One-Way Ticket to Hawaii


My Mother in Oahu 1959

My Mother in Oahu 1959

The first time I heard about Hawaii I was 3 years old.

My mother was bathing me in the huge porcelain tub in our150 year-old house in Canandaigua, New York near Canandaigua Lake. Where I grew up.

She and my Dad would be going there for 2 weeks and I said, “Can I come too?”

My Mom smiled, explaining that this was a special trip for them.

I never saw my Mom and Dad happier than in the photos they brought back of them in Oahu in 1959.

Mom said I would be going to Grandma’s house with my sister Vicki. Barbara and Nancy would go to Buffalo, New York to Nanna’s house. My Mom’s mother.

 I wanted to go to Hawaii.

My Dad in Oahu 1959

My Dad in Oahu 1959


But I loved going to Grandma’s house in Baldwinsville, New York outside of Syracuse. She let us play with her tiny porcelain figurines. She had Snow White and the 7 Dwarves! And even when we got rowdy and broke off a finger or foot she still let us play with them even though we were warned this would be the last time.

It never was. She always let us play with the dwarves again. Happy was my favorite.

So Hawaii stayed stuck in my mind and soul. I didn’t even know exactly what an island was being landlocked in Syracuse but I knew I wanted to go there.

It took another 40 years to get to Maui. When I got there I never wanted to leave.

It’s one of my big dreams, a yearning I’ve had since being 3 years old. Today I felt a stirring of it again.

There is a mystical quality about the air in Hawaii – it’s always clean and pure. As soon as you land you take a whiff of it and feel celestial. I’ve never inhaled air like that anywhere else.

Whales and dolphins live there. The beaches aren’t dirty. The sky is breathtakingly blue with puffy white clouds.

Yes you can find clean beaches in other countries but there is a magic I have never witnessed anywhere else quite like I have on Maui.

It is the farthest landmass from anywhere else on earth. Made entirely of volcanoes. Now right there, that is ethereal.

Now I feel a calling to go there.

I am deliciously excited about it holding the thrill in my heart. It’s coming towards me and I love it.

A secret I will keep inside a little longer and fan it with the flames of desire.

Something in my heart is calling me to Oahu.

My motorbike crash jolted me awake. After I flew off my bike and landed on the road my eyes popped open along with my helmet catapulting off.

This life is all I have and I gotta live it – completely and with no regrets. Live the dream and do it. Find out! Explore. See what the meaning is.

I bought my ticket. I’m leaving Thailand on December 3 and flying to Oahu.

Doing cartwheels in my bedroom here.

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How to Change Your Life 

Living out loud and laughing is the prescription to life’s monsoons. If you don’t laugh every day your enthusiasm gene dries up. It’s that simple. But it took me decades to figure out. What happened?

I got out of my comfort zone, left my leather couch and plump pillows, and started traveling. And not the way I used to travel; spending $500 a day for trips to Maui, staying in luxury resorts, skiing at Squaw Valley sipping cocktails, jetting off to Bora Bora and scuba diving in the Caribbean.

So there I was in the heart of Palo Alto, California, down the street from Steve Jobs, home of all things silicon chipped, 25 years of a successful photography career: great clients, author of a book, what was missing?

I didn’t know the name of it yet but when my 18-year-old son, Wolf, asked me to visit him in Nepal while he was volunteer teaching I said hell, yes!

Kathmandu. It sounded mystical. A dream destination. So I took 2 months off and left California with 50 rolls of film, my Nikon F-3, and a heart full of wonder and awe on Christmas Day 2005.

Suddenly, the unknown snatched me in its jaws.

It was that exact moment after flying over the Himalayas and seeing my son waiting for me in the tiny Kathmandu airport that my heart leaped into overdrive – this was it! The life of being a vagabond I had always wanted but didn’t know what it was called. The air sparkled with possibility and luminescent light. The atmosphere shown with a prism quality that shivered my nerve endings and made me wake up.

Yes, being on the rooftop of the world made me see the light.

Kathmandu felt like 3rd rock from the sun – everything was different – the food, the light, the people, clothes, statuary, and religion. I’d never been in a tuktuk, or eaten Tibetan momos, never seen such gorgeous people before. Nepal was on the US embassy’s unsafe-don’t-visit list but my son was there. I’d walk through fire to see him.

So I was getting my Nepal visa at the airport paying with US dollars not knowing what I was spending until he told me the exchange rate. I could get a hotel room for $12 a night not $200? And it was clean and quiet too.

I was off and running. Drunk on my own freedom.

In Kathmandu, I taught photography to the staff of the Nepal Youth Foundation. Olga Murray, the charismatic and brilliant founder of NYF invited me to teach after I asked her if I could help and it made my trip to Nepal an experiential dream. But it was real and they even gave me taxi money, instant friendship, and wildly delicious meals.

I fell in love with the staff and it fueled me onwards to lead more projects in other countries; many times receiving room and board to do photography, teach, write or all three.

And I discovered it was fun to work without a thought of money; to be liked for doing what I love to do. Taking photographs, teaching, writing, playing with people, babies, elephants, and laughing. And that’s how I became the CEO of fun.

I’m getting rich with experience on seeing how the world lives outside my former bubble of a life devoted to the almighty buck, cashmere, and comfort.

I’ve had an astounding education in life: being a professional photographer, a published author, a hitchhiking hippie, leading programs at major corporations in the USA, photographing the Dalai Lama, riding elephants bareback in Nepal, and learning how to fall off a surfboard, not to mention all the other crazy capers.

But when people tell you you are nuts that usually means you are on to something wonderful.

The thing is…

There’s no better way to learn how the world works than to roll up your sleeves and get filthy with experience like this. I’ve been stupid, smart, lucky, well-off, broke, mocked, and loved and I’ve learned something from every second of it.

People with more money than I have, ask me how I do it. But it doesn’t take a lot of money to do what I do. Doesn’t take much planning either. I just go where my heart calls me to go. And I discovered after teaching photography and yoga in foreign countries worldwide that I could make a living at it. How?

I started teaching travelers and ex-pats in Dharamsala and boom! I had a pocket full of Indian rupees and noticed I didn’t need to visit the ATM.

That’s when it hit me: I don’t have to go back to the USA to earn money. Scotty, beam me up into the ethers of my greatest dream – being free and discovering the world!

So I went back to the USA sold all my stuff and gave the rest away – no more stress, furniture, insurance, car maintenance or rat race. Poof! All gone.

I’m a permanent traveler now on an open-ended worldwide adventure.

Take the leap and do it now before you think about it too much. Grab the time off for yourself and don’t wait until its been 15 years since you had 3 weeks off in a row like I did.

Start with an easy country like Bali or Thailand, you’ll be safe in an exotic world spending very little money if you enjoy homey guesthouses for $10 to $15 a night. You won’t be inside much anyway.

Spread your wings and take off – you know you want to!

Stay in touch, find out where I am now on the planet, and get seriously kick-ass advice on being a location independent entrepreneur. Go to Vagabond Travel Mag now and subscribe in the itunes store.