I think Prague was my favorite place I’ve traveled. I feel very fortunate that I was able to live there a few months, my perspective definitely would not have been the same had I just passed there on a greater trip.

Of course my home, New York, will always have a special place in my heart, and I will probably always think of other places in reference to it. But going to Prague really puts things into perspective of why I’ve had a wanderer’s syndrome, and why I have the desire to depart from a standardized lifestyle. I really like Portland, where I currently live, and the nature of Oregon is really special. But not a day passes where I do not reflect upon my references on the Czech Republic.

I’ll always remember my flight to Prague from JFK, through Czech Airlines, a surreal airline with planes and stuartists that seemed stuck in a time capsule from the 1970s. I remember sitting next to an elderly Slovakian woman who took full advantage of her complimentary Becherovka shots (which I later learned the most popular Czech liquor) and going through some non-lingual conversations about the reasons for our shared flight experience, despite her lack of English and my lack of Slovak. Though it seems an expensive journey back, I’ll hopefully one day find a cheap flight to Prague again.

The food there was not my favorite, and the weather was not great, but once you can get over little discomforts, this city really has a lot to offer.

I do not know exactly what it was about Prague, I think it was just the little things, as cliche as that sounds. For instance, I loved living in some old Yugoslavian dormitory with walls that would brush white dust all over all of our belongings and clothing. We would get breakfast in the basement, prepared by these decrepit old ladies who were certainly a product of harder times. They would feed us things like chocolate Santas around Christmas time, and daily juice that tasted like really watered down gatorade. And yogurts that were flavored like liqueur or like aloe vera, or sometimes pomegranates, which none of us really knew how to gracefully disect and would often stain ourselves and the tables red.

Riding the tram was also one of my favorite parts. I lived in a buffer zone between Prague Castle, a really touristy part, and then Prague 6, a residential area, so it was a pleasant balance. I’d get on the 22 tram from the Pohojelec stop to head down the hill into Old Town every day. The tram would stop at Prague Castle, and then continue to swirl down the hill into the city center, moving from the tired Socialist architecture, downhill towards the picturesque gothic and medieval area, before dropping us off right before the river. The late-night trams were also a trip, full of drunk people and other interesting characters yelling or dancing or bouncing around, or just passing out on the chairs.

Prague was also a fabulous place to go on random walks. It is a small enough city to always have an idea of where you are, but a big enough city to run into unknown little neighborhoods that all have something to display without trying to. It was nice to finally learn enough Czech to order a tea or a glass or wine at some small cafe I would stumble upon, and then sit in the background to observe the people and the surroundings.

I also was fortunate to teach English at a local high school. The students there taught me so much more about Prague and Czech culture than I would get out of reading some ethnographical book.

I think I liked Prague for the overall feeling I had there. Of course the standard things were great; beautiful architecture, happening nightlife, good museums, interesting history. But just the way I felt, whether walking around the streets alone or passing through a daily commute, when none of these standard topics were distracting me and absorbing all my attention, was my favorite part.

Interesting Architectural Preservations

Ruins are so fascinating on so many levels. It’s crazy to see the skeleton of some great city that was present hundreds of years ago, and to see how it’s still present but evolved into some cultural attraction, now clustered with groups of people from random countries led by people speaking their respective languages. I’ve definitely seen pictures of these ancient places in the context of tour books or old high school Spanish teachers showing the class some mass-produced, glossed posters with all of that educational banter and bright colors printed on the sides.

While I was in Mexico this winter, I went to Teotihuacan (above), which is located a little outside of present-day Mexico City. Mexico City is one of the most intense cities in the world, with so much development and so many humans everywhere, so it’s very special that this greater area dates back to such ancient times. Prior to my trip, I learned that Teotihuacan’s pyramids and structures all used to be covered by red paint with intricate characters and symbols inscribed all over the rocks. When you climb the pyramids, they have conveniently placed railing and ropes for your assistance, and when you get up there, it’s insanely windy.

I also went to Palenque, which is in Chiapas, in Southern Mexico. It was in the middle of the jungle, so it was crazy hearing beasts in the wilderness roaring and seeing Toucans fly by in the hot, humid settings. Both Palenque and Teotihuacan were very symmetrical, which surprised me. It’s strange trying to imagine a bustling city or village going on around with these structures as a base.


Don’t you just wish you could be your cat sometimes? All they have to do is look cute and you feed and shelter them. Then they have no concept of earning money, trying to learn new languages, buying plane tickets or mending fabric. Their version of doing paperwork is making sure to lie down right on top of your pile of documents when they see you are concentrating.

You put a new piece of furniture in your room and all they can think of is how nice the texture is when they rub their head against it.

You think of how much of their winter coat they are leaving everywhere.

Sinai Land

Road in the Sinai Peninsula, Egypt

The voyage began in a midst, a void time-space miraculously inhabited by armed guards, taxi drivers and few tourists. In juxtaposition to the Red Sea: Eilat, the Southernmost part of Israel, the Holy Land, going into Egypt, into the Sinai Penninsula. The strange political threshold, my other American companion as the only familiar factor I knew.

My passport was stamped, handled, examined, scanned, judged, questioned by many hands, eyes and computers until I finally regained existence in a materialized country, out of the virtual teleport. But I didn’t know whether it was part of Africa or the Middle East-and it had been Egypt’s, then Israel’s, and now Egypt’s. No one who lives there calls themselves Egyptians, but Bedouins, how interesting, not knowing really where I was or what part of the world I was in, even if I saw it represented on a map in a legitimately published book earlier that day.

Egypt-or Sinai-or Bedouin Land-wherever I was. Approached by four mysterious men, dressed in full-length pressed button up robe suits to guard themselves from the intense sun beaming heat as they competed for our attention to ride their taxis. This form of communication meant haggle, haggle, your price is too high! No, Happy Hour! Special Price just for YOU! Made a deal still unsure of the real currency exchange but scrambled into the designated vehicle with that feeling of being cheated in my stomach.
Off we went, pull into yet another checkpoint, more guards to examine us, as we’re not even twenty yards away…

What country? America. America?! Disapproving facial expression with raised eyebrows from the armed roadway authority figure, prejudiced against us for our nationality yet handling the essential documents that were our only real tickets out of his land.

Fee handed to him, passed through, in this rumbling stick shift van, strange driver I’d never trust, static-infested Arabic radio music sometimes made way into our bubble of civilization, this car, an engineered and manufactured modern product, traveling against seemingly uncivilized territories.

Up we zoomed, gear shift down, loop we went, gear shift up, desert sun was setting but there still was a clearly defined contrast of the ruby or terra cotta earth of sharp hills and rocks against the striking blue splashes of the Red Sea of to the left of our visual consciousness. Driver tried to exchange our Israeli shekels for Egyptian pounds, aggressively holding the wad of cash back over his shoulder. Obviously a horrible deal, a rip off, haggle time, no escape from him. We didn’t know where we were, even less sure of where we were going, even that he tried to argue with us and take us to a different place! Just knew that we were in an internal combustion engine, a trap yet a shelter from whatever is out there.

Ragged rocky mountains’ abyss soon bypassed villages on the right, huts made of collected metal sheets and tents made of weathered tarps held up and down by rocks. A single camel per village or villa, tied by a shoddy rope, moving its mouth in a circular motion but otherwise still and bored out of its mind, tired of its lifestyle of storing its own personal water in this desert, this salt water territory.

The salty sea to the left, lots of resorts, some Marriots or Hiltons, I familiarized myself with before-seen corporate logos for pseudo comfort. But many resorts were unfinished. Many were half built, just lonesome frames or foundations, almost civilization based wide-open caves of giant windows, where doors had never been put up.

A camel, the sea, the rocks, the hills, the villas, the resorts, the abandoned resort or the half finished resort, barely any traffic, barely any people out in the open. I didn’t believe our driver was obeying the traffic laws, but how should I have known, all of the signs were in metric or Arabic, and I was just so not adapted as a secluded wanderer in a car in the Sinai Peninsula.

Finally arrived at our campground destination as the sun set, having whirled and twirled in any way imaginable. Stepped outside of the unforgettable white van on to the ruby and terra cotta clustered or sandy earth, where I finally dictated my own movement the first time in this land, no guards, no border patrol, no cab drivers.

Camp was a simple resort of huts and carpets in between two other abandoned hut camps, same structure, yet eerily unkempt. Sun disappeared downward over the red, dry hills of Saudi Arabia across the water, which could have possibly supplied the oil of a recently finished eccentric automobile journey.

Camp in Ras Shaitan, Egypt

Botanical Gardens

On the contrary, when most people think of New York City, they probably automatically think of skylines, city lights, traffic, subways and streets. I went to the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens a few weeks ago, and was really surprised by the the environment there.

It’s crazy how botanists and other gardeners and scientists can pull such species out from all over the world and manipulate this urban habitat to adapt such different organisms to live so closely together. It’s amazing that the most populated borough of the most populated city of this country can hold such a creation.

I was even impressed by the animals they had living there. Lots of turtles were out soaking up the sun rays, koi were swimming around the Japanese garden, and there were even some rabbits running around.

One of the rooms was full of Bonsai trees, which look really fascinating.

Industry and Greenery

Not many people realize that Portland, Oregon is a very industrial city. Most just hear about it being the “Greenest city in the US,” or some similar rhetoric. Take the wrong turn out of some beautifully gardened neighborhoods, and you’ll find many smokestacks, warehouses, cargo, factories and all the works. Most of the Willamette River is lined with factories and huge truck parking lots. Yet it is all contrasted by the abundance of beautiful greenery and flowers that magically have the ability to grow in the Pacific Northwest.

I took these pictures at the University of Portland, which is a couple miles away from where I live. They have lots of interesting views of this dichotomy.