For a short time, right after college graduation, I was homeless. I wasn't on the streets, mind you. I slept in my car and in closets and offices at my old college. I broke into the gym for showers and spent a lot of time hiding from administrators and rent-a-cops. I could've swallowed my pride and crashed at a friend's place, and did eventually, but I hate to impose, and honestly, it was sorta fun. That goes to show what sort of influence a sheltered life like mine has on the definition of "fun." Like I said, I never had to resort to sleeping on a sewer grate, so take that for what it's worth. When I found work as a hacker at Sales Vision, the joke was that I was, by far, the most well-paid bum in Charlotte. Little did I know at the time that I would be returning to my starting position only a year and a half later. Not long after my return from San Francisco, my roommate Daniel left for a job in Raleigh, as a hacker for Epic Games. There was no way I could have afforded my crappy, overpriced apartment alone, so when Daniel left, we decided to break the lease. And good riddence; I had experienced my share of sewage leaks, crumbling ceilings, and screaming kids. Daniel packed all his stuff into two suitcases and hopped a plane for North Carolina. I packed my stuff into Daniel's abandoned car and drove straight to Loki. Once again, I was the highest paid bum in town. As time dragged on, the car got sold and I had packaged my stuff to be mailed to my parents' house. My car was sitting in Pennsylvania with a flat tire, and I was starting to get tired of sleeping on a futon and walking a few miles to shower at Bernd's apartment. When I started to make plans to get my work done as fast as possible and then humbly bow out, I was asked to go to Sweden, which is another story. For now, let me state what I was asked versus what was meant versus what I heard: ...I was told... "We have a very important deal that requires your skills in Sweden." ...meaning... "We have a very important deal in Sweden, and you are the most expendable coder left." ...sounded like... "Hey, want a free trip to Europe?" Needless to say, I signed right on. In preparing for travel abroad, I have a standard ritual I always go through. I fill my backpack up. I try to fill it with stuff I'll actually be carrying, but anything with equivalent bulk and weight will do. Then I put on my hiking boots, coat, hat...anything that I'd probably be wearing as I wander around that foreign country. This is designed to be preperation for the worst-case scenario; if I can't walk a few miles in too-hot clothing with too much weight on my back now, then how would I do it when I have no other choice? This has, I am certain, saved my butt on more than one trip. If nothing else, it reinforces the primary rule of travel: if you can't carry your own luggage, no one else is going to either, so you damn well better know your limitations. There is, however, a big difference between theory and practice. In theory, I was testing my limitations. In practice, I was a guy dressed for winter in Sweden walking across Southern California with everything I owned strapped to my back. It must have looked comical. A guy in a Mercedes pulled over next to me as I trudged down El Camino Real. He rolled down his passenger side window, and I saw that he was a young, clean cut man with what seemed to me to be a sense of wealth and style. He seemed the sort that would have been instantly popular in just about any crowd. And he asked me: "Hey, where are you going?" "Uh, down the road," was my witty reply. "Yeah, but where are you going TO?" I still didn't understand, but at this point my assumption was that he was some sort of chickenhawk trying to pick up a long-haired whiteboy. "I'm just going down the road." "Are you homeless?" "No," I lied, badly. "Ok, I just wanted to make sure you had somewhere to go. I used to live on the street, so I wanted to make sure you had somewhere to go." "Oh, well thanks." "Take care of yourself," he said, nodded, and started to drive off. Stunned by what I just heard, all I could manage to squeak out was, "hey, wait!" He stopped, and looked out at me again with that super-popular smile. In my bafflement, it took a moment to find a sentence. "Are you really...concerned about me?" "Yeah. Like I said, I used to live on the streets, so I just wanted to make sure you were safe." "..." "..." "Sir, that is the COOLEST thing I've ever heard." I meant it, too. He gave me one more of those popularity smiles and sped off, leaving me filled with thousands of unanswered questions. --ryan.