Castles in the Sky

I’m finally doing it.

I am sitting on the porch of my dilapidated chalet perched high up on a hill overlooking a crescent-shaped beach on the Perhentian Islands in Malaysia.  The jungle creeps around the edges of my hut, bellowing the songs of crickets, lizards, geckos, and all sorts of creepy-crawly bugs.  It is a perfect warm night, and the ocean is a dark blue mass bisected by the reflection of a moon that smiles at me like the Cheshire Cat.  I smile back, happy to be where I am.

It was not easy getting here.  I first had the idea of traveling the world over a year ago, but initially the costs and magnitude of the trip were almost daunting enough to discourage me.  At one point or another, I wrote off my dream as a wishful impossibility and started to make other plans for after college.  For the time, it was nothing more than a castle in the sky.

But my desire to see distant lands is a flame within my soul that cannot be extinguished merely by daunting roadblocks and formidable challenges.  I searched for and found an internship in India working in the field of economic development, using my recently minted degree in economics to alleviate poverty while experiencing one of the most mystifying cultures on earth.

Within minutes of stepping onto the streets of Mumbai I was simultaneously awed and humbled by how much I still had to learn about the world.  I thought that my four years at UCLA had taught me enough but I quickly realized that my textbooks could only teach me so much.  I found that traveling and experiencing other cultures complemented my formal education, broadened my horizons and permanently changed my perspective on life.

At the conclusion of my internship I spent a month backpacking around India and instantly caught the travel bug.  I had shelved my dream of traveling the world for another time, but that month of freedom traveling alone in India revived my dreams of travel and changed my plans for the immediate future.

I had money saved up and I knew I was at a unique juncture in my life when I was totally free from commitments – no mortgage, no children, no job – so it was simply a matter of jumping out of my comfort zone and chasing that castle in the sky, the dream of wandering the globe on my own.  And as Thoreau said, If you have built castles in the sky, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be.  Now put the foundations under them.

I did.  I packed a small bag with two changes of clothes and the other essentials and bought myself a one-way ticket to Singapore.

I have no set itinerary, but I intend to travel north through Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam into China.  From China I want to catch the Trans-Siberian Railroad to Moscow and decide the rest of my adventure from there – west to Europe or south to Turkey and the Holy Land?  If I make it as far as my dreams desire it will require every ounce of resourcefulness and ingenuity I have within me.  And flexibility is the key to successful travel so I am leaving the trip open-ended and planning the trip as I go along.

So here I am, 10 days into my adventure and preparing to exit Malaysia and cross into Thailand.  The journey has officially begun.

But this is not aimless travel by any means – more than anything this is a learning experience.  I intend to learn more about the cultures, histories and economies of the countries I visit, while helping others learn that there is more to America than what they see on television.  I will also use this break from the routine of daily life to try new things, grow, and develop new skills.

As I travel I will be making (somewhat) regular postings on this website to keep you informed about my wanderings and to share with you my experiences.

Feel free to read all, some, or none of my postings.  Pass the link onto your friends if you wish, and never hesitate to give me feedback: if you like something I wrote, tell me; if you find faults or inaccuracies in my posts, please inform me; and if you have a recommendation on where I should go next, send me some information and I will keep it in mind.

Thanks for reading this far, I hope you enjoy my stories!

– Mark


From this hour I ordain myself loos’d of limits and imaginary lines,

Going where I list, my own master total and absolute,

Listening to others, considering well what they say,

Pausing, searching, receiving, contemplating,

Gently, but with undeniable will divesting myself of the holds that would hold me.


– Walt Whitman, “The Song of the Open Road”

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