Author Archive for: Michael – Page 3

Burning Man: What Is It All About?

I’ve known about Burning Man for several years, but it was something other people did. I never felt the urge to go. I was used to hearing stories about naked people running around the desert, dancing to rave music, wearing crazy costumes, camping, and doing drugs. Not that I’m against any of that, but on the surface it sounded more like a party, not the life-changing event people told me it was.

When I asked a friend who’d been to Burning Man several times before to describe it to me, he said it’s like explaining colors to a blind person. How’s that for a tease? Then something else pulled me in. For Burning Man 2011, the 25th Anniversary of the event, the theme was called “Rite of Passage.” The phrase describes an event “which marks a time when a person reaches a new and significant change in his life.” That’s what My Grateful Journey is all about. It was a coincidence too intriguing to ignore. If there were ever a time to make the trip to Black Rock City, this was it.

Once my ticket arrived in the mail, there was no turning back. Survival guide in hand, I was excited and overwhelmed at the same time. I was pumped to be on the Playa and didn’t even know what the Playa was! What was I getting myself into?


We waited for hours in a long line to get in. It’s been my experience at festivals or other big events that people get annoyed and antsy with all the waiting. Not at Burning Man. The atmosphere was incredible! I strolled the line, meeting people from all over the world. Like me, they had come to the middle of nowhere to be part of a city that is erected from nothing, and within a week returns to nothing. This was the coolest party in the world and I hadn’t even gotten in the gates yet.


The sun was just setting over the mountains as we rolled into Black Rock City. We were finally at Burning Man! I was blown away at how massive the city was. The event was sold out for the first time ever. Ticket sales capped at fifty thousand.

My friends and I embraced Burning Man and the full expression of this way of life. Everywhere I turned, I saw someone dressed even more outlandishly than the last person, if they were even wearing clothes at all. As we were riding our bikes down a street someone yelled, “Who wants ice cream?” People lined up craving a tasty cone. At a campsite, I stopped to ask directions. They asked me to stay for lunch. Everywhere I went there was an undeniable sense of community.

There was so much to see, incredible art to admire, people to meet, and plenty of things to do. I danced, practiced yoga, meditated, met amazing people, and wore some crazy outfits! And some of the best times I had were alone exploring on the Playa. It reminded me that My Grateful Journey is about being fearless and confident. It doesn’t mater if I was with friends or alone.

One of the big things about Burning Man is that there is no money accepted anywhere, except at the coffee shop in center of camp. Most things like food, drinks, jewelry, massages, and yoga were gifted to people by generous burners. I was given fifteen cases of Coconut Water by One Coconut to give out as gifts. I became somewhat popular in the desert heat riding around on my bicycle with a basket full of Coconut Water.


So what is Burning Man all about? It’s whatever you want it to be. For me, it was about continuing to trust my path in life; to celebrate how far I’ve come while acknowledging the growth that’s still ahead. It was okay to be lost or alone yet GRATEFUL for the life I live.


What I realized in the end is that the Burning Man community is all about one thing: LOVE. There’s no judgment, just love. As the Beatles famously sing, “All You Need Is LOVE.”


One Coconut goes to Burning Man

Back in LA and very grateful.


After traveling for nine months I’m back in my home town of Los Angeles. I had the most remarkable adventure, and it could not have gone better if I planned it.

I’ve been back for just over a month and it’s been an interesting adjustment. Don’t get me wrong, it’s been incredible to be back. It’s been good to spend time with my family, friends and Babs (my dog). I’m not even annoyed at staying with my parents. I get to appreciate them every day. It’s not that anything is different. It’s actualy the opposite. Everything is the same; I am the one who is different.

I’ve had unbelievable experiences, adventures, and conversation, I learned lessons that changed my life. I left the States confused and searching for some inner confidence. While traveling I was very present everyday to how grateful I am for the life I live; not to mention what an extraordinary person I am.

People have asked me, now that the trip is over, if My Grateful Journey has ended? I keep saying, “it’s just beginning.” To me the GRATEFUL part of ‘My Grateful Journey’ is just being present. It’s much easier to practice this while you’re traveling, waking up by a gorgeous beach in Australia, or lying in a hammock in Thailand. The real work starts now that I’m back in the “real word”.

Since I’ve been back I’ve definitely made it a point to slow dow , trusting that I can maintain the proper balance between work and play. Focusing on enjoying and appreciating my day has also made me realize how incredibly lucky I am. I might be at a party at the Playboy Mansion one night and surfing with friends the next morning. I get to live, work, and play in a very cool sand box made up of amazing people. I love the life I have created.


In previous blogs I have mentioned a few lessons I learned on my journey. The lessons that really stand out to me are: Don’t sweat the small stuff, have trust, and embrace community.

Good and bad things will continue to happen everyday. By not sweating the small stuff doesn’t mean you have to be numb to them, but rather deal with them in a way that doesn’t allow negative thoughts or experiences to consume your time and energy. What ever happened, happened. It’s as simple as that.

To me having trust means: not second guessing oneself, being confident in the choices you make, and feeling that no matter what, things will work out.

As for embracing community, I was fortunate to meet and stay with so many wonderful people along my journey. Some were family I’d never met, others were friends of friends, and some were complete strangers who made me feel so loved and welcomed. In embracing community I put myself out there and made requests to people, asking for support and connections to all people I could meet along my journey. The response was overwhelming. To embrace my community and ask for support has allowed me to expand my community. To me the more you expand your community, the better life is.

So what’s next for me and “My Grateful Journey?” I’m grateful to be back in LA. I’m working on getting myself back to feeling one hundred percent after an ankle injury on my travels. I feel more inspired, confident, and creative than ever before. I’m currently developing a few projects based on my travels that would allow me to be back on the road in a few months. Stay tunned for the next chapters of ‘MY GRATEFUL JOURNEY’.


The time I Strayed in Laos

My original plan was to spend a month in the south of Thailand on the Islands. As any traveler knows the first rule of travel is to be flexible and throw any plan you have out the window. With flooding and bad weather in the south, I headed to northern Thailand and enjoyed a few weeks in Chiang Mai and Pai.

The second rule any traveler knows is everything always works out. I made some really great friends in northern Thailand who I might not have ever met, plus I got to experience Songkran. Songkran is the Thai New Year and the biggest water fight in the world. An absolutely crazy amazing time!

By the time I reached Chiang Mai, I’d been traveling for almost seven months. When I first started traveling in September 2010 I had no plan and no clue of where I was going. I found my way mainly by talking to other travelers and asking where they had been. This was a great way to meet people and also cut down on the cost of travel books.

Everyone I met on the first few months of my journey raved about Thailand. So that was a given. I was going there! I heard great things about Laos, but the majority of the people I talked to stuck to the normal tourist route of Luang Prabang, Vang Vieng, and Vientiane. I’ve never been one to do anything “normal”, so I choose to do the Stray Asia tour.

When I originally signed up for the Stray, I was thinking I’d do it for a few weeks and then hit a beach somewhere. I was looking forward to seeing the country, but besides the popular tourist spots I didn’t know what else there would be to do. The third rule of any traveler is to have zero expectations. After spending almost a month in Laos I was blown away by my experience.

Stray is the only hop-on hop-off tour bus in Laos. So what does a hop-on hop-off bus mean? It means you’re not stuck on the tour bus or with the same group of people. If you feel like jumping off the bus to spend more time in a village or go on a trek in the mountains, go for it. Stray has a schedule of times and places the bus will be and all you have to do is be there to meet the bus. Even if you’re the only person (I was a few times), the bus will still continue on the route.

Why did I choose to do Stray and a tour? I heard from friends in the traveling community about their horror stories trying to get places in Laos. They had a hard time communicating with the locals, the bus never showed up, and they felt taken advantage of. With Stray you never have to worry about transportation. That’s half the battle in Laos. You also travel with an English tour guide, a local Lao guide and a local bus driver. They know the locals not just the backpackers. I felt I had a good group of people around me who could handle any of my questions and also help me if I needed to know what food was in the market or where was the best place to go out.

The other reason I traveled with Stray Asia is I did Stray New Zealand. I had an amazing time and made so many friends. I was traveling solo and built in community of friends is a huge plus.

If this isn’t off the beaten track I don’t know what is.


After getting picked up in Chiang Mai by my Stray tour guide, we headed to the boarder town of Chiang Kong. We stopped along the way at the White Temple in Chiang Rai. I wish I could have taken a picture of the inside back wall. It’s a crazy mural of all things evil that could distract from one’s focus. Seeing the White Temple and this mural is not to be missed.


I felt like a local in Chiang Kong as my tour leader, Heather, and I partied late with the locals at Thai karaoke. Something else I highly recommend.

The next morning we got up early to cross the Mekong to Laos. The majority of tourists who cross from Thailand to Laos do so by a two day slow boat that takes them directly to Luanang Prabang. Our crossing was five to ten minutes, putting us in the northwest part of Laos.

Stray is good about stopping every few hours for a bathroom break or food stop. Sometimes we’d stop at very small villages for lunch. It was a great way to sample local food and really see how people live.

Charlie (AKA Bubbles from Stray NZ) eating a cricket at a lunch stop.

After a long bus ride on a road that the word bumpy does zero justice for, we arrived in the town of Nong Khiaw. Set along the Ou river the view from my bungalow was stunning. I loved the view so much, and really wanted to spend all day in the hammock on my balcony. I decided that Nong Khiaw would be the first place I jumped off the Stray bus.

View of the Ou river in Nong Khiaw.

After spending the first day reading in my hammock and admiring the beauty
of the surroundings, I decided to take a trip north. I took the public water taxi up river an hour an half to the town of Muang Noi. Muang Noi is a very remote fishing village that only has electricity between 6-10pm every night. I went on a hike with some people I met on the boat and checked out some caves. We sipped cocktails and enjoyed a fantastic sunset over the limestone mountains.

Knowing another Stray Bus was arriving the next day, I headed back to Nong Khiaw to meet up with my new group of Stray mates.

I must admit when we first crossed the Mekong in under ten minutes I was disappointed that I wasn’t going to get the same river experience that people who took the slow boat. My disappointment quickly turned into excitement when I learned we’d be taking a seven hour boat ride down the OU and Mekong River to Luang Prabang. This was perfect. I was going to get my boat fix and not have to stay on the boat for two days!

Luang Prabang was the first Laotian city where you could see the influence the French had on the country, from the architecture of the buildings to all the bakeries. It had been a long time since I had a bagel or croissant. I was in carb heaven.

I jumped off the bus again and took advantage of a few activities Stray suggested. The first thing I did was a Mahoot training course. What’s a Mahoot? A Mahoot is an elephant trainer/ handler. This was amazing! It was a fantastic way to get up close to elephants in a safe and eco-elephant friendly environment.

Getting to know my elphant.

My elephant liked to go all the way under while I scrubbed his head.

I also went to the waterfall about 15 minutes outside the city. We got a group together and spilt a tuk tuk ride . You can also hire a scooter or push bike. I highly recommend spending several hours there swimming and hanging out. Make sure you do the rope swing!!

On my last morning in Luang Prabang I got up at 5:30 to watch the monks being fed by the locals. This is a ritual that happens everyday. The monks come walking down the street at 6:00 dressed in their orange robes(no shoes), each carrying what looks like a big container. Villagers and locals line the streets to give the monks rice. This is the only food the monks get all day. It’s truly an incredible sight to see line of monks coming down the street.



After Luanag Prabang we headed to Vang Vieng. This is like no other town in Laos. Vang Vieng is a crazy party town. It’s famous for the river and tubing, though most people don’t tube. If you’re in a party mood, jump off the bus for a few days. I did : ). After a few days of hanging at the river party, I wanted to see what was down river. So, I got a tube and ventured down river on my last day.

Up next was Vientiane, the capital of Laos. It is a big city, really warm, and honestly, I didn’t think there was that much to do. I hired a scooter with friends from Stray and we went to the local water park. The water park was not very crowded, more like empty. Perfect! The sign of what you were not allowed to wear was hilarious.

I had to change my clothes after reading the sign!


Leaving Vientiane, the Stray Bus was packed with a new group of people. That’s one of the great things about Stray; new people getting on the bus all the time.

Two hours south of Vientiane we camped at Tad Leuk waterfall. We camped with tents and cooked on an open fire. It was very rustic. The group spent the afternoon getting to know each other and swimming in the river. The setting was beautiful.

Tad Leuk camp site


Up early the next day, we contined our journey south. Today’s activity was visiting the Kong Lor Cave. I had no idea what to expect, other than it was a cave. Traveling in Laos you visit a lot of caves, but I’ve never experienced anything like this. It was one of the coolest and most unique things I’ve done on my travels. It was incredible!!!

In the southern part of Laos coffee and tea plantations are everywhere. We visited one and got a tour from Mr. Coffee, at least that’s what he calls himself. We learned about the growing and roasting process. The coffee was fantastic.

Mr. Coffee explaining the growing process


The Stray Bus rolled onto a barge to take us to the 4000 Islands and Don Det, our next stop. Don Det is a super chill place. I did some fishing on the Mekong River and laid in a hammock. Pretty ideal day if I say so myself.

I stayed a few extra days in Don Det, jumping off the Stray Bus for the last time and saying goodbye to the new friends I made.

So what did I forget to tell you about my time on Stray Asia? The crazy disco night in Thakhek, the fun times on the bus, the incredible views, all my new friends? Check out the pictures below and video. You’ll get the idea.

If you’re thinking about taking a trip to Southeast Asia, don’t be like everyone else. Stray off the beaten track. You’ll be so glad you did.

Safe travels!

For information on Stray and to book your trip go to

Near Nong Khiaw


Afternoon swim at Tad Lo


Sunset over the Mekong in Luang Prabang


If you’re still looking at these pictures and thinking you’d like to do this trip then do it!!!

Here’s more pictures to help push you over the top

In a tuk tuk heading home after a night out with the Stray crew.


Wat Phou temple near Pakse


This is why i LOVE Amsterdam

3 story bike garage. So cool!


Am I really LOST?

This video is from 2 years ago in Bermuda. I’ve always been a big fan of getting lost to find my way around a new city. Even when I’m “LOST” I know I’m on the right path.

Kong Lor cave

During my travels I’ve seen some incredible places and have had some fantastic experiences. But, when you have a day when you say “That was amazing! I’ve never done that before”, you feel beyond grateful! That’s how I felt after visiting the Kong Lor cave.

Four hours north of the town of Thakhek in Laos, is the Kong Lor cave. The Kong Lor cave is a 7K limestone tunnel formed by the Hinboun river. It’s one of the top tourist destinations, but very hard to get to. The Stray Asia Bus crew got there just about 3pm during a huge monsoon down pour. After enjoying a beer Lao while waiting for the down pour to stop, we entered the cave. After walking for about 10 minutes we got into some little boats each holding three people and a driver. We traveled for 15 – 20 in pitch black, except for occasional flashes of light from our drivers head lamp off the limestone rocks. Inside the cave was unreal!!! The air was still and chilly. It felt like a huge sound stage. There were occasional water falls coming down next to the boat and sometimes on top of us. The boat stopped in shallow water, and we had to get out and walk for 10 minutes. We did this three or four times. After traveling through the cave for 45 minutes to an hour we came out the other side to a picture-perfect image of marvelous limestone cliffs and lush jungle everywhere. It was like being in the “Land Of the Lost”. Stopping at a remote little village, we bought a few beer Lao and headed back to the boats. Our journey back was “express” and only took thirty minutes. In total, we were gone two hours and traveled 7K (4 miles) in a cave. I’ve been traveling for 7 1/2 months, but have never experienced anything like this. It was AWESOME!!!

Fishing in Laos

Monday fun in Laos

In the tube

Backpackers and travelers come to Vang Vieng, Laos to hang out at the river and party. The town is famous for the tubing. Getting an “In The Tube” tank top (singlet or vest for my Aussie and British friends) is a must for any backpacker. Though, the majority of the people I talked with hadn’t rented a tube. After renting a tube my first day, but not making it past bar 4 I didn’t rent a tube again until my last day. I vowed to make it all the way down the river. Or at least past bar 7.

I thought the river would be a little more crowded than it was. Since it’s the end of dry season the river was low and I had to do some nifty moves to navigate the rocks.

I had an awesome day on the river. I did two of the big slides, but the video didn’t record. Check out my video and pictures from the day.

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You can see me at the top of the slide.

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