Welcome To My Cafe

Hey – this is Mark O’Keeffe, and welcome to my little cafe.

I’ve traveled a lot. Not well, mind you. I traveled broke, and often found myself in the group hostels and government subsidized shacks of the world.

See, I didn’t have many prospects when I dropped out of high school halfway through tenth grade. It was 1970 and I was 16. My options were the military or grabbing my passport and working my way across the Atlantic on a whaling boat.

I stepped into Ireland exactly as I had left America – broke and hopeless.

I spent the next 25 years of my life leapfrogging around the world. I never put roots down, and rarely informed my current friends when I was moving on.

I’d do it all over again because of one thing: the food.

I consider myself the luckiest man on this god damn planet. I’ve tried food from more countries than most people know the names of. I’ve eaten weirder shit than most people ever even hear of in their entire life. And it’s all been absolutely wonderful.

So for now, I’ve decided to record the best of the best recipes, travel destinations, and travel experiences here on this site, in Mark Okeeffe’s Cafe. Some will be normal, some won’t – I hope you enjoy them all.

A note on traveling:

As long as you’re willing to forego having many material possessions, traveling is really quite easy. It boils down to a few simple lessons I’ve learned over the years:

  1. The locals are always right. It doesn’t matter where you are and it doesn’t matter how “strange” something may seem to you. Values, morals, mores and folkways vary greatly around the world and you cannot hope to succeed as a traveler if you bring your ethnocentrism with you. You will see things that make you uncomfortable. You will see things you will never quite be able to comprehend. But, if you want to travel easily and carefree, you will respect the locals of whatever godforsaken place you’re currently imposing on.
  2. Pick a small selection of people that you do stay in touch with. I fucked this up early on and cut most all of my connections across the world. I thought I’d just make new friends as I traveled. I did, but each new location meant starting over again entirely. There’s nothing wrong with that, but sometimes you just want to talk to an old friend for a night. I don’t care if it’s a family member, pen pal, e-friend, kindergarten friend, or anything in between. Pick a few select people that you do stay in touch with while you travel, no matter where you go. Sending them little presents as you’re able to can be a big help: http://friendship.about.com/od/Keeping-Friendships-Strong/tp/5-Reasons-You-Are-Losing-Friends.htm
  3. Pillows matter. If there’s one luxury item I’d recommend investing , it’s a good travel pillow. I don’t care if it’s an actual travel pillow or just a pillow that you like traveling with. No matter how uncomfortable your sleeping accommodations may be, you’ll always be able to catch some decent shuteye with the help of a proper pillow. I’ve been enjoying the reviews posted on The Comfy Traveler travel review site if you’re looking for suggestions.
  4. You will fall in love along the way. Probably more than once. When this happens, you have a choice to make and you better not put it off. Are you going to give up the travel lifestyle and put roots down with a partner? If not, you best be upfront about it. Let them know you will eventually be moving on. Life is too short to string people along.
  5. Don’t take yourself seriously. You will, at some point, find yourself in a truly horrible situation. Remember then that it does. not. matter. You will be fine. Everything will be fine. Always keep your chin up and remember to laugh.

I’ll be adding to this as I meditate on it, but those would be the 5 most important lessons I’ve learned throughout my travels to date. Heed or disregard as you see fit.