MEXICO CITY: Tlacoyos & Tequila

I miss all those people and all these places. In fact, missing things might be the only unpleasant part of travel. Abroad, your existence is transitory; you are an ephemeral presence in another world. I think of these encounters daily, like the waitress at the Café Saint-Antoine that I adored, but they’re surely too busy living their lives to recall a young man who spent a month on their shores. Still, it’s wonderful to have that to remember and reflect on. 

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MEXICO CITY: Decadent Darkness

One life is hardly enough. I have no fear of death, but I really am irked that I only have a century here. And that is if I’m lucky. For a lot of people, more than I ever expected, a hundred years is plenty. People are tired and worn down and disinterested in life. I think there’s nothing more thrilling than being alive, seeing what’s around and learning about what has happened in the recent and distant past, so I will never understand this attitude. If I could live forever, I would pay whatever price. I’d make a deal with the Devil if that were a real thing. 

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MEXICO CITY: IN LOVE

Reader, I am so excited to tell you about all the wonders I found in Mexico, the delicious foods I had, the tequilas I drank, the gorgeous kittens I met, the kindly strangers who welcomed me into their nation, the cobblestone streets, the crumbling buildings, the hot nights, the pyramids, the ruins, the atmosphere of being somewhere so vibrant and alive. I have very rarely loved a place more, and it feels odd to not be there. Mexico City felt completely like home. In fact…but I’m getting ahead of myself.

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CALIFORNIA: Away At Last

Summer is sacred to me. It represents freedom and adventure and culture. During this time, I am blessed with the opportunity to escape normalcy and have a grand and glorious time. These months are vital for my sanity and for the person I am. Travel has become my supreme passion. I think it might be my religion. I have learned so much about the world and myself, and I treasure those experiences. The things I have seen could come from a book, but it would be impossible to experience the sensations. The places I have been could have been visited virtually on Google Maps, but I wouldn’t hear the cars honking, smell the food cooking, or feel the rough roads beneath my feet. When I’m somewhere new, I’m my best self. 

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NEW YORK CITY: Blizzard Queens

She said something profound right then, after tutting dismissively at me, “You just live, Ben! Don’t listen to anybody, and if they ask what’s wrong, say that you fell in a damn ditch and you hurt your knee. OH! And always talk to the bartender; he has all the right answers and you don’t have to take him home.”

“Queen!” I muttered, but I don’t think she understood.

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From Manchester to Home

After an eternity, we boarded, and my seat was DECADENT. It was economy plus and I was more pretentious than I have been in absolute ages. Instead of just being the front few rows, we had a little section of the plane to ourselves that all the rest of the economy people had to walk past as we sat comfortably in our seats sipping complementary water bottles. It was a glorious feeling.

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DOHA: Asia At Last

Land returned to view and I was delighted by my first sight of Saudi Arabia. The sands were red and lovely. I smiled to myself, getting over my depression, I was flying over regions of the world that nobody in my generation would have dared to dream about years and years ago. So many of them still believe that the Middle East is a dangerous place — and it can be — but so can small towns in America. There is danger everywhere, but it need not ruin our ability to explore or lessen the chance to broaden our horizons. The world is absolutely wonderful and I’m so in love with it. I’m so glad that I got over any cultural fear I had and let myself discover this beloved region.

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LUXOR: The Mystery of Chicago House

Nobody bothered me as I stood there. All the touts knew me and knew I had my people. They were nothing but friends and strangers now. I was no longer a source of revenue. I was just a man. I was just Ben standing beside the Nile. I really don’t know how long I was there, but as I did, my life began to pass by in my memories. I was back at Egyptian Treasures with my dad and Donald, talking about Cairo and dreaming of treasure. I was on an ancient computer in elementary school furiously printing pages from the Theban Mapping Project. I was in Barnes and Noble buying discounted books. I was in the Louvre staring at hieroglyphs. I was screaming at textbooks. I was dreaming of the future. I was back on a rooftop in Giza with Lady M. I was wandering through temples with Abdul. I was breaking the Ramadan fast at the Khan el-Khalili. I was dreaming of digging. I was in raptures at the thought of the basements of the Egyptian Museum. I was drinking Stella again with Hassan. I was back by the Nile. And I was an Egyptian through and through.

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