"All the time I'm not writing I feel like a criminal." -Fran Lebowitz

Wednesday, December 31, 2014


I know we're a little past the midway point, but on this New Year’s Eve, some up-to-date RogueTrip numbers for you:

Days Traveled: 177
Months Traveled: 5.8
Countries Visited: 16 (New Zealand, Australia, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, Macau, Vietnam, Laos, Nepal, India, United Arab Emirates, Morocco)
Of 16 Countries Visited, Ones That Were Merely Layovers in Airports: 2 (Aukland, New Zealand and Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates)
Total Miles Traveled to date:  35,995
Average Miles Per Day (Total Miles Traveled/Days Traveled): 203.36
Miles Traveled by:
Air: 20,833
Train: 13,391
Bus/Van: 1,771
Days Spent in:
Australia: 34 (19.2%)
Asia: 139 (78.5%)
Africa: 4 (2.2%)
Pages in Passport: 52
Pages in Passport Now Filled: 19
Valuables Lost in Airports or Hotel Rooms: 0
Full or Half-Full Water Bottles Left Behind in Airports or Hotel Rooms: 26* 
AirBnB Reviews: 14
Positive AirBnB Reviews: 14 (sample review: “He is a very good person.”)
Positive AirBnB Review %: 100 (sample review: “He come as guest leave as friend.”)
Photos Taken: 6,578*
Photos Taken That Don’t Include Bill: 37*
Postcards Purchased: 112*
Postcards Mailed: 61*
Postcards Mailed From Same City Postcard Purchased: 0
Bill’s Starting Weight: 215 lbs.
Bill’s Weight Today: 85.5 kg
Haircuts: 5
Most Days Gone Without Shaving: 7**
ATMs That Rejected Bill’s Card For No Reason: 6
Debit Cards Left In ATM: 1
International Phone Calls Successfully Made, First Time Dialing: 0
Number of Times Earbuds Dropped In Toilet/Urinal: 3
Pairs of Earbuds Ruined: 1
Pairs of Disposable Contact Lenses Used: 2
Maximum Months Advised to Wear Disposable Contact Lenses: 1
Packages Mailed to United States From China: 2
Packages Mailed to United States From China Which Could Be Considered “Lost” At This Point: 2
Number of Times A Woman Asked Bill, “How old are you?”: 78*
Number of Times Bill Responded “Guess.”: 78*
Average Age Guessed: 47* (scowls, middle fingers raised)
Highest Age Guessed (i.e., “Most Obscene Guess”): 52 (what the fuck?)
Number of Times Woman Recognized the OCEAN’S TWELVE joke Bill Made in Response to Most Obscene Guess***: 0
Club Sandwiches Eaten: 3

**Nepal trek-related
***Exchange between Clooney and Affleck in OCEAN’S TWLEVE:
”How old do you think I am?”
“You think I’m 48 years old?”
(pause) “52?”

…And some rankings/award candidates at this point in the trip…

M.V.P. (Most Valuable Place) race so far…
3. Nepal - if you’re going to pick a place for your first-ever trek, you could do worse than the Himalayas.
2. Bail, Indonesia - Every place I’ve been to, at some point I ask myself, “Could you live here?” In Bali’s case, the answer didn’t come in words. It came in me dropping to my knees, clutching the sand of Sanur Beach in both of my fists, and weeping with joy. I took that as a “Yes.”
1. China - a month of seeing a good friend and his family, traveling a large swath of the nation, seeing both its urban and rural sides, and accumulating a book’s worth of stories in Beijing, that I cannot wait to write. 

M.V.P. (Most Valuable Packed Item) race so far…
3. Tissue Paper - invaluable in Asia for reasons that should be self-explanatory.
2. Zip-Loc Bags (of various sizes) - a gift from my friends Jonica and Sandy that I never would have thought to purchase myself, these plastic bags have proven essential in a pinch: when I need a separate place for dirty laundry, compiling all the knickknacks and sundries I’ll eventually lose by mailing from China (see above), and most important, for providing me a safe haven for my laptop when it starts raining and thus, providing me peace of mind. Thank you, Jonica and Sandy. Now figure out how your Skype works!
1. 4 In 1 Travel Electrical Adaptor - a gift from my friend Amy that I never would have thought to purchase myself (sense a pattern here?), these adaptors (fitted to fit in a small box which fits in a pouch in my backpack) have made charging the myriad of my electronic devices so easy that I barely even obsess over it at this point. Thank you, Amy. Now figure out how your FaceTime works!

M.V.P. (Most obVious imProvement Bill would implement in a country he’s visited so far…)
3. Garbage Cans - a minimum of one every fifty feet on every public street. I think this would instantly improve a nation's mood by 8%.
2. “Yield” and “Right of Way” signs
1. Toilet Bowls.

M.V.P. (Most Valuable Performance By A Tourist Attraction) race so far…
3. Angkor Wat - Asia is lousy with temples. Every city in every country I visited in Asia, there were just loads of temples everywhere. I don’t mind admitting, there were some days I felt “templed out” and days where I was convinced some architect was just building “template temples” (that’s a Kaiser NFS joke for the three ex-co-workers who read this blog). But there are temples, there are TEMPLES…and then there’s Angkor Wat. Angkor Wat is not so much one temple as a campus of temples, built radically different than most of the temples you’ll see on the continent. Large, mossy, sweaty stones, one piled on top of another that seem both precarious and indestructible, part of the world's largest Lego set. Angkor Wat is beyond compare. I started walking around the “campus” at sunrise and as someone not normally filled with a great deal of spirituality, rarely (if ever) have I felt so peaceful. Recommend.
2. Great Wall of China - a new friend I met in Beijing took hired a driver for the day and we went up to Mutian-Yu portion of the Wall, grabbing McDonald’s before we left the city. The McDonald’s made her sick, and by the time we reached Mutian-Yu she was in no condition to leave the car. So I walked the Wall alone. It defies description. If I hadn’t had someone waiting for me in the car, I would’ve walked it all day. It’s unbelievable. Recommend.
1. Taj Mahal - Let’s just say, the Taj Mahal covers for a lot of India’s sins in how it treats a guest. A LOT of sins. Picturing it in my head stops me in my tracks two weeks later. I stop in my tracks, someone walking behind me bumps into me, they say, “Come on, dude!” in some language, and I turn around and say, “Sorry. I was picturing the Taj Mahal,” and THEY wind up apologizing to ME. Go see that shit. Recommend.

Best Soundtracks to Walk Around Tourist Attractions/City Streets to:
Honorable Mention: Freedy Johnston “This Perfect World” and trying to match the album cover while taking pictures of the Taj Mahal, Angels & Airwaves, and Mos Def.
3. The National - entire catalogue on shuffle walking around Angkor Wat.
2. Simon & Garfunkel - “Best of” album, particularly good for rural/trek scenarios
1. Vampire Weekend - entire catalogue on shuffle, walking any and all city streets.

M.V.P. (Mesmerizing Vocal Performance)
William Norrett (featuring Wei) - “My Heart Will Go On”, Beijing, China

M.V.P. (Most Vexing Person Met While Traveling) so far…
3. Cab Driver in Mumbai, India - Pretended to not understand “That hotel! That hotel!” Followed Bill even after being told there was no fucking way Bill was getting back in cab. Owned a blank look for the ages.
2. Check-In Agent, JetStar Airlines, Darwin Airport - kept interrupting Bill even though Bill was dealing with another agent, not him. Refused to accept Bills explanation that the airline’s website was not working when Bill tried to check in his bag the night before. Snidely said, “Thousands of people manage to use it (the website) every day without incident,” then tried to pivot out when Bill said, “I guess I’m just dumb, then. I guess I’m just dumb.” After Bill had calmed down, apologized, and joked (not to him, again, to the agent he was dealing with), “You’re gonna send my bag to Mozambique or somewhere, aren’t you?” haughtily said, “We don’t do that, sir.”
1. William Norrett, various - Get out of your head, you idiot.

Part of what has been lucky for me on this trip is, every so often there’s been someone there for me. A friend or family member that’s popped up on my journey to give me something to hold onto. Just when I think I’ve been on the road by myself for too long, there’s been someone (or someones, or some family) that have been there to serve as a balance. Thus, the M.V.P. (Most Valuable Player) race so far…
(Four-way tie, listed chronologically)
McDonald/Simmerman/Verdeja - Bali, Indonesia - After five+ weeks riding the rails in Australia, a rougher-than-expected immersion into world travel, Bali was precisely what the doctor ordered. Relaxing, positive, encouraging, and beautiful, I was able to calm myself down with a normalcy I wasn't sure I'd ever see again. Without Bali, I probably would’ve just gone home. But in my week on the island, I got to see monkeys, dolphins, AND I learned how to play “Werewolves”. My host family welcomed me, and on a small level, they saved me. Thank you.
Jenny and Liz Ann - Bangkok, Thailand - Provided a port in a storm at a point I was drowning a little. Bought me a lovely meal at a lovely hotel. Prompted me to shop at Asiatique which was a diversion I never would’ve taken. Talked me a down a bit. Implored me to say “Fuck that!” to things or people I needed to say “Fuck that!” to (principally Jenny implored me on this score). Offered to take gifts back and mail them within the United States - the value of this cannot be overstated. Thank you.
The Gallaghers - Shenzhen, China - Hosted me for a month. Let me crash in their nanny’s room. Fed me. Entertained me. Allowed me to tag along with them on their family vacation to the country. Took me to numerous hot pot meals. Educated me about the Asian karaoke culture. It was (shrug) “All right.” Thank you.
Sue - Bangkok, Thailand - I was not planning on going back to Thailand. I had seen it. What I had NOT seen, however, was one of my good friends in Thailand. So whatever, I’ll see it again. Seeing Sue reminded me of kindness, of generosity, of having your shit together. She inspired me. Thanks to Sue for letting me tag along with her family on her vacation (I’ve intruded on a number of family vacations on this trip) to Chiang Mai, and letting me show her some sights in her own hometown. You need to get out more, Sue. Thank you.

Everyone have a Happy and safe New Year. I fly to London tomorrow. We'll talk soon.