Travel and friends in Europe

The call of adventure springs upon me again. Heading to Europe for what was going to be a week road trip around Iceland has turned once again into a friend visiting escapade. The joke in Europe is to invite people in neighboring countries to visit because it is so close, but they never come because the distance is too far. Well in the states, an 8 hour drive is a small road trip and with Iceland only a few hours flight away, I accept a friends polite invitation to Germany. Word gets out quick and friends in Paris and Ibiza soon find destinations on my itinerary while only missing an extra trip to London. A fresh reminder of enjoying friends and food and adventure.
imageSunny and vibrantly green southern Germany is my first destination. Lahmo and Abhivan, dear path of love friends from India, invite me to share their beautiful life in Lindau. Amazing musicians and artisans as well as meditators, my arrival ends up starting a mini vacation from work and enjoying each day by the lake. Lindau is a small island of tourist envy, enjoyed for its history and lake views. Escaping WW2 bombing completely for aiding Switzerland in food delivery, Lindau is architecturally stunning with a vibrant waterfront. We spend our days with local friends playing music, picnicking, light sports, swimming, and playing with the children.
I get to visit Austria and Abhivans cabin, see a sailboat race, dance wildly in public and practice tai chi. I saw many beautiful green spaces, the view from the mountains, ate cheese spaetzle, saw a hand of God sunset, and tried to change social stereotypes by getting Germans to dance in the street to the live music being played. It was a beautiful week of enjoying the outdoors, conversations with people I love, and a remembrance of how simple and enjoyable life can be settled down in one place.
I fly off into the midnight sun, Venus and Jupiter glowing brightly out of my window seat, to enjoy a night layover in Oslo. I am heading to Iceland to participate in an impromptu road trip. After having visited Iceland at the beginning of my world tour I vowed to return to the most beautiful place on earth and do it right. Shane, my long time roommate and fellow world traveler is starting his 1 year around the world tour and Iceland is the kick off. Once declared he was going, our friend Jlynn jumped aboard, and in similar fashion to our south east Asia travels I had to attend as this would be a major reunion. Oh twist my arm universe, lets do Iceland!
Arriving to a radically colder environment I get my layers on and adjust to the beautiful landscape. Rolling up in the rental from a visit to blue lagoon my friends scoop me, hugs and hellos and land ourselves in Reykjavik. We are relying on my expert travel skills and knowledge of Iceland to get us by. It serves us perfectly and helps Shane learn the ropes of traveling in this day and age of smart phones and wifi. We settle in, take a small tour and prepare for our early morning hike by having drastically different adventures. Jlynn and myself retire early and end up making friends with our hostel mates receiving free wine, while in true Shane style he parties all night with local friendly Icelanders. Arriving just in time for a short nap before we head out for our longest day of exploring Iceland.
imageTouring Iceland by car is the only way to really see it. Everything is conveniently off the one ring road that circles the island and breathtaking views come right to you. Every 10 minutes the landscape somehow changes drastically from mossy rocks, to shrubs, black sand beaches and grassy sheep farms, to volcanic steam, all dotted with more waterfalls than you can shake a stick at. Bring extra space for all the photos you will take, being overwhelmed by so much beauty.
We find moderately priced but memorable accommodations along the way. Sleeping in a 100 year old hospital, two farm houses, a marina warehouse, and a couchsurfer to boot; everything was cozy and inviting. Seeing as the sun never sets, you get a sundip rather than a sunset, your body always wants to be awake. Many late nights were had wandering the twilight hours of Iceland playing guitar and meeting locals.
Some highlights of Iceland, to be explained fully in its own post, were to walk on my first glacier, visit a crashed airplane from WW2, hot spring cave, volcanic Mars landscape, snow capped fjords, waterfalls you can walk behind, eating fermented shark, picking up hitch hikers, many hot spring baths, jumping into the North Sea, and the many jokes and antics of spending days driving around with best friends rocking to music.
Iceland was an overwhelmingly beautiful spectacle shared with dear friends and new ones. A good reminder that traveling with friends is hilariously fun and vastly different than traveling alone. Playing off each persons unique personalities and energies creates a new dynamic environment that being with only yourself cannot possibly experience. I am happy for that and all the laughter.
One long day of driving and fly off to Paris, which seems to now be my old stomping grounds and most comfortable city for me to visit. I know the ropes and speak enough French to sail easily into the heart of this beautiful city and meet up with Robin. He is figuring out professional life of an international lawyer living in Paris. Long hours but delicious food and a city that seems different from the time spent in school here.
I readjust to the perfect weather and stroll around these familiar streets eating familiar foods. It’s like being at home in many ways. I’ve been to Paris now perhaps 10 different times and know what I want to see and eat with the little time I have. I enjoy my time with Robin catching up and sharing our lives and art. Pastries and walks and poetry is how one absorbs Paris in pieces.
We thankfully are in Paris for summer solstice which means that everyone comes out to play music to celebrate summer. It seems on every corner there are buskers and performance groups. From marching bands to ethnic song and dance you can barely turn a corner without some new cacophony assaulting your ears. We dance to soul gospel and Brazilian, teenage bands and accordion players, and finish with a major performance by Ibrahim maalouf the trumpet player and his band. Mind blown with the amount of energy and big band music he brought to the palais royal.
That was a pretty great farewell party as I head to Ibiza Spain. The world famous island for electronic music and parties, as well as a collection of meditative and conscious people living in the north of the island. It is in the more laid back and less drunk group that I find my friends Adam and Kim, also path of love friends, who open their home and life to me. Beautiful blue waters and sandy beaches greet me in this Spanish countryside of purple flowers and white washed walls.
Adam is my dear soul brother from PoL and spending any time with him is like looking at myself in the mirror. We share on all topics of the heart while enjoying the never ending sun and sea of Ibiza. The atmosphere is light and jovial with people enjoying themselves and the idea of siesta has never been more real to me in the mid day heat.
We enjoy local paella, the hippie markets, and a wonderful night of ecstatic dance. Walking around for long strolls in the perfect evening weather, life is well rounded and easy going. I suppose I could enjoy myself in these easy days of friends and ocean play. Not sure what I would do with my time that is of much importance to me but a beautiful place to visit. Adam and I share our connection and love in many ways and remind ourselves of the beauty of the world and our connection with Osho.
We share a special connection in this world of being of the same soul stuff. I say this because never before have either one of us found someone who is exactly like our inner selves. This boggles my mind as we think and experience the world in the same way. Never before have I so truly seen two people cut from the same cloth. For this reason we share and connect on a special level that makes us brothers in every sense that matters.
Flying out of Barcelona, there is one last gift for me. My dear friend Tate and Ashley happen to be in the airport, in my very wing, at the exact same time on their way to China. We have enough time for hugs and photos before flying off in different directions. I am heading back to the states for an unknown adventure and they are off to the orient. Florida and family here I come.


Wrapping Up One Year Of Travel and Learning

I find myself where I started one year ago. Looking at the same Kansas City skyline that I left after selling everything I own and heading out into the world. The view may be the same, but I have changed and along with it my interpretation of even that skyline. I touched down in 11 countries, made countless friends, deepened my understanding about myself, and learned lessons that will shape the course of my life. My understanding has shifted and thus I view the world differently, yet, I am still uniquely myself. This is perhaps the great conundrum that all world travelers experience. We go out and are literally changed by our experiences, see everything differently, and still the essence of who we are remains. You can come to a deeper understanding and acceptance of that essence, but no experience is going to just up and change you into a different person. I always thought there was going to be something out there that would flip a switch and I could become that person I envisioned inside my head with all the perfectness. The truth is much simpler, you are already that perfect person and only our thoughts and beliefs hold us back from breaking our boundaries and living the life we wish.
*Iceland was by far the most beautiful place I visited and will be visiting again.
This was a year to find myself again. I didn’t know that I even needed finding, but when faced with daily experiences of discovering your authentic self, it becomes clear exactly what you don’t know about yourself. Meditation was a prime focus of this travel and I spent 10 silent days in a Vipassana retreat, twice, and 4 months in India with the teachings of the enlightened mystic Osho. If I can boil all the meditation down, it would be enjoy your life every moment, celebrate, be present and  alive no matter how you think you feel, learn to live with your inner silence and uncomfortable feelings moment to moment without running away. The essence of all the teachings is actually the practice in reaching that state of being, and then learning to live there. When you can stand in the place of silence and just look at yourself, you can see a body having experiences and thinking thoughts and still that isnt You. Then it becomes perfectly okay to have experiences and not cover them up or distract yourself from them. They come and go and still you remain just a step outside of it all; happy and aware.
Red Train
*Traveled the Swiss Alps by scenic train
I came home to an exciting burst of energy, seeing old friends and making new ones, wedding events, and family time, but what surprised me most was the lack of reverse culture shock. Unlike going to a new culture and being surprised by the differences, reverse culture shock is returning home to find that the world you thought you knew looks very alien. Instead, on this trip I’ve had a reverse personality shock. I don’t know where I belong anymore or what I should be doing. There is no home or job to anchor me, no meditation practice or community other than my friends, so I find myself in a city I’ve lived in for over 4 years and have no idea what defines me anymore. I attend the same events during the week with the same people I knew, but somehow this shows me most how this last year has changed me. I am looking for my place in the world and I know I can never settle for something less than what I’ve experienced. At the moment that is the delight of living in a meditation community, which I plan to return to before the year is over. In some ways it seems like I haven’t achieved much, because there is nothing to grab onto, but really the differences are all on the inside and those are the ones that really matter. Upon returning to Kansas City, everything here has moved along at its normal pace, but it is no longer my home.  I see clearly there is nowhere to go back to, only forward, to find the right place and way for me to live. After all this traveling, and traveling I am certain to do in the years to come, I am even more dedicated to finding my place and developing something amazing.
*Climbed mountains in Germany, and could see the surrounding countries
What strikes me most about the changes in my life is the difference between what I have to call normal life and the new way of living that I’ve experienced. Normal life is perhaps the daily routine of waking, eating, doing the daily work or effort required of one, participating in your hobbies and entertainments, and just the general things that make up life on this planet.  Almost everyone lives their variation of this pattern that hopefully brings them great contentment. I used to be content and fulfilled by my normal life, waking most mornings glad to be alive and even excited to just have a cup of tea, embrace the day, and take a morning walk before going to work. Somewhere on this journey that changed; no longer having a home I wasn’t in my groove doing those simple things that brought me great pleasure and contentment. I have and enjoy even more simple pleasures while traveling, but no routine that brings me joy.  Even now, still living a life of ease, I am missing that feeling which embraced me each day. To the best of my understanding this is the result of not having or being challenged and missing my connection to something greater than myself. Without a goal to work on, such as a job or project I care about, there is no push to grow, to learn and better myself each day. Likewise I find that without my daily personal development or global development of community and the bettering of humanity, I equally am not challenged to grow. I found a bigger expression of myself in Inida that required of me to participate with all of the people involved there. Before I could go about my day alone and was content unto myself, but once this experience of community and connection was established, going back to something less just doesn’t give me enough anymore. This is why I want to return to India so much, to grow and feed myself in this area. Then it is my hope to be able to expand this experience and grow it into my own dream of living a connected life. All human beings I think hunger in some way for this connection and we are just waking up to the fact that with our new societal development we have forgotten for a time what real connection is and the joy that comes with it.
*Meeting beloved Osho friends in their home countries, Norway
Hindsight is a wonderful teacher, which today teaches me that the simplest decisions and the reasons for making them can change your whole world. In essence I made a simple decision in India and I am living the consequences today. One month prior to leaving the Pune Meditation Resort, I agreed to join my friends for a month in Dharamshala. This created “The Plan”, which after Dharamshala would take me to Germany for two months with a good friend of mine, then two weeks travel in Northern Europe. All of the plan was decided in roughly one moment and when the actual moment to follow the plan or change it came, I just stuck with the plan. In that moment of decision, at the end of my three months in Pune, not only was everyone and every experience telling me I should stay, my own inner voice and gut feeling was that I should stay. For fear of changing the plan and following my heart, which would have cost me money on plane tickets and a prepaid meditation program, plus the gut wrenching feeling of bailing on my friends and partner last minute, I ignored how I was feeling and followed a decision I made a month prior. Had those other considerations not been present,  the decision would have been easy, but the lesson was, can I follow my inner truth when it is going to cost me something? The answer at that time was obviously no, but now looking back over what unfolded I wont make that same decision twice. Following your energy and power is so important because it leads you to the right places and experiences that you can thrive in. When I said no to that inner voice, I lost my power and over the following three months ran dry, and life eventually became a little flat. I still enjoyed the experiences that I had, but I could have really enjoyed them with my energy intact. It is so clear to me that I was afraid to do what was best for me and energetically I paid the price. So I am headed back to Pune and I am moving away from plans, and if I do end up with a plan, I will trust that I can change it in a heartbeat without fear. I have given myself the freedom and time to honor what I feel and follow that direction. Everyone can look at their life right now and see places where they avoid what they really want. I am asking everyone to start doing what you really want, even in small ways, because the alternative feels pretty flat, pretty lifeless, and once you are there, getting back to ecstatic takes some work and effort.
*First sun seen in Iceland after two days of rain which setup my favorite day of the year
I’ve concluded there are two types of travel experiences, loosely called 1st world and 3rd world because that is where they occur. A 1st world experience is generally Europe, organized, clean, expensive, historical beauty in buildings, and whatever experience you wish for generally is going to cost you money, from entertainment to food. A 3rd world experience is generally a bit messy, cheap, naturally beautiful, and the thought of money barely crosses your mind. Both are equally wonderful experiences, but the difference between them is vast and gets right to the core of expectations for levels of comfort and the psychological effects of money. For those with a more limited budget for travel, they find their dollars stretching farther outside of the 1st world countries and from their perspective perhaps live in a level of comfort unaccustomed. This can be a huge psychological experience, because for the first time you are allowed the freedom to experience all that you wish. If you want to eat this and that, taxi here and there, buy gifts and clothes, it doesn’t cost you mental anguish to add up the costs and then balance that against how much work you have to do to pay for it.  You might for the first time experience money as an energy source, instead of a commodity, and using it like any other energy source for the betterment of your life experience. Likewise, traveling where your dollar goes for less, has you scrambling for the cheapest options, making sandwiches at home just so you can spend another day in the 1st world experience. Both are needed to understand the effect money plays on our perception of happiness in doing the things we want in life. Personally I like a mix of both experiences, but prefer on the whole the relaxed attitude of 3rd world living, with beautiful surroundings and no stress about money. There is just as much culture, and many more smiles while interacting with the locals, and when you train your eye on how locals get by each day with so few material resources, but so much happiness, you can really experience the freedom of money and learn to enjoy every day in a new way.
*The best apple pie in Amsterdam, a new favorite city of mine
While traveling with a lot of free time, you can always find something to do, but just being present with yourself is a wonderful gift. On the many trains, planes, and waiting rooms I found that I wasn’t putting in my headphones for music right away or checking Facebook. I would just sit and be patient and enjoy my own presence; not needing something to do or a distraction just to “kill some time”, instead enjoying just being alive in that moment of waiting. The interesting thing is the correlation between how present you are and the urge for distraction. I notice most acutely when the time to meditate arises and some urge also arises to check anything on my phone for any distraction. Why this postponement? A surge of anxiety arises over being present with myself as if the ego knows its being removed from its throne. It is a battle with my mind each time, and the more present I am, the easier it is to take a few moments and reach that place of joyous centeredness. The paradox is that meditation brings the real joy, but the hurdle is to forgo the distractions and entertainments that falsely promise happiness to simply reach it. Upon reaching that presence, you can enjoy those distractions even more so, if you choose, because you come from the place of presence and not of using the distractions to cover some feeling of emotion. Vipassana taught me that when we desire something, it usually isnt the object itself, but we desire the sensation of desiring itself, and we think the object will bring it to us. So when a feeling arises we chase after the externalization of that feeling to satiate it instead of seeing the truth of just being with the feeling and seeing it for what it is. This is the hurdle to doing almost anything in life, be it meditation or going to the gym. So more than anything, I’ve learned when this feeling of not wanting to meditate exists, I am overdue to sit down, meditate and reach my calm once again to see the world clearly. There will always be a multitude of interesting and entertaining things vying for your attention, but it fundamentally comes down to how do you wish to spend your time on this earth? Once you taste the beauty of your inner world, any worldly distractions begin to pale in comparison to really living life. Just like cutting sugar out of your diet leads to everything else tasting incredibly delicious, removing these other distractions leaves you with more time and space to enjoy your own delicious presence of being.
*Meditative dancing in India, also used for a promotional photo seen by thousands of people, which surprised me
I have had to remember this myself after leaving India. After a daily schedule of meditation, going back to doing it all on your own takes some serious discipline.  Traveling once again brought many distractions and riding that excitement I left my meditation practice a bit behind.  This led to a bit of confusion and feeling lost in my direction of life which is one of my biggest challenges.  As I find myself a bit of a fish out of water, I have to trust that I always carry the keys to my own happiness and they are but a few silent moments away from being with myself. It is a lifelong practice to be who you are and do what you love. Finding out what really excites you is the first half, then learning how to live that life each day is the rest of the task. The more truth we can experience about what really speaks to our hearts, what really lights up our faces, and makes us jump for joy, the closer we are to living a meditative lifestyle. I hope everyone has found at least one thing that has that flavor for them, because once you know the taste, there is no going back to a bland life. Blessings and joy to everyone on their journey and may all beings be happy.
The Wandering Monk
A special thank you to everyone who hosted me in their homes, couches, hearts, and lives.  Without your support and encouragement I never would have had the year I did and all of the new experiences. I love you all and it still brings tears to my eyes remembering what it feels like to be so taken care of instead of the other way around.
*Being silly with my best friend Tate in Germany, “Up all night to pet puppies!”
*Amsterdam round two with friends this time
me and david
*Met Mo and David on my first workaway experience in France, a new beloved mentor
*Seeing good friends and new loves in Belgium! Plus waffles and frites
*Our beloved cheese master who treated us like family and introduced me to my new favorite cheeses, bare kase from Switzerland
*Went under the knife of brave friends in Switzerland when my hair got unruly
1467470_981566286421_920741569_n  *Explored the beautiful canals of Venice, and checked off the first part of Eat, Pray, Love10177435_10100144038717341_8551906736441433225_n   *Visited the Taj Mahal at the end of India, and another check for Eat, Pray, Love10406955_10100170838470421_2633856899521643109_n
*Jumped into the freezing waters of Norway!

Exploring Bavaria and Berlin


I arrive in Bavaria on a crisp fall day and history has come to greet me. Everywhere are people in traditional clothes, leiderhosen and dirndl, and the mood is wonderful. The people are off to Munich for Octoberfest to celebrate beer and their history while I have arrived in cow country to enjoy some nature. A dear friend Florian, whom lived in Kansas City for a study abroad, has returned home to southern Germany and like our last adventure we are going to climb a mountain. Unlike that trip we will not get altitude sickness, but we will make many more memories. 

*3 years ago in Colorado at 14,000 feet

If the mildly charming smells of cow pasture do not alert you to your present situation the constant ringing of bells will. Every cow has their own bell, a matter of tradition now, and thus their merry wanderings ring across the rolling hills of vibrant green. Green is the grass here, second only to Iceland I think. Cows play an important roll in Bavaria and are a source of pride. The young cows are often sent to the alps for grazing before winter and return to the farmers adorned with a giant bell, flowers and all cleaned up if the whole herd makes the journey intact. It’s a parade where everyone gets dressed up, even the cows, and shows off. 

Florian’s aunt has a dairy farm and I get to experience milking up close and personal. It’s amazing to watch them line up to get washed and milked. Looking into their large eyes, these cows seem to stare back, trying to convey their sense of being.  They are very well taken care of and seem to enjoy a nice country side lifestyle.  The amounts of milk while varying from cow to cow average 22 liters a day. That’s roughly 500 gallons of milk a day for the 100 cows that get milked. Among the young cows, they vary from extremely shy to licking my hand with their rough tongues. There are some barn cats new to life and an extremely agile dog. As a special treat a young lady cow was going to get pregnant today. Florians cousin took special training to be able to tell when an egg was present and how to insert sperm right next to it with a long tool. Pretty interesting, but not so much excitement for any party. I’ll stick to traditional methods. 

His aunt invited us to a simple dinner after having finished their daily work while we watched. A few questions were offered my way, but Florian got to catch up with his relatives in German for the evening. After the initial odd looks upon discovering I neither ate meat or alcohol, and a joke that I should join the cows, we all settled into smiles. This was another excellent experience to practice understanding people without words. I expect more of this as I travel of course and it is quite amazing how well one can communicate with feeling alone. We might rely on words too much sometimes to express ourselves when a long hard look into another’s eyes will do more justice. Obviously when you have no words to offer and the burning desire to express yourself remains all that is left is to center yourself and radiate whatever glow you have. Such a skill is one I wish to practice and hone, so that no matter where I go I can fill a room with my presence and understand all and be understood in the only way that matters: your presence in the world. 

Florian myself and two friends hiked siplinger hof mountain on an extraordinarily nice day. Through dense woods, across narrow points and with the amazing scenery of 3 different countries we strolled. We stopped for a traditional lunch at the top where there exists a large cross, as is customary for German mountains. This consists of bread, cheese, and sausage and I added some carrots and baby tomatoes to round out my non meat cravings. Florian’s friends were glad I preferred the traditional food to a hamburger and fries. At the end I enjoyed a burst of energy as I ran down the mountain in my toe shoes to great delight. We gathered and enjoyed a radler, a mix of lemonaid and beer. Very refreshing. 

After climbing the mountain we celebrated Florians birthday.  This was the circomstance that decided for me to head to Germany first rather than Belgium.  Of course everything worked out perfectly.  I met many of his friends, and after they drank a bit, the broken english came out and we all shared slurred stories of travel.  The authentic Bavarian dish I was able to try was a wedding/funeral soup with a salty broth and noodles made from a German pancake made the day before and cut up.  It was quite delicious.  

On our last day we visited neuschwanstein (new swan stone) castle. This is the fairy tail castle that inspired Disney’s castle. Built by king Ludwig II to satisfy his romantic dreams and lifestyle. It is every bit the magic castle you could imagine. We had rather a lot of fog on our trip so enjoy the postcard photo. I’ll hopefully be back to see it again on a clear day. After all this excitement and hospitality it was time to head up to Berlin and visit another friend.

Winter is coming and that means 6 hours of sun in Berlin or nostalgic thoughts for me depending on how you count time. Bundling up, cups of tea and Christmas shopping are a few of the warm thoughts bubbling up today, but more pervasively are thoughts of my time at work. The actual work when I think about it thankfully runs from my memory, but the plesant moments and more importantly the feelings have stayed. I’ll always remember my first 6 months of work with my father for the amazing learning experience it was. I had responsibilities that extended beyond myself, I was learning the business and how to speak with people on the phone and get what I needed. I started in October so 6 years later on the mark I remember most the warm feeling of learning from my father, imitating his lifestyle, and learning to drink cappuccinos. That was our midday ritual, find lunch and finish with a cappuccino. I remember those days fondly right now, the warmth of the drink coupled with the warm environment of family and belonging to something outside myself. It is of course the romantasised memories that bring up these wonderful feelings. Those pure moments of feeling that linger over the years is all that is remembered, not the doing and so it is vital to remember that all you do should be done with great feeling and vigor. When action lacks feeling and becomes dull, moments of your life slip away into the ether never to be recalled again. Stay awake and love what you are doing and your days will be filled with joy and warmth. 

*berlin wall
The sounds of winter are the reverberating shuffle scrapes of shoes in empty courtyards and stair cases, with the sniffled overtone of breath catching the shock of chilled air. Sounds and touch are amplified in the chilled silence of winter air asking each person to notice the starkness of change before the impulse to hurry on and retreat into warmth. A beam of sun catches you in mid stride and you can almost agree that it’s not half bad. Then the shade comes back and you shudder to remember it’s actually only fall and winter is a ways off.

Berlin is a unique experience due to its history. Once liberated, east Berlin was behind the times and this made it an idea place for lovers of freedom to congregate. Rarely do you find an authentic Berliner as artists and eccentrics from the world over flock to Berlin to live cheaply and express themselves. The going slogan is “poor but sexy” and it shows. It’s a haven for eternal sub culture, the parents are over in West Berlin perhaps and not wanted here.  

Often in bombed out buildings these people would squat and over time they turned into communities focused in art or gardening and many other projects.  As money flows into the city, these spaces are now worth quite a sum, which leads to many legal problems today settling ownership, and as the city grows the atmosphere is changing.  Money tends to bring with it the conservative touch of conformity. Berlin is perhaps the last modern city where a thriving culture of poor, but free creative people exist in such boundless numbers with such freedoms and space. The people I met look back on prices and freedom of mobility 10 years ago and see that Berlin will be much different in another 10 years as unparalleled growth happens and this city rushes to meet the fate of all cities. 

Sexuality also flows freely as the normal stereotypes of repression have been set free. This was evident on the highlight of the trip. My good friend Shauna whom I was crashing with took me and some friends to Wasteland, an offshoot from the worlds biggest fetish party in Amsterdam. I only knew to expect latex and rubber and keep an open mind. I was prepared for that, but I wasn’t prepared for just how comfortable the whole thing would be. After rummaging through a friends wardrobe, it was decided I would be wearing a PVC skirt, red thigh high stockings and a fishnet shirt.

It was suggested I go in my underware only as it gets quite hot in this place, but I was needlessly hesitant to be that naked as I would soon understand that just underware would be quite conservative. Thankfully the skirt gave me some sort of costume and added a nice flare to my dance style. Besides just being comfortable I totally understand why women wear them now. The costumes at the party were magnificent and I wish I could have spent some more effort on mine, but at least my compatriots had full rubber outfits of the kind you would expect. (In hindsight I am thankful I was not living in a river of sweat)

The club is billed as the place for consenting expression of sexual freedom. The age range was more in the mid 30-50’s, but every age group was represented. Perhaps it was this added maturity that added a pervading calm and easy going flow to the whole place. There were half naked people of all sorts, men, women, tops and bottoms. There were people who seemed they couldn’t decide to dance or masterbate and kept switching between the two on the dance floor. Others were having various types of sex in other spaces. And this was very natural and okay. Many people not used to this may have been gawking and picking their jaws off the floor all night, but being there, seeing people interacting with such care and affection, even when using whips, was the biggest surprise of all. Freedom comes when you express and explore who you are and what makes you feel good. I suppose if this was too much you would have just left and thus everyone here was on the same page. I’m glad I got to see what being open with your body can look like in the extreme. Nudity and sexual expression in Europe has always been ahead of our more prudish nature where showing violence doesn’t make as much of a stir as naked bodies. 

The rest of my time in Berlin was spent exploring a little, but mainly learning Acro Yoga.  I dont know the exact definition, but Acro invoves two people performing a mix of acrobatics and yoga, with one person on the ground as the base and the other supported in the air as the flyer.  I spent 3 of my 6 nights going to practice and meeting people so I would say Berlin was like going to circus school for me.  I had been introduced to this yoga before by a couch surfer in Kansas City, but I really got to learn some things and find my balance.  I was fourtunate enough to learn both base and flying.  Experiencing both sides of this movement cultivated an amazing respect for perspective.  As a base I saw the whole movement and balance one way, then as a flyer as a completly different way.  It was quite schocking, after explaining to my flyer what I needed as a base, to have it flipped around on me and experience the reverse.  A perfect and immediate lesson in understanding that your perspective is not reality, but only your interpretation of it.

I enjoyed my time in Berlin and all the amazing people I met.  Many of whom struck an immediate chord as someone I would continue to get to know better.  As for the city, while providing a context for these personal encounters, I wasnt really moved particularily by its beauty or presence and thinking about spending winter there chills me to the bone.  But like all the amazing people who endure the winter to experience the rest of the amazing seasons, its the community of interesting young people expressing themselves and what they love that gives Berlin its unique charm.

See you next year Germany. 

P.S. I got to do 200 on the autobahn.