I stepped off the plane into the dark, humid air. The tarmac was still warm from baking in the hot sun all day. I made my way through immigration to baggage claim where I found some familiar faces. A few other students from the program had just arrived as well, so we gathered our bags and met Chris, one of our professors, outside. Lydia, Saki and I piled in a cab with Justice, who has been working with Araba and Chris for four years now, as a local logistics coordinator for the program. Over the next couple days, Justice declared that I must be his “brother from another mother,” as we are the same age (born three months apart), we both studied finance in college and we both love soccer. That first night though, I also learned that Justice is a Liverpool fan because, growing up, he idolized Michael Owen. In fact, he refused to score in a traditional manner, always (sometimes unnecessarily, he admits) cutting the ball back across the middle, then putting the ball past the keeper, just like Owen.

We awoke early for a brief orientation before boarding the bus for a quick trip to the mall. As we stepped onto the sea foam green Toyota Coaster, we were greeted by the thumping bass and peppy rhythm of Ghana ‘hiplife’ music, as well as Daniel’s big, friendly smile. Daniel too has worked with the program for a number of years—he’s one of the best drivers I’ve ever ridden with on the entire continent of Africa, plus he is hilarious and has great taste in music.

As the bus rumbled down the hill, leaving the University of Ghana campus, I noticed that I am surprisingly comfortable traveling again so soon. My fellowship prepped me well, but it doesn’t make comprehending certain societal disparities any easier. For example, right across the street from the Flagstaff House, a beautiful, massive glass building that serves as the Presidential Palace, is a rundown police barracks, full of dilapidated tin shacks and crumbling cement structures.

I picked up a SIM card and some Adidas spray deodorant at the mall (crucial when traveling with one pair of running shoes) and then we headed back to campus for a short tour. Just as we passed the University library, which is the biggest library in West Africa, “Choices” by E40 came on. But instead of the Bay Area rapper asking questions and receiving one-word answers, it was Sarkodie, one of the most popular rappers in Ghana, rattling off a series of verses in Twi (one of the native languages of Ghana and arguably the second most widely used language, behind English).


The Balme Library | University of Ghana

Monday morning rolled around and we had our first Twi lesson. It’s always fun to learn bits and pieces of a new language, but boy is it hard. We also had our first seminar under the mango tree in the courtyard to talk about how we’re going to study information communication technology and development for four short weeks and how our role as researchers (and as foreigners) appropriately fits into society. Coming into this trip, I think I struggled most with the fact that at the end of the day, after our research, after building relationships with people here, we will be getting on a plane and flying back to Seattle. Although Ghanians have a word for people like us, “obruni” (meaning “foreigner”), I quickly learned that the word does not have negative connotations. But how do we, as obrunis, appropriately and responsibly conduct research? I am certainly still working on it.


Our “classroom”

That afternoon we went to the Kwame Nkrumah memorial, erected in honor of Ghana’s first Prime Minister and President. Before Ghana was named “Ghana” after an ancient, ancestral empire, the British had colonized the country and named it, “Gold Coast,” for it was rich in gold, as well as other minerals and natural resources. Nkrumah helped usher in a new, democratic era, though the transition was not without a few hiccups. In fact, a statue of Nkrumah was decapitated during the coup of 1966, only to have Nkrumah’s head returned in 2009 by an anonymous woman. Rather than repair the statue, the government has chosen to simply display the two pieces side by side, as if to acknowledge history, yet continue moving forward.


Kwame Nkrumah Memorial


Kwame Nkrumah headless statue

On our way to a small craft market, we must have tried just about every single type of food the vendors were selling in the street. At nearly every red light, a stream of people would flock to the stopped cars and pedal their goods. There were favorite snacks (Fan Ice, which is essentially ice cream in a bag, and plantain chips), as well as not so favorite snacks (I wasn’t a big fan of this ginger, spice cake ball thing).

The University of Ghana campus is a massive collection of white concrete buildings, intertwined by long, cross-sectional streets. At this point, I’ve ran and walked all over campus, from the “night market” (a little food market that, ironically, is open all day) to the library. I did once however, get caught in a rainstorm—big, heavy cool drops came cascading down so fast and so thick that the tips of my fingers were pruning by the time I got back to our hotel.


Later that week, we visited an organization called Impact Hub Accra, which essentially is a community / office space for startups in Accra. The only criteria to lease workspace in the Hub (which consists of everything from a seat at a coffee table on the first floor for aspiring entrepreneurs, to private office space in the building next door), is that the goal of your venture must be to positively impact society. We got to meet and speak briefly with William and Emmanuel, Impact Hub’s co-founders and learn about their mission, their vision and the state of innovation in Accra. They had just finished hosting a healthcare hackathon, but in the nature of entrepreneurship, were right back at it. As we stood in Emmanuel’s office we stared at a wall full of post-it notes, some with names of companies we recognized, others with “big picture” ideas. Currently, the pair is working on building the creative side of the endeavor, hoping to eventually create the “Innovation District” of Accra, which will someday harbor plenty of other entrepreneurs and local tech/creative companies. I thought the whole concept, the entire dream, was fascinating, and after speaking only briefing with their team, I am confident they will succeed.

In fact, while the spirit of entrepreneurship is often synonymous with Silicon Valley, it is alive and well here in Ghana. We have been very fortunate to learn from a variety of guest speakers, though one in particular captured the attention of our entire group. TechAide is nearing their launch of a product that will allow classrooms to load content onto what essentially is a hard drive and then broadcast that content to other devices via its own wifi network. This allows classrooms to distribute, view and interact with digital content, without an Internet connection. Pretty cool stuff.

As the weekend approached, so too did our (first) departure from Accra. Friday night we went to Chez Afrique, a hip restaurant with awesome live music, and then to Republic, a popular watering hole amongst ex-pats and locals alike. The generosity and kindness of strangers always impresses me when traveling, but especially here in Ghana. Everyone is so polite and so welcoming.


Grilled talapia & plantains | Buka Restaurant

On my way back from a run through campus, I happened upon a few friends from the program who informed me that the game actually started at 3:30pm (though everything online indicated 5:30pm). We managed to track everyone down and hop in two cabs, en route for the stadium. We pulled up to a loud, joyous scene of yellow, red, green and black. Though Ghana (the “Black Stars”) had already qualified for the upcoming Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON 2017), Rwanda was still vying for a spot, thus such a game promised to be interesting, yet tickets were only 10 cedis (approximately USD$2.50) a piece. As we walked through the dark tunnel, towards the bright light at the end, Justice shuffled his feet back and forth, as if warming up, prompting the group to skip a little bit faster. We emerged in the middle of the supporters’ section, surrounded by beating drums, loud trumpets and even louder vuvuzelas. We took a seat in one of the sections, which seemed to be as focused on dancing and singing as they did the game. Although Ghana and Rwanda tied 1-1, the experience was amazing. While I openly am not a soccer fanatic (I still have yet to pick a specific international team to follow), I am captivated by the cultural element that runs deep in societies around the world, as well as the fluidity, grace and tactics of the game. Which is why during my time here I am researching the extent to which information communication technologies (ICTs) impact how soccer fans in Ghana follow European and domestic soccer. But, I’ll get to that later.


Black Stars Supporter Section


Ghana 1 – 1 Rwanda


Black Stars Supporter Section


After sitting on a plane for 13 hours, when I arrived at my hostel I felt like a slug, so I threw on some sneakers and headed out the door toward the Rijksmuseum. I walked along the canal, as boats of all shapes and sizes puttered by, while I admired the beautiful, colorful buildings that lined the banks of the canal. I came upon a majestic stone building that looked pretty important so I turned into a tunnel that ran through the middle of it and arrived at perhaps the most famous landmark in all of Amsterdam.


Utrip in Amsterdam!

After taking a few touristy photos at the ‘IAMSTERDAM’ sign, I decided to head into the museum. The sunlight came streaming through the barred skylight, lathering the room in thin shadows. I wandered around the many rooms for hours, gazing at brilliant works of art and interesting artifacts, each of which helped tell the oft-intertwined story of Dutch history and art.





The museum was gorgeous, but after awhile I got antsy, so I walked back to my hostel, laced up my old running shoes and trotted out the door into Vondelpark. The weather was much hotter than normal for Amsterdam this time of year, thus the lawns were covered with people hanging out and enjoying the sunshine.


Canals + Bicycles

I woke up Thursday morning and walked straight into the heart of the city. The more bridges I crossed, the busier the streets got, until the narrow alley I had been walking through suddenly opened up onto Dam Square, a huge outdoor plaza, bordered by massive stone buildings, each adorned with statues, spires or flags. I took a moment to appreciate the beauty of the square, but pushed on as I was determined to get to a nearby museum hosting a special exhibit of Banksy’s artwork.


Royal Palace of Amsterdam // Dam Square


Dam Square

Banksy is a criminal to some, and a hero to others, not unlike most people who vehemently speak out against the hypocrisies and disparities of the world. Those who oppose Banksy see his art as vandalism (a lot of it is graffiti/street art), while those that support Banksy’s movement see it as free, liberating, public art for all to see. Regardless of your take on the anonymous British artist, it is hard to argue that his art is not incredibly powerful and relevant. Banksy discloses societal hypocrisy by way of juxtaposing violence and peace, from the view of both the oppressor and the oppressed.



Flower Thrower by Banksy


I had been told that the line for the Anne Frank House can get very long, so after I leisurely absorbed all that the Banksy Exhibit offered, I bolted toward the Anne Frank House (where I found a stream of people that meandered all the way down the block). An hour and a half later I stepped out of the scorching sunshine and into a cool, air-conditioned modern room. I walked out of the new lobby and up a set of stairs into a much older house, the same house that Anne and her family lived in secret for two years.


Anne Frank House (center behind the tree)

I read Anne Frank’s Diary years ago, thus throughout my walk through the house, with each plaque that I read and story I heard, bits and pieces started coming back to me. I saw where Otto Frank’s business once kept shop, and learned what life was like for the family before WWII.

And then I saw it.

I had envisioned what the bookcase looked like, but little did I know that I would one day step through the secret door and up the steep stairs to the hidden annex. The whole experience didn’t feel quite real, perhaps because I was in a line of tourists throughout the entire exhibit, moving from one artifact to another, that I didn’t have as much time as I wanted to reflect on what I was experiencing. At the end of museum, there is a video playing that highlights sentiments from celebrities and normal people, around the globe, who speak about the impact Anne Frank has had on the world—it is particularly inspiring to see how powerful her words continue to be, acting as a reminder to always learn from history and use these teachings to prevent future atrocities.

When I left the house, the line still stretched nearly all the way down the street. I passed over canal after canal, until I reached a building with a familiar red star atop. I expected the Heineken Experience to focus a little more on how the beer is actually made, but it was mostly one giant advertisement for the brand. That said, they’re pretty good at advertising, given that the tour concludes at a swanky rooftop bar overlooking the city. I sipped on a cold beer with a couple nice students I met from Toronto—we talked about Drake, hip-hop music and traveling as the sun began to set on an awesome day.



I changed and then wandered into Leidesplein to grab a quick bite to eat. I strolled up and down one of the main streets, until I came upon a Greek restaurant. It was mostly empty, but Mediterranean food sounded good so I perused the menu. An older, animated man came hustling out from inside the restaurant waving his arms, telling me to sit down. I hesitated, as most of the food wasn’t as cheap as I had hoped. I think he sensed my hesitation because he grabbed my water bottle and told me he’d be back with free cold water and bread. I took my seat and ordered the chicken pita. The man stood next to my table, attempting to woo other travelers into the restaurant, but as time went on and as his luck seemed to dwindle, we began chatting. We talked about his son, who lives in San Francisco. We talked about traveling, about the importance of communication. We talked about life, as he taught me an ancient Latin proverb that roughly translates to, “out of something bad, comes something good.” When it was finally time for me to go, I tried to tip my new buddy as he was an excellent waiter and a fantastic orator, but he refused and pushed my hand away. “You’re a student,” he said, “keep it. Come back here again someday when you are successful, and you can tip me then.”


Strolling along the banks of a canal

I had a couple things I wanted to do on Friday, but the day was mostly consumed by readings and prep work for my study abroad program in Ghana, as well as doing laundry (a crucial piece of traveling). I managed to squeeze in a final run through Vondelpark before heading to Uitmarkt with a couple people who were staying in my dorm. Uitmarkt is a free, local music festival, a few blocks from where I was staying in a beautiful square next to the Van Gogh museum. We walked around, made new friends, ate delicious food and enjoyed the music. I really liked one particular band called, “Steffen Morrison.” Overall, it was the perfect way to end my time in this pretty little city, surrounded by good music, gorgeous architecture and people from all over the world.


Steffen Morrison performing at Uitmarkt

The following day, after a relatively short flight, I paced around the familiar halls of the Barcelona airport, through which I walked with Cahill four years ago. However, this time I was not at the end of my journey, but at the very beginning. As I approached gate D16, I heard a recognizable sound coming from a group of teenage boys wearing matching polo shirts and warm up gear. As I got closer, I noticed one of the boys holding a large silver trophy, and that recognizable tune was now unmistakably, “Set Fire to the Rain” by Adele blaring out of the one boy’s mobile phone, while several others sang along. Turns out they had just won the Youth Super Cup against Northern Ireland.

The flight attendant called everyone to the gate to start boarding. As I stepped onto the airplane, the flight attendants inevitably spoke Spanish to me (this used to happen to me a lot on my fellowship, which always cracked me up). I took my seat, buckled my seat belt and leaned my head against the warm window.

Next stop: Ghana.

Back East

September 2015

For the first time in nearly a year I am comfortable. For the first time in nearly a year, I was a little anxious to pack a bag and step back onto an airplane.

It felt weird, but at the same time, exciting.

The last time I saw Max was September 17th, 2014. He dropped me off at Sea-Tac before the sun had even gotten out of bed. I took the first step on my adventure out of his golden Kia Optima, thus I couldn’t wait to get a glimpse of his adventure.

I stood in the humid valley, entrenched between several modern sky rise apartments. The warm rain seemed to hang in the air, leaving the concrete jungle of Manhattan in a muggy fog.

Both wheels on my suitcase broke as they bounced up and down the tumultuous sidewalk and I was hot and sweaty, but I could not have been in better spirits. Max appeared and gave me a big hug. It’s funny thing, friendship – two friends can take entirely opposite paths to entirely opposite corners of the world, yet when they are brought together it is as if no time has passed.


Sunset from Hell’s Kitchen

After grabbing lunch with Max and Brad I wandered around Midtown, gazing up at the Empire State Building and trying to take in the moment.

I’ll never forget where I was on this day, 14 years ago.

I was in fourth grade.

I woke up and wandered into my parents’ bedroom, yawning, still half asleep.

It was a normal Tuesday.

I had my first double-digit birthday coming up in two weeks.

Little did I know the world was about to be changed forever.

But on September 11th, 2015, New York City seemed a little quieter. Maybe it was just me, but people seemed a little kinder. A little more caring. A little braver.

That night as we gathered on Corr’s rooftop deck, two bright beams of light ascended infinitely, illuminating the otherwise dark night sky. Two towers of light. Towers two of remembrance. Two towers of hope.



After a night out on the town, I awoke early to catch a train. Just as I found a seat, the train car jolted and we were off. After several minutes of darkness, sunlight flooded through the windows and I found myself looking across the water, back at the majestic cityscape. The ride was smooth and upon arriving in Kingston, Rhode Island, Claudette joyfully greeted me.

We took a drive up to Newport, a gorgeous seaside town, which also happens to house the International Tennis Hall of Fame. After learning more about the game and a nice stroll along the cliffs, we set our sights on Naragansett.


Claudette and I enjoying lunch on the waterfront

My perception of the East Coast changed drastically on this trip and I think a large part of it has to do with spending time with people who have real lives here, as opposed to staying in a hotel as a normal tourist. One night after dinner at a Chinese restaurant, we (casually) decided to stop by Times Square on the way home and ended up watching part of the US Open Final on the massive screens. Where else in the world can you do something like that?

Outside of the city, I also didn’t anticipate such beautiful natural spaces – the beaches in Rhode Island are incredible. I love that tiny state – playing tennis, eating delicious seafood. Everything about it is so quaint and awesome. [note: Thank you to Claudette and Jacki for having me!!]


Claudette and I arrived back in the city just in time for Max’s birthday, but before dinner I stopped by the Century to meet some of Claudette’s pals. As I walked up the grand old staircase I could hear what sounded like a small Broadway performance coming from the library. As I walked into the dimly lit room, lathered in dark wood, leather chairs and bookshelves, Claudette excitedly motioned me over to the piano.

After a momentary break, a new tune started up and the group was off again. A Broadway pianist effortlessly laid down a new melody and everyone else (impressively) belted the lyrics while sipping on fancy cocktails; usually when my friends and I listen to music in a circle standing up, Future is playing through speakers and we’re drinking cheap beer – it was fascinating to take part in.

The rest of the trip was brisk but awesome. Max’s friend Crowley got us tickets to an Eagles vs. Cowboys game in Philadelphia. Philly fans lived up to their reputation, and I could not have been more excited about it. I saw one guy buy two beers and then fall asleep standing up in front of the counter, while holding said beers, right next to a group of ~15 people furiously smoking cigarettes beneath the giant “NO SMOKING” sign. I got to catch up with old friends, those I’ve known since I was little and those I had met in Zambia merely months earlier. We even went through a drive-thru beer store in Manayunk.


Rocky Statue


Eagles vs. Cowboys

I looked over Manhattan and talked about life with one of my best friends. I made new friends. And connected with old ones. I got to watch a game in Yankee Stadium. Alex Rodriguez hit a homerun… I partied on a rooftop overlooking East Village. I befriended hilarious deli workers and even funnier doormen, and even a few professional sportswriters. I strolled along the cliffs of Newport with my wonderful Godmother. I saw a world-class music performance and randomly found myself in the Oil Painters of America gallery. I ran up the same stairs Rocky did, with my fists clenched high above my head, hollering out “Adrian!!” in my best Sylvester Stallone voice. I learned that I barely caught a glimpse of the East Coast, but hey, that just means I have to go back.


Yankee Stadium


August 2016

I think it is only fitting that I led off with a piece that I never posted as I sit here in that same airport, anxious for what lies ahead. The last year has been crazy, crazy enough at least, that I am just now finishing a blog I wrote 11 months ago. I finished my first year of my master’s in Human Centered Design & Engineering. I re-joined forces with the incredibly talented people at Utrip and am doing what I can to help build our company. I’ve gotten to meet some pretty amazing people that live their lives with humility and courage. I have experienced some of the best moments of my entire life over this past year, and, unfortunately, some of the worst.

But lucky for me, my “worst” is still much better than most. And I recognize that. And want to do something with the opportunities that I’ve been given.

Two years ago I wrote a piece encouraging you all to “find your stage.” I’ll be the first to admit that I’m still trying to find mine. We all are.

On the note of finding stages, when I got back from my Bonderman Fellowship, I thought to myself, “I wonder if I’ll ever do something like that again?”

While I’m not taking off for 10 months again, but merely 5 short weeks, I’m hopping out of my comfort zone and on a plane to Amsterdam, where I’ll spend a few days strolling around the canals before I head to Ghana to participate in an exploration seminar studying communication technology and development! I also get to hangout in Lisbon for a few days with my buddies Max and Henry.

I’m excited, and nervous and exhausted, all at the same time. I’ll be writing as much as I can, so feel free to follow along!

Adios Seattle. I’ll be back soon.

I was burned out. I’ll admit it. Sometimes we need a break, even from the things that we love.

Writing has never felt like a chore, but after 8 months I decided to breathe and stop documenting for a moment. Writing a blog is funny that way though, as it is an impossible race against time. For as soon as you are “all caught up,” life happens, time happens, and then immediately you are behind.

As time slipped onward I attempted to fill my literary void several times, yet each time I would start and felt as though I was focusing on the negative.

I focused on the fact that our 10-hour bus ride from Lilongwe to Nkhata Bay was supposed to leave at 7:30am, but didn’t leave until 10:30am. I focused on the three hours spent marinating in the heat and diesel fumes, the dust mixed with sweat to form a dirty film on our exposed skin and the loud altercations around us (some of which involved hugs, while one led to one man being led away in handcuffs followed by a group of some 40 onlookers).

I should have been writing about our taxi driver, Francis, who wouldn’t stop thanking us for ‘choosing him’ to drive us into the city. I should have been focusing on the kindness of the Malawian people that earned the country’s nickname, “The Warm Heart of Africa.” And captivating beauty of Lake Malawi, along with the pleasant tunes of local musician ‘Michael Mountain.’

“How big is the lake?” – Michael Mountain | Lake Malawi

Long buses and the desperate need of a shower are easy to forget; such situations are easily remedied with a little pizza and a lot of soap.

Table Mountain | Cape Town, South Africa

Table Mountain | Cape Town, South Africa

Others aren’t so easy.

I cried when I learned that six men burst into my friend Jeffrey’s apartment, beat him and stole what little valuables he had, all because he was born in a different country.

Such injustice overshadowed the delicious treats at the Neighbor Goods Market in Johannesburg and the splendid views from Plettenburg Bay. Or the fact that we walked a real, live cheetah named Chester.

Sand sculptures | Plettenberg Bay, South Africa

Sand sculptures | Plettenberg Bay, South Africa

Hanging out with Chester the Cheetah | Plettenberg Bay, South Africa

Hanging out with Chester the Cheetah | Plettenberg Bay, South Africa

Kayak Water Polo | Knysna, South Africa

Kayak Water Polo | Knysna, South Africa

“I never knew of a morning in Africa when I woke up that I was not happy” – Ernest Hemingway

I don’t know what Africa Hemingway visited because there were plenty of mornings in Africa during which I awoke to unhappiness. There were plenty of days that I struggled with the fact that I was a bystander in an unjust world or was simply frustrated by how bad and unnecessarily complicated transportation infrastructure can be.

Yet, I stayed.

And I could not be happier that I did.

“Mr. Barack Obama Mobile Shop” | Tanzania

Sometimes you get stung by a jellyfish in Zanzibar (yes, that happened), but only because you are swimming with dolphins (that also happened).

Swimming with dolphins | Zanzibar, Tanzania

Swimming with dolphins | Zanzibar, Tanzania

Dolphins are magnificent creatures. So inquisitive and sleek. They always look like they’re smiling, yet in a much friendlier way than leopard seals. As a small pod made a high-pitched squeak and descended into the cobalt depths below us, I felt a sharp pinch on my forearm, not unlike your ordinary bee sting. As I kicked towards our tiny wooden boat (unequipped with life jackets and captained by a man who doesn’t know how to swim – TIA) a harsh sting seared across my back. The other guy on the boat pulled a long translucent tentacle off my back and began pouring a water bottle on me. Once the pain, and screaming, subsided and was replaced by a consistent itch, I was not exactly anxious to hop back in the water. But with a little (a lot) of encouragement from Michelle, I did.

Flying into Zanzibar, Tanzania

Flying into Zanzibar, Tanzania

It took me another month to realize it, but I had been focusing on the sting of Africa, rather than admiring its beauty. Even then, there is a big difference between looking at dolphins from a boat and jumping in; there is a big difference between interacting with them and treating them as animals in a zoo.

Most people that I met in Europe were impressed, if not astonished, that Michelle and I had spent several months on the continent. Most people had never left the dock, if you will.

I am by no means disrespecting such people, or think any less of them. It’s expensive to travel Africa. Transportation is usually difficult. Infrastructure is lacking. Proper healthcare is in serious need – people should not be dying and the rate and the ages at which they are.

Yet, amongst all of that exist the most positive, friendly people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting.

What I’m trying to say is that I know this world would be a better place if more people left the dock, if more people were able to travel, to Africa and beyond.

Simba on top of Pride Rock | Serengeti, Tanzania

Simba on top of Pride Rock | Serengeti, Tanzania

Terrace Martin said that when Kendrick Lamar, “…came back from Africa, things changed and he was a different man” (Complex Magazine).

Serengeti National Park

Serengeti National Park

I’m not Kendrick Lamar, nor do I necessarily view myself as a “different man” because of Africa alone, but I recognize that I have certainly changed.

When we landed in Athens I was overwhelmed by all of the large tour groups, the American study abroad students, as well as all the letters I had only ever previously seen atop fraternities and sororities.

Temple of Poseidon | Athens, Greece

Temple of Poseidon | Athens, Greece

Trees in Athens, Greece

Trees in Athens, Greece

Original Olympic Stadium | Athens, Greece

Original Olympic Stadium | Athens, Greece

Michelle told me that I could either accept my new environment and enjoy it, or allow myself to be shocked by culture.

Sunset in Oia | Santorini, Greece

Sunset in Oia | Santorini, Greece

I let it get the best of me several times, but it was easy to forget the mob of tourists clamoring over a stone wall to get a glimpse of the picturesque white and blue metropolis of Oia, as we zoomed freely around Santorini on an ATV. Or when we wandered Folegandros, a quaint farming island home to around 500 people.

Karavostasi | Folegandros, Greece

Karavostasi | Folegandros, Greece

Folegandros, Greece

Folegandros, Greece

We left the gorgeous Mediterranean coast for the Swiss Alps, strolling through the farmland surrounding Nyon with my cousin Megan, Tim and Kate. We had lunch on the riverbank in Geneva and meandered through a castle. Personally, I don’t think anything could top Gimmelwald though; a tiny town perched atop the base of the most beautiful mountains I’ve ever seen.

Swiss Alps | Mürren, Switzerland

Swiss Alps | Mürren, Switzerland

After a brief stop at Lake Lucerne we stepped off the train in Zurich to a familiar (bearded) face. I met Mladen in October in Quito, Ecuador, and while you will never see most of the people you meet abroad again (that is the sad reality of travel) I told him I’d make it to Switzerland someday.

Château de Chillon | Veytaux, Switzerland

Château de Chillon | Veytaux, Switzerland

He showed us around Zurich – we grabbed a drink above an artificial surfing pool (one of the strangest and coolest things I’ve seen in quite some time) and then ate dinner on the riverbank.

I was exhausted. 9 ½ months had finally caught up to me. It was an awesome end to an incredible adventure.

So here I am, sitting 36,000+ feet in the air, about the do what I have dreamed of for months. I do not mean that I dreamt of going home in yearning, but more so in a sense of anticipation, of imagination.

Who was I to be when I stepped off the plane? What would it feel like? Was I going to be nervous? Excited?

Would I be ready?

Though I can’t answer all of those questions, at least not yet, I know that I am ready.

I am happy. I am content. I am confident. I am excited about life and what is to come.

I know that I will never stop traveling. I can’t. I won’t.

Most importantly, I know that this adventure is not over – it’s just getting started.

Thanks for reading.

Update: I’ve been home for a little over a week now. Each day feels less and less like a dream, yet the whole thing is still surreal. Last year feels almost imaginary, as if I was transported back to the summer of 2014.

I have loved seeing friends and family. I cherish To-Do lists and the slightest bit of routine. Though, I know that on some dreary winter day, I’ll be yearning for a warm spring day atop Lion’s Head or maybe even a bustling hostel in Buenos Aires.

For now, I’m just living. And I couldn’t be happier about it.

Thanks for the adventure.

I ended up traveling for a few days with a group of cool backpackers I met in Swakopmund and while my time in Namibia ended on a low note, sleeping under the stars in middle of nowhere was breathtaking.

Entering Zam sign

As the plane touched down onto the tarmac in Lusaka, Zambia, I breathed a sigh of relief.

My friend Julia picked me up at the airport – not only was it nice to see a familiar face, but it was refreshing and fascinating to talk to her about Africa, being that she had been living/working in Lusaka for the past seven months.

We pulled into the first gas station just outside the terminal only to be told that it was out of gas. Fortunately, Julia works for a flight charter company so we puttered over the smaller hanger to fill up and hangout with some of the engineers. Everyone was so friendly, but one particular man named John spent nearly an hour conversing with us and telling us hilarious stories (most of which seemed to end up with him at a disco).

As we drove down Kalingalinga, the main street in this part of town, I was transported back to Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic. We passed ‘compounds’ of dilapidated buildings and plenty of street vendors selling everything from bed frames to cell phone airtime and live chickens. Though I had been in Africa for roughly a month and a half, this was perhaps the first time I felt like I was actually in Africa.

That night we grabbed pizza with Jacques, a cool, kind South African pilot before hopping on a bus (which broke down twice) to Livingstone. Justin also went to UW, though we never knew one another during school – it’s funny to think how far we’ve come from those days sitting in lectures on campus. Here we were, three kids from Seattle in the middle of Africa walking back from dinner when we happened upon Limpo’s Pub & Restaurant – the colorful lights and thumping music seemed inviting so we decided to check it out.

We were the only foreigners there, and were thus personally welcomed by probably a third of the bar. People would come up, shake our hands, smile and ask us how we liked Zambia. People here are so friendly.

Before heading out to Victoria Falls we met Mike from Philadelphia, who works for Grass Roots Soccer (an organization I was hoping to connect with, but logistically it never panned out). Once we reached the falls a winding path guided us through the trees and while the skies were clear and blue, the mist from the falls began to fall like thick rain.

Knife Edge Bridge

Knife Edge Bridge

Soaking wet we sloshed our way down some stone steps to the “boiling pot,” a cauldron-like outcrop in the river that seems to be ever stewing, just below the picturesque Victoria Falls Bridge. We basked in the sun for a bit and then strode back up the steps through a troop of baboons. They move like humans, sitting upright on benches, yet they are able to leap up into the treetops with ease. We were told not to have any grocery store bags visible, as the baboons have learned that they possess food, however, they didn’t seem to pay any attention a particular blue plastic bag, emblazoned with a black silhouette of Rambo holding a rocket launcher and the words: “No man, No law, No war, Can stop him.” How or why this particular Hollywood war hero ended up on plastic bags in Zambia is beyond me.

Victoria Falls Bridge

Victoria Falls Bridge

Many find Lusaka to be rather boring or uneventful, however, I disagree. It did help that I got plugged into an awesome community of both locals, who had been rooted here forever, and expats, who seem to come and go as often as the aforementioned John goes to the disco.

I went on a test flight with Brad, who comically flipped the instruction manual open in the cockpit as he started up the small, six-seated Cessna aircraft. This is the same man who saw Black Hawk Down when he was 12 and decided that he was going to fly helicopters for a living. This is also the same man who organized a mini-bus to take 15+ Mzungu’s (“white people”) on a pub-crawl around Lusaka.

View of the farmlands around Lusaka

View of the farmlands around Lusaka

I wanted to head down to Lower Zambezi or down to Lake Kariba, but transportation proved difficult and accommodation expensive, so instead I opted to duck into Botswana for a few days to go camping in Chobe National Park.

Elephants crossing the river

Elephants crossing the river


I met plenty of interesting people. I saw a herd of roughly 1,000 buffalo, along with hundreds of elephants. I even saw a small group cross the river, the strong adults ushering the baby elephants through the swift water to a lush island to eat sweet grass. I saw crocodiles slither along marshy reeds and hippos bob up and down, their eyes acting as periscopes above the murky depths. However, the most memorable part of Botswana was camping in the bush.

At about 5am, I awoke to darkness and a powerful roar, ripping through the otherwise cool, silent morning air. Repeatedly, these long blasts echoed across the bush. Lions? I thought to myself, as I laid awake in my tent, my eyes wide open, and my ears sharp and alert. Elephants? My heart rate accelerated as my imagination danced around.

After a few minutes the bush slumped back into a peaceful trance, as I turned over and fell back asleep.

Lions, as it turned out, had been roaring a few hundred yards from our camp early that morning. We hustled through a quick bite to eat and then down the dirt road, where we found fresh footprints. Minutes later we found what had woken us up – one male lion and two lionesses sat majestically in the early morning sun. The male and one of the females stood up, and strode powerfully behind a bush where they laid back down to take a nap.

The fact that these mighty creatures had been so close to our camp was alluring, yet slightly frightening.


I had to pass through Livingstone again on the way back to Lusaka so I decided to make a pit stop at the Zimbabwe side of Victoria Falls. Something about the colossal sheet of water falling perilously over the edge is mesmerizing.

Victoria Falls

Victoria Falls

Double rainbow on the Zimbabwe side of the falls

Double rainbow on the Zimbabwe side of the falls

The night before I was to head back to Lusaka I noticed on the bottom of a TV that Chipolopolo (the nickname of the Zambian national team) was to play Malawi on Sunday, which also happened to be my final day in the country. “How fitting would it be if I ended Zambia in the same fashion I concluded Argentina?” I thought to myself.

Usually national team matches are played in Ndola, yet a quick search indicated that the game was to be played in Lusaka in a small stadium hardly ever used for international competition (which might have to do with the fact that the match was to be played on a date that was unapproved by FIFA).

My buddy Chase, who has been living and working in Lusaka for nearly eight months now, and I split a cab there with a few other backpackers. As we neared the stadium, the crowds thickened and the road worsened. We jumped out and meandered toward what we thought was the entrance. A stadium official escorted us around the backside of the stadium to another entrance (which was equally overcrowded as the first) and to the front of the line. I didn’t feel right about cutting the line, as it was pretty evident that we were receiving special treatment because of the color of our skin, but I just went with the flow. Some of the other fans in line were not pleased with what was happening, while others were amused.

Once we squeezed inside we moved to the far side of a warm concrete grandstand and found some empty space, which didn’t stay empty for long – stadium capacity is said to be 5,000 but I bet there was at least 6,000 fans in attendance, many of which stood atop the bleachers. Just as the game kicked off the group in front of us asked a photographer to take a photo of them with Chase and me (two tall, white, bearded Americans). We politely entertained the absurdity of the situation, shifted around to fit everyone in the frame and smiled.

After the third or fourth time this happened I started joking with the photographers that we wanted commission for our role in the operation, but I was ignored.

Zambia was much faster, bigger and more talented than Malawi, thus the game was pretty one-sided, but entertaining nonetheless. All of the merchandise vendors sold some Zambian gear, but mostly scarves and knick-knacks emblazoned with logos from European clubs – Chelsea, Manchester United, Barcelona, Arsenal, etc.

Soccer is huge here. On the day that Chelsea won the Premier League, half of Lusaka strutted around in their blue jerseys. On any given day, every other person walking down the street is wearing a jersey from the UK or Spain. Passing through a small town in the middle of nowhere on the way to Livingstone, I saw a small chalkboard outside a humble wooden shack, with a thatched roof that advertised it was playing the UEFA Champions League game on TV.

While the quality of play wasn’t exceptionally high, nothing like the groups crowded around the small TVs see in English Premier League games, the friendly was competitive. Zambia won 2-0 – the first goal came from a haphazard rebound, but the second from a brilliant cross and header.

Zambia (green) vs. Malawi (red)

Zambia (green) vs. Malawi (red)

While I was disappointed that there were no coordinated chants or enthusiastic songs, the crowd was pretty lively. One particularly animated fan in front of us seemed to be pulling Smirnoff Ice’s out of nowhere, though he clearly had never been taught how to properly consumer said Ice on one knee – after he nearly came to blows with a photographer and another fan, we decided it was best not to educate him and let him go about his business.

As the stands emptied out Chase and I received high five after high five – I must have given hundreds of fist bumps that afternoon, but my favorite moment came when one guy wearing an Arsenal jersey pretended to interview Chase about the game with an invisible microphone.

We eventually found our cab, though getting through traffic to the main road was another story. There are no orange cones, no detours and no traffic officers, unless you count the dozens of drunk fans directing traffic.

All I can say is that if you want to experience Zambia, go to a soccer game.

I loved Zambia. It is certainly an interesting place, even comical at times, but I can honestly say that the people are among the friendliest I have ever met; it was actually just declared the most peaceful country in Africa in the Global Peace Index Report.

I don’t know how to approach the following situation appropriately, but I think it is something that needs to be addressed in order to fully understand my experience in Zambia. In fact, I think it is imperative to understand that for the first time in perhaps my entire life, I was in the minority. Wherever I went, typically, I was the only white person.

And frankly, it was rather refreshing. Wandering through Kamwala Market in downtown Lusaka, no one tried to solicit us goods, no one asked for anything (except for the occasional high-five); I wasn’t treated like a tourist, or a white American male, or anything else – I was treated just like a normal human being.

In the year 2015, it feels odd that I would even need to bring up race, but I think it is important to talk about, rather than ignore. It can be difficult to be different. No way would I compare my experience to that of anyone else in any other country, for I have never been mistreated or discriminated against because of what I look like. For me, it was a glimpse into what could be.

Whether you accept it or not, there are plenty of glaring issues back home in the states and many of them, unfortunately, have to do with race. Humans consciously mistreating other humans out of fear of differences – even in the country that declared that all human beings have the right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” xenophobia exists.

But where desperation, despair and discrimination dwell, so do hope, dreams and reconciliation. I have hope that one day our great nation will truly come together as one. Until then, I urge you to appreciate “different,” smile at strangers and take a genuine interest in the lives around you.

I think you will be both happy and hopeful in what you discover.

[Note: Thank you to everyone that made my experience in Zambia as awesome as it was – Julia, Justin, Brad, Jacques, Anna, Ben, Geoff, Chase, Mike from Philadelphia, John & the two dudes that drove the minibus. I will be back someday.]

And for those of you not on Facebook:

Just over 8 months ago I woke up in Granada, Nicaragua, nervous for what lay ahead. Today I am proud to say that, while certainly very difficult at times, this has been the most amazing 8 months of my entire life.

I cannot thank the University of Washington, the selection committee, Brook Kelly, and Mr. Bonderman for this opportunity.

At this moment in time, my Bonderman Fellowship has officially come to an end, however I fortunately get to travel with my best friend Michelle​ for a some time before returning home.

There have been plenty of ups and downs (some much worse and some much better than others), but I wouldn’t change a thing, for I have learned that every little decision we make affects our life path and those paths of others around us. This is not to say that we must worry about every tiny, trivial decision, but rather to rejoice in life’s amazing moments as well as the journey it took to reach each one.

Just because this journey is technically over, I know now that it will never really end. On that note, I am going to keep writing, so if you’re interested please keep reading!

Thank you to all those who have given me support along the way, encouraged me to take a leap of faith and listen to the stories I tell even when I’m on the other side of the planet.

We did it.

Fifty years ago, District 6 was a lively, vibrant community, with a pleasant view of the harbor and access to the city center. During apartheid, its 60,000 inhabitants were forcibly removed from the neighborhood and each and every building was bulldozed to the ground. Today, it is a blank space. A large, vacant lot of dirt. A blemish, a hole in the city.

Today, many of its residents and their children and their children’s children, live in townships as a direct result from apartheid. I walked through Langa, the oldest township outside of Cape Town, in order to get a glimpse into the life of its citizens.

A local guy took me into the community center, which provides sports, arts and activities for the youth. We passed by local businesses: car washes, electronic repair shops, food vendors, etc. I was doing pretty well until I was invited into one of the homes; I was hesitant for I felt that doing so was stepping over some invisible line of courtesy/privacy, but after reassurance from a man who lived there I stepped inside a small, bright turquoise room that appeared to act as a kitchen and the living room. I was shown into a bedroom, where three families live. Three families – one bedroom. Each family has one bed, which is used for storage and sleeping (the men sleep on the floor and give the beds to the women and children).

It was heart-breaking. I couldn’t believe it.

Why? Why me? Why them?

Questions flooded my mind as we walked down the street to a compound of nicer, government-built, single-family dwellings, which hopefully each of the families living in the previous house will one day have. Hopefully.

As much as I have described the harsh realities of South Africa, there are plenty of amazing things happening here as well. Amid those tiny houses in the township were kids laughing and playing, as kids do. I guess I usually need to hash out and digest the harder things via writing, thus I find myself wrestling with such issues here in this space. I have met so many amazing, kind, and generous South Africans. Caring people, who go out of their way to help others. Up until this point, whenever someone asked me about my “favorite country so far,” I didn’t have an answer, but I do now.

I don’t know what it is, but amidst all of the backwards thinking (which we have plenty of back home in the U.S. as well), all of the sadness, all of the heartbreak, emerges hope, happiness and pride. I absolutely loved South Africa and cannot wait to return. But until then, I wish the Rainbow Nation and all of its people peace and courage.

Thank you for having me.

Table Mountain at dusk

Table Mountain at dusk

Lions Head at sunset

Lions Head at sunset

As we exited Windhoek in a cramped Land Cruiser, the smooth paved roads and clusters of concrete buildings disappeared, replaced by a long, bumpy gravel/mud road. I went back and forth between chatting with Michael, our guide, and falling asleep.

As time moved from one hour to the next the scenery began to change. One moment we passed through a lush mountain pass and the next we were in the middle of a beige desert.

The car pulled into the tiny, dusty settlement of Solitaire, which reminded me of the town in the movie Cars, albeit this not only had to do with the desolateness of the town but the fact that colorful abandoned cars decorated the road. Solitaire boasts “Namibia’s best apple pie” – no disrespect to the kind woman who made it, as it was tasty, but it has nothing on my mom’s or my grandma’s apple pie. [note: I’m looking forward to Thanksgiving already]

Solitaire, Namibia

Solitaire, Namibia

We awoke very early the following morning for another jarring drive across the desert to Sossusvlei. Once inside the park we reached a point in the road at which Michael stopped the car and pointed to the top of a massive sand dune – “That’s Big Daddy dune,” he said to me, “And you’re going to climb it.”

The other two passengers opted for a smaller dune, so I eagerly hopped out and started off across the hard clay as the car drifted out of sight. Something about being alone in the desert, knowing that the task ahead of me wasn’t easy, filled me with adrenaline. Without hesitation I clambered up the first sandy slope, sliding what seemed like one step down for every two that I took.


By the time I had reached the first ridge, sand had filled every ounce of empty space in my shoes and the wind was whipping fiercely over the ridge. I trudged on, attempting to delicately place my feet on the sand, so as not to sink through, while at the same time pressing hard enough to propel myself up the dune.

Climbing Big Daddy Dune

Climbing Big Daddy Dune

The sand felt prickly as it smashed into my legs before plummeting over the ridge. And then, all of a sudden, I had made it. I turned around – beautiful, sandy, quiet nature stretched out in all directions.

Namibia is the closest I have felt to stepping foot on another planet.

View from the top of Big Daddy Dune

View from the top of Big Daddy Dune

I took off my shoes, and went off galloping straight down the face of Big Daddy into Deadvlei (“Death Valley”). When I reached the bottom I could see blurred black figures, silhouetted against the light, dry, cracked clay, the orange dunes and royal blue sky. I thought back to sitting at my computer nearly a year ago, revising my itinerary after I had been awarded this crazy opportunity.


When I saw photos of these strange, magnificent, beautiful dead trees I knew right then and there that I was going to Namibia.

I wandered amongst the dead forest for quite some time, just basking in the splendor of the scenery (and the intense Namibian sun). I was content.





While Namibia is the closest I have ever felt to stepping foot on another planet, it is also the closest I have felt to stepping foot in Germany. Swakopmund is a small town just south of the Skeleton Coast; it’s also where I met Jay, a laid back dude from Marin, CA who studied economics and then once upon a time found himself in Namibia and never left. Today he runs a tour company and creatively dabbles in the clothing industry as often as possible.

I hopped in Jay’s bright orange land cruiser and sped North up the coast to a shipwreck – the Skeleton Coast takes its name from the many ships that have run aground here. Rough seas, no landmarks (as the desert runs all the way up to the beach) and poor visibility, due to consistent heavy fog, make up a recipe for disaster (not to mention that back in the day, even if you did make it ashore, civilization was still miles away).

Further up the coast we explored a small salt pond, as well as some rocks that sound like metal if you hit them. We made it all the way up to Cape Cross to see a massive colony of sea lions, before hiking up a large hill to peer out over the landscape. In short, it looked like what I picture Mars to look like: a bumpy collage of reds, beiges, greys and oranges.

On the way back to Swakopmund we passed through a small German vacation town that is without running water or electricity, but full of eclectic colorful beach houses (all of which have giant water tanks on top of them). No more than 20 minutes later, as we neared the city limits Jay pointed out a much larger, denser group of dwellings. These too are without water and electricity, however, they are not colorful vacation homes, but rather small shacks initially made up of reclaimed garbage from the landfill, which today make up the Democratic Resettlement Community.

Namibia is an interesting (and sometimes befuddling) place. Even just moving East out of town the landscape already looked different: flat nothingness, divided evenly between the sand and the sky comprising the Norab National park. Just inside the park I noticed that this “nothingness” was dotted with black tubes that seemed to be randomly scattered on both sides of the road.

“Test sites,” Jay said, pointing the tubes, “…for uranium.”

As it stands now there is one fully operational uranium mine inside the park, another that has almost completed construction and a third will start construction in the fall, as it was awaiting the results of an environmental impact assessment, (hence the black tubes sticking out of the ground) which it undoubtedly passed.

As for the nearly operational mine, when the project started ‘Swakopmund Uranium’ labeled itself as a local company. Today, a Chinese power corporation owns Swakopmund Uranium, meaning that once completed 1,000+ Chinese will own and operate a uranium mine in the middle of a national park, with little to no supervision. With the mine also came a massive influx of the Chinese population in town, as well as the redistribution of the town’s resources. For example, the large black pipe runs next to the road all the way out to the site funnels town drinking water to the site (which is estimated by some to use as much water as the rest of Swakopmund combined).

"Proudly sponsored by Swakopmund Uranium"

“Proudly sponsored by Swakopmund Uranium”

Though with all that said, the town is essentially split on the issue – the main division coming between money and conservation.

While I don’t know everything about the entire situation, it is hard for me to support a project that sits a matter of minutes away from the “moon landscape,” an incredible myriad of deep, twisting, rocky valleys and dry riverbeds. [note: I think the entire situation could make a really interesting Vice episode]

Namibia is naturally pretty, but with such a sparse population density it is incredibly difficult, some may use the word ‘impossible,’ to get around without a car. So I found a cozy hostel in town and prepared to devise a plan.

Sunset in the desert

Sunset in the desert

Into Africa

After spending a week at Botshabelo and an afternoon at the Apartheid Museum (which was mind-blowing and really well put together) in Johannesburg, I had decided to become a tourist for a few days and see what most people come to Africa to see: wild animals.

Wil sunset

After a quick flight I landed at the Skukuza airport, which looks like if Anthropolgie had designed an airport in the middle of nowhere in the South African bush. I then hopped into an open-air, custom game drive Land Rover and was whisked away down a bumpy dirt road.

Lion Sands is this odd combination of modernity and rusticity; you may eat delicious food and even check the occasional march madness score (when the internet decided to work), yet you weren’t allowed to walk around at night by yourself as leopards and elephants often wander into camp.

We saw a few kudu and impala (antelope-type creatures), as well as some warthogs on the way in, but that was just the beginning.

I have never found myself so interested in nature before, and now I just can’t get enough. I certainly have plenty of stories about my time in the bush, but I would rather save my words and show you the beautiful photos. But first, before I do that, I just wanted to thank all of the amazing people I met along the way, especially Enock and Noel, our guide and tracker. These two men are incredible at what they do – Noel once spotted a chameleon the size of my thumb on a tree…in the dark. Thank you for an experience that was truly ‘once in a lifetime.’ I never imagined I would see nearly every character of The Lion King in real life.

Enjoy diving into Africa.

watering hole elephant + rhino wild dogs zebra rhino + bird lioness hornbill guinnea fowl impala herd hyenas buffalo elephant blue birdantelop couplebird colorful giraffe lioness pride leopard shoulders leopard open mouth sunset