the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Call to Adventure

For years, I’ve been complaining about the superficial nature of online friendships, my boredom with trading quips about pop culture or the ubiquitous “liking” of each other’s drunken photos on Instagram?

Real friends look at each other. They interrupt each other as they speak. There are moment of silence. There are shared cups of coffee.

But there is a major obstacle to transforming many of favorite virtual friendships into real ones.



In the eighth grade, our class had a substitute English teacher. He was a strange guy, a former hippy and a black belt in karate. Rather than teaching us anything about grammar, he told us about the U.S. military-industrial complex and the importance of “bringing it down.” Most of us had no idea what he was talking about.

One afternoon, at the end of his class, the teacher took me aside.

“I notice you read a lot,” he said.

“Yeah, I like books,” I replied.

“I’m going to give you a book that will BLOW YOU AWAY. It is my favorite book.”


He handed me a hardcover copy of this bizarre fantasy novel that, on first glance, looked rather dumb. It involved imaginary characters in a world called Middle Earth. The book was called “The Hobbit.”

If you are a long-time reader of Citizen of the Month, you now understand why my grammar is stuck in the seventh grade. I never learned grammar in the eighth grade. I spent the year reading “The Lord of the Rings.”

The Hobbit follows Bilbo Baggins as he reluctantly takes a journey from safety into a world of dragons, adventure, war, and treasure.

The book taught me a lesson — everyone must take a journey into the unknown. It is the only way to gain maturity and wisdom. I learned this in the eighth grade, and promptly forgot the advice for decades, preferring to live in safety, like the home-loving Bilbo Baggins.

I fear adventure.  You never know what God has planned for you along the way — a storm, a romance, a shipwreck, or death by eating blowfish a an exotic restaurant. And if you dare raise your fist towards God, angrily shouting, “How could you do this to me?” He will just laugh at you and say, “Sorry, Charlie, but YOU planned your own trip. It was your choice. So get off my back.”

I fear choice.  But I’m trying to change.


Every year, on the New Year, there are celebrations around the world, ringing in the new year, starting with the first time zone, in New Zealand.   New Zealand is the beautiful, mystical country where they filmed The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings.

Next month, like Bilbo Baggins, I will be making a journey.  I will be travelling to New Zealand to visit my good online friend, Juli, and share a cup of coffee.

So, this year, the Seventh Annual Blogger Christmahanukwanzaakah Online Holiday Concert will be broadcast from NEW ZEALAND!

The concert sign-up sheet — later in the week.

Update:  Today, Juli tried to dissuade me from taking my big adventure with this dire warning.

“There are no bagels in New Zealand,” she said.

Ha!  Like that old trick would stop me.   I’m not a sucker.  I have a secret weapon called “Google.”  — Brooklyn Bread and Bagels, Wellington, New Zealand.


  1. The Honourable Husband


    Wellington airport is amazing—until an earthquake in 1848, the site of Wellington Airport was a channel separating an island from the mainland. It is now an isthmus connecting a former island with the mainland, and has an airport on it.

    I was once the best man at a wedding in Wellington. When you visit, you will see a department store called Kirkcaldie and Staines. The bride was a Kirkcaldie, so the wedding was in Wellington. We crashed the honeymoon, and travelled with the happy couple to Rotorua and bathed at the Hot Water Beach. Highly recommended.

    Will you dash across the ditch to Australia?

  2. sizzle

    I like this for you, Neil! Adventure will open you up. Way to leap, my friend!

  3. magpie

    way cool. have fun!

  4. Juli

    So excited to see you. We have GREAT coffee.

  5. Mod Mom Beyond IndieDom

    Wow – that is amazing!! Have a great journey! Can’t wait to see the photos that come out of your trip.

  6. Jana A (@jana0926)

    You’re going to have a lovely time, Neil! Wishing you the best adventure EVER!

  7. Marcy

    Sounds like an awesome trip. My husband backpacked through a lot of New Zealand in college, sounds like an amazing place. Looking forward to reading about the stories from your trip.

  8. Stacey

    That is quite an adventure. Have a great trip!

  9. V-Grrrl @ Compost Studios

    Yay for adventure! Yay for being bold! Yay for New Year’s in New Zealand! And yay for Juli!

  10. V-Grrrl @ Compost Studios

    P.S. Be sure to bring me back some coffee. ; )

  11. alejna

    That is so exciting! Woohoo! I am ready to adventure vicariously through you, so I do hope you will take lots of photos. (My index finger will be poised to “like” them, each and every one. Because our friendship runs deep like that.)

    Seriously, I am very excited for you!

  12. Jane Gassner

    Good for you! Bonvoyage, etc etc etc

  13. Alison (Percival)

    How exciting! Looking forward to your Instagram pics already!

  14. Noel

    All adventures outside of New York of course involve leaving bagels behind. Other places sell Bagel-Shaped-Bread-Products and call them bagels: false advertising. Water is essential to the bagel-making process, and New York water, using an ancient aqueduct, tastes like no other. I hear that some L.A. deli flies in Gotham H2O just for this purpose.
    If pining for a little Jewish culture in the land of the Kiwi, check out the Synagogue of Christchurch: that name alone!

  15. Laurie

    I love this, Neil. What a cool trip. I’m so happy for you.

  16. the muskrat

    This is awesome! Hope it’s a great trip for you.

  17. Lily from It's A Dome Life

    I am glad you are not letting the lack of bagels stop you from taking an adventure to middle earth. Coffee shared, distances shortened, Lord of The Rings…this has the makings of a perfect trip. Enjoy…be fearless!

  18. ozma

    You’re visiting JULI???? Please say hi to her for me!!!

  19. Adrienne

    When you land in Aukland go to the coffe cafe in the airport and give the barrista a hug, tell him his mom misses him dearly.

    Have a wonderful trip. It is an amazing place and perfect for an adventure.

  20. suzy

    My sister dated a Kiwi for 6 years, the nicest, kindest, also drop-dead handsomest man in all the land. ( there’s a pic of him in my book) And you can’t spend any time in NZ without eating their lamb. Dear GOD it’s unimaginably delicious.

  21. Miles Thompson

    Hate to say it Neil but Noel is right. There are no bagels in Wellington. I’ve strangely never come across this bagel place in Wellington’s Brooklyn but I doubt they’re any good. There is a bagel place called “Wholly Bagel” in the city which they claim was set up by two New Yorkers but just somehow it never quite works. They make some great sandwiches on a bagel theme but they’re not bagels. Also I can’t convince them to freaking toast the freaking bagels hot enough so they are burnt a little bit around the edges and only just cooked in other places. Besides without the shouting and coffee in a paper cup and a brown bag its just not the same. They have menus. And people order from the menus. It’s just not bagels. But that’s OK. We do have pretty good Pizza here in little old Paekakariki *not so much in NZ generally but it’s getting better. As a kiwi friend of Juli’s who spends a month or two in NYC each year I hope we can all enjoy it together. Also I’ve occasionally played drums with the guys from the band of the guy who play’s Nori in the hobbit so yeah. Practically famous over here.

  22. Hannah Joy Curious

    I prefer to think of distance as an asset rather than an obstacle. I think it gives us permission to be more vulnerable than we would otherwise let ourselves be with someone who lived two doors away. In my experience, distance doesn’t prevent strong bonds from developing, either. My partner and I came together online by way of blog, mine. The first comment was left over a year ago and we met in person for the first time on Xmas Day… and yes, I’m rather hoping that the blog will eventually live up to its name. Happy Holidays Neil! 🙂

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Social media & sharing icons powered by UltimatelySocial