What is Belly Button Window?

Who are you to be writing this?

Ain't I cute?
The good life

What would posses a guy to put up almost a decade of his life now on the Internet for the whole world to see? Am I some freak exhibitionist? A narcissistic exhibitionist even? While I’ve been called both on occasion, I am more humble than that – yes I swear!

See, it was early 1995, and I was a fresh face in Washington DC, having just graduated from the University of Central Florida where I studied business, surfing, partying, and women, trying to excel at each. In that foolishness I never thought about the permanence of my memories, I just made as many as possible.

Visiting the Library of Congress one day, I happened to read a page from one of Lincoln’s diaries. It wasn’t a famous date, just one the curators picked seemingly at random. Reading that page, I realized all the days, experiences, moments, that define me were unrecorded. That my whole life was only in my head and a few scattered photographs. That no one would ever read about a day in my life.

Now don’t think I’m feeling special. Yes, I was born on Bali, Indonesia to very cool parents who were not in the military, as most people assume, but travelers, off on a 10-year adventure when I arrived.

They infected me at birth with the travel bug, so I’ve been from Uganda and Cambodia, and even the famously remote Timbuktu, but so have others. I may even mix stories and photographs well, yet others are better here too. But this is my life, not other’s, and therefore it is very special for me.

That means I write first and foremost for me – not you. Then, I write for my future children, if I am ever so lucky to be a Dad. I write because I know what its like to loose a Dad and realize what will never be. I do write here, in this public forum, for my family and friends, and for you, and I hope you’ll be entertained.

I think my life is interesting – it is to me! I don’t look at BMW’s or big houses with want, I think of distant lands and dark people with desire. I make adventures happen, even if they’re in my own backyard.

So check out all those links to the left – places and dates, and click around. I promise there’ll be a story or two you like. Who else you know went overland from Moscow to Perth, via Siberian banyas, Mongolia yurts, and Chinese hutongs, using the Trans-Sib, Wuhan Air, slow boats to China, Thai tuk-tuks, and the MRT, even hitchhiking four thousand miles across Australia, right through the Nulabar Desert, and doesn’t regret a second of it!

What a lucky guy I am!

  1. Mind not Young man,travelling is an eye opener.You know what it means.Those colleages of yours with houses and BMWS lack something that they actually don’t know. To me,your ‘up stairs’ is uptodate/modern/uptodate/polished,to mention but a few.
    It’s you who knows what you’ll tell God or satan when you leave this confusing world! I support you,carry on.

  2. hi sweety you look hot!!!as always, thanks thomas lee i got your E mail and web, let me tell you is impresive i realy liked is much better that houses and cars i mean your life is so reach , at the end you will have more to kip busy your grandchildren telling them stories . and so far you keep me busy reading all your adventure
    good luck and keep in mind
    love
    juan c

  3. Hi, I’ve been a reader of your site since 1999.

    I just graduated from high school a week ago, and I want to travel the world like you have. I’m going to college, but after I’m done with school, I want to go, possibly even live somewhere else.

    Hong Kong tops the list of the places I want to go, even though ive never been there, it seems like an amazing place, and seeing what you wrote about it confirmed that belief.

    I just wanted to know what do you recommend majoring in in college or does it not matter what major I choose, and do you have any other advice for me?

    Thanks for your time.

  4. Wow, since 1999?! Thanks for the support and I’m glad I’ve been able to keep you entertained so long.

    Now I’m not as good with advice as stories, but I would say that any subject you study could lead to a full travel life. Most math or business-based areas, like engineering or accounting are international enough that you can apply them anywhere.

    If you find a culture or language that you enjoy, it’s very applicable for travel (say Cantonese) but only to that country or region (Southeast China/Hong Kong). Any language will still help, as not only do you learn a new skill, foreigners and employers will respect you so much more for it.

    In general, find a subject that you enjoy and then the travel will take care of itself.

    Also, look into study-abroad programs or think of spending a summer aboard on your own. Hong Kong would be a fine place to stay for a summer, if a little hot. I spent two summers in Western Europe while in college and it was a blast.

  5. Hello, Wayan!
    You have so good web site! Certainly, I knew thet you are intelligent, but I didnt knew that you clever so much!

    Sorry I didnt read all yours articles. Not yet. It is because mine english not very good, especially for reading. But for you I will try. And when I have finished all your storyes I will proud of myself and maybe you will become the new god of mine own religion.

    You are really great! And I adore your sense of humor (especially when that about my country )

  6. excellent sight, u seem like a good mentor to me! anyway I am goin to china, specifically Xiantao in the Hubei Province. can u tell me stuff about that area or china in general? I would love to know cool shit before I go. I am teaching English there at a school, so I will have a lot of free time to travel, thanks david

  7. Hubei, eh?

    Well I did have a good time in Wuhan, even if I spent most of it zipping cross-town in manic taxi dashes to train stations.

    Do be sure to wander down the Yangzee, and on a local’s tour boat, not a tourist one. Also, do be carefull of the PSB, as they weild serious power in the provinces.

    There is a great book on teaching English in China: River Town : Two Years on the Yangtze.

    Last but not least, keep a bank account in the USA and take your ATM card. ‘Debit’ is understood worldwide now.

  8. My search started with Peace Corps information and somehow I ended up at your website/blog. I can’t remember how I got here but I started reading your articles and for about an hour I was utterly amazed how many countries you’ve visited and, of course, the fantastic stories. The Thailand accounts reminded me of my time in Thailand studying abroad.

    In any case, I am nominated for Peace Corps to go to Eastern Europe so your stories about Russian, Ukraine, and Peace Corps. were insightful.

    But there is one question I’m dying to ask. By the looks of it, it doesn’t seem that your old; how the heck did you manage to travel around the world? I have my eyes set on travelling the world too!

    Uy

    P.S. Gmail is cool!

  9. My age? You figure it out.

    And I’ve been traveling, quite literally, since birth. Or to put it another way, when I have spare change (or even when broke) I do not spend my money on fancy clothes or fast cars. No it goes to the travel fund, and I travel often and far.

    Also, when I finished with PricewaterhouseCoopers Moscow, instead of coming back here for an MBA, which everyone said I should do, and would’ve been great for my career, I went east and wrote a website while I traveled for two years.

    You’ll face that same choice when you finish your Peace Corps service, and its a tough one to make.

    If something better comes along while you’re still a volunteer, don’t fall prey to the PC propaganda. You can leave the PC for a good expat job without shame or remorse.

  10. Have you thought of publishing?

    I’m originally from Moscow (I probably know some of your former co-workers from PwC – they’ve come a long way since 1991, to say the least), have been living in the US since 1992 (getting ready to head back home actually).

    I’ve been using your site to illustrate life in Russia – especially the “then and now” aspect of it – to my amerikanskie druzia. From The Duck to making blini to always having cash on you to pay off the cops.. True life (in Russia!) is indeed stranger than fiction, isn’t it?

    You have a great eye for detail, a knack for story-telling and a personality that makes people all over the world open up to you. I hope you put your talents to good use and we’ll be able to see your stories in print some day.

    If only all travellers were this embracing of other cultures.. Look forward to reading about your next Big Trip.. Thanks for sharing your adventures and good luck!

    Irina

  11. http://www.yoshkar.com

    These are the experiences of an American student who lived two years deep inside provincial Russia. Within you will find detailed narratives and unique photos of a region visited by few foreigners.

  12. a quote from yoshkar.com:

    “In 2001 I was awarded a full scholarship for study abroad. Each year 100 students are awarded this grant by merits, to immerse themselves in a 3rd world country of their choosing. With western solvency provided, I was living like a king in the pits of provincial Russia.”

    Brian, first off: Russia is not a 3rd world country. Don’t be a clown trying to pass it off as such. Secondly Yoshkar-Ola is certainly not a “pit” but rather a beautiful, provincial area of European Russia. Certainly your attitude is that of some sort of conquering “king” but the smugness will offend all sorts of folks. I’d suggest either: change your site immensely (including the photo of the large-chested woman on the front page; what kind of f’ing page are you trying to sell here?) or give it up completely. I doubt you’ll find many here at this site that are interested in the ramblings of a cocky Westerner.

  13. Now, now Toddo.

    First off, those are his own opinions, and he has a right to express them on his own site. Second, if you have a disagreement with him, take it up with him on his site or in an email, not my “Who am I” page.

    Last, but not least, Russia in many aspects is a Third World country where we all lived like kings, and often the women are a draw for Western men.

    You, of all people, should know that.

  14. Peace bro, all’s well here. Sorry for the tirade. To each his own, opinions as well. I’ll stay out of it, thanks for the comment.

  15. Didn’t know where else to put this comment,so I’ll put it here. I think you’re adorable and an all around sweet guy.

    P.S. Don’t be ashamed about your age. You work your hotness baby! See you at work. 🙂

  16. Hey Wayan,

    Wow! Stumbled upon your site by accident and just could not stop reading your musings. Very very impressive travelling journal, in that you’ve covered quite a lot of ground (literally) around the globe.

    I’ve always wanted to do what you do/did but never got my ass out of Malaysia, accept for that short visit to Singapore (and that is NOT considered overseas even), England, and my MA in Australia recently.

    Are you still travelling? Sounds like you’re back in the US of A.

    Well, good luck for what ever else you plan to do. Don’t you worry about all them others who have that flashy car and that fantastic place to live in. You’ve got much more than one will ever get from an expensive car and a hundred credit cards!

    Keep doing what you believe in… Damn you’re almost living MY dream!

    =o) Regards.

  17. I have just been looking at bellybutonwindow including all the posts on this page. I got disctracted to yoshkar.com, not by the initial suggestion but by the comments about it after. Damn, I was laughing with tears in my eyes not long after going there.

    Lots of respect to Wayan, who I originally discovered because of DC Blelvis. I like to think of myself as a world traveller but not to this extent, unfortunately. Wayan, the one thing about your site that pains me is the difficulty in highlighting text. I have had to view source in order to copy this or that word or link.

    Today I was brought back here because I am dreaming of where to go next. I had been thinking of Ethiopia but “begging for the begging to stop” has made me think twice. I understnad that you also were not fond of Turkey which I was seriously considering. Also on my list are Morocco, Croatia, Bulgaria, Yemen, Kenya. I have only a month or so. I want to go somewhere interesting, un-common, cheap and with ocean where I can take a couple dives. I welcome ideas / suggestions from yourself or others on this.

    Thank you,

    Will.

  18. Not that I’ve been there, but I’ve heard very good things about Croatia. Beautiful landscapes, friendly people, and relative to Northern Europe, cheap.

    Bulgaria, also unknown to me personally, has a good rep as still off the usual path and yet worthy in its own right. Not sure about diving there though.

    Yemen, Morocco, and pretty much the entire Arab-Muslim world does absolutely nothing for me. In fact, it was the Arab aspect of Ethiopia that I disliked so.

    Now Kenya, with a side trip to Uganda or Tanzania would be much more interesting and un-common. Especially the Uganda leg. Arusha, Tanzania and any Serengeti wandering will not be cheap however.

    After February, I’ll be able to speak on Senegal & Mali, where I am heading for work soon – Yeah!

    Oh, and to enjoy this site the best, including text highlighting, switch to Firefox http://www.mozilla.org/products/firefox/

  19. Ooo! Good Question.

    Back in 1999, when I left Russia, where I started this website, I had to think of a new name in the process of re-targeting the website to more than just Russia.

    By the time I made it to China, I’d thought of a few dozen names and over the course of one Baltika-fueled afternoon, figured out that we all only see a small view of the big world. A view not unlike a view through a belly button from the womb.

    And so, in Beijing, with Jimi Hendrix playing in the background, the Belly Button Window was born.

    Glad ya like it.

  20. I found your website while browsing Internet in search for good quality travelogue sites. I have just launched new travelogue database site at orbilis.com and would like you to invite you to post your site there.

    Your posting will increase visibility of your site by giving easy access to it for people looking for information your site offers.

    It takes only minutes to register your site. Give it a try! To add your site to the database please click ‘Authors’ button on the menu bar.

    Please note that information provided by registrants will be treated as confidential and will NOT be shared with third parties for any reason.

    I hope to soon welcome you as a new member!

    Sincerely,
    Adam Zgagacz,
    Oribils

  21. Dear Wayan,

    If you still remember your room-mate from Moscow 1998, I am here in Washington, DC until May 2nd and will love to see you and hug you.

    Nu ladna. Give me a call.

    Best regards and hope to see you this time.

    Natasha Belkova

  22. Hello—I found this site by doing a search for
    orphanages. It was so great that I had to come
    back and read more! As mom to a little Russian
    girl I have traveled to Russia twice. I really
    enjoy the people and like learning about their
    lives. Thank you for posting your experiences so
    we can all learn about life in Russia!
    Best–Mary

  23. This site was quite a discovery for me. I lived in Moscow from 2001 until this past summer and started a blog about life and times there last fall. I had been to Moscow a fair amount before, and lived before that for a few years as a foreign service kid in Leningrad in the mid-’80’s, so looking at your tales from 1997-99 was in some respects like a trip down memory lane. I did a post on my wonderment at finding your site – http://scrapsofmoscow.blogspot.com/2005/12/proto-blogger.html
    Hope you don’t mind. Keep on rollin’ along, seeing the world, and sharing it with your readers.

  24. Alisa, he’s better looking in person – wait till you hear his voice… Maybe you based your comment from the interview on ABC… I’d do him any time.

  25. hi wayan, you still remember me susanna the finnish veterinarian if yes please contact me,

  26. Out of the blue, I went on random search on Amsterdam and ended up at your photojournal here.

    Well, after 2 hours being humoured and laughed at your great adventures over so many places, I decided to like you. (Or rather your comments and the bellbuttonwindow. hah!)

    By any chances I got to travel anywhere, I bet I can relate your experiences and may be borrow some ideas to do my own traveling.

    Some 2 cents addition: Like hiking? Not so socializing or nightlife-craze, exhausting+sweat a lot+knees-aching+dirty wears after 2hours jungle tracks= a fulfilling “I did it!” and “I wanna do it again!” endorphin. Its defitenely good.

  27. hey wayan:
    That link I included is to my friend Katrina’s site… DO YOU REMEMBER WHAT YOU SAID ABOUT WHERE TO GET A JOB??? you told me to travel, but I seriously want to remind myself whether you said I should move to dc,LA, NY, SF (well thats where I live although I met you in venice), .. and I just recall you said if I move to San Diego I’d end up a beach bum..
    PLEASE please puhleese write me/call me/stalk me (haha I wish) prior to mid July. I leave for europe on the 18th of JulY.. My repressed self might ‘letgo”. n

  28. How do you feel about serendipity? Wait I think I know the answer. Just came to your blog for the first time as I get ready to leave Orlando for DC, after a brief stop in OZ and NZ.

    Would love to pic your brain if you’ve time to shoot me an email..
    Happy Trails!

  29. I couldn’t sleep this evening and like several other random evenings close to Christmas over the past 13 years of my life, this name keep popping into my head. Wayan. It was one semester at UCF, but I remember making photo copies for you, being in complete surprise when I climbed off a boat into a lake of manatees and seeing you on the boat next me, and walking into work one day and getting a xmas gift, a crystal on a worn leather strap.

    So I got on the computer and googled you. WOW! How well you have done for yourself. I look forward to reading the rest of your blog. A thousand congrats on all you have achieved and a thousand more to your future. Amy Lyn Parks

  30. I have recently become one of your legion of readers. I am perched at my desk in Nantong City, China, where I have just arrived for a one (two, three?) year stint teaching English to the natives. I too enjoy writing commentaries on different cultures and was hoping you may be able to give some advice re choosing a blog site for my articles. I am a babe in the woods when it comes to the game of blogging. I am very impressed by your site. What do you recommend – go with a web site like Yahoo or Google, or develop your own, or…… Any advice will be both appreciated and noted in a future blog!

  31. Wayan!

    It’s Nora – remember me?
    Wow! You have been busy!
    I thought I saw you on 17th st yesterday passing NatGeo – was that you??

  32. Hello Wayan
    first of all I can not resist not saying how impressed I am by your photos and your travelogues.. and I thought maybe I could give you some help

    My name is Sam I am the moderator of an articles section on an internet site since you are an awesome travel writer and photographer I would like to invite you tu share your articles with our visitors. Registration is free and they can suggest articles, vote and comment on them..

    Visitors usually suggest they find by surfing the net, this means it shouldn’t necessarily be theirs, and all you need to do for your article to be there is just give the link to the actual location of it.. and make a short description..

    I know this sounds a bit bizzare when explained but please visit:
    http://www.infohub.com/scripts/news_cgi/index.php?todo=news_listing&cat_id=2 and you’ll see it’s in fact very easy and enriching

    I could very easily suggest your articles myself, but I thought it would be so much better for you to do it yourself and then receive feedback from the visitors hope to see you there

    cheers,
    sam

  33. I was blogwalking from olpcnews.com and finally figured out why you have a Balinese name. Belated congratulations to you and Amy on your wedding.

  34. Hi Wayan

    Great website.

    Trust you remember me from PwC Moscow and PwC Kiev. I am the cypriot you stayed with when you visited Kiev Ukraine in 1999.

    Gosh it’s almost 10 years buddy. Don’t have a website yet but if you would like to see some photos I am on Facebook. If you are on facebook add me as a freind.

    Now residing in Dubai, UAE for the past four years. You are more than welcome to come and visit. Oh you can stay with us too if you like.

    Keep in touch buddy.
    Cheers for now John Hiripis

  35. Hello Wayan. I’m not sure if you remember me, we met a long long long time ago. I was just a wee little one : ) We met at your cousin Ruth’s apt.in El Paso TX. There were a lot of Germans hanging around. Do you remember now? Anyways, i was wondering if you could hook me up with some information on how to travel around with not a lot of money. Im a recent college grad, im an Americorps VISTA volunteer right now. My contract ends in July and I wanna travel to Peru.

  36. Hi Mr. Wayan,

    My name is Mary, and I’m at the DC Examiner editorial page. While doing research for another publication, I came across your ‘The Pick Up Scene on the Green,’ and had to laugh. I’m working on a piece about the history and vibe surrounding Screen on the Green, and was wondering whether you could fill me in on some things.

    Thanks, and best.

  37. Dear Wayan,

    My name is Ann Orsburn I am very interested in traveling.
    I have came across your site and found it particularly inspiring and interesting. Therefore, I would like to congratulate you on the great job you are doing as a travel writer.

    I am also an active member on an Internet travel-community that specializes in sharing first-hand travel experience. I think your articles can be of great help to tourists around the world and I would like to invite you to share them with fellow travelers.

    Registration is free and members can suggest articles, vote and comment on them. The articles suggested do not necessarily have to be written by members. Real authors are notified about the nomination through e-mail and are invited to join the discussions and contribute.

    All you need to do for your article to be there is just give the link to the actual location of it and make a short description. In this way the visitors are directly redirected to the original location of the article, but the advantage of having them placed here is that, you do not only expand your readership, but also receive feedback from other authors and travelers.

    Please visit:
    http://traveloguecenter.com/
    to see how it works.

    I thought about suggesting your articles myself, but it would be so much better for you and for other users to do it yourself and then personally receive feedback from them.

    Hope I convinced you and do not hesitate to contact me in case you have any queries!
    Sincerely yours,
    Ann Orsburn.