I learnt alot from my travels in america, All the media, the political climate and being on the other side of the world in New Zealand meant that subconsciously I made a wrong opinion of this wonderful country. Some of us have different accents, and different cultures and live in totally different climates…But one thing has become apparent to me, and that is that ultimatly we are all the same but different. Our views can slightly differ but we are more united than it seems sometimes, some people have their proctective barriers higher than others but their intent is the same as yours….there is hope yet, keep being beautiful.
Flying into Newark,NJ to start my American adventure was a shock to my system. I knew no one here, had no plans and was a true test of my ability to adapt. Pushing around in circles around the airport trying to find a payphone that worked was my first fluster, looking a bit silly as I pushed my basketball chair, big backpack and guitar around past the same people. Something as small as using a phone changes…It didnt help that people here didn’t have any time for you and were abrupt, that made me want to get back on the plane and head back if America was going to be like this. Luckily it isn’t and it took me a week to figure that out.
My big plan was to buy a van, travel around with my basketball chair and my guitar playing ball, sleeping in the van all over the states and playing guitar out of the back. That plan came crashing down after a few days of trying to buy a vehicle, the process was too complicated it seemed. Sitting in the hotel in Newark trying to figure it all out, knowing that I only had a few thousand dollars to last me 3 months and then I was off to spain…How the hell was I going to do that?. I got further flustered by Newark and was desperate to leave for the sake of my positivity so I got in an Uber and caught it down to Philadelphia, booked a week in a hostel there. First off I had to find a way to store my basketball chair with someone as there was no way I was going to be able to afford to Uber everywhere, and I planned to hitchhike now. Secondly I really needed just one person to get back to me from this workaway site, workaway is a cultural exchange\volunteer programme where you volunteer 4-5 hours per day with someone and they feed you and give you a place to stay while your there. After lots and lots of messages, one person…Priscella gave me the shot at proving that the wheelchair wouldn’t stop me from going into a house with stairs, or doing the work that they had for me. I would figure a way out but just need someone to give me a shot so I could get a reference saying that the chair wasn’t a problem.
So after a great week in the hostel in Philly I caught a train down to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. In retrospect I should have caught a train from Newark to Philly after I experienced how easy it was to catch the train. The next two weeks I spent in locust gap, it was perfect to do some adjusting to America and also to have the time to adjust my directions. I was staying in a converted church, this creative heaven where I was helping paint radiators for my work.
A massive snowstorm hit Pennsylvania, with snow up to the height of a car and stuck inside for a few days it was safe to say I was itching to get out and explore and feel that chilling air. So St Paddys day the local fire brigrade was holding a function for the locals, so I just shovelled myself a pathway in the snow and made it over to this funtion. Being a Kiwi is a bit of a novelty and it seemed especially here as there were some people that had never even met someone from another country before which totally blew my mind. After 2 weeks I was ready to make my way to another state, I had thrown out some emails on workaway and a few people had gotten back to me. Deciding to take a linear direction trying to see as much along the way as possible I decided to go down to florida and flying was the cheapest way this time around so I flew down into orlando leaving my basketball chair up in the church with Priscella which was an amazing weight off my travelling shoulders seeing as I wasnt going to be doing the basketball tour I orginally thought.
painting some radiators at the church, well so I say haha
My plan of travelling was to finally be able to embrace my go with the flow attitude, to go anywhere, anytime at the whim of my hearts desire without it affecting anyone in a negative way….I was starting to flow, each day I was getting more confident in the fact that life was going to provide me with a positive experience regardless if it was 11pm at night and I had no where to stay and I was in a new city. I arrived into Orlando that night, having to find a way to Saint Augustine tomorrow to meet with my next workaway host. I had no idea how to get there, but I got up early and watched an amazing sunrise over the water and set off to hitchhike to Saint Augustine. Wow from snow to this heat was a shock, especially now that I pushing a distance with this big backpack. Pushing on the road now because I ran out of footpath and look at that I found a train station. So I caught a train up to Palatka and was trying to hitchhike the rest of the way at 7pm…Not having much luck, and wondering why. Joseph and his aunty shouted across the road from their rental car and asked if I needed a ride…Aparantly its Illegal to hitchhike in florida he told me, but he had seen me on the train and picked up his first hitchhiker that day.
Joseph and his first hitchhiker
Sunrise the morning Im in Orlando
Saint Augustine, what a memory it gave me. Firstly Venessa, Heidi ( her daughter) and Kim were so inviting. Having people in your house that you have never met gave me the belief in the world that I needed and had been searching for. To trust and love without having anyting intially in return. I helped Venessa around the hosue, and did some gardening and also we went out one night to see the Saint Augustine nightlife which was a cool experience. Also Venessa is a Sign language interpreter because Heidi is deaf so I was so happy to be learning some more language, I learnt alot about sign language and by the end I could at least spell the words and was capable of having a caveman conversation…but none the less, still capable of communicating simply with someone.
We all meet those people who just influence us majorly at that point of our lives, This person has something that you aspire to learn, or gives you a perspective that you couldnt have seen before. Jan, a 21 year old guy from germany was the person of my travels that influenced me the most so far. Everyone I meet has an influence on me but Jan was a projection of how I wanted to be. I went travelling to let go, to REALLY let go. To become as free as I could possibly become, free from what I think of myself, others and everything else that fills the mind. To really expand my awareness of my sorroundings on a broader scale than just my life and the city I work and live in. To finally accept my place, and finally start going with whatever flow that I was meant to be flowing with. Jan had let go, he was sharing his love with everyone, smiling at everyone, going with the flow of life…he had put himself out to the world a couple of years earlier, cycling down the entire west coast of the States from Vancouver to San Francisco along with all his other amazing stories and lessons. Jan seemed free, and thats the direction I’m trying to head. Jan was doing a similar exchange with Kim, Venessa’s friend and Kim lived down the block. So we would pop over to each others stay, have bonfires, sing and exchange our stories and true thoughts and we even went busking together in Saint Augustine.
Jan, after we had just been to Vilano beach
That beautiful sun, Who would have thought there was a thunderstorm 20 minutes ago
One particular experience stood out to me though, our wander over to Vilano beach. It must have been an hour bike ride\push from Venessa’s to Vilano and between Vilano and Saint Augustine there is a Intercoastal bridge with a high arc to allow boats to go under…probably 10 minutes to cross on the bike. As soon as we started up the bridge, a powerful thunderstorm hit out of nowhere and had this wall of rain hit us, me in my singlet and Jan carrying the guitar. The power of nature was beautiful and a reminder of what true power was, the huge cracks of the thunder right above us and the rain hammering us. If you haven’t gone out in a thunderstorm or rain then I recommmend it, there is no reason to be afraid of water. So much of us is made up of water and mabe one day we may not have this precious element so readily available…it is an refreshing awakening. As soon as we got down the other side of the bridge the dark clouds left as quickly as they came and the sun was shining and within half an hour I was dry again.
The bridge on the way back from that beautiful thunderstorm experience
While in Saint Augustine, someone told me about the celebration of the sunset in Key West, the southern most point in the USA and that sold me on the idea of going down. Venessa suggested that I go down with Heidi to visit and stay with Heidi’s father, John. We caught the famous greyhound bus down together to West Palm not far out of Miami. John was awesome, 70 years young and full of life and very chill. We got on well, played music and philosophized the days away. Heidi also was going to go visit her brother who was also in a chair, Edward, in Miami. I had decided in those few days that I was going to hitchhike down to Key West from Miami and instead of taking that monstourous backpack I left it at Johns, along with my guitar and took a small camel pack with a charger, jacket, book and a couple of other small things. Little did I know that when I got to Edwards someone was going to tell me about a cycleway going pretty much the whole 160 miles from Miami to Key West, so I decided that I would push instead and Edward offered me to stay the night which was awesome because it was 3pm now and would prefer to leave early in the morning.
All I can say is thank God for the camel pack, because it was so hot and wheeling 20-50 miles a day meant I was drinking ALOT of water. I made the mistake of not putting sunblock on the first day and I ended up with terrible sunburn, lesson learnt that day. I made it the 160 miles, after bridges, sleeping outside, pushing all night, couchsurfing on a boat, being sticky with sweat the whole time and pushing my little heart out. I have a video which you can check out, the link is below. That was a massive lesson for me in the amount actually needed to survive and how much I enjoyed travelling with less.
Here’s a link to the video of the push:
www.facebook.com/waywardwheeler – 160 miles
Hitchhiking across the 7 mile bridge in The Keys
So after the week I spent doing that, and getting back to John’s house I had decided to give away my backpack, sleeping bag and tent because for one I didn’t need it as much as I thought and in fact I enjoyed having less. And two I wanted to teach myself to become more of an expansive soul, sharing my love and giving without intent of recieving. Its funny because the year before I came travelling I had got a loan to get all this gear which cost me around $3000 and now I was giving it away. So I set up a video, put it up online for anyone who may need a hand starting an adventure and said I was giving it away.
The next workaway was in Lafayette, Louisiana with Trent and Linni. So I caught a 22 hour busride to lafayette, its a long ride with interesting people along the way. A young guy who had just started learning about permaculture and he excahnged books with me, gave me his Bhagavad-Gita which meant alot. Also a lady shouting that Jesus will heal me at one of the bus stations at 1 or so in the morning…I tried not to encourage her, but said thank you and carried on. Arriving in Lafayette at 5 in the morning and not wanting to wake up Linni and Trent I waited there a couple of hours, met a dude who was homeless and took him out for a classy Burger King breakfast, gave him my headphones and wished him luck on finding a home and work.
Kayaking down the Bayou behind Linni and Trents house at sunset
Lake martin, swamp land in Breaux Bridge.
Sunset at lake Martin
How amazing is it when you have no plan and then you arrive on the weekend where Lafayette is having a International music festival. We all went out, the town is closed off and full of stages and we listened to Cajun music and music from all over the world…So great. I was rushing now, I only stayed a week and only have a few weeks left in the states…where did these 3 months go! I felt like I had not even touched a fraction of the USA. I could have definetly spent a while longer there, Helping with the gardening and then swimming in their pool in the afternoons, or kayaing down the Bayou behind their house..But its time to go, and cram in some more. So I had been in contact with John in Texas, who was a Friend of someone back home. John put something up on facebook asking if anyone had somewhere for me to crash and Chris was who came back. If there is one thing I can take away from travelling is that people are awesome, and that it has encouraged me to be awesome back to everyone.
One of the stages at the Lafayette International festival
I caught a train, from Lousiana to Austin, Texas. Spent a night sleeping in a train station, with multiple dead arms and exploring San Antonio at 2 in the morning. At this point meeting with people I have never met, spending time and staying with them for a few nights, a night or a week was becoming normal. Chris was awesome, we jammed out on the guitars, he helped me write a song and we hung out for like a boys weekend while his partner was away. Austin was awesome, probably my favourite city so far. Very new, full of musical influence and progressive. I went busking down on one of the main streets for my friday night, it was fun performing for people, chatting and generally just getting to jam, share my music and try and make a little of difference financially. By this point I had finally found someone to give my bag and gear to after searching and trying, So I gave it away…it was very relaxed, just a thank you, a hug and I wished them to use it well.
A tourist photo stop on the side of a coffee shop building
I was amazed to see new buildings and how nice Austin was
I love to go out and meet new people while I’m travelling on my own, so ive have been alot on my own. Just to listen to music, or have a coffee or few drinks a couple of times. Its hard not to feel creepy sitting there on your own but its amazing the connections and people that you meet when you sit alone. I did the same in Austin and its always a laugh, seeing what people know about where you are from and I love hanging out with people that I have never met.
I had been trying very hard to make it up to Utah to go paragliding, I was so keen on that but me being me..I only just checked my itinerary and I was flying a week earlier than I had been telling everyone so back to Pennsylvannia for me to pick up my Basketball chair and have a week in New York to experience that Big Apple. I was going to hitchhike from Austin back to the east coast, and test out the Hammock I had got. Turns out 12 O-clock that night Before I was going to try Hitchhike tomorrow, I booked a 49 hour train ticket back to the east coast via Chicago. So random. I was running out of time, and didn’t want to miss my flight over to europe.
40 hours on the train, In chicago before my next train.
The train ride was long, but unlike a plane I can use my chair to get to the toilets which is always my main worry while travelling because I pee ALOT. Met a bunch of people, saw a bunch of landscape and made it to Pennsylvannia eventually where I spent a couple of nights back with Priscella at the church, picked up my basketball chair and caught a train up to New York…The last stop.
New york was how I thought it would be, busy and alot of things to see and do. I did alot of pushing around the city and the hostel I stayed in was full of wonderfully friendly people and staff. Cruising around the city having coffees and laying in parks, trying to break down the locals barriers. Now to the airport to board the plane to Spain, say goodbye to America and meet up with Julie to travel around Europe.
Bryant park in NYC, so nice to lay down with everyone enjoying the sun through the buildings.
Night atop the Empire State Building
America, I learned to let go of the things I thought I needed but didn’t..To not judge and be open to everyone. I pushed myself further into situations where I had no control and more importantly to start flowing with whereever it was I was going. This is why I came travelling, so thank you.
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