The Compass in Our Hearts

Villa by Leon Gao
Lesson - Where is home? It's a simple enough question, but you may not know the answer until you've left it... or until it's left you. We have a compass built into our heart. We all do. It doesn't point North and it won't help us find buried treasure. It points home. Most people call this sensation "homesickness", and it will always tell you where your home is.

A home doesn't need to a be a roof or a building. When I began hitchhiking in the summer of 2000, I didn't feel homesick. At the time, I'd never before felt the sensation. The first time I felt it was in 2004, and it was for a person who took her own life. Even in death, she will always be home.

A home can be a place, or an event, as the next time I felt homesickness was when leaving Burning Man in 2005. This magic city that appears in the desert for only a week out of every year is "home" to so many amazing individuals... and it isn't just tradition that causes people to rush into each other's arms when they get back every year, yelling: "Welcome home!"

Home can be a state-of-being. I landlocked myself at the end of 2007, making a few promises to myself to "get stuff done". After just months of living under a roof, that sense of homesickness came back for "traveling". It may be crazy to think of living under a roof as being homeless, but that's how it feels... and I'll be homeless under a roof for another year. The feeling of homesickness for horizons hasn't gone away and it hasn't died down... at all. The road is my home. You can add holding a woman, or being held by a woman, to that same home-as-state-of-being list.

Home can be breathed in, or touched, using the senses. On one crisp, cold winter's morning, Faerie and I were taking a shortcut thru a neighborhood. She stopped all of a sudden, smelling the air and drawing me into the moment. I could smell the burning wood from a fireplace in a nearby house. Looking at me, she said: "That's 'home'. That's the smell of home." She's right. Home is in the scent of cinder... in the warmth of a fire.

You know where home is. Your heart will tell you.

Song of the Day: [Free from Shem on Mediafire]
Helios - In Heaven (Shem Remix)
"In Heaven (Shem Remix)" by Helios
Note: I originally had two articles that I wanted to link to for this post. I'm ashamed to say that I lost the links for them. If you've written about "home", please, please, please leave a link to it in the comments or send me a tweet. I'll gladly add anything here that isn't spam.

The 5 Most Common Regrets of the Dying

"Regrets of the Dying" from Inspiration and Chai: Working with patients in their last weeks of life, Bronnie Ware collected the five most common regrets that they told her about. No matter whether a traveler or not, these are lessons to take to heart now... right now... and not look back on them on your death bed. I, myself, am at great risk of falling into #2... at least in my life over these last four years. Read the full article, as it goes into much more detail than this small list:

1. I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

2. I wish I didn't work so hard.

3. I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

Sending thanks to my lovely Faerie for sending this to me... and to Lili for reminding me to "take it easy". Everyone could use this reminder.

Burn, Burn, Burn

The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones that never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes "Awww!"
~ Jack Kerouac, "On the Road"

Gratefulness Where Words Fail

Sometimes, the gratitude we feel cannot properly be put into words. As the Japanese would say: "gongo dödan"... "words fail". Language is such a small thing when compared to the emotions that overwhelm the mind. This week's double-hitter focuses first on gratitude, and then on basic humanitarian lessons with humorous and heart-opening twists.

Muchisima Gracias Con Un Beso Y Un Abrazo: This entry from The Mad To Live grabs "Thank You" by its tail and transforms it into the all-enveloping gratitude that can only come thru experience. This isn't the "Thank You" your mama taught ya, and it's worth the minute you'll spend reading it. All thanks 'n love to Mad To Live for this one.

How To Treat Others: 5 Lessons From an Unknown Author: Five quick lessons that can change everything. I was expecting a quick scan thru the story, then found myself re-reading it and forwarding it to others. At the same time, I have to say that the first lesson is one I picked up a long, long time ago: "Know The Cleaning Lady".

Song of the Day: ADHF - Lucid [Click to Download]
"Lucid" by The ADHF

Cookie Cutters and a Broken World

Lesson - Worldheart: As travelers, we spend a lot of time sharing stories, tips, lessons and a lot more... and almost always focusing on the positives. This is a good time to go over a lesson from the road that comes with both the bitter and the sweet.

First, let's take the cookie cutter life as an example. You have a job--maybe you have two of 'em, and are still struggling to make ends meet. You have a family, a few friends... some coworkers you like... some coworkers you hate. Maybe you go to church or to temple... and you have neighbors (no matter whether or not you like them). The news comes in of revolutions in the Middle East, and now quakes tearing apart Japan. You care. You do. I see it in how actively people spread messages of how to help and by their actions. But these things are happening to "them". Maybe a few of you are glad it's not happening to "us".

Travelers can't afford that luxury. After even a short time of exploring this planet, you meet too many people that you love and keep in contact with. Just two days ago, a friend's step-mother was being airlifted out of Bahrain. I still haven't heard if she was safely evacuated to America. When quakes tore apart Japan, I was spending the entire day trying to find out who was still standing. One punk from Kobe didn't check in with any of us until midnight. In fact, she's the one who made the song of the day (below).

There is no "them". A Yakuza mob boss, when asked why the Yakuza were patrolling the streets of Japan to stop looting following the quakes, responded: "In times of crisis, there are not Yakuza and civilians or foreigners. There are only human beings and we should help each other."

The cookie cutter life comes with the benefit of a smaller heart, a smaller world and the disassociation that comes with a "them". Worlds outside of that cookie cutter life--such as travelers, musicians, organizers and many others who network globally--come with a cost. You can skip the cost if you don't get too deeply involved with people around the world. That's about the opposite of what travelers are looking for. So the only option is to live with a big heart that is tied to the world, and to live out loud and at all costs with those you love when you are together with them.

Leave no room for regrets.

Song of the Day: [Click to Download]
Digital=Divine - The Passenger (A Cover of Atticus Ross)
"The Passenger (A Cover of Atticus Ross)" by Digital=Divine


Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home.
~ Matsuo Basho

ATX Feature: Epoch Coffee

This SXSW/ACL featured speakeasy focuses in on that all important liquid that has become the staple opiate of the masses--coffee. Epoch doesn't just serve up a mean cup o' bean juice, however. What really sets it apart is the fact that it doesn't close. That's right y'all, The Poch is a 24-hour affair... 'n there's even a night owl bus that will take you from downtown to Epoch at all hours of the night. For those who don't need to read any further, here's the info:
Epoch Coffee, 221 W North Loop Blvd, Austin, TX 78751 ~ 512.454.3762
Epoch Coffee Online ~ Yelp Reviews ~ Google Maps
Directions: By day, take the #1 bus [schedule] to North Loop and Lamar. There will be a light at the intersection with a Philips 66 gas station on the right. By night, take the #481 bus [schedule] to 51st and Lamar. There will be a light at the intersection with a 7-Eleven gas station on the right. The night owl adds two blocks to your walk, so walk up two blocks to North Loop. From the North Loop and Lamar intersection, walk East along North Loop until you see the coffee shop on your right. Both buses pick up at 6th & Congress. If you're on wheels, you can just take Guadalupe all the way up from downtown.

Meet the Weirds: If you show up at The Poch in the middle of the night, you're not going to be alone. In fact, it's likely that you'll be looking for a place to sit. The place is not at all small, and they have tons of seating, but it is almost always full. If you want to strike up conversation with some authentic Austinites, then this actually works in your favor. Scout out a table where it looks like someone isn't hard at work, then ask if you can share the table... and promise that you don't bite too hard. If you're a bit of an oddball, you should fit in just fine. There's a reason that "Keep Austin Weird" is the city's motto, as the people and indie-shop culture really are "weird" when compared to the world outside this city's walls. Welcome.

Don't go over water, McFly: ...unless you've got some power! Epoch doubles as a cyber-cafe, with power outlets absolutely everywhere. We're talking outlets that hang from the ceiling, that line every wall and that stare at you from behind the odd collections of furniture. They have two wireless networks, so test which one works best from where you're sitting. If you have work to cram out overnight, this is the best place in Austin to do it from.

Graffiti Me a Love Letter: Before there was Epoch, there was Mojo's. The graffiti that you'll find in the restrooms at Epoch is a nod to the graffiti that coated the bathrooms of Mojo's, as well as the wall in the alley behind the place. Austin loves its graffiti. Graffiti on people? We call those tattoos. We love our tattoos as well. At Epoch, you're going to find a lot of both... as well as many other random acts of art all over the place. Anyone who likes a bland, orderly coffee shop should keep a safe distance from the entire city. You've been warned.

The Duke: Don't even bother trying to replace me as The Duke of Epoch. I check in here on Yelp far more often than is likely healthy. I'm a nocturnal creature who is addicted to coffee, cigarettes and weird moth3rfu$^@rz. That's Epoch... 'n I'm a weird m0therF%#@r. There is no other 24-hour coffee shop in Austin. Accept no replacements... there are none.

Related Posts:
ATX Feature: Trudy's North Star

Song of the Day: The Notwish - Solitaire (Egadz Remix) [Free from Egadz]
Note: I've been informed that there may or may not be another 24-hour coffeehouse in Austin, but no one has been able to get me a name for it yet. Until I can verify it, I'm keeping the line "There is no other 24-hour coffee shop in Austin."

ATX Feature: Trudy's North Star

If you've been in the city for any amount of time, someone's likely already mentioned Trudy's. The thing that sets Trudy's North Star apart is that it's the last bar in the city where you can smoke inside legally. You read that right. For smokers hitting up the city for SXSW or ACL, this is an irreplaceable find. There's a bar downstairs for non-smokers, then a separate bar upstairs for smokers... 'n they're open until 2am. While Cool River Cafe boasts a cigar and cognac bar (highly suggested), it is not easily accessible along the bus lines. Trudy's, on the other hand, is one bus ride away from downtown and is entirely an Austin experience. Here's the info:
Trudy's North Star, 8820 Burnet Rd, Austin, TX 78757 ~ 512.454.1474
Trudy's Online ~ Yelp Reviews ~ Google Maps
Directions: If you take the bus, it's going to drop you off across the street from Trudy's. This is a fairly busy street. Don't get yourself "the squished" by trying to play Frogger and failing. Outside of downtown, the cops in Austin aren't big on giving out jaywalking tickets. Just look both ways before trying to cross Burnet Road. From downtown, grab the #3 bus [schedule] at 6th & Brazos. After a somewhat lengthy venture going north, look for where Highway 183 arches over Burnet. There will be a bowling alley on the right. That's where you want to get off, before crossing and walking south about a block. If you're not sure, as the driver to tell you when you get near 183. The last bus comes around just after 11pm on weekdays, so don't get left if you're leaving by bus.

A Little Bit o' Mexico: They call 'em "Mexican Martinis". Now, I've been all over Mexico, and I ain't ever seen anything close to these Mexican Martini thingies. That doesn't stop 'em from tasting amazing and getting you a bit stupid. I won't say that Trudy's has the best Mexican Martinis in Austin, but they come damned close. That they do, lassie... damned close indeed. If you show up before 7pm, you get happy hour specials to go with 'em.

Avocado What? Flaquities what?: Yes, you can order food at the bar. If you just want an appetizer, then order the veggie flaquities. No, seriously, even if you're not a veggie person, these are the bomb diggie. Some of my favorite carnivores straight up hate veggies, and they'll still order the veggie flaquities whenever we go here. They're from the same family as "The South-Western Eggroll", except that they are the apotheosis--the omega--of this recipe. If you're even more hungry, then order the stuffed avocado with suiza sauce. Trudy's is famous for this recipe... 'n with good reason. I send photos of stuffed avocados to friends outside of the city just to torture them. I'm good peeps. However, this comes with a warning: If you're just visiting Austin, then you may wake up in a cold sweat here in a few months with a craving for stuffed avocado and with no way to fill the emptiness that burns in the heart of your being.

Tell Me a Story: You're going to find that Austin is populated heavily by imports. I'm an import. Imports weren't born here, but made the mistake of visiting the place. I stopped counting how many times I lived here once I went into double-digits. You're also going to find a high population of travelers here. When striking up conversation in the smoking bar at Trudy's, don't be surprised if you end up spending hours upon hours swapping travel stories. You'll also get many great tips on what to check out in the city. But, again, don't forget the time. If you're leaving by bus, don't get left behind. It's easy to lose track of time in this city. That goes double when you're caught up in conversation.

Related Posts:
ATX Feature: Epoch Coffee

Travel and Your Odds of Surviving It

I don't know how I got on the themed news sections, but we're going with it for a while. This one's a triple-hitter on travel safety, on the media, on what you can expect when you get there and what you can expect from others on your way out. If you haven't yet set foot outside your front door on an actual trip, then you may not have heard others tell you how much danger you're putting yourself in. Trust me, after ten years of hitchhiking, I've only had one camera stolen and I've been given a million stories and amazing experiences in trade for it. Here are three other articles that look into "safety" and what it means to the traveler.

8.2 Million Tourists' Heads Still Attached After Visiting Mexico: This is actually a classic from back in 2010, but I didn't hear about it until reading the follow-up article [Here on BookLocker]. Tim Leffel, fed up with the fearmongering in the media, wrote up both articles... then went a step farther when he created the video below:

The Big Scary World: Okay, so you listened to Uncle Tim and you're not worried about traveling. That's when you tell others that you've decided to turn nomadic. Oops! You're about to get an earload of just how much danger you're putting yourself in... 'n that you shouldn't go. This is where Dalene steps in with her article "The Big Scary World", and it's right on point. You're not going to calm all their fears, but you can definitely bring a bit 'o reasoning to the situation... at least enough to get 'em to gearshift down from fear-on-overdrive to worried-but-accepting.

Is Guatemala Safe?: But, in the end, there are some places and neighborhoods where you can expect to see action in the world. It really doesn't matter what country it is, as nasties have a way of creeping into the cracks wherever humans set up camp. This is where Jason steps in with his article "Is Guatemala Safe?". I really like the fact that he calls out the opinionated nature of the word "safe" right from the start. The practices and experiences that they've passed on in this article extend well outside of the borders of a single country.

Fav Phrase Lately: (Japanese/Nihongo) "Shaku";"To miss the mark; missing the point"

Voices Within

The more faithfully you listen to the voices within you, the better you will hear what is sounding outside.
~ Dag Hammarskjold

The Last Hole in a Sedonan Wall

[Speakeasy] AZ, Sedona - Random Acts of Coffee: You can't be any more of a "hole in the wall" than actually holding shop thru a physical hole in a dammd wall... and, thru that hole was Sedona's Random Acts of Coffee. Well, there were also a few steps involved. Whatever. To say it was "The Sedona Underground" would be just another literal descriptor. You get the point.

Sedona's beauty draws in so many tourists that it was hard to find where the authentic Sedonites sat back, lit up 'n drank with ease. I wouldn't've even found the place had it not been for another hitchhiker called Wild Spirit. I, in turn, took it upon myself to introduce the other travelers staying at the Sedona Hostel to the wonders of Random Acts of Coffee. It was one of those places that you wanted to tell everybody about... and, sadly, I've finally confirmed my worst suspicions. Random Acts of Coffee is gone.

My brother Tristan and I were on a road trip to the Grand Canyon, with Burning Man a bit farther out on the horizon. Even though it was in the opposite direction, the two of us made a side-trip to Sedona. I'd already been warned that the Sedona Hostel had closed shop, but we were met with a lot of other closed doors once we got there... that, and an annoying amount of construction. It took some asking around, but a fellow traveler let us know that the coffee shop had closed just a year after the Sedona Hostel. Fortunately, we found that there are still some boondocking sites around the area... so not all's lost.

There are some good Sedona boondocking sites [Here on The Wandering Hobo].

Boondocking won't save the art scene in Sedona, however, and that's what Random Acts of Coffee was all about. In a satire of The Last Supper, Random Acts had a huge mural of musicians covering one of the walls, with Lennon in his proper place at the center. Live poets and musicians would fill the evenings, owning their presence and enveloping the audience from an open area opposite of the horse-shoe shaped coffee bar. Of all the things to remember, however, what I remember the most were the people and the frakking red sofa that sat just in front of the coffee bar.

You see, the people are attached to the sofa. Sitting on the coffee table next to the sofa was a book on dreadlocks... and, sitting on the sofa was Li, as she taught me how to dread-up my own whiteboy hair. This is the same sofa that I found Wild Spirit sprawled over when I came to the place a second time... and, just behind it was where Mary was standing. Memory is an interesting thing... or, as NoMeansNo put it: "A memory is a loaded gun... and I remember every one."

One of the saving graces for hunting the place down was an article by Fox the Poet. This was written by someone who intimately experienced the place and was struck even harder by the news. If you want to really know more about Random Acts of Coffee, read the words from the man himself:

Random Acts of Coffee in Sedona is closing

With both the hostel and the coffee shop closed, it's temping to scratch Sedona off of my 2012 hitchhiking trip. I haven't scratched it off yet. I'm going to try to find out if there's still a rogue art scene to fill its place, and if there are any other speakeasies in the area. We'll see.
Random Acts of Coffee, 1730 W Highway 89A #7, Sedona, AZ 86336
Related Posts:
Squats - Sedona Hostel [Closed]

Song of the Day: [Click to Download]
Matthew Dear - Slowdance (How To Dress Well Seance)
"Slowdance (How To Dress Well Seance)" by Matthew Dear

Money Saving Tips and Traveling for Free

Two MUST READ articles for anyone traveling on a budget... that goes double for hitchhikers. The first is from Wade Shepard. He's traveled with family, has hitchhiked, and has otherwise blazed a path for others to learn from. As a hiker, his article "Free Travel" brings a smile to my face whenever I come across familiar territory... but he had a lot to teach me, as well.

The second article focuses in on arbitrage, the ability to save expenses by changing your economic territory. The article "Geographic Arbitrage: Save Money by Leaving The Country" goes into popular areas that are cheap, into general expenses that can be cut (including tax suggestions), into long-term savings and more. I just read it a second time... 'n I'm taking notes. I'll be tuning into Get Rich Slowly more often.

Fav phrase of the day: (Spanish) "Corazon Gitano"; "Gypsy Heart"
(/w thx to Olivia again for the phrase of the day)

It's On My List

I haven't been everywhere, but it's on my list.
~ Susan Sontag

In the Garden of Cosmic Speculation

In the Garden of Cosmic Speculation
In the Garden of Cosmic Speculation

I love math. I know, I know... put down the tomatoes. Before you ditch it, check out the history of mathematics and artists like MC Escher. You may just find yourself addicted to numbers as well. Me, I was raised on the artists Escher, Dali 'n Giger. The three of 'em did a fine job of distorting any chance I had of turning out "normal". Them'z good peeps. As a numberjunkie, the Garden of Cosmic Speculation has always held a certain hypnotic draw for me. Sadly, with its location in Scotland, and with its limited availability to the public, I've decided to scribble it off my list for now... and to pass the experience onto you, my dear reader. Let these photos and words tempt you into the garden... and bring me back your experience.

As you can tell by the photos, this is no normal garden. Fractal landscapes twist and lead the wanderer from one meditative area to another. Statues and scapings of singularities (like the one on the right) are just the beginning. Others include insights into complexity, weather patterns, DNA, strange attractors, cosmology and (of course) landscaping and experimental terraforming. The list goes on. In a way, you could call it a kind of wonderland where both hemispheres of the brain are brought together as one.

Streets of San Francisco
The garden comes with its limits. It is a private garden, carefully planned and crafted by Charles Jencks and company. When it is open to the public, it is usually only open on one or two days out of the year. Those who are granted admittance are the ones who have donated to the Maggie's Centres thru the Scotland Garden Scheme. The other way is to experience it vicariously thru the same book that got me hooked on it: "The Garden of Cosmic Speculation". You can browse thru the book [Here on Amazon]. It's worth peeking into.

I do not know why it was created... nor do I know who requisitioned it. The main site has no answers, nor does Wikipedia. Those questions I now leave to you to answer.

For more on the Garden of Cosmic Speculation:
The Garden of Cosmic Speculation on Wikipedia
The Official Site of Charles Jencks

The photos in this entry were taken by Flexdream [Here on Wikimedia]. They are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License. The leading photo was modified by myself, and carries the same license.