Around My World: A Detour on Life's Journey

Around My World: A Detour on Life's Journey

by Jason Thiessen

Paperback

$19.95
View All Available Formats & Editions
Eligible for FREE SHIPPING
  • Want it by Wednesday, October 24?   Order by 12:00 PM Eastern and choose Expedited Shipping at checkout.

Overview

Around My World: A Detour on Life's Journey by Jason Thiessen

In life we are occasionally faced with detours. Some of them are thrust upon us just when we think we have life all figured out. Sometimes, however, they are self-created. We choose to take them, driven by some inner desire or passion. Author Jason Thiessen's extraordinary adventure was just such a detour-borne of the dreams of a young boy with only an atlas as his guide to an unseen world.

Nearly thirty years after those dreams began, they became a reality. Thiessen, a man with a wife, a career, and a mortgage, set out on a journey of discovery to find purpose and meaning while attempting to answer lifelong questions. His detour from an otherwise traditional life path took him to South America, Africa, the Middle East, Europe, India, Southeast Asia, and Australia, ultimately traveling twice the distance of the circumference of the earth. Just as his adventure brought him from the heights of the Andes to the depths of the Dead Sea, so too did Thiessen take an emotional journey from feelings of excitement, fulfillment, and joy to those of anger, frustration, and despair.

Around My World: A Detour on Life's Journey tells a story for anyone who is on their own journey to reconcile modern-day pressures and realities with the insights that world travel can bring to one's life.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781475933154
Publisher: iUniverse, Incorporated
Publication date: 07/17/2012
Pages: 248
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.56(d)

Read an Excerpt

AROUND MY WORLD

A DETOUR ON LIFE'S JOURNEY
By JASON THIESSEN

iUniverse, Inc.

Copyright © 2012 Jason Thiessen
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4759-3315-4


Chapter One

In the Beginning

I remember my very first atlas. It was the Time atlas, published in 1980. I was nine years old. I still have it. Sure, it's seen better days, but every time I look at it I feel like a nine-year-old kid again. As a child I looked at it and wondered if I would ever see the places I was learning about in its pages. Were these countries much like my own? Were the people the same? How about the food? Were they wondering about me, or my country?

The sense of wonder that came with being nine was, for me, exponentially compounded when faced with a book such as an atlas. I learned that languages were different in each of the countries, as was the religion, amongst other things. Religion—what was that? Why would religion or language, or currency, be different in one country that was right next to another country? I was fascinated each and every time I sat down to turn those pages and it was then that I started thinking for the first time about traveling.

Would I ever get to go to those far off places, and how far away were they, anyway? How would I get there? What would I see and do once I got there? How long would it take to see everything? What would I have to do to cross one of those dashed lines on the page that represented a border between countries? That atlas became my escape. I read it constantly, always asked questions, and then carefully put it back afterward. While my friends at the time seemed interested in things like trading cards, toy cars and cartoons, I was interested in that atlas, and the world it represented.

As I continued to read it, and learn more and more about the world, I became very possessive of both the atlas and the world it depicted. The atlas was the world, and I wanted to discover it all. As the explorer in me began to emerge I became more and more aware of my feelings toward the world and my interest in traveling within it, and around it. I began feeling a strong desire to travel around my world.

I was obsessed with numbers. I wanted to know the populations of all the great cities of the world. I somehow thought it important to count the number of cities in each country that had more than one million inhabitants. There were (at the time) over thirty of them in China, and two in Canada. Why was that important? I had no clue. Nor did I understand that the vastness of the earth could not possibly be interpreted on those 8 ½ x 11-inch pages. Each country had faint boundaries and each had its own colour, I guessed this was the case so young people like me could tell where, for example, India ended and Pakistan began.

When the board game Trivial Pursuit came out I was in heaven. I was that annoying little kid who knew all of the answers to the blue geography questions, not to mention most of the orange sports questions too. I also fell in love with the history questions. I loved the fact that I actually knew many of the answers. The ones I didn't know provided me the push to go learn and better understand them.

I would go to my atlas, or to National Geographic, or to Time magazine, or to whatever source I could find that would help me better understand and, more importantly, be able to answer those questions the next time around. My family was amazed at my extensive knowledge of the world—not bad for someone who had only ever left Canada twice; to go to Disneyland.

At my elementary school I was probably one of only a few kids that took out books from the library other than those assigned in class. I loved to hang out there and look through the geography books and atlases. I did a research paper in grade five on the Tasmanian Devil. Not because of the animal itself but because it was an animal from an exotic country in as remote a place as could be imagined. It was also exciting because most kids thought it was just a cartoon, and I would be the one to tell them otherwise.

In grade six we learned about the pharaohs of Egypt. I remember wondering if this place called Egypt still existed and, if so, where it was. What we were learning about made it sound like quite an amazing place. It was the type of place that when you died they took your brain out through your nose and cut you open to empty out your insides. Then, they wrapped you up in a blanket and put you in a big stone box. This was pretty heady stuff for a 12-year-old kid. I found it all incredibly fascinating. It was doubly interesting because my teacher was so cute. Okay, so I was 12, but that didn't mean that I wasn't starting to develop other interests. This was, after all, the same teacher that taught the sex education class. Imagine that; mummification and sex education in the same semester. Life was good.

I continued my interest in geography and history into my junior high school years. My favorite class then was social studies. It combined all the things that I liked and it was easily my favorite class and the one I did best in. I was in love. While most of the other boys during that time were talking about how they built a birdhouse or ashtray in industrial arts I was talking about how the USSR had as many warheads as the USA and actually had more people in the armed services—wasn't that interesting? How and why did this happen? Well, there was a story that started with a little thing called the Russian Revolution ... My point is that these types of subjects always piqued my interest and I always excelled at them.

Not surprisingly, my favourite class in high school was also social studies. I learned about the reunification of Italy and that little French tyrant by the name of Napoleon Bonaparte. First of all, when was Italy un-unified, and how did that little man from France dominate the planet as he did? I learned about Europe during the two world wars, and about the history of my own fine country, Canada. It was awesome. It was the unique combination of physical geography—where everything is in relation to everything else—and their socio-political situations that interested me to no end. Plus, in grade ten there was a student teacher that was even cuter than my grade six teacher.

These interests persisted throughout the rest of my life. What began as an interest in countries and history grew into an interest in cultures, societies, and geopolitics. A visit to the Hall of Maps at the Vatican revealed the obvious—the world was indeed thought to be flat at one time. I was constantly asking questions about why things were the way they were. Questions like: Why do some people in Louisiana, or Vietnam, or West Africa speak French? How is it that Rome was home to over a million people at its zenith and so many less after that? How is that the Ptolemy family from Greece ruled over Egypt for centuries? Why did Pakistan and India separate? How could England, a tiny little island in the North Atlantic, rule a massive island, Australia, completely on the other side of the world? How did Islam spread? How did countries form?

I am a questioner. I like to know why; especially when it comes to how things function in society every day. I want to know the history of things. It somehow gives meaning to the present and in so doing provides me a sense of understanding. Without this understanding I feel lost. Not physically lost, but mentally lost. The development of the world I lived in was something that I had to understand better. I needed to know how things fit together and where things came from. That atlas was both my question and my answer.

I am a traveler

As a teenager and into my early twenties I traveled as often as I could, mostly within Canada and the Unites States. Much of this traveling consisted of what I would call road trips. On one particular road trip my friend Daryl and I drove in the middle of the night from Calgary to Vancouver, usually about a ten hour journey high in the Rocky Mountains and on some of Canada's trickiest roads. We were 18-years-old and were not supposed to be on the road at 3:00 AM. Little did Daryl's mom know that he told a small white lie when he told her of his whereabouts during a check-in call. (Sorry Daryl, I hope your mom doesn't get mad about that one. Margie, I'm sorry that you had to read about that here, but after more than twenty years I felt you should know.)

Another great adventure consisted of traveling with Daryl and another of my best friends, Ivica, to Mazatlan, Mexico in 1992. Sure it was all about the beach, and drinking, and meeting girls, and drinking, and then a bit more drinking, but I did learn something significant about myself on that trip: I felt more alive when I was somewhere else, somewhere other than home. Somewhere else meant I was outside of my comfort zone—and I loved it. As much as I enjoyed partying I enjoyed even more the notion of living outside of my usual space and of experiencing something new. I was like a small child—taking in everything with a sense of wonder and, more importantly, having no fear.

Being somewhere else became a critical component of who I was. I didn't know it at the time, but that decision to be somewhere else, specifically at New Year's, would impact my life forever. Mazatlan was the first in a string of ten consecutive New Year's where I was away from home. On occasion it was somewhere close by, like Banff, Alberta, and on other occasions it was significant, like Cuba. This last location had perhaps the most impact on me because that is where I met my wife.

In November 1995 my friends Ivica and Jim and I were getting our plans together to go to Varadero, Cuba for ten days of fun in the sun around New Year's. We were all excited to get away. We even went to the gym to get all buffed up for the occasion. (As someone who has been six feet tall and 155 pounds since the age of sixteen getting buffed up was merely an exercise in my mind.) We even went for a pre-tan at the suntan studio—that awful, smelly place where you suffocate in a sweat-filled plastic bed and purposefully burn yourself.

Our choice of hotel was what my friend Daryl would call "marginal, at best." It was, supposedly, a 3-star hotel but I think they stole that last star and pasted it into the travel guides. It was utilitarian; very Fidel Castro. Two twin beds, big enough for one large person or two children, nearly filled the 1960s era room. There was a radio mounted into the counter that was probably used for pumping out communist propaganda in the old days. No TV, no fridge, no nothing. I remember thinking that they probably hoped you got so drunk on the all-inclusive rum that you didn't care where you slept, just as long as it remotely resembled a bed and kept you above the cockroaches scurrying along the floor.

The hotel's patrons were mostly families—moms and dads with kids in their early to late teens. It took a day to sink into my thick skull, but I noticed—or failed to notice—that there were hardly any single women there. No groups of girls, traveling like I was with my boys. No group to match up with, to make things interesting for the rest of our time there. To top it off, it rained for the first two days.

On the third day that all changed. While sitting in the restaurant waiting for our overcooked pizza, which somehow took about an hour and a half to prepare (maybe it had something to do with the proximity to the equator), I noticed two girls I hadn't seen yet. They looked to be in their early twenties and there was no sign of any parents. I was intrigued. I quickly drew the boys' attention to the new arrivals and was met with looks of approval. Things were looking up.

Later that night, while swilling down what seemed like my hundredth rum and coke that day, the same girls arrived at the lounge. I overheard them speaking French so I was a bit concerned. Were they from France or from Quebec? If it was the former, we were likely out of luck because our combined French skills were quite awful. If it was the latter, then there was a fair chance that they also spoke some English too, and in that case we might at least have someone to talk to. I approached the bar where they were sitting to order some drinks. I went up with the intention of saying hello but couldn't bring myself to do it.

Jim decided moments later that if I didn't have the stones to do it then he would have to take care of it. He confidently stood up and strode over to the bar. Maybe two minutes later he came back alone and meekly sat down, a dejected look on his face. We sat there trying to figure out how much more drunk we'd have to get in order for one of us to actually go try to talk to them. Fortunately we didn't have to do anything after that because they got up and walked right over to our table. They immediately inquired, "Are you guys from Canada?" Well, that was it, we were in. They were Isabelle and Maryse from Montréal, Quebec. We were happy to meet them. Almost ten years later to the day Isabelle and I got married on a beach near Playa del Carmen, Mexico. Maryse stood up for her and Ivica stood up for me on that amazing day. There were a few things that happened in between but I won't bore you with all the details.

My family

My brother Colin was an international traveler. Due to his having a very unique job for several years he was able to travel on business to some far off locales that most folks likely didn't have on their lists of must-see destinations. Being six years younger than him I learned a lot from his adventures and applied what I could when it came time to do my own traveling. Having spent time in Chile, Indonesia, and Vietnam, Colin had some hair-raising experiences that scared me a bit, but also intrigued me. "I'd love to see that!" was a common phrase for me during those faux-trips I would take while looking through his pictures.

Colin, like our grandfather, is a great story-teller and has a very detailed memory, so listening to him and looking at his pictures was just like being there. Okay, it wasn't exactly like being there but it was as good as it was going to get. It made me hungry to travel and see more of the world. I didn't want to spend four days on an offshore drilling platform in the South China Sea during a hurricane, but I did want to go to a cheesy bar in Saigon and get hit on by a Vietnamese girl who would tell me that I looked like a movie star.

Where did I get the travel bug from? It had to be that atlas. My parents were not big travelers. When I was very young we would go camping a lot and when I was about five years old we drove from Calgary to Disneyland. I don't remember much from that trip, other than a minor accident I suffered in the trailer that we pulled behind our car. I still bear the scar on my leg where it touched a heat register and sent me into writhing pain on the floor. Even my mom's calming voice and loving kisses couldn't dull the pain of that one. Thankfully, I somehow survived, and from that point forward stayed clear of that heat register.

Our trailer was often parked at campgrounds with plenty of other trailers and campers so it was fun for me to go running around raising hell. On that Disneyland trip I remember one campground in particular. Close by to the small little store at the campground was a playground. There was a swing, teeter-totter, and merry-go-round. One day there was a number of other kids there. My brother Colin was there with me. I remember talking to a bunch of the other kids, feeling secure in the fact that my big brother was close by. At some point, however, I turned to find that Colin was no longer there.

A feeling of absolute fear washed over me. My stomach sank, my heart jumped up into my throat and my ears started to pound with the sound of rushing blood. Was I alone? Shannon was gone too. I was alone with a bunch of other kids, most of whom were bigger than me and, I presumed, much meaner. My adult mind reflects on this as a holy fuck moment.

After quickly scanning the scene I spotted my escape route. In between two trailers about fifty feet away there was enough room for me to squeeze through and from there I would be within earshot of my parents' trailer. I decided to make a break for it. I acted very casually with the other kids, stopped talking—which was a challenge for me sometimes—and bolted for the opening. My little legs pumped wildly, my knees coming up around my ears. My tiny little lungs sucked in what air was squeezing past my pursed lips. After what seemed like hours later I reached the gap between the two trailers and shot through the opening like I was launched through the eye of a needle. On the other side I spotted our trailer and turned on the balls of my feet and jetted in that direction. I didn't take the time to turn and look to see who if anyone was pursuing me. As I write this now I realize how silly that must have looked. If I hadn't been telling everyone how tough my big brother was there wouldn't have been a problem I suppose. Regardless, I was able to make it back safely with no ill effects, other than a slightly bruised ego.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from AROUND MY WORLD by JASON THIESSEN Copyright © 2012 by Jason Thiessen. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Contents

Acknowledgements....................xi
Introduction....................xiii
In the Beginning....................1
South America....................22
Peru—Pathway to the stars....................22
Lima....................22
Cuzco....................24
The Inca Trail....................28
Bolivia—The Great Escape....................35
Puno....................35
Isla del Sol....................37
La Paz....................39
La Paz—Uyuni—Villazón....................40
Argentina—Brushing off the dust....................52
Salta....................52
Buenos Aires....................54
Iguaçu Falls....................59
Brazil—View from the top....................60
Rio de Janeiro....................60
Sao Paulo....................66
Africa....................69
South Africa—Danger after dark....................70
Cape Town....................70
Road trip across South Africa....................78
Kenya—Hiding out at the Hilton....................90
Tanzania—A helping hand....................95
Middle East....................106
Dubai—Short but sweet....................106
Egypt—No, I don't want a camel ride....................109
Cairo....................109
The Nile—from Luxor to Aswan....................116
Alexandria....................129
Europe....................132
Cyprus—The Gap....................132
Turkey—A beating at the bath....................137
Istanbul....................137
Middle East again....................146
Israel—Why are you going to Israel?....................146
Tel Aviv....................146
Jerusalem....................150
Dead Sea and Masada....................156
Jordan—Kaleidoscope of colour....................157
Petra....................157
India—Meditation and frustration....................161
Southern India—Pune, Goa, Kerala....................161
Pune and OSHO....................161
Calangute, Goa....................166
Cochin (Kochi)....................168
Amritapuri....................169
Thekkady....................173
Cruising the Backwaters from Kumarakom to Alleppey....................174
Northern India—Delhi, Agra, and Rajasthan....................176
Delhi....................176
Agra....................180
Rajasthan....................181
Asia....................195
Thailand—Coffee shops and tigers....................195
Chiang Mai....................195
Vietnam—Cross the street at your own peril....................205
Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) and the Mekong Delta....................205
Australia—The beginning of the end....................209
Sydney and Coffs Harbour....................209
Ending Thoughts....................223
Epilogue....................227
By the numbers....................229

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews