For years, I felt like I didn’t have a beat. When journalism had to be done, I just wanted to be there. Limburger? Why not. Massive political protests? Put a camera in my hands, and get me a front row seat. Get in the back of a truck going up some remote mountains of the Dominican Reublic? Let me make a sandwich real quick. Crash a car in England? I can do that, too.
It wasn’t always like this. I started my career in 2000, fixing computers for a rural school district who’s graduating class hadn’t quite topped 45. I climbed that ladder until I was fixing computers for the U.S. military. In 2005, I abandoned that job, ended my lease and sold a bunch of my belongings to go to Europe. Sleeping penniless outside of the Barcelona-Sants trains station one night during that journey, I found myself longing for a lot of things–but not one of them had to do with my old work desk.
I began professionally writing in 2007. I opted to return to a competitive-enrollment journalism school in 2010.
I graduated from the University of Wisconsin – Madison’s School of Journalism in 2012. During that time, I freelanced for numerous SEO companies and served, for a semester, as the online editor of The Badger Herald. I also earned a certificate in German and learned to brew my own beer.
In late 2013, I found myself looking for work in New Orleans. A few months later, I was standing over my first dead body (it wouldn’t be my last) in Marrero, La.. Is it wrong to say I was “excited?”
Yeah, it probably is.
Since 2005, I have avidly traveled. Here is a summarized list of times and locations:
2002 to present – Logged roughly six months of total travel time in New Orleans (note: this is both pre- and post-Katrina).
2005 – Traveled 72 days throughout Western Europe and Poland (Ireland – Dublin, Drogheda, Dundalk, Galway; France – Lyon; Germany – Idar-Oberstein, Mainz, Frankfurt; Spain – Barcelona, Tarragona; Poland – Krakow).
2006 – Lived for a year in the Lowcountry of Beaufort, South Carolina.
2007 – Spent 28 days on the road from New Orleans, through Key West, up to New Brunswick and along the Canadian shore of the St. Lawrence back to Chicago. Journey included a “stop” to fly from Miami to Jamaica for a week. Jamaica entailed Kingston, the Blue Mountains and Negril.
2007 – Traveled 15 days in Guatemala (Rio Dulce, Livingston, Antigua).
2009 – Traveled 10 days in Honduras (San Pedro Sula, Tela, Ceiba, Utila [Island]).
2010 – Traveled 10 days in Dominican Republic (Santiago, Cabarete).
2012 – Lived and traveled for approximately 60 days in Western Europe (France – Paris; U.K. – London, Bath, Salisbury, Woking; Germany – Idar-Oberstein, Mainz, Leipzig; Spain – Salou).
2013 – Spent 34 days in the Dominican Republic (Puerto Plata, Santo Domingo, Barahona, Polo), beginning April 10th.
In 2005, I was coerced into quitting my job and emptying my savings account on a European gamble. For 72 days, I and my long-time partner covered most of Western Europe, including Ireland and Poland. It was all supposed to be an attempt to get the travel “bug” out. It was only the start.
Discontent with a settled life in Chicago thereafter, we moved to South Carolina to live and work. This long-term experience had us volunteering with the local Habitat for Humanity affiliate and paddling dolphin-filled lagoons.
In 2007, we traveled for two weeks to Guatemala, climbing a volcano* near Antigua and tending bar in the Rio Dulce region. This journey was an extension of an East Coast car ride, from Key West to New Brunswick with a stopover in Kingston, Jamaica**.
With a ten-month-old child in tow, we experienced a Honduran earthquake in the city of Tela, just prior to the ousting of the country’s then-President Zelaya in 2009.
My partner returned from our 2010 Dominican Republic journey with cholera. Her formal diagnosis*** shocked the medical staff at a small clinic in Madison, Wisconsin. The journey was otherwise pleasant.
2012 saw our return to Western Europe, this time partaking in opportunities that went beyond simple tourism. These included a work exchange in Leipzig, as well as an interview with the outgoing commander of the 170th Infantry Brigade Combat Team in Baumholder, Germany.
In 2013, I spent nearly five weeks in a small village outside of Puerto Plata. In addition to working with Haitian immigrants, my stay included a research stop at the first fortification built by Christopher Columbus and at the remote coffee village of Polo for Madison Magazine.