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Santa Barbara, Ca

I'm a full-time rambler and contract designer with as many skill sets in my quiver as there are plane tickets in my passbook. I've worked in ornamental iron, jigsaw puzzle design, bookmaking, glass engraving, and a variety of other mediums. I'm currently living out of a backpack as I trek my way around the world.

Blog

The Push/Pull of Solo Travel: What I Learned From a Video Game at NYC's MoMA

Zak Erving

Who said video games couldn't be insightful?

Who said video games couldn't be insightful?

"During the span of this five-minute game, a player encounters an entire lifetime of obstacles and choices. A character begins as a young adult, ages, and dies, all the while moving across the screen through different phases of life. Points are earned from rewards in treasure chests, but many of the chests are empty; Rohrer has noted that in the game, as in life, 'not every pursuit leads to a reward.' Players may seek points alone or in the company of a life partner. Travel and treasure gathering are easier for the agile solo player, but couples can earn more points, although they face more obstacles and one will eventually be slowed by grief when the other dies. Unlike other video games, players do not have multiple lives: 'You die only once, at the very end, and you are powerless to stave off this inevitable loss.'"

—Passage (2007) by Jason Rohrer

Solitude and travel, for many, is seen as a careful dance of trepidation. An awareness of one's own smallness and finitude is exponentially compounded when alone, and in an unfamiliar setting—this is why many people wouldn't even think to travel by themselves.

But like playing the air guitar in your living room or singing in the shower, traveling solo requires a high degree of comfort in your own skin, an inner confidence that has absolutely nothing to do with the world outside. It's the art of playing by yourself, with you as the audience, performer, conductor, and critic. Solo travel is the greatest measure of this particular kind of confidence, but it is also the greatest teacher of it.

I confessed to a friend recently that I am lonely more days than not. But, I added, I've also become great friends with solitude. I've made the solitude work for me, rather than against, like some weird monk with a Mountain Hardware (TM) polyester habit and white earbuds leading to a pant pocket. Solo travel has given me the gifts of quick, frequent movement and deep, personal reflection, but it has also taken me away, for a time, from the people I love most.

Still, I believe in the gospel of movement, in the story of the traveler's refinement as she racks up miles, handshakes, and conversations with strangers. Because of the long hours spent waiting, travel makes us patient. And it's through this portal of patience that all of the other fruits of good character follow. The best travelers are the most effective peacemakers, are more likely to engage a stranger with kindness, and are the most content lovers of life.

At present, I'm still on the road—I'm holed up by myself in a café on the Lower East Side in New York City. My family, friends, and girlfriend are a phone call or a flight away, and while I miss them, I'm happy to be here, too—even if it means being by myself for a time.