Archive for January, 2012

January 29, 2012

Vagabond Mantra by Anais Nin

by Ashe Vagabond of the Vagabond Express

“We travel, some of us forever, to seek other states, other lives, other souls.”   – Anais Nin


January 29, 2012

Why do we travel?

by Ashe Vagabond of the Vagabond Express

I get asked this a lot. People find my lifestyle strange. Others are more blunt and call it irresponsible, escapist, unrealistic. Lately, I’ve even been called un-American and a traitor for preferring to live abroad rather than live out every single, long and drawn out day within the boundaries of US soil, which is coincidentally, not consequentially, where I happened to fall out of the void into this Earth.

I’ll take a moment to defend myself and other vagabonds.

First and foremost, as much as one may find my lifestyle absurd, I’d like to say with resounding clarity that I find their lifestyles absurd. When someone squints their eyebrows at me from their corner, a corner of monotonous, statist, stagnant boredom, I’m surprised at how someone can speak of their life as though it is the way to live. The best way to live.

Gail Albert Halaban, Out My Window, Astoria, Night Bridges, 2008. © Gail Albert Halaban, Courtesy Robert Mann Gallery, New York

Gail Albert Halaban, Out My Window, Astoria, Night Bridges, 2008. © Gail Albert Halaban, Courtesy Robert Mann Gallery, New York

You must understand that I see my life as having started at a random point and when I start with this idea, my destination is suddenly more variable. I do not see myself as American. I see myself as having been born in a land called America (For now. Countries tend to change every few hundred years.) I don’t find this consequential or defining. It’s random.

I’m a citizen of Earth. Or, even further, I’m a collection of stardust buzzing around on a much larger collection of stardust. So, don’t tell me I need a 9-5 and a mortgage and I’ll try to refrain from telling you that you need an imagination and a set of jumper cables wired up to your main arteries to thump you back to life.

Staying put seems like a crime to me.

To stay exactly where you started out. And for what reason? To stay somewhere because that is where you have always been is not a reason. It’s an excuse.

dying tree 

I’d like to turn, though, to those who find the greatest rewards in life to be those of security, stability, and predictability. I do understand that everyone has their preferences. But I cannot help observing that life is inherently volatile, insecure, and unpredictable. In a word: to seek this is to delude oneself.

My sister died when I was 15 and she was 10. This snapped my arteries into high gear. I AM ALIVE was in the thump of every heartbeat after that moment. Then it followed as such…

Time is limited here…

We know so little about ourselves…

We know so little about why we are here…

And we die before we ever know what we were supposed to do here…

Because we never ask…

Because we are so damn afraid…

And then it’s over. Then we die. The chance to learn, understand, and grow passes by. It ends.

We leave behind a Scandinavian wilderness never explored, a French beach never walked upon, a Roman cathedral never entered, a spirit never challenged.

When someone asks me why I travel so much, it’s so hard to answer. In short, I’d like to always say: because we are dying, and this is all we have.


January 12, 2012

The Essence of Constant Movement

by Ashe Vagabond of the Vagabond Express


Restlessness. Flight. Taking flight. Movement. Move to there. Move to where that new language is, the one I haven’t heard yet. Get on the train that goes past a field of sunflowers by the million. Sit with your face nearly pressed into the glass, like a 5-year-old child, wondering how many sunflowers are out there, wondering how fast the train is travelling, how many miles we’ve gone, and how it’s possible that someone could plant that many sunflowers. Who waters them and how? Does it take all day?


And why, really, why have I never heard of this before? How did I really go my entire life without ever SEEING such a sunnsssight before. Rows and rows in miles along the train, these tall, green stems with their bright yellow circular heads. (Do they go  on forever?) 

Who knows what this looks like? You cannot imagine it until you see it. Until you realize that you’re not behind an office desk, at a mall, preparing for things we truly may not live to witness. You’re flying past a gazillion sunflowers on a train towards where.


Photo taken by

The ocean was grand. I grew up on the California coast. That ocean could make me cry. Then I found out about miles of sunflowers standing an inch apart, canyons so deep that one could fall (forever?) into darkness, dirt trails through hills of green that dance in the wind, cobblestone pathways, bowing oak trees with stories to tell. I found out that somewhere, out there, are relics of my ancestors. There are monuments speaking of who was here before. There are expanses of this world ever so different from the ones here.

So. Go. Go there.

Uncovering the mystery of this giant playground, as though she is my intimate lover, I seek out every color, each smell, hot and dry climates, depths and corners whether untouched or imprinted upon with billions of footprints across the years.

This life is a wildcard. This body is a temporary vehicle. This world is a big, huge, unread book—it’s something fleeting, as are our lives. Here today. Gone tomorrow.

Believe me. I know this much. I’ve watched someone I love die. It happens fast. Real fast.

You’re making plans.

And it’s over.

To merely stop and smell the roses is to sell yourself short. Run through them. Yank them from the Earth, at least one or two. Weave the stems into your hair. Endure those thorns when they prick you.

Before they whither away.


Photo is Claude Monet’s ”Rose field near Argenteuil Sun.”

January 9, 2012

Hiatus: Vagabonds and Attachment (hint: they don’t really have much of that)

by Ashe Vagabond of the Vagabond Express

I’m standing there, about to get off the train. She looks at me and asks how long I’ll be living in this city. “Not long,” I tell her, hoping she’ll understand the hint.

The hint is that I don’t want to carry this string with me forever. At all. Don’t ask me to be your friend. No, we shouldn’t hang out later. Sometimes, goodbye is okay. I’m a vagabond, and I don’t collect people. I meet too many people. Too many. With these meetings, we exchange experiences, sometimes great ones. Sometimes life-changing ones. And then we walk away without looking back.

It’s not cold. It’s just a different way of living your life.

In order to be constantly moving, one must be pretty lightly loaded. Strings tie down a winged creature. 

goodbyeWithout Saying Goodbye by Peter Jukes

I’m not saying that a vagabond has absolutely no ties or attachments. Often, they do have ties, sometimes ties stronger than non-vagabonds. But these ties are almost definitely few and carefully chosen. In terms of human ties, we can usually count them on just one hand, and of those ties, probably only 1 or 2 of them are nurtured by us. When it comes to “things” then the number drops  even more. There might be ONE thing that a vagabond bothers taking with him or her on all adventures. For me, it was a lock of my sister’s hair. She died when I was 15. I carried a lock of her hair with me for over 13 years, to 4 different continents. Even when I gave away everything I owned and rode a bike up to Canada from California, I had her hair with me. (tragically, I lost this item to the sociopath I was recently involved in).

This is my sister, Christen Dawn Smith. She died on October 8th, 1999. She was 10.


But back on topic.

Vagabonds can say GOODBYE better than any other person. I fondly recall some of the most amazing memories with people that I have never seen nor spoken to ever again.

I remember going dancing in Bremen, Germany with a girl from Latvia that I met in the city square earlier that day. I remember she had long black hair and was tottering along in designer high heels that hurt her feet so badly that by the end of the night, she took them off and we walked through the streets back to her apartment in just our bare feet at 4am. I don’t remember her name and I never saw her again. But she is the first woman who ever spontaneously kissed me. She changed my life, because she planted the first seed of doubt in my mind about my own sexuality.

It scared the crap out of me at first, but changed my life.

5134426219_90f1a407be Angela Bettis and Anna Faris

I remember a guy I met in Istanbul, Turkey, who told me to meet him in front of Starbucks at midnight. We’d just run into each other at Starbucks earlier that day. You’d have to be extremely naive to actually meet a random Turkish man at midnight in Istanbul, and I was exactly that naive. He drove me all over the city, took me to get Turkish ice cream, and told me all about the book he was writing with an ugly but smart female protagonist. I never saw him again and I don’t even remember his name, but I remember him telling me that he’s always wanted to know what it would feel like to kill someone. Shocked, sitting in the passenger seat of this stranger’s car, I realized that I was not completely naive. I was running on pure intuition. Every shred of logic in my head could have told me to never do a single bit of this, but my gut told me I was safe. And I was. He said, “There are much deeper things than philosophy.”

Then there’s the guy I ran into in a shopping mall in California who told me all about his family problems. He was so skinny.

There was also a man once who let me stay in his home, in his bed, and he slept on the couch. He cooked me breakfast every morning and drove me around Seattle to help me figure out the immigration issue I was having with the stupid Canadian border police. We read poetry together and he showed me his model airplane creations.

There was the homeless man that I bought food for and then took home to let him wash his clothes and take a shower at my house.

I spent a couple of days with some rich German guys who 392035_286468191387747_237871249580775_971932_1685219576_nwere taking a road trip all over America. I just sat in the back seat of their car, listening to them ramble in German. We went to the mall and they ran all over the place yelling, “CONSTIPATION,” into stores. They’d walk up to someone, tap them on the shoulder, and then whisper, “Constipation…” I should never have told them the meaning of that word when they asked me.


No, “I’ll Facebook you.” No, “Give me your number/email address/myspace.” Just goodbye.

Why am I even talking about this?

Because the beauty of these experiences lies in the heart and spirit of the vagabond. It is due to his or her readiness to completely let go that he or she is able to live 100% and fully in the moment, savoring every second. Listening with the heart. Speaking with a full mind. Seeing with eyes so open that they can barely filter a single stimulus until it’s all just washing in, pouring in, piling in. And then: Goodbye.

I’m so religious about this that I don’t even take photos.

This post is a shout out to people I’ll never see again. It was nice to meet you! Thank you for the some of the most amazing experiences of my life!

I’ll never be the same because of you.


goodbye (1)