Food

A patchwork quilt of my days in Japan

A patchwork quilt of my days in Japan

For the last two years, I've used these little collages as a way to quickly chronicle a chapter of my work life. While this says "Hiro" (a.k.a Hiroshima) and some of the images are from elsewhere in Japan, this represents some of my favorite moments this term, the ones I continue to savor even months later.

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My global kids romp through four countries in five days

My global kids romp through four countries in five days

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. At the end of the academic year, my students were given the great opportunity by the school to live out their own Amazing Race through Germany, Czech Republic, Hungary, and Austria.

I went along for the ride.

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One meal inspires three months of memories in Thailand

One meal inspires three months of memories in Thailand

I keep mentioning to our students that this phenomenon occurs constantly, with no warning, regarding foods, flavors, experiences, and beyond. All of a sudden, we're okay with what we formerly weren't (and of course, the opposite is always possible). I'm inclined to believe these mini-epiphanies are more perceptible on the road where they can be constantly questioned.

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Andrew Zimmern and the Transformative Power of Travel

Andrew Zimmern and the Transformative Power of Travel

I've been a big time fan of Big Tony B. since the No Reservations series began in 2005. His approach to travel television and subjective, experiential authenticity abroad felt so relevant amidst a sea of market-y documentation. His conceptual thread continues to be pretty darn obvious, which makes it easy to instantly jump on the Bourdain train. But for his fellow Travel Channel host (and our Creative Council member), Andrew Zimmern, I had a harder time identifying what truly made him tick and drove him to produce what he does. Thankfully, I had a recent opportunity to hear Zimmern clarify his concept in an illuminating way. Poised and ready with my notepad, I asked my mom sitting next to me at the IUPUI convention center what she knew of Zimmern.

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Photoblog: Final Crew Meal at Mexico City's W Hotel

Flashing back to the June Mexico trip with ProjectExplorer.org, I thought I'd memorialize a fantastic project-closing meal we had at the W Hotel in Mexico City. We relaxed after a hectic day of capturing on film Mexico's complex and difficult history. It was a well-deserved and tasty spread. [All photos were taken by Vijaya Selvaraju.]

Guerrero Negro Seared Sea Scallops

Guerrero Negro Seared Sea Scallops

Guerrero Negro Seared Sea Scallops

Handmade Brie Cheese Baguette

Handmade Brie Cheese Baguette

Handmade Brie Cheese Baguette

Mexican Black Oyster Mushroom Soup

Mexican Black Oyster Mushroom Soup

Mexican Black Oyster Mushroom Soup

Citric Pesto Crusted Ahi Tuna

Citric Pesto Crusted Ahi Tuna

Citric Pesto Crusted Ahi Tuna

Coriander & Lemon Marinated Chicken Breast

Coriander & Lemon Marinated Chicken Breast

Coriander & Lemon Marinated Chicken Breast

Parmesan Mashed Potatoes

Parmesan Mashed Potatoes

Parmesan Mashed Potatoes

Enjoying Myself

Enjoying Myself

Me Enjoying Myself

Flourless Chocolate Cake with Ancho Chilli

Flourless Chocolate Cake with Ancho Chilli

Flourless Chocolate Cake with Ancho Chilli

Not Jack Johnson's Banana Pancake

Not Jack Johnson's Banana Pancake

Not Jack Johnson's Banana Pancake

Pina Colada Sweet Pineapple and Cardamom Ravioli

Pina Colada Sweet Pineapple and Cardamom Ravioli

Pina Colada Sweet Pineapple and Cardamom Ravioli

Video of the Week: Summer Seclusion Project (Webcam)

Haven't seen one of these in a while, huh? A video of the week or a webcam special. I finally got my act together! Enjoy.

Notes from this week's video:

  • ProjectExplorer.org is in post-production stateside after a fantastic filming session in Mexico.

  • I'm moving out of my parent's house for a month for some seclusion in my hometown.

  • I have four goals for the month of July.

  • Crank out stellar videos, images, and work for ProjectExplorer.org

  • Write personal travel narratives in hopes of publishing or at least having them for myself.

  • Learn how to cook basic vegetarian meals well. I don't know how veggies are supposed to taste. Sad.

  • Enjoy my hometown for the first summer in a decade and reap the benefits of relative seclusion from distraction.

  • It's time to reformat/redesign Nomadderwhere, just like I did last September. A lot has changed in my life and path, and my website needs to reflect that.

Update from Mexico City

Even though last week's Consume & Update received a lovely compliment, the production and content schedule here in Mexico is too daunting to also include a thorough perusal of the internet's best in travel and blogging. Instead, I'll make this Sunday Update all about the job with ProjectExplorer, on location in Mexico City.

Update on Nomadderwhere

The job is stellar. After landing on Tuesday, we've been hitting up the awe-inspiring sites of Mexico City. Day one of filming involved some awesome team work next to the Diego Rivera murals at El Palacio Nacional. I settled into my role of photographer happily, because for some reason, seeing things for the first time involves my eyes, my walking legs, my inquisitive hands, and the necessary appendage of my camera. Is that weird that I just called my hands inquisitive?

Teotihuacan

Day two was our most hectic production day, with a schedule packed with everything archaeological (thanks to the lovely INAH for that one). I banked on getting a mad Stairmaster-style workout on the Pyramid of the Sun, but then I heard some rumblies in the tumblies. Uh oh.

Yeah, coincidentally enough this child with incredibly distant Spanish ancestry felt the strike of Montezuma's Revenge upon reaching his once-powerful kingdom. I felt, well, not so good. And as the day progressed, my stomach pains became more extreme. Eventually I zonked out in the van while the crew captured the amazing Museum of Anthropology - our driver, Hector, watching over me like a suave and silent man of might.

Enrique's Book

Let's just say things passed. I recovered quickly, thanks be to Tums, Gravol, and the power of sleep (and showers). And how lucky was it that my bout of food poisoning only lasted a day, when the next evening involved a five-star dining experience under the very eye and hand of celebrity chef Enrique Olvera. Enjoying a life-changing meal at Pujol, paired with the colorful descriptions of Vijaya and the brilliant additions by Ruth Alegria, my stomach was able to forgive me for the poorly stored cheese from the previous dinner.

I think the following three days spent at Xochimilco and Coyoacan deserve their own time in the limelight.

Note to Regular Nomadderwhere Readers: My posting schedule will be changing while on location as to reflect the content of the trip, the reflections I have of the experience, and the time I can commit to my own site. If you'd like to stay on top of the ProjectExplorer on-site experience, check out the videos I'm cranking out, along with the crazy crew, at ProjectExplorer's Youtube channel. Also, keep an eye on my Flickr account for the most recent photos of production.

Photos © ProjectExplorer.org, 2010

Consume & Update: Lovable Haters, Epiphanies, and Vimeo

I'm at my Grandpa's 90th birthday today. It's a good day. Now let's learn about what's new in the travel and blog worlds.

Learning to Love the Digital Haters

I don't think I'm evolved enough to truly love those that go after my passionate pursuits, but Tim Ferriss makes some solid points on reactions, time efficiency, and dealing with criticism - both logical and rant-asical. Check out the following speech below (it's long but I watched it all and enjoyed it) or browse his ideas below:

The following list is paraphrased from Mashable's Tim Ferriss: 7 Great Principles for Dealing with Haters

1. It doesn’t matter how many people don’t get it. What matters is how many people do. “It’s critical in social media, as in life, to have a clear objective and not to lose sight of that,” Ferriss says. He argues that if your objective is to do the greatest good for the greatest number of people or to change the world in some small way (be it through a product or service), you only need to pick your first 1,000 fans — and carefully. “As long as you’re accomplishing your objectives, that 1,000 will lead to a cascading effect,” Ferriss explains. “The 10 million that don’t get it don’t matter.”

2. 10% of people will find a way to take anything personally. Expect it. “Online I see people committing ’social media suicide’ all the time by one of two ways. Firstly by responding to all criticism, meaning you’re never going to find time to complete important milestones of your own, and by responding to things that don’t warrant a response.”

3. “Trying to get everyone to like you is a sign of mediocrity.” - Colin Powell “That guarantees you’ll get more behavior you don’t want and less you do.”

4. “If you are really effective at what you do, 95% of the things said about you will be negative.” - Scott Boras The bigger your impact and the larger the ambition and scale of your project, the more negativity you’ll encounter.

5. “If you want to improve, be content to be thought foolish and stupid.” - Epictetus "To avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.”

6. “Living well is the best revenge.” - George Herbert “The best way to counter-attack a hater is to make it blatantly obvious that their attack has had no impact on you."

7. Keep calm and carry on. “Focus on impact, not approval. If you believe you can change the world, which I hope you do, do what you believe is right and expect resistance and expect attackers.”

The Frustration Epiphanies

Lake Nakuru Flamingo Viewing

Evan has a good point. We travel with the expectation that the huge events we schedule reveal the most, move us to the climax of our emotions.

When we travel, we literally become different people. Stripped of our habits, routines and safe places, we are forced to meet the world as we are. The more we travel, the more accustomed we become to participating and thriving in the world because travel, by design, brings an openness of heart and a clarity of self. Some travelers have a spiritual fantasy of this new life, and it can include the clichéd vision that, despite all our cultural differences, we’re really “all one”...Unfortunately, when you’re traveling, this naïve view results in a lot of stolen wallets. But, more importantly, that’s not how the traveler’s transformation of consciousness really goes down.

In actuality, I feel the times I experience the iconic and stereotypically "awe-inspiring" are the times I'm less inspired. Riding 18 hours in an Indian sleeper car with the stomach flu, walking across Lusaka in the summer sun because I'm out of money for a taxi (or a hostel), mourning a separation with friends on the beach in Malawi - these moments are the ones when the most is revealed about myself and my displaced existence.

At what point in your travels do you experience the little epiphanies? When do you learn the most about yourself and the purpose of your movement? Do those moments of self-discovery usually occur simultaneously with itinerary highlights or when the frustrations take the limelight? Comment below and tell me what you think!

Traveling is Seeing

Joel scribed a great piece at Vagabonding this week, which felt more like inspired prose than a simple post on an impression of travel.

We travel also to see things that are not easy to see. The Egyptian man in Alexandria, for example, who walks past your cafe table selling kleenexes, his skeletal frame so disfigured that he walks with his torso almost parallel to the ground. His eyes meet yours and you exchange a smile, suddenly conscious of the dollar’s worth of lemon juice in your hand and the relatively great health along your own spine...

And sometimes we may even travel to catch our own reflection in a cracked and dirty mirror, not entirely sure for a moment what it is — or rather who it is — that we’re looking at. And perhaps later in the day, when we see our reflection not in glass but in the eyes and faces of our neighbors, we will have a moment of clarity about what and who we are.

Hiking Alps

This week, I've been especially aware of my own reasons for traveling, and Joel made me realize yet another on my list. I love being humbled by the constant stimulation while traveling. The exchange, the "you're on" sense from a live TV broadcast, the challenge to the self from the self and the world - it's all in the attempt to solidify your own essence and self-knowledge. I'm a fan of travel because it helps me see myself in a way that could only be alternately achieved by rapid time lapse into my future.

Other Discoveries

For your reading pleasure: The 11 Foreigners You Meet in China

An interesting viewpoint on Arizona's new immigration law: Que Lástima...

Makes you hungry and a little disgusted at the same time: Seven Essential Breakfasts for the World Traveler

Update on Nomadderwhere

05-23 Snapshot

05-23 Snapshot

This weekend I headed up to the Northern Indiana lakes for some friend time before my first ProjectExplorer adventure! Of all the things that I enjoy about the Midwest, it is this lake culture I miss the most when abroad and away from the comforts and rituals of home.

This week at Nomadderwhere (big week for Fiji narratives):

Hardcore Brain Expansion: I'm happy to say I finished my read on Mexico City (which I recommend - review coming soon) in time for the big trip and am now working on The Lost Girls, the first and recently released narrative put out by the girls in charge of LostGirlsWorld.com. Hope I finish it before Saturday, because this bad boy is one thick travel read.

T minus 6 Days: On May 29th, I'll be on my way to New York City to meet my new boss for the first time. For a couple days, photo shoots and training sessions will be on the agenda, alongside meet-ups with my great friend, Garrett, before he heads to Malawi on his Peace Corps assignment! If you're in the NYC area next weekend and want to meet up, DM me on twitter or use my contact form!

Video/Online Property Update: You'll notice in the near future that I'm testing out a little Vimeo action. I've exclusively used Youtube for all my travel videos thus far, and even though I enjoy using that platform, I'd like to join the Vimeo community to see what works best for my work. Which video platform do you prefer, and why?

1 Minute or Less Moments: This week on my Nomadderwhere Facebook Fan Page, I've published raw video clips of some intimate funeral footage (because I think these are meaningful moments to give some perspective) and one of the children early on a school morning.

Nomadderwhere's Facebook Fan Page

Nomadderwhere's Facebook Fan Page

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.

Journeys of a Lifetime in December

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

Airboat in the Everglades: Get deep into the mangrove forests of Florida's backcountry where alligators seemingly get bigger as you go deeper; you may even catch the rare Florida panther if there's a blue moon out.

Lake Nicaragua: A freshwater lake surrounded by lush forest and volcanoes? Crocodile-like reptiles submerged below the jungle canals? Swordfish sport fishing in a mystic lagoon? Am I dreaming?

By Road

The Grand Trunk Road: Peshawar to Kolkata: a road some call "the great river of life." It's a highway beaded with historical and memorable cities that combine to make an incredible, South Asian road trip.

The Pan American Highway: It's pavement that spans continents, but taking a ride in Tierra del Fuego and reach the end of the world: Ushuaia. You'll see grazing grasslands and ominous, omni-present mountains. Pretty great, huh?

By Rail

El Chepe: Ride the rails through an unspoiled landscape four times larger than the Grand Canyon. Indigenous Indians of central Mexico line the way, giving you access to a brilliant Latino culture.

The TranzAlpine: Cross Arthur's Pass and witness a blizzard outside your train window on this mountainous journey through the Southern Alps of New Zealand. Sounds like it gets wild.

On Foot

The Headhunters' Trail: Stay in a longhouse with Iban villages. Wade through the tea-colored waters while admiring the limestone spires. Hope you still have your head upon the trip's completion.

The Levadas of Madeira: The levadas of Portugal are a network of watercourses that hydrate the paradiasical sugarcane fields. Apparently, moseying along these canals is a camera-friendly activity.

In Search of Culture

Colonial Virginia: Even if reenactments and period acting isn't to your fancy, Christmas just may be, and Williamsburg does this holiday justice.

Ancient Egypt: Show up for the peak Nile cruising season and enjoy the history museums to make sure your time in this ancient landscape is epic.

In Gourmet Heaven

Blue Mountain Coffee: It's the best coffee in the world. It's the best time to visit Jamaica. Those are two good reasons.

Vietnamese Cuisine: Imagine a leaf of cilantro floating on a sea of seasoned broth, handmade noodles sitting below the surface like a hundred Loch Ness monsters. Are you hungry for some pho yet?

Into the Action

Surfing in Hawai'i: You're going to need a wetsuit in that chilly water, but you're also going to catch some towering waves at hot spots like Waimea beach or the Banzai pipeline on O'ahu island.

Friesland's Eleven Cities' Tour: 16,000 ice skaters jump at the proclamation of the Elfstedentocht race, which only happens on the rare occasion in Holland when the ice is 5.9 cm thick. Await the call of the race anxiously and follow the races route along the footpath beside the frozen river.

Up and Away

Skyriding over St. Lucia: This Caribbean island will make you see colors. Real colors. Absolutely vibrant hues popping through the tropical air. Zipline around the canopies of the forest, and then save some time for some fresh product at a cocoa estate.

Angkor by Helicopter: Seeing the world's largest religious monument in a way that few experience, an enlightened view from above. See what can be done with incredible planning, gray stone and a herd of trained elephants for heavy lifting.

In Their Footsteps

Hemingway in Cuba: The Malecon was Hemingway's first view of Havana after sailing from America. Go and be moved by the same places this famous writer and Nobel Laureate frequented during his time on this vivacious island.

Alex Haley's Roots: See what Alex Haley found when visiting Gambia, a main topic of his Pulitzer winning book Roots. It would involve a boat ride and a village chief...and surely an incredible cultural quest.

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 January 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.

Ten Great Ideas for Chicago

I traveled with my parents recently to Chicago, Illinois for a week of displacement and the entertainment that ensues. My time was enjoyable and low key, full of new discoveries and ample free wifi time at Borders for work. I thought I would share some of the things that made this trip stellar. Here are ten great ideas for Chicago (the order is chronological).

1. The Megabus

Megabus from Indy to Chicago

Megabus from Indy to Chicago

$1 Seats on Megabus

$1 Seats on Megabus

Instead of driving the 3+ hours along the Chicago Skyway and through the cornfields of the Region, my mom snagged us discount seats on this double-decker bus equipped with AC, free wifi, a bathroom, and a full skylight across the entire second deck. Aside from the woman talking loudly on her phone for the last 10 miles, the ride was fantastic and well worth the normal ~$20 ticket price. However, we bought ours on a special promotional deal for $1 each. You read right...

2. The Signature Room

Chicago from the Signature Room

Chicago from the Signature Room

Riding the elevator up to the 96th floor of the Hancock Building is a tad typical for an out-of-towner to do (a Chicagoan friend laughed at me later for doing this), but I think my two other friends from Chicago (who accompanied me on this excursion) would agree: the Signature Room at sunset is cliche for a valid reason.

Not only was the wait tolerable, but we snagged the best table in the house, at the very southwest edge of the building closest to the sinking sun. We ordered schmancy cocktails and took photos of ourselves with Chicago's pastel skyline. People continuously bumped my back trying to get in for that final shot of the disappearing star, and though I wanted to shout, "YOU NEED A TRIPOD!," I followed the mantra of "serenity now" and enjoyed the view for all it was worth. And ladies, note the best city view is actually from the ladies room! Just another reason why we're better...

3. The Best Tapas in Town

Cafe Ba-Ba-Reebas!

Cafe Ba-Ba-Reebas!

I received word from two different people that Cafe Ba-Ba-Reebas! in Lincoln Park had the greatest and most authentic tapas in the city. Since my cousin is a budding foodie and my other friend lived in Spain and learned to cook there, I took their advice as fast as I took down my sangria.

Rioja short ribs with manchego mashed potatoes, house meat plate with serrano, salchichon, chorizo, chicken & artichoke paella, crispy spicy potatoes with sun-dried tomato alioli, and warm potato & onion omelette - everything tasted so flavorful, even my friends who had been here before were amazed and raving. The thrill of good food doesn't get old.

4. The Blues at Kingston Mines

Duke Tumatoe's crowd

Duke Tumatoe's crowd

Though I haven't sat in a classroom for 1.5 years, I flashed my international student ID (courtesy of STA Travel, ha) for a $5 price cut off my cover into Chicago's oldest and largest real blues joint. It was an older, very relaxed crowd that felt completely opposite to the environment we'd previously been in at a local college bar.

Duke Tumatoe claimed the late shift that Saturday night and had people dancing like flopping sardines in the little space allotted just in front of the stage. I had some beers, put my hands up, and let my boots do some stompin'. I like the blues, and I love atmospheres like this one.

5. Brunch in Lincoln Park

John's Place

John's Place

Sitting on the sidewalk, orange leaves falling into my hair, I ate some high quality granola, yogurt, fruit and poached eggs with good company. Regardless of where you dine in this neighborhood, I think this is the ultimate way to take in a good weather day in Chicago. John's Place isn't a Mecca of breakfast food but it's no exception to the rule either. My advice is to find a similar place with a relaxed atmosphere, and you're guaranteed to spend the rest of your day in a fairly good mood.

6. Carnivale for the Taste Buds

Carnivale

Carnivale

This restaurant embodies the essence of the word and the party. What seems to be a massive warehouse, covered in brilliant paint with lights the size of elephants, makes up the main arena for the festive food consumption. I got on those caiprinhas without a lick of hesitation but let our waiter guide me to the best entree of the house: the pork chop.

The pork chop at Carnivale

The pork chop at Carnivale

My cousin hit the bullseye twice, once with the tapas joint and twice with this "nuevo latino" recommendation. He and his newlywed, Ashley, joined us in tackling the awesome appetizers, entrees, and the final kahuna: a three-layer, ice cream cake with chocolate syrup. I forget what it's called because I pulled a "Homer drool" upon seeing it placed on our table.

7. The Art Institute of Chicago

This is no hidden gem; this is an obvious item on on the list. The AIC is up there on the list of the nation's best art museums and truly has the ability to impress most, if not all, art lovers. Caravaggio's The Supper at Emmaus now sits in an oversized room with many of its similar style and proves itself superior to all. Caillebotte's Paris Street, Rainy Day begins the long line of impressionist works through the central galleries. I made a little video to illustrate the AIC experience. Come on along with me...

8. The Siskel Film Center

The Siskel Film Center

The Siskel Film Center

Whether this attraction is popular or not is a bit ambiguous judging from the Monday night crowd of tens, but its location lends to the idea that everyone knows about the Siskel Film Center (across from the Chicago Theater). It calls itself "Chicago's premier movie theater" and shows world-class international, independent and classic cinema.

My parents and I viewed the film Afghan Star, which is:

A sleeper hit at this year’s Sundance Film Festival...In an Afghanistan recently freed from the Taliban, the equivalent of American Idol has become the national obsession. Two men and two women make it to the finals, and the country’s first baby-steps into democracy involve voting for their favorites via cell phone. The excitement is at fever pitch, then one of the female contestants performs an unthinkable, horrifying, death-defying act: she lets her head-scarf slip a bit and she dances on national TV.

9. Three Happiness in Chinatown

"Little" Three Happiness

"Little" Three Happiness

Don't be confused by the massive restaurant of the same name that smacks you in the face upon getting to Chinatown. That's not the establishment I'm referring to. Apparently, locals refer to it as "little three happiness," as the acclaimed restaurant seems but another modest family-owned joint among many.

I had no idea what to order and hoped the lady would sense I was up for anything, even the pot-o-love created for their employees' lunches. The waitress treated me very kindly but assumed I wasn't too experienced with Chinese food (since I told her I had no preference and wanted her recommendations). I asked for spicy and got medium...along with silverware. Slap in the face! I put my ego aside and just enjoyed what she brought me: schezwan chicken with vegetables over steamed rice. I don't think I left a grain of rice on the plate, nor a drop of tea in the kettle.

It was worth it just to get away from the high rises for a few hours and see a neighborhood less visited than most. If only Indianapolis had similar 'hoods.

10. The Silver Palm and the Little Pigs

Three Little Piggys at the Silver Palm

Three Little Piggys at the Silver Palm

At a sorority sister's recommendation, I took the blue line out to The Silver Palm Restaurant, a stop on my list thanks to the Chicago episode of No Reservations. As my friends and I strolled into this train car-turned-dining room, ginger gimlets and margaritas on our lips, I felt the challenge summoning me. I ordered the house speciality: the Three Little Pigs sandwich. After Tony's rave review, I had no choice but to order:

"This is a work of genius, in an evil way.... A two-fisted symphony of pork, cheese, fat, and starch... that sandwich is the greatest sandwich in America. This is the apex of the sandwich-making art... the sandwich that dreams are made of."

I did it. I can't believe I ate the whole thing. I couldn't lie on my stomach that night, but I felt pure satisfaction after its consumptions, quickly followed by meat sweats.

Other great ideas for Chicago (courtesy of my friends):

Mahzoh ball soup at Frances on Clark Street Walk along the lake to Millennium Park Have a wine-centric meal at BIN 36 The Greek Islands restaurant in Greektown on Halstead The Museum of Contemporary Art Playing a game of Whirlyball Having lunch behind the Civic Opera Building The Violet Hour Bar Seeing Jersey Boys or the Million Dollar Quartet Going to Nookies for Omelets Staying up until the wee hours and ordering a chocolate shake at the Weiner Circle Hot Doug's for a Chicago-style hot dog The Map Room with its wild selection of craft beers Great hibachi restaurant called Ron of Japan's on Ontario

What do you think about my ten great ideas for Chicago? Any personal experience with these or do you have one to add to this ever-growing list? Comment below, and thanks for reading!

Consume & Update: Place, Patagonia and Chicago

What's better than good reading material on our favorite topic: Travel!

Mental Mileage

New contributor of Vagablogging, Colleen Wilde, brought a beautiful quote to the surface this week with her post of the same title:

Measure Travel Inwards

-Henry David Thoreau

I thought this was lovely, and it got me thinking about my diverse reactions to culture shock and the implications of them in terms of what I've learn and grown to believe in.

Dream Jumps

Ain't nothing finer than a dreaming in your recliner. Check out Cole's photo work, which remind me of the way I like to feel when romping around in fields.

Yeah, I Know That Place

Though this post has been up a few weeks, I thought it was an interesting examination by a long term traveler. When can you say you know a place? Matt has his stance figured out on the topic:

No matter how long we linger, little markets we explore, or non-touristy things we do, as travelers, we’ll never fully know a place- only someone who has lived there can claim that.

If you're fairly young and have a good number of destinations under your belt, chances are you haven't spend much extended time in these locations. When people ask for advice on Melbourne or China because you've graced those coordinates, can you really say you know that place well enough to comment on the lives and mindsets of the resident public? Do you know how things really function in that place?

It’s not until we begin to live like a local that we can truly get an appreciation for the rhythm of life there. That is why Couchsurfing is such a great thing. You can stay with locals, see where they go, go out with them, and put your self into the local rhythm.

The Beauty of the Far South

Vagabondish's Photo of the Moment of Patagonia is pure eye candy, is it not? And November is the start of the springtime and clear skies for this lovely wilderness. Anyone planning on hitting up these parts soon? I'm tagging along.

Is Anyone Copying You Online?

Photo Courtesy of Kyle-Brady.com

This one's more for the bloggers out there. We slave pretty hard for our readers, but what if someone lame-o is out there copying all your original material for their own uses? Problogger was all over this issue last week with his post Stop Scrappers and Spammers Fast. I checked and am free and clear of cling-ons. And you?

The Enjoyment of Unemployment II

Bob Fawcett brings a solo road trip across the States to life in his trailer for The Enjoyment of Unemployment, II. You may remember Bob from the STA WTI applicant pool, showing off his city of Chicago. Well, he's now living his dream out in L.A., plowing his way into the film and TV industry. Go get 'em, Bob.

httpvhd://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5EBESjKIe3A

Other Discoveries

Nerdy Nomad is off to do Hands On volunteer work in Indonesia. Sounds like a great idea.

The corporate world goes local (kinda goes against the point). It's something called "Localwashing."

Bourdain responds to his fans going nuts about the new animated web-series, Alternate Universe.

Update on Nomadderwhere

A week from now, I will be in Chicago in order to:

-meet up with old friends and turn on my giggle box

-capture footage for the new STA application video

-take in the art, food and streetscapes with my parents

-hopefully make some connections, create some content and make some garsh-darn money

Specific plans include: going to Nookies for omelets, Kingston Mines for some blues, ordering a chocolate shake at the Weiner Circle (gulp...), possibly catching a showing of Jersey Boys or Million Dollar Quartet, taking tips from Jessie Barber's "Free Chicago" post on the STA blog,who really knows...

Are you familiar with the Chicago area and holding onto a great entertainment/food/cultural recommendation? By all means, toss them my way. Tweet me or comment below. I'm all ears.

Also, I'm starting my book challenge today to write 20,000 words by November 30th. Hopefully the act of updating you all via these posts will encourage the writing and maybe inspire you to push yourself harder at whatever you're doing!

Consume & Update: Tea, Ponies, and Good Reads

After perusing the web for the most interesting goodies, here are my suggested reads and views for the week!

Burning Man Timelapse

World Hum and Eva Holland displayed a video by Ben Wiggins of stunning, time-lapse footage that gives a visual account of Burning Man, an annual art festival that seemingly cannot be truly described by even the most verbose and enlightened minds. Below is an excerpt from the Burning Man website explaining the basics:

"...Larry Harvey, founder of the Burning Man project, gives a theme to each year, to encourage a common bond to help tie each individual's contribution together in a meaningful way. Participants are encouraged to find a way to help make the theme come alive, whether it is through a large-scale art installation, a theme camp, gifts brought to be given to other individuals, costumes, or any other medium that one comes up with."

The event took place during the first week of September this year, and for many days every travel publication exhibited photo blogs, videos and narratives from the sun-bleached Black Rock Desert location. Of all the attempts to describe this extreme experience, this was the most moving documentation for me.

Carnivorous Countries

Carnivorous Countries

Carnivorous Countries

"GOOD is a collaboration of individuals, businesses, and nonprofits pushing the world forward," and this poignant graphic by GOOD displays the realities of Earth's carnivorous habits. We can see here that the average Kiwi eats the equivalent weight of two burgers, a can of soup, and a Santa Claus each year.

Coffee Houses in a Tea World

I've recently discovered I'm borderline addicted to tea. After purchasing my first load in Darjeeling last year, I got very excited when the Internship brought me back to India for a top-off on my tea stash at home. This blog post from Intelligent Travel comes at a good time for my new obsession and also takes a wee gander at the concept of a coffee house in a tea-centric country.

Speaking of tea...

Trekking in Nepal

Trekking in the Himalayas

Trekking in the Himalayas

"It was 4 a.m. in mid-November, and I was stretching in a lodge in Thorong Phedi, Nepal, at 14,500 feet, trying to pump warmth back into my body and get rid of a throbbing headache brought on by dehydration and altitude sickness. Wolfing down chapati bread with jam and a fried egg, I chased it with pints of hot tea and water, and started to feel better. I knew I was going to need all my strength...Fifteen of us, along with porters and guides, were about to climb Thorong La, a pass 17,769 feet up in the Himalayas." Continue reading...

These stories are always worth the time to read them.

Other Online Discoveries

Be a Reporter at Sea

Day 20: 67 Travel Friendly Jobs

GAP Adventure's Coolest Travel Intern Job...oh really?

Update on Nomadderwhere

A new MacBook Pro now graces my presence, making it easier for me to create the work that I love to do.

I also had two presentations on travel this week in northern Indiana, which both went very well and were quite profitable. By selling hand-knit scarves and ceramics, I was able to collect $220 for the children at Palm Tree to receive more protein and fruit in their diets. I'm so appreciative of everyone who came to these events, listened intently, and found it important to contribute to my causes. Thanks again! The check to Cambodia's Hope is going out this week.

Did you find the Good Reads?

I'm pretty unbalanced when it comes to reading material. All I read are travel narratives, often with an adventurous or humorous twist. The stack on my nightstand is about two feet high with books from BookMooch and the library, all of which I want to read asap. If you enjoy the same genre and need some suggestions, check out my page on Good Reads, where you can find short reviews on all the travel books I can recall and see which have made the list for the future. Though I like brevity of articles and features, nothing beats the total transportation caused by a good book. This is why I aim to write a book myself in the foreseeable future.