For New Years ~ Reboot yourself

rebootWe all tend to live with an eye on what’s to come based on what has already happened in our lives. The struggle just to get through any given day often forces us to shift our brains into a gear that is meant for plowing forward and gobbling up as much (chores or work) as possible. Most of that time is spent wondering about where the time will come from and the energy to pursue with focus.

Life becomes a never ending stream of checklist, littered with post it notes, leading us faster down a familiar but ultimately unrewarding path. With every passing year, more and more energy on managing the day itself becomes increasingly important.

We are bombarded with notes like, wash the car, clean the yard, pay the bills

pick up groceries, do laundry, fill cars up with gas, pick up kids and drop off form school, get to gym, etc . And thats on our off time like the weekends, except for picking up the kids from school I suppose.

When do we ever to create post it notes like ,take deep breaths, stop and help someone who needs it, slow down or simply think about our dreams. How about ask a friend, neighbor or family member how they are really doing and actually listen until they are done. Take an interest and become something larger than ourselves.

I come from the very definition of a blue collar family, I know first hand how hard it is to turn off the “work mode” and completely relax. Don’t get me wrong, work is really good for the soul. In fact, there are few things that feels as good as a job well done. There has to be a balance though. A long time ago, I turned to Yoga to help me with my triathlon training. I found it also allowed myself the space on ability to take a simple unregulated breath with out any concept other than to feel the air go in and fill my lungs and then leave in a long purging breath out. Sounds simple, but to someone like me, it took months to allow myself to do so with out peeking out squinted eyes to see if every one else was doing the same thing and not all looking at me make a fool of myself. I have been a worker bee my whole life. It’s burned into to who I am as a person. Even in college, I did not go to parties until all my homework and studying was done. Many times I wandered completely sober into a rager well after 1 or 2 am feeling like the only sober person on Earth. But that worker bee attitude also was instrumental getting me caught up there fast enough as well.

Simply saying to get out there and do something and get off the damned couch is lazy and well; simple. It really serves no purpose other than to tell others what their doing wrong. I’d rather offer ideas and underscore the means to connect them to every day reality in an effort maybe reach at least a single person out there who may want a little to a lot more out of life; your life.

So try this project: Take a day and drop off the face of the earth from it all. Turn off the smart phones, computers and TV’s. I know, God forbid! Put some music on and make a home cooked meal with a significant other and the agree to only discuss “trivial pursuits” like philosophy, dreams and wishes…forget anything and everything that reminds us of the day to day task that bury us and our dreams alive.

Stop living in your past and thinking too far into the future and see what its like to feel the here and now .If geographically available climb a mountain, take a long swim in the ocean, go for a bike ride, lay back in the largest field you can find and watch the clouds roll over, etc….

One does not need to be and adrenaline junkie, but if you talk to enough of them there is a very common theme. When climber thinks of a mountain to climb, for instance, there are all kinds of thoughts and ideas into the route, a day, the weather conditions, etc..but when the first step is made at the base of a sheer face, the mind switches to the hear and now. It has to. Each step is calculated, each breath monitored and the brain begins to feel the moment with hi definition with alarming clarity. So much so, that everything that was clouding your thought patterns with bombarding task off the “to do list” is gone. Think of your brain like a computer that has not been turned off for months and has all of those programs running in the background. Its slow, unresponsive and will shut down in an unpredictable way and mostly at the worst time.

Clear out the dead wood in your life or those who continually drag you down. Allow the programs running interference to all be turned off and start of fresh. This does not mean to shun all those that may disagree with you. The ones who challenge you to expand and think deeper should actually be help in high regard. Say good-by to the narcissist in your ives and those who bask in constant negativity. We all know who they are. Sometimes they are even family. If they don’t change, you must. But its crucial you are honest with yourself here as we all tend to protect those who hurt us the most in this regard. This is where the courage must manifest itself. Do you have what it takes?

Rebooting ourselves and clearing the debris to launch the thoughts that we decide to program and not the ones that bombard us though news-bites, headlines, bad apples etc

Fill you heart with life, wonder and love and give it back to those who are in your lives. Pick up someone emotionally and making their day a bit brighter. Then sit back and feel how it affects you. Its the absolute best feeling there is. It feeds you.

So start the new year off with a gift to yourself that is long overdue..just hit  the “reboot” button..Never to beconfused with the “reset” button..We all know that one does not work:)

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Little Trouble in Big Bangkok

Serendipity is an amazing thing.

As I was looking through some old photos from a trip to Thailand a few years ago, I noticed many of my favorite shots and memories were a direct result of the least favorite memory I had over there.

After a sleepless and long flight from LA, through Tokyo and on to Bangkok, I found myself completely overwhelmed as the cab dropped me off in his words “somewhere very close to my hotel.”  One of the few things I do when traveling to a remote or unfamiliar place is book the first night or two after reading several reviews from various travel sites. I like to get a little bearing on where I am and find better places once I am there and develop a loose itinerary. 

Only problem was that this hotel was on a walk street that looked like the one right before it and the one right after. Aside form the fact that the signs were really of no help, that it was 2:30 am and oh yeah, the sidewalks were crowded as if a major sporting event just ended, I just clutched my camera bags as hard as I could and made my way through the crowd asking anyone and everyone who knew possibly where my hotel was. FInally I got lucky with one old man who with out ever looking directly at me, just pointed me in the right direction through the maze of drunks, peddlers, and tourist (who could be described in the “drunks” category as well.

After 30 or so minutes wandering around with both arms starting to cramp from the death grip I had around everything that was valuable, finally found the Dynasty Inn. It was an understated, small and friendly place and the english was pretty good. It may as well have been the Four Seasons for all I was concerned and with how tired I was. After a non eventful and quick check in, it was upstairs to a cool shower (as it was still sweltering out) and a very deep sleep.

Not so fast. It donned on me I had not sent word back home that I made it in here in one piece to Laura. So I dried off threw my clothes back on and headed downstairs to have them help me with hooking up to the wireless internet. When I was told it was down, I reluctantly headed out back into the chaotic and seemingly intertwined mass of people under neon lights celebrating God only knows; where I remember walking past an internet cafe before.

It was only a block and a half away, but was no easy walk as there simply was no room to walk on these sidewalks. From the tailors or suit brokers trying to fit me for a brand new suit, street walkers walking right up to me, and food vendors wanting me to buy things I have never ever seen before. On top of all this the cool shower I took 5 minutes ago became a distant memory as felt like 95 degree and the humidity was as thick as molasses, the last thing wanted was any human interaction at all. I vividly remember one instance where I was avoiding a female(?) “masseuse” as a running back would an aggressive linebacker and practically had to stiff arm her as I bumped into a man walking the opposite direction. I said “excuse me”, shed the masseuse and scurried along to the cafe. Thats pretty much all I remember from that night.

When I woke up to the filtered glare of the sun streaming through the blinds, I just felt great. I was so excited to finally see Thailand, photograph it and feel the vibrations of a place I have only dreamt about until now. As I showered yet again. (Showers were a normal breaks in the day for me as carrying around a large camera bag filled with lenses in this heat was not comfortable.) But I would have time to get used to it and acclimate. (Loose, baggy and light clothes work best here but pay special attention in Thailand to the colors you decide to wear as there is more than a passionate rift between the Royal Thai Gov’t or the Thaksin Regime which is a monarchy and those who oppose it. Stay away from Yellow as it can show support for a party you never intended to do so and just be neutral.)   As I dug through the pockets of the pants I wore from the airport and out to the internet cafe last night, my heart began to pump more and more frantically with each pocket that did not contain my wallet, and with with all the credit cards and (14) crispy, brand new $100 bills, drivers lic., etc, etc…

The panic consumed me as neither the pants, or anywhere around the chair I folded them over had any clue of it. At about this time I realized in my tired state last night, I committed the cardinal sin of traveling to a big city, anywhere. I left my wallet in my back pocket and never gave it a second thought. I believe subliminally, when I made it back safely last night to the room with all my camera gear present and in tact, I had “made it” and I basically turned off my overly stimulated brain once and for all.

I dropped my guard and simply never gave the wallet or its contents another thought. Lesson forever learned. I now travel with money belts, and have good hiding places and always spread out cards and cash any time I ever travel anymore. The image of that man I bumped into suddenly flashed like a white light and the realization of what happened to me crashed down on me with a thud. I had been pick pocketed!

Reflecting back, I remember being so upset with 2 things more that anything upon that realization. One would think that right at the top of that list would be loosing my entire cash savings and all my credit cards along with needing to replace all my other cards like drivers license, scuba license, gift cards (which I also have no idea why they were even in there) and a great lesson to anyone traveling to ONLY bring the absolute necessary cards and information and leave the rest at home. I mean, why bring a drivers license if you are not going to drive and have a passport, right? I also highly recommend you xerox a copy of your passport and carry that with you around during the day while you keep the original locked in a safe in the room as well. Well I accomplished all of this with in the first hour of setting foot here.

Anyway, I digress. The 2 most infuriating points stemmed from the fact was that I know better than this. First, only a complete novice would stick a fat wallet in a rear, unzipped or otherwise protected pocket in a city like this and expect anything less. Knowing what to do is one thing, actually doing the obvious while tired is a whole different thing. I still have problems reconciling the fact that no matter how tired I was, I simply knew better.

The second thing that to this day, a few years later that chaps my ass is that I actually apologized to the actual thief. I can clearly picture him splitting the cash and cards with accomplices as I am sure there were a few, and giggling not over the amount of money and cards, but the fact I actually apologized to him as he was taking my possessions. “stupid American, maybe next time he will thank us too.” There wont be a next time dirt bag. I hope 🙂

So when I was not on the phones for long hours with banks and credit card companies blocking all charges (and there were already many piling up out there) except for the hotel that swiped the card, I had to find things to do in an around Bangkok, with only 200 baht (basically $6US) for another few days until more funds arrived through my bank to a Western Union.

First of all, thank God I was in one of the cheapest cities in the World to get by on basically nothing. If I ate, and got my water from the hotel with the card on file, I really didn’t need any money walking around with my camera as much as with many other places I have been. In fact, if I woke up early enough, as I did the next few mornings, I could see the streets, quietly and with out the crowds and possible see Thailand for what it really is; a place where hard work and family values is revered as paramount and the people friendly and of course visit the amazing Wats (Temples) the Buddhist monks all attended to pray each day.

I walked with one particular group of monks before the sun rose as they collected alms through out the streets before they headed to the temples and prayed for World Peace amongst other chantings. The elders were gracious to allow me to watch, listen, learn and photograph them from them as long as I stayed respectful and did into interfere. Store keepers and early shoppers (all Thai) for food and flowers showed such compassion and reverence for each barefooted, orange cloaked monk old or young, and gave something for them to use for that day and in return were further blessed.

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As I listened to the low hypnotic, reverberating chanting in Wat Arun and the sun began to rise in the sacred place they also call the Temple of Dawn, an incredible sense of peace swept through me as I realized that I most likely would not be here unless I got ripped off. The initial plan was to hop on a train and head down to Pucket and on the first ferry to get to one of those beautiful islands surrounded by the warm, emerald Adaman Sea.

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As a Christian, it felt like such an honor to be invited with a smile into someone else house of worship with out judgement and as if I was just one of them and with complete acceptance. The monks were benevolent, friendly and had their own sense of humor especially with the kids I adored. To witness all of this in an amazing temple artfully built sometime back in 1656AD before relocated on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River a few hundred years later was almost overwhelming. More so, I had the entire place including the grounds to myself. The gates did not even open to the normal tourist until 8am as I just slipped in with my new pals both mornings. By then, I was gone…Image

Then I prepared myself for the long walk back and visited other hot spots along the way, like the Giant Reclining Buddha one has to see in person to actually believe as it is so big. Al the while no retuning warm smiles to the locals who I am sure were not used to seeing westerns up so early it the morning here. But that’s just a guess. I know I did not see any.

The real point of all of this and the revelation I made here and now take with me every place I go can serve as a great tool for anyone who travels and things don’t go as planned.

Just because my own stupidity led me down the wrong path I regret, I have to own it and not blame anyone but myself. Doing so, wont allow the incident to take ahold of my ability to enjoy this trip the way it as meant; with an open heart.

As soon as this little internal conversation concluded, I was walking down a very wide sidewalk outside the high walls of another Temple I did not know much about. It was just about 8 am and my entire day was a complete success. But there was a shifty looking Thai man somewhere in his 50’s, who I noticed on the other side of this walkway headed my way who kind of switch lanes which ultimately would lead us into each other if i stayed the course. I didn’t. I put my head down and kind of meandered to the other side of the walkway and when I looked back up to gauge where this guy was, he was suddenly right there in front of me..

My guard was still up as one camera over my shoulder was clear for everyone to see and the bag behind me obviously packed with lots of other goodies was revealed as the straps pulled the front of my shoulders back. The article I read on the airplane over about the tuk tuk drivers ripping tourist off and should be avoided at all cost was not helping me here as they were buzzing by every were I walked.

So I am now literally face to face with this guy who I felt 100 yrds or so back was eye balling me for God knows what. I began to move to the side to let him by. He smiled this big smile (for the life of me, I cant remember his name, but could never forget the big gap in his teeth as he smiled) and asked how I was doing.

Here we go; right?

What am I going to say to this goofball to just make him go away and not be rude about it. So I said I was just fine and headed back to my hotel to unpack and catch a train.

Now anyone who knows how to avoid someone will be scratching their head at this knowing this is way too much info to give a stranger who I think is about to roll me, or try to. But something funny happened to me in the middle of my reply which made me elaborate just a bit more than I would have. I repelled my initial sense about this guy almost by strong-arming the feeling right out of me..I reminded myself of my pledge not to allow the stolen wallet change my outlook and strip me of whole purpose here.

I added that it was a tough day and a half in Bangkok, and told him what happened after he asked why in decent english, but a thick local accent. He asked me if I had seen a few of the sites like Wat In, Wat Saket and rattled off 3 other places, to which I said I had I had not. Also unfortunately there wasn’t enough time as the train was leaving in 3.5 hours to head to the islands. I also added that I was also out of money as well and could not take a cab to those places and pay for it except for a few Baht left over.

He then took the paper I had in my hand and wrote down a list of 5 places and underneath it wrote 50 Baht. He handed the paper back to me and the always universal proclamation of “No Problem” slipped out on cue and he smiled again and said I could see them all in a few hours as they were pretty close.

Before I could say no, as my head was now swirling and I was actually considering dong this, he whistled for a random Tuk Tuk who sped over and stopped abruptly with a screech. He gave the paper to the driver and talked to him in Thai for me. After a few points and head nods, they both looked at me and waved me over. Are you kidding me? 50 Baht or $1.50 US to be chaffered all over the city to visit and explore these sites and then dropped back at the hotel. Hell, the gas cost more.

I gripped the camera bag a little tighter, took a few steps and hopped aboard. I shook the mans hand and thanked him, still not 100% convinced if this was legit or a scam. Maybe the fact I outweighed them both together give me a false sense of bravado, but I felt safe, never the less.

The driver bolted off into the traffic and I looked back at that man who was standing there watching us leave and waving bye. Good deed done for the day?

As the driver pulled up to the first place “the Gold Mount” I began to fully understand that the benevolence of this little strange man back on the sidewalk was sincere. Although he went out of his way to connect with me as I did the opposite. He reached out as a friend & I wondered if I was going to get jumped. By the time he smiled to say hello, I began to think in a completely different way. In short He was one of my many life-teachers on this day. And he did his job well.

The images I got from these place are to me so special in so many ways the best I’ve ever taken. The freedom I felt to snap each shot was an exercise in gratitude for getting so close to the very things in life that have always been out of reach in the past. It’s amazing what an open heart and a little well placed trust can do.

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I will admit there were a few narrow side streets or alleys we raced down between destinations. My eyes were frantically scanning the darker corners and I was on alert, but soon we were back out into the sun and busier streets and to the next stop.

In the end, the driver delivered me to all the places and allowed me to take as much time as I needed to soak on the site and take photos from every conceivable angle. He said virtually nothing, but smiled at every chance (which is yet another reason to travel and get out of Dodge from time to time. Allow yourself to smile, say hello to perfect strangers and have the sentiment returned in a visceral, natural and unstrained easy way. When was the last time walking the streets of LA, NY or any big city in the US and 

have your smile returned to you with a stone faced expression as if you had the Alien Squid monster laying an egg down your face?)

Pick a destination that you’ve always wanted to go see and learn more about. Find a friend if you can to go along (harder than you think), or just go alone and explore. Feel the excitement or in other worlds LIFE surge through your veins as the familiar becomes very unfamiliar and take a calculated chance or two and learn something deeper about your self in the process..

Here are just a few more images from a few hours that morning..All of which would not have been memories for me at all, unless I gathered my emotions and channelled the bad energy out of me due to one bad incident. There was only time to own it, then make the absolute best of it..

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Sunset for Allison

 

This is a bit old, but keeps me focussed on why I love what I do so much..Every once in a while it’s helps to read how we once were and thought..This one I will read from time to time jut to keep me on track..

 

 

Dec 12, 2006

 

My legs were somewhat sore from a rather ambitiously paced 13 mile run earlier in the day. The couch felt so good as I propped them up and settled to watch the MLB playoffs and curse the Yankees even before the first pitch was thrown. I was in no hurry to go anywhere fast.. The late afternoon is also the favorite time in my house as the low sun glows through the front windows and throws long golden rays of warmth across the wood floor and catching all the glitters from miscellaneous shiny object in its way. It’s the warmest my house is all day from ambient light and the living room is my favorite place to be.

 

Something though kept telling me to keep a watchful eye on the sky as there may be a special sunset due to light cloud cover. I also had some other things on my mind and the beach at night is a good place to see them for what they are worth a little clearer. As the sun sank and the streaks of filtered light crawled deeper in to the dining room I began to get real fidgety. My legs were happily off the ground but the rest of me was unsettled…I said screw it, “it’s only the Yankees” and grabbed my camera and hoped in the car. Besides I knew it would be my last chance to catch the ocean sunset before my trip to the Netherlands the next day.

 

There are a few places I like to go to shoot pictures of the sunset here in the South Bay, but for some reason, also beyond me I took a drive through a never ending stream of stop lights and signs to get to South Redondo vs the straight shot I had to Manhattan Beach Pier…I also parked up on the ocean side of Catalina Ave. and the only significance there was that just on the other side of the street it was free parking and I would not have needed to dump several quarters in the meter for the time I would need.. For some reason tonight I could not be bothered with the few extra steps even though the shots I wanted were down the long set of stairs and down the beach a way. 

 

The air was clear and there were enough low clouds to give me the colors I look for on the really good nights for shots that are a bit more than special. I was able to corral a few images I liked down below at ocean level and the melted into the horizon. A sailboat even gave me the prototypical sailboat in the sun shot. I decided to head back up top to watch the glow change the colors from a higher perspective and shoot until the light was gone.

 

After the sky was relegated to the very last whispers of red veins across an otherwise lifeless sky, I began to slowly walk to my car. It was at this time a car pulled up behind me. There was a woman driving and she looked panicked and began to ask me something through a half opened window. She proceeded to park right where I was walking so I stuck my head in the window as I could not hear her, but could see that she was visibly upset. There were no tears, but there was something wrong.

 

She asked if I had seen the sunset and took pictures of it. She proceeded to tell me how she had tried to get down here on time but just couldn’t make it. I slowed her down and told her I had her covered and that I got a few decent shots. She went onto tell me that I must think she’s really strange and I told her she had no idea who I have in my life already and that strange is a relative term. She half smiled and went on to tell me that her daughter’s favorite thing was the sunset at the beach.

 

A chill went down my spine as the word  “was” the only one that suddenly mattered here. 

 

She proceeded to tell me “today’s her birthday” and she died seven months ago. If there was anyway I could send her a few shots….  I stopped her mid sentence and told her she could have all of them if she wanted and that I’d send them to her before I left for Europe in a low-res format and the hi-res images would be ready for her when I got back on a disk.

 

She continued to thank me and I had to almost stop her again so I could thank her. However exactly it was I got to this exact spot to be available for her, was truly an honor and the reason life keeps me feeling like there is so much more going on than we know. 

 

Photography has already given me so many gifts back that I can never truly put into words. To be able to help memorialize a person I have never met and help keep Allison’s spirit alive in this way is the truly the pinnacle for me. To whatever degree I make it as a photographer in my life, I am pretty sure the few simple shots I took tonight will be the ones I am most thankful for.

 

As she drove away, I walked up the car and took one last look at the sky…There was one last streak of pink all alone across the horizonImage

 

Call me crazy, but I couldn’t help but wonder….

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It’s Free! And it doesn’t hurt at all

I still clearly and fondly remember a trip I took Ecuador a few years back. The country had the most spectacular scenery from miles up in the sky, framed by the Andes to the cool blue-green pools deep under the Pacific Ocean, exploring the depths of the Galapagos. There was never a shortage of breathtaking scenery and great photo ops at each turn. However, the most profound memory I brought home and one that still remains with me even to this day was one the simplest of gestures and the easiest one to pass along with out breaking your stride in the least bit.  It may seem simple and a bit trivial, but the unsolicited smiles from the locals really made a real impact on me. It really opened my eyes to where I live full time and how much I can acclimate to any environment; even one full of grumpy people.

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The cost is of course absolutely nothing, except for the brief acknowledgement that someone outside our own little World is relevant, even if only for a brief moment. Yet for some reason it ‘s such a rare commodity here back at home, and one rarely given with out pretension.  It’s amazing what a simple yet, genuine and warm smile can do when it comes from out of the blue. I reference Ecuador and can easily add China, Thailand, Ireland as well in my attempt to describe why or how Peru is had the same affect on me. Even though they share borders with Ecuador and it would seem possible for these borders to be more transparent, they do not do so with the far east and in Europe..So obviously is not  a geographical phenomenon, it become more increasingly a larger perspective which coincidently enough comes from the people who in social circles possess less. Less material things, that is and by no means less emphasis of enjoying life.

This kind of basic and genuine form of communication breaks so many boundaries and is universally understood no matter how terrible the foreign language skills are from a particular location. In China, I went with out a single word in my language-bank so even to say a simple greeting was a challenge at first. However, when armed with enough enthusiasm, confidence in my ability to act out on the spot charades, or draw a quick picture; ultimately I managed just fine with a very open mind and a self defacing, yet genuine smile. Every time it was returned to me and usually with the help or direction I needed. I was forced to interact with people at every turn, which s not a strong point of mine. But for some reason, (possible desperation,) I did so just fine. I think it had more to do with the fact that the people were so accommodating towards helping me.

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One of my little guardian angels “Sunny” who helped me find my place after a 22 hr train ride and a 2 hour bus trip only to get completely turned around.

So much like Ecuador and China, Peru offered a better base for my ability to communicate with my 2nd grade level spanish, but once again the thing I take home with me, more than the beautiful coastline of Miraflores, the greenness and grandeur of the Sacred Valley and of course the jaw dropping spectacle that is Machu Pichu, is once again the warmth of the people and the brightness and sincerity of their smiles.

Whether it be the smallest child, or the oldest person we met, there is an acknowledgement that you are in their realm and more than that are welcome there. Even the taut’s or any number of people selling a number of items on the street are polite and have a thank you followed by a genuine smile even if there is no sale made. It just seems to be in their DNA to be gracious and polite. Weird, huh?

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This man rode into town every day to sell Sugar Cane..Every day, I saw him he wore this smile with out fail

I guess, the main reason I really continue to run out to parts of the World that especially more provincial is to get a sense of hope and perspective that there’s still places where the pace of life is just slow enough to understand how quick this ride we’re on truly is. It kind of validates the struggle I have wanting this life to go on longer so I can experience more of it and simply expand my horizons intellectually, empathetically and of course spiritually. A place where complete strangers can pass you on a street you have never been on, look you dead in our eyes, extend a big smile simply to say hello and have a nice day. There is no other meaning behind it, yet it warms the heart completely and connects us all. It also makes me wonder why its not like this back home where I live in a beach town, full of people who have life by the literal balls and don’t deal with the day to day life and death struggles simply to to stay fed that I see and meet every time I jump on or off a plane.

It also makes me wonder who the truly rich and blessed people are and who are really the less fortunate ones. Generalizing does nothing in this country except make people crazy and force them to pick out the 1 or 2 people they know or heard of to dispel that particular “myth.” This is also not anywhere close to a commentary on a truly capitalistic vs social conservative perspective. I can easily separate the facts that one has nothing to do with the other and ease the ideas that begin from the top down. It appears to me that many of us have lost the idea that begins at the the bottom and grows up and then out. Maybe we all forget where we came from, or where our parents and how their parents have struggled to get us to where we are. Although we are now living in a society that does stress a sense of self entitlement, I’m still not buying the fact that we can not rediscover our foundations we once embraced and get back to being the best country in the World’s history to live in. I am constantly reminded that with a little humility, hard work and servitude to the family and neighborhoods we live in, I won’t constantly be coming home to a place that has lost its warm smile.

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Quechan woman with her Llama in the Sacred Valley, Peru

I am always packing my bags before every trip with the intent of finding extremes of emotions and experiences in usually remote and hard to reach places.  I usually find what I’m looking for as I remain intrepid in that task, but what strikes me the most is the people I meet along the way and how someone who I meet for a total of a minute or two can impact my life as profoundly as many people I have known for years.

Coming home is always a mixture of excitement and a bit of contrition. Most times I come home and spend days in the house trying to acclimate to seeing all the same old robotic and lifeless faces in the cars to my left and right. Sometimes a little walk around the neighborhood, can be a good ice breaker.

I believe to truly understand why we are all in this place in our hearts and souls we simply need to look in the mirror. It starts each day and the second we get out of bed, whether we do just our little part to make someone else feel present, welcome, loved, wanted or just acknowledged. If we are waiting for a larger Leviathan (the kind Thomas Hobbs once described) to tell us what and how to do it, then it’s just going to be too late.

So here is a little photographic tribute of thanks to so many of those beautiful and warm smiles I was on the lucky end of and that continue to help me understand that we are all indeed connected, for better or worse.

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Definition of two old wise men, who also happened to be genuinely nice. By the Gold Mount Temple in Bangkok, Thailand

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The front desk clerks at our hotel in Lima who we actually spent some quality personal time with their families during our stay, including diner at their house

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One of my favorite Inn Keepers in Yanghsuo, China..Was actually hard leaving this guy when it came time to go

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Fresh fruit vendor in Thailand..Met this woman every am helping her pull a cart that a water buffalo may struggle with to her spot over a huge hill

2012-03-13 at 12-44-52