Wrapped In My National Flag

Now and then my memory for one reason or another goes back to something that happened to me a couple of decades ago as I was spending seven months backpacking overland and water through India.

Kerala-Backwaters-on-Houseboat

The previous day I had booked myself on a slow moving four day boat trip through Kerala’s backwaters from Cochin to Quilon. and at eight AM I was picked up at my hotel by a mini van half full of European travelers. As was most always the case in my time traveling through India, the other foreigners were all very friendly, open, and welcoming to one another. We introduced ourselves as we continued onwards to pick up more travelers.

I find that the harder to travel a country is, the closer fellow adventurers seem to get with one another, maybe it is some sort of survival mechanism, and this part of India was indeed a very hard place to travel in.

As the van continued to pick people up, each new member was happily greeted. At one part during the trip as the van was getting full of people and bags, a couple of us had to move into the back area of the van, behind the last seat on the floor, and the bags were piled up in front of us. Everything was going routinely on schedule until the next pickup at another hotel.

God-Spills-Assholes

Mistakes Happen

For some reason this middle aged couple who we came to pick up, found the task of giving the bags to the driver and sitting down in their eagerly awaiting seats, too difficult for them. They were very upset about something, I am not sure if they expected a limousine, or helicopter for the price they paid, but they did not seem to be satisfied with the van. They were busy arguing about the money they paid, and that the van was late, not just with the driver but one of the hotel employees as well. I would assume they had the same ticket we all had, with the price of about forty dollars, for the entire four day trip including a place to sleep and the boat, stamped right on the ticket.

They were arguing in English in a North American accent of some sort, and as a good five minutes went by, a small group of locals started to gather around to see what all this noise was about, the couple seemed to be having some sort of meltdown, perhaps traveling in India was too much for them, it is too much for many. This rude couple was even stooping so low as to point out the flaws in the English the people who were trying to serve them were using. In this part of India, English was their third language after Karnatakan and Hindi.

I am amazed at how patient the Indians can be most of the time, in a lot of countries I visited, individuals would have gotten aggressive back at the rude, loud and aggressive foreigners after such an extended period of time, it would have even escalated to violence in most places, but here it was treated with continued patience.

After what I would assume was ten minutes a Danish girl on our bus was the first to lose patience and shouted to them, “Why don’t you just get a refund, and let the rest of us go?!”

Banksy Feed The World Shirt

Arguing About Forty Dollars For Four Days

I doubt at this point any one of us wanted to spend four days on the boat with these Idiots. The couple quieted down, gave the bags to the driver, and finally got in the van. The bags were taken by the driver to the back of the van, and placed right in front of me…I was shocked…because on these two backpacks, sewn into them, similar to the way I had done myself, were Canadian flags. What embarrassment I felt, how ashamed I was of this.

I kept in mind that they may not be Canadians at all, what I found traveling around Asia in the mid 90s was that most people that claim they are Canadian, once you get to know them are actually Americans draping themselves in our flag thinking they will be more welcomed as they travel, this was the norm at this time, and may still be. Normally this false identity did not bother me because the majority of Americans I was meeting doing this were acting politely enough at the time that I would have welcome them to use our identity.

I shouted to the front of the van “Where in Canada are you guys from?”

The man replied “Vancouver” (this just happens to be my hometown.)

“Oh yeah, where in Vancouver are you from?” I asked them.

They paused for a bit and said “The main part”. “The main part” is not an answer any true Vancouverite would give, we separate Vancouver into either North Van, East Van, The West End, Kits or many other specific parts, and of course most people that say they are from Vancouver are actually from the surrounding suburbs…none of us are from “The Main Part”, highly suspicious. Maybe they could be from Vancouver, I mean Canada is not completely devoid of assholes after all.

Stephen Harper Touched By God

I Didn’t Vote For Him

It is not  just our southern neighbors who occasionally piggyback on our “honorable” nationality, sometimes posing as us as they traveled, sometimes pushing a Canadian puppet forward into the international media as an attempt bring trust to an agenda so shady they can not simply promote it themselves, but people of other nationalities also try to benefit from our perceived honor, many internet scammers also pretend they are Canadians, for instance most “Canadian Online Pharmacies” are not actually owned by Canadians, nor are they selling Canadian made pharmaceuticals, again they just drape themselves in our flag and pretend to be Canadian. Some international criminals also tend to hire Canadian lawyers to represent them at things such as human rights tribunals hoping that it might help their case. Quite often on internet forums, some people also pretend they are Canadian for some strange reason, particularly during debates on the US medical system, telling either false horror stories of how the Canadian medical system works, or over emphasizing the rare occasions where things do go wrong. Canada’s honorability on the international stage has diminished greatly over the last couple of decades, not just because of the many false Canadians, but also sadly because some of our recent Canadian politicians have not exactly been the best people…we have some things to be ashamed of already without all the fake Canadians to bring us down further.


Robin Williams Singing Blame Canada by farzaneh182

Now back to my story:

To the shock of the German guy who was sitting beside me on the van floor in the back, I reached into my pocket and pulled out a knife, I then moved it over to the flag on the bag, and as I began to pick out the stitches he smiled and nodded at me, so for the next few minutes as we drove I picked out every last stitch that held that flags on, then took the flags and put them safely in my pocket for later disposal. I didn’t know if they were Canadians or not, but I sure as hell wasn’t going to let them travel the world representing where I come from. They are nothing like the types of people I like to be associated with.

I would assume the rude couple had felt our ill feelings towards them, because after our twenty minute drive to the docks was over, there was relief in the air, as the couple decided not to take the boat trip with us after all, and instead took a taxi off to go spread their misery elsewhere.

People who travel are not only guests in a foreign country, but also representatives of where they come from. Not only were these two spreading to the people of India the idea that Canadians are assholes, but also to all the other foreigners they met. If you do not have any sort of respect for others, as these two did not, please just stay in your own damn country rather than spreading your assholery around the planet, and if they were Canadian after all, which they may have been, then on behave of Canada, I apologize for the assholes we sometimes produce. I just could not let them continue their travels wrapped in my national flag.


The Above Clip Features American Actor Matthew Segal, Wearing A Canadian Flag.

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A Very Inexpensive Way To Travel

A lot of people ask me, how I can afford to travel all the time. The truth is I am not amazingly wealthy, I just don’t spend very much, and save constantly for my next vacation. When I do travel I usually take buses, trains or local boats, and try to avoid expensive transport such as airplanes and cruise ships as much as I can.

Traveling is actually very inexpensive, as long as you can walk, you can travel.

I found out recently though I may have been doing it all wrong, Cathy Barnette from the Today Now show has some travel advice that really would have saved me a lot of money in my life.

I wish I had thought of this.

Different Priorities

Almost two decades ago, I veered sharply away from the track that hosts the rat race, and started to cut my own paths. Nobody really understood why I did it, and some people feel they can no longer relate to me because of it.

Back in 1994, when I was 22 years old, my financial life was going pretty well, I already owned most of my fully furnished 1200 sq foot, 8th floor condo overlooking both a National Park, and the city of Calgary. I had just become the corporate sales trainer for an international electronics company, a job which included the responsibility of hiring, firing, and training about 150 people at any one time.  I was on track for a $60,000 income that year already, but on a recent business trip to Los Angeles, stock options had just been offered to me, as well as a substantial raise. The real serious money was about to come rolling in.

The beginning of my corporate life was like sitting down to play the first two levels of a video game I had been anticipating for quite some time, only to discover it was just too easy for me to invest any more of my time in. As far as I was concerned at that moment, I had already proven to myself that I was going to win the game. The constant business trips eventually became boring to me. Though the meetings were all in different restaurants and cities, I was always meeting with the same people usually we would order the same things, talk about the same business, and have the same discussions after too many of the same drinks.

I decided it was time for me to step out of the rat race for a bit, and try and live a more interesting life than I was living. Making money, talking about how to make more money, training people, and in general just getting the business done was pretty boring after a while. My father had worked very hard until the day he died, and I did not want this to happen to me.

Before I could quit my job, I decided I should sell all my stuff, so I proceeded to sell my condo and car, big screen TVs, my CD and movie collection, my couch, my stereo systems, my dresser, microwave, coffee machine, waffle maker, dinner table, pots, pans, plates, knives, forks, spoons, phones, my bed, bedsheets, and even my towels.

With everything I had accumulated with my five years of productive work since I had left my childhood home turned into cash I was able to buy my backpack, quit my job, and begin my travels.

I bought a one way ticket to India. Why India? you might ask. A very well travelled friend who had hired me at the electronics firm originally had recommended it to me, of course by this time he had actually become one of my employees, but he was still a friend, and wasn’t resentful of me moving up so fast.

One night in a restaurant as we discussed my trip to India over steak and beer, some woman at another table, chose to interrupt us just to tell us that India was a horrible place and asked us why would we go there. We asked her if she had been and she said “No”. I chose to ignore her.

Kovalam India 94

Kovalam Beach In India

India was amazing, I could type story after story here about things that I saw in India, did in India, and experienced in India that are probably well beyond most peoples imagination. So I will skip that for now, but will give a few reasons why India was the best place I have ever been, of course I could also give you the same amount of reasons why it was the worst, but here I will just add the best.

I love beaches, I love waves, and surfing, I love snorkeling and scuba diving and India has the longest coastline in the world, the beaches are incredibly beautiful and usually almost completely unspoilt. It has the oldest cities in the world, with the oldest temples in the world in it. It of course has jungles, deserts, and the Himalayas are the highest mountain range in the world. An amazing history of being the birthplace of most of the major religion in the world. The first churches and temples of every major religion, always seem to be in India. Every jungle topped hill you can climb in India, has a view of ancient temples, stupas, churches, mosques, castles and fortresses, most of which are older than Western written history. It was a fantastic trip, I was present at many astounding parties with thousands of westerners in some amazing places, no one could ever understand without going there.

Hampi India 95

Hampi India in 1995

Ten months into my first trip, I returned to my home country of Canada for my brothers wedding, I had suffered a nasty parasitic infection called giardia in India that nearly killed me, I lost a third of my body mass, and looked almost like a walking skeleton, my short business haircut had grown ungroomed and uncut for almost a year. I tried to tame the hair for my brothers wedding, which had caused it to look really horrible. I guess I didn’t look as much like a winner as I did before I went traveling to at least some people. At the wedding one of my brothers friends came up to me, and said, “Why did you leave it all man? You had everything? ”

“Why did you leave it all man? You had everything? “

I didn’t know what to say to him, he had just finished university studying commerce, and I guess to him I was on a path to having everything he wanted before I left, namely Money.

I said “Everything man? I had nothing.”

I didn’t know what else I could have said, where would I start to explain to him that a life of working under fluorescent lights, and having only slight variations of the same experiences every day was not a life at all. Without the freedom to do what I wanted and go where I wanted 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, it is just an existence.

I could not write a book about the life I used to have, but the life I have now I could.

Obviously my money could not last me forever, so I often need to work, I returned to my home country in Canada to make a living two times. Although I was able to make good money again, I was not really able to adapt back into life under fluorescent lights. I preferred working in Japan, Korea, and Thailand, although the lighting is pretty much the same, being a stranger in a strange land is always exciting.

I am blessed that I can now work on this website and write for this blog for a living. I enjoy it. I am happy. The best thing about my current job, even though I am not writing about where I am, this particular article has been written during my travels to three different countries, I have been sitting in Kuala Lumpur for part of it, another part I was on a white sandy beach on Ko Samet Island in Thailand with my son, and part of it was written on the edge of the Mekong river in Lao where I sat and enjoyed a meal as the sun set over lush green tropical Asia.

I don’t make a lot of money doing this, I have to take the second class train, and buses where ever I go, but at least I am going somewhere. This to me is more important that being some rich corporate big wig.

I mentioned to a good friend of mine what my brother’s friend had asked me about “Giving it all up”, and he said to me something that seemed to explain the situation completely.

He said “You and him just have different priorities, that’s all.”

Maybe he was right, maybe that is all it is, just different priorities.

I have traveled a lot since then, seen a lot of things, and taken a lot of pictures, these are two of my favorites.

Mentawin People of Siberute 1995

Mentawin of Siberute

Khmer Jungle Temple Angkor Cambodia 1995

Khmer Jungle Temple Angkor Cambodia

Ladies First

I was out getting some products for the website the other day, and at one point was standing for quite a while waiting for a busy elevator to take me down a few floors. Ahead of me, among a dozen or so other hopeful waiters, were two Arabian looking  gentlemen speaking quietly to each other in their traditional white robes with the traditional white cotton sheet and band on their heads.

After a while a lady came up from behind us, and proceeded to push in front of the fifteen or so other people waiting for the elevator, all the way to the front of the line. After she got right up to the door, she turned back towards the two Arab gentlemen and said “Ladies first”.

WTF Ladies first? What about all the other women waiting before her? Are they not considered ladies or something? Beyond the fact she was not the only lady there, why should she go before the polite guys that were waiting in line, such as myself? Is she really that special? And then to top it off she speaks rudely to the  two Arabs, WTF is that about, did she think that all Arabs repress their women, so she had to  teach the two quiet guys a lesson in manners or something ?

How can someone so rude, ignorant, sexist, and obviously racist teach manners to anyone?

The elevator came, and we all fit in, so the budging did not seem to help her in any way.

As we were standing in the elevator, this “lady” then proceeded to flash a friendly smile at me, we were two white skinned people in Asia after all, and that would normally make us comrades, she was a nice looking blond, in her early 20’s, but I  turned my head away and did not give her a smile back, a person that acts so rude while pretending to teach people manners, is not someone I need to get to know any further.

Speaking of rude ladies that think they should go first, check out this video of a lady at a turnstile that pushes a man out of the way, and gets taught a lesson from the guy she pushed.

The guy is not my hero. I don’t like him any more than the rude lady. Just goes to show though what happens when two uncaring rude jerks run into one another.

Beach Beyond The Guide Books

A Little Bit of Asian Heaven

My Hidden Beautiful Secluded Island Beach Near Cambodia

I have just spent the last two days traveling in South East Asia  by buses, trucks, then boats, 4×4 and finally hiking, to a nice island beach very near the Cambodian border. I would like to be more specific but unfortunately, paradise found and shared with the general public soon becomes paradise lost.

This location is not for everyone, the only accommodation available, are simple wooden huts, featuring only a mosquito net and a bed. There are no bathrooms or showers in the rooms, no electricity, no Internet connections, and unfortunately no place to plug in and charge up my laptop. Still though the view is nice for $8 US per night.

I came here to write, but as the power remaining clock ticks away on my laptop, now at 51 minutes, I realize I probably won’t be able to write very much.

This place is not yet in the Lonely Planet, and although Google Earth does of course show the location. You can not find it yet by name.

I would encourage anyone traveling, to try and really  get away from it all sometimes, to far out and away locations like this. I have sometimes been the only person at a place that you might think was the most amazing place in the world.

In order to find a place like this of course you will need to know where to go. The best way is to get a Lonely Planet guide book, and start looking for areas where it seems the road has stopped and no locations are listed beyond it.This is your launching off point. Almost always the “last” hotels will have a small tourist centre, offering boat rides, 4×4 or safari tours that will take you beyond the guide books.

View From The Beach.

No Need For Umbrellas When You Have Trees.

These are not the secluded place a travel agent would offer, these are truly secluded places, far beyond the newspapers and or most television shows. They have no phone lines, or cell phones or Internet connections to even make a booking if you wished to.

You must bring backpacks, not suitcases, with everything you need, and only what you need, often hiking is involved, and suitcases are just not very good on long dirt hikes. If you are really feeling adventurous bring a tent. I would also recommend bringing a knife, lighter, some flashlights, and medical supplies.

This particular beach is not quite as secluded as some places I have been, for instance one time I lived for just over a week with just my girlfriend, on a tropical island with nothing more than a tent, hammocks, matches and some fishing line. Thankfully the fishing boat did not forget to pick us up, as our cell phones were out of range to call for any help. I wouldn’t encourage any risk taking whatsoever if you are in completely secluded a place like that, minor injuries can actually kill you if you are not careful before your week or so is up.

I found out from experience, I enjoy having things like restaurants to serve me when I vacation, so I don’t generally get really lost too much these days, besides meeting at least a few other travelers each day is often the best part of the trip.

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