Tag Archives: travel

Island Hermit, Still Has Wi-Fi

1 May

I came across this article about a hermit getting kicked off the island he has been a caretaker on for 32 years. What caught my eye was the fact that he said goodbye on a Facebook post–which means the hermit had a smartphone.

I’ve dreamed about moving to remote and difficult to reach locations since I was young. This guy happened to be sailing and his ship crashed there; there just happened to be a job opportunity and he took it. Fair enough–life takes you places you weren’t expecting to go. However, I strangely feel less sympathetic to a guy who obviously gets off the island once and a while. I doubt Amazon delivers to a place with just a hut. That’s not the definition of “hermit.” That’s just like being a lighthouse keeper–it’s just a remote job.

I’ve thought about moving to Pitcairn Island several times, which is about the most isolated place you can get to that still has the semblance of civilization. The only town, Adamstown, has about 55 people. First obstacle is the serious difficulty of getting there; fly to the French Marquesas, wait for a boat, and then take a two night boat ride to get to the island. After that, the New Zealand Government wants some assurances (like any immigrant) that you won’t be a drain on their economy. So you’ve got to have around $30K NZD per adult ($22K USD) in your bank account.

However, they also have satellite internet. It’s occurred to me that if I worked in Adamstown for my soon-to-be late employer as a consultant, I could easily make that amount in a yearly salary and prove that I would be a contributing member of their society. Of course, I’m married and have kids, so abandoning them… or asking them to move to the end of the world is kind of a non-starter.

So I like the idea that “you can work from anywhere” can be extended to incredibly remote areas. I think I’ve written about the consultants I worked with who spent half the year in Ghana or Brazil; if you get paid well enough for a job, you can live simply and simply not work. I’ve met travelling consultants who own a farm in North Dakota and this was how they paid the bills. For that matter, there are veterans who retire from the US military and live off half pay in Mexico. (As strange as it sounds, there are multiple American Legion posts in Mexico.)

Of course, that also redefines the concept of “hermit.” Can you still be a religious isolationist and still post a blog about your concepts of the infinite? I guess even priests have private lives. 🙂 But what do you think? Let me know in the comments below! Then check out one of my books. However, if $1.99 cuts into your moving budget, go ahead and download one of my stories for free!

If We Pay Them, They Will Come

30 Apr

The 2020 US Census came out and showed how the American population is moving–to Texas, Montana, Colorado, and Oregon–so how does places that are losing people get them back? Simple–pay them!

In the same breath as hearing about the census results, the radio show I listen to mentioned this cool website called Make My Move. This is not an ad for this site, but I’m fascinated by this idea, especially because most of the towns listed are… not small. How do you convince new people to move to a place no one wants to go to?

This has been tried before. A lot of small towns in deep rural areas are offering free lots to anyone who wants to build on them. Although people are surveyed every year on the best places to live, and people talk about moving to… wherever your heart lies, they don’t do it. Why? Because once you get there, you need to be able to live. There is often no jobs in your field. So I might want to move to Lincoln, Kansas, but unless my job is remote (which it has been for a while), good luck paying for the new house when you don’t have a job.

That’s why this new website is so fascinating. These are not small towns. Places like Morgantown, WV–that’s the home of West Virginia University, it’s on the commuter rail to Washington, DC, it’s a beautiful place… yet they are offering $20,000 for people to move there, half in cash, half towards a house down payment. Benton Harbor, Michigan–a beautiful place–offers $15,000. Augusta, Maine–the capital of the state–same amount.

I would love to move to a lot of the places on this list. Montpelier, Vermont offers $13,000. Sure, come for the beauty, stay for the socialism, so maybe that makes a little more sense. Tulsa, Oklahoma though? A sizeable chunk of cash for people who want to move there. The smaller towns make more sense–Newton, Iowa; Bemidji, Minnesota–small college town and regional centers. But even Baltimore, Maryland offers $5,000!

The main obstacle to a lot of these offers is… hearing about the offer in the first place. The couple times in my life when I chose to live in a location, I never bothered checking to see if there were incentives, or… even having a job in hand before I moved. I had this crazy idea that I could afford to live as a substitute teacher in Portland, Maine about twenty years ago. I lived there for three months, during the winter, and absolutely loved it. Of course, I couldn’t afford it, and what I learned was that most poor folk lived in Lewistown for a couple years (much cheaper, 45 min commute) and worked in Portland. Moving to Cincinnati worked, but we had a good nest egg, and it didn’t take long to get some temp work to get us on our feet. But if I hadn’t gotten my good job after a year, we would have gone back to Illinois.

So… I’m not sure if these incentives work, but it might get people thinking about moving in the first place. Then thoughts might become the mover of our actions. But what do you think? Is this a good idea whose time has come? Or is this the last gasp of a failing city? Let me know in the comments below! Then move out to a new world with one of my books. However, if $1.99 is too steep for your moving budget, go ahead and download one of my stories for free. It’s worth the trip.

The Windy Road Home

25 Apr

So I had a great time hanging out with my friend in Tucson, but as Ben Franklin says, “Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days.” After sleeping on his couch and shooting the breeze, I had to get going home. Which means driving through a wind storm in the Sonoran Desert.

Despite the picture above, we actually had no visible dust blowing through–apparently the previous two dust storms this season took out all the easily accessible dust, so visibility was clear. Sorry to fool you, but it’s really hard to show wind in a desert landscape, because there’s not a lot of trees as a visual reference.

But a two hour trip does give you plenty of time to think. Since I like to stop in Casa Grande on the way home, it did make me think, “How do you screw up a Scotch and Soda? It’s two ingredients!” Yet it tasted terrible. Must have been a really bad well scotch–which is entirely possible–or way too much soda. Which is rather difficult with such a small glass.

Okay, enough complaining. I did go down to a Legion bar while I was down in Tucson (when I got there, not when I was leaving), and was pleasantly surprised on how nice it was. It also had the highest number of day drinkers I have ever seen concentrated in one place. Wow. I guess the sheer number of retirees in that location makes that a lot more possible. There were several visitors from out of town, including folks from LA, Georgia, and Scotland (by way of Canada)! There I was, doing a little writing and playing, and this couple with a thick Scottish accent are hanging out.

My friend is also someone who “swallowed the blue pill,” which is our family’s term for someone who is very afraid of COVID. He’s had the first shot, but doesn’t want to eat in a restaurant until he’s had the second shot. I respect that, even if I don’t agree with his opinion, but we disagree with a lot of things. We’re still friends. I personally think it feeds into his agoraphobia, so it’s really just an excuse, albeit a good one. However, it’s not like he asked me if I was sick coming into his house, or the fact that I haven’t gotten the shot either… so how effective is his isolation?

However, my friend did introduce me to a couple films that I never would have seen on my own. So often, I get turned off by reviews, that when my friend (who has different standards) takes a gander at stuff, he’s able to open my horizons beyond what I would be willing to. And that’s the point of having friends; someone who will not just make you less lonely, but to challenge you and your thoughts. We had a conversation about gun control–I can’t say I defended my position really well, but then again, I wasn’t planning to make a convincing argument at that moment.

So to wrap it all up, vacation allows us to have new experiences. The stay-cation never has the same effect; getting out of your bubble, the same-old, same-old, refreshes us and challenges us in ways that give us energy for the days ahead. However, this collection of random thoughts may be a bit too silly–what do you think? Let me know in the comments below! Then if you need more random thoughts, check out one of my books. However, but if you don’t want to pay for someone else’s ramblings, go ahead and download one of my stories for free!

Who Will Show Up?

13 Apr

I heard a story on the news that a man had died ten years ago, and due to automatic payments, was only now discovered when the money ran out. I went online and couldn’t find the story. The reason is because this story is NOT that uncommon.

Take this story from 2014 – in Pontiac, Michigan, one day in 2007, a 49-year-old woman named Pia Farrenkopf just disappeared. This was not uncommon for her–she was known to travel a lot. Her bank was set up to autopay her bills. No one thought anything of it. After they realized no one was mowing her grass, someone called the cops. They knocked at the door, police didn’t see anything amiss, so they went away. The grass continued to grow–neighbors took it upon themselves to mow the lawn for her.

In a way, that’s kind of heartening. Eventually, the money ran out in her bank account, and the bank foreclosed on the property. Even then, apparently, no one bothered to clean out the house; but then again, houses were being foreclosed all the time, so maybe there was a delay. Then on inspection, a hole in the roof was noticed, and only then did someone look into the garage. The body of Pia was discovered in the back seat, the keys in the ignition.

Pia kept to herself, she disappeared for weeks at a time (presumably to go back to Germany), and the only family she had (her sister), Pia was estranged from. Meanwhle, her mummified body was sitting in the back of her car in the garage.

Or take this story from 2019–a elderly man was discovered dead in an apartment after 11 years. Again, the rent for this Nantes, France flat was being paid automatically. But because no one bothered to check, they had to figure out when he died because of the expired food marks in the fridge.

And that’s all this news story has on it–they have to fill the rest of the story about an elderly woman in Spain who had been dead for four years before someone noticed. The clue… her laundry that was hung out to dry hadn’t changed. Now since we don’t have a lot of detail here, I’m going to assume that the laundry was sitting on a rack inside the house. But how sad would it be if it was outside the house… people tend to have the same clothes, so would it be that unusual? It was only when neighbors noticed the same clothes after four years that they decided to look inside the window and see the legs sticking out from behind some furniture on the ground.

It’s easy to say, “Well, this is elderly people, and since they don’t get out as often as they should, so it’s easy to miss them.” But this can happen to anyone–the difference seems to be “how long can you stopping pay your bills before someone notices?” When you isolate yourself from everyone, no one’s going to notice if you’re not there… and that’s incredibly sad.

So what I am trying to say? Leave your house every so often. Get out. Talk to people you normally wouldn’t talk to. There’s lot of opportunities for this–attend religious services, workout, go to the bar, join a club… whatever! The pandemic is ending–you’re out of excuses. It’s so easy to be isolated in the modern era; don’t be that way. Maybe go read one of my my books in the park? However, if money is tight, and a $1.99 is too much go ahead and download one of my stories for free. But get out of the house–I mean it.

You’re Going Nowhere

1 Apr

The idea of public transit in the US is wonderful–too many cars, too few roads/lanes. But outside of the certain urban areas, it doesn’t get much traction. Why? Because the timing simply doesn’t work.

The first problem is waiting; it’s a pain in the butt. With a car, you get in whenever you want and you go. With public transit, you are dependent on other people. There’s a schedule and you have to be there at that time or you have to wait. Honestly, bus schedules are more of a “suggestion” anyway, because they’re dependent on traffic and the number of riders.

Then there’s the bus itself. I personally love trains–light rail, subways, Amtrak–absolutely love riding them. Any time I can make an excuse to ride them, I do. Buses… not so much. When choosing between an amazingly clean bus and an amazingly dirty train, I’ll take the dirty train every time. Why? Because the train only stops at designated places; the bus stops any time someone wants off. Of course, that’s the local bus. There are express buses which only have designated stops… but it’s still not as fun as a train.

Most places I’ve lived, when I have the train option, it doesn’t go where I want to go. If I work in Corporate Acres, but I live in Lesser Middlesburg, the train station is in Upper Middlesburg, it goes downtown, then you have to switch to go to another train to get to Corporate Acres. So I have to “park and ride.” When I lived in Cincinnati, I lived outside the highway ring, and took the express bus downtown, and then my company had a shuttle direct to campus. It was very convenient. Then we moved to a closer suburb. I was going to ride my bike to the bus stop and take the bus in. Going into work was fine, but then catching the bus back meant I had to wait, and wait, and wait… because everyone who got on the bus downtown had to get off before it got to me. After a while, I started just riding home the 11.5 miles. Then I realized, “Oh, I can ride faster than I can take the bus,” so I became a dedicated bike commuter for three years. (Then I changed jobs.)

When I worked in Baltimore, there was a light rail direct from the airport to where I was staying. Great! Except my flight got in after midnight, and the last train left at 11:30. Oops. So, taxi it was. When I caught my flight, I could take the light rail, but otherwise, everywhere I wanted to go… I could walk faster than waiting for the “Charm City Connector.” The bus was really nice–but it’s never where you needed it, and never where you wanted to go.

That’s the problem. US was built for the car, and our urban sprawl is based on being able to get there by car. So unless there’s a geographic constraint (such as New York City and San Francisco) or there’s simply too many people between you and your objecive (Chicago, Washington D.C.), it simply is faster to take the car than the bus. Even if you get enough trains to where you need to go, the price tag is often more than the return you will get from it. With COVID and working from home, this is even more true.

But that’s just my opinion– where did I get it wrong? Can public transit work in the US? Is it doomed from the beginning? Let me know in the comments below! Meanwhile, of you like my writing, pick up one of my books. But if you’re still not sold, download one of my stories for free! You’ll be glad you did.

“They Flee into Waste Places Long since Desolate…”

4 Jan

Yesterday, I talked about desolate places I’ve been–but since the point of the post was to talk about the desolate places I’ve wanted to go to, I figured I should actually give that list. I doubt I’ll ever get there, but does your bucket list match mine?

Angle Inlet, Minnesota

This is about as deep woods as you can get and still be in the Continental US. On the Lake of the Woods, on the border with Canada, there is a chunk of land called the “Northwest Angle.” This is one of those surveying errors that happened back in the 1800’s, where American surveyors said the border should be here, and the British said it should be there. They came up with the compromise of the 49th Parallel from the Pacific Ocean to the Rainy River to Lake Superior. The problem is that these two borders don’t quite match up, and there was some debate on where they connect, and where claims already existed and were established. Thus the Angle Inlet can only be accessed by land through Canada, and apart from the native community that owns most of that land, it’s a great place to go hunt, fish, and experience nature far from the ways of man.

In a similar vein, I’d also like to go to Point Roberts, Washington, which is a small town south of Vancouver, cut off into the US by the 49th Parallel. Again, it’s only accessible by land from Canada. Apart from a beach, its main attraction is a bunch of post office boxes where Canadians can go and pick up Amazon purchases without paying Canadian taxes or shipping costs.

Adamstown, Pitcairn Island

If you’ve ever heard of the Mutiny on the Bounty, this is where their descendants ended up, on a tiny lush island in the South Pacific, living on the side of a ex-volcanic cliff and growing breadfruit. Sure, I could pick any hard-to-reach island in the world, and there are plenty of them: Ascension, Tristan de Cunha, St. Helena, Reunion… but this is the only one that takes more than two days to get to. In fact, you can’t fly there–there’s not enough land for an airport. It takes travelling on a boat which only travels for days from the nearest island airport in the French Marquesas every couple months.

It’s part of New Zealand, due to some weird diplomatic deal a hundred years ago, and although the NZ government would love people to move there, they’re actually pretty picky about travel there, and if you do, you’re not allowed to become permanent residents. It also has GORGEOUS weather, and although you’re cut off from the rest of the world, it’s got plenty of food, a small community (<100 people), and all the amenities of home including Internet! Hence it’s on my bucket list.

Stanley, Falkland Islands

When I was seven, Argentina decided to seize this clump of islands that believed belonged to them. The British had some disagreement about that and fought over this mostly windswept, treeless, sheep-filled land. Ever since then, this place had gripped my attention. You can fly there, but Lord, is it really, really hard. Your options are to either fly to Chile and then take a 13-hour flight to the island OR fly to the UK and take a 24+ hour flight from London to Ascension Island THEN to the Falklands. (Not from Argentina for… well, obvious reasons.) Either way, you land at a British military base called Point Pleasant, because frankly, it’s the only modern airfield on the islands.

Once you get there, well, it’s the definition of desolate. Cold, wet, treeless, but plenty of grass and sheep… and a few minefields leftover from the war. Plus due to the flight schedule, you’re stuck there a week regardless. However, it’s about as close to Antarctica as I’m ever going to get, and there’s a lot of history that I would love to see.

How does my bucket list match with yours? Do you have some desolate place you’d like to visit? Why? Let me know in the comments below!

A Hunger for Desolate Places

3 Jan

I’ve always wanted to travel to hard-to-reach places, simply because they are desolate, hard to get to, and have very few people. It could just be an extension of my introverted nature, but what is so special about nothingness?

As Prince Faisal says in the movie Lawrence of Arabia, “The English have a great hunger for desolate places.” Here in Arizona, we have a lot of desolation–the Sonoran Desert is a wild, beautiful bunch of nothing. Plus we get mountains, which is pretty cool, but it tends to be uncomfortably hot for exploring for half the year. However, you are never more than a hour from civilization–further depending on how you define it. However, I grew up in a small town, so I have a much wider definition than city boys.

That being said, I have found a few places that I love to go to that are blessedly desolate.

Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Virginia Beach, Virginia

Virginia Beach is one of the most popular beach destinations on the East Coast. However, at the southern edge of this beach is Back Bay, a wildlife preserve that you’re not allowed drive past the front gate. In other words, you have to hike or bike into the area. So if you’re willing to walk for a couple miles, you will find you have the whole beach to yourself.

At a time in my life that I was at my lowest (and heaviest), this was a wonderful discovery. It’s amazing!

Cliff Island, Maine

This is the farthest you can go on the Casco Bay Ferries. When I (briefly) lived in Portland, Maine, I used to take the ferries on the weekend to go exploring on the coastal islands. This particular island takes about two hours to ride out to, and because it’s so remote, it has one of the few remaining one-room schoolhouses still in operation in the US. (The high schoolers still have to take the ferry both ways daily.)

As you might imagine, there’s very few people who live on the island, and there’s not much to do, but since all I wanted to do was go exploring between ferry stops, it was perfect. You can walk all around the island and not run into a single soul.

Kok Mak, Thailand

This is a tourist destination, but not a very popular one. This tiny island in the Bay of Thailand is again hard to get to. It takes two hours by ferry (or one by hovercraft) to get to, after travelling four hours by bus east of Bangkok. It was originally a rubber plantation. There are expensive resorts on the island, but there’s also nicely priced bungalows like the one me and my wife shared. We liked this place so much we went there twice–in the on season and the off–and loved it a lot. So many European tourists were there who were afraid to eat anything but spaghetti and noodles, but you can rent a moped, or just walk around, and find wonderful restaurants and shops… or just explore the beach or forest. It’s a great place.

What desolate or sparsely-populated places have you been to? Does the emptiness call to you as well? Let me know in the comments below!

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