In December 2011, I came home for Christmas wrapping up my round the world trip. I spent 26 months in 12 countries 7 months doing mission work and 19 months traveling. As I totaled it up, I went 54,000 miles or equivalent of round the world twice -once by plane and once by bus and train. The adventure cost $35 a day a little over $1,000 a month.
Still having a bit of reverse culture shock, I bought a pick-up truck camper, put it on my truck and in March 2012 went up to the North Dakota Oil fields looking for work. I did a few jobs mainly road construction over a summer that defiantly had some long hours and different experiences in it. Life in Watford City, North Dakota was a bit rough, living in campers, in the oil boom-towns far from civilization and it had a lot of interesting characters in it. As it got cold and the work concluded I decided to take the scenic way back home to Tennessee.
Not having seen the west, I drove through Yellowstone, saw the Space Needle in Seattle and drove the Pacific Coast all the way from Canada to Mexico. The Giant California Redwoods made me feel small, and the rocky Pacific coast gave a delightful view. I appreciated the Reagan Library in Los Angles then headed east driving 90% of the Historic Route 66. "Main Street America" took me though lots of small towns with old diners, railroad stations, and local museums. The Grand Canyon was really impressive and I enjoyed driving through the deserts and seeing the diverse landscape of the Southwest. I appreciated catching a bit of history older than Lewis and Clark expedition which I continuous crossed earlier in the trip when I saw old Indian abodes in the cliffs and a few missions. I took 55 days to see 19 states and got a good sampler of sites along the way, but left plenty to explore in the future.
As of January 2013 I am in Nashville, TN. I am considering job options, but if the wind blows hard enough who knows where I will land.
After Laos I had an incredible trip through Burma and then rushed back to Phnom Phen to meet my mother who joined me at the end of February. We traveled together for 6 months through Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore. Six months was a little too long for my 65 year old mother, but overall we had a good trip. We taught English at the Best Center for 2 months and traveled for 4. After my mother left I took a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) course in Thailand and headed to headed to Taiwan to look for a work. I plan to teach English for a while.
Beyond the previous paragraph I shall not attempt to do full justice to 6 months of international travel. My real travel diary is on Facebook notes. I shall share one story.
One of the highlights of Bali was a black pebble beach which offered snorkeling right off shore. While not perfect; we had a really cute house or shack just across the road from the beach and lots of laid back rural life going on around. At times a few chickens even came inside the exotic stone wall surrounding our house. Mom was impressed with the blue starfish we saw while snorkeling and I really enjoyed the live traditional dance show put on by one of the locals while a small local band sang music. While I had seen more technically correct dancing elsewhere; none put the spirit of happy carefree joy into that this little band and single dancer did as we listened in a small family restaurant to the waves pound the shore, just beyond the fishing boats.
I don't update much as I am really putting efforts into facebook; but for the few who are still active here is an update.
I am still waiting out a bad economy using the travel the world method. It has been an amazing experience and perspective changing in so so many ways. Americans complain of having so little time and being so busy; but we all have about the same amount of time; life is decided by how we spend it and what we do. America is such a rich country in so many ways; yet at times we fail to appreciate it.
My best day in Laos involved touring the plain of jars and attending a Lao wedding. The plain of jars is a huge plain with hundreds of large stone jars carved from solid stone of unknown origin. Some think it is like a tombstone; others the leftover from big party a victorious king threw and they were filled with rice wine. After that the guide took us to Lao wedding which given loud music; drinking; dancing; fancy dresses; was not that much different from an American wedding. The spoons at the wedding were aluminim and made from american aircraft. On the way back to the hotel I saw a BBQed pig sitting in the back of a pickup truck; with a lit charcoal grill still cooking it. The truck was moving and the grill was actually made from an veitnam war American bomb. Cluster bombshell halfs work great for this. I thought to myself; ...wow that fast food has to be the bomb!
Later I did a the day 510 kilometer motorbike tour. Two flat tires and a 7 kilometer boat ride through a cave were highlights on the trip.
I plan to keep traveling and am excited my mom is going to come join me for a while.
I suppose it is time to shoot out an update. I am half way around the world have spent the last five months wandering around India and Nepal.
I have seen a good chunk of India: 22 cities. I started in Dehli where it took almost a week to learn how to navigate traffic; avoid touts and eat food. I went onto the beautiful Taj Mahal in Agra; Forts in Japuir. In Varanasi I watched human bodies burn, yoga, men doing laundry and a scary looking preist all from my boat in one spot on the "sacred" Ganges river.
I spent two months up in Nepal. Trekked up to Everest base camp; rode elephants in Chitwan, Bungee Jumped at Last Resort (160 meters) and explored a few caves in Pokhera.
Riding a scooter across the open road to Sand dunes near Pakistan border and the camel safari made Jaisalmer memorable; but I wanted to get warm so I took off for Goa warm white sand filled beaches. Hampi was a beautiful chillout spot; but sleeping on the street with 50,000 partying Indians after breaking down three times on a 24 hour bus ride provided and interesting start.
In Bangalore I walked past where some of your Indian HP tech support calls get answered and toured tea plantations in cool British built Otty. Illegal sand mining among the Kerala Backwaters and trying my hand at gaint Chinese fishing nets kept me occupied in hot Kochin. Needing to get to the End of India I headed south untill I couldn't and rode a white horse at the tip of India where waters from three seas mixed at my feet.
Heading north temples of Maduri were very colorful and Hyderbad was hyperbad the train out didn;t leave soon enough. The Ellora and Ajanta caves were awesome rock hewn 2000 year old hindu temples some with incredible paintings; although the 110 kilometer rickshaw ride were I sat between a man in a turban and a pretty girl was interesting when we hit a cow and ran out of gas while riding into the sun setting.
To get here I have taken trains, buses, boats, camels, carts, rickshaws, horses, the ladies compartment and a steadily sinking woven basket they call a Coracle.
I am having the time of my life folks. The long version is on facebook.
If Jesus Christ came back right now are you redeemed? Certainly this could be the opening for a thousand different sermons… and I admit that I have pondered it many times without confidence.
Many people dwell on this. Have I been attending the right church? Have I been doing all the right things? And have I been staying away from bad things? Do we need to hope that Jesus will come back on a Sunday? What if I run a red light and say God’s name in vain before being run over by a Mac truck? Am I going to see a life of attempted Christian good works go up in hell fire smoke because of a last minute sin?
If you have never struggled with a question like this, you may be blessed; but I think there are a lot of people who have. I know I am one of them.
I have good news folks… I don’t think it works like that. It is not about you. It is not about me. It is not about works. It is not about doing the right things. It is not about earning salvation. It is not about checking off the boxes. It is not about going to church three times a week; raising kids to send them off to the right college, giving to the poor and hoping that you have done all the right things.
It is about Jesus.
And he redeems us …warts in all!
We are never going to be good enough. We can never do enough to earn it or show how much we love him. He did it all for us. We need to graciously accept his payment on our behalf.
The New Testament is not a set of rules to follow; God did that in the Old Testament. As I recall it didn’t seem to work out too well for them. How’s it working out for you? The New Testament is the Gospels (Mathew, Mark, Luke and John) and the letters to the churches whereby the apostles try to guide the early church on how to live out the message of the gospels in messy everyday living. The Epistles is about applying the message of Gods redeeming love or Gospel message.
Once we accept this and quite trying to prove to God that we are good enough (which we will never be) to be his Children we can accept the forgiveness and love that he had for us. Then we can work on building each other up and helping each other out like he intended us to do; but this time God will be in the driver’s seat and we are just along for the ride. The good news is the last stop is heaven. And that is why this message for the Gospel is so exciting for all.