Illinois

Journeys of a Lifetime in May

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

Frontier Country: Hug Indiana's southern border via river barge to experience the wild, the musical, the historical, the classy and the rowdy. I'm talking about Nashville's music scene, the natural surroundings of former Native American land, and the Kentucky Derby, which takes place during the first week of May!

Cruising Milford Sound: Thank you, Ice Age, for carving out this amazing landscape. Waterfalls cascade from the mountaintops where rain forests cling. Sail, fly, walk, drive - there are seemingly no bad ways to experience this place.

By Road

Route 66 Through Arizona: Blare your Bob Dylan and rev your old fart engine. Cruise down America's "Main Street," and you may say some thoughts like: "Gee, that's a big canyon" or "Are these guys gunfighting for real?"

The Riviera Corniches: Rent a car and drive these coastal highways that carve into the famous French Riviera. I've got a feeling, if this is your kind of trip, you'll be doing a lot of chewing and swallowing between each drive. Sounds lovely.

By Rail

The Bolshoi Express: St. Petersburg to Moscow. The Hermitage, the Kremlin - see everything amazing from both cities, including the amazing scenery in between while aboard Russia's first post-Soviet luxury train. Won't you take me to SWANKY TOWWWN!

The Andean Explorer: From the old capital of the ancient Inca world to the highest navigable lake in the world, enjoy every high altitude chug to the clear skies from your cabin window. Stops are made to increase appreciation for the fresh air and local markets selling soft alpaca wool. I hope they play the Emperor's New Groove on the train!

On Foot

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Everest Base Camp: My friend's grandparents took this legendary journey on foot twice in their last decades, so don't write this off just yet as something you cant handle. Acclimate to the Nepalese world for a few days in Kathmandu, take the 8 day trek up 18,000 feet to base camp, and visit the tea houses and quaint high altitude villages along the way. The photo to the right shows my view of Everest from 107 miles away (it's the little pink dot above the blue mountains. She's a tall sucker.

Samaria Gorge: Herb-scented air wafts through this wildlife-littered cut through western Crete, and you could too, if you only knew it was there. Pass through the Iron Gates in May, and you'll be walking amongst many wildflowers and past very few people. The taverns at the end near the southern coast make for an excellent and compelling finish line!

In Search of Culture

Frank Lloyd Wright in Oak Park: The May tours fill up quickly for this bike trip through a western suburb of Chicago filled with the highest concentration of FLW architecture. Admire his radical Prairie Style creations with Cubist influences while also burning some cals! And it doesn't hurt that Chicago has quite a lot more to admire.

Renaissance Italy: If I tried, I don't think I could do Italy's Renaissance evidence justice. Florences streets and many, many palaces, museums, and churches; Siena's cathedral, town square, and civic building; Rome's Sistine Chapel and other works scattered across the Vatican...you know you need to go. It's just about finding the time. Well, next May will be your time to explore Italy back in one of its many hey days.

In Gourmet Heaven

Depachika Shopping in Tokyo: A depachika is a basement of a department store in Japan, and these floors are stuffed to the brim with top quality food merchandise, including cured meats and cheeses from Italy, cigar wafers, chocolates, and the most expensive and juicy melon you'll ever taste. Though you don't have to wait until May; this is year-round shopping.

The Baltic Gourmet: I find the cultures between prominent cultures fascinating. So what happens when the culinary traditions of Germany, Poland, Russia, and Sweden collide? You get the palette of meat, fish, root vegetables, sour cream, and dill that is enjoyed across the Baltic countries. Bus between Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia for the full gastronomic experience.

Into the Action

The Trans Canada Trail: Wow, this thing really is TRANS-Canada. Stretching from the Pacific to the Atlantic, and even up to the Arctic Ocean, you can either jump on for an hour of wildlife spotting and nature admiring or you can strap on a backpack and hike a massive chunk. And if you start in May, you've got the whole summer to blaze the trail. Keep in mind that in the Yukon region, summer offers 24 hours of daylight!

ATVs in the Namib Dunes: The ATVs just denote the tip of the adventure sport iceberg in Namibia, while adventure sports only cover some of what's available in this southern African nation. Visit the atmospheric Skeleton Coast, watch for dolphins, eat top notch oysters, stalk animals, and don't forget to motor around the dunes looking for that landscape of the Atlantic on the horizon.

Up and Away

Hoover Dam Air Tour: Take off in the morning to ride smooth air waves over this modern civil engineering wonder of America. Of course, if you take the sunset tour, you return to the neon-happy Las Vegas cityscape. After this trip, you'll finally be able to tell your friends you know what 5 million barrels of cement looks like.

El Teleferico: All other cable cars will feel puny compared to this one in Merida, Venezuela. Ascend the longest and highest of the global litter to sit atop Pico Espejo, an Andean peak. Block off your morning, because the cars only run from 7am until noon.

In Their Footsteps

Captain Cook's Polynesia: Jump on a ten day cruise of some lovely, isolated islands that surely beat your home landscape. Black pearls, underwater kalidescopic wonderlands, and evidence of Gauguin can't top the gorgeous surroundings, but they can certainly top the cake! The South Pacific isn't a place to see in a hurry. Sandwich your cruise with some extra days to be an islander and slow your life down.

Pilgrimage to Santiago: Join the thousands who have blazed this trail before you and become a medieval pilgrim to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. If you want to be really authentic, nix the shoes, but if you're not crazy, enjoy your hearty soles as your traverse the Iberian peninsula's north. Your first stop could include a bull run in Pamplona, but don't remember...a swift jab of a horn could do your pilgrimage in!

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 June 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!