It’s a magical world Hobbes ol’ buddy… Let’s go exploring!
This has always been my favorite Calvin and Hobbes comic. It was the final one and truly summed up the entire series for me AND helped plant the seed of exploration deep in my heart. It hangs framed on the wall of my apartment, an amazing Christmas gift from my sister and a constant reminder that the world is indeed a wonderful and magical place with so much to show, teach, and share…
As I’ve ‘rejoined’ society and begun to look for what’s next, I’ve had so many thoughts about how to share my journey. I’ve started and stopped writing so many times. In addition, I’ve been running around like a madman trying to catch up with family and friends, apply for jobs, look for a place to live… It’s been a little overwhelming and there are some days when I long for the solitude of the mountains, but the reality is I’m so incredibly grateful for the people in my life, and happy that people haven’t forgotten about me these last 18 months while I’ve been exploring the world! 😉
Also, I have so many photos I haven’t posted, amazing stories to share, so this (admittedly) has been a little intimidating as well. Where do I start?
Ultimately I’ve landed on this strategy so I hope it works for everyone! I’m going to start by answering the top 5 questions everyone asks… Oscars style with one winner and a few runners up. Then I’ll start sharing some of the personal growth I’ve realized- the overall theme as well as where/when some of these moments of inspiration took place (along with more photos of course!). Sound good? Hope so…
What was your favorite place you visited?
The most appropriate adjective I can say about NZ is ‘free’. That’s how I felt every minute I was there… The 5 weeks I spent there greatly affected how the rest of my trip shaped up. It sparked my interest for the outdoors, camping, hiking, etc. The country itself is like one giant postcard and the experience was like nothing I’d ever done… Driving around in a van, hiking where/whenever I felt the call, sleeping in whatever the closest campground happened to be when the sun started going down, and really spending to quality time with myself… also something I hadn’t really done on my trip yet up to that point.
It’s hard to describe in words the magic and energy of this city. Nestled in the Himalayas, some say it’s a place for lost souls, while I’d argue it’s the place where people who have finally found themselves end up! It’s gritty for sure, but there is just something about it. While I was there I experienced some of the best moments of the trip. Everest, Ashram Life, Amazing new friends and incredible conversations! There was so much about this part of my journey that was ‘new’ for me that Kathmandu will always be one of my absolute most favorite memories!
Like Kathmandu there is something about the energy of this small yet vibrant city in the Andes that is just hard to put into words. This was also the very first place I traveled to and the beginning of my exploration of Shamanic medicine (and the depths of my own being) so will always have a special place in my heart. I’d love to spend one week every year here for the rest of my life.
Cape Town, South Africa
I don’t think this will come as a surprise to anyone that followed along with me this past year and half. I visited Cape Town 3 separate times, spending ~2 months there in total! There’s no way around it, it’s the perfect city. You have mountains, you have beach, you have an amazing coastline, you have great restaurants and cafes… oh yes, and one of the best wine countries in the world! I always feel happy and at peace when I’m in my ‘2nd home’. Sending a lot of love (and rain!) to my Cape Town family… Miss you!
What was your favorite moment?
Mt Everest Sunrise
Although there were moments that were more profound and will likely have a longer term positive effect on my life, it’s hard to beat watching the sun come up over Mt Everest. 9 days of trekking across the Himalayas to Base Camp (5350m), making friends with an amazing group of people, led me to this moment. And keep in mind, that outside of 3 days of trekking Milford Sound in NZ (highest point 1140m), this is the first ever real hiking I’ve done! Just jumping right into the deep end- a common theme for this trip of mine… So, after spending the previous day at Base Camp, taking photos with our team and celebrating our journey, some of us elected to hike up a nearby ridge called Kala Patthar (5645m) to watch the sunrise. Physically, this was the hardest thing I’d ever done in my life. It was dark, It was windy and snowy. Oxygen levels there are about 50% of normal. I was tired from the hike, tired from getting up at 4am, I didn’t think I was going to make it. Several times I thought to myself, ‘this is stupid, this is dangerous, you should turn back.’ Several members of our group did. But I saw others ahead of me pushing forward, and so I did as well. I almost quit 3 times, and I remember each of those moments as if they just happened, the conversations I had with myself, the burning feeling in my lungs and legs, the numbness in my fingers and toes… but I made it. When I got to the top, I collapsed. I was completely exhausted. I hugged my friends that had made it up there first and we all just kinda had our own moments as we watched the sun rise up and over the highest point on Earth. It was magical. It was a moment I’ll never forget.
Night Two of my first Ayahuasca experience
As hard as Kala Patthar was physically, this was equally challenging mentally. Much like my Everest experience also, this was my first experience with any plant medicine (psychedelics) and again I jumped right into the deep end with the most intense one! Though I’d had a great ceremony my first night, this one was very different. I had a large dose of the medicine and it absolutely floored me. I went to hell. It was the most scared, suffocated, paralyzed, and overwhelmed I’ve ever been. For 2 hours I struggled in the darkness before I was finally able to get myself out and in that moment I was reborn. I had passed this test and now felt inner strength and power like I never had. It sounds weird to say but it really was almost God-like. That night will forever be the night my life changed. I had to go to the dark to find and appreciate the light. I had to face fear to realize strength. I had to learn that you can’t have one without the other. I had to look deep inside myself, to see who I truly am… To finally meet Brian Wallace, the Phoenix.
Hiking the Indian Himalayas up in Kashmir
Though I had many excellent moments out in nature, this one was particularly notable as A. I had just come from a chaotic first few weeks in India (which had totally blown my headspace to a place of frustration and negativity) and B. the natural beauty up there was so completely unexpected! It was just me, a guide, and a cook for 5 days. Every day we’d break camp, load up the ponies, and hike for a few hours until we found another cool/scenic spot to decide to spend the night. We had great conversations about life, religion, and cultural differences. We shared music that we loved. We’d make bonfires every night for dinner, and then just chill out under the most amazing sky filled with stars- enjoying a post meal ‘hash cigarette’ we had purchased from some gypsies. Then I’d hop into the tent for an amazing night’s sleep, so excited to open it up the next morning to enjoy the view that would start my day. We took side hikes together. and sometimes I just went off by myself for a bit. It was so peaceful up there and just what the doctor ordered for getting my mental state back on track. The guys were such lovely humans, and when our hike ended I even got to meet their families back in town. The signature memory from this trip was sitting by the fire, quite ‘relaxed’, looking up at Jupiter above me and watching the Scorpio constellation come up from behind the mountains across the valley (which had snowdrifts that to me resembled a Phoenix), while listening to Eva Cassidy’s version of Fields of Gold. That song will forever bring me back to that moment, and always bring the most peaceful, happy, and pure smile to my face.
What was your most challenging moment?
*note: Yes these aren’t necessarily the happiest parts of my journey, but were incredible learning/growing experiences for me so I wanted to include. My experiences, just like life, weren’t all sunshine and rainbows. And these moments are equally if not more important as without struggle, one can’t evolve, can’t heal, and can’t become that better version of themselves they are (hopefully) striving for…
Being so far away from my family when my grandmother passed away
I never got the chance to say goodbye to her in person and I’ll always have guilt and self judgement for that, even though I know she wouldn’t want that. It’s one of those things that even though for most of my life we weren’t even all that close, I know how much she loved me… unconditionally. When I would go see her in Arizona she would just beam as she paraded me around her friends at the living community she was at. Even typing that makes me smile, those were great memories. I’ll always remember checking into a campsite in Wellington, NZ when I got the note from my Dad that she probably didn’t have much time left. We spoke a bit and then I went up to a lookout point over the city and thought about her while the sun set. I imagined her sitting there with me, with her arm around my shoulder as we enjoyed the beauty and tranquility of this moment. The next day I took the 2.5 hour ferry to the south Island and wrote a post about her, tears rolling down my face. I felt a bit like a fraud in that I had so much sadness and yet the effort I made while she was alive, even just to call her, was very average at best. It’s one of those things I knew was super important, but always thought I’d get to ‘tomorrow’. Well, there weren’t going to be any more tomorrows. Bless her though, she held on for another almost 2 weeks! When she finally did leave us, I was offline for a few days hiking in Milford Sound. When we finished and were heading home- and I finally was able to get a signal on my phone, I got the news I’d been dreading… But as I mentioned in the post I wrote, I think she’d be happy in that in a way it brought me closer to my Dad and Stepmom, so perhaps a silver lining to this otherwise difficult time. Love you, Grammy. Every time I see an owl I think of you…
India- The first few weeks
Holy shit I wasn’t prepared for this. Up until then, pretty much every aspect of my trip had gone about as perfectly as it could have. I was just coming off my time in New Zealand and Nepal and was in such a good place mentally and physically. I was chill, I was fit, I was ready for more! What I wasn’t ready for was the chaotic scene I encountered the moment I landed in Delhi! I had cancelled my Vipassana so was left with a bunch of unplanned time and I just felt like I made one wrong decision after another. I felt like a tourist, not a traveller. I felt a bit taken advantage of. I felt overwhelmed by the number of people and claustrophobic given the culture’s seeming lack of respect/care for one’s personal space. Even when I escaped to the town of Rishikesh to a yoga retreat, that went all sorts of off the rails and led me to quitting a few days early. There was no sugar coating it, I absolutely hated India. And then I got up to Kashmir… which even though was filled with tanks and armed soldiers everywhere, was so naturally beautiful. The people, although still hustlers, were super nice… the whole place just had a different vibe to it. Which led me to my time in the mountains (above) and then to the Tibetan city of Daramsala, the home of the Dalai Lama. What I realized was that I had been trying to force India to be something I wanted it to be, something it wasn’t, rather than working WITH India to figure out how we could best coexist. The frustrations I felt were much more a projection of my own stubbornness and unease rather than a true reflection of India, its people, or its culture. Don’t get me wrong- much of India is still organized chaos on its best day, but I know now how to operate there so when I return I expect I’ll have a much different experience.
Summer in the US-
I think this was a challenging moment in that this was the first time I was bouncing back and forth from my own solo travel experiences to bachelor parties, and weddings, and volleyball tournaments, and birthdays etc. I knew this would be a precursor of things to come as at some point my travels would conclude and I’d have to being to look for balance between my ‘old life’ and my new one. At this point I was just enjoying life, saying yes to everything (possibly too much)… why not? This was my time I’d given myself to do with whatever I wanted. Now, I hadn’t planned on spending as much time as I did in the US, but it did force me to be quite aware of who I was and some of the things that would need to change in order to maintain the life I was finding I enjoyed much more so than the old version of me. So, how do I keep investing in ‘Hippie Brian’ while still letting ‘Fun Brian’ out every once in a while? This sounds funny, but it’s one of the most challenging things I’m now facing as I’ve finally finished traveling and am reintegrating into the life that includes friends, work, parties, coffees, etc while trying to keep the time set aside for meditation, good sleep, exercise, healthy eating, minimal drinking. In the beginning of my trip I literally had to sequester myself in camps or experiences where there physically weren’t any of the ‘temptations’, making them easy to avoid or not miss too much. Over time I got better at saying no to some of the less healthy stuff- though again was made easier while on multi day treks up a mountain, through the woods, or across a country! Summer, especially August was my first attempt to reconcile both the former and current versions of myself (while trying to plan for future versions as well!). It was very much give and take. I’d party hard with friends, then hide myself away at a meditation retreat. I’d party with friends, then hide myself away in the desert. I’d party with friends, then go camp on a beach and do yoga. Very give and take. I love my friends and I love having fun so I’m not suggesting that any of these experiences was ‘bad’ in any way. But I also know I operate as a much better version of myself when I’m awake early, being active, practicing spirituality, eating healthy, and then in bed at a reasonable hour. So… this is challenging for me and will continue to be a work in progress. Any help you guys can provide will be much appreciated!
What did you learn?
I know myself, I trust myself, I love myself…
My personal mantra kept evolving, as did I, over the course of my travels. It started off simply as being ‘a man for others’, hoping to live an inspirational life, encouraging those I know or met to explore their own hero’s journeys, and to find/follow their own bliss. But quickly I realized that although I’d been signing this song for a few years, I was out of integrity with myself in that I wasn’t even following my own advice. I wasn’t truly living the life I was encouraging everyone else to. Hence my travels. And over the course of these 18 months, I kept adding to that mantra. The first addition was that I need to be a man for MYSELF first, before I could be this man for others I aspired to. I needed to model this life. I needed to take that leap of faith and follow my own bliss. Only then could I truly be anything to anyone else, once I was truly just someone for me. After that it was truly learning to LOVE who I am- with all the light, as well as the shadow the exists. I’ve spent many years wearing various masks, trying to be the person I thought others needed me to be (or my own perception thereof), rather than just truly being me. This will be an ever present exercise in awareness, to know when I’m being my authentic self vs another version (and more on this later). TRUSTing myself. This notion came about during my last Ayahuasca experience. A- Before I can truly love myself, I need to trust myself. And I think this is true for anyone- you need to trust someone before you can truly love them and give yourself fully to that experience. I was spending perhaps a bit much time trying to analyze everything, to seek meaning, to try to figure out what was next- and Diego my Shaman recommended I get out of my head, and back into my heart. To spend less time thinking and more time feeling. Knowing that I didn’t need to have all the answers, I didn’t need to understand everything always, but to trust that when the time came, that information would be there, that strength would manifest itself, or the course I needed to take would become clear. And to think of the time and energy I’d free up by just ‘being’ out there in the universe, rather than trying to always interpret its messages or seeking the next move… Great advice. And finally, to KNOW myself. Before I can trust myself, I need to really just know who I am, and be ok with that. It’s not about changing myself, it’s not about overcoming shadow or fears or even personality traits, but being aware of them, knowing that literally I am who I am. I don’t need to now return home wearing a new mask of some ‘new enlightened Brian’ that doesn’t still have the same insecurities, fears, saboteurs etc… This is always who I am going to be. But the AWARENESS of knowing myself, being able to appreciate these aspects of self, embrace them, learn from them- to truly KNOW who I am will allow fo the subsequent Trust, Love, and Inspiration. This is where I am now. And I’m excited to see where this Mantra ends up over time…
“Because I Know myself, I Trust myself. Because I Trust myself, I Love myself. Because I Love myself, I am a Man for Myself. And I am a Man for Myself, so that I might be a Man for Others…
Spend time outside your comfort zone.
I never would have experienced the growth I have had I just only done the things I already like to do. I wanted to be as ‘weird as possible’! Try new things, new foods, new countries. The scariest moments for me, the ones where I felt the most uncomfortable, were the moments I felt most alive. And upon reflection, the ones that had the most impact on my growth. AND I learned I liked a ton of things I wasn’t currently doing in life.
Yoga and Meditation retreats, Crossfit classes, Mountain Climbing(!), Camping, Exploring Spirituality, spending time with Energy Healers and Shamans, Wise Men in the the Indian Himalayas, Opening my mind to the universe outside and within via Plant Medicine, Sound Baths, Energetic Dance… All these things were well outside my NYC life of steak nights, sports bars and chicken wings, way too many shots of Jameson, watching football and hitting on women, etc. I return a version of myself- I won’t say ‘better’ because who is truly to say what is better and what is worse, those are fairly subjective adjectives- but a version that is different, that I like… a version that I think will be better for myself, which will in turn be better for the world.
It’s never too late, until it is
I used to spend a lot of my time in the past. What if I had done this, what if I had moved there… If I could do my 20s over I’d live them like this. Same with my 30s. Hindsight is always 20/20. Do I recommend traveling when you’re in your early 20s? Absolutely. The earlier you can challenge yourself, get to know yourself, figure out where you’re at and what you need/want in your current space, obviously the better. BUT that doesn’t mean that you can’t learn those same things from different experiences at any point in time during your life. The circumstances might be different, your resources/means might be different, the experiences could be completely opposite- but the lessons you learn, the information you receive from the universe will be the same. One can learn the same thing about themselves from a youth hostel in Amsterdam or simply taking a different route home from work. The universe is constantly communicating with us, we just need to be aware, and open to receive these messages. BUT don’t put off exploring a passion, don’t put off taking a risk, don’t put off having a conversation (especially with a loved one) because you think you ‘don’t have time’, or ‘you’ll get to it later’. Life can change in an instant, so take advantage now. Make a plan, make a call, MAKE some time…
For now It’s back to NYC. My plan is to return to the world of media while I still have my network there (assuming there is a company willing to hire a travel hippie 😉 ). Although my true passion doesn’t lie in this industry, I feel like I’m going to spend a few more years here, begin to truly simplify and minimize my life and my ‘stuff’. Save as much money as possible… And then transition into teaching. Life the life where ‘I don’t have as much, but I don’t NEED as much’. To wake up excited every morning, knowing that I’m making a tangible difference in the world.
This is the plan for now. If I ever turn all these ramblings into a proper book (which of course gets made into a Walter Mitty-like movie ;)), the final scene would feature me walking down the stairs in the morning, grabbing a briefcase and lunch, kissing my wife and kid(s) goodbye, then getting in the car and driving to my first day of school as a new teacher. It’s a sunny day, I’m wearing a nervous, but excited smile on my face, and ’Step Outside’ by Jose Gonzalez would be playing in the background. The beginnings of another Hero’s Journey, truly following my Bliss.
Wish me luck…
The universe has blessed us all with two gifts: Time and Choice. Use those gifts. Make use of your time. Choose to explore. You never know what you’ll discover in the universe out there, and how it can inspire what you discover in the universe within…
Thanks for all the support along the way! Much Love and Bliss,
Just a guy on a hero's journey...