North American scum

i hate the feelin’ when you’re looking at me that way
cause we’re north americans
but if we act all shy, it’ll make it ok
makes it go away.

LCD Soundsystem – North American Scum

Some Americans I have met shy away from the fact that they are from the United States. New Yorkers and San Franscisco residents make an emphasis that they are based in the respective cities and not in the rest of the US. Alaska and Hawaii are not part of the US in minds of their residents too. A girl from Alaska argued with me that Alaska has nothing to do with the USA, as it is not even on the mainland after all. Some Canadians are also offended, when you make a mistake about their origin (American and Canadian accents are so similar). I stopped guessing people with obvious American accents as Americans and assume that they are North Americans instead. This way there is little room for offending anyone. An even more extreme example is Americans who camouflage as Canadians, although I have not met any of those personally. It is sad that the USA, once such a great nation, became so uncool that its residents go into length of distancing themselves from their own country. On the other hand this seems to be a case of selection bias. Americans who are likely travel are also the ones who are disappointed in their country. I guess if you go to the heart of United States, you will meet a completely different set of values. I will test this theory one day.

So long Malaysia

After three weeks in Malaysia, I grew totally tired of the country and in the last few days just wanted to get out of there. My camera could not be fixed after all the wait and as a matter of fact is still in the service center thanks to the havoc caused by Chinese New Year. The thought of spending several more days in Penang just to get the camera back was unbearable. Enough is enough. I stayed over the first day of Chinese New Year, which proved to be rather uneventful, just a lot of temple business, firecrackers and other noise. Rather disappointing in fact, but maybe I should have stayed longer. Anyways here are some assorted remarks on Malaysia I made during three weeks.

  • Malaysia is very Western and organized comparing to its northern neighbour. Thailand is just wild. On the other hand Malaysia is a bit boring. There is a handful of tourist destinations, but other than that it is palm plantations as far as the eye can see. I did not even bother to go to Kuala Lumpur this time, as three days spent there two years ago were enough.
  • The strongest point about Malaysia is its multiculturalism. Three different ethnic groups (Malay, Chinese and Indian) living peacefully together as a single nation is truly remarkable.
  • Alcohol is expensive in Malaysia, which might be a major reason why many backpackers do not like the country. E.g. prices on beer are comparable to Finland.
  • Almost everybody speaks English making Malaysia a very easy country to travel. On the other hand, I haven’t learned a single Malay word apart from “bomba”, which stands for a fireman. When I asked a local muslim couple about the meaning and made a remark that “bomba” means a bomb in Russian, they laughed and started making jokes about suicide bombers. How bizarre.
  • Malaysia must lead the world charts with a number of tasteless and/or stupid t-shirts. “My other t-shirt has a graphic on it”, “May I have your attention?”. “Origina-lity is dead”? Yes, at least in the case of this t-shirt designer.

Homeless and unemployed

Today marks one year since I abandoned the safety net of a stable job and became a (un/self)employed bum. One year later I find myself on the other side of the world having the time of my life. Just after quitting my job in a spur of the moment I made a decision never ever again to do a single day of salary work. Then a funny thing happened. Two weeks later a new work found myself and as a result I went to Lapland to do a website for a hotel. Officially the motivation behind that trip was getting a new experience, but work is work after all. Funny how life has got its ways of putting things in order. To recap what has happened in my life during this year, here is a short list of highlights.

  • Started a company, found myself as a freelance entrepreneur.
  • Lived in Saariselkä, Lapland for two months. Did lots of cross-country and downhill skiing
  • Went to Fusion, Rainbow Gathering and Flow festivals
  • Had a blast last summer. Visited Ahvenanmaa, Berlin, Valaam, Treriksröset and Ödeshög
  • Did a 10 days vipassana meditation retreat
  • Took a Transsiberian train from St. Petersburg to Irkutsk
  • Had a glimpse of Siberia. Saw Baikal and Sayan mountains
  • Went to Gobi desert
  • Spent one month traveling around East China
  • Saw casinos of Macau, skyscrapers of Hong Kong and modern life of Singapore
  • Celebrated Christmas and New Year on the beaches of Thailand
  • Saw Hindu Thaipusam festival
  • Hiked in one of the oldest rain forests in the world
  • Met a lot of people, got totally new perspectives on life, saw some spectacular sunrises and sunsets and tasted amazing food I had never had before.
  • Currently bumming around Malaysia and one my way back to Thailand
  • The journey continues.

And one last thing. I do not know that many people back at home, who would leave everything behind and start travelling, so naturally I felt a little bit special. But while travelling every second person I meet is in the same position as myself. Homeless and unemployed – sounds almost like a cliche. Talk about selective bias.