2010-2019: The Decade That Made Me

I’m usually make a conscious effort to not buy into any of the trending fads on social media such as the most recent one: Top 9 of 2019. I guess it’s just my way of making myself think that I’m just not another cog in the machine. It gives me some sort of reassurance that I’m different, even just a little bit. I know that sounds dumb, but that’s just the way I am.

That being said, I do think it is important to reflect on certain times of your life. To see where you came from and how far you’ve came to get where you are. So, I decided to make a blog post about the momentous decade that the 2010’s were for me.

The 2010’s, I think, will be the decade that defines much of my life. Most of that, I’m sure has to do with the fact that most of my 20’s were spent in this decade. So naturally, I made a lot of important decisions in the last 10 years.

I started out this decade one year removed from high school and very much not sure where I wanted to go from there. I was in a relationship with a girl since 11th grade and we were living together. I had a job at a factory where I was working a mix of daytime and night schedules.

From here, I decided I wanted to enroll in the Conservatory of Recording Arts & Sciences in Tempe, Arizona. Now, I’m from Arkansas and had never lived outside of the town that I grew up in at that point in my life. So, this was a big decision for me especially at 19 years old. I remember sitting out on the sidewalk with my dad and deciding that that is what I wanted to do. Travel across the country in pursuit of what was my dream job at the time.

So, I went. I drove across the country with my girlfriend. No friends, no jobs, nothing. It was only about a month there that my girlfriend at the time decided that that life was not for her and she left to go back home to Arkansas. That was the end of that chapter with her in my life, but I decided that I needed to keep pursuing this dream. This decision was one of the most important of my life, I think, as it instilled kind of this thought in the back of my head to never compromise your dream for someone. Obviously, this goes both ways and sacrifices will have to be made in life, but I don’t think you should ever give up on a dream because of someone else.

Nevertheless, now that I was alone in Arizona, I was forced to come out of my shell and make friends and it was some of the best memories I have from this decade.

I dove head first into a group of friends that would help me make it through that next year or two. Looking back now it seems like so long ago, but I look back on those times with fondness.

From there, the group split off and went their own ways. The school had an internship program, where you picked the city that you wanted to do your internship. Me and two of my other friends chose Nashville, TN. Here, I would quickly find out that get into the music studio business would not be easy.

I got an internship at Blackbird Studio in Nashville. It didn’t do much to put me in a position to further my career, but I had so many good times and saw so many cool people that I can hardly complain about the experience.

While there I got to meet/see Lionel Richie, The Fray, Evanescence, Kid Rock, The Punch Brothers, Lenny Kravitz, and I’m sure I’m missing some. While here, I was also juggling two jobs before eventually moving back to Arkansas after a year and a half in Nashville with no luck finding a job in the studio business.

In Arkansas, I was back to living with my dad and got a job working with him as an electrician. I was never a fan of doing electrical work (I had done it during the summers while in high school), but it paid good and I needed a job. It lasted about 6 months before I decided to join the Air Force after my brother had joined the Navy. We were renovating the airport in Little Rock where everyday I would see planes taking off from the nearby Air Force Base. I thought that it would be so cool to be a part of that.

This would be the decision that would open up my world more than I ever thought it would. From basic in San Antonio, TX, training in Biloxi, MS, my first duty station in South Korea, second duty station in Italy, and now at my third in Hawaii. I’ve been able to meet so many people and see so many places along the way.

I’ve walked the streets of Seoul, witnessed the beauty of The Great Wall of China, seen Venice, Rome, the Amalfi Coast. I’ve travelled to Paris, Barcelona, London, Dublin, Brussels, Bruges, Antwerp, Copenhagen, Tromso, Amsterdam, Ljubljana, Bucharest, Brasov, Cluj-Napoca, Zermatt, Tokyo, Kyoto, Hiroshima, Osaka, Cairns, Sydney, Melbourne, Honolulu, Prague, and Krakow.

I’ve gotten to see so much of the world and I’m so thankful for that. Since joining the military in 2013, I’ve travelled to 19 different countries and by the end of 2020 it will be 23 or 24.

2010-2019 was the decade where I decided who I was going to be in this life. I decided that when I want to do something, I’m going to do it. I lived that this decade and I want to keep living that in the next decade.

Even in my job now, I feel I’m stagnant at the moment. But, I’m working on my writing, which is my next big goal in life: to publish my stories. I am constantly looking for things to do in life because I don’t want to be on my death bed with a thought of “What if?”. I want to know I lived my life to the fullest potential. So, even though I’m stagnant in my job right now, I have a trip to Vietnam coming up where I can maybe do some good in someone else’s life.

But that’s enough about me. This decade has had it’s ups and downs, but when there are more ups than downs you still end up on top. That’s my position in life right now: on top.

Tales from Europe: Romania

Hey everyone! I’m back from a much needed holiday break. I went back home to Arkansas to spend time with family and decompress, but I’m back with another entry in the Tales from Europe series. This time I am doing Romania!

This trip was different from any other trip that I went on while I lived in Europe because it was a road trip. Me and two friends flew into Cluj-Napoca airport where we rented a car. From there, we made our way down to Brasov, stopped at Bran Castle, and continuing to our last stop in Bucharest. This is where we flew back to Italy from.

In Cluj, the main thing that we did was visit the Salina Turda salt mine. This is a huge underground mine with a park inside. It is kind of like an amusement park. There was miniature golf and I believe even a restaurant inside. Here is what it looked like:

I would say that if you are visiting Cluj, Romania and you have younger kids that this is a must see. For us, it wasn’t that interesting other than seeing the huge mine. The games at the bottom are mostly for younger kids.

The highlight of the trip for me, was Brasov.

I loved walking around this little town. It is quiet and secluded and Bran castle isn’t too far of a drive from the city.

I highly recommend checking out Bran Castle, aka Dracula’s Castle. Most people call this Dracula’s Castle due to Bram Stoker’s Dracula. It is believed by some that Vlad the Impaler either lived in or was imprisoned in this castle, though both are likely false. Still, out of all the castles that I have seen throughout Europe, this is one of the coolest looking ones. You can do a self or guided tour of the interior of the castle. It’s a must see if you are visiting Romania!

After Bran Castle, we hopped back in the car to check out another unique castle: Peles Castle.

Peles Castle wasn’t too far from Bran Castle and, to be honest, it was a last minute idea to stop and see it. I wouldn’t say it is a must see, but it is a beautiful castle and I haven’t seen a similar looking one anywhere else in Europe.

Our next stop was Bucharest.

I’m going to be honest and say that Bucharest didn’t impress me that much. I much prefer Brasov over Bucharest. I would say the ideal trip in Romania would center around the Brasov region. I would have rather spent another day driving to go see the Transfagarasan road (I still regret not getting to see that).

But! We did continue driving to the edge of Romania and stopped to see The Black Sea.

All in all, not my favorite trip, but it is one of the most unique trips that I went on in Europe. Also, one of the most ballsy, as we just kind of went for it. Booking flights to and from two different airports and renting a car and we just went for it. I think it is needed in countries like Romania where everything to see is so spread out.

Thanks for tuning in to this entry of Tales from Europe! See you on the next one!

Update on life and The Drip

Yesterday, I passed 15,500 words on my current work in progress: The Drip. For those of you that don’t know, I am writing a dystopian biopunk story. Check out the “Books” link at the top for my poetry collections on Wattpad and the story ideas that I have in the works. Can’t wait to share them all with the world!

I’ve started to wonder which route I should go with publishing. I want to reach as many people as possible, but making money isn’t really that much of a concern since I have a full time job. I’m thinking either self-publish or go with an indie publisher. I am going to continue trying to build a following on twitter so that maybe I will be able to reach more of an audience.

I would say that I am about 60% done with the first draft, which then I’ll edit, send to friends to read over and give feedback, and then I will probably hire a real editor. Everyday I second guess myself and wonder if this is really what I want to do, but I know it is.

Thursday, I am going home to Arkansas for Christmas. It should be nice to get away from work for a little while, but I’ll miss my cat, Lilo. I will probably do one more blog update tomorrow before I leave, and then it might be when I get back that I update again.

Anyways, to whoever is reading this, thanks! I’ll see you on the next one.

Tales from Europe: Zermatt

Seeing the Matterhorn was one of the things that I told myself I HAD to do before I left Europe. It was one of those bucket list items and I visited Zermatt, Switzerland just to see that big rock.

The town of Zermatt is an amazingly quiet ski resort town. I didn’t really know this going in to that, but there admittedly isn’t that much to do other than ski. The town is tucked away deep in the valley of the Swiss Alps and the train ride from Visp to Zermatt had some of the best views I have ever seen. Those Facebook videos of Switzerland don’t do it justice.

Milan train station

My journey started in Pordenone, Italy. I decided to be a little more adventurous than usual and take a train from Italy to Zermatt. From Pordenone, I had stops at Venice, Milan, and Visp.

The Milan train station was HUGE. One of the biggest that I can remember visiting while in Europe. The best part of taking the train all that way were marveling at the views outside the window!

Once you get to Zermatt, it feels like the perfect Christmas town. It has the perfect atmosphere for anyone wanting a quiet getaway in the mountains for the holidays. I wish I was there right now, sipping on a hot cup of coffee while the sun rises over the peaks.

The first night I was there, I walked around the town and went on a short hike where I got some good views of Zermatt from a little bit higher of an elevation. The next day I took the special train up to the top of the mountain where the ski slopes were. There was a shop at the top and amazing views of the Matterhorn from there.

The rest of the time in Zermatt was spent moseying around the shops where I bought some family members Swiss army knives and other souvenirs. There was also an outdoor ice skating rink in the middle of the town where I watched kids play hockey for a little while.

All of the architecture of Zermatt was so beautiful and cozy. It really is the perfect place to step out onto your balcony and drink some coffee as the little town wakes up.

After the weekend in Zermatt, it was time to head back to Visp to catch the train back to Italy.

This was a short blog for a short trip, but it was such a beautiful place to visit that I had to share my experience. Though, I didn’t do much in the town, most of that is my fault as I just winged it for this trip and didn’t really plan anything out.

Thanks for reading and I’ll see you in the next blog!

Tales from Europe: Ljubljana & Bled

Ljubljana, Slovenia, to me, is one of the most underrated spots in Europe. It is such a calm and down to Earth city. During my time living in Italy, my friends and I would take regular trips to Ljubljana.

Now, I’m going to cut right to the chase…we took these regular trips to Ljubljana for, mostly, one reason: Pop’s Place. One of the best burgers you will ever have. Hands down.

Pop’s Place Burgers

The burgers are juicy, the Parmesan fries are amazing, and there are a bunch of beer choices too. If I remember right, the owner is from California, but he has some family that lives in Slovenia. So, he moved there are opened up this place.

Every once and a while, we would get the craving to make the hour-hour and a half drive to Ljubljana just so we could eat Pop’s. The awesome city in which the restaurant is located is just a plus, because after you eat you can walk along the river that runs right through the middle of the city. There are all kinds of stores selling various bottled beer, record stores, etc.

Up until a couple of weeks ago, I still had three bottles of beer that I bought from a little shop in Ljubljana three years ago. Saving them for a special occasion of course (which wasn’t a special occasion at all).

Reservoir Dogs or tourists in Europe?

As a bonus for this entry in Tales from Europe, I decided I would group Lake Bled into this entry since it too, is in Slovenia. I only went here as a day trip, which I believe was after eating Pop’s. The building in the middle of the lake with the mountains behind is an amazingly beautiful site.

In Bled, we just kind of walked around the lake and ate lunch which was amazing as well. I highly recommend Slovenia as a country to visit in Europe. You never hear people talk about Slovenia, but it is a pretty quiet and laid back country from what I experienced. There is also some good nightlife in Ljubljana as well that I got to experience on a pub crawl bachelor party, but that is a story for another time ;).

I think on the next entry of Tales from Europe I will do either Zermatt, Switzerland or Copenhagen, Denmark. If you got this far and have been enjoying my little memories, comment which one you’d like to read next!

Thanks for reading!

New Game +

Falling upward

Feeling down

I hope there’s a life after this

Because I look to the future

And there’s nothing there to look forward to

High off of chasing my dreams

Scared of the come down

The bigger they are

The harder they hit

How the mighty will fall

When you aim for the moon and miss

Slapped in the face with reality

That the world is harder than it seems

When you dream of only good things

Just a random poem for the day that I wrote. Back tomorrow with Tales from Europe!

Tales from Europe: Tromsø

Tromsø, Norway was one of those places that I never thought that I would go to in my time in Europe. It seemed too out of the ordinary and off the beaten path, but when one of my coworkers went and got to see the Aurora Borealis I knew that I had to go.

Now, I have two different ways that I kind of rank the places that I have been to: the location in general (food, sightseeing, etc.) and the experiences that I had there. Tromsø falls in the latter category. Not because it wasn’t a great place, but as far as sightseeing goes and food goes it isn’t on the top of my list. Althought, the experiences I had there were some of my favorite in Europe.

Tromsø, Norway

The main town is very small. The building to the right in the picture above was kind of like the main shopping center. There were all kind of stores in there and a grocery store as well. To the left were some restaurants, one of which I tried Reindeer! (Sorry, Santa). As you can see, the town is pretty small and there really isn’t much going on. Unless, I’m just oblivious and missed it all which could very well be the case.

I was travelling with my coworker and friend Bobby. Our trip started off somewhat interesting because, as it turns out, the Airbnb that we reserved was actually a room in the downstairs of a families house. We had rented a bunch of Airbnb’s before and the family was super nice for the little time that we saw them, but it just kind of took us off guard.

There were two main reasons why this trip happened: to see the Northern Lights and to go dog sledding. Let’s start with dog sledding. It was one of my favorite things that I did in all of Europe and I guarantee you that I will never forget it.

Somewhere in the Arctic Circle, Norway

It was amazing. The dogs could not wait for me to take my foot off of the brake and start pulling. It’s what they were meant to do. Their purpose on this Earth is to pull that sled. They never even stopped to use the restroom, they just ran and went at the same time!

Every now and then our group would have to stop for some reason or another and the dogs would just roll around in the snow to cool off. It was really an awesome experience.

If you would like to see a video of our dog sledding adventure, it will be located at the end of this blog.

The dog was shy

Once we finished up sledding we came back and ate some food in an awesome tent! I don’t remember what the food was or what the tent was called, but I do remember the amazing hot coffee and how it warmed me up!

The hospitality was amazing and my buddy and I actually ended up having a nice conversation from a college student from China. I think he was from Hong Kong if I remember correctly.

The next night, it was time to go hunting for the Lights!

About 5 of us loaded up into a van and set sail (or wheel?) even farther north than Tromsø. We had some difficulty finding the lights at first, but then we reached the area that is pictured above. I’ll be honest, the visibility wasn’t great and to the naked eye it just looked like some clouds. But it was the experience of it all. We were out there in the freezing cold, with our cameras, hoping to capture a glimpse of that great phenomenon.

While we waited for the lights to show themselves, our tour guide made a fire. We had a traditional cake from the region and sausage as well(I think it was Lamb). It was delicious. We all talked around the fire. It’s amazing the people that you meet from various parts of the world, all gathered there in that one spot for the same purpose.

These are the reasons that Tromsø will remain near the top of my list of places that I visited in Europe. Not necessarily because of the town, but because of the amazing experiences that I had there.

Stay tuned for my next entry into the Tales from Europe series! I think the next country that I will do will be Belgium! Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoyed!

Tales from Europe: Krakow

Krakow, Poland was one of the first trips I took after arriving on station in Italy. It was also just a weekend trip, but that one weekend held stark opposites in the two days that I was there. Drunken escapade one night, only to visit Auschwitz the next morning.

I suppose the trip started like any good trip should start: a long, uncomfortable road trip with the constant wondering of when you will arrive. It was my friend Nick, his wife, her friend and I. But we had booked this trip with a local woman called Nikki Travel that does group trips for military members in the area. We met up with all of the other people going on the trip at the local Spaghetti House restaurant (one of my favorites) and loaded up on a bus. I remember Schindler’s List was played on the bus TV, I guess to prepare us for what was to come.

But before the heavy stuff the next day, we partied.

I don’t know why I was surprised, but Krakow is a beautiful city. I guess it was so surprising because out of all the cities in Europe that get attention, Krakow isn’t one of them (or any city in Poland to be honest). The people are friendly, the women are beautiful and the memories that I made there, in the one night that I was there, makes it one of my favorite Tales from Europe that I had.

We broke off from the main Nikki Travel group pretty early. One of the earliest things we did was eat at Hard Rock Cafe (I know). I remember being struck by how beautiful the girl behind the gift shop counter was. I like to think that I would’ve gathered up the courage to talk to her under different circumstances, but who am I kidding. The night of drinking did start here, though.

We wondered around the city for a bit before heading back to the hotel to drop off any souvenirs in our room. After that we headed back out. Now, this was one of my earliest trips that I took in Europe, so my memory is a little fuzzy about that night (also…alcohol). I remember that Nick’s wife eventually went back to the hotel as the night went on, we lost her friend and me and Nick went to a club where drunken me loved to dance. I’m sure we stuck out like sore thumbs as Americans in this Polish club, but it was a lot of fun. Also, somehow I had acquired Nick’s wife’s friend’s hat. (That was a lot of apostrophes). *See drunken photo below:

I’m on the left, and no I don’t remember this picture being taken.

So as you can see, I was obviously feeling pretty good about myself. To my defense, I had gotten to dance with a Polish girl and being in a new country, my confidence was pretty high. I had a blast that night.

Now, I will skim past the rest of the night only because we did what most men do after a drunken night out on the town: we went to a strip club. But I will skip that. Afterwards, we went back to the hotel. I think it was 5am at this point. When we woke up, me still half-drunk, we found that the friend had made it back to the hotel in some miraculous fit of that phenomenon when drunken you has better direction than sober you.

We all loaded onto the bus to Auschwitz. And let me tell you, if we weren’t sober already, we soon would be. To stand on the grounds that, to most, is only something from the movies is a humbling experience. The things that happened there…well, they don’t need to be said by me.

The gates of Auschwitz which reads “Work Sets You Free”.

“Work Sets You Free”. In hindsight, that has a certain malicious undertone obviously. Because, indeed, they weren’t set free. It was the exact opposite.

We got to walk up and down the streets of Auschwitz, see their “living” quarters, and all of their belongings. There was a whole glass case of pots and pans because, apparently, they had been told that they would be able to cook for themselves. That was not the case.

I love this picture that I took, as weird as that sounds. To me, it just seems to capture a moment in time. This is what the people of Auschwitz saw everyday. A sign. A sign with a skull and crossbones telling them to halt. Huge concrete walls enclosing them in. I’m just trying to envision myself being there, which is a hard feat to do. What lies behind that door? Is it death? Is it freedom? If it is freedom, it is so close. Right on the other side.

Where new prisoners were brought in.

After the main complex of Auschwitz we went to anther part. The name is slipping my mind, but this is where the prisoners were brought in first. Calling them prisoners doesn’t even sound right. Like they had committed a crime. By this time in the trip, the wild and rowdy group from the night before had become silent. Only whispers and the snapping of photos could be heard. I remember it was cold and rainy that day. Just a taste of what the prisoners had to endure, and we had coats.

I decided to start this series of blog posts off with Krakow because this trip had such and interesting dynamic to it. One night we experienced the beauty of Krakow, drunkenly stumbling through the city, being a tourist. And the next, was spent remembering how much the country of Poland had been through. To be able to even visit this country and drunkenly stumble through the streets is a blessing, I think. So, I hope you enjoyed this first delve into my time as an American in Europe. There will be more to come in the coming days and weeks as I have a lot of fun times to tell. Thanks for reading!

Tales from Europe: Intro

Hey all, I thought it would be a cool idea and a good opportunity to reminisce on my travelling that I got to do while I lived in Europe, so I am going to do a multi-part blog. Each part will be focused on one country that I went to and the memories that I made there. Follow along and relive all of the good times right along with me!

The Man in the Arena

Somewhere in Northern Italy watching one of my buddies fight. – Photo taken by me.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” – Theodore Roosevelt

I just finished up watching the Anthony Joshua v Andy Ruiz rematch, and it inspired me to write this blog post. The quote above is one of my favorite quotes of all time. To me, it represents two things:

The first I, unknowingly at the time, understood at a pretty young age. That is the great privilege of chasing your dreams. In high school, music was my passion. It is what held me together through the tough times of adolescence. After high school, I was working in a factory and quickly found out that I didn’t want to spend my precious time doing that job, so I gathered the nerve to admit to myself that I wanted to go to school for Audio Engineering. I think that is one of the hardest things to do, to admit to yourself that you are going to take a risk. It is one thing to dream about it, but once you make up your mind that you are actually going to do it, it seems like it could be a big mistake. So, I packed up my stuff and moved to Arizona with my then girlfriend. It is important to note that this dream didn’t work out, but that’s not the point. The quote says “there is no effort without error and shortcoming”. So, after a couple of years chasing that dream, I had to make another hard decision which was to mark down that battle in my history book as lost, but it wasn’t the last battle.

After moving back home, again I quickly realized that time was slipping by and I wasn’t spending it the way that I saw fit. I made yet another risky decision by joining the United States Air Force. Now, 6 years removed from that decision and I have seen the world and met great people from various nations, but even still deep within this journey in the military I am chasing my dreams. One of my all time dreams is to become a published author. Not only just a published author, but an author that is read by many people. I think most can agree that this isn’t the easiest thing to achieve, but one thing that I always think about is that we are only on this planet for a short amount of time and then it’s over. So, while I am here I am going to chase my dreams.

The second thing that the quote represents to me (I know the first one was long) is that life is crowded with obstacles. This is something that I learned later on in life, mostly after joining the military. Military life constantly throws challenges and obstacles at you. As soon as I think that I have time to relax and not worry about anything, the next obstacle is presented. This coming week is my next big obstacle: the fitness test. Yes, this may not seem like a huge obstacle, but in the military a failed fitness test could uproot your whole life. Now, I believe in my gut that I have what it takes to pass, but it is the unpredictability of the body and mind that keeps me guessing.

I guess I am writing this from a place of self-reassurance, that I can overcome the next obstacle in my life. Anthony Joshua and Andy Ruiz just reached their latest obstacle, The Clash in the Dunes. One succeeded and one failed, but “at least he fails while daring greatly.” And, if I fail to become a published author, at least I can say that I tried. That is what I did with audio engineering. I will never feel regret of never chasing that goal.

So, maybe you are reading this right now and have an obstacle coming up in your life, or maybe you have always had a goal or a dream but never had the courage to pursue it. I hope that maybe this blog post will give you that courage or give you that reassurance that it’s only another obstacle. You’ve faced many before and there will be many to come after. That’s what life is all about, facing obstacles and overcoming them. I’ve tried to mold my life around chasing dreams and overcoming obstacles so that when my life comes to an end, I can truly say that my “place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

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