Posts Tagged ‘Africa’

Backpacking in the News: Google CFO Quits Job to Go Backpacking

Saturday, May 16th, 2015

Patrick Pichette, former Senior VP and CFO of Google

I wanted to blog about this when the story broke two months ago but life got away from me.*

Confirming my previous statement — to truly be free to fuck off and travel for an indefinite period of time, you must either a) just finish school, or b) quit your job — Google CFO Patrick Pichette chose Option B.

On March 10, the 52-year-old Pichette posted a resignation letter of sorts to Google+, saying he simply couldn’t tell his wife it wasn’t “their time” any longer. The experience that set this realization into motion was a recent trip he and his wife, Tamar, made to Tanzania. While watching the sunrise atop Mt. Kilimanjaro, Tamar asked him why they wouldn’t simply keep going, on to other parts of Africa, and then East to India, the Himalayas, Bali and beyond. His response at the time was that he wasn’t ready.

“I could not find a good argument to tell Tamar we should wait any longer for us to grab our backpacks and hit the road.”
– Patrick Pichette, Former Google CFO

“It’s not time yet,” he wrote, in hindsight. “There is still so much to do at Google, with my career, so many people counting on me/us: boards, non-profits, etc.”

A few weeks later and back at work, the Montreal-born Pichette says he couldn’t shake his wife’s question. Their kids are grown up: two are in college and another already graduated. He realized he’s been working for 25-30 years straight. He also pointed out it will be his and Tamar’s 25th wedding anniversary this summer.

“Allow me to spare you the rest of the truths,” he wrote. “But the short answer is simply that I could not find a good argument to tell Tamar we should wait any longer for us to grab our backpacks and hit the road — celebrate our last 25 years together by turning the page and enjoy a perfectly fine mid-life crisis full of bliss and beauty, and leave the door open to serendipity for our next leadership opportunities, once our long list of travels and adventures is exhausted.”

He goes on to gush about his peers at Google and wax philosophical about balancing family and a career (*the irony that I delayed blogging on this topic because I was too busy is not lost on me), only to end his frank and endearing letter with two words: “Carpe Diem.” Yep. He fucking wrote that. I mean, good for you, man. But come on.

I hope Patrick and Tamar don’t get matching Carpe diem tattoos on their anniversary, but they probably will. It’s a mid-life crisis after all.

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49. Photos with Local Children

Saturday, June 2nd, 2012

kids6

Why do backpackers insist on taking photos of children wherever they go?

Sure, foreign kids are cute. I’ll give them that. But they’re also often super dirty and smell funny. I suppose all kids are dirty and smell funny though, not just foreign ones.

kids

But do immigrants come to Canada/U.S./U.K./Australia, wander onto a schoolyard and have someone snap photos of themselves with their arms out, surrounded by white children? Just wondering.

The following is a journey into the mind of a backpacker taking photos of local children, particularly in the developing world:

  • “OMG look at how cute these local children are!” (snap)
  • “Look at these kids. they live in tin shacks, but somehow they’re so happy.” (snap)
  • “Look at their genuine smiles and the joy in their eyes. These kids literally have nothing.” (snap)

kids2

  • “I’m honestly shocked they’re not asking me for money or trying to pickpocket me…” (snap)
  • “…like those damn gypsy kids in… Hey, kid. Take your hand outta my pocket.” (brushes kid’s hand away) (snap)
  • “Look at this one, touching my face and my hair. Never seen skin or hair like mine before. WOW!” (snap)

kids5

  • “I am so enlightened by this experience. More enlightened than my friends back home.” (sigh) (snap)
  • “I am so glad I came to (developing world country). I appreciate (developed world home country) more now.” (snap)
  • “Seriously. Look at these children.” (snap)

kids7

  • “I don’t want to say that I’m like Jesus. But I love little children, just like Jesus, which explains my arms-out messianic pose.” (snap)
  • “I hope their parents don’t come out during our photo shoot. I don’t want them thinking we’re exploiting their kids.” (snap)

kids3

  • “Hurry up, Kevin. Take the picture. I think that might be one of their parents.” (snap) (takes off running)

For those of you interested in “The etiquette of photographing strangers” (of any age), check out this article by Lonely Planet author Richard l’Anson.

“Photographing strangers can be daunting, but it needn’t be,” he writes. “Most people are happy to be photographed. Some photographers ask before shooting, others don’t. It’s a personal decision, often decided on a case-by-case basis.”

But approaching foreign strangers and children in a palms-out messianic stance certainly can’t hurt.

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Backpacking in the News

Wednesday, August 17th, 2011

Link to article: Can you ever be too old for backpacking?

Apparently not.

Apparently not.

A few weeks ago (July 28), Kim Wildman wrote an article for MSN.co.nz saying you’re never too old to go backpacking. She’s 41. The people in the above photo are closer to 71. That’s false advertising, MSN. Come on, now.

Wildman is honest: Having gone on her first backpacking trip at 27 (across some southern African countries) and her first solo trip (to Eastern Europe) at 30, she admits to often being the oldest person in the dorm room.

“For me, age always has been, and hopefully always will be, a number,” she writes. “It’s more about how you live your life rather than how many candles are on your cake. At the same time, as the years have marched on I’ve noticed the gap between myself and younger travelers at hostels is indeed widening.”

I disagree. You can be too old for backpacking. When you can’t carry your luggage on your back anymore* or you can’t stand “roughing it” in cheap, dirty accommodations, that’s when you’re too old to be backpacking.

In spite of her surname, Kim is no party animal. She proceeds to identify the following features of the young backpacker’s landscape:

And yet, Wildman is accepting of her counterparts, regardless of their age. “No matter whether my dorm mates belong to gen Y, gen X or the baby boomers, as long as they share my independent traveling spirit then, as far as I’m concerned, they can only make my hosteling experience richer.”

Her tolerance should be commended.

*About luggage: “I’ve already traded in my traditional rucksack for a far more practical and convenient (and might I add less backbreaking) trolley backpack,” Wildman writes.

I stand corrected.

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31. Traveler’s Diarrhea

Thursday, January 28th, 2010

This post should really have appeared earlier. Like somewhere in the top five. I guess 2. No Toilet Paper falls under the fecal category, so that about covered it for the top thirty. You can’t be writing a blog that talks about shit every five or six posts without people calling the cops (coprophiles) on you. Besides, to me, the word “fecal” represents a more solid image in my mind. And the topic of this post is decidedly far from solid. Yup, this is something entirely different.

That’s why I realize now it should have cracked the top five. Having this malevolent organism inside me was probably the worst thing that’s ever happened to me while traveling. Worse than getting pickpocketed (that’s number-two). I’m fucking serious. I was scared of it. Not scared, like I thought I was gonna die, but I was scared it would last longer. If you’re laughing and calling me a pussy, you’ve obviously never had it. It is THE WORST.

I  got my first case of real TD (they actually call it this) in Africa, of all places (beenou). Because I’m a visible minority, I like to brag to my white friends that I’m more immune to things than they are. Like sunlight for example (even though I still do get sunburnt, from time to time). I’d traveled to third-world countries before, so I was a little cocky. Our guides told us repeatedly, “Don’t drink the tap water. Only drink bottled water. No iced cubes. Make sure raw fruits and vegetables are washed in…” Yeah, yeah, yeah, I thought. I can handle it. I’m not white.

I’d been diligent, though. I’d been drinking only bottled water for weeks, even brushing my teeth with it for chrissakes. But I mistakenly thought that I’d gotten some bath water in my mouth once or twice, and was unaffected, so I rolled the dice. We were in a small local straw-hut of a restaurant. No tourists in there (beenou). They didn’t have any bottled drinks, only water. It wasn’t even tap water. They were ladling it into metal cups out of a bright blue garbage-pail-sized plastic bucket. I was conscious of it too, thinking, “Is this gonna make me sick?” right before I drank it to wash down a bite.

It most certainly did. I fell into a haze. Not immediately, but I started feeling off about an hour after eating, a little dizzy. Then I had the bubbly gut, then a stomach ache. I’d had food poisoning before, so I thought it was just that – that I’d puke or shit once and that’d be it.  I was struck by the worst case to diarrhea I’ve ever had. It started running Friday, I practically spent the whole day in the bathroom Saturday, I thought it was over and it came back Sunday, and Monday was just as bad as Friday. My memory of the experience is all foggy. I couldn’t eat. I felt so weak. All I did was sleep and get up to shit. I drank gallons of water. Imodium and antibiotics had no effect the entire time. It just kept pouring out. My butthole was raw from the constant wetness of pooping and water wiping (see 2. No Toilet Paper). By Tuesday, I felt decent enough to get out of bed and try to function. All I could stomach was water, tea, bread (dry, as butter is banned during bouts of TD) and the local equivalent of animal crackers. The runs had become more of a mealy, loose paste. It took five days before I had a solid stool and  I was honestly near tears when it plopped against the surface of the toilet water.

One thing my horrific TD taught me is that you need the support of other people to endure it. My friends took care of me. They brought me water and food, if I could eat it. They checked on me and even bought me a thermometer to make sure I didn’t have a crazy malaria-induced fever. You’d think I’d learned my lesson, but I got it again about a month later. Turns out, I was less immune to it than my white friends. They didn’t get it once.

I didn’t get TD again until about three years later, in Indonesia. Due to the foolish ingestion of fish(chicken?)ball soup, made with fishballs and steamed noodles that were sitting in a lidless container at room temperature, in the sun, likely for hours. Again, I thought about the possible consequences as I took my first slurp, hoping that the steaming broth they dumped the spongy, pre-cooked ingredients into was hot enough to kill the nefarious bacterium. But my friend, a feminist, separatist gal from Quebec, was keen on the soup. She insisted it would be fine. Yeah, she was fine. Yet again, I proved myself less immune to something than a white friend. I should learn my lesson, eventually.

Thanks to Karen, for suggesting I go ahead and write this topic. She must have had it once too. Thanks to Alain and the Diaws for all the animal crackers in Dakar. Thanks also to Isa, Claudio and JP for keeping me alive in the Gilis.

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