Interview with Kyle Gest – Storyteller and Award-Winning Podcaster

The most challenging thing about pursuing a career as an author is the lack of structured support. With no official guidelines, the only true markers of success is success itself. Whether it’s having an article published online or becoming a Best Selling author, the fulfillment of most writers ambitions relies very much on some sort of final outcome.

During my Kickstarter campaign for Five Weeks in the Amazon, I reached out to Thomas Kohnstamm, the author of  “Do Travel Writers Go to Hell? A Swashbuckling Tale of High Adventures, Questionable Ethics and Professional Hedonism.

This was in the early stages of my transition from the Californicated-self I had become to my true self, A liberated, and free, artist, who travels the world, practicing the art and craft of writing.

Back when I was the Team Manager for Plan B Skateboards. Taking a walk with Ryan Sheckler while on a filming road trip in Oregon, circa 2008.

Thomas Kohnstamm is from Seattle, Washington, which is close enough to my hometown that we both had views of the same snow capped mountain growing up (Mt. Baker). He still call Seattle home, which is where he live with his family and is completing the manuscript for his next book, which is very much anticipated (stay tuned for more info).

As I have traveled and continued to write, Thomas has kindly divulged great advice whenever I have asked him for it. He has been a mentor to me in ways, and from Colombia I reached out to ask him a few questions. I’m really excited to read his next book, and even though he isn’t saying much about it, I’m sure it is going to be worth reading.

Mt. Baker

You can click here to check out his awesome first book, “Do Travel Writers Go to Hell?” (which I read in one sitting). But first, check out his interview below, and if you want to connect with Thomas, you can reach him through his website, or leave a comment below. Thanks again for everything, Thomas, and may the Spring wind’s bring you nine muses worth of inspiration.

Edited LR -1-3 

Sean Hayes: What are you currently working on? 

Thomas Kohnstamm: I am just finishing up a novel I’ve been working on for a few years. Keeping it under wraps for now.

Would you rather be a worried genius or a joyful simpleton?

Worried genius. Although I’d rather come in short of being a genius and experience a mix of worry and joy. I’d pass on being a simpleton just to be more consistently happy.

Who defines good and evil?


Why did you become an author?

I’ve always been interested in stories and trying to better understand the world – especially people and how they related to each other and to a place. I thought for a while that I wanted to be a professor but it was too rule-bound and there was too much emphasis on quantitative research. Writing lets me visit some of the same subjects but allows me to do it however I want.

For a recent high school graduate; Would you recommend 4 years traveling abroad, or 4 years of college?

It depends what you want to do with your life. If you think you want to be a doctor then, obviously, you’d better go to college. It’s a harder call for those who want to pursue a creative career. I’d probably say travel for them but it depends what you do with the travel. Nowadays you could go abroad and still spend all of your time watching Netflix. Just going someplace doesn’t mean much. You’d have to dig in.

Who do you envy?

I try not to envy anyone. That said I do get jealous of those who found a clear calling at a young age and were able to take a lot of risks and make a lot of investment in their careers. I didn’t go all-in on writing until I was 27 or 28. I am also impressed by people who are proficient in a lot of different areas, like Donald Glover.

What are you bored of?

Between writing, having a family, two dogs and way too many other interests, I don’t remember the last time I had open time on my hands, let alone experienced boredom.

That said, I am not a fan of pharmaceutical ads on TV. Am also kind of burnt on social media. I like to read some things on it but am kind of over posting. I can scratch that itch through bigger writing projects.

How would you describe yourself?

I like to do things my own way. I try to be good to the people I care about. I like to push my boundaries. I like to stay up late. I can drink a lot of beers for my size.

What does writing mean to you?

I always try to contextualize my life experience, so it’s a way to get out all of the stuff swirling in my head. I also try to make myself laugh when writing.

What do you want to be remembered for?

Except for a tiny percentage of very famous people, you’re really only remembered by your own family and close friends. The rest doesn’t much matter.

Thomas, on a recent heli-skiing adventure.

Want to check out my last Interview with an Interesting Person? Click Here, and stay tuned for more updates from the road. My Colombia Visa expires soon, and I am starting a new adventure in the United States of America.

God Bless, Sean:)

Interview on CBC Radio – The Early Edition with Rick Cluff


I spent a lot of time listening to CBC Radio when I was young. Most of my summer break I would live on a small island named Bowyer, just outside of Vancouver. My grandmother and me loved listening to The Vinyl Cafe with Stuart Mclean.

When I came back from Colombia, I went to live on Bowyer to remove myself from distractions (there is no power, public access, and many days me and my dog were the only ones on the island). I had the same routine every for months. Wake up, make coffee, turn on CBC Radio on my grandmothers Sony Sport AM/FM Boombox and work on editing Five Weeks in the Amazon.

Our national radio station provides unique cultural and social insight gives a (mostly) unbiased view of world news and current events. The liberty to be myself and express myself without the fear of true contempt is something that’s been given to me carte blanche. Growing up in Canada, I can speak freely.

When I published Five Weeks in the Amazon, it set a personal goal to somehow get on CBC radio. Just over a month after my book was published I was is an interviewed for the morning show, The Early Edition with Rick Cluff. If want to hear the live recording it can be found at right here. CBC Radio on air

Sean Michael Hayes pens book about journey to Amazon

Former pro skateboarder Sean Michael Hayes writes about his journey to self-discovery

By The Early Edition, CBC News Posted: Jan 14, 2015 1:30 PM PT

Tsawwassen, B.C., native Sean Michael Hayes seemed to have had it all: he was a pro skateboarder as a teenager, and by the time he was 25, he had been featured in SBC Skateboard Magazine, travelled around the world, managed other pro skaters and earned a six-figure salary while living in California.

But by the time he was 28, Hayes’ life had come crashing down. He lost his job, his marriage fell apart, and nothing he tried seemed to lift him out of a deep unhappiness.

In 2012, the now 31-year-old travelled to the Amazon in Peru to seek out a shaman who he believed would have answers for him. Last month, Hayes self-published a book, Five Weeks in the Amazon to document his journey to self-discovery.

“I thought as humans, we’re quite natural, and I figured what more natural place than the Amazon,” he told The Early Edition’s Rick Cluff.

Hayes was diagnosed with depression in his early 20s. He said he tried to treat his depression naturally, through healthy eating and an active lifestyle.

“It didn’t work. I could do all this hard work and still end up feeling devastated, and I wanted to figure out why.”

He spent five weeks in Peru with a shaman, searching for answers.

“I was able to clearly separate what I now know is mental health illness and continue to go forward in my life while managing that and not let this unknown darkness take control.”

After he returned from the Amazon, Hayes started taking medication for his depression.

He plans to continue travelling and writing. He has a one-way ticket to Thailand that departs next Saturday.

The Delta Optimist, Leisure & Lifestyle Page 1

An interview for The Delta Optimist

Newspaper Article...Amazon adventure

Tsawwassen native pens book chronicling journey in Peru

The author, who grew up in Tsawwassen and graduated from South Delta Secondary, self-published the book last month after a successful Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign.

Hayes, 31, a former pro skateboarder who went on to work in the skateboarding industry, says he went on the trip looking for answers. Hayes had a six-figure salary by the time he was 25 but by 28 he had lost his job, marriage as well as himself, according to a press release.

After great successes it felt like things came falling apart, he says.

“There were a lot of things I wanted answers to and no matter what I tried in our Western society, whether it be researching, reading the books, trying to study spirituality, going to the doctors, I couldn’t really figure it out here,” he says. “I thought maybe going back to our natural way of solving these problems might be the answer and that’s why I went and sought out this shaman.”

Hayes found the shaman and says he learned all about her medicines and practices.

“All I pretty much knew was her name and area of the jungle, but in these kinds of places that was enough.”

He took ayahuasca, a psychedelic brew, and went on a natural diet.

“What I had envisioned in my mind was a lot more extreme than what it was,” he says of the ayahuasca experience.
“I was thinking I was going to go there and holy crap it was going to be this extreme thing that was going to take me to another planet.”

Hayes estimates he had about 300 bug bites within the first week in the Amazon but over the last week of the trip, due to his new diet, he’d only got bit a couple of times.

“You become in sync with nature a little bit. You’re eating the right food from the right place and you get in sync.”

He describes the diet as really simple with the main thing being the removal of all preservatives, seasonings and most meats.

Hayes went to the Amazon in November of 2012 and wrote in a travel journal each day.

“I’d write at least a page or two of what I was experiencing,” he says.

He had a launch event for his debut book at Four Winds Brewing Company in Tilbury.

Hayes, who had been living in California the last eight years, has been doing a lot of travelling lately. He’s been backpacking in Colombia and says he’s heading to Thailand this month.

Hayes says he really enjoys travelling.

“One of the things I really feel is important is just basically living a happy and fulfilled life.”

Five Weeks in the Amazon is available at or

His next book is a collection of his favourite poems and short stories he’s written over the last decade. It’s expected to be released early this year.

Follow him on Twitter and Instagram and other social media @Canadianhayes.



Meeting Cute Colombian Girls in the Streets of Medellin


When I arrived in Medellin I connected online with three cute Colombian girls. ColombianCuties had started following my site and asked me if I wanted to up for an interview. It was out of the ordinary, but I followed like a real journalist following a lead. We met in Parque Lleras, which I’ve been told is the place to meet beautiful girls in the posh Poblado neighborhood of Medellin. Every person in Bogota said the same thing when I asked them where I should go after I lived on a farm.  Medellin: The weather is beautiful and the woman are hot.  Or was it; The weather is hot and the woman are beautiful?

Interview with the ColombianCuties
Interview with the ColombianCuties

Despite all I’d heard, I wanted to see for myself if Medellin, the plastic surgery capital of the world, was truthfully filled with beautiful woman.  Were they phony, materialistic, fakes? Or were the rumors true, was Medellin filled with real beauties? I mostly spoke with Bella, she understood English the best of the group and I was still learning Spanish.  Sitting between Kandy and Angela the three girls presented a unified front, but Bella was clearly the leader.  She looked at me with a mischievous smile when I asked her how someone becomes a ColombianCutie.  

“To be honest, most Colombian girls are cuties, so pretty much any of them can be a ColombianCutie!  We just want to make sure we have good people surrounding us who not only want to receive, but also want to give back.”

Kandy and Anglea taking photo's in Parque Lleras
Kandy and Anglea taking photo’s in Parque Lleras

They plan to transition to a paid membership site once their audience is larger.  I point out the potential for their site to be quite lucrative and Bella is quick to tell me their plans to work with charities.  They plan to support orphanages around the city.  “To sum it up; ColombianCuties is fun, its charity, it’s growing up, it’s being who we are…That is ColombianCuties.” Beside being cute girls from Medellin I asked them what other goals they had.  I was impressed to learn that Bella and Kandy are both in College, studying math and communications, respectably.

Bella & Kandy
Bella & Kandy

But Angela?  Well she’s still in High school! That’s jailbait for anyone who’s paying attention.


What kind of people follow the ColombianCuties?  Bella explained; “Our followers are from all over the world, especially the United States, there are a lot of strange guys, there are a lot of good guys. There are all kinds of people.  Even though there are some strange people,  it is not a problem, we are ok.” Bella looked to both girls to confirm this last statement.  I decided to see what she meant by “Strange guys.” First I came across Marvin Simpkins Sr, an ordained minister from Tennessee.  He thought  “Whee fun time!” was an appropriate comment to leave on this picture of a bikini-clad Bella.

Nice Bikini eh!
Nice Bikini eh!
Creepy old man - And he's a minister!
Creepy old man – And he’s a minister!

I wouldn’t necessarily argue with Marvin, She does wear it well but come on buddy, you’re a minister for God’s sake! Then there’s Comedian Bernard Smith IV of Grand Rapids, Michigan.  When I clicked on his Facebook page the first thing I saw was a picture of him and his young nephew.  Set a good example Bernard, I doubt your family would think it’s funny when you say things like;

Candy, I would like you to come over so I can get a better look!


  Bella had the following advice for aspiring ColombianCuties.  “She needs to be prepared.  She needs to study hard, she needs to learn English because that is very important.  She needs to be very healthy, and also go to the gym.  She needs to be ready.”  Ready for what I ask…?

“Ready for opportunity.”

Three cute Colombian girls trying out my skateboard.
Three cute Colombian girls trying out my skateboard.

I like Bella.  She’s got a great attitude, she’s intelligent, she talks passionately about what she is doing and that made her even prettier in person.  In the end, what I learned from our conversation is that it doesn’t matter how hot the women are in Medellin. There are hot woman all over the world.  A woman like Bella is Beautiful for many reasons, her looks were just one of them.


Oh wait, there was one question I forgot to ask… “Bella, te gustaría ir a cenar conmigo?”