Posted by: standing_baba | December 9, 2012

My New Blog: Six Weeks to Sunrise

Hey Everyone,

Since my South America bicycle tour ended in 2011 I’ve wanted to begin a new project…so I started another travel blog. With a twist. Here’s a snippet from its About page.

What is this blog about?

1) My transition from employee to entrepreneur—
and complete transparency about how you can do the same.

2) My travels to new countries every six weeks—
with tips and tricks about how you can travel the world too.

Half travelogue, half business blog, this site is a resource for anyone who wants to build a business that serves their ideal lifestyle.

Every Thursday I publish a new article, with an emphasis on solutions to travel- and business-related problems I’m having now or have had in the past.

If this sounds of interest, I invite you to follow along at




Posted by: standing_baba | January 9, 2012

The A-to-Z Bicycle Touring Workshop



Overlooking Lake Titicaca on the Peruvian side

FOREWORD: The following piece was written by the Partners of the Americans, an organization I joined upon returning to the United States in September 2011.

DECEMBER 13, 2011 (LINCOLN, NEB.) — At what point did mild-mannered Trevor Wright, child of the Dakota and Nebraska Plains, become intrepid, world traveling Trevor? As he tells it, a flash of clarity struck him during a summer break from Wayne High School when he lived and studied Spanish in Barcelona, Spain.

He’s never looked back.

After earning degrees in International Business, Spanish, and Latin American Studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, he spent a couple semesters in Mexico and Costa Rica, perfecting his Spanish. He’d barely touched U.S. soil again when he moved back to Costa Rica to attend a public university, supporting himself as a bilingual telemarketer and professional translator.

Later, he worked for a study abroad organization in Austin, Tex., and spent summers in Costa Rica as a program director. During his time in Texas, Wright purposely avoided driving a car, opting to invest in a “Surly” bicycle and “Bob” bicycle trailer (from which was born his biggest adventure to date as well as his blog: Me, Bob & Surly: Three Friends Bike South America”).

Rest stop with Bolivian woman and child

In June 2009, Wright backpacked through Trinidad and Venezuela. In July 2009, he was “reunited” with Bob and Surly and began bicycling in Cartagena, Colombia, with the goal of “heading south” yet keeping his options open. He traveled through Ecuador, Peru, Chile and Bolivia. In June 2010, he entered Brazil and it was in Belo Horizonte and Florianopolis, he chose to live until April 2011, first learning Portuguese and then eventually working as a Portuguese to English translator.

“I never expected to stay in Brazil for nearly a year, but the cultural differences were so different from the rest of Latin America that I felt more time was needed to understand this huge country and its people. Without a doubt, Brazil is my favorite country I’ve visited,” said Wright.

In the vast lands of the Brazilian Pantanal

His amazing journey logged 6,500 miles, during which time he visited every South American country except British Guyana, Suriname, and French Guyana.

Though no stranger to long stints outside the United States, Wright has undergone some cultural and social readjustment challenges since returning from his latest two and a half year absence.

“The American handshake now seems awkward. All over South America, cheek kiss greetings are common, and in Argentina even men greet each other with macho cheek pecks, like in Italian mafia movies. When I instinctively lean in to greet people here, I have to remind myself I’m in the United States where different rules apply,” Wright said.

One of the first organizations he considered himself fortunate to connect with on his return home was the Nebraska Chapter- Partners of the Americas.

Partners of the Americas event in September 2011

“Not only did I meet an energetic group of Brazilians at my first event, but I’m growing my network of Latin America-minded people. Some live here in Nebraska while others will return to their respective countries,” Wright said. “Through this organization, there is a very real opportunity to help each other professionally in the future.”

Wright now works as an interpreter in Lincoln while he explores other entrepreneurial opportunities. He maintains his languages by video Skyping with friends in various South American countries.

Posted by: standing_baba | August 12, 2011

Visiting on a Whim: My First 24 Hours in Paraguay

Church in downtown Asunción, Paraguay

FOREWORD: With my bike gear sold and one bag packed, I’m currently en route to the United States, to end destination San Francisco, California after a five-day layover in Lima, Peru. But before I return to all that is routine and comfortable in my home country my mind insists that the remote and complex nation of Paraguay make a blog appearance.

From the northern Argentine border near Formosa to the multi-cultural tri-border at Iguazu Falls, my five days of zig-zagging bus travel were much too quick to gain any deep understanding of this land-locked island within the South American continent, but I did have a lot of fun skimming across its surface. Below are a few descriptions of my first day in Paraguay, each written in reverse chronological order and purposefully limited to one paragraph.

Nardi and Trevor in Asunción, Paraguay

August 13th [9:28pm – Grilling with friend Nardi and her parents] – Tonight I gained a family and two new friends: the Spanish-only Nardi version, the same who picked me up in her used Mercedes hours after I Facebooked her that I was in town; and the Guarani-edition Nardi, the one who chirps undecipherable happy sounds and smiles more as a result. Years ago Nardi and I met in Texas while she was working as an au pair. We spoke Spanish when alone; English when with others. I remember the atmosphere of a conversation we once had but not the conversation itself—weightless words just bounced between us. During a pause in which not only the human face but the whole body tells the other it’s their turn to speak, I looked at her, really looked at her, then realized her South American life up to our mutual Texas days was completely foreign to me, that every time two people meet the past is wiped clean and the only present is the air breathed into their words. I’d never have stumbled into this realization if she hadn’t come from a country that, at the time, I considered exotic and other-worldly. Funny, now that I’m in her backyard grilling with her parents I feel like I’ve both met her for the first time and known her forever.

August 13th [3:oopm – Walking around the Asunción historic center] – Everything is new, which means everything is exciting. I’m a baby again slobbering open-mouthed at the excesses of the world, tasting them as if everything was candy and nothing poison, pulling all senses through holes in my head. It’s warmer here, greener by default. Floating upward to the park’s leafy and bladed canopies my eyes search for colorful, warm-blooded parrots to confirm, beyond a doubt, that the light reflected reversed and uprighted inside my retinas is, indeed, tropical. Ears: I don’t understand the murmured Guarani in the streets, and it surprises me more than it should that the language of the Old World Spanish empire was dominated into disuse by the better humored, more fluid, less logical ratatat of a jungle people who, for centuries,—and now I’m letting my imagination run savage—shot their long syllables like arrows through dense bush, hoping they’d fall into the ears of other friendly tribes scattered along the Paraguay River. That, or Guarani is revenge against their European invaders, an indomitable and repeated cry against the insulting idea that their people could be enslaved. Mouth: a street vendor who sells pottery in the park accentuated his respond to my question by ashing his cigarette and staring deeply into my eyes, “We don’t have traditional food,” then politely directed me to a nearby cafe with outdoor plastic tables where I ordered ravioli and a Coke.

Neighborhood on the outskirts of Asunción

August 13th [10:15am – Taking a public bus across Asunción] – It looked like a hot dog stand but its business was clearly written in block red letters: “We buy hair.” Right there on the street corner. Portuguese billboards peddled fine Brazilian lingerie from above the rusty rooftops of shantytowns in dusty fields. Chinese symbols on storefronts mingled, on the pastel walls of every other building, with Arabic scratches and cartoon Aladdins that appeared to be a hodgepodge business community of Middle Eastern ex-pats, or perhaps it was the Chinese acting Arabic to expand their influence into yet another Latin American capital, neighborhood by neighborhood. Globalization speaks all squiggles fluently. The Asunción streets are filled with pulsing metal, push-carts and pick-ups that slowly come undone as ill-fitted screws bounce around over-sized holes. Black clouds shoot from exhaust pipes when buses shift gears, and no one seems to cover their mouth or find this temporary loss of sun offensive, as if being personally eclipsed was as normal as ordering a milkshake from a McDonald’s drive-thru from atop a horse carriage (I saw this).

August 12th [9:05pm – Looking for a hotel near the bus station] – One-hundred-seventy-nine-thousand guaranis? Thank you. One-hundred-forty-thousand guaranis? Thanks. Forty-thousand guaranis to stay in your home? Great, thanks, but I’m going to check just one more place first. Twenty-five-thousand guaranis? A shared bathroom with cold water only? I’ll take it. Six-dollars-fifty-cents to sleep.

August 12th [7:4opm – Taking a van from the Argentine Border to downtown Asunción] – Ten of the fifteen passengers were men, many missing teeth and all speaking Guarani while the eyes in their motionless heads darted from speaker to speaker. The conversation was gently pulled instead of pushed from lungs, hushed to a respectful volume, then muted so as not to unfocus the women and children who sat facing forward, dutifully watching the road. Learn through observation. I was visiting Paraguay on a whim. With no real plan, no real destination, and an exchange rate quoted from an illegal taxi driver selling counterfeit currency, I studied my fellow passengers like a guidebook, hoping to learn something, anything. They twitched with the toe taps and bouncing knees so common to men who use their bodies like tools, those who’d feel guilty earning a living any other way than manual labor. Their dirty faces and oily work shirts were open pages. I learned, without words between us, that these fathers played with their children, that they were as honest as they were tired from long hours of underpaid work, that not one would have protested or sighed impatiently if I’d have asked to pull over to pee in the ditch.

Sign at the Paraguayan border

August 12th [6:35pm – Visa issues exiting Argentina and entering Paraguay] – I fell into their trap, walked straight through the front door and drank the mango juice put in my hand. After my experience at the Argentine “border,” a small office in the other half of the same shared building, the Paraguayan officials’ friendliness seemed like a trick, like a water-drip torture to obtain a confession. Their kindness was filling waterboarding buckets and charging electrodes, I was sure of it. And I just smiled to hide my alertness, not knowing what to expect. “You don’t have a visa?” Based on my treatment, I decided to fight niceness with honesty. “No, sir, I didn’t know I needed one.” A pause. “Well, don’t worry, we can solve this.” Just like that, I fell in love with Paraguay before even setting foot on its soil. Minutes before, in the same building in this no-man’s-land of bureaucracy, the Argentine officials had used more traditional torture techniques (e.g. humility) to punish me for overstaying my welcome in their holy jurisdiction. They laughed annoyingly at my false assumption: that three months equaled ninety days, the maximum time tourists are allowed in their country. “Three months are not always 90 days,” repeated one official dryly, his arms-crossed while squinting out the window as if trying to remember which months ended in 31. “Your three months are 92 days,” he said, emphasizing all the wrong syllables. One taxi ride to an ATM later, I left Argentina after a US$80 fine and entered Paraguay on a 72-hour transit visa that I was told could probably be extended; and if not, not to worry: “Someone will help you find a solution.”

Posted by: standing_baba | August 8, 2011

Adiós Amigos: Bob & Surly Take the Long Way Home

Beginning bike tour in Cartagena, Colombia

(Buenos Aires, Argentina) Moments before passing the handlebars and watching that neon yellow fade down the sidewalk, snake-like below so many busy feet, Bob & Surly made me promise I’d shed no tears, not then, not now. And definitely not months later when I’d upload their photos to announce to the world they had decided to pedal the long way home—from Ushuaia, Argentina to Alaska, U.S.A—whereas I’d board a plane and wake up wiping our adventure clean like sleep from my eyes.

Months later, my eyes are dry; a promise is a promise. But I miss those sarcastic metal bastards. We’ve been through too much to goodbye and walk (pedal) away without glancing back over our memories’ shoulder. Ten thousand kilometers and two years are just long enough to realize who your true friends really are.

New Bob & Surly pilots, Javier and Gigi

As I now sadly and reluctantly pull up the past, Bob and Surly are gearing up for another adventure. They’ve joined forces with Argentine couple Javier and Gigi, two bicycle enthusiasts with whom they’ll retrace the Andean spine all the way to its glacial beginnings in the flat Alaskan tundra.

During a Buenos Aires Critical Mass event, Surly spotted the couple in the sea of bikes, flashed a carsalesman smile, then immediately sold himself for top dollar after convincing them to quit their jobs to pedal the Americas. By noon the following day, Surly had also duped the couple into paying cold cash for Team MB&S’s hard-to-find, barely-used camp and cook gear, packaging himself into an all-or-nothing sale he dubbed, “The Triple Threat.” In an unconscionable act of Surlyness, he left me in the dark about these gyspy dealings, and Bob only realized he was committed to another 25,000 kilometers as his confused stare was led away from my moist eyes, pulled like a puppy from a bitch’s tit. Yeah, it was heart-wrenching.

Ending bike tour in Buenos Aires, Argentina

Bob and Surly are gone, once again carrying starry-eyed travelers across mystery-filled lands. Though I’ll forever remember our southerly ride, there is no point in looking back. My eyes are dry, full of stars, and there is still plenty of mystery left to unravel.

Listen to Camping Bus Radio here.
Bob, Surly, and I are listening now.

Posted by: standing_baba | July 24, 2011

Street Graffiti in Buenos Aires

Sandra and I in Cusco, Peru

Peruvian Sandra hosted me in her home when I biked through the belly button of the Incan universe, Cusco. Now she lives in Buenos Aires. Click the below photo to see her collection of the city’s many colorful murals.

Click to see Sandra's graffiti gallery

Posted by: standing_baba | July 19, 2011

22 Things I’d Change About My Bike Tour

Bolivian kids and I far from so-called civilization

FOREWORD: (Buenos Aires, Argentina) Many things I wouldn’t change, of course. Traveling without a return ticket, not buying bottled water, having an international ATM card to avoid fees, and using a trailer instead of panniers were all correct decisions. Zero regrets. But there are other major and minor aspects of my bike tour that I’d change if I were to do it all over again—or better said: when I do it again on a different continent:) Below I share twenty pangs of conscience so that aspiring cyclists can learn from my mistakes.

Kids in Puente Canoa, Colombia


1. Spend more time with kids

To play with a children, to see the world through their eyes, to hear their innocence in words, and show them by your big, awkward, blond presence that the world is wider than the route between their school and their home, is happiness, pure and simple. Though I spent a great many evenings in plazas and around my camp stove with little adults, a part of me wishes I’d have shunned the so-called wiser and wrinklier adult race in order to exclusively spend time with the munchkin sages that swarmed my tent each night.

2. Swim more throughout the day

The South American tropics are, hmmm, tropical. And hot. And you sweat gallons briskly coasting across flat land. Luckily, there is a miraculous, moving, living thing called the Amazon basin that covers most of the continent. In Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru I took advantage of this everywhere water to cool off during the day and relax (and even bathe before bed). Rivers, streams, and local swimming holes are all free options. In the other countries, however, I mostly pedaled past the riots of kids laughing and jumping off bridges into pristine waters. Future bike tourists hear me now: there is no rush, the journey is the destination. Swim every chance you get.

3. Track and buy local music/movies

I love music and movies, especially the Latin American variety. I wish I’d have asked more people to recommend their favorite artists, directors, must-hears, must-sees, etc. Bike touring offers the unique opportunity to discover music and movies that you’d never in ten lifetimes discover otherwise. Some of the best regional musicians, for example, only sell physical CDs which are not and probably never will be incorporated into the supposed all-inclusive, know-all internet. Make it a habit to ask people who they listen to and what they watch. Write it down. Don’t be afraid to buy that Tsáchila mix tape or that hypnotic Huayño waltz. You can always ship them home to cut weight.

4. Practice an instrument

Since finding my grandfather’s harmonica in the closet I’ve wanted to learn to play. That was many moons ago. On this trip I pedaled over 6,000 miles with a sexy Lee Oska into which I occasionally blew chaotic air but never a real song. I don’t sell it or give it away because it’s my Sisyphus boulder that reminds me of the absurdity of carrying it but not playing it, of the folly in thinking that going through the motions is enough. With a little practice each day, before bed or during rest breaks, I’d now be able to crank out wicked blues. Shoulda, coulda.

5. Collect addresses to later send postcards

This karmic postcard advice is listed in the ‘Happiness’ section for good reason: you can revive the smile of those special people met along the way with a three-by-five photo, a paragraph, and a stamp. The science behind this phenomena is fuzzy but this much I know: this smile, like the postcard, jumps borders and is teleported back with two-fold intensity, leaving sender and receiver grinning internationally. Please send the love more than I have.

Salad with ceviche in Arequipa, Peru


6. Eat more vegetables, especially green salads

My main fuel was rice and pasta, seasoned with onions and bullion cubes. Inexpensive, yes. Filling, yes. Healthy, no. Green vegetables, besides being cheaper than cheap in all South American countries, offer a surprising energy boost for their low-calorie count, not to mention much needed vitamins, minerals, and natural fibers. It wasn’t until Uruguay that I discovered green salads with oil and balsamic dressing (plus nuts, seeds, or a can of tuna) are perfect no-cook, quick-and-easy meals for bike touring.

7. Stretch during every rest break

This is self-explanatory but worth repeating: stretch during every rest break. Are we clear? Your body will thank you, maybe even love you. I didn’t respect this mantra, and my body hates me to this day.

Children in Pueblonuevo, Colombia


8. Sleep free from day one

Sleeping without paying for lodging is the best way to save money on a bike tour. In Colombia, thanks to misguided media and my own amateurism, I pedaled half the country before exploring people’s natural tendency toward kindess. My recommendation: don’t wait. Learn some basic techniques, trust your intuition, and never pay to sleep. The real world happens outside hotel rooms.

9. Drink less alcohol—or give it up altogether

Forgive me, I may have white lied. Depending on how much you like to “party,” alcohol, not lodging, may be your trip’s greatest expense. I’ve met travelers who pump thousands of dollars each month (!) into the local bar scene, and I too admit to having indulged cachaça-style in the name of “going local.” But this post is not about my past, it’s about your future. My liver and I have grown older, wiser, and we feel less inclined to drink when going out. If you need to be drunk to enjoy the company of those around you, maybe they’re not that enjoyable to begin with, regardless of their nationality or native language. If your budget is limited, if you want sunrises not hangovers, skip the pisco sour and nurse a Coke—nobody will know the difference.

Friend Martha with her Kindle in Montevideo, Uruguay


10. Travel with a Kindle from day one

Books—and the free time to read them—are one of the many joys of travel. Here’s the problem: they’re heavy and specific ones are difficult to find. Here’s the solution: the Kindle 3G. Carry 3,000 books in your handlebar bag. Download free ebooks instantly. Buy from with the push of a button. Upload Wikipedia articles as travel guides. I began my affair with the Kindle in Brazil, but would have read more books, more often if I’d have loved her from the beginning.

11. Buy non-specialty gear locally

Before my U.S. departure I bought a US$40 knife, two synthetic shirts for US$90, and a US$3 spork. A splucking spork! All the above items in Colombia, where I began my bike tour, cost approximately US$30. Don’t be as gullible as I was. A shirt is a shirt is a shirt. Buy clothes, food, and other non-speciality items locally if the world region to which you travel has a lower cost of living. However, remember that certain items—bike gear, camp gear, electronics—may be cheaper and easier to find in your home country.

12. Open a SugarSync account before departure

A growing number of nomadic professionals live and work from the “cloud,” a catchy marketing term given to information stored online. No USB keys. No external hard drives. No worrying about losing mp3 music, travel photos, or all those poems no one reads if your laptop crashes or is stolen. Currently I’m not worry-free and floating blissfully in the “cloud.” If my laptop implodes, so does my mental stability. But I’m transitioning. After researching various cloud providers, I believe SugarSync to be the best overall option. We’ll both get an additional 500MB if you open a free account or 10GB if you begin a paid plan using this link.

Girl teaching me photography near Aguas Calientes, Peru

13. Learn photography before departure

In Colombia I had envisioned taking a photography course with a sexy Latina professor/painter/cyclist who would accompany me on slow strolls through parks, pointing with gentle gestures to the minute details on flowers, her breath fogging my SLR screen as her hands directed my lense into focus, the way the guy teaches the girl billiards from behind in bad 80s movies. This never happened. Instead I lugged my heavy semi-professional over the Andes, snapping photos in automatic, neither fully realizing the machine’s, South America’s, or my own artistic potential during our long jaunt south. Of course, a class is not needed to learn photography. Neither is a sexy Latina. Just play with a camera until it produces pretty pictures—preferably before you leave.

14. Label your digital photos

Write the names of people and places when uploading to SugarSync, Facebook, Flickr, Picassa, or whatever site you choose to store your parallel 2D universe doppelgängers. Label them now—you won’t remember later.

15. Set an audiobook listening schedule

The mind can do various tricks while in the saddle. It can think, long and silently from its hollow room. It can speak, mostly gibberish, but sense can be filtered from the noise if you squint really, really hard. Sometimes it erases itself. Then you’re forced to fall from the clouds to pull it from the bottom of the lake. It can do all these things and more, but sometimes you want it to be productive, you know? On these days I like to educate the mind using audiobooks (my Kindle is hard to read while riding the white line). offers one monthly downloadable audiobook for US$7.49/month for the first three months, then US$14.95/thereafter. Bonus: if you cancel after the three-month promo period, they’ll try to convince you to stay by offering a free book credit. If you accept, download a book, then cancel again they’ll offer you US$20 in credit. That’s six audiobooks for US$22.44! Knowledge on clearance. Why did I wait this long to educate my poor, undistracted mind?

16. Use a bike computer/GPS combo to track your route

Not because orientating yourself is impossibly difficult in South America (regular road maps work fine), and not because I recommend traveling with unnecessary and expensive gear (I don’t), but because I’ve become so frustrated trying to manually input my route into Googlemaps that I gave up all together. This lack of a documented route only thickens the foggy aura around my bike tour as the days turn into weeks, months into years, and so on. Now I wish I knew exactly where I had ridden old Surly, and feel a bike computer/GPS combo has not only practical but nostalgic value.

Boys in Chinquinquira, Colombia


17. Learn about blogging before departure

My “About” section was written seven weeks into my travels, in the colonial town of Barichara. It wasn’t until Ecuador that I learned to properly upload photos onto WordPress. What has ended up as the main vein to my former world started as an after-thought, a bike blog because bikers have blogs. I didn’t understand the importance of descriptive headlines, nor did I recognize that millions blog garbage and the only way to shine through is to publish posts I’d enjoy reading. Blogging just to blog was a huge mistake. If I’d have blogged with purpose from the beginning—defining my writing expectations, dedicating myself to a style—then perhaps a book could have been pulled from these electronic pages, or at least a travel memoir of minor renown that could circulate amongst cyclists.

18. Post religiously at least once a week

If you ignore a friend long enough, they’ll return the favor by falling off the earth. Blog readers are no different. If my initial blog incompetence (see above) didn’t kill blooming relationships with potential readers, then my long internet-less vacations, in which I’d disappear and reappear like a magician without the wand-waving foreplay and after-trick gratitude, were the swords through my readers’ casket. In fact, if you’ve been riding our handlebars from Trinidad to Argentina, loyally sweating through South America with us, then we owe you a donation for your perseverance, not the other way around. Treat your fans right, give them a bone at least once a week. Make this rule your religion. Bonus: your writing will improve and, like a novel, a storyline will begin to emerge from your chronological posts.

A motley crew outside Quito, Ecuador

19. Write daily in a private diary

Fits of Alzheimer’s. Amnesic tendencies. Inexplicable concussions. Pre-mature memory loss. My bike tour is all beat-up and forgetful. The name of that Brazilian fireman who proudly gave me a station hat? That mountain on which a Colombian trucker gifted me a block of panela? Those kittens’ names in Santa Cruz? That shaman’s secret recipe in the Ecuadorian Amazon? The list of forgotten fades to perspective points. It pains me that so many details, so many names and places, so many rich and layered memories are smoke in the wind. I wish I’d have kept a diary (paper for easy access) in which I’d have noted daily happenings, just a paragraph or two for posterity.

20. Sell an ebook through the blog

You’re special. Not in a unique snowflake kind of way, but as two eyes that float at an unprecedented world view. Cash that cow! If you have special knowledge—say, how to bike tour on a budget, how to save money for extended world travel, or even just a list of campstove recipes—write an ebook and offer it to your blog readers. It doesn’t matter if it’s been done before—it’s never been done by you. If it offers value to a niche with a need, it will sell. The ebook may not fund your retirement, but every dollar helps when pedaling unemployed into the unknown.

Camping atop abandoned house in Bolivia

21. Photograph sleeping location each night

Half-way though my bike tour I thought it would have been interesting to have photographed every place I slept, from the earthen floors of straw huts to Couchsurfers penthouse apartments to Altiplano campsites under the stars, then create a separate blog tab where all my sleeping spots would be on display, like an art gallery in honor of dream. Steal my idea—and send me a link later.

22. Photograph license plates in every country/state/county/city

While I’m at it, let me give away another good idea: photograph the license plates in each country/state/county/city—depending on how much you love random metallic numbers and letters—, then create yet another blog tab in honor of rust and automotive bureaucracy. Or create a photo collage and frame it on your wall when you’re old and grey and dreamy and all this crazy bike tour business has ended.

Posted by: standing_baba | July 13, 2011

VIDEO: That Bike Touring Feeling….

Older Posts »


%d bloggers like this: