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My Life by Mind Map: My Life

1. Europe 2003

1.1. London

1.1.1. Getting mugged at Kings Cross Station, a tax driver watching the entire thing unfold, follows the mugger and gets back my wallet, passport and cash, returning it all to the ambassador's house guard station.

1.1.2. One of my favorite places in the entire world: The British Museum.

1.1.3. The Generator and its dreadful happy hour.

1.1.4. First introduction to Indian food.

1.1.5. The realization that my travels were really nothing, that so many others out there were doing so much more. It was a moment of humble reflection being surrounded by people who had traveled around the world or was setting out to do so.

1.1.6. While walking across London to the embassy, someone threw a small yellow duck at me. I looked around and couldn't find who did it so i pocketed the duck and went on my way. I still travel with the duck on every trip. You can never go wrong with a duck on your side.

1.1.7. Met a firefighter from Florida, can't remember his name at the moment. He will become relevant in Brugges

1.1.8. Met Prince William and his aid in the park in front of Buckingham Palace. I had an very state-like picture taken of us shaking hands and smiling. Seemed like a nice guy, nice enough to not get freaked out when 3 tourists came running across the street waving hands. I remember being surprised that he did not have a bunch of guards surrounding him and that his only company was an aid clearly in his late 60s. Unfortunately, the picture was deleted along with my entire roll of pictures from my time in UK. Bummer.

1.2. Blackrod

1.2.1. Train travel!

1.2.2. Meeting David Hughes on the train while chatting up some older bird. We ended up drinking the best part of the moonshine I had brought from Virginia and a couple of his beers to wash it down.

1.2.3. Learning how to spread bet. I still have a hard time watching the French Open and not collectively supporting the Spaniards.

1.2.4. First tastes of fish & chips, pies & pasties and British Indian food. Cemented a love for British food despite the stereotype to the contrary.

1.2.5. Lost my silver bracelet at John Lennon Liverpool Airport. Left it at security.

1.2.6. Wigan. Whoa.

1.2.7. Walking around Lever Park (named after the founder and guy who created Lever soap) with Greg and thinking that if I were loaded, I would probably build Japanese gardens with a fake castle too.

1.3. Cadiz/Rota

1.3.1. Cheap airlines are cheap for a reason. Liverpool to Malaga by plane, Malaga to Cadiz by the slowest bus in Spain, Cadiz to Rota by Ferrari. Corey Barker knows how to do a pick up!

1.3.2. Spanish was a bit rusty, but still managed to get myself in plenty of trouble.

1.3.3. Deciding, having been in Cadiz/Rota for about 10 minutes, that we would drive to Pamplona and run with the bulls with Corey's friend, another Navy officer. Squids and Jarheads are always a good combination.

1.3.4. Nude beaches, European liberalism.

1.4. Pamplona

1.4.1. A long drive from the southern most point in Spain to the far north.

1.4.2. Singing some song about drinking beer in Guadalajara (Mex.) while drinking a beer in Guadalajara (Sp.)

1.4.3. Castles in the middle of nowhere with no gates, tickets or guards. Climb the walls, assault the towers and watch the sun set!

1.4.4. Red & White everywhere! And leather bags full of wine! Had to have both so bought some white pants, red shirt and a scarf to ties around my waste, apparently for taunting the bulls, as if that is a good idea. Wine sack too, filled with wine and started drinking as soon as it was full!

1.4.5. Paul, the guy I drove up to Pamplona with, says to me that the bulls in Texas are bigger, but the next morning, thinking to myself, it don't matter how big they are when you can hear hooves and bells quickly apraoching you from behind.

1.4.6. Corey flew and met us in Pamplona, it was 4th of July weekend so he had a 96 hour pass but had to stay longer in Rota to cover the Marines' deployment to Liberia. We stayed in Laguardia, an amazing small town with a fortified castle and old town surrounded by vineyards. It was an hours drive away and was only useful for sleeping off hangovers and adrenaline after drinking wine all night and running with the bulls.

1.4.7. 1st run, very cautious and didn't make the arena.

1.4.8. 2nd run, made it to the arena too early and missed the rush of the bulls passing you in the long narrow coridor leading up to the stadium

1.4.9. 3rd run, just perfect. Started in front of the Ayuntamiento, where I crashed for an hour or so with about a hundred other people. Set off at a light jog at the sound of the cannon blast. Got to the big corner where you see the bulls always mauling people and the bulls where upon our group. Sprinted down the straightway until I heard the bells and hooves right behind me. Turned to my right to see a bull narrowly miss me, turned left to see the same. Someone grabbed my shirt and pulled me to the side to see the remaining bulls run past. Sprinted as fast as I could, slapping a bulls backside as we made it into the stadium just before they closed the gates.

1.4.10. The stadium was alive with screaming fans, I felt like a gladiator, full up on wine and adrenaline! Most incredible feeling!

1.4.11. After the running bulls are through the stadium and into their pens, they let out younger bulls with corks on their horns so you have a chance to prove your machismo. I had proven mine enough for the day so I stayed closer to the wall and avoided the bulls for the most part.

1.4.12. Everyone would crouch down in front of the gate and wait for the young bulls to be released. They would then run over the top of everyone crouching. Bloody hell!

1.4.13. There was one Spaniard standing in the center of the ring who somehow got the attention of one of the younger bulls. Everyone else seemed to clear a path so it was just this man standing, with his back to the bull and the young bull making his charge. He simple looked over his shoulder and at the last minute, tucked down and executed one of the finest backflips I've ever seen, throwing himself over the running bull just in the nick of time. Everyone went absolutely mental.

1.4.14. Who needs a hotel when you can sleep anywhere. And I do mean people slet anywhere and everywhere they could get a bit of shade.

1.4.15. The efficiency of the street cleaners come the end of the drinking night, just before the running. Respect.

1.4.16. We were in some disco that was playing an Eminem track. I was screaming the lyrics so loud that everyone formed a circle around me until the DJ handed me a mic where I proceeded to sing about 6 songs in a row.

1.4.17. I felt like a god this weekend, so alive.

1.4.18. Had my backpack stolen from underneath Corey's chair. It had 3 government cameras in it and nothing of importance of my own. Except they were government cameras so I owned a piece of them. We all did. The thieves were really good, working in a team, one knocking Corey off balance in his chair while a second grabbed the bag. The shoulder straps were wrapped around one of the chair legs.

1.5. Barcelona

1.5.1. Not feeling so good when I arrived so my first impressions of Barcelona were not very good. I had to take a taxi to my hotel because I couldn't be asked and by the time the day was through, I had planned to get a replacement backpack and get out of the sun and make for the Swiss mountains and cool air.

1.5.2. La Rambla I found to be annoying.

1.5.3. Drinking in my hotel room, sitting in the window sill and watching the flocks of pigeons and tourists around the cathedral.

1.5.4. I now think I need to go back to Barcelona to get a better taste of the city and appreciate it more. Coming on the back of a Pamplona Feria hangover is not the way to do it.

1.6. Geneva

1.6.1. Expensive.

1.6.2. Beautiful, fresh.

1.6.3. Lots of rainbow flags, just learned what they signified.

1.6.4. Big fountain, everything was clean and organized and peaceful. Ate the world's second most expensive kebab with a Scottish guy, but it was pretty good and the beer cold and crisp.

1.6.5. Met 2 Americans who worked for some oil company in the Middle East. Offered to give us a lift to Interlaken. Free ride and the drive through the mountains was brilliant.

1.7. Interlaken

1.7.1. Teaching a bunch of Japanese kids what a "milf" was and seeing that they understood when they got excited and started yelling that Hirochi's mom was a milf. He wasn't pleased.

1.7.2. Amazingly beautiful place surrounded by some of the most impressive mountains I've ever seen. We hiked up to the top of one of the ridges above Interlaken and enjoyed a nice rain storm for our efforts.

1.7.3. How surprisingly quiet the town was despite the number of tourists that come there. Relaxing and rejuvenating.

1.8. Lucern

1.8.1. The Swiss are into their serenity, Lucern is just another good example from many.

1.8.2. Went to some glacier that had ice caves. Saw the Swiss mountain troops training. They would ski down the glacier, dig a fighting hole then run back up to the top and repeat the process. Pretty impressive.

1.8.3. Walked the walls and thought that it was a really nice place to be, but found it a bit dull and felt like I needed more excitement. Rented bikes at some point and rode around the lake.

1.8.4. Very cool train ride both in and out of Lucern.

1.9. Salzburg

1.9.1. Drinking beer and smoking on the castle walls at sunset while techno music played in front of Motzart's school of music down below. It was Salzburg's Love Parade

1.9.2. Embarassing situations when music suddenly stops playing while you are attempting to yell overtop it.

1.9.3. Meeting Eric and his friend, two guys from LA and having quite an evening adventure with them, which ended with us in some forest party outside the city. Was planning on meeting Eric to travel on with him, but he overslept and I decided to go to Vienna. The train broke down halfway there and we had to go back. Getting off the train, I bumped into Eric and we decided to go and check out Berchtesgarden

1.10. Berchtesgarden

1.10.1. Summer Beer Festival - a circus tent full of a thousand traditional Bavarians, knee slapping, drinking beer and eating sausage.

1.10.2. Feeling embarrassed and out of place being the only 2 people not dressed in traditional garb.

1.10.3. The younger guys teaching us how to steal beer from the old guys at the table, telling us that is was ok and just an old tradition. If you got away with it, it was ok. If you got caught, you had to buy them a beer. Don't get caught.

1.10.4. A horrible attempt at dancing on stage. Beer does weird things to a man when consumed in liter quantities at a time.

1.10.5. Late night breakfast at someone's house - their mother prepared it for us, we ate, smoked and then were asked to leave because they didn't have room for us.

1.10.6. Arriving in Berchtesgarden, being the only 2 people on the train at the end of the line. Walking around and getting a very eery feeling when everything was closed and there were no one on the streets. We locked our bags in a left luggage locker and wandered around until we saw people walking through a forest park with lederhosen, feathered caps and the whole tradtional Bavarian kit. The whole thing felt like a weird Tim Burton dream.

1.10.7. Sleeping in some bushes so the cops wouldn't bug us and getting stung by something on my hand and having a severely swollen hand for 3 days afterwards.

1.11. Salzburg

1.11.1. Back only long enough to wait for the next train to Vienna. We needed a shower as we were both dirty from sleeping on the earth the night before. Headed to the hostel I stayed at previously and bribed the smiling front desk girl with a coke and a smile to let us use the communal showers. It worked and were clean and shaven, ready for Vienna!

1.12. Vienna

1.12.1. A city I have been to several times and managed to never see the same thing twice. Met some kids on the street and they told us we could stay in their hostel room and all we had to do was sneak in. It took 4 trips with our bags to not look suspicious but we had a floor to crash on and no money to pay.

1.12.2. Butterfly is smeterling in German and they have their own haus in Vienna.

1.12.3. Went on some crazy run around the city looking for a bar that had something cool. Barely made the train to Prague. We were traveling with two girls at this moment, but as soon as we got into the train, we knew we had made a huge mistake as they were the most complaining and miserable people on vacation I have come across. Ugh. We ditched them as soon as we got to Prague.

1.12.4. Horses, white marble, grand palaces and buildings. It was all very impressive. We only spent the night and day there before going to Prague. Would like to go back and explore with a guide book and sense of what I should see. I think at the this point, I had stopped reading my guide and was following my nose.

1.13. Prague

1.14. Berlin

1.14.1. Kebab and rain. Got in, decided it wasn't for me, got out and headed to Amsterdam. Total time spent in Berlin on this trip: less than 4 hours.

1.15. Amsterdam

1.15.1. What is to say about a city I have visited a few too many times? What can you remember?

1.15.2. Arrived late in the evening and decided not to get a hostel until the next day. Went to several cafes before sleeping on a bench, until the police told us we couldn't. Eventually slept on a canal boat somewhere.

1.15.3. Stayed in a place called La Canna. It had beer, pool tables and a sports bar theme. I think it is a clothing shop now. A lot has changed over the years in Amsterdam. The Red Light District is still there and cafes are spread around the cities, but conservative governments have closed a lot down. I wonder what will happen if they decide to close them all?

1.15.4. Eric, needing a break from A-dam, headed to Germany to visit family. I decided to head to the seaside needing a similar escape from the distractions of the city. I had some contact with Eric for sometime, but lost it over the years. If I could only rediscover his last name and email.

1.16. Zandvoort

1.16.1. Needing a break from the city, headed to the beach to relax under an overcast sky.

1.17. Brugges

1.17.1. Bumped into the firefighter I met in London. Had a good laugh at this as we were staying in the same dorm room.

1.17.2. Really nice city, great atmosphere this weekend as there was an outdoor music festival celebrating classical music.

1.17.3. I use the term "classical" to describe music played in orchestral tradition. It could have been baroque, classical, romantic, etc. I am not sure which it was, excuse the ignorance.

1.17.4. Kriek on draft. And cheap. And awesome.

1.17.5. Another beautiful canal city. I took some OK dusk and nighttime pictures of the old stone bridges over the canal, but saw that my camera was just not cutting it. For traveling, a new camera was on the list.

1.17.6. Saw some Belgian punk rock band and bought a t-shirt. I know they had a catchy name in English that made me want a shirt. Will have to let this memory simmer for a while.

1.18. Sainte Marie du Mont

1.19. La Havre

1.19.1. A very quick escape. I was actually worried the French police were right behind me and spent a good part of the hour I was waiting for the ferry to depart, in the bathroom.

1.20. Bournemouth

1.20.1. Quite possibly the busiest resort town in the world, despite being on the south coast of England. I had to have walked to nearly 30 B&Bs looking for a room for the night before I got lucky.

1.20.2. NIce B&B, but a bit pricey. I had been on the run, burning alcohol and adrenaline for 24 hours, I didn't care how much it cost.

1.20.3. Despite the sunny, beautiful beach weather and a city packed with energy I decided to shower and take a nap and go out in the evening.

1.20.4. After the shower, I went to open the door of bathroom and found it locked. I tried unlocking it and found that it wasnot locked, just stuck. I tried brute strength, pounding, kicking, slamming shoulder, screaming through the keyhole, screaming out the window, contemplating climbing down the gutter in only a towel. I slept instead. It was 12:00 and I had been locked in the bathroom for 2 hours and would remain locked there for another 6. I was released from my cream-mint tiled prison when someone else tried to get into bathroom.

1.20.5. The owner came to my rescue. First question, any guesses? "Did you try unlocking it?" The door had to be removed from the hinges before he really believed me.

1.20.6. Met a former Royal Marine at a pub. We drank Guinness and smoked until he had to leave. I noticed a limp and a cane, he said it was from action in the Balkans. The price of war.

1.20.7. Despite being a nice town, being locked in the bathroom was enough an experience for me. Off to London the next morning!

1.20.8. The ferry went from La Havre to Poole, not directly to Bournemouth, but it was a short public bus ride away.

1.21. London

1.22. Edinburgh

1.23. Fort William

1.23.1. Met a couple Scots that had yellow rubber ducks that they carried with them as well. We were duck brothers.

1.24. Ullapool

1.24.1. Skipping stones across the same bay which the world stone skipping championships are held, allegedly.

1.24.2. Sexy stone skipping.

1.25. Carbisdale Castle

1.26. Dundee (Arbroath)

1.27. Edinburgh

1.28. London