Tag Archives: Adventure Blog

How a Video Game Inspired Me To Visit a Certain Country


Many of you already know that I have a pretty deep fondness for Nepal. But what most of you don’t know is how and why I chose to visit there in the first place.

Well, the answer is kinda amusing.

You ever heard of this video game?


It’s called Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, a universally praised title developed by Naughty Dog that originally released for the PlayStation 3 system in 2009.

If you aren’t familiar, it’s about a world explorer (like me!) named Nathan Drake who gets caught up in an Indiana Jones-style adventure across the world, trying to obtain a lost treasure before a group of international baddies get their grubby hands on it. Of course, this game is right up my alley, so I had to play it. It also doesn’t hurt that it is one of the best-reviewed video games in history. Play it if you haven’t!


One of the game’s chapters led me (Nathan Drake) into a fictionalized, battle-bruised version of Kathmandu, Nepal. I’ve heard of Kathmandu before, but I knew absolutely nothing about it. But I have to hand it to the game designers, they made Kathmandu feel engrossing (even with all the rubble) and after playing through the chapter, it sparked an interest in actually going there.

I googled Kathmandu and did an image search and was happy to find that the developers of the game were faithful in recreating Nepal as accurate as possible: the colorful prayer flags strung across the old, almost crumbled brick buildings, the temples, the lighting, the snow-capped mountains in the backdrop. Everything was just like I’ve seen from the images.

This is what part of Kathmandu looks like today…


…before Naughty Dog created a fictionalized battle-beaten version.


That yellow taxi even looks like the ones I caught while I was there!

Suddenly, Nepal skyrocketed to the top of my list of countries I must explore.

I made the decision then and there. I had to go.

About a year or so later, I booked a flight to Nepal and worked with an organization in Kathmandu to volunteer at a school in Pokhara. And from there, the rest is history. It sounds a bit farcical and cliche to say this, but it changed my life forever. For the better.

It’s crazy to think that if I’ve never played that game, then I probably would never have gone to Nepal. At least not so suddenly. It was never really on my radar until the moment I blew up bad guys with a grenade launcher in the middle of Kathmandu.

Thank you, Naughty Dog.

P.S – There are two amazing sequels that have also been critically praised. I have yet to play the fourth but will do so whenever I find the time.

Has anything unorthodox ever inspired you to visit a specific place? Please let me know! 🙂

Returning to Kathmandu: Before and After The Earthquakes


Back in November 2014, I had the privilege of visiting Kathmandu, Nepal’s capital, before the earthquakes struck in April 2015 killing more than 9,000 civilians and injuring more than double that amount. Century-old buildings across Kathmandu were destroyed, many among them being UNESCO World Heritage sites. Those earthquakes are written as one of Nepal’s worst natural disasters in recent decades. Now, just over two years later, I find myself back in the ancient city, bearing witness to the aftermath and progression of the affected community since that fateful day on the 25th of April, 2015.

Arriving in Nepal after coming from chaotic India felt like coming home and a breath of fresh air, despite all the smog. I fluidly navigated through the familiar customs and immigration and nabbed a cheap taxi ride with a Californian couple to Thamel, the bustling tourist hotspot within Kathmandu. Getting out of the airport proved to be much smoother this time around as opposed to my last visit. You learn from your errors.


I was beaming with smiles as everything glowed with familiarity and the fact that Thamel seemed to remain in mostly intact and unaffected by the earthquakes, at least from what I could remember. I planned on spending at least a couple of months in Nepal, so I went and bought a sim* for my phone and bargained for some winter wear to keep warm in the mountains later.

*If you plan on getting a sim for your phone in Nepal, know that sims are much cheaper in Pokhara than they are in Kathmandu, specifically Thamel. This should come in handy especially with anyone who plans to trek Annapurna and wants to stay connected.

In contrast to my prior visit in 2014, when Kathmandu was spilling with tourists, it was now comparatively desolate. I wasn’t sure if it was because it was the low season (January and February are considered not to be an ideal time for trekking in Nepal because of the unfavorably nippy weather), if the earthquakes frightened tourists from visiting or if it was a combination of both. It was made even more apparent when I attempted to bargain shop, which is the norm in Thamel, and many sellers pleaded to me that times were tough and that I was one of their only potential customers for hours at a time.

I settled into a neat hotel smack-dab in the middle of Thamel and had dinner with the Californian couple. They were here to tour Kathmandu. I was here to relax for a couple of days before I head off to Pokhara to reunite with my Nepali host family in Padeli. But first, I went to pick up a friend who would be joining me from the airport.

Hamish opted to join me in Nepal after I told him about it in Fiji a few months ago. He was inclined to tag along and I was happy to have him, but I forewarned him that Nepal is more of a culture shock than tropical Fiji and that the village we would be living in is pretty darn rustic, but an authentic Nepalese experience. He was down. (We’ve been in Nepal for over a month now and I’ve come to find that Nepal may have been more of a culture shift than he was initially ready for. More on that in a later post.)

Now that he was here, I was ready to reacquaint myself with Kathmandu, two years after the earthquakes. We walked from Thamel to Durbar Square, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, where the devastation from the quakes were more apparent. Many of the temples and courtyards I’d seen here before were gone or collapsed to rubble.


FullSizeRender 6.jpg

There used to be rows of smalltime sellers here with tourists whipping up a bargaining storm.

Many buildings were lined with support beams to help with framework and balance after their structural integrity had been compromised from quakes and numerous aftershocks. Piles and piles of crumbled bricks and debris laid in plots where spectacular works of architecture once stood.


FullSizeRender 5.jpg

FullSizeRender 7.jpg

We walked twenty minutes west of Durbar Square to the Swayambhunath Stupa, a historic religious monument on top of a hill in Kathmandu Valley. Because of the complexity of its name, many people commonly refer to it as the Monkey Temple, in reference to the population of ‘holy’ monkeys that live there and dominate the hillside.


After further investigation, I found that most of the temple was still intact from what I could remember, but there were obvious signs of destruction and even less monkeys frolicking around. The outer bounds of Swayambhunath were lined with half-toppled structures, no doubt a result from the earthquakes.


FullSizeRender 9.jpg

To say that Nepal has made progress since the April earthquakes would be the absolute truth. I saw some of the physical destruction, but I did not hear one local basking in the tragedy or even mention the earthquakes once. Progression is being made to recuperate, rebuild, and restructure the tourism industry, which Nepal so heavily relies on. Finding a way to get the visitors back in Nepal seems to be a priority.

FullSizeRender 8.jpg

As a firsthand witness, I can attest to the fact that Nepal is just as neat as it ever was (minus the loss of unique ancient sites). Prices are a bit cheaper to reel back tourists and locals in the tourism industry are hankering now more than ever to give foreign visitors a quality experience to show that Nepal hasn’t lost its stride in spite of recent tragedy, and is ready to get the country back on its running legs.


The Struggle Up Sleeping Bear Dunes

The Quest to the Seven Continents kicks off in my home state of Michigan, recently voted the number one state in the country according to thrillist.com. One of those reasons is the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in the Northwest corner in the lower peninsula of Michigan.

Screen Shot 2016-08-04 at 6.15.56 PM
Google Maps

Hills of loose sand that stretch up and down about 3.5 miles to the coast of Lake Michigan makes it one of Michigan’s most spectacular beauties.


It doesn’t look like much from the start, but behind this dune are several other dunes, that only those who are determined will finish.

Before I left home for good, I promised a few of my nephews and nieces that I would take them somewhere cool. I knew of a few cool spots up north where they’ve never been that would fit the bill. Along with them, I recruited three friends of mine along with one of their daughters to help me chaperone (and cook) for the kids at the accommodation I booked for all of us.  I rented a 15-passenger van and we set off early Tuesday morning due North!


Immediately after getting exiting our van, we were introduced to the base of the first dune and the start of a lengthy hike. We couldn’t see what was beyond the first dune, only the hope of a cool clear Michigan lake waiting for us. We were all eager to get there!



Getting up the introductory dune was relatively difficult in itself, but once we reached the very top, we could see another set of dunes that extended beyond closer to the lake. I had no plans on quitting and told my companions that we didn’t come all the way out here to sit on a dune. We are going to make it all the way! Everyone was on board–some more than others.



The sun lent itself to the max without any cloud cover. The sky was as blue as its ever been and the sand was hot to the touch. I began to realize that I may have made a mistake in not telling some of my companions a bit more detail about the dunes. Footwear is highly recommended! I came prepared with water shoes, which fit tight around my feet and had a flat, grippy bottom. They worked like a charm. Others wore sneakers that constantly filled with sand or flip-flops that broke mid hike resulting in bare-footing it the rest of the way. Painful blisters on the pad of their feet were the result. So if you’re planning on doing the climb, wear appropriate footwear!


Noah and Riley, the youngest two of our crew, were troopers through the journey. Riley may have said that this was “the worst day ever in her life” and Noah may have wanted to stop and take a break every other minute, but both never gave up…even with their look of defeat once they finally reached the top of a dune…only to discover that there was a whole other, bigger dune that was hiding behind it.


Midway through we broke up into smaller groups. Some were way up ahead, thoroughly enjoying the challenge. I was somewhere in the middle with the youngest kids, making sure they didn’t die of heat and exhaustion. And there was a group behind trudging slowly, but still trudging. We all just wanted that glorious lake!



We all had a bottle of water at the start of the hike, but drank all of it or poured it on ourselves within 20 minutes of climbing. I began to worry some of the kids would start to suffer under the sun from exhaustion and no water, but I reminded them that there was all the water we could ever want just a little further ahead.


Little Noah, who I thought was gonna drop where he stood, saw the final footing to lake Michigan and ran down the hill to the lake’s welcoming shore. Eventually, the rest of the gang joined us.


We stayed there for maybe a half-hour and then trudged back, up and down and up from where we came.


The hike took us a little over four hours to complete. We could have done it faster but we stopped a lot. There was no rush though, I thoroughly enjoyed it and didn’t find it entirely difficult. The views were excellent and the lake was a cool reward for such a hot and tiresome venture. The kids complained that they hated it, but once we were finished, they were glad to have did it.

Way to guys! Onwards to Petoskey, Michigan!


The Quest to the Seven Continents

The Quest To The Seven Continents

The Mission: Reach all seven continents in one trip; exploring, adventuring, and challenging myself along the way.


Everything before this was just a test, grooming me for what may possibly be one of the greatest adventures I will ever have. Traveling to all seven continents in one go will be one heck of a heavy task. It’s something my cohorts and comrades in Michigan might deem impossible and understandably so; such a feat requires valuable time and a hefty chunk of money. Willfully, I made the time and the effort on my traveling finances and was able to save up quite a bit. It was relatively easy to get, thanks to the unknowing help of my parents. They may not realize it, but the little things they’ve done for me have helped out a great deal. And now as I write this, I’m preparing to begin the journey around the Earth, to all seven continents on a pursuit to explore, challenge myself, discover new things, and live an epic tale of the modern age that I’ll be able to share with my future kids someday.

This photo was taken in Angkor Wat, on a previous trip backpacking through parts of Southeast Asia (2013).
This photo was taken in Angkor Wat, on a previous trip backpacking through parts of Southeast Asia (2013).

The plan and the order of continents, countries, and things I’ll be doing remains a mystery.

I have some idea of what lies ahead, but nothing is certain. It never is. I’ll be planning everything on my own and will be letting my gut instincts guide me, just as I have for my previous journeys. With a trip of this scale, only a fool would plan everything to the exact detail. I’ve avoided that mistake before and was led to the most unexpected places–like the hike to the largest ice caves in the world or sailing to the best beach I’ve ever been to in my life (so far) or boarding down an active volcano. I’m expecting the unexpected! There’s a map in my head. I just gotta lay it all out.

Speaking of maps, I’ll be using the LiveTrekker app to chart my route from the start of the quest in Michigan to the end (when and wherever that is) for those of you interested in following me. Each time I open the app from a WiFi enabled area, LiveTrekker will automatically map my route through each continent (not so sure about Antarctica though).

For those of you lacking in the geography department, let me remind you what our seven continents are:

  • North America (The Exploring Continent)
  • Australia (The Island Continent)
  • Asia (The Mythical Continent)
  • Africa (The Dark Continent)
  • Europe (The Historic Continent)
  • South America (The Wild Continent)
  • Antarctica (The Frozen Continent)
The seven continents of the world.
The seven continents of the world.

Each continent unique, encompassing amazingly different languages, landscapes, cultures, cuisine, flora, fauna, politics, religions, and everything else in and between—including all the potential dangers and mishaps. How will I pack for all of the different climates? What if I fall horribly ill? Am I underestimating the costs of this trip? How can I pack as light as possible but still have everything I need? How will I manage Antarctica? I’ll figure that one out later.

Even though I’ve already been to five of the seven continents before, the intent is to explore new countries in addition to some old ones to revisit friends along the way while inspiring every single person that reads this to pursue their own adventure. We have the whole world at our fingertips!

As usual, I’ll be making this a solo effort with friends and people I haven’t met yet tagging here and there along the way. I wish I had more to tell you but we shall find out together what happens through this blog site, for better and for worse.

The Quest begins in my home continent of North America, but for now, the waiting game. I still have a lot of preparation to do!

A Legendary Tale

16 countries. 8 months. 1 Legendary Tale.

Once upon a time, I set out on an indescribable journey around the world and across the continents. Searching for an adventure beyond the guide books, I’ve found the perfect stride and lived one heck of a tale for years to come. It was legendary. I’ve been home for a couple of weeks now with family and friends asking “How my trip was?” or “What was my favorite country?” or “What’s the most favorite memory?” I mean this when I say, it was ALL GREAT! Impossible for me to choose a favorite. Just to give you a quick recap.

It began in July of 2014…

Continue reading A Legendary Tale