Archive for July, 2004

My clothes, both clean and dirty, are all over my floor. I’ve gone to a “stylish” half-shaven look because it is more convenient. My bathroom isn’t quite dirty, but it ain’t clean either.

After I open a beer bottle I leave the cap on the floor because I can’t be bothered to put it in the trash. The floor is running out of space. I no longer iron my shirts….not that I did a good job even when I tried.

I used to eat a nice calm dinner every night….a bowl of soup and a salad and a book. I’d sit for a good 45 minutes and relax after work. Now I eat fast food….literally because it is faster.

I keep telling myself I’m gonna get my air conditioner fixed. The compressor isn’t broken; it’d be cheap to fix. I just can’t seem to get over there to drop the car off.

I have many great theories that I’ve been cultivating for years about what this state of affairs will eventually do to a person. And I’ve started writing a few entries on all that….I just can’t seem to get them finished.

I even happened to spend a day with an endocrinologist last week and talked to her about that the constant high octane lifestyles we now live.

It will literally kill you. Luckily, all our friends are doing it too, so we don’t much notice how irritable it makes us, nor will we notice how much it shortens our lives….since all our friends will be dying early too.

Oddly enough, it is completely sustainable…made moreso the busier you become. The more stuff you have to do, the less time you have to reflect on whether it is what you really want to do.

I’ve gotta find more hours in the day. Anyone know where to look?

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Someone is bombing my website with spam through the “comments” function.

The website will be getting an overhaul this week to prevent this. It may happen that you have to login to post a comment from now on.

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— Selina Peng wrote:
From: “Selina Peng”
Subject: hello again
Date: Thu, 08 Jul 2004 00:51:35 +0800

hi elliott, u probly wont remember me, i emailed you a few months ago when i stumbled upon ur website it was just before my backpacking trip and u said to keep in touch and let u know how my trip went,

Yes, I remember you.

well at least i think you did anyway ive got 15 mins left on this computer and i suddenly thought of your site which i hadn´t read in a long time so right now i am in barcelona, ive been in europe for 8 weeks now and have one left to go, ill be flying to rome for the grand finale its all been rather amazing and bewildering at the same time,

It always is. Sometimes you love it and sometimes you hate….but you always miss it.

i always wonder how i will respond when i get home to questions like “so selina, how was it?” i dont think i can think of one or even two words to describe the whole thing

I don’t like talking about travel most of the time. People always ask me, “What’s your favorite place?” How are you supposed to answer that question????

That’s like asking about someone’s life and saying, “So how is it, you know, life…in general…the whole thing??”

Sadly, it has become a sore spot over the years. You often feel like an adult telling some kid how much he is gonna miss being a kid when he gets older….you know he isn’t gonna get what you’re saying.

And that is how it is with travel. You can talk about it, but unless someone has done it, it is a bird trying to explain to a fish what it is to fly.

i think the reason why i am emailing u is becos none of my friends have backpacked before and probly would not understand, last night i finally got pickpocketed after 8 weeks of smooth riding and i think its really having a rather large impact on me

i got lazy and careless and lost a lot of money, but not only that i chased and caught one of them (who did not have my wallet any more) and held onto him for about 15mins waiting for the police before he all of a sudden took off anyway

i know it was my own stupidity but i almost wish i had not chased after them cos spending that 15mins looking and screaming at this guy who had just ripped me off more money than i have ever lost, it changes the whole situation

Maybe it does. But you’ll miss it. You’ll think about it. Over time it will just become part of the story, maybe it even makes the story better.

It is part of growing up on the road….a rite of passage for travelers.

maybe its becos it is still so fresh in my mind and i havent had time to deal with it but today was the first time where i felt scared for myself just walking around alone in such a big city

The reality is that traveling can be dangerous. It is romanticized, but fuck….you are far away from everything….things will affect you and they will affect you more because your buffers are not there, your protection is 3000 miles away.

And you will feel alone…in a way you would never have experienced had you not traveled. It stays with you, that lonliness…that ability to bear the lonliness. I’ve felt it a thousand times. It sets you apart.

i loved travelling alone and have felt pretty confident for the last 8 weeks but all of a sudden my confidnece has been completely shattered and i am paranoid about everyone and everything

Ahh… I’m getting nostalgic. You’re getting close to what I miss about it. This is not only why you hate travel, but it is why you do it.

The emotional rollercoaster becomes the signal. The fix that regular life doesn’t offer. One day you are on top of the world….the next day you are literally in a ditch.

It is when you move past normal, move past yourself, and allow life to sweep over you and you feel every single bit of it in a way nothing else will ever allow.

i cant travel like this and all i want is to go home.

I’ve said the same thing a hundred times….even when I wasn’t robbed. You aren’t the only one to feel like that.

Sometimes you look up and wonder, “What the fuck am I doing alone on the other side of the planet? I feel so small.” And at that moment, the feeling is real and sincere.

i didnt mean to write such a big email especially since u dont even know me and i know u have better things to do but i guess i am wondering if anything like this has happened to you and if it changed the way you felt about travelling?

Yes it has happened to me. I’ve been scared many times.

I was robbed too (in Spain as well oddly enough). They took everything….and I mean everything.

I had the clothes on my back and a toothbrush I bought at the store. I started carrying around everything I owned (which was nothing) in a plastic grocery bag. My backpack got stolen. I was a hobo. I had nothing.

My passport is still from the Barcelona Consulate. I went to them and asked for a new one….they asked for ID. I told them it got stolen. They asked for a Social Security card. I told them it was stolen. They asked for a drivers license. I told them it was stolen.

The fuckers didn’t even speak good English (at a US Consulate!!). I thought I was going to start crying…after I killed one of them.

I’ve traveled many times after that though. You become a bit more distrustful perhaps…but lets face it: that may not be a bad thing. It can be dangerous.

i cant have the travel bug and be scared of it at the same time! theres so many more places i want to see ive already started planning my next trip.

Awesome. Go to Turkey. Go to Thailand.

maybe the fear will pass once ive had time to get used to it and stop replaying the whole thing over and over in my mind?

You just become more prepared….maybe prepared to be robbed.

I started packing less stuff. I packed less valuables (my camera is the only valuable thing I take and I am always aware that I might somehow lose it…that is part of the cost of traveling).

I wore a hip belt that kept my passport and cash…..and I fucking took it with me to the shower…and went to bed with it…it was gross and dirty from sweat.

maybe i will stop looking at everyone in the street wondering if they are about to rob me??

I think so. That passes. On the flip side, travel does have an element of danger to it….but that makes it real. Real things have consequences. It ain’t
Disney World…and you shouldn’t treat it as such.

That is part of what makes it great. It is no real accomplishment if there is no real risk.

my time is up, take care hope i didnt bore u too much!!

Bore me?? I get excited when someone else actually understands what I’m talking about.

I wonder sometimes about the people that visit the website and read my posts about travel.

Why do they like about it??? What part of it draws them??….because I know it isn’t the same things that motivate me to write.

Unless you’ve done it, it is extremely difficult to relate to the passions that make me relive it over and over again.

Not that I relive it conciously. It is just always there….a reminder.

And for those other folks out there, don’t misunderstand that it is travel in itself that is something to miss, nor will travel itself change anything for you. To see the Pyramids is a wonderful memory, but it is not the Pyramids that I miss.

It is that lucky circumstance that lets me feel, at some odd moment, what I could never have felt otherwise. In that moment, I have gone beyond myself and raised the standard for what is possible.

“It is the fact that, at a certain moment, when we are far from our own country…we are seized by a vague fear, and an instinctive desire to go back to the protection of old habits…At that moemnt we are feverish but also porous so that the slightest touch makes us quiver to the depths of our being. We come across a cascade of light, and there is eternity.” –Albert Camus

Good travels,


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Here is an interesting article about one of my favorite subjects: the evolution of the concept of happiness.

Here is the link to the Journal of Happiness Studies, if you have a whole afternoon to waste.

Here is a link to an article by Martin Seligman at He is a bit of a celebrity in the field of happiness studies.

And actually, is a great website, though not as great as the Arts and Letters Daily, which is my favorite site on the Internet (that doesn’t have free porn).

While we are on the topic of the, this article is incredibly interesting.

Before this I always instictively knew that there had to be a good and logical explanation for why the white man rules the world. And I knew it wasn’t because of any inherent superiority. That just never made good sense to me. I knew it was cultural. I just didn’t know how it all started.

Now I can say it was because of cows, weather and the luck of geography.

Some of you might be thinking, “Do I actually read all this crap??” The answer is yes.

But is seems I’m in the minority. Reading is a dying art. That is sad because if it disappears entirely I might actually have to do something, instead of just reading about doing it.

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Alarm at 7:40. I hit snooze twice and wish I were dead for about 10 minutes. During this first ten minutes of every day I would gladly trade everything I have, and lots of stuff I would have to steal, for an extra 10 minutes in bed. Luckily no one is ever around to make an offer.

Then I scrounge around for some clothes that aren’t dirty and wrinkled, always reminding myself to iron some stuff for the next day…which I never do. I do the hygiene thing and I’m out the door by 8:15.

At work I make coffee first thing, always putting in a few extra tablespoons of grounds, telling myself that I only make it that thick on days that I’m extra tired…which is everyday.

I got a request from the powers that be telling me to remove the coffee maker from my cubicle. After all, they give us free coffee and Coke products.

Officially, heat generating products are off limits…you know, in case my menacing coffee maker burns down the building. And that is a sound policy I think…..FOR ME TO POOP ON!! (now I put the coffee maker away everyday after I use it instead of leaving it out)

Then I do some work. That takes a long time and never seems to end. When I have too much it makes me frustrated and I work slower. When I have too little I dream of cheap beach property in Central America.

And I deal with people too. Most of the time they are nice. Sometimes they are frustrated too. Each person has their own buttons and telltale signs of stress. The stressed people really aren’t all that bad… is the ones for whom stress has become a way of life that are hard to deal with.

They aren’t stressed anymore. They are just rushed. They’re always rushing. They write terse emails and have short conversations. They back up slowly as they talk to you…unconcious of anything but completing the next task.

Those people get on my nerves, but not because of their attitude. I simply don’t like that. But that they allow their life to get like that and thus perpetuate the more inhuman side of work. I hate that.

At the end of the day I start to get hungry. I stay at work till 5:45 or 6 usually. Sometimes I stay longer, but my mood gets really ill. I need food. So I go out to eat after work and read a book.

I often find it hard to relax. I’m usually exhausted. At lunch I shovel food down my throat as quickly as possible, often times while sitting at my desk still doing work, so that I can get back to my work faster after I’m finished. I fail to see my own logic.

The deadlines do bear down on you though. My client spends about 20 million dollars a year for my company’s services. I don’t think they’d like it if I screwed that up.

So I come home and fight off sleep from 7 to 8 or so. I hate this time of day almost as much as the first ten minutes. I can’t sleep because then I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night, which would make the next day worse. Did I mention I hate this time of day??

So to avoid that I usually play tennis, or go bowling, or drink, or play basketball…or something. Tonight I played tennis for 2 hours.

I try to answer some emails, or at least read them, or at least try to read some of them. Today I got this one from Dean, which made me laugh.


I thought I’d give you a mid-day sanity check. What you’re thinking is right…working for someone else sucks….corporate america sucks….we need to be snorkeling in the Yucatan right now…we need to be the owners of property in Latin America….and most of all we need to make a quick exit from our current jobs before we become corporate robots!



P.S. Tell your boss to stop giving you so much work to do but most of all tell him/her/it to EMA.

Uhh…actually Dean, I wasn’t think that…….BUT THANKS FOR FUCKING REMINDING ME!!!!

After this the day is pretty much over. I go to bed around 11 or so, maybe later, since feeling rested at work is pretty much a waste of a good mood, so being a little tired is ok.

And this is life, mostly. I don’t hate what I do. I have stuff I’m always planning to do, which keeps me from the crippling thought that this may be the rest of my life.

Unfortunately, the day I just described to you doesn’t leave me much time for life maintenance (laundry, cleaning, bills), relationship maintenance (talking to friends and family), nor silly daydreaming (which is all important to my sanity).

I mean, come on….this:

maybe this:

or this:

Don’t I look inspired?

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Before I worked, when I was unemployed, I played basketball almost everyday. I did it because there was nothing else to do. It blew off pent up energy.

Since I was unemployed for a long time, I got in pretty good shape….as fit as I’d been since parts of college…..and that was a long time ago when I was a young lad.

I was afraid when I started work I’d get fat. Working makes you fat from inactivity, fat because you eat for entertainment, and fat because you’re too tired to do anything after you finish it.

All those things are pretty true, even now for me. I do sit all day. I do eat because it is fun…at least at dinner. At lunch and breakfast I’m stuffing my funny little face as fast as I can because I have too much to do. That can’t be healthy. And I am unbelievably tired at the end of the day.

But I still get a lot of exercise…not as much as when I was unemployed or in college, but probably 3 or 4 times a week at an hour and a half a pop.

The reason is because, though work is very inactive, it is also very stressful….there is often so much to do that the only sure fire way to get my mind off it is to get crazy exercise, not just a jog….but the sweat till you’re dehydrated kind of exercise. I’ve been playing a lot of tennis.

Additionally, if I don’t go get exercise, I often have to fight off falling asleep from about 6:30 till 9. That makes me feel like shit.

There is one other sure fire way to get your mind off work. It starts with a B and rhymes with “ear”. If you can’t figure out what it is….then you’ve already had too much of it.

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