January 27th

10pm - Bialystok, Poland.  I probably should be in bed right now, seeing that I’m supposed 2 catch that 4am train ride 2 Poznan, but I can’t.  Instead, I’ll sit here & write…  

When I last left you, I was in Amsterdam with a bunch of Americans at The Flying Pig Downtown Hostel – by far, the craziest youth hostel on earth!  Of course, the night began with a night walk thru Amsterdam’s famous Red Light district, which turned out 2 be a photographer’s dream.  All those women (not all beautiful), full on peep shows for 2 Euros, sex shops (featuring the nastiest videos on earth: Animal Farm & Dicky Dog II), neon lights, old brick walls & a pack of horny men – it’s definitely something that has 2 be seen with your own 2 eyes!  

Ordering an 8th of marijuana from the bartender & finding the world’s cheapest 24hr. Internet Café (30 cents an hour in the middle of the night - EasyInternetCafe.com) completed our voyage around town, before we returned 2 a full on Monday night at The Flying Pig with a live DJ spinning some kickin’ tunes in front of a 24hr. bar.  Down stairs inside “the happy room” everybody was stoned off their @ss & guess what I found…  A FREE video e-mail machine!  10, 20, 30 video e-mails later, it was time 4 bed.  Time check: 5am.

11am the next morning, I joined a hostel crew of 6 American girls & 3 Aussie boys 2 the Heineken Museum.  7½ Euros entrance fee gave us 3 FREE beers & 1 collector’s glass souvenir.  That equals 30 beers & 10 souvenirs!  Or was that 60 beers & 10 souvenirs????  Or perhaps since we’re all from the hostel, that equaled 90 beers & 10 souvenirs!!!!  Phuuu.  All I know is that I “Mr. I don’t drink” got behind the bar & poured beer after beer after beer…  I think we were all drunk.  No, scratch that.  I think I was totally drunk by 12 noon.  Jeepers.  I think I booked 2 many nights in this town...

My flight 2 good ol’ Scotland left 5 days later, so I decided 2 take an early break from Amsterdam's craziness & visit Poland (before it entered the EU).  Damn it!  It looks like I’m just chasing down passport stamps & look where I ended up – Bialystok!  4 those of you who don’t know where Bialystok is on the map, don’t worry, neither did I until I got here.  Bialystok is located north east of Warsaw.  I’m only 80km from Belarus & not far from Russia.  Why Bialystok?  Good question.

Luke Wolagiewicz, editor of the Internet e-zine PHOTOdocument.pl lives here & they were having a PHOTOshow 4 this Slovakian photographer: Andrej Balco.  It was weird hearing Luke’s voice on the phone, because I never met him before, nor did I know what he looked like.  The same went with me, so I just told Luke not 2 worry, because on this side of the world, I really stand out.  Luke just laughed when he saw me…

So, my 1½ day visit to Bialystok was accompanied by 4 Slovakian photographers & 5 Polish photographers (all part of the PHOTOdocument team).  We went 2 this hill of a thousand crosses, which is like a national place of worship 4 the locals.  

You could actually hear the people’s cries as they placed their cross on top of another cross.  Small crosses, large crosses, human size crosses & even a cross that was over 50ft tall!  There were crosses everywhere!  Crosses purchased from the store, crosses carved out of wood & crosses made from 2 sticks & a hair bow.  Phuuu!  Good luck trying 2 count them all.  Just wait until I upload the photographs & the video the PHOTOdocument crew & I made…

Anyway, night came & there I was, standing alongside Andrej, Luke & a house of photographers at my 1st PHOTOshow reception!!!!!  That’s right, true believer, I had 2 come all the way 2 Bialystok, Poland 2 witness my 1st PHOTOshow reception!  Hm.  I think I’ve just been inspired. -Geo D. Oliver, Alaska


January 30th

  • In a letter 2 my old Scottish friend (Kjartan Behm), I talked about the word "rambling".

Kjartan- I'm sitting here in Amsterdam with an old Vegas friend & I'm showing her your e-mail.  I'm showing her the type of e-mails I get & how everybody "rambles" every now & then.  I love that!  It's those few paragraphs of rambling that I publish onto The PHOTOhype site.

I realized a long time ago, that whenever people start 2 ramble, they're actually being REAL.  Thinking REAL.  Acting REAL & most importantly, feeling REAL.  When you find yourself rambling, you'll notice that there is no hype or any fancy goggles 2 help you along your travels.  Your just freeing your mind of those wandering thoughts & that is what PHOTOhype's readers want 2 hear.

For instance, if you were 2 replace my name with the word "world" (ironically, the word "GEO" means "WORLD"), you'll end up with the same story.  Therefore, when you ramble, you are not talking 2 me anymore, you're talking 2 The World!  Rambling is what really makes the world go round, Kjartan.  Thanks 4 your letter, I think I'll publish a few lines from it. -Geo D. Oliver, Alaska

Pembe- It's as if we've known each other 4 years.  Then, again, it has been a few years since we last saw each other in Vegas.  Oh well, I'll give all the credit 2 hostel life - an amazing lifestyle that has finally taken its toll upon me.  I'm getting old, Pembe.  Now, don't get me wrong, because I can still rock the night & flirt like there's no tomorrow.  It's just that my backpack's getting heavy (if you know what I mean).  I guess, I just don't have the right firepower or enough money 2 do what I know The PHOTOhype.com web site is capable of doing.  "They" think that I'm some kind of magician, but I'm not.  I'm just a regular guy.

I sat in this room, yesterday, with a bunch of photographers @ a photographic society meeting & I realized how much I don't belong there.  Hm, that's funny.  I created this web site in hopes of bringing together the type of photography & photographers, I know is out there.  Yet, after 3 amazing years, I am still alone.  You'd be surprised at the amount of rejections I continue 2 receive from "PHOTOworld".  They treat me like the bastard child.

Pembe replies: Travelling is hard work, I agree.  And the mind as well as the body begin to get tired after a while.  You'll find that you also start to feel blurry - not centered and like you don't belong anywhere.  I've been there and I know what it's like.  That's what you're feeling right now.  But somewhere along the way you'll reach a point where the picture gets clearer and your sense of purpose resonates.  Hang in there and just keep on doing all that great work with your project.  If you feel it's not going where you want it to go then maybe take a break, and a few steps back and revisit the situation with fresh eyes. -Pembe Mentesh, Australia


February 1st

  • It's our 3 year anniversary!

Wow, imagine that!  3 full years & we're still receiving a record number of visitors!  Sweet as.  3 years ago, at the end of our 1st month, I broke out a bottle of sparkling apple cider & rejoiced over the fact that the site received 389 visitors.  Today, I'm looking at January's statistic report & we landed a whopping 8,869 visitors, while reaching out to 70 different countries!  Hm, not bad.

You know what, I actually thought that by this time, I'd be running this project with a team of backpackers, writers, photographers & NEG (my Non-Existent Girlfriend).  I'm pretty sure she would handle all the advertising & marketing, because that's where I find myself lacking the most.  I'll never doubt the power of the Internet, so don't laugh if I open an "application" page titled: Girlfriend Search.

  • What's my new year's resolution?

I'm gonna publish a book.  I'm gonna publish 3 amazing books about photography.  About all the world travellers I met & had the opportunity 2 photograph.  About hostelling, the Internet, backpacking, freefalling thru life & the friendships that were established 5 minutes after we met.  That's right, true believer, 3 amazing books about the journey's we shared & the nights that seemed 2 go on forever...

Here are the questions the publishing company sent me:

  1. What is your statement of aims?

  2. What is the book about?

  3. What are its main themes and objectives?

  4. Who is the book aimed at?

  5. How will it differ from existing books of its type?

Just like this web site, I want the books 2 be written by YOU, a few of my hostel friends, as well as myself.  How many contributing writers are we talking about?  I don't know & I don't care.  My father always told me never 2 do a half @ss job & I'm not about 2 start.  So, if you can answer 1 or all of the above questions, please do!  Please title your e-mail "PHOTObook" & e-mail your comments to: Neg@PHOTOhype.com.  Thanks in advance! -Geo D. Oliver, Alaska


February 7th

  • I still have 4 days in Athens.

Tonight, this Greek photographer from the Associated Press (Thanasis Stavrakis) took me 2 this ARTshow reception at the Manifactura Art Shop.  It’s a pretty weird world, because I just met Thanasis yesterday at lunch.  I found his web site while surfing the net in Scotland & sent him an e-mail about my visit 2 Greece.  2 days later, Thanasis & I are cruising in between cars on a fancy BMW motorbike thru the over crowded streets of Athens!  Now that, true believer, is what I call "sweet-as-a-nut, baby!"  Anyway, The ARTshow was pretty cool.  3 rooms, 22 Greek artists, a lot of new friends & after 2 or 3 cups of red wine, I was bouncing all over the place.  Hm.  Maybe it's time the PHOTOhype went digital with a few videos, short movies, photographs & stupid interviews.

Remember Emma & Virginia's swimming pool video from when we were at The LVBP?  Well, I also have Tim Deluxe's "It Just Won't Do!" music video on file, so let's see how this one does (NOTE: the file size is around 35MB, so don't even try 2 download this cheesy, kick-@ss beautiful bikini-clad babes booty shaky music video if you have a slow connection).

Ya know what?  I think Europe is the 1st time I was actually able 2 understand the power behind what "we" created.  It is pretty impressive, tying so many related worlds together: hostel life, travelling, photography & a few good friends.  I met an Argentinean guy in Scotland, who said he wanted 2 do the same, but not copy me.  I responded: “I'm looking 4 people 2 copy me!.

I told him 2 just imagine if there were more hostels & hostel employees out there who realised how much greatness they were actually sitting on.  Imagine if there was a PHOTOhype.co.uk, .it, .dk, .gr & beyond.

Hm.  I’m recalling that conversation I had with this one hostel owner in Utah.  I was just passing thru, looking 4 some information, when he remembered me from The Missing Link Tours.  He sat me down & sobbed over yesterday - how hostels used to work together.  "Back then, "  He said.  "It was about the people.  The travellers, friendships..." & the nights that you never want 2 end.

I remember one night in San Diego when our hostel was totally full of guys.  I took off that night 2 meet some friends at the other hostel & it was totally full of girls.  Amazing!  Both hostels were dead on energy that night, but if I had the power 2 bring both hostels together, I could only imagine what kind of photographs would pop up the morning after. -Geo D. Oliver, Alaska


February 11th

  • It's my last day in Athens.

Hostel life is so much fun.  2 days after I published that last entry, realizing that going digital with this project is a must...  A young energetic team of documentary film makers showed up at the hostel.  They were the friendliest bunch of British travellers & they totally welcomed me 2 their team.  They were all characters & I got 'em all on film!

Hiren Kacha
The girl crazy H-man with his funny accent & empathies on "quality" - far too much testosterone!
Jean-Brunel Webb-Benjamin
With a name like that, you'd think he's French, but he's not.  He walks around with an afro & dark shades.  Calls himself "Morpheus" with a business card 2 follow.  Your classic Matrix freak! (Web Site: Morpheus.gangster.co.uk)
Matt Friswell
Craig's twin brother.  I suppose he's just a funny f*cker.  Drives a mini & loves 2 DJ.  "Besides that, Friswell just cracks jokes all day & looks like a cheeky little goblin when he smiles" -Jonny Wright
George Birt
The scruffy looking director of photography & the 1st guy 2 apologize 4 looking at my portfolio too long.
Ben Coates
Another good laugh.  "He's your stereotypical 'Burberry boy'.  I think he loves his women far too much." -Boco
Chris Box aka "Boco"
Your Beatles wannabe (minus the guitar). 6 patches of British musicians on his jacket & nothing else.
Anthony Lee
"The great uncle of the bunch who looks half Greek.  He'll hate that, but that'll be cool." -Boco
Cieran McGrath
"PeeWee, because I'm small, but everybody just shortened it 2 "P"
Jamie "The Kid" Teate
He's the baby of the group, but then again, he is the youngest.  Loves Whoopi Goldberg & hates Valentine's Day.  Go figure which TV shows he grew up watching.
Richard Edkins & Karen Bristoll
Definitely, the mom & dad of the group.  Karen's a photographer, like myself, so we got along really well.  Their 13 year relationship is something I need 2 mention, because they've been together since they were 16 years old.

Jonny Wright
"Yeah, that's me!  Put some wire frames on me & I'll be Lennon."

All in all, they were a great bunch of individuals & without them, I don't think my time in Athens would be so memorable.  They even asked me if I would be interested in performing a college lecture on photography, hostel travelling & the Internet.  Hm.  Now that, my friend, isn't such a bad idea...

Last night, we went on the hunt 4 some Australian travellers & we found them at the local cafe down the street.  5 minutes later, a team of Kiwi's walked in the door, followed by a regiment of South Carolina students.  What a social vibe we had there - Simply brilliant!  The cafe gave us all a round of FREE shots, before our little empire started 2 crumble.  It was something like the Acropolis of Athens, because we all have our photographs 2 remind us of how we were.

Jamie made a Valentine's Day clip, but I forgot 2 turn the lights on...  Sorry!

Video Love Messages [click here]

Anyway, London's calling, so I'll be somewhere near there, tonight.  Ben C. Danielsen of the web site JanePlusBen.us will be picking me up.  Gosh!  I haven't seen ol' Ben since April, 2000.  For those of you who don't know who Ben is, click here or here.  Besides myself, Ben was the 1st person 2 invest money into this photography project.  He invited me over 2 Vegas & you know what happened next. -Geo D. Oliver, Alaska


February 15th

  • So, this is it.  My last official day in Europe.

Where did I go?  What did I do?  Yeah, I bet 'cha like 2 know.

The guide book told me that most travellers consider Belgium dull & boring.  Hm, that's funny.  Belgium is where I met a lot of cool friends & unlocked the door 2 my greatest inspiration inside a pub called: Café La Fête.  There really isn't much there, but the people who visit the place...  Wow, what a treasure!  However, as the old saying goes: "Without vision, the people will perish".

I can't really judge The Czech Republic, because Christmas was just around the corner.  I went 2 Switzerland, because my Swiss friends e-mailed me every day, since I left The OBI.  My Swiss friends were absolutely brilliant 2 me, but I learned the hard way, that there's a difference between Swiss Travellers & Swiss People.  2 weeks in Switzerland robbed me blind, just like London did, so I had 2 get out.  Scandinavia (Norway, Sweden & Denmark) lived up 2 it's beautiful reputation & everybody was beginning 2 wonder if I'd ever leave.  I was there for 3 weeks...

Poland was the perfect gem.  On my way 2 Poznan, the conductor was so determined 2 throw me off the train, however, a Polish girl named Anna (E-mail: nixanka@interia.pl) & 2 Polish guys stood up 4 me.  They forked up the extra 30 zlotys I was short.  Apparently, my train ticket was 4 the slow boat 2 China, rather than the empty express train, I was on.  Anyway, I'm glad I made it over there before the EU did, because 5 zlotys for dinner didn't even dent my wallet.  Sweet-as-a-nut!

Then, there was Amsterdam & all it's craziness.  The Flying Pig Downtown hostel was just as mad as Vegas, just without the casinos.  Scotland was pretty quiet & I didn't want 2 go 2 Greece, because my money was running low & visions of home were not so clear.  The waiters treated me like sh*t & the Acropolis had 2 much construction going on 4 my 12 Euro entrance fee.  Song of the day: "I want my money back, you b*tch!" -Ben Folds Five.

On a different note, Greece did pull threw in the end.  I met a team of digital film makers at The Student & Travellers Inn hostel who carried me & my web site 2 higher grounds.  Definitely, it's time this project went digital.  Anyway, it tells you a lot about a person who writes down their personal cell number on the back of their business card or the established Associated Press photographer who takes a total stranger out 2 lunch, just 2 days after he received my e-mail, stating that I'm coming 2 Athens 4 a week & I want 2 meet some Greek photographers...  Again, sweet-as-a-nut.

Europe, it's people & all the different cultures - what a treasure that only a foreigner, like myself, can fully appreciate.  I'm glad I came here in the wintertime, because they said there wasn't anything 2 be found in the wintertime.  They were wrong.  I found a lot of new friends & a few good stories 2 write about.  Will I be on that plane, come Sunday afternoon?  I don't know.  If I'm not, that definitely means I'll be here in the summer time, when the sun comes out... -Geo D. Oliver, Alaska

Swantje Roettgers of Germany writes - ...whether you decide to stay in Europe or go back to the states, there will always be interesting people out there (you already met loads of them) who will offer you their friendship for what you are.  I guess you've already met more people than others do during their lives.  You are living a dream, Geo!  You are inspiring more people than you might believe. -Swantje "Tia!" Roettgers, Germany  [ E-mail: Swantje1980@hotmail.com ]

Mr. Jody Foster of Italy writes - Hey man, u are a great man & u do have a lot of friends in Europe.  Maybe more than me back here in Italy.  Yes, the summer is great in Europe!  If u can, don't get on that plane because u will see something that is fantastic, which is the summer in Europe! -Mr. Jody Foster, Italy  [ E-mail: JodyFoster@virgilio.it ]


February 19th

  • Time check 5am.  Location: Las Vegas, Nevada

I can see the sun rising over the eastern horizon & I bet 'cha wondering why the hell am I here.  Answer:  It was a FREE first class flight & I didn't feel like waiting another night at the Philadelphia airport, now that the storm has passed.  Besides, it feels good 2 be back at the scene of the crime.  I'll spend a few thoughtful nights here, before I conclude this chapter in my life & return home 2 sunny California.

The flight from London 2 Philly was a pretty smooth ride & it was safe 2 assume that I won, in regards 2 taking my chances by not purchasing any "travel insurance".  I only had 7½ hours left on this 90 day voyage & the head honcho @ The OBI was waiting 4 my pick-up call from San Diego.  All of the sudden, a big snow storm hit most of the east coast & that's when we were informed that All Flights were Canceled.

So, there I was, stranded at an empty airport with several others & a pocket full of British pounds.  I met this photographer named Karyn & together, we tried 2 shed some light upon our dark situation.  I was on my way home 2 face a few unwanted bills, so I wasn't to concerned about anything.  However, there were loads of travellers headed towards Florida, the sun & a little vacation.  Definitely, they were not  the happy campers of the group.

Karyn & I did our rounds, mapping out every inch of the airport, while stopping 4 a chat with pretty much anyone who wanted 2 chat with us.  1 full day & pretty much no sleep later, Karyn & I were the hosts of The  KGB (Karyn & Geo's Bunker) & Movie House.  "It looked like a campsite..." spoke an airport maintenance worker.  Karyn & I built a McGyver style tent & borrowed a film projector from a group of missionary students 2 broadcast the movie: The Matrix.  Our movie house was packed with 15 to 20 people in attendance.

The overall scene of the past 2 days felt more like "The Breakfast Club", because a lot of bizarre friendships were made.  At one moment, we even had our own little daytime talk show, when this married airline pilot confessed 2 us about arranging a lunch style date with a married lady he's been chatting with over the Internet.  Man, there were over 10 people at our daytime talk show & you know this shameful act of broken vows didn't fly well with anyone.  One girl was clearly outspoken over his confession & you could actually feel her voice go scorn.

The morning after the storm, we all woke up & our breakfast club was gone.  The businessmen were back from their hotel rooms, Karyn left, the missionary students flew home & hundreds upon hundreds of travellers flocked the now opened airport.  I too, disappeared into the crowd, until one of the guards at the security check point looked at me & said: "Hey, McGyver...  Aren't you that guy who built that tent?".  I returned a smile & he nodded his head in respect of what I did.

A few minutes later, when I walked past the C-20 gate, I was surprised 2 see that The KGB was still there.  Still standing & still full of glory.  The campsite was gone, but The KGB stood there, engulfed by all the businessmen & airport traffic.  It definitely had a symbolic resemblance 2 the Parthenon & The Acropolis of Athens.  It just wasn't as old.

"It's as if these people invaded our home."  Spoke one of the missionary students.

After a tiresome 5 hour wait, my flight 2 San Diego was already gone.  However, my McGyver reputation eventually paid off.  US Airways handed me a FREE first class flight, which brought me back 2 the scene of the crime in fabulous Las Vegas, Nevada.  I did my rounds & I'll do a few more, but just between you & me, true believer, no smoking gun has been found here since "we" left.

If you're wondering why I left Europe, an untouched gold mine for a photography project, the answer is quite simple.  I wasn't prepared & lacked the funds & digital equipment 2 make it happen the way it should.  So, what's the plan?  Good question.  I think I'll go home, unpack, repack & come back.  I'm pretty sure you've heard that line plenty of times from other travellers, right? -Geo D. Oliver, Alaska

Part II: The Point of Travelling    |    Part III:  Photographs of an Unwritten Future