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  • hardie karges 3:58 am on December 25, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: backpacker, , ,   

    About a minute from now, the clock will simultaneously turn 00:00 Dec. 25 in Pago Pago, American Samoa and 00:00 Dec. 26 in Apia, (West) Samoa and for one fleeting instant it will be Christmas Day all over the world. So seems like a good time to say Merry Christmas! Joyeux Noel! Feliz Navidad! Errymay ristmaskay! (etc.) and a good time to renew a commitment to peace, love and understanding… sleep in heavenly peace, wake up to a whole new world…

  • hardie karges 11:11 am on January 30, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: backpacker, , , ,   



    I haven’t had a really good night’s sleep in thirty years, or thereabouts anyway, not since my last paid job as a carpenter, back in my seminal youth (accent on my little seamen, with their voyages of discovery), and defined by the sweet smells of patchouli, herbal essence, and decay, honeysuckle and slowly rotting newsprint, antique pickup trucks and low technology, the lower the better in fact, living in five-quarter-inch plank-wood cabin, rough-cut and left un-planed in makeshift sawmills, and toted by the truckload to the lower forty acres of uncut forest, lain fallow by then for at least two generations while the world went on without it, until I saw value where others saw only clear-cut profit, like my father before me, and so proceeded to put permanent erections in temporary top soils, me and quarter-sawed antique heartwood and wood-burning stoves and kerosene lamps and nature-lust and heartache, back when Coors was currency and non-conformity was criminal and planets were small and getting smaller every day.

      (More …)

  • hardie karges 10:35 am on January 18, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: backpacker, , , , prostate cancer   

    PROSTATES & POLITICS… and 2012 in the rear-view mirror… 

    ImageDec. 29, 2011, approximately 4:30 p.m:

     “You tested positive for prostate cancer.”

                I tried to remember the old Seinfeld episode, but couldn’t remember the ending, so I was still positive (pun).  “That means I don’t have it, right?”

                The doctor smiles thinly.  “Next we’ll need to do a bone scan to see the extent of spread.  After that you can meet with the oncologist…”

                The words gradually sank in.  “Wait a minute; you mean I’ve got cancer (heavy on the reverb)?”

    The doctor nodded, then continued talking, but I was no longer listening.

    The say at the moment of your impending death your life will pass before your eyes, presumably in fast-motion if you’ve done very much, though anybody who’s ever used an old-fashioned crank-up 16mm film camera knows it’s just the opposite: to play back fast, you shoot slow, and vice versa. Think about it.  But I didn’t see any flashbacks, either fast or slow. All I saw were dollar signs, flashing before my eyes and out the window.  My life itself was like a frame of old-fashioned film stuck in an old-fashioned projector gate, starting to burn and tear, starting to smell to all Hell.  I’d just been told that I’m dying, the dreaded ‘C’ word.  But wait a minute.  Aren’t we all dying?  It’s just a question of when, and how… (More …)

    • kc 12:54 pm on January 18, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      not too funny. you are lucky as can be. surprised they did’nt laproscropically do that thing. i do hope you made it through your treatments ok. do you have a clean bill of health? Can’t wait to get my book then get packing….

      • hardie karges 1:23 pm on January 18, 2013 Permalink | Reply

        Actually, “lucky” is not the first adjective that came to mind…

    • kc 12:55 pm on January 18, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      you are brave and i am happy for you

    • hardie karges 1:25 pm on January 18, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      “Brave” is not the first adjective that came to mind, either… so far, so good, will know more in a couple weeks…

    • ANNE KARGES 3:24 pm on January 18, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      glad you are still around to give me something new to read. come home sometime.

      • hardie karges 3:37 pm on January 18, 2013 Permalink | Reply

        When is Millsaps homecoming 2013?

  • hardie karges 5:11 pm on December 31, 2007 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: backpacker, , , , ,   

    Confessions of an Aging Backpacker 

    Okay, okay, I admit it. I like to travel; no more long-winded explanations about business, ‘raw material’, or “I like interesting places, but not the actual traveling to get there”. I like it all, okay? It’s a way of life- the spontaneity, the breeze in your hair, the new experience just around the next bend, the friend-for-life that you just might meet tomorrow. Like the hero in one of my favorite songs, it may not keep you free and clean, but it’ll keep you honest. Who says you have to sit in a little house on a little street in a little town in a little country every day for the rest of your life anyway? My Indo-European-speaking ancestors certainly didn’t. They spread far and wide with nothing much more than a herd of cattle for inspiration. Those humble herders went on to become Greeks, Hindus, Romans, Persians, Russians, Germans, French, British, and Americans. What’s the first thing those modern men and women want to do when they’re old enough to leave home and have enough money to consider their options? For many, the answer is obvious: travel. Like salmon swimming upriver, maybe it’s there in the genes somewhere. For others, maybe it’s in the jeans somewhere.

    Of course if you’re a true backpacker, it doesn’t take much money. It takes smarts, and a modicum of daring. After all, luxury is not the goal. Adventure is. Or if not true adventure, then at least novelty. A true backpacker will go hundreds of miles out of his way to cross a border that’s only recently opened and the people are not yet jaded. That’s virgin territory, but we can change all that. We’re only limited by the Backpacker Uncertainty Principle (BUP)- that undiscovered paradise at the end of that new road will be altered by our very presence, and our own perceptions are only that, not reality itself. Technically, of course, you can’t measure our speed and plot our location simultaneously, either, but that seems irrelevant here. Still we persist in our search for novelty. This is, after all, the greatest show on earth, in full Technicolor, Sensurround, and Odorama. You’re only limited by your imagination and your pocketbook. There’s only one guiding Backpacker Rule and it’s simple: Travel light. Okay, you don’t have to drill holes in your toothbrush as one early travel guide jokingly suggested, but you get the idea.

    For better or worse, back when I first started, there was no Lonely Planet travel guide, much less hundreds, much less Rough Guide, Moon Publications, or any of the others. Standards were the corny old Frommer books and the series based on ‘Europe on $10 a Day’. South American Handbook was the Bible for Latin America and there were just starting to be some ‘cool’ travel books coming out like ‘Southeast Asia on a Shoestring’, ‘Indonesia Handbook’, ‘Along the Gringo Trail’, and ‘People’s Guide to Mexico’. The last of these is probably my all-time favorite, simply because it told you nothing about where to stay or what to pay, but it told you what it’s like to be part of the landscape. For me, ultimately, that’s what it’s all about. I know what it’s like being a tourist, backpacker or otherwise. That’s nearly the same everywhere. Guesthouses, restaurants, and travel agencies, even mountains, rivers, and deserts are very similar all over the world. Cultures are what distinguish a place. I want to know what it’s like to live there. That’s what backpackers do. You live in a series of situations linked like a chain, neither constant travelling nor constant residence. Sure, I want to know where the temples, museums, and waterfalls are, but I also want to know what’s in the CD and video stores, movie theatres and supermarkets, also. A book doesn’t help much with that, and I used to eschew them religiously. Now I eschew them because I hardly know where I’ll end up when I start out, and extra paper violates Backpacker Rule #1 (and the basics you can get from the Lonely Planet http://www.ebsite on any computer from any Internet Café anywhere in the world. Ha!)

    I like to think of myself as one of the ‘originals’, but actually I’m not. I started in the mid-70’s, what I would call the ‘belated Hippie’ era. That was probably the Golden Age, when many places in the world were still inexpensive, still culturally distinguishable, but developed enough, and globally aware enough, that accommodations catering to this youthful group quickly sprung up, almost overnight in some cases. A Westerner could simply hop on the bus and cross on over to the other side. For an American, that meant Mexico and South America. For a European, that meant Turkey and Africa. For an Australian, Indonesia and Southeast Asia were obvious choices. For all, India was like the jewel in the crown, prized equally for its guru-laden culture and long-time facility with the English language. India, indeed, was one of the favorites of the previous generation that started out as beatniks in Goa, Tangier, and Ajijic. The next wave surfaced later smelling the roses in Kathmandu, Marrakesh, and Panajachel, and ending up on the beaches and bitches of Samui, Kuta, and Mallorca. The scene changed from the Beatnik characters portrayed in On the Road and progressed to the post-hippies of Video Night in Kathmandu to the modern-day slackers of The Beach.

    Of course the backpacker scene changes all the time, by definition. The overland route from Europe through Asia now goes north through Russia and China, rather than south through Iran and Afghanistan. Who could’ve guessed that thirty years ago? Of course, back then the highest goals of any traveler were India and Nepal, now both a bit smudged in the public eye. Old places lose their charm and new places open for business, many times due to political considerations. Laos was in, out, now back in, ditto for Peru, but give Kabul a little more time. Vietnam still lures, Yangshuo and Dali in China still maintain their charm even after the novelty’s gone, and Prague’s the rockingest spot in Europe, long after Western Europe priced itself out of the backpacker market. Sometimes an area or city remains popular, but the center for backpackers drifts to new neighborhoods. Kathmandu’s Freak street has moved across town to Thamel, as has Bangkok’s Soi Ngam Duphli to Khaosan Road, while Bali’s Kuta merely extends itself endlessly down the same street, first to Legian, then to Seminyak, like growth lines on a tree.

    Rising prices have decreased the attraction of Latin America, along with increased crime, but there are still adventures to be had, especially in the South American Andes. The threat of violence also affects perceptions of Africa and Muslim countries, but persevere. If you don’t mind being the only backpacker around, then every place is a potential trip. You don’t really require banana pancakes, do you? Asia is clearly ‘Easy Street’ for today’s backpackers, what with former Communist countries not only cheap, not only time capsules, but now allowing multiple entry and exit points so that one can loop back to a starting point without re-tracing one’s steps. This is Backpacker Rule #2 (Okay, I lied earlier): Backpack, don’t backtrack. Novelty is worth the long hard bumpy ride through uncertainty and digestive distress, but reruns only excite when they’re nostalgia runs, like time travel, same space but different times. But that takes a few years to be effective.

    Yes, things have certainly changed since that day some thirty years ago when I first put thumb to the air and the rest was history. Gone is the Culture Shock. Gone is the thumb, as a rule of thumb. Gone are the days of ‘going native’, when you’d trade your jeans, Vibram-soled boots and down-filled jacket for the local handspun and go live in a hovel with the Indians. I suppose that is a testament to the increasing globalization of world culture, but probably also to the increasing luxury of the backpacker scene. Backpackers now have got it easy, what with all the centers of cheap accommodation competing for your dollar, all the cafes, all the guidebooks, all the Modern Standard Pidgin English gone worldwide. But I’m not complaining. I got a glimpse of a past they’ll never get. I became a self-taught linguist out of the necessities of world travel. I became a self-taught anthropologist to try to make sense of everything I saw. I even made a career out of travel, dealing in handicrafts when they, too, had a novelty value and a Golden Age which is now in decline. I’ve even had the opportunity to live in several foreign countries (and still be my own boss).

    Internet makes travel much easier and knowledgeable nowadays. E-tickets mean you don’t have to worry about losing that handful of tickets that link you back to the ‘real world’. Improved transportation means that formerly inaccessible areas are now open for business, notwithstanding the fact that what attracted you in the first place may change in the process. Life is good. I’ve visited forty-eight countries (and counting), worked in ten or twelve of them, and lived in two or three of them. AND THEY’RE CREATING NEW ONES ALL THE TIME. I figure if I visit five or six new countries a year, then I’ll see them all before, well, you know. I still hardly know Africa or the Middle East, and now Central Asia’s game. Forget those obscure land borders, though. At fifty years old (and counting), I start looking for airlines from exotic countries that allow free stopovers at no extra cost. I start looking to see which airlines make fuel stops in Cape Verde. I start weighing the options of flying from Bangkok to New York via the Pacific or Atlantic. I start seeing the world not as a random collection of countries, but as Hispanic or Germanic, Francophone or Lusophone, Slavic or Semitic, Uralic or Altaic, Bantu or Manchu, Sino-Tibetan or Uto-Aztecan, etc. according to the historical ebb and flow of peoples, religions, languages, and power. I stop counting the years and start counting my blessings. Unfortunately, I still need to count the money once in a while. See you in Mozambique.

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