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“Ever seen the green flash, Mr. Gibbs? They say it signals a soul coming back to this world from the dead.”

“I reckon I seen my share.”

SIBERIA — Somewhere off the coast, I watched a green ribbon dance over the black, Arctic sky. There were no cities below; only ice. The eternal lights come from a never-ending dance between the Earth and the Sun. And the quickest route to Saigon took us through their midnight ball.

Chicken or fish?

The choice was irrelevant. The task was to call-the-ball on a third in-flight meal sometime after our second sunset. The first onset of night had been over Detroit; the second, hours after the lights of the aurora woke me cramped coma, was over Mother Russia. Neither choice mattered. The flavors of both chicken and fish were indistinguishable, and both merely served as a distraction from the “bread” dished out like stale hardtack in its individually-sealed prison of plastic.

It’s safe to say Mr. Putin had already received one thank you card from Uncle Sam’s bakery during meal one, and I was keen to avoid sending another international care package.

Sunrise over Siberia

It’s a strange thing to travel through time. I thought about it often as I watched the bitterly cold world behind a window at 34,000 feet. The borealis brought that about. That, and the sleep deprivation of what’s been over a day of constant travel since leaving Memphis. At some point, it was either ponder life or play another round of hangman. I was really tired of beating Jeremy, and the other passengers were tired of the loser doing pushups in the aisle.

If there was any questioning the dedication of this Souled Outside, let that end here. The road from Memphis to Hanoi might not be alone this time, but before we’ve even covered a kilometer on Vietnamese soil, we’ve already traveled a weary 10,000 or so miles into another universe.

They say the green flash does that—takes you to the other side. They say to get there, you have to go upside down.

Now, we know what that feels like. It feels like breaking the map. It feels like losing all sense of space and time, like being transporting through a portal of swirling light with no sound and no clocks, over lands where nobody was meant to walk.

Welcome to the other side of the world. Here there be dragons. I reckon I seen my share. Here, I reckon to see plenty more.

Written by

When an urban developer bought my apartment building in 2016, it pushed me out of the soulful streets of Memphis, and outside, into a life on the road. I soon found out that travel was both a cure and an addiction. And I plan to keep going, with readers alongside, for as far as this road can stretch.

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