I’m back! In the states. In one piece. And yes it’s been a while since my last post…
Starting in New Zealand, through Australia, to Indonesia, continuing north through South East Asia until I reached Hong Kong, I headed west in order to stay in the southern hemisphere skipping India because they wouldn’t accept me, and over to South Africa, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and walked across the border into Zambia for my final stop.
Regarding India, for whatever reason, Canadians can go to India with a simple Visa-On-Arrival. As a U.S. citizen, if I want to visit India I have to go through a pre-computer age visa fed-ex’ing process that leaves much to be desired. I completely missed this step so I was denied at the gate for my Hong Kong-New Delhi flight; I made a snap decision to fly to Africa instead. One of the many benefits of traveling light and traveling solo is ultimate flexibility.
By far the most exhilarating facet of the trip was stepping off the plane in a completely new town with no connections and little to no prior planning. I was forced to start from scratch and rebuild my local contacts every week or so. This same element ultimately became the reason I decided to end my trip. It was somewhere around my 38th city/town, at an average of 3 1/2 days per location, that I figured I could really benefit from staying in one place for an extended period. The shortest stay in any country was in Macau at just 5 hours – long enough to confirm that there is no shortage in the world’s supply of phlegmatic Asian gamblers – and the longest stay was within South Africa at over a month. Language was not an issue: “More than 300 million people in the world speak English and the rest, it seems, try to.”-Bill Bryson.
On the lower half of Africa where I spent seven weeks: local corruption persistently kills off competitive free market forces so basic services, such as airlines and cell phone providers, charge artificially sky high rates. Regardless, it’s wonderfully diverse, wild, beautiful, and really unlike anything you’ve ever seen. It’s also intimidating to outsiders. One of the most dangerous places in the world if you’re from any other place in the world. As a quick aside, despite the references you may hear, Africa is not a country but a continent. You’ll hear this confusion in BBC and CNN stories when they refer to “the issues in 3rd world countries such as India and Africa.”
Here’s a quick list of what happened during my time in Africa:
I did go to Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe where I got a glimpse of what it might be like to be in the Peace Corps. Or at least I met a lot of Peace Corps people on vacation from their regular Peace Corps lives. Great time with these guys. I have enormous respect for them for actively working to solve these near impossible challenges bit by bit.
I didn’t get the obligatory photo with 15 African kids. Maybe next time.
I did meet the owner of a terminator style motorcycle who managed to drive it well over 6,000 miles to Zimbabwe from Germany. This was not his first time making the trip either.
I didn’t have any actual visa papers at the border between Mozambique and South Africa, my fault.
I did pay off the officers at said border to let me pass through to their country. It came out to $100. And for the British guys next to me with the gold necklaces and watches. $250 each. Ouch.
I didn’t lose my wallet in the lobby of a budget hotel in Maputo, Mozambique because the bartender handed it back to me in the morning, 12 hours later, with everything still in it. Still cannot believe that one.
I did go on a booze cruise on the Zambezi river with the local Peace Corps; along with some elephants and hippos.
I didn’t get to swim on the edge of the Victoria Falls, the water level was too high, but I did get to walk on the opposite side where you can watch the spray from the falls shoot up into the air and rain right back down on you with torrential force.
And I did get a food bag ripped out of my hands by a baboon who was nonchalantly walking next to me while pretending not to notice me.
Here you get the sense that anything could happen. The African elephants are enormous, and potentially very dangerous. Elephants, if angry, will completely disregard any safety you might feel inside you car, which as far they’re concerned could be made out of paper-mache. You can’t drive through national park zones after dark even though they happen to be major arteries to the surrounding areas. Why? Because nightfall is prime time for the animals to hunt for their food. Of course.
At one point I distinctly remember feeling like bacon on wheels when I rode a bike alone the two miles from my hostel to the falls on the Zimbabwe side of Vic Falls. To get there I had to cross through what was referred to as some kind of national park. “Park” in Africa does not invoke confidence. “Park” in Africa is generally associated with vicious circle of life national geographic instinctual perfect killing machines. Every few seconds I couldn’t help but imagine the headlines, “US guy’s shoes found near bike in Zimbabwe, no other traces found.” I was imagining running into a not so friendly band of baboons, like the one who stole food bag at the border. The local baboons are about the size of middle school students; but much more capable and ill-intentioned.
To return to the States I flew Zambia to Los Angeles – which had roughly five layovers. While there I secured three job offers from two tech start ups and an SF based hedge fund. Even with great offers on the west coast I wanted to settle in Boston to begin work at Osbon Capital. Max Osbon Joins Osbon Capital. I don’t plan to go on another excursion, but I don’t plan not to. For now I am staying put.