While traveling around the world as an American there are some questions that I always get asked, but the most common one is about guns.

I get questions like:

“What’s up with all the guns?”

“Why do Americans keep killing each other?”

“Do you have any guns?”

These are great questions for me to answer considering that I’ve grown up with guns and have a dad whose love of guns is only trumped (no pun intended) by his love of sitting in the cold for hours to kill deer with guns. Yep, besides going to Bob Evans, going deer hunting is also where he’s in his element.

Anyway, while I was in China everyone was amazed and very curious about our country’s love with guns and from their perspective, I get it. People in China aren’t allowed to own guns and most likely have never even seen on in real life (much less shoot one). All while I live in a country where some type of gun shooting is happening nearly every other week.

To them it doesn’t make any sense and to me, knowing where a loaded gun was in the house while I grew up was totally normal — it’s just that I knew never to touch it and if, for some reason I did need to use it, I knew how. Dad made sure we were all on the same page when it came to the guns in the house and we never had any problems. Guns also have a long history here in the U.S., so it’s not easy to just to dismiss them altogether. I guess you could say it’s complicated.

Speaking of guns, my friends also really like them, too, but this is pretty normal for people here in good ol’ Indiana. So, for the past two years on Thanksgiving morning me and my buddy Marc have gone shooting with The Rev Peyton and his Big Damn fam out in a cornfield to celebrate the beginning of the holidays. It’s a fun way to kick-off Turkey Day and this year was super fun (see photo at the top). So, I guess you could say that shooting guns doesn’t always need to be crazy, it can be just a way to bring people together who like to load up shotguns and shoot them at targets on Thanksgiving mornings.

The pro/against guns argument will continue here in the States, but I guess as long as we can still keep this tradition I’ll still be pretty happy.

Also, the Rev knows his way around guns and guitars — you might have seen him playing a shotgun guitar in this video last year. Yep, that’s my homie.

Being Weird

“You’re super weird.”

“Ok, that’s creepy.”

“Nice, stalker! Haha!”

These are a few of the reactions I got after showing some of my lovely, yet apparently super judgmental friends the above photo of a postal worker I took the other day.

I can see where they’re coming from, but for me, getting a little weird is normal and something I’m used to. For example, take this situation with the postal worker. I saw her cross the street as me and a friend were getting into the car after eating some delicious doughnuts (they had bacon on them).

My friend sees the postal worker and has no reaction, probably because she’s seen the postal worker before. Me, on the other hand, see this postal worker and think about a few things.

1. I’ve never seen a postal worker that young
2. I’ve rarely seen female postal workers
3. Her bright red hair was awesome
4. The rest of her outfit with the socks pulled up, sock hat, and headphones looked even more awesome

I mentioned her to my friend and still didn’t get much of a reaction, so off we went and as I drove away I didn’t think much more of that super-cool looking postal worker.

Well, that is until I drove back through town on my way to the coffee shop and there she was again, this time walking out of our small town post office with overflowing bags of mail pulled over both shoulders. I slowly cruised down the street a bit and told myself that if she walked by me, then I’d ask for a quick photo.

It didn’t take long until I saw her turn the corner, so there I was, hopping out of the car and asking a random girl who was delivering the mail if I could take a photo (followed quickly by an explanation why). Yeah, she thought it was weird at first, but after telling her I was from there, what year I graduated, and asking her a few other questions about her job it was all good.

I really like the photo and for some reason I think it screams small town U.S.A. — I even got the flag hanging off of the front porch behind her in the photo. After being gone from my hometown for so long it’s these types of small things I notice and realize are so unique to where I grew up and I think that’s pretty cool. Sure, a little weird, but also pretty cool.

Seeing People In Their Element

I love seeing people in their element. Like, really, really love it. Seeing someone surrounded by an environment where they thrive and feel the most alive is the best and makes me ridiculously happy. If you haven’t seen someone you care about in their element, then you haven’t really seen them and should figure out how to do that asap. For reals.

Maybe you have no idea what I’m talking about, I get it — I tend to ramble about some pretty weird stuff. But, I don’t think that this is too complicated and hopefully I’m not the only person who loves experiencing this type of thing. Here, let me give a few examples.

Seeing people in their element can be simple, like when my dad goes to Bob Evans in the mornings to hang with his peeps. Or, like when my friend Nicole teaches Zumba – that’s totally her element and when she’s teaching I can tell it’s her happy place (even if she’s trying to kill me with those crazy dance moves).

While I’m home and not in China studying Mandarin for 10 frustrating hours per day, I try to see my friends and family in their element as much as possible. Not having a job definitely helps with that as I can just drop everything, hop on a mountain bike, and ride through town to a lake to go fishing on a random afternoon. You know, like I did today with my homie Marc.

If I’m in Indiana I’m talking to Marc all the time as long as his phone is charged (it’s like 10 years old and has a battery life of approximately 7 minutes). He’s always going fishing and that’s definitely his element, so today I was happy to be able to take a step into his world by floating in a canoe with his crazy ass for a couple hours while trying to catch some fish.

When we were out of the reach of sunshine it was a little chilly and I was just wearing shorts and a hoodie, but it was still an epic time. We also didn’t end up catching any fish, but I was able to fish for the first time in 15 years and it was top-notch hangout time. Like I said, it was Marc’s element and I was just there to take it all in, one cast at a time.

The Asian Squat

Squatting isn’t really a thing here in the States and took some getting used to while traveling through Asia. But, whether squatting to rest while checking a phone on the side of a street or to go to the bathroom in an airport – squatting is a common part of life for most Asians.

The Asian Squat, while interesting to see and fun to joke about, can be very intimating — especially when trying to master the squat toilets of Asia. Personally, a few years ago I wasn’t even close to being flexible enough to use one of them without clinging to the door or something else in the stall for dear life. But, over time I’ve gotten more used to the position and have even gotten to the point to where I can squat enough when the situation calls for it.

A shared bathroom in a Beijing Hutong — don’t worry, you get used to it. 

But, I also feel like I still have a ways to go before I’ve really mastered the Asian Squat, so I’ve been working on it while I’ve been home here in Indiana. I try to spend at least a few minutes in the squatting position during my workouts as well as in the morning and before I go to bed. Over the past few years I’ve also dramatically increased the amount of overall stretching while working out, so that’s been a big help when it comes to squatting without falling over like an idiot.

So, I’ll keep on fighting the good fight of forcing my legs to loosen up and hopefully one day I too will be able to master what everyone in Asia seems to think is so simple.

The Chinese Power Walk

The way that my brain works leads me to noticing things that others might just gloss over. I don’t know why I pick on up these small, seemingly unextraordinary parts of life, but it’s what I do and while traveling I try to document them as much as possible.

I guess from my perspective different types of people from all around the world are still very similar, so it’s the smaller things that differentiate them from each other. Like, how Filipinos, no matter where they’re at, will just start singing out loud if a song they like starts playing. Or, how so many people in South Korea wear the most fashionable, square-shaped backpacks. These types of day-to-day things are the most interesting to me as I travel through somewhere new.

Considering that I lived there for over 9 months straight, there are many, many things like this that caught my attention while staying in China. But, one of my favorites is what I like to call “The Chinese Power Walk”, which you can see the man doing above in the photo that I took while crossing a normal street in Beijing. As you can see there’s not much to it, basically all you have to do is hold your hands behind your back while walking. The Chinese Power Walk isn’t overly flashy and doesn’t really catch anyone’s attention, but for being so simple it looks so damn dignified while subtly screaming, “Hey, I’m a badass!”

Mao Zedong’s O.G. power walk in the 1950s

I’ve only seen men walk this way and while they’re usually a little bit older, I’ve often seen guys in their 20s and 30s rock this casual power pose, too. When I’ve brought it up to some of my Chinese friends they think that this style of walking probably came from Chairman Mao Zedong who ruled Communist China for nearly 30 years through the end of the 1970s (see photo above).

I think they’re probably right, but no matter where it came from, I love that it’s a thing in China and notice it nearly every time I’m out wandering around.

Renting Bikes In China Is Awesome And Messy

I’ve been told that a couple of years ago something changed in China. Before that time, the sidewalks weren’t lined with different colored bikes waiting to be rented for pennies on the dollar per hour. For me it’s hard to imagine the time when there was no renting bikes in China because now there are more than enough of these bikes to go around.

At times it can get a little messy and the amount of bikes streamed up and down the streets is a lot to handle (especially in bigger cities like Beijing and Shanghai). But, that’s a small price to pay for what I feel is by far one of the most convenient ways to get from place to place.

Renting these bikes is super easy, too. As with most things in China you can use your cell phone to scan a QR code on each bike and within a few seconds you’re on your way. There are no racks you need to put them in when you’re done, just pick it up on your way out and leave it in front of wherever you end up. While in China I saw just as much older people using these bikes as young people, which was also super cool. It’s a piece of cake.

People seem to mostly put up with this method of bike sharing in China, but here in the States just leaving your bike in random places seems to create some issues like at UC San Diego where one of the Chinese bike rental brands was quickly banned due to complaints. Also, from what I’ve seen the sidewalks in the U.S. are also much smaller than in China since Chinese sidewalks are often used to park electric scooters, so there just isn’t as much room here for bikes to be parked.

Who knows if we’ll ever see this level of bike sharing fully make it’s way over here to the States, but it’s definitely unique to China and something I wish I could still use here.

Trying Out Zumba For The First Time

When I’m back in the States I like to see my peeps and one of these weirdos is Marcus P, who I grew up with way back in the day. We’re both a little bit older, his hair’s a little grayer and mine a little thinner, but we’ve been friends for over 15 years and still act like idiots when we’re together. I could fill this entire blog with stories of dumb shit we’ve done together, but I’ll save that for another time. Well, ok — here’s one. 🙂

Anyway, what’s important for you to know now is that even though Marcus P is the bomb-dot-com, his girlfriend Nicole is slowly becoming one of the best parts of knowing him. I mean, nothing against my homie, love the guy, but getting to know Nicole over the past few years has been a nice addition to me and Marc’s weird and fantastic friendship.

All Zumba, all the time

Besides putting up with Marc (and his friends like me), Nicole has something else unique about her — she’s a Zumba freak (which I mean in the best way possible). She’s a certified teacher and has been for a while now, which I think is super cool.

Now, you’ve all probably heard about Zumba or seen someone rocking a neon shirt with “ZUMBA!!!” written across the front with way too many exclamation points, but have you ever tried it? Nope? Well, me either. I had seen people dancing Zumba all over the place in the Philippines, with the craziest being thousands of Filipinos getting their Zumba on for Earth Hour a while back. Man, that was a trip.

Time for me to get my Zumba workout on

For me, life’s about trying out new things and experiencing what normal is like for other people. It’s a great way to really understand someone else, even if you feel like you already know them. So, when Nicole told me that she was teaching a class the next morning I was all in for trying Zumba for the first time.

Nicole teaches a class almost every day – daaaaang, girl

The class started way too early and thanks to a concert we all went to bed way too late, but Nicole and I still made it to a nearby apartment complex’s half-court basketball gym in plenty of time to get the Zumba party started. As people started showing up Nicole plugged her phone into the huge speaker she lugged in from her SUV and fired up the hip-hop playlist she had masterfully put together.

Then, according to some sort of cue that thanks to me being the new guy I wasn’t aware of, the dancing started. What followed was an hour filled with an incredible amount of attitude, pelvic thrusting, and several dance moves that seemed to be just outside of my body’s range of motion and/or coordination. Not knowing the moves didn’t matter though and as the sweat quickly showed up I was so happy every time we had a short break to catch my breath between songs. This Zumba stuff was no joke and my lungs felt like they were on fire.

This made it even more incredible that Nicole was still doing her thing in front of us, non-stop and at maximum level, all while still looking like she was actually enjoying herself. The rest of the people in the class also seemed be more used to the ridiculous amount of energy this was requiring, so I just had to keep going and hope that every song that ended was the last one (which took longer than I would have liked).

I Zumba’d and lived to tell the story

Eventually the jumping, clapping, and my many attempted failures to shake my ass ended and my heart felt like it was going to bust out of my chest. Nicole, on the other hand, was still smiling and talked us into doing a “quick and easy” ab workout on top of yoga mats to finish up the class. Well, 10-minutes of intense ab-burning later we were officially done and our hour was up.

Zumba had officially done what I wanted it to, give me one hell of a workout, and even though it brought the pain it was also a really fun way to kill some calories. It was also great to see Nicole in her element and experience this thing that she spends so much time doing for myself. I don’t think Zumba will be something I do all the time, but this definitely won’t be the last time I let a bunch of women show me what a real workout looks like.

If you’re reading this and happen to be in Northern Indianapolis area, here’s more info on Nicole’s classes. She’ll help you get in a 1-hour workout that’s super fun and still hard enough to actually do something.

Also, if you live around Indianapolis and have an interesting experience that you think I’d like to check out, let me know! I’ll be in town for a while and I’m always up for checking out something new and a little weird.


The Pain of Running Into My Late 30s

If you know me at all, then you probably already know that I go running on the daily. Well, almost (6 days/week). Running for me is more than just going out and getting some exercise in, it’s become part of the fabric of my being. As I get older I’ve had to get used to what running nearly every day does to my body — and realize what all it takes to keep putting in miles.

Why do I run?

There are so many ways to get a workout in theses days, so why do I choose to do something that’s so high-impact like running? There are a few reasons for this and I’ll try to make this quick by bringing up the main ones.

I can do it anywhere. This is very, very important to me since I love traveling around a lot. Running only requires a pair of shoes and some time — that’s it. This is also why I love living somewhere with warm weather. Being able to walk outside and run everyday is very important to me.

It’s a great workout that doesn’t require a lot of time. Running is one of the most efficient ways to burn calories and to work up a good sweat. The only things that are close to it require snow, pools, or other equipment so for me, this puts running into a category of its own.

Running is an amazing way to explore new places. There are very few things that I love to do more than getting to a new place, throwing in my headphones, lacing up my shoes, and running around a new place that I don’t know anything about. I put some money in my pocket, make sure my phone is charged, and just roll out to who-knows-where. I’ve met so many people and found many interesting places by doing this.

Running gets my mind right. Of course running is good for me physically as far as a workout goes, but most people don’t realize the mental benefits it gives as well. For me, a day doesn’t really even start until I get my run in, which is why I try to do it in the morning as much as possible. After running my mind is clearer, my mood is better, and I’m ready to take on the world. For real, this is a thing.

Running while getting older is a real bitch

I don’t know any other way to say it, but for someone like me who’s 37 years old and has put some serious miles, basketball games, hikes, and everything else on my body, it’s only a matter of time before it starts to complain. I can remember running in my 20s and even in my early 30s and how it was totally different. No stretching, no prep, no worry about my form or my shoes or anything else. I would just go run and that was it. Ah, the good ol’ days.

Now it’s a lot different and things that used to not matter have become very, very important. You know, things like running technique, stretching, strengthening, and let’s not forget flexibility and mobility. Those two might be the most important of them all, but when I was younger they weren’t even on my radar. Now I think about them every day and usually spend as much time stretching before/after running than I do actually during my run.

Also, if I need to, I’ll ice my knees or other parts of my body that seem to be hurting more than they should (see above photo of me icing my knee at KFC). This is my new reality and something I’ve gotten used to at this point — honestly, if I want to keep on running I don’t really have a choice.

Something is always going to hurt

Like I said before, running is hard on your body and it’s high-impact, so if you continue to do it as you get older you’re going to have some pain. In fact, if you’re like me, you’ll most likely always have smaller pains here and there that you’ll constantly be dealing with. Awesome!

It’s always good to listen to your body when it comes to pain, but the really important thing that I’ve noticed is that many of the things that start hurting are just your body’s way of telling you that you might want to change something up a bit. Also, what hurts is almost always not the main problem, but just a result of something like tight calves, heel striking, or some other detail you’ve overlooked.

From what I can tell, if you’re like me and well on your way to being 40 and still running, something is always going to hurt, but the key is knowing why and whether of not it’s a big deal. When to rest and when to keep running, this is always going through a runner’s mind when something hurts and for me it’s a regular thing.

Importance of mobility and flexibility

I don’t want to end this post without emphasizing this one more time — from my experience, having good mobility and flexibility is the key to being able to run longer term with the least amount of pain or problems. I’ve just focused on these when I’ve had to over the past few years, but if I would have done it earlier I have no doubt that my body would be in much better shape now.

Sure, good running technique is also important (foot strike, etc.), but if you have good mobility and flexibility you can usually overcome these others problem pretty easily. So, if you’re a runner it’s probably time to take a look at these two things and take it from me — the earlier you can get them under control, the better.

Americans Don’t Understand World Traveling

I get these questions a lot – how am I traveling so much, what am I doing to make money, and don’t I like the good ol’ U.S. of A? I get it, these are all legit questions, but unfortunately many of you Americans who are living in the U.S. don’t really understand the world you’re living in now compared to the world that’s outside of your border. This is something that I think about a lot, so I figured what the hell – why not start writing again. Here goes.

Americans Buy So Much Shit

I’m just going to start off with something that could be a little controversial, but it’s the truth. How do I know? Because I lived it for many, many years while calling some of the most expensive cities in the world home. Also, don’t take this personal, people— it’s just something I want to point out (along with other things).

After living outside of the U.S. for a good amount of time, when I come back I quickly realize one thing that more than anything makes the U.S. a global powerhouse — we buy sooooo much shit (usually too much). Seriously, it’s like nothing I’ve ever seen in any other country — Europe, Asia, Africa, and everywhere else I’ve been there is no place that even comes close to the consumption of the land of the free and the home of the brave (and avid users of credit cards).

You think I’m wrong? Take a look in your garage. Go downstairs into your basement. Or, if you’re on another level, go open your storage garage that you’re paying to hold all of the shit you’ve bought. It’s both powerful and incredibly debilitating at the same time.

If you have this much stuff, you’re never going to be able to travel longer-term — you’re handcuffed to the stuff you’ve accumulated until you find a way to get rid of it.

Americans don’t fully understand the power of the dollar

The American dollar is the thing that dreams are made of. While in the U.S. I throw around enough dollars on enough Lyft rides, Starbucks drinks, and gas station snacks to pay for my living expenses here in China for a couple of months.

Depending on your style, you usually don’t need a lot of money to travel around the world and for what I would have paid for one month of rent in San Francisco I can pay for an entire year of Chinese language classes here in Hainan. Yeah, your first flight will cost some cash to get over to the other side of the planet, but once you’re there and aren’t in too much of a hurry, the rest is going to be soooo much cheaper than you could have ever imagined.

Now, don’t get me wrong — even in Asia you can burn through money just like if you were in NYC, but if you can live more like a local, deal with a little bit of discomfort, and understand the culture – your dollars will last a ridiculous amount of time.

An American passport is way too good not to use

One other thing that I never realized before traveling is just how amazing the American passport is and how easy it is to move around the world if you have one. For now, the beautiful, little blue book of ready-to-be-stamped pages is the key to landing in nearly any country without having to worry about getting a visa beforehand.

If you do have to get a visa beforehand, it’s usually a really, really good one that will be well worth the price. For example, I paid $150 for my Chinese visa, but it’s a 10-year, 60-day, multiple entry visa which means that for the next 10 years I can go in and out of China as many times as I want and stay for up to 60 days each time. That’s insanity compared to most other countries and for now it seems like it will stay that way (but you never know).

Plus, besides the passport, traveling as an American is really fun due to most other countries interest in our culture, politics, and people. So, it’s never too hard to find new friends and the usual American friendliness and ability to chat it up with strangers goes a long way while hanging in another country.

Is it time for you to travel?

I don’t know if it’s the right time for you to travel and who knows what your current situation is like, but if you’ve been thinking about adventuring out into the world for more than just two weeks at a Mexican resort (that’s not really traveling), it might be the time to do it (or start planning it). This is something I love to talk about, so if you need any help with coming up with a plan or need some additional motivation to make a move, hit me up and I’ll help out however I can.

I personally believe that seeing other parts of the world, especially if you’re an American, is important (and really fun), so it’s something I’m more than happy to spend some of my time on. Yee haw! 🇺🇸✈️

The Importance of Talking to Strangers When Learning a New Language

At some point in your life you were probably told to not talk to strangers. “Stanger! Danger!” is how it was marketed to kids . I mean, I get that the young’uns probably shouldn’t be hopping into creepy full-size vans with no windows, but come on – most people aren’t out to hurt other people. Also, don’t hate on full-size vans — I used to own one and it was a-mazing.

Oh, just me, some friends, and a big, brown van. Those were the days. 

In fact, from what I’ve experienced it’s just the opposite. Most people want to help, be empathetic, and are there to point you in the right direction if you need it. This is the world I’m living in and while others live paralyzed in fear of what someone might to do to them I’m out proving every single one of them wrong.

Are there bad people out there? Sure, I’ve met some of them and I’m sure I interact with less than most thanks to the fact that I’m a male and 6’7”. But, I’ve talked to plenty of solo female travelers who feel the same way I do. It’s worth the risk to trust and to reach out to those who might be outside of your comfort zone and for me it’s how I’m living on a day-to-day basis.

Talking to strangers is part of learning another language

There’s only so much I can learn inside of a classroom, which is why I’m currently living on an island that most people don’t even know about just south of mainland China. I’m here because I want to learn Chinese and to do that I need to be reliant on the language to feel comfortable and must have a goal of being able communicate things for myself as soon as possible. And do this I need to talk to strangers. Lots of them.

I’m learning a lot in the classroom, but it’s not enough

Sure, I know some great locals here, but even the nicest people are going to get sick of me asking for their help when I need to buy a bus ticket or order something online. I have to be able to do it on my own, and the only way to do that is by talking to as many people as I can, making plenty of mistake along the way all while learning how to really speak Chinese.

It actually makes daily life really fun and interesting as I intentionally try out new words, phrases, or pronunciations whenever I go back to the same coffee shop or dumpling restaurant. It’s like I’m leveling up, one small win at a time and over time it’s all going to add up into me actually knowing what the hell I’m saying most of the time. Or, at least that’s the goal.

Talking to little kids is actually good or learning, too

I’m already picking up so much of the Chinese language and it’s only been a couple days, which makes me really excited for learning more. Today in class we started looking at characters for the first time, finished going over all of the initials, finals, and tones and also started talking in some simple conversation. Sweet.

It’s exciting for me to continue to gain a level of comfort and understanding in the language and I can’t wait to see what I can do in a couple weeks, months, or a year. It’s going to be so awesome.

But, for now I’ll keep on learning, day-by-day, as well as talking to strangers as long as they’ll still listen to me.