foray into journaling was tentative and tardy. I have no excuse
for not keeping a journal in my early life, for pen and paper
were easily accessible, and although my writing skills were minimal
and I was busy with tasks of hand, I could have made an effort.
Likewise, when I first went to university I had many experiences
which would be a pleasure and a pain to recall, although having
them committed to paper would arouse some interest, at least on
have passed since I went to the Cook Islands and Fiji, and although
the original record of my voyage has long been lost, when I sifted
through my memories of that most seminal time in my life, the
entire trip was still there waiting for me. My first time overseas,
teaching, and living with a family, I found that what I'd been
taught about people from other countries was vague and largely
untrue. Instead, the tapestry of the Islanders' way of life was
much more complex, subtle, and even when I left I discovered aspects
of their culture that surprised me.
I lived in
the Cook Islands for four months, landing in Rarotonga where I
found a placement in the northern Cooks, and then teaching high
school on Manihiki. I travelled to the north by ship, by way of
Aitutaki, Palmerston and Suwarrow, and visited the neighbouring
island of Rakahanga while I lived in the northern Cooks. Traditional
Maori culture still peeked out from under its colonial blanketing,
and everywhere I went I was made to feel welcome. When my placement
was done I flew to Fiji where I met other travellers, learned
something of Fijian history and culture, and dreamed of floating
a bamboo raft down the Sigatoka River.
on the Water: Logbooks and Journals
the Water is meant to collect the accounts I've kept of living
in the South Pacific, in 1991, and the voyages I made with the
Whimsey, a wooden sailboat I built in 2003 so I could sail around
the Strait of Georgia. I kept an account of tide and points of
sail, as well as what it was like to sail when I knew so little
about living in that way. I sailed off Vancouver for three summers
and these logbooks find a place here.
in the summer of 2004, I canoed down the St John River in New
Brunswick and kept a record of what it was like on the river and
who I met along the trip.
along with me as I discovered, by times slowly and always with
delight, what a life on the water entailed.
to Get to Bangkok: A South East Asian Travelogue 2005 - 2006
to Get to Bangkok details the more than six months I
spent in South East Asia. I traveled with several people,
met dozens of locals in different countries and under different
circumstances, and observed both fantastical behaviour and
solemn rituals, indiscriminate malice and profound kindness.
kept a record of that journey and now that it has receded
into the near past and I can be honest about the challenges,
the embarrassing revelations, and the troubling conclusions,
I've revitalized it here. My friend and I went to Thailand
and traveled into the north and floated down the river in
Laos on a boat loaded with tourists, went over the mountains
to the capital, Vientiane, and then by train to Angkor Wat
my friend left, I went south through the contested regions
of Thailand on the Malay border, and then into Malaysia
and to Sumatra in Indonesia by boat across the Malacca Strait.
I returned along the same route only to meander into the
north of Thailand at the height of dry season. There I traveled
by motorcycle through the backcountry, crossed the border
into Myanmar or Burma a few times, and went south to join
friends who wanted me to show them the Thailand I'd found
on my trek.
Back to Bangkok: A Return to South East Asia - 2011
Back to Bangkok tells the story of traveling with my girlfriend
in South East Asia. In many ways it follows from the more than
six months I spent in South East Asia five years earlier which
I detail in How to
Get to Bangkok. She and I traveled up and down the country
of Thailand and into Laos, Cambodia, Burma, and went as far afield
Like my earlier
trip, I kept a record of that journey which in part details changes
since I'd been there before, and also how much more I learned
about the countries, myself, and what it was like to travel with
begins with leaving Winnipeg for western Canada where we caught
a belated flight to Bangkok, and then outlines the train north
into the mountains and across the border into Laos where we floated
down the Mekong River. From there we bus across the hinterland
to a new border crossing, north for a jaunt into the mountains
by motorcycle, and into Burma, and then south to Cambodia to explore
Angkor Wat. From there we re-enter Thailand, travel south to cross
into Burma and then Malaysia where we explore Penang and Georgetown
before we made our reluctant way back to Bangkok and a flight
trip to South East Asia differed from other trips in that I was
older, my traveling companion was younger, and Thailand had changed.
I didn't plan to return to the country, but my friend had taken
a teaching practicum in Bangkok, and we both thought we would
enjoy exploring the north of the country before her term began.
We laid our plans a few months in advance, but like most trips,
it didn't turn out exactly as we had planned. We learned to manage
each other's foibles and annoyances, negotiated how people viewed
our relationship, and saw a Thailand transformed both by an explosion
in Chinese tourism as well as our position in the country as we
We went from
Bangkok to Lopburi, the monkey city, almost immediately upon arrival,
and then, trying to escape the humidity of the near rainy season,
we went to Phitsanulok, Old Sukothai, and Chiang Mai. We floundered
around in the stifling heat, and I belatedly realized I had never
visited Thailand in midsummer.
caught the train back to Bangkok, where we embraced the rainy
season. I lived downtown and my friend began to settle into teaching
and although at first we had the impression we wouldn't be meeting
again, despite being in the same city, we met up quite often.
We met to see what each other's experience was like in the city
which would be her home for eight months, and the city where I
visited my professor friend, helped another friend whose daughter
was fighting her mental illness, and in other ways waited on a
flight to take me back to Canada.
America by RV: Chile, Peru, and Argentina
trip to South America resulted from a collision between my schedule
and the timing of my friend Silvio's latest project. I flew to
Santiago, Chile to travel in the RV he has spent two years building
on the frame of a Mercedes truck.
we didn't have a firm destination in mind, we ended up waiting
for a ghost in an abandoned saltpeter town in the Atacama Desert,
visiting hospitable strangers in their homes on the Chilean coast,
crossing into the high altitude ranges of Peru to Machu Picchu
where we helped the Argentinian government search for a missing
Argentine national, and finally daring the snow-choked Paso de
Jama into gaucho country in Northern Argentina. We crashed country
fairs, clambered through the ruins with tourists high on selfies,
salvaged goods from a truck that had gone over a bridge, and negotiated
for prices with village people.
On the entire
trip we were conscious that the motorhome was never far away,
with its shower and bathroom, water tanks and refrigerator, and
cooking stove and furnace. This is not so much about the hardships
of traveling as it is a report from the hidden corners of countries
that are only accessible when you travel by RV.
America by RV: Uruguay, Brazil, and Argentina
My latest trip
to South America was meant to be much more than just a return to
the continent. Silvio had readied his RV for the three-country excursion,
and more importantly, planned particularly enticing meetings with
alligators and presidents.
in Buenos Aires we almost immediately crossed to Uruguay where
we spent an hour with José "Pepe" Mujica and enjoyed the beach.
Then we drove north into Brazil where Silvio had promised tropical
swamps and alligators. After hundreds of kilometres crossing rich
farmland and marveling at the country's infrastructure, we came
to the pantanal region. The vast swamps of the pantanal
were rich with life, and although the tourist trade had slowed
to a trickle, we spent our time watching for the sudden animal
through the trees and listening for the prehistoric calls of birds.
abortive attempt to cross the Bolivian border and an equally effective
attempt at Paraguay, we photographed butterflies and coatis in
the world famous Iguazú Falls area, talked to locals and learned
about police corruption and cross-border smuggling. Back in northern
Argentina we went against the advice of nearly everyone, and set
out to explore the poverty-stricken and forgotten provinces of
Formosa and Chaco before we turned south to Cordova and Sante
Fe. There we spent long days in the mountains before seeing the
cousins on our way back to Buenos Aires.
by motorhome meant that we were more versatile than most tourists.
We could pull over at remote vistas and extend a conversation
that otherwise a set schedule might cut short. We didn't require
anything other than the truck's shower and bathroom, water tanks
and refrigerator, and cooking stove and furnace. This is not so
much a story about the hardships of traveling as it is a report
from the hidden corners of countries that are only accessible
when you travel by RV.