The Greatest Hug

Let me tell you a story.  Like any great love story this involves a boy and a girl, but what makes this story great is the risk taken for a chance encounter.

In a Galaxy far far away, on a planet called earth a young boy was enduring harsh training in the scorching lands of Georgia to become an instrument of death.  Meanwhile at the same time a young lady was enduring harsh training in the land of Texas to become an instrument to save lives.

Two individuals with two different missions who shared a love for each other, but were separated because they had decided to answer their country’s call.

For four months the only form of communication was through hand written letters.  By this point the sorrow of missing the other person was so great that the boy decided to take a huge risk.

During Airborne school (where they teach you to jump out of planes) he saw an opportunity to see the girl he loved.  It was a small window, with a huge risk, and minimal room for error

For the first time during his training he was allowed to have a weekend off, Saturday and Sunday.  He would be released Saturday morning and would have to be back Sunday evening right before dinner.  He was ordered to stay within the city limits and by no means could he leave the state.  If caught severe punishment would ensued and his career to join an elite group of men would be over.

The young lady would have the weekend off as well, but she would have to be back later that evening.  If everything worked out as planned they would have maybe 8 hours together.

And so the day came.  The boy had everything booked and packed the day prior just like they had taught him, to always be ready to move at a second’s notice.  Upon release he did not run but walked with a quick pace as to not raise suspicion.  He grabbed his small backpack and rushed to the airport which was an hour and a half away.  The whole time he kept his head low and avoided anyone in uniform.

Traffic was good and he made it to the airport on time.  Plane was on time and departed on schedule.  He landed in Atlanta and rushed towards the arrival gate.  Till this point Aphrodite was on their side till out comes his phone to contact his love but nothing, no missed phone call, no text, no voicemail.  His calls and text messages go unanswered.  She should have been released by now.

On his way to the hotel he finally receives a message.  The instructors were delaying the release and had threatened to cancel their weekend pass.

Fuck.

He can sense her frustration through her messages, and he too was frustrated, but he stayed hopeful and told her everything would work out.

Two hours after the original release time, they were finally let go.  She raised to downtown San Antonio.

He waited for her at the hotel entrance anxiously waiting for her to show up, and then finally it happened.  Imagine this scene happening in slow motion because this is how he remembers it.

She gets out the cab first looking in the direction he was not facing.  She turns her head towards his direction with her brown hair flying through the air seemingly missing her face.  She sees him and a frown turns into a smile.  She runs towards him with watery eyes and he catches her in his arms and an unforgettable hug is forever etched into his memory followed by a kiss that will last a lifetime.

At that very moment their world was complete and everything around them had vanished.

At that moment he thought, this is it, I’m never parting from her again.  Unfortunately, it did not work out that way.  He parted from her 3 more times on deployments, and finally several years later life decided that this love story had to end.

Ultimately they spent maybe 6 hours together with a cost of around $800 USD in cab rides, plane and hotel fare.  Was it worth it?

ABSO-FUCKING-LUTELY

So why do I tell you this story?  Well first of it’s a great fucking story.  Secondly to encourage folks to take risks, it’s so fucking worth it even if it doesn’t work out in the end.  It will take you in many different directions you never thought were possible.  Shit, you might find yourself globetrotting hahaha!  Like the Amalfi story, my friends told me to take the risk because it would make for an interesting story and they were right. Hmmm, maybe I should write that story too (insert pondering emoji here).

EXCLAIMER: In no way was this story told to rekindle anything with the ex.  Don’t get shit twisted people

 

Homesick (It Finally Happened)

I have been traveling for over 4 months now and I’ve finally reached that point, I’m homesick.  Every long term traveler knows this feeling and it sucks.  Everything begins to remind you of home and you begin to count the things that you miss the most.

My bed and woobie

Bacon (properly cooked)

Driving

Family

Friends

The Western world

The Bay Area

American hospitality

Craft Beer

Routine

Gym

Being healthy

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Sista’s dog laying on my woobie. She understands how cozy it is

This is a feeling that I’ve been trying to shake, but like everything else I eventually embrace it.  Traveling the world up to this point can only be described in one word, emotional.  I continue to visit amazing places and meeting interesting people, each triggering a different thought and feeling.

Although this a common feeling for most, there are those who wish to never go home. Home for them is a terrible place to live, a place they wanted to escape.  Fortunately for me this is not the case.  I come from a great place and I continue to say that no place in the world matches it.

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Driving on the Golden Gate bridge

A place where I can roam through giant skyscrapers and escape to giant redwoods a few minutes north.  A place where you can hit the trendy bars of the populated city or cross a bridge to a more divey scene yet undiscovered. Music of all kinds can be found here and so can every type of cuisine.  “What are you feeling like tonight? Phillipino? Vietnamese? Indian? Nah, lets go for Peruvian. Good choice.”

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Craft beer. On the house because the bartender was a fellow veteran.

 

A place of forward thinking and a health conscious mindset. Eat clean, train, but still enjoy all the fatty goods of life.

A place hated for its mindset and diversity, yet they continue to move here making it the most expensive state to live in the union.  Hey I don’t blame you for moving, I also would want to escape scorching high humidity heat during the summer and harsh winters.  Two summers is pretty nice as well, especially for motorcycle riders.  Luckily for us some of you will never come because our gay loving, weed smoking, hipster, techy, diverse culture scares you.  Thank god for that.

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Riding season is long

Friends here come from all walks of life and an accent is very common.  There is no single color here, no single nationality, and although we all embrace our roots, in the end we are all American.

Can you see why I miss this place?  It embodies the values I was raised on.

Shortly I’ll be reunited with my family and friends which will ease my homesick feelings.  Before I left my friend told me that home will always be there, it’s not going anywhere.  He’s right, but the opportunity of long term travel will not.  He’s right and I encourage all others to take the leap. So far my mission to inspire others seems to be working as those I’ve met have quit their jobs for an adventure around the world and others have made this their goal, changing their perspective on life.

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Warriors. Can’t believe I’m missing this season

Home will always be there, but places and people are constantly changing.  The ruins of the Acropolis are crumbling, the northern lights are disappearing, and the great barrier reef is dying.  Snatch the opportunities that present themselves while you have them, things will buff out in the end.  I continue to live by this rule as I change my itinerary for people and places.  This is why I must finish what I started, to snatch up all of the opportunities that life will present me with and risk it all.

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The faithful

When I return home I’ll be covered with internal scars from memories, thinking to myself on a grassy hill overlooking my city with IPA in hand, “What a fucking ride. (chuckle) Ok, what’s next?” (flips internal coin letting it land where it may).

Land Down Under Pt. 2 (Exploring the East Coast, Byron, Nimbin, Gold Coast, Noosa)

After 5 days chilling in Sydney I began to move up the east coast.  My fellow mate and another American decided to cruise up in a four-wheel drive, for it would be the cheapest method of travel. Our first stop was Port Stephens.  We took a dip, ate lunch and continued to drive North.  I was excited for this portion of the trip because it was my turn to drive.  Driving on the left side of the road is a mind fuck, but after an hour I was comfortable.  My copilot did have to remind me to go left around the roundabout.  I probably would have crashed if it wasn’t for him, for my mind constantly drifts when I drive and I get lost in the music.  Most times I don’t even remember getting home.

Port Stephens
Two Americans and an Australian at Port Stephens

Our next stop was Port Macquarie, or McFlurry, as we pronounced it.  This small town is located at the mouth of the Hastings River in New South Wales.  The views from lighthouse were amazing.  One can easily get lost in thought staring at the view.

Port Macquarie
View from the light house

We continued to move north to the tunes of Johnny Cash and CCR.  Daylight was evading us so it was time to find a camp ground and rest for the night.  I can’t remember the name of the campground we stayed on, but there was a beach nearby.  Prior to bed we took a dip and enjoyed the sight of an overcast sunset.  The mixture of colors in the sky encouraged reflection ones more.  Standing in the ocean at sunset looking at a storm in the horizon approach us is like something out of a movie where the protagonist awaits valiantly for the troubles ahead.  Unlike the movies this protagonist had no troubles awaiting him, instead he stared into a storm of the past and all he could do was smile.

Our next stop was Coff Harbour home of the Big Banana.  Pretty cool spot to check out, it’s a tiny little attraction perfect for kids.  Our time was limited so we race on to Byron Bay.

Byron is an absolute fucking dream.  Not only is the beach fucking awesome, but its hippie vibe is very welcoming.  Yes, it is a huge tourist attraction but this place is still great.  This is my favorite place in Oz, I could live here for a couple of months.  Memorable moment of Byron was swimming in the ocean while it rained.  Water coming from below and above reminded me of Forrest Gump, “it even came up from under you”.  About an hour away is the small town of Nimbin, a hippie haven where we saw Tijuana Cartel take the stage.  If you are looking to partake in smoking the peace pipe, this is the perfect place to do it.  Unfortunately, my photos of Byron our stuck in my not-charging GoPro but he’s a picture of Ben approving the message.

Ben-Taco Message

Byron Bay was the last stop for me and my companions.  I would continue the rest of my trip solo.  My next stop was the Gold Coast.  I was not impressed by the Gold Coast.  The beach was long and endless, but it lacked the aesthetics of Byron.  For a place deemed surfer’s paradise, I did not see anyone surfing, although there were plenty of waves.  Its downtown area is geared for drinking so the night life is pretty good.  The beauty about backpacking is that every day is the weekend.  A good time can be found any day of the week. I stayed at Surfer’s Paradise hostel which is good, but nothing to brag about.  I did meet a cool couple here whom I ended up drinking with.  Just another cool story of two travelers who met and vibe very well with each other so they decided to travel together.

I decided to follow the advice of my mates and skip Brisbane, and head to Noosa.  Noosa is gorgeous. The main beach is crowded, but if you take a short coastal walk not only will you enjoy beautiful scenery, but you will end up on an empty beach.  I was pouring sweat from my run, so I jumped right into the ocean to cool off.  Another place I could definitely live, but more of a summer getaway.  Unlike Byron, Noosa contains a yuppie atmosphere with homes ranging in the multi millions.

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My private beach in Noosa

I stayed in Nomads, which is a party hostel.  Living conditions were good and pretty standard for a party hostel.  I was bunked with a group of Irish folks who were way older than me.   I could understand the ones who were living in Australia but the one that was visiting was a different story.  I forget how strong the Irish accent can be, holy shit I could not understand this cat.  I like this group of people, they were very welcoming and told me stories of when they were young backpackers.  They admired what I was doing and encouraged me to keep going.  I left the next day with a neck pillow as a gift, and words of wisdom, “May the road rise to meet you and may the wind be always at your back”.

The Land Down Under – Sydney

Sydney is a great and beautiful city with lots to see.  I tend to compare every city I visit to San Francisco.  To me San Francisco ranks number one, but of course this is a bias opinion since I grew up in the bay.  However, every traveler that I’ve met who has visited the states ranks San Francisco as their favorite American city.  Like any city SF has its flaws, but it is the cultivating cities that make up the bay area that make it a great place to live.  Similar to home, one can escape Sydney and head over to Manly for a more relaxed vibe.

Walking through Sydney it’s tall buildings resembled those of the skyscrapers from back home.  As I walked from the ferry station to Bondi beach I stumbled upon many different districts such as the gay district on Oxford street.  I could have easily mistaken this area of the city with that of Castro in SF.  As I escaped the financial district of the city I entered a posh district, once again on Oxford street.  A series of suburban homes followed before I hit the infamous Bondi Beach.  Bondi did not strike me as an impressive beach and had more of an industrial feel causing it to lose its charm.  I suppose the hype over the beach also did not help, still this beach is better than anyone we have back home simply because you can enter the water without risking hyperthermia.

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I did however find this remarkable (Bondi Beach artwork).

What I was looking for in Bondi I found in Manly.  Manly beach in my opinion is greater than Bondi and delivered the beach town vibe that I was looking for.  Regardless of what I say you should still visit both beaches and form your own opinion for I have encountered mixed reviews amongst fellow travelers.  I visited Bondi against the advice given to me by my fellow mates who said the beach was filled with tourist and not worth my time.  They forgot I was a tourist and wanted to do touristy things.  My advice to you is to always visit the major touristy landmarks of any new city you are in.  Don’t be that retard know it all hippy traveler that is to cool for that.  In my previous travels I was advised against Oktoberfest in Munich by fellow travelers (the retard hippy) and locals because of the same reason, “it’s too touristy and crowded”, my response, “ummm, I’m a tourist and I fucking love crowds”.  I had a great a time at Oktoberfest by the way.

In both places you’ll find several shops, eateries, and watering holes, but be warned Australia is not a cheap place to visit.  Unlike my Europe excursion, I actually find myself in the kitchen prepping meals.  I can definitely afford to eat out in Oz, but not if I want to make a year of traveling a reality.  I do enjoy the curious eyes of my fellow backpackers as they assume I am cooking for two and are left surprised when I consume the entire meal.  Typical American and his large servings.  Actually it’s just me, I’m a fat ass.

There were many highlights to my Sydney trip such as attending Field day and watching Chance The Rapper and Childish Gambino perform sick sets, two artist who have rekindled my love affair with Hip Hop.  I’m going to tell you about a personal highlight that might not be significant to you.  As I walked through Sydney, carefully choosing busy streets for the sole purpose to stumble upon city landmarks, I stumbled upon one rarely visited by tourist and locals.

ww1-memorial-sydney

From the moment I saw it I knew this building was special but I had no clue what it was till I walked up the steps and asked the guard many his post.  “It’s a memorial to the Australian soldiers who fought and died in World War 1”.  The inside was small and circular with a statue of a fallen figure drenched over a sword.  On the hollowed parts of the wall, battles the Australians were involved in were carved into the wall, with Gallipoli being one of the most famous.  It’s easy to forget that such a small nation who was just formed in 1901 was involved in such a large war.  Since then our Aussie mates have fought alongside us in every major conflict.  Let us not forget these top blokes.  Till Valhalla mates.

fallen-on-sword

I was fortunate enough to be in Sydney for NYE.  Entering the new year in a foreign city watching the fireworks from underneath the Harbour Bridge I stared at the Opera house with a smile on face knowing it was one of many to come.

Cheers! And safe travels friends.

World Travel Itinerary

Just a rough idea of my plan to travel around the world.  4 days into Sydney and the plan is already changing, which I find is the best way to travel.  It’s good to be prepared but you have to let some of the pieces fall where they may.  (photo credit: @worldtravelfans) 

*get Vietnam visa online

*look at hostel bookers.com

Australia

Cheap Airlines: Tiger Airlines, Jetstar

Bus: Greyhound Australia Pass

Rideshare: Look at hostel bulletins to hitch a ride with people or look at Kangaride, Jayride and Gumtree

Things to see:

Uluru(Too far, towards Alice Springs), sail Whitsundays, hike the Daintree

Route:

  • Sydney – 3 – Opera house, Harbor Bridge
  • Melbourne – 4
  • Sydney – 2
  • Byron Bay – 3 – Aquarius backpackers hostel
  • Gold Coast – 3 Surf N Sun Hostel
  • Brisbane – 3
  • Whitsunday – 3
  • Magnetic Island – 3 base hostel
  • Cairns – 5 – Gilligans hostel, Great barrier reef, Kuranda Rainforest, mission beach, crystal cascades

Total days = 29

Philippines

  • Boracay – MNL beach hostel
  • Cebu

Thailand – must have passport at all times (law)

Bangkok

  • (5) NapPark hostel

Ayutthaya – Ancient City

Phitsanulok

Chiang Mai

  • (4) Spicy Thai hostel
  • Songkran Festival Thai new year, water fight (13-15th April) originated here

Chiang Khong

  • border with Laos
  • purchase 30 day tourist visa here, $30-$40 bucks

Laos

Houay Xai

  • Bokeo Nature reserve

Luang Prabang

  • (5) lots of shit to see here

Vang Vieng (4)

Sakura Bar

Vientiane – (5) capital city, visit Vietnam embassy here to get visa.

Tha Khaek

  • Do the Thakhaek loop on motorbike if possible. Takes 3 days but preferably do it in 4 days
  • Phou Hin Boon National Park
  • Konglor Cave
  • Tham Nong Pafa Cave

Savannakhet

  • Second largest city
  • Museum on dinosaurs and unexploded bombs from Vietnam War
  • City host many festivals (look them up).

Ao Nang, Krabi – Slumber Party hostel

Koh Phangan – The Nomad House

Ko Samui

Ko Phangan

  • Hat Rin, full moon party

Ko Tao

Krabi

  • Popular beaches – Ao Nang, Tang Sei, Rai Leh

Ko Tarutao National Marine Park

Vietnam

Dong Ha

  • A day is recommended here

Hue

  • Ancient city
  • Hue Citadel
  • Emperors tombs
  • Pagodas

Hoi An (4)

  • Riverside town
  • Party town
  • Beach is not far

Nha Trang

  • Backpackers house hostel

Dalat (4)

  • Lakes, forest and waterfalls (outdoors)

Mui Ne

  • Desert, sand dunes and beach (theres a desert in Vietnam? Da fuck?)
  • Not much going on apparently but great place to unwind. Probably will recharge my batteries here and regroup.

Ho Chi Minh (Saigon)

  • largest city
  • Pham Ngu Lao area, good place to find food, sleep, and drink
  • Lots of war sites

Hanoi – Hanoi backpackers hostel

Old Quarter, Hanoi – Central Backpackers

Cambodia

Phnom Penh

Koh Rong – island near Phnom Penh MUST GO

Sihanoukville

Siem Reap

  • Funky Flashpackers hostel
  • Temples of Angkor Wat

Israel

  • Jerusalem – 6 days, Abraham Hostel
  • Tel Aviv – 3 days, Florentine Backpackers Hostel
  • Day trip to the Dead Sea
  • Mediterranean coast
  • The North (???)
  • Petra – get there early, whole day trip,

Greece – Island hopping (link up w/ SF mates)

  • Santorini
  • Ios
  • Mykonos

Croatia – Dubrovnik, Split, Zagreb,

Hungary – Budapest

Czech – Prague

Germany – Munich

Spain – Link up with the moms.  Visit Madrid and Barcelona.

FUCK IT I’LL FIGURE OUT THE REST AS I GO

Morocco

Scotland

Ireland

Brazil

Bolivia

Argentina

Chile

Peru – Regroup in Lima.  Spend a month.  Link up with pops

Colombia

Panama

Costa Rica

Cuba

Home (Noooooooo 😦 

A Common Story

There is a common story amongst travelers, a story of risk that results in an expansion of something in your chest.  These stories revolve around those we meet and the sudden spark that happens.  These are my favorite type of stories, and every traveler has one.  How each one starts and evolves is different but how they end is ever so common.

My biggest advice for you is take the risk, and although it made not result in what you hoped, it will make for the most interesting story on your trip.

So how does it start. Very simple, like a story straight out of a book.  Two individuals meet in a foreign place.  The initiation is simple, “Hello, I’m (fill in the blank).

Two people from different worlds, different languages, different cultures, yet your conversations flow endlessly to a rhythm that never loses beat.

Day turns into night and you discover more about each other.  You begin to notice little details that make you more attracted to them. The wrinkle above her nose when she smiles.  His contagious laugh.

You both act coy, trying not to seem overly interested and even though others seek your attention you continuously engage in conversation with each other, eager to learn more about this perfect stranger.

Nothing is ever set in stone and even when a night is looking promising either party can still ruin these perfect moments.  The fact that we don’t know what the other person is thinking is what makes this ever so interesting and exciting.

Finally, the night is coming to a close, do I make a move or do I simply say good night.  Is he going to make a move?  Maybe he’s not interested.  Maybe I should just say goodnight.

The intensity builds up, you ago against your fears and kiss her.  She kisses you back.

The next morning you are asleep next to a perfect stranger.  Your arms around each other, finding yourself strangely comfortable.  You’ve been here before with an individual you’ve known for years, but this time you’ve only know this person for 24 hours.

A perfect sleep is ruined by a screeching alarm clock.  Reality sets in.  It’s time to go, your flight leaves in 2 hours, but then a strange thought hits you, “Maybe I should stay”.

You motion ever so gently to turn off the alarm clock and not wake her.  You failed.

She lays there and wonders, “Is he going to leave? Maybe he’ll stay”.

You make up your mind, “this is ludicrous, I’m staying the course……but maybe just maybe”

You lie there and watch him pack his bags reminding you that you both have different destinations, different paths, and different futures.

Neither wants this to end and both wish there was more time but they accept what it is, a perfect 24 hours, why ruin it.

They look at each other one last time, both hold back what they really want to say, “Stay!”, “I’m staying!”.

He kisses her goodbye.

All good things must come to an end, regardless if it last 24 hours or several days.  Both parties remain in contact, but eventually communication seizes as they return to their routine lives’.  Their moment together becomes a faint memory, but it will never disappear.

But every once in a while a song, an artifact, or a joke will remind them of each other and they smile is brought to their face.  They wonder, “I wonder what she/he is doing”.  They snap back to reality when their friend asks them, “What are you smiling about silly?”.  They respond, “Nothing….so what are we drinking?”

By now you are probably wondering if this has happened to me or if this story is directly from my own experience.  Perhaps, or maybe it belongs to a friend, really it’s a story that belongs to all us but in many different variations.  There are of course so many more details to this story that make it more intriguing and humorous, but I try to keep my blog posts short so I don’t lose your interest.

I have yet to hear a story that has ended differently, and although the ending is not what you want to hear, every traveler treasures these memories.  You can see it in their eyes and hear it in the enthusiasm of their voice.  This is why these are my favorite stories to hear, because they are real, touching, adventurous and straight risky.  Traveling exposes us to these experiences and trust me it will happen to you, it might even happen more than once.

Good luck out there fellow travelers, safe travels and don’t be afraid to take a risk.

 

Toro! Toro! (Pamplona, how to survive the bull run)

Madrid had been a blast and after several nights of partying with new friends it was time to move on to Pamplona to attend the festival of San Fermin.  The festival of San Fermin is most famous for its bull run where thousands of people gather together for a week long celebration of the famous saint.

Originally I had no plans to be at this festival, for my Europe excursion was not meant to begin till August, but in an interesting turn of events I found myself leaving a month early, just in time for the festival.

My day began with a sleepless night as I shared a bunk with a friend whose phone went off throughout the night, in a room meant for 4 but 6 of us stayed in.  Tired and hungry I stumbled into the bus where I passed out for a couple of hours providing hours of entertainment for my friends as my head tilted back against my seat with my mouth wide open. A ticket to Pamplona should run about 30-40 Euros.

The festival kicks off with an epic sangria fight, which unfortunately I missed, but I arrived that weekend which probably had the highest attendance due to it being the weekend. Highly recommend going for the start of the festival, after all why wouldn’t you want to be drenched in sangria with thousands of people.

As I awoke from my slumber, I began to see the traditional outfit worn during the festival. White pants, white shirt, red sash, and red pañuelo will either be the outfit you die in, or the outfit you had the greatest time in.

We arrived early in the afternoon and after dawning our outfits we joined in the festivities. The plan was to take it easy and pace ourselves but after seeing a sea of people passed out on any patch of grass they could find, and another sea of people raging, I thought to myself, “fuck, I’m not ready for this, oh well time to rally (pounds copious amounts of alcohol to the face)”.

The next couple of hours can only be described in a montage of drinking, bull fighting, dancing, applauds, roaring crowds, dance parades, death and more drinking…good times.  In my drunken state I was determined to walk the course the bulls were going to run the following morning.  I wanted to be a bit prepared, after all I didn’t come all this way to be gored by a bull, but there was no way I was going to miss it either.

Accommodation

Hostels and Airbnb are booked out months in advance so plan accordingly.  The rates are also much higher for the event so budget for that as well.  I was lucky to find an Airbnb for like $90 bucks a night.  I know expensive but so worth it.  You can also camp in the local parks or sleep in the bus station like my friends did.

The Route (El Encierro)

The route the bulls run is walled off so they can’t escape and it stretches just over 800 meters. The street is narrow, and paved in cobblestone. One thing nobody told me was that the Spanish wash the street prior to the race to clear it of any debris, so you’ll be running on wet cobblestone, good luck. The run ends in the arena where more fun is to be had.

pamplona-bull-run-map

The Runners

Runners are made up of nationals and foreigners. Once the run starts its every man for himself. I say man because very few females participate in the run. The Spanish also frown upon it and authorities might remove a female from the run, sorry ladies. Being to intoxicated and having any form of picture/video device to take selfies will get you excluded from the run as well. Fellow runners are also your other threat. They will push and trample you, anything to escape from being impaled.

Dead Man’s Corner

Dead man’s corner is a sharp right turn along the route. The most consistent advice I received was to stick to the right because the Bulls will take a wide right turn and smash anyone on the left side. I had originally placed myself at dead mans corner so to avoid it during the run. Bad idea, for the police will kick everyone out beyond this point. They try to manage the size of the crowd and will boot as many people as they deem fit. Best way to avoid this is to position yourself as close to the start of the run as possible.

The Run

I slept an hour before the run and was still drunk when I awoke. I had lost my friends the night before but we found each other prior to the run. It was 5am and the sun was creeping up over the horizon.  Note to future runners you don’t have to be up by 5 am for the run isn’t till 8 am.  I just wanted to ensure that I had a spot.  You should be fine if you get there right before 7 am.  I mentioned that I got removed from the race because I was positioned near dead man’s corner.  I pleaded with the officer to let me stay in but she said to me, “Regresa el proximo ano” (come back next year).  I noticed several of other runners hop the fence and work their way around the police to find another entrance.  I rallied the troops and we followed these renegades.

The Bulls
Bullpen

It was a mad dash towards the beginning of the race, the one place we did not want to be. We found an opening between the fence and once again we were participants in the race.  Two Canadians, an Australian and an American waited nervously for the first rocket to go off.  The first rocket signaled the release of the bulls while the second rocket signaled that the bulls had reached the crowd. A minute before the race the crowd intensifies and an eerie chant echoes through the street.  I later found out that this was a prayer to the famous saint.  It was eerie enough to frighten the foreigners as they began to take off.

Less than 100 meters from the start I stood alone as my friends said, “fuck this shit mate, I’m out”.  I was determined to see the bulls before I started running.

BOOM! The first rocket goes off.  I thought to myself, “Ok I have some time still, bulls aren’t that fast, right?”

BOOM! Second rocket goes off seconds later. “OH SHIT!”

I see the horns and pack of bulls spreading the crowd of people like Moses did to the Red Sea.  I take off with no single thought in my head.  I can hear, “TORO! TORO!” coming from behind me along with the ever growing sound of hooves stomping on the cobblestone.  Moments later I feel the rush of the crowd push me towards the fence where a group of people had fallen giving up any chance to stand up.  Instead they huddled on the floor protecting their head.  I leaped over them as several massive blurs passed my peripheral.  Just like that the race was over, and I jogged the remainder of the way into the arena.

At the arena I found my friend and we celebrated our dash from death.  The crowd in the arena cheered the victorious runners.  The gates are shut and an announcer comes over the loud speaker announcing the release of a bull.

After The Run
Right after the bull run in the arena

Wait! What!

A single bull is released into the arena. We spend the next couple minutes avoiding the bull before deciding to hop the fence, but as my friend and I make our escape a Spanish officer pushes us back in.  A simple grin is all he gives us.  We spend another 15 minutes avoiding the bulls that are released into the arena before finding an unguarded side of the arena for us to hop the fence.  For the rest of the time we become spectators and watch the crazy Spanish agitate an already frustrated bull.  This goes on for a good while.

The best advice I can give you future runners is………..run, simply just run.  Good luck.

If you find yourself in Spain during the festival, make every effort to make your way to Pamplona, I promise you won’t regret it.  I highly encourage participating in the bull run as well because it is an unforgettable experience.  Regardless if you run or not, the Festival of San Fermin is a must do and you will have a great time.

Till next time friends.