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Medieval Kilkenny

Wednesday, July 3, 2013 @ 07:28 pm from Ireland Ireland
Day 7

Last night I got lucky and stumbled across some local musicians practicing songs in a local pub. It was fairly empty since they were doing an impromptu jam session so I was able to get front row seats. I watched them play for a couple hours over a couple pints.

This morning I started my tour of Kilkenny by walking down to the Kilkenny Castle and walking around the gardens and park area. The castle looked really neat and had the River Nore along one side. After the castle I walked along the river for a bit then came back and zig zagged through the city seeing the various old buildings. Some of the sights were The Black Abbey, St. Canice's Cathedral, St. Mary's Cathedral, Tholsel, County Hall and parts of the original wall surrounding the city.

Kilkenny is known as the "Marble City" due to its polished limestone that looks like marble. All of the limestone was quarried locally and I plan on walking by the old quarry tomorrow on a 12 mile round trip hike that will take me by the river and by some old mills and church ruins to another city southwest of Kilkenny called Bennettsbridge.

I originally had tonight as my last night in Kilkenny but decided to stay another night so I could do this river hike. I'd been thinking about heading to Killarney next to see some of the Ring of Kerry (a 179 km loop in southwest Ireland with beautiful views along the way). Unfortunately I forgot what day of the week it is and I tried booking a hostel for Friday and Saturday nights but every one of them was booked. I had to adjust my destination a bit and instead I'm going to Dingle in the Dingle Peninsula on Friday and I'll be staying there Friday and Saturday nights.

Dingle is a small fishing town but it's surrounded by some really nice mountains and islands. There's a "Mount Brandon" there so I want to see if I can hike it or at least part of it! After Dingle I'll start my journey northward and work to hit the Cliffs of Moher and then Galway.

It's still pretty early (almost 7:30pm) so I might try to hunt down some more live music in a bit. Everything was really dead when I was walking around the town a little while ago.
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The Tholsel - Built in 1765
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Kilkenny Castle - Built in 1195
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St. Canice's Cathedral - Built in 13th century
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Rothe House - Built 1594

Goodbye Dublin, Hello Kilkenny

Tuesday, July 2, 2013 @ 07:05 pm from Ireland Ireland
Day 6

I arrived in Dublin during a downpour and left Dublin during a downpour. Fortunately I only had some rare light showers during most of my stay there and it hadn't started raining yet when I left for the bus station. I did most of my packing and organizing last night so this morning all I had to do was eat breakfast and take off.

The bus terminal was a short walk from my hostel and I made it there around 9:30am. Unfortunately I didn't realize there was also a 9:30 bus but I was just a few minutes late for it. I ended up hanging out at the bus station until 11:30 when the bus I originally planned on was set to leave. By the time I was getting on the bus it was raining pretty hard. I thought for sure I'd be in the rain all the way to Kilkenny but fortunately it let up by the time I got about 45 minutes outside of town.

It was still very overcast by the time I got to Kilkenny so I made my way to the hostel to get checked in and drop off my pack. It ended up being about a 20 minute walk through town from the bus station but it wasn't too bad. I got to the hostel and checked in and set off to explore a little bit.

On my way into town I passed by the Smithwick's Brewery Tour at the St. Francis Abbey brewery. For 10 euros I got a 1 hour guided tour through the facility and the old St. Francis Abbey. Afterwards I got a complimentary pint of Smithwick's Pale Ale.

Most of the brewing is done off location at the St. James Gate (Guinness brewery) in Dublin. They said that they're going to finally halt all production here by the end of the year and take everything down. I'm glad I was able to see the tour while it was still up and running.

It was about dinner time when I got out of the tour. I saw a Turkish Kebab place when I was walking around earlier so I thought I'd give that a shot. I was craving something filling and cheap and this definitely hit the spot. I had a mix of lamb and chicken and they also served it with some sauces, onions, cabbage and lettuce. It was a huge amount but I ate the whole thing.

The weather looks a little iffy so I might just stay in at the hostel tonight. Kilkenny is definitely more laid back than Dublin was and I don't really see there being too much happening on a random Tuesday night. The hostel also seems pretty empty but so far the majority of the people staying here seem to be Americans.

I booked this hostel for 2 nights but might extend my stay here after hearing about how I can rent a bike and ride out of the town a bit to see some sights.
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Busaras Terminal in Dublin
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Kilkenny Castle and River Nore
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St Francis Abbey
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Pint of Smithwick's after the brewery tour

Observations so far

Tuesday, July 2, 2013 @ 09:44 am from Ireland Ireland
These are random things I've noticed in my 5 days in Dublin (in no particular order.)
  1. It seems like everyone smokes here. Definitely different than in the states.
  2. Dublin seems to be filled with tourists.
  3. native languages of people staying at my hostel: #1 - Spanish, #2 - German, #3 - French, #4 - English
  4. Seeing someone who's overweight is a rarity.
  5. So far I haven't come across any other long term travelers. Everyone is here in Dublin for a short time to party.
  6. Fresh fruit means apples, bananas or oranges. Finding anything else is either really rare or extremely expensive.
  7. Buying a bottle of beer is cheaper than a bottle of orange juice

My Goodness My Guinness!

Monday, July 1, 2013 @ 06:27 pm from Ireland Ireland
Day 5

Last night I passed out around 9pm and didn't get up until 8am this morning. I really needed that sleep to catch up from the last several nights. I woke up feeling much better, ate, and then headed out to the Guinness Storehouse to take the tour and have my pint of Guinness in the Gravity Bar.

The Guinness Storehouse tour cost over 16 euros making it pretty pricey but it was fun to learn about the history of Guinness and how the beer used to be produced vs how it's produced now. The tour is self guided and at the end of it you head up to the Gravity Bar at the top fo the storehouse for a complimentary beer. The views from up there are really nice. You can see pretty much the entire city of Dublin and the surrounding areas. The pint up there was good as well (it was my first Guinness in Dublin!)

After the pint I went and got some ham and cheese to go with an extra baguette I brought with me. I ate near the Dublin Heuston train station then headed over to the Irish National War Memorial Gardens. The gardens were really nice to walk around and had some big flower gardens and statues.

Since Phoenix Park was fairly close by I ended up walking over there. The park is absolutely giant so I walked around quite a bit of it. While walking around I saw deer all over the place. There were also some huge herds of deer wandering around. They were so used to people that I saw some eating bread out of the hands of kids.

During some of my research into Dublin I saw the mention of an Oyster Stout at a microbrewery called The Porterhouse Temple Bar. I went over there and ordered a pint to see what it was like. It didn't have any oyster taste or smell but it was a decent stout. Apparently they shuck oysters into the conditioning tank to add some extra sweetness.

While at the Porterhouse I started looking for a good fish and chip shop nearby. I hadn't had any yet and figured it was about time to get some authentic fish and chips. I found a place called Leo Burdock's that wasn't too far away. I got there and ordered the cod and chips and went over to the Christ Church Cathedral to eat them (the chippery didn't have any seating there). I was actually a little disappointed with the fish and chips. There wasn't really much flavor and the breading was a little soggy. Oh well, I'm sure I'll have another chance to try it before I leave Ireland / UK.

The 3 swiss guys that showed up to meet with my other 2 swiss bunkmates left today. So far I don't have any new bunkmates but we'll see if any show up before the night's over. I'm not sure if Monday nights are big arrival dates.

Tomorrow I check out of the hostel and then catch a bus down to Kilkenny. It's about a 2 and a half hour ride which should get me into the town around 1:30pm. I'm not sure what I'm going to do tonight. I might go buy a cider from a grocery and relax here in the hostel. It definitely won't be another late night tonight!
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Guinness at the Gravity Bar
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Me outside the Guinness Factory
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Irish Memorial Gardens
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Deer in Phoenix Park

Castles and Coasts - Malahide

Sunday, June 30, 2013 @ 03:51 pm from Ireland Ireland
Day 4

After dinner last night I ended up having a couple drinks and then went down to The Auld Dubliner with my bunkmates plus two other Germans. I had two more drinks there and then we decided to leave because they had stopped playing live music. We ended up at the Temple Bar again and listened to some more live music. It was a mix of traditional Irish songs and songs by request. I didn't want to stay out as late as the last few nights so I left a little after midnight and came back to the hostel. The Temple Bar area is pretty touristy and was especially packed on a Saturday night. It was still cool to hang out in the area for a couple nights but I think next time I'll look for something a little more authentic. An Irish girl was telling us that locals don't even go there because it's nothing but tourists.

When I woke up this morning I didn't really feel like doing the Guinness or Jameson tours and figured they'd probably be more packed on a weekend so I decided to head north again and go visit Malahide. It's a small port town about a 20 minute train ride north east of Dublin. The Malahide Castle had been home to the Talbot family for around 800 years. The castle and the surrounding gardens were really nice and relaxing. It reminded me a lot of Blenheim Palace in England with the extremely expansive gardens.

The only way to go through the castle is by purchasing a guided tour ticket. The tour is about 25 minutes long and takes you through most of the rooms in the castle. The ticket also gives you access to the "Walled Garden" and the west gardens. The Walled Garden is a nice garden that also has some green houses with various types of plants from around the world. the west garden is a 22 acre park that's filled with walking trails that takes you around many different types of trees and plants.

When the castle was sold in the 1970's (due to the woman who inherited it not being able to afford the inheritance taxes), many of the paintings and furniture were sold so a lot of what was on display is loaned from one of the big museums. There was still enough original stuff there to get a feel for what it was like though.

After the tour I ended up having a muffin and apple in the park in front of the castle then headed into town to walk around. I didn't realize it but there was an actual beach there and it was low tide so the sand area was huge. When I got to the beach it started to rain a bit so I headed back into the town and walked around a little more. I thought about getting something else to eat but nothing really sounded good. I checked the train schedules and saw that there was a train set to depart in a few minutes so I went ahead and jumped on it and headed back to Dublin.

I'm not planning on going out tonight. There are a lot of people from Spain at the hostel so there's some talk about watching the Spain v Brazil football match tonight so I'll just stay in and watch that then head to bed early Edit: Apparently the game doesn't start until 1am in Dublin so I guess I'm not doing that, lol. My throat's been a little sore today but I'm not sure if it's from having to yell to talk to anyone in the bars the last few nights or if it's just a normal sore throat. Either way, taking it easy tonight will be good. Going hard for 3 nights in a row was a lot of fun but it's time for a little break.
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Malahide Castle
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Malahide harbor area
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Ireland's Eye (from the opposite side as yesterday)
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Beach area in Malahide

Howth... The Ireland I Always Imagined

Saturday, June 29, 2013 @ 05:19 pm from Ireland Ireland
Day 3

Last night was another late night. My bunkmates (the two Swiss guys and 3 of their friends) and I played some card games in the lounge over drinks and then headed down to Temple Bar area for some beer and live music. That area was extremely crowded but it was a fun time hanging out there. After we all had a few pints we decided to head to Workman's Club (the same club we were at the previous night that had a good DJ). We stayed there for an hour or so and I had another drink. I started to get tired and checked my watch to see that it was close to 2am. I headed back to the hostel to get some sleep.

I got up around 9am and went down to get some breakfast. After eating I decided I'd go do some hiking and sight seeing in Howth. It's a fishing town to the north east of Dublin. After showering and getting ready I headed to the Tara Street train station and got a ticket to the Howth station. I only had to wait about 10 minutes and then jumped on the train. The ride only took about 40 minutes. I headed to the tourist information office to ask about the hiking paths. Along the way I passed a bunch of fresh fish markets.

I got the information for the hiking areas and made my way to them. The main hiking paths follow the coastline up and along some very tall cliffs. I was starting to get hungry so I had an apple and a candy bar that I brought with me. It was just something to hold me over until I got back into town. I continued my walk and saw some really nice views (check out the photo gallery link under the teaser pics below).

I made my way back to Howth and walked around trying to figure out what I wanted to eat for lunch. I saw a sign for a stand that was selling seafood chowder for 5 euros so I decided to do that. I knew I wanted something with seafood in it since everything there is caught fresh daily. The chowder fit the bill. I took it over to the docks and ate it while watching the boats come in and out.

There was still a little more walking around I wanted to do so I headed out to a big pier and took some photos of Ireland's Eye and some sailboats that were racing. By now the sun was trying to break through the clouds and I figured I saw everything I wanted to so I headed back to the train station and got on the train back to Dublin.

When I got back into Dublin the sun had finally broken free from the clouds (the first time I've actually seen the sun in the 3 days I've been here). I decided to take advantage of the nice weather and walked east along the River Liffey for a little while and took some photos.

Afterwards I headed back to the hostel to upload some emails and try to decide what to do tonight. I've got to go get some ingredients for dinner tonight. I tried making some curried potatoes, peas and baby corn last night but it wasn't really as good as I was hoping for it to be.

Howth was definitely worth going to. It was the typical seaside town and cliffs that I had always pictured Ireland to be like. Hiking along the cliffs was also the first time I felt like I had space to breathe and I wasn't surrounded by people.
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Old boat in Howth Harbor
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Howth cliffs
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Hiking trail in Howth
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Lighthouse and Dublin Harbor in the background

Sightseeing in Dublin

Friday, June 28, 2013 @ 04:11 pm from Ireland Ireland
Day 2

Last night ended up being quite the night. I was in the lounge at the hostel working on last night's blog post when I was joined by two of my bunkmates (two Swiss dudes). They showed up with a full bottle of Captain Morgan and ingredients to make mojitos. The three of us ended up polishing off the entire bottle over the course of an hour or so.

We saw one of our other bunkmates (the Aussie) and found out he was planning on taking yet another one of our bunkmates (a girl from Japan) out to go see some live music in some pubs. We decided we'd all go together and make a night of it. We started off at a pub that had some live music on multiple levels. We hung out in the back alley which is apparently where most people preferred to chill. We had a few drinks there and saw some guys dressed up like cats playing some music upstairs.

We decided to head over to a different pub that was about a 20 minute walk away that was supposed to have some really good music playing. Unfortunately when we got there they were closing down for the night so we had to trek all the way back to the Temple Bar area. We made it there and found a bar that might have been called Brogan's. I'm not completely sure but it ended up being pretty cool. We got a few more drinks there and danced to a DJ. It was getting pretty late and I knew I had reached my drinking limit for the night so I headed back to the hostel and proceeded to pass out around 2am.

I woke up at 9am with a splitting headache so I came down to the lounge/kitchen area and had some toast and cereal and slammed a bunch of water. After breakfast I showered and got my laptop out to decide what I'd do today. I figured since it was a nice day I'd go find some park areas and look at some of the old buildings around town.

I put Dublin Castle, Dubh Linn gardens, Chester Beatty Library, St. Patrick's Cathedral and Christ Church Cathedral on my list of what I wanted to see. The Chester Beatty Library was a really cool gallery filled with a bunch of old artwork from asian countries as well as old religious documents and artwork. I decided not to go into the churches because the admission costs are would have been over 10 euros combined.

I got a baguette sandwich at a local grocery store and ate in the St. Patrick's park. After that I just aimlessly walked around until I came across the Temple Bar area and then made my way back to the hostel.

I decided I'd go ahead and figure out where I'm going after Dublin so I ended up booking a bus to Kilkenny and got my hostel situated. Kilkenny looks like a cool place to go and hang out and relax. It'll be quite the difference between the massive amounts of people here in Dublin.

Since then I've just been catching up on emails and doing a little work. It's almost time to head to the grocery and pick up something for dinner.
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Dublin Castle and Dubh Linn Gardens
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St. Patrick's Cathedral
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Cool Graffiti
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Temple Bar

A Rainy Thursday in Dublin

Thursday, June 27, 2013 @ 08:12 pm from Ireland Ireland
Day 1

When I landed in Dublin it was overcast and raining and the weather was in the low 60's. I got off the plane and went through customs without any issue. After getting out of customs I went to an ATM and withdrew some Euros. In order to break those bills up into something I could use on a bus fare I bought a coffee and used the WiFi at the airport to check some email. After not being sure where to catch the 16 bus to the city center I went and asked the information desk. Apparently I had to go down to a different terminal to catch the bus. After buying a ticket I boarded and sat back for about 45 minutes while we made our way from the airport to downtown Dublin.

I got to the hostel around 11:20am but couldn't check in until 2pm. I was pretty wet from the rain so I dropped my pack off in their secure storage area and set about finding something for lunch. I just started aimlessly wandering around and eventually made my way to Talbot Street and a pub called Molly's. It was filled with old dudes speaking Gaelic which was pretty cool. I ordered a pint of Beamish Irish Stout and a chicken/bacon panini for lunch. Both were really tasty. I think I like the Beamish better than Guinness!

By the time I finished the rain had subsided so I walked around a little more. I came across some cell phone shops and ended up getting a pre-paid sim card for 20 euros that had unlimited data for a month. After getting that situated I went back to the hostel and checked in. I claimed the top bunk in a 6 bed room then decided to head back out and do a little exploring. I made my way down Grafton street and hit St. Stephen's Green (a really nice park). It was drizzling again but I still had some time to kill so I went over to Trinity College and saw the Book of Kells. The imagery and skill involved with drawing the pages is amazing! There's also a really neat library as part of the tour filled with old books.

I was starting to get hungry by now so I made my way to a Tesco and bought some ingredients for a stir-fry (chicken, red pepper, garlic, soy sauce, snow peas) and got a cider. I came back to the hostel and met some of my room mates (2 guys from Switzerland and one guy from Australia). I ended up eating with the Australian and two french guys and we talked about random stuff which was cool.

After that wound down I caught up on my journal and started writing these blog posts. Just now the two guys from Switzerland came down and we're going to have some mojitos while a bunch of spanish guys watch the Spain v Italy football match.

So far it's been a great day and I'm really hoping I'll be able to sleep well tonight!
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The Spire
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St. Stephen's Green
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Trinity College
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Trinity College Library

Last day in the USA for 6 months...

Thursday, June 27, 2013 @ 07:48 pm from Ireland Ireland
Day 0 - June 26, 2013

Today started out just fine. I woke up normally, had french toast for breakfast, took Canyon on a walk, showered and packed up.

When we got to the airport I went up to the Departures board and saw that my American Airlines flight to Chicago was canceled. All of the other American flights to Chicago were either canceled or delayed by a minimum of a few hours. We ran to the American ticket counter and the lady was able to get me booked on another flight that was delayed and scheduled to leave shortly after my original flight was supposed to. I was fortunate enough to get the last seat on the jet!

The flight ended up being delayed a little bit later and I was in the air by around 5:50pm EDT. I landed in Chicago around 5:40pm CDT and made my way to the International Terminal where I had to go through security again. The whole international terminal was under construction but they still had a little bar set up. I got a beer and checked into my flight. Everything was on time so I made some last minute phone calls then boarded.

They ended up serving some cheese ravioli and salad with a brownie for dinner. After that I put in my ear plugs and proceeded to try and sleep. I got a few hours of rest before they turned the lights back on and started the breakfast service which consisted of orange juice and a ham and cheese croissant.

I'll pick up the rest of the journey in my Day 1- Dublin post!
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Me and Canyon
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At the Indianapolis airport

Final Packing and Tying Up Loose Ends

Tuesday, June 25, 2013 @ 11:13 pm from United States United States
18 hours until I get on my plane to start my journey to Europe and I've finalized everything I'm bringing and I've tied up all the necessary loose ends here. The last major thing I needed to finish today was to handle my vehicle registration renewal issue. My NM license plate is set to expire in November 2013 but since NM requires an emissions test for each renewal it makes things difficult. In order to get my license plate renewed I needed to run around town today to get a VIN inspection and some documents notarized. Then, when I get my license renewal form I have to send all of that along with the renewal form.

I also had to pre-write all my checks for the bills I don't have set to auto-pay as well as all of my business estimated taxes that will be due while I'm gone. My parents will simply throw the envelopes in the mail on the specified dates and everything should be good to go.

Since the last test pack I did a few weeks ago I changed a few things up. I ditched my Nikon D50 in favor of a Canon G15. The DSLR simply took up too much room and the technology crammed into the G15 is so much better. Due to feedback from other travelers I also picked up a couple more pairs of boxers and decided I'd bring a pair of jeans as well as a dress shirt.

That's it for now. It's almost time for this crazy journey to start!
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Everything I'm Taking
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Everything I'm Taking (w/ captions)
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Everything packed w/ what I'm wearing on the flight
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Clifton Suspension Bridge. #europetrip2013 #bristol
At the Piazza San Martino. #lucca #europetrip2013
The beach in Valencia. Cold and windy today though. #playa #europetrip2013 #valencia
Cornish coast. #cornwall #europetrip2013
Bruges! #bruges #europetrip2013
Top of the Pantheon. #rome #europetrip2013
I was tired of feeling hungry at night. Pasta with chicken, asparagus, garlic and spices with some garlic bread. Super easy to make and cheap too. #dinner #pasta #europetrip2013
Stephansdom in Vienna. It dates back to 1137. #vienna #europetrip2013
Chalk cliffs near Brighton. #europetrip2013 #brighton
Arc de Triomphe in Parc du Cinquantenaire. #brussels #europetrip2013

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Where I've been:

Good Evening… Planet Earth
All the countries I visited on this trip (in yellow).

What's this about?

Traveling is something I've loved doing for as long as I can remember. I've been lucky enough to travel out of the US a few times but never longer than 2 weeks at a time. I decided that I should go see the world and experience all it has to offer. I booked a one-way ticket to Dublin, Ireland to depart on June 26, 2013. After I get to Europe I'll let serendipity take hold and see where I end up. No schedules and no itinerary… just go with the flow. That's as close to a plan as I'm making.

Who am I?

My name's Brandon O'Brien and I'm a travelholic. Before this journey I've been to 11 countries and put over 17,500 miles on various motorcycle trips through the USA and Canada. I'm a self-employed web developer so I'm fortunate enough to be able to work anywhere there's an internet connection. That's what truly made this experience possible.

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