Author: billyfreeze

Popping the Maldives Bubble

I’m sitting here enjoying my last day on one of the most beautiful islands I’ve ever seen. The sand is sugary white. The palm trees lean and    sway with  scores of coconuts. The crabs run away and come back every time they think I’m not paying attention to them. I’m in the Maldives, a collection of some of the most amazing scenery I’ve ever photographed.  For many people, the name of this place evokes the impossible travel dream: an expensive tourist destination that they’ll never reach because of the distance and the cost. It’s like Bora Bora, Zanzibar or the moon.  All it takes is a quick search online and one must decide if they’re going to go to Maldives or pay for their kid’s college. I’m writing this is to let you know that this is not the case. You can travel to the Maldives and it doesn’t need to be the most expensive week of your life. I arrived in Maldives late at night (which is usually a bad thing) and had only my first hotel night booked. My research seemed to show that most hotel transport involved ferries, seaplanes. and other transport that you don’t really want to organize at midnight. I sent a Facebook message to the hotel and asked them how I could get to their place. They assured me it was easy. It only required a walk, a...

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The Worst Train Story Ever

At the moment, I’m riding on a train in Sri Lanka towards Colombo.It’s not crowded, everyone has a seat, and it is ridiculously cheap. Since this is my first train here, I expected something much worse.Last night before I made my decision to take this mode of transport, I was discussing my options with a German couple. One of them asked me to tell them about my worst train experience. As I told my story, I realized I should put it in writing before I forget any more of it. It was 25 years ago and I had just cut my teeth doing the “vagabonding” thing. I had discovered my lust for travel in Australia, spent a few months hopping trains in Europe and had decided I wanted to do something legendary. I was getting married, we needed a honeymoon, and I had six months to kill. Yes, I used to travel for six months at a time. That was before mortgage payments, car payments, insurance and all the other stuff grownups have to do. My new wife, Helen, had never really been anywhere more exotic than Cancun , so I had a surprise in store for her. We were going to Africa! We didn’t have much money (money should never stop your from traveling), so the plan was to camp out, prepare our own food and take cheap public transport....

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Creating an itinerary “on the fly”

I woke up at midnight last night (or this morning)  because I still haven’t gotten adjusted to the time difference between Texas and Sri Lanka. I have plans of  riding my rental motorcycle to the fish market at 6 am today, so I’ve had roughly 4 or 5 hours to contemplate the meaning of life…. Oh, and figure out where the hell I’m going.  If you’re like me, you might have bought a travel book on your last vacation and barely cracked it open. It’s nice to have a travel book as a reference guide but when you’re looking at a bunch of city names that you can’t pronounce and you really don’t know where any of these places are, it can be a little overwhelming. I have a few friends who read their travel books cover to cover, but I try not to hang out too much with people like that. In the last 2 hours, I’ve figured out exactly where I want to go in Sri Lanka without the help of my travel book. I am going to the best places in the entire country and I have a plan. I didn’t have a plan last night, but now I do, thanks to Google and hotel WiFi. I’m going to share this process with you. It’s easy, it’s foolproof, and you’ll amaze and astound any tourists you...

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Tripping in the Jungle (or How I Found Ayuhuasca)

It was almost dusk. The amazon jungle completely surrounded us as we walked precariously on the wooden boards that someone had spent days or possibly years placing in position so that pedestrians wouldn’t fall in the muck. The shaman we were following looked no different than any other Peruvian we had spotted. His clothes were simple, there was no crazy headdress, no over-the-top medallions on his chest. We had been teeter-tottering on these planks for almost an hour and we knew we were getting close. Close to what? Well, that was the real question, wasn’t it? The first time I ever heard of ayuhuasca was a few months before I had embarked on this trip. A friend of mine had become “enlightened” when a Peruvian shaman came to town and offered a short weekend of the ayuhuasca experience in Texas. She was a big believer in the ceremony and the results of this Indian sacrament. Coincidentally, I was about to visit the birthplace of this “medicine”… the Amazon rain forest. “What is ayuahuasca” you ask? Well, that’s also a long story…. Every culture has it’s hallucinogenic drug of choice. With the American Indians, it’s peyote. In Thailand or Holland or many other places around the world, there’s mushrooms. In South America, it’s ayuhuasca. Ayuhuasca is a psychedelic brew made from the extract of the ayuhuasca vine, mixed with some other secret...

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“Jumping Ship” in Russia

We slipped out of the museum, heads down so that our tour group wouldn’t notice us.  We looked around surreptitiously hoping that no police were watching us.  Not that they would necessarily know we were guilty of wrongdoing mind you,  but we couldn’t take a chance. As we made our way backwards through the entrance line, I felt an exhilarating surge through my body… It was the same feeling you have when you jump out of a plane and you realize that you can’t reverse that final step. I took one more backward glance to be certain we were not being chased down by anyone important and we started to laugh. We’d done it! We were in Russia without a visa! We were on our own! 20 something years ago, I had been a poor backpacker traveling through Africa with 6 months on my hands and a very flexible itinerary. My traveling companion, Helen and i had finally hit a diplomatic wall at the border of Tunisia and Libya and were not sure how we were going to get to Nairobi. At the time there were no Internet cafes. They hadn’t been invented yet…. The Middle Ages of traveling. One had to actually walk to airline offices and ask questions in person; barbaric but true. Through the traveling grapevine we had heard rumors about a cheap airline that for...

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