Machu Picchu Macchu Pichu Maccu Picchu

Andes Mountains, Peru

I don't know what is wrong with me, but even after all these years, I cannot seem to spell Machu Picchu. Or at least, not consistently. I have files spread over four computers and spanning many years, where I seem to spell Machu Picchu differently each and every time, making my files harder to get to and more difficult to find than the actual Lost City itself.

In case anyone's wondering, it's one “c” in the first word, two “c's” in the second. So easy. So, so easy. I hope this helps you, but it's too late for me. Every time I want to locate a Machu Picchu photo or file on my computer, I have come to accept that I might have to try spelling it about ten different ways before I replicate whatever it was I was feeling the day I named it. So fun!



The Sixth Sense came out when I was a young adult (just before I began traveling the world and a few years before I’d attend film school) and it was revolutionary in the world of storytelling. I could easily say that it forever changed the way my generation watched movies, but for me, I think it also forever changed the way I approached life.

The X-Files had already laid some pretty solid groundwork, encouraging my generation to question everything in the world around us and to take nothing at face value, but The Sixth Sense went one step further: It awakened me to the idea that your entire reality and the way in which you view the world can shift in an instant; and this can happen not because anything in the world around you actually changed… just your understanding of it. New information can enter the equation that permanently and fundamentally changes your perception of what is real and how things work, even though the things themselves remain unchanged. This new information and new understanding of a thing can then cause you to reevaluate your entire system of beliefs, how you view the world, and what you hold to be true. This often involves re-examining the beliefs you held in the past, and having to reconcile them in the light of new information.

The Sixth Sense is just a movie, but this is what traveling the world does for me in real life; and it does it on a fairly regular basis. I am constantly having the floor ripped out from under me, constantly encountering new information that is at odds with what I thought I knew to be true. The more I travel, the more I realize that my understanding of the world —or a particular place or a thing or a people or a culture or an ideology — was rudimentary at best, and I am constantly having to adjust my perception of reality to accommodate new information, personal revelations, and previously unknown complexities.

One might argue that extensive travel is hardly a prerequisite for inciting personal revelations or an increased understanding of the world around you. They might argue that this is just part of being alive, and that as you get older and amass more life experiences, your understanding of the world will inevitably grow deeper and more accurate.

And to this I say, yes, but if in your daily life you continue to travel the same path, and meet the same people and see the same places, drive to the same office and eat at the same restaurants, how much new information about the world can you really expect to encounter?

And yes, you can travel to places virtually on your phone, or through movies or via television shows, but these are all regurgitated versions of a thing. These are all processed and often opinionated manipulations of reality, as seen through the lens of whatever storyteller, blogger, documentarian, or news media outlet you happen to be watching. In fact, a lot of the revelations I have upon visiting a place, in person for the very first time, are the direct result of dispelling the framework that was instilled in me by many of those very sources.

Oftentimes, learning about a place or a thing or a culture online is the equivalent to the first two-thirds of The Sixth Sense: it establishes what you think you know. And a lot of those facts are true and will remain unchanged. But it isn’t until you travel to a place and see the nuances and complexities for yourself that the other shoe drops, and your perception and understanding of that place is changed forever.

I am just realizing that I mention The X-Files and then subsequently talked about not trusting the media to shape your perceptions of reality, so I just want to clarify that I am in no way talking about anything conspiratorial here! If anything, I am talking about the exact opposite. All these truths are already out there, waiting to be discovered, waiting for you to go and find them and experience them for yourself.

I will let other people worry about conspiracies, media manipulations, and hidden agendas. That is not what I am concerned with here. I am more fascinated by the increased understanding that you gain about life and the surrounding world when you take the time to experience it firsthand, for yourself.

I thought I understood extreme POVERTY until I visited the shantytowns of South Africa and UGANDA and saw the ramshackle structures sprawling for miles in every direction. I thought I understood overpopulation and air pollution until I experienced KATHMANDU and the thick, suffocating air of the HIMALAYAS — air so laden with SMOKE and pollution that it gets trapped in your lungs and makes it impossible for you to breathe. I thought I understood the circle of life and what it is like for animals to kill and be killed, until I saw (and smelled and heard) the carnivores of the SAVANNA ripping apart the carcass of a dead wildebeest in Botswana.

Not all revelations are so dire or even all that revolutionary. For example, it wasn’t until I was out on the SAHARA that I realized why people wore sandals and not tennis shoes to walk in the sand. Likewise, I always thought that CAMELS were about the same size and height as a horse, just with a little hump or two in the middle. Surprise!

In Alaska I learned that people like to be called Inuit, not Eskimo, and in Peru I learned why you shouldn’t eat a chicken Caesar salad wrap right before embarking on the INCA TRAIL to Machu Picchu.

Parts of THAILAND have an odd and open relationship with gender reassignment surgeries and prostitution, and in parts of Jordan and Egypt you will see women swimming in the ocean while covered from head to toe in long black dresses and NIQUABS.

IRELAND taught me that it is harder and more terrifying than you can ever possibly imagine driving on the opposite side of the road for the very first time, and ICELAND taught me that even though they mostly use our same alphabet, learning a new language can be harder and more terrifying than it has any right to be. (Why are all the words 20-30 characters long, Iceland?!)

ITALY and Spain taught me that there are civilized ways of doing things that are different but just as good as how we go about doing them in America, and France taught me that BASE JUMPING would be a moronic way to die no matter what country you lived in.

JAPAN taught me that a toilet can do so much more than just flush, in JORDAN I learned about blackface and penis tingling, and the aesthetic sensibilities and similarities of both Mexico and Morocco made me realize that I needed to build my first HOUSE.

These aren’t conspiracies or coverups or deceptions, these are just truths I wasn’t aware of… until I was. All of the facts and situations were always there, and they remained unchanged, only my perception was shaken and shifted. You don’t know what you don’t know until suddenly you do, but just like with The Sixth Sense, once you learn the truth about a thing, there’s really no going back, is there?

As I stated, I’m from the “twist ending” generation, so I have gotten accustomed to having the rug ripped out from underneath me, in fact, like many folks my age, I think I might even happen to enjoy it! But I can understand why many people do not.

Just like The X-Files taught us, "The Truth is Out There"; and I’m saying that you just have to be willing to pack your bags and go find it.


Read about my own personal X-File HERE! It involves at least one enormous snake.

Want more fun?

Here's me KISSING A LLAMA on the Inca Trail; although I'm sure the llama would have much rather been LICKING THIS WALL.

If you're feeling extra adventurous, why not hop with me on the HIGHWAY TO THE DIARRHEA ZONE!

Or, read about Glamping: A Dangerous Gateway Drug, HERE!

The view of the Andes Mountains from my tent on the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu.
The view of the Andes Mountains from my tent on the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu.