Travel and friends in Europe

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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.
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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.
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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.
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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!
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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

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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.
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*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.
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*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.
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*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.
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*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.
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*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.
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*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.
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*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.
 
Torey
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.
 
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*Being silly with my best friend Tate in Germany, “Up all night to pet puppies!”
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*Amsterdam round two with friends this time
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*Met Mo and David on my first workaway experience in France, a new beloved mentor
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*Seeing good friends and new loves in Belgium! Plus waffles and frites
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*Our beloved cheese master who treated us like family and introduced me to my new favorite cheeses, bare kase from Switzerland
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*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!
 

Paris: World of Imagination

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“Come with me 
and you’ll be 
in a world 
of pure imagination”
 – Willy Wonka

Stepping foot into Paris is like getting the golden ticket. Your dreams are about to come true and everywhere you look something has been created to delight your senses. The night air is alive, the lights, the stones, the smells all transport me back to my first experience of the world; Paris at age 16. The world was so mysterious and vast, where anything could happen right around the corner and my imagination was ripe and fresh. To my inexperienced youth, a foreign language with no responsibilities was enough to lock Paris into a pure playground of sensations. The world seems to have gotten smaller as I easily manage my way around and use simple French, yet the awe of stepping into these vaguely familiar streets fills me with joy to explore the city of love from this totally new self. Walking the night air, seeing fashionable people having drinks on the sidewalk, the familiar subway air smell and cigarette smoke, this is the Paris I remember, whose feelings are etched in my memory. 

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I have traveled to many cities and countries and with each I have developed a relationship. Some were brief and memorable, some fail to make a lasting impression.  Japan left deep and profound changes in our ongoing relationship, while others like Paris, while she may not always be on your mind, can with one look, one embrace, cause all time to be forgotten as you fall back into the arms of a trusting and comfortable lover. 
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As luck would have it, our apartment over looks the ever present Eiffel Tower and I am graced with laughter at the pure perfection of our situation. I am rooming with my best friend from college and unofficial adopted family, Robin and his wife Gabriella. Despite the late hour and the 10 hours of travel, it’s time to eat. My trip has been likened to the movie Eat, Pray Love in the sense that I plan to eat in France, meditate in India and well I may not be searching for external love, but I am going to Bali and I may find love. After stumbling in and out of brasseries trying to find an open establishment we land ourselves a table and a few entrées.
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Ah Paris, you never fail to amaze the senses. The food that arrives knocks me flat: A Classic French onion soup (funny how the best one in the city always arrives on your first meal), a pair of toast points with bubbling fresh goat cheese melting on top, and a tower of sliced vegetables with marinara and mozzarella glowing all colors of the rainbow. Even the table baguette has more flavor and snap than most breads I can remember and I finish everything in sight. This begins the journey to eat my weight in bread and cheese; and I think I’ll throw in French pasteries to finish the job. 

I awake to the smells of Paris. The din and excitement of morning traffic and stalls setting up for the weekly open air market waft through the windows. Hallways in hotels and apartments have a unique smell to them only to be found in Paris. It’s a slightly musty, yet comforting smell the hugs you in the narrow passageways and stairwells of this well worn city. A memory of the ages and people that have passed into antiquity. Ground floor presents a new barrage of olfactory assault. The fresh seafood and meat vendors have on display their finest cuts and catches. I wander through the market with people bustling to and fro with their purchases and rubbing up to the display cases to make their selections.  I pass whole displays of fruit and vegetables, more cheese varieties than I know exist and bakers with that delicious French bread and glowing flaky crust that accompanies every croissant and pain au chocolat.  Giant figs and nectarines fill my bag as I navigate the French language for the first time and realize I don’t have all the words I need, but I overcome my hesitancy to look foolish and pointing helps. I find out later it happens to be nectarine season which is why they are bursting with flavor as juices run down my face with each bite.  Robin saves me from my fromage incompetence and nabs us quite a few delicious selections to round out the breakfast feast. 
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Robin is attending sciences po to finish his law degree while Gabriella is studing for the LSAT which leaves me to wander the city aimlessly everyday. I’ve seen the main sights of Paris and wish to remain out of the circle of tourists and blend in as a local just going about my daily business.  I will walk in upwards of 10 miles a day crossing ever farther from my home base in the 15th arrondissement to discover much by accident many famous sights, movie locations, and local happenings to attract my attention. As the weather clears from cool and gray to sunny and warm over my 2 weeks I enjoy my strolls and comfortably find that miles disappear beneath my feet without even noticing. An hour walk is just the start of a daily routine which is probably why I’ve lost weight rather than gained any. I have time, so I leisurely wander and my wanderings find me so much beauty and activity I never once feel I am missing out on anything happening in the city. Obviously more is happening than I can ever comprehend, but I find street performers, art walks, local food stands, free concerts, mesmerizing sweet shops, famous buildings, beautiful parks and more stunning architecture than I can gawk at. 
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This city of stone sprawls ever farther from the steps of sacre couer. Taking in the awe inspiring scope of construction from this lofty point I am filled with a sense of dismay for this endless stone jungle that has replaced all it’s greens for beige. At the same time zooming into any one of these buildings and I am enamored with its individual beauty and uniqueness; every one a work of art. It is much the same view when looking at the earth from space, seeing the damage humanity has caused across the planet and yet everything when viewed up close has its own beauty and place and I am reminded to not fall into judgements, that each moment is a unique moment to be cherished. That everything is perfect, the creation and even the destruction.  It is all a unique example of each persons desires rolled into reality and could not be any other way.  I take these thoughts into the church and meditate into the high domed ceilings of this grand work of human achievement adorned with loving gilt and decoration until I reach a place of peace and wander back into the jungle with love and appreciation. 
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I wonder who lives in the penthouses of the special buildings that end in the rounded classic V intersection like two lovers crossings paths. These finely dressed people sipping tea and gazing out the window as their building unwaveringly plays match maker to pedistrians who seem happy to never walk on parallel streets but to arrive in a puff of smoke, enjoy a drink on the ground floor then continue on their way.  The beauty of the buildings everywhere is astounding. The massive stones and archways of every façade make wandering the streets such a pleasure. Despite the fact that something is happening everywhere in Paris or some historical location lurks around the corner, walking through the streets is interesting enough just to look at the architecture of common apartment buildings. Whoever dreamed this wonderland up from their imagination and got an entire city to play along, I am thankful for their imagination. 
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On a day trip to Versailles I get to experience the overwhelming luxury of royalty. After 10 minutes you go quite numb to the grandiosity of it all. The paintings and gold leaf and the history of it all. It’s not quite my taste truthfully, but interesting to witness and maybe have a ballroom party there once. I have to take stock at one point. I am in the museum hall with giant paintings and realize that one painting is the length of my old house. I quickly pace the width and discover that 8 of my 2200 sq foot homes will fit inside this single hall. I think it hits me then at the real size of this palace, which you can’t comprehend while being inside it without reference points. I escape to the gardens which are massively huge as well and quite by happenstance discover my favorite part of Versailles 
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In the summer palace the queen had a hamlet built to educate the young aristocrats on the workings of daily life for rural France. The amazingly styled buildings here with their gardens and picturesque landscape immediatly identiy with my plans for a community living space. I take my lunch here and just imagine what it would be like to live here and enjoy such beauty every day. I am so excited for my future way of life as I experience examples of it in this moment. My travels are already paying off well I think. 

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Back in Paris I pop out of a subway station into my own world of imagination. I rarely take a train on the outward journey so I am disoriented to my surroundings when I emerge in a new magical place. I am here to visit Robin’s favorite writing shop with leather bound journals. The smell of paper and the beauty of writing stare at me from every object of a time long past when the letter was an intimate treasure to give and receive. I still find handwriting and letter craft to be incredibly alluring and a moment to pause and contemplate life and the beautiful complexities of communication. Despite my romantic tendencies towards this art form I rarely partake in its pleasures. The digital age has taken the subtle art of waiting for news to arrive and replaced it with instant gratification and the accompanying magic, taken for granted,  of communicating with someone halfway around the globe. 
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I return from my reverie to notice the magical state of affairs I find myself in. Every few shops is an artisan chocolatier and patisserie with their colorful gleaming displays and delicate creations which beckon my taste buds and curiosity. Since making friends with a local raw chocolatier in salt lake city I have had a healthy interest in artisan chocolate making from bean to bar. I wouldn’t be opposed to adding this to my list of hobbies if I find myself near the equator in my travels. Thus every shop has a new story for me to explore and subtle flavors to try. Had I the coin, I could happily spend days sampling every delicacy within sight. I even found a chocolate museum on my wanderings which contained some of the original recipies for chocolate, always consumed as a liquid for the high priests, and some historical ads for chocolate bars from France. While I have not broken down and tried every colorful pastry to catch my eye, when I try to grasp and explain my childlike joy at just viewing these treasures of culinary artwork, no one seems to appreciate them with me.
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I hear the world over that spend enough time in one location and you go numb to the scenery and local flavor that was once a great joy. I am certainly a victim of this as well, at home I did not thoroughly explore every aspect that a visitor would find interesting, but I never once got bored with knowing and appreciating where the best food and delicacies where located. Perhaps since shops are located on every corner no one is concerned since the standard of quality is high across the board. Being from a smaller city, the selection wasnt so varied and the differences in taste were great. For now I am happy that everything I find is delicious and I could spend years here and not eat it all. 
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I must be exuding a comfortable sense of belonging because I get asked for directions about 3 times a day, by Parisians. It might also be the beard. I usually understand what they are after and the map on my phone shows them the nearest station. It’s also fun when Americans ask me directions in broken French, and I answer in French, then calmly ask them, “Do you speak English?”.  Sometimes I leave out words to keep the wonderment in their faces alive and pretend to be somewhat of an oddity if not a local. Many travelers comment that their English gets worse as we drop words when speaking to non English speakers to get the meaning across because less is more when people are not fluent. It’s kind of fun, but I usually just slow my speaking down and everyone benefits. I really felt I had my basics down when an American started ordering her bread in English and the man behind the counter had that “I don’t know what you are saying look”. I happened to know a simple translation and offered it to the situation and felt pretty happy with myself as everyone got something they enjoyed. Communication offers so much enrichment to our lives and it’s not always the words, communicating the meaning to another and being understood is what’s important. 

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Of course there is no avoiding museums in Paris and many are worth seeing many times over. The musee d’orsay is a fine example of a permanent collection that covers many ages in history and one I find great value in seeing. Not all pieces moved me, but many went far beyond and I had to stare transfixed at the magnificent works. I struggle with art at times. If a works beauty doesn’t grab me upon laying eyes on it, it probably isn’t for me. That said, I have found that statues on their own for some reason escape my glances, but put that same statue in context, such as a church or in a garden and I will appreciate looking at it. Not every style or piece is my cup of tea, but I can appreciate the effort and vision that went into it. 

That being said, some new works of contemporary modern just boggle my mind. I am often moved by a deep feeling of frustration, bafflement and then anger at some pieces being displayed by museums, decided upon by minds steeped in the art world and works presumably worth a lot of money. I think you perhaps know these works. They look like Sunday art projects thrown together by just about anyone who can devote a modicum of effort and the vaguest idea of a purpose. I saw 30 pieces of work, each a self portrait of the artist, made of a bit of plywood and pieces of computer parts and wires arranged haphazardly together. Of course I had to read the sign to know they were self portraits. To me they were a few hours and a spare parts bin thrown together that anyone could have made. A whole room was devoted to this prominent artist and my mouth just hangs open. Next to this was a whole room dedicated to a checkered floor, 2 half inflated crayon blowup toys and a metal frame square suspended from the ceiling. I couldn’t stand to read what this was supposed to mean because my brain cells hurt too much and I needed to escape from this world where people find this pleasurable to look at. This is a museum and the effort put into this looks like it took 10 minutes and the beauty or an interesting factor isn’t self evident, it needs to be explained to you and that I just can’t take. 

This however leads me to the subtle work on myself I have been undergoing. To release the ego and it’s judgements. These works affected me, and thus to find the place affronted within me and become at peace with it is to encounter works like this again and remain at peace and go on about my day. I got seriously worked up about this at some level. Feeling like a bunch of kids got together behind closed doors and said let’s see what we can get away with calling art and displaying it to the public as some giant joke. On the other hand applying this ego clearing to the works I declare I like is also to be released. All judgements must be dropped and what will remain is what is and I will see reality as it really is. Catching the mind as it makes instant judgements about anything you encounter is the first step. Once this process is understood and stopped I can encounter anything and without judgement be in relation to it as it truly is without declaring it good or bad.
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On the bright side I almost skipped the modern art museum Pompidou and I would have missed out. Almost everything here really had substance and a special exhibit took my attention with its focus on interaction with the viewer through sound, touch, and movement. Some of the films even came to life as actors moved about the exhibit bringing the experience into the moment. This exhibit and the permanent collection had pieces I even loved that took real thought and while expressed in a modern way were very effective at their message and beautiful in their own right and without explination. I am thankful for this learning experience to see into myself and what subtle tricks the mind can still get up to. As I move through my journey I will try to remain judgement free as new experiences show up to shine on my inner world.

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I was graced with a few other learning experiences in my time here. In my effort to live life as a local I forgot the benefits of living like a traveler. I read once to treat everyday in your home city as if you were on vacation there. Laugh at the traffic, explore around the corner, and open your eyes to the majesty of the moment. No matter where you go I find that the newness wears off when you start to treat that place as routine. It is all a mindset and you can chose a more alive one anytime you want. I do think that it takes a certain kind of innocence and a child-like playful attitude to achieve successfully. I found myself one day counting beans and talking myself out of spending the extra money on enjoying some fine French macaroons. My goal is to live directly, in the moment and here I fell into the trap of just living out my days. Be a traveler and eat out everyday, have two ice creams, try everything, because who knows if tomorrow is coming. Also listen to your body when it comes to eating obviously and don’t overdo it.  I am trying to live each day fully, with great feeling and vitality, and I found myself attempting to be extra thrifty and skipping opportunities to try new delicious foods because of what? Trying to get through my time in France affordably?  As if that was my main intention and I had fallen back into the dull routine of daily life whose focus is money. It’s a question that will continue to follow me I think. What is the goal of a persons way of living? What do you get out of each day?  Is that exactly what you want or just a means of delaying some greater dream? My dream at the moment is to eat delicious foods and visit my friends around Europe. I have the funds set aside for this within reason, but the intention and direction is important. I had lost the intention to old habits of denying myself in the moment for some lower desire to hoard and secure myself from future experiences or hardships. To free myself to express my intention in the moment and live a life of authenticity is the practice of this first portion of travel. To eat and fill myself with freedom and joy, then to go to India and meditate until balance comes between the two. Never forget the direction you are pointed, and if you are lost, be still until you know your direction, for aimless effort is bound to be in the wrong direction. 

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In discerning my direction and selecting a plan I’ve learned something. Given that I can go anywhere and do anything, (this is true for all people) figuring out what to do and how to go about it can seem complicated. Often it boils down to a simple decision, this way or that, north or south, Germany or Belgium. How does one decide?  And when trying to plan around finding trains and places to stay, free opportunities, planning around friends schedules, seeing cool things, and your brain starts melting with all the planning between just two choices. I go for a walk. If another person might be involved in planning I shoot them a message to see how my ideas work for them. By the time I get back one person responds or one choice feels easier and that becomes the course. That settling in feeling aligns the universe to your decision and thus a course of action unfolds while all others fade. When I try to force a direction rather than let one unfold, madness ensues, like swimming against the current. I trust that I am always being guided to experiences and situations that allign with my way of being. This has not failed me yet. But letting go of the need to plan and choose, when planning does save you money on tickets, is tough. The particulars do sort themselves out easily and I’ve met great experiences when I finally relax, and just put out the word on where I want to go and see what comes back to me. Whether on Facebook or just stating my intention to myself and the world. Declare what it is you want and let the rest come to you!  There are always little signs about going with the flow and when you are flowing all things can come to you. In the end, no matter where you go, there you are.
And it’s always perfect. 
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Eating well and off to Germany~
-The Wandering Monk