PLACES I HAVE BEEN THIS SUMMER

Thanks for asking @charlie. Getting all emotional thinking about this. I've spent a total of 2 months in South Africa, 1 month in Kenya, and 1.5 months in Japan. They've been some of the best months of my life. Here's where I've been physically, mentally, emotionally.
  1. I travelled back in time to where our life began - the cradle of humanity. I saw nature in the raw, away from modern civilization in South Africa.
  2. I fell foolishly in love with a South African man and left behind all expectations and regrets. It was wonderful and painful, as love often is.
  3. We road-tripped all over South Africa together, covering thousands upon thousands of km.
    Joburg, Mpumalanga, Kruger, Coffee Bay, Durban, Port Elizabeth, Hogsback, throughout the Garden Route, throughout the Western Cape including Cape Town and Cape Winelands, the Karoo, Klein Karoo, the Free State...
  4. I jumped off a bridge and felt what it's like to fly but not die.
  5. I saw extreme poverty and extreme luxury coexisting side by side and was confronted by how unempathetic greed can be.
  6. I stayed on a beautiful farm I refer to as the Garden of Eden.
    I walked around picking things from the ground and trees to nibble on. Short of frolicking naked, it was my idea of heaven. This beautiful farm is actually called Babylonstoren. The meals at their restaurant, Babel, were incredible. Walking with the chef to pick fresh ingredients for dinner, then learning how they were farmed - so fascinating.
  7. I flew to Nairobi, then to the Maasai Mara to see the circle of life. I saw what survival of the fittest looks like in the wild, and was grateful I was born a human in modern times. Also thanked the universe for mistiming the Great Migration by a week.
    I was staying in a tent along the Mara River where wildebeest cross deadly crocodiles to a plain full of eagerly awaiting lions every year. When I arrived, I got word the herd was still grazing in the Serengeti. At first I was disappointed, but after seeing 3 kills in 3 days - lions killing a warthog, cheetahs killing a gazelle, AND a crocodile chomping a lone wildebeest that had split from the main herd - I was so thankful to miss the great massacre. My heart couldn't take it.
  8. I met the stunningly statuesque Maasai people and learned what life is like for them.
    They live in the Maasai Mara of Kenya where BBC's 'Big Cat Diaries' is filmed. They wear bright red tartans to identity their tribe to others including animals. Because they grow up around the animals, they know their movements and behaviors, making them incredible trackers. Women build the mud homes they live in. Diet consists of cow's milk, cow's blood, and red meat. No fruits, veggies, or grains. Each home has a room where they keep their live-in cow. They can jump extraordinarily high.
  9. Hippos grazed outside my tent at night and elephants roamed through camp in the morning.
    Governors Camp is an unfenced camp in the Maasai Mara, granting me the great fortune of living with these majestic animals in the wild. Guards stand post 24 hours to ensure safety. They're armed with sticks 😂. Because the camp has been there so long, animals grow up aware of our presence. Respect and fear is mutual between us and the resident wildlife. I tripped over a warthog walking back from lunch. Hakuna matata.
  10. I sat talking to a beautiful tree for some undetermined amount of time.
    It asked me why humans can be so cruel and uncaring. It told me trees have been around for a lot longer than we have, supporting and sustaining life. It asked me to help spread the word that we should show them some fucking respect.
  11. I trekked into the jungles of Kenya and met a man who had been living in a cave alone for a year.
    How does he survive his solitude? Is he not plagued by loneliness? Or has he been so shunned by society that a solitary existence is all he knows? I still think about this man, wonder how he's doing, and for how long he will survive.
  12. I visited the wheat fields outside Nairobi to look at their gorgeous trees.
  13. I rode in a Matatu, a Kenyan minibus known for creatively kitsch misappropriation of logos, blaring sound systems, disco lights, ground effects, and crazy fast driving.
  14. I spent 4-5 hours a day in traffic in Nairobi.
  15. I got to experience a South African emergency room and an IV drip called "jet fuel."
    After passing out from 2 days of violent food poisoning, I was taken to the emergency room in Joburg and treated for dehydration. It was awesome - effective, efficient, and cheap. The doctor sat with me and discussed what happened to my body in detail, along with what I need to do for aftercare. $100 total. Far better experience than any emergency room I've experienced in the States.
  16. I traveled to Middle Earth, to live in a little cottage on top of a mountain.
    Hogsback is a town colloquially known for inspiring Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. Not sure why because Tolkien, born in South Africa, left for England before the age of three. So this seems tenuous at best. But, that doesn't mean it's missing the characteristics that would make the theory convincing! The WILD landscapes, elven signs, and hobbit-like homes meant my imagination didn't have to stretch far at all.
  17. I climbed to the top of Table Mountain and biked around the Cape of Good Hope.
  18. I laughed at the silly penguins that waddle along the shores of Boulders Beach.
  19. I had my lunch hijacked twice by brazen little monkeys that had cultivated a taste for fish and chips.
  20. I met the African Zionists of Joburg.
    amaZioni is the Zulu word for Zionists. They are the largest religious group in Southern Africa. They are a sect of the Christian faith. The Zionists I met wore brightly colored robes and worshipped outside in nature.
  21. I missed having the freedom to take my safety for granted, so I flew to one of the safest cities in the world - Tokyo.
    I love South Africa and Johannesburg is super cool, but this was terrifying: I saw an atm get hijacked in broad daylight at a super hip shipping container mall that was guarded with armed guards. I saw a man get tackled by police for trying to steal a bag at the airport. Crime and corruption are sadly very real parts of life in Jozi...
  22. I noticed Tokyo had perfected...
    design, food, art, fashion, self-expression, whimsy, safety, cleanliness, politeness, honor, jazz, whiskey, fruit, minimalism, fantasy, trains, dazzling city skylines, video games, experimentation, bidets, vending machines, cutting-edge everything (except corporate life which I hear is awful - avg 80 hr work weeks, hard and archaic work environment, leading to a nation with a diminishing sex drive, it's a national crisis).
  23. I learned emojis are an incredibly effective tool for crossing any language barrier.
    I suspect it may be the universal language of the future.
  24. I took a train, plane, bus, boat, and taxi to get to Yakushima island so I could get lost in the world of Miyazaki. I gawked and gasped at the misty, magical, densely forested place that inspired Princess Mononoke.
    Yakushima is a small island in the southern region of Japan near Kagoshima. Miyazaki spent some time there before creating Princess Mononoke. The forest in the film is the Shiratani forest. Yakushima may be the most magical place I've ever visited. I drank the cleanest mountain water and swam in the clearest streams.
  25. I sat across from Ohko no Taki, a stunning waterfall in Japan, and learned some phrases in Japanese (Pimsleur, wut!) Then jumped into the waterfall.
    Not sure if jumping in is allowed, but with no one to ask for permission, I guess it's okay?
  26. I visited multiple tea plantations.
    In Kenya, tea plantations are labor intensive. Tea leaves are hand selected and cut. And the organic green tea farmer in Yakushima turns her crop into fresh matcha ice cream churned for visitors at the plantation. I love how the vivid lime green stands in stark contrast to the sugi trees that surround the plantation.
  27. I learned about No One's Markets.
    Local farmers leave their goods unmanned in little shelters along the road in Yakushima. Customers can drop a couple hundred yen into a money box and take the fresh crops put out that day. This made me so happy. 💗✨
  28. I soaked in a seaside onsen.
    With an elderly Japanese man sitting naked next to me. We stared at the ocean together in silence. It was awkward and amazing.
  29. I hitchhiked.
    And perfected the art of gesturing.
  30. I flew back to Tokyo to jump on a boat for a 25 hour journey to Ogasawara Islands. I slept on the floor with strangers. It was intimate.
    Intimacy for me is laying next to someone in bed as they fall asleep or wake up. Doing this with complete strangers, arm-to-arm on the floor? Only in Japan. In this country, I feel completely comfortable sleeping next to strangers and bathing naked next to strangers. It all feels very safe and normal. I had to really restrain myself to not big-spoon my neighbor though. The 25 hours there and back were awesome. Oliver Sacks kept me company.
  31. I explored a torpedoed and sunken WWII cargo ship, Hinko Maru, and the rich marine life that now inhabits its coral-filled cavities.
  32. I have a greater appreciation for the song "Imagine" if that's even possible.
    My go-to karaoke song. Lennon was onto something. Really, it's the best. On Ogasawara Island, I met a kayaking guide who cooked me a spectacular tuna fish lunch while preaching peace. "Do everything for peace. Cook and eat fish for peace," he said. I called him Ogasawara Lennon, except I don't think he beats his wife. He touched my heart.
  33. I swam with dolphins through a narrow channel to visit a magical island called Minamijima.
  34. And watched baby turtles hatch and scramble to the ocean.
  35. I experienced so much love from total strangers that I was moved to tears. Look up Ogasawara island goodbye.
  36. I looked at the stars and lamented our insignificance, only to be reminded of our aspirations and triumphs viewing the Tokyo skyline.
  37. Had a thought that Japan is the most modern and advanced civilization in the world (just an opinion) because they're the most neotenous in the world.
  38. I had some epic meals.
  39. And saw many epic sunrises and sunsets.
  40. I learned more during this period of travel than any book, show, or stretch of imagination could impart.
    I set out on a journey to see what life was like in tribal, developing, and advanced societies. The differences across cultures is fascinating, but our struggles are largely the same - we want peace, we want freedom, we want to survive. Everywhere I went, I was moved by people I encountered and our shared sense of humanity. The desire to connect and be understood was so palpable. Lastly, I am now, more than ever, certain that Nature is God. If we should worship anything, it is Mother Nature.
  41. I laughed, loved, ate, cried, gawked, reflected, imagined, wandered, and lived in the moment more than I could have ever hoped for.
    It really was the best 4.5 months of my life. And I hope to go broke doing it all again soon!