Photos from a backpacker

Well, Pushups in the Prayer Room has been a hit. I am so happy that you have all enjoyed Norm’s travels. As you read, didn’t it feel like you were traveling beside him? Crazy.

Here are some pictures that Norm took on his travels. As I look at them and having read the book two times, it really plants a visual in my mind of what exactly I was reading.

Me holding a young Beduin child in the deserts of Wadi Rum, Jordan.  I was so dark and so skinny that these days no one believes that was me.  From "Pushups in the Prayer Room" at

This is Norm holding a toddler in the deserts of Jordan.

Luxor, Egypt.  From "Pushups in the Prayer Room" at

Norm took this photograph when he was traveling in Luxor, Egypt.

Machupichu, Peru.  Amazing!    From "Pushups in the Prayer Room" at

Breath-taking. Norm took this photograph while traveling in Machupichu, Peru. This particular chapter in his book had me crying and laughing hysterically. One of my favorites besides reading about his beloved Grandfather in one of the last chapters.

Me on a camel in Egypt.  I'm the one with the white shirt, by the way.    From "Pushups in the Prayer Room" at

Norm on a camel in Egypt.

A dwelling in Peru on the Inca Trail.  From "Pushups in the Prayer Room" at

A dwelling in Peru on the Inca Trail.

I took a felucca, a small sail boat, up the Nile river and slept out under the stars every night.  From "Pushups in the Prayer Room" at www.NormSchriever.comNorm took a felucca, a small sail boat, up the Nile river and slept out under the stars every night. I have never met anyone who has ever done this. Except Norm. How cool is that!

Series: Listening to your inner voiceTraveling the World with Norm Part 2.  Traveling with Norm Part 3Happiness, Humility, HappenstanceThe Road of Happiness.

all images via Norm’s pinterest. Click on photos for link.

Happiness, Humility, Happenstance

Well, I am happy to say that my own copy of Pushups in the Prayer Room has arrived. It was greeting me Friday when I opened the mailbox and totally brightened up my day. If you haven’t followed the series, author Norm Schriever has contributed to thehouseoftrue answering questions about his year of traveling around the world. It is a fascinating read and only Norm can explain it in such a way where you are holding your breath at one point, laughing hysterically or completely speechless over what you are reading. It is a wild ride filled with every emotion, only he actually lived it. If you are in the market for a book that will be impossible to put down and one that you will be talking about with your significant others, friends, co-workers, this is the book for you.

As I was reading, I thought of three words immediately: happiness, humility and “happenstance”. I wanted to know what Norm thought about those words since traveling the world in the manner that he did. Here is what he thought.

Author Norm Schriever


I think happiness is a journey, a lifelong quest, not a perfect place that we can reach.  I didn’t realize this for a long time.  I was always chasing something that I couldn’t catch, that was always seemed one step ahead of me, like it was a trophy that was given to me and I could possess, instead of state of mind.  But it never all clicked – if my work was going well, my relationship sucked, or I was out of shape but happy with some other piece of my life, etc.  I was trying to get my external circumstances to all click, like a slot machine coming up all cherries, and then I thought I’d be happy.  It took me a lot of time, frustration, and heartache to realize that just being on the path was the victory, and happiness was walking with me the whole time, like my shadow, not always out of reach.

All along I could have been happy by simply choosing to do so and enjoying the ride.  No matter how fast or slow, if you are pointed in the direction of your dreams, then you will stumble forward toward what makes you happy.  The easiest way to “choose” to be happy is to be grateful.  Spend one night in a prison cell and believe me you’ll be happier than a pig in shit with your boring, everyday existence.  Or see people starving in the streets and all of a sudden you’re very happy and blessed just to have food in your belly.  For me happiness is the lack of desire.  Desire is a sickness and infects everything in your life – “I want to make more money, I want to be in better shape, I want a better relationship,” etc.  I, as much as anyone else, have been guilty of this, but I’ve found that when I just STOP, and breathe deeply, and look around and take account of all of the blessings in my life, and consciously feel filled up and without desire for anything else, I am truly happy.  The more simple my life, the less possessions, the more I can stumble forward towards my dreams every day, the happier I am.


I saw some graffiti once on the side of a shoddy wall in a Third World slum – maybe it was San Jose, or Caracas – I’m not sure.  It said “Soy nada.”  Being a big fan of inner city graffiti as an outlet of expression for an otherwise voiceless populace, I took a picture of it, and contemplated it for a long time.  Soy nada – “I am nothing.”  To me those two words constitute one of the most profound truths, the wisest poem, I have ever read.  We are all here for a flash of a millisecond in the eternal panorama of existence.  We are mostly just important to ourselves, but before we can blink we will be gone forever.  It goes so, so fast, and tomorrow is never guaranteed.  The only thing that matters is what we leave behind for the world – our legacy. Our love, caring for other human beings, and positive energy will only resonate and grow, even after we are gone.  We are nothing – just vessels to channel that energy; we do not own ourselves.  So be important to someone else, not for yourself. That is humility.  I, personally, have tried to completely surrender my life.  I do not try to control my existence and it is not my place to say when the clock stops.  But in the meantime the one thing I can control is purposely crafting the legacy that I want to leave the world.  It’s not perfect, but I try every single day, because I have the chance, the honor and opportunity, to walk on this earth and serve others, and maybe, just maybe, leave it a better place than when I found it.  I am nothing.  Soy nada.


When you say “happenstance” I think of “fate.”  I do not believe in Fate.  That may surprise a lot of people.  Or rather I believe you make your own fate – it is not predetermined.  You know how people say, “Oh well, everything happens for a reason?”  Well I think that’s bullshit – a cop out.  I think “God” put us here with two arms, two legs, half a brain, and the gift of choice, and from there it’s up to us.  Did the Holocaust happen for a reason?  The Genocide in sub-Saharan Africa?  Pain, suffering, starvation?  I now it’s not meant to be a negative statement, but people give away ownership and accountability for their own lives way too easily, and that falsely disempowers them.  That convenient complacency turns into complicity very quickly. We need to make conscious choices and accept the results, and take responsibility for the course of our lives.  Yes, we can learn something from every experience, good or bad, but that is not the same as fate.  Stand up and take full account for everything in your life, and instantly, magically, you’ll have to power to change it.

Norm Schriever

Traveling with Norm Part 3

Contributor Norm Schriever: Author of Pushups in the Prayer Room

After reading Norm’s book, I realized he had to have street smarts to travel the world the way he did and get something out of it. I asked Norm to keep it simple and give us readers 3 safety tips that we could use when traveling.

travel travel travel

Top 3 safety tips

1. Don’t be an a-hole, and definitely don’t be a drunk a-hole.  I’m not kidding with that – I’ve found that if you show genuine respect for the local people and their culture that they’ll appreciate it and treat you with mutual respect.  We’d learn “hello, thank you, please, what is your name, and I need a beer” in every language, and saying those simple words showed people that we were making the effort.  Asking someone about their family, what city they were from, what their job was, or what their favorite football team was endeared us to a whole lot of people.  There were definitely times that people were ready to rob us or jump us but we turned out to be best friends because we played it right.  And when you are drunk you’re like a big sloppy target and easy prey, so you learn to hide it for the right place and right time, and always keep a little part of you sober and watching.

2. Feel it.  After a while of being in wild, chaotic, crowded, dangerous Third World cities I didn’t just rely on my senses, but I could actually feel the energy in any situation.  I felt trouble coming before it even saw me, and that “Spidey Sense” kept me safer than anything.  So it was about staying conscious.  Shane and I also were very simpatico after a while, where we watched each other’s backs and could communicate with a look.  If shit went down we kept our cool, and if it really got heavy we could always run, but it rarely came to that.  Usually we just showed confidence and even cracked jokes at guys who might want to rob us or give us trouble, and that was enough.  Also having a great taxi driver is invaluable – they literally can save your life or get you anything you want or bring you anyplace you want to go but keep you safe.  No matter what, making a couple of cool local friends will keep you safer than anything.


3. Watch them watching you.  At night, or when you’re walking in questionable neighborhoods, take off your watch and put it in your pocket.  Don’t ever wear jewelry.  Put your wallet in your front pocket and if someone comes up to you, a drunk falls all over you, you walk through a tight group of people, etc. put your hand in that pocket.  Never take out a wad of cash, and split up your money in different places on your person.  I used to hide some money under the sole of my shoe, so if something did go down or I got robbed I could still get a cab or get out of there.  Cross the street if someone shady is up ahead.  Sneak a beer bottle out of the bar in your pocket so you can walk home with it, and if you hear someone approaching or someone gives you trouble you can pull it out and crack it on the pavement and use it like a knife.

Presale February 15th

On Sale March 1st

Norm Schriever

Traveling the World with Norm Part 2

If you are new to this series, Author Norm Schriever has been dropping in to thehouseoftrue for a Q&A Series on his upcoming book Pushups in the Prayer Room. Norm backpacked around the world for a year and wrote a book about his reflections on his experiences.

As I read Norm’s words and lived his experiences through them, I was shocked at some points he didn’t turn around and head home. Without giving too much a way and spoiling your experience with it, there was one point when he was in a taxi and the ride turned out to be such a nerve bending experience that he really did not know what the outcome would be. Right then and there, I would of packed it in, but not Norm. His real life experiences make this a book that you cannot put down.

From the Author & Publisher

In the spring of 1999, Norm Schriever leaves his old life behind and backpacks around the world for a year, not returning to the US until the spring of 2000.  Throughout his journeys he touches down in more than 20 countries in 6 continents, spanning 70,000 miles total, or the equivalent of almost three times around the equator.

There is never a dull moment on this wild and irreverent adventure, whether Norm is evading armed carjackers in a high-speed chase in the barrios of Venezuela, exploring ancient wonders of the world like the pyramids, the Great Wall, and Machu Picchu, almost landing in a Bolivian jail for cocaine trafficking, or witnessing the holiest sites on earth in Jerusalem.  Along the way, Norm encounters a broad spectrum of human existence and experiences a blossoming of consciousness and spiritual growth that he never anticipated.

Q & A: Series 2 Keeping Your Dream 

When you got the adrenaline rush and just did it… did you keep the momentum up and not stop? You didn’t exactly travel “Bentley style”. Was there ever a point that you thought you heard yourself incorrectly?

That sense of adventure, the “chaos and seduction of perpetual motion” or “elegant entropy” of the Third World, as I call it in the book, is very addicting.  It’s not about adrenaline – it’s about being a part of everything around you; having a humble connection with millions of other human beings, who are all in the “beautiful struggle” of life the same as we are.  The more I saw the more I realized there was so much more to see, and my desire to touch those places grew at a fevered pace.  I start the book with the quote “The bigger the searchlight the larger the circumference of the unknown,” and that’s exactly what that means.  So I craved new, alien experiences more and more as I traveled instead of that wanderlust being diminished. But there were many times I’d want a little civilization break – a nice hotel with a nice pool, a comfy bed, AC, a good taxi instead of the local chicken bus, and any time there was an American restaurant, like TGIFridays (which are surprisingly present all over the world) I would get a huge salad and an ice cream sundae.  I think I needed those breaks physically but also mentally, but never questioned what I was doing or think about stopping – I wanted more.  Mostly I was just an f’ing road warrior ready to go into battle with any challenge or experience that might be thrown at me.

Without giving too much away from the book, any one location that you thought maybe you should stop traveling and stay put?

Yeah – there were some beautiful places that I could tell would also be perfect spots for an amazing quality of life.  The fun thing about the way we traveled is that we always hung out with local people, went to local spots, and did more off-the-beaten path exploration than hitting touristy spots.  So we did get a fair sample of what real life looked like in those countries.

I would live in Brazil in a heartbeat, and I still might in a year or two (Nicaragua is next on my agenda, and then Columbia.)  New Zealand is so beautiful and mellow that I could live there.  Australia is amazing but I had my run in’s with too many of the meathead local guys. I did live in Ecuador for about three months in years after the trip – in a tiny cabin I rented from a farmer on the steep side of a mountain overlooking a valley with a tiny village in it.  It was super cool.  Where else?  I could live in Israel and love it.  Europe would definitely be a great place to spend time – every writer’s dream is to get a cheap apartment and cheaper wine in Barcelona or Prague or Budapest and camp out for a year to write the great American novel.  But the whole point of that trip was to get a taste of each country in a whirlwind blur of experiences, and we knew that we could always go back to a country that we lived.

Next Week Series 3: Safety on the Street

Presale February 15

On sale March 1st

Norm would love to say what’s up to you, so feel free to email him at: