Nature

Northeast Japan still hurts from the 3/11 disaster...and you knowing that actually helps

Northeast Japan still hurts from the 3/11 disaster...and you knowing that actually helps

The more wonderful people and places I encounter, the more difficult choosing causes becomes for me, and I can understand that you might as well find difficulty in extending much of yourself to this cause with so many other things begging for your support. That's why I hope it feels entirely doable to you to simply follow them on Facebook and begin your engagement there. A message, a photo, or a "like" could be just the encouragement they needed for the next step.

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I want to teach under a bodhi tree.

I want to teach under a bodhi tree.

Regardless of the reasons why it didn't happen, I know what I want: engaged students every step of the way. That investment in time must provide me immediate return, onto which I can bank that long term effects are plausible. I am building daily on a blueprint created many years ago, when a long trip provided me a clear life goal. Of course, I also must find ways to steady my mood and know I cannot control all the variables that allow a student to be an engaged one.

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A hauntingly beautiful snowstorm blows over Boston Common

A hauntingly beautiful snowstorm blows over Boston Common

On Friday evening, I was captivated by the oncoming snowstorm called Nemo that blanketed the city of Boston. From a perch overlooking the State House and the Boston Common, I could watch the sky darken and the air become increasingly opaque.

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Sitting pensive amidst a teal river in Bumthang, Bhutan

Sitting pensive amidst a teal river in Bumthang, Bhutan

Bhutan in the winter energizes the hunger for discovery that's resident in children lucky enough to be young. It would take a dark closet for decades to produce this contrast anywhere else, the specialness clear with every sip of cold mountain air or gentle exchange. I can't say this is what travel should always be, because it's only through their unique set of occurrences that yielded such an outcome. But what they have set up, from my effortless post, has a wonderful effect. Wool is nowhere near our eyes, and we are learning individual lessons from the backgrounds we brought.

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Photoblog: a gray day in the Swedish village of Landsort

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

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

Andy on Öja island in Sweden

Kristian on Öja island in Sweden

Kristian on Öja island in Sweden

Kristian on Öja island in Sweden

Kristian on Öja island in Sweden

Luisa, Andy, and Kristian on Öja island

Luisa, Andy, and Kristian on Öja island

Kristian on Öja in Sweden

Kristian on Öja in Sweden

The lighthouse on Öja island

The lighthouse on Öja island

Wildflowers on Öja island

Wildflowers on Öja island

Wildflowers on Öja island

Wildflowers on Öja island

Andy staring into the gray Baltic skies

Andy staring into the gray Baltic skies

Kari and Kristian heading to Öja, Sweden

Kari and Kristian heading to Öja, Sweden

The southernmost point of the Stockholm archipelago: Landsort

The southernmost point of the Stockholm archipelago: Landsort

The mostly-pedestrian streets of Landsort on Öja island in Sweden

The mostly-pedestrian streets of Landsort on Öja island in Sweden

Öja island in Sweden

Öja island in Sweden

Kristian, Andy, and Luisa at Kari's house on Öja

Kristian, Andy, and Luisa at Kari's house on Öja

To see more travel photography, view my Flickr collections.

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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Photoblog: Merida and the Yucatan

Daily wake-ups as early as 4:15am, constant encouragement to produce content (or brainstorm more concepts), keeping up with another internship, e-mails, and friendships from home - this goes far beyond a full-time job. Week three on-location has been draining, frantic, but overwhelmingly delightful. No matter how plum-tuckered-out I get during production, I still find our daily activities and trials worth the sweaty days and gastro-hilarity. As Barney would remark, "The fun and learning never ends. Here's what we did (this week)!"

Celestun

Celestun

At Celestun Nature Reserve we jetted through mangroves and observed some flamingoes from afar. Post-nature experience, we saw our first Mexican beach for about an hour while having lunch with Alex, our accommodating and passionate host for Merida, and Jorge, driver extraordinaire.

Uxmal

Uxmal

Pinatas

Pinatas

Merida Market

Merida Market

Lucha Libre

Lucha Libre

A unanimous favorite moment on the entire trip was our training session with Lucha Libre stars. This is by no means the WWE of Mexico. Lucha Libre isn't scripted and is all about honor. We flipped and flopped with the self-proclaimed good and bad guys, received our own fighting names (mine being "Sexy Star" thanks to the resident fourteen year-old trainee in the vicinity), and honestly attempted to capture the essence of the sport.

While most film crews or documentarians like to cover Lucha Libre in a fluff or comedic piece, they were really touched that our presence was about knowing the sport and telling others about it. These guys are investment bankers (or something else) by day and honor protectors by night.

And a note to all of you wondering what makes a move complete: it's all about slapping the mat for a little drama.

Hacienda Sotuta de Peon

Hacienda Sotuta de Peon

Chocolate Shop

Chocolate Shop

While I could go on for pages describing the locations and experiences of Merida, I'll refrain and simply focus on the guy who made those moments happen. Alex isn't a tour guide but a key link in the Yucatan tourism chain. He's got mad power, connections, and responsibilities up the wazoo. On a more poetic note, Alex was an incredible resource and friend during that hot and humid week. He mentioned we opened his eyes to aspects of his own region he didn't know or had forgotten - providing him with the inspiration to do something good. Wonderful guy with a great perspective.

Quinceanera dress

Quinceanera dress

The Yucatan state offered things I hadn't anticipated and people I found endearing. Way to go, Merida. You overcame the blistering heat and humidity with your charm.

All photos © ProjectExplorer.org, 2010.

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.