Before leaving the United States I decided that “Connection” would be one of the core values of my adventure around the world. It has been.
Back in March I wrote a recap on all the people I’d connected with on the journey by that time. I’m going to do that again now, and this is going to be a far longer post. If you need to catch up, I’ve linked back to many of the stories with these people previously posted on FollowChris. Enjoy.
Most of the people I met in Australia are mentioned somewhere else below, so I’ve left many of them out here.
I did however meet Callum in my hostel in Sydney, an awesome British guy living and working in Sydney for a year. I’d hoped to meet up with him in London, but he decided to extend his stay in Oz so doesn’t look like it’s going to happen.
I’ve referenced several times “The Canadian Gals,” Candice, Kelsey, Lisa and Chelsea, as well as their British friend Matt, who I shared a room with at Dingo’s hostel in Rainbow Beach. Not only were we on the same trip to Fraser Island, but we were also on the Clipper together as well as the Uncle Brian’s tour. They were doing a seven month trip around the world, and I’d have a chance to meet up with them down the road.
Also on Fraser Island was Arend-Jan from Holland.
Finally there were the four British guys – James, Greg, Matt and Mark – from the Clipper and Uncle Brian’s, who I’d become good friends with and would meet later on in my travels (I’m actually writing this right now from their high-rise flat in London).
In Japan I met up and stayed with my cousin Brian who is in the US Navy and was stationed in Yokosuke, just outside of Tokyo. I stayed with him for almost a week when I arrived, then another few days before leaving Japan, during which I met a bunch of his roommates and Navy buddies.
Up in IshinomakiI met all kinds of great people while volunteering for It’s Not Just Mud.
On the ski slopes in Nagano I met and skied for a day with Joel from Australia, which would later lead into a miraculously coincidental connection.
I also went down to Osaka, where I met up with Sho, who I’d met at my hostel in Cairns, Australia. Sho took me all around Osaka for the day capped off by a fabulous Japanese dinner and drinks.
Of course there was Takashi, the finest bartender in the Eastern Hemisphere.
And finally Adnan, brother-in-law of Sigma Nu brother and great friend Jordan Wu, who took me and Brian out to an awesome Japanese dinner and a big night in Roppongi.
I met a lot of good people in China, but most notably was Andi, who I shared a room with at my hostel in Beijing. Andi is from Austria and was traveling around the world climbing mountains.
When I was in Hong Kong I also met two American gals who I toured the city with and went for a fabulous Mongolian BBQ dinner.
Malaysia was almost like being back home I had so many connections. I spent most of my time with dear friend and fraternity brother Kishore and his girlfriend Michelle, meeting a bunch of his friends as well as his family and connecting with them on three or four occasions.
I got together several times with college friend and colleague Firhana, who I’d been in the Craig School of Business and the Craig Honors Program with at Fresno State.
I also connected a couple of times with Eugene, a Malaysian avid traveler who I’d met in Ishinomaki. We had a blast talking travel, eating, exercising and recreating.
While in Malaysia I had the pleasure of meeting the talented and entrepreneurial Palencia family, who I’m happy to say I became good friends with and have stayed in touch with since.
Not to mention Shonali, a very sweet journalist from India and my classmate in the Palencia cooking class, who would eventually connect me with Meera in Delhi.
I also managed to reconnect with Camille, a French-Canadian gal who I’d met at Rainbow Beach on the way out to Fraser Island.
Last but not least, I made the miraculous connection with G and Ray, friends with Joel who I’d met skiing in Japan, and Ray who is the nephew of Debbie Young, a former professor of mine at Fresno State.
On my last night in Singapore I met up with Kishore, Michelle and his family who came down from Malaysia for a comedy show, where we watched Liverpool get dominated by Chelsea (much to Kishor’e chagrin).
Met several other interesting people in Singapore as well.
Thailand started out with great friend and fraternity brother Hiro and his wife Akiko, who I stayed with in total for almost two weeks. They put me up and took care of me for much of my time in Thailand.
I also went down to Pattaya where I met up and stayed with Bad Brad Patterson, a friend and favorite bartender in Fresno who was living in Thailand teaching English.
On the bus up to Chiang Mai I met Paee, a local who the next day took me around showing me the sites.
Back in Bangkok I met up with the Canadian gals and partied hard on Khao San Road, where I also met Mike from Sierra Leone, who I’ve sadly failed to reconnect with even though we really hit it off.
In Vietnam I met up with my dear mother, who was there on a business trip.
I also had the good fortune of meeting some of her colleagues, including Nora Cain, whose daughter I would meet later on in the journey, as well as Alvin, who I became very good friends with and who introduced me to several of his friends in Vietnam. Meeting Leland Stanford Jr. alumni Dr. and Mrs. Fischer was also a treat.
I was incredibly lucky to meet Meera in Delhi, connected by Shonali, who rescued me from certain death while I was sick in Pahar Ganj. Her rickshaw driver Jithender also became a good friend and took good care of me while in Delhi.
While up in Dharamsala I met some great people. There was Sunny, Raj, Baba and the other Indian guys, while I also met a lot of great people volunteering with the Mountain Cleaners:Tashi, Abhi, Caro, Felicia, Raj, Sagar, Winn and the rest of the MC crew.
I can’t leave out my rickshaw driver in Amritsar, although his name is still eluding me. I will find him when I go back there.
In Jaipur I spent my time with Manoj and his buddies, highlighted by the highly anticipated international Chris Healy cricket debut; sadly a big disappointment.
Back in the western world, I went directly to Bridgend, Wales, the home of great friend and fraternity brother Robin and his wife Laura, where I also saw once again Rob’s sister Abbey. I stayed with them for almost a week.
From Wales I took the train up to Manchester, where I met up for a day with James, one of the four lively Englishmen I’d met in Australia. I stayed with him at his family’s house for one night in Frodsham.
The next day in Manchester I also met up for lunch and cider with Stacey, who I’d met a year or so before in San Diego, where she had been studying abroad.
I would continue my connections in Belgium, where Arend-Jan – also met him on Fraser Island – picked me up from the Brussels-Cherleroi airport and hosted me at his parents house for a couple of days before sending me on to Amsterdam.
By another miraculous chance I ran almost directly into Sabine, who I’d also met in Ishinomaki, at a park in Brussels.
I met a bunch of great people in Amsterdam, but none of which I’ve reconnected with so far.
In Paris I met up again with Sabine and several of her friends, as well as my mom’s next-door neighbors Gary and Sandy, who live part-time in Paris and took me around for day. I also met up with Sam, daughter of Nora, my mom’s colleague who I met in Vietnam. Sam introduced me to several of her friends, including Ard-Jan, a world traveler from the Netherlands who hosts an excellent travel blog.
In Madrid I met Carla at a cervezeria, as well as Khrystian and Goñi at Fabrizzio’s hostel, who I chatted with at length about the USA along with fellow American Dmirtry.
Here I also met two Kiwi brothers from Christchurch who thanked me for my volunteer work back in New Zealand.
Finally I managed to re-reconnect with the Canadian gals once again in Madrid.
Once arriving in Granada I met and stayed for two weeks with Jerome and his two daughters, spending some time as well with his gf Lucero, then another two nights with Fergus and his friends.
Lastly, down in Tarifa, I met Jurgen from Austria and a few other bros from Italy and Germany.
In Marrakech I met Kosuke and Hiro, a newly married Japanese couple doing a trip around the world for their honeymoon. We spent a couple of days sharing stories and seeing Marrakech, as well as enjoying breakfasts with our new friend Mohamed, who invited us to join him and his friends in the souks for their evening meals during Ramadan.
I also met a couple from Slovakia and a group of travelers from Italy.
I’ve not yet written about my experiences from this point forward, so I’ll include a few extra notes to bring you up to speed.
We met a bunch of his friends over a week in Warsaw, highlighted by several nights on the town, a not-so-traditional Polish wedding, and a picnic in the park with Ewa, Kasia, Marcin and other friends.
I’ve said it many times, but you just can’t see a place by yourself the way you can see it with a local, and Maciek really showed me what Warsaw and Poland is all about. He cooked every meal, we drank vodka and strolled the beautiful parks.
Poland is a fascinating country and the people have a difficult history, being sandwiched between Germany and Russia, having been invaded, occupied and subjected to dictatorship and foreign rule countless times. As a result the people are cautious and proud, outwardly seeming cold often times, but in truth, beneath a mask of wariness are genuine, warm and friendly. Each has some story of pain and suffering from decades past.
This perhaps explains my rather shocking observation, coming from a 100% smile-response rate in Morocco, of a flat 0% smile-response rate in Poland – at least for the first six days. Stone cold. Determined, however, I was finally able to elicit a few smiles and especially once we got into the countryside, although these may have expressed more of a bewildered curiosity with some blonde American guy looking at them than actual happiness. The lack of smiles led to Maciek and I coining the term “Polish Smile,” which in fact is a menacing frown, and then the “Polish Laugh,” which is laughing without smiling. Seriously….try laughing without smiling. It’s rather sinister.
After a week in Warsaw, Maciek took me to his hometown of Kielce, where we stayed with his parents and his mom cooked Polish cuisine, including pierogi – little dumplings that got dominated. Maciek’s 13-year-old Doberman Pincer Maga is a pretty, old girl. We did some hiking around the hills and forests in Kielce where Maciek spent his childhood and learned to ski.
Maciek also took me out to meet his childhood friend Michal and his wife on their farm, where one night we had a weenie-roast, drank beers and wine and ate bigos, a delightful concoction of sauerkraut, sausage and vegetables. Seriously great people.
Krakow and Auschwitz
Finally we went down to Krakow, where we stayed with Maciek’s longtime friend Ania. From here we also went to Auschwitz, a somber and truly unconscionable experience.
Krakow is a beautiful city and we had a fabulous time. I was sad to say goodbye to Maciek and Ania as they walked me into the train station and waited at the platform, chatting through the window until I pulled away. I’m looking forward to hosting Maciek when he joins us over New Year’s for X10…in 3D. Poland was a favorite.
In Prague I managed to successfully couchsurf for the first time, staying with Jarin, an early 40’s Czech IT worker. The stay at his place was comfortable, although I wasn’t quite prepared for the daily 1.5 hour one-way journey (45 minute train, 45 minute walk, uphill) to his place from the city center. Nonetheless he was a nice guy and has an impressive collection of autographs of famous people – over 10,000 signatures!
Jarin even took me to his weekly volleyball game, which was awesome, and definitely brought a little classic Chris Healy sports enthusiasm to the court if you know what I mean. I was a bit zealous though, smashing a few spikes about 10 feet over everyone’s heads. Of everything I miss from home, playing sports is near the top of the list – especially softball, golf and skiing.
Staying with Jarin I also met Pierre, an 18-year-old American from Northern CA. Pierre, whose mother is from France where he consequently spent summers growing up, just graduated from high school and plans to live a life of travel. Traveling with his guitar, he intends to study anthropology and its relationship with music and the role of music in cultures throughout the world. Having been in France with family for a couple of weeks, Prague was the first place Pierre was visiting on his own. We spent a couple of days together exploring Prague and then making our way back to Jarin’s.
I think you’ll always remember the first place you went on your own, and I felt honored to be Pierre’s first traveling friend of the hundreds that he’ll surely meet over the years.
Weary from the daily three-hour roundtrip journey to Jarin’s, Pierre and I finally bit the bullet for a hostel in the city for my last night in town, which contrary to my belief was quite reasonable at about 12 or 15 bucks. And a really nice place. Met some great guys there from Brazil who I hope to meet up with this weekend.
Pierre had found a couchsurfing meet and greet that night which we decided to attend, however, Pierre unfortunately did not quite get the directions locked down before we left. “I think it’s somewhere around here.” We wandered the streets for hours asking people “if they know a bar near here, we think it’s called Krakova.”
“Do you know what street it’s on?”
“What’s it called?”
“We think Krakova but we’re not sure.”
Finally Pierre captured the fundamental reality of our circumstance, with possibly the quote of the trip: “No one knows…because we don’t know.” I felt strangely better after laughing hysterically about this for five minutes.
We walked aimlessly for three hours, which was actually somewhat amusing with all the misadventures and characters we met along the way. As I’ve made similar mistakes more often than I’d like to admit, I implored young Pierre to take it as a valuable lesson of traveling, to ALWAYS know exactly where you’re going and how to get there. Simple but so true.
We finally found the damn meet and greet, nearly over by this time. But it was still fun and we met a lot of people, including Gaëlle and Guillemette, two French gals who I’d meet again later on. Pierre definitely bought me two beers.
Prague. Loved it. One of the funnest and most beautiful cities I’ve been to; I aim to make it back.
First up in Austria was Jurgen, who I’d met about three weeks previously in Spain. He picked me up from the bus station in Linz and took me to his parents house in the small town of Hagenberg, where he’s staying for another couple of weeks until his studies resume in Vienna.
His parents are absolutely great folks and were gracious hosts, although Jurgen had to translate most of our conversations. I also met Jurgen’s two sisters and their boyfriends, his brother and his wife. Such a great family.
With the whole family at a wedding the first day, I went solo to Linz where I explored the city and saw many of the sights there.
Hagenberg and Freistadt
Over the next two days Jurgen took me out into the countryside, enjoying some sturm (a traditional cider-kind of beverage) at a local gasthof (basically a house where local people come in to eat and drink and socialize), and then to Freistadt for ice cream and coffee, where Jurgen lived and went to school for two years. We then went out into the real countryside, meeting his aunt at her farm and having a delightful visit with her.
Another amazing three days with Jurgen and his family. I thanked his parents for their hospitality, and they wished me peace and health, and to pass the same to my parents.
Seewalchen am Attersee
From Linz I took the train to the Attnang Puchheim station in the middle of upper Austria, where I was picked up by Andi, a world-traveling mountain climber I’d met in Beijing. I stayed with him for three nights in his hometown Seewalchen am Attersee. On the first day he took me hiking, where we summited three peaks including Kugelzipf, offering breathtaking views of the glaciers in the distance and the lakes and valleys below.
The next day Andi and his friend Stephan took me mountain climbing. I did my first ever multi-pitch climb, reaching several hundred feet on a huge vertical rock face. Incredible.
The following day Andi was working, so Stephan came and picked me up for a stellar mountain biking trip.
After biking we dipped into the crystal clear waters of Seewalchen am Attersee Lake, which is so clean that you can literally drink the water from it. After a few gainers we headed back and met up with Andi, and later the three of us went to a very traditional Austrian restaurant where I ate an entire damn plate of Austrian meats, sausages and sauces. I’ve learned that I actually like blood sausage, and made sure there was nothing left. We spent several hours there drinking homemade cider and Austrian schnapps, chatting up the locals and making for a late evening.
From there it was on to Salzburg, which for the past seven years had held the title of my favorite city in the world. Sadly it was raining just about the entire time I was there, so I really didn’t get to do too much or take many photos, and even more sadly some of the magic I’d remembered was washed away. Nonetheless, Salzburg maintains a strong hold on to the “#1 nostalgic city” in the world, if not the favorite overall.
My roommates at the hostel were two 18-year-old German guys, Nikita (actually Nikita is Russian/German) and Rene, who were there for one night for a metal concert. They were a lot of fun and I spent the following day walking around with them in the rain, and they even took me out for lunch. Check out Nikita’s band Hurricane Season. Also in our room was Min, a young Chinese girl with an incredible story, working and traveling the world.
Stepping into the hostel bar I could immediately tell the bartender, Ian, was from Northern California. It turned out he was from Sonoma, rather loud and a little obnoxious, but he was a good guy and it was good chatting with someone from back home. Also at the bar I met James and his buddies from Scotland, making their way east during couple of months in Europe.
Went to another Couchsurfing meet and greet which was a good time, and finally a late night with Ian and the Scottish chaps at a Belgian beer bar.
From Salzburg I took the train to Munich, where I met up with Andi (a different Andi), who I met along with his sister Silvia on Fraser Island and again by random chance in Airlie Beach, Australia. Andi hosted me at his flat for a very pleasant three nights. In addition to seeing his sister again, I also met up with several of Andi’s friends and colleagues, including Ulfe, Konrad and his wife, and several of their colleague’s from India. Good guys and we had plenty to chat about.
Also in Munich I met up with Gaelle, who I’d met in Prague, for a walk around the city and a lively evening at the world-famous Hofbräuhaus, enjoying more than a few liters of brew with a family from Wisconsin – it’s ridiculously easy to spot Americans – who of course were huge Packers fans. Fun times.
The good times and life experiences continued, and thanks to my stock of frequent flyer miles I booked a flight from Munich to Luxembourg.
I landed in Luxembourg and spent about five or six hours exploring this beautiful city on my own.
From here I was picked up by my longtime friend from high school, Danny Sabraw and his wife Lindsey. We couldn’t quite nail it down, but we figured it’s been somewhere close to eight years since the last time we saw each other. It didn’t matter though…you know those friends you have that you haven’t seen in years, but as soon as you’re back together it’s like you were never apart? Pretty much like that.
Danny’s been in the US Air Force for 10 years now, doing exceptionally well, and his wife of three years is fabulous. They put me up for a week in their house, we BBQ’d steaks, ate tacos, quesadillas and macaroni and cheese. We watched the SF Giants, Bears, Packers and Niners (ouch). We played softball and golf, threw gainers and can-openers at the public pool and drank Coors Light. For a week, it was like being home.
We also took a nice little day trip down to Trier (Trier Photo Gallery), and another day went to Bad Dürkheim for the biggest wine festival in Germany.
I left Germany with shoes repaired, zippers lubricated, restocked, refreshed and packed light with another box of mysteriously accumulated stuff making its way back stateside. It was such a great week and a welcome respite; I was very sad to say goodbye to Danny and Lindsey.
Finally now back in London, I’m staying for a week with James (who I’d stayed with in Manchester), Greg and Matt, three of the four British guys I’d met in Australia. I’m spending a week here before moving on, seeing the sights and meeting up with a few other friends here.
Stay tuned for updated London photo galleries.
Whew. Did I say this was going to be a long post?
Needless to say, this journey has been an amazing series of connections with people from all over the world: friends and family and fraternity brothers and new friends alike.
Before leaving on this adventure I subscribed to a prayer shared with me by Mike Wheeler:
“God, please bring me today on my path the people that can help me in my journey, and bring those that I can help along theirs.”
There’s clearly been no lack of people helping me in my journey. So many have helped me in so many places in so many ways, it has been truly incredible the kindness and hospitality I’ve been blessed with this year. While I’ve had the opportunity to help a few people along the way, I don’t know that in my lifetime I’ll be able to repay it all.
But I intend to. And to that end, I simply cannot wait to start hosting people once I have a home again. I look forward to it as much as anything.
So consider this:
If you’ve read my stories, followed along the entire way or for just for a few steps; if you’ve heard other stories or dreamed of adventures of your own; if you wish you could do something like this but maybe you’re not ready yet, or you don’t know how or where to start; if you just want to do something great, and potentially change lives…
…the best advice I can give you is to start hosting travelers through couchsurfing. I can promise you won’t regret it, and it’s likely to lead to genuine and fulfilling experiences.
A veteran couchsurfing host and I talked about hosting at a meet-up in Salzburg:
A lot of things happen when you host people. First, you get to enjoy the things around you that you might usually take for granted. Whether it’s the sights, the places, the national parks, the restaurants, the architecture or the monuments of your city, bringing travelers into your town and your home helps you to consider and appreciate these things that are so often overlooked.
Also, when you host people, they bring a little holiday into your home. You might be in your normal day-to-day routine, but when travelers come they bring enthusiasm, adventure, a brightness into life that may often fade within the confines of our typical daily lives.
And finally, most importantly, it all comes around. Give and receive freely. Be gracious, and ask nothing in return. When your time comes, the help that you need will be there.
Check it out for yourself: www.couchsurfing.org
And if you like, leave your thoughts, questions or comments about couchsurfing, or just about traveling, below.
My warmest, most sincere thanks and gratitude goes out to everyone who has made this the adventure of my lifetime thus far..