives way to rolling mountains, valleys and cliffs.

Along the highway aqueducts follow the road.  They go up and down along the hills that roll along our route. The aqueducts stretch for what seems to be hundreds of miles.  This time of year the aqueducts are dry and of a red clay color like most of the scenery and soil around us. I imagine that during the rainy season these waterways and sceneries must be a completely different sight to see.

We drive for more than five hours nonstop.  The landscape is often fooled by similar colored villages that look like little boxes nestled together and blended against their backgrounds. The roofs of the structures are flat and the dwellings are made with red clay and cements sometimes painted white, red, or blue.

We spot dust twisters along the way. Spirals of red sand spinning in the wind are harmless tornadoes that seem common on these plains along the stretches of base mountains.  One of these amazing twisters spins right across the highway while Reda and I marvel and exclaim in excitement watching bits of trees float in the air like magic.

When we turn off into the mountains and begin our ascent the road becomes much more narrow, single laned, and twists along the ridge of the mountain as we go up and up and up. Cars opposite of eachother must negotiate how to pass alongside next to these steep cliffs and every time Reda does it seems both aggressive, natural, and well practiced. As he guns the car with excitement around the blind bends he switches gears like a pro and the car climbs higher and higher. I instinctively grab the holding bar to help keep my panic down. After hours and hours on the road this is like the cherry on top of a stressful cake. I am continuously baffled of how long this mountain climb takes.

The scenery eases the stress of this ride as all around me in every direction are large mountains cutting across the horizon.  The Sky is pure blue and the red clay earth is dotted and detailed with small green trees that I do not recognize and some that are told to me by Reda are fig trees rising high and looking like palms.

As luck would have it the A/C of the car runs strong and we enjoy cool air inside.  Even at high speed the air outside feels warm and damp to the touch, like that of a hot air blower in which to dry one’s hands.

The beautiful scenery is inspirational to photograph and gives me a chance to get to know my camera better. I become enamoured with the beauty of the journey along the mountain. I thought once we reached the mountain our journey would come to an end but instead we continue to twist and turn, ascend and descend for hours. Eventually though we reach our first destination which seems like an established rest stop. A small patch of road in the cul de sac design centered by traditional clay buildings and patios. No one is here, except the people we are meeting, and nothing is open due to the holiday that is occurring all over Morocco.


We are nestled and stopped between a few buildings situated on a cliff that overlooks a wondrous vista.  Reda’s sister Sihame and her fiance’ Ali are there to meet us along with his brother, Ootman, sister Amina, and friend Abdollah.  We are greeted with smiles and hugs and Reda engages in conversation with his family in their native tongue. It is my first time to meet any of them and we greet each other warmly and with lengthy hugs. Sihame, Ali, and Outman all speak english with me and at this point I assume that Amina and Abdullah do not speak english but we smile and greet each other with friendly gestures.  A soccer game breaks out between the friends momentarily seemingly out of nowhere. I take this chance to visit the the overlooking vista that tells the story of how beautiful this region is. Our ascent brought us up to what I would guess is nearly one thousand feet. I am overlooking a great view of the mountainous region and awe struck.

When I return from the vista I exchange more smiles with everyone and tell Sihame that this place is amazingly beautiful and she smiles to tell me,

“You haven’t seen anything yet!”


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A Moroccan Welcome in Africa

Blood sprays a vibrant red sheet painting the concrete. I stand in the unfinished beach house in Morocco which belongs to the father my close friend Reda. Reda braces the lamb as father and son perform the traditional sacrifice.  The knife is sharp and supplies a clean cut cross the lambs main throat arteries. Reda had sent me a video of the living lamb earlier warning me that I was to see its sacrifice as my first introduction to his homeland. I had just happened to land on this eventful day.

Just a few weeks ago I was sitting on a couch in Nova Scotia enjoying a puff and playing guitar. It was then that Reda called me and proposed I meet him in Morocco while he was on his annual visit.  We had previously discussed many travel plans but they had all fallen through. Reda would go on this conversation to remind me that I had fallen too far into a comfort zone and that I needed to shake things up again.  “Live your dreams like you planned.” he said.

I booked a ticket that night for just under $400 for a  one way ticket to Casablanca, Morocco, Africa.

The animal kicks and draws air from the gape in its open neck.  This is a traditional act of religious sacrifice during the month of August on the twenty second day.  The act is performed all across Morocco and thousands of lambs will share this fate. The souls of the animals will be allowed direct entry into heaven. I watch the lamb die as it thrusts its final kicks.

In the following weeks after I booked my flight I became motivated by a new excitement.  I purchased travel insurance from “World Nomads” and began to research my trip. I would only stay in Morocco for  few weeks but had plans to travel all over Europe after that. My excitement led me to many blogs and websites and I became very enthusiastic about a train ride from Spain to Russia. I began to make lists on shipping paper that I taped to my bedroom walls, a practice I developed when I first began making drastic life changing plans.  I would need travel supplies, travel routes, currencies, and also of course to tell my family about my plans.

As I stood over the sacrificed lamb who was now being skinned and prepared for eating I realized gratitude for the phone call that Reda made.  I had definitely shaken things up.

This was my first day on the continent of Africa. I had no idea until I booked my flight that I would land on the biggest holiday that Moroccans celebrate. I was privy to something that only happens once a year and shared this celebration with my friend’s family who I was meeting for the first time.  I do not believe this to be a coincidence. Ever since I started living my dreams there has been too many “perfectly” timed occurrences to call them coincidence. They are, at their base, experiences that I get to notice. They feel monumentally important because they are.

The skinned and prepared lamb was then hanged by hooks attached to the cement ceiling of the unfinished beach house.  It was to stay there as we grilled its heart, liver, kidney and testicles which were kabobbed and wrapped in fat over a small charcoal barbecue.  We enjoyed the meal with tomato salad, bread and stew served with mint green tea. I ate as much as I could and made sure to try everything including the tesiticles.  Through a language barrier the family and I began to get to know each other. For desert we ate sugar nut cakes and coffee. Reda’s father with bright eyes and a wide smile exclaimed “Welcome to Africa!”.

When we were finished with the meal Reda and I departed to the nearby beach to swim in the ocean and lie in the sun.  I peered over the horizon nearly baffled that I was on the other side of the Atlantic ocean and that somewhere to the northwest was my dear Zoey who was waiting for me to return someday.  

The beach was a magnificent length of golden sand which warm ocean water did its rhythmic dance upon. Many people filled the sand and water and enjoyed the beautiful life that we were afforded on this day.  The king’s palace, one of his three in Rabat, sat nestled on a few acres close by to this public beach. Women, children, families, couples, and general beach goers sounded off a constant flow of language and laughter.

Reda and I made our way back home after enjoying a few hours on the beach to dine on a traditional couscous and lamb dinner.  The meal was served in one single large bowl that the family and I shared and ate from. We dipped our bread in the delicious juice and laughed about the amazing day. We ate with our hands and without utensils.The language barrier still caused some confusion between us but the general interest and love we had for each other made the barrier moot. I was very happy to enjoy this blissful day with my dearest friend whose family I had wanted to meet for a long time.

I felt as foreign to this land and its customs as his family must have felt of me. I believe none of us where prepared or knew exactly what to expect. We acted in civility and mirth and enjoyed each other’s company. His family welcomed me as though I was one of their own and through my own confusion I did  my best to blend in. Although I was bombarded with many things that I had never been accustomed to before I felt inclined to just dig in and enjoy myself.

This was my first day in Morocco and my first day on the African continent.  I have a whole world tour to plan and feel extremely motivated at this point.  I begin to see why I have chosen to travel and regain a sense of purpose. I want to meet you and I want to know you and I want to share with you the love I have of this world and its people.  This was a hell of a first day and I am looking forward to many more.


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Budgeting, Intimacy, Community, and Travelling around the world

I have not worked in six months.  I have traveled across multiple parts of the USA and am planning to circumnavigate the entire globe in the coming six months. 

For the past few years I had been planning and saving to execute this trip.  My case is an exception because I did things that not everyone will have a chance to.  For instance to pad my savings and restrict my costs I sold a house and have no current rent or mortgage fees. I own very little and do not own a cell phone plan.  The sale of the house propelled me into this lifestyle but I also adopted budgets, savings, and a healthy financial attitude before I did any of this.  My hope is to share what knowledge I have so that maybe you will feel inspired to chase after your shadows.

Before I decided that I wanted to travel full time for a year I was a reckless spender. I would convince myself to buy all kinds of things I did not need. At one point this included a flashy BMW sports car, countless video games, movies, coffee shop stops, eating out and of course my alcohol, cigarettes, and costly lifestyle habits. I would not watch too closely what I bought at the grocer and had no budget strategy. I also drank and smoked often which were huge deficits to my income. I was fortunate to hold a job that could support all these habits but because of my spending I was always in debt and never making any headway.

I decided I wanted to travel. I wanted to travel long and far and I did not want it to be for a few weeks. I wanted it to be for years.  I began to read travel blogs and books and watch movies about people who had done similar things. I developed a dream and a plan to obtain that dream.  During the years I decided I wanted to travel like this I had already quit drinking and partying and this was already saving me a decent amount of money every month. I put those dollars against my debt.

After visiting financial planners and other advisors a plan about saving money really began to take shape. I had found a way that I could, within a year, be debt free and start actual savings. My plan was pretty aggressive and during the year that I implemented it I moved in and out of being disciplined. Doing this massive adjustment really taught me a few things.

One thing it taught me was that I really did not need much of anything besides shelter, food, and community. I really want to stress that last one, community, because without that I would have never been able to pull off my plans. When I say community I mean family, friends, therapy, group sessions and of course my favorite, Alcoholics Anonymous.  I will not venture here to upsell AA much. I’ve done that in the past and I’m usually met with scorn. AA was there for me and worked for me for a time. It helped me get on the ground. It was part of the whole process so now I have mentioned it here.

Having a community and knowing people who can connect on a deeper level are probably the greatest gift of life. It is difficult to do but when communicating with someone in a deep way it can enrich the soul and provide energy to do anything. The lonely of us live in fear, desperation and weakness.  With a community who supports our goals we are very likely to achieve them.

Not everyone is social but most people crave intimacy.  I’m not the most intimate person and I have a hard time communicating.  My inability to properly communicate has hurt myself and others in the past and will likely continue to do so as I learn how to handle life. But community, like I have alluded to, has saved me thousands of dollars and motivated me to follow my dreams and stick to it.

My dream was to quit my job, be free, and travel the world. I pulled it off and it is still a work in progress. To do so I had to adopt a strict budget.  I will talk about that and what I’ve learned during the process. If you have a long term goal that requires financing that may seem out of reach to you than this post may help you get motivated.

Step 1 – Find your community!

Step 2 – Quit drinking / doing drugs

If you can, instead of quitting, cut back and produce good financial results please tell me how you have done so.  For me I had to quit completely or it was game over. I have been drinking again now that I am on the road. I try to keep it to a minimum but even doing that it has been a huge strain on my budget. It is something that always can be corrected and will have the benefit of putting more dollars in my pocket.

To me dollars = time.  The most valuable thing I can buy is time and that is why I have decided to take a year off to myself.

When I quit drinking (during rehab) I was sober for almost two years. Before that I was spending nearly $1000+ a month on drinking and related purchases. I include smokes, bar tabs, food I would not have otherwise ate, and any shenanigans resulting from drinking.

$1000 dollars a month can really add up quick.  I realize this number will not be as big for everyone but it will also be bigger for some. At the time I was doing that I was head deep in acute addiction.  My debts where growing and I was losing control.

Even if you spending ⅓ of that a month (or even ⅕!) these dollars can really be put to work to help you achieve your financial goals.

Tip : If you invested even $250 dollars a month in a TSX or similar index fund for a few years you could increase those investments by 5 – 10% assuming the TSX returned average numbers. In two years you would have contributed $6000 and possibly seen a return of $522 (avg return of TSX in past five years has been 8.7%


Please correct me if I am wrong.  My knowledge of the market is very limited as it is something I am only just beginning to understand.  There is great potential for determined investors to put their dollars to work. I am interested in cost efficient, easy to handle, long term investments and plan to post more about that in the future – stay tuned!

Step 2 – Quit smoking

Everyone has a reason they can not quit smoking and everyone has a twin somewhere who had the same reason and also ended up quitting.

Your situation is unique and can only be figured out by you.  Finances motivate me because with realistic financial goals work independence is possible.

I have a friend who said they spend $400 in smoking every two weeks! That is $1600 a month and that is serious money.

Another friend told me they spend 48$ every four days (this was a couple) averaging out to nearly $400 a month.  Let’s go with this latter example because I still find it hard to believe the first one.

$400 dollars a month….. Check this out… With a dividend reinvestment portfolio (a little more complicated that an index fund but also a little more fun) you could grow that $400 a month to be worth approximately $27,000 in five years.  That amount is adjusted after inflation. After the five year plan you would be making an annual income of $1,050 on dividends alone. Now of course you could reinvest those dividends and grow your savings massively over the course of ten years but more on that later.  I just want to be clear how powerful savings can be.

$400 example

I had a friend go over the numbers I used to create these examples.  Neither of us are professional investors but we both do have experience in the markets.  He told me that saving and investing $400 a month is a little unrealistic for most people.  I do agree with him but I kept my primary example with savings of $400 a month because I really believe it is possible for the motivated person who is making a decent income.  That is how I got to where I am today. The difference is I had to stop contributing to my savings because I quit my job to travel the world for a year!

Most advisors would agree that saving and investing 10% of your income is a good place to start but that people should aim to save 20% in order to retire comfortably.  If you wanted to save $400 a month with this example you would need to make $4000 a month. Most people do not make this amount so I have also included an example with $200 a month which still shows very impressive numbers.  I also used a slightly higher inflation rate than historic example and used Canadian Utilities (CU.TO) as my stock to determine a number for average growth rate.  I rounded the return down to show that even with a lower than expected return it is possible to earn impressive numbers.

$200 a month example


Step 3 : Create a budget

Oh budgets! Budgets! Where art thou budgets!!

I love budgets so much that I’ve decided to create a separate post for them which will hopefully come live in a week or two.  I will say this when it comes to creating a budget though….

Before you create the budget track your spendings for a few months.  Spend normally and be honest. The best way to stop your money from disappearing is to measure where it is going!

A lot of people who do not smoke or drink may not relate to steps 1 and 2 of this article which unfortunately omits 66% of the information here.  I think the principles and themes that I exaggerate in steps one and two can be applied to most people’s lives if they replace the examples with other costly habits.

The point is that with motivation and a disciplined budget there are many opportunities to grow your wealth and obtain your dreams.  I am just drawing off my own experiences and probably am ultimately writing this article to myself!

As always, this is a work in progress!

Did you find the information relevant? Do you have any money saving tips you would like to share?  Do you see false information and want to correct me?  If so please subscribe and comment below.

We have many exciting things coming to this site in the future such as travel hacks, budget guides, and motivational articles to keep ourselves inspired and growing towards the sun.

Love ya,


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We are Being Sold the Easy Diet

Easy buttons, easy online shopping, fast checkouts, easy online course, free ebook, easy lifestyle and it costs nothing. Click to buy.

It is easy to do nothing.  The quick prospect of getting what we think we want to quickly fix our current perceived problem can reward the brain to want more of the same action.  Want to lose weight? Buy a diet. Want to have more friends? Buy the latest fashion. Want to cook better? Buy and online course. It’s advertised as easy, isn’t it, and it will get you what you want.

Aren’t you satisfied it’s so easy to get what you want?  We type what we want in a calculator and it spits out something we should buy to get it.

I understand that research tools and communication networks brought on by an age of hyper-information is of great benefit to our civilization. I want to bring focus that there is a trend towards selling the idea that it is easy to do something.

Smart phones, supercomputers, machine thinking as well as a wealth of methods to get instructions from people you will never meet, can all be good things that enrich lives. But these are not easy things! They rely on extremely complicated computer algorithms and technology that many people do not even have access to.  It is being called easy because that will draw attention. It’s usually sold with the message that if you don’t find it easy then something must be wrong with you (but don’t worry that too can be fixed easily).

There are countless pieces of literature that get on the shelf with the marketing of ‘self help’ and they usually speak a rewarding message. It also ultimately only speaks one message. You have to work for what you want.  So who says it should be easy?

Do you want a positive mind and strong clerical thinking? Work for it. Working for that might mean meditation for some, chess for others, or, ice hockey, plumbing, zen gardens, yoga, etc, etc. The point is that it doesn’t matter how you obtain your positive mind goal. It just matters you find what brings you closer to that and practice it.  Identify and work toward you goals.

Do you want to start an online business and generate a passive income? Work for it. Research how extensive it is and develop a plan. Begin executing your plan. Fail for years possibly.

Everyone learns differently, hell, everyone sees reality different. They judge it differently and live it differently. That is why it is such a large amount of books have been written over and over again to tell the same message. You can usually have what you want.  You just need to work for it.

Times change, people changes, science changes, the message remains clear, chart what you must do and set forth.

If you want to get better at typing and writing then type and write more. The same goes for driving a car or a golf ball. You can use this method to get better at drinking from straws if you want to!  

Sometimes you will begin using this method of working for what you want and it will work for a while but then all of the sudden stop working.  You may change your mind about how you feel about it or get disappointed with your progress. This is normal and it’s called having a problem. You will have to deal with these problems and it will not be easy.

Dealing with problems is the work you will have to do in order to do what you want to do. If you want to draw something with a pencil but do not have a pencil you will have to search until you have a pencil. Then you will search for paper and then you can draw.  Afterwards you may want to improve your drawing so you must draw more and more and the cycle goes on until a new problem is met. Perhaps you have spent so much time getting paper and pencils that you no longer have time to draw. So you put it off to earn more free time and when you come back you find your momentum lost. This is a new problem. How do you deal with it?

There are many choices when dealing with most problems. All of them have consequences. It can be difficult to choose. Sometimes it seems like all choices have been exhausted over time and then a new problem called defeat comes in. How do you deal with this new problem?

You’re honest core answer might surprise you. You have two choices.  Continue working at it and face defeat, or, let it go. You can rebel against this deep truth. You can even manipulate it, hide it, lock it away, live against it but it will always remain there. It will remain there until it is let go.

So how do you let it go?

I believe deep down in our psyche there is the knowledge of how to let things go. People may have misunderstood what it means to let something go. Does it mean to not think about it anymore? Does it mean to not feel the memory? Do we have control over these things? No. So what does it mean to let it go?

Let it go by letting it move through you. Experience it and notice it and let it pass over you.  We are creatures of deep rooted psychological mystery, awe, and power. Do not attempt to believe to comprehend the rationality of it all. Let it go.

If you want to get good at something do your best to work at it and you will get better.  Smash through as many roadblocks along that journey as you like. When you get tired of smashing those roadblocks let it go and then chase something else you crazy wild turkey.

I would like to point out also that goals, opportunities, and (especially) realities, vary in outcome by an obscene amount.

Just because you want something does not mean you will get it.

If what you want is achievable then how hard are you willing to work for it? Are you able to let it go when it doesn’t work out?

Our lives and bodies are complex rich entities that station on the ebb of infinite realities.  This can seem overwhelming. Especially when one just begins to open their heart to the ethereal life flow and accept love. There are proven ways to deal with this and get things done. They are anything but easy.  

What are some things you would like to accomplish? Do you have unsurmountable roadblocks preventing you from achieving your goals and if so what are they? I would love to hear about any thoughts you may have on this discussion.

You can email me or leave comments and I will get back ASAP 🙂

I will leave with a suggestion that I have found can alleviate the burden of completing virtually any task by a vast amount.  

Ask for help.  

Tell family and friends (and beyond!) what you are trying to do and the problems you are having doing it.  Chances are you will find someone willing to help. Make no mistake this course of action is NOT easy.

Post note:

As I continue writing to this blog I get get closer to what my focus and point of the blog will be.  I will continue to share my travel journeys as well as comment on the mental health issues related with following my dreams.  This will include things like following ones dreams and what prevents us from doing so as well as mental roadblocks like not feeling good enough and being afraid to express ourselves (myself). I will be adding more content and resources for travellers especially for travellers with anxiety / mental health problems.  While I may not offer any real solutions I will share my own experiences with these issues.

Subscribe today and you will be entered for an upcoming contest and free video game giveaway 😛

(pretty easy)


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You cool man in Pontiac MI

If I remember correctly it was a Wednesday.  My train was rolling from Chicago IL to Pontiac MI. I had a breakfast of four dollar chips and a three dollar pop.  I had convinced myself yet another reason to splurge on meaningless food stuffs. This trip was more relaxing than the last.  I wasn’t as new to trains as I was on my previous trip. I had less anxiety.

I was wearing my fine set of clothes because they would keep me cool on the AM to PM train ride.  A loose white blouse and grey casual dress pants with sneakers and a large black backpack. My clothes and demeanor usually make me easily spotted as a traveler. In addition to that I always look lost because I usually am.  All this adds to the smell of my suspicion and compounds on illusions and assumptions that are my own. It adds to what I call a stink of fear that causes heightened emotions in scenarios that are not real.

Along the ride I smile and acknowledge a few passengers at first but soon dive into the soothing rhythm of train on track and plateaus of greenery to ease the eyes. I turn on Alexandre Dumas’ Count of Monte Cristo audiobook and pass the first few hours. Then a pee. I feel cool on the train.

I actually prepared for this, maybe, to tactfully do nothing. The shock of initial travel and life changing decisions blew away most of my plans and focus for a good measure of time.  A learning curve, I hope, that there are still lessons to be learned from.

I usually put important things off. I try to relax and understand that things will work out. Especially if those things are things that are not in my control. Things under my control don’t necessarily work out but then again what is ‘working out’ anyway?  

In this case I was putting off being vigilant about securing a ride from the train station in Pontiac MI back to where I was staying in Oxford MI, about a twenty minute car ride. I failed to plan this while I was on the train.

I supposed I would catch an Uber.  My friend had texted earlier asking if I could get one. Surely I could I assured him and let it go until I pretty much arrived at Pontiac station. Relax to enjoy the finer things in life and find yourself.

I arrive at Pontiac station and begin dialing an Uber. It doesn’t go through because my phone is an unregistered number. I exit the train and my WiFi leaves with it.

Dusk is on the verge of making an appearance. I pace a train platform in a completely unknown town and very deserted town. As I approach the doorway to enter the station the attendant inside closes up shop and locks the door. He gives me what I perceive as a “Sorry buddy, good luck.” type frown with helpless eyes. He shouldn’t be sorry I counsel the voice in my head, he doesn’t owe me anything. I turn to face the town which looks asleep and unwatched to survey for a phone.

All I see are very vacant looking buildings alongside stretches of road with an occasional car or truck of traffic. Both sides of the small downtown area are hidden behind a wall of concrete buildings and parking garages.

Let us give a few points to pre-planning a trip at this point. A bit of conscious planning beforehand could have saved me hours of commute and the uncertainty of a complete foreign circumstance. Although, isn’t that the point? Just enough not planning to create uncertain plot lines? I’m not sure but take a few points off of pre-planning a trip anyhow.

As I walk towards the town I remember what I’ve heard about Pontiac so far. “Abandoned post auto industrial town, no cops in town except occasional state trooper.”. I take note of the relaxing fact that I still have a few hours of sunlight. I realize I have no number to call even if I do find a phone.

My phone had not been updated with the only contact I had in Michigan. I could refer to the merits of pre-planning here but the number is still yet to be updated. I did not know of any taxi number or have internet access either. I crossed a few roads while cutting from the train station to the town borders. On the corner I see a liquor store and make my way towards it.

The sky hangs low in a haze and below its thick atmosphere blows a chill breeze. The sky is behind the translucent damp and it feels like the calm before a storm. The painted yellow brick liquor store, to me, appears unwelcoming.  There are rusted metal gates that shut over the establishments heavy metal doors. There is virtually no other way in the building. All windows seem boarded up, spray painted, and closed.

I enter the parking lot from across the street to notice a young boy walking a bike. He appears to be between eight and twelve years old. I cut in front of him as I turn into the lot off the intersection and hear

“Excuse me sir!”

but I pretend not to.

I get the impression that I am avoiding being swindled with the hopes it does not persist.

“Excuse me sir!” I hear it persisting,

“Can you help me fix my bike!”, this time there is a particular emphasis on the “Excuse me” with desperation and pleading.

I turn to face the boy who is now closer behind me and we both stand in the middle of the empty parking lot before the grizzly looking liquor store.

“My bike seat is broken, can you help me fix it?”.

I tell the boy I can take a look and remind myself to be myself as much as possible. I have no idea where I am or how to get help if I need any. Although this is just a small boy asking for help I am not fond of delaying my time in Pontiac or getting mixed up in any extensive situations. So when I am in a situation like this I try to be myself as much as possible. I let my guard down, I approach him, I try to help.

His bike seat is loose and the bracket that holds the screw is stripped. I force the seat back to its proper position and tell the boy that this fix won’t last forever. I examine his bike and notice that most of it will not last forever. It is hanging together and may be assembled from various bicycles.

“Do you have thirty eight cents?” he asks me. I tell him I do not and that I have no change. I’m perplexed by the defined amount, he must be very close to reaching some sort of goal. He frowns a bit but accepts my refusal and follows me into the yellow bricked liquor store.

Inside there are two attendants who are behind the counter which is completely closed off by double sided glass doors which look bulletproof. There is a woman shopping in the aisles, a man in a wheelchair buying lottery tickets, and the kid who asks the shop keepers for thirty eight cents who both shake their heads.

The two behind the counter look like brothers. Their matching olive skin and facial expressions form deep lines on their sun baked faces. Their eyes are drooping, bloodshot, tired and bored.

“Do you have thirty eight cents?” The boy persists in the shop and finally meets generosity. “Here you go sweetie.”. The shopping woman hands the boy what looks like a dollar. He buys a candy bar and offers her the received change but she refuses the nickels and dimes saying “You keep it sweet heart.”.  She is a mother, I assume, and for a moment I feel warmth and love.

“Could I use your phone to call a taxi, please?”. I ask the attendant who picks up a cordless phone and asks me the number.

I get anxious pretty easy. I get anxious during exchange of goods in retail, phone calls, and pretty much most human encounters. I constantly assume I am doing something wrong. As he hands me the phone and asks me for a number my anxiety increases but a calm voice inside tells me that I better keep my wits about me. This reassuring voice is calm but I feel on edge.

“I’m not sure the number and I have no internet to find it out.” I tell him and I am met with a blank stare, my heart jumps to my chest. I assume my resources at this location have ran out and I may have to search the town further.

“555-0728” (I’m not sure what exactly numbers she said) Said the generous woman who had given up the change earlier. I thank her and turn around to the attendant who says “What did she say?”

This puts me into a frenzy because I am not quite sure what she said. I don’t want to ask again because I have irrational fear about asking for help. I also believe that they will give up on me if I don’t act like I am paying a lot of attention to what is going on. Possibly another irrational fear.

“555-0728” I tell him, unsure if I got it right. He dials and hands me the phone which rings a few times while I pray. The taxi answers the phone and I tell him where I am at but I have to ask the store owners where we are first. I tell the person on the phone that I need to get to Oxford which is about twenty minutes away. He tells me I will have to wait at least forty five minutes and asks if that is ok. I tell him it is and hang up to harbor the fear that they may not show up at all. I pass the phone back through the countertop windows and head outside to wait for my car.

Not many people pass by but those who do go inside the liquor store. A mother with carriage, a few young adult males and a lady in a rickety car with a busted front end. She drops a case of beer in the back and through her smoking mouth tells me a joke I can not hear. We laugh and she departs. I had waited about an hour so far. I had doubts the car would arrive.

I scope for places to sleep if night fell. There was a dumpster nearby or should I head to town and try my luck with humans?

As promised the car did eventually arrive. It was hard to spot but did have markings of a company of some kind. It pulls in the lot driving like a cab would be expected to drive. Fast and cutting in a crescent shape with complete abuse to the car and abruptly stops next to me.

“You cool, man?”

The voice seemed to come from everywhere, I even checked around, but could have only come from the cab that had stopped and instantly asked the question.

“You cool, man?”

I thought about it for a fraction of a moment weighing both doubt and certainty and replied “Yeah, I’m cool man.”.

He said alright and told me to get in the front with my stuff. We discussed the destination a bit and remembered our previous conversation on the phone. He told me he had to make a stop before driving me home. He had picked me up before doing so because he did not want me to wait on the corner like that. He said something about “Some dude, on some corner, you know.”. I told him I did know and appreciated the effort.

He smoked heavy cigarettes. The smoke was like silk curtains in the air and he was constantly at them.  They lit up his face to reveal a tired bloodshot expression with slow closing eyelids over yellow laden eyes. I have seen these same eyes on many drivers as well as doctors, parents, firefighters, refugees and otherwise worn out heros.

We picked up a friend of his deeper in town while I tried to make a mental map of my whereabouts.  

“Left turn, right turn, left turn, highway is south, highway is north…”.

We picked up the drivers friend who asked who I was as he entered the back seat.

I would like to say the driver said “Don’t worry, He’s cool, man.”, but I’m not sure exactly what he said.

We again began to twist and turn down another part of the outlying suburbs.  I became completely lost. We ended up at a park that was lightly populated. People enjoyed the evening air and some walked dogs.  A large truck pulled up to park next to us. Our driver got out to return to the cab just about a minute later. Myself and the extra passenger remained silent. I looked out the window and saw more people walking dogs and wind blowing in the grass.

When the driver returned he shook hands with the man in the back. We departed the park to yet another part of town and dropped off the second passenger. The driver and I talked about directions. He wasn’t exactly sure how to get to Oxford and neither was I and we had no GPS. It was a bit difficult to communicate with the cabbie. He spoke low and used anecdotes and gestures I couldn’t exactly translate. We talked about music briefly. He asked if I liked Jay Z and if I knew Dr. Dre.  I said we go way back and we laughed about how many millions of dollars those guys are rolling in.

On the drive down the highway night had completely set it. I tipped the driver while we were on the road and said I appreciated him getting me home.  We talked after that about the state of the world and how people get stuck doing the same things over and over. We talked about the hope of financial freedom and our previous jobs.  We shared stories about friends and family and I would say for that time we became friends ourselves. He dropped me off and we said goodbye.

It was pretty cool, man.


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