The Lijashan Cave Villages – Serenity in China

This is a video from my time in China about a whole month ago. After a full month of running around the country from densely populated areas to tourist traps I made it an objective of mine to find the Chinese country side. It took 17 hours of buses, trains, aggressive taxi cab drivers and some teenager in a sports car to find my homestay in the hills. I was staying with a man and his wife who didn’t speak a word of English. Our communications we’re based on hand signals and the graces of Google translate (somehow this place had amazing wifi but no running water). The experience overall however was serenity. Spending three days on my own after a full month of being crowded.


Mafia Tea in China

When I started travelling alone I was sure that the hardest part was going to be spending all that time by myself. However it has been very much the opposite. Since leaving home I have not spent a day alone, constantly finding new people to enjoy my travels with. Right after landing in Shanghai, I met two guys both named Thomas from Denmark. I would spend one of my most memorable experiences of the trip with these two beauties.Thomas & Thomas

We went to a neighbouring village an hour out of Shanghai by bus, putting full trust in the world to get us on the right one and off at the right stop. Our little trip brought us to a small canal town alive today only by the graces of tourism. In the narrow cobblestone alleyways it was easy to lose enthusiasm while being jostled around by the mobs of tourists, but we persevered by spontaneously ducking into back alleys. We found ourselves in the home life behind the tourist vainer. It was suddenly a very intimate experience, walking through the side lanes of this sleepy little community peering into the windows of residents homes. We saw spaces advertised as “ancient heritage” and “traditional” on the main street, being built behind the scenes. The tourist experience of “real China” only a fabricated face created so that these people could maintain their humble living situation. The feeling was like walking past someones social presence and directly into their personal life.

We walked around through the rubble and trash in silence, taking in the strangeness of this secret world we had just stumbled upon. It seemed like the whole compound was abandoned during work hours until we noticed a doorway where inside sat three well dressed men drinking tea, behind them was a bar. “Well? Should we get a beer?” The men’s eyes raise from discussion to look at the three smiling white boys who just stumbled into the room. We got the impression then that this was not the local neighbourhood pub, and that perhaps we have asked for more than we first anticipated. Before we can retreat however, one of the men introduces himself and gestures towards a table by the window.

It’s within the short walk across the room that we realize what we have just got ourselves into. What looked like a humble structure on the outside was a fully restored, traditional style banquet hall with modern accoutrements on the inside. The open concept space had floor to ceiling windows along the length of the room. Decorative plants in the corners, carved wooden accents on the ceiling beams and a large Buddha statue resting comfortably at the end of the room. The view from our table looks out over the empty canal and a spacious concrete patio. The only sign of the world we just left were the shells of abandoned condominiums lining the opposite side.

Gangster Tea

The man who introduced himself, now within the walls of the house, appears to be the owner and man of authority. He steps behind the glass counter bar and begins preparing our beers. At this point we realize that cheap beer is probably the most blasphemous thing we could drink in this moment. With a few points and gestures we managed to get order changed to tea. We got our tea and one of his subordinates spoke english. “Where are you from?” I smile, and respond maybe a little too proudly “Canada. Oh and these two are from Denmark.” The man’s boss smiles and quips something to him in Chinese. “Where in Canada?” he asks lifting his tea mug to his mouth. “Vancouver” I say with a little more restrain. The well dressed man smiles and the he translates, “he owns many houses in Vancouver” .

I had to explain to my Denmark friends that one does not simply “own many houses in Vancouver”. Together we rationalized that this man was obviously an international mob boss, and these two men with him, were his goons. Soon mob boss leader guy was consumed in lengthy phone calls and took them mostly standing outside on his river side veranda. We finished one pot of tea, which was soon refilled by one of the henchmen regardless of any objections we would make. We played many games of cards and speculated all of the many scenarios in which our host had likely killed people. Somewhere within the second jug of tea there were plumes of smoke coming from the streets behind the houses across the canal and we decided that it was probably time to go.

We found the english speaking mobster and expressed our thanks probably more than was comfortable. Upon trying to pay for our tea he scoffed and gave us directions to get back to the main road. The whole thing felt surreal. The polluted water below us, the slums around us, and the lavish life we experienced amongst it. It seems that sometimes things in life happen purely to reveal the absurdity of the world we live in.

Random Camel

You don’t know what you’ve got… Until it’s China.

Kinder Morgan, Stephen Harper, and much of the world has decided that Canada’s natural ecosystem is worth far more dead than alive. I write this reactionary blog, if for no other reason, to remind us that this rarity we have in Canada is like nothing else in the entire world.

Canada is Pretty Amazing.

I write from China, travelling through possibly the most prosperous nation in our world, but by looking out of a bus window on the highway you wouldn’t think so. China, although literally billowing money out of it’s factories smoke stacks, has sacrificed it’s heart to achieve this financial standard.

The China Landscape

China demonstrates the true power of our greed and desire for wealth acquisition. Blind misuse of resources and labour facilitated by western foreign investment has turned a once beautiful landscape into an apocalyptic grey palette. Entire mountainsides gouged open in search of precious materials, community’s of high density condominiums shrouded in smog from the factories below that employ them. Perhaps if the people of Canada could see the devastation associated with unregulated resources acquisition we would think more clearly upon the ideal of economic prosperity.

Endless coal trucks below empty high rise condominiums.

Endless coal trucks below empty high rise condominiums.

Canada is a very young nation with similar properties to what China had in it’s youth. We stand now as one of the last untouched and plentiful resources in the entire world. Pressured by the global community’s dependence of fossil fuels and material goods, we are told to give up our homeland for the forward movement of consumerism and the economy. Though we are a young and impressionable nation, we cannot let the greed and merciless pursuit of temporary gains tarnish the raw jewel we call home.

I am not a statistics buff on the subject, I can’t even begin to understand the details of the political aspect, but this is a world wide issue where for the first time Canada lies as the linch pin. The world needs us, more importantly they need our resources. Do we have the strength as a nation to change the focus of the world from the money in the ground, to the people who stand on it?

Thousands of environmental articles around the world will tell you, the news will tell you, and even individuals like me will tell you that what we are doing is totally insane and irrational. As we move forward towards progressive and positive means of sustainability we see more and more community resistance to corporate expansion. I write from frustration and anger, but my emotions do not change the way things work, my actions do.

So I wrote a blog, it’s not going to be read by our Prime Minister, or turned into an environmental bill and get passed through parliament, but I am voicing my support for the home team. I encourage all of us to put in our two cents, however petty it may feel and how large the opposition seems, when our homeland is at stake we cannot just sit back in silence. I thank you for reading this and I leave this with an awesome quote.

“Never doubt that a small group of people can change the world, indeed it is the only that ever has.”

Friend Suggestion Video #2: Bubble Tea in Taiwan

With a bit of luck and persistence I made it to Taipei, Taiwan. Upon initial contact the little island it is completely different than it’s massive neighbour. If I were to put it into a single word it would be “cute”, the dogs, the people, and the outrageous number of scooters on the street.

While in Hong Kong my cousin Todd insisted that I try bubble tea in the country from which it originated, Taiwan. So here it is Toddy, bubble tea in Taipei.

If you have any suggestions for the rest of my trip feel free to post in the comments or message me on facebook!

Friend Travel Suggestions Video: The Big Buddha, Hong Kong.

Before I left on this crazy adventure I had my birthday party in Vancouver. At the party I created this game called the “Suggestion Board” where friends could give me suggestions for things that I should do while overseas. Everyone had fill out a form. “If I was in _______, I would ___________.” and then pin it to the appropriate country.

Suggestion Board

After a full night of this I have a thorough list of ideas, and here is the first! The Big Buddha, in Hong Kong.

My plan is to make as many corresponding videos to these suggestions while I am travelling. If you have any ideas for things I should do I am still very open to friends suggestions via the interwebz, just leave a comment or message me directly!

I Met The Dalai Lama

Today I saw the Dalai Lama speak at the “Be The Village” Heart-Mind Summit at the Vancouver Convention Centre. Seeing him and the very well accomplished panel present about education for the future of our country was moving. His Holiness is a figure of compassion and forgiveness in our world. Some even calling him the living God, but what resonated most for me, was his humanity.

The Dalai Lama is like a cuddly bear of loveable quirks and honesty. He is the most humble human being I have ever encountered. His speech was riveting and strange. His words, though filled with potent meaning and substance, come out jaunty and off tempo as he tries to formulate the English phrase to express his intentions. His words are not what captivates people however, it is his silences.

Before the discussions began His Holiness took the stage early in order to watch the Saint James Musical Academy perform their introductory choir performance. Maria Lerose, who was the host of the event, later explained that there would have been an opening announcement for his entrance had he not been so excited and insistent on seeing the children sing. We watched as this 79 year old man, The 14th Dalai Lama, respected and revered around the world, stared in anticipatory silence as the children sang.

When the song finished he bowed and congratulated them on their skills, laughing all the while. We waited for him to compose himself, shuffling around the stage shaking the hands of the panel guests as the room settled into the silence. Upon arriving at the centre podium he was given a dampened towel to wipe the sweat from his brow. Chortling his thanks, he received the towel and wiped his face in the silence of 400 people watching. He folds the towel once and places it on top of his head, “this is the traditional Buddhist hat” he chuckles. He proceeded to wear the towel atop his head for the rest of the 3 hour long talks. The room buzzes with the contended laughter of a large group sedated in the aura of a man with true lack of judgement.

"It's A Nice Hat!"

After his speech Shane Koyczan is called to the stage. A riveting, thought provoking piece was punched into the room calling to the community and world at large to claim the responsibility for our “pale blue dot”. It was the analogy: “We are facing crisis” that left us breathless and spinning much like the globe we live upon today. Shane’s piece opened the dialogue beyond the scope of education for our youth and brought the breadth of the issue. Education is awareness, awareness is empowerment, and empowerment is a vehicle for social change.

The 3 hours of dialogue explored the most advanced education tactics used in BC today. Each speaker brought a viewpoint to the lens of discussion that added depth and range to the subject of our mutual futures as British Columbians. The topics found their resonance in every corner of the earth and our lives as contributing members within it. Soon the education of our children was seen as the foundation for the horizon of all our tomorrows.

“A shared vision is not an idea… it is rather, a force in people’s hearts. At its simplest level, a shared vision is the answer to the question ‘What do we want to create?'” – Peter Senge

In a glaze we clapped His Holiness all the way off the stage and began smiling our way back out into the real world. On the streets our tranquility was assaulted by the drone of a picket line protesting the Dalai Lama himself. “False Dalai Lama” and “Stop Lying” was shouted passerby and written on signs just outside the Convention Centre doors. This was countered by the Dalai Lama supporters on the other side of the courtyard pledging their devotion to his cause.

False Dalai Lama

I found myself insulted and hurt by their ignorance. 3 hours of inspiration and talks of the way of the future, starkly contrasted by those who opposed it. The progressive messages voiced inside are the ones ignored by the protesters just outside the doors. How can there be such a hatred for a man so peaceful? How can there be a opposition for one of the few individuals in this world fighting for the human race as a whole?

My shock lasted through many bewildered conversations with people passing by, the invasion felt like a paragraph from another book glued into the middle of a chapter. The messages from the summit resurfaced once the chants were dulled by the traffic sounds of downtown Vancouver. The world is a strange place, filled with opposition, contradictions and craziness, the only thing you can do is find where you can help.

“Ultimately, the reason why love and compassion bring the greatest happiness is simply that our nature cherishes them above all else. The need for love lies at the very foundation of human existence. It results from the profound interdependence we all share with one another.” – His Holiness, The Dalai Lama.

Thanks for Listening.

Here is a link to the piece that Shane performed:

People Make The World Go Around

As the days count down to my departure I am aware of the people in my life who I will miss the most while I am away. Stemming away from my self absorbed youth, it seems I am in some terrifying transition phase from childhood to, dare I say, some form of maturity.

As it turns out, crawling out of one’s own ass can be a frightening and isolating experience. For so long, my goal was to flee the mundane and experience as much of the world as I could. With the horizon as my objective, the dynamic composition of people who would help me get there were often lost in the chaos of my dusty take off. Now, with my departure weeks away, I see the people in my life as the pillars of support that they have been for me all along.

I spent my 21st birthday sober, at home with my family.  This is us doing our favourite gang signs.

I spent my 21st birthday sober, at home with my family. This is us doing our favourite gang signs.

This is a natural step in the progression from childhood to adult life. The processes of aging and maturation is a  growing phase in which the flow of attention begins to course in more equal measure from an individual to his community, and back.

I am an only child, not some inspired human being with an arcane knowledge of the human brain. From my recent epiphany I have discovered that people are what make the world go round. My parents are the coolest people I know, my family is so much more than just a collection of framed faces around my house, and my friends were the only reason that I lived through university. I have been bulldozing my way through life trying to become something but didn’t realize that to be something, you have to be something to somebody.

Leah And Darren

My family and friends are the rooms of my house and the streets of my community, they are the memories from my past, and they are the smells and sounds of my present. Without the people who I know there would be no context, no perspective, no association for myself to rely upon. As I begin to foster and nurture these relationships, the more range and depth they bring to my world.

Caring for people is hard. Putting someone before yourself requires confidence in your own independence. Allowing others to have importance and significance in your life calls for you to be vulnerable in accepting that you need them. Showing that you love someone leaves you open for rejection and embarrassment. It is this exchange of our most human insecurities that brings us closer to one another and our community.

There is still a lot of value in “looking out for number one”. Taking care of myself is the first step in being a part of a supportive community… but at the end of the day, one is a pretty lonely number without all the rest.”

The Famjamily

The (not so) Calm Before The Storm

A trip is just a trip until you do it. Sitting at home waiting for a trip to start, as I have discovered, is a journey much unto it own. Since my decision to leave I have been planning a 2 month visit to India that has cumulated into a 6 month expedition across 6 different countries including China, India, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. “Because if your going to fly over there, you might as well get your money’s worth.”

Travel bibles.

Travel Bibles.

Trip planning is like being back at school in terms of cost and time commitment. It seems like every waking moment I’m thinking about the trip or I’m bleeding money to make it happen. My nose is on the grindstone, selling my soul in order to fund the project. The difficulty comes in all the little pieces that make it work. The allocation of visas for India, China and Vietnam, health insurance for a kid with a heart condition, flight itineraries, immunizations, passports, shopping, research, scheduling, budgeting, rationing, worrying, pleading, waiting on hold and talking about it with everyone that I meet.

Talking about it is the best part… most of the time. Sometimes though, that outsider’s perspective makes me instantly aware that I am a very white boy travelling through communist, third world, and war stricken countries full of people who don’t speak my language. I’m not going to see my girlfriend for more than two months, and I’ll be away from home for more than six! Most terrifying and thrilling though, is that after that time, we will never see the world the same way again.

The only thing keeping me from internally combusting through all of this is the disaster prevention efforts I am assembling to make it run as smoothly as it can. Having the objective of my impending departure has given my everyday life purpose and direction. Even after 3 days of waiting on hold to try and book our flights, or negotiating with an emotionless robot lady at the Vietnamese Embassy, in the end I come out tired but impassioned.

People ask me what I’m going to do when I get back, and I have to admit that I don’t know. I have had to accept that, like many things to do with this trip, my life beyond this week, let alone the end of my trip, is still a mystery to me. Sometimes it feels like the trip is a procrastination of joining real life, and in some ways, that’s probably the truth. I don’t know exactly what I want to do with my life, and this is just an attempt to do some self exploration and adventuring to bolster my instincts. Even though I haven’t left yet, it’s already the greatest decision of my life.

Standing on the edge.

Standing on the edge.

Thanks for listening.

“Why Haven’t I Been Travelling Yet?”

“So why India?”

This is the question everybody asks when I tell them I am going to India. Perplexed by it’s common reoccurrence I have written this blog post in order to answer it to the fullest of my ability. It is not an easy question if I were answer it honestly, and I first need to establish that India is simply the destination, the true question is “Why travel?”

Agra - India

I have given up the option to travel many times in the past. With each change in my life, I looked at the opportunity, with a glint in my eyes, and then eventually pushed the thoughts from mind for the sake of my circumstances at that time. 

Choosing to travel was easy. India, or anywhere else in the world, can offer you the opportunity to broaden your horizons. The most challenging part of travel of any kind is the commitment to that choice, and the changes that you force upon yourself when you have decided to go. 

Why haven’t I already begun my transcontinental quest? Sadly, complacency so often wins over adventure. The reality is that there is simplicity and comfort in consistency. In order to travel you have to uproot yourself from your life and everything that you know in order to explore something new. To break away from the habitual is to accept that you will not be in control, and that you may never again fit into the world that you leave behind.  


A part of my procrastination is derived from my medical need to find the balance between control and adventure. Not only is travel an emotional leap of faith, but also a considerable medical risk. 

After my initial release from hospital, I was so desperate to demonstrate my capability I would’ve jumped off a bridge just to prove I could do it. I would say that, in retrospect, it was fate that must have kept me from traveling during this time. Insurance companies scoffed at my application, I was perpetually in and out of the hospital, and my attitude towards my health was proof enough that I wasn’t ready for such a choice.  

I released these balloons after being finally let out of the hospital. Symbolically they got caught in a tree overhead.

I released these balloons after being finally let out of the hospital. Symbolically they got caught in a tree overhead.

Since then I have a new found awareness and respect for my situation, and serendipitously, the opportunity to travel the world. For the first time since 2011, I have found medical stability in my life, and I am putting all of that on the line to see the world that I feared I would never see when I was diagnosed. My heart problems were always my excuse not to travel, but it took my renewed health for me to realize that it was an underlying mental struggle that kept me from leaving. 

The race to success starts as soon as we are asked the question “What do you want to be when you grow up?” and doesn’t end until you have the house and the car. Even though I love acting, I had an idealization of my success that clouded my perception of my own wants and needs. 

I graduated high school and went directly into 3 years of University studying my craft. Each year that I spent investing myself into this complex industry the more I felt the weight of my professional commitment. I had put so much effort into this world, and it’s hierarchy and routines were all I knew outside of my small town upbringing. I held on to it’s promise of fame and fortune, baited by the prospect of success and respect amongst my peers. 

Despite the stress and anxiety this world caused me, I ignored dozens of opportunities to travel simply to be at the beck and call of my career. This trip is a stand of independence, a choice for my self rather than my career and the culture that defines an individual’s “success.”


Why do I want to go to India? Why the hell not!? I am a young and healthy person (moderately) with an opportunity of a lifetime in front of me. I am in the process of shaping my life, exploring my options, not building a fortress of security in which to grow old and die in. 

It was to hard to decide to travel, and it’s going to be harder to actually do it, but I could never live my life without ever seeing the world.


“To live fully, one must be free, but to be free one must give up security. Therefore, to live one must be ready to die.” – Tom Robbins


Thanks for Listening. 

Recovery: Denial

After three years of medical trial and error my doctor prints off my chart and stares at it blankly. He takes off his glasses and squints at me the way you look at an old dog who’s started to pee on the carpet again.

“What are we going to do with you?”

I have reached a place in my recovery where my body and mind are at a stalemate. On the current prescription my heart rate is slow enough that it won’t kill me, and just fast enough that I don’t become morbidly depressed. My doctor and I sit, hesitant to prescribe something new for fear of disrupting the little balance we have taken 3 years to attain.

In my exploration of this heart condition I have been through many stages of recovery, all of which I will see repeatedly throughout my life, but the one that I deal with the most, is denial. In the waiting room that day I made a deliberate choice to deny my heart condition. I have decided to stop any further diagnosis and live my life by my own accord.


Technically this would be called denial. It is not the first time I have ignored my life threatening heart condition. When I was first released from the hospital I was in an aggressive state of denial. 3 weeks after my cardiac arrest, you might have seen me on the news, amongst the swarms of people being chased by police during the Vancouver playoffs riots. I abused my already weakened body to the absolute limits without any thought of the consequences. I was blind to my limitations, and so in some ways, it was as though they did not exist.


There is a difference however, in denial and calculated refusal to let something run your life.

Being in denial is like having a superpower. I did whatever I wanted for 3 months, it was only a matter of time before I found myself in back the hospital. Since then I have spent three years trying to find a cure for my situation, only to come out on the other side with only a greater understanding of how fucked up I really am.

It is a painful process realizing that I am no longer the physically adept, carefree 18 year old that I once I was. Inside of that loss however, I have found direction. I have wanted to travel since waking up from my coma, but have never been stable enough until now. This year I am finally going to make that happen. At the end of september I will be leaving the comfort of home to spend three months traveling in India.

How do you travel India with a heart condition? I’m in the process of figuring that out. Even getting on the plane is a challenge. I have to be legally deemed “medically stable” by my doctor for at least 4 months before leaving in order to be eligible for travel insurance. Even if I get on the plane, India is not only a logistical struggle, it’s an emotional one.

My choice to go to India is out of a selfish need to prove to myself that I can do it. My mentality during the trip could be the most dangerous part. I need to be extremely careful to not take any unnecessary risks while under third world country healthcare. One ego driven choice to do something I know is a risk and I could be in serious trouble. I have to be sure that my choice to deny further treatment in order to live my life doesn’t kill me.

I have spent 3 years pushing the envelope and finding the limits of my ability within my lifestyle here, but self control, and an awareness of what my body needs, is going to be crucial to my survival in a place like India. I know what kind of things my body is capable of doing, but in India every choice has to come from the acceptance of my condition in mind.


It is insanely scary to educate yourself about any medical issue that you may have experienced, but it’s really insane to ignore that it ever happened, but most insane of all is to stop living your life once you have accepted that it is truly there.

You need to continue with your life but you need to put your health issues in front of you and do it with them in mind. Many of the people around you will encourage you to get back to your schedule, to your job, to your routine life as quickly as possible. The most beautiful part of a life changing event is that your life is changed. You don’t have to go back to the way that things were. With the acceptance of your new circumstances you now have the opportunity to create a new future.

To deny the occurrence of something negative is to deny the opportunity to grow and learn, which is inherently, the denial of life.