"Of Me (or How I got bit by the TravelBug)" JRiel's Profile

In the beginning...

My name is JR. I have simple passions in life. God, family, friends and travel. I was born into a family of modest means on a small island, but had the good fortune of being raised a stones throw from the shorebreaks, right on the sands. This instituted within me a love for simplicity, nature and beauty. My mothers culture is Native Hawaiian-Portugese, a people generous, loving and full of attitude. My fathers background is Filipino-Chinese, both are cultures centered around the family, one being more latin than asian in its 'passion for life'. This mix of backgrounds shaped my view on how I percieved my purpose in this world. I come from an island where a boy has duties, and to stay and build and raise a family is expected. But after high school, I left Hawaii for New York for a wedding (not my own), a trip which I never really returned from. That is when I made my Great Escape out into the world.

To Fly...

My initial taste of freedom was bittersweet. When I transplanted myself from Moloka'i Island, Hawai'i to Long Island, New York ... I lost the protection of m immediate family of whom I was totally dependant upon. My savings were nil and my experience was nonexistent. I learned from scratch what it took to live in a world of 'ID Men'. At the same time, I answered to no one, I was responsible for none but myself. And my priorities in life, for the first time, were centered around just one person~ me. I both languished and relished in this new found freedom to live.

To God

Oddly enough, the first right I excercised was my freedom of religion. I studied the Bible with Jehovah's Witnesses, and at the ripe age of 19 I publicly dedicated my life to God by baptism in 1999. This was the first major decision I made for myself on my own, without the constant pressure put on me by my concerned parents.

Travelbug Bites Travelbuds

I made friends with an interesting bunch of vagabonds. All fresh faced teens with one direction in life~ to go through life in every direction. It was in this period that I met Adam Bird, the White Boy most in touch with his Native American Cherokee heritage. Obsessed with blond Italianas and his grandfather's Montauk fishing boat, The White Cloud, this boy took me on my first road trips up into New England, and taught me that it's necessary to split the cost in gas when car pooling across The States. I also met the Lawler girls... Arlethia-Rose, the white sister, with the voice and soul of Aretha Franklin, and a passion for crisping on the beach... and Jayleen, the black sister, a Russian Language-Psych major who helped me understand pro-fem persuasion and the history of her mother's people in America, the African-Americans. These were the children of my generation who introduced me to the world. It was from these that I discovered the joy of travel.


For three solid years I rode the winds of independence. The various tales told to me by my once-new-found-turned-as-family-friends of far-away lands etched in my imagination the desire to experience such adventures first hand. It wasn't long before my desires bore fruit, and I found myself criss-crossing my way across the 48 States, creating adventures of my own. I supported my travel habit by working at whatever jobs I could find. A small but key moment was when I purchased a used Manual Canon AE1 in a pawn shop in Colorado. This I've used to visually document my travels since.

Crossing Borders

Eventually the patchwork quilt geography of the U.S.A. was not merely enough, and I crossed the borders. Trips up into the cold Canadian north brought me face to face with my forgotten neighbors, and travels through the southern borders took me into Mexican territories that felt slightly hostile with an undertone of familiarity, like an alternate USA. It was my first taste of other nations, and although we shared continents, our cultural structures were vast and varied. Flying and sailing south into the pearls of the Caribbean Sea enlightened my viewpoint on cultural differences, and my adventures in this strange and distant seascape helped me to see that stereotypes based on physical appearances were shaped by ones own surroundings, and they may hold no water when put to the test. I let go of a lot of my narrow-minded viewpoints, and I embraced different cultures from what I saw, and not by what I'd heard they were like. Various Utopia's in my mind were shattered by the realism that even a tiny island paradise can be touched by the twin powerhouses of tourism and commercialism.

Tales of the South Pacific

In 2001 I flew back to Hawaii. I said goodbye to my friends and put my travels through North America on standby. Tales of South-East Asia and the South Pacific called to me, and what better place as a base for my travels in this quarter of the globe than the island chain that I once called home. I did some island hopping, and after a progressive jump from O'ahu to Maui to Moloka'i to Lana'i, I settled my transcient heart on the former plantation island of Lana'i, a tiny jewel at the center of the Hawaiian chain. This was a far cry from my native island of Moloka'i, which is Hawaiian at heart. I found myself on an island settled fifty years ago by immigrants from Japan and the Phillipines, searching for a better life, and recently called home by the many West Coast Oregon-ites who moved here during the islands transition from plantation to resort island. This makes for an interesting mix of Old World-New World East-Meets-West attitudes, and the results are very unique. This blend of strangers in a strange land also gives Lana'i the least Hawaiian feeling of all the islands.

Passport Necessary

At the moment I am indulging in the pleasures of the South Pacific. A solo backpacking trip into the mountain villages of Viti Levu has helped me to embrace the similarities in cultures that the Native Hawaiians have with Native Fijians, despite distinct physical differences. (Hawaiians are of the Polynesian line of Pacific settlers, Fijians are predominantly Melanesian in stock). A road trip with eight buds in two R.V.'s around North and South Islands, NZ has helped me to forge new friendships in my ever changing itinerary of life, while discovering a native people, the Maori, who are practically identical to the Hawaiians in appearance, language and lifestyle. During the months of March and April in 2004, my sister and I met up in Bangkok and escaped to Laos and Cambodia for a taste of Old Indochina. After tapping slightly into the cultures and peoples of the paradises in the South Pacific and Southeast Asia, I set my sights on the Mediterranean, cruising along the coastline where greatness was born and where empires fell. I've gotten lost in the rainforests of Central America, and returned on a train slash plane slash road trip across the northern States, and only slightly tasted the wonders of the western world. My current ticket finds me heading back to the America's... this time Mexico, (I thought only old people go there???)

The world as my playground... who is next?

Contact Info

Feel free to leave me comments at the bottom of this page.

Drop me a line and tell me 'hey', I love to meet and make new travel buds.

And a side note: As of now my next plane ticket will take me to the city of Tampico, Mexico in June 2008. We'll stay put in Tampico majority of the time, but I'm hoping to escape on the weekends to spots such as Xilitla or Sotano de las Golondrinas right outside of Aquismon. I plan on being in the area for 2 months. Let me know if you have any opinions.

If there is anyone out there who would like to meet up for some drinks in those areas, let me know.

Ciao, J

  • Intro Updated Jun 1, 2008
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Comments (28)

  • Oct 23, 2008 at 9:19 AM

    JR, u have always had the gift of "DIP"...Description,Imagination,& Passion. U have the ability to make people feel as though they were right next to u on your travels. I miss u. Haven't seen u in 4ever. Love, The "Oldest" Lawler Sister

  • Gillian_mc's Profile Photo
    Jul 2, 2008 at 8:51 PM

    Hi! I just read your email, I'm sorry I couldn't help you before to plan your trip. Have a great time in Mexico!

  • Etoile2B's Profile Photo
    Jun 12, 2008 at 10:01 AM

    Happy Birthday from sunny California! Here's to many more wonderful years!

  • bpacker's Profile Photo
    Aug 13, 2007 at 4:48 AM

    Greets from HK - must say, you're quite an adventurous chap yourself.

  • takla73's Profile Photo
    Jun 11, 2007 at 10:31 PM

    Happy birthday and have a nice day Greeting from Alexandria Egypt TAKLA

  • sprdak11's Profile Photo
    Jun 12, 2006 at 3:05 AM

    Happy Birthday!

  • Ramonq's Profile Photo
    Jun 12, 2006 at 2:22 AM

    From across the Pacific, Happy Birthday to you!

  • zazatann's Profile Photo
    Jun 12, 2006 at 2:19 AM

    What a nice page you have !!! By the way, Sook San Wan Kert .......it means 'Happy Birthday' to you!!! Greeting from Bangkok

  • Mikebond's Profile Photo
    Jun 12, 2006 at 1:58 AM

    Happy birthday from Italy!

  • deecat's Profile Photo
    Jun 11, 2006 at 9:25 PM

    A warm birthday wish goes out to you from Chicago.

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“There are people who cannot even write their names, but they are wiser than most who can read-F. Sionil Jose”

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