A few days ago I got the best haircut of my life. I’ve been seeing this hair stylist for years, and he keeps stepping it up. He just got back from his three-week honeymoon overseas, spent the next week sick and overworking himself, and then proceeded to give my the best damn haircut of my life. I admire the guy, what can I say.

But the best part of the experience was hearing about his trip. I love travel, and he’d just returned from my two favorite places on this earth: Greece and Italy.

Greco-Roman history and mythology have been my jam since I learned to read. When I was 16, my family had the opportunity to explore Greece for two weeks. It was literally a dream come true. I was a teenager and I remember thinking, “If I die today, at least I got to see Greece.” I was pretty melodramatic back then. But it was still true.

We would visit these ancient ruins, and I would walk up these crumbling pillars and try to imagine them in their original majesty. I’d place my hand on weathered stone and think of all the people in all of history that had touched this very same spot. I’d pretend that I could watch time in reverse at triple-speed, like rewinding an old VHS, as temples and shrines were built and rebuilt, as millions of people would speed by with blurred faces, as the landscape would only minutely shift around these ever-present landmarks of Western history.

I’m still a bit melodramatic.

I spent a month in Italy as part of a college study abroad program. I had the time of life with my best friends, in my other fantasy vacation spot. At 21 I thought, “If I die today, at least I will have seen Greece and Italy.” I went inside the Colosseum, where an innumerable amount of nameless victims met their death. I explored the Forum at sunset after a light rain, so it felt like some lost fantasy realm out of Tolkien’s imagination. I witnessed the charred remains of Pompeii and stood at the edge of Vesuvius’ ever-smoking crater. I stood in awe of the Holy See, and heard the Pope and his assistants address the crowd in multiple languages. I ate a truly impressive amount of Gelato. I got lost on my way back to my hostel in Florence at one o’clock in the morning. Good times.

I’ve had many conversations with my hair stylist, but none that lit me up so much. He gushed about our similar experiences and also how our trips differed. He visited areas of Greece that I hadn’t, he went off-roading on ATVs to find secluded beaches, he had the time of his life with his beautiful new wife. He got to see a show in a thousand-year-old amphitheater in Sicily. He got to see my favorite places in the world. I got to see my favorite places in the world.

If I die today, at least I’ve fulfilled that dream.

La Republica Dominicana

The Dominican Republic.

Boy do I have stories.

Years ago (2010) I believe I spent the entire summer in the Dominican Republic.  Three months, to be exact.

I had a couple college buddies who grew up there and another friend and I rather impulsively decided we should spend the summer before our senior year of college living on that beautiful, tropical, Caribbean island.

The main duty we had that summer was manual labor.  We stayed at the home of some missionaries (our buddy’s family) who dedicated their lives to adopting, raising and educating kids plucked off the street by government employees.

Street kids are typically prevalent in developing countries and the Dominican is no different.  If adopting these kids and raising them wasn’t awesome enough this particular family insisted that they only be connected with the worst kids the government had.

They wanted the kids on the most medications, who behaved the worst.

Story after story proceeded to follow of them immediately taking these kids off all their medications (which really were only sedatives), loving and caring for them and the kids responding in profound ways.

Sure, they didn’t become angels.  All the love in the world won’t erase an orphaned upbringing on the streets begging and stealing to survive.  And some of these behaviors of course persisted in the household.  Kids even ran away quite often, almost out of a sheer inability to live a stable lifestyle.

But that summer was amazing.  We worked extremely hard to build the foundation for a future dormitory for the boys to live in, but we definitely got our fair share of surfing in!

We’d wake up at the crack of dawn, surf, eat breakfast, work, lunch, work, then surf at sunset everyday.  Of course we were always drinking espresso to keep things going!  The Dominican Republic has some wonderful coffee for quite cheap.

I remember the first time I paddled out in that warm, clear water.  I thought, what have I been doing my whole life?!  Growing up surfing where the water is cold, you’re in wetsuits year-round, and then feeling the warmth of this Caribbean ocean?  I was speechless.

Even diving there was unbelievable.  I learned how to equalize so that I could go deeper than I had ever been.  Nothing communicates the immense size of the ocean like diving in it.  When you’re thirty feet down, looking up and around and totally swallowed in the ocean’s immensity, you truly feel small.

I hope I return someday!

Ordinary City

There will be plenty of talk of exotic places, adventures and stories.  But one of the most special places I’ve been is  Siler City in North Carolina.

Actually I haven’t been to Siler City itself but a house several miles outside of the small town.  My wife’s uncle and aunt live in this beautiful home out in the woods.  They are surrounded by beautiful scenery and wildlife.

We visited them at the end of a week-long east coast trip that had us in Manhattan, Philadelphia and Washington D.C.  While those places were beautiful and special it was our time at the house outside of Siler City that was truly special.

By the time we got there we were completely agotado.  We were spent from a very long day of travel.  We arrived after a several hour train ride from Washington D.C. All we had were our very heavy backpacks that we had lugged around the previous week.  In none of the places we visited did we rent a car.  It was walking or biking everywhere we went.

Needless to say Siler City was a wonderful retreat at the end of a long week.  We were fed homemade meals, got to sleep in a nice bed in a room with air conditioning and didn’t do much of anything for the two days we were there.

What was special was the beautiful jardin surrounding the home.  Bob and Jane (my wife’s uncle and aunt) had put a lot of attention and purpose into it, designing it to attract specific bees, birds, and of course look beautiful.

While I have some experience in Central Oregon I’m not used to being on as much land as I was on.  The only other landscaping I’d seen done with such purpose and care is by a friend who runs a landscaping company in Central Oregon,

Since our short visit I’ve often missed the leisure and rest we experienced during our short stay in North Carolina.  I’ve also been inspired to have a garden with at least some purpose and intention behind it, if not as much as Bob and Jane.

While travelers can get caught up dreaming of the most far away lands and exotic places it’s often the places we least expect that take our breath away.

Genuine hospitality and a peace is hard to beat, even if it’s at the end of an exotic trip in the land of the ordinary.


The first true international trip I ever took was to Greece.  Mexico doesn’t count if you live in Southern California amigos.

Greece was a special trip.  Although it was brutally hot it is a unique and beautiful country.  The small towns, the small town people, the sheer age of Greece, was all very special.

Greek food is wonderful.  The sauces are great, their meats, and I definitely share their love of cheese.

The worst part of the trip was actually Athens.  Athens of course has tremendous amounts of history but it was also tremendously over-crowded and unorganized.  I personally am not a fan of cities that are too well organized but Athens was a total shamble.  There didn’t seem to be much rhyme or reason to the streets or lay out.  It was also very muggy, the most humid place I’ve ever been.

The rest of the country was phenomenal.  My favorite part was of course the Greek island of Serafos.  Greece has hundreds of islands off its coast that are hot tourist destinations.  What made Serafos unique is that it wasn’t a tourist destination.  Serafos is the island many Greek locals themselves go to for vacation.

Serafos had a wonderful small town feel.  The entire town was all white and blue buildings with cobblestone road running through it.  It sat on the side of a hill with beautiful beach running all along the front.

If it wasn’t for all the economic turmoil Greece is currently experiencing I’d love to go back.

Til next time Greece.