Date: January 17th, 2016
I’m sitting here at a fan’s house (Patricia Stanley Share), who was kind enough to give me a place to stay for two days to weather the wicked storm that is passing through currently (Thunderstorm with 25 mph winds). Anyways, I have WIFI and POWER!!! So I think it’s time I updated you all on my journey so far and the adventures I’ve been having. The problem is that I’ve been literally having an adventure every day. So I decided to treat you all to an excerpt from my book. Keep in mind that this is only day one and you may understand why it’s hard for me to upload all my adventures (power and wifi aside). I literally have to hide myself to write because if I don’t awesome stuff keeps happening to me!
Day 1: The Beginning of Something Great
I didn’t sleep the night before, but I wasn’t tired. For the first time in a long time, I was excited about my life and what was to come. I double and triple checked my bags, my flight information, and the map of how to get to the ferry from the airport.
No one slept well, since I was leaving. I mean after all, I’m the fun one.
I loaded the car with the duffle bag that had my enormous Kelty Red Cloud 110L backpack and my carry on that had all of my tech. We all loaded up and drove to the airport. We spent a lot of the ride in silence, which gave me time to rest, but my mind kept racing and wouldn’t let me.
“So aren’t you afraid someone will steal your computer?” my dad asked breaking the silence.
“Nah. I mean I’ll be watching it like a hawk, but in the event that happens I’m covered. I got background software called Prey that can GPS track my computer wherever it is.”
Dad gave a nod that indicated he was impressed then said “Is there a way I could log into it, in case I need to find you?”
“Yeah, I’ll get my login info to ya. You just login and you can see where my computer is at,” I said, but completely forgot to do.
The rest of the ride was uneventful and quiet. We arrived at Ronald Reagan National Airport and were immediately annoyed with the car in front of us who wouldn’t pull forward into the departure parking space. I got fed up with waiting. I had waited long enough for this day.
“Come on! Pull up already!” Dad said.
“I’m tired of waiting,” I said as I got out of the car.
Dad popped the trunk and I grabbed my duffle bags and thanked God that the bag check in station was on the sidewalk just a few feet away. We all got on the sidewalk, except for dad who went around to pull up the car to the curb after the guy in front of us finally moved.
My brother Jarred handed me my camera which I had forgotten in the back seat. Dad got out and came around to join us. I hugged each one of them. I don’t remember much about what was said, but I do remember what my brother said right before I got into the checked baggage line. We hugged and he said: “I’m going to miss you.”
I know that it’s nothing out of the ordinary, but coming from him and seeing that he truly meant it, it’s something I’ll always cherish.
Then I got into the baggage check line and didn’t have to wait long. I placed the duffle bag that I can literally fit into, on the scale. The clerk looked very surprised when it registered at exactly 50 lbs (the exact maximum weight for checked baggage before you get charged an extra $100 or more). I had meticulously planned this since, well, I’m not rich by any means and as I started my journey would be bleeding money until I got jobs along the way or some books published.
The trick I used was simple. I took all the tech out of my backpack because there is no way I was letting it go through the checked baggage. I weighed the bag I was going to check until it was exactly 50 lbs. Something kind of funny: the carry on has no limit on weight, just size. So I took my 30lb carry on and went through the arduous task of going through airport security.
After spending about 15 minutes reorganizing my carry-on bag and a short walk, I arrived at my gate. When I boarded, I was glad I bought priority seating. It lets you board just a little bit earlier than the regular passengers. The reason I had done this was because, well again, 30lbs of carry-on at the max size limit. So I wanted to be sure I had room to put it in the overhead compartment without fighting for space with other passengers. No way I was going to risk having it become checked baggage.
During the flight, I had an idea. See I had brought way too many business cards. I really should have brought just half of what I had. So I took one of the boxes of business cards and wrote on it (please excuse my child-like writing):
Since I was in the back row, it headed up toward the front of the plane. It didn’t make its way back to me. I hoped all the cards had been taken. As I got up to leave when we landed, the flight attendant asked me “Did you ever get your cards back?”
“No, hope they all got passed out.”
“Maybe, check the seats as you make your way up,” she suggested.
I looked but didn’t see anything. While I was a little discouraged, I didn’t mind too much, since it meant less weight and that it was likely that most of them made their way into the hands of potential new fans.
When I left the gate and into the terminal, I realized that I had no idea where I was going for my next flight. The online boarding pass didn’t show my gate number. I paused at the video monitors and tried to find my flight number.
“Sir,” the same flight attendant from earlier called.
I turned with a questioning look.
“They found you’re business cards. They are at the gate desk.”
I smiled and thanked her.
When I got to the gate another flight attendant from the plane handed me the box which was now half empty.
“Here you go man. Didn’t want you to lose these. You probably paid a good bit for them,” he said.
“Thank you,” I said.
“Good luck on your trip,” he said.
When I finally discovered my gate, I groaned. It was on the other side of the airport. I grabbed my 30lb carry on and began making my way. Luckily, I had two things working for me. A 3 hour layover and the trams that went to each gate section. So I made it in plenty of time.
I charged my camera, phone, and grabbed a coke from the vending machine. I was paranoid to leave my stuff out of my site for even a second even though it was only about 20 feet from me.
After playing on my phone, reading, and writing notes about my adventures at the airport, I finally boarded the plane that would take me to my new life!
I did the same trick with my business cards, but this time got more specific and wrote on the inside for the last person to give the box to a flight attendant and return it to seat 26F (the guy in the Indiana Jones hat).
This time I got my cards back and noticed that I had gotten rid of a decent bit of them. I laughed as I thought about it.
“I’ve got extra incentive to get rid of these,” I thought and pictured myself handing them out…“Less weight.”
I filmed out the window for a good bit of the flight and caught our landing as well. I would use this to make an awesome intro for my show: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-0z66w791dg
When I stepped outside the plane, my first thought was “This is just like the movies.”
Instead of a gate, we took the stairs down to the tarmac and walked to the small airport, past other planes. When I entered the airport, I laughed and quickly got a picture of the world’s smallest baggage claim.
Then for the next hour I set about organizing my bag. I smacked myself in the forehead for bringing a leather jacket.
“What were you thinking? It’s Florida! It never gets cold here!” I said to myself.
“I thought maybe at night it would cool down…plus it makes me look cool,” I responded.
“Of course it does, but you’re still shipping it back with the duffle bags as soon as we get to the post office on Monday!” I said and then agreed with myself.
After struggling with getting everything into my backpack, I realized that I needed to hurry as it had been an hour since I arrived at the airport. I filled every pocket I had with the extra gear, tied the duffle bags (with the leather jacket inside) and dry erase board to my backpack, and still had two books I would have to carry. However, I noticed a lady who was watching me and went up to talk to her.
“Excuse me, miss?” I asked.
“Yes?” she said.
“My name is Seth and, well, you can see I’m about to do some backpacking. Anyways, I’ve got these two books. This one I want to give you. It’s called the traveling notebook. What it is, is a book that you have to write a story in either from your life or entirely fiction and then you have to pass it on to someone else, who does the same. It will eventually get back to me and I’ll get it published and I’ll put 90% of the proceeds to charity.”
“Wow, that’s pretty cool. Count me in,” she said and he handed her the book.
“Is your address in here,” she asked.
“Yup, and all the rules,” I said.
“What kind of charity does it go too?” she asked.
“I’m honestly not sure yet. I was kind of wanting to start my own. I have kind of a trust issue with charities unless I research the thoroughly.”
“Yeah, I get that. I actually started my own non-profit last year for kind of the same reasons.”
“Nice,” I said then “Oh, also I have my sister’s book. Do you like to read?”
“Only a lot,” she said. I smiled and handed her Finding Jordan (my sister’s book).
“One last thing. You’ve seen me getting everything packed, so you know how heavy it’s going to be. Would you mind filming me lifting it?”
She laughed “Sure.”
After repeated attempts, I finally got it on my back and managed to stand up, much to the amusement of everyone in the vicinity.
I thanked her and at last…left the airport. Only to realize, I had no idea where I was. I asked a lady directions to the closest Publix (the chain grocery store they have in Florida), so I could get some food for my trip to the Dry Tortugas because there is no food or water for sale on the island. She said I’d have to go halfway around the island in the opposite direction of the ferry.
I decided I brought enough food with me and had filled my water bottles and camelbak from the water fountain at the airport. So I started heading toward the ferry, which was around 3 miles away.
I ended up guessing which way to go at first while laughing that I was lost…on an island. Then I realized that the Ferry was west and north. So I headed towards the descending sun and began hating myself for all the excess crap I brought that I thought was absolutely necessary.
“Don’t need that, don’t need that, and I definitely don’t need that,” I said to myself, checking the list of all the things I was going to consolidate and ship back with my duffle bags.
My hips, legs, and shoulders kept screaming at me, so I began to take frequent breaks. I used the excuse of taking pictures and filming, to justify my breaks. But eventually, about halfway to the ferry, with the light fading, I flat-out sat in the middle of the sidewalk and didn’t care what anyone thought, although, there was only a rooster around at the time (which I thought was funny because I didn’t realize how common they were throughout the keys).
I eventually motivated myself to get back up (with a little help from Eye of the Tiger), knowing I had to get to the area around the ferry since I had to be there at 6:30 in the morning.
I remember I kept laughing because I knew how sore I was going to be and yet I couldn’t stop smiling.
“Tired, sore, and never been happier,” I thought.
I made it to an intersection and got confused about which road to take. I checked the map, but it wasn’t much help. So I just picked a direction, and pushed the cross walk button.
I waited…and waited…and waited. Granted it was a busy intersection, but it just wouldn’t let me cross. I think that the big man upstairs played a role, because a few seconds later a guy at the gas station near me called to me from his car.
“Hey man, what are you doing?” he called.
“Backpacking across America.” I said.
“I know. I meant where are you headed?” he asked.
“Grinnel Street.” I said.
“Hop in,” he said.
I walked over not even hesitating.
“Dude, thanks. I really appreciate this.”
“No problem man, I did the same thing.”
“You backpacked America?”
“Yeah man,” he said smiling.
“Oh, my name is Seth,” I said extending my hand after dropping the backpack in the back of his Subaru.
“Bretton,” he said and shook my hand.
Bretton shut the trunk and they both hopped in his car.
“So are staying at Grinnel street somewhere?” Bretton asked as he started driving.
“Well, I’m taking the ferry in the morning to the Dry Tortugas. Just wanted to be near it so I wouldn’t have to walk far in the morning,” I said.
“So where are you staying then?” he asked.
“The beach I guess,” I said.
A look of concern appeared on Bretton’s face when he heard this and he responded “That’s not the best idea man. They are really strict here and patrol the beaches like crazy.”
“Oh…” I said.
“I know a few good spots though. For instance, there is this one tree I’ve stayed at quite a few nights. I haven’t really told that many people about it.
“Your secret spot?” I asked knowing this was a big deal if you know anything about secret spots.
“Yeah, man,” he said.
Bretton took me to this enormous Banyan tree.
“Holy crap man! It’s huge!” I said.
“Yeah, it’s a good tree. I think they said it’s like the second oldest on the island.”
We got out and took a closer look. I was a bit apprehensive about staying in the tree because of its close proximity to a hotel with a lot of people walking around. Bretton must have sensed what I was thinking and said “Don’t worry about the people man. They’ve caught me a few times and never did anything. I was just like come on man, and they left me alone.”
We hopped back into the car.
“So where can I drop you off man?” Bretton asked.
“Can you drop me off by the ferry? I want to explore the area a bit,” I said wanting to see if I could find a better hiding spot to sleep. It’s not that I didn’t appreciate Bretton’s tree, far from it. I just didn’t want to be caught by anyone and it was kind of farther away from the Ferry that I had to be at 6:30 in the morning.
“Sure, no problem man,” Bretton said.
“So then what do you do around here for work?” I asked.
“I’m an electrician. It’s great man. I’ve been working here, Jamaica, and up in Miami. My boss is chill too. He gets it that I need to get away every so often to settle my wanderlust. Plus since I do everything, he doesn’t have much choice,” Bretton said and laughed.
“That’s cool man,” I said.
“Yeah, I’m trying to live cheaply as possible while I work on my boat. I’m fixing it up myself and sleeping in the car saves a good bit.”
“Dude, you got a boat?” I asked.
“Yeah, been working on it a good while. I actually thought about scrapping it a while ago, but can’t give up on it. Put too much into it. You know what they say about boats right?” he asked.
“Break out another thousand,” I said.
“Exactly. I’m also working on my own business of green farming too,” he said as we pulled up to the ferry.
“That’s awesome man. Hey can we get a picture together? This’ll make a great story.”
“Yeah sure man.”
I took the picture but I didn’t know how to work my phone camera properly yet, so the flash didn’t go off.
We hopped out and I grabbed my backpack out of the trunk.
“Thanks again man,” I said and we bro fived into a hug.
“No problem man. I’ll probably see you around,” Bretton said, got into his car, and left.
I then looked at my backpack for a while and then at my phone so I could avoid picking it up. After a good while, I finally picked the beast up. I searched the area around the ferry and couldn’t find any good hiding spots to sleep, but noticed some benches right in front of the building that the ferry operated out of and sat down to think about what I was going to do.
“Might just have to sit here and read or write all night,” I thought.
Then I heard some live music and my already good luck turned into great luck.
The Day One Crew
When I arrived at Daunte’s I was met with stares and smiles, no doubt due to the monster on my back. I sat down the beast with a good bit of effort, which thoroughly amused everyone watching and then took a seat myself.
The waitress immediately brought me a water asked about my trip. I told her how I was backpacking all 50 states, writing travel guides, and filming the whole thing as a documentary, then unloaded a business card which I had begun to associate with less weight.
I ordered the cheapest meal I could since I was on a finite budget at the time and was conscious of how every purchase would affect my ability on the road.
While I waited for my meal, I listened to the live music. It is definitely one of my favorite features of Key West. There is live music everywhere. I’ve never been to a place with so much music in the air and so many smiling faces.
I was lost in the music when a particularly stunning woman asked about me and my trip. I told her my story and then she told me that she was in the army and traveled all over the world. When our food arrived, the conversation died down as it’s hard to talk when you are wolfing down a chicken sandwich.
After she finished her food, I said goodbye to the army lady. Then I was alone with my thoughts and the music. I had no clue what I was going to do for a place to sleep, but remembered the benches in front of the ferry building and decided to go there, figuring I’d either read or write all night because it didn’t look like I’d be getting any sleep.
However, as I hoisted my pack on to the bench of the table I was sitting at to begin the arduous task of putting it back on, two ladies beckoned me over.
I hesitated only slightly hoping my pack would stay on the bench without falling. I then went over to say hello.
“Here sit down, come talk with us,” the lovely blond said indicating I should sit next to her. She was tall, fit, and spunky. Also her smile was contagious.
“So where are you backpacking too?” Her equally lovely friend asked. She was also tall and fit, but more mellow. She had light brown skin and long dark hair.
“I’m backpacking across America. All 50 states,” I said smiling.
“That’s awesome!” the blond exclaimed.
“Oh, I’m Seth by the way,” I said reaching my hand out to the blond.
She grabbed it and shook it “Deniele,” she said and smiled.
I then reached across the table to shake her friend’s hand.
She grabbed it and shook “Lisa,” she said smiling.
“So are you guys down here on vacation?” I asked.
“Yeah, Lisa won a contest and here we are. Our one friend was supposed to come, but…,” Dee said and then got a look of mischievousness.
“You’re the new Sue,” she said indicating me.
I gave a puzzled look.
“Sue is our one friend that never goes anywhere. We always talk like she is here though,” Lisa said with a smile.
“So how long have you been here?” Lisa asked.
“Just got here today,” I said and brought them up-to-date on my journey so far.
“Been a pretty cool start to the trip so far, tomorrow I’m going to go to the Dry Tortugas. Figured a castle on an island is a pretty cool place to start,” I said.
Dee looked excited and said “I was just there yesterday!”
She took out a picture which she had taken from the sea plane.
“Nice! Was it awesome?” I said excited myself.
“Totally. Are you going by seaplane too?” Dee said.
“No, I’m taking the ferry and camping overnight. More time to explore that way,” I said.
“Nice, good plan. There’s a lot to see out there. Do you have bug spray for when you camp?” Dee asked.
“Nah, I’ll be fine. So what do you two do for a living?” I asked.
Dee and Lisa shared a look and then looked back at me.
“We’re cops from New Jersey,” Lisa said.
I smiled and realized they fit the description, both being tough and intelligent. I pictured them as detectives like Debra off of Dexter.
“Hey Lisa, I’m a cop,” Dee said and caused Lisa to stifle a laugh. It was clearly an inside joke.
I looked puzzled and Dee explained “It was when we were working the prostitution beat. The classic guy saying ‘you have to tell me if you’re a cop.’ I leaned in and even told him ‘I’m a cop’ and he still went for it.”
We all laughed.
“So are you guys like detectives?” I asked picturing them as pretty much every cop show detective I’ve ever seen.
Lisa said “No, we’re more of infrastructure security. Basically, making large places safer, like stadiums and skyscrapers. We go in and look for places that need to tighten up their security, like you need more cameras here, metal detectors here, that kind of stuff.”
“That’s really cool,” I said.
“So where are you staying tonight?” Dee asked.
“Honestly, I have no idea. That’s why I’m here. Just trying to figure that out. Been thinking I’ll probably just go sit on the bench in front of the ferry and write all night,” I said.
Lisa and Dee shared a look indicating they were about to go big sister mode on me.
“Why don’t you stay with us? We’re only a few blocks from the ferry,” Dee said.
“For real?” I asked.
“Yeah,” Lisa said with a smile.
“Wow, thank you!” I said.
“And you can store whatever you need too in the lockers, till you get back from the Tortugas,” Dee said.
This was especially great because I still had the duffle bags and therefore, extra weight.
They finished eating and we walked back to the hostel they were staying at called Not Your Average Hotel or NYAH for short.
When we arrived, they cleared me out a locker and I set about consolidating my stuff. Because after the walk I had from the airport, I had a pretty good idea of everything I didn’t really need. Less weight was the priority.
“So you need to get into the hot tub,” Dee said.
“I think it’s closed now, plus let him organize Dee,” Lisa said.
Dee looked discouraged but brightened up and said “Well, when you get back you’ll have to try it out. It’s amazing!”
“Thank you guys so much,” I said.
They both smiled and said “No problem,” in unison.
I continued to organize and consolidate my gear. I felt bad it was taking me awhile to go through everything, but the girls had no problem with it.
“Hey do you guys want to see one of my videos?” I asked.
I brought up my video where I attempt to capture a Sasquatch (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FCRGwIrBybo). They loved it.
After I got everything organized and into the locker, I was climbing into the top bunk when Dee said “You can get a shower if you want.”
“Yeah, we don’t mind,” Lisa said.
“Here I got you a towel,” Dee said.
“Thank you guys,” I said a little overwhelmed by how good these two people I just met were being to me.
“I’ve stopped hearing it,” Dee said referring to my ‘thank yous’.
I showered and changed and was preparing to put my dirty clothes in my compression bag when Dee said “Why don’t you wash those and hang them up to dry? They’ll be here when you get back.”
“I hadn’t thought of that,” I said and grabbed some hand soap from the sink and washed my skivvies then hung them up with a hanger Dee provided.
“I seriously can’t thank you guys enough,” I said.
They both just smiled and shrugged it off like it was no big deal, but to me it was such a wonderful experience. These two people who had been strangers only a few hours before showed me so much generosity and kindness, it makes me believe that anyone who needs their faith in humanity restored should travel.
We then settled in for the night (after I set about charging every electronic I could).