Hey, I’m Nicholas, you probably know that already. 

Writer, thinker, hopeless poet and most importantly a student of life embracing the quirks, the quandaries, and curiosities that make us human. 

Photo by Tomu00e1u0161 Malu010do Malu00edk on Pexels.com

Oh, Education:
I’m launching this campaign as my semester comes to a close. Eyes turned eastward, dreaming of snowcapped mountains and ancient monasteries, cultural exchanges and roads less traveled. I’m diving head first into deepening my research in Asian Studies — go hand in hand with outreach programs and volunteer work — and launching a series of educational webcasts promoting diversity and cross-cultural understanding from an entertaining slant — let’s call it EduTainment

The Web-Series: 
So this bit is particularly exciting. Additionally, though in its beta, The Wandering Scholar will consist of webcasts, vlogs, potentially even podcasting, on the cultures, foods, customs, traditions, and experiences that make us human. Think of it as a highly integrated travel blog. Full of interesting and meaningful information.

Your generous contributions will directly support tuition and tuition alone. I will update you at a later point as to which institution I’m accepted into – aiming for Dharma Realm University. As a student, I am at the mercy and heavily dependent upon the financial generosity of others — for which I am endlessly grateful.

College Fund

$1.00

I’ve run a successful website for nearly six years now. Whew! As a writer, archaeologist, and former travel blogger. All the while striving to publish my debut novel — a novel about a grownup of students in Arabia searching for purpose, finding love, loss, and “growing up” in the Middle East — all during the Arab Spring. An emotional rollercoaster, full of wild romps, heartache, and all that delicious adventure we seek in a good story.

Look, I understand this is an absurdly individualistic request. And I am no way under the impression that I am owed, or deserving of asking for financial assistance. But I just wanted to go out on this limb and be open, honest about my financial setbacks and take this next step towards achieving my dreams. So here I am, slightly -very- embarrassed and asking for your help, from the bottom of my heart, to support these dreams so that I can become a participant in the global peace process. So that I can deepen my studies/understanding of Eastern Philosophy, mindfulness, and language at the University level. All with the intention of bringing it full circle and sharing every morsel and lovely detail along the way. 

Thank you for your time and consideration. I am an open book, read me. If you have any comments, thoughts, or want to connect otherwise I’d love to get to know you! 
Reach out here on Fund My Travel, or email me at 
andriani1208@gmail.com
You can add me on Instagram at @NicholasAndriani
And on Twitter at @nickandriani

One Dollar, Almost Free

$1.00


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“With only enough time to unpack from our trip to Portland Jaclyn suggests we rent a jalopy and drive our tired souls to North Carolina for the High Point Furniture Market.”

The HP Furniture Market is a Mecca for designers and business owners to network, in-person with manufacturers and gets you in on the know-know. Jaclyn runs a furniture boutique here in Kansas City (the Coveted Home) and making it to events like this can be essential for success. It’s far more than furniture though. Hoards of vendors bring in antiquities and handcrafted goods from around the globe; Southeast Asian, African, you name it. All the while parties are raging. Good drinks and vibes to go around tenfold. Who could pass this up?

Her suggestion ignited an even greater plan; raid this designers “treasure trove” and hit the Smoky Mountains. Taking with us our camping gear, we would mosey along, sampling from local cuisine and the Appalachian Trail.

A week later we were renting that van and on the road with our dog and a cooler stocked with cheese…

Step 1- Kansas City, MO to Franklin, NC

(822 Miles/12 hours and 32 minutes)

Saint Louis, Missouri

Our first sight is the iconic Gateway Arch of St. Louis, MO.  This 630-ft arch is the tallest manmade monument in the states and I must admit, this photo, given the weather, does little justice for the true beauty of this beast.

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We reserve our energy by sleeping through the route between St. Louis and Franklin. Driving and snoozing, equal shifts between Jaclyn, myself, and Simone…

The following morning we’re witness to the beginnings of the Appalachians splendor as we enter North Carolina.

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Early morning sun, burning the Smoky Mountain haze.

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As the sun begins to peak, so does Simone, leaf peeping.

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Fall foliage begins to reveal its orchestrated plumes and hues of autumns tune.

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Taking in a dose of Americana; Avett Brothers blaring, banjo picking, snare drum kicking.

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Franklin, North Carolina

Arriving midday at our first destination we pop our tent and hit the trails

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For those points where it’s hard to distinguish between game trails and the actual hiking trail, cairns are strategically placed along to keep the pious hiker safely on the right route.

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About an hour in, we run into these two who have been out here for days, working their way around the lower AT. They apparently had a run in with a small black bear earlier in the day. Nothing these two champs can’t handle.

With the sun setting, temperature dropping, we spend a few hours fighting the elements to get a fire started, burning through 3/4 of the journal I brought to document this trip… And for a brief moment we actually had a fire raging, cooking our bundles of carrots, potatoes, onions, and turmeric wrapped in foil, roasting with a can of beans and cheese. Enough to heat our food before the moisture snuffed out our flame for good. Eating to the musical backdrop of Appalachia we welcomed the darkness in excitement for the days to come.

The Appalachian Road Trip will return in Franklin to High Point.

Yallah, Bye

The sky out my window is that fiery red which makes the heart swell with life and there it is again: that sensational expanding within my chest, rising to my throat, gripping and stinging my eyes.

Oh, no.

I bury my face into the scarf. Traces of fig leaf and sandalwood bring her rushing back to me as the mountains stretch into fractals, the tears come. The puddle on the red sky horizon, where the sun has fallen and melted, flickers with a faint shimmer and so suddenly the desert goes dark and I have never been so mysteriously out of sorts than I am on the six o’clock from Casablanca.

Gliding to a stop, the train hisses and pops, and ever so tentatively the doors stretch open, as if waking from an ancient sleep, creaking, stretching and finally, almost there, quit so those deboarding turn sideways, sucking in bellies and removing packs and balancing boxes upon trained heads. There’s no telling where we are. Out there, way out there, I mean stretching-your-eyes out there, is a city or at least a cluster of lights. Is that it? But here, it’s just a lamppost and a platform of backlit women, veiled and watching our subtle roll and pass through as their smiles fall into frowns, and they go on waiting and we lurch deeper into the African night.

Each one’s the same. Hiss, pop, impossibly congested desert town platforms, lampposts blackened with moths and large scaly things as the moon, rising beyond, lends a silvery glow over all the details she touches as the desert comes to life once more in this reversed role as nature returns to her rightful place and it’s our turn, us humans, to hide away within dens and shrubs.

So. Completely. Alone.

Every single desert town. Platform of veiled women. Waiting. Sometimes I catch sight of their villagers beyond, dusty main streets and always the shadowy figures of children running amok, kicking cans and beating the tattered remains of saggy cardboard boxes with twigs and old broomsticks.

Cracking the seal with a sharp click I down the bottle and bury the evidence deep into pack as the tremble in my hand steadies and I drift away…”

 


 

Scene:
The protagonist has just landed in a mysterious town in Africa. With nothing but a rucksack and a name scratched across a piece of paper: Djemaa el-Fna, “whatever that means…”

We open as he’s feeling deep regret for the past year and taking this tremendous leap into the unknown. But, at the same time, aware of this need to liberate the self from the old life which has led to a deep pit of depression and drinking…


 

While my novel is entirely true, there are moments which I allow artistic license to paint scenes with more interest.

I would love to know what you think.

Yes, this is only a small glimpse, but I know the importance of landing an intriguing opening. And this is my goal here…

Experience New York City like a local. Expert tips on where to eat, what to see and do in a weekend or layover.

Stay: The Jane

Built in 1908 for sailors docking in Manhattan, the Jane Hotel offers historic, cabin-like berths for single and double occupancy.

The overall vibe marries Victorian and Ottoman stylings–with a nod to the cult of Wes Anderson–as porters run luggage to and fro, dressed in bellhop uniforms and Fez caps. The walls are ornamented with antique wood molding and portraits and paintings from the Orient hang alongside gypsy folk art and a stuffed monkey and other trophy heads that include, if I’m remembering clearly, a peacock. The Jane is also notable as having hosted survivors of the Titanic in 1912. At night, the lounge comes to life in quasi-Gatsby delight where hipsters rub shoulders with entrepreneurs and socialites over cocktails.

Highlights: On-site restaurant, Cafe Gitane. Rooftop bar. Lounge on ground level. Free bicycles for day use. Shared bathrooms and showers for those not staying in “Captains Quarters.”

You may ask yourself  “Is this the Grand Budapest Hotel?”

Single $80 — Double (bunk bed) $139 — Captains Cabin $225 (prices as of Jan 2017)

*Truth is, single and doubles are tiny. But, there’s absolutely no reason that should be a problem–you’re in NYC, hit the streets ASAP. And those prices!

Breakfast: Cafe Gitane

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Translated as “Gypsy Woman,” Cafe Gitane serves French and Moroccan cuisine, a la Paris meets Marrakech. American made absinthe, croissants, couscous, baristas, bartenders, fresh juices and breakfast smoothies made with cereal, bananas, and maple syrup. What’s more, Cafe Gitane is built into the Jane Hotel. Go figure!

Make this your morning stop — caffeinate, carb-up or whatever your morning routine.

I suggest pairing an espresso with pain au chocolat and the baked eggs. If you’re in a hurry, opt for the breakfast smoothie to go.

*Best of all?  Their no-bullshit policy on prohibiting the use of laptops.

 

Explore: HighLine

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I’ve said a lot about the Highline in the past, have strolled its verdent lanes time and time again, yet it never grows old. In fact, it grows anew as more platforms are dedicated to the city park.

Think of it as a pedestrian bridge that runs North and South across the West Village and the Meatpacking district. A collected respite from the madness below with a near dystopian vibe for much of the reclaimed Highline has been build to incorporate the original rail lines which ran trains for centuries. Now, they’re grown over wild a healthy helping of local flora and an array of birds and bees and butterflies. The skyline is just wild from up here.

Highlight: Ice cream sandwiches, buskers, street art, people watching, bars below, bars above. Strictly pedestrian and a great fountain made to walk through, take off them kicks and splash around!

 

Shop: Three Lives & Co…

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Some say local bookstores are a relic of the past. I say they’re just getting started. I mean, it wasn’t even that long ago that printed books were hard to come by, let alone afford. The players are just warming up, if not off to a weary start. Heads up. For we have our heroes.

Three Lives and Co. is nothing less than a ship of bibliophiles. Employees know their shit, as in they don’t just casually read the bestsellers, they inhale, they ingest every phrase, every line, every book with deep rooted passions for the written word so that when a wayward wanderer (yours truly) goes in search of some fabled memoir, they have not only read the book, each one of them, but they can happily assist in finding a similar read.

Host to a curated collection of books and boutique zines since 1968, like the AMNH, you could spend days inside.

Apps//Happy Hour: Virgola

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New York, like all my favorite cities, is known for an endless arsenal of cubbies, of hole-in-the-wall establishments with more charm than any desperate big box shop can buy.

Virgola is just that, a cubby hole oyster and prosecco bar. Menu boasts cheese plates, meat plates, salads, caviar and other articles of the sea.

We ended up with a 9 oyster varieties a piece, each more succulent than the last… or maybe that was the prosecco talking?

Flights of oysters, flights of fancy, whatever your poison. Live it.

Happy-hour from 4pm to 7pm

Dinner: Joseph Leonard

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Joseph Leonard is one of those restaurants that you will take with you. That you will think about time and again and that you never fail to recommend. I generally avoid visiting the same place twice when traveling, at least in the realm of food, but I recently had my third meal here and they keep getting better. No trip to NYC can be complete without a meal at Joseph Leonard.

Always on point with a strong seasonal menu ranging from wild caught fish to hearty vegetarian entrees, and NY strips to the artisan cheese plates and craft cocktails and house made pickles, sat out at every table. The oyster menu is always fresh.

After dark candles are lit and lights are dimmed. With a central bar at ground level and the kitchen being a few steps up, the small restaurant feels even more intimate when seated. Try for a window seat towards the back.

*Joseph Leonard does not accept reservations. So arrive a little early. Worst case scenario, you’ll wait at the bar, have a few cocktails, waiting for a table to free. Or, eat at the bar.

Dessert : Big Gay Ice Cream

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What began in 2009 as an ice cream truck has grown to two permanent parlors (with more to come). The menu offers cones, shakes and floats incorporating  experimental flavors that anyone can enjoy. Featured on many top-tens, best of, and best in the world lists, Big Gay’s has quickly become a NY staple and an absolute must all ice cream loving humans.

Try the Salty Pimp (dulce de leche, sea salt, vanilla ice cream in a cone dunked in chocolate) or as Thanksgiving rears its head in the US, the Gobbler (pumpkin butter, maple syrup, pie pieces and whipped cream, all in one cone!)

Here’s a little secret — do not, under any circumstance, eat inside — you WILL succumb to seconds, and thirds… ad nauseam. What you want to do is order your ice cream then use this time to stroll the beats of Washington Square. Hit the streets where Bohemia has once again settled in…

See/Do: Washington Square Park

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Mark Twain and Robert Louis Stevenson shot the shit here. This is where you and that Big Gay load of cream will mingle with the night. Could be to the tune of some vagabonding gypsy quartet, could be a tearjerking talented  junkie who’s future shines like a dwarf planet never to spark the mainstream but you know you have found solid gold if only for a moment. This is New York City. This is the heart. Where everyone is someone and in that the maddening chaos that it could be flows like poetry.

Self described as

“A marsh. A cemetery. A parade ground. A gathering spot for avant-garde artists. A battleground for chess enthusiasts. A playground for canines and children. Washington Square Park has served various roles for its community throughout the years, adapting to meet its needs. Well-known for its arch, honoring George Washington, the man for whom the park is named, and its fountain, the arch’s elder by 43 years and a popular meeting spot, Washington Square Park also houses several other monuments and facilities.”

Hauntingly, or not, around 20,000 bodies of victims of early America rest under the concrete park

Now. For me, the best dessert would be to skip the Ice Cream and pick up a bottle wine, maybe some cheese and nuts and head straight for Wash. Square Park after dinner to watch the scene unfold. I’ve seen lightsaber duels, impromptu dance demonstrations and raging jazz bands horning and howling out familiar tunes that you just can’t name. Hula hoopers and tricksters are not unheard of.

 

Itinerary:

  • Stay: The Jane
  • Breakfast: Cafe Gitane
  • See: The American Museum of Natural History
  • Do: The Highline
  • Shop: Three Lives & Co…
  • App//Happy Hour: Virgola
  • Dinner: Joseph Leonard
  • Washington Square Park

For an added bonus–after Washington Square Park, if you’re feeling wild, restless, if this city life has gripped your core, hail a cab to Times Square. Wander the streets starstruck, high on the nighttime New York.

We stumbled away from Another Kind of Sunrise high on good food and despite this the lure of chocolate never wore off. I felt like a child longing for a view into Willie Wonka’s chocolate factory. Knowing that what lies beyond contained the secret of cacao alchemica; that is, the transformation of cacao from plant to biodynamic and holy confections.

Rounding the alley we found ourselves in the presence of a true American pioneer- ZenBunni

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Overturned turtle shells emit a soft glow as they light a path through the rabbit hole.

Bohemian and whimsical in equal measure the storefront carries the timeless essence of passion and sustainability. After repurposing an old broom closet husband and wife -Zen and Bunni- created this space using clay and mud from their property outside Los Angeles. If that isn’t admirable enough, this was followed by a final dusting of cacao powder (the walls are chocolate!). Thus encouraging any and all to take a trip down the rabbit hole.

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Packets of hand selected chocolate mingle with pine cones and antlers on display for a quick fix.

Below the counter ten artfully prepared recipes await for you to explore the world of dopamine enhancers.

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This is the kind of chocolate in which it’s a shame to chew. That which you’re drawn to for the sensation of all those well balanced compounds like phenylethylamine and cannibinoids; a recipe for childlike giddiness.

We sample the “Lost Salt of Atlantis” following up with an order for the Rainbow Pack (which comes with 9 chocolates and a little crystal) and several bars (Maui Turmeric Ginger, Cali Almond and the Shiva Rose). It’s hard not to smile after breaking a bar in your mouth. Sit back and let the good times roll. But know your limit. Between Jaclyn and myself, we could have cleaned out this store in one sitting!

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With one final pass we bid farewell to Zen as our last day in Los Angeles comes to a close.

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In the alleyway between ZenBunni and Another Kind of Sunrise.


Our original plan had us on the road, leaving L.A. at 9am. It was just past noon as we left ZenBunni. And that is how to travel consciously.

Abandon your precepts and break the rules. Otherwise ZenBunni, Another Kind of Sunrise would have been nothing more than chalkboards I probably wouldn’t have seen and Abbot Kinney just another place-name on a map.

One last thing–ZenBunni is up for a Guinness World Record for smallest chocolate shop. How cool is that?!

until next time–yallah’bye

 *Photo credits to Jaclyn Joslin

All cities come equipped with a beating heart. A cultural core that stimulates the genius in urbanites giving them a unique identity to stand apart from the rest of the world. Some cities, like Los Angeles, race to the tune of several hearts and it was on our way out of L.A. that we came across one such nucleus while on the hunt for breakfast in a seemingly deserted town at 9am. IMG_0405

It was reggae music that came first, then voices and finally we found ourselves part of a small crowd, down a tight alley, in front of a makeshift cafe where a young woman stood with confidence between the grinding of coffee beans and noting of detailed orders.  We were the last in what became a line as the crowd dispersed leaving us alone with chef Lela Buttery.

Another Kind of Sunrise

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Biologist and self-described food sorcerer, Lela “yes, my last name really is Buttery,” Buttery projects her addicting personality and revolutionary approach to diet.  Talking us through her own philosophies and menu items such as Buttery Brew and Paleo Granola we were quickly becoming entranced.

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After placing our order (Buttery Brew, Farfurina’s Paleo Granola, a Meri Acai Bowl and a Dandelion-Lavender-Ginger Tea) we set out on a tour around the tight alley.

Not only the chocolatier but a handful of other merchants lie beyond the cafe/cereal house.

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Trail marker. So that Hat-maker, that’s Nick Fouquet-local Mad Hatter=He who made not only a personalized head piece for Madonna but also Pharrell.

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Urban jungle. The alley which holds many, many secrets.

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ZenBunni: It’s clear that there be something magical behind these closed doors. But sadly the doors were locked shut.

Food ready Lela called us back to the cafe at the entrance of this quirky alley.

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With the Buttery Coffee to wash it all down I dove into my Paleo granola a boy and emerged a caveman (no offense Neanderthals), in a complete food-centric rage. Ravaging every morsel of berry and gluten-free granola. All balanced by the tart grass-fed whole-milk yogurt. Jaclyn was equally pleased with her spicy gingery tea and acai bowl.

Lela gave us the rundown on Buttery Coffee and the wrongful villainization of butter in our society. Freshly roasted coffee beans (from Handlebar Coffee) are brewed and married to equal parts ghee and raw coconut oil. It’s royal, decadent, smoothly silken, and seductive. All without being overly sweet. I’ve never been fond of coffee, nor lattes, nor mocha-whatevers. This miraculous concoction spoke my language.

Jaclyn and I move about the cafe, savoring our bowls of cereal and sipping our brews like children with hot chocolate on Christmas morning.

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What treasures are to be found if you follow the trail of the UniWolfCheetah?

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Art and greenery envelop the alley giving it an organic, natural feel.

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*A note on the UniWolfCheeta- Diana Garcia is the mastermind behind these Unicorn-Wolf-Cheetah hybrids which are part of her series titled “I’m Not a Wolf”. Indeed, you are not a wolf. They can be seen down the street on Abbot Kinney, in Mexico City, NYC, and Austin, Texas. This mytical creature gets around, you could say.

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 Only a quarter of the way through the alley we’re ready to move on to the next shop as the rest of Abbot Kinney stirs to life. We meet the owner of ZenBunni, a regular at AKOSunrise as he ordered his breakfast and assured us that the shop would now be open.

On we march to chocolate paradise where the door has been peeled away leading us down a rabbit hole…

Let’s save that for next time


P.S. I can’t close without noting that the food sorcerer, Lela Buttery, authored a book titled We Can Do Butter. It’s an informative goldmine covering sustainable living and sourcing better quality food. Full for recipes, scientific evaluations, and logic the book serves it’s purpose well. If you’re one to question the world of commercially processed foods do take a look at her site.

Abbot Kinney Part II: ZenBunni

until next time–yallah’bye

*All photos taken by Jaclyn Joslin