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Saturday, 9 December 2017

Episode 10: #Gone to Pot - 2017 U.S.A. Cannabis Trip

Herein begins the daunting task of reflecting on the 4 months since I last wrote...and extracting into something we may both understand: letter-shaped thingies that make up these here word-sentence contraptions.

I’ll take it chronologically from where we last left off. This Episode details a stretch of my Summer road trip round North America. Further episodes will bring us up to speed with the rest:

  • Episode 11: AnotherLondonActor meets Hollywood
  • Episode 12: Burning Man
  • Episode 13: The End of my Trip - reflections on inspiring teachers
  • Episode 14: Returning to the UK - integration and the quest for balance
  • Episode 15: Cannabis Proud - AnotherLondonActor gets Activist

And so without further ado…

From Episode 6 in May:

“And so going forward I ask myself how may I best be of service? How can I...with my skillset, with my means, with my knowledge and experience, energy and passions best serve the world? Tune in next month folks. Four more months on the road to gain an idea or two…

One idea soon dominated the rest: Cannabis.   

Cannabis Education has been a growing passion of mine for some time. The quest to understand the facts and myths around this plant - specifically in its interaction with our minds. Is weed indeed bad for our brains? What’s the most current/proven thinking on the subject?

So I plotted a North American road trip through the States with the most developed Cannabis cultures/infrastructures...namely Washington, Oregon, Colorado, Nevada and California.

I wanted to learn from the best - the industry professional- campaigners/activists, business people, and of course consumers - both recreational and medical.

And I put myself around…

I blagged entry onto conventions/events like this one in Portland, Oregon where the cutting edge of Cannabis product innovation was proudly on display; in technicolor Capitalist glory.

I raided public libraries and bookshops for their well-stocked Cannabis literature.

I met with professionals like Angela Bacca; writer/journalist/activist who generously brought me up to speed on the developing details of America’s Cannabis Legislative movement.

I met with fellow consumers at venues such as NW Cannabis Social Club; professionally-supported communities of friendly Americans, happy to share details of their health battles and experienced benefits of Cannabis as a medicine.

I met farmers who emanated a glow of love and understanding around their pride at delivering cultivated flower par excellence...(for a sense of what I mean check out this video)

I spent time with the founders of the International Church of Cannabis in Denver and got to attend a ‘service’ - feeling a warm sense of acceptance in a community of fellow Cannabis enthusiasts.  

I may have inhaled...

My relationship with this ‘illicit drug’ has been one of ups and downs. At times it’s offered me tremendous relief from suffering, yet not without a side order of complication, guilt and shame.

I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to further my understanding - and I’m very excited to share that understanding with you...if you have any questions please ask.

Being open about one’s drug preferences is a taboo, as with one’s sexual preferences. We shouldn’t be ashamed of the people we choose to love, any less than we should be ashamed of the things we choose to love!  

Having witnessed first hand the medicinal benefits and harm reduction achieved with Cannabis legislation across these American states, I’m left somewhat fanatically excited to break through any taboos of fear/ignorance and spread a healing vibration across this British Nation.

If you're interested in learning more check out this organisation I've taken up with:

Love xxx

Friday, 28 July 2017

Episode 9: West Coast USA Summer 2017

It’s been 6 weeks since touching down here in the Land of the Free.

First up was a thorough lesson in Civil Liberties courtesy of Homelands Security- they detained me for five hours with several rounds of interrogation over the details of my trip, my personal history, finances and past drug use.

My recent months within ‘interesting’ countries such as Colombia, Jamaica and Mexico must have flagged me up as a case worth investigating. And I probably look the sort with my small backpack and carefree smile.

Various cross-examination techniques were employed to destabilise/antagonise me into admitting something incriminating.  A drug test was repeatedly propositioned, seemingly to gauge my reaction - something I’ve since confirmed as a hollow threat and a dirty trick if you ask me.

Fortunately my visa was issued and I got through - many people have been denied entry to the US this year for admitting to less than I did - click to read more here.

Landing in the comforts of a developed society was a real culture shock after several months backpacking. And I totally lucked out -  being hosted in my first week by a friend’s brother who works in finance and was happy to share the luxuries of his lifestyle #hottub #pool #sunshine

For a time I was wide eyed with awe and appreciation over such things as a plate of food with minimal risk of poisoning...a temperate coolness in the air...sleeping under a downy duvet. I’ll work to keep an ongoing sense of gratitude and appreciation for these pleasures that can easily be taken for granted.

Being back in a Western society also felt significantly safer- I was able to relax in a way that I hadn’t been able to for some time. I’ve been living slowly in an effort to fully recover my energies...the lifestyle had become a bit of a battle recently - something I wrote about in Episode 7 which you can check out here.

As ever I’ve tried to distil my insights for your reading pleasure:

  1. It’s easy to get fat in America and I did
  2. Couchsurfing is AMAZING
  3. Social Spirits

1) It’s easy to get fat in America and I did

Can I say fat or is it politically incorrect nowadays? Well I gained weight and I suspect it wasn’t muscle mass - the only lifting occurring was my hand to my mouth.

As mentioned I’ve been taking it slow and enjoying more rest and less movement. Finding comfort in a homely setting has generally led to more indulgence…and if indulgent consumption is your mood then America is your Mecca!

From the best of global cuisine to the worst of fast food. O the milkshakes! The burgers! When you know you shouldn’t but you do anyway...for three weeks.

Worry not reader! I’m well on the way back to my lithe and supple self - it’s been yoga classes, long walks and low-carbs all week. Overall I think it’s good to allow and tolerate some slackening - provided you’re conscious and can find the discipline to call time and draw the line.

2) Couchsurfing is AMAZING

“There are no strangers here; only friends you haven’t yet met”
-WB Yeats

Couchsurfing is a social platform (kinda like Facebook) create your profile and look up others’ profiles who live in the area you’re visiting. You make contact and hopefully hit it off and get to stay on their couch for free...hence ‘Couchsurfing’. You’ll be able to pay the goodwill forward when you’re back at home and able to host future visitors.

I spent a couple of very happy weeks between four new San Franciscan friends/hosts - learning about their lives and diving directly into their best recommendations of local culture. If you’ve got a trip then I thoroughly recommend getting your head around this tool. Ask me if you’d like to know more!

3) Social Spirits

I’ve divided my 6 weeks so far between 3 cities/states on the West Coast -San Francisco, California...Seattle, Washington and Portland, Oregon.

In each I've been surprised at how many homeless people can be found sleeping rough/camping out on the sidewalks - many seemingly blighted by poor mental health.

Statistics indicate around four times more homeless per capita in the US than the UK with 25% having serious mental or drug abuse problems.

Homelessness is the visible tip of an iceberg of injustices - exacerbated (state depending) by a lack of Social Welfare, such as the system we've had in the UK.

It’s an ongoing source of astonishment that we can live in the richest society in the world, spending vast sums on silliness, whilst the sick are neglected.

Of course many people and organisations are doing fantastic work to plug the gaps left by poor government. This spirit of positive change, independence and courage is aligned to the reputation of the West Coast…originally the Wild West for the bravest gold digging settlers, later the fertile hotbed of many counter-cultural movements.

Nowadays it’s a global hub of technological innovation, but also of social’s no coincidence that these three West Coast states have been the first to legalise Cannabis...with the rest of the country and world set to follow suit. Let alone those working on the frontiers of justice around LGBT rights, immigrant rights, black rights...

It’s been inspiring for me to spend time around people imbued with this attitude - that change is possible with hard work, unity and open minds. I’ll be doing my best to carry this forward in my own work as an artist/actor/activist.

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Episode 8: Top Five Latin American Highlights

This Saturday marks six months on the road, six months away from home.
Six months of solitary questing my own little trail of discovery of the world and myself.

Last episode I spent some time expressing some difficulties I’ve faced and so now, ever in the pursuit of balance, here’s my top five highlights of Central America and Mexico.

  1. Ometepe Island, Nicaragua

This Hispanic wild-eyed dude gets my attention as I’m entering the dorm…

“Are you going to Ometepe?”
“I don’t know. Maybe. Should I?"
“It’s amazing! You should definitely go..."
“You can take this back to my friend who’s working there at El Zopilote Hostel”
And with that he went back into the dorm and grabbed a dress from his bunk.
I remembered his friend - she’d slept in the bottom bunk of his bed. I accepted the mission and was on my way the next day.

Ometepe is an island formed by two volcanoes that rose out of Lake Nicaragua (one of the largest lakes in the Americas as you can see...even has its own sharks!)

Ferries depart throughout the day from the shoreside town of Rivas. For getting around on the island there’s a reliable yet slow bus system, taxis and the option to hire mopeds and bicycles...I even did a little hitchhiking.

El Zopilote Hostel was a great place to start - one of the major social hubs of the island - free yoga, healthy food, sustainability projects - all in an idyllic rainforest setting. I made some great friends there including a lady very happy to have her dress back!

New friends soon introduced me to the nearby ‘Chocolate Beach’ so named for its cocoa-coloured volcanic lakeside sands...and amazing Chocolate Factory- El Pital recently opened by a young Israeli raw food chef.

The factory come cafe/shop was also a hostel in the making with several hammocks slung up for rent at $5 per night. Here I passed a very happy week of chocolate flavoured relaxation…with mornings gazing out into the lake’s starkly flat horizon...and starlit nights of warm water wading in the shadow of moonlit volcanoes.

2) Mexico City, Mexico

In an odd sort of way I felt at home in the urban sprawl of this grand ol’ metropolis. Evidently you can take the boy out of the big city...but you can’t take the big city love out of the boy!

There’s an array of strikingly different and interesting neighbourhoods to discover...I enjoyed several days hopping on and off the metro system- generally exploring and enjoying the infinite selection of street food available on every other corner...late into the night.

Vegetarian? Gluten free? Lactose intolerant? Good luck with that Chica.

3) Lake Atitlán, Guatemala

If Ometepe Island is two volcanoes surrounded by a lake then inversely, Atitlán is a lake surrounded by volcanoes...and several Mayan villages too in which the culture is still prevalent and traditional colourful dress is worn.

All kinds of fun is to be had tuk tukking, walking or motor boating around..with amazing food and local crafts on offer...each village having embraced/endured the effects of tourism to varying degrees.

I made my home in San Marcos - a favourite haunt of hippies and spiritually minded students since the 60’s. As hoped I met some fascinating teachers and learnt some inspiring insights.  

I recommend La Paz Eco Hotel - I had the good fortune to make friends with the owner and his son who had seen it all over the years - hosting every kind of workshop from Chakra to Shiatsu.

4) Copan Ruinas, Honduras

A wind of ill fortune blew me to this small border town in Honduras.

I had originally planned to skip the country due to safety concerns….but a visa error on my passport saw me barred from passing through. The inconvenient days that followed were entirely offset by the joys of discovering this gem.

The town itself has grown beside the UN World Heritage ruin site....once one of the great centres of Mayan’s not as large as some other ruins to be found in Latin America, but claims to have the best preserved art.

The ruins were indeed fascinating...I recommend hiring a tour guide to get the best of them. At the entrance you’ll probably be collared by Luis here who’s selling horse riding tours.

Take him up on it! I spent a glorious afternoon touring up and around the fertile river valley’s coffee plantations. He’s full of interesting local information and as an expert rider gave me the confidence to take a few full-pace gallops - which felt transcendental.

5) Mazunte Beach, Mexico

If you’re looking for that paradise beach experience then here it is. Sun, sand, sea and free spirits. Just don’t drink the water or forget your mosquito repellent.

One of many beach settlements along Mexico’s Pacific Coast, Mazunte had such a chill feel...unblemished by commercial tourism with a handful of basic cabanas and restaurants and such.     

The perfect getaway if that’s what you’re after!

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Episode 7: Confessions of an inexperienced traveller

These past two months (since landing from Jamaica) I’ve travelled up through Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala and into Mexico.

I suppose this is where I share my list of must-sees and wax lyrical on the wander-lust magic I’ve experienced.

The uncomfortable-to-admit truth is that my time in these countries has been more hard work than fun...more endurance than inspiration. I feel like I’ve failed...been a ‘bad’ traveller not LOVE such places teeming with exotic culture and beauty.  

I’ve identified the following key reasons:
  1. Urban Overload
  2. Language Barrier
  3. Travellers Fatigue

Herein I’d like to explore how they arose and what I could have done differently. With three months of backpacking the West Coast USA ahead, hopefully I can apply any lessons learned!

Screenshot 2017-06-14 at 10.34.27 AM.png
Here’s a breakdown of my route - (* = top 3 must sees)
San Jose, Costa Rica (3 nights)
Granada, Nicaragua (5 nights)
*Ometepe Island, Nicaragua (10 nights) *Volcanic Island Magic
Leon, Nicaragua (3 nights)
Tegulcigalpa, Honduras (3 nights)
Coban Ruinas, Honduras (2 nights)
Antigua, Guatemala (1 night)
*Lake Atitlan, Guatemala (7 nights) *Hippy Lake Spirits
San Cristobal, Mexico (4 nights)
Oaxaca City, Mexico (4 nights)
Mesunte/Puerto Escondido, Mexico (8 nights)
*Mexico City (5 nights) *Megawondercity

1) Urban Setting Overload

The route I’ve taken is described by some as the ‘Gringo Trail’ a narrow path of locations well worn by Westerners...complete with lots of budget accommodation, prepared tours and transport links.  

It was easy with my jellyfish style of travel (see here for further explanation) to be swept along with the flow of fellow Gringos between one Colonial Hispanic town and the next.

I came to spend roughly half my time in such settings and (forgive me for being a philistine) if you’ve seen two Colonial Hispanic towns - you’ve seen em’ all! There’s the picturesque square...there’s the fifteen or so churches...there’s the hostel brimming over with drunken backpackers.  

Mexico City was a massive exception to this...being a fascinating Megawondertropolis that defies ennui with its vast size, vibrancy and cultural blend. As a Londoner born and raised - coming to such a place with its 24 hour buzz felt somehow like coming home.

2) Language Barrier

You might be thinking that I should have defied tedium by going off-trail...maybe hopped on a chicken bus into unknown rural climes. Well yes - perhaps I should have, but I’m fairly green to all this and crucially I have a very basic grasp of Spanish.

The language barrier has definitely limited the richness of my experience. It’s another reason why I’m still missing Jamaica - it was the last country in which I could communicate with locals freely. What a joy to be able to chat with the bus driver- learning about his city as he drove his route through Downtown Kingston!

I managed to self-teach Spanish to a decent basic level, but if I could turn back the clock I would have done an intensive week at the beginning of my the time it seemed expensive, but I now realise how it would have paid dividends as an investment.

3) Travellers Fatigue

Turns out this here life on the road is tough. Indeed the word Travelling roots from the Old French ‘Travailler’ meaning ‘To work strenuously/toil’. “There is a big difference between simply being a tourist and being a true world traveller.” -Michael Kasum

With the ongoing discipline of living on a tight budget, ever on the move with a bare minimum of possessions, little privacy, sometimes afraid, sometimes lonely, sometimes lost, sometimes sick, often hot and sticky, always braving the unknown.

Nevertheless I’m happy to have faced these difficulties and discomforts from which have sprung great insights, growth and strength.

I keep trying to explain this to my Nan who becomes crestfallen whenever I confess I’m not feeling great. I try to reassure her that life on the road simply reflects life back have your ups and downs just the same. The defining dualities that haunt our strange existence!

With hindsight I would have planned to stop after a few months and drop anchor somewhere. Recuperate my energies whilst doing some volunteer work in one spot for at least a few weeks.

As it was I drove myself on and on...and after around 4 months, at pretty much the exact midway point of this trip, I hit a wall. From then on (for the past month) I’ve generally felt like I’ve been battling.

Battling for energy and enthusiasm to explore, battling to be positive and social...battling to stay curious and open to the lessons of these places and people. Though now I’m pleased to report (I hope) that the battle is over!

Image result for glorious california

It’s taken me a long time to get my head around writing this's felt uneasy to address and admit to more negatives than positives. (I'll write about my Latin America highlights in another post I promise!)

But having finally articulated what I’ve been facing, I now feel as though I’m able to move into a new chapter - and regain my passion for this lifestyle.

Today I’ll begin the hunt for a volunteering/living opportunity somewhere here in California with the help of the excellent service:

The website allows for the advertising of various Hosting positions where volunteering travellers like myself can apply. 25 hours of work a week is usually the deal for free bed and board.

I’m confident that laying down roots for a few weeks will recharge my batteries (and budget) for this final exciting stretch of my journey...USA USA USA USA!!!!!

Wish me luck and thanks for reading!

Friday, 26 May 2017

Episode 6: On finding my Super Objective

Meet Constantin Stanislavski - he’s widely recognised as the Godfather of modern acting craft.

Central to his theory is an understanding of human beings as creatures of desire…with the truth of our existence defined by what we want or need most at any given moment.


Consider how you’ve spent every second of your day until woke up and needed the you needed to eat…maybe next you wanted to get ready to leave home...and so on and so forth until just now when you wanted to read something online...thanks for stopping by!  

To play the truth of a character, Stanislavski asks the actor to intimately understand the string of wants/needs being pursued in each moment of the character’s time within the story. As a need is met, one progresses to the next and so on.
Stanislavski extends this idea in suggesting that a character’s string of wants/needs arch towards achieving a singular, defining, specific long-term target...a ‘Super Objective’.

Take Shakespeare’s Macbeth. When we meet him at the beginning of the play as a noble warrior his Super Objective could be “I want to serve the King in war and bring glory to my house”.

After hearing the Weird Sister’s prophecy his mind is poisoned with murderous ambition…
”I want to be King” and then on successfully ascending- for the rest of the action of the play:
“I want retain my throne and ensure that my children will be Kings”.

Is there a singular Super-Objective that you can define for yourself at this stage in your life?

Many of those in the rat-race hold most store by their professional ambitions “I want to make enough money to retire early”. Others are family orientated “I want to be the best parent I can be and give my child the best start in life”. Sadly whilst travelling I’ve witnessed many living a hand to mouth existence “I want to survive”.

In Episode O of this blog (click here for the link) I wrote about how my current focus is to gain an understanding of how best to proceed in my career as an actor. Essentially, my current Super Objective is to define my Super Objective!

With over four months on the road I’m pleased to report the following perspectives and insights that have arisen from conversations with fellow travellers. Thanks to each and every one of them!

This concept (from Simon Sinek’s book Start with Why) rang all kinds of bells with me.

When I decided to be an actor you could say that I was working from the ‘Outside In’. I wanted to be an actor because it seemed to offer the promise of a fun and exciting life.

After years of dedication and training I became an actor and it is indeed fun and exciting, but to have hedonism/personal success as my core vision/ambition has come to feel hollow.

So what should my ‘Why’ be? Hopefully something that gives me a sense of purpose, deeper meaning and happiness...they seem like worthwhile ingredients to a life well lived.

Again I’m very grateful to recent conversations with fellow (spiritually-minded) travellers for helping me distill the following insight, best summed up in this quote:

“Not money, or success, or position or travel or love makes happiness - service is the secret.”
-Kathleen Norris

And so going forward I ask myself how may I best be of service? How can I...with my skillset, with my means, with my knowledge and experience, energy and passions best serve the world?

Tune in next month folks. Four more months on the road to gain an idea or two...