The Start of an Odyssey: Geno Allmond's Journey

Darkness is what Geno Allmond remembered most amid the train. His thoughts and emotions tangled as he shook from excitement; this was his first solo backpacking trip. For the past hour, he had been hidden away from the world surrounding him. Very soon he would arrive in an entirely new country, Thailand, with experiences he could have never imagined on his own.

The last quick goodbyes before his departure now felt distant. Allmond swam in his thoughts. All of the nights he’d woken up to ask himself if he was really doing this, alone, were about to be tested. Finally, a halt. Jolted with a mixture of nervousness and thrill at the same time, Allmond stood up to walk through a portal to a whole new universe.

Thailand’s interconnected transportation port swallowed him whole. Getting closer to the city of Bangkok, unfamiliar urban smells hit him in the face. He tried to take in the scenery before him at once, stuck in awe. Cars and motorbikes intertwined, knitting a colorful aura up towards the highest skyscrapers. 

A smile adorned Allmond’s astonished face. He had made it. 

Before he ever dreamed the possibility of solo-backpacking Asia could be real, Allmond was a typical teenage boy just dreaming of getting out of the town he had lived in his entire life. Back then, video games were his passion. After school, as soon as he got home, the console was in his hand like a magnet. It became a weekly event to play anything and everything with his cousin on the weekends. In those times, Allmond went through the motions—school, friends, work—and let video games manifest into an escapist medium where he felt most comfortable. At that point in his life, travel was just a distant possibility he kept shelved for one day. 

The video game that bridged the gap between his passion and travel was Tomb Raider. Through the gaze of Lara Croft, he became the intelligent archaeologist who ventured into dangerous and mysterious tombs around the world. After it became a movie franchise, the visual element of Angkor Wat began to spark subtle possibilities in Allmond. He was further reminded of Southeast Asia through movies like Indiana Jones and anime that showcased the beauty and complexities of Asian culture. 

It was not until years later that Allmond was struck by the curiosity of traveling again. In 2015, Major Lazer and DJ Snake’s pop hit “Lean On” reached one billion views on YouTube. A loved song by Allmond, he was attracted to the heavily influenced Indian culture throughout the video. In that moment his fingers raced across his aged keyboard, quenching the thirst of knowledge. How much money it would be to travel to India? He expected it to be thousands of dollars to go there for just a week or two. 

“Twenty dollars a day? Nah, that can’t be right,” he told himself. He continued to read articles, calculating the breakdown of expenses. Allmond then researched into Airbnb and HostelWorld to confirm his suspicions. He was absolutely mind blown. He felt as though he had been lied to his entire life. Travel isn’t nearly as expensive as he had ever realized, nor was it unattainable. 

The first night he landed in Bangkok, Allmond searched desperately through the city for a remnant of America. Tucked in the middle of a bright, neon collage of buildings was a 7 Eleven. Comforted by the familiarity, he hid there while confirming, for the third time, that Google Maps was leading him toward his hostel. Forty long minutes dragged as the pointer refused to point him in the right direction. His anxiousness was only heightened as he noticed the homeless people adorning the crooked streets. Unlike the ones you see in developed countries with the luxury of clothes or a sleeping bag, the ones he saw were naked. A few others were missing limbs. 

When he finally reached his hostel, it dawned on him he had no idea what the correct etiquette was here. All he knew was that he was sharing a room and he was to be courteous, but in what ways? He crawled into his capsule bed that night, too afraid to remove any item of his sweat-filled clothes, afraid to wake anyone up.

Days of struggling to adapt to the culture pushed him out of his comfort zone. Randomly, but in an act of bravery, he decided to book a tour to a small town near a national park. When the bus arrived, he was greeted by a smile. Another traveler, named Calum, extended a hand out to a fellow acquaintance. While in the comfort of each other’s presence, they remained silent, taking in the scenery individually.

It was only after the group sped across the water toward kayaks that Allmond broke the quiet atmosphere between the two travelers. Hours passed in mere seconds of their experience, exploring the painting-like lake before them. Laughter echoed in the wind as they discovered they were both staying in the same hostel. Funnily enough, they were both planning on traveling back to Bangkok the next day. In order for the two to travel together, Calum’s only available option was to take a third class overnight train. Without a second thought, Allmond forfeited his last available bus ticket. A long and painful thirteen hours ensued, but so did a budding friendship.

“We were travel brothers,” said Allmond as he recounted the experience. “He was 28 at the time, I was 19. But we got along together as if we were the same age.”

It’s not just the people Allmond gets to connect with that inspires him to keep traveling. For him, it’s living out all the video games and media that influenced him in the first place. For once, he’s living the adventure. He no longer wishes to be Lara Croft climbing traversing the ruins of Angkor Wat—he did that in her shoes. He no longer wishes to be Aang, the last surviving Airbender exploring the peaks of Takayama—he reached its far reaching views. And he no longer wishes to be Indiana Jones delving into new adventures—for he has become him in many ways. 

Allmond’s dedication to the paths less traveled possesses invigorating rewards. To him, that initial spark of curiosity took on a life of its own; one that has manifested itself in his killer photography, his stories and most importantly, his soul.