STA Travel

Assume the world wants you to take risks, keep learning, and do what you love

Assume the world wants you to take risks, keep learning, and do what you love

Arriving at the bus terminal, I turned right back around and got on the Portliner train to try and get as close to the ship as possible. Having not traveled with my passport, and knowing the insanely tight restrictions on boarding, I knew there was no chance of talking my way on as a nostalgic alumna. As I rolled closer, I snapped pic after pic of increasingly higher quality until I found myself face-to-bow with my former nautical home. There are many reasons why SASers develop a lifelong love of the program and the vessel. For me, Semester at Sea changed the whole course of my life. I don’t know who I would have become without my round-the-world voyage in 2007. I certainly wouldn’t have met Garrett and Alexis, wouldn’t have felt strong enough to take my Big Journey, wouldn’t have aspired for the STA internship, and wouldn’t have landed in Japan today with my job at THINK Global School.

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Consume & Update: making it count, making good art & making it home

I've finally stopped moving for a while. Want to see what I've found as of lately?

World travel on Nike's dime

Nike made a new product that basically detects energy expended (a.k.a. Nike Fuel) throughout your typical, active day, and with this new product comes an intense online marketing campaign called #makeitcount. This video, created by Casey Neistat and Max Joseph, is reminiscent of the STA Travel Australia video "Move" and shows Casey plowing through his budget from Nike with 10 days of globe trotting. I just had dinner with one of the developers of this campaign. The world is small, people.

Advice for starting a creative career

This is good and giggle-worthy. Here are my favorite excerpts:

...it's true that nothing I did where the only reason for doing it was the money was ever worth it, except as bitter experience. Usually I didn't wind up getting the money, either.

IRS on your trail? Make good art. Cat exploded? Make good art. Somebody on the Internet thinks what you do is stupid or evil or it's all been done before? Make good art. Probably things will work out somehow, and eventually time will take the sting away, but that doesn't matter. Do what only you do best. Make good art.

The urge, starting out, is to copy. And that's not a bad thing. Most of us only find our own voices after we've sounded like a lot of other people. But the one thing that you have that nobody else has is you. Your voice, your mind, your story, your vision. So write and draw and build and play and dance and live as only you can.

The moment that you feel that, just possibly, you're walking down the street naked, exposing too much of your heart and your mind and what exists on the inside, showing too much of yourself. That's the moment you may be starting to get it right.

That was the hardest lesson for me, I think: to let go and enjoy the ride, because the ride takes you to some remarkable and unexpected places.

Other discoveries

Getting better production audio: who wouldn't want that? STA Travel's World Traveler Internship 2012 commences: Matt and Amma begin the documenting of their European jaunt with this video of a Czech beer fest. Reinventing the office, how to lose weight and increase productivity: Though these days I have no control over what my office looks like, I like to take these tips and think of how they could again be redefined for this transient setting. The new MacBook Pro: No Film School explains the newest version of the MBP.

Update on Nomadderwhere

Irene and Lindsay in NYC
Irene and Lindsay in NYC

Throughout June, I felt incredibly confident in my role as media specialist for this world-touring school, TGS. I don't know if it was the homey accommodation we had, the energy of Berlin, the enthusiasm of the students, or something else. I created a rhythm of working and playing that felt solid and sustainable, which is harder than it seems to create structure in a fluid, ever-changing environment. It was so successful that I had time and energy to document for myself.

A few weeks ago, I packed up my ephemeral life and reverted to backpack living for about 25 days. After train journeys through Prague, Budapest, Salzburg, and Austria, I flew to meet friends in Denmark and said goodbye to Europe from Stockholm. Landing stateside in early July, I quickly picked up again to visit my hometown of Wabash and then the third place I'd call a 'home': New York City. Home is a loose term for me.

This summer break from school will consist of portfolio tweaking, reading of many travel narratives, home creative projects, and the ever-important duty of reconnecting with my community.

Here's my latest work:

Videos and captions are those of THINK Global School. The opinions stated in this post are mine and do not reflect the positions, strategies, or opinions of THINK Global School.

When Your Dreams Play Hard-To-Get

This post was written by Annie Leroux.

I have wanted to apply for the STA World Traveler Internship for three years, but my timing was never right, until 2010. And when the application process commenced, my wall soon covered in post-it notes full of my constantly evolving ideas. I didn’t sleep for days. After submitting my application and video, I plastered my page link all over every social media network, spent hours watching other applicant’s videos, and couldn't stop telling perfect strangers in coffee shops about what I was after.

I immersed myself in the process and began to eat, sleep, breathe STA.

Coming Within Reach

When my nerves got the best of me the morning of the Top 20 Announcement - so much so that I missed the call from STA - I knew how badly I wanted it.

One week later, I was doing my STA interview from a hotel room in the middle of a very exciting national public speaking tournament. I tried to anticipate possible questions they would ask, but nothing could have prepared me for the clever and hilarity of STA's queries. I went on to finish nationals, and while sitting in the airport a couple days later, that same Texas phone number called.

I picked up thinking there was an extra piece of information they needed from me. Instead, Patrick told me I was a finalist.

Top Ten was, by far, the scariest place to be: too close to winning, so close to being possible. I noticed there were seven girls total, and I kept thinking, "Only six people stand between me and my dream job...going on a trip around the world...an opportunity that could launch my career."

What I wasn't thinking about at the time were the six other girls thinking the same thing.

Once the finalist video had been filmed and edited, my application complete, I waited. For the first time in this entire process, there was nothing further I could do.

The Door Doesn't Open

The day of the winner announcement, I was so nervous I left class early and went for some therapeutic Greek food. When the call came through, I felt defeated.

It was hard to hear, via a phone call, that I didn't get my dream job.

When you become a finalist out of hundreds, it's easy to feel like it was all just within reach - that soon everything was going to change. Although I was disappointed, it didn’t take long to get excited for Natalie and Casey and snap back to figuring out my new summer plan.

Honestly, any one of the finalists could have done an amazing job, and even if all ten of us were a perfect fit, eight had to be eliminated. That's just how it is.

A couple hours after the news broke, I hopped on a flight to San Francisco and applied for seven different internships. I just didn’t see the point in being upset while I still felt on top of the world for even being a part of the process. If the internship is something I really want, I can always apply again.

Amidst a Sea of Greats

At one point in the beginning, I was so intimidated by everyone else’s application videos that I considered not applying. Nearly everyone was a world traveler, had strong video editing skills, kept multiple blogs, was a photographer, showed extreme creativity, and had an entertaining personality.

It seemed difficult to stand out in a pool of people so qualified, and I almost completely changed my video to match what I thought others were doing.

Of course, my best chance at standing out was by being myself, as cliché as that sounds. Looking back at the second video I began editing, I never would have made it through had I submitted it.

Baby Stepping to Extraordinary

I've learned you don't have to wait around for these once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to come around in order to live out your passion. All the people I admire - follow online, read about, or have spoken to - touch on the fact that they never could have anticipated the success they have today when they first started out. It was all about small steps - tiny successes.

And small steps are definitely difficult to fathom when internships, like STA's, offer giant leaps. Missing opportunities like these doesn't mean I have to go back to "the norm." Much of the success these other travelers, filmmakers, writers and bloggers are seeing wasn't handed to them in one summer, and while these opportunities do help in skipping a few steps, it isn't the only way to reach the dream.

Thinking that the STA internship is the only catalyst to reaching a successful travel career doesn't give us applicants much credit.

You don’t have to win the World Traveler Internship to benefit from it. Simply applying automatically makes you part of a large community of like-minded travel-obsessed writers, photographers, and filmmakers that could turn into future travel partners and inspirations. It's a very unique process and only those who apply completely understand.

You don’t have to win to be inspired by it. You don’t have to win to travel.

I feel like a better version of myself after applying. Now I can figure out what comes next; sometimes that's the hardest part.

Take a Baby Step

Follow Footsteps: Write to people you admire, who are in positions you hope to be in someday, and ask for a moment of their time to learn from them. You'd be surprised how much time many are willing to offer. They remember what it was like; everyone had to start somewhere.

Step Up Your "Business": Take all of your social media networks to the next level with a more business-like approach to their futures. Write out what you want to accomplish and figure out how to utilize those networks to market yourself and your talents in order to get what you want. Even just putting yourself and your ideas out there gives you more of an opportunity to build professional and personal connections.

Take Dynamic Steps: Put your own personality into your resume, cover letters and interviews. This internship was good practice in standing out creatively and taught me new ways of marketing myself through multi-media including writing, photography, video and music. Many applicants are qualified and creative, but knowing how to communicate that in in a three minute time period is steadily becoming a useful skill. Figure out how you would like to market yourself, and once you put together something you're proud of, apply, apply, apply.

Bravery Trumps Hard-To-Get

The strong work ethic a person must have to even apply for the World Traveler's Internship is already miles above the average twenty-something applying to regular jobs and internships, and clearly, if you're willing to dedicate that kind of time and heart to the WTI, you can use that vigor to go after anything you want.

Putting yourself and your passions in the public eye for a desired goal is brave; don't stop being that brave because the one opportunity that called for it didn't work out. When you have an undeniable passion for travel, writing, photography, or film, it is highly possible to succeed. It just takes time.

I am still writing to and networking with people who inspire me, and the more involved I get in this travel world, the more doors seem to open. Just the way I immersed myself in the internship, I have immersed myself in this industry that I hope will soon cradle my career.

My small successes are stacking up: increased blog views, being Twitter-listed as a "travel conversationalist," and being chosen to research and work on a local social media conference. I have come a long way, and although I don't have it all figured out, I have found a role in being a good resource to others who are on this same route.

The previous interns have continuously expressed to me how much this internship has changed their lives, and even though I was not chosen, I can confidently say I feel the same way.

Q&A: Grooming for the World Traveler Internship

Q&A is a new series on Nomadderwhere that uses questions posed by readers and commentators to address topics of travel, alternative lifestyle design, blogging, and other interests. You can expect this series one or two Saturdays a month right here on Nomadderwhere.com. To send in your questions, contact me or send me a link to your video question on Youtube!

The videos and fun blogs posted by you and Chris this summer were wildly entertaining and made me smile as I watched each clip. Your spunkiness and energy definitely reflects on the viewers as you took us along the adventure!

To give you an idea of my foundation, I do use twitter and take travel photos everywhere I go. Since January, I have been capturing video on my digital camera for memories of being silly with friends, monologues of what is going on and practice STA Travel footage! I keep a journal on my side at all times, just in case I want to jot down specifics of something interesting that happened.

I have yet to upload videos on youtube (have videos on websites, professional interviews, promotional video used at my university, etc.), written on an online blog, or utilized flickr to post some of my favorite photographs.

Lindsay, I am willing to do anything and plan to fully prepare and engage myself in creating video montagues of all my experiences in New York, Los Angeles, everywhere I go and travel from here on out! I can send you anything your way if you would like. What should be my next step? -K

I'll start off with the obligatory disclaimer.

I am not a part of the selection process for the World Traveler Internship, nor do I know for sure what they look for each year. Instead, all I can provide is my honest opinion of what qualities help an individual prepare for and seem more suitable for the job.

On that note, let's look at the job in basic terms.

The World Traveler Interns are meant to:

- Experience a number of travel adventures and showcase their experiences daily with videos, pictures and blogs. - Describe everything they do with the ultimate goal of inspiring other students and young people to become world travelers.

Now, let's think about the job in the less obvious way.

What's a more accurate understanding of the internship?

- The interns help sell the products STA offers; therefore, this is a marketing job for a strong, global company. - The interns will be constantly changing time zones, producing a lot of work, dealing with cultural, technological, physical, mental barriers constantly, and experiencing more in 2.5 months than most do in years, if not lifetimes. This is a hard job. - And the obvious one....this is a job.

Now, let's do a mental exercise.

Imagine you are one of the judges, one of the marketing department employees at STA, looking at the hundreds of eager applicants and trying to decipher via online property who you can count on to do the best job possible. It's not about granting a prize that doesn't affect you; the interns have big shoes to fill.

You would probably want interns who:

- Know this isn't a free trip and can prove they have the work ethic to get things done well. - Can create videos, photos, and blogs that engage the STA clientele to the point of convincing the sale...not to mention have social media savvy to work the venues of the content - Exhibit the skills of an ambassador: charisma, eloquence, diplomacy, and a personable nature.

Take these points and roll with them. This is what I worked off of when preparing my application in 2009.

Planning for Next Year

If you want to hold the coveted internship for 2011 (or beyond), don't wait until the application pool opens up. Start now proving STA you're the ideal candidate. Here's how to begin:

Start a Blog

Brainstorm a title, and steer clear of something generic like Trisha's Travel Blog. Begin compiling your travel stories (or any topic pertaining to young people and living adventurously), whether you open up old e-mails to your mom while on the road, rewrite stories from your personal journal, or just start thinking back to your times abroad or stateside. You'll want to have a lot of stories in the bank to prove your commitment to documentation.

Warning: If this doesn't feel fulfilling, if it feels forced and uninspired, write about what you truly care about...and if it still feels wrong, maybe you're not meant to blog. Not everyone is a mental exhibitionist.

Tools: Start a free blog at Wordpress.com, and if you are set on a name, buy your domain through Wordpress as well for about $15.

Publish Your Photos

IMG_0198

You're going to need visuals for your blog and proof you can click a mean shutter. Pick your best 100 shots and publish them online, linking to them on your posts about the same topic. Photos of yourself on the go are also good proof you like being active.

Tools: Start a free account at Flickr, and you can always upgrade to the premium account later (which allows you to download an unlimited amount of work). I don't direct people to my account actively. It's like a workspace or storage unit you can pull from.

Self-Promotion

Whether you already tweet or not, you'll inevitably feel weird using Twitter to self-promote and network. It will work in your advantage to have a lot of followers that are interested in your travels and personality. Fill out your profile fully, choose a good photo, befriend and follow people that do what you love in the travel field, start talking to them and RTing their good tweets. Start linking to your Flickr photos and online work, being sure to use catchy wording to inspire clicks.

Don't see Twitter and Facebook as places where you plea for people to look at your stuff and love you. See them as tools for free marketing. Think like a marketing professional.

Twitter Self-Promotion

Twitter Self-Promotion

Tools: Twitter through the web works fine, but TweetDeck is my favorite platform for organizing all my favorite tweeters and easily performing all tasks (RTing, replying, linking, etc.). Also, install the Twitter application on your Facebook page to automatically update your Facebook status when you change your Twitter status.

Showcase Your Videos

Start making them! Use Windows Movie Maker, iMovie, Final Cut - whatever you have - and start taking your raw footage and assembling great little snippits of life. In short, the creation of these videos is about trial and error. Start off making something, then take a step back and wonder:

Would I watch this whole thing over and over?

Would I watch this or like this if I wasn't my friend?

Does this video have me on the edge of my seat?

Would an 8 year-old with ADD sit through this whole thing?"

My first videos were pitiful slideshows. I've learned from my own mistakes over a long period of time.

Get started there, and let's see how you evolve into the ideal candidate!

httpvhd://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sL5yh0wO3mw

Was this Question and Answer post helpful to you? Would you like me to expand on any points above? Any other questions about anything? Comment below or contact me by either writing a message or sending a link to your video question!

Consume & Update: The Visual Edition

Prepare yourself for a very visual-centric post today. Perfect if you went to a horse race yesterday and are a wee bit feeble this morning.

Gastropalooza: Indian Style

An eclectic video on Indian street food that will either make you hungry, want to go to India, have a headache, or think a musical pig is sneaking up on you. Thank you, MatTV.

The Exciting News

I hope you followed the application process like a fox. If you did, you already know the exciting news...

The New World Traveler Interns

The New World Traveler Interns

Not only am I pumped for these two lucky individuals, but I'm so thrilled that a fellow Semester at Sea-goer won the honor! And I'm glad that Natalie whipped out the big guns with her dance moves in both videos. This summer will be a treat to watch.

Travel Your Eyes Though Tibet

Some portraits, some editorial, some snapshots of interesting moments in Tibet; this is one interesting photo essay on China's rooftop from the Matador Network. The portraits are stunning, and I personally find any mountain culture thoroughly interesting.

Naughty Volcano Dirtying the Skies

Did you hear what happened this week with the skies over Europe? This is the culprit.

Other Discoveries

How very, very true: success in blogging is made of little victories.

For those of you in my same boat: 20 Ideal Day or Seasonal Jobs for Travel Writers.

What's Jerry Seinfeld going to joke about now? The Day the Free Meals Died

Update on Nomadderwhere

I can't believe I went to Chicago last weekend and didn't meet up with former applicant and current STA World Traveler Intern, Casey Hudetz! If I happen to make it up north again before this summer, I'm certainly going to make that happen.

And where am I this week? Right about now, I should be waking up from a rowdy weekend filled with galloping horses, tweed, and 90 pound men in pretty silks. Yes, I went to Keeneland to witness all the whinnies and snorts with my childhood friends!

1 Minute or Less Moments: This week on my Nomadderwhere Facebook Fan page I have published three more videos, and are they cool or what?

- The Christmas lunch in Nakavika, waiting to be served as we sit segregated in the community hall...boo

- Garrett, Mario and the twins taking a nap on our floor on Christmas day

- The awesome traditional architecture of the Fijian forts in Pacific Harbour

Nomadderwhere's Facebook Fan Page

Nomadderwhere's Facebook Fan Page

Video of the Week: World Traveler Intern Highlights

One of my least favorite questions to answer is "What was your favorite part?" Slimming down a trip into the best moments leaves out all the thrills in between and the trip's entirety as a journey, which amplifies the highlights even more. The experience of the World Traveler Internship had an obvious highlight for me: the job itself. Going back to my room at night to write a blog or make a video was fulfilling and affirmed my desire to be a travel writer.

Oh, but if I must tell you what was fun, here are some highlights from Australia, East Africa, India, South Africa, and Fiji.

The Makings of a Travel Video

Assembling Videos

Assembling Videos

It's quite possible that in the next couple of months, I'll be approached by online strangers wanting to know the inside scoop on the World Traveler Internship. I know this will happen because I did the exact same thing for the last two years. And though I've tried to describe the application process to those interested - offering a few tips for standing out from the crowd - people may still wonder how they should tackle the less intuitive art of video-making that is crucial for this position.

I didn't study telecommunications or video art in college, nor did I have a good operating system while making my application video last year. If you're new at this, like I was, don't worry because if you have a computer, some travel footage and a passion to produce, you can make some mean videos.

The Software

If you work on a PC, chances are you have Windows Movie Maker, which can also be downloaded for free online. Allow yourself some time to get comfortable with this program by throwing together mini-videos and utilizing effects such as titles, transition and audio to get your blood pumping. Don't be lazy and press Auto Movie, and there's no substitute for just throwing yourself into the program; it's the fastest way to learn.

For those lucky ones with Macs, iMovie is the included video editing software that doesn't require a big learning curve for newbies. Also take your time in investigating this software and its capabilities by making short videos, and don't forget to utilize the online tutorials from Apple. iMovie 09 has quite a bit more to manipulate than its previous generation of 08, and iMovie HD is quite a different set-up as well. Get comfy...then get cracking.

Steer Clear of Slideshows

Some of your first creations may be more like slideshows than travel videos. Though I value the static visual quality of photographs in a video, you have to keep in mind why you're using this medium: to display motion and create a specific mood or impression with the entire compilation. In the three years I've been at this, I've thankfully learned this lesson, because videos like the following are a lot like making your friends and family suffer through a slow playback of each painful slide taken on your holiday.

Options for Beginning a Video

Hopefully you will begin to regard video-making as an art form, one you take seriously enough to hone a personal style and technique. In order to find the most conducive method to starting each new video, try these options out:

  • Write out the purpose of each video, identifying who will watch it and for how long you think their attention will last.

  • Take a look at all of your video footage, photographs, audio clips, etc. and decide on the most descriptive or entertaining morsels from your trip. If you're using Windows Movie Maker, just upload the best raw material into your work space on the program. If using iMovie, peruse the footage and use the favorite selection button with the star. Pulling the good stuff aside at the beginning could speed up the actual assembly of the video and allow you to see what crucial material needs to be included.

  • Start with a song (this is my method). Once I know what destination or experience I'm documenting and possibly the mood I want to exhibit, I browse my music to find something people would love to listen to that also has a great introduction. When I know the flow of the first ten seconds of audio, I then know how I will incorporate my video's title or introduction. I prefer to use one song instead of layering different music from (gasp) various genres. Use the climaxes, tempo changes, and character of the song(s) to your advantage in manipulating the emotions of the viewer. Make your choice of soundtrack appear deliberate.

Using Effects to your Advantage

Editing a video

Editing a video

I struggle with the following concept every time I sit down to a new video: Know when to use simplicity and when to use pizzazz

Applying ten different types of transitions to the same video is like saying "Look what I can do!" and showing how many ways your computer program can shift from one clip or photo to another. Decide upon a couple transitions you can use that tie into the mood or theme of your video and stick with them. When making a video on ziplining, I used the transition that slides the previous clip to the left in order to accentuate that act of shooting across the line.

When making a destination video of India, it was all about over-stimulation - to replicate my impression of the country. I used a flashy title, dream-like filters, harsh light effects, muted colors, half speed and double speed shots, and just about every polar-opposite effects iMovie 09 allowed. I left transitions abrupt to give the video SOME semblance of continuity, and the final product was very reflective of my actual experience, thanks to using the editing tools in the right manner.

Crafting a Story

Another technique I use in the assembly line is to throw all my quality material in the "pot" and begin lining the clips up in order and adding effects/transitions as I go. At one point, you'll have to step back and evaluate the story that is being created. Are you using your best material at the end and building the tension throughout the video's length? Are you making a statement at the beginning and supporting it with the remaining time?

In my opinion, destination videos should be statements from the start that are supported and strengthened as someone continues to watch its entirety.

Travel experiences need a slow build-up to the climax; however, pulling a Memento by using reverse (or scattered) chronological order could amplify the story and all its elements.

Bottom line is to be aware of the story you are crafting and make sure it gives people a reason to watch beyond 10 seconds and a reason to stick around until the end. The music helps me monumentally with this step of the process.

When it came to the creation of my application video, I formed it into a résumé.

0:00 - 0:04 Establish my name 0:04 - 0:11 Give people a reason to take me seriously 0:11 - 0:23 Flash back to last year's application video, accentuating my drive and familiarity with the program 0:23 - 1:00 Prove I already do this job well; there's no gamble in choosing me 1:00 - 1:12 Travel Experience 1:12 - 1:34 Skills and Interests 1:34 - 2:06 Competence and Entertainment 2:06 - 2:27 Reiterate previous points to stall for musical climax 2:27 - 2:50 Crowd appeal, entertainment, humor 2:50 - 3:21 Lasting impression of why I'm different from the rest (This is a specific type of video, but it shows how I crafted years of travel and talking shots into a cohesive unit with a universal, entertaining storyline.)

The Art of Detail

Once your video forms into a solid story with great visuals, come back through with the figurative X-Acto-knife and make sure all cuts are perfect. Make sure no syllables are cut off spoken words. Be sure that transitions don't reveal unwanted visuals or audio. If you timed your content to match your soundtrack, double check that every clip is synced perfectly. It's human nature to focus on the imperfections of an otherwise fantastic piece, so leave nothing to distract your viewers from all your hard work.

Testing for Success

If you're posting a video with music that isn't your own, test its copyright eligibility by making a private Youtube account that lacks any search terms that would identify what you're creating (for instance: I posted my application videos before the fact under the terms Raven Simone and Gaming as to not attract those searching for WTI or my videos). If you're music puts up the red flag and gets taken down, that's certainly going to be a problem for you if your video is a submission for a contest. Re-do!

video

video

Is your video really as good as you think it is? Let people who know you and people that don't take a gander at your work before you publish it mainstream. If family members love it and strangers don't, it lacks the adequate information that hooks people into what you're showing them. Give people a reason to listen to your work from the start. Family already have a reason to be engaged in what you create. If both family and strangers find it compelling and worth a second or third view, you know you've created something stimulating that exhibits skills that get people thinking. And of course, if no one likes it, it just plain sucks. Don't expect that just because you made a video with movement and audio it means people will like it. Assume everyone has ADD and far too little time to spend looking at your stuff.

Market your Great Content

Stand behind what you made and allow anyone who may be interested to access your creation. Youtube it. Vimeo it. Display it on your website. Of course if your video is for personal purposes, this obviously doesn't apply to you or that video, but be sure you give your hard work its due acknowledgement. It's awful when you spend hours or days on a video only to let it gather dust on a buried blog post. Display it for all to see and tweet about it.

And what about better programs like Final Cut Express and beyond? I'll report on those when I know more about them!

Did this post help you with your video-making needs? Comment below on anything I missed!

Video of the Week: Ireland on a Budget

Stay in hostels with free internet. Buy food to cook in the kitchen. Save your money for the pints of Guinness and ice cream you know you want. Occasionally have a pub meal, but remember all the things you can buy with a 20 Euro restaurant bill. And always be on the look-out for fun, free cultural activities that will make you feel like you're seizing the moment. To read my Ireland blogs, click here.

Collaborating with the World Traveler Internship

On April 11th, I extended the opportunity for those interested to have a hand in the Internship, to collaborate, for the nature of the program is not to give someone a free trip around the world but to relate to the viewing community and charge their spirits to explore. Therefore, it was essential that I be aware of what people wanted to see. Bob Fawcett, a fellow top ten finalist, went to great (and much appreciated) lengths to offer those very ideas and skills that got him to the top in the first place. A budding film director, he had heaps of ideas to share:

Believe it or not, this is the short version of his idea offering. Adhering to Bob's suggestions, I created a poll asking what readers would enjoy seeing, a universal idea across all destinations, and I received some helpful feedback that people want to see sunrises, dance-offs with locals, check out the grocery stores, observe some ridiculous toilet situations, and learn some global cheers or drinkings songs. What an undertaking I attempted!

To document all this while continuing with my internship duties weighed me down on the first and second stops. So for those of you loyal readers, I'm sorry I couldn't carry out a complete documentation of the universal themes you desired to my fullest extent. I had to give the job priority. However, I did manage to concoct this little video on sunrises with a bonus lesson on saying "cheers":

I've taken this experiment as a lesson on what interests the viewer (you) and what I will be capable of the next go-around. Someone who documents travel and experience must be aware of the end results, while also being open and enthusiastic for the unexpected and spontaneous. Golly...learning new things every day.

Video of the Week: Edinburgh Fringe Festival

The Fringe festival in Edinburgh has an atmosphere that would tantalize any arty, expressy person in this world. Constant performances in hundreds of venues. Street performers clogging the main thoroughfares. It's a grand ambiance and worth visiting over and over again. If only I had more time to do this festival justice.

Finding Purpose in Culture Shock

Ireland's Coast

Ireland's Coast

I never really know how my travel experiences have affected me until I return to my starting point: home. Flying through various destinations and worrying about logistics sometimes takes away the mind’s energy to process what it’s witnessed until it’s back on familiar soil. And since each trip is different, every time I return home, it’s a brand new feeling, a new form of culture shock I can never predict. Coming home from Italy, I have felt pissed off at my hometown for not being as historical and visually stimulating as Florence. After Semester at Sea, it pained me to be away from the people I grew very close to on board. And with the conclusion of my Big Journey, I think I felt more stable and purpose-driven, albeit more confused, than any previous homecoming led me to feel. I think it all depends on the nature of the journey and where you are in your personal path with self-awareness. Because that’s one major reason I travel: to become more self-aware.

And now with the winding down of the World Traveler Internship, I have a whole new set of emotions and passions driving me. For once, I’ve welcomed the comforts of home excitedly. Man did I love sitting around! And for the last month, I’ve spent about 90 hours a week working on my website, on personal projects, and anything fathomable to get me on the path towards being a freelance travel writer. It was the WTI program that assured me I love being thrown into a new country with a mission of documentation. I’ve learned how I love to travel, where I want to travel, and how to deal with the rigors of this oddball, unconventional, thrilling profession.

Anyone with a smidgeon of wanderlust would adore being a World Traveler Intern, but I can promise you an aspiring travel writer, photojournalist, basically anyone wanting to experience and express as a career will be numbed by how cool is to have this job. Throughout the trip, I sporadically stopped and smiled, so appreciative of the opportunity and fully aware of how lucky I was. And now I look forward to seeing what lucky souls will receive the honor next year. I’m certain they will have the time of their lives and return to their home bases more alive and wanderlust-ful, because as any traveler knows, that obsession never goes away. Travel begets more travel.

And now I apply the heaviest of connotations, the deepest of meaning to these next two words, directed at the lovely people at STA Travel: Thank you.

Hey, Ireland, Nice Craic! Day 75

"Nice craic" Why, thank you!

Just say neigh to the use of puns...

Just say neigh to the use of puns...

This phrase took me some time to understand. This wasn't a severely misspelled compliment towards my derriere but a charming little catch phrase about good times in Ireland. Having a blast at a pub, cheers-ing to good friends, good Guinness, and swaying to the pipe of a Irish folk musician? That's some darn good craic right there.

I assume most travelers come to Ireland to enjoy the scenery and some good ol' fashioned craic. Our white and green bus shot to the west side of the country, down to the south, and around again to Dublin, with every stop centered on the pursuit of lovely views and some lovely good times.

Each time we stopped along the path towards the Atlantic, the more I believed the weather in Ireland is truly confused. Standing in the rain amidst sheep poop on the Hill of Tara, I thought, "This is really lovely. If only my toes weren't wet and ...messy." Walking around the Trim Castle, I thankfully basked in the sun of a surprisingly clear sky while meandering around the massive stone structure. And as the mist that coated my camera lens outside the Locke Distillery had me finally uttering, "I don't get this damn barometric situation! Ah, to hell with it. It's whiskey time."

Every day we flew across the clouds and squeezed our big bus between pasture-lined country roads. Once in a while, the mist would cease, and an opening in the atmosphere would reveal St. Patrick's mountain or a field of white horses. It's hard to let Ireland's weather ruin a trip to Ireland, but when the weather is good, it's gorgeous. Nothing on the trip topped the ultimate vista at the most westerly point of our tour. Atop a cliff covered in purple flowers, I sat and stared at breaking waves and tiny uninhabited islands off the coast. A butterfly landed next to me. I laughed, because it was all so ridiculously poetic.

The cliffs of Moher luckily emerged from an intense cloud cover only a half hour before we got there, and we were able to see where land was sliced by an undulating knife before the Earth popped in the oven. It caused a little existential hiccup to hear we were standing in Ireland's most popular suicide destination, but thankfully we didn't witness any travesties of the sort, only the simple elegance of nature.

And with every evening, whether we tucked into a one horse or 2,000 horse town, it was a mission for Guinness, for three-time distilled Irish whiskey, for a moment's rest from a day of bumping on a bus. And when the mind is filled with the vibrant greens of the day, one can easily conclude Ireland is easy on the senses.

Neon chlorophyll and Guinness...and don't forget the nice craic.

Where are all the Dubliners? Day 70

Photo credit to Mr Din on Flickr

Some Irishmen say Dublin is not a city that reflects the true Irish mentality. "I've lived there for years before, but it's never been a home to me," said one of the Irish ladies I met on the internship. It's definitely got its touristy areas that overcharge and manufacture "authenticity," and these areas can become smokescreens for the actual intimate experience the traveler seeks. I anticipated not liking Dublin for its prices and supposed lack of charm. However, Dublin did not rub the the wrong way at all.

The capital seems to have a lot going for itself. Theaters scatter the city and definitely don't go unnoticed. The local free newspaper detailed cultural events ranging from free music and graffiti festivals outside to basement techno parties. And Dublin appears to attract a large amount of travelers who immediately take on the Irish personable nature upon getting to the little green island.

We arrived in Dublin early in the morning and quickly got to work on intern responsibilities and pressing health issues (Chris had a cough that just wasn't sounding too pretty). I sat in our hostel's common room with my laptop open, firing digital data into the universe. Within the first hour, I met two very interesting people without even trying. Sharing my power cord with a Canadian high school grad led to her recounting why she decided to take a year off to work and live in Ireland. And when the man nearby overheard me explain the details of the World Traveler Internship, we began chatting, and I eventually learned he was a fellow American on an around-the-world trip of his own. Both were incredibly willing to show me what they knew about Dublin and the world of travel.

A group of solo travelers and ourselves decided to make a night of it before the tour started in the morning. We ventured to the pub behind the hostel, which squeezed into the empty space between multiple buildings. And it was here that I tried my first pint of Guinness. I took photos. I told the bartender as if it was a monumentous occasion. I took a sip and sensed the microscopic bubbles flow down my trap. Unfortunately I was still recovering from the flu (still wondering if it was the swine...) and had no functioning taste buds, but I sensed the surprisingly smooth and creamy texture of the classic Irish stout and said, "Hey, not bad at all."

A night out in Dublin sometimes means a night amongst the streets of the Temple Bar area. This is a place I doubt Dubliners frequent, but it provides a large amount of venues for entertainment and debauchery and, most importantly, Guinness consumption. We found a bar with a band and nestled in a nook with the other French, Canadian, German, and American travelers. This was the first time on the trip traveler intermingling felt so organic.

Ireland's Coast

Sometimes I forego the opportunity to submerge in the hostel world or traveler niche when traveling because I'd rather be looking for a gallery where I can chat it up with the owner or a pub where the local bartender has time to tell me the good stuff about where I am and who the locals really are. But there's true merit in speaking to the people you brush your teeth next to. We're all out there feeling like we've got a mission to accomplish, and it helps to hear about others' successes and mishaps. And sharing perceptions of a place can comfort weary bones or stale minds.

I don't think I met a single Dubliner. Maybe the Irish don't find Dublin home-like because its already packed with travelers and foreign workers. Whoever actually resides in the city though makes it an easy, fun place.

The Love of the Irish

The Irish don't mind frigid waters

The Irish don't mind frigid waters

I once loved Lucky Charms cereal. Back in the day, my mom would only purchase whole grain, non-sugary cereals for our morning bowls, so I would pounce at the chance to grab that box packed with clover and rainbow marshmallows at friend's houses. That leprechaun really hypnotized me with his marketing schpeal. They really were magically delicious. I realized not too long ago that the little leprechaun was the extent of my exposure to Irish culture, that is until I met some real Irishmen (and women) in the traveling community. Thank goodness, because I now find the consistency of the mallows to be rather putrid, and you'd hate to be turned off a country based on a non-authentic food association.

Some white-water kayakers chasing the rapids of the Nile in Uganda. A RTW-er taking a break from overlanding on the beaches of Zanzibar. A woman enjoying some time off while jetting across India. If I were to list all the amazing Irish people I've met in various circumstances, my brain would spin and hurl from overuse. The Irish get out there, and not only are they lovers of fun but make for great friends on the road. As a whole, they're immediately welcoming and seem to understand the comforts and personalities of others quite easily. And when you spend a lot of time away from home, loneliness is often a part of your daily emotional load...that is, unless there are some Irish around.

It wouldn't matter to me what time of year I visit Ireland or what activities I take part in; I would travel to Ireland just to be around the humor and mindset of the people who live there. Sitting in an empty pub, having a pint at the bar, and chatting with the bartender sounds fantastic to me. Falling into a conversation with the man next to me on the bus would probably leave me smiling. And we're darn lucky to be right across the pond from these guys, making it easier to pop on over for a quick break from work to be around a new culture that's impossible not to love.

It wouldn't matter to me what time of year I visit Ireland or what activities I take part in; I would travel to Ireland just to be around the humor and mindset of the people who live there. Sitting in an empty pub, having a pint at the bar, and chatting with the bartender sounds fantastic to me. Falling into a conversation with the man next to me on the bus would probably leave me smiling.

Wild and Sexy Scotland: Day 68

Loch the shape of Scotland

We bolted for the Highlands. There was no stopping us. The bright yellow tour bus resembled the Coors Light Silver Bullet Train in my mind as it streamed like a beast across very green and steadily growing hills. When there was a need to stretch the legs, we stopped in a town that brings to mind the adjectives quaint, cute, and colorful. When our bellies grumbled, pubs and cafes appeared , and never did we leave the big yellow bus door without multiple recommendations for the best food to be had or the best church to be seen. On the bus, it was always learning time. If I were to pack in the amount of knowledge our guide Kyle had about Scotland into my head, surely geometry equations and verb conjugations would shove out my ears. Basically, his brain overfloweth with Scottish facts. He told stories, recounted mythical tales, and even played DJ by orchestrating an eclectic and authentic Scottish playlist. Bus time was never wasted time.

As the landscape got cooler, we began the side trips. The Battle of Culloden was apparently one that determined the fate of our future countries and cultures. Kyle explained the brutal slaughtering of the Jacobites as we stood on the very soil that soaked up the puddling blood. You can do nothing else in such a spirit-filled presence but wander solemnly and imagine mass fatalities occurring on this, currently, luminous land. Eerie.

After having a little cultural reenactment by a traditional Scottish clansmen (man, those clothes must have smelt rugged), Kyle made it possible to take an optional boat ride on the Loch Ness. We boarded as skeptics, thinking we were only there for the scenery and to joke about water monsters, but I returned to solid ground with squinting eyes and an odd sensation that I believed what the sailor aboard was telling us. There really may be a monster, or perhaps 18, in the Loch Ness. There's some pretty eerie "proof" circulating on the down low.

Day two pleased me to no end. The castle from the movie Entrapment?! Get outta town! We walked around what was once majestic, then terrorized and knocked to the ground, and is now rebuilt to its original splendor. Eilean Donan Castle is one famous little stack of rocks at the merging of three lakes, and I oggled the rooftop, trying to envision Sean Connery dropping his whiskey glass into the swampy abyss.

And with a subsequent visit to the Isle of Skye, I was then rocked by colors: slate blue ocean, yellow-green hills, pale blue skies, grey and mossy stones of yore. This day reminded me I see the Highlands permanently stuck in some medieval period, where stones are primary building materials, blood is shed in the most brutal way, and the oldest of English vocabulary is necessary for conversation (though Highlanders usually only spoke Gaelic). It's funny to think where we get these ideas, to suspend a culture in a time we never really knew or witnessed firsthand. I guess Scotland lends to it with the preservation of its medieval castles (as does Florence with the Renaissance architecture or my grandma with her 70s style furniture). We all reminisce about the good 'ol days, I guess.

I was never untouched by the view out the window. The soil of the hills held stories I'd cringe hearing, and the clouds were ever-present to keep the landscape new and changing. Glencoe was no exception to the beautiful Highland rule: this spot on the Earth is towering and begging to be hiked. And when a leisurely drive around the open land brings you past cows with teenage boy hair, you can't help but think the Highlands are hilarious. One may even call them Wild and Sexy.