Part 4: Maui

book, Uncategorized

Emma went back to Australia, I got my new camera, then Aaron and I flew to Maui. Aaron had a friend named Bruce on Maui, who happened to be selling an old Honda Civic Wagon. We offered Bruce $600 and told him that we would give him back the difference once we sold it at the end of our trip. He agreed. We named the car Bruce.

We wanted to see the infamous Haleakala sunrise (at the top of Maui’s 3,000-meter volcano). You’re supposed to buy tickets for this phenomenon and reserve a spot ahead of time (several weeks ahead) but we found it hard to grasp the concept of paying money to watch a sunrise. So instead of doing that, Aaron and I drove Bruce up to the top of Haleakala before sunset, watched the sunset (which was just as spectacular as the sunrise), slept in the car on top of the volcano and woke up to watch the sunrise in the morning. Nobody bothered us or asked for tickets.

I used a free app called AllTrails to look for the best hikes on the islands. You can filter the settings to your liking- top rating + greatest difficulty will usually get you a pretty bad-ass trek, like the Skyline Trail :)

And the Sliding Sands Trail-

*You can see the trail through the lava field in between the two craters

The view from the Sliding Sands Trail was something that I would imagine on Mars, not Earth. The further we walked, the more dramatic the scenery got. Every color of the rainbow appeared inside Haleakala. Dried up lava formed black rivers between the dusty colors. Rare flowers that exist nowhere else on Earth emerged from red dirt- the Silverswords. So precious and unique.

I was profoundly touched by the beauty of Haleakala. It is like no other place on Earth. Cold, hot; dramatic but silent. Dry and still, yet radiating powerful energy.

Breathe it in. Live.

This is what I live for.

How about you?

The entire Sliding Sands to Halemau’u Trail was 11-12 miles long but took us all day because it was hard to walk with our jaws on the ground :). We walked out of the crater several miles away from where we parked the car and hitched our way back up. We were picked up by the first car that came by and got to watch the sunset one more time before heading back to the jungle.

*If you come up to Haleakala make sure you bring a jacket. It gets very cold!!

After sunset we drove the long and winding road down the volcano. We didn’t know where we would sleep that night but decided to drive south from Kula in order to take a new road that we hadn’t discovered yet- the south-side road to Hana. Unfortunately, this left us with no chance to shower after the long hike and it was very difficult to find a safe place for us to hang up our hammocks for the night. After driving through a few small towns and some farmland, we were too tired to go any further so we ended up tying one side of our hammocks to our car, and the other side to a tree that happened to be in someone’s back yard. It was dark so nobody bothered us at night, but I did have a nightmare that an evil vampire zombie was chasing me out of my hammock, then woke up to a man telling us that we had to get off of his property. It was good to get us up and on the road nice and early :)

We drove down the Piilani Highway (a dirt road for which you’re “supposed to have a 4wd”) to the Seven Sacred Pools, seeing lava fields and black ocean cliffs on the way. It was very windy and rugged, similar to the south side of the Big Island. You don’t really need a 4wd for this road, just drive carefully and honk before going around corners.

The scenery changes from rough, windswept terrain to dense jungle around a little town called Kaupo. There, we found out about a bamboo forest hike (the Pipiwai Trail) that leads to a 400 ft waterfall called Waimoku Falls.

You’re not really supposed to go anywhere near this waterfall because of the danger of falling rocks… but it’s hard to drag me away from a waterfall :). It was spectacular, but scary. The rushing water was so intense that I had to run away after a couple of minutes.

After this we played in the 7 Sacred Pools. -Another place with a “do not enter” sign ?… this time because of a flood warning. We took our chances and swam in one sacred pool, climbed up its waterfall into another sacred pool, up another waterfall to another pool, and so on, until it was too dangerous to climb. The view from the biggest pool was incredible. Pool- waterfall-pool-waterfall-pool-waterfall- on and on until the freshwater reached the ocean and waves crashed against the falls. I think you would need a helicopter or a drone to get a decent shot of the pools, so unfortunately my photos don’t do this place much justice.

That night we hung up our hammocks in the campground by the pools, which was free with a national park pass. The park pass was about $25 for a year (for Hawaiian residents)- this includes Haleakala, the Seven Sacred Pools area, as well as the Big Island’s Volcanoes National Park.

We picked fruit (mostly jackfruit, mangoes, avocados, bananas and coconuts), bought rice and other cheap products and cooked over a fire or ate sandwiches. Our biggest expense was fuel, which was about $30-40 a tank (and you could drive around more than half of the island on one tank). I didn’t keep track of the money I spent during these adventures, but I’m sure that I didn’t even reach $100/week on everything.

We didn’t plan ahead of time, we just drove where we thought we wanted to go, talked to people, and found local secret spots along the way. One special place was called the Waioka Pond, a deep freshwater pool which was protected from the ocean by a rock wall. There were several fun spots to jump from, ranging from 1 meter high to about 8 meters.

We drove up and down the Hana Highway several times and swam under many waterfalls (highly recommended). We spent time on Hana’s exotic Red Sand Beach, nestled between rocks and deep green forest. The red sand comes from red and black lava cinders and is a spectacular contrast to the turquoise water.

We were not limited by time so we took our time to explore Maui. We talked to locals to find out about local life. We drove along every ocean-side road of the island, did many different hikes and explored new places every day. We slept anywhere we could hang up our hammocks and didn’t worry much about anything :)

At the end of the trip we sold Bruce (the car) for $1200 :)

We didn’t make a profit because we had to pay to register the car and gave the difference back to Bruce the man (as we promised), but at least we didn’t lose any money on island transport. We were able to sell the car for a decent price because we didn’t have a deadline. We hadn’t bought flights yet because we didn’t have to be anywhere on any particular day (i.e. we didn’t have to go back to work from vacation).

So, grand total of a fantastic month on Maui for two people-

Accommodation: $0

Transport: ~$250 (2 x plane from Oahu + ferry to Lanai)

Gas: ~$200

Food: ~$200

Phone credit: $60 (2 x $30 sim card)

National Park Pass: $25

Maybe some beer and an ice cream or so on top of that but not much else.

I didn’t buy any souvenirs because I didn’t go from Maui back to “home” (where friends and family expect gifts from a faraway land).

I didn’t have a “home” anywhere so I wasn’t paying rent or a mortgage. I didn’t have any bills. The closest thing I had to a bill was my $30/month phone credit. If I didn’t pay the $30 once a month the phone would just not work without wifi. Not a big deal. I didn’t pay for health insurance (I mentioned that here). Aaron registered the car on his name and decided to risk it with no insurance (I probably would have bought liability insurance if it was under my name but that was his decision). Everything else I explain on this page.

——–

Soo… grand total of 1 month on Maui=  ~$370 per person   :)

But there is an important point to understand here before I let you go :)

-The more you work, the less time you have to travel. Less time means more money because of restrictions and because of your own mentality.

Restrictions-

If you’re in a rush because you only have 1 or 2 weeks of vacation time, you will probably plan ahead to make sure that you can see everything that you came there to see. Anytime you book something off island (especially overseas) I can guarantee you will be paying 2-3, maybe 10 times the local price. You also need certain dates- these dates may be more expensive than other ones.

If your time is not limited, you know that once you get to know the place and the people there, you will figure out how the locals do things (by locals, I mean other people that have little money :)). You can find a way to do what you came there to do for the local price (or at least a much better one), because if you stay in one place long enough, you will become a “kinda” local yourself. That’s what traveling is all about for me. It’s not about ticking off a checklist of places I want to see, it’s about gaining a new local perspective of our world.

[See this blog.]

Mentality-

I think this is much more important than time restrictions.

What I mean by mentality here is the difference in mindset between being on vacation (holiday/leisure between periods of work) and traveling (living life in various places).

If you are going away for a set amount of time and have to come back home to your job on a certain date then your “traveling” is most likely just vacation. I don’t actually consider most forms of vacation as traveling but many people do so I will try to make the distinction here.

People go on vacation to relax from all the hard work that they’ve been doing. They call this traveling because they relax (and maybe see some sites) somewhere other than where they live.

Their time is limited because they have to go back home, usually to go back to work or school. As a result, their mentality is that they have to get the most out of this short vacation time (relax, have fun, etc.). In order to get the most out of vacation, they splurge on all kinds of stuff- fancy food, cocktails, nice accommodation, souvenirs, whatever. This way they can have fun, relax, not worry much and then go back to work.

Clearly this is not my idea of traveling.

In fact, I’m sure that all of my fellow moneyless nomads can agree that this is quite the opposite of traveling :)

5 star resorts are not traveling. Fancy restaurants are not important.

Just because you’re somewhere other than where you live, does not mean that you are traveling.

Traveling (by my definition) means taking your time to get to know the local people and place that you visit. It means trying to put yourself in the shoes of a local and taking time to see what is on the piece of Earth that you stand on.

Of course there are many grey areas between travel and vacation, like say backpacking through Europe for a month or two between semesters. If a person is making an effort to get to know the local place and its people, then I would consider this traveling. However, in my opinion, the purest form of traveling is when you quit everything and take off without a deadline or much of a plan. This is also the cheapest form of traveling because you free yourself from restrictions.

But more importantly, you free yourself from the mentality of being on vacation. Your mentality is not that you are relaxing/having fun for a short amount of time (so you can splurge on things), your mentality is that this is your life.

That’s just it. This is life! Traveling is life. There are some challenges to life on Earth but you just have to learn to deal with those challenges while living life. Most of these challenges have to do with money because in the world we live in today, we need money to survive. So basically, in order to travel, you have to learn how to deal with living with little money (i.e. having the opposite mentality of being on vacation :)). Every dollar counts- the better you learn to play this game, the longer you can travel, the less you have to work. The less you work, the more time you have to travel. The more time you have to travel, the easier it is for you to find cheap deals on anything you want to do.

Seems like a win win situation to me :)

And the opposite seems like a lose lose situation…

The more you work, the less time you have to travel. The less time you have, the more you have to spend while traveling (because of time restrictions and your mentality). The more you spend, the more you have to work again… the more you work, the more tired you get from working, the more you end up spending on vacation… the more you have to work again.

What are you working for anyway?

Funny thing is, because I travel all the time and never go on vacation, I never need to go on vacation. Life itself is even better than vacation.

But I do understand that not everybody wants to climb volcanoes, swim under waterfalls and pick mangoes from other people’s backyards while living out of a hammock :)

It’s not important for you to travel. What’s important for you is to do what you want. It’s also important for you to realize that all of this- this game we play (the job game/ money game/ trade game) is really just a game. Really. “The real world” is just a game.

Think about what you actually need to survive with: air, water, food and sometimes shelter and clothing. You can go into the jungle and live off of the land to survive, or you can follow by the rules of the game we’ve created to get what you need to survive.

Game meaning: job – money – food , shelter, etc.

The only reason you need a job is to get the stuff you need to survive with on Earth.

It doesn’t have to be so complicated. Get a job, get some money, buy some food. Or get a job for a little longer, save some money, quit, use this money to buy food for an extended amount of time. You don’t have to make your job your lifestyle if you just learn to manage your money well. I probably haven’t even worked for a quarter of my adult life and all of the jobs that I’ve had were ones that almost anybody can do (waitressing, bartending, babysitting, housekeeping, things like that).

Think about what this job really means to your existence as a living being on Planet Earth.

For sure a few of us make some amazing discoveries and scientific advancements for humankind, but the majority of us just work some mediocre (or shitty) jobs that basically only serve to keep the system going. And for what purpose? The system is destroying the environment that we depend on for survival.  -Climate change, pollution, deforestation and countless of other problems are all a result of the structure of our society.

– Our trade-based system is based on profiting from an infinite supply of resources, yet we live on a planet of finite resources. –

So why spend most of your life working to keep it going? What’s the point?

Many of these monotonous jobs can already be replaced by automation, and will be replaced as soon as it is profitable enough to do so. When automation takes away enough jobs, people will no longer have the purchasing power to buy the goods created. And there goes the game and the great collapse. That’s one scenario anyway, there are millions of others. The point is, there is no point of spending the majority of your life working simply because everybody else tells you that that’s the right thing to do. If you love your job, that’s fantastic! Keep at it! But if you’re not happy, and you’re stuck in this job because you’ve been conditioned to believe that that’s the only way to live on Planet Earth… and you’re one of those people who tell me they wish they could travel but can’t because of the money… then maybe you should read some more of my blogs :)

One day you will die. And what did you live for? Did you live just to play the game? Did you win?

Don’t kid yourself, nobody wins this game. One day we will all die out, the Earth will keep rotating, and we will all be big losers. We’ll be bigger losers, however, if we bring our own selves to extinction through our own shitty game.

Part 3: Emma on Hawaii

book, Uncategorized

My good friend Emma flew in from Australia on March 1st. Emma is the most bad-ass chick that I know, and one of the greatest influences of my life. I met her when I was just 18-years-old, in Whistler, Canada, and she basically showed me how to be a strong, independent woman and pay no attention to what other people say you can or can’t do.

Emma’s from the Northern Territories, Australia, and used to ride bulls for fun. Now she works as a fitter in a diamond mine- working 2 weeks on, 4 weeks off; so after every 2 weeks of slavery she has 4 weeks to do what she wants.

Emma and I traveled around New Zealand together in 2012 and through the Australian Outback in 2013. I visited her in Queensland in 2015, and now, in 2017, she came to see me on Hawaii.

We flew onto the Big Island because we had heard that the lava flow into the ocean had turned into a waterfall. It did. It was amazing. Mesmerizing. And this time there was a whale about 20 feet away from the lava.

*I hadn’t received my new camera yet, so all we have are very bad quality shots. Sorry ?

We rented a car and slept on a different beach every night. We explored every corner of the island- from the black sand nudist beach in the south, to the jungles in the north; from Mauna Kea down to Kalapana.

We woke up one morning to a naked hippie dancing by his fire. Behind him, there was a pod of over 50 dolphins. I ripped off my clothes and ran straight into the ocean. Last time I noticed dolphins swimming, I actually managed to catch up to them and swim among them as they played around with each other. No luck this time but it was a perfect way to wake up regardless.

We put on some clothes, left the nudist beach and spent the whole day driving north. It was getting dark and started raining heavily as we approached a small town called Hawi, at the northern-most tip of the island. We didn’t know where we could sleep that night since there wasn’t much space in our small rental car and we didn’t have a tent or any cover.

So as adventures go when it comes to me and Em, we decided to go to the bar (well it was more of a restaurant, but that was the closest thing we could find to a bar). Hawi is a tiny little town and one of the very few remaining places with a strong Hawaiian presence and culture. Everybody in the restaurant knew each other, there was an amazing Hawaiian band playing and people would occasionally get up to dance the hula. A white guy came in from outside of the restaurant, asked to use the microphone of the band and made an announcement to the people, thanking them for their wonderful hospitality, then left.

“Strange,” we thought.

A couple of Mai Thais down and we were best friends with the local aunties. They were incredibly nice; they shared food with us, laughs and stories, they even bought us cocktails and pu-pus.

A couple of more Mai Thais and we were best friends with everybody in that place. The band was going off, the dance floor was packed and everybody was stoked. At the end of the night, every person in the restaurant got onto the dance floor, held hands in a circle, and sang a Hawaiian departure song for Emma and me, wishing us luck in our travels. This was very very touching. What an amazing group of people they were, to show so much care and love for complete strangers from another land.

When the bar shut, we were invited to sleep at one of the Hawaiian guy’s houses. All aunties confirmed that he was a good, trustworthy guy. And he really was :).

Next, we wanted to do the infamous Big Island night-dive with manta rays. We didn’t want to pay $100 each for the standard snorkel tour, so we came up with a better plan. We rented dive torches for about $8 and found out where the dive boats were located (the ones with the big lights that attract manta rays). Thankfully, my friend Aaron, a lifeguard, flew in from Oahu and joined us for this adventure. If there’s anyone I trust in the ocean, it’s Aaron. We found the spot- big jagged rocks led to the dive boats in the ocean just behind the Sheraton Hotel in Kona. The swell frightened me a bit as it moved up and down, crashing against sharp stones in the darkness. I jumped in when Aaron said, “go!”

And there we were in the black ocean…

Stars above. Dive-boat 50 meters away.

A bit scary. I tried not to think about sharks. That wasn’t too hard as the fear of the big swell and current was distracting enough.

Just swim.

Got to the dive-boat!

This was spectacular! There were several huge manta rays sweeping gracefully from the deep black ocean to the fluorescent boat lights. The guys in charge of the dive-boat started to get angry at us for poaching their boat lights… but luckily you can’t hear much under water ?.

I dove down to get a closer look at the manta. I don’t know what I was thinking as this manta ray was gliding towards me (probably just “aaahh”), when all of the sudden, I realized that I was way too close and directly in front of this sweeping giant, and the manta rammed straight into my arm! The poor thing was terrified! It squiggled up like a worm and swam upward. I had to go upward too. That hurt. I had no idea that mantas were so bony. I got a massive bruise for the next few weeks.

Totally worth it  :D

These adventures didn’t take much money. It was about $20/day for the car rental (with no insurance). We slept on beaches and bought food in supermarkets or farmers markets. Apart from that, we paid for gas and a drink here or there- the same stuff you might normally buy at home anyway. I wasn’t paying rent anymore, so traveling at that point was even cheaper than living in one place.

We went to the Kalapana night market one night to sell Wacky Whistles (funny sounding whistles from Australia) and earned about $100. I decided that I could just do that all over the world! And I won’t ever have to waitress again!

What can you do with $100 on Hawaii? Not much, right? That’s why it’s best not to need much! You can buy a bag of rice, a bag of beans and $30 of fresh fruit and vegetables- this can last you 3-4 days. Spend the other $50 on gas- that will get you more than half way around the Big Island. What else do you really need? Car rental, I guess. I usually don’t like to rent cars but Emma was short on time and it happened to be cheap so it was most convenient. By the way, I believe that car rental companies actually make money through selling insurance, not through renting cars. If you already have a vehicle somewhere (perhaps in a different State or island), you should check if your insurance covers the rented vehicle- this can save you a lot of money.

If somebody had paid for a week of accommodation in a 5-star resort for me on Hawaii, I would probably have slept there 1-2 nights at the most. I think that staying in a hotel highly restricts you because you waste so much precious time going back and forth from your hotel room and “getting ready.” I never realized how much time I wasted in life just “getting ready” until I lived out of a car. “Getting ready” mostly means just organizing your crap. Remember, a hotel room is just a place where you can sleep and store your crap.

For me, the feeling of “freedom” is at its highest when I don’t know where I’m going to sleep at night and I don’t care because I’m so stoked about where I am and what I’m doing.

And the adventures didn’t stop there! We went back to Oahu and climbed Pu’u Manamana and Ka’au Crater, surfed, snorkeled, camped at Kaena Point and Makua, jumped off a 50 ft cliff by Hanauma Bay, climbed to the Makapu’u Tide Pools, paddle-boarded to the Kaneohe Sandbar, sailed in Honolulu and danced to Tavana (amazing one-man band).

None of this cost much money at all! Hiking, surfing, snorkeling, camping and cliff diving is free. The paddleboards and sailboat belonged to friends. Tavana’s show is also free. And awesome! So even Hawaii can be cheap if you want it to be.

At the end of the trip, Emma was dead asleep by a campfire and I hear someone shout out, “Sasha, you’ve killed Emma!” :D

Tavana. You can find him at Hawaiian Brian’s in Honolulu any Tuesday ;)

Part 2: Playing It Right

book, Uncategorized

Waves the size of houses crashed on the North Shore of Oahu. I’ve seen many waves in my life, but I have never seen anything like this. Across the street from our house was Keikis- the heaviest shorebreak on the island. You could feel our house tremble a bit on a big day.

I’d go straight to the beach after work, just to stare at the waves under moonlight. The energy was so powerful that it frightened me sometimes. So much weight coming down at once, crashing, bursting, vibrating, resonating, then being sucked out to sea like air through a vacuum.

I need these moments alone in life. To think and not think. To sit on lumpy sand between monstrous waves and the shadows of mountains. Kaena Point in the distance. The universe above my head.

The stars were so bright on the North Shore.

On my 28th birthday I saw humpback whales breaching very close to shore, right in my backyard. Then I climbed a volcano and swam naked under a waterfall.

Everything changed after that day in the jungle.

I was rejuvenated. I knew exactly what I was living for. I had 2 months to save as much money as possible and then I’d be a free slave again.

Now I really got down to business. I worked so much that I was getting in trouble for how much over-time I was building up (because they had to pay us something like $11 an hour for overtime). I was no longer depressed. I was excited, happy and enthusiastic. I met interesting people at the restaurant like Jack Johnson and John Jackson :).

I got into intriguing conversations with my guests. I shared travel stories with them, my ideas about the world, the Venus Project, everything. One nice older couple was so impressed by me that they tipped me $200 three nights in a row on a $100 bill, and $500 on their last night in Hawaii. Unfortunately, I had to tip out half of that money, but those moments inspired me not as much for the money, but more so because they made me realize that I was actually able to influence people.

I realized that people actually listened to me and cared about what I had to say. If I can impress somebody enough to give me $1000 just by telling them a few stories in between courses, maybe I can do something much greater.

In the two months between the day in the jungle and my final quitting date, I made more money than anybody else in that place, bartenders and managers included. I saved over $10,000 in just two months. I understand that you cannot earn this much as a waitress in most other countries no-matter how hard you work, but this was the first time in my life that I had ever earned that much and I am still living off of that money now (June, 2019).

March 1st, I quit.

I sold my car and moved out of my house. I bought 4 things that were important for what I wanted to do: a good camera, a good backpack, a laptop and a lightweight hammock. Altogether, this stuff added up to a bit less than $2,000, so you could say that I traded my car in for these things (I eventually bought a smaller and safer car in fear of the gunk van exploding).

I stayed on the Hawaiian Islands for about 3 more months, living out of my hammock and exploring as much as I could.

Part 1: The Job Game

book, Uncategorized

I was surfing in Nicaragua last time I realized that I was running out of money and would have to go back to slavery again to continue to live on Earth. I considered staying in Central America and getting an English teaching job; I even applied and was accepted to teach at a school in Honduras, but then I thought about the 9-month contract I would have to sign and realized that it would be much easier to just go back to the US, work in a bar for a couple of months, save, quit, then return to Central or South America and travel around without being tied to a job.

I had two options in my head- Vegas and Hawaii. Vegas would be dreadful, but I was confident that I could quickly and easily find bar work there and save several thousand dollars in 2-3 months (US bar work pays very well in tips). Hawaii is expensive and not as promising for work, but it’s like a playground for me- mountains, ocean, surfing, diving, climbing, fishing, mangoes and avocados, and some good friends!

I looked at flights. There was a cheap one to Hawaii.

Fuck it. 3 days later I was all Aloha.

One thing to note is that I’ve never revolved my life around making any kind of career for money. I recognize that I need money to live in society. I know that I need to work in order to get money. So for me, work is simply a means to get money. Nothing else.

I’ve never even considered merging my life (the stuff I like to do) with a long term means of making money. I don’t even know how I could have done that… become a professional snowboarder? That would have taken a lot of effort and may have ruined the fun of snowboarding. Professional photographer? But then I would have to take pictures of what other people want me to take pictures of, not what I want to take pictures of. I would also probably have to stay in one place for a long time or go where other people tell me to go. I’d much rather just make money as quickly as possible, quit and then do what I want to do after.

So I try to view work as a game… Let’s play the “job game” again for a couple of months so I can get it over with and continue to live on Earth.

In all my years of traveling, I’ve never set up a job for myself ahead of time, before arriving in a new city or country. I don’t have anything against doing this, but I think it’s unnecessary and a bit of a waste of energy. Wherever there are bars and restaurants there is work for me. That’s the kind of work I usually look for because it doesn’t take much background knowledge and, in the US, you can make 3-4 times more money bartending than almost any other ordinary job. Plus, people come and go in hospitality all the time, so there’s always work to be found and it won’t kill the business when you leave.

Of course, when I apply for work, I have to pretend like I’ve been living in one place my entire adult life and like I will stay in this new place for the rest of my life. I don’t like lying or holding back the truth about myself, but, you gotta do what you gotta do in a world where you need money to survive. If they know you’re a gypsy, they won’t hire you.

I was determined to get a job on the North Shore. I didn’t want to live anywhere else on Oahu and couldn’t afford a flight to another island. I found out that there was a new restaurant called Roy’s opening up in Turtle Bay (fancy beachfront hotel). Everybody said that this would be the best work on the North Shore; I even met people who wanted to quit their management positions just to serve tables there.

I applied as a bartender but said I that could waitress if they really needed it (although last time I served tables I told myself it would be the last time).

I got in! They said to come to training in four weeks.

I would never usually wait that long for the “job game” to start, but so many people assured me that Roy’s would be a goldmine and that it would be worth it, so I waited.

Four weeks on Hawaii… -500 dollars. What to do? I had to borrow money to buy a van to live in. The van was $900 but it drove and had no back seats. I acquired a mattress then sanded down and painted the ceiling of the van because the foam and cloth that you would normally find on the ceiling of a vehicle had deteriorated into a brown moldy gunk. I thought it would be ironic if I worked in a fancy restaurant in Turtle Bay and lived in a gunk van.

I showed up to training 4 weeks later. The place looked nice- right on the beach, new furniture, beautiful bar facing the ocean. I had never been a part of a restaurant opening before, but Roy’s was serious business. I was impressed. They gave us a binder that was about 2 inches thick- half filled with recipes, half with ‘front of house’ business. Roy came in. We all introduced ourselves, then we split the front of house and back of house. Started learning the “Roy’s ways.”

The training was intense. It went on for 6-7 hours a day for 3 weeks and we were paid minimum wage during this time (about $8/hour). After a few days of training, we were separated into categories- bartenders, waiters, food runners and bussers. They called us out name by name.

They called me to the busser section. I almost had a panic attack. “Me? A busser?!” I applied to be a bartender! I just wasted over a month failing at this stupid “job game,” waiting for this training to start. What the hell kind of money could I make cleaning tables?!

Someone else that was called to the busser section put down his apron and walked out. I kept it cool, tried not to tear up. Went through the training, learned how to pick up dirty dishes and pour water into water glasses.

At the end of that day I pulled Chris Pirrone, the hiring manager, to the side and asked him what the deal was. He said that I could train with the servers the next day and “see how I go.”

“See how I go.” Ok. No hope for bartending then. I was devastated, but at least there was hope for serving tables. Fuck.

In the training we got to try all of the food, which was some of the best food I’ve tasted in my life. We also had to learn what was in every dish, how it was made and how to ‘spiel’ it. I stayed up until 5 in the morning each night, learning every single ingredient in every dish, every spice, exactly how it was cooked, the freaken origin of every fish that was served, what it was fed, what its middle name was. I learned that masago was caviar from a small forage fish in the smelt family which grazes on plankton at the edge of ice shelves in the North Atlantic, North Pacific and Arctic oceans. Yes, it has scales. I learned all the ingredients in shichimi, I learned that hoisin sauce has msg, and that soy sauce is not gluten free…. I learned what was nori, namasu, browning, braising, blanching… Ask anybody in that place if my spiel made them cum. It sure did. I aced every test. I made sure I would be a fucking waitress.

And I got it! Yes!

The restaurant opened. I messed up a few times. Everybody did. It’s okay.

I worked more and more. Wasn’t making much money. We (servers) had to split about 50% of our tips with everybody else (food runners, bussers, bartenders, etc.) so I was only making about $50 a lunch shift and $100 a dinner shift. That’s very little for restaurant work on Hawaii.

Two months on Hawaii and I was still in debt.

‘Roy’s was a mistake,’ I realized, ‘I could have saved plenty of money by now working somewhere else…’

I couldn’t turn back now. ‘Work harder. Work more!’

I did. The more I worked, the faster I got, the more I could handle, the more tips I made. That’s the thing about hospitality jobs in the US- the harder you work, the more money you make.

Serving tables really is hard work. You need to have a good memory and be very organized inside your own head. Little things like, “can I have some ketchup” can easily throw off your organization when you’re slammed. You need to keep a constant list of priorities in your head, and this list is continuously changing, every few minutes or so. If you know how to properly manage the list, you can be a good server. Double check everything and you won’t make mistakes. Calm yourself and don’t get overwhelmed in stressful situations. Don’t forget that it’s just a game.  

I worked a lot; I worked well. I won every single competition in that place– from bottles of wine, to beer, gift certificates, I even won a costume contest.

On Halloween they offered a $100 prize + a bottle of wine for the best costume. At that point, I lived in a share house across Keiki Beach with a bunch of friends. It was the kind of house where a lot of people come and go all the time (surfers and hippies stay for a few months and then leave… leaving their crap behind). So there was a lot of crap- clothes, shoes, toys, etc. that didn’t belong to anybody.

I was determined to win that contest. The night before Halloween I found a box, duct tape, clothes, shoes and a giant stuffed panda. I turned the clothes into a little body and put it into the box, which I turned into a cage using the duct tape. Then I found a fluffy black sweater. I put it on and stuffed the panda into the back of the sweater so that the panda’s head popped out above my head. I made a hole in the back of the box and inserted my head into it, making my head look like the head of the little body inside the cage. My real body then looked like the body of the evil panda, who’s face I painted with “blood”.

I was pleasantly surprised that it actually turned out like I had hoped- giant evil panda holding a miniature captive (me) in a cage.

So Roy’s is a pretty fancy restaurant. The kind that people with little bow-ties and fancy dresses go to. The meals were about $50-60, apps $20-30. Proper wine service. And we were supposed to spiel every table.

My first table on Halloween was a party of 7 rich people celebrating something. A couple of them laughed at my costume, but I could tell that some of them were not very pleased at having an evil panda + miniature captive spiel them and serve them expensive food. It was great, I spieled the shit out of them :D. I presented and served a $100 bottle of wine for them in my costume, but couldn’t reach the table when I tried to pour them the wine because the cage was in the way. Luckily, my coworkers helped me out a lot that night.

It was hard to work in that costume, it was very hot and I couldn’t hold a tray or see anywhere but straight ahead of me. It wasn’t a very productive night but totally worth it.

$100 up ;)

In November, my friend Dave flew in from Australia. Dave has cerebral palsy, so he cannot walk without crutches and has a hard time using basic motor skills, yet this is the second time he had left his country with absolutely no assistance, to visit me on a faraway island. Actually, he visits his friends all the time, all over the world. Doctors have been telling Dave that he should be in a wheelchair for many years, but he refuses. He walks. Slowly, but he walks :).

I took 5 days off work to go to the Big Island with Dave. We rented a van, which we slept in and drove all around the island. We drove to the top of Mauna Kea for the supermoon (November 14th, 2016- the biggest and brightest moon in 60 years). We found out that there are telescopes you can use for free in the information center’s observatory.

We stepped out of the van to the blistering cold wind on Mauna Kea; it must have been close to freezing that night. The wind was so strong that it was knocking Dave off of his crutches. Dave grabbed the biggest telescope to support his entire body, having no idea that telescopes could move so easily. The telescope went sliding away, crutches dropped to the ground, and about 5 people ran over to help Dave. He was fine, just a bit shocked and worried about the telescope. We peered at the moon with caution, it looked absolutely surreal.

Just past the observatory, there was an unpaved road that led to the summit of Mauna Kea; at the entrance of the road there were a bunch of warning signs:

Danger! 4-wheel drive only! And so on.

I looked at the gravel, looked at Dave. It looked fine, he looked ok. We ignored the signs and drove the van up the volcano (this rental van was in much better shape than my gunk van). Halfway up, it started getting really steep and a bit scary in the dark, so I stopped the van and parked on the side of the winding dirt road. We slept there for the night. No one bothered us but the supermoon. The moon was so massive and bright on top of Mauna Kea that I felt like it was energizing my entire body, soon to take over my mind! I could barely sleep with it peering through the car window all night. Nevertheless, it was absolutely incredible.

We drove to the summit in the morning.

Mauna Kea (“White Mountain”) is the highest point in the Pacific Basin, and the highest island-mountain in the world; it rises 9,750 meters (32,000 ft) from the ocean floor to an altitude of 4,205 meters (13,796 ft) above sea level, which places its summit above 40 percent of the Earth’s atmosphere. (ifa.hawaii.edu)

The summit of Mauna Kea was cold, windy, brown and barren. Like another planet altogether. Sparse dark brown cinder cones poked out of the lava plateau.

Hawaii is Earth’s connecting point to the rest of the Universe.  The summit of Mauna Kea on the Island of Hawaii hosts the world’s largest astronomical observatory, with telescopes operated by astronomers from eleven countries. The combined light-gathering power of the telescopes on Mauna Kea is fifteen times greater than that of the Palomar telescope in California — for many years the world’s largest — and sixty times greater than that of the Hubble Space Telescope. (ifa.hawaii.edu)

We contemplated trying to sneak into the observatory but decided against it… Mostly because of the cold wind.

We got back in the car and started driving down the mountain. The drive down Mauna Kea was a bit frightening because there was a storm moving in and I was afraid of it snowing on this “Danger! 4WD only!” road, since we didn’t have 4WD or chains.

We made it down slowly, then drove to the beach to warm up. It is amazing that on Hawaii, you can encounter such a radical difference in climate in just a couple of hours of driving- from winter on Mars to a tropical rainforest! You can even snowboard on Mauna Kea in winter, then drive down the mountain and go for a surf.

We drove to South Point, where I jumped off of a 40-foot cliff, then to the Green Sand Beach. The Green Sand Beach is an impressive site after a ride through the barren south shore landscape. It is located in a beautiful turquoise bay, there are rocky cliffs on both sides of the water, and a steep hill of soft moss-green sand leading down to the waves. I tumbled down the steep sandy slope to get to the water. The ocean was messy, there was very strong current and small choppy waves. I didn’t go in.

The next day, we drove up Kilauea, one of the most active volcanoes on Earth. Rather than the cinder cone that you typically imagine on a volcano, Kilauea has a collapsed pit crater called Halemaʻumaʻu, which holds a lava lake that you can see from the observation platform at the Jaggar Museum. There are telescopes that you can use for free to see the lava turn, splash and burst out of its pit. According to Hawaiian mythology, Halemaʻumaʻu is the home of Pele- goddess of fire, lightning, dance, wind, volcanoes and violence.

We took a long drive through the national park, from the crater pit to the ocean. It was a powerful sight- a steady mountain slope of dried up black lava meeting bright blue endless water. We drove for hours, gazing at black dusty rivers of Pāhoehoe (smooth, unbroken lava) over steep slopes covered in ʻAʻā (rough lava blocks). Amazing.

Dave and I didn’t plan our trip ahead of time; we just knew that Mauna Kea was the largest island mountain in the world, we knew that the supermoon was on its way and were aware of the active volcano on the island. Since we didn’t pay for accommodation, we weren’t bound to any particular part of the island; that gave us the flexibility to go where we wanted, when we wanted and to simply explore. We parked anywhere we wanted and slept in the van or on beaches. We kept food to a minimum budget as well, mostly buying from supermarkets or farmer’s markets.

We found out about the Kalapana night market, a lively local festivity that happens every Wednesday night on the south of the Big Island. On our way to the markets, we accidentally passed the right turnoff and drove all the way to the dirt road that leads to the south end of Volcanoes National Park, where you can see lava pouring into the ocean. Unfortunately, you can’t drive all the way to the lava, you can either walk there or go for a two-hour bike ride.

The end of the paved road was filled with bike rental stands and I noticed a few bikes with attached baby strollers. Some of them looked pretty decently sized.

Hmm. The sun was just about to go down. There was an active volcano. There was lava. There was the ocean. There was Dave. There was a bike. No other way to get there. There was Dave. There was a bike stroller. There was Dave.

Next thing you know Dave’s in the baby stroller and I’m hauling ass towards the lava.

The looks on people’s faces were priceless as I passed by them, dragging a hairy, loud-mouthed, 30-something year old man up a volcano in a baby capsule. It was a great workout.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t get Dave all the way to where the lava poured into water because there was a rough 150 or so meter walk over uneven, dried up ʻAʻā; but I think that he enjoyed the bike ride, sunset and ambiance of Volcanoes National Park regardless.

I was mesmerized by the sight of lava meeting the ocean. The mix of energy, red hot magma spewing onto ocean waves crashed against black cliffs. It is magical to see the island grow with your own eyes.

How damn lucky I felt to have this privilege.

Dave flew out a few days later and I got back to the job game. I continued to slave away through November and December. I worked many doubles which ran from 9:45am to up to 1:00am, usually with no break (sometimes I would get 20 minutes or so to change clothes). After a double (and I often did 2 or 3 doubles in a row) I would need an entire day of bed rest just to recover (after which I would have to come right back to work again).

I basically ate nothing but Roy’s employee meals, which were usually tasty but not the healthiest, and I had severe back pain that I couldn’t get rid of because of the stress of the job and because I had no time to deal with it. By the end of December, I started to feel depressed.

What was I doing?

I took a day off and went into the jungle.

I always liked this quote from the movie, The Power of One:

“any question you have, the answer you will find in nature.”

I walked around the jungle barefoot and alone. Felt the mud slip in between my toes. Think.

5 months in the job game and I have little to show for it. I paid back my debt, saved a few thousand dollars but not nearly what I would expect from 5 months of work. I wasted 2 months- one month waiting for the stupid game to start, one month training, getting minimum wage. I have serious back pain. I’m not happy.

Come back to reality. What am I doing?

I am a little person on a giant sphere that we call Earth, moving through a vast infinity of wonder we call the Universe. I am so insignificant. This “job game” is so meaningless.

I felt deep empathy for those who don’t see it as a game, but allow it to engulf their entire life. How can you just live and accept this? How lost and confused must some be.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

I have to do something about this!

But what?

I grabbed a guava tree. Looked at its intricate beauty. The interwoven shapes of its bark. The colors- red, pink, brown, even blue. The colors were weaving.

Think.

I spent the last 9 years of my life traveling all over the world. If I died today, I wouldn’t regret a minute of it. I don’t believe in the system we live in, I have no desire to settle down and join it. I know I will quit this job soon.

Why am I so confused then?

When I left Nicaragua, I broke up with Chris, the greatest love of my life. He was so perfect. So beautiful inside and out. He understood me deeply. He was funny, witty, sexy and smart. I miss him.

Was that a mistake?

It didn’t feel like a mistake. I couldn’t handle it anymore. We spent two and a half years traveling around the world together- 3 months in one country, 2 in another; 3 months together, 4 months apart. We had 4 passports between the two of us, but none that allowed us to live and work in the same place. I couldn’t be torn apart anymore. I needed to be on my own for a while. It felt right.

What is it then?

I’m just overworking myself. I don’t have a plan. A date. Where am I going next? What am I doing? 

What am I doing?

I thought about the last few of years of traveling- Australia, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, the Caribbean, Lake Tahoe, Europe, Russia, Ukraine, Nicaragua.

I need more.

Not more places or more adventures, but more purpose. More depth in my life.

I started to feel guilty. Guilty for taking advantage of the system and just having fun, knowing that the whole world was so fucked up.

Look at these people. Look at what we’re doing to our planet. We’re killing it all for the job game! Can’t they see that it’s just a game?

No, they can’t.

Think.

I struggled with university, but managed to finish in 2014. I graduated with a degree of International and Global Studies from the University of Sydney. This was a brand-new degree, I was in the 2nd group of people that had ever graduated with it, so it was very disorganized but its aim was to give us a perspective of the ‘international and global’ world that we live in. The degree spanned from studying international political systems, to international business, to cultural issues, international conflicts, war, environmental degradation and so on, going across many different faculties of the university.

The core subject analyzed global and international problems and looked at how different types of institutions dealt with different types of problems. For example, I once analyzed how UN Women (a government organization) dealt with the issue of rape being used as a weapon of war vs. how Amnesty International (a non-government organization) dealt with the same issue. My conclusion was that neither organization helped much at all because neither one of them dug to the roots of the problem- and these roots are very, very deep.

My conclusion to the entire degree was that our whole system needed to be completely dismantled and recreated in order to solve any global issue. Gaining this kind of perspective from a ‘prestigious’ institution did a lot for me, because it basically confirmed my suspicions about how screwed up our society was and it backed up my belief that there was absolutely no reason for me to make any effort to build some kind of career for money or to live a boring ordinary life.

I thought about this and stared into the guava tree.

It is so beautiful.

How could I live without this guava tree?  Without the forest, without the extraordinary biodiversity of our oceans, our Earth.

We cannot live without life on Earth.

I have to at least try to do something.

But what? And how?

The Venus Project. -This was the only organization that I knew of that proposed an in-depth holistic plan for how to redesign the entire global culture and system starting from the very core- human values, mentality and behavior. Any other form of activism seemed pointless to me because the hard effort would eventually be wiped out by the money system or some other symptom of trade.

I picked a guava.

How to join the Venus Project? I had been wondering that for years.

In spring of 2016, on my way to Nicaragua, I flew to Florida to meet 100-year-old Jacque Fresco, the founder of the Venus Project (TVP). While I was at the TVP research center, I also met co-founder Roxanne Meadows and a guy named Saso Luznar. I told them that I was Russian, and they said that the Russian speaking team was actually the biggest TVP team in the world, but that they had some communication issues and needed a good Russian-English link.

That got me excited! I could be the missing link!

I immediately volunteered to help and gave them my contact information. Saso said that they would get me into the next orientation process to become a Point of Contact for TVP, but that this would take a few months.

Ok. I cleared my head. Dropped the squashed fruit from my palm.

I just had to wait. TVP is in my near future. For now, get a grasp of reality. Don’t lose it. Don’t let the ‘job game’ get to you. Remember your insignificance in the vast universe.

Make a deadline: March 1st– I quit no-matter what. Bust it out, save as much as possible, quit and go. It doesn’t matter where, just quit the stupid game!

I walked out of the jungle.