Kurt Vonnegut Inspiration and Quotes

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If I could have a glass of whiskey with 3 people, dead or alive, they would be Marcus Aurelius, Jon Stewart, and Kurt Vonnegut.  Without knowing it each of these men has affected my life.   As today would have been Kurt Vonnegut’s 95th birthday I wanted to pay my respects by sharing some of my favorite words of his.

To be honest, I’m not sure when I fell in love with Kurt Vonnegut and his writing.  I remember reading Slaughterhouse Five and while I enjoyed it, I wasn’t blown away by it.  As I got into literature and writing I kept coming across more and more of his work and views.  I read more about his views on life, religion, America, the world as a whole, and how to become a better writer.

He was openly critical of a lot of ideas and was never afraid to go against the popular opinion if he didn’t agree with it.  He was a man who had seen war and knew how terrible it was.  He had seen what fear and blind loyalty could do to people and the world as a whole.  He witnessed the destruction of Dresden first hand and never wanted to see anything like it repeated.  He taught me what humanism was and that being a good person is an achievable goal even if you aren’t religious.

For years he has inspired me and his words have given direction when my path seemed unclear. Though I wouldn’t consider him my favorite author he is one of the people I would have loved to meet.  Happy 95th birthday to one of the wisest men who ever lived.

  • “And I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.”

  • “Live by the harmless untruths that make you brave and kind and healthy and happy.”

  • “So it goes”
  • “Being a Humanist means trying to behave decently without expectation of rewards or punishment after you are dead.”

  • “If you can do no good, at least do no harm.”

  • “The practice of art isn’t to make a living. It’s to make your soul grow.”

  • “Self-taught, are you?” Julian Castle asked Newt.
    “Isn’t everybody?” Newt inquired.
    “Very good answer.”

  • “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.”

  • “If you would be unloved and forgotten, be reasonable.”

  • “The insane, on occasion, are not without their charms.”

  • “In nonsense is strength”

  • “It is hard to adapt to chaos, but it can be done. I am living proof of that: It can be done”

  • “It took us that long to realize that a purpose of human life, no matter who is controlling it, is to love whoever is around to be loved.”

  • “You hate America, don’t you?
    That would be as silly as loving it,’ I said. ‘It’s impossible for me to get emotional about it, because real estate doesn’t interest me. It’s no doubt a great flaw in my personality, but I can’t think in terms of boundaries. Those imaginary lines are as unreal to me as elves and pixies. I can’t believe that they mark the end or the beginning of anything of real concern to a human soul. Virtues and vices, pleasures and pains cross boundaries at will.”

  • “Everything was beautiful and nothing hurt.”

  • “I was a victim of a series of accidents, as are we all.”

  • “A purpose of human life, no matter who is controlling it, is to love whoever is around to be loved.”

  • “A sane person to an insane society must appear insane.”

  • “And I asked myself about the present: how wide it was, how deep it was, how much was mine to keep.”

  • “We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.”

  • “. . . but the Universe is an awfully big place. There is room enough for an awful lot of people to be right about things and still not agree.”

  • “The function of the artist is to make people like life better than they have before.”
  • “Be soft. Do not let the world make you hard. Do not let pain make you hate. Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness. Take pride that even though the rest of the world may disagree, you still believe it to be a beautiful place.” 
  • “Never trust a survivor until you know how they survived.”
  • “I want to stand as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all the kinds of things you can’t see from the center.”

Stay gold.

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What does it Cost: Backcountry Camping in the Grand Tetons

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A few months ago a friend of mine from college asked me if I wanted to go backcountry camping over Labor Day in the Grand Tetons.  Though I’d never gone backcountry camping, I said yes.  One of my many flaws is that I’m not very good at saying no to adventure.    

Now that the trip has come and passed I wanted to write my “What it cost” recap blog.  I started doing the financial rundown of my trips after I spent a month in Southeast Asia earlier in the year and received feedback about how helpful it was.  Below you’ll find a line by line list of what I spent to go backcountry camping in the Grand Tetons for five days.

A few quick notes:

  1. A lot of the gear I bought could have been borrowed from friends but I plan on hiking and camping more in the future so I decided to buy it.  I look at my tent, sleeping bag, backpack etc as investments that I’ll be able to reuse for years (plus REI 10% back for members is pretty neat).
  2. The prices below are what I paid.  For example the rental car was $197 total but there were 4 or us so I paid my share of $49.50.
  3. I didn’t love the price of my flight. Labor day is expensive time to travel and KC to SLC isn’t exactly a hot flight path.  In comparison my flight from KC to Costa Rica at the end of the month is about the same price.
  4. I did borrow some stuff from friends which means I didn’t have to buy.  Here is a list of things that if you can’t borrow you would have to purchase:
    1. Items Borrowed/already owned
      1. Inflatable sleeping pad
      2. Bear can
      3. Headlamp w/extra batteries
      4. Poop Trowel/shovel
      5. Bug Spray
      6. Hiking boots
      7. Sunhat

You can view my full packing list for backcountry camping in the Grand Tetons in a previous blog post.

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Pre-Departure Purchases:

Flight:
Kansas City to Salt Lake City (round trip)- $586
Airport Parking- $37.50
Subtotal- $623.5

Gear/Supplies

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Cotopaxi Tent (rainfly, footprint, and alcove)- $383
North Face Furnace Sleeping Bag– $180
Hydration Pack (2.5 L)- $34
Cooking Ware – $45
Stuff Sack (for tent, rainfly, footprint)- $6
65 L Backpack- $104
Compression Sack (for sleeping bag)- $25
Hood Pillow- $27
Food for the hike- $108
Bear Spray- $12.25
Adventure Mug- $10
Sawyer Water Filter System- $20
Fuel can- $5
Subtotal- $959.25

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Clothing:
3 pairs hiking socks- $26
3 pairs of sock liners- $12
Subtotal- $38

On the road…
Car Rental from SLC- $49.25
Gas total- $15 (filled up twice)
Teton Lodge Hostel- $36.5
Grand Tetons Hiking Permit/Map- $20
Tetons Taxi-$18 (most expensive 6 mile taxi ride of my life)
Leigh Lake Parking- $7.5
Lift Pass- $42
SLC Ramada Inn- $23.75
Subtotal- $212

Meals/Drinks
Subway dinner- $8.83
Post-camping gas station snack- $3
Me & Lous restaurant (Best restaurant in Malad City ID)- $25
Beers- $7.50
Beerhive Pub- $16.50
Subtotal- $60.83

Grand Total- $1,893.83

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If I had already owned the gear I needed for this trip the price would easily have been closer to $1,000.  But I didn’t and I didn’t want to borrow it all either.  Now that I own most of the gear I need to go backcountry camping I’m all set for the next trip (hopefully going to BANFF next year) and it will be a lot less expensive.  Whenever you pick up a new hobby there is always a bit of financial investment and looking back on this trip only has me more excited for the next one.

The best way to keep up with my adventures is to follow me on Instagram- Todds_Tales.

Stay Gold.

Tips for a Good Life

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My first job out of college was at a commodities trading company and I’d be lying if I said I did a good job of keeping myself busy full time with company tasks.  I’d let my mind wander.  I’d surf the internet.  Hell, I even read books on my computer.  Don’t get wrong I got all my work done, but what should have taken me 4 hours would somehow always take me 8.

One of my favorite ways to pass time was to use StumbleUpon. For those that have never used the site, you pick different categories and the app takes you to random websites within the selected category.  Great way to kill time and learn new things.

My three favorites?  Travel. Books. Quotes.

It’s here where I began to feed my desire to travel.  It was here I found more and more ideas for books to read.  And it was here I added dozes of pages to my already all-to-long document of quotes.

I was cleaning my room last weekend and came across something: a list.  As soon as I saw it I knew how I’d found it.  Somewhere in the countless sites I visited via StumbleUpon, I came across a list of things to do to live a good life.  Now, I’ll be the first to admit that a “good life” is a very subjective term that could apply to countless situations based on personal goals, desires, and overcoming pre-established conditions you had no part in creating.

With that said, life goes by in the blink of an eye and most people end up with regrets of some sort.  I’ve written about some of my rules for life before, but this was a list I found years before I created mine.   I have no idea who wrote this list, but there are definitely a few that got me thinking. As I read through the list I made notes of what I already do well, what I need to work on, and what I need to start doing.   I wanted to share it in the hopes that maybe a few of them will hit home with you as well.

  1. Exercise daily.
  2. Get serious about gratitude.
  3. See your work as a craft.
  4. Expect the best prepare for the worst.
  5. Keep a journal.
  6. Read The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin.
  7. Plan a schedule for your week.
  8. Know the 5 highest priorities of your life.
  9. Say no to distractions.
  10. Drink a lot of water.
  11. Improve your work every single day.
  12. Get a mentor.
  13. Hire a coach.
  14. Get up at 6 a.m. everyday.
  15. Eat less food.
  16. Find more heroes.
  17. Be a hero to someone.
  18. Smile at strangers.
  19. Be the most ethical person you know.
  20. Don’t settle for anything less than excellence,
  21. Savor life’s simplest pleasures.
  22. Save 10% of your income each month.
  23. Spend time at art galleries.
  24. Walk in the woods.
  25. Write thank you letters to those you’ve helped you.
  26. Forgive those who’ve wronged you.
  27. Remember that leadership is about influence and impact, not title and accolades.
  28. Create unforgettable moments with those you love.
  29. Have 5 great friends
  30. Become stunningly polite.
  31. Unplug your TV.
  32. Sell your TV.
  33. Read daily.
  34. Avoid the news.
  35. Be content with what you have.
  36. Purusue your dreams.
  37. Be authentic.
  38. Be passionate.
  39. Say sorry when you know you should.
  40. Never miss a moment to celebrate another.
  41. Have a vision for you life.
  42. Know your strengths.
  43. Focus your mind on the good versus the lack.
  44. Be patient.
  45. Don’t give up.
  46. Clean up your messes.
  47. Use impeccable words.
  48. Travel more.
  49. Read As You Think
  50. Honor your parents.
  51. Tip service people well
  52. Be a great teammate
  53. Give no energy to critics
  54. Spend time in the mountains
  55. Know your top 5 values.
  56. Shift from being busy to achieving results.
  57. Innovate and iterate.
  58. Speak less, Listen more.
  59. Be the best person you know.
  60. Make your life matter.

Which ones do you do well? Which ones do you need to work on?

The best way to keep up with my adventures is to follow me on Instagram- Todds_Tales.

Stay Gold.

What to Pack: Backcountry Camping in the Grand Tetons

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I spent this past Labor Day weekend backcountry camping in the Grand Tetons with a three of my friends (Will, Emma, and Lisha).  For those who don’t know the Grand Tetons is a national park in Northwestern Wyoming and honestly one of the most beautiful places on earth.  It’s a great place to reconnect with nature and a place I highly recommend spending some time at some point in your life.

If I’m being fully honest, I was nervous before this adventure.  Sure, I backpacked Europe and yes, I’d gone hiking and camping before. However, I’d never gone backcountry hiking and camping. I’d never experienced hiking 9+ miles four days in a row while carrying everything I needed in on my back in the middle of the wilderness.   

When I backpacked Europe I was forced to carry most of my possessions in one single backpack, however I didn’t have to worry about food or water.  I didn’t have the stress of planning out my meals ahead of time or wondering where I was going to find water to drink.

The previous hikes I’d been on were all day hikes.  I’d set off with my cute little 20L day pack filled with snacks, a water bottle, GoPro, drone, Nebraska flag and be home before the sun went down.  I didn’t worry about what kind of shape I was in and if the weight of my pack would wear me down over the course of the trip.

My previous camping experience was car camping.  Which looking back seems like cheating. Fun fact, I can stuff a lot more shit in a car than I can a 65L backpack.   I didn’t worry about forgetting anything.  I was never conflicted about how much whiskey to bring because there was always more room in the trunk (I left the whiskey at home for this trip and yes that made me die a little on the inside).

Yes, backcountry camping was going to be a whole new type of challenge- which conveniently are my favorite kind.

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If you want to go backcountry camping in the Grand Tetons (or any national park in the United States) there are a few things to consider.  The first thing is getting a park permit that allows you to overnight camp in the designated camping zones (thanks Nicole).  

The second is what type of physical shape are you in?  It’s one thing to be able to walk around the block it’s quite another to walk 9 miles up and down peaks for multiple days in a row carrying 50 pounds of gear on your back.  

The third thing that caused me a the most anxiety was what the hell to pack.  Try as I might not to be, I’ve always been an overthinker.  Questions and ‘what if’ scenarios kept running through my mind in the days leading up to the trip.  Will I have room for everything I need? What if it rains?  What if I get hurt? On and on the questions flooded my mind.

When you’re in the middle of the Grand Tetons there isn’t a Trader Joe’s you can run to if you’re out of food.   There isn’t a hospital to go to if you walk through a glass door.  You really have to plan ahead with what you wear, what you’re going to eat, how you’ll take care of your feet, what you’ll drink, and how to pack your bag not only so it fits but so you can comfortably carry everything.

Lucky for me I have friends who’ve done this before and helped me understand what to pack, how much, and why.  Even with their help I overpacked (mostly food and clothes).  Before we left the hostel to begin the hike I had Lisha help me sort through what I needed to bring and what should be left behind in the car.

To save you the worry I’ve compiled a list of what actually made it out on the trail with me in the hopes it can help you the next time you go backcountry camping.

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Quick Disclaimer:

As a fairly in shape and big guy (6’ 4’ 200 pounds), I have the luxury of being able to carry more weight than other people.  This allows for me to bring a few extra items that may not be a necessity but more of a luxury (hammock, camping blanket, etc).  There were numerous times when Will, Emma, or Lisha would try to pick up my pack and comment that it was a lot heavier than theirs. Sometimes (not on public transport is SE Asia) it pays to be big. In the four days we were hiking I can honestly say I felt little discomfort from my bag being “too heavy.”

I broke everything that I brought in my bag into 4 categories:

Group Gear

  • Items that we brought and shared amongst the four of us. But are things you will want to consider bringing regardless of the size of your group.  For example, I carried the tent stuff and Will carried the Bear Can and most of our food.

Individual Gear

  • Items that each person brought and carried for themselves.

Clothing

  • Function > Fashion  Layers are key.

Food

  • I’m one of the least picky eaters in the world.  I eat to survive and try to do so in the most low cost and efficient manner possible. The food I brought on this trip reflects that lifestyle choice. Lisha and Emma would boil water and have delicious REI prepared meals while Will and I ate a lot of clif bars, tuna, and peanut butter wraps.

Group Gear (per group of 2)

  • 2-person Tent with rain-fly (and poles)
  • Footprint/Tarp for under tent
  • Stove and Pot
  • Measuring Cup
  • Lighter
  • Water Filter
  • Water treatment tablets (just in case)
  • Bear Canister w/Odor neutralizing bags
  • 1 220 Fuel Can
  • Topo Map
  • Compass

 Individual Gear

  • 65L Backpack
  • North Face Furnace Sleeping Bag (20ºF Rating)
  • REI inflatable Sleeping Pad
  • Inflatable Pillow
  • Mug (for tea)
  • Spoon/Fork
  • Knife
  • Bowl
  • Headlamp w/extra batteries
  • Trekking Poles
  • 2.5L Hydration Pack
  • 1 empty 1L Nalgene or collapsible Bottle
  • MedKit w/moleskin, bandages, painkillers, antiseptic
  • Notebook and pen
  • Travels with Charley- by John Steinbeck
  • Stuff Sack- for tent, footprint, and rainfly
  • Compression sack- for sleeping bag
  • Toiletries:  TP, Wet wipes, deodorant, Toothbrush/paste,
  • Poop Trowel/shovel
  • Bug Spray
  • Sunscreen
  • Hammock
  • Cotopaxi camping blanket
  • Playing Cards
  • Powerbank
  • GoPro 5 with extra batteries
  • GoPro 5 3 way stick
  • DJI Spark Drone with extra battery
  • Cellphone
  • Earbuds

Clothing List

  • 3 pair of compression shorts
  • 3 pairs hiking socks
  • 3 pairs of sock liners
  • 2 pair of Hiking shorts
  • 1 pair of hiking pants
  • 1 pair of neon tights as Baselayer Pants
  • 3 T-shirts (no cotton)
  • 1 Long sleeve Shirt (no cotton)
  • Midweight Quarter Zip fleece Layer
  • Cotopaxi Rain resist quarter zip  
  • Hiking boots
  • Sandals (camp shoes)
  • Sunhat
  • Baseball camp
  • Beanie
  • Sunglasses
  • Extra Clothes for Before and After

Food (on a typical day goal of 3000 Calories)

Breakfast

  • Cup of Green Tea
  • 2 Clif Bars

Snack 1

  • Jerky or Trail Mix

Lunch

  • Summer sausage, cheese, and crackers
  • Peanut Butter Wraps

Snack 2

  • Jerky or Trail Mix
  • Clif Bar

Dinner

  • 2-3 buffalo styled tuna wraps in tortillas
  • Jerky/Trail Mix
  • Cup of Green Tea

 

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Saying the trip was great would be an understatement.  Which is no surprise when you’re surrounded by amazing people and spectacular views.  Getting away for a few days really helped me hit the mental reset button.  Backcountry camping isn’t for the weak of heart or mind.  You have the be prepared to push through exhaustion, fight off mosquitoes, and rough it a bit.  However, if you can handle all of that it’s completely worth it and rewarding.  Now that I’ve gotten my feet wet you can be sure I’ll be doing more of it going forward.

The best way to keep up with my adventures is to follow me on Instagram- Todds_Tales.

Stay Gold.

Phuket Emergency Rooms: Part 1

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“…he starts telling them about our day, embellishing it so that it almost sounds fun. It’s how all good travel stories are born. Nightmares spun into punch lines.”
Gayle Forman, Just One Year

I’ve always had pretty good luck.  When something “bad” happens it always seems to work out, and it leaves me in a better place than before.  When it feels like the sky is falling and the world seems to be ending, it usually turns out to be nothing more than a gentle storm guiding me in a new (and usually better) direction. But when you’re in the storm, all you’re really trying to do is survive. You only identify it as a blessing once it passes.  As they say, hindsight is 20/20.  

If traveling has taught me anything, it’s that I am never lost in the storm; I am the storm. I happen to things more than things happen to me.  Perhaps that’s an oversimplification or a matter of perspective, but I’ve found that as long as I keep going, I’ll make it through.

During each trip, I never know what moments or experiences I’ll look back on and talk about months later.  Sometimes it’s the place itself.  Sometimes it’s the random friends I made at hostels.  Sometimes it’s a moment that left me thinking “Fuck, I can’t believe this is happening to me.”  

It has been a few months since I got back from my trip to Southeast Asia, which has allowed me plenty of time to reflect on everything.  The good, the bad, and the unexpected.  After a trip, people always want to hear the crazy stories.  Oddly enough, the stories from this trip I’ve been telling the most stem from the moments least planned and somewhat unfortunate.

Since returning, the story I’ve found myself telling more than any other focuses on myself, my stupidity, my giant flaw involving doors, and [my first?] adventure with foreign medicine.

Before we begin, a few notes:

  • On a scale of 1-10 (1 being sober as a bird on a Wednesday at 3 pm and 10 being in a coma from alcohol poisoning), I was a 2. However, that’s not to say I wasn’t a 7 earlier in the evening.
  • The hostel we stayed at, Lub d Phuket Patong, was huge (5 stories) and had an urban/modern vibe, meaning it was full of open spaces, large entry ways, and had a boxing ring in the middle of the lobby.  A very dangerous place.
  • Real friends ride with you to the ER, regardless of the time.
  • There are photos below, one of which may resemble a murder scene.  If you don’t like the sight of blood feel free to stop reading or skip over them.
  • Zoran isn’t good at catching people when they faint or doing doctor things when he’s “on vacation.”
  • Sometimes you really do get what you pay for

Now let’s begin.

I’d been in Thailand for 5 days, and Phuket for less than 16 hours, when it happened. The event that changed my entire trip.

After grabbing dinner with my friends and listening to Cam and Zoran discuss string theory and the future of AI, we went back to the hostel, eager to continue drinking, and all wanting to go out. Aside from Bangkok, Phuket is supposed to have the best nightlife in all of Thailand.   

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It started off like any other night…

After pregaming to the point of no longer wanting to go out (having reached level 7), I went up to the room to pass out, like a responsible adult, only to be shaken awake by Cam and Nick.  Neither were going to allow me to stay in.  After ample amounts of name calling and peer pressure I gave in.  The next thing I know, I’m on my way to a club called Illuzions with Zoran, Cam, and Nick (Priya was actually a responsible adult and stayed in).

Over the course of the next few hours, I had a couple tequila neats, showed off my super smooth white boy dance moves, and turned down a few invitations from some lovely Thai prostitutes.  By the time we returned to the hostel, I was basically sober (hence the level 2).  

Our room was up on the 4th floor, and was located on the complete opposite end of the building from the lobby.  To get to the elevator I would have had to walk through the lobby, kitchen/bar area, and pool area.  A walk long enough I wanted to avoid it if possible.

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Part of the hostel lobby

Earlier in the day when we dropped off our bags, I had noticed there was another elevator just a few steps from our room, although I had no idea how to get to it from the main level. Before we went out that night, I had seen Nick come out from a side hallway, and for some reason, I assumed that was the way to get to this other elevator.

As I made my way down the hallway, it led me outside the hostel.  I saw what looked like another entryway that would lead me back into the building.  Seeing as I now knew where I was going, I pulled out my phone to connect to the hostel’s free Wifi.  

Right as I hit the “connect” icon on my phone, I looked up, and walked head-first into a glass door.

The door completely shattered.

It sounded like a waiter had dropped a crate of glasses on the floor.

As I lay on the ground bleeding everywhere, I began yelling for Zoran (who just graduated from med school), knowing that he’d come help bandage me up, tell me it’s not so bad, and get to my room.

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It looks worse than it was

Before Zoran gets there a random guy staying at the hostel appears (drunk level 5) and attempts to help. He takes the shoestring from my formerly white (now blood red) Vans and ties it around my leg to “make the bleeding stop”. Apparently, there is a giant gash on the shin of my right leg which was the main culprit for the blood everywhere. He then takes a towel and tries to wipe the blood away. The main issue with this is that as he is wiping back and forth the skin on my leg is flopping back and forth.  Let’s just say it didn’t help to ease the pain I was in.
It was chaotic few minutes, to say the least. While all of this is happening I am still yelling “Z, Z, Z, help.”
After what felt like an eternity (though to be fair it was probably a couple of minutes) Zoran and Cam show up (Nick was conspicuously absent but more on that later)Cam’s first reaction was “holy shit Todd what happened” while Zoran’s was “Todd, are you kidding me, I’m supposed to be on vacation.”
I’ll be honest, I didn’t understand what the big deal was. As I’m laying on the cement floor outside the hostel I remember looking up at Zoran and Cam not grasping why they both had looks of genuine concern on their faces. When they told me they had called an ambulance and we were going to the ER I actually laughed and said “guys it’s just a cut; we need to stop the bleeding, find some bandages, and get me to my room. I’ll be fine.”
Cam’s reply “Mate, I can see the muscle in your leg, it’s not just a cut, you need stitches.”
Fuck me, right?
In true Todd fashion, my first thought wasn’t to worry about my leg, the pain I was experiencing, fear of foreign medicine, or terror at losing the rest of my trip. Each one of those took a backseat to “I don’t want to pay for the ambulance ride or a visit to the ER.” The main motivation for me wanting to “find some bandages” was to end up bankrupt in Thailand. I wasn’t trying to be tough, I was being my usual (and sometimes overly) frugal self.
After Cam assured me that my travel insurance would cover the cost I finally relented and agreed to go.
Quick Tangent:
If you’re going to travel somewhere, especially to the other side of the world, GET TRAVEL INSURANCE. I’ve written about travel insurance before and why it’s important. This was the first trip I had bought it and am really glad I did. In that moment knowing I wouldn’t have to pay for this out of pocket helped me to refocus on the actual issue, eg the fact that my leg wouldn’t stop bleeding.
Yes, they had to convince me to go to the hospital.
So at 4:30 in the morning we went for a ride.
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Real friends ride in the ambulance with you

They rolled me into a completely empty ER at the Patong Phuket Hospital. As I lay on the stretcher waiting for the doctor the other thoughts started coming into my mind. How bad is it really? Why did this have to happen? Is my trip over? It was hard in that moment to not feel sorry for myself and I won’t pretend for a minute that I didn’t indulge in a little self-pity.
While all these thoughts are coming into my mind I’m being asked about my medical history by a Thai nurse in broken English. Zoran and Cam were trying to do their best to help answer when another nurse shows up ordering them from the room. Apparently, “visitors are not allowed in the ER.” They both look at her and tell her they aren’t leaving me alone in a Phuket ER. She looks right at them, says ‘yes you are. It will take 15 mins.”
Without much of a choice they disappear and I’m completely alone.
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Apparently, in Thailand, 15 minutes really means something closer to 75. There I lay watching the clock trying not to think about what was happening to me. First, as I get a tetanus shot and then as they apply the anesthetic (kind of). I didn’t realize until they started the stitches that my shin wasn’t completely numb.
Quick tangent:
 
I’m not a tough guy by any means, but for some reason, I didn’t want to be the guy asking for more anesthetic. In my exhausted, shocked, and blood deprived state I thought it would make me look weak and be too big of a hassle. Coming from personal experience, please know it’s okay to be the guy who asks for more anesthetic. Yes, it’s worth the hassle.

Since I was too cool to ask for more anesthetic, I laid on the cot feeling the nurse work; knowing my skin was being stitched back together. After about 45 mins I heard the nurse who’d been working on my leg (who I know realize was a resident because why would you have your best doctors in the ER at 4 am on a Wednesday) call the doctor over to check her progress. I then hear “no no no” and the newly arrived doctor starts redoing the stitches.
Another 30 minutes goes by and she looks up at me and tells me that she’s done, with that cut.
15 stitches.
My right leg still had other cuts up and down from the falling glass. She offered to stitch up a few of the other cuts but I politely declined. Looking back, I should have let her stitch up a few of the other cuts. I have a few scars on my leg that I expect I’ll have forever. But like they say in Fight Club, “I don’t want to die without any scars.” Plus in that moment all I could think about was getting the hell out of the hospital.
I walked out the doors of the ER looking for Cam and Zoran. They are nowhere to be seen. I asked a Thai guy if he’d seen my friends and he told me they went home.
Just my luck.
Honestly, I wasn’t even mad. It was 5:45 in the morning. They were told 15 mins and it took over an hour. I completely understood why they’d have gone back to the hostel. I mean we did have plans to zipline later.
It was time for me to do the same.
I wandered around the hospital for another 10 minutes looking for an exit. I found it and a taxi driver outside. As I stood haggling on a price to take me back to the hospital I hear Cam’s voice yell out “Oh cunt, where the hell are you going”
Looking up in complete surprise to see Cam and Zoran at the hospital entrance. When I left the ER they were off having a “smoke break.” Zoran looks at me, shakes his head, and asks if I’ve paid my bill, got my pain pills, or my medication.
I hadn’t. I may or may not have been trying to leave without paying my bill being utterly terrified about how much this was going to cost. Not something I’m proud of, but I also wasn’t in the best state of mind to make decisions.
Zoran and Cam ushered me inside to pick up my medication, pain pills, and pay my bill. My heart stopped when I saw the number 3,510. Then I realized I was in Thailand not the United States and did a quick conversation. 3,510 Thai Baht is roughly $104 USD.
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An ambulance ride, tetanus shot, anesthetic and 15 stitches for $104. Needless to say, my mood lightened instantly.
We took a taxi back to the hostel, went up to the room (taking the main elevator), and find Nick asleep in his bed. As we close the door he wakes up asking where we’ve been.
Man do I have a story for him…
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Doorway -1 Todd-0

The best way to keep up with my adventures is to follow me on Instagram- Todds_Tales.

Stay Gold.

9 Tips for your next Trip

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Recently, I’ve been planning a few new adventures to close out the year (hiking in the Grand Tetons and a quick trip to Costa Rica) which got me thinking about my past trips and what they’ve taught me.  It didn’t take long for me to realize there were a few universal lessons I’d learned.  Below you’ll find a list of nine ideas that I learned from traveling but that have transcended my everyday life.

 

This must be the place

“Wherever you are, be all there.”

Most people think I’m crazy when I tell them I love travel days.  For most, those are the worst days of any trip.  For me, sitting on a train or waiting in front of my gate are times I truly feel at peace.  When I’m in those places it’s easy for me to relax because I look around and recognize that I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be. I don’t feel guilty thinking I should be doing something else.  This way of thinking creates a type of presence and freedom allowing me to focus on the moment and enjoy it for what it is. Even when I’m not traveling I always try to be completely present and focused on whatever it is I’m doing.

 

Where not what

“No matter how many plans you make or how much in control you are, life is always winging it.”

I’m a go with the flow kind of guy, but when traveling it’s good to have an idea of where you’re going.  When I plan a trip and have to keep to a timeline I pick the different places I’m going to, but don’t decide what I’ll be doing in each place until I get there.  Yes, you can do some research for general ideas, but I’ve found it’s better to wait until you’re there to pick what activities you’re going to do.  For me, it helps keep some spontaneity in my trip and gives me flexibility once I’m there to learn what my options are.  Which brings me to my next tip…

 

Ask a local

“…because life is too exciting not to share.”

It doesn’t matter how much research you do you’re not going to know about everything ahead of time.  But you know who can help?  The person that lives there.  Whenever I’m traveling I try to ask a local for advice on places to eat and drink, things to do, or places to stay.  People are more than happy to point you in the direction of their favorite hole in the wall bar or the place they discovered with the best calamari.  More often than not, their recommendations aren’t on Yelp’s top places but turn out to be incredible.

 

Traveling is trust

“The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.”

I hadn’t really thought about this until I was riding on the back of a scooter, at night in Bali, and was completely separated from my friends.  As all my friends and their scooters went one way and me and mine went another  I realized in that moment that I had decided to completely trust this random Balinese guy.  I was trusting him to not only to get me from one one place to another, but to do so safely-in crazy traffic, reunite me with my friends, and for the agreed upon price.  There were so many things that could have gone wrong.   When you travel, you’re at a disadvantage in some ways, you have to be willing to trust other people to survive.  From my experiences, across the world, I can tell you that trusting is rarely a mistake and people are good.

 

Night Transportation is your best friend

“I will never lose the love for the arriving, but I’m born to leave.”

If you can handle sleeping on trains, buses, and flights traveling at night is as close to teleportation as you’re ever going to get.  Instead of wasting a day going from one place to another, you can go to sleep (something you’d be doing anyway) and wake up at your next destination.  It requires more planning, as you have to make sure you can get where you need to go in the early hours of the morning, but worth it if done right.  We caught three night trains in Vietnam which is what allowed us to see so much in the 8 days we were there.  Besides, you haven’t really experienced a place until you’ve seen it peaceful like it is while everyone else is still sleeping before the chaos of the day begins.

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Take the damn picture

“You don’t take a photograph, you make it.”

I used to worry that taking photos while I traveled made me look like a ‘tourist’ (which is the last thing a traveler wants to be).  I worried even more about how ridiculous my friends and I looked while taking our ridiculous group photos.  I worried the other people around were going to judge us.  Now a days I give zero fucks.  Odds are, I’m never going to see those people again.  What I do care about is having a lifelong reminder of that day and that moment with the people I care about.  On that subject…

 

Capture Moments not Things

“If you want to see what someone values take a look at what they photograph”

Over the past 4 years, I’ve seen lots of places and taken literally thousands of pictures.  Whether it was my time on the cruiseship, backpacking Europe, or traveling around out Southeast Asia one thing proved to be universally true: the photos and memories I cherish most are the ones of my friends and I goofing around.  My house is full of photos from my travels and not one of them is a building or landmark.  Yeah, I’m glad I’ve walked across the Charles Bridge, but my first Prague memories go back to Hostel Orange and the friends I made there. When you think about your trip in retrospect you’ll think of the people more than the places.  My advice, try and capture them the best you can.

 

Give Yourself Time

“To rush is to miss the experience”

You’ll be tempted to go to as many places as possible and fill each minute of every day with activities.  To see everything a place has to offer. Well, guess what, you can’t. Accept it. While it’s important to make sure you see what you want to see it’s equally important to not overdue it.  It’s better to see a few places in depth than to see a dozen barely at all.  Looking back on my trip to Asia I could have happily spent an entire month in any one of those countries.  There were times when I felt like I tried to do too much.  Always on the go to the next activity or city.  I didn’t leave the group as much time as I should have to let each place truly resonate.  Do yourself a favor and give yourself time.  I don’t think you’ll be too upset if that means you have to take a second trip.

 

Explore the Alleyway

“It is not down on any map; true places never are.”

When traveling, I love discovering new, unknown, obscure places.  While some people opt to stick with Tripadvisor or Yelp for research and to validate their choices I go the opposite.  I’m all about walking around a city and seeing where my feet take me.  It doesn’t matter if you’re looking for food, drinks, souvenirs, or a tailored suit in Bali the best places are always down the alleyway you almost didn’t see.  Do yourself a favor and get off the main streets and explore a city’s alleyways. Those alleyways are the places where you truly get to discover a city and all that it has to offer.  

 

The best way to keep up with my adventures is to follow me on Instagram- Todds_Tales.

Stay Gold.

The Cost of a Month in Southeast Asia

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From a travel standpoint, the questions I get asked most are “What’s your favorite place,” “Where do I should go on my next trip,”  and “how much money do you actually spend on one of your adventures?”  The first question is impossible for me to answer with one place so I cheat and say five.  Places that will always have my heart (in no order):

  1. Prague, Czech Republic
  2. Melbourne, Australia
  3. Sapa, Vietnam
  4. Bali
  5. Port Denarau, Fiji

To answer the second question I’d ask you how much time do you have, what activities do you enjoy, and what’s the purpose of the trip.  Your answers dictate my advice.  If you live in the States and only have 7 days I’m not going to recommend Australia or Asia.  If you hate the beach I’m not going to tell you to go to Hawaii.

The third answer is more straightforward.  At least, for this trip.  Most people want to travel but money seems to be the biggest deterrent.  I decided before I left for a month in Southeast Asia I’d actually keep track of how much the trip cost me.

My past travel experiences have been rather unorthodox.  Working on a cruise ship in Australia, au pairing in the Czech Republic/backpacking Europe, and moving to Melbourne for a year isn’t exactly what most people have in mind when they say they want to travel.  

This was basically the first trip where I had a to book (and pay) for all of my own transportation.  The first trip where I wasn’t planning on earning any money while overseas.  The first trip where I had a concrete date I had to come back.  Odd as it may seem, it really was the first trip where I actually thought about just how much it was going to cost.

I did my best job to keep track of every Dollar, Baht, Rupiah, and Dong that I spent.  However, some purchases inevitably fell through the cracks and to be completely honest, some things I spent money on wouldn’t interest most people.  For example, my ambulance ride, emergency room visit, and 15 stitches in Thailand $104 (reimbursed), the $150  to replace the cell phone I lost at the Full Moon Party (yes, Thailand was rough), the $50 I spent on sandals due to losing 3 different pairs (not my month for keeping track of things), the $350 I spent on 2 custom tailored suits in Bali because every so often you just have to ball out, and while I don’t regret all the cigars, shots, and whiskey waters I had they aren’t essential to a person’s trip. Outside of those things I added everything I found relevant to a month in Southeast Asia in the list below.  

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A few things to keep in mind:

1. I converted everything to USD (you’re welcome)

2. The list below assumes you’ve already have items such as clothes, backpack, shoes,        etc.  For the full list of things, I brought with me check out my ‘What To Pack for Southeast Asia’ post.

3. Southeast Asia is big.  As a group, we agreed early on we wanted to see 4 countries in 4 weeks. We decided that saving time was more important than saving money which is why we took the fastest transportation available when changing locations, even if it cost more.  Yes, you can take a bus from Chiang Mai to Phuket but the fact it takes 24 hours made the price of the 3-hour flight worth it to us.  You have to decide what’s right for your trip, timeline, and budget.

4. I went to Asia with a big group; there were 6-10 of us the entire time.  The prices below are what I personally paid for.  We were able to get some group rate discounts because there were so many of us that you may not be able to find if it’s just you. However, we also had to take multiple tuk-tuks and scooters everywhere so maybe it evens out.

5. Speaking of tuk-tuks, I didn’t keep track of every tuk-tuk, taxi, or rickshaw that we took, every time I ate street food or bought a bottle of water.  I’ve done my best, where needed, to estimate per day what I spent on those types of things.  Also, if you can learn to haggle you’ll save yourself a good bit of money.

6.If you and your friends drink less than mine and avoid sit down restaurants you can reduce the final spend by 15%.  No regrets though.

7.Your trip your rules.  No trip two trips are ever the same but this should give you a general idea of what to budget for a month in Southeast Asia.

8. I broke everything out by category/location, price, and description.

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Pre-Departure Purchases:

Transportation:

Flights:

Kansas City to Los Angeles- $5.00 (purchased with my Southwest points. Flight usually $200)
Los Angeles to Bangkok- $422.00
Chiang Mai to Phuket- $93.44
Surat Thani to Siem Reap- $160.52
Siem Reap to Da Nang- $182.00
Hanoi to Denpasar- $155.05
Denpasar to Melbourne- $277.12
Melbourne to Los Angeles- 70,604 points – $882.56 value (yes, credit cards are awesome)
Los Angeles to Kansas City- $103
Flight Total- $1398.13

 

Ferries:

Krabi to Koh Tao – $32
Koh Tao to Koh Phangan – $15
Koh Phangan to Surat Thani- $20
Ferry Total- $67

 

Train

Bangkok to Chiang Mai $52 (night train)
Hoi An to Dong Hoi- $30
Dong Hoi to Hanoi – $56
Sapa to Hanoi – $45 (night train)
Train Total-  $183

 

Bus

Hanoi to Sapa – $17
Bus Total – $17

Transportation Total: $1665.13

 

Miscellaneous:

Traveler’s Insurance- $145 (Why you should get Travel Insurance)
Passport Photos (4 at Costco)- $10
Vietnam Visa Processing fee- $30
Vaccines (without insurance):
     Hepatitis A- $130
     Typhoid- $88
     Malaria- $79 (used coupon)
Misc Total- $482

 

Thailand (12 Days)

Bangkok

Dinner-   $7
Whisgars Whiskey and Cigar Bar- $42
Tuk Tuk to dinner and train station- $9
Bangkok Total: $58

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Chiang Mai

Counting Sheep Hostel- $16 x 2 nights – $32 (provided breakfast)
Sim Card- $8
Doi Inthanon National Park- $32
Asia Scenic Cooking Class $23.49 (included food)
Chiang Mai Elephant Sanctuary- $58.74 (included food, can’t recommend enough)
Transportation (tuk tuks/taxis) – $20 (estimate)
Additional Food/Drink/Transportation – $40 (estimate)
Chiang Mai total: $272.23

 

Phuket

Lub’d Hostel $13 x 2 nights – $26
Thai Smile Restaurant – $27 (dinner and multiple rounds of Tom Collins)
Flying Hanuman Zipline- $98
     -Missed out as I was stuck in bed following my ER visit the night before but that’s what it would have cost to go
Bus ride: Phuket to Krabi- $16
Additional Food/Drink/Transportation- $10
Phuket Total: $177

 

Krabi (Railay Beach)

Shuttle from bus station to hostel- $3
Hogwarts Hostel- $8
Tuk Tuk to Ao Nong (there and back)- $3
Speed boat from Ao Nong to Railay Beach (there and back)- $9
Dinner on Railay- $13
Additional Food/Drink/Transportation (estimate) – $10
Krabi Total: $46

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Koh Tao

Goodtimes Beach Hostel: $19 x 2 nights- $38
Airbnb Villa (recovery day) – $32 each
Tequila Shot with Zoran- $6.50
Dinner at Barracuda – $24
Boat to Koh Nang Yuang Island- $9
Entry Fee to Koh Nang Yuang Island- $3
The Gallery (dinner)- $24
⅕ Bottle of Johnnie Walker Red- $10
Living Juice (breakfast)- $8
Bans Resort (lunch- $9
Bans Bar (nightlife) – 10 whiskey waters $24
Additional Food/Drink/Transportation (estimate) – $25
Koh Tao Total: $212.5

 

Koh Phangan

Baan Klong House$20 x 2 nights- $40
Tuk Tuk to Hostel- $3
Sim Card- $15
Bite Delight (Dinner) $25
Tuk Tuk to beach (there and back) $6
Bucket Drink (⅛ Jack, Ginger Ale, Red Bull) – $15
Jungle Party- $17
Ride to Thong Nai Pan Noi (and back) $6
Thong Nai Pan Noi Beach Bar (lunch)-$18
Thai Massage – $12
Tuk Tuk to Full Moon Party (there and back) $6
Full Moon Party Entry Fee- $3
Tuk Tuk to ferry- $3
Water at hostel -$2
Koh Phangan Total: $171

 

Thailand Total: $936.73

 

Cambodia- 3 Days

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Siem Reap

Visa on arrival- $30
Airport Transfer- $4
Mango Rain Hotel- $24 x 2 nights- $48
Lunch at hotel- $8
Floating Village Tour – $25
Ankor Wat Circuit fee- $37
Tuk Tuk for the day- $10
Lunch- $6
Airport Transfer – $4
Cambodia total: $134

 

Vietnam- 9 days

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Hoi An

Visa on arrival – $25
Shuttle from Da Nang to Hoi An- $4
Sunflower Hostel- $8
All you can drink at hostel – $4.50
Dinner- $4.50
Custom shoes – $45 (and 5 free beers)
Pop-up book (souvenir)- $4.50
Lunch- $6
Vacation hat- $4.50
Taxi- $1.50
Half-Day Bike Tour – – $27
     -included drinks and meal
Dinner- $6
Hoi An Total: $140.5

 

Dong Hoi

Taxi from Train Station to Buffalo Hostel- $1
Breakfast- $4
All day Paradise and Dark Cave Tour- $160
     -Included transportation, food, drinks, zip lining, kayaking, etc
Dinner- $3
Taxi from Hostel to Train station- $1
Bottled Waters- $3
Dong Hoi Total: $171

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Sapa

Taxi- Hanoi train station to bus station- $1
Ticket into Sapa Village- $4
3 day 2 night Homestay Trek – $60
     -Included all meals, guide, lodging, rice wine
Bottle of Vodka and ice cream- $11
Cookies and 7 up- $3.5
Souvenirs bought from our guides- $18
Dinner/drinks – $4
Taxi- Sapa to Lo Cio Train Station- $3
Sapa Total: $104.5

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Halong Bay:

Halong Bay 2 day 1 night boat cruise- $60
     -included transportation from Hanoi to Halong Bay, meals, lodging, tour
Taxi- Train Station to hostel- $1
Drinks on cruise- $43
Halong Bay total: $104

 

Hanoi

Nexy Hostel- $11
Hand carved chess set- $20
Landry- $2.25
Dinner- $12
Wine and cigars – $21
Drinks- $8
Taxi to airport- $4.5
Hanoi Total: $78.75

Vietnam Total: $494.25

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Bali- 7 Days

Villa -Airbnb – paid before arrival – $330 (each)
Taxi from airport to villa- $4
Cocktail- $8
Taxi to Sky Bar- $5
Scooter Rental for 7 days- $22
Bali Adventure bike ride- $60
     -included tour, food, drink
Single Fin Beach Club- $29
Santai Surf School- $22
     -included 2 hour lesson, 1 hour board rental
Lunch at Shelter- $9
2 Nusa bowls- $15
Santai Surfing: board rental- $7
Monkey Forest- $3.50
Bananas at Monkey Forest- $3.50
White Water Rafting- $25
Bali Swing- $20
Fake Ray Bans – $3.50
Sunset Artwork- $40
Waterbom Bali Water Park- $75
6 sets of Elephant Pants/tank tops/Souvenirs- $20
Estimate of gas, motorbikes, food, drinks: $200
Bali Total- $571

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Southeast Asia Grand Trip Total: $4283.11

Before I left people would ask how much I expected the trip to cost and I was estimating around $4,000.  Yes, that’s quite a bit of money, but to me, it doesn’t even compare to what I got out of it.  If you decide you want to go somewhere and plan properly you can make it happen.  Which is exactly why I started saving in November of 2015 for this trip. Month long trips across the world don’t happen over night. By saving around $200 a month over the last year and a half I was able to take the trip of a lifetime with my best friends.

Everyone will look at the $4283.11 price tag differently.  Some will think “oh that’s it” while others can’t imagine spending that much money without getting something tangible back.  For those in the latter group, please don’t think that you have to spend thousands of dollars to travel.  I’ve taken trips where not spending money was half my focus; this wasn’t one of them.  While I was conscious of how much I was spending, it wasn’t my goal to pinch pennies.  For me, going out to a nice restaurant with my friends mattered more than saving $10 by eating street food.  That was a choice I made and you can make for yourself when the time comes.

Like anything else in life traveling comes at a cost. Unless you have a trust fund you have to make a choice and for every choice we make we give sacrifice something else.  That’s unavoidable.  The trick is figuring out what you want most and not getting distracted.

Stay focused.  Regardless of what it is, you can’t lose focus on your goal.  On what you’re dream is. Was sticking to my budget easy? Hell no.  Were there times when I wanted to go out and eat or have a few drinks with my friends?  More than I can count.  But I didn’t (well sometimes I did, but a guy can’t always be a shut in).  I knew over the course of the last year and a half that my trip to Asia was going to be worth it.  I made a decision that spending money in bars and restaurants in Kansas City wasn’t worth it to me.  If you really want to travel you have to be willing to make sacrifices, to go without the newest and latest gadget or accessory.  You have to budget and stick with it.  With enough dedication anything is doable.  And here’s a little secret, it’ll be the best thing you ever do.

Stay Gold.