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The time I drove from New York to Costa Rica...and Nearly Lost my Life.

I didnt just drive through Mexico to sit on the beach.

I went on a expedition to experience what it's like to Road trip outside of the USA.

To challenge myself and take a risk.

To do something most people are scared to do and come face to face with my own fears.

I found myself playing Piano in front of people who have never seen a piano in their lives,

Combating foreign stomach illnesses (multiple times),

Learning Spanish by embarrassing myself and making a million mistakes,

Meeting people from all over the world and hearing stories from the locals,

Getting robbed and surviving for weeks with only a few dollars,

This was the most difficult journey of my entire life...

If you are not familiar with my story, to be brief:

I quit my job back in 2010 to build a lifestyle around the things I love most: Music, Travel, and People. (Read the long version here)

This was my 4th Piano Roadtrip and to add a little challenge I decided to drive from New York City to Panama with my upright piano.

And it was no easy feat...

While planning this trip, I heard so many stories about how dangerous it is to travel in Mexico and Central America.

My friends mother even called to convince me that I shouldn't go.

I canceled the trip twice.

But nonetheless, I persisted and went through with it and it was a the most difficult thing I have ever attempted.

I left New York City on February 2nd, 2013 with my friend Arthur Nazarian who is a photographer.

Part 1

New York City to Laredo, Texas

2,100 miles +/-

We took about 6 days to get to New Orleans before the Mardi Gras festivities began.

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Philly

From the first day, there were serious problems. The plan was to meet with my Piano teacher who is also a good friend of mine to record some music. Unfortunately when we got there, his main power box broke and we couldn't do anything but sip Bourbon and talk about why music is so important.

Later on that night, Arthur's shoulder rig broke, forcing us to have to drive all the way back to New York City and pick up a new shoulder rig.

The drive through the Blue Ridge Mountains was beautiful...

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Athens, GA

We Couchsurfed at an artists home named Sophie in Athens, GA. She had some really strange sculpture scattered throughout the area which made it a bit spooky. But she also had 20 Pecan trees in her backyard which led us to gathering handfuls of Pecans and feasting through the entire drive to New Orleans.

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New Orleans

New Orleans is one of my favorite cities in the world mainly because its a big city with a small town feel and its so underrated. There is so much culture there! You can walk through the French Quarters and meet artists, musicians, and locals who are very open and willing to talk to you. No doubt, it is one of the most cultured cities in the United States.

Hanging out with Interstellar Transmission

I met the guys of Interstellar Transmission back in 2011 on my first road trip through the US. They have been traveling the US doing shows out of their school bus.

Their music is an eclectic mix of classical, rock, and psychedelic sounds in long form compositions. I like how they explore a variety of unique scales and modes from different cultures around the world. They have definitely opened my eyes to a new level of looking at music.

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New Orleans Pianist, Tom McDermott

I've taken a few lessons from Tom in the past. He showed me the different types of rhythms that exist in New Orleans music. These rhythms are the basis of modern music that stem from Caribbean, European, and African cultures.

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New Orleans Vocalist, Meschiya Lake with Tom McDermott

Meschiya Lake is a very popular vocalist in New Orleans. You can find her performing in New Orleans every week.

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We found a bunch of Gypsy Jazz Musicians playing on Frenchman Street one night. They came from France to explore New Orleans for a few months. Great music!

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Mardi Gras 2013

Everyone hit the streets on Mardi Gras day to bring on the festivities. Lots of drinking in the streets, dancing, marching bands, and some incredible costumes.

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San Antonio, Texas

Radio Interview for "The Story"

I did a Radio interview for "The Story" while playing in front of the Alamo in San Antonio, Texas. It was one of my favorite interviews and ended up on NPR around the country. Listen to this radio interview that aired on NPR in more than 100 cities.

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Part 2

Laredo, TX to San Jose, Costa Rica

3,500+  miles

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Entering into Mexico

I will never forget the first day in Mexico. It was a day filled with confusion, stress, and nervousness.

Within the first 2 hours of being in Mexico, an "officer" or what looked like one ask me for a bribe.

We played it off like we didnt understand a word of what he was saying and after wasting 10 minutes of his time, he let us go. But at one point he had my license in his hands and threatened to take it away from me.

My original plan was to enter Mexico and Couchsurf the first day, but no one messaged me back. So when we arrived, we had no internet connection, no phones, the driving was hectic, and we didnt speak much Spanish. It was as if we were aliens in an entirely new world.

Finally at the last minute we found a place to crash, but it took at least an hour to find the house.

It was such a relief to speak with people who spoke English and who were able to help us find our way.

I was really unprepared for the craziness of Latin America.

Continue reading what happens when we enter Mexico...

Driving through the Desert

Fake Cop Cars were there to curb speeding

Guanajuato, Mexico

The goal was to get to Guatemala and focus on meeting other musicians that lived nearby.

Arthur had limited time to travel with me so we decided to focus on Antigua, Guatemala. It took about 5 full days of driving before we reached Guatemala. It was tiring....

Driving...

and Driving...

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Welcome to the Republic of Guatemala

 

I got a Stomach Bacterial infection my first day in Guatemala.

Sour stomach, nausea, dizziness, feeling of restlessness, vomiting, diarrhea. I never want to feel like that ever again in my entire life.

Apparantley I ingested some of the old water that was in my cooler.

I had to go to the hospital in Quetzaltenango. They put me on a stretcher and threw an IV into my arm. It only cost $25.

That night was very difficult. I spent the entire day vomiting and i didn't have enough Guatemalan money, so we had to search around for a place that would take my American dollars. For some reason no one wanted to take my $20 bill.

Antigua, Guatemala

We finally arrived in Antigua, Guatemala. Our luck changed for a few days and we went with the flow.... There were a lot of Marimba players everywhere including this massive 9 piece band.

Marimba is the national instrument of Guatemala. The instrument is made up of wooden bars and resonators that are struck with mallets similar to a Xylophone. It originates from Africa and was introduced to Central America and the Caribbean from African slaves that were transported there in the 17th Century.

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Antigua is a very special city for Latin America. It is one of the major hubs for the Catholic Church which has a strong presence in the city.

In 1717, a major earthquake left much of Antigua in ruins which is where the city get its charm.

Today, Antigua is a historic landmark and a piece of preserved history. The city is architecturally very beautiful with stone structures, churches, and monuments. I particularly love the Spanish colonial houses which are one level with a central area that is open to the elements.

There is also an incredible market in the center of the town where you can eat some of the finest fruit this planet has to offer.

Antigua is where we met Miguel who is a musician and Marimba teacher. He plays the marimba with his children and makes a living through his music. He lives in a small town outside of Antigua called Comalapa, Guatemala. There are a lot of windy roads and hills to go through to get to his hand built house.

Miguel told us about the Guatemalan civil war and how it has changed the lives of the indigenous people throughout the years. Guatemala is a militaristic country with soldiers and guns seen everywhere throughout the country. There is also a lot of corruption and crime that occurs there. The last 40 years have been very difficult for Guatemalens and its sad to see these people working so hard without much of a reward.

Read more about the Guatemalean civil war that took place for more than 30 years with the United States involvement.

Indigenous Mayan Ceremony in the small town of Comalapa, Guatemala

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March Festivals and Procession

Every Sunday in March there would be a 50 piece marching band playing slow music walking through the streets. Massive ornate displays of Jesus and Mary were held up and swayed back and forth. There would be hundreds of people dressed in Purple tunics marching along with them and everyone else on the side walks watching the event.

All of this led to the major festival on Semana Santa.

Some days were so exhausting that I would go to sleep at 8 PM: Especially the days where I was playing piano. The driving was tough and the traffic was difficult.

Guatemala City

We drove to Guatemala City and I found a nice spot on the Avenida Sexta to play my piano. This is a street where the major retailers are located and hundreds of people walk through there each day.

It was very risky because we had all this camera equipment and were walking around with everything in the streets.

We heard plenty of horror stories of people getting robbed in broad daylight so it was a bit risky.

Guatemala City is one of the most dangerous cities in the world.

Even the security guards told us to be careful.

Lago de Atitlan, Guatemala

There are multiple roads to Lago de Atitlan. Because the lake is so large and the terrain is so mountainous, it is very difficult to get around that area. Its about 2 hours minimum to get to Lago de Atitlan from any direction.

The roads leading to Panajachel were very windy and difficult. But the views were spectacular.

There are 2 massive Volcanos located at Lago de Atitlan.

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  Playing piano across the worldAs soon as I saw this lookout point, I knew I had to play there.

I like to play on the edge of cliffs and at scenic points because it inspires me when I play. The music comes out totally different when I am in a relaxing natural environment without distractions.

El Salvador

Driving to Santa Tecla

Santa Tecla, El Salvador

In Santa Tecla I met with Marco and Esmerelda where I couchsurfed at their home.

When I arrived, I got sick again from eating Pupusas and vomited all night. (Everyone else was eating them without a problem!) Luckily I had the antibiotics from the last time I was sick...

Marco introduced me to the Mayor of Santa Tecla and got me permit to play at their weekly street fair at the Paseo del Carmen.

Marco Family

This girl was so inspired by my project that she drew this for me. She was such a sweet person.

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El Tunco, El Salvador

el tunco el salvador beach rocks

The day I visited El Tunco, El Salvador, 3 people died while surfing at high tide. The waves were very intense and there are hidden rocks scattered throughout the area. This is NOT the place to learn how to surf.

I left El Salvador with a surfer friend named Bryce, who I met at Playa El Tunco.

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A Day in Honduras

Throughout the entire trip I didnt spend a single night in Honduras. The border guards tried to embezzle money from us every time we passed through. One time they got me for not wearing a seat belt and settled for a $5 bribe.

Below is the major highway connecting Nicaragua with El Salvador. We had to weave in an out of potholes every 2 minutes.

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Nicaragua

The drive from El Tunco, El Salvador to Leon, Nicaragua was about 9 hours with 2 border crossings.

We stayed in Leon at a hostel with tons of backpackers and travelers hanging about. Many people said that Leon is what Costa Rica was like before the big influx of expats looking to buy up property... I'm not really sure if I believe that, but then again, I never really explored Leon for a long period of time.

The next morning we decided to hit up the beach and go surfing... To our unfortunate dismay, that didn't turn out the way we wanted.

Getting Robbed at Las Penitas, Nicaragua

Read the story of how we got robbed of Everything in Nicaragua

They took everything I had except the piano, some clothes, and my van...

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Granada, Nicaragua

After getting robbed in Las Penitas all I wanted to do was get the hell out of Leon and go to another city.

At this stage of the journey, I had no passport, no credit/debit cards, some clothes, my piano and $150. I didnt want to call my parents to send me bailout money. I wanted to wing it and see what happens. So I decided to see if I could continue my journey southward with the limited amount of possessions I had.

I stayed in Granada for 4 days with my friends Fabio and Bryce, ate $2 meals and had a dorm room bed for $5.

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I pulled out my piano on Saturday night on the Casada where there is a row of restaurants and bars. I would play piano for 20 minutes at one place and then roll over to the next, talking to some of the European tourists who were drinking beers.

One of the restaurant owners paid me $10 to play in front of his restaurant for a half hour... I probably made around $30 total for the 2 hours I played.

There are a lot of poor homeless kids walking around I tried to get them to jam with me. (Thanks to Janneke from Holland for the photos)

Singing and making music in Nicaragua

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Bryce and I after the robbery...

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San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

I stayed at the Casa de Olas in San Juan del Sur and they allowed me to bring my Piano into the bar area and I did a nightly 1 hour performance. It was a great time with great people.

Even this Monkey had a good time. She stole my beer and started drinking it!

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Costa Rica

1,600 KM exploration of Costa Rica

Two weeks before arriving my cousin who lives in California calls me up and says that he wants to meet up with me in San Jose, Costa Rica. This is when things turned from a work trip into a vacation.

We did tours, saw volcanoes, did plenty of hiking, Zoo's, all the beautiful beaches, scuba diving, Corcovado National Park... You name it, we did it.

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Rafting

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Even the Rafting Guide is flipping out! Haha!!

Playing piano in the tropical rainforest in costa rica

ever come 2 feet away from a sloth?

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playing piano in the rainforest of costa rica

See more of the exploration in Costa Rica here

Playing in San Jose

I played piano at the Costa Rica Backpackers Hostel in San Jose and had people dancing. I was even able to set up a deal with the hostel to give me a bed in exchange for music and good times.

I also met some amazing people there including this South African traveling Sailor who has been traveling and living in other countries for the last 3 years. His name was Tavish and we had some great moments driving all the way to Puerto Viejo and hanging out in a house on the beach for a week.

playing piano poolside at the costa rica backpackers

We didn't make it to Panama. I literally drove to the border and decided that I had enough. I spent a ton of my savings and had already traveled for almost 6 months.

So I turned around...

 

Part 3

San Jose, Costa Rica to Los Angeles, California

5,000 Miles?

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and Back to New York City...

Nicaragua

Brando arrived via plane to San Juan Del Sur with a friend named Fallon.

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El Salvador

I met with my family in El Salvador and they took me to this resort to play while the sun was setting.

I made about $40 while playing for an hour. I orchestrated my playing with the movement of the sun, it was a powerful experience.

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I also stopped over near Playa El Cuco because a bunch of people in Costa Rica told me to stop there.

It wasnt much of a beach and the experience was kind of lousy, however, along the road we saw this incredible look out point and I pulled out my piano to experience the landscape of El Salvador.

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Traveling North through Guatemala

San Pedro de Atitlan, Guatemala

The roads to San Pedro de Atitlan were very windy. Some parts were filled with potholes and massive bumps where you could only drive 5 MPH to get through.

laguna de atitlan amazing lake

Playing Piano in the mountains of Semuc Champey, Guatemala

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Semuc Champey is located in the dense mountains of Northern Guatemala. There are no real roads there, only carved out dirt and rocky paths. You have to drive really slow or risk damaging your vehicle.

One humid morning at 8 AM, I decided to bring out the piano while driving on a long dirt road in the rainforest near Semuc Champey.

Every time I play piano in an environment like this, the music just comes out of me without any hesitation.

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Mexico

Another Incredible drive was from Quetzaltenango, Guatemala to San Cristobal, Mexico.

Absolutely Stunning!! See: 10 Incredible drives in Central America and Mexico

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driving through Mexico

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San Cristobal

I played piano in flip flops while I was in San Cristobal. At that point, I was in Latin America for more than 4 months and had adjusted to the laid back lifestyle....

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The Drive from San Cristobal to Oaxaca was long and there was a roadblock due to a protest of labor workers.

However, we were driving Above the Clouds!

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Oaxaca, Mexico

I made some friends while hanging at the Mezcalera one Saturday night and they really showed me a good time.

They even got me a paid gig at a bar that paid 800 Pesos for an hour and a half.

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Took a little detour and visited the Mayan ruins of Monte Alban which is located just outside Oaxaca city.

Its incredible to imagine what these massive Mayan civilizations existed thousands of years ago and what they managed to construct and create.

Puerto Vallarta

From Oaxaca to Arizona, I spent very little time on that part of the trip because I had to rush to get back to Los Angeles to shoot a commercial for Goodyear Latin America.

Most of the land was desert and very hot/dry terrain-- There really wasnt much to see and not much to stop for either.

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Welcome back to the USA!

Arizona

When I finally returned to the US, I'll never forget the feeling. it was as if all this extra weight was taken off my shoulders.

Many people told me to race through Northern Mexico because that is where all the murder incidents have occurred. I was fearful of driving through those parts and I always had the thought int he back of mind that something bad could happen at any second.

Once we made it over the border, I immediately felt a sense of relief to be back in the USA. I spent 5 months traveling through Latin America living an entirely different lifestyle than back home.

driving through Arizona desert

welcome to Arizona sign

This was a symbol of finishing one chapter of my story, and beginning a new one.

I didnt spend much time in Arizona. The temperature was in the upper 90's and there didnt seem like much going on in Tucson.

So we left after a few hours and a nice Vegetarian meal.

San Diego, California

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Los Angeles

I'm not a huge fan of Los Angeles but Abbot Kinney received us very well. I played for a few hours while people strolled through the streets.

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Part 4

Los Angeles, CA to New York City

3,400 miles

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Big Sur

Nothing compares to the feeling I get when i get to play my piano on the edge of a cliff or in the mountains as the sun is setting. Nothing like it.

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last leg of the trip

Santa Cruz, California

Santa Cruz is one of my top 5 favorite cities in North America. One day I hope to have a home out there.

If  you walk the streets of Santa Cruz with an open mind, you will meet some amazing people and maybe learn a few interesting things.

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I couchsurfed at this Bluegrass musicians house and we got to jam and discuss music the entire time. There are so many good people in Santa Cruz.

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 San Francisco, California

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A friend that I met in Wisconsin in 2011 invited me to come play at the school she works at. The kids requested songs from videos games and sci-fi TV shows. I tried to please them by playing classical and jazz and even did a presentation on the importance of music in our lives. It was a very rewarding experience.

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Lake Tahoe, Nevada

Black Rock City, Nevada

Burning Man 2013

See more photos from Burning Man 2013

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Driving...

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and Driving...

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and Driving...

Kansas City, Missouri

When I get to the midwest I usually get anxious and drive straight through, but it was a weekend and I decided to use Couchsurfing in Kansas City, Missouri to see whats there. I didnt know much about Kansas City but when I arrived I learned that it is an important city  for the beginning of modern music, particularly Jazz.

Scott Joplin lived in Missouri who is the father of modern music and just about all the music you listen to today. In my mind Scott Joplin is the one who brought European classical music like Chopin and African rhythms together to form Ragtime. If you listen to Chopin and explore some of Scott Joplins music, you will see incredible similarities. See for yourself.

I played piano at the Ryan Beye foundations block party. Ryan Beye's story is incredibly inspiring to me and reminds us to never wait till you tomorrow to do the things you want to do in your life. Read more about Ryan Beye here.

HOME!

Final Stats

Total Trip: 21,000+ miles

7 Months on the road

# of Cities Visited: 70+ Cities

# of Cities I played piano in: 18 Cities

 

Things I learned from this experience:

  • Organization and preparation is very helpful. But when traveling you need to have a improvisational mind to be able to tackle anything that may occur. You can eliminate your risk by thinking of possible outcomes and solutions. I did a lot of research before leaving but I still feel like I rushed to leave on this trip. There is never too much planning. However, never let your plans be the final way.
  • Better organization of the inside of my Van has always been crucial on my roadtrips. I need to build better hiding spots for my electronics.
  • Mexico and Central America are definitely not as dangerous as people say. Travel through these countries and meet the local people. It may give you an entirely new perspective on your life.
  • Its is not easy to make a living as a musician while traveling through Latin America...
  • The fruit and vegetables in Latin America is much tastier than in America. Traveling through those parts gave me an entirely new perspective on the massive food industry in the United States. In many of these Latin American countries you still buy your produce directly from the farmer. Its beautiful.
  • If possible, In the future I will begin to set up gigs before I reach major cities. Doing a mixture of gigs and street performing can help me fund these trips and even make a larger profit. This trip proved to be a major expense on my bank account. I didnt come home with profit like on the $2 Roadtrip, but I did walk away with the adventure of a lifetime and many new friends around the world.

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The Original Process of Making Mezcal - An Exclusive Mezcal tour in Mexico

On a Saturday night I came across La Mezcalera in Oaxaca, Mexico.

I've never had Mezcal before but I was curious...

This place was special.... Old masks and antiques were on the walls... People hanging about, talking...

And they only serve the best of Mezcal.

The bartender, Leon, told me to try the flight of three types of Mezcal.

I noticed that they were much smoother and the flavor was more subtle than most tequilas that I've tried.

No!

First lesson about Mezcal:

Never compare Mezcal to Tequila.

Mezcal is more elegant. Mezcal has more flavor and is a classy drink.

Tequila is not.

I continued talking to Leon and he gave me the rundown about Mezcal.

The other people in the room chimed in their opinions.

I became good friends with a chef, Jose Luis and a photographer named Francisco.

Everyone was so nice and welcoming. We were laughing and talking, feeling great.

What a great night!

A few days later, I ended up staying at Jose Luis' house and he spoke about going on a tour of the Mezcal distilleries outside of Oaxaca.

I said, "Lets go".... And off we went.

What is Mezcal?

Mezcal is a distilled alcoholic beverage made from the Agave plant that is grown in Mexico.

The distillation process stems back to the early 1800's in Oaxaca, Mexico and today there are multiple variations of this technique that are being used throughout Oaxaca.

Mezcal is particular  to the state of Oaxaca. If its not made in Oaxaca, Its not Mezcal.

One thing that you must know is that it's not tequila.

As you scroll through the photos below you will see how they harvest the Agave plant and pull out the large root which sort of looks like giant pineapples.

Eating the worm

Map of where we went.

The Agave roots are then chopped up and placed in this fire pit. The process is long and hard because they have to place these large stones on top of the plants to create an oven-like effect.

After cooking the Agave and removing the stones the sugars in the Agave are carmelized. They place the cooked Agave on a stone crushed that is powered by a horse. This crushed the plant pieces and turns it into stringy fibers. From there, they transfer it into fermentation pits.

In this room the sour smell of fermentation was very strong. This one distillery had 3 different aged fermentation pits. After the fermentation process, it all gets tranferred to the distillation area where it gets process and distilled into a small jug.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We got a little crazy by the end of the day. I ate a few Mezcal worms that pop in your mouth. Interesting taste and feeling.

We were laughing, being silly, and having a good time.

I wasnt too messed up to drive and by the time we got back to Oaxaca I had a piano gig at this bar but was so exhausted. I still did the gig but it was a tough night.

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The Secret Mayan Carvings in Mexico

I met a man from Texas while I was in San Cristobal de las Casas.

We had a long conversation about things to see in Mexico and he told me about these secret Mayan ruins that have never been explored or seen by archaeologists.

The instructions were to drive to Lagos de Montebello and look for a man named Jose who owns a few cabins on the lake.

I was to ask him for his son to take us to the secret Mayan ruins.

And since Adventure is my middle name, I decided I had to do this.

We drove for 2 hours and finally reached the Park where Lagos de Montebello is located and paid our entrance fee.

Lagos de Montebello is a National Park that is comprised of 59 multi-colored lakes and two Mayan ruins. Lago Tziscao is the largest of the lakes which is where the secret ancient Mayan ruins.

Using a map, I located how to get to the lake but I had no way of finding out where Jose was.

I started asking people in the little town and it turned out that people knew exactly who he was. They pointed me in the right direction.

When I got to Jose's cabins I asked him if his son can help us get to the place with the secret Mayan carvings. They wanted 300 Pesos but I got him down to 200 pesos to guide us and help us row to the opposite side of the lake.

The boat was heavy and it was a 3 km ride each way. But we decided to do it.

The rowing was very difficult. Brando was the Captain of the ship and he stood there as if he was surveying the wind direction.

When we finally got to the opposite side of the lake we docked the boat and started hiking about a 1/2 mile up this hill, through tall grasses.

We found this large boulder that looked like it was apart of a much larger structure hidden underneath thousands of years of plant growth.

It was pretty fascinating to see these face carvings up close and personal. At the same time, it felt exciting to be apart of something that not a lot of people have seen.

We landed and had to hike up a half mile...

And we had to row back too...

We left Lagos de Montebello and on the way back to San Cristobal came to a massive traffic jam.

There was some kind of protest with labor unions who were blocking all the traffic.

People said that we wouldnt be able to cross until tomorrow morning. So we turned around, found a cheap $20 hotel, and woke up in the morning to drive to Oaxaca.

 

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How I got Robbed of All My Things in Central America

Many people are fearful of traveling to Mexico and Central America. They hear exaggerated stories on the news that spread like wildfire throughout the internet. Much of this is distorted way out of proportion.

I spent 6 months driving through these regions and can tell you that it is very safe to travel through these countries. I've had some of the greatest moments of my life and made very close connections on my journey.

If you asked me, I would say go out there and do it!

You Must see the beauty of Mexican culture, meet the indigenous people of Guatemala, and experience the rustic lifestyle of Central America.

However, there is one thing that you must be forewarned about.

Petty theft is pretty common in Central America.

So common I was once sitting at a table in Nicaragua with 6 other people who also got robbed in all shapes and forms. It doesn't happen to everyone and there were many more people who didn't get robbed, but it does happen.

It makes sense though. Look at the people that live in these countries. If you were at the point of desperation and had no other choice but to work 12 hour days for $10, you would rob people too.

The fact that I got robbed on my trip was entirely my fault. I don't blame anyone but myself because it was attributed to my own carelessness.

I was in Leon, Nicaragua with 2 friends I made in El Salvador.

Bryce was a surfer dude from Colorado who had been backpacking solo to hit some of the greatest waves in the world.

Fabio was this dark skinned Brazilian guy with a deep voice and a thick accent.

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We decided to head to Playa Las Penitas to check out the beach and do some surfing. All of our backpacks were in the car.

Bryce and Fabio had all their possessions in those bags.

When we got there we rented boards and hit the waves. It was a great time. The beach was nice although the sun was strong.

I did a lot of smiling.

At this point I had already traveled through Central America for a month and a half and felt really comfortable being there.

Every few hours or so I would come out to get something from the car and check up on it.

I noticed there were a bunch of guys hanging around the entire time. I said "Buenos tardes," and they seemed like nice people.

I never got suspicious of the fact that they were hanging around my car for so long. There was also an open restaurant with a few people hanging out.

So I went surfing again and hung out at the board rental place.

At around 5 pm this large Nicaraguan man comes over in a panic and says, "Tu Carro. Tu Carro."

I run out to see what happens but he only tells me that I must move the car because they need to place a pile of rocks and wood in that area.

There was a bunch of construction going on so I moved the car but I decided not to move it into the spot that he wanted because I thought it was a bit strange.

Somehow in that time, one of the other guys managed to nudge something in my door so that it wouldnt lock without me noticing.

I go back to the board shop and Bryce is flirting with these 2 beautiful Nica's.

bryce and dotan meeting people and making friends in central america

I talk to them for a little and tell him that we should go.

When we get to the car I notice the passenger door is slightly ajar.

I open the door and we find all the bags are gone.

It was one of the worst feelings of my life.

I lost my laptop, passport, license, credit cards, SLR Canon Camera, Iphone, Hard drives...

Most importantly, all my great music recordings and writings.

Fabio and Bryce had it bad too. Bryce lost everything he owned but his surfboard, shorts, and a t shirt.

Fabio lost his passport with his visa into the United States, his clothes, and an iPad.

We all start panicking and freaking out.... Well I did at least. Adrenaline was very high.

"We have to get the police," I say.

I speed over to the police station and say "Ladrones!," and explain to them in my broken spanish what had happened.

The cops were these 2 men, one was short and round, and the other was tall and skinny.

I felt as if I were in a 1930's  Abbot and Costello Comedy routine but in Spanish.

They told me to go back and that they would come there in 10 minutes because they had to get into their uniforms. Silly!

When they arrived we had to explain everything to them multiple times. Fabio dominated the conversation since he spoke the best Spanish.

I told them there were witnesses and they looked at me like I was crazy.

Maybe I didnt say it right?

They didnt even ask anybody any questions.

The most they did was stop a chicken bus and look around for our bags.

Next they tell us to follow them. Maybe they have a good idea.

They jump on a dirt bike together and we follow them out to this main road that has absolutely no significance whatsoever.

The sun was going down and night was falling upon us.

We sat there on the side of this empty road watching these clown cops try to stop passing traffic with no success.

Massive Failure!

"This is getting us nowhere. Lets get out of here," I say.

But before we go the cops decide to ask us to pay for their gasoline.

Fabio turns around a yells, "We just lost everything! How can you stand there asking us for money when we lost everything.  I would give you money for gas if you find our bags. I would give you double the money!"

We go back to the little cinder block police station and spend the next hour describing the details and everything we lost to the officers.

Around this time I get hit with terrible sunstroke and dehydration from the strong sunburn on my back. I could barely keep my eyes open, as if I was paralyzed. I hit rock bottom.

That night felt as if a wave of depression surrounded all of us. I think I cried too.

I cried mainly over the fact that I lost my computer backup with a ton of great writings and music.

I couldn't get over the fact how stupid I was for letting everyone down. I even considered calling the whole trip off and just driving home.

The next day we went to Managua with our police reports to the US Embassy to get temporary passports.

We stayed in a hostel in Granada and during that time I became close with Bryce and Fabio.

We walked the streets of Granada with the new friends we made from Germany, Holland, and Brazil, went to a bar and had a few beers. And laughed.

Once you've exhausted all your energy being depressed about how terrible your situation is, the only other thing to do is laugh.

I laughed. We laughed. I spent a lot of time laughing that week.

Every exit is an entrance somewhere else.

And so I began an even more minimal lifestyle with just a piano, some clothes, my car, and $150. I had no access to credit cards or debit cards. Nothing. It wasnt that much different than the way i was living before.

I was always frugal with my money but now I had to watch every expense I made.

But being in Nicaragua made that very easy. My meals cost me anywhere from $2-$4 each.

The whole experience made me realize how I can live comfortably with very little money. Of course, we all want more money, but its nice to know that if I lost everything I wouldnt have much trouble adapting to my circumstances.

going to the lake in nicaragua

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Things that would have prevented this:

  • Having hard to reach hiding spots for the most valuable goods in the car
  • A strong and effective car alarm/deterrent
  • Never getting to comfortable with traveling anywhere.
  • Getting tints on all the windows
  • Travel Insurance

If you are planning to travel to Central America and Mexico, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Do not fear traveling through Latin America, they are very safe as long as you are constantly aware of everything that is going on. Many people do it every year.
  • Try not to be alone at night. I heard stories of people getting robbed at San Juan del Sur on the beach at night.
  • Always be aware of everything around  you. The moment you get too comfortable with traveling through Latin America is when bad things happen.
  • Beware of the main tourist traps. There are people who wait around for travelers to show up to rob them. Its a routine thing for them. The main places where people get robbed are the main tourist cities and attractions.
  • Always get multiple opinions about places to go, don't rely on one person to tell you where the best places are.
  • Beware of putting your stuff on the top of the Chicken buses. I heard this robbery story countless times.
  • Make sure to have a Passport and money wallet that is separate from everything else and is hidden on your body. I would even say that it is wise to separate your money amongst your stuff so that its not all in one place.
  • I would suggest to bring more than 1 bag. If something does happen to that 1 bag, you lose everything. But if you have 2 bags you are much better off.
  • Don't bring things that are really valuable. You are better off only taking the bare essentials.

Have fun and Safe travels!

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The Most Difficult Drive Ever... in Costa Rica.

We were near the end of our Costa Rica tour while in Dominical, Costa Rica, so we figured, why not head all the way to Corcovado National Park?

How many times will we come back to Costa Rica?

Looking at the map, it didn't seem like a difficult thing to achieve with a few days left.

Its only 168 km.

So we continued south.

Little did we know what we were up against.

These were the most difficult roads I have ever driven on!

We were in the middle of the jungle!

The Photos below are only some of the obstacles that we faced while driving to Bahia Drake.

Torrential downpours,

Massive Trees in the road,

2 Flat tires,

Driving through 4 Rivers and over 3 rickety bridges...

raining and downpour in costa rica

 

rickety bridges middle of nowhere where are we?

 

At one point on this journey we reached a really steep hill. I tried going up slowly but the car would get stuck about halfway. So I went all the way back, pick up enough speed and was able to get over the hill. Thats where the flat time came from. It was exhilarating and frightening at the same time because I kept wondering if we would be able to get back...

 

dangerous roads and hills flat tires driving through central america

 

crossing rivers to get to bahia drake costa rica traveling travel roadtrip

trees in the road

 

crossing rivers to get to bahia drake

bahia drake must see how to get to bahia drake by car

 

sunset corcovado untouched land beautiful beach bahia drake dominical costa rica

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Things you Missed at Burning Man 2013

Here are a bunch of things that you didn't get to see in the Mashable or Buzzfeed article about Burning Man 2013. Some of these things that I saw on my exploration through the Playa were hidden and found in other worldly places...

Enjoy!

Amazing Metal Work

amazing technology car speed demon vehicle burning man

 Massive Bass Couch

huge couch at burning man

Talk to God

talk to god booth things you missed at burning man

USSR Wooden Sputnik

ussr the sculpture sputnik sputnick burning man 2013 wow

 BELIEVE

believe

 

believe sculpture metal burning man

 The HUG Deli

This was one of my favorites. Free customized Hugs

hug deli the hug deli burning man stand hugs ass

 Amazing Mosaic Spaceship

burning man alien ship and vehicle burning

 

The Church Trap

This was another one of my favorites. I had a reoccuring show that I would do every 2 hours at this spot....

inside the church trap

inside the church trap burning man 2013

inside the church trap burning man 2013

the church burning music organ church playa church trap burning man

 

vehicle dragon burning man

 Ryobi Back Massage!

ryobi massage at burning man

 Skeletal Whale-Animal-Thingy

sculpture of dinosaur at burning man whale

 BORING!

boring sign at burning man

 Portopotty

shit at burning man stupid shit

 They took away our Insanity

insanity they're taking away our insanity burning man 2013

Sunrise Piano out on the Playa

 piano at burning man 2013

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woman on a piano at burning man 2013

 

sun rise at burning man piano 2013

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The $2 Roadtrip- The Northeast & Canada

The Backstory: In April 2011, I took all my savings, bought a truck, and hit the road. I took my piano and my dog as my companion. I did it because I wanted to find meaning to my life beyond the monetary. I did it because I wanted to be challenged. I did it because I wanted to see what life is like in the rest of the world, to meet all kinds of people, to see if I could sustain a living doing what I love most: Making music.

I arrived home on September 2011 and went on another Roadtrip to Florida in November 2011 which taught me that with the right planning, I could make a living doing what I love by combining delivery jobs and playing piano.

I returned home to New York City in December 2011 and started putting together my ideas for the next big thing. I sold my truck for a loss and eventually saved up enough money through street performing in NYC to buy a smaller, more economical Van.

I spent 6 months in New York and started to go back to my old lifestyle: driving an Insurance Broker around NYC and working as an assistant for an artist. After 4 months, I became restless again and decided on a whim that I'm going to take another road trip and challenge myself even further.

This is the $2 Roadtrip:

The Challenge:

To see if I could travel across the Northeast and Canada starting with only a $2 bill and 1 gallon of gas.

My Gear:

My plan was to bring very few things with me. I learned in the past that simple is best. Here is a list of what I brought.

  • Hygiene kit (toothbrush, toothpaste, Deoderant, mouthwash)
  • Clothes (5 pairs of socks, 4 shirts, 3 pants, 3 shorts, 4 underwear)
  • Sunglasses
  • 4 Rachets to secure piano
  • Dog Supplies (5 lbs bag of dog food, 2 collars, 2 leash)
  • iphone 4
  • Notebook
  • Laptop
  • Stool
  • Bucket
  • Kimball Piano
  • All Terrain Piano dolly
  • Sleeping Bag
  • Food Cooler
  • 3 Books: (Into the Wild by Jon Krakaeur, Walden by Thoreau, A Whole New Mind by Daniel Pink)

Cities Visited:

  • New York City, NY
  • New London, CT
  • Provincetown, MA
  • Boston, MA
  • Portsmouth, NH
  • Kinnebunkport, ME
  • Portland, ME
  • Vinal Haven Island, Maine
  • Acadia National Park, ME
  • Bar Harbor, ME
  • Quebec City, Canada
  • Montreal, Canada
  • Toronto, Canada
  • Niagara Falls, Canada
  • Buffalo, NY
  • Rochester, NY
  • Lake George, NY
  • Saratoga Springs, NY

The $2 Roadtrip:playing piano in new york city street piano tribeca traveling piano nyc

I started in NYC with $2 in my pocket and a gallon of gas...

1. TriBeCa, New York City

My first location was Tribeca in front of the Whole Foods. The same location where my Piano Fell on my Hand 2 years before. This area gets a lot of the Financial District employees and children from the park across the street.

After playing for 3 hours I made $152 which was more than enough to fill up my cooler with food and a full tank of gas. I left New York not knowing what to expect and a little nervous that I wouldn’t be able to make enough to support myself.

filling the cooler with food traveling piano dotan negrin piano man traveling pianoThe next day was rainy all day until I reached New London where i went to school for a semester at the National Theater Institute. I spoke to some of my friends and they told me to go to Cape Cod.

My original plan was to go to Providence, Rhode Island, but already in the 2nd day of my travels I changed my course to head to Provincetown, Cape Cod. I didnt know anything about the town but I figured, since Ive never been to there I might as well check it out. How many times will I go out there in my life?

When I travel, I never go to Hotels because I think they are a waste of money and I try to use Couchsurfing or Craigslist alot to make new friends and find a place to sleep. This first night I spent sleeping in the van.

sleeping in the van ford transit connect traveling piano man

love life traveling piano

2. Provincetown, Massachusetts

provincetown mass street piano traveling piano travel dotanI got there the next morning and watched the sunrise at 6 AM.    By 9 AM I met a bunch of the other street artist. A street Face painter was there who told me that I needed to get a permit at the police station. It was quick and painless.

It was also the first time I ever got an official permit.

I set up my piano at 10 AM to grab a good spot in front of the Town Hall.

I couldn’t help but notice one thing.

Everyone was gay.

I thought there was a festival or something but then I realized that the entire town was gay.

Even many of the police officers were gay and they were all extremely nice.

By Noon, we had a bunch of teenagers surrounding my piano and jamming out with us.

playing piano in Provincetown mass, gay town piano street street pianoOne person who inspired me was Will.

He was 16 and has been living life on his own as a street performer after getting emancipated by his parents.

What inspired me was his independence and the fact that he sings with his playing. I dont sing because I havent practiced it and I'm not as confident with my voice.

But he inspired me to let go of my fears and just go for it.

Who cares what people think?

After hanging out with Will and saying goodbye to him I left on a Monday morning towards Boston. There was a little morning rush traffic, but when I arrived I wanted to go back to Provincetown. This was definitely one of my favorite towns to street perform in.

traveling piano pianist

3. Boston, Massachusetts

boston street piano pianist street dotan negrin traveling piano travelBoston is a big city with a ton of history but Provincetown had a lot of character and I made some great friends there.

This is the one thing that is tough about traveling the way I do.

You work hard to open yourself up and make friends and within an instant you are off to another place to do it all over again.

I miss all the close connections I made on this trip.

I adjusted to the big city life, and found some friends to host me through Couchsurfing who gave me a mattress and a blanket to sleep with, and we hung out that night and had some interesting intellectual conversations.

The next day I drove all around the city and explored my options for playing.

Because there are so many areas with pedestrians I found it difficult finding a good spot that includes parking.

After many hours of driving, I settled for a location with a ton of pedestrians in the Financial district.using couchsurfing to find a place to sleep travel on the cheap budget travel traveling piano in Boston mass travel street piano big cities dotan negrinI parked my car in a 2 hour spot and pushed the piano over to the 1st location. I played for 30 minutes and was told to leave by the manager of the building in front of me.

With an hour and a half more to go I went to another location, got kicked out again, and then another location.

By the end of the 2 hours I had probably walked a half mile and was tired. I loaded up the piano and grabbed some lunch.

It was so difficult playing piano in Boston I chose to leave the next day towards Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

4. Portsmouth, New Hampshire

portsmouth new hampshire street piano new hampshire new england street pianist street pianoPortsmouth was a great little town. I got there a little later in the day and walked around. Eventually I decided to play piano for a few hours in the afternoon as a few people walked by.

I didnt make much money but by nightfall a group of traveling hippies came out and I hung out with them. More people showed up and we were banging on bongos and talking for a while. I had a few beers at this one bar that had over 100 beers on tap and I felt good at that point. I celebrated my first week on the road.

5. Portland, Maine

maine the way life should be easy life maine street piano traveling piano

I arrived in Maine and noticed that everywhere I went I saw Lobster, Shrimp, and Crab. After stopping in Kennebunkport (such a wierd name) to get some fried clams I continued north towards Portland, Maine.

I got to Portland in the early afternoon and saw the beautiful red brick buildings of Commercial street. I love the old time, small town feeling of Portland, Maine. People were very friendly and there were plenty of tourist cruising through the shops. And of course, Plenty of Lobster.

around the world piano

welcome to maine commercial street traveling piano travel street pianoThe Next day was cloudy but I took out the piano anyway on Commercial street. There I met this other band playing for the brunch crowd at a restaurant. They called me over and we jammed on 3 songs. They gave me some coffee and afterwards I wheeled over to another spot to play some piano. Later in the day, the drummer of the band came over and invited me to come to his annual family gathering in Vinal Haven. Check out: The family in Vinal Haven Island, Maine.

I played for 3-4 hours and it drizzled a little bit. People were very friendly and I met people who were from all over. I even met a couple who saw me in Provincetown!

The next day I drove up to Rockport to catch the Ferry to Vinal Haven Island. There i met Dan (the drummer from the other day) and he brought me through the beautiful island to their lakefront home where I met his entire family.

jamming with the band maine traveling piano street pianoplaying piano for a crowd of chinese tourists in Portland maine traveling piano6. Vinal Haven Island, Mainevinal haven island maine family traveling piano map

vinal haven piano traveling piano man street piano with family Vinal Haven Island was one of my favorite places on this entire trip. I met an incredible family and just went with the flow. It is the truest feeling of letting life take you for the journey I have ever felt. Without a doubt one of the greatest moments I have ever had traveling. Check out: The family in Vinal Haven Island, Maine for the full story.

7. Acadia National Park

acadia national park lakes piano across america acadia national park lakes pianoI was debating if I should continue going North or head West to Vermont. I know that I probably wont be coming up to Maine very often so I figured I would go up to Acadia and spend a few days hiking, enjoying the weather, and maybe playing piano in the woods.

I didnt end up playing in the woods, but I did do many hours of challenging hiking with Brando and saw some amazing views of the Maine coast. I would definitely come back here.

Bar Harbor was just another shopping mall town with plenty of tourists walking around. I didnt play there either because I read that they dont like street performers and I would be kicked out in a second. I didnt want to bother with dealing with police.

8. Quebec City, Canada

quebec city old city piano across america street piano After dealing with some not so nice Border control people I drove all the way through the night and arrived in Quebec City. The next morning it was like a nightmare where I woke up and everyone spoke a different language I dont understand. All the street signs are different and i searched for 2 hours for a place to get a good exchange rate.

I was running around all over trying to figure out where to get Internet, how to get a permit for street performing, and finding a place to sleep. But by the end of the day I started to adjust and explored much of the Old City.

The next day I met a bunch of acrobats who were trying to get a busking permit. They told me to stay for the next few days because of the Quebec City Festival. I listened and stayed for a total of 4 very busy days. They also helped me get a 4 day busking permit.

acrobats and artists street performers traveling piano quebec cityquebec city permit traveling piano man dotan negrin street piano

my friend alex quebec city piano across americaI made a really amazing friend through Couchsurfing named Alex who I hope to see again in the future. He was very generous and showed me around to his favorite spots.

The weather was beautiful and I played EVERYWHERE in the old City of Quebec. People were incredibly supportive and generous. I had huge crowds of 40 people surrounding me at times and the energy was really open and supportive of the arts. Everywhere I went there was another street performing.

What is so amazing about Quebec is that it makes you feel like you're in Europe but you're still in North America. The city has so much charm and the people are open to all arts. The history is well preserved and the city is incredibly beautiful. Quebec City is truly one of my favorite cities in North America.

st johns gate quebec city traveling piano man street piano9. Montreal, Canada

almost getting arrested in Montreal street performers artists traveling piano man Montreal wasnt as friendly as Quebec, but I did make another great friend named Alejandro from Mexico who was living there for a few months.

Montreal was my 50th city of playing piano on the streets. It was a big deal except for the fact that I needed to get a permit and I missed the auditions. The cops were nice though, they even enjoyed my story. See: Almost getting arrested in Montreal for playing piano. ;-)

traveling across america traveling piano you owe it to yourself to do something remarkable 10. Toronto, Canada

traveling across the world

playing on the streets of toronto traveling piano man street pianoToronto was where I felt like I was back in the USA. Everyone spoke English again and I was able to read the street signs without being confused.

I had the opportunity to stay with a family in Toronto who were so generous and really great cooks! I played with their kids and we had some in depth intellectual conversations.

I wanted to play everyday in Toronto, but it rained every single day I was there. But surprisingly enough, the people were still very friendly and open to my performance. I met a Cancer survivor, a piano technician who fixed a broken key, and a bunch of other musicians.

My last day there, I was able to smuggle my piano past the security and play for an hour and a half at the Taste of the Danforth Greek Festival. That was exciting with huge audiences!

raining on my piano rain piano rain falling on piano playing with the kids traveling piano street piano man sleeping at a home in a bed traveling piano man

playing piano street at the taste of the danforth 201211. Lake George, New York

I was really excited about playing my piano on the edge of Niagara falls but that place is like Disneyland. I'm not a huge fan of those kinds of generic Tourist sites with the "Ripley's Believe it or Not" and "Hard Rock Cafe". I think these places get old very quickly. On top of all that, it was very difficult to find parking.

I went to the City Hall and tried to get a permit but they didnt even want to hear my story. So I left and went onward to Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, and landed in Lake George because of a tip from someone on Tumblr.

The next day i played on the main strip of Lake George for an hour and got booted because I didnt have a permit. They only give out permits once a year, however, I didnt see a single street performer the entire time I was there. But during that hour I met the owner of "Legends", a restaurant in the area. He told me he could use me to play at his restaurant. This is one of my first real Restaurant gigs and they paid well.

playing on the streets of lake george busking street performing

I would do some hiking during the day and then at night play there for a few hours. We did this for 4 days and then I decided that it was time for me to leave and head home.

12. Saratoga Springs, New York

playing piano on the streets of saratoga springs nyAfter finishing my brunch gig at Legends Restaurant I decided to stop in Saratoga Springs to play a little piano. The weather was beautiful, people were out exploring the town, it was perfect condition for playing. I played for 3 hours and decided to stop to meet some people and walk around. We had a good lunch and then continued South to New York City.

But before hitting NYC I called up a musician friend who I met in Boulder, Colorado and met up with him in New Paltz. We saw some Jazz at a small restaurant and went back to him place to chat about life. The next morning, feeling refreshed I arrived back in NYC to run into Joe the Sand Man in Union Square. I didnt play, I just reveled in the beautiful roadtrip I returned from. It was one month of exciting discoveries, making new friends, learning about how other live, and enjoying the fruits of the earth.

guitarist i met in catskills

Final Stats

  • Duration of Trip: 31 Days
  • Miles: Approx 3600 miles
  • Number of Cities Played Piano: 11 Cities
  • Number of Cities Visited:
  • Invited into: 2 Homes
  • Days slept in Van/Camping: 15 Days
  • Days slept in a bed: 16 Days
  • Couchsurfed: 3 Cities
  • Days spent Hiking: 3 Days
  • Offered Gigs: 2 gigs
  • Total Hours Playing Piano: Approx 68 hours (including Gigs)
  • Average Hours Per Week: 17 hours Per week (Including Gigs)
  • Average Hourly Wage: $32.77 per hour

I try not to focus on Money when it comes to Piano Across America because I believe there are many more meaningful reasons to want to travel across the world with your upright piano. But I choose to display my Financial stats to show the world that YOU CAN DO SO MUCH WITH SO LITTLE. I want other to see this as inspiration for their own projects and ideas. It takes a lot of Creativity and Hard work and a tiny bit of luck to make these things happen. Go out there and do it!

Weekly Stats Via (PianoXAmerica.Tumblr.com)

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Money money 100's 50's 1 million dollars

  • Total 1 Month Trip Expenses: -$1252
      • Total Food Expenses: -$582
      • Total Gas Expenses: -$571
  • Total 1 Month Trip Income: +$3492
      • Total Income from Gigs: +$1060
      • Total Income from Street Performing: +$2432

Came home with a total of +$2,229.00

Imagine: To be able to travel the world, doing what you love, and making a decent living at the same time, WITHOUT A BOSS! This is a monumental accomplishment in my life and I hope you guys can realize that if you really put your mind and heart into your passion, YOU CAN ACHIEVE ANYTHING. I can officially say that I make a good living playing piano.

There was so much I learned through this experience and I truly understood the importance of traveling, seeing the world, and meeting people who are living different lifestyles.

Couchsurfing was a great tool for meeting people on this trip, although, I did meet more people on the streets while playing piano. The piano is such an incredible ice breaker, it needs no introduction, which allows me to instantly make friends everywhere I go.

What did I Learn from this trip?

    • I need a better, more efficient way to cool my food. I always ended up with spoiled or wet food every 2 days because the ice would melt. I am going to invest in an electric cooling device and a bigger cooler.
    • I always bring too much stuff on my roadtrips. Its good to have a check list before heading out on an extended road trip. There are thing you need and then there are things you dont need. Check out the Roadtripper's Checklist.
    • Start scheduling gigs before I travel on my next trip. I'm going to do more research about the places I go and start booking some gigs. The gigs ended up being very profitable for me. I would love to do more in the future.
    • When you let go of your every day routine and let life take control, you make incredibly discoveries and traveling this way will open you up to making new friends, seeing unknown places, and even learning something new about yourself. Let go of life and let it take you on the journey.
    • Everyone must travel alone at least once in their life. I found myself driving in silence at times because it became an incredible meditative experience for me. I did alot of thinking about where I want to go next and the inspirations that I found on this journey.
    • Once thing I learned from my time in Quebec City is that I need to develop a show and grab audiences. I watched a bunch of Acrobat circle shows on the streets and was enthralled to see how they can pull in an audience with their show. I want to begin using spoken word, poetry, storytelling and music to make my show even greater!
    • I wonder how I can use Couchsurfing and Craigslist better to meet more people and find more places to stay. I made some great friends through Couchsurfing and would like to see how I can start using Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr to make some connections and meet musicians.

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Angel Oak Tree Near Charleston, SC

April 18, 2011- Charleston, South Carolina

I just arrived in Charleston, South Carolina and was sifting through Tumblr when I noticed a photo of the Angel Oak Tree. I found out it was only 20 miles away and decided to check it out.

Driving through South Carolina is like driving through another country. The large old growth oak trees with moss, the churches everywhere, and the street signs are all different from what I am used to back home in New York.

After driving through a dirt road and past a bunch of small old houses, we entered upon the Angel Oak Tree.

Brando was running around like a little boy and I was taking photos like a mom with 3 kids. It was a beautiful sight

This is why the Angel Oak Tree is Amazing:

The Angel Oak is a Southern live oak tree located in Angel Oak Park, in Charleston, South Carolina, on Johns Island, one of South Carolina's Sea Islands. It is estimated to be in excess of 1500 years old[citation needed], stands 65 ft (20 m) tall, measures 28 ft (8.5 m) in circumference, and shades with its crown an area of 17,000 square feet (1,600 m2). Its widest crown spread point-to-point is 180 ft, which is longer than any other live oak in the country. Its longest limb is 105 feet (32 m) in length. Read more about the Angel Oak.

Check out the Angel Oak Tree on the Map.

south carolina church

 

south carolina church charleston

 

south carolina church charleston

 

sunrise in charleston south carolina

 

people i met in Charleston

 

angel oak dog

 

angel oak with dog tree

 

angel oak tree

 

angel oak tree

 

beautiful tree angel oak

 

angel oak tree sc

dog angel oak

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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How I Traveled for 3 Weeks and Came Back $1700 Richer

This is the Second Roadtrip I took in 2011. Briefly what happened was I got a call from an Artist who I previously worked for and he needed someone to deliver his paintings down to Miami for the Art Basel Festival 2011. I had my truck available. I decided to take the job on the terms that I could bring my piano and dog with me. This gave me the opportunity to set up multiple incomes. In attempting to make money while traveling, the idea is to make your work, your play: Which is not an easy thing. This opportunity sort of fell in my lap out of the blue, but its important to have skills that allow you to Freelance with multiple jobs at once.

Here are the Stats for Roadtrip #2:

After every major task in life, its important to do an evaluation so that the next time you do it, you will do it 10 times better. 

We did it! The purpose of this trip was to do what I love (Play piano, Travel the world, and Meet people) while trying to make a decent living off it. This is the dream life.

  • Total Miles: 4,400 Miles
  • Total Days: 21 Days

  • Total Spent on Gas: $0.00
  • Total Spent on Hotel: $50.00
  • Total Spent on Food: About $300.00

  • Hours spent moving and packing: 20 hours
  • Hours spent playing piano on the streets: 15 hours

  • Total $$ from Delivery Jobs: +$1350.00
  • Total $$ from Playing Piano: +$675.00
  • Came home with $1700.00 in my pocket!

  • Major Cities Visited: Charlotte, Miami, Key West, Tampa, Gainesville, Atlanta, Athens, NYC.

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Pro’s and Cons

Pro’s

-When speaking to the delivery clients I always made sure to tell each of them that I work for myself. This way, they don’t feel like they can skimp on fees. I was able to negotiate my own payment and get a great deal.

-I SPENT $0 ON GAS ON THE ENTIRE TRIP! ALL GAS WAS PAID FOR BY THE CLIENTS.

-I made my own hours and have flexibility for when I can make the deliveries.

-I spent very little hours actually working. Most of the work was driving anyway.

-I met some great people through Couchsurfing.org and saved more money on hotels.

Cons

-The only downside to doing the deliveries was that coming back home I did get pressured for time by one of the clients which forced me to move quicker through the Carolinas and northwards.

-I didnt get to play piano as much as usual.

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If I were to do this differently:

-I would organize dates and plan better so that each person I work with understands the dates I will arrive and deliver. Make sure to flush out all the specific information before taking on a job.

-I would play more piano in more locations as possible. I missed great opportunities in Key West, Everglades, Homestead, Miami, Tampa, Gainesville, Atlanta, and Asheville.

-Network and meet more people in general. I could have met many more artists and maybe even played piano at a few galleries or parties.

-Use Couchsurfing.org more.

-Always do a little bit of research before going to a major city. Its good to wing it, but when you arrive in a city that is empty, its not fun. Its important to do some planning.

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Falling in Love with the Desert: The Story of Claunch

I became obsessed with this area. And while most people would look at me strange if they knew it is a vast desert of nothingness, I will still tell you that I fell in love. There is a reason why I took 3 1/2 hours to drive the 63 miles of road.

Being from New York City I’ve learned to appreciate places of total silence and isolation. My route was meant to drive past Co Road 55 (See Map) and continue North but when I passed the sign that said: “No Food, Gas, or Lodging”, I saw it as an opportunity to take a risk and go into the unknown.

I entered the road and immediately stopped my car in awe when I saw the incredible landscape. It was mesmerizing and seemed like something I would only see in books or movies.

I continued driving on the road, stopping every so often to take in the scenery, breathe the air, listen to the wind, look for animals, and get some sun.

Since then, I dream of this place almost every other day and it had such a profound effect on me. I walk around NYC knowing that there is so much more to life than all this hustle and bustle because I’ve seen it and experienced it with my own eyes.

Halfway through the journey I reached a very small town named Claunch. I thought, wouldnt it be amazing to meet someone who lives in this faraway town? I wondered what people were like, so I stopped my truck in the middle of the street.

I honked. I screamed out, “Hello!?” and waited but no one responded.

The town was dead. With its small church and “Elevator museum” (Which seems a bit ridiculous) the town of Claunch was like a ghost town only to be gawked at and viewed from afar. I’m sure people live there, but I didn’t meet them.

I wouldn’t recommend it for everyone but I’m almost positive most people haven’t experienced the world like this. Its a very unique and specific feeling of Isolation and Pure Emptiness that is incredibly beautiful.

There are even plenty of wildlife to catch. I saw 2 deer, a few hares, and plenty of large eagles. Better yet, If you like motorcycles, this road would be the perfect drive.

If you ever get the chance to see New Mexico and drive down one of these empty roads, take a risk, go beyond your limit, and explore areas that you would never think of exploring. You will thank me.

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White Sands, New Mexico

I didn't actually play my piano in White Sands National Monument but it was a wonderful experience and I took some awesome photos.

welcome to white sands

white sands roads

 

white sands dirt

 

white sands

 

art sand dunes ant

 

white sands ant art

 

american white sands

 

sandy dunes in America

 

white sands celebration

 

white sands dog and puppy

 

white sands sand dunes

 

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Zion National Park, Utah

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Similar Posts:

  • Glacier National Park, Montana
  • Independence Pass, Colorado
  • Playing Piano on a Cliff in the Grand Canyon
  • Playing Piano inside a Redwood Tree

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The Greatest Summer Festival in America: The Oregon Country Fair

It's crazy how life works out sometimes. The day was July 4, 2011.

I was driving East towards Eugene from Florence after playing piano on the Boardwalk. I happened to pass an area that I recognized with cliff diving and natural water slides. I figured to stop and check it out since it was still early Afternoon. There were many people there of all types and ages and I struck up a conversation with this hippie looking guy who told me about this festival called the Oregon Country Fair. He said he has been going for the last 12 years of his life and that its nothing you have ever seen before. I met some other guy who lived in the area and he too said that it was incredible, that it is, “…Like Burning man, but in the woods.” Immediately, I was convinced.

A week went by thus began the Oregon Country Fair. I remember entering the fair and it was like entering into an unknown world where people were dressed as goblins, goats, trees, and warlocks. I've never seen anything like it.

The costumes were beautiful, people were dancing, singing, playing instruments, and celebrating life. It was the ultimate Freedom of Expression without any judgements or apologies. Walking around and looking at the crafts I learned that each person was a very skilled artisan selected from the many— woodworkers, painters, fashion designers, drum makers, flute makers, luthiers, etc. Each item was custom made with special attention taken to ensure its quality. Nothing was from China.

I spotted a Luthier making a new guitar out of thin pieces of wood, a man who has been making custom made Combs out of mahogany, and Fashion designers who use scraps of fabric to create the most amazing dresses. The performers and musicians were highly skilled and very entertaining.

Everywhere you turned there was another musician showing off their skills.

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One of my Favorite Small Towns: Athens, Georgia

The reason why Athens, Georgia is one of my favorite small towns is because within such a small city lives a vibrant, young, and exciting place. Athens is home to one of the biggest party schools in America: The University of Georgia. Within the small downtown area are over 100 restaurants, music venues and bars providing endless nightlife to all who visit the town. On weekends, people from the outskirts of Georgia come out to stroll the streets and listen to some of the musicians who stop by on their tours.

What makes Athens so unique is the diversity that lives in the town. There are 2 sides to the people. Theres are the locals and then there are the students who only live there for 4 months at a time.

In my opinion, Athens is the place to be when you're young. I would recommend visiting Athens while school is still in session. In the summer it can get fairly hot and humid, and the city is pretty empty.

I found it incredibly easy to meet people when I was there. Southern Hospitality truly exists in the locals. On top of that I met over 10 musicians and got to jam with some of them in the week that I visited.

jamming in athens georgia

dog on a piano in athens georgia

athens georgia at night

I was featured in Athens, Georgia's magazine: Flagpole Magazine! Read the article Here: http://flagpole.com/news/2012/jan/11/piano-across-america/

flagpole magazine

This is a rough cut of April 24 (7:30 PM- 3 AM) when I brought my piano onto the streets of Athens, Georgia. One crazy night of drunken people everywhere.

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