Czech Republic

Journeys of a Lifetime in February

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).

Across Water

Cruising to Antarctica: Start at the end of the world (Ushuaia at the tip of South America) and float toward the chilly marine life and frozen antiquity of Antarctica. You'd only do this once in your life, unless your a scientist, a mountaineer or crazy. Make that one trip count.

Pirogues and Pinasses on the Niger River: You're going to feel timeless and relaxed while floating on this great waterway of Africa. Mali makes for great camping, and the fare you catch from the river will make for excellent campfire dinners as well.

By Road

From Lisbon to Porto: Salt pans, flatlands, pine forests, wooded hills, vine-clad valleys - get a load of Portugal's western coast! Get in that car and go.

The Garden Route: South Africa's tip is not only an optical masterpiece with plenty of indigineous wild and plant life, but it's incredibly accessible for backpackers via city hostels and the Baz Bus for transport in between. Along this route are adventure activities ranging from the world's most beautiful sky dive drop zone to great white shark diving.

By Rail

Eastern & Oriental Express: Singapore to Bangkok...in style. Restaurant cars with high quality food and piano bars for sipping cocktails with a panoramic view - this could be an excellent way to see Southeast Asia's peninsula, maybe not my way. Sometimes the luxury is a nice break from the overhaul.

Darjeeling Toy Train: Locals in Darjeeling joke there's no other town in the world where a train passenger can step out of the car, take a leak and hop back in without breaking a slight jog. Locals also kid there's no other town in the world where the train gets caught in traffic jams. Darjeeling's toy train is scrawny for India's standards, but it offers views of the 3rd tallest mountain, Kanchenjunga.

On Foot

The Torres Del Paine: It's no secret I'm pining for a trip to South America's tip, to see Patagonia and Ushuaia in person. The Torres Del Paine National Park does nothing to hinder this desire. Nature trumps man once again. My hiking boots are ready.

Hill Villages of Chiang Mai: A trip up to the Thai mountain villages near Chiang Mai sounds fantastic to me, especially arriving at the end of the rainy season in February. If you're considering a trip, I'd be sure to do my research on tours vs. independent and the status of tourism's effect on the area. Anyone have experience with this region?

In Search of Culture

Maya Temples: Travel to Cancun for another reason this winter and begin a trip across Mexico, Belize and Guatemala to see the ancient remains of the Mayan jungle cities. I'd advise you to prepare by marrying the stairmaster in anticipation of the steep temple steps.

Musical Journey to Central Europe: Start in Czech Republic, mosey across Austria and end your musical quest in Hungary after becoming one with the natural and cultural inspirations of your favorite classical composers. Taking this trip is sure to give me flashbacks from my years at the piano bench, wishing the Mozart melodies in my books would be replaced by snazzy pop tunes. Thankfully, this never occurred.

In Gourmet Heaven

Cajun Cooking in Louisiana: February and Louisiana. There's only one thing I could be referring to…cajun food in Acadiana! Maybe after you unravel all the beads from your neck and find your shoes from the night before, head out of New Orleans for some real cajun food where the Nova Scotians originally settled and prepared their wicked meals.

Central Otago Wine Trail: Wine pilgrims, flock to the South Island of New Zealand for a Pinot Noir that gets international applause. And you'll surely hear your claps reverberate off the rugged, mountainous terrain that will surround your sampling session. I hope you don't choose to pair the wine with a nearby bungee jump, as the Kawarau Bridge sits tantalizingly close to all the grape festivities.

Into the Action

Tiger Safari: Ranthambore is a compact reserve in eastern Rajasthan - the perfect place to spot the 20-odd Bengal tigers terrorizing the wee other wildlife. Visiting in February beats the hot weather but comes just close enough to summer and its great conditions for seeing stripes.

Skiing Mont Blanc's Vallee Blanche: Sky down the highest Alp and the greatest run on the planet. Oui au…need I say more? I probably do…it's in France.

Up and Away

Skimming Ancient Australian Rain Forest: The rain in February awakens the ancient rain forest between Kuranda and Cairns near Australia's "Alfalfa" tip. Take the skyrail above the canopy for excellent views of the massive pythons and other wildlife dangling in the trees.

Nile Balloons: Early pre-dawn start, chilly desert morning, expansive views from a balloon in the sky, champagne breakfast - floating away from Luxor along the Nile does not seem like a shabby way to start your day in Egypt. Just think you could see more ancient temples and tombs before 9am than most people do their whole lives!

In Their Footsteps

Ansel Adams' Yosemite: Ansel Adams' parents gave him his first camera upon reaching Yosemite as a 14 year-old school boy. Visitors these days can visit the Ansel Adams Gallery and attend workshops on composing show-stopping photographs inspired by Adams' decades of work at this national park. Enjoy the snowy trails!

Jesus in the Holy Land: Visit a land where many religions converge, creating legendary landmarks of biblical proportions all over the country of Israel. Avoid the intense heat of the summer months by visiting in February, before the Easter crowd of pilgrims appears.

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 March 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.

Journeys of a Lifetime in January

Happy New Year! 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).

Across Water

The Orinoco River Cruise: The dry season in January lends to the viewing of more land mammals along this river cruise through Venezuela. Boy oh boy...the description of this places includes words such as: expedition, canoe, venture, wetland and steamy jungle. I'm there.

The Mekong River: Laos is on a ticking clock toward Vietnam status, and it's up to you to seize the opportunity to view this country's incredible landscapes before the authenticity becomes manufactured. Nat Geo claims this is the most scenic stretch of the massive river through the Southeast Asia region.

By Road

Historic Spain: There's no bad time to see the architecture of historic, central Spain. January will wash out the summer tourist crowd and give you snow capped mountains in your photograph backgrounds. Give yourself one week to drive along this ribbon of highway, and remember to ask in Segovia about the suckling pig.

Crossing the Sahara: Get your visas ready and your car rented. You're about to drive across Morocco, Western Sahara and Mauritania to see some cultures and barren landscapes that present an awesome challenge to the "bring it on" type of traveler.

By Rail

Bangkok-Kanchanaburi-Nam Tok Line: This time riding the rail will bring you closer to the gritty, not further away. Taking this infamous route, known as the "death railway" from WWII, will remind you of the many POWs and lives lost from building the bridge at the River Kwai. It's not all gruesome and heavy-hearted; the landscape is Thai-rific.

The Palace on Wheels: India's glitzy region of palaces and architectural masterpieces will give you plenty of eye candy and good photographs on this luxurious train ride. It's not my favorite side of India, but many find the old British and Raj culture appealing. The Golden Triangle along with Udaipur and Jaisalmer makes for an awesome itinerary, though!

On Foot

The Shackleton Crossing: South Georgia is a speck in the Southern Ocean and looks like a challenge for weathered climber types like Jon Krakauer and Bear Grylls. I pretty much guarantee no one reading this post will attempt this climb, but I thought I'd give you some dream material for tonight's slumber.

Climbing Kilimanjaro: Africa's tallest peak and the only 8,000+ meter mountain that one could ambulate - climbing Kilimanjaro seems to be an achievement worth going for. Those who have claimed the summit unanimously advise climbers to take the longer route (Machame) for better odds of success and greater views.

In Search of Culture

Japanese Kabuki Theater: With make-up that would spook the Joker and costumes that could presumably stand on their own, the men of Kabuki theater become household names for their dramatic and powerful performances. Brace yourself; these shows look lengthy but worth it for a one-time experience.

Earth Architecture of Yemen: High rise earth architecture makes Yemen look pretty darn cool. Perched at the heel of Asia's wee bootie are homes made of sun-dried mud bricks and a culture sure to intrigue. Nat Geo recommends going with a reputable tour company and taking caution with photographing people. Should make for an interesting trip!

In Gourmet Heaven

Eat Your Way Around Sydney: After you recover from a surely intense NYE celebration on the beach, enjoy Sydney's January Festival and a slew of culinary jackpots around Oz's biggest city. If you're into Euro-Asian fusion food with top notch seafood, I'm guessing there are few places in the world better than Sydney.

Malaysian Melting Pot: And we thought we were a melting pot…maybe next January you'll be traveling up the peninsula of Malaysia to sample the converging tastes of many prominent food traditions: Chinese, Indian, Arabic, etc. Thanks to all the hawkers and street food artists, some call this country a snacker's paradise.

Into the Action

Following Che Through South America: Cross the Andes on two screeching wheels in the footsteps of Che Guevara, but make sure you remember to ride something a little more reliable than "La Poderosa." Buenos Aires to Machu Pichu will take you across some varying landscapes and surely on a journey fit with ceaseless inspiration.

Cross-Country Skiing in Lillehammer: Check out this "premier cross-country location" if you want to make like a Scandinavian and glide. Easily accessible from Oslo, renting all your gear is possible on location, and going in January ensures a helluva daylight surplus!

Up and Away

The Nasca Lines: It is only from the sky where you can truly appreciate the diversity of Peru's terrain, as one ecosystem bleeds into the next. Also from this vantage point you can be slapped silly by the wonder of these earth drawings that were created with pre-historic tools by the Nasca people.

Alpine Baloon Festival: Arrive in Switzerland in late January for a display that surely inspires painters, children's book illustrators and surrealists worldwide. A sky of balloons decorate the invisible Christmas tree in the Swiss Alp valley. Inquire about the nighttime flight of illuminated balloons while you're there!

In Their Footsteps

Road to Enlightenment: Follow Buddha's journey to enlightenment from his birthplace in Lumbini, Nepal to Patna, India, past the third-generation descendant tree where he attained nirvana. Ahh, the ease of traveling in the moderate chill of February around the Subcontinent.

Tramping After Mark Twain: A boat trip down the Neckar River could inspire you to write a Huck Finn sequel, just as Twain was inspired to write the original on this journey. Tramp across Germany and Switzerland, enjoying the chill and scenery of winter, on a journey that the famed American author used to "improve himself."

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 February 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.

The Hidden Nightlife of a Lumberjack: Day 43

So where am I supposed to be now? On my way to Prague. This backtracking is exhausting, and, frankly, it feels like the sort of anti-introspective writing that is not the mission of this adventure. I guess at some point I will want to remember what I did in Prague and honor my time spent there. Isn't that why most people write about their travels? Or maybe I feel I just need to document where I place my feet for those not walking alongside me. Maybe it's because all of these destinations are blurring together, not just in hindsight, and the most intriguing afterthought of the Eurotrip is finding out how I don't like to experience the world. With that said, why don't I just stick to the highlights. Sorry to anyone who was really looking forward to an elaborate account of this very old, and actually very cool, city.

1. Meeting our own personal local resource. On our twelve hour bus ride, a fellow American/EU resident sought out our company, and we instantly found a guide for the city's best local bar, the cheapest local transportation, and a place to stay upon our late arrival time. Matt was recovering from an emotionally rough week, and we offered him some company/drinking buddies in this city of prime beer quality. 2. Hany Bany, aka Hunny Bunny: our local bar of choice and the setting for two multi-hour sessions of relaxation and observation of the Prague youth. 3. The architecture...it wasn't half bad. One might say thrilling. 4. Nights of cheap groceries, home cooking, cheap beers and soccer viewing at our neighborhood pub. You could say we were a little shocked at the server uniforms for the ladies and their lack of...modesty. This was no raunchy bar, but I guess the frequent clientele like a little spice at their regular watering hole. We averted our eyes often.

Now follow me along to Berlin. Feel the breeze inside the, once-again, well-kept and modern train cars. Wander along with us as we find the metro stop "Senefelderplatz" (hey, that's like Seinfeld...yes, that's what we thought!) and find a super cool hostel in an old brewery. Oh, what fun weare having altogether in the beer garden, watching the Spain and Sweden Euro Cup game. Darn that Euro and its massive inflation of beer prices. Can't you feel your wallet emptying?

Alright, enough of that. Here's what I remember from Berlin. It's 4:30am, and I wake up to two Kiwis in my room, telling me it was time to go to the zoo. I fall back in bed, confused, and arise once more a few minutes later. I was fully dressed to go out and experience the Berliner nightlife, make-up smeared on the pillow...and a roommate not in sight. I pulled a Ricky Ricardo and stomped out of the room to hear some much needed " 'splaining." As I step out, a guy staying across the hall emerges from his room and says, "Are you looking for Alexis?" "What on earth is going on." "You fell asleep."

iiiiiiIIIIIIIIIIII FELL ASLEEP?!?!?! Ooooooh boy, the anger pot is a-boiling now.

Four hours earlier, Alexis and I were chit-chatting like school girls and playing cards on the floor, but after I returned from a restroom break, I found her asleep on the floor, unmotivated (after gentle questioning) to go out on the town. We have yet to go out on this trip, and I was anticipating a nice change of pace that night. However, we mutually agreed to go to bed.

AH! But alas! My trusty partner-in-crime ventured off during my subconscious adventures to befriend three guys across the hall and join them at the bars. There she was...sitting outside in the courtyard with her new friends. I gave her an ear and a fist full. APPARENTLY, the story goes that she got up to use the restroom and forgot her key. I was unresponsive to her door pounding, but the guys across the hall sure were. Socializing ensued...for her. What a friend. Lumberjacks, you can't trust 'em. Regardless of my dramatic interpretation, we ended up having a fun morning with these new friends and the rising sun.

Touring Berlin the next day had its perks, but the highlight of the day was the wild celebration we witnessed and joined at the public viewing of Turkey's last minute dramatic victory over Czech Republic. The beer garden was bleeding with Turkish flags, faces and apparel sporting the moon and star emblem. Those brave few with a Czech flag were given a hard time in that crowd. Our three new friends laughed, cheered and photographed while I hopped on Alexis' back to stream through the mosh pit of screaming Turks. We fled the scene with the mob, hoping to land on a lively after party, but amazingly hundreds of Turkey fans vanished in front of our eyes and reappeared streaming across the night sky, all squeezed into one overground metro car. We missed the party, but, man, what a night.