Day 108. Prague, Czech Republic

What was Prague like? It was beautiful and very picturesque.  I had long term travel fatigue episode, I had coped with it. I tried out my first couch surfing experience. I’m glad I’m an older solo traveler, I can’t keep up with these young people. Meeting local people is my favorite part about traveling. I met up with a old friend from when I was in the Navy.  Took a train out of Prague to Dresden.  I will definitely love to come back and visit the city.

The Dancing House by Frank Gehry and Vlado Milunić.

I came to Prague with over 100 days on the road.  It is very tiring being a tourist.  Some days you just want to go back home. Yes, even for the people living their dream there are bad days.  After I had this thought of long term travel fatigue, I looked and there was already a blog post about it, here.  I read this post after I recovered.  What did I do to recover. I kept going, I pushed through.  There are interesting places everywhere, you just have to keep looking.  I went to the National Technical Museum in Prague, practically no tourists there.  It was an inspiring to see different types of technology evolve with time. There is a photography exhibit, medical technology, film, architecture, appliances, printing presses and many more. Then I went to see the National Gallery.  I enjoy looking at painting and modern art because I studied a little bit when I was in art school. It was really exciting to some famous artists that I admired.  The title picture is a close up of a Alphonse Mucha. I love his decorative style and color palette.  What got me out of the slump was to keep doing what I’m doing, keep working, keep searching, and keep exploring. Eventually it will pass. That’s advice if you need it. Please see the link above, that post is also good advice for any plateau.

Sometimes you just need an afternoon to read and drink in a Beer Garden.

You know when your friend would send you a postcard from Europe, Prague is a perfect card. Prague is located in central Europe as the capital city of the Czech Republic.  It’s the fifth most visited city Europe.  To say there were a lot of tourist is an understatement. When Richard Simcott, the polyglot superstar, studied here in the 90’s he described the Charles bridge as walking through a living radio when you turn the dial fast.  So many people and so many languages you can hear maybe five or six walking through it.  I didn’t have that exact experience, but I did hear a lot of English. Prague is beautiful but the amount of people detract from it. There are cool things to do you just have to look closer than the average tourist.

I managed to get some training amidst my slump.  In fact, Jiu Jitsu is a really good way to get back into it.  Exercise is good to way to move forward with a situation.  I have now taken classes in Spanish, German, Czech and English. I wonder how many more languages I can learn Jiu Jitsu in. Honza Stach told me about Richard Andres at Penta BJJ. It’s great to meet people and that other people recommend. Richard spoke English very well and took time to show me certain details in English.  He trained on and off in Minnesota. He is as technical as Honza said he was.  I really enjoy that the network of Jiu Jitsu is just an interconnected network of people.

Richard and I at Penta BJJ.

I met Jan through a mutual acquaintance.  I was in Chile on a bike wine tour. A fellow, Matej from Slovakia, told me to check Czech Republic out and if I was going to Prague he might know someone to put me up.  I didn’t think anything of it. I gave him my email address, usually nothing comes from these situations. Maybe because I’m American and people are flaky in America. I’m used to it. After a few weeks he emailed me some advice on Slovakia and Czech Republic. He gave me a contact for Prague.  That is how I ended up on the Jan’s couch.  It’s so great to hear the perspective of a local about their city.  It’s honestly a priceless experience. I don’t think many tourists experience traveling this way.  I learned a lot about the history and attitude of Czech People through Jan.  He is one of the reason I want to return and really experience Czech Republic.

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Jan and I at Palour

I extended my stay in Prague an extra day to see and old Navy buddy, Robbie. I was his LPO(Leading Petty Officer) in the department of ICU. He is now stationed in Japan.He has been traveling around Europe for about a week now.  He showed me his itinerary and I managed move some things around and spend a day catching up. We went to pub crawl, urgh I thought. A bunch of other English speaking tourists. Not really my scene but nonetheless I had fun. I met some new people, I got lost, I found my friends and I had a great time. Normally I would shy away from stuff like that. The further I go along in Europe I will probably go on more drunken nights with big groups of strangers.

Austrialian Adam,  Me, Nina from Colorado, Robbie, Justin from Canada.

Overall a good time in Prague.  Sometimes you feel down even in the most beautiful locations. Just keep going and learn from the experience. Keep your hobbies close so that you can feel normal even in a foreign country.  It’s great to meet new friends and old friends all in the same city. Czech Republic left as space in my heart I will try to fill it some day.

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Day 73. Guam, USA

Somewhere between Peru and Chile I decided to take a detour and visit my old home, Guam.  I lived on Guam for 3 years when I was in the Navy.  I look back on my time on Guam as my transformation into Adulthood.  It was the first time I really was away from home.  I lived by myself without room mates.  I paid rent, utilities, cleaned my home, cooked my food, and solved my life problems on my own.  There were many ups and downs that came with the experience which is why it feels like a home.

Guam is a small island in the Pacific Ocean.  It is a United States Territory, like Puerto Rico. Citizens on Guam cannot vote during federal elections but they do have a delegate in the House of Representatives.  The US military is the islands #1 employer.  The bases cover 27% of the islands land mass. Most of the income comes from tourists that visit from Asian countries like Japan, China, and South Korea. Here is a video by Wendover productions for an overview.

It is very expensive to fly to Guam from the United States. The average round trip ticket is around $1000 USD.  I was initially going to spend three weeks in South Korea.  My thought process was that I can take a cheaper flight to visit Guam now than when I return to the States. So I took a detour and made some arrangements with some friends that were still on the island.

 

Jordan, Emily and I in front of Naval Hospital Guam

My friend, Jordan, and his wife, Emily, were hosting me during my stay.  They live in Mangilao, Guam.  They gave me my own room and bathroom.  It was a luxury that I rarely had during my trip.  Both of them were working during my stay but we caught up at night.  Jordan even let me borrow his car while he was at work.  Jordan worked during the day and Emily at night but she comes home at 8 to 9ish. At that time we would eat dinner and have catch up on life.

 

I visited my duty station, Naval Hospital Guam.  I was a Hospital Corpsman at NH Guam for 3 years.  One of the most frustrating jobs of my entire life.  Though it helped shape the person I am today because of my experiences there.  I ran into some old peers that were still there.  It felt great to catch up but it didn’t feel good to listen to the consensus of low morale.  It was a good reminder of why I left the Navy to travel the world.  I know where their dissatisfaction comes from because I lived it.  I hope they find their peace with the Navy.  I compare the hospital visit felt like going back to your old high school, if your high school took care of sick and dying patients.

Hiro(Japanese Tourist), Jordan, me and Tyler. We went sailing on Lasers. It one of my favorite past times while on Guam.

My friend told me it would be a good morale boost to be on American soil and be around friends.  I didn’t realize until I left how true that statement was.  The ability to speak English freely without thinking if the other person understood me was comfortable.  I used to live on Guam, so when Jordan let me use his car, it felt like driving around my home town.  I revisited my favorite restaurants McKrauts, Gabriels, Cafe Tu’re, Asu Smokehouse, and Pikas Cafe.  I cooked risotto for Emily and Jordan as a kind of payment for hosting me.  I’m so thankful to have friends on the other side of the world.

 

Cooking risotto while drinking. 

I trained Jiu Jitsu twice.  I went to Vida once. It wasn’t too far from where I was staying. It had a good core of students.  Some are MMA fighters on Guam.  Every night was competition training for them.  It was a good push. They waived the mat fee too. Then I trained at Spike 22 at Steel Athletics.  I had to pay a $15 mat fee for that day.  Only two people showed up for lunch open mat.  Rohin was training for a MMA fight in July and Mike was there training with him.  It was good training with heavy weights that just used technique, especially Rohin.  Rohin could have crushed me, he looked over 250 lbs.  It was a chill rolling session.  Despite the $15 mat fee and the few people it was a good experience.

 

 

Vida BJJ in Mangilao, Guam.

I went to see Gabe Baker, my coach when I trained at Carlson Gracie Guam.  We had lunch at a Thai place next to the academy.  It was getting renovated, new mats, so I couldn’t train at my old gym. Getting a one on one with my old coach was what I needed. It felt at times that I was stumbling through the dark with what I needed to work on.  He gave me some guidance that was worth more than the two training sessions I had on the island.  He had an interesting philosophy on the belt system.  I’m grateful for the training I received on Guam and I thanked him for all that he taught me.  I will visit Guam and Carlson Gracie Guam again some day.

 

Gabe Baker in Carlson Gracie. Work in Progress.

“Purple belt is the longest belt, and is the belt most people quit at.  A brown belt is just waiting for his black belt. “

The Grey Area

What I learned from my Navy experience.

7 years and 7 months. Done.  It has been a long road. Honestly like many I had a sense of bitterness and disdain towards the Navy.  I can make a laundry list of the things I disliked and experienced, but it’s over.  What I choose to do is…let go and move forward. It’s easy to focus on all the bad things but flip the coin and you can see all the positives that come from an experience like serving in the military.

1.  A good friend of mine said to me, ” I’m not going to miss the work, the places I visited, nor the training, what I’m going to miss the most is the people.”  He said that to me a year from my contract ending and it stayed with me. The people I’ve met in my travels and duty stations while enlisted will be some the greatest friends I will ever meet.  I would not have met those people if I had not enlisted.  For that I am forever grateful for that opportunity.

2. My career path started, like many  Sailors in post 9/11, as a recruit at Recruit Training Center Great Lakes, IL. I went across the street to A school, Hospital Corps School Great Lakes, IL.  I continued my training to Field Medical Training Battalion in Camp Pendleton, CA.  My first duty station was Naval Hospital Camp Pendleton.  I trained and tried out for special operations as a Dive Medical Technician.  Dive School didn’t work out as planned and I was sent to Naval Hospital Guam.  3 years on an isolated island in the Pacific changed me.  I choose to be stationed in possibly the best place to get deployed, Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center 29 Palms, CA.  I didn’t get deployed but what I got in exchange was priceless. I’ve experienced many once in a lifetime experiences. I can only be thankful for that opportunity that was given to me.

3.  I learned a lot about myself in the Navy.  Life isn’t just black and white. I received my DD-214, an official form of military discharge,  yesterday.  It showed all my duty stations, awards, job and my last rank.  It shows what kind of Sailor I was on paper. On black and white. It doesn’t show the struggle, the friends I’ve made, the things I learned, how I changed as a person, the failed policies, love lost, favoritism, politics, trauma, friendship, death and overall life in the Navy. The grey area. The words in between the lines.

Don’t let your bitterness fester. Let go.

Time to travel. Life is short.