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.

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! 🇺🇸✈️

I’ve Seen the Future

The other day my friend Emma and I were walking down the street in Qionghai, which is a city on the eastern coast of Hainan island. We had to catch a train to head back to Haikou in a little while and had a just under an hour to burn before heading to the station.

As we were both wondering about what to do before catching the bus we passed by a random sign on the street that simply said “VR”. In most Chinese cities, a lot of the stores and restaurants are up sets of stairs that make it hard to figure out what’s up there so neither of us really knew what it was.

“Want to go check it out?” Emma asked while giving me a face that told me she was totally in.

“Hell yeah, let’s do it,” I said as we walked towards the weird set of stairs leading to who-knows-where.

At the top of the stairs was a small, single room with a sign next to its door that also just said “VR” in big, black letters. Inside was a guy wearing casual clothes and sandals as well as a serious looking VR setup surrounded by soundproofing.

After being surprised by the size of the place, the guy tried to make me feel better by offering a few free minutes of VR so I could see what it was like. I accepted and before I knew it I was underwater hanging out with all different types of sea creatures. Virtual reality was awesome and I wanted more.

It’s crazy how real this VR felt

Now that I was hooked I asked him for the craziest game I could play and he suggested one where I get attacked by random zombies. It had lots of shooting and as I figured it out and capped some of the living dead while his speakers blared I felt like I was really living it.

Those damn zombies come out of nowhere

The VR was so immersive that there were moments when I was really scared and freaked out a little bit when a zombie popped up out of nowhere. I haven’t played with VR in a long time and was super impressed with how real it’s getting.

Next it was Emma’s turn to give the VR a shot

Next up, Emma gave it a shot and since she wasn’t really into the zombies and how crazy that game was, she went with a different game. The goal was to catch each colored blob as it came up to you in rhythm with music she selected.

It was almost like a workout as she moved her arms back and forth to the song that was blasting through the speakers behind her and looked really fun.

Not a bad workout, right?

The guy seemed to really enjoy watching us play the games and this little business of his seemed like more of a hobby or passion project than something serious. While we were chatting he told us he owns a gaming company in Beijing and that his wife ran the salon that was across the hall from the room we were standing in.

They had moved to Hainan because the weather and pollution in Beijing is so bad. I can’t say that I blame them, Hainan is really starting to grow on me. 🌴 ☀️️

After we finished up chatting we grabbed our bags, hopped on the bus, and headed to the bus station. Playing those VR games was really incredible and I didn’t expect to like it as much as I did.

For a few minutes I feel like I stepped into the future and I’m sure over the next few years his type of setup is going to be all over the place. It’s just too cool not to catch on – especially once the price drops to something more reasonable.

The Language of Basketball and Power of Being Playful

There are few things that I’ve spent more time doing in my life than playing basketball. It’s a Hupfer thing and as I travel around I’ve found my love of hoops to be a great way to meet people, even when we can’t speak the same language.

This basketball court in Palawan, Philippines certainly didn’t suck

In the Philippines I used to play ball all the time and if there was any possible way to put a basketball court somewhere, even if that somewhere was on a palm tree in the middle of a remote island, someone would. I played in sand, on dirt, on top of mountains, inside of schools, on roofs of shopping malls, and right next to oceans.

One of my favorite things to do while in the Philippines was riding a motorbike around aimlessly on one of the islands when the sun was going down until I found a game I could join. It usually didn’t take long and before I knew it I’d be running up and down the court alongside 9 other Filipinos, playing the game we all love.

Just playing some hoops on a mountain filled with rice terraces, no big deal

I haven’t quite scoped out the basketball scene here in Haikou, but hopefully there are some games happening around my hood. Over the past few days I traveled around Hainan during the Chinese New Year holiday and while in Bo’oa I was walking back to town and saw some guys hooping it up.

As I walked up and gave the usual “Can I play with you guys?” signal of me pointing to myself and then pretending to shoot a ball towards the goal, they all shook their heads yes, said something in Chinese and before I knew it we were playing some two-on-two while I broke a good sweat in my jeans.

Basketball has always brought me closer to all different types of people, no matter who they are, where they’re from, or what language they speak. Once we’re all on the court, it’s all good and everyone understands each other. I really love it.

Being Playful

After playing basketball with the guys in Bo’ao my friend Emma who was traveling with me mentioned something interesting that stuck with me. She said “You’re so playful with the people you meet,” and I think that sense of playfulness is what allows me to have so many awesome adventures while traveling. It’s also helped me out in other ways (in work, relationships, etc.), but having a playful attitude while meeting new people, especially new people who are really different from me, seems to make life much better.

Obviously playing basketball with a random group of strangers is a good example of this, but so is singing along with the 7 year-old son of the woman who was cooking our street food last night. It made everyone feel comfortable with each other, allowed us all to drop our guard a bit, and helped us realize that even though we’re very different from each other, there are still many things about us that are the same.

Stay playful my friends, I know I will.

Furniture Shopping with Warren

“Are you traveling for the holiday?”

After hearing this I looked over and saw an older looking Chinese man in a blue hat, sport coat, and dark pants who was looking up at me enthusiastically. I was wearing my normal running gear – some short-shorts, t-shirt, and gray hat. I had intentionally taken out my headphones I was wearing so I could soak in some of the sounds of the local scene. I also do this so if someone feels comfortable enough to walk up to me and say hello I can hear them loud and clear. I guess it works.

So, back to the guy in the hat. He was waiting for me to answer, but considering that no one else all morning had been able to speak English to me, it took a few seconds for me to find the words. I told him that I had just moved to Haikou to learn Chinese and with very impressive English he told me how he was in Hainan for the holiday (Chinese New Year) and that he ran a school that taught English in the northern part of mainland China. He told me where, but I had no clue where it was as I nodded my head in a way that said otherwise. I mean, I know the general area, but come on — China’s a big place.

One of the local markets near where I live

His English name was Warren and when I told him that I was searching for mantou, which is my favorite kind of bread in China, he amazingly told me that he was also on his way to go buy some. Mantou, which is white, fluffy, and super delicious bread from the Chinese gods, is very common in most places I’ve visited in China, but apparently in Haikou there are just a few people who sell it.

So, I followed him to the spot and we bought some mantou together. They only cost 1 CNY each (around $0.15 USD) so I loaded up on a bag-full. Next, Warren took me for a quick tour through a market that was packed with people who were chopping up meat and selling fish. He bought himself a couple of the fish he liked and we headed out of the building with no real destination in mind.

The mantou motherload — I’ll definitely be back here again

We exchanged WeChat accounts (the chat app that everyone uses here) so that we can stay in touch and then, as I thought I was going to head back to my place, he offered other plans.

“I need to buy some furniture”, he said to me as we were figuring out our next moves. “Want to go with me?”

“Sure”, I said and off I went down the street to go furniture shopping with Warren. I don’t start my Chinese classes until February 6th, so my schedule was wide open and as usual, I’m always up for something a little bit different. I’ve never gone furniture shopping in China before and Warren seemed like a nice guy, so why not?

So, for the next hour or so I walked around with Warren and a woman at the furniture store who showed him around. Every now and then Warren would ask me some advice on things like a pull-out sleeper couch and if it would be good to sleep on long-term. He also pointed out a few chairs detailed with intricate bamboo designs that his wife really liked and told me how the wood that they made the pull-out sleeper sofa out of was very strong and could last a long time. I tried to help out as much as possible, but I’m not exactly an expert on furniture these days.

Looks like a solid couch to me, Warren

Eventually he finished his inspections and as the woman started writing an order down on her pad of paper I realized that Warren had decided to go with the couch we spent so much time talking about. I’m sure my deep and insightful thoughts on it’s practicality sealed the deal for him.

After the woman wrote up the order he pulled up his WeChat app, scanned a QR code that was taped to the counter, and sent over 3,800 CNY for the couch (around $550 USD). It was quick, easy, and as we walked out of the store I looked over at him, smiled, and said “Well Warren, you’ve got yourself a new couch.” while patting him on the back.

This is how you buy a couch in China — WeChat makes it super easy

Before we parted ways he invited me to a dinner later on this week with his family (which I quickly accepted) and pointed me in the right direction to get back home. I ended up having a lot of fun hanging out with Warren while he was buying furniture and I can’t wait to see him again — especially if he’s cooking food for us.

These are the types of things that I really enjoy and look forward to while exploring new places — getting to know local people and experiencing the city from their perspective. It also makes me really excited to start learning Chinese so I can start having these types of interactions with all of the other people living here who can’t speak English like Warren (which is pretty much everyone).

The Feeling of it Being Real

These past few weeks I didn’t feel it. I didn’t feel it when I went to San Francisco for a couple of days before my flight to Hong Kong. And for some reason I didn’t feel it while in the air for the 13 hours it took me to get to Hong Kong or during the 6 hour layover that I had before my flight to Haikou.

I’m not talking about the feeling that’s the magic of traveling. That’s different than this and happens much more often. The magic of traveling is something that comes along with going to a new place, many times knowing that you’re going to eventually come back. This feeling I’m talking about, on the other hand, is something a bit more. This feeling actually surprised me.

The final flight to Haikou — this was happening

It actually didn’t even hit me after I had waited in line for 15 minutes while someone checked my passport and stamped my boarding pass. Or when a smiling and well-dressed woman working for Cathay Pacific scanned my boarding pass and handed it back with a very friendly “Thank you.”

But, as I walked toward the opening of the gate that would lead me to my final flight to Haikou it happened like some sort of subconscious reflex. It’s what I’m calling the feeling of it being real. I was moving. To China. Also, with me being one of three non-Chinese people getting on a plane taking off from a small, satellite terminal that required a shuttle to get to, I also realized that I wasn’t going to one of the usual places.

I wasn’t headed to Beijing, Shanghai, or any of the other cities that most foreigners travel to. Nope, I’m going to a city on an island off the southern coast of China that I’ve never been to or not really even known existed until just a few weeks ago. My mind had gone from calm to freaking out in just a short walk from getting my boarding pass scanned to walking through the jet bridge and stepping on the plane.

Landing in Haikou with a couple I couldn’t talk to – time to get used to it

This feeling is an interesting mix of “Oh shit, what am I doing?” with “Oh my god, I’m actually going through with this thing I’ve been talking about.” It popped up when I least expected it and I guess it’s there to let me know I’m doing something that’s not normal and that this is my last chance to back out.

I can remember this moment also happening during my first flight to Manila as well as the first time I walked off a plane onto the tarmac of a different island in the Philippines. I also felt the same thing the first time I stayed in a hostel with my man Calvin over in Singapore just a week or so after I moved to the Philippines. I even experienced it the first time I walked onto a Greyhound bus in Indianapolis to kick off a 12-hour overnight adventure into the south.

The first time I felt this I thought I might have made a huge mistake, but at this point in my life I know this feeling is telling me that I’m exactly where I need to be. As I now lay here in my new bed, in my new home, and with so many unknowns around me, my mind has now realized that this is happening. Soon Haikou will be my new normal, but getting to that point for me is one of the best parts of the adventure. Goodnight, Haikou — I’ll see you in the morning.

Hello, Haikou — it’s nice to finally meet you

Also, on a side note, I’m currently listening to Moby’s memoir on Audible (it’s so good) and this post reminds me one of his songs called ‘Feeling So Real’.

How I Make Long Flights More Comfortable (and Even Enjoyable)

One of my goals when it comes to traveling is somehow getting my parents to come visit me while I’m living in another country. In their 70+ years living on Earth they’ve never ventured outside of the U.S. and it would make me so happy to give them the experience of taking in another culture, no matter where that might be. I’ve talked to them multiple times about how we can actually make this happen and nearly every time they ask me the same thing, “How long is that flight?”

They’re not the only ones though, for some reason flying over the ocean is not only a little scary, but spending that many hours on a plane seems to be a lot of people’s worst nightmare. I could see why spending 14 hours on one flight might seem like too much to handle, but for me it’s not as bad as it sounds and if you know how to handle the longer flight time it can actually be enjoyable.

Flying economy vs. first class

When you’re flying to a destination that’s across the world like Hong Kong or Manila it’s much different than any experience you’ve had on a domestic flight – especially in the U.S. First of all, these planes are huge and can seat several hundred people, with the economy class having rows of 9 people across with two aisles and tons of overhead storage. There are also several other levels of seats that range from getting a little more leg room to being able to lay down flat inside of your own little first class pod of expensive awesomeness.

Even on economy flights there are two tasty meals — this was a traditional Chinese chicken porridge breakfast 

Most of the time I fly economy since I feel like spending $4,000 for a flight is a little crazy, but I’ve had a chance to fly in some of the upgraded seats and I’ve also had the nearly mind-blowing experience of practically laying on a bed while flying my way over the Pacific Ocean. Not only was I able to sleep like a baby, but the food and drinks were non-stop to a level that I found to be a little overwhelming. I don’t need to have access to that much excess — I’m cool with the two meals I get in economy and the free beers that come along with them. With all that being said, flying first class did make me feel like a badass as the rest of the economy chumps walked by me to their seats.

How to minimize jet lag and handle long flights

Another thing I get asked about a lot about long flights is jet lag and how I feel once I land in one place or another. At this point I don’t really have an issue with jet lag, but there are still ways that I try to avoid it as much as possible.

First, and most importantly, I try to line up with the time zone of where I’m flying to regardless of the time zone I’m leaving. For example, my latest flight left San Francisco super late at 1am and landed in Hong Kong bright and early at 8am and it’s a 13 hour flight to get there. While most people give into the late night and end up sleeping as soon as they can after eating their first meal on the plane, I do it a little differently so I can feel better when I land.

So many movies, so little time

I stay up intentionally for the first half of the flight usually writing and watching movies, then drink a few beers, and after that with about 7 or 8 hours left in the flight I do my best to get in at least 4 hours before staying up for good. As long as I hit the coffee once I land and then stay up for the full day, I’m usually all good and don’t have any jet lag.

How to make longs flight more comfortable

If you’re like me and end up in economy for the long haul, you’re going to be sitting in a regular seat that barely leans back. This means the long hours you’ll be sitting in it aren’t going be comfortable, but there are ways to make it bearable. Here are a few tips I’ve learned along the way.

  • Keep an eye on the exit rows because on most international flights they cost more to buy initially, but are for the taking if they go unsold and end up empty. As the doors are about to close, ask the flight attendant nicely if you can move into one of those seats and most likely you’ll be stretching out your legs in no time.
  • Move around every couple of hours so you don’t get stiff. I used to see people doing this on my first couple of flights and I thought they were weird, but now I get up and move around multiple times every time I travel over a few hours. Once you’re in the air there’s plenty of room to stand up, walk up and down the aisles, and even stretch a little bit back by the bathrooms. Don’t worry about looking stupid, getting up out of your seat for a few minutes is totally worth it.
  • A sleep mask should be standard on long flights and adding in some ear plugs is next level. Once again, I once thought that sleep masks were stupid, but now it’s crazy to think about getting any sleep in the economy section without one. Some people use earplugs, too but I usually just put in my headphones and listen to some chilled out tunes.
  • Get to know your flight attendants. You’re going to be on the flight for a long time and the flight attendants are your key to not only getting a better seat, but also unlimited beer and anything else you might want along the way. Flight attendants on international flights are usually amazing and super easy to talk to, so introduce yourself and let them know thankful you are for the work they’re putting in during the flight.
  • Introduce yourself to your seat mates. I’m also a believer in introducing myself to the people sitting around me, especially on these longer flights. You’re going to be hanging out with them for a while, so the friendlier you can be, the better things will be during the flight.

It was hard not to say hello to this flight attendant. This is how we took off and landed 🙂

The traveling is all part of the fun

I’ll close with this — don’t be afraid of a longer flight or get annoyed with it once you’re up in the air. Until we figure out how to beam humans from place to place these long flights are all part of traveling to far away places so they’re here to stay for a while. For me, I actually enjoy the time I’m in the air and it’s a good way for me to chill out a bit and reflect on my upcoming trip before landing in a completely new place. At this point I’ve come to appreciate the traveling just as much as the arriving and it’s helped me turn even the roughest trips into something fun and enjoyable.

The Magic of Traveling

The feeling I get when I’m finally saying goodbye to wherever I’ve been and traveling to where I’m going is magical. I don’t know how to call it anything else and it’s a feeling that’s hard to describe. For me, it’s a mix of feeling giddy and having butterflies in my stomach like when I’m about to kiss a girl for the first time mixed with the excitement that I used to feel right before playing a basketball game during warmups. Like I said, magical.

Just like when I’ve taken off from San Francisco other times, this time is unique. This time around I’m not traveling over to Manila to start working overseas for the first time. I can still remember how I felt during that first long flight over the Pacific and how I knew my life would never be the same. I had always wanted to travel over to another country and having the opportunity to work while I did it was like a dream come true. I had no idea what to expect and I packed way too much stuff due to the unknown, but I soon figured things out and learned to love the Philippines and the people there.

The first time I traveled to Manila I only thought that I would be there for a little over two months, so I pushed it hard and traveled every, single weekend that I could while I was living there. Of course, those couple months ended up turning into a couple years of living my life over in Manila and the traveling I’ve done both in and outside of the Philippines has been an experience that has changed my life in so many ways.

With my limited exposure to the world, I used to see myself as just a guy from Indiana. Then, after living in San Francisco for nearly 8 years and being exposed to so many different types of people I saw myself as a fairly well-rounded American who had a decent understanding of several different cultures and lifestyles. Now, after traveling around to so many countries and having had the opportunity to spend a good amount of time with different types of people in their own countries, the borders of being just an American have opened up and expanded to the world.

This new outlook on my place in this big world comes with a different type of excitement when I travel. The way I’m feeling this time around when compared to my first trip is totally different, but it’s still magical. I’m no longer a first-time, long-term international traveler and all of the time I’ve spent flying and riding from one place to the next has prepared me for this next chapter. This time around there’s no job and no major restrictions on my time will take away from getting the most out of where I’m living. My goal is simple, learn Mandarin and as much as possible become part of the local community in Haikou.

I’m excited to get started and to once again feel the magic of stepping on a plane in San Francisco and walking off of the plane in another world that I have yet to experience. Speaking of my flight, it’s boarding already and if I don’t get moving I won’t be experiencing anything. Next stop, Hong Kong.