About 14 years ago Andy Graham, who is originally from Orland and used to live in Fort Wayne, took a trip to Mexico and never came home.
Instead, he started wandering the world, supporting himself by blogging under the name Andy Hobo Traveler.
He traveled to Baghdad in 2005 when the war in Iraq was still raging, riding around the city on a bus, just to see what the place was like, and managing to get along just fine.
He got caught in the middle of what could be called a civil war in the Ivory Coast, fleeing when he said conditions got dodgy.
Name a country in Africa, Asia or South America, and chances are he’s been there, and Graham said what he’s found is a basically friendly, peaceful world, the occasional Rwandan with a machine gun notwithstanding.
For the past few weeks, though, Graham has been blogging about what he calls the most dangerous country in the world: the Dominican Republic.
Graham was troubled that he’d heard of eight different people who’d been killed there, but he didn’t seem overly concerned.
Then in March, as Graham sat in his bed on the second floor of a hotel in Luperon, a man climbed onto his balcony, entered his room with a broken rum bottle and threatened to kill him if Graham didn’t give him money.
Graham gave the robber 6,000 pesos, about $150, and as soon as he got the chance unlocked the three locks on his door and jumped into the hallway, where he started to yell for help.
People in the room next door emerged, drunk, and one of them started punching him in the face.
There wasn’t any point in calling police, Graham said, they wouldnt come. So Graham got back into his room, packed and left town in a hurry, stopping in a different city to blog about his experience.
That didn’t go over well with Internet users in the Dominican Republic, who said Graham was lying about being robbed. His comments weren’t the type that would go over well with the police, either, so Graham came back to the U.S. a few days ago, settling in a B&B near downtown Fort Wayne.
That’s when he started putting together his plan B.
Graham said he planned to return to the U.S. by May, anyway, because his father is sick, but the robbery and the danger of being declared persona non grata in the Dominican Republic caused him to leave early.
For now, his plan B is to remain in the U.S. for a few weeks, buy a van and start traveling and blogging about small towns in the U.S.
That will require some adjustments. In many parts of the world, people don’t work. That makes Graham rich when he travels abroad.
He won’t be rich here.
Graham calls this version of his trip the Americanization of Andy.
I’ve lost touch with America, he said. Everyone talks a lot and they’re loud and they have big noses.
Prices will take some getting used to.
Last week he had lunch with a friend who spent $24 on a meal, a huge amount compared to what he’s used to spending.
Eventually, Graham plans to head back overseas – to the Philippines, Guatemala, Nigeria, places like that. But there’s one place he won’t return to: the Dominican Republic.
Graham said the man who robbed him was later arrested, and he was invited back to the Dominican Republic to testify against him. It’s not worth it, Graham said. He might get his $150 back, but then again, someone might kill him.