I'm watching the Vancouver Marathon from my apartment window and giggling as seagulls drift by at eye-level. Canada represents my final destination of this academic year, and though it was an exciting year and an important one for my own growth, I am glad it's behind me.
Traveling with a math expert this year introduced me to the beauty of slow data. With every car ride or room change, she plugged miles traversed or beds switched into a spreadsheet. By the end of 220 days "on the road," she presented to us the impressive numbers of our #cdtravels:
110,745 kilometers of transit = 2.76 times around the world
Total hours on planes, trains & automobiles (not layovers or wait time): 246 hours / 6 work weeks
50 beds roughly, averaging 4.4 nights per bed
If you're wondering why I spent the last year making an epic carbon footprint (not proud of that), take a peek at the TGS Changemaker Program and read my post on this curriculum development mission. If you're not sure how I went from travel media to writing curriculum documents for a high school, I understand your confusion. It surprised me, too. Here's something on my evolution.
Last year at this time, I was living in Florence, Italy with THINK Global School, plugging away at graduate school and enjoying as stable a lifestyle as I've achieved in the last decade. Between then and now, I changed jobs, visited ten countries, and wrote two years of projects with three colleagues.
Together, we ignore the folk music that fills every conversation gap and develop our bitter coffee breath. Turtle-Neck nudges the stool where my feet rest and quickly apologies with a wave. I crack a full smile, eager to be acknowledged, quick to prove I’m open to chatter myself, though we exchange none. The Daydreamer folds his paper and stands to deliver 1 KM to the bar for his espresso before walking out the door. He waits a beat before turning right, then walks straight towards his car. I notice the others don’t question his departure. He backtracks to the edge of the patio and turns left to saunter by the rest of the shops on the ground floor, hands in pockets–breaking for oxygen, I imagine. The patio door swings open again, and the newest member lifts a cheek onto a stool, pulling his Marlboros from a pocket as first order of business.
I continue to mull over my initial impressions of this city as they compare to my pre-conceptions without extensive research. How do I explain the feeling of dropping into a new city whose energy I don't know? What are the true risks to safety? Where's the highest concentration of lively people, impressive food, and gorgeous architecture? What does life feel like in this city, and how ever-present is the memory of its recent war?
I had heavenly expectations of the highland air. I thought it would be uncommonly sweet, a cold drink of water for my lungs. Instead, the air I invited in smelled like fresh biology, life and death but more of the former. Somewhere nearby, there was undoubtedly a cow sweating, a rooster breathing heavily, an earthworm realizing it could now slither back underground. From a 1st floor window, I sucked up all that biology in a moment of wonder and discovery, in the specialness of a start.
My hands smell of (free) salt and vinegar chips as I type away from within the Atlanta airport lounge. I am en route to Athens for the next three months, and I'm happy that my anxiety has finally converted itself into pure excitement.
I've finally stopped moving for a while. Want to see what I've found as of lately?
World travel on Nike's dime
Nike made a new product that basically detects energy expended (a.k.a. Nike Fuel) throughout your typical, active day, and with this new product comes an intense online marketing campaign called #makeitcount. This video, created by Casey Neistat and Max Joseph, is reminiscent of the STA Travel Australia video "Move" and shows Casey plowing through his budget from Nike with 10 days of globe trotting. I just had dinner with one of the developers of this campaign. The world is small, people.
Advice for starting a creative career
This is good and giggle-worthy. Here are my favorite excerpts:
...it's true that nothing I did where the only reason for doing it was the money was ever worth it, except as bitter experience. Usually I didn't wind up getting the money, either.
IRS on your trail? Make good art. Cat exploded? Make good art. Somebody on the Internet thinks what you do is stupid or evil or it's all been done before? Make good art. Probably things will work out somehow, and eventually time will take the sting away, but that doesn't matter. Do what only you do best. Make good art.
The urge, starting out, is to copy. And that's not a bad thing. Most of us only find our own voices after we've sounded like a lot of other people. But the one thing that you have that nobody else has is you. Your voice, your mind, your story, your vision. So write and draw and build and play and dance and live as only you can.
The moment that you feel that, just possibly, you're walking down the street naked, exposing too much of your heart and your mind and what exists on the inside, showing too much of yourself. That's the moment you may be starting to get it right.
That was the hardest lesson for me, I think: to let go and enjoy the ride, because the ride takes you to some remarkable and unexpected places.
Throughout June, I felt incredibly confident in my role as media specialist for this world-touring school, TGS. I don't know if it was the homey accommodation we had, the energy of Berlin, the enthusiasm of the students, or something else. I created a rhythm of working and playing that felt solid and sustainable, which is harder than it seems to create structure in a fluid, ever-changing environment. It was so successful that I had time and energy to document for myself.
A few weeks ago, I packed up my ephemeral life and reverted to backpack living for about 25 days. After train journeys through Prague, Budapest, Salzburg, and Austria, I flew to meet friends in Denmark and said goodbye to Europe from Stockholm. Landing stateside in early July, I quickly picked up again to visit my hometown of Wabash and then the third place I'd call a 'home': New York City. Home is a loose term for me.
This summer break from school will consist of portfolio tweaking, reading of many travel narratives, home creative projects, and the ever-important duty of reconnecting with my community.
After the Berlin trimester ended, I flew to Copenhagen to begin a wee Scandinavian tour. The best part of this week was being with friendly residents and visiting their homes. Yes, homes. Not houses, accommodations, hotels, hostels, or dorms. In both Copenhagen and Stockholm, I stayed in city homes and then visited vacation homes by the water. Both cities are impressive and relatively unknown to me, but I valued most those moments where I was experiencing someone's place of hat-hanging. Rarely did I want to venture away.
Kari and Kristian heading to Öja, Sweden
Landsort is a village on the island of Öja an hour south of Stockholm. It marks the southernmost point of the Stockholm archipelago. My new friend Kari took fellow TGS co-worker Andy and his two friends to his vacation home on the island of Öja by way of a flat-bottomed boat. The sky was gray and occasionally spitting, but we enjoyed some walks along the central road (rarely a motor in sight) and up by the lighthouse that gives the village its name.
Andy on Öja island in Sweden
Kristian on Öja island in Sweden
Kristian on Öja island in Sweden
Luisa, Andy, and Kristian on Öja island
Kristian on Öja in Sweden
The lighthouse on Öja island
Wildflowers on Öja island
Wildflowers on Öja island
Andy staring into the gray Baltic skies
Kari and Kristian heading to Öja, Sweden
The southernmost point of the Stockholm archipelago: Landsort
The mostly-pedestrian streets of Landsort on Öja island in Sweden
Some of my students called it "the best five days of their lives." That kind of statement carries a good load coming from kids who visited the Galápagos, the Amazon rainforest, and the Bavarian Alps this year alone.
This title isn't entirely accurate; it should be more like "This is what the last three months in Germany, Czech Republic, Hungary, Austria, and parts of Scandinavia looked like...and other cool stuff, too." The first two terms in Ecuador and Thailand left little time for experiencing the surrounding culture. I mostly stared in a viewfinder or at my computer screens for six months.
Then came Germany.
Freshly relieved of my Creative Art teaching responsibilities and greatly assisted with social media management, I not only had time to create videos, edit photography, and write blogs on the ground; after a 10-hour day, I regularly had hours to myself in the evening to produce work of my own volition and be in the incredible city of Berlin.
I lived with two other faculty members in a very cute apartment 4km from the students. That space gave me quiet time to crank out content and a delightful bike ride to mend the gap and feel a part of the surrounding residential community. In terms of my own satisfaction in a job well done, it was a term vastly different from the other two. Professional me and human me both had the freedom to seek their potential.
This is my work from the Germany term in a nutshell (or a Flickr set).
And this is the evidence of life after the 10-hour work day.
What is it you’re pining to see from Germany and those parts of Europe?
The last three months of living in Berlin have been culture-filled indeed. One of our guest speakers this term expressed his belief that if Paris, London, NYC, and other global cities had their heydays in past decades, Berlin is having hers right now. While it's harder to find a contributor to culture living in New York City than it is a financier or business person, in Berlin the culture contributors are the vast majority and the makers of the dough.
If you're going to study art today, this is certainly a place to witness a present movement gaining definition.
Creative Arts teacher in Germany Cécile B. Evans explains this term's curriculum and the students' final project at the Berlin Biennale. Students visit the Berlin Biennale and express their impressions of various works. The culmination of Creative Arts this term is the creation of audio guides, written and recorded by TGS students, that visitors to the Biennale can use to experience this year's very political exhibition. (L.Clark)
Creative Arts teacher Cécile B Evans explains Art By Telephone, a recent activity students participated in with artists and audience members across the globe. In one afternoon, TGSers became creators of global art along with Timur Si-Qin, Lindsay Lawson, and Lucky PDF. The event was live streamed in Australia at an arts festival. (L.Clark)
The thin line of text atop my computer screen reminded me of a birthday. It was a realization that went down like a horse pill. Today, my grandfather would have been 92.
He passed away as I was frantically flying home from Thailand, my work trip cut short due to his declining health. As I was suspended above the South Pacific—poorly timing my first viewing of The Descendants—he received the rare opportunity to die at an old age, surrounded by family, with a smile on his face. I missed it, but that's okay. I've been saying cautious and thoughtful goodbyes since I went on Semester at Sea, a trip on which I feared he would forget me.
Though I'm not processing my own experiences in video form as of lately (due to lack of time), I'm really please with what I've been able to crank out in Berlin. There are moments when what I've documented for work has impacted me, mostly at Wannsee Haus where the Final Solution was created.
In this great city of culture and history, cinematic moments abound. Here are the ones I've caught thus far.
Getting lost in Berlin
Global Studies teacher Andrew McLean sent the students on a scavenger hunt around Berlin, Germany this weekend. Though they were asked to visit points of interest like famous synagogues and the Pergamon museum, students were encouraged to discover new locations and have personal experiences with their new host city. Equipped with their iPhones, they documented each unique adventures to share with peers and reflect afterward. (L. Clark)
ANZAC Day memorial service in Berlin, Germany
ANZAC Day is a time when Australians and New Zealanders pause to reflect on those who fought on foreign lands, believing that they were leaving a legacy for the generations after them. With four New Zealanders and an Australian as part of the TGS community, it seemed like a good idea to attend the ANZAC Day service, this year hosted by the New Zealand Embassy at the 1939-45 War Cemetery in Berlin. Furthermore, they have been studying legacy and memory in World Literature class. Students were asked to reflect on the service and how it is observed in Germany where there has to be a degree of political sensitivity. (A. McLean)
Wannsee Haus & the Final Solution
Global Studies teacher Andrew McLean and World Literature teacher Irene Krugman coordinate a visit to the Wannsee Haus where the conference for the Final Solution took place. At the Wannsee conference, Hitler's top officers developed the document that led to the death of millions of Jews. (L. Clark & A. McLean)
The immigration line stretched to meet me
at row 35 on the 767-200.
A strong arm could toss a tennis ball
beyond the width of TXL's international wing.
Elbowing through the Red Rover chain
that was a Canadian tour group,
bags launched to my shoulders and bolted for fresh air.
The weather did not mirror the excitement and pleasure
of the first day and week to come.
Berlin was about to agree with us.
I immediately employed my limited German
to interact with multiple bus and taxi drivers
who appeared miserable with their lives.
Butchered 'danke's and 'bitte's soon paired
with curtsies and exaggerated pleasantries.
Three months is a long time to suffer
daily angst from miscommunication.
Students arrived and assimilated, and
the snowball started rolling, gaining unshakable width.
My right arm quivered under the heft of a Canon.
Rare disorientation, often the product of group travel,
made me a slave to GPS, moving like a duckling.
Nights in the city spurred on emotive gushing;
once again we're individuals displaced and building
community like modge podge that dents in transit,
further evidence that humans need connection.
We run from one to another obligation.
Ein Bier, bitte, and Haribo Bären;
new habits are quickly forming under a
ridiculous guise of cultural immersion.
I left the flowery trees of Indiana to find
buds of the most delicate green across the pond.
The contrast doesn't have to be stark for
time travel to make eyes pop open.
My body asserts the need for a range
of clothing, to shelter from the temperate climate
I associate with normalcy.
White walls tall with character and comfort
and Ikea now house all revelry and focus.
In this vacuum, I crank experience into content.
I suck chaos and uncertainty out of the
daily equation, letting three locks and 4km
create a void to be filled by me. Right now.
And when I reach a capacity that signals
others to sigh for the day, a bike and a lake and
reflective outlets become not only excusable,
cushions for my human frailty.
Like a sheet of sugar glass
my back crunches from its office chair history,
but this output is what justifies the means.
It's not the typical unwelcome vacuum this time
but an unconventional lifestyle in context;
I know others exist and uncommon moments occur.
Still, relative pain and conflict splatter
over what pleases me, removed from comparison.
And maybe I haven't yet reached the age for anxiety
that this isn't the way to be, which makes me anxious.
I see that 3/4ths of my thinking is committed to the
active pursuit of sustainable humanity: live music,
organic experience, bubble-popping, connections.
There has been a shift in balance toward a very likable center.
Ten days ago, I descended into a brisk, foggy day at TXL, equipped with a new currency, my crusty old travel backpack, and a vague awareness of my new home's coordinates. In the time since my arrival, I've gotten familiar with the suburb of Kleinmachnow and explored my neighborhood on foot.
Yesterday was my first wander around downtown Berlin, camera in hand. I've started my three-month exploration of the city at a popular hub, roughly the Williamsburg of Berlin: Rosenthaler Platz. Here are just a few moments.
Excited for the next outing and my newest acquisition: a bike for one of the world's most bike-friendly cities.
Today, I fly to Berlin, Germany. I'm not ready, but my bags will be in a couple hours time. And by tomorrow morning, I will have landed in my new home for the next three months. Take away this woman's sweet safari hat, nicely-pressed dress, and hat box, replace it with yoga pants, a sweaty brow, and a cheap tote filled with laptops and this is me today.
Man, she's classy.
This atypical post with a relative real-time update hopefully marks a shift in content on Nomadderwhere in the coming months. This blog sprouted from the internet soils as a nautical travelogue, and it has since become something I'm still proud of - with its focus on concepts and inquiries about the art of travel. But I've been neglectful of the actual experiences I face and consume, instead focusing my documentation energy on telling my students how valuable it is to document. Silly me. I forgot to continue my own practice, sermon after sermon.
I'm actually making lots of progress as of lately with documentation on the back end. You'll see those fruits very soon.
It is time to move back into the realm of travel narratives, and trust that there are plenty backlogged from these last few years in travel production. Berlin is the third and final stop this academic year on the TGS world tour.
There will be beer. There will be the slow and steady apprehension of the German language (yay heritage!). And I will be learning big, powerful, life-changing lessons every week from this community of international minds. You will see more of these things in the weeks and months to come, and hopefully from the this trajectory, experiences from the past will seep through my fingertips toward cyberspace.
I tweet a lot more than I blog these days, so get a sense of what I do by following nomadderwhere on Twitter.
I first heard about the Camino de Santiago de Compostela in an art history course called The Medieval City. Dr. Diane Reilly made it sound rockin' - an historic route through France, the Pyrenees, and Spain that devout Catholics took to reach one of three cathedrals with the remains of an apostle, in this case St. James. Traditionally the pilgrims trekked barefoot and penny-less through the mountains and vast expanses, accepting hospitality from churches and homes on the path.
Between the 12th and 14th centuries Santiago de Compostela grew in importance and prestige, at times even eclipsing the pilgrim routes to Jerusalem and Rome. It is remarkable that tens of thousands of pilgrims chose to suffer the hazards of this route every year during the Middle Ages. A combination of the relative accessibility of the route and the miracles associated with the relics of the Saint beneath the magnificent cathedral were certainly contributing factors in its popularity. (Camino Guides)
Sheen plays the protagonist of this story, as a mild and conservative father who finds out his son died while attempting the historic trek. In an attempt to fulfill his son's goal and to process his own grief, Sheen treks the entire length, picking up comrads in a Wizard of Oz-esque fashion.
My parents watched this film at the Heartland Film Festival and felt it was one I needed to see. My mother reflected after our shared screening, "I got choked up on that car ride to the airport, when the son tells his dad he has to go because it's there. That sounds like something you've said."
We've shared many a ride reeking of the same sentiment.
A co-worker and friend from Ecuador is planning on traversing this route in September by bicycle. I've even heard murmurs at work about doing this famed trek and the powers of the introspective journey. I'm mostly fueled by visuals, which is why even though I'd learned about it in school and chatted about it with friends, it took a feature film with some of the Sheen men to make me add 'the way' to my bucket list.
“The Way” is at the very least an exquisite product placement for the Spanish Tourism Board. (Shockya)
A self-starting, world traveling, commercial fishing, supremely athletic, go-getter. That's a whole lot of epithets. For those of you who haven't yet read up on Sierra, be sure to check out Part 1 of this series before reading on to learn more about her new project in Alaska!
Sierra Anderson Fish
Sierra Anderson and I have only met through google chats and phone conversations, but being on such similar paths led us to becoming friends and collaborators. This series of Interview a Traveler continues to give kudos where they are due...to fellow travelers doing some very cool things.
You've recently just started a new venture called The Real Alaska. What's the premise behind it, and how do you hope to generate revenue from this?
The Real Alaska
The Real Alaska, founded by Brett Veerhusen and myself, is a blog and reality web-show documenting our "re-admittance" into the commercial fishing scene this past summer. Brett spent his summer captaining for the first time in Bristol Bay, Alaska, while I worked as the “skiff-wo-man” for my dad in Chignik off the peninsula. We both grew up in the commercial fishing scene. In fact, Brett and I refer to it as our second lives, one that most of our friends don’t even know about.
Alaska is virtually its own country. It's a completely different element up there with very different people doing risky business around the clock. Through our own personal journeys, we hope to educate, entertain, and provide insight into what this industry is all about. Eventually, we'll broaden our scope to encompass all things Alaskan and bring in contributors.
Being that we both are entrepreneurs, we hope to pitch this to investors, get better equipment, and turn this into something more. We have a vision, but right now we're building credibility, a portfolio, and letting it develop organically, in order to have something to pitch down the road.
How do you deal with the ever-nagging issue of money, and what advice would you give my budget-minded readers?
I'd recommend developing a skill you can use on the road, something you can barter with to help you save money. This was the case with the SMU Travel Bug and hotels/adventure companies, because we had a marketable outlet for companies to use. It doesn't have to be a website or video editing skills. Photography, though, is a big one, and I just recently took this hobby up myself. Multimedia is huge in marketing businesses these days. If you can add to that or help a business out, they can help you in return.
Do some extra work for a family. Be an au pair. Apply for the Peace Corps. Networking is huge. There are plenty of WWOOFs along the way where you can trade work for rent, too.
Sierra harbor mountains inspiration
Why do you personally find travel documentation important, and what would be your ideal job/lifestyle in five years?
Sierra thinking Greece
I'm a bit of a dreamer and very inspired by what I see. Documentation has become my portfolio, but more than that, it's like therapy. It’s a way for me to hopefully inspire others to hop off the bandwagon and experience a world outside of their own. Although I don’t have a degree in journalism or multimedia, I am building credibility based on the experiences I document now. I’ve always enjoyed entertaining, so documenting allows me to do that and also educate.
If The Real Alaska takes off in the future, I can see myself taking people on adventures and documenting their experiences on camera. Anything having to do with multimedia and journalism would be my niche - where I can share my passion with others. To be a host and take people around the world, or in this case, Alaska, would be a dream job.
How to do you reason the unconventional and daring life you lead? I know many people would love to have their lives revolve around travel.
A professor of mine once told me:
In your 20s, always choose the option that you'll learn from the most and wait till your 30s to choose the option that pays the most.
Sierra Anderson Venice sinking city flood
Regardless of what I do, I want this time in my life to be about building valuable experiences, not possessions. I don’t understand how everyone pushes us to spend the "now" getting ahead, jump starting careers immediately out of college, finding the perfect someone, and ‘settling down’ only to later question it all.
In my opinion, there are two types of people in this world: those who talk about traveling and those who actually do it. Many say they want to or wish they could but come up with a million reasons not to, money being the biggest excuse.
If I wasn’t doing what I am now, I would take off to Haiti and go work there for a year. They could use that help right now. Join the Peace Corps, Volunteer Abroad, etc. It doesn't necessarily take money to do that, nor does it mean you have to be single either. Two of my best friends who are newly married and tight on finances have still found ways to travel and work in different countries. Traveling is like jumping off the high dive in the swimming pool. You just have to take that first step, then you're in.
It's important to be practical, too. If you really want to travel like you talk, your going to have to give up and sacrifice other things. I gave up having a car for about three years to lessen my expenses.
Fishing in Alaska
How do you know when a travel or work experience is right for you?
That really comes down to your personal goals and motivation. Sometimes work opportunities come a lot sooner than we anticipate, and we're afraid to jump in knowing we might be tied down. Everything we do is a learning experience; however, don't let money be the main motivator. Trust your instincts.
Being well-cultured and having a diverse portfolio of work experiences are very important in today’s world, so traveling in my opinion helps you go far no matter what career choices you make. If you can think in "bigger picture” terms, you’re already setting yourself up for success in the future.
Be sure to check out the first half of this interview. UPDATE: Sierra has a new TV show on TLC, Hook, Line & Sisters. Do you have any questions for Sierra about her future travels, The Real Alaska, or her experiences throughout 40+ countries? Leave a comment, and I'll make sure she gets the question!
She self-created her own World Traveler Internship. She knows the ins and outs of commercial fishing. She's a star athlete with an extreme passion for satiating her wanderlust. Let's check her out.
Sierra Anderson and I have only met through google chats and phone conversations, but being on such similar paths led us to becoming friends and collaborators. I've been amazed by her tenacity ever since. This series - Interview a Traveler - continues to give kudos where they are due; to fellow travelers doing some very cool things.
Her Bio: I am an Alaskan native, a local of Breckenridge Colorado, and a daughter of a commercial fisherman and world traveler. I grew up in the remote bush of Alaska, and when I wasn’t traveling, my summers were spent fishing off the Alaska Peninsula. Through university and travel, my zest for the outdoors and thrills increased exponentially. I'm a self-proclaimed "Curious George."
So you're a self-proclaimed "travel bug." How did you acquire this fantastic disease?
I’m a genetic byproduct of my mother, the globetrotter. Having traveled to 87 countries herself, I was fortunate during my formative middle school years to join her in many of these exotic adventures. Since then, traveling has been in my blood. My mother made each experience as authentic and educational as possible. That meant reading up on everything, never traveled in tour groups, renting cars and traveling cross-country through the continents of Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia.
My dad is the same way. This was the start of an impacting theme of my life. I learned what it meant to push myself to the limits each day and it carried over to how I live my life now.
Tell us about the SMU Travel Bug and how you went about creating your own school-sponsored travel program.
It was a team effort. Without Shelley, Cody and our new "bug" Tyler, none of it would have happened. I was motivated to try something new. I took a risk in doing it, and I made some valuable relationships that helped make it all a reality.
I was inspired by STA’s World Travel Internship in December 2009. I applied right away, but after finding out in March that I didn’t make the cut, I wasn’t ready to give up. I discovered that the competition was a great learning experience and opportunity to meet some very cool and knowledgeable people in the field, not to mention meeting this awesome chick interviewing me right now.
Motivation: I thought to myself, "What if the World Travel Internship could be sponsored by SMU instead?" I wanted the challenge of making it happen for myself and to use my travels to inspire others with the spirit of adventure. I knew the intrinsic benefits of travel, and I wanted everyone else in my school bubble to see it, too.
Risk: Fortunately, I came out of college debt free but also with little to no money in hand. I needed the funding. In a matter of two months, I met my travel buddies, Shelley, Cody, and Tyler, then planned the journey to Europe with out really knowing whether or not it was actually going to happen.
Networking: After concocting a sponsorship proposal with our itinerary, budget, purpose and everything the SMU Travel Bug would do and provide, we presented these things to a number of teachers and faculty, including the International Department in hopes of gathering support. As an advocate for world travel himself, and mentor to me, Dean Niemi, of the Cox Business School, was on board and personally sent a letter to the International Department proclaiming his support and financial backing for the SMU Travel Bug. His support was fundamental.
Come May 1st, we got the approval of the Study Abroad and received enough funding to pay for my half of the journey (as a business school alumna). Halfway through our trip, Outdoor Interlaken, a prestigious outdoor adventure company in Switzerland, offered to sponsor that portion of our trip. The famous Hostel in Interlaken, Balmers Herberge, also hosted us for the week.
Where were you expecting the SMU TB to propel you, and what has actually come from the whole experience?
I’ve always wanted to start my own business, specifically in the adventure travel industry, and I thought this might be a means of working towards that. Unfortunately for the SMU TB, it ended up being too much too soon. I'm still trying to figure out what to do with it, but in the meantime, it's a resource and portfolio of experience. Now I take more a journalist and multimedia approach to things. I have developed different skills that will propel me further down this path.
In your opinion, what are some essential characteristics of a compatible travel buddy?
Adventurous: It helps if they're a little crazy. But really, it's all about balance. Differences can be a positive thing, as long as they bring out the best and propel each other forward.
Positive: Find a team player that can make it through the grime with little fuss. My travel partner, Shelley, is a great example of this. When we were traveling from Romania to Greece on a stinky train, Shelley was incredibly sick. She had every reason to be miserable but managed to find some sense of humor in the situation and make the best of it. Attitude is everything, and it’s quite contagious.
Physically fit: Most people don’t consider this as that important, but it is. You never know when you might have to walk five miles with 40 pounds of luggage on your back. Yeah, it happens.
Flexible: If you’re on the hunt to find the perfect travel companion, remember you have to first be that person to them. You have to be able to make adjustments and sacrifices yourself. You’re not only living together but having to make quick, sound decisions every day.
What has this post-trip, post-graduation, “limbo” time been like for you, and how have you been deciding the next steps throughout this time?
The transition out of college is not often an easy adjustment. College is seriously a bubble. The SMU Travel Bug propelled me toward what I want to do, and since then, I’ve been working as a ski coach in Breckenridge, herring fishing in Sitka in the Spring, and salmon fishing in the summer. I’ve managed to deal with being ‘limbo’ from living in a resort town with varying seasons.
Presently, I am living in my hometown of Breckenridge, Colorado. Having just returned from 3 months commercial salmon fishing in Alaska, I am embracing the freedom of now before starting my job as a ski coach and instructor. These next couple months are about documenting my story of commercial fishing in Alaska. As of right now, I am traveling in Turkey and taking advantage of my downtime to hone in on video editing and writing.
What is The Real Alaska? Be sure to check out the second half of this interview with Sierra. Do you have any questions for her about the SMU Travel Bug, travel-centric entrepreneurship, or her experiences throughout 40+ countries? Leave a comment, and I'll make sure she gets the question!
Welcome back to my new monthly series on Nomadderwhere, one which highlights the incredible trips one could take in that current month - thanks to a vibrant book called Journeys of a Lifetime by National Geographic.
Each month I pick a couple adventures from each section in the book in order to provide you inspiration for 365 days from now. Read the brief description to whet your appetite, and click on the trip name for further information (links provided by National Geographic...of course you could be a gritty backpacker and make it on your own).
Mississippi River Paddle Steamer: Huckleberry had the right idea. Floating along the Mississippi River is a chance to be engaged with the powerful vein of America, where one can bob between plantation mansions on the shore traveling from New Orleans to Memphis in seven days. A steamboat today offers amenities that will keep your grandmother comfortable and showcases music that will have just about anyone slapping their knees. Mark Twain would be so proud.
The Li River: Palm paintings and currency notes both boast this iconic landscape of China, but have you witnessed it first-hand? It only takes a half-day to travel down the Li River from Guilin, where you can approach the rock formations as you would passing clouds. That one looks like an Elephant! This is the truly beautiful China.
Through the Highlands of Scotland: August is THE month to visit Scotland. With the Edinburgh Fringe Festival ripping up the historical city with laughter and music and beautiful, mild weather blowing through the majestic scenery of the Highlands, one would be stupid not to make this trip at least once in their lifetime. Pack a tent, rent a car, grab your hiking boots, and get ready to be inspired by Earth.
The Icefields Parkway: If you can't rationalize an expansive trip across the globe during August, maybe you can swing by the Rocky Mountains of Canada and enjoy a little scenery before your school year or dreaded job starts up again. Though the gorgeous mountains and glaciers won't harm you, the bears sure will; stay in the car, but have that camera ready! Though you can fly through this mountainous wonderland, block out a couple days, and book some lodging well in advance for this month.
National Parks of the West: Road trips are a time-honored pastime, but train trips are classic. The American Orient Express motors through various very famous National Parks in the western states and allows its passengers to explore nature, ironically, in luxury. This would be a fantastic trip to take with your grandparents or families, although nine days with either group could get a little punchy.
The Bergen Railway: Speaking of once-in-a-lifetime, this trip through the brilliant landscapes of Norway will certainly be one to remember, since you won't have pretty pennies to make a similar trip for years. Norwegian prices are a bit steep, as are their hilly expanses and beautiful fjords. This train hugs the mountainsides with dear might, though the scene outside may feel like a fantasy. Luckily you won't get too carried away with this otherworldliness, because chances of getting intoxicated are very slim. Liquor prices don't allow.
Walking in Umbria: Tuscany is beautiful and all, but its neighbor to the southeast is just as fantastic, arguably more so. Speckled with medieval hilltop towns and sunflower fields, Umbria has a sweet spot in my heart, from my time in Spoleto studying abroad. This is where small town Italy charm is ever-present, and history dates way back, beyond the era of the Roman Empire to the time of the Etruscans. This is an Italy that never gets old.
The Drakensberg: OMG, your feet are going to be, like, SO happy with you! Tromp around South Africa's highest mountain range and spend your nights in caves. It sounds like you won't be unlucky enough to run into a lion on your way, but you very well could see some antelope and baboons bound across your path. And if you're truly serious, it seems there's an extreme trek for the experienced mountain hiker involving the entire eastern escarpment. Go get 'em, pedestrians!
In Search of Culture
Romanesque Churches: Mountains are cool, buildings are sweet, but Romanesque churches in the Spanish Pyrenees have got to be high on the stellar-meter. Designs dripping in subtly and grace have serious history attached to their existences. To study religious architecture of this time is to study human beings and all topics of interest. If you're in the area, make the trip to see some gorgeous edifices amidst some gorgeous landscapes, and you'll be able to boast some divine sightings to your friends back at home.
Rock Churches of Cappadocia: Surreal rock formations surround hundreds of houses of worship, magnifying the odd placement and unique nature of these important destinations from Christian history. Step into these stone rooms and witness the walls of murals, illustrating scenes from the Bible, which have been well-preserved thanks to the dark interiors.
In Gourmet Heaven
Napa Valley Wine: Bring your ID and a wine glass, and they can provide the rest. Though I had a rough transition from China to Napa, back in 2007, this valley really is a lovely area of manicured nature and delicious fermented drinks. I love wine, but the one wine that has ever had a truly effect on me was tasted here. Visit the Francis Ford Coppola Estate and try the Rubicon. It's over $100 a bottle, but tasting this delight is much more affordable, along with many other tasty reds. The Rubicon buckled my knees. Nuff said.
Thailand Cuisine Tour: Do you like lime? Thought so. And when I think of Thai food, I picture fresh ingredients whipped together in a simple, yet skilled way and finished with a squirt of luscious lime that makes the eyes roll back. Take nine days...heck, take two weeks, and enjoy a cuisine tour that shows off both mountain and coastal culinary traditions. I'm not really sure I need to write more. Thai food sells itself.
Into the Action
Bird-Watching in East Africa: I'm really into the wild cats while on safari, but I think that means I often miss out on some fantastic bird sightings overhead. The birds of Kenya and Tanzania seem painted and surreal. Lake Nakuru offers an awesome spectacle with its soda lake filled with pink flamingos. Here's me scaring them away.
Whale-Watching in the Azores: Sighting a mammal with a heart the size of a car is understandably a remarkable sight. Wait for them off the coast of the Azores, a series of islands governed by Portugal in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Don't worry; whaling isn't legal here anymore. They've replaced harpoons with cameras.
Up and Away
Bush Plane Adventure: I often forget America is home to majesty that rivals the Himalayas. Air-safaris offer unique vistas over primal mountain-scapes and grizzly wildlife. This trip is about nature, about grand magnitude, about summoning your inner Alexander Supertramp...but don't eat the berries! August timing allows for missing the worst of the bug season.
Over the Great Barrier Reef: For most, it's important to be underwater when visiting the world's largest reef, but imagine seeing this spectacle from above. Spot manta-rays and sharks from afar, taking in the entirety of this ecosystem as opposed to studying its intricate detail. And be sure to fly over the perfectly shaped Heart Reef if you're going for cheesy and romantic with your significant other!
In Their Footsteps
The Hudson's Bay Company Trappers: There aren't many these days who covet beaver fur, which makes sense that the Hudson's Bay Company doesn't still thrive today, but the history of the aboriginal fur trade is possible to witness starting from Winnipeg and heading up to Canada's Hudson Bay. And hitting this trip up in August could reward you with participation in the annual Treaty & York Boat Days festival. Long live the beavers!
Wordsworth in the Lakes: Wordsworth was just that, worth his weight in words, and visiting his old stomping grounds could produce two scenarios. The best case scenario could mean you're inspired to write similar works of greatness as you picnic by the lake of Grasmere or visit Hawkshead school. The worst case scenario is you visit England during a beautiful time of year and learn about a great writer amidst lush and peaceful nature. Think about it.
How's that brain? Spinning with innumerable desires to traverse continents and climates? Pull out a pen and prioritize your life by putting one or more of these trips at the top of the list. And by planning a year in advance, you'll be quite able to save, prepare, and anticipate the rigors of your adventure in every way. Check back in September for the Journeys of a Lifetime you could partake in next year!
Where are you inspired to travel to next year? Leave a comment and be my new friend.
We travel because it's a rare kind of high that can also enlighten, rejuvenate, and ensure the occurrence of adventure. Regardless of the road's discomforts or challenges, travel seems to always evoke an inexplicable positivity - whether that's from the possibility of new friendships or just the newness of a myriad of elements.
The scope of potential world travel is tantalizing, and thankfully tourism has the ability to elevate developing communities through employment opportunities and tax revenue. Win for the wanderer; win for the welcomers. Sadly, not every traveler sees his or her voyage to a new country in such a positive, symbiotic light. Those are the ones who perpetuate the very dark and very bleak side of travel. I'm talking about the perverted patrons of the sex tourism industry.
This post was written in conjunction with Angeline Diamond of ECPAT-USA.
The Darkest Form of Tourism
I'm not talking about backpackers who delight in a consensual tryst or the business traveler hoping to meet a cute gentleman in the hotel bar. I'm talking people whose sole purpose for travel is to engage in sex with minors, or they may take it one step further and transport someone for criminal sexual conduct. Ya know…real classy types.
Let's lay this out logically. Sex tourism increases the demand for prostitution. However, this demand is not easily met by women willing to choose this profession. Therefore, to meet demands, the supply of prostitutes becomes contingent on extensive human trafficking networks. These networks appear to be incredibly underground, which is why we don't hear about them like we do the drug trade. But sadly, the U. S. State Department says one million children worldwide are enslaved in the global commercial sex trade. Sex trafficking is considered one of the top three most profitable criminal networks in the world, generating about $4 billion dollars a year.
It's enough to make you writhe.
I feel rather morally comfortable while traveling, since I know for a fact I'm not engaging in anything related to sex tourism. But unfortunately, the travel industry often unintentionally contributes to this debilitating form of abuse. This doesn't mean anyone should point fingers and never leave their homes, but we as travelers, if we have any interest in our hosting communities, have a duty to act in ways that prevent the exploitation of the most vulnerable members of society: the children.
Kids are awesome, and to imagine a start to life wrapped up in such a seedy and life-threatening industry could induce nightmares and permanent travel guilt.
Know They're Out There
I've written about the creeps who often navigate to my site from google searches, like: cambodian naked boy, sex tourism friendly hotels, little boy with no shirt. If my blog were my home, I'd sit with an acidic potato gun on the front porch and fire at any creep who wonders on my lawn. To much our surprise, perverts aren't as easy to spot as Mormon evangelists (not that I'm encouraging the same activity to these solicitors…they're just easy to spot).
Instead, if I'm hoping that the world becomes a better place within my lifetime, I'd be better off imploring the help of fellow travelers who have an ounce of morality or two - hence, my blog post to you today.
I was recently contacted by ECPAT-USA, a network of organizations and individuals committed to the fight for children’s rights of freedom. While I know it's often fruitless to call for agency from an anonymous online audience, I figured it could only be beneficial to mention the tools they provide to assist the travel industry in preventing the sexual exploitation of children.
This acronym, which stands for Ending Child Prostitution, Pornography, and Trafficking, represents a group that focuses on research, advocacy, and public awareness. In conjunction with UNICEF and UNWTO, they created "The Code of Conduct," which outlines policies that may be adopted by travel companies within their code of ethics to prevent the sexual exploitation of children. Over 900 companies worldwide are in support of the code thus far, yet there are many companies that still hesitate.
Seriously…these guys are hesitating to support actions that prevent sexual exploitation. I'd like to hear the rebuttal for that argument.
Here we are, at the end of my ramble, where you can choose to do a couple things. You can click away mentally and physically (I admit to doing it a lot). You can consider yourself more aware and decide to learn more on your own time (I like to do this, as well). You can also exercise your "take action" muscle and follow some ECPAT-USA recommended steps toward making the travel industry more responsible. Regardless of your next step, I appreciate your perusal of this content and hope you feel enriched for doing so.
Kick Those Creeps Where The Sun Don't Shine
You may print out The Code Postcard and drop it off with your travel companies, which declares that you support responsible travel practices and travel companies that feel the same way. The Postcard provides information on how they may become a signatory.
If you take this route, do let ECPAT-USA know where you sent the postcard. It helps them out.
Talk with your friends, family, co-workers, and other travelers to promote awareness and create a greater force against these practices.
Purchase a TassaTag, a beautiful, fair trade plus luggage tag, which also increases public awareness and benefits ECPAT research and women in Thailand.
Do you have any questions concerning sex tourism around the world? If so, you may contact Angeline directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. And if you have any other information, stories, or reflections on this issue, please add to our dialogue below.