The Outside World is a Scary Place and Other Tall Tales

It was a major holiday here in Chiang Mai, Thailand last week. I was in one of those crowded places filled with locals and tourists alike. The kind of place that the guidebooks all recommend you maintain vigilance over your belongings due to the scourge of pickpockets and sneak thieves winnowing about through the crowd.

Eyeing a scene that would make for a good photo, I lay on my back on the concrete to get the shot. Probably unusual behavior, but nonetheless an inoffensive social norm is the only violation there.

I hadn’t taken three steps after standing when I was bombarded with a cacophony of loud voices directed at me. I’ve studied Thai language long enough now that I might have been able to make out what any one person was saying had there not been about six people shouting in at least two different languages.

Perhaps I’d underestimated the offensiveness of laying on the ground on such an occasion.

Once I focused on the loudest of the bunch, I decided I wasn’t being attacked from every direction by these people who all bore a sudden interest in me, and made out a few words and hand gestures from the agitated but non-threatening man in front of me.

I thanked the man, then the rest of the harried people reaching out to me before walking back to pick up my phone where it had fallen out of my pocket onto the sidewalk.

The photo didn’t come out so great, as is often the case when exploring. But the experiences can’t always be captured and kept like trophies. The people are what makes the journey worth experiencing.

I get asked all the time why we travel. This is why.


Cargo Ship Diaries – Much More than a Diary

Would you spend four years circling the globe alone without ever setting foot in an airplane? Niall Doherty is doing just that.

Back in November while we were up in Chiang Mai for the Yee Peng and Loy Kratong festivals, we had a chance to finally meet up with Niall.

The three of us not serial-killing each other in Chiang Mai.

The three of us not serial-killing each other in Chiang Mai.

He’s someone I’ve blog-stalked for years, learning the ins and outs of how he lives his somewhat unusual lifestyle. I probably initially heard of him through one of the other people I was learning from while planning our travels.

Like all the travelers I’ve met over the years, he didn’t serial-kill me either, and seemed to be an okay sort. Maria & I have remained in contact and he’s one of the featured travelers in my upcoming book.

Yeah, the one I’ve been talking about for a while. That book of resources and helpful people you should know about if you are looking for a different sort of lifestyle. It’s coming along nicely with some helpful input from a handful of bloggers, travelers, and others living unusual lifestyles. I’d put a release date on it here, but I’m too afraid to miss a deadline.

Which brings us back to Niall’s new book: The Cargo Ship Diaries.

With a title like that, you’d think it was about his most recent trip aboard a cargo ship to maintain his goal of circling the globe without flying. And much of it is. An unusual way to travel for sure, but the book is only partially about his 26 days spent at sea that ended only a few weeks ago.

He wrote the book during this trip, but it details his storied travels around the first half of the globe, from leaving Ireland, and crossing Europe, Iran, India, and Thailand before making plans to hop a cargo ship as the only paying passenger to get to Brazil in time for the World Cup.

This isn’t a travel guide or a how-to.

While Niall’s first (excellent) book Disrupting the Rabblement was more of his philosophy about life and trying to make your own way in a world that wants you to walk a certain path, this new volume gets more personal.

There’s lots of sex, but only a smattering of violence, but we can’t have everything, I guess. It’s not really about sex, but more about dealing with the fears and uncomfortable social situations many people seem to suffer through in daily life.

So while he updates the list of his current worldy possessions in the book, this isn’t really about a guide on traveling the world. It’s more a guide on how Niall chooses to travel through this wacky thing called life. Very little of that has anything to do with where you are on a map.

You’ll consider more than just an odd way to travel. You’ll also consider whether you’re living life fully, or just going through the motions of life trying to ignore a building mountain of regret.

I do recommend things at times, but this isn’t a paid endorsement. Niall sent me a preview copy yesterday, so I read it this morning I read a lot. Maria read it last night).

I’m not recommending the book because he’s my friend. On the contrary, because I was a fan of his writing and travels, I made sure to get out and make him a friend.

If you’d like to order the book, you can go order it here in Amazon’s Kindle .mobi format or .epub, as well as an audio version read by Niall himself in his allegedly real Irish accent.

Cargo Ship Diaries

Cargo Ship Diaries

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Who’s Flying This Brain?

I heard an analogy about our brains the other night while sampling a new tv show. I’m going to butcher both the analogy and our anatomy a bit here and use it in a way I think is more accurate, at least in my head.

Our brains are basically made up of two parts: The older, more animal part that actually makes most of our serious decisions. And the logical, thinking, part that “knows things” and thinks it’s running the show. Even knowing about these two distinctions, our commands from this animal segment will still override the rest of the “smart part” in many situations.

This base-level animal part of our brain goes by many names.

  • Seth Godin calls it the Lizard Brain.
  • Steven Pressfield calls it the Resistance.
  • Latin people like doctors call it the amygdala and it’s about the size of an almond.
  • Most of us know it as the “fight or flight” thing in our brain that makes us throw up and piss ourselves when we think we’re about to die.

The obvious places it runs you are during these fight or flight situations: you’re attacked by a group of zombie ninjas while getting gas in a mall parking lot at 3am. You’re either running or fighting for your life. Hope you watched a lot of Jackie Chan movies growing up.

Otherwise challenging decisions like whether the electric bill is late and what color to paint the den simply disappear at times like this.

But this smaller, more resolute part of your brain is in control of your actions in far more situations than we know. It believes every situation is life and death.

Everything becomes a worst-case scenario if we don’t know how to get control here. Everything becomes a fire, or will turn into a fire if we dare step out of the warm confines of our comfort zone.

It’s like you’re an airplane (you can make the airplane noises if you want. Nobody’s watching). The smart, reasonable part of your brain thinks everything is great back here flying first class. That almond-sized thing is the part flying the plane, and since that’s also you and your brain, you believe you’re logically good.

The problem is that almond-boy is locked up in the cockpit with his headphones blasting power ballads from 80s hair bands. He’s turned off the intercom, and knows flying near the ground is the most dangerous part, so he is going to keep you safe by flying high. NO WAY is he going to get us anywhere near the ground.

You notice the plane passing your desired destination, but the pilot isn’t answering your knock on the cockpit door. He’s making circles over the airfield, but he ain’t coming down.

He knows where you want to go, but this shit’s dangerous. He’s doing it for your own good.

Your intellect starts doing math to figure out how much longer you can stay aloft before the tanks are dry and you fall from the sky.

You try to bang, kick, and smash your way through the cockpit door to get to the controls. You know the plane will come down either way. It can come down when and where you want, but only if you get into the cockpit to fly the damn plane.

With all that hullabaloo back there, he just cranks the music over the intercom.

Sebastian Bach can drown out that racket with his sirenous wail… I’ll keep you safe…”

Get Your Own Brain in Order

I’ve been on my plane making a hatchet out of armrests and other parts to chop my way into the cockpit. I’d like to land the plane where I want to go with the thinking part of my brain instead of just letting junior fly around until this thing augers.

I don’t know how all of it works, but I know I’ll figure it out. I know the plane has to go somewhere, and I got in the cockpit to fight for the controls.

That’s what I’m trying to help you do: get into the cockpit so you can land the plane, preferably wherever you want.

Because you are coming down, whether you want to or not.

That scared part of your brain can find any number of reasons not to Do the Thing you want to do.

It is hard to share your art.
It is hard to start a business.
It is hard to make drastic changes to your life.

It’s especially hard when you’re fighting yourself. You’re your own worst enemy.

You can stay safe in your comfort zone, or you can get your head on right and do the thing.

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