When I was fourteen, I was kicked out of high school in the middle of ninth grade and went to rehab in Minnesota for thirty days. While there, I fell in love with a nineteen-year-old heroin-addicted hippie chick from Purdue, Indiana, and helped a couple of kids get high in the woods so they’d like me. I rigged the alarm system in my room and broke out during lunch hours to impress those around me and see that nineteen-year-old heroin-addicted chick from Purdue who stayed one floor above me. I wrote massive amounts of shitty poetry and paraded down the hallways in front of staff doing all sorts of ridiculous attention-seeking behavior. Eventually, they kicked me out. Before that, I was surprise-attacked by my parents and my counselor in a small room. I was asked to give my parents a rundown of my success since my arrival. There was none. I used to think I was a fuckup, but now I realize I was just fucked up. There’s a big difference: one is helplessly defiant and the other is seeking help in all the wrong places.
A small plane took me to Louisiana, where a white van shoved me in the back and drove me off to Opelousas, a small town on the outskirts of Lafayette. I was in the deep south. Might I mention I’m Jewish and was threatened over and over until having to fight my way out of some very uncomfortable circumstances? I was still only fourteen years old. After six months of fighting, stealing, creating meth-labs in my tiny room, and running away with some hot chick from Lawrence, Massachusetts, I was eventually kicked out of there too. I thought I had beat the system, but at four in the morning, two large men escorted me to the New Orleans airport, threatening to break the bones in my body along the way, and we soon landed in Atlanta.
They drove me in a pickup truck for a couple of hours to a (then) small and very rural town called Dahlonega, where I was thrust into a “therapeutic boarding school” that can only be described as a cross between juvenile hall and a mental institution. I tried to run away but got lost in the woods and picked up by the sheriff, then sent to a wilderness program in Utah for five weeks by way of two more large men; another attempt to straighten me out. After five weeks I was transported back to Dahlonega and stayed trapped there for two long years. I read every book by Jack Kerouac and became obsessed with the Beatnik Generation and the idea of true freedom: Living on the road. I made a plan to run away and do exactly what Kerouac and the other beatniks did. So, after many horrific events, including an eight-day venture into the woods to endure a treacherous period of time they called “isolation,” I tried to escape once more. That time, I made it. By then I was sixteen years old.
It was August of 2001. I had made my big escape a month before my seventeenth birthday and a few weeks before 9/11. The country was in disarray and all I had to do was find food, clothing, and shelter. I spent the rest of the year living on the street, spare-changing for food, and hiding out in different parts of the country till I was eighteen. I was hitchhiking from point A to point somewhere, and eventually putting down some roots in Boulder, Colorado. By the time I was able to get a real job (that didn’t require the work permit I didn’t have), I worked every position under the sun. I became deeply addicted to drugs—once again—and decided I was special enough and handsome enough to become an actor in my hometown of New York (well, I’m originally from Long Island).
I was twenty years old when that happened and did my best to rebuild my relationship with my family but to no avail. Then life took another wrong turn when my acting career fell on its head and I resorted to selling drugs, drinking a bottle of scotch every night, and blowing coke in odd green rooms of grimy downtown music venues. I had—somehow—become a concert promoter and used the shows I produced to launder my money. Basically, life got messier than ever.
It wasn’t until I was twenty-seven years old—then living in Los Angeles—that I fell on my ass so hard I had no choice other than to end this all or try to get sober. I opted for the latter. That was over seven years ago at the time of this writing. Since then, I have continued to try just about every means of therapy to repair myself; battling anxiety and depression as a sober dude with a colorful past.
By then I had been dragged into just about every form of help available to humans, short of goat yoga. One of the best tools I found to keep me sane was travel. Travel gave me a purpose that I never found anyplace else. I write books and contribute articles to magazines and run a marketing agency, and my only education has been traveling. Travel, books, and movies taught me everything I know
Throughout my life—in addition to the beatnik poetry and acid-derived prose I was obsessed with as a kid—I’ve read many books on travel: how to travel, where to travel, how to travel cheaply, how to find location-freedom, and all that nonsense. I have never once found a book that truly encapsulates the therapeutic value of travel. That’s why I’ve spent the time to jot these words down—as someone that has battled many challenges since I was a child—to hopefully serve as a practical guide to tactically travel the world, and all the secrets I’ve learned along the way. My goal is to inspire you to travel more and give you all the knowledge I’ve gathered along my journey to make sure all your trips are memorable adventures filled with personal growth.
If you follow my lead, every trip you take will change your life forever. My only goal is to bring to your attention that there is another form of therapy and education that involves no therapist or student loans. You don’t have to hike the Appalachian trail (though maybe you want to) or leave your home to backpack the world for a year. But if you do, I’ll show you how to do it. To be clear, travel does not solve drug addiction. If you are struggling with something along those lines, I encourage you to ask for help as I did. But enough of that, just wanted to make sure I wasn’t saying: “Got a coke problem? Just go to South America! You’ll be fine!”
Point is, if you’ve ever wanted to travel the world; if you find your life is not where you had hoped it would be by now; if you feel like too much time is ticking by and still you’ve yet to take that damn trip that’s been on your to-do list for the last decade, it’s now or never.