Trading in the rocky shoreline of Maine for the granite faces of New Hampshire; Live Free or Die!: My adventure to the White Mountains and Lakes Region.

As it was appearing my stay in Maine would be extended into autumn, due to the ever-continued international Covid-19 health and economic crisis, remaining here for yet another season, and possibly winter too, it was time to venture out-and-about further into the region to see what New England had to offer. Fall in New England, as the expression goes, is spectacular – an explosive vivid symphony of lucid supernatural wonder and beauty on display, nature’s finest fireworks.

A few months prior, while on the patio at my hotel, I met a nice Polish lady from upstate New York, Zuza. She is an interior designer for Hilton corporate brand. She also is an artist who creates the most stunning mosaics. At first, she thought I was a bit strange; not uncommon for people to think such at first. But after some time she and I became able friends. A few weeks later she rang me on my mobile to ask me if I would join her on a trip to New Hampshire.

It only took but a few seconds to figure a decision. “A trip to the Live Free or Die state, I am an emphatic yes,” I told her, as a massive smile grew on my face – my eyes swiftly welling with excitement. The time to get out of dodge had arrived, and with my new friend from New York, we were planning our White Mountains adventure.  She told me, “Steven, it will be a fun quest. We are both in need of some stress relief.” “Oh,” she said, as she was hanging up the call, “I hope you don’t mind my pup joining us.” “No, I love dogs – the more the merrier,” I stated.

Perhaps I should have taken some pause before responding in agreement. As it turns out, her “pup” is more like a small Siberian bear than a dog. Rowan is his name – a 140lb Leonberger show dog, a one-year-old puppy. She tells me, “He is well behaved and loves road trips. He is a rock-star everywhere I take him. You will see.” “Sure Zuza, it sounds as if soon Rowan and I will become good friends.” It was with frightful anticipation I expected meeting the “pup.”

As a few weeks remained before our trip, it was time to plan our mountain exploration. We planned to visit two regions of New Hampshire: Lakes Region in central and White Mountains in the north. As we would also be visiting an old classmate from my school days at BGU in Israel, Matthew, presently the owner of an outdoor style clothing company founded in NH, Lake Life Brand, for a photo shoot in the Lakes Region, our time and schedule were quickly filling up. As stated in my book, Unbreakable Mind: Life is meant to be lived, so go live it – Teeth to the wind!

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts.”

— Mark Twain

Itinerary set, Zuza was to arrive on the following Wednesday, at my hotel in Portland, Maine, to commence our trip with Rowan. About noon, with clear blue azure skies, wispy clouds abound, a black extended Jeep wrangler pulled up in front of the hotel. Hanging out of the window was this over-sized hirsute ball of irascible beauty and beastly allure. He might be the size of a small bear but he has the heart of one too – it was obvious, “Ro” is a big love-bug-bear. Kisses all-round.

In a matter of minutes, bags packed into the back of the Jeep, wheelchair neatly stored away, and Rowan’s spot (substantial, I might add) clearly demarcated – we were finally off on our road trip. “Where shall we go, Steven?” Zuza, like me, loves getting into the car and just driving, driving with no destination in mind. “Ok, sounds fine to me. But please first tell me where we are sleeping tonight so I can plan our day.” Zuza reserved the same Hilton hotel Vernon, my hotel manager, recommended we stay, a sister Giri property where we would be well taken care of.

“Not all those who wander are lost.” 

— J.R.R. Tolkien

It was a bit out of the way but we decided to cross over into New Hampshire from Maine further north and immediately drive the famous Kancamagus Scenic Byway. But first we decided to stop off for lunch at the 302 West Smokehouse & Tavern in Fryeburg, with wondrous scenic views of nearby rolling farm pastures and vistas of the White Mountains far off in the background. After two hours in the sun, a few local delish IPAs consumed, it was time to venture to the mountains.

Once we passed over the line into the state of NH, it was only a short fifteen minute drive to the entrance of “The Kanc” – a 55 km scenic drive, climbing almost 1000 meters in elevation, along New Hampshire’s Rout 112, a carved path that winds itself through the White Mountain National Forest, with endless hairpin turns alongside the Swift River, with breathtaking views of the Sabbaday Falls, Lower Falls and Rocky Gorge. NH fall foliage was absolutely brilliant.

At one point on the drive we could see that the top twenty percent of Mount Washington was snow-covered. The cold arctic winds that blow in from Canada were already making their presence felt, if only atop high peaks. But it was still fall, with all its innocent aesthetic beauty at play in God’s cathedral. At the end of the drive we came into a small town with only two choices to eat. We chose to eat Mexican. Afterward, we both agreed to never again eat tacos in NH.

Late into the evening we had a long cold drive to our hotel in the Lakes Region of NH, two hours further south than us. With fall foliage in New England in full bloom, and Covid-19 travel and social distancing measures in place, there were more than the usual amounts of day or weekend trippers in that area. The next morning we were going to meet Matthew and Stacy for a photo shoot for his clothing company at a few local lakes: Silver, Winnisquam and Winnipesaukee.

The morning of my debut as a sexy wheelchair model was one of overcast skies with rain in the forecast – great muted colors for a successful photo shoot, and start to my GQ career. Stacy was a consummate professional; Matt a consummate goofball. It was splendid fun for all involved. Zuza and Rowan even got swept up into the fall photography shoot extravaganza, posing by the lake. Photos of NH and other travels can be seen on my website, Doing The Dirty Dishes.

With the photo shoot behind us, my fifteen minutes of fame fading fast, no longer puparazzi in tow, it was time to explore the Lakes Region. For the next three hours we drove aimlessly and endlessly down any roadway, paved or dirt, that we could enter with a 4×4 Jeep. We ended up in a small, quaint charming town, Meredith. We decided to stop for lunch at Twin Barns Brewing Company. There we would meet three retired professionals from Baston, MA. Never was more fun and laughter had on a brisk Saturday evening in fall than with Sheehan, McGuirk and GG. 

Craig AKA GG is a retired dentist with a penchant for being a considerate guy. He and his close friends all bought mountain homes in nearby Meredith – which has more of a village ambiance than small city. It is the entrance town for tourists wishing to enter the Lakes Region of NH. The town has an intimate and restful feel to it, the perfect place some R&R, especially during a pandemic. On our way of town we stopped at Kellerhaus for some German chocolate decadence.  

“Travel makes one modest, you see what a tiny place you occupy in the world. “

— Gustave Flaubert

After three days of epic excitement in the lakes and mountains regions it was time to migrate more toward the ocean, where New Hampshire owns an immense sliver of beachfront real estate. The Atlantic Ocean coastline of NH is a whopping 28.9 km, the shortest of any state. We were not so interested in the over-stimulating rocky seacoast beaches as much as the port city on the Piscataqua River, Portsmouth. It is a historic seaport and popular summer tourist destination.

Portsmouth, with it noted 17th and 18th–century colorfully painted homes, delicious local seafood restaurants, astounding art and architecture, winding town roads and ways replete with a plethora of parks and outdoor recreation areas, is a romantic town surely worthy of a weekend trip. Since “Chowda” is a staple of New England, each state having their own version (clam, seafood or fish), it was time to sample some local fare. Sanders Fish Market has the best chowder soup and lobster roll in NH. Though the lobster roll was incredibly delicious, Maine still wins the award.    

When Zuza said that Rowan was a rock-star, she was not kidding. Literally everywhere we went with him people stopped to ask about, pet and photograph him. If we were in the car, even at a red light, it made no difference – the “Ro-Bear” was a dog in high demand –people everywhere flocked to him like a reincarnated neon Elvis in Memphis. After my first and only model photo shoot and ethereal fifteen minutes of fame, I was more than willing to give up my throne to my new Ursidae Canis lupis familiaris friend. Thank you Zuza and Rowan for a memorable trip! 

Photo credit: Stacy Cusack Photography

Travel Blog: Click here.

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Thank you for your love and support.

Jettisoned layover in Maine during Covid-19 crisis; Surviving scarcely on lobster rolls, whoopee pies and IPA.

I am grateful the universe guided my way to Maine for summer. There are a lot of locations for jetsam to wash ashore but Portland sure resulted in as serendipitous a coast as any to land. A reserved melancholic state filled with boundless Subarus and massive white pine forest, where I could spend my summer frolicking about in nature, or so I thought. As I soon discovered je ne sais quoi, it was a state of ‘Maniacs’ who know much less about survival in the bush and much more about fine cuisine and craft beers. I was in the right place; there are no mistakes in life.

More on Maine in a minute, but first an update on the wags from Queens, NYC: Bart and his pious compatriots in Pennsylvania (owners of the Hilton Garden Inn at JFK, NYC) provided round two of comedic relief after their abhorrent treatment of me at their hotel while stranded poor and homeless in NYC. As if their first response to asking me to leave their hotel, under a discriminatory (non-existent) 14 day stay policy, was not humorous enough, the second reply through their attorney wins the ‘almost Darwin’ medal of honor, a world-class pisser.

In my second week at the hotel from hell, while attempting to transfer from the toilet to my wheelchair, the grab-bar I was using for support broke off from the wall, leaving me to find support on a hard tile floor. Their lawyer, in his greatest vomit of jester twaddle, attempting to make me look bad, as vacuous his basis and unsound his argument, however sophomoric and ill-prepared his research and statement, replied to the NY State AG’s complaint by insinuating: 1. It was a made-up story; 2. It was revenge against their ‘raved about’ General Manager, Tracy Kass; and 3. I intentionally caused the grab-bar to break off from the wall. Bartholomew, please send me a package of what your Lancaster crew feeds you for breakfast – evidently reality changing.

It is hard to believe such saints still exist in this world but notwithstanding their holiness, I will address these delusional saboteur swines who treat loyal Hilton customers like trash then cower and hide behind a half-assed inept lawyer who I would not hire to defend my trespass dog. Allow me to pull back the curtain for you: 1. Your hotel clearly partakes in discriminatory practices – easily verified through other guests; and 2. I could have called an ambulance, sued and definitely walked with a settlement, akin to your ilk – but I did not, I chose the high road. To what end?!

None of your attorney’s baseless accusations are worthy a reply except only to rebut: 1. Permit me take away the function and operation of your legs and see how well you can stand up to pull a screwed-in bar, almost one meter above the floor, from the wall and 2. You first could start off by complying with Federal ADA and NY State bathroom building code(s) – your grab-bar was not mounted to wall studs. It was anchored into sheetrock, unable to handle load – sure to get you multiple city infractions upon [further] inspection; and assuredly, possible future litigation.  

Hilton Honors has still yet to sufficiently address the situation or provide an adequate reply. They recently reported earnings to Wall Street, Q2 77% revenue decline. As well, Hilton has had to close 1000 hotels and has experienced a 56% decline in room revenue resulting from Covid-19. And this is how you respond to true-blue customers – silence? What are you so busy doing that customer service has fallen off the radar?  One might think they would choose to treat their Diamond members a teensy-weensy better – but do not hold your breath. J.W. awaits my return.

As I mentioned in my first blog concerning being stuck in NYC under Covid-19 crisis, it did not take long in the car before my attitude and energy were on the rise. As my good friend Elena drove out of NYC, up Interstate 95 towards Maine, the excitement of visiting The Pine Tree State was palpable. We arrived into Portland later than expected. George at the Black Elephant Hostel was gracious enough to provide me an emergency number I could call to be let in. Safely ensconced by the cozy fire, cup of tea in hand, I was where I needed to be. Puff, puff, pass.  

For the next eight days my home was the Black Elephant Hostel, a boutique hostel with a bohemian savoir-faire, owned and operated by a saucy local entrepreneur and former New Jersey native, previously in the horse business, Heather. George kindly reserved me a room that was ADA compliant. The bathroom in the room was exceptionally spacious, a real treat to a traveler in a wheelchair. As well, the kitchen was drafted by architects with the injured in mind; designed pragmatic and utilitarian, sunlight abound, a great place to congregate for mid-afternoon tea.

Aside from a superb kitchen you will also find a delightful general room with comfortable chairs, a table and a layout couch for a relaxing fireside chat or read and an outside patio and lawn area for joining other guests for a smoke or drink or chat. Marijuana is legal in Maine – becoming fully legal for retail sale in October, 2020. The outdoor garden seating area is a great place to meet with friends over a joint and discussion of transcendentalism. Albeit a cheeky owner, the staff, most especially George and Isabelle, was super helpful and caring, always willing to assist.

My over-confident exuberance was quickly replaced with worry and anxiety as summer housing was not panning out as originally thought. Housing is at a minimum in Portland. Real estate well over priced, is in a bubble. A few places did become available but then quickly turned south as one informed me the roommate no longer wanted me as a roommate (only after informed about my injury) and the other did not want my wheelchair banging up his thirty thousand dollars in new upgrades to his double-wide trailer. Anyway, probably prudent I do not appear on Springer.

Was coming to Maine the right choice? Of late, with housing options once again slipping out of reach, and money a wee bit short, it appeared inexorably I had placed myself in a worse off situation than in NYC. In spite of all successive otherwise invincible obstacles, I remained overly brimming with bold perseverance and infinite hope. What would I do now? Where would I go, sleep? Staying in a hostel was surely not the answer. It was expensive; not a long term solution.  

After receiving some unsolicited compassionate help from a few friends, I was able to get a room at the local Hilton in order to reassess the situation and come up with a new plan. It soon became clear that I was in need of additional assistance; I had just become poor and homeless in Maine. It is similar to being poor and homeless in NYC but surrounded with more congenial people and prettier scenery. After five torturous days of having no-where to sleep I was ready to give up.

However, something deep inside told me it would be ok, that this unfortunate situation too shall pass. As if the universe was testing me to make sure I truly had given up control of the wheel of life. The lesson(s) must always be worked through and understood before one can advance past the incessant hurdles of life onto increased mental capacity and psychological resolve. As I state in my book, Unbreakable Mind: One first must pass through darkness before they can enter into the light; it is a journey, not something you can order up from the fast-food universe. There is no free ice cream in the world – all is well-earned, graced upon you – endowed by your higher-self.  

The Vedic astrology reading, a gift from Sunita, I had from Nepal in June was coming true: I was warned I would face four months of hardship, having to rely on others for my survival: Doing the Dirty Dishes of life – only to emerge into the shining light whence soon thereafter. So I was now in the thick of the fight, in the middle of battle. As it turned out I did not qualify for any general assistance in Maine. Apparently the $178 in my checking account was not broke enough. The YMCA manager was able to find me a room but sharing one bathroom with forty other men on one floor, with my injury’s requirements, and its high costs, would not have been feasible.

After two weeks of being bounced around Portland like a pachinko ball in a Tokyo parlor it was time to give in and stay at a hotel. Portland is not a cheap city for lodging – and already suffers from a housing shortage. The manager at the Hilton did not want me to leave to another Hilton branded property for an extended stay so he offered me an amazeballs daily rate [to stay at his location]. It ended up being cheaper to stay there per night than the local hostel. I gladly accepted the deal. Vernon, Tim, Gudrun, Stephanie, Les, Al, Seonye and all staff were absolutely first-rate.

Once settled in and feeling a bit of wanderlust, it was time to explore what Maine had to offer. The most northeastern U.S. State sated with stunning ocean and lakes, craggy rocky coastline, limitless verdant forest, winding mountains and rivers, marvelous lighthouses and ripe maritime history, it is an outdoor wonderland – loaded with supernatural beauty at every new rocky cove. Our day trip to Sebago Lake with Joe, our new friend from Park Slope, Brooklyn, whom we met in the local hostel, was a proper introduction to the outdoor allure and natural grandeur of Maine.

One day Elena decided to take me on a road trip, a magic trail replete with drinks, food and breathtaking panorama. We ventured north 160 km to Camden, famous for its high mountainous peek, scenic vistas and gorgeous views of the harbor and surrounding landscape. We had stopped on our way into town at a local oyster farm, and along with the healthy snacks, pita and hummus Elena packed, we had ourselves a smorgasbord atop the hill, whilst the sun set over the harbor. After some mouthwatering local seafood and delish beers in town, we were off back to Portland.

One weekend an old friend, Sunita, from Boston, visited with her daughter Hazel. It was a typical summer day in Maine, bright azure sky overflowing with cotton-ball clouds, awaiting outdoor exploration. We ventured to the Head Light Lighthouse, just across Casco Bay at Fort Williams Park. There was a local restaurant’s lobster roll stand just up the hill – wow. No doubt I agree that roadside stands serve the best rolls in Maine. On another day we visited Old Orchard Beach and all its tourist fanfare. On our way home we stopped at Bayley’s Seafood for their NE Clam Chowder and a shrimp roll; also stopping at Clambake Seafood Restaurant for locally fried Maine clams. The best “Clam Chowda” and tastiest fried clams I ever savored, respectively.

A new friend, Rita, from Brasil, the following weekend, invited me out for lobster rolls and oysters. We decided to spend the day at Pine Point, a breezy back-bay sand-grass filled marshy delight where delectable food and drink are served at any number of “famous” restaurants. We settled for the local empire of Bayley’s – this time visiting their Pound Shack, on the water. Social distancing in place, masks off, it was a splendid day of hoppy IPAs, freshly shucked oysters with briny liquor and spicy peel-n-eat shrimp. Next we plan to meet in Rio de Janeiro.

The list of out-of-this-world foodstuffs, pioneered by distinctive carpet-bagging restaurateurs with all the right ingredients to make your taste buds pop with excitement, is inexhaustible. The square pizza at Slab Sicilian Street Food is one of a kind, worthy of review. The Thirsty Pig has the most unique menu of house-made hot dogs [with toppings] and sausages, paired with local beers. After sampling lobster rolls at Red’s Eats in Camden, the lighthouse stand, High Roller, Bayley’s, and one upscale restaurant, Scales, the best was High Roller in downtown Portland.

The local bar scene is as bustling as the food scene, with many locations sharing both honors. The East Bayside district of Portland, with its old emptied-out capacious industrial warehouses and expansive lots, has been turned into an extensive neighborhood of eclectic flavorful micro-breweries. Kris and Marty AKA baby tiger (his 14 yr old Shiatsu) visited one Saturday from New Hampshire. We selected Austin Street Brewery – perfect for sitting outdoor with friends. We ended up pairing with Sarah and Gabe, on their second date, which were sitting at the table next to ours. Later we met Miguel at Rosie’s Restaurant and Pub, where food and drink is served late into the night. And in a town where most places close at 9pm, it is a refreshing godsend.

If ever there was a place to be stuck for the summer, Maine wins the award. Portland has quickly moved onto the top three list of my favorite small US cities for food and beer. A charming and enchanting town, filled with a mix of artistic and liberal personalities, a feeling of unrestricted freedom to expand inside & outside the self, packed with an endless number of satiated artisanal restaurants and drinking establishments, it is certainly a place to visit with an open stomach and heart – without fail, both will be better off after a short visit. They will thank you tremendously.

With Europe unquestionably now in the rearview mirror, as the world is mired in a continuing international health and economic crisis, it begets the million dollar question: where off to next?

Stay tuned!

CLICK HERE for PART I of Covid-19 story: Stranded in NYC, JFK.

Travel Blog: Click here.

Spiritual Blog: Click here.

Book: Unbreakable Mind. (Print, Kindle, Audio)

Doing The Dirty Dishes Podcast: Watch or listen to episodes and subscribe: SpotifyApple PodcastBuzzsprout.  Also available on Google PodcastiHeartTunein, Amazon Alexa and Stitcher

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Social Media linksTwitterInstagram and Linkedin.

Travel Blog links: Covid-19 stranded in NYC JFK and Maine – also travel stories on Ireland, Spain, SwedenBelgiumIcelandColombia (Espanol version), AmsterdamGermany, New HampshireTN and NYC.

Personal Website link where you can also find my bookphotos of my travels and updates on current projects.  

Thank you for your love and support.

Moving to Europe during Covid-19; Becoming poor and homeless in New York City.

After the success of my first book, Unbreakable Mind, endless projects were offered to me but none were a good match. There were many extremely attractive proposals. One was a second book, traveling to ten cities in the world, writing from an injured person’s perspective; an additional for NYT, to travel to 52 countries in 52 weeks, in a wheelchair; and, yet another, to create a travel TV show – but not any were the right fit, not one idea resonated with my soul.

Which avenue to further explore remained unclear until one fateful conversation in early May. I was on the phone with a friend from Amsterdam, a Norwegian-Dominican up-and-coming rap star, David AKA Big Mill, and he had an idea to share. “David,” I asked, “let me guess, another TV show idea.” He replied, “Yes, but this one is distinct.” Well, it was unlike all prior options – different to the point where I loved it. It made sense; it clicked with me – it felt right inside.

The other missing pieces to the puzzle would fall into place shortly thereafter. The morning of the 14th of May, my birthday, for some reason I was nudged to write an old classmate and friend, Adam, now living with his wife and four-year-old in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. He was recently laid off as an AV Director, a high position in the non-profit world of museums, now in search of a project to develop. I shared my idea for a new travel TV show with him and the rest is history.

After a seven hour conversation, going over every detail possible for how the project could ostensibly work, determining key people and positions needed to make a production company and TV show successful, and agreeing on a pilot location abroad (Amsterdam), we were off to the races. Since Covid-19 has affected so many business-people and investors globally, we were unable to raise the necessary funds. All agreed, signing on to the project on a shoestring budget.

One week later, with all airplane tickets and hotels reserved, my wheelchair supercharged by Gary Gilberti and his amazing team at Numotion Mobility, we were set to start filming pilot footage in Amsterdam in July and August. As I already live part-time in Amsterdam, I was planning on moving to Europe for two to five years. With everything [assuredly] in place, and not being a fan of storing items that others less fortunate could better utilize, especially during a global pandemic, I decided to give away my home, car, all my belongings to those in dire need.

What type spiritual person or leader would I be if I did not practice what I preached, helping others in life anytime one is able, truly living out the words I guide and ask of others to live, if I cannot do so myself? There was no need for me to store away furniture, clothing and other household items while others in my immediate presence were suffering from the current health and economic catastrophe. For two weeks friends and strangers came and took what they wanted.

Everything was going fine, just as planned. My home was donated, flights ready, bags packed and ride to airport sorted. Before flying out to Europe I planned to spend four days in NYC with an old friend, Georgie-boy, who lives across the Hudson River in Jersey City. George is an old and dear classmate from my irascible undergraduate days at Rutgers College; also the General Counsel for our production company. He has a thriving law practice in nearby Newark, NJ.

It was great to be back in NYC, my old stomping grounds in the late 1990s. There is nothing like “The City” – one of a kind, no other place like it on the planet.  We spent an afternoon sunning on the spacious waterfront in Hoboken, NJ, a nice day playing Frisbee in Central Park West, eating amazing Mamouns Falafel and Prince St. Pizza in Greenwich Village. Though it was expected to see murals and damage from prior fortnight’s rioting, it was eerily strange in person.

It was Sunday, a day of respite before flying to Europe on Monday. George and I spent the day having a relaxing lunch at Iberia outdoor café in the Little Portugal section of Newark, NJ. The next morning we were up bright and early, soon off to the airport. When we arrived at Newark International Airport it was nearly empty. There was not but one person at the check-in counter – moi. The Delta terminal was empty. It was June 15th and Covid-19 was in full effect. Wow!

Having never seen such a normally super busy airport terminal this empty in my life, it did not give me pause. George, on the other hand, had a different feeling, and decided to stay with me until I was ticketed to board. After finding a way to get my heavy bags checked in with no fees I thought we were on plan. Then a hiccup: “Sorry Mr. Quigley, you are unable to board the flight to Amsterdam. Dutch Immigration in Holland is denying you entry without proper permission.”

Well, that was a first, and not only a huge surprise but a major setback to a monumental project.  Oh shit! What do I do now? Thank goodness Georgie stayed with me; and thank goodness he was able to put me up at his place until this mess was all sussed out. It was an absolutely horrid situation; and to add salt to the wound, I was right smack in the middle of a Covid-19 USA EU political Visa predicament; whereas the EU would review country entry list every two weeks.

George was gracious enough to see me through the immediate emergency until it began looking like my delay would be a bit longer than originally anticipated. The EU placed a travel ban on Americans’ travel to Europe. And it would not be reviewed again until July 1st.  My new ticket was issued for a direct flight from JFK, NY to Amsterdam, Holland, July 1st. This being the case, and since George had a life to live, I moved to a Hilton close by to JFK airport in Queens.

What started as a journey by giving away all my belongings in order to chase a dream project and move to Europe was swiftly turning into a situation that could easily result in me becoming poor and homeless in NYC. Hotels are not cheap in NYC – nothing is inexpensive in the Big Apple – you pay through the nose. The costs were quickly adding up and what small financial safety net I had set aside was speedily disappearing. I could not last long in a hotel in Queens.

The hotel itself was of no help to my stress and anxiety levels. They had me on the sixth floor, all the way down the hall, in the far corner, in a room that was a very tight fit for a wheelchair, and could only be reached after struggling down one hundred twenty feet of carpet. As if that was not enough, one week into my stay the GM, Tracy Kass, awoke me early in the morning to inform me I would reach my 14 day hotel stay limit after this registration renewal, and she was calling to inform me they could not extend it any further. I was astounded, appalled. Unbelievable!

Miss Kass, later when challenged, changed her story, informing me I did not let her finish, she had more to say on the call – that there was, in fact, no 14 day limit. Three days and three voicemails later, and no reply arrived from the normally overly pugilistic General Manager. Only once it was elevated to Hilton Honors corporate office level did she return my call. This was after numerous emails asking her to send me a copy of the policy. She refused. It does not exist.

Upon complaint to NY State AG, their attorney replied that I did not let her finish, that it was actually a 28 day limit. That is total utter bullshit! Firstly, then why call me only after seven days? Secondly, I met two people outside the hotel who received the same inhuman treatment. Thirdly, all her staff, including her Director of Operations, apologized profusely to me in person for her insensitive, cruel call. It should be noted that all other staff were caring and supportive.

Later that week, while in the bathroom, the grab-bar broke off from the wall while attempting a toilet transfer, sending me straight onto the hard tile ground, injuring my neck and back. Do you think the hotel or GM did anything to help address the issue, let alone make some changes to mitigate a more comfortable stay? No! The room was a disaster for a wheelchair user. My stay in Queens was quickly morphing into its own mini crisis. I was stuck in a cement jungle without any stores. I had only one friend to assist me – Sunita in Boston. Hilton corporate has yet to reply.

With every door opening but quickly closing, I was running out of viable options, rapidly. The immediate future looked grim.  Running out of money (and patience), with no home to move to, with no home to return to, life was proving overly difficult. It allowed my mind to get the better of my heart, lulling it into anxiety, sadness and no hope for the future. Life was grim; I was not a happy camper. After nine years of struggle, I figured this project would run smoothly. Silly me!

After time searching deep inside, meditation and prayer, chats with mentors, close inner-circle friends and spiritual advisors, I decided that I would face the universe’s tests head on. It was time to truly practice my words – taking my hands off the wheel of life, as the universe has it under control. It was another example of ‘Doing The Dirty Dishes’ of life – the Buddhist principle that if you want to get anything done in life you first must put in your effort, getting your hands dirty.

In May, when the project began coming together, one night while deep in meditation, an angel came to me and told me: “Steven, after 46 years of white-knuckling the wheel of life, you can now finally remove your hands [from the wheel], let go, give up control of life (as if you ever had any in the first place) – the hardest lesson for most to learn, aside from reaction and attitude, or living through love – I am now at the wheel, in full control. Wake up each morning and relax.  Forget about your past; do not worry for your future; live in the present moment – the now.”

It all sounded great until I awoke on June 15th, only to be denied entry to a plane that represented my life’s work and dreams. Or did it!? What was the universe trying to tell me through stranding me in NYC? What was the lesson? It did not come at first, but it did not take long to figure it out. The universe was sending me bigger struggles to overcome. Why? 1.To truly test if my hands were off the wheel of life, wholly trusting in the universe 100% ; and 2. At length, it still had to break and broke me before my dream could be realized. I am grateful to both my teachers, the universe.

Three days later a friend from Portland Maine came down to NYC to rescue me. As soon as I stepped into her car I felt an immense 800 lb gorilla freed from my back. Off to Maine.

To be continued….Click here to read part II.

Travel Blog: Click here.

Spiritual Blog: Click here.

Book: Unbreakable Mind. (Print, Kindle, Audio)

Doing The Dirty Dishes Podcast: Watch or listen to episodes and subscribe: SpotifyApple PodcastBuzzsprout.  Also available on Google PodcastiHeartTunein, Amazon Alexa and Stitcher.

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Social Media linksTwitterInstagram and Linkedin.

Travel Blog links: Covid-19 stranded in NYC JFK and Maine – also travel stories on Ireland, Spain, SwedenBelgiumIcelandColombia (Espanol version), AmsterdamGermany, New HampshireTN and NYC.

Personal Website link where you can also find my bookphotos of my travels and updates on current projects.

Thank you for your love and support.

Cologne, Germany: I came for your sausage and schnitzel and got your mustard and bier faschnizzle.

Deutschland, the land of precision engineering and order, beer and sausage, a European powerhouse with world class cities and sports teams, a place where trains are on time (within seconds),where you can find a group of drunk twenty-somethings at the cross-light – at 02:00 in the morning, with a current mix of east and west, along with so many new immigrant groups from the Middle East, a country I first visited almost thirty years ago, is a Republic close to my heart.  Each time I visit, twice in the last twelve months, my enjoyment only increases. Berlin, Hanover and Cologne are all astonishing cities, each with their own individual draw. Never was a bad time had in Germany – this year would be no different.

Most often when I visit Germany it is to see a close, dear friend, Thomas. We originally met over twenty-five years ago when he was an AFS high school exchange student staying with local friends of mine.  His host brother, Baby Snooks, was the younger brother of a close friend and so often we would maintain the same company. Over time his silly fruitiness wore on me and we became friends. After moving back to Germany, one cold winter, he invited me to Tyrol, Austria to ski with his family for two weeks. After that first trip to Europe, I was hooked. Europe was just waiting to be discovered. I also gained a new friend in life, a refined gentleman, from good stock, well-mannered and courteous, with a heart of gold.

Since I spend part of my year living in Holland, Germany is a close drive. And although I love so many different regions and cities in Germany, Cologne is one of my favorite, and also the city Tom happens to currently reside.  Berlin is by far my favorite city in Germany but it is too far a drive from Amsterdam for me at this juncture of my injury. I could do it in two days, whereas Cologne is a one day trip – doable.  Considering stops for food and little boy’s room, taking into account the Audubon and local traffic, it’s a four hour drive. My first trip to Holland, earlier in summer, I visited Cologne for four days. My second trip I decided to take a road adventure with a friend who was visiting me in Netherlands for summer.

Unlike my first journey to Cologne, a few months before, where I had to get into a rental car, attach hand controls for gas and brake, after flying across the Atlantic Ocean throughout the night, only to drive four hours to check-in to my hotel – before heading out that night with local friends for some catch-up and drinks. The next day I paid the price, reminded I was no longer twenty-three. My second trip would allow me the benefit of being a passenger, a superb luxury.  A super helpful strong friend from Philadelphia, Joe, visited me in Europe for seven weeks this summer. We decided on renting a car and visiting Germany and Belgium. It was Joe’s first time in Europe; a summer he’ll soon never forget.

Returning to Cologne brings back so many prior amazing trips’ memories, memories of times had with close companions where the smiles are forever indelibly marked on the soul.  Each time I return, it feels like a homecoming of sorts, the experience only getting richer and richer. Over time I have made many good friends – friendships that continue to flourish the world over. Some friends having moved to other regions and continents of the world, yet communication and meetings continue unabated. It does not hurt that the food is so very delicious, not to mention how good the beer tastes. My favorite German beer actually comes from Cologne – Frueh Kolsch (umlaut amiss), with its roots in this distinctive city.

Soon enough Joe would be introduced to all the spectacular facets of Germany I love so much. Upon approaching Cologne from the highway, the Cologne Cathedral, dating to 1248, can be clearly seen, prominently and proudly displaying Europe’s second highest Gothic spires high in the sky. I can still remember my first visit to Cologne over twenty years ago. Tom’s mother, Gitta, one day after a nice lunch in Moenchengladbach, where his family resided, drove me there to see its majestic beauty; ever since I have been enchanted with this quaint city. This time my arrival was via highway from Belgium, where we stopped first on our road trip. It would be no less glorious this time; both were enamored.

Cologne, Koeln in German, fourth-most populous metropolis, largest city of Germany’s most populous state of North Rhine-Westphalia, with just slightly over one million inhabitants, located 45 kilometers from the capital of the Federal State of Rhine-Westphalia, Dusseldorf and only 25 kilometers from Bonn, where I have some very close friends and ‘second’ family, is a city that tickles my heart strings every time I visit her. Her Gothic charm, welcoming neighborhoods, diverse young population, that o’ so unique tasteful German good behavior, outdoor beer gardens, rich foods and decadent desserts, eclectic art scene with over 30 museums and hundreds of galleries all make for an unforgettable experience.

Cologne is one of the oldest cities in Germany and its name dates back to Roman times. In 50 AD the Romans founded the Ubii village on the Rhine and named it “Colonia.”  As with all Roman cities, massive gates were installed as protection from entering into the city, surrounded by an impenetrable ringed stone wall of protection. It was originally four kilometers long, with nine gates and 19 round towers. Ruins of the Old-City walls and gates can still be found throughout the city. Located next to Cologne Cathedral, the Romano-Germanic Museum (Romisch-Germanisches Museum), has the largest collection of untold archaeological artifacts from the original Roman settlement, on which modern Cologne is built.

While in Cologne I only stay at one place, Motel One. Just like Generator Hostel, Motel One, a distinctive hotel model itself, is expanding throughout Europe at a rapid rate. People absolutely love both places to sleep in Europe – each offering immense value to the customer. I mostly revolve my travel in Europe around those two popular chains.  On my visit Cologne only had one Motel One. This trip they had three. And I just read there are now eleven in Berlin. The creator cut out all the unnecessary costs like room service and daily towels and sheets, including a contemporary room with art and twenty-four hour lobby bar with contemporary furniture to sit and relax with friends. All for about one hundred Euros – Wow!

This trip I stayed at the newly christened New Market (Neumarkt) location. My previous trip was spent at their Old-City South (Alstadt-Sued) place. Both are great locations but the Old-City South is more centrally located to access all the best neighborhoods the city has to offer, and also tourist attractions. The Cathedral (Der Koelner Dom), Belgian Quarter (Bruesseler Platz), Old-City Roman walls, City Center, New Market (Neumarkt), Severinsviertel,  Haymarket (Heumarkt), Rhine River and fine culinary choices to dine out, plentiful in every direction. Cologne is a youthful city, with the hippest culture of any city in Germany next to Berlin – truly a laid-back place to dive into history, the arts and a smorgasbord of fun.

The city skyline is dominated by Cologne Cathedral, Der Koelner Dom, officially Hohe Domkirche Sankt Petru, Cathedral Church of Saint Peter, seat of the Archbishop of Cologne, a renowned monument of German Catholicism. Construction in Medieval Europe began in 1248 but was halted in 1473, left unfinished. Work began again in the 1840s and was eventually completed, according to its Medieval plan, in 1880. It is one of Europe’s most fascinating structures and is the largest Gothic church in Northern Europe. It’s spires, 2nd tallest in Europe, can be seen from afar – they dominate the city landscape – giving it the largest facade of any church in the world. It is something worth seeing in your lifetime.

And just thirty meters from the church doors is the beer house (Bier Haus) of my favorite German beer, Frueh Kolsch. Who ever said that prayer and drinking do not go together. Catholics have wine at mass. Cheers – first round on me. Traditional beer houses in Germany are few and far between in modern times. Beers are delivered to your table by Koebes, traditional trained beer house servers, in tall skinny glasses each sitting in place neatly in a large round tray. When your glass is close to empty, unless a coaster placed atop, another beer is set down in its place, as the server marks your beer coaster with a pencil mark. At the end of the night, they determine your bill by how many strikes are on your coaster.

One day of the trip was spent with Tom’s family: Wolfgang, Gitta, Anja, Nadja and Pele the dog (Gram: @pelleparson).  We decided to visit one of their favorite local beer gardens at the Haymarket (Heumarkt). As Kolsch beer is from Cologne, most places you visit serve that type only. We sat outside under an umbrella, in a lively outdoor walking area and square for the public, nestled among numerous beer gardens and restaurants. This section of the city is also very popular for bachelorette parties. Many a lady-to-be could be seen with her brood in pink in tow, out to party the night away.  Under the afternoon sun great conversation abound, I ordered my favorite, Wiener Schnitzel with skinny fries.

After lunch we all walked to the Cologne Cathedral (Der Koelner Dom) in the City Center district, where we would enter to take a walking tour. The stained glass windows in the church are unlike any other I have ever seen – so large, bright and vivid in color, detailed in story – truly astonishing. Afterward, we headed to Alstadt (Old-City), filled with endless shopping, eccentric street vendors and performers, and food treats. One of my favorite foods to eat in the world is Turkish street food in Germany and next door in Holland. The Belgian fries and waffles are worthy of honorable mention too. The streets in this area of the city are cobblestone and so a bit rough on a wheelchair. Nothing a little street food will not remedy.

Another night an old friend, Yaki, originally from Hong Kong, who relocated to Germany eleven years prior, a budding prospering employee at Motel One well on his way into management (met him my first stay), along with some other local mates, invited us out to an urban public open-space city beer garden in the Belgian Quarter.  Joe and I did not hesitate, immediately after a round of beers sorted, ordering a few sausage platters. There are a few things in the world worth traveling to eat: one is outrageously delicious sausages from Deutchland. Bellies filled with pork and grease, it was time to get down to serious business – beer drinking in Germany. It was a night filled with memories, and a rough morning.

As far as accessibility goes, Germany is a dream country. Only Scandinavia does it better in Europe. The highways are well equipped with accessible bathrooms and numerous places to dine. In one rest-stop in Belgium, on our way driving to Germany, well before Joe got a speeding ticket on the Audubon, in a dedicated family/handicap bathroom, there was DJ music playing aloud, along with a spinning disco ball. That was one hell of a symphonic movement – it filled my eyes with color, sound and tears.  Getting around Cologne is easy in a wheelchair. Taxis are readily available – Uber now too. Public buses are all accessible. Street trams are level to the station for easy accessiblity; underground tram has elevators.

Each and every time I visit Germany it is memorable. It is a country I adore. My ‘second‘ family there was a huge pillar of support in my accident recovery. Traveling there over the years, especially one trip in the middle of my recovery to surprise thank them all in person, has never been easy. It is the maxim forever tattooed on my head: Doing the Dirty Dishes of living – for without doing them, we never learn from our experiences or mature and grow from the lessons of life. As I state in my book, Unbreakable Mind,: Life begins when the story ends. No longer living a story, I am free to see where the journey takes me now. Often I daydream – pour me a skinny bier, lather my sausage with mustard and faschnizzle my schnitzel.

Travel Blog: Click here.

Spiritual Blog: Click here.

Book: Unbreakable Mind. (Print, Kindle, Audio)

Doing The Dirty Dishes Podcast: Watch or listen to episodes and subscribe: SpotifyApple PodcastBuzzsprout.  Also available on Google PodcastiHeartTunein, Amazon Alexa and Stitcher.

Doing The Dirty Dishes YouTube channel – watch and subscribe.

Social Media linksTwitterInstagram and Linkedin.

Travel Blog links: Covid-19 stranded in NYC JFK and Maine – also travel stories on Ireland, Spain, SwedenBelgiumIcelandColombia (Espanol version), AmsterdamGermany, New HampshireTN and NYC.

Personal Website link where you can also find my bookphotos of my travels and updates on current projects.

Thank you for your love and support.

Amsterdam, Hampsterdam, Amsterschlam – All happiness aside, man-crush unrelated, I think I love you.

Each and every year Holland makes the list of top ten happiest countries in the world to live. US is third, on worst list, just behind India and China. Amsterdam is always listed on top happiest cities to live, as well. It is true, it is a happy city and country to visit or live. She has become my mistress, sometimes jealous. I first visited her over twenty-five years ago with a close friend from Germany. Ever since I have returned to her over and over, each time her seductive siren singing me home.  Having traveled and lived all over the planet, including while injured, Amsterdam is still one of my top three favorite places in the world.  And one reason I spend almost half each year living there living as a writer and speaker.

My eighteenth birthday had just passed and a friend from Europe invited me to visit. His family had a home in the mountains of Tyrol, Austria, where we would go skiing for fourteen days. Funny enough, this region is sometimes referred to as the Dutch Alps. He had some spare time available to travel within Europe after winter holiday. I extended my return flight home. He had an idea to take a trip to visit Holland. Sure, Tom, but where would we go? “Well, Steven,” he said, “I know you have always wanted to visit crazy and wild Amsterdam, so let’s do it!” Really? Finally – I get to visit Amsterdam?! I was overly excited with the idea of visiting a city I dreamed about finally coming true. That day arrived.

At the time, Tommy was living in Moenchengladbach, Germany, a few hour drive to Amsterdam.  Originally we met while he was an AFS exchange student at our town high school in the suburbs of Philadelphia. He was staying with friends of mine who frequently hosted foreign exchange students. My family friend was a bit older but since his younger brother, Baby-Snooks, was Tommy’s age, we often mingled among a similar group of shared friends. Over time our friendship grew and I began inviting him on weekend trips to the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania.  At my cabin, with so many other great friends, unforgettable memories were made. The woods of PA have never been the same.

Upon first entering Holland on our European road trip we found a nice local coffee shop. We pulled the car over by a field, parked, and smoked a celebratory true Dutch joint. It was my first, but not my last. At the time marijuana was still illegal in most the world. Amsterdam was the Mecca for all young partiers on the planet, for all things drugs. 1980s created a new type party scene, which Amsterdam was glad to have played a key part.  Even though cannabis is not technically legal in Holland, it is treated as such, especially regarding tourists – as that is one of the great attractive draws to many visiting Amsterdam – the famous coffee shop, accounting for up to 30% of tourism. Pulp Fiction only perpetuated the image.

Nothing could have prepared me for what I was about to experience. I traveled many places before but none paled in comparison to the feral times that weekend in Holland. Amsterdam is a free city, it is overly ecstatic; the people are happy there, as is the earth’s energy. The buildings and architecture, narrow houses with gabled facades, are breathtaking. With everyone outside enjoying summer solstice, the city takes on a unique energy and feel. The famed canals meander in all directions, weaving through cobblestone streets and tree-lined neighborhoods. Everyone rides a bike; museums are everywhere. The Red Light District, a place of famed debauchery – no doubt a place of Conception, just not Immaculate.

Amsterdam, located on and named after the river Amstel, cultural capital of the Netherlands, population 900,000 within city proper, originating as a small fishing village from the 12th Century, also called the Venice of the North, is currently a major city of worldwide influence. Many multinational companies have their headquarters there.  And now with Brexit looming that number only seems to be growing larger. Amsterdam became an incredibly important world port during the Dutch Golden Age of the 17th Century.  Amsterdam is most known for its UNESCO historic canals, oldest stock exchange in existence, Rijks, Stedelijk and Van Gogh Museums, Anne Frank house, Heineken Brewery and the Royal Palace.

Since the year of my first visit much time has passed, and much has changed. No longer am I the young immature googly-eyed American traveler seeing the world for the first time.  Now an older and more experienced world traveler, having lived all over the globe, suffering a serious accident eight years prior, rendering me a quadriplegic, who is now 80% recovered, traveling the world, blogging about injured travel. After my tragic accident in Philadelphia in 2011 I was unable to travel. At first, I was unable to move any limbs, and now I am learning to walk again. Amsterdam was to be my first trip abroad again in 2018, but this time as an injured traveler. What would she be like? Would she remember me?

A couple weeks before departure, a friend who was joining me on the trip canceled. It left me in a bad bind economically and physically. I was depending on his helping with hotel bills and assisting my injury. Having not traveled on a plane or abroad while injured, it was more comfortable having someone there to help assist me. Should I cancel or move forward, forge head-on into the storm and see the outcome? I was far enough ahead in my injury and recovery to understand the only true growth in life results through tackling our greatest obstacles, hardships that otherwise would knock us down. Only by facing our deepest darkest inner fears can we find our way to light. She remembered me. She still loved me.

She welcomed me back with both arms wide open. She missed me. I missed her; feelings were mutual. I was happy to be back in her sweet embrace. After a long trans-Atlantic flight, first thing after landing and clearing immigration and customs, I had to attach hand controls to my rental car. Twenty minutes later I was on the highway, on my way to a hostel in Amsterdam.  It all seemed so uncannily familiar, very eerily comfortable, as if there in a prior lifetime.  What was I doing here? Jesus, Steven, you love adventure but is this smart? These were the type thoughts going through my head.  Deep inside I knew I was where I was meant to be, doing what I was supposed to be doing. A calm peace came upon me.

In no time I was navigating my rental car through the inner streets of Amsterdam. Shortly after, I was parking and checking myself into the hostel. I was doing The Dirty Dishes of Life – I was living my life without obstacles, I was living life again.  It was only a matter of minutes before I felt an overwhelming happy and loving energy envelop me – I smiled. I was in the right place. There are no mistakes in life. That summer I made many new spectacular friends in Holland. As I state in my book, Unbreakable Mind, once the story ends, life begins. Get off the horse and start living! The tree of life was blossoming for me in new and exciting ways. Life was smiling down upon me. I was smiling back.

Later that summer I returned to Holland again for another five weeks. Europe was in the grips of a heat wave. It felt close to the same temperatures in Philadelphia – hot and sticky. This trip was even better. Friendships continued to blossom. As I felt closer to the energy and people of Amsterdam, every-day life became more relaxed. Life did not feel as if a tourist.  My goal was never to feel like a tourist anywhere I traveled, but some places were harder to acclimate than others.  Most of my time was spent around the hostel conversing with local friends and tourists. Each day a fresh supply of new personalities arrived, a veritable smorgasbord of people to observe and explore, especially for a newly minted psychologist.

Seven countries later, I was a bit more seasoned travelling in a wheelchair. This past summer I decided I would spend the whole period in Amsterdam.  When I arrived at the airport someone was waiting for me. Denis, a taxi driver I had met the previous summer, was a friend of mine who now owned an airport transport company. Schiphol airport is easily accessible in a wheelchair, with assistant services available. Handicap bathrooms are plentiful – super clean too. This trip I was joined by the same friend who canceled on me the previous year, Joe. Love and forgiveness have ways of altering the sands of time. I was welcomed at the hostel by a friend Rich, Dominican and Norwegian, who recently moved to Amsterdam. We celebrated my arrival home.

This summer I rented a flat in a beautiful, tree-lined, quiet neighborhood, close to the park in East Amsterdam. An area previous undesirable had become very desirable, and expensive. Until my place became free I stayed at a hostel, a hostel I know all too well. They are based out of UK and have locations in over 14 major European cities. I have stayed at many locations. Generator Hostel in Amsterdam is the best choice you will find for an amazing balance of price and customer experience. It is more expensive than others as there are better guests. The hostel has accessible rooms, accessible bathrooms, a ramp out the back door, an auditorium and elevator; also a café, library and three bars.

The hostel is located on Oostpark, a park with ponds where you can swim (in between goose feathers and poop), with plenty of verdant space to lay about talking or puffing with friends. As with almost all parks in Amsterdam, there is a walk-path that is paved. So getting around in a chair in the many parks within the city is easy. A local tram line is also just a five minute walk from the hostel. To city-center by tram is twenty minutes. All new trams, most old, are wheelchair accessible – look for pink ITS symbol. All 33 Metro stations are accessible.  Buses and trains are also accessible; trains require a reservation. There is handicap accessible parking in Amsterdam but it is inadequate. Normal parking is too.

The city might be called the ‘city of museums’.  There are over fifty museums in Amsterdam, displaying some of the finest art collections in the world. All museums I visited were wheelchair accessible; though beware cobblestone streets in Centrum. MOCO has very steep steps and requires help getting you to the top. The Anne Frank house is not accessible, however the museum is by appointment. The Van Gogh Museum is a must see. South of Leidseplein square, the big major museums sit on Museumplein, a large grass filled square with a fountain and reflective water pool, where tourists and locals sit in the summer sun to drink and smoke, having conversation late into the midnight sun. Oh, het is heel leuk.

One night we went out in the club part of the city with my friend Sergio, a Surinamese eclectic music- man, show promoter.  Another night at the flat I hosted a freestyle rap session with local wordsmith Silvio Cohen and Kanna Man from UK. Last summer I met Daniel from UK. It turns out he produces a well known rapper from UK. Our star-deck was a meeting place for good friends and even greater nightly philosophical and spiritual conversation. We hosted many guests this summer. Norbert and Ula, two good friends from Poland, came to visit for a week. We had so much fun. Though we did not make it to the Zoo this summer we did add an annual smoke-boat canal tour.  Jolly times on the high-seas.

Two weeks of summer were spent at the beach region of Holland. A good friend, Thiandi, a local author, poet and activist, invited us to stay at her family beach home in Castricum. The town is a forty-minute drive by car, or twenty via train from Amsterdam. Castricum is a popular weekend beach getaway. The area has a lot of camping, including tent, pull-behind and RV. The beach is nearby and has an easily accessible wheelchair through-way. There is ample parking close-by. One weekend we were treated to a delicious BBQ with old friends in Bergen, Steffan, Rixt and Niels – with a village cheese market voted top in Holland.  It was a splendid summer at the beach with our adopted Dutch family, Trix, Jose and Simba.

There are endless events to attend, places to visit and things to do and see in Amsterdam. I could write a book about my extraordinary experiences there. It is a great city as a base in which to plan smaller trips throughout Europe. This summer I was also able to visit Belgium, Germany and Spain. Holland is a progressive country that supports laws for handicap access, especially in public places. Amsterdam is a city that is wheelchair friendly. Just beware of the bikers – ALWAYS.  The bike paths are sometimes better than the roads; and bikers have more rights than drivers – totally serious. Watch out for the bike lane – even while in a wheelchair I was screamed at. Welcome to Amsterdam. I am in love. I shall return.

Travel Blog: Click here.

Spiritual Blog: Click here.

Book: Unbreakable Mind. (Print, Kindle, Audio)

Doing The Dirty Dishes Podcast: Watch or listen to episodes and subscribe: SpotifyApple PodcastBuzzsprout.  Also available on Google PodcastiHeartTunein, Amazon Alexa and Stitcher.

Doing The Dirty Dishes YouTube channel – watch and subscribe.

Social Media linksTwitterInstagram and Linkedin.

Travel Blog links: Covid-19 stranded in NYC JFK and Maine – also travel stories on Ireland, Spain, SwedenBelgiumIcelandColombia (Espanol version), AmsterdamGermany, New HampshireTN and NYC.

Personal Website link where you can also find my bookphotos of my travels and updates on current projects.

Thank you for your love and support.

SEC Football Stadium Accessibility – Volunteers at University of Tennessee, Knoxville Do it Right!

It was a long weekend at the mining site, resulting in departing home on an early Saturday morning instead of Friday afternoon as we were accustomed. We were tired but after our third flight the beers were flowing, as were our spirits. Single at the time, I did not mind being stuck in any city on any given weekend. Big Sexy AKA Alex and I were sitting at a Toronto, Canada airport terminal sports bar enjoying great conversation and some college football whilst awaiting boarding flights to our home bases. Mine was in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Big Sexy’s in Nashville, Tennessee.  All the sudden, out of left field, an invite came from Alex: “Come to Tennessee for a game?” Wait! What?!

Immediately rebuffing Alex’s attempt at being a polite Southern gentleman, inviting me down to his neck of the woods, the South, for a SEC college football game, I smiled. And I am a Vols fan too. Hmmm, could it be true? Alex stated: “I assure you in Tennessee we are sincere, if we make an invite it is authentic, it is real. None of that sugar-and-spice, all things nice you find in some other Southern States.” I told Big Sexy that his reply sounded more like sugar-and-spice than ever before. He laughed as he said “Come on down and see for yourself.” At the time Alex made the invite we were working for DeBeers diamond mines in the far north of Canada as management consultants.  Much had changed.

Seven years later, a book about meeting an express train rendering me a quadriplegic published, Alex once again brought up the idea of going to a Vols game.  By this time in my recovery I was comfortable attempting attending a college football game, and all it involved. But the dates just could not work. One year later, a new friend, also in a wheelchair, from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in conversation made an invite to attend a LSU Tigers game. After quickly figuring out her invite was traditional ‘Southern spice’ – also known as BS – it was back to square one. Then a text arrived from Alex. He found a game date, and would it work for me? I replied I was in Europe for summer, would check schedule and advise.

Two weeks later, my summer and fall starting taking shape, and it appeared the weekend Alex wanted to finally see a Volunteers game together, I was free. But I would have a friend joining me. Alex did not mind as he had three tickets and was happy to break another SEC fan’s cherry by attending not only his first SEC college football game, but also his first Volunteers game at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville – home to the 4th largest college stadium in the US, seating capacity 102,455. The finer details still needed to be worked out. For now it was on – me and a friend would be venturing down south to Tennessee to see our first SEC game at Neyland Stadium. We were thrilled to the brim at the idea of the trip.

A few weeks before the game I inquired with Alex to see if our seats were handicap accessible or not. I was aware that Neyland, a very old stadium, has some parts dating from early 1900s, thus making accessibility a potential issue.  Our seats were not accessible, in fact. An idea came to mind. Alex, don’t worry about seating, I will call the Athletic office to see if they can find us some nice accessible seats. I will do a story on the stadium and my experience Doing The Dirty Dishes of life, attending a game there in a wheelchair.  He loved the idea. Well, it turned out, UT-Knoxville did as well. Now, instead of sitting in the nose-bleeds, we were front-and-center, end zone, first row, pro-gratis.

Originally I wrote a letter to the Assoc. Dir. of Athletics for Communication, Tom Satkowiak. He put me in contact with a Manager in event coordination, Angie Doyle. She put me in contact with someone at the ticket office – “Will the ticket man,” self-described, and super helpful. Tickets sorted, not a minute passed, and Angie fired off an email with all the information specifically needed for handicap parking, and direction to special handicap accessible buses that would shuttle us to the stadium.  It was quickly becoming clear I was dealing with a momentous event of serious proportions that would take proper planning and execution. It was also clear the level of professionalism of all UT-K staff was a step ahead.

Angie momentarily sent an email with descriptions of many types events, activities and other pertinent information leading up the game. We would have to arrive early. Early as in 8am or so! I had heard SEC fans liked to party early before noon games but did not think they were serious. Oh yes they were. We arrived at the stadium early that morning, the streets already buzzing with activity. It was fixing to be a hot day too, according to the forecast. We followed Angie’s directions, parking at the Agriculture Campus, where they had a special lot reserved with over 120 parking spots. And it was free, too. Bonus at a time when parking can exceed forty dollars, beers fourteen dollars, etc. at events.

The school’s athletic department has a ‘Game Day’ page where fans can find out upcoming game time, critical updates of any kind, along with stadium rules and regulations. There is an information tab clearly marked for accessible/ADA seating. There you can find information on parking, entry and seating. For those sitting in the upper levels, please check with the ticket office as you may need access to an elevator, which requires a pass. The website also describes the various game day festivities offered – there are many:  The Vol Walk, Band March, Volunteer Village, Tennessee Park, Kickoff Call-In Show and Tailgate Tennessee are a few of the endless activities offered prior to every home game.

The morning of the game we arrived bright and early, securely parking at the Agriculture Campus. The campus was very easy to find; police and event staff could be found every fifteen feet. Within minutes of parking we were in line for special accessible buses that would take us to the stadium. Only ten minutes passed before we were approached, given wristbands to enter and exit transport buses, and readied to board. Since I was traveling with a friend from home, Joe, and a friend from Nashville, Alex, we would need room for three. There was never an issue, at any point – the staff was always more than accommodating. Within thirty minutes of parking our car, we were off to see our first SEC game.

As we embarked on the short drive from our parking lot to Neyland Stadium, excitement was in the air, palpable on the bus and extending well beyond to the endless throngs of people outside, all slowly making their way to the stadium. There was no lack of tailgating everywhere, food and drink abound. They were not joking – it is serious business in Tennessee.  As long as you were wearing orange you were welcome to eat and drink as much as you liked, you were treated like family. Every direction you turned someone in orange was ready to offer a smile, beer, burger or laugh. The hospitality of the people of Tennessee is real – it can be felt.  Finally, fifteen minutes later, we arrived at the stadium.

Luckily we were dropped off close to the ticket office and also gate we needed to enter stadium. As there were large crowds of people gathering near the entrance I asked Alex to please sort out the tickets. Five minutes later Big Sexy appeared with three seats in Section Y9, Seats 4,5,6.  Ready to go, a polite event supervisor approached to inform us of a special medical entrance that would allow for a more convenient way into stadium. Everywhere we turned there was a fan or staff ready to help, incessantly offering any assistance they were able, always with a big Tennessee smile. We followed his directions and minutes later entered the stadium. The excitement in the air could be cut with a knife.

Game time close, Alex, the polite TN host he is, offered up first round of drinks.  At the same time, a gentleman from the main gate following us, two chairs in tow, lead us to our seats. As we entered a blinding sea of orange came upon us. They sat us in the best seats in the house, with amazing views of football play and fan shenanigans, on all sides. John, the host of our section, a Yankee originally from Michigan, had his house in order. The whole game he made sure we had a clear view of the field, as did fellow fans. It was as if we were being treated as VIPs, though we were in all orange and bought a seat like everyone else. Tennessee really knows how to make a couple first-timers feel incredibly welcome.

As could be expected, as with pre-game activities, there were a number of other great Volunteer traditions in order as time to kickoff approached  closer. Only recently had they started selling alcohol at the stadium, resulting simply in higher levels of fanaticism.  Though I am not too sure the fans needed much help. Somehow I couldn’t imagine counting the number of eggs and beers breakfasts served. Oh, with sausage biscuits and gravy, of course. The band began playing on the field – the anticipation of kickoff looming larger. Soon the Field Commander entered – closing out his five-star performance as the band split into a “T” – allowing team to enter field through “T.” All the while, Rocky Top played aloud.

There was no lack of delicious food or drink on the first floor main concourse for purchase. Bathrooms were plentiful; one never a far distance.  Within thirty feet walk of our seats there were two bathrooms, both with handicap accessible stalls.  Thankfully I was spared testing the facilities, though they looked amazingly clean for a stadium that sits over 100K fans. John was the consummate host, always checking in to see how we were doing, seeing if there was anything we needed.  He served as a great photographer as well. A magnificent time was had by all. The game was spectacular; the seats even more so. The fans were the nicest I have ever encountered at a stadium. And we won, double bonus!

Leaving the stadium was just as easy as entering – right in front. We exited the same gate as we entered and within minutes were in line for accessible shuttle buses returning back to the Agriculture Campus.  Fans were orderly and polite, lending a smile or joke whenever possible. The Vols had just won a game after the worst start to a football year since 1988. Fifteen minutes or so and we were being loaded onto a bus to take us back to our car. The bus driver tied me in, asked me if I needed anything, and we were on our way. It took no time at all to make it back to our parking lot. A few minutes later we were exiting the campus, entering highway on our way back to Nashville for two more exciting days.

The system they have in place in Knoxville for football games is meticulously well thought out. Bus lanes and pedestrian walkways ensure one quick access throughout stadium grounds. Event staff can be found as easily as a Southern Baptist Church on Sunday. There are no lack of signage or clear directions on flow of pedestrians and traffic. The stadium was entirely accessible, a totally stress-free experience. The food and drink offered were more than adequate. The staff working inside the game was more than helpful, always willing to lend a hand. Our greatest thanks and gratitude goes out to the University of Tennessee, Knoxville – all their staff, players and fans. We had an unforgettable experience. Thank you. Go Vols!

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Book: Unbreakable Mind. (Print, Kindle, Audio)

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Thank you for your love and support.

Sweden: To my delight, your fika, lingonberries and balls tickled me bright.

From the time I arrived at Arlanda airport I could already tell it was going to be a great trip. I had been to Sverige once before, many years ago, to see a friend, Jonaton Tillander, graduate from high school. He lived on the West Coast, in a beautiful coastal city, Goteborg.  At the time, I was in Danmark visiting friends in Kobenhavn, and boarded the ferry across the Kattegat (Danish: “Cat’s Throat”) strait, forming a link between the Baltic Sea and North Sea. In 1995 they built the Oresund Bridge, attaching Danmark and Sweden.  It is the longest combined road and rail bridge in Europe, including a 4 kilometer tunnel, connecting two major metropolitan areas, Kobenhavn, Denmark and Malmo, Sweden.

However, this would be my first time to the spectacular East Coast city of Stockholm.  To say I was elated would be to lessen my true excitement. It was always on my bucket list and now it would become a blog entry to inform other travelers. But this time in Sweden would be very different: I would be seeing it as an injured traveler, in a wheelchair.  Like any new place one goes while injured, I wondered how they would treat me, the condition of the streets, would I be able to access all or some of the astonishing tourist attractions, could I use public transport, would I be able to enter my hotel room, toilet and shower, and so many other concerns – too long a list to index here.  Game-on!

As with any new country I arrive at in a wheelchair, I immediately assessed my transport concerns. The city was a twenty minute drive by taxi or a bit further and complicated if I attempted public transport.  As is the case with most European cities but especially Scandinavia, public transportation is reliable, efficient and safe.  Trains departed  twice an hour from the airport’s Arlanda Central Station, between terminals 4 and 5, dropping you at Stockholm’s Central Station. The train ride is 38 minutes. Coach was also an option, with Flygbussarna buses departing the airport every 10-15 minutes.  They also dropped you in city-center at Stockholm’s Central Station.  I opted for the easiest option: taxi.

The taxi pulled up to the Generator Hostel, I paid, departed, and was on my way – let the enjoyment begin. As I entered the hostel, a chain throughout Europe (now with one in Miami), I was immediately welcomed by the warm and affable staff at the counter. I knew I had picked the right hotel. A few minutes later they had me sorted out and I was off to my room. The hostel had an elevator to reach the upper floors, lucky me. As is the case with many hotels I book while traveling, there is a process of elimination to find a room that actually is best suited to my injury needs. Not the case with Generator – all was perfect. The door had an automated option, though it was in repair during my visit.

Generator Hostels are my favorite places to stay in Europe. In the past year I have stayed at Dublin, Ireland and Amsterdam, Holland. The staff is friendly and welcoming, always willing to accommodate the injured traveler – they make your stay comfortable. Otherwise from experience, while journeying throughout Europe, I can tell you it can be a nightmare in a wheelchair.  For me it is very convenient to have everything I need on a bad day within feet of my hostel door: restaurant for food, bar for drinks, meeting area(s) for friends, handicapped accessible bathroom(s) and general area for shared enjoyment. Stockholm even has a mini ping-pong table. Beat Boris and get a free breakfast. I ate free for a week.

The room had four bunks but I was the only one there at that time. I settled in, unpacked, took a shower and then stole a short nap to recharge my batteries. I had flown to Sweden direct from Iceland, a three hour flight, and so was not very knackered. Usually my first day in a new city I take some time to relax and understand the lay of the land – I’ll look at maps, do some research and plan accordingly.  Since it was a hostel with a large shared space for eating and fun, I headed downstairs to the communal lobby/bar/restaurant area. As with most my life, not ten minutes had passed and I was already meeting other world travelers – making new friends.  Molly from Canada was the first.  Let the good times roll!

Map of the city understood, obligatory first drink with new friends finished, planning aside, it was time to dig in to the local eats. The hostel also had a club attached to it which served as a business meeting venue during the day, replete with a full chef’s menu and all the accoutrements.  Word in the hostel halls was the food was extremely tasty, and also well priced.  I would not be a true tourist if I did not make my first order Kottbullar (Swedish meatballs), served with lingonberries, mashed potatoes and pickled cucumber slices.  The tiny pork and beef meatballs were served in a nutmeg and cardamom flavored gravy, which suited the mashed potatoes just fine. They were mouthwatering. I was in love.

Dreams of meatballs and berries aside, the next morning I awoke to a phone call from a friend from United Kingdom, Lawrence, who had just arrived at the airport, was on a bus and would soon arrive at the hostel. He had flown into Vasteras, an alternate and cheaper airport for flights from Europe, located 100km from Stockholm – so though his flight, return London for 60 quid (pounds), was cheaper – he ended up paying for the inconvenience and time. Being an injured traveler I opt for convenience over cost savings anytime practical and pragmatic; though could be my age too. Sure enough, twenty minutes later there was a knock at my door. It was beer time – Brits would have it no other way on holiday.

That night we did not venture far, deciding to check out Bar Hilma, the club that was a part of the hostel. There I met Tahir from Kashmir, in Scandinavia selling the highest quality Kashmir and Pashmina scarves.  Shortly after, Nick from Texas, US joined the group, Ajay from London, England and Monica from Oslo, Norway, moments later.  Not long after, abound with a smorgasbord of personalities and stories from all over the globe alike, new life-long relationships were in the process of being formed. To date, I still speak with all the unique people from all parts of the world I met on my trip to Stockholm. The club and hostel catered to my injured needs swimmingly – Stockholm was delivering on her promise: fun for all.

Before departing each others’ company that night, some had agreed to spend the next day together sightseeing the local neighborhood. Being that it would be my first day out-and-about in the city in a wheelchair, it was most welcome to have some of my new friends along with me for the ride.  The next morning I had the most appetizing breakfast with Lawrence – scrambled eggs and soft bacon with fresh warm baked bread and newly harvested fruits. I then relaxed and did some reading and journal writing before meeting the others to explore the city. The hostel is centrally located downtown; everything you would want to visit is only a short distance away.  All attractions are a close walk, taxi or bus ride.

Over the next few days I spent time with different friends going various places. Everyone had their own interests and, as long as I was able to do so in a wheelchair, and they were willing to have me along, I joined. One sunny afternoon with Nick, Ajay and Lawrence we visited Skansen Island, world’s oldest open-air museum, where there is a small zoo, traditional Scandinavian sod roof homes, windmills, restaurants and historic enactments. After lunch, at a historic hotel, we had drinks at a WWII torpedo factory. The Raksmorgas (prawn sandwich) was delicious. A day spent with Joel, a nurse from France I met at the hostel, in his car to see more of the city and gardens otherwise inaccessible, was splendid.

What one immediately takes notice of, once past the small lip at the entrance of the hostel, is just how friendly the sidewalks of Stockholm are for the injured – blind included. The sidewalks are smooth, with cement ramp entrances and exits wherever a curb could be seen. The streets and walks were orderly, well lit and properly marked, reminiscent of a walk through any IKEA store – buses, trains and their stations, the same. There was ample parking for handicapped persons, almost always located right at the front entrance. Museums throughout the city had reserved parking spots very close to the entrance. Public buildings all had ramps as well.  I was overly impressed by the convenience provided for injured.

Stockholm is known as the ‘Venice of the North,’ also commonly referred to as the capital of Scandinavia. It is a city of old buildings and unique design, surrounded by water, dating from 1250s to 1600s – as the city was sparred being leveled by bombs in WWII, with the exception of a few ‘accidental’ Soviet bombs – though some say it was the German or Finnish Air Force intending to provoke the Soviets. The modern city is a lovely mix of old and new, apparent everywhere you looked. There is a lovely waterfront promenade where one can enjoy its famous multi-colored buildings and remarkable architecture, while having a drink or lunch with friends – or simply just taking in the breathtaking vista.

Their museum and art installations are world class. My favorite was Fotografiska centre, filled with contemporary photography, conveniently discovered in the Sodermalm district, with gorgeous views of the Stockholm harbor. Vasa Maritime Museum, located on Djurgarden Island, with its almost fully intact, 64-gun warship, that sank on her maiden voyage in 1628, never making it out of the harbor, was stunning.  A city of fine art – a ‘street art’ tour in Ragsved neighborhood, as well their subway stations, is one-of-a-kind – with over 160 street artists’ graffiti showcased – a must see.  Stadsbiblioteket, Stockholm Public Library, designed by Gunnar Asplund, is one of the city’s most distinctive structures.

Stockholm, hub of Scandinavia, alive and electric, is also filled with great shopping, endless culture and exciting entertainment and nightlife. The food, not just their fika, the almighty Swedish coffee break, with over 1000 restaurants, located in close-by districts of Norrmalm and Vasastaden, was affordable and most delectable. Ferries are also available to sail you to other exotic locations like Helsinki, Finland or St. Petersburg, Russia. As I mentioned in my book, Unbreakable Mind, life is best lived when Doing The Dirty Dishes, getting out-and-about, traveling the world, experiencing life, living – getting your hands dirty.  Stockholm should be on everyone’s bucket list – your fika dishes await – Nu gar vi!

Travel Blog: Click here.

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Book: Unbreakable Mind. (Print, Kindle, Audio)

Doing The Dirty Dishes Podcast: Watch or listen to episodes and subscribe: SpotifyApple PodcastBuzzsprout.  Also available on Google PodcastiHeartTunein, Amazon Alexa and Stitcher.

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Social Media linksTwitterInstagram and Linkedin.

Travel Blog links: Covid-19 stranded in NYC JFK and Maine – also travel stories on Ireland, Spain, SwedenBelgiumIcelandColombia (Espanol version), AmsterdamGermany, New HampshireTN and NYC.

Personal Website link where you can also find my bookphotos of my travels and updates on current projects.

Thank you for your love and support.

Colombia: Eres dulce, ardiente y picante, tentadora y seductora – tus besos me sedujeron.

Todo lo que puedo recordar es que yo estaba pensado “¿Wow, esto está realmente pasando? Eran finales de los 1990’s y yo había sido contratado como maestro para el Colegio en Bucarmanga, en el Departamento Santander, en el Norte-Central de Colombia, en un contrato de dos años. Resulta ser que al tiempo que recibía mi Visa de trabajo para Colombia, me estaban ofreciendo una posición en Tokio, Japón, con el gobierno japonés. Decidí moverme al Este en lugar del Sur, determinando que encontraría otro tiempo y oportunidad para regresar a Colombia. Usualmente la vida no nos da segundas oportunidades, pero, veinte años después, la vida me da la oportunidad. Desde ese entonces es como si Colombia me llamara, dijera mi nombre con un encanto ilimitado, me susurrara dulcemente al oído, la seductora de indias – una vez mordido ya no hay timidez. Estoy enamorado. Este es el cuento de mi aventura en Colombia, viajando lesionado en silla de ruedas, y de toda la maravilla y esplendor que resultó de la magia del tren.

Era un vuelo temprano a la tierra ardiente y picante desde Filadelfia: 06:00. Eso significaba despertarme a las 3:00 am, casi sin haber dormido. No era un comienzo prudente para un viaje largo con una escala de ida y otra de regreso. Poder descansar mi cuerpo en posición horizontal durante la noche le da a mi cuerpo y músculos el alivio necesario por un día de embestida de la presión a mi columna vertebral, siempre lo necesito con desesperación. La escala en Atlanta fue un regalo y una maldición por igual. Me permitió estirarme y tener un fácil acceso al baño, así mismo esto causo que se alargara el tiempo de mi viaje, causando innecesariamente estrés en mi cuerpo. Antes de cualquier viaje pienso en todas las variables posibles e imaginables: costos, tiempos de viaje, aeropuertos, retrasos y posibles escalas, comidas y el estado actual de mi recuperación. Cada aerolínea y/o aeropuertos tienen su propio personal que asiste todas estas necesidades. Cada año he notado que estos servicios no solo han crecido en cantidad, sino también y aun más importante en eficiencia. Son como un regalo celestial. Gracias a ustedes por toda su ayuda.

Tan pronto llegamos a Colombia, en ese instante supe que habíamos llegado al trópico. Aeropuertos de tipo retro, aeropuertos donde se despliegan escaleras de acero, estacionamientos de aviones en medio de la nada, verdes palmas alrededor, la sensación que te da su aire, es como si te golpeara una toalla caliente mojada, navegación requerida, son de lo mejor; sobre todo cuando un discapacitado necesita ser sacado del avión en una silla temblorosa de metal asistido por dos hombres delgados del personal de aeropuerto. Fue un viaje divertido, por lo menos no me tiraron, un punto para Stevo. (fotos de mi viaje las pueden ver aqui.) Como lo escriboen mi libro, en la vida, si uno quiere lograr algo importante o sustancial, debes entrar en la tómbola, presentarse, correr el riesgo y participar: Doing the Dirty Dishes [de vida].

Este iba a ser el primer viaje a un país industrializado donde sabía que los estándares no serían una especificación internacional, si es que existían. Desafíos abundantes, tantos como malezas en manantiales, estaban en todas partes. Apenas salí del aeropuerto fui acosado por una manada de taxistas. Pedro me pareció una buena opción, me gusto su currículo: un nombre bíblico en un país bastante católico. Buena elección. Puntuación doble para Stevo.   Solo el equipaje en el asiento trasero del taxi, la silla de ruedas iba en la cajuela. Cumbia la música a todo volumen hasta que llegamos al hotel. Fue un trayecto corto de tan solo 9 kilómetros, no me tomo mucho tiempo para darme cuenta que estaba en el lugar correcto. La energía de Colombia te abraza, yo lo podía sentir en mi corazón. Estaba donde se suponía que debía estar en el tiempo adecuado en mi vida. No hay errores. Aún estaba inseguro por que el universo me había mandado a Colombia justo en esta intersección, sin embargo, pronto encontraría la razón. Tan pronto entre a Boca Grande, Un camino largo y con curvas por la carretera mientras casi podría abrazar la playa y las olas, era 420 y “Peter el Papa” estaba más que feliz de compartir un poco de amor fraternal. Puntuación de bonificación para Stevo. Bienvenido a Colombia, era una grandiosa “Bienvenida” si tú me preguntaras.

Apenas baje del taxi y me enfrente con mi primer obstáculo real. La pendiente del camino de la entrada del hotel era demasiado empinada como para recorrerla yo solo en la silla de ruedas. Esta situación no ayudaba ya que el 90% de mi hotel estaba rodeado de la playa y no tenía banquetas para caminar, y cuando había algunas estas, eran demasiado difíciles ya que tenían piedras o escalones y algunos de los bordes eran de medio metro. Tener acceso a restaurantes o bares estaban fuera de mi alcance sin pedir ayuda o que el taxi me dejara en la entrada. Incluso tomar los elevadores del hotel requerían un empuje hacia arriba, era una pendiente pequeña pero empinada. No tenía baños accesibles excepto el de mi cuarto que era en el piso 29. No me era accesible elcafé del lobby del hotel, eso era un gran impedimento. El viajar mientras estás discapacitado o lesionado requiere una planificación impecable.

Me recordóde mis días en Magee Rehabilitation Hospital se “supone” que es uno de los mejores Hospitales de terapia física en Filadelfia, donde me querían correr por reusarme a aprender como saltar grandes bordos o banquetas en mi silla de ruedas. No le encontraba el punto. Por el contrario, pensé que era violento y peligroso. Mi respuesta a eso fue fácil: “Yo pediré por ayuda. (durante este viaje fui levantado en mi silla de ruedas en el aire, eran tantos los obstáculos y ocurrencias, más de lo que se puedan imaginar)” Cartagena fue verdaderamente un sinfín de obstáculos que recorrer en mi silla de ruedas. Mejor eso lo contare más adelante, pero nunca fue un problema. Este es un viaje de lesionado—Bienvenido al Club. En mi libro Unbreakable Mind hablo sobre la necesidad de levantarse y salir al mundo y vivir de nuevo. Todos los tropiezos no deben de contar, lo que cuenta es todas las veces que te levantaste. Esa es la mayor fuente de madurez y desarrollo en la vida, en vivirla, en ser feliz. “la Buena vida mi amiga”

Hotel Dubai Cartagena originalmente no sugería detalladamente las habitaciones accesibles para lesionados, en mi búsqueda inicial en línea en tres grandes sitios web de viajes. Yo quería saber más, así que me contacté directamente con el hotel. Lo bueno es que lo hice, ya que ellos querían, podían y estaban más que felices de tenerme como huésped. Usualmente encuentras información inadecuada o simplemente errónea en los sitios web de viajes, así que sé más inteligente y trata de buscar más información. Escribe correctamente tus preguntas, habla y has preguntas directas sobre tus necesidades para así poder estar seguro que estarán cubiertos tus requerimientos para lo que necesitas sobre como tener un viaje placentero para tus discapacidades en especial, antes de tomar cualquier decisión. Porque cuando de antemano piensas que todo estará bien pueda que fácilmente cambie y se vaya todo a la mierda. Este hotel me aseguró que reservaría para mí una habitación con regadera y baño accesible a mis necesidades incluyendo otros de mis requerimientos, era como escuchar fanfarrias y campanas para un huésped lesionado. Bueno, ¿puedes adivinar qué pasó? Entonces sean bienvenidos a un día en mi vida.

El portero me acompañó a mi habitación. Al ver una cama en cual podría recostarme para estirarme y descansar mi cuerpo, lo eché a un lado, realicé un chequeo del baño, me lavé la cara con agua y jabón, cuando apenas estaba postrado en mi cama estilo King California me di cuenta de que no estaba en una habitación para discapacitados. Ramón, Gerente de Operaciones, llegó unos minutos después de mi llamado. Después de visitar diez habitaciones del hotel, todas con diseños diferentes, determinamos que se debían hacer algunas modificaciones en la ducha y el inodoro para hacerla accesible. Hubo que quitar tres grandes paneles de vidrio para permitir el acceso de mi silla de ruedas al área del inodoro y la ducha sin tener que pasar por una serie de obstáculos casi imposibles; Los que podrían causar problemas en una situación de emergencia, si fuera necesario. Juan, el gerente del hotel, era la persona más atenta y complaciente que una persona lesionada podría desear, me preparó la mejor calabaza y bombilla de Argentinean mate. Fabio y su equipo de cocina hicieron todo lo posible para preparar la comida más deliciosa. Al final, me pasaron a una suite en el último piso. Recibí un pase de cortesía de $ 200.

Cartagena, fundada en el siglo XVI, en la costa colombiana, repleta de plazas, calles empedradas y arquitectura colonial de colores brillantes, es mágica. La gente es tan interesante y ecléctica como los interminables edificios pintados en colores pastel en la Ciudad Vieja. Donde quiera que vayas te encontrarás con amigos colombianos, desde taxistas hasta vendedores ambulantes y camareros; solo una pequeña parte del telar que une a esta fenomenal gente y la ciudad de El Caribe. El marisco es uno de los mejores que he probado en el planeta. Y la muy establecida Diáspora libanesa, que emigró a Colombia del Imperio Otomano en los siglos XVIII y XIX por razones religiosas y económicas, también tiene comidas deliciosas fuera de este planeta. Todos los mejores lugares turísticos locales están cerca y son fácilmente visitados en automóvil o autobús público. Desde que me lesioné, opté por un conductor privado para el día. Y ya que estaría tomando fotos con mi nuevo Sony Alpha 6300, la ventana del auto serviría como mi apertura creativa.

No había pasado una semana y dos de mis escenarios de viajeros lesionados más temidos fructificaron. En mi lista de los acontecimientos más temidos y ansiosos mientras viajaba por el mundo en una silla de ruedas, dos de los tres primeros son tener un estómago enfermo y un resfrío. Bueno, el tiempo había llegado; por supuesto, cuando llueve, se vierten, ambos me llegaron por la espalda, sin darme cuenta.Después de ser cuidado y atendido por Simon y mis amigos, decidí explorar la Ciudad Vieja en taxi por la noche. Fue justo lo que ordenó el médico, permitiéndome visitar la ciudad en su magnífica gloria nocturna.Por la noche, hay un “sentimiento” diferente para la gente y la ciudad, como si se presionara un botón y la energía se relajará aún más. Durante las próximas dos semanas tomé muchos viajes en taxi con mi cámara lista para filmar todo, desde el Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas, la Plaza de Las Bóvedas, Getsemaní y muchos otros barrios culturales locales, algunos con arte callejero de renombre mundial. Cartagena es una ciudad rica en historia y cultura, con una belleza infinita, una verdadera delicia. ¡Ve y visítala!

Aparte de los contratiempos de un viaje normal, ocasionales salidas equivocadas, ser robado a ciegas por un cambista de la calle, luchar contra los vendedores ambulantes de playa y la lucha perpetua con los taxistas por tarifas excesivas, mi aventura en Colombia fue un gran éxito. No se podría haber hecho sin el cariño y el apoyo de otros, los amigos y extraños por igual. Michael, un amigo de Alemania, a quien conocí mientras vivía en Ámsterdam, vino de visita por una semana. Fue tan bueno tenerlo allí; siendo parte de su viaje interior, igual como yo había comenzado. Simón, mi vecino y un capitán de yate noruego, con base en Miami, Florida, eran mis brazos y piernas muchos días cuando estaba acostado en la cama luchando contra un resfriadovicioso o los horrendos problemas estomacales que experimentaba, los cuales requirieron antibióticos, pro-bióticos y Algunos TLC internacionales. El personal del hotel fueron muy amables y serviciales. Siempre estaré muy agradecido por todo el amor y la ayuda que recibí.

Como resultado de mi accidente, no pude viajar internacionalmente durante seis años. Mi voluntad y mi espíritu fueron quebrantados. Pero ahora mientras viajo por el mundo me siento más cómodo: estar en el flujo cotidiano, vivir la vida. Fue la última parte de mi libertad recuperada y estaba más que extasiado de viajar y experimentar el mundo nuevamente. Es la misma razón por la que inicié este blog: para ayudar a inspirar a otros lesionados a viajar de nuevo, a abrir los ojos a las posibilidades que existen, cuando uno abandona la seguridad de su hogar. Cada viaje empujo mis límites un poco más lejos que el anterior. Esto me ha brindado un crecimiento interno ilimitado y la experiencia más maravillosa al conocer personas extraordinarias y visitar lugares sobrenaturales, ese tipo que solo se encuentra cuando tus ojos y tu corazón están bien abiertos; aceptar y enfrentar nuevos desafíos de cada reto, formando recuerdos indelebles, al mismo tiempo que se forjan relaciones profundas y significativas que duraran toda la vida. Colombia cumplió con todo lo anterior. Tomé sus aguas frescas y ahora me siento con ganas de escucharla para que vuelva a llamar mi nombre, Colombia está para siempre en mi corazón. ¡Besitos, mi amor!

Traducción por: Araceli Arroyos  Contacto: 25arroyos@gmail.com

Travel Blog: Click here.

Spiritual Blog: Click here.

Book: Unbreakable Mind. (Print, Kindle, Audio)

Doing The Dirty Dishes Podcast: Watch or listen to episodes and subscribe: SpotifyApple PodcastBuzzsprout.  Also available on Google PodcastiHeartTunein, Amazon Alexa and Stitcher.

Doing The Dirty Dishes YouTube channel – watch and subscribe.

Social Media linksTwitterInstagram and Linkedin.

Travel Blog links: Covid-19 stranded in NYC JFK and Maine – also travel stories on Ireland, Spain, SwedenBelgiumIcelandColombia (Espanol version), AmsterdamGermany, New HampshireTN and NYC.

Personal Website link where you can also find my bookphotos of my travels and updates on current projects.

Thank you for your love and support.

Colombia: You sweet, hot and spicy, beguiling temptress – your kiss seduced me.

All I can remember is thinking, “Wow, is this really happening?”  It was late 1990s and I had just been hired as a teacher at a collegio in Bucaramanga, Santander Department, north-central Colombia, for a two year contract. As it turns out, at the time I had received my work Visa for Colombia, I was also offered a position in Tokyo Japan, with the Japanese government.  I chose to move east instead of south, determined I would find another time and opportunity to get back to Colombia. Well, usually life does not provide us a second opportunity but, twenty years on, finally she did.  Colombia has been calling my name ever since, with boundless allure, whispering to me softly, the seductress de Indias – once bitten, not shy; I’m in love. This is the tale of my adventure to Colombia, traveling injured in a wheelchair, and all the wonder and splendor that resulted from the magic of the trail.

It was an early flight to the land of piccante y caliente from Philadelphia: 06:00. That meant a 03:00 wake-up call with little to no sleep. Not a prudent start to a long trip with a stopover each way.  Being able to rest my body in horizontal position at night gives my body and muscles the relief from the daily onslaught of spinal pressure it so desperately needs. The stopover in Atlanta was a gift and a curse, all the same – it allowed me to stretch and easily access a bathroom but also lengthened my travel time, thus unnecessarily stressing my body. Before any trip I weigh all viable and imaginable variables: cost, total time of travel, airports, layovers and possible stopovers, food, and current recovery status.  Each airline and/or airport has their own staff to assist those in need. Every year I notice these services not only increasing in their sheer numbers but also, most importantly, efficiency. They are a godsend – thank you for your assistance.

Upon arrival in Colombia one instantly knows one has arrived in the tropics. Old school airports where they roll out steel stairs, plane parks in the middle of nowhere, verdant palms abound, as the air hits you like a heated wet towel, navigation required, are the best; especially when in a wheelchair and need to be carried off the plane in a shaky old metal aisle chair by two slender ground-crew members. It was a fun ride. They did not drop me.  One point for Stevo.  (Photos of my travels can be seen here.) As I authored in my book, in life, if one wants to get anything grand or substantial accomplished, one must get in the mix, show up, take a risk, live and participate in: Doing the Dirty Dishes [of life]. This was to be my first trip to an industrialized country where I knew the standards would not be up to international specification, if they existed at all. Challenges abundant – like weeds in spring, they were everywhere.

No sooner I walked out of the airport and was accosted by a gaggle of local taxi drivers.  Peter seemed like a nice choice. I liked his resume: biblical name in a very Catholic country. Good pick. Score two for Stevo.  Solo bag in the backseat, wheelchair in the trunk, Cumbia music blaring, we were off to the hotel. It was a short drive, only 9 kilometers.  It did not take long to know I was at the right place; the energy in Colombia was all encompassing; I could feel it in my heart. I was where I was supposed to be at that time, in life. There are no mistakes. I was still unsure why the universe had sent me to Colombia at this juncture but I was soon to find out.  As we entered Boca Grande, meandering down the highway as it hugged the beach and waves, it was 420 and ‘Peter the Pope’ was more than happy to share some brotherly love. Bonus score for Stevo. Welcome to Colombia – a mighty nice Bienvenido, if you ask me.

Not a moment out of the taxi and my first real serious obstacle appeared.  The slope of the driveway of the hotel was too steep to get up in the wheelchair on my own. That situation was not helped by the fact there were no sidewalks for 90% of the beach area surrounding my hotel. And when they had some form of sidewalk or stepping stones made of broken uneven pieces of jagged concrete, the curbs were almost a half meter high. Access to local eateries and bars was out of the question without assistance or a taxi ride. Even getting to the elevators of the hotel required a push up a small but steep incline. There were no accessible bathrooms except in my room on the 29th floor.  I could not access the café in the lobby as it had a large step as an impediment.  Travel while injured requires impeccable planning.

It reminded me of my days at Magee Rehabilitation Hospital, a “supposed” top physical therapy hospital  in Philadelphia, where they wanted to kick me out of in-patient therapy for refusing to agree to learn how to jump my wheelchair up large curbs.  I saw no point; I found it violent and dangerous. My answer to them was easy: “I’ll ask for help (throughout this trip I would be carried in my chair in the air, over more obstacles and occurrences than I could count).” Cartagena was a never-ending veritable obstacle course in a wheelchair; best left to the advanced; but never an issue. This is injured travel – welcome to the club. In my book, Unbreakable Mind, I speak of the need to get out into the world to live again, that it is not falling down that counts, it is how many times you get up that counts – that is the greatest source of maturity and development in life – in living – happiness.  La Buena vida, mi amiga.

Hotel Dubai Cartagena did not originally come up as having accessible rooms in my initial search online with the big three travel websites. I knew better and so contacted the hotel direct. Good thing I did as they were willing and able and more than happy to have me as a guest. Most often you will find the information on travel websites to be inaccurate or flat out wrong.  Be smart and seek out more information – write the property, ask the appropriate required questions and make sure all concerns for your injury or special requirements are addressed beforehand. Because even when you think you have it all worked out beforehand, it can easily go to shit, quick. This hotel assured me they would reserve a room with accessible shower and all the other required whistles and bells for an injured guest.  Well, can you guess what happened?  Welcome to a day in my life.

The doorman accompanied me to my room.   Relieved to see a bed to lay down on to stretch my body, I shooed him off, performed a bathroom check, washed my face with soap and water, when no sooner was I prostrated across the California king duvet I realized I was not in an accessible room.  Ramone, Operations Manager, arrived a few minutes later. After visiting ten different hotel rooms, all with unalike room layouts, we determined that some modifications had to be made to the shower and toilet to make one accessible.  Three large glass panels had to be removed in order to allow access for my wheelchair to the toilet and shower area without having to go through a near impossible set of hurdles; ones that would cause trouble in an emergency situation, if required urgency. Juan, the hotel manager, was the most caring and accommodative person an injured person could wish for. He prepared the best calabaza y bombilla of Argentinean mate.  Fabio and his kitchen crew went above and beyond to make the most delicious food. In the end, they upgraded me to a top floor suite.  Pass GO, collect $200.

Cartagena, founded in 16th century, on the Colombian coast, replete with squares, cobblestone streets and brightly colored colonial architecture, is magical. The people are just as interesting and eclectic as the endless pastel painted buildings in the Old City. Everywhere you go you come across friendly Colombians, from taxi driver to street vendor to waiter; only a small tatter of the fabric that binds together this phenomenal El Caribe people and city. The seafood is some of the best I have tasted on the planet.  And the very established Lebanese Diaspora, immigrating to Colombia from the Ottoman Empire in the 18th & 19th centuries for religious and economic reasons, also has out-of-this-world delectable eats.  All the best local tourist spots are close-by and are easily visited by car or public bus. Since injured, I opted for a private driver for the day. And since I would be shooting photos with my new Sony Alpha 6300, the car’s window would serve as my creative aperture.

Not a week had gone by and two of my most feared injured traveler scenarios fructified.  On my list of most feared anxious happenings while traveling the world in a wheelchair, two of the top three, are getting a sick stomach and a bad cold. Well, the time had arrived; of course, when it rains, it pours – both arrived back-to-back.  After being nursed back to health by Simon and friends I decided to explore the Old City by taxi at night. It was just what the doctor ordered – allowing me to take in the city at its magnificent nocturnal glory. At night there is a different ‘feel’ to the people and city – as if a button is pushed and the energy becomes even freakier relaxed. Over the next two weeks I would take many taxi trips with my camera on the ready to shoot everything from Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas, Plaza de Las Bovedas, Getsemani and many other local cultural barrios, some with world renown street artCartagena is a city rich in history and culture, with infinite beauty, sure to delight. Go visit.

Other than your standard travel mishaps, occasional cultural faux-pas in Espanol, being robbed blind by a street money changer, fighting off beach hawkers and the perpetual fight with taxi drivers over padded fares , my adventure to Colombia was a huge success.  It could not have been done without the loving care and support of others, friend and stranger alike. Michael, a friend from Germany, whom I met while living in Amsterdam, came to visit for a week. It was so great having him there; being a part of his inner-self journey as it commenced.  Simon, my neighbor and a Norwegian yacht captain, based in Majami, Florida, was my arms and legs many a day when laid up in bed fighting a vicious cold or the horrendous stomach issues I experienced, requiring anti-biotics, pro-biotics and some international TLC. The hotel staff was so friendly and helpful. I am forever grateful for all the love and help I received.

As a result of my accident I was unable to travel internationally for six years. My will and spirit were broken.  While traveling the globe I am most comfortable – being in the flow of life, living life.  It was the last part of my freedom recovered and I was beyond ecstatic to travel and experience the world again. It is the same reason I started this blog: to help inspire other injured to travel again, to open their eyes to the possibilities that exist when one leaves the safety of their home. Each trip I push my boundaries a bit further than the last. This has provided me limitless inner growth and the most wonderful of experiences meeting extraordinary people and visiting supernatural places, the type only found when your eyes and heart are wide open; accepting and tackling new challenges at every curve, forming indelible memories – all while forging life-lasting deep and meaningful relationships.  Colombia delivered on all the above. I drank her Kool-Aid and now find myself pining to hear her to call my name again – she is forever in my heart. Besitos, mi amor!

Travel Blog: Click here.

Spiritual Blog: Click here.

Book: Unbreakable Mind. (Print, Kindle, Audio)

Doing The Dirty Dishes Podcast: Watch or listen to episodes and subscribe: SpotifyApple PodcastBuzzsprout.  Also available on Google PodcastiHeartTunein, Amazon Alexa and Stitcher.

Doing The Dirty Dishes YouTube channel – watch and subscribe.

Social Media linksTwitterInstagram and Linkedin.

Travel Blog links: Covid-19 stranded in NYC JFK and Maine – also travel stories on Ireland, Spain, SwedenBelgiumIcelandColombia (Espanol version), AmsterdamGermany, New HampshireTN and NYC.

Personal Website link where you can also find my bookphotos of my travels and updates on current projects.

Thank you for your love and support.

Iceland, I know it is cold there, but please stop pulling the wool over the eyes of unsuspecting visitors.

Iceland, the land of fire and ice, mountains and glaciers, ageless sagas, fables, mythology and unpronounceable names, uniquely positioned on an active volcanic island in the middle of the cold and blustery Atlantic Ocean. A rocky and craggy, wet and windy place, known for its wild seas and unpredictable weather, with all its historical Viking allure and endless amazing wonders of nature, had finally enticed me to visit. After countless years and efforts to attract visitors to Iceland, a tiny secluded island nation, some say overdue for a volcano eruption, population 350,000, through their very popular international ad slogan: “A Transatlantic Journey with a Stopover in Iceland,” I finally acquiesced and booked my trip. Since it was a stopover, ultimately my final destination would be Stockholm, Sweden.

Iceland reminded me of other “I” countries: Israel, India, Ireland, Iraq, Iran and Indonesia. They always seemed to fall into the loved it, cannot wait to return, or hated it, will never return, when speaking with other seasoned world travelers on do not miss, must visit countries of the globe. There is no better way to find out about a new place than to visit and discover what hidden treasures await there on your own. My immediate concern turned to my injury and travel needs. How would they treat me there, how would accessibility be for city streets, public transport, restaurants and hotels and, most importantly, would I be able to access the timeless peculiar beauty and infinite splendor of the island whilst in a wheelchair?  Well, it did not take long after I arrived to find out just what made so very extraordinary Iceland and its people.

Most times before I visit a country, especially since in need of some occasional physical assistance, everything would be incredibly and meticulously planned beforehand.  But sometimes the world and its daily stresses do not allow such taken-for-granted securities into consideration of schedule, instead requiring you to be a voyager, on a self-discovery, wild pilgrimage of sorts: Doing the Dirty Dishes of life – living with your heart and eyes open again. The reservation process, as far as an injured person goes, was more than difficult with the biggest and best travel websites offered. It would be new and unknown exploration, wrapped in intrigue, encased within an adventure. The magic of the trail was sure to be upon me. What scary and unknown situations could I throw at the universe to see what awesome memories would result. I was ready.

After arriving at Keflavik airport, located about a forty-five minute drive from the city of Reykjavik, it was not long before luggage and immigration were sorted and I was in need of local transport. I queued for a bus company that went to my hotel and had a fair price. Iceland is a bit way expensive of a country to visit. Normally I would pay for the convenience of a taxi because of my injury and wheelchair but at $250 USD one way, I decided to take my chances with a tour bus company. After paying $60 return, they directed me over to a bus waiting close by with a line already in place.  After about ten minutes or so a smaller slender man appeared and asked me if I was ready.  Before I could tell him where to grab me, he had me in the air as he attempted to lift me onto the bus. Safely up the stairs, onto the bus, he plopped me down into the first seat. I knew I was in a special place, with exceptional people.  Chair safely secured below in the cargo hold, we were on our way – let the adventure begin.

The ride was unlike any other bus-to-city ride I have ever taken.  The foreign terra was filled with so many new shades of greens and browns, mountain landscape and hot spring vistas as far as the eye could see, with snow, ice and water mixed throughout. There was no doubt – I was in a supernatural place. Soon I would arrive at my hotel, the Hotel Cabin.  As the bus parked curbside in front of the hotel, the scrawny driver grabbed me once again, placed me over his shoulder, and as his small frame shakily carried me off the bus, pointing out along the way my luggage sitting safely to my left, softly dropping me in my chair, he said “welcome to Iceland,” and then off he went.  He had other injured to carry up and down bus stairs.

I would find the same level of willingness to help strangers at the hotel as well.  In fact, I found this to be the case with the whole country, whether native or newly emigrated; those I met were always on the ready to lend a helping hand.  The three gentleman shuffling hours at the front desk of my hotel were out of this world helpful:  Aiwa, Arkadiusz and The Conductor. The Icelandic manager at the front desk was so incredibly helpful. She took one hour from her day, telling me every local hot spot to visit and eat – the best gems not found on any tourist maps.  Claus-in-Iceland was the best photographer-disguised-as-a-museum-guide one could find. The Portuguese lady and others at the front desk, as well as all the Polish staff at the hotel, were absolutely the best. I later found out the driver of the airport transport bus was also Polish.

Seven days of my three weeks visiting Iceland were spent with an old friend, Sunita. We had met over twenty years previous while I was living in Tokyo.  She was in Japan on a work visa, from Nepal, patiently waiting and trying to find a way to America. Presently married, with a gifted and beautiful teenage daughter, Hazel, she is a RN manager, currently living in Boston – just a short hop, skip and jump to Reykjavik.  We spent our one week together in a rental car traversing every part of the island reachable via day trip. She was a godsend in more ways than can be written here, but especially as she was my rescue after arriving in Iceland from Sweden with a wallet emptied of cash and all cards. They had been stolen after being drugged and robbed in Stockholm three days prior. I will forever remember her experiencing her first Northern Lights far down a dirt country road, nestled in between dark rural farm fields, under a pitch black sky. I am sure she will not forget either – they are a cosmic atmospheric orgasmic cornucopia of lights and colors that everyone should witness at least once in their lifetime.

Reykjavik, a city of 120,000 people, charming and inviting, settled in 871 when Ingolfur Arnarson arrived on its shores, is a must see. When he landed, steam from the various hot springs caused him to refer to the settlement as “Smokey Bay” or modern day Reykjavik. The city is filled with distinctive landscapes, brightly colored Skandinavian homes and endless unique architecture, including Harpa, Hallgrimskirkja Church, The House of Parliament, City Hall, Austurvollur, Hljomskalinn and Hofdi House, among the endless amount of world renowned art galleries and historical museums.  It was very easy to get around the city in a car, and there was ample parking for those in need. I highly recommend the waffle stand by the big church – or any other Icelandic tasty eats or delicious snacks you can find in the streets. The city also offers whale, volcano and glacier tours, hiking and camping, scenic city and flight tours, buggy and snowmobiling, as well as tons of seasonal events and festivities for every type to see and experience.

It is only but a short drive to get out of the city and into the heartland of Iceland, where one can find the true beauty of the island.  Springs can be seen often on the side of the road, warm and steamy, tempting one to their warmth and earth-bubbling healing properties.  Sunita and I especially loved the Blue Lagoon spa. One does not have to look too far to see natural landscapes that take your breath away – until the next turn on the highway causes your breath to go away again – and then again. Endless mountain peaks filled with snow, mixed in with green and brown grassy cratered hilly meadows and waterfalls, await your every turn – causing one to be very careful while driving – the island and its optical treats are that overly luscious. They will fill your eyes in awe, with pause of the natural world, of God’s cathedral. The list of must see places would not suffice in this blog. I visited in October, the start of Northern Lights season. The glaciers, hot springs, beaches, mountains, continental divide, waterfalls, and countless hills with farms and sheep all await your own personal page.

The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page. — Saint Augustine

Iceland was surprisingly much more injured and wheelchair friendly than expected.  Leave it up to Viking ingenuity and Skandinavian pragmatic living in order to make it all make sense for those in need of public assistance. All public buildings I visited, such as Reykjavik Public Library, where a copy of my book can be found, were all easily accessible. It was definitely possible to have your own little wheelchair adventure obstacle course once you left a public building, in order to reach another but wherever possible, it was noticeable they took time mitigating any possible stumbling blocks in the way. Although, it would have been much nicer if Icelandair would have allowed me the use of my own wheelchair while in transit, rather than the confusing mess that occurred, resulting in damages to my chair. Of course, once you went off the beaten path, very easily accomplished, you were on your own; all nearby public areas were accessible however, albeit rough gravel.  I would certainly challenge you to put on your creativity cap, strap up your boots, Buttercup – and, as I so aptly state in my book, Unbreakable Mind, go forth into the world to live and experience life again: Teeth to the Wind!

One cannot speak of Iceland without speaking of the magic of the land and its people, but also its amazing food and drink. Whale, liquorices, lamb, horse and various cold water fish (Arctic char and Halibut) are all local specialties, found with their own unique recipe from village to village. Reykjavik has a great nightlife scene, replete with trendy bars and restaurants, with no lack of tasty community craft beers or ancient cocktails. One cannot forget to mention the amazing baked goods and other tasty treats on the island as well. Pylsa (Icelandic hot dog), Flatkaka (Unleavened flat bread, recipe from 9th Century), Humar (Icelandic lobster) and Kleina (Icelandic twisted donuts) will make your mouth water for more; all which has also caused some people in recent times to refer to Iceland as a foodie’s heaven.  I would agree.

Which brings me to my beef with Iceland: Stop pulling the wool over unsuspecting travellers’ eyes by baiting them to your island with a stopover which is not a true stopover – it is actually two separate flights, resulting in additional travel leg(s) and unnecessary exorbitant costs to the traveler.  On your Icelandair website you state: “Travel across the Atlantic via Icelandair and add a stopover in Iceland to your journey, at no additional airfare.” It is not correct – and, in fact, is ripping off naïve travelers who know none the better. Your island is beautiful enough; surely there is no need to lower your country to trickery, smoke and mirrors, to increase tourism. With your real estate industry in another bubble, an economy slowing, tourism numbers decreasing, while rapid development on a large scale continues unabated, with banks continuing lending freely, one national airline already bankrupt and the other teetering on the brink, considering the lessons of 2008 financial crisis, and the fact that your GDP is heavily dependent on tourism: Hættu þessu kjaftæði, Iceland (Stop the bullshit)!

Let me take a minute to explain how a true stopover works.  With a true stop-over, or extended layover, a traveler would only need to pay the taxes to exit the airport (for however many days they want to stopover on the island to visit (most countries have a limit on # of days)); whereas Icelandair does not do that – you end up being charged for two separate flights – a victim of a well orchestrated international bait-n-switch scheme – basically, absolute bullshit. So, instead of a round-trip flight to Stockholm, with a true stopover in Reykjavik, costing me $704 + local airport taxes to exit Keflavik (most countries are $36-90) into Iceland, it now cost me $1108 return flight to Sweden.  I would think that is a wee bit more airfare, save any additional taxes. Number Forty-three would call that fuzzy math. Nu er nog komid, Icelandair (Enough is enough)!

It was eventually time to get back ‘on the road again,’ the journey of life was calling out my name – she was singing me home – as Willie Nelson’s melody softly played in the back of my head, slowly I packed my bags – Iceland and its people securely in my heart. It was also not long before the tour bus would come by to scoop me up, literally, again. Another skinny Polish driver would play Hercules. It should be duly noted that there are innumerable tour companies that will pick you up at your hotel for everything from northern lights to local island and harbor boat tours. My time in Iceland was memorable to say the least.  Iceland is an astonishingly beautiful country – truly a supernatural land – an island of intrigue and mystery all its own – with a friendly people and interesting history – and with untold delectable treats and potent potables to boot – a place I will visit friends again, just hopefully next time it truly will not cost me any additional airfare. I need to save it for the taxi rides and horse carpaccio.

Travel Blog: Click here.

Spiritual Blog: Click here.

Book: Unbreakable Mind. (Print, Kindle, Audio)

Doing The Dirty Dishes Podcast: Watch or listen to episodes and subscribe: SpotifyApple PodcastBuzzsprout.  Also available on Google PodcastiHeartTunein, Amazon Alexa and Stitcher.

Doing The Dirty Dishes YouTube channel – watch and subscribe.

Social Media linksTwitterInstagram and Linkedin.

Travel Blog links: Covid-19 stranded in NYC JFK and Maine – also travel stories on Ireland, Spain, SwedenBelgiumIcelandColombia (Espanol version), AmsterdamGermany, New HampshireTN and NYC.

Personal Website link where you can also find my bookphotos of my travels and updates on current projects.

Thank you for your love and support.

The Journey Begins

Thanks for joining me! First travel blog to arrive soon.

The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.

— St. Augustine

Travel Blog: Click here.

Spiritual Blog: Click here.

Book: Unbreakable Mind. (Print, Kindle, Audio)

Doing The Dirty Dishes Podcast: Watch or listen to episodes and subscribe: SpotifyApple PodcastBuzzsprout.  Also available on Google PodcastiHeartTunein, Amazon Alexa and Stitcher

Doing The Dirty Dishes YouTube channel – watch and subscribe.

Social Media linksTwitterInstagram and Linkedin.

Travel Blog links: Covid-19 stranded in NYC JFK and Maine – also travel stories on Ireland, Spain, SwedenBelgiumIcelandColombia (Espanol version), AmsterdamGermany, New HampshireTN and NYC.

Personal Website link where you can also find my bookphotos of my travels and updates on current projects.  

Thank you for your love and support.