It’s A Long Answer

Juli is a badass Argentinian.

Women from Argentina are not “ladies.” They are strong and beautiful and they tell dirty jokes. I am constantly mesmerized and infatuated by their version of Spanish. It is passionate, flowing, comical and improvisational. They love to laugh and share. English is a buzz kill. Clumsy and awkward. Just look at these words. Gross.

Juan asks Juli if she wants some yerba mate, a popular South American tea.

“Yes. I always want mate,” she says matter-of-factly with a furrowed brow.

“Sean, why are you traveling?” she asks abruptly.

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Home for a month while I busked in Queenstown.

We are sitting on the grass by my van and their tents on a small, tiered campground in Frankton. There is little privacy here. There is nothing to stop anyone from unzipping a tent and stealing passports and other valuables. Large houses flank us on either side and only a small apple tree serves as a barrier to State Route 6. We must look very out of place to the cars driving by on their way to Queenstown. But that’s why I chose to stay here. It’s interesting.

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Walking from Frankton to Queenstown along Lake Wakatipu.

“That’s a big question,” I say.

“No, it’s a long answer,” she says.

I give a convoluted explanation about my Dad kicking me out of the house, my temp job ending, and my girlfriend breaking up with me in the first week of June 2014 and then moving to Australia to live with my best friend in the middle of the desert and then not wanting to go home so I came to New Zealand and then I somehow ended up here.

My journey chose me—I never planned this—but Juli was more deliberate.

“I was spending my day going to work and then at the end of the month I get a paycheck and then I save it. Why?” she asks. “I thought I would come to New Zealand for six months but now I want to travel the world. I don’t care if I don’t have any money.”

A month later I’m standing on the side of road a few kilometers outside of Motueka. I’ll tell you how I got there some other time.

Two tasty-looking Porches with empty passenger seats scream by and I fully extend my arm but they ignore my thumb.

A small blue sedan stops in front of me.

Bronson asks where I’m going. He is wearing a black baseball cap and has a few days of growth on his face.

“Takaka,” I say.

He shoots me a hang loose surfer gesture and says hop in.

Bronson is forty-years-old and has four kids. The oldest is 19 and he is off traveling the world. Bronson looks after his three younger children and works three days a week.

“I work to live,” he says. “I don’t live to work.”

He is heading to Takaka on this beautiful Sunday morning to play in a football match, a sport referred to as soccer where I’m from. Yeah, I know, it doesn’t make any sense.

He lived in Portland, Oregon for a couple years and loved it.

I say you hear a lot of bad stuff coming from the U.S., but traveling is all about the people you meet. There are nice people everywhere you go.

The conversation drifts to U.S. politics and of course, Trump. I say there are a lot of Americans out there who are conscious about the world but there are also lots of Americans who rarely leave their home state or hometown. Maybe they are uneducated or live in poverty but they are more likely to support Donald Trump. The system has failed and Trump is bringing out the worst in people.

He asks if I smoke as we pull over. He rolls a cigarette and says you can have a cone if you want. He already had one this morning.

He shows me the “Sneaky Toke” he’s had for years. It’s a self-contained metal tube with one end to light and one end to inhale. It works like a charm and I thank him for brightening my day.

We drive on and talk about some deep shit, most of which I have forgotten.

We crest a hill and a wide valley opens up between green mountains and the coast. There are pine forests and dairy farms with a few houses dotting the landscape. I talk about how there are so many landscapes in New Zealand. Otago is a sub-alpine desert. The Fiordlands, in the southwest corner, reminded me of Jurassic Park.

“Isn’t it just,” he says. “A land lost in time.”

I mention that I’ve spoken to a lot of people about the ecosystems in New Zealand and how introduced humans and animals have changed the country over the past 1,000 years.

New Zealand is known for its clean and green environment, he says, but that’s not the reality. It seems like every Kiwi I’ve talked to would agree. Tourism is New Zealand’s No. 1 export, so the whole “clean and green” thing gets repeated ad nauseam, especially from Australians. But if you get off the tourist track and spend time observing and talking to locals, you realize the entire country has been sold off to the dairy and logging industries to the detriment of the environment. Stay tuned for more on that, my loyal readers.

Bronson talks about how there needs to be a big change in the way we view the world. I feel you, man.

The conversation drifts and I talk about a Bob Marley interview I saw on YouTube. He is asked if he is rich. Marley replies, what do you mean rich? The interviewer says, do you have a lot of possessions and money in the bank? He responds, “My richness is life, forever.”

With one week left in New Zealand and my Australian savings pretty much depleted at this point, that’s how I feel right now. I don’t have a lot of money, but I feel rich.

“Rich with experience,” he says.

Exactly.

We’ve been driving for a while and Bronson starts to worry that he has taken a wrong turn. He doesn’t want to be late for his match.

“Isn’t there only one road?” I say.

“I just thought we should be there by now,” he says. “But yeah, when you said that it reassured me.”

Now we are getting close to Takaka.

“So you’re heading back home in a week,” he says. “What are you going to do?”

“I don’t know, man,” I say.

“I thought the point of traveling was to figure out what you want to do,” he says.

“No, traveling just makes you want to travel more,” I say.

Juli was right.

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It Comes In Threes

I take my time in the mornings because I know everything will work out.

If I need to cross the entire south island on a deadline, I will be thumbing by seven but today I just need to get back to civilization. Three days of oats and cous cous is enough.

I start walking the two and a half kilometers from the campsite to the road out of this isolated national park under the Southern Alps of New Zealand.

I put down my guitar and take off my backpack and take a seat on the side of the road with my flannel jacket over my head to block the sun and I wait for a kind stranger to take me somewhere I’ve never been. I was freezing last night in my $30 tent from the Warehouse and my $107 sleeping bag from Macpac. The alpine chill woke me at four and couldn’t go back to sleep so I got dressed and took a brisk walk to Kea Point, under Mount Sefton, and listened for avalanches and waited for shooting stars. I was not disappointed.

I’m thinking about how this mountain range looked one million years ago and what it will look like one million years from now. When will the next earthquake hit? Time feels different here. Short and long all at once. It is difficult for humans to comprehend the infinite peace of nature. The aboriginals of Australia learned the truth from the desert. The mountains and the forests don’t care what happens to them but they can teach you everything if you are open.

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Time is different here.

 

In 1991, the year I was born, the top ten meters of Mount Cook fell off in an avalanche. I always thought mountains were sturdy and stable. But the longer I sit here listening and watching, I can see that the mountains live. They radiate energy. I am not alone here. Woah. Now I can see it. Those long white scares are waterfalls. The mountains are crying. Their mighty tears slice through the delicate Earth. The water roars because it knows it always wins.

The mountains swing and sway with the wind. Ice and rock waxes and wanes. They scream in ecstasy as the time finally comes for them to jump and crash and break into something new. Entropy. Chaos. Order.

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They freeze and melt and freeze and melt. It’s always been that way.

Yesterday, I sat here and observed the blue grey slurry of the glacial lake. But some pockets of water are a vibrant, bright blue, untouched by the dirt. Red rocks create islands and green moss grows in random patches. I can hear the camera shutters of tourists. I sent my camera back home when I sold my van and started hitching. It is non-essential. I used to look at landscapes through a viewing hole but now I watch people look at landscapes through a viewing hole. It is a new perspective. I look at everyone I pass in the eye because I might see someone I know. It’s a small world. They are loud, these humans, I can’t wait for them to pass so I can listen again to the bird songs.

The purples, oranges and yellows are peaking out now as the sun rises. No sign of the humans yet. They always come when the sun is poison and the colors are hot. Everyone cares about sunset but what about sunrise, moonrise and moonset? You can see them all come and go out here. It’s one big cycle. It never ends. But it might break if the humans keep reproducing, consuming and destroying. They never learn.

There is a cold, eerie silence at this hour. I hear another rumble—a chunk of ice or rock falling—and I can’t believe humans have climbed these mountains. They can be brave. Or stupid. They mock the power of nature. Thinking they are above it. The clouds are long, pink strands and the stars are pulsing. The skies have been miraculously clear while I’ve been here except for a few during sunrise and sunset. The sun wanted something to splash its color upon. They dance and swirl above the mountains.

I climbed up a rock wall to get closer to the mountains. A young man appears and then a small woman a minute later. They sit on the wooden platform overlooking the glacial lake and the mountains. We watch the soft light slowly conquer the snow and the ice. The eternal fight between night and day rages on. The light changes from red to yellow and the sky is blue now. The stars are gone.

I walk down to the platform.

“I don’t understand why no one comes out here at this time,” I say to the two strangers.

“I think it has to do with waking up in the dark and walking up a big hill,” the small, trim English woman with short grey hair says with a big smile. “I don’t mind being the only one out here.”

I linger for a moment in silence and smile at her response. We all look to the mountains again.

“Well, have a good day.”

Everyone driving by nudges their passenger and gestures at the hippy on the side of the road sitting behind a sign that reads, “HOME.”

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Cheeky.

It is slow out in the middle of nowhere at Aoraki.

A station wagon pulls off after a half hour wait.

“Hi, Where are you going?” a young woman asks as I gather my belongings.

“I’m not sure exactly,” I say. “East.”

“Well, I’m going to Lake Tekapo,” she says.

“Sweet. I’m happy just to get back to the main highway.”

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I don’t mind waiting. 

She speaks fluent English with an American accent because she lived in Idaho and Alaska for nine years but she is German. It becomes obvious when she says Stutgart. No way of hiding a German accent when speaking German.

She shares this car with her friend, a French guy, and she wanted to go off and be alone for a day—but I don’t think she minds random company.

She says she knows how it is to get out of an isolated place like this. She’s hitched before and she loves it. She says it’s so exciting and everything always works out. You can wait for a while but then you get picked up and you think of course this had to happen.

“Yes! Exactly!” I say. “No matter what happens everything always works out.”

We drive to Twizel—which she pronounces like the licorice candy but it is supposed to be Twizel like in twilight—because she needs food.

“I need food too,” I say. “I’m getting really tired of cous cous and oats.”

Twizel’s size is deceptive. You can’t see much from the highway but the suburbs are expansive. We stop at the Four Square and I stock up on oats, nuts, seeds, bananas, carrots, dark chocolate and a couple tins of baked beans.

“I feel like I’m buying way too much food,” I tell her when she rounds the corner and I’m looking at something new called flaked rice which intrigues me but I decide to not take the risk.

“Yeah, I put some things back,” she says. “I had to say OK, Anna, you don’t actually need this.”

And now I know her name.

I run next door to the camping store to buy a fuel tank for my stove and we meet back at her car.

We drive to Lake Pukaki and pull off at an unmarked free campsite on the lake with a view of the backside of the mountains. It is warmer here.

She says she is going to make some lunch. Boiled pumpkin and fried onions. I grab my guitar because I always try to repay people who pick me up. Music and a sense of humor is all I have to offer right now.

She was playing Neil Young in the car so I play a couple of his tunes and then play some more classic rock and Bob Marley. We don’t talk much.

“Thank you for the music,” she says as she stirs the onions. “I’ve always wanted someone to play and play while I just sit here.”

“It’s my pleasure. I could play for hours.”

“I know,” she says.

“Well, I think I’m gonna stay here for the night, now that I have enough food and this place is free. I was thinking I need a shower and to do laundry but…” I point to the lake.

“See! Everything always works out,” Anna says.

She eats her lunch and I grab my bags and walk up the small hill into the pines. The sun is poison. I need shade. There is so much more freedom in not having a car. I can go places no one else can go. I can hide among the trees. There is a toilet here and even a water spigot so I don’t have to drink questionable lake water. I would if I had to.

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Refuge.

I set up my tent and the stakes go in easily in this soft ground covered in pines needles and cones. I find a few of pieces of human shit and toilet paper scattered about even though there is a toilet about 150 meters away.

“If you are using this toilet, you are not one of the people shitting everywhere, THANK YOU,” says the back of the latrine door in black magic marker.

It’s dark now and I’m reading the Bible in my tent. I think it’s time to go sit by a fire. I’m on top of the world hidden among the pines and I can see at least eight campfires by the lake. Most are small and meant to be shared by a couple in an RV, but one fire looks like it was made for company. It is on the pebble beach with long flames reflecting off the deep blue water.

I walk down with my guitar and there are two men cooking by their van a few meters away. I ignore them and sit by their fire. I start to play.

“Ahh, you bring music!” one of them says.

“You make a fire, I bring my guitar,” I say.

Leor sings along to some ’70s classic rock and Amit says, “This is what we needed, some soul!”

They are brothers from Israel.

Everything comes in threes. I have been reading about Israel in the Bible and then I meet an Israeli woman and now two Israeli brothers. The trinity is sacred. Jah Rastafari.

A few days ago I hitched with a young woman named Dekel Goldstein, she is short with chubby cheeks and rusty brown hair. She told me people all over the world believe the Israelites are the chosen people so they give them free accommodation and food. She just came from a three-night stay at a lodge in Wanaka. I was just reading about the Israelites and the Egyptians, but I didn’t know people out there still believe this shit.

“Dude, I’ve been reading the Bible,” I say to the brothers. “And God is a total dick.”

I explain my take from reading Revelation, Genesis, Exodus and Leviticus: You gotta get over all the weird shit like people living to be 800 years old, slavery being totally cool, woman only seen as beautiful pieces of property, Abraham getting circumcised at 99 and you gotta just try to take the story for what it is. A bunch of really old, dumb stories.

First of all, I have to say God was such a petty asshole that he caused one of first two sons of Adam and Eve to kill his brother. Cain is a misunderstood, pissed off vegan. And rightly so. Seriously. Cain was a farmer so he brought God a bunch of fruit from his fields and God was like, WTF is this bullshit? Abel was a shepherd so he killed a bunch of animals and God was like, Yes!! This pleases me very much! Thanks for killing all those nice animals I created. So Cain killed Abel and God cursed him to be a wanderer forever on the Earth, so there is a really pissed off vegan to this day wandering from place to place, never finding satisfaction. Thanks, God.

Let’s talk about the Israelites. Can we talk about the Israelites? A new King of Egypt thought there were too many Israelites so he enslaved some of them and then God went absolutely crazy ex-girlfriend revenge status. He did super evil stuff like turning rivers to blood, unleashing plagues of frogs, flies, locusts, sores and boils and killing the livestock, oh yeah, and killing all of the first born sons in Egypt.

Here is a loving, totally not racist excerpt from Exodus, Chapter 11:

“5. Every firstborn son in Egypt will die, from the firstborn son of Pharaoh, who sits on the throne, to the firstborn son of the female slave, who is at her hand mill, and all the firstborn of the cattle as well. 6. There will be loud wailing throughout Egypt—worse than there has ever been or ever will be again. 7. But among the Israelites not a dog will bark at any person or animal. Then you will know that the Lord makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel.”

That shit is hardcore. We’re talking Trump level racism here. What kind of God is this to worship? He’s also really jealous and he demands that everything in the church be made out of gold. In Exodus 25, God uses the word “gold” 17 times to describe all the materialistic bullshit he wants and if you don’t make it then you are going to suffer. Seriously, God really likes gold on everything. Damn, Trump is God. God is Trump.

I ask Leor about Exodus and he says, “Yes, Passover is a very happy time for us, but looking at it from the outside it is not happy.”

“They are just stories though,” Amit says. I ask about the free accommodation thing and he says there are “crazy religion” people that will give Israelites free accommodation. They have used it before, and they know a few people who jump from free spot to free spot for months.

Amit is the younger brother. He practices Poi, the glowing balls on the ends of strings you hold in each hand and spin. He works as a builder and looks much more laid back than his older brother. Leor is an officer in the Israeli army. They did a long hike today and are rolling their backs out on a wooden plank with an odd shaped ball that relaxes muscles.

Amit says Leor wanted the fire closer to their van but Amit told him there is already a fire pit on the beach and it is more inviting over there. I tell Amit thanks, that’s why I came here, you guys have the best spot. All the other fires are not inviting. Everything happens for a reason.

Leor goes to sleep but Amit and I stay up and talk for a couple of hours.

He tells me about Israel. There are about 8 million people in Israel. Around 6.5 million are Jewish and the remaining 1.5 million are Muslim. It is like apartheid.

“I remember the age when I realized my parents are brainwashed,” he says.

He says he hopes Donald Trump is elected as president so he will give all the Israelites a visa.

Amit tells me more about the “crazy religion” people. The religious people in Israel are very intelligent and philosophical and they can quote people from 300 years ago. Here in New Zealand there is a website for free accommodation for Israelites. You sign up and they let you in their house and they say Jesus loves you so I want to help you. It is very simple.

He says humans abuse drugs all the time. He likes to take LSD and dance. It can help you tell you who you are. It can be very powerful.

Amit doesn’t believe in politics because it is all bullshit and nothing is going to change. I disagree with him and say I have hope for the future. I say climate change will make us realize we have to change. At least that’s what I said when this conversation took place five months ago. I don’t know what I believe anymore.

Amit says it’s not enough to go green and recycle.

“We need to realize that all life is the same,” he tells me as he picks up a handful of beach pebbles. They fall through his fingers. He looks into my eyes.

“The Earth will be OK. But we won’t,” he says. “The Earth will take care of itself.”

It is his bedtime.

“Thank you about the music.”

I stare at the fire until it dies.

When We Were Wolves

Full moon and the wolves are out tonight

Demons dance by the fire stomping the dirt between toes

Uncontrollable we are not controlled

Rhythmic pounding alive forever in our hearts

Once the sun comes up the magic fades but it is always with us

Even after it ends

Our fullest potential is reached when the moon is above

Howling like the animals we are

Anything goes because the wolves are out tonight

 

hmm. i feel awake. this isn’t like last time. i am above the water now. yes.

 

We meet each other in the dark above the dirt and your hood is up and your scarf covers your face

We lock eyes and we both know what is on our mind

“I’m sorry.”

“I know, Sean. It’s OK. I was hoping you would say that.”

“I had to. I’m really sorry.”

“I know, Sean.”

“Thank you. Thank you.”

 

We hug and our bodies tingle and the tension is gone. You are fire. I don’t know what I am.

But you are fire.

 

And everything works out. And everything is going to be OK.

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Spiritual Beings

Pete talked to me for about two hours last night. He didn’t allow me to say much.

He is the 40-year-old guy from Rarotonga, one of the island nations in the South Pacific, who has been staying in an apartment at the hostel for five years. He doesn’t really come out much but over the past few weeks he is always around, talking to the young travelers. Some consider him a nuisance. Some might say he has mental disabilities. He is tall and wiry and has a slightly raspy voice that can quickly change from normal volume to yelling in seconds.

I’m on duty as night porter and everything is clean and no one is drinking. I’m watching a movie in the big green hippy tour bus that has long been converted into a TV lounge, late-night joint smoking and hook up spot. The couches and pillows are not recommended for germophobes. But travelers ignore those little details.

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A peaceful night under the Southern Cross

He pushes the door and steps up and says, oh it’s you. Goodonya for keeping everything peaceful and quiet. You’re a good sort, he says. I say thanks, it’s just because no one is drinking tonight but he says no, really you do a good job.

This is my first time talking to him one on one. One of the receptionists, a white New Zealander, said Pete has called him a “nigger” several times. The only time I’ve interacted with Pete was when I was putting my laundry in one night when I wasn’t on duty and I heard a scuffle. I run over and see two men fighting in the bushes and I pull Pete out and a smaller Maori guy is yelling “Black Power, Black Power,” a motorcycle gang in New Zealand. The following night, I look back over the security camera footage and see the two of them having a calm chat and then Pete stands up and starts pointing in his face and motioning with his arms and then they started to push each other then they started swinging.

He launches into a one sided discussion on spirituality and being comfortable with yourself. He says people in Rarotonga don’t care about gay people and it doesn’t matter if a guy wants to suck your dick but they used to be cannibals. It’s a hard life over there. He was the smallest one in the family so he was beat when he was younger. He has been beaten a lot.

It’s hard to follow him and half of my attention is on the movie, but I enjoy listening to him. I like listening to people who don’t stop talking. They are interesting. I don’t care if I disagree with them or if they are crazy. I just nod and mmhmm to see where he goes.

Then he starts talking about when he worked on a farm. They had all sorts of animals and he would abuse them. He doesn’t know I’m vegan. He says he would kill chickens with his hands just for fun.

He asks me if I believe in God and I say no. He doesn’t understand.

“So who made the Earth?” he asks.

“Umm…no one,” I say.

“Oh, was it a woman?” he asks.

“No…I don’t think anyone created the Earth,” I say.

“So, who made Man?” he asks.

“Umm…evolution,” I say.

“Ok, interesting. Wow. And how did life begin?” he asks.

“Uhh…well I’m pretty sure it started as bacteria and then evolved over millions of years,” I say.

He doesn’t understand.

I like the word ephemeral. And transient. That’s what life is like here. Some days I am so happy with the joys of walking into the communal kitchen with the giant wooden table and seeing new faces to meet and sometimes I just think, what am I doing? Where are my friends? The people I have been hanging out with for the past three weeks just left and these are all strangers. It’s a low and it’s a high at the same time.

Over free vegetable soup and bread, I talk to a 30-something Canadian man traveling around New Zealand for a few weeks and I tell him my story and he asks, “How can you do it? How can you live here?”

It must seem so foreign and abstract to someone with responsibilities. He has a wife and kids, a house and a career. He can’t just drive a 28-year-old van into a new town and create a new life for four months. He can’t imagine that. But now that I’ve been back in Virginia for a month and my former travel buddies have returned to that giant wooden table and are currently surrounded by new faces, soup and bread, I want those feelings again. Freedom and adventure. You can’t live that life in this country. At least not around here.

We are walking home from the pub after closing time.

We are getting close to the bridge over the slow, shallow river and the French guy takes off all his clothes and throws them all over the street. Half of our group—most of us just met tonight—follows him up the beams about three meters above the street while the rest of us take the sidewalk like a bunch of pussies. He dives head first into the water and I’m sure he just broke his neck because I’ve seen that river and it is rocky and shallow but somehow he comes up laughing. A German girl is stuck at the top of the bridge—like a cat stuck in a tree—because she is scared and here comes a cop.

He is young and he doesn’t turn on his flashing lights or anything at the sight of a bunch of drunken backpackers, one of whom is naked and soaking wet and one of whom is above him, stuck on a bridge.

“Make sure you get home safe,” he says casually as he drives off.

Sitting next to each other while watching the Hobbit leads to laying down next to each other while watching the Hobbit leads to meandering hands leads to the night porter walking into the bus at 2 am to put up the new “NO SMOKING” signs and turning on the lights and seeing you sit up naked and look me in the eyes and kind of smile and kind of laugh as I slink out. I’ll put up the signs in a half hour.

It’s another quiet night and everything is clean and I come back to the office after smoking a joint with the Irish girls and I check the security cameras and see Pete smoking a cigarette outside so I grab my guitar.

We sit in the smoke-o room and he tells me the devil is his best friend.

He is a beautiful man. He is a musician.

He launches into a biblical rant about Jesus, Samson, Nebuchadnezzar, Jerusalem and Babylon. I accompany him with quiet fingerpicking on my guitar.

I ask if he is talking about leaving Babylon and going to Zion, one of the fundamentals of Rastafari. Babylon and Zion mean different things according to different interpretations of the Bible. According to Christianity and Judaism, Zion is Jerusalem. For Rastas, Zion is Africa, specifically Ethiopia.

I start to play “Africa Unite” by Bob Marley. “We moving right out of Babylon, and going to our father’s land.”

He says, Sean, you get it. Wow.

He starts talking about how he only eats good food like oysters and how he knows what the body needs. He takes care of himself. I tell him I’m vegan. For the environment. He asks me what I use for a meat substitute. I tell him I don’t think of it like that. I don’t need a substitute. Before I was vegan I would always think of dinner in terms of protein, carbohydrates and vegetables. Now it is just all goodness. I just eat a lot of different plants of different shapes and colors. I don’t think about everything as separate anymore.

After I play a song he tells me I have a very clear mind and it’s because of my diet.

He suddenly starts professing his love for Robert Mugabe, the 92-year-old President of Zimbabwe. So, naturally, I play “Zimbabwe.”

Then I play “So Much Trouble in the World.” The bridge goes, “So you think you found a solution, but it’s just another illusion.” And he says, Wow. To hear you play Bob Marley songs, just the chords and singing, really makes the lyrics more powerful than hearing the full band version. You understand. You know your shit.

Bob Marley and Pete both love the Bible so he inadvertently quotes Marley lyrics. When I hear one, I play that song. He says, “Why do you cry for me?” So I play “Concrete Jungle.”

He keeps talking and I keeping playing and I hope we do this again. I want to record us. We are the only people in the common areas and we are creating something beautiful and unique.

He asks me how I can play Bob Marley songs if I don’t believe in God.

I say God is just an escape from the real question. It’s a scapegoat. I don’t know the answers to the big questions but I’m not just going to say it’s all because of “God.” What a strange concept.

He changes the topic a few times and then he stands up with fists and says he quit fighting in ’89 but he is acting very aggressively right now. He tells me he used to get in fights all the time and he never won. He tells me he has fallen off of five-story buildings and he was fine. He has jumped out of cars and he was fine. He knows how to make his body absorb the impact.

He tells me the owners and the receptionists say they have become worried about him these past two weeks. But he tells them, don’t worry about me, I worry about you. God speaks to me.

He says he has lived here for five years and he loves talking to the backpackers.

“I see youze as spiritual beings,” he says.

The next day I talk to the receptionist and he tells me Pete was kicked out of the hostel a couple of hours ago.

Everyone here hates him and thought he was the crazy guy who causes trouble. I’m sad that I won’t have any more late night talks with him. I’m sad I will never see him again. I wonder where he will go.

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First light and the world sleeps.

A few weeks later I look through the hostel complaint book and see a series of notes:

Hostel: Other guests complained that you were behaving strangely and making them feel uncomfortable. You also left strange notes about being “the messenger and child of God.” We are a backpackers and you are not a backpacker. Sorry.

Pete: last night I was helping out in the kitchen. I am not God’s messenger. what the fuck?  im just being a dick, I love this place. The other guys accused me of stealing stuff the other night too. Does Ben have a grudge against me because I told him NOT to give you that silly shit… it was a game OK?

Hostel: You are not staying. Please leave or I will call the police. I do not like your swearing or your behavior.

Pete: what the fuck, you will regret it later. Can I please have my stuff from my room?!

Hostel: I am calling the police as you have just threatened me!

Pete: ? no I didn’t?!

Maybe Pete doesn’t exist. Maybe I made him up.

Under Construction

I’m struggling.

I left New Zealand 27 days ago and now I’m staying in the spare bedroom at my Mom’s house in Virginia.

I made a desk from two saw horses and a door I found in her garage and I’m reading through my journals. I thought I was going to be able to write something from all of this. I wanted to write a book or a series of short stories but this is hard. There is too much. I can’t process this. My brain is weak and I can’t get the big picture. I want to smoke weed to help guide me, but I need to pass a pre-employment drug screen so I can get a menial job because I’m in America.

I’m not even close to when the good stuff started. When I left the hostel and started traveling with the Irish girls and the California girl and the guy from Uruguay and the Kiwi busker we picked up. We would camp out and play music and get dirty and swim in the rivers and eat cous cous and vegetables. But I’m not there yet. Baby steps. Crawl before you can walk, right, Chris?

I’m sorry I haven’t updated my blog in a long time but I’m working on it, OK? This is going to take some time. The word document I wrote from my final month in New Zealand, when I was hitch hiking and camping and communing with nature, is 65 pages single-spaced. Most of it is word vomiting but with a bit of refinement, I believe that vomit can be turned into gold. But I’m not even close to cracking into that document. I’m at the point right now where I start to read my journals and take notes and find themes and I end up with even more hand written notes and that is just making even more work to do and then I have to stand up and walk around the house and look in the fridge even though I’m not hungry and then I go back to my “desk” and I can’t control the demon inside of me that opens up Facebook and the Reddit and then I check my e-mail but nothing has changed.

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I know what I need to do, what I need to write and what I need to focus on but I don’t want to say it until it is done. I feel the compulsion to read everything I’ve written in chronological order and not just jump to the good parts because I don’t know what I will have missed. And then my guitars distract me and then my Mom gets home from work.

Meanwhile, I’m broke and I need to get a job so I can buy a car and move somewhere new because I don’t want to stay here.

At first I was hesitant about Virginia. Then I watched the Washington Nationals play baseball. It’s like nothing has changed. F.P. still says, “And there goes the no-hitter” at the first hit and Bob still says, “SEE, YOU, LATER!” when we get a home run. I sat down and watched my first game in two years and I felt a sense of belonging and community with my hometown. The team has barely changed. Life goes on. I can be happy here for the summer but this is a means to an end. The Drifter in me needs to stay on the move.

Don’t fret, loyal readers, Stories From A Drifter is still running. The resident Drifter is just working out this whole life thing and trying to live while also trying to re-live the past and show people what I have experienced. I have changed. I am different than I was two years ago. Even one year ago. My year in Australia revolved around working. My year in New Zealand was about learning and growing and being a soul rebel, soul adventurer, soul capturer. I’m here. I’m working on it. I promise (eek!) something good will come. But I can’t say when.

Everything was so easy in New Zealand. I had my rucksack on my back and my guitar in my hand and all I had to do was stick out my thumb and after a few minutes or a few hours I would summon a car. Some kind soul would give me teleportation, conversation and positive vibrations and then I would end up at the next campsite, pitch my tent, eat my oats and breathe the air. Constant high speed Internet, cable television and hot showers didn’t distract life in New Zealand. Life was simple over there. I was a wild animal. We all are.

Ahh, it feels good to write.