Thailand

110,745 kilometers later: an update on Nomadderwhere

110,745 kilometers later: an update on Nomadderwhere

I'm watching the Vancouver Marathon from my apartment window and giggling as seagulls drift by at eye-level. Canada represents my final destination of this academic year, and though it was an exciting year and an important one for my own growth, I am glad it's behind me.

Traveling with a math expert this year introduced me to the beauty of slow data. With every car ride or room change, she plugged miles traversed or beds switched into a spreadsheet. By the end of 220 days "on the road," she presented to us the impressive numbers of our #cdtravels:

  • 110,745 kilometers of transit = 2.76 times around the world
  • Total hours on planes, trains & automobiles (not layovers or wait time): 246 hours / 6 work weeks
  • 50 beds roughly, averaging 4.4 nights per bed

If you're wondering why I spent the last year making an epic carbon footprint (not proud of that), take a peek at the TGS Changemaker Program and read my post on this curriculum development mission. If you're not sure how I went from travel media to writing curriculum documents for a high school, I understand your confusion. It surprised me, too. Here's something on my evolution.

Last year at this time, I was living in Florence, Italy with THINK Global School, plugging away at graduate school and enjoying as stable a lifestyle as I've achieved in the last decade. Between then and now, I changed jobs, visited ten countries, and wrote two years of projects with three colleagues.

Here's what it was like...

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And then I became a teacher...

And then I became a teacher...

I started writing this blog post in February of 2012. Nearly two years later, I am able to look clearly at the progression of my job and see it within the larger context of my career and life. After applying for a job as a "Videographer," I am now a teacher, producer, and temporarily wearing the shoes of an ed tech coordinator. I've always believed that travel expedites growth and maturation, and if that wasn't clear to me in a professional sense before, it definitely is now.

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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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Nomadderwhere on the Black Informant Podcast

I'm such a sorry case for a writer that I'm actually stalling the publication of a post on how I haven't written anything in a while! 2011 for Nomadderwhere is a Catch 22 kind of year. If that's not clear, then stick around for the explanation coming whenever I get my act together. In the meantime, my interview with the Black Informant found its way onto the internet for your listening pleasure! Prior to this, I'd never done a radio interview before. I thought for sure my charming stutter would shine through, but it turns out radio is just about the easiest kind of interview there is (aside from letting the publicist type your answers while you're busy getting a pedicure and playing Xbox, so I would imagine).

Black Informant Podcast

Black Informant Podcast

In this podcast, Duane Brayboy and I discuss:

  • the genesis of my travel obsession.

  • how travel transformed my personality, my learning, and the way I expressed myself.

  • storytelling and the power of descriptive detail with words, photos, or video.

  • documentary and editorial photography while on the road.

  • the most meaningful photographs I've ever taken.

  • impressions of Haiti and the apocalyptic media uproar.

  • where to next.

Photographing in D.C.

Photographing in D.C.

I enjoyed chatting with Duane and also hope this little update post whips me back into content cranking gear.

What did you think of the podcast? Now, I didn't do this interview just to hear myself talk. Please do share your own insight on what we discussed: Haiti's media coverage, your own travel obsession genesis, the most meaningful photos you've taken, and anything else.

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.

Healing the Sniffles in Bangkok: Day 194

A cold front came through my immune system, and I felt an incredible amount of "build-up" form in my throat and nose. Delicious. Throughout the bus ride from Phnom Penh to Bangkok, I attempted to sleep off the imminent sickness, knowing I wouldn't get to shut my eyes until at least 6 or 7am the following morning. Transit days…there's nothing like 'em.

It took a solid day, and a border crossing on foot, to make the overland jaunt to the Southeast Asian hub of economy, excitement, shopping, etcetera. I planned on finding a place to throw my bag for a couple hours and enjoying the backpacker alley known as Khao San Road to the best of my sickly ability.

The street was a pedestrian strip akin to a lively Spring Break destination or a modest Hong Kong/Las Vegas stretch. Overstimulation, indeed.

Thanks to some quick guide book perusal the night before, I knew where to eat if I wanted something authentic, albeit established. Sitting on the floor of Mama Something-or-Other's, I blew my nasal brains out while waiting for a hot bowl of broth and a cold lassi. The comfortable ambiance of sitting on floor cushions made me feel welcome enough to camp out here all night, updating blogs on the once-again functioning Blackberry and developing Christmas lists for family and friends, the items on which to be purchased on the streets below. I resisted the temptation to hang for a little adventure.

I had four or five hours to wander and roam, and so I committed massive chunks of time pushing through racks of locally made punk t-shirts, finding the perfect patch vendor and picking his brain for advice on taxi-to-airport scams, and indulging in a Thai massage.

For roughly $12, I received a wow-inducing foot rub and Thai body massage that nearly knocked me into a state of sub-consciousness. My head rolled to the side and jerked back up into reality while my feet received powerful knuckles of pressure release. Upon going upstairs to a communal quiet room for body cracking and loosening, my nose became a gushing falls during wet season. It was all I could do to avoid making a mess on the cushions or create a nasty nasal symphony in this place of meditation. I got by with a monster handful of napkins from my dinner joint.

I continued to wander well into the wee hours and kept my wits about me, often looking back to make sure no one was following me or going to peek out from a nook in the alley. However, I felt incredibly safe in this atmosphere, regardless of the lingering teens around hotels and bars, the constant police sweeps, and certain extra attention given to me by a healer on the street.

A man with a flashy belt buckle, a Robin Hood hat, a cut off slim t-shirt, and the tightest denim shorts I'd ever seen sat gawking at the passersby from his perch on a self-brought folding chair in the road. He was roughly 60, and his comments often involved the "F" word, some mentioning of an individual's energy or chi, and a loud cry guessing what embarrassing thing that person was off to do. I'd quote him now to give you an idea, but I think I was in shock of this crazy man.

He called to me as I passed by, telling me I should smile more and to come sit down by him for a while. He wants to talk to me, help me out…F this F that I don't want to take your money. Who do you think I am?

He seemed fun. I sat down.

As he continued to watch the people going about their nightly business, he discussed with me why he thought I was upset and full of acid (not acid the drug, mind you). Two liters of acid I had in me; that's what he said. He was a tantric healer, and since he had already made his day's pay, he would give me a cleansing for free. Only 45 minute.

Naturally, I was skeptical and shook my head "no" every time he offered.

Another woman walked by, a Croatian, who remembered this man from nights previous, heard his calls to her and came over. He began telling her all the things he remembered of her since she had come to Khao San Road. He'd seen her walking with friends, boys and girls, and asked about all things personal and shameful. After concluding that she had even more liters of acid than I had, the much more courageous woman allowed him to heal her there on the street. It was 2:45am.

I won't give you a play-by-play of his techniques, but the one that made me want to cry, scream, and vomit simultaneously needs to be mentioned. The tantric healer sealed his mouth over her nostrils and blew as hard as he could into her sinuses. Her face turned a purple beyond red. Her mouth open, she immediately began coughing up a storm and spitting beside her chair. I believe she even let him do it one more time.

For one brief moment, I sniffed up the build-up still in my nose and considered getting a quick purge from Mr. Chi here, but before that idea became a thought bubble he could possibly detect, I shivered at the thought and held tight to my "no" head shake.

His explanations of what was wrong with me went on, and I guess I like to think there's some mystical Eastern power that presides in the gifted few that make this their profession because I found myself almost believing him. I was not about to let him make out with my runny nose, though, or perform any number of the tricks that happen off the main thoroughfare in his "studio"; I left him to his work and went for noodles.

Bangkok was a quick excursion and one that instilled in me an intense longing to return to Thailand for at least months. There were beaches and mountains and jungles and alleyways to soak in. This country would be a quick escape I would plot in the back of my mind while working in a gray cubicle on the 10th floor of an art deco building in Somewhereville, USA.

That is…if I could survive the ride to the airport.

I used my recently obtained knowledge to get the right price on a cab to the airport, a newly-built facility that measures almost a kilometer in length. The driver asked if I wanted to take the city streets or the highway. I said, honestly, "Whatever's cheaper. I only have this much." I had the perfect amount that would account for a fair fare and a decent tip. He proceeded to book it on not just the highway but the roads leading to the on-ramp.

I kid you not, we were approaching stop lights going 80 mph.

Our top speed was around 100 mph on the highway. The speed limit was around 60, to accommodate the scattered waves in the pavement that sent my stomach into my bowels.

He traversed the straight, multi-lane highway like it was a winding road, making sure he wouldn't get behind a car crawling at speeds of 50 and 60 mph. This would have been the moment where you and your travel buddy exchange looks that say, "We may die tonight." Instead, I sat alone in the back middle seat, grasping my seat belt with white knuckles, and staring into the rear view mirror with saucer-like eyes.

This was the last night of my solo journey before boarding the flight that eventually took me to all sorts of home. Home with a layover to see familiar faces, home with a layover to reconnect with my bloodline, and home to my actual geographic region of birth. I was jones-ing for morsels of the familiar, but with such a homecoming comes the complete termination of my fantasy world no one from home knows about: my travels.

I accepted this sad reality, reluctantly, with heavy eyelids and a massive sigh into slumber, stretched across four seats on my flight to Tokyo.