All posts by Jon

10zł To Take Photos!?!?

So on my last day in Poland, the grand finale was to go to the Wieliczka Salt Mines. Which was the original reason of why I went to Poland. Once I got there, they informed me that in order to take pictures of this place I had to pay 10zł ($2.77) which wasn’t bad, but in order to get my moneys worth, I’m going to post every picture on here!!

So here you all go… and remember its all made from salt (and some wood of course)

                    

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

 

   

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

Poland

   After I got on the train heading to Poland, I knew I had 8 and a half hour ride in front of me, so it was a great opportunity to catch up on the blog and in my journal being that it was getting really hard to find time to do any of that with all the walking around and exploring. After a little while though, I found myself looking out the window and before I knew it, we hit the first and only transfer station. Getting off the train, I quickly released that almost no one spoke English here, but I felt that I was in the right place and was… until they announced something in polish over the loudspeaker and everyone got up and left the stage. My initial reaction was to follow them, but just didn’t know what was going on, so I went to ask the information desk. Unfortunately no one there spoke a word of English as well. Lost in translation again, I just starting asking everyone for help when finally I met a business man that told me my train was going to be and by the time I got there, it arrived. An hour later I was in Kraków. 

  
   
 Kraków is a beautiful old town. Most of it was rebuilt after World War II, but they’ve kept the original look which gave the city its own European feel. I walk a short distance to my hostel from the train station and got all sign in, went to pay and my card got denied. Freaking out a little bit, I held my composure and started looking through my bag to find some money to at least pay for the bed. A little after getting my stuff organized I went out and tried my card at an ATM and luckily it worked!! So I celebrated by buying a giant gyro. 

   
 The next morning, I booked a tour to Auschwitz concentration camp. it was an hour and half bus ride there, but once there, you could feel an uneasiness at that place. We were put in groups of 10 and led through a gate that read, “Arbeit macht frei” which translates “Work sets you free”. The first lie the Nazis told the people sent there. After seeing that, I put my phone in my pocket and decided to just experience this place with my own eyes, not behind a camera lens. The red brick buildings that stood there were the same as they were since the war which gives me a disturbing feeling that the people that were tortured and kill here looked at these same buildings. Three of the buildings were converted into the museum part of Asuchwitz showing all the documents, the belonging, the shoes and even the hair of ones that were killed were save to sell to wig shops and carpet companys. They also showed us the different ways that the nazis tortured the prisoners for little to no reason at all. The next camp that they took us to was a killing camp. A lot bigger in size, this camp could hold up to 100,000 prisoner although most of the prisoners that got here was killed within 20 minutes of being there. One thing that the guide told us when we were at the ruins of the gas chambers is that this was the last sight that over a million people saw before they were killed. The whole experience was a little hard to handle, but before I knew it we were on a bus to go back to Krakòw. The next day, it really hit me and knew it was going to, so i made sure I had nothing planned that day and I just sat at hostel, listened to some good music and updated my blog.

   

        The last day in Poland, I booked another tour to the Wieliczka Salt Mines near Krakòw. I needed something a little different then of the last couple days. Active since the 13th century, it pumped out table salt up until 2007. The world oldest salt mine, now takes in thousands of tourists on a daily. This was the original reason of me coming to Poland and at about 500 feet below the earth, the sights were worth the trip! The charged me to take photo, so I made an article dedicated to the photos underground.

  I was kind of happy leaving Krakòw. It was a beautiful town with tons of history and some amazing people, but the emotions that I went through was a bit to much for me. I came to realized that this life is a thin line between happiness and brutality. We take life in the thought that it’ll always be there when we wake up in the morning and it’ll just be another easy going day as always, but we dont know just how close we are to having all of that being ripped from us, all because someone with power disagreed with the way we do things. The poor souls that lost their lives in that god forsaken place didn’t get the chance to travel the world or watch their kids grow up or even get a chance to sleep in on saturday morning. They went through hell on earth, hoping that one day death will come claim them before the day was done. We will never know that feeling, we will never know what they really went through day after day before the end. All I can say is that I’ve seen a glimpse of what happen there and the methods on which they used the torture and kill them and with that, I’ve lost a little faith that day, in humanity and in god. There was no reason for the suffering at these camps and with keeping it on display for people to see what really happened, maybe it’ll keep us from repeating the past because as a the sign says in the first building I walked into there, “The one who does not remember history is bound to live through it again.”       

  ….Next stop Budapest, Hungary


The City I Knew Nothing About

   

  

 Midnight at the train station is not what I would call ideal, especially when you have two shady guys following you the entire way to the final train, but after a slight delay I was on my first sleeper train. After a surprisingly good sleep, I was awoken by sunlight. Using the bathroom, I realize that was also a shower so could got all of my morning routine done on the train. Once off the train, I looked around and thought to myself, “Where the hell am I!?!?”

   

  

  

  

  

  

  

   I realized then, with all the research I did for this trip I must of forgot everything about Prague. Luckily I had a hostel booked for me so once there, I got a tour a map and started doing some research the rest of the day. I met a bunch people at the hostel that I joined to walk around the city that night until they found a club. I decided to walk back to the hostel because after the Nurburgring trip, I’ve been very frugal with my money and I’m not a club person. Waking up the next day, I was bound and determined to take on this city and couple of the guys from the night before wanted to join. They wanted to walk the city and see if we can find it that wasn’t on the maps. I’m happy we did, because this town was by far the prettiest place I’ve ever been. We sat at a park and ate some food as we watched paddle boats going by in the river. We… I mean… they also watched some models at the edge of the river get undressed and change into another dresses, right in the open (they do thing very different here). 

   

  

  

  

    We walked to the the castle where I had simply was blown away by the view and the sheer beauty of the giant church. It was the first time in my life that felt so small infront of something. We toured around there for a couple hours and ate some awesome food from the market. We decided to take the tram back to recharge the batteries. That night they went out to party and I sat a bar and got time to talk with some people from home. We went to the old town the next day and saw some more of this incredible city. 

   

  

  

  

  

  

  

     At end of this part of my journey I realized, It doen’t matter how much you know about the places you’re traveling to. You need to go out and just discover the damn place and you can never imagine what you’ll find out there, just grow some balls and explore!! 

   Next stop: Kraków, Poland           

Lost and Found in Frankfurt

 

   The train departed to Frankfurt from Amsterdam central station early Monday morning. I (like always) was there extra early to make sure I knew where I was going. With time to kill, I found a coffee shop to sit at I met Sarah which was a girl from Canada that was also wait for her train to Paris. We talked about our travels and what we used to do back home. 10 minutes before my departure, we went our separate ways and I finding myself boarding my first train and it was amazing. It was a 4 1/2 hour ride, but it seemed to go fast. 

   

      I arrived at the Frankfurt airport/ train station where I was supposed to find a tram to take the rest of the way to Kelsterbach west of the city. Slightly lost, I went to ask for help. I walked up to nice gentleman at an information desk where he told me where to go. The only problem was that he told me the first half in english and the half in german. I ask to repeat what he said and he said it all in german, then got angry. I said thank you and went on to somebody else. Eventually was pointed in the right direction and found my way to Kelsterbach. Kelsterbach is beautiful small town just outside the city. Off the tram, I took a look at a snapshot of the map that lead me there, only problem with that was that I couldn’t zoom in to see the names of the roads. Not thinking it was going to be a problem, I started following the the streets on the maps up until I hit a park… that wasn’t a road. Now I was flying blind with no names of roads or anybody that spoke english. A teenage kid working in a baby store that spoke very little english showed me to the street I need to be on and after 1 1/2 hours, I finally made it! I’ve never been so happy to see a complete stranger in my whole life.

   
      Ella was a beautiful blonde that had 6 children(3 of which I met) and a super awesome husband. They lived in a beautiful 3 story house in the middle of town. I got Kacey’s room which was her youngest boy. The room was more than I could ask for and even came toys to play with! The rest of the night I stayed in and hung out with the family. The next day, I woke up early and Ella dropped me off at train station with Viktoria. Viktoria was a couchsurfer as well from Belarus, but she decided to rent a spare room at Ella’s house to continue her schooling in Frankfurt. She started telling me where to go because I was in need of a phone that would work here. She continued to school and started to explore the city. I found a mall that had a hole in the middle of it (literally), some cool statues and big stores. I also found a cell phone shop where I got a flip phone that came in handy for my trip. Once done with all that, I asked the girls working there if they knew any good places to eat and they pointed me in a general direction. I walked down that way when out of nowhere, there it was…. a Dunkin Donuts! First one I’ve ever seen, being that they dont have any of those where I live. So enjoying a donut, I get a call from Vikoria which wanted to show me the city for the afternoon. We explored the old part of Frankfurt and a really old church. After that, we sat at a park and talked. It was a great day!!

   
     

  

        
         The next day get it own article, it was simply beautiful and a life dream fulfilled! The day after, I was still in a high from the Nurburgring, Ella asked if I could go pick up another couchsurfer that was staying at her place as well. I had to drop off the rental car, so I just went and picked her on the way. Her name was Kaye and she was simply awesome. We spent the rest of day walking around the new the side of the city and even going one the biggest building in Frankfurt. That night, Kaye and I made dinner and dessert for the family being it was my last night there. All of the next day I just relaxed and that night I got everything ready for my next destination, but the goodbyes were really hard for me this time around. I’ve enjoyed my time with the family and Viktoria, I’ll miss them a lot!!  

   Next stop: Prague, Czech Republic 

Journey of the Ring

Even waking up this day felt different. I knew whatever was going to happen was going to change my life. The Nurburgring opens for public racing at 5:30, so I was in no rush to get there althought I was getting inpatient. I took the train to the airport where I had resovations to a rental car that I got a couple of day before. After a little bit, I found the rental company where i walked up to the lady, gave her my confirmation number, my license and my credit card. that is when it went all wrong. She looks at my credit card and tell me, “we dont take these. We take real credit cards.” I argued with her for a few minutes, finally grabbing my stuff and walking off. I was pissed! I walked around a little bit to cool off and went to get something to eat. Then after 20 minutes of cooling down, I decided to go to another rental car company and after 160€ a car was rented. I got lost right off the bat, but after a quick turnaround I was on my way to the Ring…. fast.

   Once there, the day became one of the best days of my life and could only be described in the smile on face in these photos so enjoy…….

 

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

    

Sex, Drugs and Jetlagged

     After a day or two of rest at the beautiful hostel I was staying at, I got up enough energy to go explore Amsterdam. It was an hour tram ride to the city center… or what I thought. I was by myself and I forgot a map so I was going in blind. Walking around for about a hour with no sense of direction, I started getting really fustrated and hungry. So I got a crape and walked back to the train station. I was clearly not ready to go out sightseeing alone.  

   

   

     I rested some more and tried to get more used to the 9 hour time change which was making me really tired and uneasy. I started making friends with the other traveler at the hostel and a couple of us went out to explore the nearby lake, where they smoked and tried to relax although the weather had other ideas, but we found a place to get out of the rain for a while before we walked back and made plans to go to the city once more. We seperated on the tram ride being that they were going to go eat and I had plans with some other friend from the hostel to go down the canals in the Amsterdam. Although it was raining during the boat ride, the sights were amazing. It’s hard to believe that most of those houses were built before the US was even a country. We decided to go find some hamburgers after the boat ride being that all three of us were hungry and all craving a good burger.  

         

  The next day was a bit bittersweet. All of the people that I friended during my stay at the hostel was all continuing their journeys elsewhere. unfortunately I had one more day and by about 2 o’clock, I was pretty much the only one left at the hostel. I decide to rent a bicycle and go back to the small town down the street. I have yet to eat any traditional food in the Netherlands, so I became in search of something good for lunch that was out of the ordinary. This small town had a little corner market that sold ice cream and some deli food. I asked the guy working there what he would recommend for something to eat that would be a Dutch treat. he recommended something I couldn’t pronounce that looked sort of like an eggroll, so I said why not and he threw it in the deep fryer. What I didn’t expect was getting that “eggroll” looking thing back in a bun with mustard, but whatever it was, it was simply delicious. I started walking down the street when I realize the entire town was having a mini farmers market at the town center where they were selling T-shirts, bags, memorabilia and even coffee, pastries and my favorite, churros. After walking through there, I ventured out deeper in the town, where two big chapels stood and being that everybody in that town was attending the farmers market, I had those two buildings all to myself where I can take pictures and slowly explore. Back on the bike, I headed back where I relaxed until dinner time.  

         

  Once evening came, I met a guy from California while cooking dinner. We talked a bit about where we’re from and where our travels was taking us. After we were done eating we decided to go and see Amsterdam on the last night that I was there to to experience the nightlife and the infamous red light district. Once in town he decided to go and find somewhere to get something to smoke while he walked around the busy streets. The red light district was almost exactly what I was expecting, Pretty girls in the window every other block. Some of them knocking on the window to get your attention and some of them were just sitting there on her cell phones. It was definitely a weird experience but it was a good ending to a somewhat difficult visit to Amsterdam. 

 

 The next day I got up early, ate some breakfast, said my goodbyes to the staff and jumped on the shuttle to the train station one last time.

                                                           next stop: Frankfurt, Germany!

The 31 hour day

(Sorry, Because of terrible Dutch Internet service I can’t post any pictures at the moment)

6:05am in Washington: Woke up one last time in my own bed and slowly got ready for the long day ahead. My nerves were all over the place, but I knew I had to force myself to eat a meal before I left. What I didn’t know was my next meal was going to be 40 hours later. 

4:00pm in Washington: After getting dropped off at the airport by my mother and my best friend a couple hours before, I was boarding my flight. It was 7 hour to Iceland. Two hours into the flight I found out that I was misunderstood on the meal on the plane. Apparently there’s a difference between “comfort economy” which gets a meal and “economy” that I was in… which doesn’t have a meal and for some stupid reason I didn’t bring any snacks.

6:25am in Iceland: After a fairly quick 7 hours, I was in Iceland. I got off the plane, walked to my next plane. waited 10 minutes to board and off we went. 3 hour to Amsterdam… easy right?!?!

12:05pm in Amsterdam: After One of the most grueling 3 hours of my life, I crawled off the plane. Hungry and tired, I tryed not to lose focus as I walked to the baggage claim where I finally reunited with my backpack. I walked out of the airport and instantly got lost. At this time I realized, I lost all focus!!

3:30pm still in the airport: After walking around in circles like a lost kid, I finally got a hold of my good buddy Ian, which helped me as much as he could over the phone. Calming myself down at a Starbucks, I finally jumped in a taxi and payed the 60€ to get to my hostel. Once there, I tryed to stay awake until finally it was bedtime(10:00pm)!! 

It was a terrible start to my adventure and I made some bad decisions (like not eating) but sometimes the adventure doesn’t go as smoothly as you thought it was going to. You just got to learn from Your mistakes and carry on. Everything will figure itself out eventually!! 

10 Miles in Flip Flops

 

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

    Never really being outside of my home state and never being in anything with wings, I booked a plane ticket for a secret trip to the “City of Sin” for one full day.  Only a couple of my friends and my boss knew about my journey.  The less that knew about it, the easier it would be to slip away for a while.  After a dizzying couple hours at the airport, I jumped on a jet plane pointed torwards Nevada. 

  Fresh off the plane, my original plan of staying up the whole time fell ill with a tiring check in at the hotel and a saying my grandmother once told me a long time ago(and apparently A saying on a popular TV show) , “Nothing good happens after 2am”.  A saying that I’ll stick to in my travels especially in Las Vegas.  So I got some well needed rest and got ready to tackle the town early that morning.  A quick breakfast was followed by a short walk to the New York New York’s “Manhatten Express Rollercoaster” for little morning adrenaline rush. 

  Once off the first thrill ride of the day, I decided to take a walk around the south side of the strip which included the MGM Grand, New York New York and the Excalibur where I was staying. After getting lost in the MGM Grand I found myself heading back to my hotel being that the weather was getting quite warm and was a perfect opportunity to go for a swim. The Excalibar has a impressive pool which includes a water slide for the kids of all ages, a bar and even a restaurant. It was at this point I realized that half the day was already gone and I still had the rest of the strip to tour before the nights festivities began. 

  Throwing on some flip flop, I journeyed deeper into the jungles of Vegas, hitting all the iconic hotels of the strip. Deep in one of the hotels was a car museum, where I got to see some of Elvis’s old cars, Pres. JFK’s limousines and even a legendary Jaguar supercar. From there I decided to book it to the Stratosphere at the end of the strip. Being that I have a keen sense of adrenaline that I live off of, I had to experience the thrill rides at the top of this thousand foot needle in the desert. I jumped on the first ride which was called the Xscream. This ride was basically a teeter-totter that catapulted you off the needle and stopped just in time to watch your heart fly out of your chest and splatter on the concrete a thousand feet below.  After that thrill, I was eager to jump on the next ride when a big gust of wind came up and stayed there, closing down the rest of the rides for the night.

  Realizing it was getting late and being that I was on the opposite side of the strip that I wanted to be on, I jumped on the monorail and headed towards my hotel to get my costume on and meet up with a couple friends that were in Vegas as well to enjoy the festivities of Halloween on the Vegas strip. That night was so big, it deserved it’s own story!! Looking at the time, I started to loose steam from exploring the whole day, I decided to call it a night 30 minutes before 2:00. The next morning, I was at the airport flying home.

  The whole point of this adventure was to see how I reacted with traveling by myself to an unknown part of the world. It wasn’t too far compared to my big trip to Europe, but I just reminded myself that if I can survive Vegas at Halloween alone, I can survive in any city around the world just fine. The only thing I wish was that I could’ve stayed a little bit longer, but I have a lot of time ahead of me and there’s so much more to see then a tourist filled town in the middle of the desert. All in all, I enjoyed my stay in the end and that’s all that really matters!! 

  

         

The Night of Tricks and Many Treats

I knew this night was going to be really big when It got so crowded in the MGM Grand that I had to slowly squeeze myself through the walkway. There had to of been over 3000 people in the food court of that hotel. Every one of them in different costumes… except me. I was in a rush back to my hotel to get my costume on and meet up with Sarah and Bryon in a matter of an hour. I felt like I was running behind, but once I walked out of my hotel, the party began. We decided to walk the strip and people watch. Sarah joined a silent rave. Bryon and I enjoyed some roadside pizza. It started out great and what happened that night can barely be described in words. So with that said, I had to make a photo gallery with mix of mine and Bryon from Exploring Elements photos of that night. IMG_2159.JPG

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Gas Station Food for Breakfast

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Since the Overland Rally in Plain, WA, I’ve been laying low and conserving my money for my Europe trip. After a couple of mouths of just hanging around the house, I was starting to get very anxious to do something. So saturday came along after hard week of work. I packed up my gear, loaded up my dirt bike in the back of my Dad’s truck and set off.

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We gassed up and got some breakfast at small gas station on the way to Gifford Pinchot National Forest. Once there, we jump to the bikes and headed though the trails to a beautiful campsite called Cat Creek. Sitting along the side where Cat Creek flows into the Cispus River. It’s a group of about five camping spots, which was packed full. We managed to find a way to the creek and admired it for a bit before packing back up and heading to the next destination, Hamilton Butte.

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Hamilton Butte is an amazing look out, where you can see almost every mountain in the northwest. At 5722 feet, it’s a breathtaking site to see on a beautiful day, but halfway up I had some “technical difficulties” and broke my kick starter. So we turned to our third and final stop, being that it was mostly downhill on the way.

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Blue Lake is a lovely lake that you can only get to by trail. It was once a creek about 400 years ago that was damned up. Now it a dark blue 12 acres lake that’s homes a ton of fish and millions of annoying flies. When we finally got to it, we were surprised to see a bunch of hikers camped at the shore. One of the hikers was a guy from Spain that transplanted himself to the Northwest several years ago and started a family here. He hiked out there with his 3 kids for the weekend. We sat and talked to him for about a hour getting some pointers on backpacking though Spain and Portugal. We said our goodbyes and continued our way back to the truck.

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On the drive home I realized that every once in a while we all get caught up in the working life and we lose the realization that we aren’t stuck inside a bubble with work and home in it. Theres a whole world around us, just waiting to be explored and it’s just outside our front door. The beautiful thing about an adventure is that you can take a trip 10,000 miles from home for 6 months or a trip 10 miles from home for weekend. An adventure can be a hike or bike or even a small road trip for a day. There’s no rules to adventures as long as you come home with story’s to tell and a smile on your face:-)

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