Certain people are awesome. These people are very very awesome! Click the pictures to find out their stories.
Now, how do I start? I’m going to attempt to write a depiction of Kaya, but let me warn you that there is no possible way of doing this fully. She’s got far too much character to be contained in any box of words, so doing this would be like trying to fit a redwood tree my pocket. Her joy, energy, love of travel (and awesome hair!!) are completely unparalleled, so instead of using my vocabulary to try and put labels on them, I’ll introduce her through another method: anecdote and story.
I first met Kaya in the custom line at the Mexico City airport. I had a 5 hour layover ahead of me, and was planning on either reading a book or listening to a podcast to pass the time and distance myself from the frantic surroundings of transit. But my plans soon changed as the girl next to me struck up a conversation. Unlike the rest of us half-awake passengers in line, she was fully present, lively, and and had badass travel tattoos that even put mine to shame. Quickly, we began to tell travel stories (as awesome people tend to do) and within seconds, her enthusiasm shook the cobwebs out of my head. Before I knew it, we were in a wild, exciting conversation that included rock climbing in remote parts of Thailand, hiking with stray Georgian dogs, golden Buddhas at the Parthenon, and roasted plantains (as they are delicious).
As a traveler, I’ve met tons of people who love telling their stories, but I’ve never seen anyone face light up quite like Kaya’s when she recalls her adventures. It is almost as if she goes into a different state. Before you know it, you’ll be smiling and laughing head to toe, and by the end, she practically has you ready to quit your job and buy a plane ticket tomorrow. (If you don’t believe me, stop reading this now and listen to our podcast about her trip to Portugal.) It doesn’t matter if you’re stuck in a rut or just feeling down. A chat with Kaya will completely restore the youthful enthusiasm of life that society tried to stamp out.
But what really makes Kaya stand out is how genuine she is. As much as she loves traveling, she doesn’t hide the difficulties and hardships that come along with it, and there’s never any tone of bragging in anything she says. When she laughs about crashing a Brazilian party in Lisbon, it’s real. When she leans in to hear about your journeys, she’s truly interested. And if you ever get the opportunity to collaborate with her about travel blogging ideas, you’ll never meet anyone more eager to share. Even if you’re a jaded curmudgeon, Kaya will make you into a joyous, lighthearted wanderer within minutes.
Be like Kaya: Be your full, honest self. Be playful, dance to music, and share your joy.
(And check out the podcast!)
As someone who spends most of their life wandering and visiting odd, remote parts of the world, it can often be hard to find someone to have a conversation with. For example, let’s say there’s a group of people that want to discuss a recent television show or complain about their office coworkers. In such cases, me and my stories of hitchhiking with old men in Central Asia have nothing of contribute. And any attempt to interject would seem like I’m either trying to draw attention to myself or coming across like a deranged lunatic. That’s why when I do meet someone I can converse and share such stories with, it makes it all the more special. And that leads me to this Awesome Person: Agnieszka.
I first met Agnieszka in the rural parts of Georgia, and we instantly bonded on how we found mountains to be exponentially preferable to cities and society. We began to share stories of out bizarre adventures, as I told of nearly dying on a mountain and she discussed encounters with a really creepy driver in Iceland. It was as if small talk never existed. Everything she had to say was meaningful, thought out, and funny. Her outlook on everything was so unique. And somehow, she was able to break down the bizarre interactions people have between one another better and in a funnier way than anyone. I got so much in return from each conversation with Agnieszka, as she gave insights to my ideas, making me think about them in a different light.
Also, she was always up to hear what others had to say too. Agnieszka was not the type of person that just tries to interject her own comment, nor is she someone that tries to brag or put anyone underneath her. She was genuine. I felt like she truly wanted to hear what I (and everyone else for that matter) had to say. During each conversation, I felt as if I could discuss anything without any stress or anxiety because she had this was of making you feel comfortable and welcomed.
However, one of the most interesting aspects of Agnieszka is how she travels. When I ask most people why they travel, they try to give some deep, grandiose explanation, relating back to their childhood or something like that, but not her. She didn’t have a specific reason and didn’t need one. It was just something that she likes to do and makes her happy. There’s no need to put a label on it or fit her reason into a little box. No. She enjoyed and appreciated the journeys for what they were. And, as she said, enjoyed them even more when the food was good.
Travel like Agnieszka: Go your own way, make friends, and enjoy the food.
Just last week, I had my first ever visit to France. During that stay, I did not see Paris, never visited the Louvre, saw no chateaus, and pretty much avoided all famous sites and activities... but ended up having one of the best trips I ever had. I laughed harder than any time I could remember, was introduced to an array of new music, ate delicious food, played fun games I'd never heard of, and danced like a wonderful fool in a local flat late into the night. And none of it would be possible had it not been for the people I spent time with, which includes this next awesome person: Marie. Now let me introduce her.
I arrived at her flat with my friend Lea (also on Awesome People page) and Marie instantly greeted us with coffee, food, and a beaming smile that never faded throughout our entire visit. Right away, I was able to feel relaxed and welcomed by her willingness to share everything she had. This went from food, to music, to Australian travel stories, to artwork. And while she and Lea were life long friends, Marie made sure that I never once felt like an outsider. She did not hesitate to introduce me to inside jokes and discoveries such as a bizarre and creepy/absurd musician she found called Francois Juno (look it up... if you dare). It was as if I was thrown into a whirlwind of novelty and joyfulness that included such activities as a walk to the Mediterranian coast and being instructed on how to dance salsa (and I wasn't quite as bad at it as most of you readers probably imagine!) All the while, she gave off this warm and playful feeling in everything she did.
The best part about this was how genuine the kindness she showed happened to be. All too often, people will put on a nice front just for the sake of appearances, but Marie was real. It all just seemed to flow so naturally from her. Any time anyone of us needed some help, she was right there with a laugh, smile, and glass of wine. She is someone who deep down, honestly cares for others, and works constantly to make the world around her a better place. Instead of going along with a standard path, she went her own way to work to provide medical care for people and volunteer in animal shelters. In a world where most people just try to get through the day, it was incredible to meet someone who just seem to radiate this other kind of positivity, which ultimately made the entire atmosphere of the trip feel celebratory.
Speaking from my own perspective, I've had near death experiences on mountains, hitchhiked with elderly Kyrgyz couples, befriended numerous stray dogs, and (against my better judgment) jumped into a Siberian lake, but this hospitality on this trip will be just as memorable as any of those. Screw the Eiffel tower, Champs Elysee, and any of those other generic ideas of France. This visit had curry-banana rice, salsa dancing, and Francois Juno music. It could not have been more awesome!
When I arrived in Georgia for my most recent trip, my initial plan was to travel alone around the country. By day two, however, I quickly realized that wasn’t going to be the case. I struck up a conversation (and by that, I mean I excessively rambled) with the one other person staying in my hostel room. And as it would turn out, she would become my travel buddy for the next five weeks. Therefore, let me introduce the next installment of Awesome People: Teresa.
While Teresa may come across as quiet and reserved at first, you’ll soon realize that there is so much more to her in ways most people can’t even imagine. She never called attention to herself, but whenever she told a story of her past travels, everyone’s jaw would drop in amazement. These stories would range from hitchhiking to Petra, Jordan and sleeping in caves at the site, to taking what started as a short holiday to South America and ended up with her staying for two years, living on the side of a volcano while working at a hospital in Ecuador. It ranged from traveling through Palestine to camping out at the Mayan ruins of Tikal during the December 21, 2012 winter solstice. (Yes, she really did this.)
More than anyone I’d ever met traveling, Teresa has packed so many experiences into her life, but never once would she brag about it. She is not one for attention or luxury, and would even joke that the one place she has never been to is a five-star hotel. She even went so far to wonder if she was a boring person, living as she does. To which I can only wonder, “If she (a traveling doctor who has been all around the planet) is boring, then what am I and what are the other 7 billion people who rarely travel further than their local super market?” Teresa’s got us all topped whether she admits it or not.
Had it not been for her, my trip would have only been a small fraction as exciting as it was. She had so many ideas of what to do and see, but was still so flexible and spontaneous whenever another opportunity would arise. Because of her, I got to finally see two of Georgia’s most stunning regions, Tusheti and Lagodekhi, as well as explore so much more of Armenia. She maximized every day of the trip to the fullest, yet because of her demeanor, there was never a feeling of stress or pressure to stay with a schedule. The five weeks were exhilarating and enjoyable (even though there was a little sleep deprivation). Plus, she is someone who was really fun to share the whole experience with. And as she can verify, I never shut up about how much fun I was having.
Be like Teresa: Be part of the great experiences the world has to offer, and be humble. No need to brag when you’re too busy making the most out of life’s experience.
About two weeks ago (at the time of this writing), there was a moment when I laughed so hard my sides hurt and I nearly hyperventalated. It was one of those laughs you have only a handful of times in your life and one I’ll probably remember until the day I die. It happened in Georgia’s Tusheti region and did so because of this new addition to the ‘Awesome People’ page. Here is Remiguesz (aka Remi).
I have met many people while traveling, but Remi is a character completely unlike any other, and in the best way imaginable. Initially traveling through Georgia with a group of his friends, he ended up joining Teresa (see ‘Awesome People’), myself, and a couple other travelers midway through their journeys. Instantly, his contribution to the group atmosphere was made present. It is impossible to be angry or upset when Remi is around. Whether it was walking into glass windows or proclaiming to the world that he was a “dogophile,” no one could hold back a laugh or smile for long.
However, there was much more to Remi than that. Alongside the clown, there was a deep, curious thinker. Numerous times throughout the trip he’d start discussions about modern society, wonder about the effects of social media on mankind, and what reality and the meaning of existence actually is. We even had several discussions about Alan Watts during the trip. Even though I went to Georgia with an open mind, I never thought I would be discussing Alan Watts with a mustached Polish man at the footsteps of the Greater Caucasus. It was every bit as great as it sounds.
On top of this, Remi was never fazed by a challenge. Whenever there was a difficult alternative to a trail, he would take it. Whenever there was some mystery food or drink, he would have it. When we needed a driver drive our rental car around rural Armenia’s rural, semi-paved roads, it was Remi.
Be like Remi: Be the humorous philosopher traveling the world.
Sometimes you hear stories of someone's life and you just can't help but wonder how they possibly did it all. As for my grandpa, Joseph (Guiseppe) Melita, this included entering the American school system during the Great Depression without yet knowing English, growing up in an immigrant community, getting locked on a train for two days without food or water, flying 55 missions as the radio operator over Europe during the Second World War, visiting pre-revolution Cuba, and starting a family that would ultimately consist of 6 kids. Oh yeah, and all of that was before he turned 25.
Most normal people would exhaust themselves with just a fraction of that, but somehow he was able to keep this going with a work ethic that would make Elon Musk look like an anemic sloth. For decades, he worked two full time jobs to feed the family of 8 and send each of them to college, all the while being actively involved in the community and even joining a bowling league with my grandma. He enjoyed and drew comfort from being active and involved, and somehow was able to convey this feeling to everyone around him. Whenever he was there, no matter what the situation, you couldn't help but relax and feel that everything was going to be alright.
Yet with all this, not once did it ever seem like he was trying to prove himself. Nor did he ever brag in any way. To him, he was just living his life one day at a time (his favorite saying). He just kept going, doing everything from playing catch with his grandsons well into his 80s, planting a garden every summer until the final year of his life and never fully retiring. He lived on his own terms, enriching everyone around him. The idea of stopping never once entered his mind.
My Grandpa's most defining feature however had to be his ability to stay calm, relaxed and in a good mood no matter what the situation was. Never did he show any anger, let alone get angry, with anyone (with the exception of a few monopoly games), and he was always there to help whenever need be. And for him, it was never too late to start something new or have a new experience. This even included a visit to his motherland of Sicily while he was in his 70s and trips to California up until he turned 90.
Overall he enjoyed living and being more than anyone I had ever met. There was no need to complain or draw attention to himself. All of that was irrelevant and a distraction from enjoying the present moment. It was as if he had inserted a form of Zen Buddhism into his own Catholic heritage. Life was a celebration, not something to grieve or be upset and worry about. Moments were to be enjoyed and appreciated as long as they lasted. Anyway, I could go on forever with this post but for I will end here by summing it all up in this way. He lived a rich and full life on his own terms, but lived for all of those close to him and around him.
Be like Joe: Live fully, one day at a time.
If you are a frequent reader of this website, then you are probably aware that I don't look so favorably at the whole world of employment. Therefore, when someone tells me what they do for a living, I almost never think, "Damn, that's so cool!" That is except for one time when someone said, "I live on boats for half the year, sailing through the arctic and docking in countries all over the world." This is how Etienne makes his living. And I can assure you that the person is just as awesome as the job.
I crossed paths with Etienne in Tbilisi Georgia this march, and instantly his chill vibe fit in with the hostel surroundings. When asked about why he came to Georgia, he replied, "I just felt like it," and whenever something was suggested like going on a hike at dawn or searching for a mysterious yet awesome Georgian wine cellar, Etienne was the first to join in. Even when everything was booked in the hostel, he decided to venture out on a spontaneous trip to the mountains.
But then there were the sea stories. As I mentioned before, he literally works on a Canadian merchant ship that sails across the arctic for half the year, and the ridiculous adventures he's already had seemed almost unbelievable. Night after night, he regaled the group of us with tales of barging through icebergs in the arctic to bribing Chinese authorities for alcohol, to nearly capsizing in the Suez Canal. I was a bit doubtful about the last one until he showed me a picture. Now I can fully confirm that it happened.
The standard life wasn't the one for Etienne so he nonchalantly opted out of it and chose is own bizarre yet awesome path around the world and through the frozen north. All the while remaining a chill person, fun to hang out with, and able to down bottles of Georgian wine like a champion. That, in a nutshell, is Etienne.
Be like Etienne: Do something awesome like sail the Arctic and sleep on mountains.
Every once in a while, you meet someone who completely surprises you. For example, this person may at first appear quiet and reserved, but the more you get to know them, you see that there is an exciting, adventurous, daring personality just below the surface. Once you get to know them, you find out that they've traveled around the world, seen mountains, explored cultures, and have a drive to better and help the world around us. I had the pleasure of meeting one such person in Georgia last month. She is Altynay, and here's why she's awesome.
It was St. Patrick's day in Tbilisi and a group of us at the hostel were planning on going out to see how Georgians celebrated this Irish holiday. I had already met Altynay about a week earlier and had several great travel conversations. Naturally, I extended the invitation for her to join, but since she had already said she was leaving for the city Batumi early in the morning the following day, I didn't think she'd be able to. I was wrong. She eagerly agreed and together we all went to a pub and danced like crazy as a local Georgian punk band attempted to play traditional Irish music.
Then, early the next morning while the rest of us were borderline comatose, Altynay woke up and made it to Batumi and proceeded to travel around the country by herself before making a stop back to Tbilisi to say goodbye. By that point, I already thought she was awesome... but that was just the tip of the iceberg. As it turns out, she left her home country of Kazakhstan to go pursue a Master's degree in Russia's most prestigious university (Moscow State University). She didn't know anyone there at first, but that did not stop her.
Altynay is someone who, despite a quiet demeanor, has this drive to both challenge herself and experience all the world has to offer. This holds true from travelling alone around the world, to climbing Georgian mountains, to entering the Moscow Marathon. And best of all is the way she does this, as it is not just for herself. Anywhere she goes, she makes friends and tries to give back to the place that hosts her. When I asked her about this, she even said that the reason she challenges herself and travels is to gain a broader perspective and get a better understanding of how people and societies are.
Be like Altynay: Challenge yourself, experience what's out there and do something amazing without the need to call attention to yourself. Balance being courageous and being humble.
If you are someone who frequents this site, you have probably realized that I am not a very good photographer. I have no special camera, I don't know how to adjust visual effects, and I've never been that good at finding the perfect angle. As a result, I have often resorted to making cartoon images instead. But this March however, one person offered to send me some of the pictures he had taken of his travels. I eagerly accepted the offer, and as a result, this website finally got its first frequent contributor. Here's that guy.
On top of being kind enough to make the offer, it turned out that Daniel was an awesome guy as well. Our paths crossed in Tbilisi in late March, and shortly after introduction, epic travel stories soon followed. As it turns out, he'd already been all over South America, across Europe, wandered through the Himalayas, and now was going through the Caucasus and into Central Asia along the ancient Silk Road. Yet, despite these epic adventures, he always remained humble and didn't call attention to himself. You could easily chill and talk with him about any subject for hours on end and never lose interest. Plus he ended up giving me some of the most useful travel advice: 'If there are ATM machines outside on the street, the city is generally safe.' Daniel is someone who in just fully into seeing the world and is driven by the urge to see new places and experience new cultures.
However, out of nearly everyone I'd met so far in my journeys, Daniel in particular was really into this blog and wanted to contribute in whatever way he could. And once I saw the quality and skill of his photos compared to mine, he quickly became globalhobos most contributing photographer. Thanks to him, there are now much better depictions of certain parts of Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and (once I finally put them up), Uzbekistan. I could go on, but I'll let his photography do the rest of the talking. Please enjoy the albums below!
Prior to this, I have reserved my Awesome Person posts for people, but now I have realized my short-sightedness. By making it only exclusive to one species, I have limited myself in a terrible way. How could I have been so foolish as to think that humans were the only ones who deserved my 'awesome' recognition? Well, the me who made that decision is no more! Therefore, I'm more than happy to introduce to you my first ever Awesome Dog post!
I first met this dog, whom I have decided to call Fred, during one of my hikes to the big TV tower on a hill overlooking Tbilisi. I was walking along, staring off into space as I often do, when all of the sudden, I felt something brush against my hand. I looked down, and to my surprise, I saw a large, furry, canine standing by my side. He had no collar and since there were no houses around, I concluded he was a stray. However, he seemed friendly enough* and didn't smell as bad as I did at the moment, so I decided to pet him for a little while, which he enjoyed.
*I chose the name Fred because Fred the Friendly Dog has a nice sound to it.
Some time later, I crossed the street to a small park that leads into the ascension to the tower, and to my surprise, Fred followed. I sat down on an old wooden bench, somewhat worn away by time, and Fred sat down next to me (although he chose to sit on the ground). I then picked up a stick off the ground and tossed it, attempting to play fetch, but Fred didn't seem to understand the concept. Nonetheless, his dog smile indicated he was still enjoying my company.
After a while, I figured it was about time to start my climb, so I stepped onto the path leading upwards out of the urban environment into nature. Fred followed, keeping my pace without any difficulty despite the incline and terrain. Needless to say, I was impressed. This continued for the next 20 minutes or so, but unfortunately all good things come to an end. Fred saw a bird and ran off, chasing it into the wilderness. I waited, but he did not return. That was the last I saw of Fred.
That being said, there is always hope for a reunion. I have now made it a daily ritual to do this hike, thus opening up the possibility of another encounter. Regardless of what happens from here on out though, I have now made it my priority to befriend as many stray dogs as I can. So here's to Fred the Dog!
BE LIKE FRED: Be awesome and make friends with hairy strangers like me.
Every once in a while, you meet someone under the most unexpected circumstances. When I first met Franzi, we were both on a shuttle bus heading from Antigua to Lake Atitlan in Guatemala. We hit it off well during the ride, chatting about our past travels and sharing different stories,. But since we were each going to different villages, both of us assumed this would be the only time we'd ever see each other. As it turned out, we were wrong.
Neither of us was sure how long we'd be staying at Atitlan, nor where we'd go next, therefore, it came as a complete surprise when I walked into Matiox Hostel four days later to find her checking in at the front desk. After the initial 'you again?!?' shock, the person at the desk told us about bar trivia at the hostel that night, so we figured, "Why don't we be a team?" While it was already apparent to me that Franzi was incredibly interesting and world traveled, I had no idea how trivia was going to go, but as it turned out, the two of us were unstoppable. Together, we crushed all 4 rounds, winning a free drink for each one.
But while that story was awesome, Franzi as a person is exponentially more exciting than any story I could possibly tell. She is by no means the standard traveler who simply skims through countries to see famous sites. Instead, Franzi fully immerses herself into any place she goes, living experiences most people can't even imagine. Only in her early 20s, she has lived with a family in Bolivia, climbed a volcano in Guatemala to see an eruption at sunrise, can speak multiple languages as good as most people speak one, and is about to go on a backpacking trip through Ethiopia. She's lived more than most people get to live in a lifetime, and her wanderlust only seems to grow.
And on top of all this, she's really chill and laid back about it all. One day, she'll go diving in the Caribbean and the next, she'll enjoy the day off next to a pool or hot tub. All the while, giving interesting insights, never bragging, and just a fun person to be around.
Be like Franzi: Keep the wanderlust alive, find the balance between excitement and calmness and enjoy it all!
Sometimes a person can surprise and amaze you. All of the sudden, a friend can say, do or show you something that makes your jaw drop to the floor. It could be something about their past, a particular idea or insight, or in the case of Lea, a talent unlike anyone I'd ever met before. Now allow me to explain.
I first met Lea during my second trip to Dublin. We were both staying in the same hostel and developed a quick friendship. Together, we explored the city, traveled to the seaside town Howth, hung out daily and even cooked bread (I trusted her instructions here in bread making as she is French and I am not). She told of her affection for David Bowie, I shared my stories about moving to Russia and hiking in the Caucasus, and we made our own games involving hand-drawn cartoons and movie titles. It seemed like there was so much that happened in those days, it could have filled years of a friendship, which is why I became so surprised one day when our conversation drifted to the topic of art.
Keep in mind, I am someone who paints as a hobby and has taken art classes in college, but when Lea modestly showed me some of her work, I was completely blown away. I felt as if I had spent my whole life under a rock and was now just seeing the ocean and all its magnificence for the first time. The level of skill was one thing, but the creativity of her ideas was amazing. Everything she made, from an ink and watercolor mixed media cityscape to hanging images of people attached to puppet strings, conjured feelings and reactions within that I was absolutely not expecting on a cloudy Dublin afternoon.
However, Lea's awesomeness does not stop there. She soon went on to quit her job and pursue this artistic passion of hers full time and with all her energy and focus. She completely threw out the societal expectations of becoming another 9 to 5 drone in the system and went for her dream. She took the leap so many others are afraid to do, refusing to settle for generic comfort and financial stability and dared to make something more of herself. Her artistic ability and creative mindset are a gift unlike any other, and she was not going to let them go to waste!
Be like Lea: Take the risk and go for your dream. Make your own path and life your life as fully as you can!
P.S. Check out Lea's artwork by clicking on the link to the side... or if you happen to be in Paris, go visit her gallery on display!
For several years, the company Dos Equies ran ads centered upon a person they labeled 'the most interesting man in the world.' While many saw this as an appealing marketing scheme, I merely laughed it off because I know a person so much more interesting. Compared to her, the Dos Equies guy is as bland as soggy white bread or generic flat soda (no disrespect). This awesomely interesting person goes by the name of Maud.
I first met Maud in a cave under Budapest, which was already awesome in and of itself. And I didn't quite know it yet, but Maud is capable of doing so much more that the average human could ever imagine. In the short time I have known her. Maud has somehow managed to balance finishing med-school and working day and night at a hospital for weeks on end with traveling the world, spending time with friends, and experiencing everything Dublin has to offer. If I (or most people for that matter) attempted to do just half of that, I'd be currently living in a psychiatric ward and conversing with random pieces of furniture as if they were old college friends. Maud, however, remains completely unfazed.
Also, Maud is always really fun to hang out with too. During my visits to Dublin, Maud and her friend Hannah went all out making sure I got to enjoy my time there and experience the city from a local's perspective. And by no means did they half-ass it. We went to a film on the green, some of their favorite cafes, museums, and some of the most fun pubs I've ever been to, which is where I saw something truly unbelievable. It occurred during my first visit with my friend Blake at a bar called JW Sweetmans. And Blake is a tank that always drank anyone under the table if he wanted to... until that night. Maud, despite being significantly smaller, went toe to toe with Blake and was able to walk away in a strut. Meanwhile, I had to basically carry a hysterically laughing Blake (alcohol makes Blake laugh a lot) on my back when we went back to our hostel.
Be like Maud: Do it all! Save sick people in a hospital and still have the energy to see the world and be an amazing friend! Ain't no time for sleep!
Standing on a latter, paintbrush in hand and the hot August sun beating down on my neck, I reached upwards to patch up a spot of trim I had previously missed. Since temporarily returning home, I had begun working as a day laborer, which although brought in decent pay, did very little with regards to excitement and entertainment. Suddenly, I felt a buzzing in my pocket. At first it was just for a quick second, but soon it happened again, and again. Clearly, it was now apparent that someone was trying to contact me. I quickly descended the latter. What could it be? I opened my life-infringing mobile device and saw a message from Hannah, a friend I initially met two years ago and reunited with again last year on a visit to Ireland. Instantly the tension of the day receded and the bored expression on my face transformed into a smile. I decided it was time for another Awesome Person post.
There have been many different personalities I've come across, but none are quite like Hannah. Not only is she someone that could make you laugh unexpectedly at any time (whether it be through sarcasm or by pointing out what a certain statue at Trinity College strangely resembles), her creativity was second to none. The times we hung out, I felt like we could talk forever without an awkward silence or a dull moment. Her take on everything from society to movies to drinking on the street was always so interesting to hear. Plus, whenever need be, she was ready to stand up for her friends and for what was right. Whether it be societal injustice or being confronted by a belligerently drunk guy acting like an obnoxious prick, Hannah had no fear standing up and speaking out (and successfully making the drunk guy back down).
One moment I'll never forget though happened over a cup of coffee (which I need to live, of course). I asked her, "If you could speak to anyone ever, living or dead, for one hour, who would it be?" I've asked this question before and usually get answers saying famous historical-religious figures like Buddha, Jesus, or Peter Tosh, but Hannah surprised me by saying, "The Librarian from the ancient Library at Alexandria." It was brilliant. All the lost information about the history of humanity that was lost forever and the nameless person who would have known it tall: the answer blew my mind.
If I could sum it all up, Hannah is always awesome to be around. This was clear from the first time we met two years ago on a spelunking expedition in the caves under Budapest (a place where awesome people tend to go) and continues through my two subsequent trips to Ireland. She knocked herself out being the best host imaginable and because of her, I got to see the film Sing Street (highly recommended) on a large screen projector in one of Dublin's parks, got to explore Trinity College, and had someone to dance alongside with (despite the fact my dancing resembles the Frankenstein monster having a seizure) in one of the city's best local pubs. If that isn't friendship, I don't know what is.
Having just concluded my second year of teaching, it is only fitting for me to dedicate this next Awesome Person post to one of my students. But since I have several (and many of which happen to be awesome), it was a difficult choice for me to make. That was, however, until one of them gifted me a bottle of homemade самагон (very strong Russian plum brandy) to have for my mother's and brother's visit to Moscow. So, as a thanks for helping them experience the local culture (and being generally awesome overall, this one goes out to Eugene (Евгений).
Normally, I never enjoyed working in the morning, and when my first class of the day usually began, I was still tired and my caffeine dosage had yet to set in. One of the last things I wanted to do was flip into work mode. That was, however, until I started taking on Wednesday and Friday classes and Eugene's humor came into play (as seen in the photo above). Whether it writing satirical stories recommending cannibalism to curb healthcare costs (actually happened) or just making jokes about the bizarre world around us, I couldn't go through a lesson without laughing.
But aside from the humor, Eugene champions the hobo mentality better than practically anyone. When going to Sochi (24 hour drive from Moscow), Eugene hitched rides from three different drivers, and the next day he was relaxing on the shores of the Black Sea. Even recently, he had the idea of riding a motorcycle. So therefore, he took lessons in the freezing rain of Russia's spring, passed all the tests despite the questionable ethics of Moscow's DMV, and by the summer, he had himself a motorcycle. Now, whenever the chaos of the city gets too much, he takes a ride out to the country to spend and spends a weekend in a tent.
On top of this, he is one of those guys who'll always have your back if you're a friend. For example, I was considering (and still am) doing the full Trans-Siberian Railroad. When I mentioned this to Eugene, he instantly contacted everyone he knew en route and made sure I'd have places to stay for free along the way. Surprised by the gesture, I promptly thanked him, but he nonchalantly replied, "We are friends, and these are my friends. They will treat you like family, just as they do for me." For Eugene, there was no second thought. We were friends and he was going to make sure I will be well taken care of whenever I do the journey.
Be like Eugene: Make jokes, help friends and live for the next adventure no matter what the circumstances.
In the 1930s the Russian novelist Mikhail Bulgakov started his most well know story, The Master and Margarita at a location in Moscow known as Patriarch's Ponds (contrary to the name, there is only one pond). Since this was one of my favorites, I made absolutely sure to pay the area a visit early on last year. However, despite my enthusiasm, the pond itself did not turn out to be the highlight of my visit, and that is because the awesome person I went there with completely overshadowed the green trees, still water, and artistic statues. Her name is Quincey, and now I will introduce her.
My first impression was that Quincey was someone who you could talk to forever without a single dull moment. From travel to art to ideas about life and society, she had so many interests and unique, fascinating views. She was aware, fully present, funny, and a delightful break from the hordes of zombie-like crowds on their phones making pointless small talk like, "How about that weather?"
The thing that makes her stand out most, though, is her focus to help make the world around us a better place and her willingness to give her full self towards what she does. At the time of this writing, she is currently studying and working in Nicaragua, teaching children and improving the health and nutrition in the schools. And she doesn't take praise for any of this either (all the praise written here are my words, not hers). To Quincey, she cares about people and the kids she works with. There's no question when it comes to helping them and bettering the schools. It's just the right thing to do.
All of this ties into a greater wonder she seems to have for the world around her. She lives for interaction, adventure and making connections with others. Whether it be taking a 20 hour bus ride to Panama (actually happened) or redesigning a van for a multi-country road trip, Quincey never slows or stops. It's inspiring, and even encourages me to do more and be my best self. And I can assure you, the mundane working world of repetition will never trap her as it has done to so many of us.
Be like Quincey: Live your fullest life. Connect with those around you and do what you can to make your community and the world around you a better place.
For most of my life I have considered myself an adventurer. However, during my past trip to Georgia, I met someone who's spirit for wonder and excitement dwarf mine like a mountain towering over a pebble. This was someone who would go out in nature and hike for days on end, making her own trails where there previously had been none. When there was a river, she would swim. When there was a rock wall, she would climb it. And when there was a sea, she would sail across. And with that, let me introduce Mariette (or Jet, pronounced with the soft J).
I first came across Jet during one of my shifts working at Why Not Hostel in Tbilisi. Most people who happened to be checking in that day seemed a bit tired and worn out from travels, but she was different, beaming with excitement having just arrived from a trip in the mountains. And since I was planning on heading to the mountains in just a few days, I asked if she had any recommendations or advice. I was expecting to hear something like, "Oh, this place is cool." or "Make sure you do this trek," but instead I got a full rundown of villages off the beaten track, hidden trails that were left off the map, and pictures of unbelievably beautiful scenery. She even gave me her own personal map where she had drawn on all the secret routes she found. It was awesome!
She had this uncanny ability in finding unique and interesting places that would slip under the radar from the standard traveler, and this ranged from hidden waterfalls in forests to literally the coolest coffee shop in all of Tbilisi. I kid you not, the place was on a secluded road up a hill and had amazing coffee, a super friendly staff, cafe cats, and a weird yet awesome, artistic decor. Had I know about it before, it would have been a daily stopping point (finances depending) for the duration of my stay.
It didn't matter if it was raining out or if the weather plummeted to frigid temperatures. To her, these were not obstacles but enhancements to be used for play. Run around in the rain, roll in the snow and laugh at the bumps in the dirt road. This was her life and not only did she know how to enjoy it, but Jet eagerly shared every experience she had and exciting thing she came across. Since, after all, happiness is always best when shared.
Be like Jet: Whenever you feel nervous about a new experience, remind yourself that everything will be alright. Then put your full self forward and enjoy the whole journey along the way.
Two days ago, something very expected and something very unexpected happened all at once in my trip up to the mountains in Georgia. The first (expected) was a major traffic jam caused by a car accident on a very narrow, windy road. As I've mentioned, people here drive rather insane and often try to pass one another around blind turns, thus resulting in a fairly large amount of accidents. The other, (unexpected) was meeting an awesome person and his dog (Ella) while waiting for the army (yes, they sent in the Georgian army) to clear the road. That awesome person goes by the name Ben.
Several month ago, Ben started his journey in his home country, Germany, with the idea of driving around the world. His means of transportation was the front of an old firetruck that he had converted into a caravan by putting a bed and fridge inside. And although this was his new home, Ben chose to keep the doors open (quite literally) by putting his car up online as a host for couch surfing. Therefore, whenever he stopped in a city, any other traveler looking for some shelter was welcomed in. Most just stayed for a night before continuing on, but one decided to stay permanently. That guest was a dog named Ella.
Ben started his trip alone, but as he passed through Greece, he befriended a stray dog named which he adopted and decided to name Ella. By the time I came across them, the two had already gone through the Balkans, across the entirety of Turkey and were now heading up to the peaks of the greater Caucasus. The world lay ahead for these two new friends. Home was on the road and tomorrow was wherever they chose to go next.
If you wish to find out more about Ben and Ella, visit their blog terranomades.de and read their posts (written in both English and German). Definitely check it out. It's awesome!
Be like Ben: Roam the world in your homemade house and befriend other wanderers, both human and canine.
During my travels, I have realized that for some reason, awesome people tend to gravitate towards awesome places. Therefore, it should be no surprise that I first came across this awesome person in Why Not Hostel in Tbilisi, Georgia. Unlike most other serious stiffs out there, this awesome person hadn't forgotten that life should be playful instead of stressful and was always ready for wander and adventure, even when it comes to joining a bearded coffee fiend on a trip to rural mountain villages. Now, fresh after our journey together, let me introduce Lena.
Little did I know at first, but Lena's trip to Georgia almost didn't happen at all. Originally, she was planning it with a friend, and at last minute, something happened and her friend had to drop out. Everything that was planned could no longer be, which for some people would have ended any possibility for a trip right then and there. But for Lena, it did not. Instead, she threw herself fully into the experience and decided she was going to make the most of her time in this country of which she had never been and knew very little about. And when I say 'make the most of her time', I'm not speaking in hyperbole. From sun-up to the early hours of next morning, Lena seemed to do everything. Within two days, she had walked the entirety of Tbilisi, got invited by a group of local university students to a birthday party, and quickly befriended Georgi (the hostel cat).
However, it was during a trip we did to Mt. Kazbek where one of Lena's most awesome traits came to light. Right after we arrived, even before we got to the guesthouse, something happened. A dog ran out onto the street and bolted right toward us, but instead of barking and biting, it went right up to Lena and rolled over on it's back so it could be pet. And it didn't stop with the dog. Every animal we came across, from the guesthouse cat (they have one too) to the many wandering cows and sheep, and even the lone donkey all were drawn to her. Lena just has this overall presence. She's open to the world and all the people and animals within it. She tears down barriers, defies borders, and seeks to make meaningful connections and friendships.
ADVICE: Be like Lena. Befriend everyone and everything you can and never forget that life can be fun and joyful.