Tag Archives: Adventuring

Follow my adventures abroad on Beacon Reader!

Hello, friends! Today I launched a new blog on Beacon Reader. Beacon is a new publishing platform created by Nick Jackson and co which allows readers to directly fund their favorite bloggers. I had the pleasure of working with Nick on Longshot Mag Issue 2 and know that, much like most of the people who stayed awake for 48 hours straight to produce a magazine and website, he cares about the future of publishing and isn’t afraid to innovate in an industry which desperately needs it.

If you go to my blog page (http://www.beaconreader.com/arikia-millikan), you can see a video I made in iMovie cutting together clips I shot on the road. I realize I should have filmed in landscape, not portrait. SORRY, I never claimed to be a videographer. But I guess I should add that to the box of tricks this one-woman show packs. I’ll work on it.

Anyway, I’m going to write about my journey on Beacon. So far I’ve been to Canada, Iceland, England, Spain and France and have met and been hosted by some of the most amazing people I’ve ever known. This world is bursting with fascinating humanity, and I can’t believe I allowed myself to be confined on one continent for so long.

If you want to support me in my travels and innovation in the publishing industry, please subscribe to my Beacon Reader blog. It’s free to sign up and only $5 a month after that, and you get access to all the content on the network, not just my blog. I’m not generally a fan of paywalls, but 75% of your contributions will go to me, and I’m a fan of not running out of money while halfway around the world.

I want all my friends in the United States to know that I miss you very much, and I’m writing this blog for you. So I hope you read it! You know you’d happily spend $5 to buy me a shot at the Larry Lawrence while hanging out with me (as I would you), but since I can’t be there to do one with you, I’d love for you to put it towards my writing. Ultimately, I will do that shot in a foreign land and it will lead to more stories for me to write for you.

Thanks! XOXO <3

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Falling in friend-love at Burning Man

friendloveI experienced Burning Man for the first time this past September. I went to the week-long festival in the middle of the desert by myself with some water, booze, and a one-person tent I got for $80 on Craigslist. I was somewhat unprepared and had no idea where I would camp (or how to camp). I got there at 10pm on the first night and I set up my tent in the dark next to the vehicle I arrived in, which belonged to a Stanford philosophy professor I met in an online forum the previous night.

I walked out into the darkness, ready for an adventure. And I found one. Several, in fact. When I found my way back to my tent around 4am, I was oblivious to the cold and easily slid into slumber in my mummy sleeping bag. At 9am, I was forced awake by the heat as my tent turned into a sweat box. The only escape was the outside world, and I dreaded it. I don’t even know what exactly I was dreading, as I had never seen the environment in the daylight. But I was hungover and alone with the feeling I’d made a terrible mistake looming over me. I unzipped the half-circle flap of my tent and crawled out into the blinding sun.

“Hi.”

It took my eyes a few seconds to focus on the man standing in front of me, looking at me with an amused smirk.

“Hi,” I croaked out.

“Want some coffee?”

“Totally.”

I followed him into a big mesh-encased, octagonal structure on the other side of the car from my tent where I watched him expertly heat a pot of water on a mini propane stove. He tried to make conversation with me, but I was incapable of forming any kind of cohesive sentences while my mind struggled to assemble the critical information of “where are you and what are you doing hungover in the desert, dummy?” He poured a packet of Starbucks instant coffee mix into a metal mug of hot water and handed it to me. He laughed at me and told me I would be fine — more than fine, that I was in for the best time of my life. I trusted him, John from Sasketoon, Saskatchewan.

When I saw him talking with the people at the neighboring campsite, I shyly poked my head around the corner. From the way they were talking, I thought they were old friends, but it turned out he had only just met them. As someone who’s used to being the beach head in my social circles, I was surprised to find someone better at traveling than me.

I fell in friend-love with John from Sasketoon, Saskatchewan. I wanted to be around him all the time, and he wanted me around. We went adventuring together and never disagreed about what to do or where to go. There were no awkward silences. If we were tired, we just were. We learned how to let go of our pasts together. I cried in front of him and didn’t care. We partied together, and danced our faces off to electronic music in the wild night.

JohnBMHe would wait for me. If we went somewhere together and we split up for a while, he would come and find me before moving to the next thing. I never had to ask him not to leave me, he just waited. He had this homemade spirit animal hat with a mini basketball cut in half, glued to each side, and lined with EL wire — a glowing chameleon in the night. One night we went to the Temple, where people go to mourn their lost loved ones. We split up and agreed to meet back at the entrance when we were finished there. For a long moment, I thought I was lost, but seeing that silly gecko hat wandering back to me just as I started to spiral into despair washed away every sad thought.

We stayed up late into the night talking about traveling in South America and physics and love. I loved him, but it was never sexual, because that’s not what friend-love is about. He made me feel safe, the way a big brother might. I thought to myself, or maybe out loud, that I hoped this was only the first of our grand adventures together. When he dropped me off at my friend’s house in San Francisco after Burning Man was over, we never said goodbye. Just “see you tomorrow.”

JohnTgivesI never saw him the next day, but he did come to visit me on Thanksgiving with his new girlfriend. I lightly scrutinized her to make sure she was good enough for him, like a little sister might, and was happy to find she passed my tests. She took a picture of us with her fancy Polaroid camera that I kept in my jewelry box and looked at every day because thinking of him makes me happy.

Now that I’m traveling, and happen to be in a place where every day is kind of like Burning Man in a way, I keep thinking about him and how much fun he would have with me and the people I’ve been meeting. I see the same spark that I saw in him in the adventurers I’ve been cohabitating with here in downtown LA for the past week. I think there must be a whole tribe of adventurers like us out there that I’m just beginning to scratch the surface of meeting. I used to think I was a lone wolf. I still do think that, but what I was wrong about was thinking that being a lone wolf means one must be alone. John told me that if I just keep meeting new people, I’ll always be happy. So that’s what I’ll do. And one of these days I’ll make it a point to get out to Sasketoon, Saskatchewan, too.

Baby steps

The day I arrived here, I saw some places the earthquake had destroyed on the route back from the airport, and was in awe. Today, on day 7 of my trip, it is all just Haiti — the scenery, the usual.

The next day, I asked my dad to drive me around PetionVille, the area about 10 miles to the east of Port-au-Prince proper, to see more. I took a bunch of pictures out the window of my dad’s Ford F250, getting slightly frustrated when my shots didn’t turn out because the car was moving too fast and the shutter speed on my Nikon point-and-shoot was too slow. When my dad stopped at one of the properties he manages, I told my sister I wanted to get out and walk around to get better pictures.

“You wanna walk around… out there?”

“Yeah, I can’t see anything from the car.”

“Sis, this is Haiti.”

“Other people walk around.” And it was true. Thousands of people lined the streets every time we drove anywhere, walking from point A to point B, selling things, hanging out.

“Yeah, but not people with your skin color, and blonde hair, and your economic status.”

Oh the way home I pointed out the window at a guy and said to my sister: “Look, that guy’s white and he’s walking around.” She just gave me a smug look of “ah huh,”
like OK American. But in a loving way.

The next day, Wednesday, my dad took me to downtown Port-au-Prince to check in at the Oloffson Hotel. My mom thought it would be a good idea to stay there, as it’s a common destination for journalists and other foreigners. When we arrived, Alain Armand was waiting for me. I came accross him one day on Twitter, when he sent out a message that said something like “Going to Haiti, need recording equipment to get the untold stories.” So I checked him out and found his YouTube video of a segment about him on MSNBC, decided he was legit, and emailed my editors at Wired. “Hey, just stumbled accross this Tweet. Can we get this guy a flip cam or something?” And Wired they are. They hooked it up.

Alain and I chatted for a while and he said, “OK, it’s going to get dark soon, do you wanna go get some footage?”

“You mean… walk around? Out there?”

He laughed at me. I was scared but excited at the prospect. I didn’t think it would be so bad but my family never walked around. My sister will barely even cross the street to go to the convenience store, and there’s an armed guard sitting outside it 24/7.

So we walked around the block, taking pictures and talking. We peeked in at a place where a bunch of computers were set up outside. Old school PCs like the one I used for my very first computer when I was 8. I thought this was amazing. “Will you ask them what they’re doing?” I asked Alain, who speaks fluent Creole. So we went in the gate, past the tent they had set up to sleep in, and found out that they were conducting computing classes.

They were really nice, happy to talk with us. Haitians have smiles that can light up entire buildings. Too bad we rarely see pictures of them smiling in the American media, only pictures of them suffering.

Alain and I continued walking, me gawking at the collapsed residential buildings all around, but not gawking too hard. I saw a woman pissing on the sidewalk, and was mildly shocked but immediately turned away like I didn’t see anything out of the ordinary, continuing the conversation. The roads we were walking down were literally lined with tents, where people slept at night in front of their crumbled properties. Suddenly, the picture became clear of why rain was such a terrible problem for displaced Haitians, both with respect to public health and just because people have to sleep in wet tents, which sounds pretty miserable.

When we got to the last leg of our journey, about to turn the corner to complete the circuit back to the Oloffson, he said “let’s walk up one more block over that way.”

“Listen,” I said. “This is the first time I’ve ever walked around the block here. Baby steps.” He accepted this and went home, and I spent the rest of the night wrestling with the hotel’s shitty Internet connection and battling mosquitoes in my sleep.

The next day we went hiking up mountains and through the heart of downtown Port-au-Prince. And the next day we hitch-hiked from my dad’s house in PetionVille to the tent city that’s set up where PVC, a formerly fancy pants country club, used to operate. Its golf course now serves as the home to over 50,000 refugees.

Consider this To Be Continued… I have to get ready because my family is taking me to the beach today!