MEDELLÍN — Today, the usual chill of Bogotá is a memory while I soak up the eternal spring warmth of Medellín, Colombia’s second city. All around me ferns, palms and old hardwoods compete to see which can pop in a green burst against the impossibly blue sky and soaring mountains cradling this city. After the grey grime of Bogotá, it’s like I’ve forgotten what colors are.

My first impressions of Medellín are that it’s spotlessly clean, populated by beautiful, laid-back people. It’s a far cry from the high, cold capital where white collar workers with panicked, strained expressions pack the buses as they rush to work at 6 a.m. Medellín is a serious temptation as the place to live in Colombia. Read More

STANDING A FEW miles above the Earth’s surface, I stared down at the glaciers and ridges of New Zealand’s Southern Alps and gulped. My legs were dangling out of an airplane, and in a few seconds it would be time for me to jump.

I suffer from what the French call l’appel du vide, or “the call of the void.” (The closest English equivalent might be “death wish.”) It’s an urge, when you reach the edge of a high drop, to throw yourself into the great beyond. It has called to me at the edges of cliffs, on the observation deck of the Empire State Building and even at the top of stepladders when I’ve been changing light bulbs. It’s a feeling that starts in the pit of my stomach—and it has engendered in me a profound terror of heights. Read More

farewell australiaPart I
There’s an old adage that one should write drunk and edit sober. This is my attempt at slightly tipsy. Why? Because I’m saying farewell to Australia, and there’s no good way to depart such a big (and big-hearted) country without a bit of tipple to send me on my way.

Where to begin? When last we left off, I was speaking on Australia’s forgotten Aborigines and I was halfway to Adelaide. Since then, we — me and a couple of CouchSurfing friends from Germany —  completed the crossing of the  southern continent from Perth to Sydney, a distance of at least 5,100 km based on the southern route we took. It’s an accomplishment that, frankly, many Australians still don’t manage to do. But what a journey. I honestly haven’t even begun to fully process the whole trip, but the landscape and the people who I’ve met on the way have been indelibly stamped on my soul. Read More