Christmas Dayze

Gator-deer in New Orleans
Gator-deer in New Orleans

Christmas Day 02:35 AM. Mérida, Yucatan, Mexico.

I’ve been traveling for four consecutive Christmases now, and each time has been a (third) eye-opening experience. It may seem contradictory but I don’t even miss it.. not when it compares to the ongoing experiment, my tuning-in and dropping-out, expanding thy universe and self-awareness. Questioning culture, the origins of our motivating forces, playing with attachment and detachment, stretching my soul, listening to my heart. Observing what happens on Christmas in other places and homes, or among new acquaintances.

First time, in Nepal, there was no Christmas. On Christmas Eve my three compadres and I were stuck on the border when Cara lost her passport in the neither-zone between India, and preceding that there was no trace of the holiday approaching. It was just another crazy day.

Second time, in New Zealand, I was in the forest at my first Rainbow Gathering. Been there for two weeks already and didn’t even know it was Christmas until very late in the day (Rainbow time!) when I heard a ragtag caroling procession. I recall wishing a Merry Holiday to a few people who each laughed a little, as if choking on my small gift, (like it was a joke.) Rainbowland is pretty non-denominational (except at the US gathering where there were at least three Jesus Camps), but you know what? It was bliss. Just another beautiful day… From my diary:

Merry whoever you want! Xmas music in the woods, breakfast w coffee & eggs at little fire, was gifted the most delicious smoked salt & spices by Rabbit & Maria (Cz girl), Geo. Everyone nudie this morning. Bkfst crcl w Sanae, worked the mud pool, swimming in th creek, chees & Pb&j on crackers snack, shared some mint chocolate & down to the waterfall, up the hill w Sunae. Dinner crcle already, massive. Feasted on rice/salad, Sufi dance & other songs, to bakery for vegan brownies & cookies, laughed a lot w original crew & Katherine. Back to sleep early, 2?!)

Third time, I was studying Spanish language in Sucre, Bolivia, and for once I felt the oncoming holidays in the spring air. Lit-up street decorations glowed twinkly rainbow hues over the town’s signature white-washed stucco, a couple small holiday markets sprung-up, and Santa gave hugs in front of the department store. We had a Christmas party at my language school (where my teacher & I were gifted sexy novelty underwear!) and on Christmas Eve morning I attended my class as usual (+ a tiny bit of weirdness). On the church’s borrowed wifi I video-skyped into Christmas dinner with my family (whose party seemed downright bacchanalian by the slurry sound of it!), then biked up to a beautiful spot overlooking the city to order a mistletoe – the same drink they were getting sloshed-on back home. In the town square I found a torrent of little kids parading around asking for candy, and passed the evening merry-making at a pot-luck dinner with my awesome Couchsurfing friends, featuring a beautiful (vegan) nut loaf. I marveled and was refreshed because, for the first time I can remember, I enjoyed the season.. not just Christmas Eve (and morning with Mom) – the reward for all our hard work. It came naturally for me to send love home, and it was well received.

Fourth time, I’m in land of the Mayas, as well as in a new head-space. I’ve been practicing waking meditation, lucid dreaming, and attempting nightly to astral project (leaving my body so I can fly through the spirit plane.) It’s time for an evolution, and I feel like all of a sudden I’m ready and capable. In these ancient cities, I’m listening, absorbing, feeling the lingering energy of Quetzalcóatl, the plumed-serpent God, who is predicted to return and usher forth this shift in consciousness.

Tulúm Yogi, Mexico
Tulúm Yogi, Mexico

Do I really believe all of this?

Not any more or less than I believe any of the rest of it. To me it’s all the same. Different manifestations of the supreme energy which shines in everything. None of it exists, and all of it exists. Religious mythology, Voudoo, Hedonism, Astrology… Ayurveda, Science, Modern medicine, Magic… Peace, Politics, War… they’re all in our minds, created by us and given power by us. We are Christmas if we want to be. We are God. We are Everything. And we are Nothing.

Fourth time, I didn’t really celebrate, not officially anyway. Today I worked on my energy body, exercised my spirit, traveled to my Home, and into the pieces of everyone I store in my heart. I tried to make midnight mass tonight, for the first time since I was a teenager, walked to two cathedrals and a church in the center of this biggest town on the Yucatan Peninsula, but I didn’t find what I was looking for. Kids have been igniting Christmas explosives in the main square all night and it’s 4AM. Just another day I can’t bear to sleep and miss any of this, until I get excited to project again. See you in infinite Paradise, loves!

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Monday, May 3, 2010. 8:36 PM
Opononi, Northland, New Zealand

This is a fun one. All this nice weather and country makes me wanna get naked. Being alone in nature makes clothes seem irrelevant. It started with stripping down and jumping into lakes, rivers, glacial runoff. I was lying in the warmth of a soft field of tall grasses, and got naked to feel the sun with all of me. Now I know what my nephews feel like, when they strip and run amok, and don’t want to put on pants! (which usually elicits at least one laughing reprimand of “nudie boy!”)

Gentle World epiphany coming through ~ ~ ~ When I first met Sun, the lady, a warm glowing star, 40-year-vegan, but small, fit, and grandmotherly, she said “Gimme a hug!” We hugged, and she gently corrected “full body”… it was definitely more complete, to feel her warm welcome from head to toe.

A few days later, when I went over to Doe’s place, she was tanning nude on her caravan veranda. Her dog, Kisses comes out to meet me barking, who I instinctively keep my eyes on, away from her. I know it wasn’t a big deal, and it was funny, to muse for a moment, that it was a booby-trap! – I was invited over by (52-young) Mrs. Robinson. I asked her if she has any sun lotion I can put on my face, and she says No, I’m a Naturalist.

Anyway, an hour later I’m struggling through a field of tall grass, trying to get to the elusive ‘gorge’ which lies somewhere among those hills in the vastness of 454-acre Gentle World. I’m pushing my way through the tall thick grass, and on either side is dense bush. Wading my way back into the tamer border zone I find a more manageable path that a mower made some time ago. Collapsing onto the soft blanket of yellow clippings, it’s so warm and nice. Inspired by Doe, off come my clothes. Feeling sublime, I get drunk on the sky.

Next day, late-afternoon siesta in my caravan. The sun is shining through the big window onto my bed, I’m reading Vegan Poet‘s awesome vegan poetry book. I upgrade to bare skin, and feel exalted. Dozing in the sun never felt so good.

Next I’ve pedaled half way up my far north detour to the top of New Zealand, the meeting point of the Tasman Sea and Pacific Ocean, where the souls of the dead migrate to enter the underworld (according to Maori belief). Camping at the beach, the sun is low, the light is orange. I strip, relax in my stone heated throne, write a song for a friend, and send it to her. In the twilight with the perfect ipod soundtrack, the ocean and I danced upon on a tie-dyed mirror beach.

Last night found myself alone on an even awesomer beach. How can I be here, and it be so beautiful, majestic, just so nice, and all mine? The rockscape is like another planet. The tidal pools are amazing, some painted pink inside, with perfectly clear water, lined with seaweed, rocks at the bottom, sometimes with starfish, and one corner bubbling from the rising waves, pool after pool cascading down towards the sea. Off come my pants, much better for splashing around, announcing my mantra “I am here!”, with no-one and everything. I am free. I write another song, We can do anything, We can go anywhere. Even after a day of hills, I practice jumping like I used to, and my daily dance party continues till the sun is gone.

I’m just playing. Rediscovering the basic pleasures in life, things I knew before I was taught anything. In nature’s school! Good nite. It all sounds weirder on paper. But whatever, you know how good it is to be naked!

Trust Me, I’ll Fit

Monday, May 3, 2010. 7:52 PM
Opononi, Northland, New Zealand

I’ve taken to hitchhiking lately. Especially since I’m on my own, and I’ve defeated my ego which derives pride from a cheat-free bike tour, I don’t mind skipping some bits. There’s too much of the world to bike everywhere, so I choose and skip at will, and besides, it’s a great way to meet random (awesome) people.

Disclaimer: this is a fleshing-out of a rant I jotted down while riding and trying to hitch with no luck yesterday.

Trying to hitchhike with a bicycle reveals the close minded. I was actually getting annoyed with the humanity in Northland, because yesterday I tried to hitch everything that moves as I pedaled the final 80km to the furthest point North, and nobody stopped.

Funny thing is I didn’t really care whether I got a bite or not. It’s two days ride up, two days back down, one road. And as I don’t like spending the whole day (or two) retracing steps, I resigned to hitch one way, either way. I won’t deny the satisfaction of completing a challenging ride on my own, as it really is a good feeling. It was also a good feeling to shout “Thank you for the rejection!” as each car passed. But I got to thinking, as I do on these long trips:

As I put out a thumb (admittedly while riding), I reasoned that this unusually stiff response had to do with ignorance. Either all these tourists were too fresh-off the boat (we are just north of the big port, Auckland) to know how it works here, man! Or they thought that my big bike and I couldn’t fit into their wee auto. This, I decided, was what they were all thinking. Little do they know, though, that my bike is a folding bike! I’ve fit into some tiny-ass autos. No-trunk small. Any Subaru will do.

I found it sad that these folks were underestimating their potential to do good. I can’t help because that bike won’t fit. This know-it-all mentality reduces one’s potential to do good. Thinking how to help liberate them from this small-thinking, which reduces our mutual well-being – cuz I’m a good hitch! – I resolved to make a hitching-teeshirt. Maybe YES WE CAN FIT! will help.

Any clever slogans from the peanut gallery?

PS – In case you’re wondering if I got my ride down, yes I did. Upon my arrival at New Zealand’s northernmost campground, I had my doubts, as everyone here had already rejected me at some point today. But that didn’t stop me from schmoozing and asking around. One fellow I waved at as he pulled-in came over and said hi, I saw you with the thumb out today, see you made it alright! I explained that I had decided to hitch one way, got any room? And we worked it out. Today we had a grand old time, driving down the 90 Mile Beach in his 4WD Bongo (it was meant to be), and now we’re camping, and I gave him his first feijoa fruit! Mmmm! So the lesson here is that it’s never too late to open up and let me in.

Fighting the good fight

Monday, May 3, 2010. 7:28 PM
Opononi, Northland, New Zealand

Continued from my Gentle World post about being more vegan lately… another reason I cited for not being vegan was traveling, and not wanting my diet to consume Too Much of my energy. Many vegans I know are crusaders and activists, and I feel like it’s almost hard to be a vegan and not a fighter, which is paradoxical. So there’s my reason, call it b.s. if you want, but how do we choose our fights?

(why does my spell checker keep turning vegan into vagina tonight?) Thank you for the Spell Check!

Example: I was catching a ride from the farm into town with Doe, and mentioned that I needed more meths (cooking fuel), and since we were heading to the farmers market, which happens to be in the parking lot of The Warehouse/McDonalds, she suggested I pick some up at Warehouse. I equate this mega-store by Kiwi-standards to WalMart, and gave her my spiel about not wanting to support big business if I can help it. She plainly retorted “but it’s cheaper”. Coming from NYC, where small business is a foundation of it’s character, this is important to me. So I bike around town, and went to hunting store & find it for $12, twice the price I paid in last camping store. I couldn’t find anywhere else to buy it so I ended up back at Warehouse, where it was $7 and 1/2 off the 2nd bottle. (So it should’ve been $6). I bought it for $7, and felt like a jackass.

It’s hard to fight all the good fights.

Worn, torn & lost

Monday, May 3, 2010. 6:37 PM
Opononi, Northland, New Zealand

All my stuff is roughed up. Most of my things have passed “like new” quality.

My clothes are worn. The same 3 shirts, 2 pants, 2 shorts and 1 hoodie are likely the most photographed in the southern hemisphere. Sounds like a lot, doesn’t it! It’s so not, and seeing them repeatedly in my photos has resulted in my not wanting to be in photos anymore. Silly! Not at all, he says gravely. My black linen pants (the same ones I tweeted about who has a big whole in the seat) has 5 patches now. I’m getting quite good at bad sewing. I’ve made amends many times with my other ‘pants’ (in the English sense) too. The captain on my boat cruise the other day told me he could see my money – my butt pocket is completely open on one side. My bandanas are my MVP items, used for everything: headdress, sweat-cloth, bath towel, napkin, splint, rope. The pink one is barely so anymore; the white one – why do I have a white anything? You know what’s cool? I don’t care anymore. It makes getting dressed in the morning EZ.

I have lost, without explanation: 2 really nice Leatherman utility knives and a Swiss army knife. These kill me the most, as they’re nice gear and indispensable, hence the replacements, and the killing me times three. I also lost my cyclo-computer in Thailand, one of the very few nights I went out on the town dancing (and drinking) with locals. I apparently lost my shit.

These things are used and abused: My iPod holds data (as a hard drive) but won’t function as an MP3 player. My camera had a stroke the other day and its lens is stuck out in full extension, out-of-order with “Lens Error”. Then I slammed it a few times, as suggested by the internet, and now it jingles like a maraca. My tail light and my bike mirror broke off, losing little plastic pieces which render them useless. (Oh I’ve tried to fix but damned industrial design seriously inhibits DIY fixin! Solution: buy a new one! Redic!) I pulled the wires loose (& fizzled out the transistors) on my battery-operated Xmas lights (excessive, no! mood lighting is key on the road!) I will fix these, mark my words. I cracked my Clickstand yesterday (which is a kickstand-like-device for monster bikes, basically a custom-length tent pole), parking, then falling, in the sand. My Camelback leaks. My iPhone screen has two thick black lines through it. My unibody Macbook has a bulge next to the keyboard; I think a baby at the last farm threw it. The lid on my aluminum pot looks like it stopped a bullet.

I picked up a good habit in India. When sh!t happens, laugh. I learned a good mantra the other day: Thank you for the pain. Every day when something breaks or disappears, I laugh and thank the universe for the pain of loss. Hello imperfection, goodbye stuff! I’m getting quite good in the practice of detachment.

Getting High at Gentle World

Thursday, Apr. 29, 2010. 10:39 PM
Kaitaia, Northland, New Zealand

Amazing how each new place brings a new adventure. Just when I thought maybe things might soon get boring, I stumble onto a new way to ‘get high’. I’m not talking about smokin’ grass! This time I’ve landed in an intentional community that’s serious about creating a better, Vegan world.

Here, ‘getting high’ is a part of everyday life. I laughed too, the first few times it came up as a catch-phrase in conversation, but it’s a guiding force, and in my opinion, a fantastic attitude with which to approach everything. It’s doing with the intent to get off on it, to spark something beautiful and pure with every action, feeling good knowing that you’re making the world a better place. (Thank you Sky, for this revelation!) The boost can come in a million little ways, life-hacks which result in creating magic through artful living and pursuing higher consciousness. Might sound a bit new-agey, but this is a new age, and some people are living in it.

These vegan hippies (no offense, I use this as a term of endearment) have been at it for over 40 years, when Gentle World was conceived. Some of their names are Sun, Light, Angel, Sky, Doe, Magic, Flowers, Golden, Soul, Kisses (the dog), and Beautiful. They’ve manifested what change they want to see in themselves, and created this sanctuary of sorts to manifest it all around them, and to get others high too!

The resulting mess in my mind is the result of seeing things ever so clearly. Here it goes:

Veganism isn’t just about which foods you eat or don’t eat. It’s a way of life that doesn’t support the machines of society that exploit and harm others, sentient and non-sentient beings. The underlying principle that binds it all together is easy enough: No Animal Products.

In addition to animal-derived food and liquids, this includes leather, wool, silk, and feathers too. Considering my own consumption has been an eye-opener of how non-vegan some of my choices are, aiding me to identify some double-standards. It’s also been an opportunity to scrutinize my own identity. Am I who I think I am?

I’m a supposed ‘vegetarian’, not for ‘health reasons’ but because of my compassion for animals. I first stopped eating meat when I realized that I could easily ‘save’ hundreds of animal lives each year, or at least reduce the demand and suffering for animals as a result of my choices. Immediately, I ‘got high’ on not killing. I enjoyed guilt-free eating, not to mention I felt much lighter, in body and spirit.

But I started easy, aligning with the accepted boundaries of vegetarianism: that dairy products and eggs are ok, even fish sometimes. Over time, guilt has been creeping-in when eating these ‘acceptable’ vegetarian exceptions. I say I’ve had more vegan habits lately, but there’s no such thing as more vegan. When it comes down to convenience or just plain cravings, (like when I want ice cream or pizza once a week), it’s bullshit. I’m not more anything lately but a faker.

Look at what I’m traveling with anyway: wool socks, gloves, and hat, a silk sleep sheet, down sleeping bag, a pair of alpaca socks. I also chose a leather saddle for my bicycle, for the same reason – it’s known as the ‘best’ of its kind, period, holding this claim to fame for decades. But for whom? I’ve barely ever questioned my choices to use these things, as they were readily-available and ‘known’ to be the best. Is these acceptable excuses? So I like animals, and enjoy using their bodies (without their consent) occasionally when I ‘need’ them. I go to Zoos. I buy soy milk when it’s convenient, but I travel with powdered milk when I’m cycling, as I can’t imagine breakfast or coffee without mother’s milk. Bullshit. I’ve come to realize lately that the dairy industry is one in the same with the meat industry. What am I doing with this information?

Just imagine how high I could get without all this lying to myself and justifying my weaknesses! I even said it to someone yesterday that even though I’m not 100%, I feel that 90% (or any percentage) is still a positive force at work in the universe. Lies. We have one lifetime to improve ourselves, become Super-Us, and Evolve humankind. Why drag our heels when we see injustice, man’s dominion and enslaving of all species? It’s good to see it here that this Oblivion is not a rule.

Veganism is not new to me, but my week here has been good for re-evaluating myself. I believe that this violence-free lifestyle results a gentler humankind, which would actually precipitate World Peace if adopted widely. There are vegan dogs here who actually outgrew their killer instincts, advancing the gentler side of their omnivorous nature. Remarkable!

I go through phases of being extroverted, talkative, eager to share who I am and what I believe. Other times, I’m a student, taking notes and more quietly observing, my priority being to soak it all in. Here I’m clearly the latter, intrigued because I aspire to live like this but don’t have the balls to commit. I’ve dreamed of creating a community in paradise, ecological and responsible, fun and free to live beyond the bonds of civilization. Most of these folks have 20 years on me… these prototypical characters are what I could become. I’m not ready to settle down now, not yet. For now I can can observe and ask questions.

How do I see myself? Is it true? Where do I want to stand? Who am I comfortable being? Am I ready? What can I do to follow my heart?

This was going to be a report on the unorthodox and enlightening people in this commune, whose stories and journeys are fascinating. My experiences here have kindled a new fire in me, so instead of story-telling I jumped right to the processing. I guess that’s what this blog is all about. What am I learning here? The questions keep coming…

Where to Next?

Sunday, Apr. 25, 2010. 09:13 PM
Mangonui, Northland, New Zealand

Musical selection this evening: Massive Attack – Heligoland: 4-stars!

Too-much-on-my-mind-to-blog-about-syndrome is in full effect again. I can’t help but think that this could easily be avoided by regular writing, eh? But I haven’t felt like writing lately. Yes, part of it was laziness. I’ve been too busy living without being able to synthesize it into anything, and today my little bell sounded it’s little “Dink!” (I’m done.) I can process now.

I’ve been a little lost since Telah left in early February. Since I decided to voyage in spring 2008, a series of interrelated and loosely-plotted events have come to pass. Together with Jamey, Cara and Bonnie, I brainstormed the top places I wanted to visit, and we drew up an itinerary which began in India and arced it way down to New Zealand. Many things have altered the course, but in the the end I made it. The line is dotted at best, meaning many places in-between have been skipped, but roughly speaking, I’m done. Summer down here is officially over, and all is blooming and agitating in the Northern Hemisphere. I’m somewhat of a self-proclaimed winter-dodger, I’ve definitely seen enough eye-numbing beauty to consider myself lucky and then some, the occasional cold or wet episode gives me a chill, and so I start asking myself “What’s next?”

Thing is, I love it here. And I have until December (7+ months) till my visa expires. I have the privilege to legally work with my Working Holiday visa, which I’m ineligible to renew when I become 30 – tick tick tick – that’s in three and a half months!! Sounds like a reason to stay and live it up, I reckon! Same for Australia, the chance of a Working Holiday scheme will be finito for me in August. (Can I apply now and use it next year?)

Austraila?! Well, Kiwis will hate me for saying it, but New Zealand is a chip off the old Aussie block, geographically with obvious cultural influences as well, and even though I suspect I’m already in heaven, I might as well check out the huge continent next door while I”m here, no? It’s fun to compare and contrast similar but different places, and while I’ve never been too interested in Aus, how can it NOT be interesting? Two-thirds of its native flora and fauna are unique to the place, and there are more deadly varieties per capita than anywhere else. Say no more, I’m sold!

Other options include (relatively) nearby Indonesia and Bali, where a visa-easy month is always an option, but not long enough to really cross at length by island-hopping in that time (there are thousands which comprise the country.) With some difficulty a 3-month visa can be obtained (with sponsorship, which would also kill the travel-far-and-wide angle.) Southeast Asia and India continue to call me back, but I think Not Yet. Europe’s even calling me, (along with a possible job-opp in England, which I’d actually take at this point for the right chi-ching.) More specifically, I’ve also started looking into a Middle East into Eastern Europe bike tour, (which still sounds fun to me, believe it or not), but I think I’d fancy a touring partner for that. I’d love to visit friends in many Western European destinations as well… but I think not till spring 2011 at the earliest. I’ve practically decided to be in South America this time next year (inspired by the World Rainbow Gathering in Argentina), hopefully preceded by an epic road-trip with my bff Victor through Central and South America, which I eagerly await some commitment to plan for. And my friend Jade in NY asked if I’ll meet her in Costa Rica at some point this year, to which I replied “Definitely, hell yeah.”

There are also the ongoing lures of my beloveds back home to come back and play, the idea of passing my big 3-0 with my besties, and Burning Man, but I think, at least for now, that I’m going to spend at least a few more months here, if not the whole year, where life seems perfect, or until something else comes up. Yeah, it going to be winter, but summer’s also officially over and I’ve been swimming in the ocean, kayaking and snorkeling all week. Besides, I can work and snowboard at the same time in enough places (either volunteering, Wwoofing, or actually getting paid), so I’m sweet. And there are so many cool farms and eco-villages up in Northland (where the winter is minimal) that would be amazing places to hunker down and continue to learn about the good, natural life that I’m so obsessed with but have so little experience putting into practice.

Phew. Feels good to get that out and put the pieces out on the table. Thanks for letting me process with you. I like that there’s no shortage of options, and also that I’m fickle, which means that it’s all subject to change with any opportunity or idea that comes along. The one thing I’m certain of, which my bones wouldn’t lie to me about, is that I want to keep living through travel.

I haven’t really even gotten to the processing part of this yet, but I’m eager to write about what’s been going on with me, and how I feel about my experiences here. As usual, I feel like I’ve just started to see beneath the surface, and there’s sooo much deeper to go, not only in understanding the people, life and culture here, but in adopting my favorite aspects of it. I never expected to learn so much from Kiwis, but they’re an unusually special bunch. I love it. And lately I’ve never felt so American as at any point in my life. It’s not a bad thing, but definitely an eye-opener. More on that soon, I hope!

Back to reading and eventually wild dreaming, in my tent, to the sounds of the surf…