When we remember that we are all mad, the mysteries disappear and life stands explained – Mark Twain
I’ve finally found time to sit down and reflect on what has been an incredible first week in Canada. It’s been seven days of deliberate challenge and stepping out of my comfort zone. Let’s be honest, it’d be impossible to try and synthesise everything I’ve done in one blog, so each will follow a theme. This week’s blog focuses on CouchSurfing and 3 important realisations that I hope you can take value from.
For those of you that haven’t been introduced to this cool concept before, Couchsurfing is an awesome way to meet local people as you travel. Hosts let you crash on their couch for a couple of days or so. It’s a great way to see a place through the eyes of a local rather than a tourist.
After 2 years on the road I can’t believe I’d never used the CouchSurfing system before. Over the last week, I’ve had the privilege to stay with a 63 year old retired vet, a 51 year-old accountant, a French-Canadian couple, a 43 year-old Politician, two 22 year-old girls and a 34 year-old nudist. Yes, you heard right – a 34 year-old nudist (all explained below).
I’ve cooked Shepherd’s pie naked, hiked snow capped mountains, jogged in the rain, partied in a refurbished jail, attempted to play the accordion, chilled around a fire with marshmallows and ate A LOT of Quebec famous Poutine (chips, cheese and gravy to us Northerners) with my CS hosts.
My First Ever CouchSurfing Experience with a Nudist
Well, I definitely left my comfort zone for my first ever CouchSurfing experience. This wasn’t any ordinary CouchSurf. Somehow my curious mind had managed to encourage me to sign up for a 3-night stay with a 34 year-old nudist host named Mike.
Of course, nudism can be a very sensitive topic for a lot of people. For me, the only time I get my kit off is around someone I care dearly for, or perhaps, when I’m pissed as a fart with mates chasing a bit of Dutch courage.
On the bus journey to Mike’s house, my rational mind bombarded me with all kinds of worries… what if I can’t bring myself to be naked in front of a stranger? What if it’s awkward? What if the old fella rises and I get an erection?
What a waste of energy… It wasn’t like this at all…
Mike was a cool and comfortable guy to be around. He knew I was bit nervous so gave me a beer to eradicate the early tension. We sat down and watched ice hockey and had a bit of a chat. Mike popped out for what I thought was a toilet break. Mike didn’t return with any clothes on. It was one of those speechless moments where I didn’t know what to say or do. I did my best to maintain eye contact, but of course, that can be difficult when you’re only pushing 5ft 6 inches.
I knew it was my time now. I told Mike I’d be back in 2 seconds. 2 seconds turned into 20 minutes. I stood naked in front of the mirror for about 10 minutes trying to psyche myself up with a little pep talk. I repeated to myself “come on Dan, do it for England.” After slapping myself in the face a couple of times, I somehow built up enough courage to head upstairs. To demonstrate how I felt, multiple that horrible nervous feeling you get in your stomach by 10.
Let’s fast-forward 20 minutes to the point where all worry had disappeared completely. We were chilling naked, eating curry and sipping beers over a couple of episodes of Dexter. It was a really liberating and surreal experience. For the rest of the stay I was naked the entire time. I even cooked a Shepherd’s Pie for Mike whilst naked – words that I never thought would leave my mouth. By the end of the stay I was so used to having my clothes off that it seemed so strange putting them back on again.
The experience with Mike taught me a few very important lessons:
1. The Importance of Curiosity
Curiosity is key. Crazy, new shit happening in your life is a spin-off of curiosity. Mike opened my mind to a completely new way of thinking. Before meeting Mike, I’d never thought about nudism and I don’t think it would have ever crossed my mind. It’s shown me how important it is to let your curious mind guide you. You need to keep saying YES to the unusual, the weird and the unknown. On the other hand, if you choose to stay in your little bubble (and that’s ok too), you risk neglecting the opportunity to seek out novel experiences that help you grow as a person. After all, your thoughts and actions are limited to the bubble that you live in. And of course, you can only wonder what may be until you make a conscious decision to escape your bubble.
There are new possibilities, new ideas and new ways of thinking out there for the taking. These unique experiences will test you and take you further than you can ever imagine. Please remember though, they are not going to come to you if you sit and wait for shit to happen.
ALWAYS REMEMBER TO FEED YOUR CURIOUS MIND.
2. The Trivial Nature of Worry
For about 2 weeks before my nudist experience, I wasted so much energy thinking about what could go wrong and creating hypothetical situations in my head that never surfaced. It really is never as bad as you think it will be. And this was an experience that demonstrated very clearly how trivial most of our worries are. The problem here is that these worries will consume many people’s lives, and consequently prevent them from trying new things. This is how stagnation kicks in. It’s easier said than done, but as soon as a negative worry enters my mind, I replace it with a positive thought. Yes, as simple as that. I focus on what will go well and visualise the positive scenario in play. And if you make a conscious effort to do this for long enough (I’ve read somewhere around 30 days), it will transform into a very powerful habit indeed.
REPLACE NEGATIVE THOUGHTS WITH POSITIVE ONES.
3. Please Don’t Judge
I’ve already told a lot of my friends and people I’ve met about this experience. Some 70% of them labeled it as “weird.” I want to address this. I think “weird” has many negative connotations attached to it. To me it means strange, unusual and definitely not accepted. I don’t like it and I think it’s a very narrow minded view – let me explain. I think that people regard nudism as “weird” because it’s not commonplace in our society – we’re obviously taught to wear clothes. On the other hand, wouldn’t it be regarded as normal if we were taught from an early age to walk around naked?
The problem I’m trying to get at here is that a lot of people can be quick to judge through preconceived notions that they’ve learned from society and believe to be true. Many regurgitate and rely on dogmatic societal thoughts rather than thinking for themselves. In my eyes, it’s this obsolete and naïve way of thinking that actually inhibits rather than aids self-development and growth.
Remember, it takes a lot more guts to step away from the crowd and walk the lonely path on your own.
AVOID THE NOISE AND THINK FOR YOURSELF.
I hope you can take value from the 3 realisations from my nudist experience with Mike. Thank you Mike, I salute you for helping so many people overcome their fears. You never know… you might be able to persuade me to come visit you at the Naturist Quarter Cap D’agde in France next year.
And thank you CouchSurfing… when on earth would people like Mike have entered my life? You’ll be hearing a lot more about experiences like this as my trip progresses. I’m trying to demonstrate a different way of travel with each of my blogs – the Podstel way of travel. I hope this inspires you to get up and go!
Dan Beaumont, on behalf of Podstel, 19h May 2014
Here we go again – Podstel’s biggest adventure to date. This time we’re heading across the Atlantic Ocean to spread the Podstel word through North American. I’m set to land in Montreal, Canada on May 7th with just a couple of bags, a GoPro and my lucky Yellow Bert hat from Nepal. My intention is to hitchhike the length of both Canada and USA over an 8-month period. Apart from the wedding of two lovely people I met on my travels, I’ve purposely not planned much to make sure I don’t restrict spontaneity. This time I want my journey to be dictated by the people I meet along the way, rather than bobbing about from place to place to see the attractions and check off a rigid itinerary.
In the last 2-years, I’ve only spent 2 months travelling on my own. I’ve had the comfort and security of best mates and travel buddies to bounce off and pick me up the minute any awkward situation came about.
This time it’s different… this time I’m going alone.
I want to throw myself in. I want to meet people of all different ages and backgrounds and share great experiences with them. I want to grow by making a conscious effort to run away from my comfort zone. And the only way to achieve this is to chase the things that frighten me. You may ask… are you worried Daniel? And I’d respond… SHIT YEH… But let me factor in all the excitement and it all balances out.
I’ll be using a mixture of hitching, CouchSurfing and WWOOFING to get by. I’ll have to learn to hustle and haggle to make things work out. Some nights I might be slumming it on my own in a park; other nights I might fall on my feet with something a bit more luxurious – I just don’t know. And yes, there will be those down days but I know that the majority will be awesome. The real beauty in all of this is that I wouldn’t be able to tell you where I’m going to be this time next week. And to me, that’s the sign of a great adventure.
I’ll be working on and pitching the Podstel Project as I go. I want to recruit a small army of inspiring individuals that want to collaborate to make Podstel happen. I’ll be reaching out to people and asking them to contribute their fresh perspectives, ideas and inspiration for the first-ever crowdsourced Podstel Hostel, which I’ll be starting in 2015.
For followers around the world, join the crowd and contribute your own unique ideas in our Forum on Podstellife.com. Here you’ll also be able to keep track of Podstel’s North American journey. I’ll be documenting all the shenanigans in the form of videos and blogs, as well as posting regular content that will inspire you to travel.
Life is there to grab them moments that take your breath away. So here it goes… LET THE ADVENTURES BEGIN.
I’ll post again soon to let you all know about my first impressions of Canada – see you on the other side.
Dan Beaumont, on behalf of Podstel, 6th May 2014.
There are only two mistakes one can make on the road to the truth; not going all the way, and not starting – The Buddha
It’s Vintage time! Gruelling 12-hour days, 40 degrees heat, stained red hands and the stench of fermenting wine – not to mention the millions of mosquitos, lizards and poisonous snakes. Why would I put myself through this? Well I was definitely low on money, but on top of that, my time spent at the winery last time round gave me some of the most important realisations I’ve had on my travels. I want to share them here with you guys…
When I’d tell people I’d worked at a winery on my travels they’d always pose the following questions:
Did you get to drink the wine?
Did you have to jump on the grapes to extract the juice?
As much as I’d love to answer YES to both of those questions (sometimes I jokingly did), I’d be telling porky pies. Anyways, being a vertically integrated winery, it was HUGE place littered with gigantic tanks all over the spot. It would certainly make a great place for a big game of hide and seek. Unfortunately I didn’t get to play hide and seek, but I did get to learn about the process of winemaking all the way from the very start when the grapes came in to the end when the wine reached the bottle.
Side Note: I think you’d think twice about drinking wine if you knew that fish guts, milk products, gelatine, enzymes, potassium hydroxide, sulphur dioxide (can blind you and kill your sense of smell!!), acid regulators and around 40 other chemicals are used throughout the process. That probably explains why Backpackers get an extra special “Goonover” after a night on some cheap wine.
But the novelty quickly wore off…
As interesting as making wine sounds, the novelty quickly wore off for me. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciated my job, earned good money and learnt a lot of interesting things. But monotony quickly settled in and the whole experience quickly turned into a few valuable life lessons.
All the casuals were there to fill menial tasks and assist the company throughout its busiest period – Vintage. Day in day out I’d press that same button, attach yet another hose, add additions, sample wine and maybe clean a tank if I wasn’t so lucky. Put it this way, I knew that if I came back in 20 years time there’d definitely be some kind of new machine or possibly a robot doing my job.
My days were filled thinking about how important it was to work on something I was passionate about. I talked endlessly to a lot of the permanent workers there to try and work out their motives. A lot of them had devoted 20-30 years of their lives at the winery. I couldn’t comprehend that. Exactly like me, day by day, they’d come in and live out the same routine. They lived and operated their lives based on work commitments. I spoke to one worker that described his life as a “vicious cycle.” After countless years at the winery, he told me he felt like he was “stuck in a rut” and not capable of leaving because he had a family and other liabilities (mortgages, car on finance, loans) to care for. I too experienced how easy it was to get caught up in it all. Even for the short 3 months I worked there, I lost sight of my passions. I didn’t feel motivated to exercise or even eat properly. I finally admitted it – I was devoting all of my energy to work for nothing more than money to fund my travels.
One thing that came apparent when i started the winery was the magnitude of negativity and conflict between workers – so much unnecessary bullshitting went on. It seemed that none of the workers wanted to get on and that everybody had a bad word to say about each other. I didn’t understand it. Maybe it was down to hierarchy and people seeking higher positions? Maybe it was due to monotony and a need for the work hours to pass by more quickly?… who knows.
I also found that some of the permanent workers would gain almost a feeling of importance by “dumping” the tedious jobs on the casuals. I didn’t mind as I knew my job was temporary. I was more than happy to fill this role. I was fortunate enough to get along with a supervisor who looked out for me whilst I was there. He’d find me enough work to see out a 12-hour shift and made sure I’d stay when the big boss was looking to send people home… I can’t thank him enough for that.
My Life Realisations from Completing a Vintage
Now I want to make it clear that I’m all for someone who has passion for what they’re doing. People that don’t – I don’t want you to fall into the work-for-no-gain-but-money trap like I once did… so notice that:
- The Corporation’s Killing You – It pains for me to say it but the corporation doesn’t have a heart, emotions or feelings. The corporation is out there to make money and satisfy its shareholders. The corporation always works in its own best interest and wants to maximise profit margins. Despite the perks, benefits and fuzziness the corporation makes you feel… you’re simply just another number in a system. Once you’ve been made redundant, you’re easy to replace.
- You Can’t Place a Value on Your Time – Please don’t make the mistake of indefinitely exchanging your time for money. When you do this, you forfeit and become a prisoner. You set a finite value on your time and begin working on someone else’s terms and not your own. You have to adhere to their rules. You have to eat when they want you to eat. You have to ask to go to the toilet. In addition, all of those hard hours of work you put in for a fraction of the output created is making other people a lot more successful than YOU. Know that your time and is worth far more than money.
- YOU have something to Give the World – Never neglect your special qualities and talents. It’s disrespectful to your creative nature. Everyone has something special to give the world. Make a pact to work on your passions. Start by chipping away if you think it’s going to take time to break away from old habits. Lots of small steps equals big progressions. Above all, pursue something that will make you feel proud when you look back all grey and old.
- Never get complacent – If you find yourself slipping into a comfortable routine, make a conscious effort to bounce out of it. Don’t sit there and suffer because the situation will only get worse. If you feel you are stagnating at work, remember that only YOU can change the situation.
Overall, working at the winery was a big life changing experience for me. It gave me a lot of time to think and put what I wanted in life into perspective. I’m so fortunate to have realised very early on in life how important it is to spend my time doing something I love. I hope that this blog persuades you to hit a monotonous job on the head and pursue what you love!
Daniel Beaumont, on behalf of Podstel.
“This is your life, and it’s ending one minute at a time.” – Chuck Palahniuk
Today was different. I expected the usual strenuous run around the block, but no, routine gave way to something profoundly spectacular which was right there for everyone else to witness too. I looked up at the vast midnight sky to notice just one little star shining so much more brightly than every other star. At first glance, it made me realise how insignificant I was. Little me, living out my life amongst 7bn other people in this crazy world. But then I looked again. That one star was so different to the rest of the stars. As I starred on, I started to appreciate how precious it is to just be alive.
Ever thought about yourself like this…? We’re all a BIG unique bag of experiences. We are the sum of hundreds and thousands of little moments that have made up what we call our lives. The good. The bad. The ugly. The lot. Every single one of these building block experiences has shaped us in some way or another. What’s even more beautiful is that absolutely nobody, ever, will be able to replicate ANY of our experiences. Those exact circumstances will never ever happen again. The sun will set differently. The waves will break further down the beach. The birds will hum at a different hour. The wind will fly by a different direction. Your experiences are yours to keep, and they can never be taken away from you.
But here’s my million dollar question to you:
Do you make a conscious effort to put yourself out there and seek those truly great experiences that are worth remembering?
If not… I urge you to get out there NOW.
So many people squander and undervalue the importance of time. It’s not in abundance my friend; in fact it’s very scarce indeed. It’ doesn’t just “come and go” like money does. Once it’s gone, that’s it.
You need to notice NOW that it’s unrealistic and also time wasted to wishfully wait for the right circumstances to blossom – they never will. Years will pass by and BAM the opportunity will seize to exist. Right now is as good as any other time.
You’ve got to accept there’s no shortcut here. You have to be proactive, make the jump, go for it and put yourself out there. You’ve got to feel uncomfortable and step beyond old boundaries. Of course, what’s never been tested before is foreign and may scare you. Embrace it. It will NEVER feel completely right. I assure you though, you’ll look back in weeks, maybe months or even years, laugh, and wonder what all the fuss was about.
And Once You’ve Put Yourself Out There…
Capture and love the moments that take your breath away. To do this you need to stretch beyond just wondering. You need to climb the hill and see for yourself what’s over the other side. Once you’re over the other side, you’ll realise how rich experiences can be.
To help you with this, a nice analogy I like to use is to see your comfort zone as an elastic band. The more you stretch it, the more you can grow and experience the great things in life. I, for one, can vouch that the truly memorable experiences come much more often when you make a pact to stretch your comfort zone.
But remember… once you’re out there don’t get trapped by other people’s thinking. Be yourself. Think for yourself. Create your own unique journey. Don’t try to live out other people’s experiences. Genuine fulfilment will flow naturally by pursuing what you truly want.
By getting out there you’ll:
- Realise everyone you meet is living with some degree of fear.
- Realise the universe rewards those brave few.
- Learn to become independent and start thinking for yourself.
- Extend your bounds and unravel opportunities beyond anything that you have ever envisaged.
- Begin doing the unthinkable.
- Banish monotony and no longer settle for the status quo.
- Realise intuition is rarely wrong – trust it.
- Realise the best things in life cannot be touched; they are felt.
- Realise there’s no predetermined route to follow or way that life should pan out.
- Realise there is end to your ability to learn about life and that meeting people opens you up to new possibilities, new realms and new perspectives.
I’m afraid to say hitting autopilot mode and living a conservative life isn’t going to cut it. The one that merely exists will always ponder about what could’ve been and we all know regret is painful. Please don’t live your life so cautiously that you end up winding up like a newborn bird that never leaves its nest. Get out there, collect and cherish all those moments worth remembering.
I want to end by taking it back to the realisation I had when I looked up and marvelled at the midnight sky the night I was pulled out of routine. And here’s the realisation… You have two options: In this crazy world you can merely exist and plod along like one of the billion ordinary stars out there or you can be remembered for something great by shining so much more brightly like that outlying star. The choice is yours.
Daniel Beaumont, on behalf of Podstel.
Don’t let the concept of change scare you as much as the prospect of remaining unhappy – Timber Hawkeye
Are you sick of working the system at the expense of someone else’s gain? Have you got a breakthrough idea that you desperately want to implement, but feel like you’re trapped? Well, you’ve come to the right place… before I made a decision to start Podstel, I was asking myself these very questions.
I was stuck in a rut with a monotonous 9-5 job. Resistance kicked in and I found it incredibly difficult to get motivated and work on the things I loved. I quickly noticed that if I wanted to be truly happy, I had to break away from this detrimental way of life. I knew that If I was to go alone and progress along the path of self-sufficiency, I had to do what others weren’t willing to do.
And here I am now facing the ultimate test. I’m growing Podstel – the first ever Crowdsourced Hostel Project -whilst I travel the world. I can report that I’m fully embracing the challenge of working on my own terms and doing something I LOVE.
I know fine well that it can seem like an endless battle getting a product or service together, let alone finding a group of people willing to pay money for your offering. With that in mind, I want to share some of the early lessons I’ve learnt about entrepreneurship that could benefit you on the road to self-sufficiency and making a life out of what you love.
Have you got what it takes? Lets paint the picture of the entrepreneur…
An entrepreneur will not accept societal expectations. They have this unwillingness to settle for the status quo. Their dreams are so radical that most people think they’re nuts. Their work is focused on creation rather than consumption. They want to become a real expert in something and add value to people’s lives. They find that working on their creative outlets is a major source of their happiness. They know if they stay in the game long enough, eventually they will prevail. They realise that scarcity of opportunity does not exist, and if anything, it’s a lack of imagination. They always aim high, and in doing so, realise it’s a win-win situation. They know that the path to success means advancing one small step at a time. Last but not least, they have unprecedented grit, perseverance and resilience to bounce back and keep getting back up.
Now, if you still think you’ve got what it takes then here’s six useful entrepreneurial lessons from starting Podstel to help kick start your new business idea:
- Imitation and Improvement – It’s important to copy other successful people. You need to watch them relentlessly. How do they live their lives? How do they do what they do? How do they communicate with others? What skills do they have that you need to develop? BUT REMEMBER… don’t stop at imitation. You need take it one step further by finding a way to improve the way they do stuff.
- Build Momentum through Consistent action – Your actions are the best manifestation of your dreams; talk isn’t unfortunately. I’ve met so many people that have wonderful ideas but have no follow through ability at all. These wonderful ideas will remain just that. Put bluntly you need to get your shit done! It’s all about excellent execution, making timely decisions and small step progressions. You need to be a DOER and make sure you continue building momentum for your project through consistent action and discipline.
- FOCUS – Focus your time, energy and resources on what’s vital rather than diluting everything by spreading yourself thin – you’ll get overwhelmed very quickly. No focus is like pouring a tub of red paint in an ocean. Also, don’t try to multitask. Always work on one task at a time and be sure to always ask yourself whether it’s adding value to what you’re trying to achieve overall. By choosing the essential, you will create great impact with minimal resources.
- Failure’s REALLY GOOD, embrace it – You’re path on the road may look like this. The middle bit Failure-Refine may repeat itself x 20,000….Initiation – Failure – Refine – Failure – Refine – Failure – Refine – Success Failure is a beautiful learning block. It reinforces more than anything else what doesn’t work. Think of your project as a scientific experiment where each failure is an anomaly result in the overall experiment. A scientist doesn’t pop his shit, get upset and disregard the whole experiment when an anomaly pops up. The scientist learns something from the anomaly, and makes sure they take something from it so that it adds value to the overall experiment. You will learn something from every single failure. Your task is to use this “failure” learning point, refine the project as necessary and try again. Through repetition of this method you will reach your overall goal. Embrace failures. Learn from them. Refine your Project.
- Conscious development – I can’t stress the importance of this enough! As far as I’m concerned, if I’m not growing, I’m dying. You need to make a conscious effort to self-develop. READ, READ, READ. I find it useful to read blogs on success, self-development and entrepreneurship. But don’t just READ. In fact, nothing beats actually getting out there and experiencing first hand through good old trial and error. You can read, watch videos and listen to as many audiobooks as you want but you can’t beat learning by doing. Getting out there is also awesome way for gaining fresh inspiration, maximising your imagination and identifying new ideas. In all of this it’s so important to find balance. That means finding time to work on what you love, whilst looking after your body and your mind. Don’t forget socialising regularly with the people you love too. It’ll be hard to crack at first and it’ll take time but I guarantee you’ll be much happier and will notice a massive increase in your productivity.
- Take a notepad everywhere – This is a big one for me. I make sure I take a notepad everywhere I go. Thoughts will pop up when you least expect them to. I’ve been on the verge of falling to sleep when some of my best ideas have entered my brain. I also find it useful to make observations on what I see and do in a day. I’ll write questions to myself and ponder over the answer on a bus journey home.
It can be a very lonely path for an entrepreneur in the early stages of developing a new idea. It’s often difficult for others to see the beauty in your idea and this can be frustrating. It’s perfectly normal that some days you’ll have no desire and feel aimless. Know that it’s purely a temporary state. Of course, you’ll doubt your idea from time to time but then you’ll find an answer that immediately eradicates that worry. In these times, you must notice that the project will seize to exist if you give up. I guarantee through persistence, grit and resilience that you’ll find a way.
Above all you’ll know that you pursued what you loved and lived life with a purpose. You’ll now that you didn’t plod along in a safe 9-5 job that you hated at the expense of someone else’s gain – and that my Sir – is a wonderful feeling.
Dan Beaumont, on behalf of Podstel.
“Your actions speak so loudly, I cannot hear what you are saying.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson
If today was your last day on this planet, what would you do?
“Sam, we’re going on a 3000km motorbike adventure across Vietnam.” He laughed it off and told me to go easy on the Rum. Fast forward 2 weeks - I arrive in Ho Chi Minh City and quietly reconsider. 90 million people (26 million children) and 75 million motorbikes. As I stand at a hectic junction scratching my head, I think to myself “how on earth does the chicken cross the road here?” Chaos is an understatement. Forget traffic lights, road rules or even etiquette, anything goes. Vehicles weaving in and out, crossing paths, left, right and centre - thank god for peripheral vision.
I knew fine well that I was pushing my luck with Mr. Comfort Zone this time. But I had an urge and temptation kept knocking. I had two options: A) – let unknown people (notice the plural) drive me to the top of Vietnam… or B) – I ride myself. Given that I’m a very sensible person (when sober), what option is less dangerous? B of course, I trust myself. B also entails adventure, flexibility and freedom. I’d convinced myself and there was no going back – sorry Mum. After relentless haggling, I now owned a 15-year-old 110CC Honda Win costing just $200USD. They even chucked in a Vietnamese Policeman’s helmet. The next morning, we decided to hit the road at 5AM to avoid the chaotic morning rush. Little did we know, the main motorway leaving HCM didn’t open until 6AM, meaning we hit rush hour – plan gone bad and no going back. On edge, we battled through 2 hours of pure madness, witnessing our lives flash before our eyes on several occasions. Fortunately our Vietnamese friends were there to bring us back to reality with a friendly beep of the horn (I think it was friendly).
Phew, we we’re out of the madness and suddenly hit beautiful tranquility. All the fear vanished just like that. All that was left was the composed purring sound of our motorbikes as we twisted up an unbelievably picturesque mountain road. Confidence came with corners - I started thinking I was Valentino Rossi as I pushed my luck, leaning in a little further each time. But I was too distracted to focus on my riding skills. I was more concerned with how much beauty there was to take in from the surreal surroundings. The wind was blowing in my face, there was stunning green rolling hills in every direction, not to mention the peculiar nature of the Vietnamese culture – life was good.
I quickly learnt a valuable lesson on my motorbike that held true for the rest of the trip. It forced me to be utterly present. When you think about it, how much of our day do we spend dwelling on the past or events in the future that haven’t yet materialised? If you can’t relate to this, get in touch, I want to learn from you! But driving the motorbike was different. It acted as a medium that brought me into this infrequent meditative state. It was like having 8 hours of constant ‘flow’ each day – you know, that rare feeling you get when nothing else in the world matters. You’re completely absorbed in that moment that time passes by so quickly. It was only the inevitable sore butt cheek that forced me to drift out of the trance as I rhythmically slid left to right, right to left, as I climbed the mountain roads.
We met up with some friends to create The Honda Win Club – a backpacker equivalent to a Harley Davidson biker crew. There was 6 of us. 5 lads and 1 lass – an unfortunate ratio. But yes, that 1 girl is my good friend Katie Robjent. She didn’t get her lady boy status for nothing - she had bigger nuts than all of us put together. Early on in the trip, I was following Katie as we were struggling along a terrible pothole ridden country road. A school bus in front suddenly braked, causing Katie to panic and fall off her bike. She was seconds away from being crushed by the bus. As she fell, the motorbike landed on top of her squashing her legs. We quickly jumped off our bikes, pulled her out from underneath hers and brought her to the side of the road. She was clearly in a lot of pain. As I sat there in shock, it pierced through me what we could’ve been facing if that incident had turned out differently. It seems silly saying this, but Katie falling off was a blessing in disguise for each and everyone of us. We’d all been showing off and competing with each other like giddy little kids. This gave us all the reality check that we shouldn’t have needed. I thought that was the end of motorbikes for Katie, but no, she wanted to give it another shot. Don’t you just LOVE that. That’s the spirit of resilience right there, which I admire more than anything else. Despite that one incident, we had an amazing time on the road together. One day in particular that stands out for me was riding the Hai Van pass (road made famous by Top Gear) in fancy dress. Of course they dressed me up as a baby – a pink silky baby with armbands, a dummy and a bottle to be precise. The Vietnamese women loved the outfit, especially when they pointed out a hole that had emerged in my small child sized silk trousers (not deliberate, I promise).
The Vietnamese culture is a strange one. They like to tuck their t-shirts up and expose their bellies. They make revolting noises in public; “hacking up a golly” as an Aussie would put it. They also have an unhealthy obsession for a real life game of Buckaroo. Throughout the trip, I saw chickens, dogs, vegetables, six people, a washing machine, a mobile convenience store (take note entrepreneurs) and alive pigs crammed on a single motorbike.
During the moto trip I must’ve made at least 15 trips to the mechanics – my clutch, indicators and brakes were all temperamental. My exhaust fell off, my spark plug broke 5 times and my speedo was dead from the start. Nonetheless, through the use of speed = distance/time (Mr. Sansby, I was listening), road markers, and 1 caterpillar, 2, caterpillar, I could work out how fast I was going – 90kmh top speed with my big head down for the sake of aerodynamics. But you know what, I LOVED breaking down. It gave me a chance to meet a new Vietnamese family each time. Before visiting Vietnam, everyone I met commented on how nasty the people were?!?! Apart from getting my phone, wallet and flip-flops robbed (passed out drunk on a park bench), I didn’t meet one nasty person.
For the final leg of the journey it was just me and Sam riding. We we’re on the home straight but why we’re we competing again? Couldn’t we just drop our egos? I had an awful last day driving. Not only did I come off my bike around a corner (that was minor), but I also came within seconds of death. I was trying to keep up with Sam and badly misjudged an overtaking opportunity. I was head on with an enormous lorry. The car beside me wasn’t letting me merge back into the lane so I had no option but to veer off the road into a garden. Luckily I managed to keep my balance and slowed the bike down to a halt. Shaken, I got going again. 10 minutes down the road there had been a bad accident. I thought to myself, “please don’t be Sam,” as I passed officers chalking around motorbike debris scattered across the road. I looked ahead and I could see Sam in the distance – a sigh of relief swept through me. We stopped for the day and we were both silent as we lay on our beds at the hotel. We’d just heard some bad news about a friend’s health at home and we were driving about Vietnam like imbeciles. The realisation of the sheer magnitude of what we’d seen back there on the road definitely hit home. I don’t wanna imagine what impact that would’ve had on our close relatives and friends if it was us that was caught up in that accident instead.
Although this is a story of adventure, the underlying message here is the paradoxical nature of fear. Apart from our stupidity in the situations described, the entire trip of 3000km was conducted in a safe manner. I recall reading somewhere that 85% of what we worry about never actually materialises. With the benefit of hindsight, does this hold for you too? If we all shift our perspectives to what could go right, instead of what could go wrong, we’d be more inclined to embrace these so called “fearful” events rather than run away from them. Our time on this planet is diminishing day by day. We need to make the most of this scarce resource by expressing ourselves as much as possible. Never ever let fear postpone you from taking action. Put yourself out there. Throw yourself in. Say yes to the unknown. After all, you don’t want to wait till your last day on Earth to do that truly absurd thing.
It’s over to you.
Daniel Beaumont, on behalf of Team Podstel, 1st Dec 2013.
For the Curious Mind - An Authentic Travel Story – Working the Harvest, Outback Australia
“Everything popular is wrong.” – Oscar Wilde
I begin talking to you on Monday 28th October 2013. Lets set the scene. I’ve somehow landed in outback Australia working for a grain company as a “shit shoveller” (that's how the boss puts it). It’s 8PM. I’ve just finished a 14-hour shift, withstanding extreme heat, dust, red back spiders, brown snakes and Kiwi Kev's loader. It’s not a long walk home, we live on site in the “Smoko Hut.” There isn’t a supermarket or pretty girl for 100km. My cooker is a portable camping stove (we’ve ran out of canisters). My washing machine is the kitchen sink. My washing line is the barbed wire fence surrounding the perimeter of the site. My morning shower derives from rainwater. My internet café is next to a telegraph pole on a train line (apparently it amplifies the signal?). I sound like I’m moaning don’t I… well guess what, I’m not.
Most would agree it’s far from normality. I believe they couldn’t be further from the truth. I was oblivious at first, but have come to realise through lots of self-study that the basic necessities required to live on this Earth are very simple indeed. In my opinion, we, as a Western society, overload our lives with unnecessary objects that people (advertisers, media) tell us we MUST have. In essence, these very objects create “noise,” which ironically detracts us from the very feeling we are all inherently trying to chase – happiness.
Back to the grain story. “Another day, another dollar” as Kiwi Kev would classically put it. Now, imagine rocking up to work at a grain site in the middle of nowhere and being greeted by a big intimidating Mauri man for the very first time - what would you think?... But no, “everything popular is wrong” holds this time. This guy was like a big soft teddy bear deep down – he didn't have a malicious bone in his body. Mind you, he did nearly kill me a few times on the loader (my fault) - “Dangerous Dan” stuck - the clumsy one – yes ok, lets move on.
Now to the boss. "Leigh Archibald Farkwar Reid” as he proudly named himself. Well it’s fair to say he’s a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde. At work, he'd always give me and Joe a bit of a hard time. We got good at weighing him up based on his body language before he approached us. If he was flinging his arms about like a windmill on a windy day, we knew we were in trouble. Time to play dumb, hey Joe – good tactic by the way. “I didn’t know that grain wasn’t meant to go in that hopper?”... we’d both explain with puzzled looks on our faces. “Don’t know about you Dan but Barley and Wheat look the same to me.”
By night, with a bit of “grog” (beer) down his neck, he’d go all “Dr. Jekyll” on us, sometimes proclaiming that we were his “two sons” and “the best workers he’d ever had on site.” Underneath the bullshit, the tantrums and irrelevant stressing, this man did have a heart. He was funny and incredibly witty (I’ve noticed a lot of Aussies are like this). From day one, he took us both under his wing. He gave us longer shifts because he knew how strapped we were for money. He took us to his house and introduced us to his family who we became really close to. He even told the bigger boss we were “shit workers” so he could keep us on site for longer.
However, deep down I felt sorry for him. He was caught up in a vicious cycle of routine. Work. Drink. Sleep. Notice the order and what it entails when a car’s involved. One night he was drunk and told us that he’d lost his pension fund years ago when a Pommie insurance company went bust. Understandably, he was always worried about losing his job and not being able to keep his family going. In my time working, I noticed a sour culture and lots of conflict in the company – all the permanent staff didn’t like each other. Our breaks would be filled with everyone bullshitting about one another. Occasionally, we’d manage to change the subject to travelling… I’d ask Leigh, “why don’t you want to see the world Reido?” “I’ve got everything here, what would I wanna do that for?” He was adamant that he didn’t wanna leave the 50km radius his life operated in. This baffled me for a while and I constantly rejected it. After dwelling, maybe he is right, he’s got everything he needs exactly where he is.
Last but certainly not least. Joe Backler - my university flat mate of 3 years and travelling buddy of 15 months. Some say, Bill and Ben the flowerpot men. Others say, the two little PORGS (Person Of Restricted Growth - he’s about 1mm taller and a bit podgier). Ever since we met on the footy field at uni we were in competition with each other. Or rather, I was in competition with him. Tyler, one of our other uni flat mates nicknamed me the “D100” and Joe the “D1000” – an upgraded and more well oiled machine. He’d beat me in most sports – he is that gifted kid we were all jealous of at school. A very good worker too, mind. But you wanna know something? Travelling isn’t like you see it on Facebook. We’re all guilty at times of portraying this idealistic image of our travels (I do this myself and must stop). We upload pictures, statuses, videos etc to demonstrate to our “network” that we’re having such a lovely time – essentially creating a big illusion; whilst also fooling each other. We build a self-created perspective of how each and every one of us wants to be depicted. In actual fact, travelling is far from this picture that is painted. It has its ups and downs. Believe it or not, Joe and I had a few scraps here and there. We were working long hours, sometimes up to 15 a day. We lived in the same tiny 4m x 4m room under each other’s presence for 56 days in a row without a single day off. Of course we’re still best mates and we’re probably gonna go into business together eventually. You’ve just gotta accept that things will go wrong. I’ve failed miserably lots and lots throughout my travels but always looked for the positive in every bad situation. Instead of getting upset, embrace the impurities that come with travelling – there’s always a lesson you can take from each of them.
This is my first blog online. I wanted to describe an authentic story of travelling. No twisted truth, no bullshit, just pure honesty of how it really is away from home. A lot more of these blogs will be coming about my experiences trekking Nepal, hitch hiking Northern Thailand, Motorbiking Vietnam, Road tripping OZ and Campervanning NZ. These are all retrospectively written. I’m going Tazzy for Christmas and hitchhiking America next year so I’ll write and shoot vids as I go.
Please, please, help us get this business going - like and share as much as possible. We wanna change what is a very stagnant hostel industry into something much more lively and exciting for YOU GUYS.
Given time, there’s no ceiling to what can be created. Progress is only bounded by a lack of imagination. Through fusion of great minds and a burning desire to succeed, imagination becomes boundless; possibilities become endless.
Dan Beaumont, on behalf of Team Podstel, 26th Nov 2013.