2017

DestinationArrival
1Chisinau, MoldovaNovember 10, 2017
2Tiraspol, TransnistriaNovember 11, 2017
Monsooners: Nick “McFeltersnatch” Sellers, Reece “Responsibly Irresponsible” Perry, Ben “The Debt Collector” Fox, Alex “The Transporter”

 

DestinationArrival
1Ljubljana, SloveniaOctober 20, 2017
2Bled, SloveniaOctober 21, 2017
3Predjama, SloveniaOctober 21, 2017
4Postojna Caves, SloveniaOctober 21, 2017
5Trieste, ItalyOctober 22, 2017
6Skocjan Caves, SloveniaOctober 22, 2017
Monsooners: Mihaela “ROFLOLMAO” Kracun, Nathaniel “Phoenix” Kiechel, Ashley “Party Crasher” Jia

Remarks: “I’m glad to have met you.” – Mihaela

“Good trip man” – Nathaniel Kiechel

“I’ll MISS Y’ALL” – Ashley Jia

DestinationArrival
1Paris, FranceOctober 14, 2017
2Saint Malo, FranceOctober 14, 2017
3Saint Helier, JerseyOctober 14, 2017
4Saint Peters Port, GuernseyOctober 15, 2017

DestinationArrival
1Zagreb, CroatiaAugust 11, 2017
2Belgrade, SerbiaAugust 12, 2017
3Srebrenica, Bosnia and HerzegovinaAugust 14, 2017
4Sarajevo, Bosnia and HerzegovinaAugust 14, 2017
5Mostar, Bosnia and HerzegovinaAugust 16, 2017
6Dubrovnik, CroatiaAugust 17, 2017
7Kotor, MontenegroAugust 18, 2017
8Cetinje, MontenegroAugust 19, 2017
9Mount Ostrog Monastery, MontenegroAugust 20, 2017
10Podgorica, MontenegroAugust 20, 2017
11Peja, KosovoAugust 21, 2017
12Pristina, KosovoAugust 23, 2017
13Skopje, MacedoniaAugust 24, 2017
14Ohrid, MacedoniaAugust 26, 2017
15Tirana, AlbaniaAugust 27, 2017
16Berat, AlbaniaAugust 28, 2017
17Budapest, HungaryAugust 29, 2017
Monsooners: Ted “Bronn” Chen, Alfred “Beric Dondarrion” Yeung, Lei “The Three-Eyed Raven” Zhao, Maria “Ygritte” Landi, Taylan “Brienne Of Tarth” Stulting, Anthony “Tyrion Lannister” Lui, Belinda “Missandei” Li, Beverly “Cersei Lannister” Tchang, Rucha “Sansa Stark” Deshpande, Sidian “Oberyn Martell” Lan, Andy “Jaqen H’ghar” Chen, Sarah “Olenna Tyrell” Chen, Ujas “Gendry” Shah, Mihaela “Margaery Tyrell” Kracun, Calvin “Jeor Mormont” Hom

Remarks: “I’ve been on Monsoon Diaries trips to Venezuela, the Guyanas, and The Balkans and have thoroughly enjoyed my experiences. Highlights for me were pushing a motorized canoe upriver into the heart of the fantastical world of the Amazonian tepuis to see Angel Falls, and getting to eat bush meat that one of our guides dove into a river to catch (aquatic capybara-like rodent). In the Balkans, Sarajevo stood out, great food, and so much history. We stood atop the Yellow Fortress and took in a sunset as the evening call to prayer rose up to heaven from below us along with the smoke from many cevapi grills. Later on, we got a tour from a survivor of the Yugoslav Wars who showed us the frontlines in the Siege of Sarajevo from the very same spot. It was far and away the most poignant and powerful moment I’ve experienced on any trip.

Calvin is a meticulous planner, which means all you need to do is show up. The trips are intense, with a heavy dose of walking tours and sightseeing most of the major landmarks within a given stop. This is mixed in with plenty of carousing with your fellow travelers, going out to bars and clubs after a long day of sightseeing. This isn’t for you if you’re the kind of person who likes a more relaxed pace. But if you’re willing to push yourself, you’ll see a lot more of the world and challenge yourself to be a more independent traveler than you probably imagined you could be (hint: this is kinda Calvin’s mission). The value can’t be beat. On top of the places you’ll go, you’ll no doubt start lifelong friendships with your fellow travelers, having shared in a unique experience together (Balkans crew, I still can’t hear you after that outing to that dance club inside the walls of Dubrovnik haha).” – Lei Zhao

“I’ve been on two trips so far, South East Asia and Balkans, and I thoroughly enjoyed my experiences with The Monsoon Diaries. It is the type of trip where it will test your limits and come out with a story to tell, whether it’s emotional, physical, or spiritual. These are not trips where you stay at resorts catered to an American sensibility, but these are well planned out trips that take in account the history and geography of the place. If you plan to join one of these trips to fulfill your need for adventure, party with a bunch of cool people, go to different clubs and bars, yes, probably you’ll get that, but you’ll also get to know these places with intimacy where its history (both the wretched and marvelous) gets intertwined with your experience.

The countries that we went to were places that I never thought I’d set foot on. A few fond moments were: chancing upon a bioluminescent filled body of water while swimming in Bacau on a starlit/moonlit night. Hitchhiking through Kosovo after taking a dip in a cold ass spring by Radavc cave. Trying to find god in a monastery on the side of a cliff. Almost being stranded on an island in Palawan when a typhoon came and cancelled our flights. (That was moreso an adventure for and a testament to Calvin’s wizardry with bookings while I was chilling on a beach by a giant bonfire)

In addition to getting you feet wet with travel, you’ll also meet random ass strangers that have a similar sense of adventure. By the end of the trip, it will be uncanny that you once thought of these close friends as strangers.

Also food…so good. Everywhere” – Anthony Lui

“I’ve traveled with The Monsoon Diaries to 21 countries in the past year and every time is an amazing experience. I’m always challenged to grow as a person and the people I’ve met through these trips have become some of my best friends. If it wasn’t for Calvin and my fellow monsooners, I wouldn’t have taken the leap to spend the past six months of my life backpacking around the world which proved to be one of the best decisions of my life. I will always be grateful for this incredible community and I cannot wait for the next trip, whenever and wherever it may be.” – Taylan Stulting

“Thanks for an amazing trip! Let’s all hang out in NY sometime!” – Beverly Tchang

“Hey all! I am back in Athens thank you for taking care of me the past week in health and sickness. For those continuing their travels hope you enjoy the rest of the trip!” – Sidian Lan

“Props to Calvin for pulling another successfully trip off! To those I didn’t get to personally say goodbye, it has been a pleasure to meet and travel w all of y’all I hope to see you guys in the future soon. Enjoy the rest of your travels and have a safe trip home.” – Alfred Yeung

“To Calvin! 🍸 ….for a fun and memorable Balkans monsoon. And this is for everyone 🍻 Miss you guys already!” – Rucha Deshpande

“❤❤❤” – Beverly Tchang

“💖” – Taylan Stulting

DestinationArrival
1Marigot, Saint MartinJuly 17, 2017
2Gustavia, Saint BarthélemyJuly 18, 2017
3The Bottom, SabaJuly 19, 2017
4The Valley, AnguillaJuly 19, 2017
5Philipsburg, Sint MaartenJuly 20, 2017

 

Microstates Of The Roman Empire:

The entire trip:
DestinationArrival
1Rome, ItalyMay 20, 2017
2Vatican City, Vatican CityMay 22, 2017
3San Marino, San MarinoMay 23, 2017
4Bologna, ItalyMay 24, 2017
5Venice, ItalyMay 25, 2017
6Paris, FranceMay 26, 2017
7Luxembourg City, LuxembourgMay 27, 2017
8Valletta, MaltaMay 29, 2017
9Mdina, MaltaMay 30, 2017
10Gozo, MaltaMay 30, 2017
11Tunis, TunisiaMay 31, 2017
12Sidi Bou Said, TunisiaJune 1, 2017
13Carthage, TunisiaJune 1, 2017
14Istanbul, TurkeyJune 2, 2017
Monsooners: Joseph “Sensual Food Critic” Woo, Samin “Cuddle-buddy” Rai, Mihaela “ROFLMAO” Kracun, Ann “30 Seconds of Fame” Wen, Alfred “Ray-Ban/20 Questions” Yeung, Koichi “FOX News” Sakamaki, Steph “Honorary Asian” Hart, Anonymous “Better Late Than Never” Anonymous, Kimberly “Oh F***” Duong, Yannick “Brotherly Love” Della Schiava

Remarks:

“Made it back! Thanks again for everything. It was an amazing time.” – Samin Rai

“Thank you for these weekend trips. And for showing me they are possible.” – Mihaela Kracun

“I had a lot of fun on this trip. Thanks brotha.” – Koichi Sakamaki

“7 days: 3 countries, 6 cities, 9 new friends, countless photos/souvenirs 👏🏻👏🏻 and bravo to The Monsoon Diaries for an experience of a lifetime!” – Steph Hart

“Sorry for the delayed response. You asked a very simple question but I have a lot to say. Wanted to give you a heartfelt reply cause I’ve been reflecting since the plane ride back to NY: It feels great.

While I was getting ready to board Thursday night at JFK, a huge billboard near the gate read “People don’t take trips. Trips take people.” Sounded pretty catchy and all. After I landed back in JFK yesterday night, the message took a deeper meaning. I’ve traveled before, but for once…I feel like this trip took me. Trips always seemed high maintenance for me. From packing a shit-ton and planning every little thing to being cautious of everything that comes with being in a new and foreign place. Was always busy asking myself, “What could go wrong?” But this time, I found myself asking, “What can go right?”

It felt more effortless and low-maintenance this time. The company was great. And I feel great, most importantly. I realized a lot about myself. A lot I’ve been suppressing or telling myself not to think or feel because it’d upset the opinions and thoughts of everyone else around me. Never stopped to really think for myself and feel for myself; but for my parents, my best friends, my friends, and boyfriend.

Since I didn’t know how to not burn myself on fire to keep others warm..I grew comfortable and accustomed to the idea of the warmth I was giving off and receiving…even if it meant I was doing it in an unhealthy way by sacrificing a part of myself and my own happiness. Felt super nice letting go of all the baggage (literally and figuratively). . . . when everyone wanted to go chill and drink, I wanted to bike so I did just that. . . .

. . . . And I guess that’s what self-love does for you. It allows you to give others so much love without expecting anything in return from others because you are already receiving sufficient love from yourself. You don’t need anyone but yourself. You can want them, but you don’t need them. You can live without them, but you choose not to. You are the one giving love to yourself. . . .

. . . . I’m so glad I didn’t shy away from this. I’m so glad I didn’t say no to you and this trip. I’m grateful for the nudge. And I’m grateful for you, and everyone else that opened my eyes and made my vision a little clearer. I’m most grateful for myself because I feel like I just took 100 leaps forward from all the steps I’ve been taking back. There’s a liberation that comes with loving yourself, and I got to taste and feel a tiny, tiny part of it from this trip this past weekend. All of this self-realization and self-confrontation was step 1. . . . Thanks for giving me the chance to see the part of myself I tried to not see for a long time.” – Ann Wen

DestinationArrival
1Edinburgh, ScotlandMarch 24, 2017
2Leith, ScotlandMarch 24, 2017
3Hillend, ScotlandMarch 25, 2017
4London, UKMarch 26, 2017
Monsooners: Taylan “Plagues of Egypt” Stulting, Mihaela “ROFLOLMAO” Kracun, Ambrose “A Saturday Morning View In March” Chu

Remarks: “I found this travel blog after putting “Iran visa US passport” in the Google search bar, and clicked the “Images” tab back in 2013 (yes, I’m serious). After exchanging emails with the writer/Emergency room doctor/bartender/social justice advocate, Calvin, I visited New York and actually met him to see what kind of person he is. He seemed to be a really cool guy who knows a lot of people. After a chat over some hookah and a stroll, here’s what happened since meeting him:

  • Traveled to the Nordic Countries of Europe with 20+ people… within 1 week. Major highlights included venturing in Vaxholm and finding hope in Helsinki. It was an insane, hilarious, awesome and memorable trip.
  • Explored and partied through Cambodia and Vietnam with 3 really funny and cool people, on a trip organized by him and led by his friend, Dave (who I met in Copenhagen)… within 1 week. It was another insane, hilarious, awesome and memorable trip.
    Wrote 2 posts on his blog about my travel experiences in Europe and Asia. 
  • Moved to New York City. 
  • Did a whirlwind visit of South Africa, Victoria Falls, and Northern Botswana with 10+ people, played a (very minor) role in a serendipitous moment in Cape Town, and made some new friends. This was all within 1 week. 
  • Went to Edinburgh with 3 people, climbed 3 giant hills with amazing views… just for a weekend.

Thinking back, I never thought these events would happen, but some of the most important lessons I learned are to keep venturing out of your comfort zone and it’s really possible to travel with a very limited number of vacation days.

I still use the blog as a supplemental tool to figure out my itineraries for more solo trips, and it was very helpful, whether the destination is from Austin to Amsterdam, New York to New Delhi, or Seoul to Singapore. From those trips, I learned so much more about myself.

The Monsoon Diaries may just be a blog when you first discover it, but once you meet the writer, travel with him for at least a few days outside your home in a different country with a different culture, and return home, it’s so much more than that. You also become part of a broader circle of connections, and some of those connections could become your friends that might help you in some ways. You don’t just learn about how to travel, you might learn about yourself. You might lose a lot of money in the process, but from what I experienced, these memories and experiences I gained are worth so much more than money.

Yeah, that’s worth a 5-Star rating.

Thanks Calvin.” – Ambrose Chu

“I’ve traveled with The Monsoon Diaries to 21 countries in the past year and every time is an amazing experience. I’m always challenged to grow as a person and the people I’ve met through these trips have become some of my best friends. If it wasn’t for Calvin and my fellow monsooners, I wouldn’t have taken the leap to spend the past six months of my life backpacking around the world which proved to be one of the best decisions of my life. I will always be grateful for this incredible community and I cannot wait for the next trip, whenever and wherever it may be.” – Taylan Stulting

“…The group met back up to head to a hookah bar (a trip with Calvin is not complete without some hookah) which had a balcony overlooking the city. We sat enjoying the view, chatting about life and all things social justice related (one of the many reasons why I loved traveling with the Monsoon Diaries the first time and decided to come back), and I some how managed to not get a photo. That seemed to be a theme for the day compared to a lot of my recent trips. I was focused on just enjoying the moment instead of capturing every single moment which was a nice change of pace. Don’t get me wrong, I still took photos, it just wasn’t as obsessively as I tend to be.” – Taylan Stulting, Exploring Edinburgh

 

DestinationArrival
1Saint Petersburg, RussiaDecember 31, 2016
2Moscow, RussiaJanuary 3, 2017
3Irkutsk, RussiaJanuary 6, 2017
4Ulan-Ude, RussiaJanuary 7, 2017
5Naushki, RussiaJanuary 7, 2017
6Sukhbaatar, MongoliaJanuary 7, 2017
7Gorkhi-Terelj National Park, MongoliaJanuary 8, 2017
8Ulaanbaatar, MongoliaJanuary 9, 2017
9Zamin Uud, MongoliaJanuary 10, 2017
10Erlian, ChinaJanuary 10, 2017
11Hohhot, ChinaJanuary 10, 2017
12Beijing, ChinaJanuary 11, 2017
13Xi'an, ChinaJanuary 12, 2017
14Lhasa, ChinaJanuary 13, 2017
15Yamdrok Lake, ChinaJanuary 15, 2017
16Shigatse, ChinaJanuary 16, 2017
17Edinburgh, ScotlandMarch 24, 2017
Monsooners: Melissa “Storytime” Weinmann, Taylan “Plagues of Egypt” Stulting, JC “Closet Premed” Chan, LaiYuen “The Spy From North Korea” Looi, David “Everything Is Awesome!” Ali, Ihita “Secondhand Smoke” Kabir, June “Swedish House Mafia” Kao, Amanda “Puppy Genocide” Knarich, Mihaela “ROFLOLMAO” Kracun, Shanika “Happy Feet” Jayakody

Remarks:

“I’ve traveled with The Monsoon Diaries to 21 countries in the past year and every time is an amazing experience. I’m always challenged to grow as a person and the people I’ve met through these trips have become some of my best friends. If it wasn’t for Calvin and my fellow monsooners, I wouldn’t have taken the leap to spend the past six months of my life backpacking around the world which proved to be one of the best decisions of my life. I will always be grateful for this incredible community and I cannot wait for the next trip, whenever and wherever it may be.” – Taylan Stulting

 

“I just want to say that despite all my jabs, Calvin is one of the best people to travel with. I feel our personalities mesh really well in the stress and joy that travel situations can bring, and even if I am in a crappy mood or tired or feeling snippy, he balances it out with shared frustration or humor and lightness. This is one of those moments…(more)” – Melissa Weinmann, And The World Will Be As One

 

“My feet are tired, my stomach is satisfied, my mind is joyful, my soul is captivated and my heart is heavy as I bid farewell to this incredible journey that, for me, has been about giving myself room to breath and second chances. The places I’ve seen, people I’ve met and conversations I’ve had over the past 3 weeks and 9,000+ miles will forever be engrained in my memory. I’m not yet ready to go back to the familiar, but rather yearning to continue exploring the world, learning about others and growing as a person all while living out of a backpack. But alas, the term beckons so until the next adventure I bid you adieu.” – Taylan Stulting

 

“As I wait for my last flight, I finally have time to stop and reflect the whole week and a half of DC>AMS>STP>MOS>TLL>HEL>DC. I got to see this part of the world in its wintery snow-filled glory and see how each of them celebrate their holidays around this time of year.

On our travels we often received the question “why here during the cold and winter?” from friends and locals alike. My response: Why not? Why is it absurd to come to these countries during the winter? Sure enough there might not be too much sightseeing or too many things for tourist during this time but I appreciated seeing what each city does for their local or nearby community as well as what they do to drive tourism. Plus I get props for surviving the cold 😀

From the naturally occurring (i.e. snow) to the man made (i.e. beautiful city lights and buildings), the aesthetics of these cities leave me in awe. We didn’t meet too many locals but whenever we do and have a discussion with them, it expanded my understanding of the culture and local experience.

To my #monsooners on the rest of the #monsoondiaries trip (Calvin, Melissa, David, LaiYuen, Juancarlos, Taylan, Shanika), I am bummed I won’t get to experience that leg of the Trans-Siberian journey, but I look forward to the blog posts, pictures, and posts. It doesn’t seem real that we were just in Russia now that I am ending my trip. Miss you guys already! Stay warm 🙂

As for my draft new year’s resolution to travel less, I guess I have to rewrite it to say travel less domestically because I realized I want to keep traveling but more internationally.” – June Kao

 

“Even as a second-time monsooner, Calvin’s trips still continue to push me past boundaries that I didn’t even know I had! I thought this one to Tibet would not be so hard since I had done pretty well in La Paz, Bolivia during Calvin’s previous trip to South America. I met up with the group after spending a few days in Beijing. We had missed our train to Xi’an but Calvin was already prepared to book flights for the next morning — Calvin’s fostering of comrades/camraderie is very unique to his trips and refused to leave anyone behind.

The trip to Tibet was intense; between the altitude sickness, brutal cold winds in Shigatse, and constant scaling up monasteries, I was ready to fly home by the last day. Despite all of this, the experience allowed me to show a lot of compassion towards myself; during my trip, I was convinced I had to figure out a lot of things on my own since most of the people in the group felt very comfortable with each other. The people I met on this trip were very supportive and luckily, Calvin created flexible itineraries in case we wanted to rest a bit more than the others.

The people you meet in the Tibetan cities had a welcoming curiosity about people who were not from Tibet. Even if you could not speak Mandarin, a smile and a wave of your hand was worth more than any RMB you could offer to the “Future Buddhas” in Tibet. Even if I was not fluent in Mandarin, I was grateful for Calvin encouraging me to use what I remembered in the Bazaars in Lhasa. That was a big step for me, in terms of guiding other members of the group on how they should approach bargaining with locals. It’s been 6+ years since I’ve used Mandarin but it was one of the best moments of the trip for me.

Also, most people think Calvin’s trips are not complete without a hookah session; however, the real truth of it is that his trips are not complete until you have delved into the deepest parts of yourself during the group conversations and realizing you are already more than you thought you were (from the beginning of the trip).

As for Beijing, it will always be one of my favorite cities (Xi’an is a close second!). People are a lot more helpful and friendly than you would expect. It’s even better to see people’s faces light up when you geive them RMB with two hands or even say ‘ni hao’ or ‘zaijian.’ If you know a few words in Mandarin, Beijing will reward you with a lot of unexpected happy memories. I’m in Beijing for a couple more days but I will really miss it when I go back to the USA. No doubt, I will miss the food, company, and irreplaceable scenery of Tibet as well.

It was quite the adventure, all thanks to Calvin and The Monsoon Diaries.

Thanks again for everything! Can’t wait till the next adventure!” – Shanika Jayakody

 

❤ The most hardcore and well-traveled world backpackers on the planet.” – JC Chan

“I survived a winter in Russia. BRING IT ON 2017!” – June Kao

“I can’t believe it’s the last day of an amazing journey with these goof balls (and of course everyone else who isn’t pictured). Tonight we say our goodbyes as they fly home tomorrow while I board a 40 hour train back to Beijing where I’ll then spend 2 more days exploring and hiking the Great Wall. Thanks for an amazing 3 weeks. ❤️” – Taylan Stulting

“Go on his f*cking trips!” – JC Chan

“Nope, not crying. I’m just allergic to clean air after Ulaanbaatar and Beijing: You’re Gonna Miss…The Trans-Mongolian & Tibet.” – Taylan Stulting

 

“After 3 weeks and backpacking 5000 miles through Russia, the trans-Siberian RR, Mongolia, China, and Tibet, I find it weird to be touching land in a Trumpian USA.

I made many friends along the way. Sometimes I communicated with broken Russian or Chinese. But despite wherever I go, I generally find people courteous and good natured. They bare little resemblance to their nation’s leaders or politics. We all share the universal love of good food, laughs, a decent job, and a life of meaning.

In Chengdu, after missing my connecting fight and running back and forth between the equivalent of 4 miles between two terminals, a young Chinese Etihad airlines representative, went as far to stay two hours past her shift and ensure the airport hotel calls her to ensure my safety. She let me sit in her office as I was soaked in sweat and panic she passed a water to me. I haven’t eaten in 16 hours. When I ‘thanked her so much’, she said, ‘don’t worry, I’m a good person.’

I have a lot of street photography I did in the streets of China and Tibet. The goal of my photographs was not to simply capture the touristy buildings but a candid portrait of what life is like in developing Asia. I will share those when I get back.

Now I will hang back, enjoy my last bowl of Niu Rou Mien, dream of the wonderful Korean lunch I had in St. Petersburg and dwell on the conversations that I had with my fellow backpackers, Calvin, Melissa, Taylan, LaiYuen, David, Mihaela, Ihita, Amanda, June, Shanika.” – JC Chan

 

“When I first looked into spending three weeks with The Monsoon Diaries backpacking through Russia, Mongolia, China and Tibet, I couldn’t be more excited at the possibility. But I was also terrified. It’s not like those are places that are known for being LGBT-friendly but rather the exact opposite. I mean who doesn’t remember the controversy from the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi? I kept questioning whether or not the experience would be worth the fear, discomfort and risk. 

Let me go ahead and say it was absolutely worth it. . . .

I found that, for me, merging my trans identity with travel can be a radical act of self-love by saying “fuck you” to the system that is designed to hold us down and doing something for me simply because I deserve it even though we live in a world that teaches trans people that we aren’t worthy. Traveling while trans has taught me that I am worthy and has inspired me to take on the world as an out trans person, carving out a space for my existence to be seen and validated. . . . (more)” – Taylan Stulting, Traveling While Trans on the Trans-Siberian/Mongolian