Advice, Hacks, Travel, Travel Tips

How to Overcome a Fear of Flying (Part 2)

With a few simple tricks you can free yourself from a fear of flying!
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on

After only a few minutes in the air, I felt like my life was in danger.

The flight started normally – the door closed, the flight attendants and pilot greeted passengers on the loudspeakers, and we gained altitude. 

Moments later we hit turbulence. 

For a few seconds the plane rattled and shook. 

Ok, nothing to worry about here.

I took a deep breath and tried to rest. 

After a brief pause the turbulence came back. It felt like the clouds around us were shoving our mechanical bird around. This time the jolts didn’t stop and my comfort level quickly dissolved.

The air currents around us were unforgiving and for the remainder of the journey my fingers dug into the hand rests. 

In spite of my dread and acceptance that maybe we wouldn’t land safely, we did actually land safely. The plane ride was over. I wearily staggered into the terminal.

This was the worst flight experience I ever had. Landing felt like a gift.

Little did I know but the emotional scars from that journey stayed with me for a long time. This experience didn’t stop me from flying, though. It did however, make me absolutely horrified of air travel. 

A desire to conquer the fear of flying inspired this and my other most recent previous blog post. After a long time I was able to (mostly) lay the fear to rest.

In this post, I’m going to share some things I did to remain calm during that fateful trip. These strategies became the foundation of my current travel tools I use to stay relaxed while flying.

I still use some or all of them while flying today. Hopefully they can help you feel safe on your next flight!

Note: The tips listed below are based on my personal experience. They are not medically proven or tested. The advice given here should not replace recommendations from a medical professional. Also, this article is not meant to encourage people to fly over other means of transportation. It’s just to provide tools for those who would like to fly but aren’t comfortable. 

Ok, let’s get started!

Safe words, affirmations, and prayers

For a long time I was terrified during plane take offs and landings. On the flight mentioned above I began repeating a comforting word in my mind over and over again to relax. To my amazement it actually gave me a strong feeling of security. 

If you like this idea but can’t think of a word, here’s mine: “ice-cream.” It’s simple and delicious. Try saying this word at least ten times the next time you feel uncomfortable during a flight and it may help. 

A simple positive affirmation like “I am safe” or “I’m protected” can also be beneficial. If you are spiritual then a prayer before, during, or after the flight can create a strong sense of security as well. 

Distract yourself 

Some easy ways to do this would be to read a book, watch a movie, play a game on your phone, listen to something (podcast or music), or try to sleep (if it’s not too turbulent).

If you choose a book, then I recommend a juicy thriller, mystery, or romance novel. Anything that’s a page-turner is golden for a flight.   

Visualize arriving 

Similar to my first post, another strategy to feel safe is to imagine yourself already at your destination.

Picture the conversations you’ll have. Create in your mind the things you’re excited to do.

Personally, I’ve always felt safer when I pictured the reward of arriving at the destination.

Bonus: What’s your favorite and most comfortable method of transportation? Close your eyes and imagine yourself there instead. Maybe it’s not a plane you’re on but a boat, bus, or dinosaur (let your imagine have fun).

Enjoy the views 

If you’re flying during the day and happen to have a window seat then something that works for me is to direct all my attention to what’s outside. Maybe you’ll see a cool mountain, river, or cloud formation.

I usually don’t focus on the wing but everything else around it. There’s a lot of beauty out there to behold. 

Talk to people

I honestly am not always up for starting a conversation with the people next to me on a plane. This being said, one of the best ways to overcome a fear of flying is to talk to people.

Learning about someone else and having a conversation has many benefits: your mind goes away from yourself (your fear), you practice some social skills, and time usually flies by (pun intended) if the chat is interesting. 

During turbulence: Observe the vibe 

What I mean by this is to gauge the energy of the other passengers and crew. When there are a few bumps it’s helpful to see if anyone else is reacting to the sudden changes.

I learned that paying attention to (but not staring the whole time like a creeper) the flight attendant’s reaction to turbulence helped calm my nerves. Their body language should tell you how serious any turbulence really is.

So far I’ve never seen a crew member panic and all my flights thankfully have been safe (besides some turbulence). 

My favorite: Be creative 

Finding an activity that requires your complete attention is a great way to distract yourself during a flight. For me, doing something creative has always helped.

Writing is my inflight activity of choice. For example, the first draft of this post was actually written during a flight.

Also, most of us have smart phones so another idea would be to create a video collage of some recent photos or weed through old ones you want to erase. These all can be surprisingly engrossing. 

Bonus: Remember this

Photo by Sterry Larson on

Flying is the safest way to travel and the airline’s mission is to get you where you want to go safely. The crew are also people who want to remain alive just like us. Turbulence is natural. It doesn’t mean anything bad is happening to the plane.

You can do it! The world is waiting for you!


Have a great day and I hope you enjoyed this post. If you missed my first entry about getting over a fear a flying, check it out here!

Take care,


Advice, Travel, Travel Tips

How to Overcome a Fear of Flying (Part 1)

Image by snowing on Freepik

Planning a trip, packing a bag, and taking a flight somewhere new is one of the many joys of modern travel. It’s crazy to think that nearly all destinations on the planet are within one or a few day’s reach thanks to our friend, the airplane. Nowadays we can book a trip on Skyscanner or Kayak to a different country within a series of mouse clicks!

Despite air travel’s growing facility, there is something I need to get off my chest: 

I’ve been scared of airplanes for years. 

Even though I’ve had the privilege of flying on a somewhat regular basis in my life, the fear of flying has latched onto me like an unwanted invisible seat partner. 

My love of traveling luckily outweighs the angst I feel when boarding a plane. Over the past few years I’ve developed a few strategies to keep my emotions under control and I think they can help people out if they are experience their own trouble with flying.  

If you are someone who wants to travel but feels held back by their fear of planes, then this post is for you. Hopefully this post will provide some inspiration to help you feel free to travel wherever you want.

Below are some tips that anyone can carry out before they actually enter a plane. In my next blog post I’ll share strategies for remaining calm during a flight. 

Disclaimer: These tips do not guarantee that you’ll overcome a fear of flying, they are based on personal experience so use them at your own risk. These ideas should not replace advice from a licensed medical or psychiatric professional. I’m not a medical professional or phycologist, so consider getting expert attention if you feel it’s needed.

Take a look at what makes you scared:


We can’t overcome our fear of flying without reflecting on what actually is the source of our worries. It may be hard, but we need to face our fear. Once we understand what it is and even why it exists, we can move forward. Maybe you saw a scary movie about planes or heard a story about a negative experience from a random person at a bar. Write down what worries you and try to dig as deep as you can to understand what you’re feeling.

Next we can see if this fear is realistic or not. I realized that most of the things I worried about were the result of my vivid and vastly exaggerated imagination. For example, the movie “Snakes on a Plane” was highly fictitious and it’s not possible to be ejected from a passenger jet (my personal farfetched fear). 

Know the facts:

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on

According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), approximately 2.9 million passengers fly in and out of United States airports per day. Additionally, there are 45,000 daily flights within the country. Research from Harvard University reports that the odds of dying in a plane crash are one in 11 million. The odds of dying in a car is one in 5 thousand. These numbers indicate that air travel is safe, and when I mean safe I mean really safe. Personally, knowing this information has been enough motivation for me to continue using them.

Reserve a flight based on comfort level:

Now that we have addressed our fears and have established that flying is safe, it’s time to book a flight. A few ways to ease the experience of flying are:

  • Choose an airline you trust, preferably one that is larger with more routes.
  • Fly direct if it’s not too expensive.
  • Avoid small airports if possible.
  • Elect seats based on numbers you feel are lucky or have an affinity towards. For example, I love the number 9 so I tend to go with that whenever it’s available. 
  • Choose a takeoff time where you feel safest.
  • Be aware of the weather forecast to reduce turbulence.

Visualize your destination:

Photo by Hassan OUAJBIR on

Once we begin planning a vacation, whether it’s an hour away or across the planet, it’s useful to begin picturing what we want the trip to be like. What feelings will we have? What will we do? How will the food taste? I try to do this prior and during a flight. Creating the journey in our minds not only takes our thoughts away from what worries us (flying) but it also brings us closer to achieving those desired outcomes.

Bonus: Fly with someone you trust:

We don’t always have the opportunity to plan a trip with another person, but having someone next to you on the flight can increase one’s comfort level. There have been many moments in my life where I was able to overcome a phobia or fear just because a friend was there for support. Traveling with someone who loves flying or at the very least doesn’t mind it will make the journey more bearable.


Thank you for reading this blog! I hope you’ve found this information useful. My next post will tackle ways we can overcome a fear of flying during the trip (on the airplane). Before I say farewell, I’d like to hear from you!

Which airline is your “go-to” for domestic and international travel? Also, what are your tricks for mentally preparing for a trip?

Have a fantastic day!


Colombia, Travel

A Californian in Huila

This is an article about a recent trip to Colombia that was featured in the regional newspaper El Diario del Huila.

Photo by Chris Rodriguez on

Growing up near San Francisco, California,
we didn’t learn much about Colombia in school. For instance, geography classes focused more on Europe and history teachers rarely mentioned (if at all) Simón Bolívar. Students who took Spanish classes mostly learned about Mexican or Spanish culture. As an adult I became aware that American’s view of Colombia was heavily influenced by pop culture. Shakira taught us that Colombian women were attractive and that their music was great for dancing. Additionally, the Netflix show Narcos told us that drugs were omnipresent. Surely, this wasn’t all true. Not every American owns a gun nor do we all eat hamburgers, so these generalizations couldn’t be accurate about Colombia. 

One day, I recently found myself on vacation in Neiva. My previous knowledge of the city and department of Huila was equal to my experience in outer space: none whatsoever. With the help of some special people I received a more genuine Colombian education. 

Even though I stood out like a sore thumb, most of the people I met in Huila were very welcoming. They also were exceedingly formal when speaking not only to me, but with each other. “Si señor” and “Como le ha ido” were phrases I heard frequently. Regardless of age or who they were, everyone was treated with respect. The only place where people weren’t polite was on the road. With motorbikes outnumbering cars, the idea of politeness didn’t exist anymore. 

Love for Huila
When speaking to locals in Neiva one thing was clear: People loved their department of Huila. They were also highly proud of their history and culture. It seemed like everyone I interacted with already knew that I was going to love being in Huila and they were right. 

Food paradise
Neiva immediately held a special place in my heart the moment I tried achiras for the first time. A fan of salty snacks, rice, and coffee, I was smitten with the cuisine in Huila. Hot chocolate, guayaba candy, lechona, tamales, and the famous Asado Huilense made my spirit feel nourished. 

Land of abundance
After spending time in Neiva I learned that both Huila and Colombia are vibrant. They offer stunning landscapes, wonderful people, and a beautiful culture that I still hardly understand. Experiencing this part of the world brought one question to mind:

When can I come back?

Guides, Spain

How to Prepare for a Spanish Wedding

Photo by Emma Bauso on

Weddings are a special moment where two people begin a new chapter together in life. These events are unique in that they bring families, friends, histories, and traditions into one place for the sole purpose of celebration. I recently attended a wedding for my two friends Maria and David in Gijón, Spain. The setting for the ceremony was beautiful and the people who attended were full of life. This was the first Spanish wedding I had ever attended, let alone the first outside of the United States. I was honored to be included in their special day but also completely clueless about what a Spanish wedding was all about. It took actually going to the wedding to get a better picture of what takes place in such events. 

Here is a quick guide to getting a better understanding of Spanish weddings. 

My friends David and Maria getting hitched!

Typical wedding gifts in Spain
Unlike in the United States, where the bride and groom-to-be share a registry of potential gifts for their guests to choose from, the system in Spain is straightforward. Either a bank deposit or a card with a check will suffice. It’s not as personal as a registry gift, but it saves attendees time in thinking about the perfect gift. How much should you give? I read that between a minimum of 70-100 euros per person is the average.   

Who is involved in a Spanish wedding?
In Spain, the bridal party involves fewer people. There aren’t groomsmen, bridesmaids, a maid of honor, or a best man. David’s best friend, Fernando, created a special tribute video and gave a heartfelt speech during the ceremony. I later asked David, “So was Fer (Fernando) your best man?” David hadn’t heard of that term before. Fernando was just showing love for his pal. There are however padrinos, meaning the father of the bride and mother and groom. 

Religious or secular?
Similar to the United States, weddings in Spain are moving away from ceremonies being held in a church. The officiant isn’t always a priest, but rather a relative or friend. Maria’s sister, Silvia, was the officiant in their wedding and the setting for the ceremony was the rooftop of the Abba Hotel which overlooked the expansive San Lorenzo beach in downtown Gijón.

Fun times with great people.

Spanish wedding traditions 
A good way to understand the rituals a bride and groom may have at their wedding is to know the couple’s region of origin. Each autonomous community in Spain is rich in culture and strikingly distinct. David is from Asturias while Maria is from Murcia

The reception would abruptly pause at unexpected moments as crowds of people would begin singing “La Pelusa,” which was an invitation for a specific member of the newlywed’s family to stand up and do a dance called “La Pelusa.” The selected person would dance a series of moves in unison with the singing audience and at the end, everyone cheered and continued eating. This is a song that I learned is typical in most Murcian weddings. On the other hand, many guests opted to drink cider (sidra) during the celebration because this apple-based fermented beverage is a source of local tradition and pride. Asturias produces the majority of Spain’s cider and pouring this drink is a learned art. To properly pour cider in Asturias, one must lift the bottle above their head, lower the glass as far as the arm can reach, then attempt to serve. It can be messy but makes taking a sip well-earned.

At other moments, the wedding party would shout “Vivan los novios!” (Cheers to the newlyweds!). Another interesting detail I learned was that in Spain wedding rings are worn on the right hand rather than the left like in the United States. Engagement rings, however, are worn on the left hand.  

Dance dance dance
David and Maria’s wedding featured lots of dancing. Apart from “La Pelusa,” the most important dance of the evening was their first as a couple, or “primer baile de los novios.” After the first dance, all the couples in the room stepped onto the dance floor and the party got going. The DJ eventually stopped the music early in the morning, but not until after the Asturian members of the wedding party emotionally sang the anthem for Real Sporting de Gijón, the city’s local football (soccer) club and favorite of many at the party including David. Even though the DJ didn’t play my song request for 2Pac, he still brought out the jams and the crowd seemed really pleased. 

Have a coffee beforehand
Most weddings that I’d been to previously would either end at a decent hour or migrate to a different location. On average I would get home by 11pm or 2am at the very latest. Maria and David’s wedding reception ended at 5am and the dance floor stayed busy until the very last song. If you ever get invited to a Spanish wedding, be prepared to stay late and have a fun time. 


Thank you for taking the time to read my blog. Also, thank you Maria and David for being my friends and for inviting me to your special day. Before going I’d like to hear from you! Have you been to a wedding in a different culture? What were the traditions that stuck out for you? Comment below!

Take care,


Colombia, Travel, Travel Tips

A Gringo’s Guide to Colombian Breakfast

Photo by Flavia Carpio on Unsplash

One day back in April I found myself in Neiva, Colombia visiting my girlfriend Yesi and her mom Piedad...

“Are you hungry?”

“I slept pretty well, thanks,” I replied to the question in a heavy gringo accent. 

Yesi responded to me in English, “My mom asked if you were ready for some breakfast.” She gave me a look of anticipation as if she knew I was in for a surprise. 

It was still pretty early in the morning and I was half-asleep. My ears hadn’t been trained to the way Yesi’s mom, Piedad, spoke. I could tell she had slowed down her speech so I could understand but it would still take some practice.  

Attempting a groggy smile I responded to my two hosts, “Yes, please.”

My senses already had already known the answer because the aroma of something delicious was emanating from the kitchen. I’d only been in Neiva, Colombia for about 12 hours so this would be the first breakfast the three of us would share together. 

Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day. I could hear inspiration to one day write a blog post about this growling in my stomach. I was a newcomer in a foreign environment but it was a relief knowing that the first meal of the day was going to involve delicious food. 

Hot Chocolate 

Starting the day off with hot chocolate, mango juice, and fried eggs.

There was a time when I was a recovering coffee drinker. Now, I admit, I’m back to drinking coffee albeit no more espresso and fewer cups a day. After traveling to Colombia, a refreshing cup of joe felt like a treat. 

Yesi placed a warm cup in front of me and inside I leaped for joy. The sensation of parched lips and thirst made this new beverage look very inviting as I dove in for a first sip. Burning my tongue, the flavor was…sweet…and to my surprise it wasn’t coffee. It was hot chocolate. Yesi told me that in Colombia having a cup of hot chocolate was as common as drinking coffee. 

Yesi and her mom presented to me the choclatera and molinillo in the kitchen. This was homemade and soon the beverage became more abundant in flavor. The process of creating hot chocolate included melting actual bars of chocolate in a metallic kettle (chocolatera) and then whisking them with a wooden stick (molinillo). The three of us each had a cup and it was a pleasant start to the day. Serving cheese to dip into the drink was also common in Neiva but at this moment we didn’t partake.  

Piedad and Yesi knew I was tired so they offered me a coffee with breakfast, which I gratefully accepted. They handed me a cup that rested on a small plate. It wasn’t just coffee they gave me, but also a spoon and what looked like small round crackers. 

“We call these bizcocho de cuajada, this is similar to what I gave you in the car yesterday.” Yesi’s words refreshed the brain fog. The night prior when I arrived in Neiva she welcomed me with a soda from Huila called Kola Cóndor and a bag of crunchy baked snacks that reminded me of my favorite Goldfish crackers. Those snacks were larger, called achiras, but Yesi explained they were part of the same baked snack family called bizcocho. 

Looking at this new accompaniment, I followed Yesi as she motioned me to drop the bizcocho de cuajada into the drink. Italian biscottis came to mind as I witnessed the coalescence of two items I’d never seen together before. The end result was a coffee with enhanced flavor and softer snacks that were easier to eat. It was better than I expected. Bizcocho would soon become my new vice while in Colombia. 


Deliciousness wrapped in plantain leaves.

The experience of homemade hot chocolate and coffee with bizcocho made me feel grateful, but neither was the source of the kitchen’s incredible aroma. Soon I caught sight of something familiar: A wrapped green plantain leaf encompassing a hidden treasure on a plate. The sight reminded me of a tamal and in fact that’s exactly what it was. This version was unique: the sight before my eyes wasn’t made with corn (maíz) but rice. Also, unlike the tamales I’ve tried in California, this was exceptionally large. This was a homemade Tamal Huilense, named after the department of Huila where Neiva is located, prepared by one of Yesi’s colleagues. Inside were tender pieces of chicken and a thick piece of carrot. Piedad and Yesi said to avoid the carrot because it was used to absorb grease. Typically tamales back home have left me wanting at least two more. In this case, the Tamal Huilense made me want to skip lunch because I was so satisfied and full. 


My first attempt at a torta.

Later in the week, while Yesi was at work, Piedad took the time to teach me how to make breakfast using bananas. One dish that stood out was the torta (cake), more specifically a dish called a pancake de avena (flour). The ingredients were simple: One banana, flour, and eggs. First, we mashed the banana in a bowl until it became a rather thick-looking paste then added about a cup of flour. Finally, we cracked two eggs and whisked them all together. Over low heat, the mixture was poured onto a frying pan to cook. Piedad is a professional so only one flip was necessary. A simple slice with a knife told us it was ready to be served. The final result was similar to a traditional pancake in the US but more nutritional with a balanced combination of flavors. I have since begun practicing this dish at home and a variation includes oatmeal instead of flour. 

The juices in Colombia are kind of a wildcard because they are not just a staple of breakfast, but of every meal of the day. I learned that Colombia has copious kinds of fruits and each department (state) boasts its own unique varieties that can’t be found anywhere else. Pineapple, maracuya, and mango juice were staples of my stay in Neiva. Similar to making hot chocolate, there was a process involved when making juice. Washing, chopping, straining, and serving were steps needed in order to create delicious homemade juice. At grocery stores, one could find great brands like Nectar or Frutto but it wasn’t the same experience as having it made at home. 

Thank you
Thank you for reading my blog! I hope you found some useful information and aren’t too hungry after reading. Also, thank you Yesi and Piedad for introducing me to your culture and welcoming me to your home.

Before I say goodbye, I’d like to hear from you! Have you been to Colombia or Neiva before? What was your favorite food?

Take care, 


Colombia, South America, Travel

So This is Neiva

Neiva, Colombia in April of 2022.

It was around 2pm when my body began to feel warm. The brightness of the bedroom was inescapable because the sun was radiating with full force. I tried for a moment to hide underneath the covers of the bed, pretending that the day hadn’t started yet. It was no use. The shine from the sun and the heat of the early afternoon were too much for my imagination. 


It was time to wake up and start my first day in Neiva, Colombia. A growing sense of embarrassment began to take hold in my mind. 

I overslept is what was repeated in my head. 

My hosts, Yesi and her mom Piedad, were probably patiently waiting for me to get up so we could have lunch together. I was overthinking because I had just arrived in Neiva from Bogotá last night. Between the change in timezones (Neiva is 2 hours ahead of California), the duration of my trip (about 17 hours due to a delay), and a new sleeping environment (Yesi lent me her room and she used the extra bedroom), hopefully they wouldn’t mind. 

Setting myself free of the bedsheets, I rolled to one side of the bed in search of my phone. 

Tapping the screen, to my surprise, it was only 5:30 in the morning. 

No way. It was surely a lie. 

Checking the temperature, it read 77 degrees Fahrenheit. Somehow, my phone must have experienced a glitch during the trip. I did a Google search to confirm the actual local time and it was now 5:31 in the morning. 

It was at this moment I realized that I was in a new world.

My first thought was:

So this is Neiva.

The sun was already shining in Huila’s capital. It seemed like the city had been brought to life. From Yesi’s window, which was on the fourth floor of an apartment building, the familiar sound of cars, construction, and movement echoed from feint directions. For the first time, and maybe the only time today, I suddenly felt cold. A chill went down my spine as the view brought back memories of my former home in Missoula, Montana. This was technically a city, but from the window was a sea of lush vegetation, with a sprinkle of urban sprawl nestled throughout the green horizon.  

I attempted to navigate the scenery in search of Missoula’s Mount Jumbo or Sentinel. The mountains of my home weren’t anywhere to be found, and in the deep distance, a hazy jagged line crossed the sky. A looming mirage at the deepest point in a cloudless atmosphere, the Andes Mountains stood watch.  

Reverting my attention down to the parking lot, I could see people walking dogs at a casual pace. It was peaceful and tranquil. My eyes traced the dimensions of the lot, processing my new view. Along the border was a protective wall with barbed wire. One of the people with their dog stopped to chat with a uniformed guard. I could make out that a gun was holstered next to his waist. 

The reality of this new location came back to me.    

So this is Neiva..

Outside the walls and gate was a world I didn’t understand. It was too early to think about it so I returned to something I knew and could control: the covers of my bed. 

I forced myself to stay under the sheets a little while longer and managed to squeeze in about an hour of rest before it became necessary to leave the room and start the day. 

Groggy, jet-lagged, and partially disoriented, I opened the door of the room not knowing what to expect with my first morning in Colombia. It was 7am, feeling more like 2pm, as I hobbled to the kitchen like a weary pioneer who had just survived a harsh winter. Anyone or anything could have been around the corner: Piedad, Yesi, a hungry monster. 

The numbness of fatigue was my shield as I turned to see my hosts already awake. 

My brain wasn’t fully functioning and probably a few word exchanges took place at that moment in time. One sentence stood out. It was the first phrase I remember from that day and it was perhaps the most beautiful. These words evaporated any fear or worry about my new home. 

“Are you hungry?” 

So this is Neiva…

To be continued…

Spending time with Yesi & Piedad.
Colombia, South America, Travel

Back to Colombia

In August of 2012, I found myself on a plane headed to Bogotá, Colombia. I was traveling alone and my level of Spanish fluency was equal to perhaps a six-month-old baby. A carousel of emotions rotated in my mind, mostly fear, as I left the familiarity of home and gravitated toward a new world. 

The unknown is what scared me; I didn’t know the culture very well, had no contacts there, and had no idea what or who was waiting for me when I landed. It was this same uncertainty that inspired the trip; I wanted to step out of my comfort zone. After a layover in Panama City, the flight finally touched down on Colombian soil. It was at this point, I remember when my internal stress was at an all-time high. With the address to my accommodation clutched in my hand, the process of actually getting there wasn’t determined. The only things certain were that I was about to exit the plane, and somewhere on a baggage carousel would hopefully be my backpack. After that, it was a terrifyingly blank canvas.  

The El Dorado airport was immense and it seemed like I was the only gringo with a large backpack walking out of the terminal. I could have asked someone about buses or shuttles to the city center but at that point, I couldn’t muster up an actual sentence in Spanish. 

I could feel a soft blanket of heat as I entered the Colombian atmosphere for the first time. The scene felt frantic as I decided to trust my life with a taxi. The fray of the passenger pick-up zone of the airport seemed fast and shocked my consciousness. With crowds of people walking in all directions and a seemingly endless supply of taxis, many of which asked me if I wanted a ride at the same time, I took my first risk of the journey: 

A man in a brown jacket stepped into view with a taxi badge and asked where I was going. Tired, stressed, and now overwhelmed, I showed him the address. With a quick gesture, he pointed me to his vehicle. I said “OK” and entered his car, hoping that this was the right decision. 

I found out that he actually was a taxi driver. Or, at the very least, he decided to play the role of one at that moment in time. We successfully navigated through an endless sea of tall buildings and a city that had previously just been part of my Lonely Planet reading list. 

After about an hour we had made it and I was alive. More importantly, I truly felt alive. The sensation of actually getting from point A to point B in a new country made me feel like anything was possible. All the planning, saving, and hours on multiple planes were worth it for this moment. This was my invisible travel badge of honor. As the man with the brown jacket drove off to perhaps save another scared foreigner at the airport, I knew Colombia would always hold a special place in my heart. 

Daniel cerca 2012, at the Sanctuary of Monserrate in Bogotá

Since that day I knew I’d want to keep coming back to this country. The only question was when. Well, it’s been nearly ten years, a whole decade, since embarking on that trip. As for everyone, life has had many twists, turns, decisions, and changes. New priorities, projects, a pandemic, relationships, and breakups have all happened since then. Much had changed since 2012 but one thing stayed the same in my mind:

I wanted to be back in Colombia one day. 

Five weeks ago, in April 2022, this goal finally became a reality. A second fateful plane left San Francisco and stopped in Panama City, then another landed once again in Colombia’s capital. After ten years, I was back in Colombia. A similar sensation of fear echoed behind me as I exited the plane and followed the signs to baggage claim yet at the same time it was different: I had been here before.

This time around I sported a suitcase rather than a bulky backpack. My accommodation details were saved on my phone rather than in a journal and my Spanish was good enough to ask someone at an information kiosk about shuttles. Exiting the airport, not in search of a man with a brown jacket but just to get some fresh air and an empanada, the scene wasn’t nearly as fast or chaotic as I’d remembered from ten years prior. Perhaps it was the effect of the pandemic or maybe I was just getting older. 

In the distance, I could see the makings of a tiny white building at the top of a sea of mountains. It looked like it could have been the famous sanctuary called Monserrate where ten years ago I visited with a buddy from New York named Max. It was so far away to know for sure, but for an instant flashes of memories from ten years ago hovered in my consciousness. During this trip it would only remain a fixture in the mountains, like a mirage, sitting in homage to a previous chapter in life. My time in Bogotá would be just a layover and within a few hours my stay in Colombia’s largest city had already ended.

My final destination awaited: Neiva, an hour by plane in the southern region of the country. I felt thankful for my first experience in Colombia and all the great people I met back then. Waiting for the last plane to Neiva I was grateful for this second chance to be in this beautiful country.

New memories and people awaited.

To be continued…

Advice, Ideas, Inspiration, Life, Random Thoughts, Self Reflection, Short Story

The Choice

It was one of those mornings…

The sun was sneaking its head above the fog. A lone car could be heard reducing its speed at an unseen stop sign then slowly accelerating down an unknown street.

Pure beauty. It was peaceful, it was quiet, it was… 



It was ghostly silent.

A morning scene had just been converted into a messy crime scene. Harmony was upended. Order was overthrown. The smell of chaos and citrus lingered in the air.

The victim was an innocent kitchen floor. 

A clean blue-tiled floor once occupied this house. What remained was now a soupy coalescence of orange juice, fruit, and leafy greens. The plastic cup that once protected the ingredients of the supposed breakfast was laying motionless on the floor. Standing above the destruction I could feel the smooth plastic lid of the blender gripped tightly between my fingers. It could have been a few seconds of standing there or possibly an eternity as I blinked in silence. 

Perhaps I wasn’t silent. Perhaps a few four-letter words escaped my tongue almost as quickly as the smoothie’s contents dove from the countertop and crashed onto the surface beneath my feet. 

It was supposed to be a healthy morning consisting of daily servings of fruits and veggies mixed with positive energy but inside I felt an unhealthy amount of stress. I could feel the volcano inside of my consciousness starting to boil. The magma was there and it was ready to explode, wreaking more havoc to a landscape that was already in a state of disrepair. 

I wanted to do a lot of things at that moment. I was furious, I was sad, I was thirsty. More than anything I just wanted the satisfaction of creating a smoothie. 

Why me? was the first thought that flashed to mind. Why did this happen to me? For a moment the world felt over to me. I was done with planet Earth and ready to move to Mars. I paused, took a few deep breathes, my eyes feeling watery, and then I asked a different set of questions to myself. 


Why did this happen? 

I pressed the lid too firmly onto the plastic cup. And why did I press too firmly? I wasn’t paying attention. My mind was somewhere else, thinking of everything on the planet but the smoothie. Heck, I was already planning my day for after the smoothie. It wasn’t the lid’s fault, not the ingredients, and not the chirping birds outside. It was an open and shut case of user error. 

Standing alone in the kitchen, I didn’t have a smoothie or clean shoes. I felt empty inside my belly and in my heart. Abruptly, however, out of the wreckage and vitamin-infused debris of an experiment gone wrong, something emerged in what at first appeared to be nothing. 

In this morning of utter failure, I actually did have something: 

A choice

This was a moment for me to make a choice, which could either benefit or severely hinder the day. The options felt clear: I could say yes to the internal magma and have a loud and even more destructive tantrum. I could walk away, avoiding the problem at hand. I could give in to the urge to call my mom and ask for help. Or, gulp, I could remain calm, clean up this filthy mess, and ask myself one more question:  

What is this moment teaching me right now? 

I was feeling so tempted to scream but let out an aggressive exhale instead. Three or five more breaths followed almost automatically.

Nothing I did could put the juice back into the blender. The deed was done, the past was now history, and what remained was how I wanted the future to look like. I lost my power to make breakfast, but I still had the power to control my emotions. I grabbed some paper towels, collecting the strawberries and banana slices. 

What was this teaching me?

I needed to be present, to pay attention, to be in the now. I wasn’t appreciating what was in front of me. 

Many years ago I took a yoga class and the instructor kept saying the same mantra: “How you do one thing, is how you do everything.”

I felt like she was exaggerating at the time but as I grew older I began to agree with her statement. This morning felt like her words we being tattooed onto my brain. The way I made breakfast this morning was the same way I brushed my teeth, the same way I talked to people on the phone sometimes, and the same way I drove a car. I wasn’t fully there. Part of me has always been somewhere else. 

My stomach was growling but my mind felt full. Wow, I thought to myself, did I just freaking learn something at 8am on a Tuesday? Heck yeah!

The day would turn out alright.

Long story short: 

In 2022 I want to feel more present in everything I do, in every interaction I have, and to more fully appreciate who I’m with. I will also try to not be so hard on myself when I make mistakes and keep remembering that everything has a silver lining. What I mean is, there is something positive we can create out of moments that appear dark (aka moments when our smoothie decorates the floor).

Thank you for reading. I sincerely hope you had a great 2021 and start the New Year in amazing fashion. If 2021 wasn’t what you wanted, then I’m sure you grew a lot and learned a great deal about yourself so that is something really positive. 

Take care and much love!


P.S. If you believe in NY resolutions, what are yours for 2022?


Lessons Learned From My Old Clothes

It was a warm afternoon in July when I came to a very important decision.

Relative to other choices people face in their lives (whether to take job, move somewhere new or end a toxic relationship) it wasn’t wasn’t that serious. It still was impactful. For me, this decision was months in the making. It started as a cloudy concept and slowly snowballed into an urgent necessity. 

I decided to donate a lot of my clothes to Goodwill. No big deal right? People did this all the time. For me, this wasn’t an easy choice. After taking a serious look at my wardrobe I instantly grew attached to nearly everything I owned. Each article of clothing wasn’t just something I wore, they were a part of my history and story. The clothing I had been clinging to and preparing to wear into oblivion carried a piece of me like DNA. They had an origin and memories were attached to them. They were worn during many phases and experiences in my life. 

Why now? Well, for one thing, life was entering a new chapter and I didn’t feel like the same person anymore. Times were different and I wanted to embrace the change by letting go and shedding a layer of skin (and clothes). It also just seemed like an opportune moment to replace these clothes with new ones, or perhaps other used ones from the same Goodwill store that I was about to visit. 

As I scrubbed through my closet and dresser the unwanted clothes began to pile up. Before bagging them up and giving them away, I stopped and gave them a long look. In a gesture of not forgetting and honoring them, a blog post felt like the right thing to do before parting ways.

Besides a link to my spending history, they also taught me a lesson and gave me a mini slice of wisdom that I didn’t want to lose. 

So, if you don’t mind me going on a small tangent about things I used to wear, here are some stories and lessons I learned from my old clothes: 

I bought these pants at a Zara in Murcia, Spain in 2015 with the intention of finding something of high quality, stylish, and inexpensive. They looked cool and were affordable, but they were impossible to iron and faded after a few washes. I ended up buying a different pair of pants after a few months. Lesson: Sometimes it’s best to spend a little extra on quality one time than to spend a little less on multiple low quality items. 

This shirt was my “one day” dress shirt. I purchased it thinking that one day I would like it and eventually wear it. That one day never came so it was time to let it go. Lesson: Don’t hold onto things that don’t bring you happiness in the present.

This sweater was a random discovery when I was living in Spain. I stumbled upon a thrift store while getting lost between alleyways. I was teaching English at the time and I thought the look would make me appear more “teacheresque.” I looked more like a poorman’s version of Mr. Rogers who was hopped-up on caffeine but it did make me feel more professional. In the end I felt the quality of my work improved. Lesson: Dress like you ARE the person you want to be, even if you don’t always feel like you are.

I bought this tank-top in the Spring of 2016 at a Pac Sun a few days before going to Coachella with friends. I didn’t think I would wear it after the festival weekend, but somehow it stayed with me for over five years. It brought some wonderful memories but I didn’t identify with the item anymore. It felt like it was time for another 20 something year-old to sport it.

Lesson (1): Listen to your intuition and heart. Lesson (2): Pac Sun is an underrated brand. 

This had been one of my favorite shirts since buying it at Proof Lab in Mill Valley sometime in 2016 or 2017. For years this would be a go-to t-shirt. It never shrunk nor had it developed any funky aromas. Overall it was a wonderful shirt. The only reason why I gave it away was that I felt satisfied with the experiences we’d shared and it was time to spread its positive energy with someone else. I packed it away with love, feeling like my new go-to shirt was out there waiting for me (maybe at Proof Lab).

Lesson: When we are generous, we receive generosity. 

I bought this shirt with stimulus money. I was unemployed and being supported by the federal government at the beginning of the pandemic. It was an uncertain time but this shirt gave me a feeling of hope and optimism. I felt good wearing this shirt because it fit me really well. Now that I had gone back to work I felt like a new chapter in life had started so I want to donate this shirt to the fashion gods. I hoped it would connect with someone in need of some luck. Heck, the brand was Lucky so that must be a positive sign.

Lesson (1): Be thankful for what we have and don’t ignore the simple pleasures in life.  Lesson (2): You don’t have to play baseball to wear baseball shirts. 

Some other items included a pair of black sweats that were so worn-out that the pockets were missing. They were good for comfort but bad for going to the grocery store or library. A couple shirts which were gifts from friends were included and the only reason why I gave them away was because they had shrunk and therefore I felt they were now meant to make an 8th grader really happy. 

Clothes, if you one day learn to read, I just want to express my deepest gratitude for keeping me warm and for being with me over the years. We’ve been through the best and worst of times together. Through the joy and loneliness you stuck with me. You didn’t let the rain or other unexpected foul weather get you wrinkled (except the pants, you never got unwrinkled). You’ve seen me in my highs and lows in life. There were times when I wasn’t my best self and you didn’t judge me. You just gave me a hug and that was more helpful than I could have imagined. As I write this segment I’m becoming aware of another lesson you’ve taught me: Actions speak louder than words. You’ve never spoken to me, but based on all you have done for me, I feel blessed.

Please be well, stay clean, and I hope someone else appreciates you as much I do. 

The bag with my clothes and memories was now closed and I’d just parked the car. It was time to let go and drive away from the Goodwill parking lot. 

I was excited for my clothes and for myself to start a fresh chapter that perhaps would smell like lavender detergent.

Minutes later I returned home. To my dismay, I realized I had just given away everything in my closet.  

Final lesson: Remember to own at least two shirts, maybe three.

The End 


Thanks for reading my blog! I appreciate you. Do you have an article of clothing that brings you back to a special moment in life? 

Have a great day and take care.


Ideas, Life

Pizza Pies in the Sky

Once upon a time, my uncle and I got dinner at a pizzeria.

The details of this gathering aren’t very clear in my memory. Perhaps it was a dinner in Novato but I don’t recall the name of the restaurant. I was still in high school so I enjoyed a few cokes to pare with the pie’s marinera sauce.

There wasn’t a special reason why Uncle Richard, and my mom, and I decided to get together. We just wanted to do what family does once in a while and be in each other’s presence. It was casual but at the same time one of the rare moments when the three of us were together.

It wasn’t anything more than a dinner but we held this event in very high regard.

For years Uncle Richard and I talked about getting pizza again. “Let’s get pizza again soon” is how we’d close many a holiday card. The topic of pizza was in birthday cards, holiday cards, and random phone calls that we’d have. Getting a pizza with Uncle Richard was on my mom’s and my to-do list for years. We kept on saying that We need to go visit Uncle Richard or we should try to organize another pizza dinner with him.

Richard didn’t live that far away (about 2 hours) yet finding an appropriate time to see him seemed to evade us. It became a mirage that we could see in the horizon but it didn’t materialize. It was no one’s fault; I was either living out of the state or working a job that didn’t sync with my mom’s schedule. Richard had his own life with a new family (remarried) and never visited the Bay Area.

I knew I could pick up the phone and call him, but just never got around to it.

Until one day, recently, I did.

About two months ago I grabbed my phone with the intention of talking to my uncle. The pandemic was a good excuse to give him a ring and I had been meaning to check in with him. Maybe this would be the moment to set up another pizza date, even if outdoors and donning masks.

I hit call on my phone’s screen. An automated voice came on the line:

“We’re sorry, you have reached a number that has been disconnected or no longer in service.”

I blinked.

I checked and re-checked the area code then tried a few more times. I asked my mom if she had the same number after the same message echoed into my ears multiple times.

“We’re sorry….”

She had the same number saved on her phone. We drew the conclusion that he had changed his number. I sent him an email for good measure but it didn’t wipe away the internal monologue: Why would Uncle Richard change his number and not tell us? Was he fed up we never got pizza?

He was on my mind for a few days, until eventually I got caught up with my own things and slowly the curiosity began to fade.

Life returned to what it was, until one day my mom called me with some news:

Uncle Richard was in heaven.

He passed away the month prior.

It now made sense why the calls wouldn’t connect and why no one responded to my email.

Apparanetly, he had been ill and didn’t tell many people. My mom found out through our friend Judy, who had been in more contact with Richard than us. As I write this post I’m still not sure what the cause of his passing was.

A void began to grow in my heart. It had been so easy for years to reach him, just a call and a drive away, but not that close for some reason. I wanted to be upset but what was the point? It wouldn’t bring him back. I felt remorse for having taken his close proximity for granted. It could have happened, but everyone was busy so no one was to blame. In the words of an old friend, phones go both ways. He could have tried to make plans but didn’t. It was sad, but that’s the way things go sometimes.

He was a link to my past and my family that I suddenly wanted to connect with. I wanted to ask him why he didn’t have kids or why he loved my Aunt Dee. Why did he want me to become a government courier and what was his childhood like? He was one of the first people to call me “Dan” and his scratchy voice was one of a kind. He loved Ohio State football and enjoyed hosting large parties at his house in Mill Valley. His love of fine spirits became well known by accident when I stumbled upon his stache at my parent’s house when I was a college student (I promised I would restock). He was the only relative besides my parents to still give me money for my birthday last year. I had heard plenty of stories of Uncle Richard, but wish I had heard more of them from him personally.

It made me think about all the people I’ve been meaning to call but haven’t. Maybe it’s time to start.

Thinking of him now, I wonder what advice he’d give me. For some reason I picture him telling me, “Dan, don’t give up on what you love.”

Well, Richard Headapohl, I dedicate this blog post to you. My you rest in peace. I’m doing what I love right now, and that’s writing. See you in the next lifetime, I’ll split the bill and how about we add some olives to the pie this time?




P.S. While I’m on the theme of remembrance: Nancy Mahl, John Falk, Kim Milburn & Marcus V Lobo were friends who passed away during the past year. They will also be missed and their families are in my thoughts.

Travel Guide, Travel Tips

The Ten Biggest Rules for Two-Person Traveling

Once upon a time, in a previous blog post, I quoted John Steinbeck:

“A journey is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it.”

For me, this is one of the most accurate descriptions of traveling. Traveling is a volatile activity. This statement becomes even more relevant when we decide to travel with a second person.

Traveling alone does offer great benefits but organizing a vacation with a friend or loved one can yield the rewards of shared memories that will last a lifetime and a resounding sense of teamwork.

Achieving this feeling with a second travel partner requires a lot of effort. A two-person adventure is one of the ultimate tests of the strength of the bond between those involved. In my opinion, one doesn’t truly know another person until they’ve each put on backpacks and stepped into the unknown together.

I’ve been fortunate enough to plan various two-person trips, the longest lasting four months, and have seen journeys go well and not so well. If you’re reading this now and want to embark on a future trip with a second person, then I have compiled a list of ten important rules to follow for people who are considering this sort of adventure.

This list does not guarantee a positive traveling experience, but I believe it will increase two people’s odds of coming back happy and more importantly together.

Here it is:

Know each person’s travel goals

My longest two-person journey was with my best friend Jack. This photo was taken at the Zhangjiajie Glass Bridge in China in 2019.

This is perhaps the most time intensive step. If you can get on the same page with the other person then your trip will have a really good chance of being successful. What do you want to do on this trip? What does the other person want to do? Maybe one person just wants to party while the other wants to wake up early to visit museums. If you both know in advance what the other person hopes to accomplish then you can make an agreement to please both’s desires and necessities for the trip. Trips are most fun when both people either have very similar interests, or are flexible to let everyone do some of the things they want.

Respect the other person’s budget

Photo by Micheile Henderson on Unsplash

We all have different financial limitations. Agreeing on a budget, or at least agreeing on which things to splurge on, will create a fluid system of planning. Knowing the spending habits of the person you’re with will also prepare you for what to expect while on the road. Being flexible and willing to meet someone in the middle will go a long way.

Establish a payment system

Unnecessary frustration can be avoided if both people are prompt in paying the other person back on random expenses. For example, if one person offers to put a dinner bill on their credit card then the other shouldn’t hesitate to either foot the next one or send a mobile payment via PayPal or Venmo. To keep finances equal then an expense calculating app such as Splitwise would be useful. The financial aspect of a trip can easily become a tangled mess if both parties aren’t keeping track of their split costs.

Decisions now involve “us”

When electing to take a vacation with a second person, all decisions must go through both individuals. Agreeing to share an experience away from home means that both travelers have formed a temporary bond similar to marriage. As both people are investing time and resources into the trip, then both are entitled to make decisions and be in the know of the other person’s ideas. Communication is paramount here and both people should be flexible. Everyone involved should be able to do at least some of what they really want.

Establish a clear sleep system

Photo by Alexander Possingham on Unsplash

Not every traveling duo will have the same sleep cycle or habits. One person might enjoy sleeping in while the other is an early bird. Before traveling they should agree on a system for staying out or sleeping in. This will avoid any potential resentment or frustration because their time-clocks aren’t in sync. The early bird might be ok with going to a coffee shop to let the other person sleep or the night owl won’t mind checking out a bar alone once in a while.

Establish general boundaries

Knowing what your level of comfort is before traveling is important. Will you be willing to eat a fried scorpion or go bungee-jumping? Will your travel companion have similar restrictions? Being aware of how far each person is prepared to go will be good for avoiding any potential miscommunication or conflict of interest. Having similar boundaries will allow both parties to travel with greater ease.

Keep it balanced

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

It’s a good idea to give each person a responsibility during the trip. To avoid future resentment, it’s advisable to split tasks at different stages of the journey. For example, if one person did all of the reservations or research, then they might feel frustration towards their travel mate. Taking turns to book flights, bus tickets, or accommodation will help maintain harmony between both people.

Be empathetic

As I said before, we truly don’t know a person until we travel with them. It’s important to remain empathetic and free of judgement. This might be the first time you go on the road with that special person. Their morning ritual, funny little travel good luck charm, desire to call their mom, or random habit of cracking their knuckles before breakfast might not be something you’re used to. We are all weird people in our own special way and if we’ve said yes to traveling with someone then we’ve said yes to their uniqueness. On the flip side, we also must be aware of the fact that maybe our habits while alone aren’t proper for a two-person trip so we must be respectful of the other person. Remember: This trip is to have fun and not focus on the things you find off about the person you’re with.

Be present

This rule can be true for solo travel as well. If we agree to travel with someone, then it’s ideal to focus on the experience with that person rather than other people we meet or our devices. An optimal travel experience should involve less screen time and more focus on the surroundings. We miss opportunities when pegged to our smart phones and chances for meaningful conversations. Two people will have a truly memorable trip if they can remember to adhere to this system.

When one person uses the toilet, everyone uses the toilet

The last and most crucial rule for traveling with someone else is to reduce the number of bathroom breaks as much as possible. Let’s say you both find yourselves in a remote village or hidden beach and suddenly discover a chance restroom. In many areas of the world restrooms are a dime a dozen so it’s best practice to take advantage of this rare opportunity. If your partner has an urge to go but you don’t, you should still do it. Bathroom breaks equate to slowing down and stopping for a moment. Sometimes, if you’re in a busy place, there will be a line so why not have everyone have a go at it? The goal while traveling is to wander and enjoy rather than wait in line for a toilet so it’s paradigm to be efficient with these respites.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this article and can use these rules in your future wanderings. Right now the state of the world doesn’t allow us to fully enjoy traveling but we are getting closer to that moment.

Hang tight, stay safe, and take care of yourself.

Also, what are your rules for traveling? Do you agree with me in this article? I’d love your feedback!

Asia, Life, Random Thoughts, Short Story, story, Vietnam

Existential Side Conversations

Somewhere in Vietnam in 2019.


“So where do you live?”

It was such a simple question. How could I know that this would open up Pandora’s Box?

I blinked for a what felt like the longest second of my life. 

It was early, too early to hastily register the words being digested into my brain but not early enough to know that the coffee I just drank wasn’t very strong. 

My eyelids were burning, but not from a lack of sleep or a flame dancing in front me. 

Well, a flame was dancing, but it was millions of miles away. 

The sun. Its crimson and blood orange grin pierced into my line of site.

I had happily continued the small talk with this woman from the moment we exited the terminal on foot then stepped onto the transfer bus that would drive us to a resting aircraft. 

It started with a remark I made about her husband’s University of Washington hat, an odd sight to be been in Vietnam. 

The conversation was jovial until she had to ask me where I lived. 

Internally a mental conflict started to sprout. 

I could have simply responded that I lived in California but my heart wouldn’t let me say those words.  

I was too far away from home, already weeks into a trip that didn’t have an ending date, living out of a backpack, under caffeinated, and not in the mood to just continue with the typical flow of conversation. 

The truth of the matter was that in this precise moment in my life I didn’t know when I’d be settling in a place to call home. I just knew that somewhere in Danang there was a hostel bed reserved for me.

The rattle of the shuttle finally jerked the words out of my mouth. 

“Well, ma’am, I guess I don’t really live anywhere.” 

I blinked and she blinked.

Damn. Do I really not live anywhere? When was the last time I felt at “home?” Where is my place in this world? 

The words came out and I felt my face turn red, probably not from the sunshine erupting into my consciousness. She looked at me like suddenly we’d entered a networking event. Maybe this woman who was sitting a few feet away from me was a guidance counselor in a previous phase of life. 

“Well, so what is your….expertise?”

The word expertise rolled out slowly and overly pronounced. Her eyelids narrowed. Her husband offered a soft smile but kept silent. He must have known that this was the wrong lady to strike a casual conversation with. 

I wanted to continue in a slightly sarcastic fashion but already she had struck me deep in my core. 

What the hell am I good at? 

I could have said that I was a college graduate at some point in my life and that I had x experience doing  y and z but once again I stopped myself. Why fluff myself up to a stranger in a bus driving thousands of miles away from what I used to consider a “normal” life? 

“I don’t think I have an expertise yet, I guess I’m still learning what it is.” 

I hoped my travel buddy would interject with a comment but he was smartly listening to music and not paying attention to the conversation. 

A few more words were shared between both sides of the aisle. I couldn’t help but feel sullen. We hadn’t reached the plane yet and already I was feeling a gap of purpose and belonging. 

My mind was circling these concepts so vividly that anything else coming out of the woman’s mouth would have been greeted with the most default answer imaginable just to stop the internal bleeding of my ego. 

“So what do you think about our borders?”

Oh shit. Be full alert Danny. Code red code red.  

The words exited her pierced lips and reverberated in my eardrums. A deluge of tension flooded my senses and soon I didn’t care about not belonging anywhere. 

I just wanted to be somewhere. The airplane, for example, would have been a fantastic place to be but for some reason this damn tarmac happened to be forever long. 

Was it the Vietnamese border she was talking about? California’s border with Oregon? California’s border with Mexico? Nevada? Was it the thin walkway that separated this prying retiree with this overwhelmed and groggy blog author? Did she believe we needed a wall somewhere? 

I wasn’t sure if she was being serious but as I examined her expression I could tell she genuinely wanted my opinion on the matter. She must have mistaken my scruff with Keanu Reeves or someone running for city council. Too bad I was just a thirty-something unshaven backpacker who didn’t know what border she was referring to.

I didn’t ask for clarification and answered in most neurtal and diplomatic way possible.

“..Being in the Bay Area…um…we are very diverse…and uh…we don’t directly see the effects of what’s happening along the border..” 

What the frick did I just say?

She scanned me for a fleeting moment, determining whether my response marked me as friend or foe. I hoped my words were enough to evade any potential tension.

“My granddaughter is a lawyer in Texas…she’s working to help undocumented immigrants…” 

She soon changed the topic and I breathed a sigh of relief.

Whatever missile of awkwardness that was being launched was a dud and the remainder of the conversation reached its organic conclusion once the vehicle’s doors opened upon arrival to the plane. 

We said a brief “good luck” and “good bye” and I mentally crossed fingers to have a seat really far away from theirs. 

She and her husband continued their journey while my friend and I continued ours.

Nearly two years after that morning, part of me still feels the internal monologue during that bus ride: 

What’s my expertise? Where do I belong? 

I’m still going through that process.

In the meantime, a blog post here and there is good medicine for keeping positive.

The biggest difference between me now and then is that now I’m ok with not having everything figured out yet. Life is still pretty damn good.

Have a wonderful day, thanks for reading, and I hope you’re doing what makes you happy.



P.S. Have you experienced any random conversations with strangers during a journey that left a profound effect on you? I’d love to hear about it!