Saturday, October 31, 2015

The Project - A Walking Amadeus Video Expedition Around the World

I suppose there are two types of travelers - those who try to get away and those who try to get somewhere. Sure, the categories are not mutually exclusive, and different trips have different aims, but sometimes people who love to travel the world get painted with the broad brush that they are simply wandering, shirking the responsibilities of "real life." Well, I'm no hippie.

I'll confess, I do have a rather laid-back way about me, but it is important to note, the now underway video project with the same name as this blog - Walking Amadeus - is a dedicated expedition with certain goals and a purpose. I take my motivation from a woman from my Shoshone tribe, Sacajawea, (you may have heard of her). She was compelled to join Lewis & Clark's Corps of Discovery and ended up acting as an integral part of their success as a guide and interpreter. She helped us discover parts unknown, and she did so courageously. She didn't go where none had before, nor did she test the bounds of science, but she certainly facilitated human exploration.

Walking Amadeus - the video project and the blog - seek to serve a similar purpose. In travel, we encounter new ideas about the world. We pick up where others have left off and add knowledge to knowledge. Ideas, points of view, passions of people a continent away are indispensable to a world in which a lack of enlightenment can lead to chaos on a grand scale. In my country, I see children of all colors playing together. It is not until they are taught that they are different that the seeds of racism are sewn. Then those of us who care to, spend the rest of our lives trying to reconcile our contrived differences. It's madness, and it's the same on the world stage, only it's more difficult for an American to hang out with an Iranian or a North Korean and get to know their stories. I may not find myself in either of those two countries anytime soon, but hopefully some great stories are out there, and I intend to document them.

Those who know me well, know that my project will also not lack for a certain sense of humor; I actually don't know how you can travel at length without one. Furthermore, my interests in all things culinary will lead to discoveries of food and beverages, and the photographer in me will seek out certain beauties that may have nothing to do with anything else. I have also studied economics; not sure if that will make itself evident.

Taking all of this into account, I plan to venture from California, to Hawaii, to The Philippines, to many parts of Asia en route to Africa, then up through Spain, into France, up to Ireland, and back to the US. Travel plans are somewhat flexible, just because I know things always change and I will need to be able to respond to that. Videos will be posted on YouTube and can be found by seeking the Walking Amadeus channel. One goal of this project is that it be interactive and influenced by the viewers. My director and I can both be reached by email at, and you can be a part of my journey as well. Otherwise, I will be mostly solo - traveling and shooting.

Thank you for your interest, and I look forward to your suggestions.

Special Thanks to:

Ryan Connolly - my editor and director
Rich Delos Reyes - musician extraordinaire

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Unfinished Business - Directions of Life and Travel Intertwined

In all the journeys a man might make, the most profound might actually be the one he didn't start. Every president gets asked about his legacy, and it usually pertains to what he did in the up to eight years he spent in the White House and how those decisions and actions portend some major consequence on the the future of the country or the world. Some people yield a tremendous influence, and that is more easily ascertained (or magnified) by the position they held or the fame they enjoyed for a time. However, the effects of the lives of others is often more subtle and uncelebrated, and what they achieve resonates in reincarnation. If for some reason what we do in life echoes for eternity, but no one writes books about us, it could very well be because someone else carried our torch.

I recently read something by a grieving widower of a friend of mine. I could tell the wound was still fresh, and he seemed a bit lost. When you lose someone close to you, there are the sincere, yet predictable, attempts to provide you with some sort of solace: "If there is anything I can do...", "she's in a better place now", "you are in my prayers"... etc. No one can fault people for the unoriginality of these statements; nobody knows the right thing to say, and odds are there is nothing you can say to help the bereaved feel some comfort during the aftermath of their loss. You're just trying to be a good friend, and really, that may be the best you can do. However, what struck me on this occasion was something that has become evident in the last year or so, in that those who pass on before us live on in what we do in their honor - because we are finishing what they started.

Life masks these kinds of truths in our youth, mostly because we are thinking primarily about ourselves. However, somewhere along the line we gain something called "perspective", which is a byproduct of wisdom. The clarity of a situation often does not present itself until the end; any moment of truth is the result of culmination, not prediction or snap judgment. Sadly, someone's value is not always appreciated until they are gone; then we are left with the context of a world without them. It is the void, the loss, or the failure that informs and instructs us on how to carry on - that is, if we choose to learn.

Every endeavor needs clarity; without is mere frivolity. Therefore, it is imperative that we recognize when we are called upon to contribute to a legacy - to help someone else live forever. It is then that we realize that we are not victimized by others leaving us, but blessed that they were ever there in the first place. If they were that special, then they bestowed something very profound, which is the gift of a challenge to finish the job they left. Like I told my friend's husband whom she left here on Earth, what's left to do after losing someone so magnificent, so young, is, "now, you have to be awesome for her." And, we go back and make whatever that is happen.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Malawi - Digging In and Meeting Africa

If you asked me where Malawi was one year ago, I would have gotten the Africa part right, but that's about it. Can I really be blamed? There are 54 African nations, or so I'm told, and many of us in the US really only hear about the ones with ebola or where there are very bad things happening. As usual, when traveling internationally and spending time with other young English-speaking travelers, they take their shots at us - for example: "Why did God create wars? So that Americans could learn geography."

Well, Malawi has neither an epidemic disease, nor is it involved in civil, or any other type of, war. There is no refugee crisis, no genocide, no pirates, and no "spontaneous demonstrations" leading to diplomatic assassinations of Americans. Malawi is just one of those countries that exists without international fanfare or notoriety... and there are a great many people who are just really nice. Even today, in Blantyre, shooting the last of my footage for the project here as the sun began to set, curious people just walked by and said hello. I am a bit jaded and always think that they want something (and sometimes they do), but a lot of people here just want to... I don't know... recognize another human and give them a greeting. Strange, I know - kind of like the Carolinas of Africa.

What Malawi did have was a very big flood - big enough to permanently displace a lot of people up into the hills and make life even harder for some people who have to figure out a way to survive on producing a variety of crops you could probably count on your two hands. I was fortunate to be able to spend several evenings chatting with our neighbor while on project with All Hands Volunteers down in Muona, near the Mozambique border. Patrick was his name, and it seemed he was just as curious about me and my life as I was about him and his. He inquired as to what crops we grow (umm, everything) and I asked him about their food; when I questioned him about the availability of beef, he explained that cows provide too little meat to justify eliminating their relative value as a dairy source. In rural Malawi, you can't help but be cognizant of your food sources. There is no supermarket. If you want meat, you help a chicken or a goat meet its maker. So, the people's ability to continue to grow maize, tomatoes, mangoes, sweet potatoes, onions, bananas, green beans, and a few other crops is, in a word, crucial. We, as an organization (All Hands Volunteers), decided to come in and help them dig wells, and give these people the tools to not only survive, but hopefully thrive.