The ominous task of packing. Some of us can brush this task off in an hour. Others spend three days packing because who knows, they might need that fleece cap on that trip to the Bahamas. I'm not perfect, (and that's an understatement) but let me try to tread the fine line between carelessness and paranoia when packing for that overseas trip. If nothing else you will come away with my top ten (you wish you hadn't packed them) items for 2014.
Finally, the holiday season arrived. I could get the hell out of the South as I continued to check the weather on my phone. 18 degrees in my hometown of Pittston, PA. My wife rolled her eyes and grumbled. Like most people she isn't a fan of the cold. I don't know if its because I grew up there for 22 years but there's something about snow and mountains that I just can't get enough of. It was a great time to relax and enjoy the typical holiday festivities along with a brief stop to Washington D.C. to cap off the New Year.
There's nothing like an extended weekend at the beach, especially in the Outer Banks of NC. It was cold, but it still has the best coastline on the Eastern Seaboard in my opinion. Known for its exclusivity and tranquil atmosphere it is the perfect place to get away for a few days. Unexpectedly, it offered a number of opportunities made enjoyable by the colder climate.
The marathon...I probably shoulda prepped a bit more extensively; it was only a half so I survived. I even managed to squeeze out 17th place of the 104 runners in my age group. I know its shocking, but drinking and lack of sleep are not the key to success for running. We worked our way around the northern part of OBX to include Nags Head, Kill Devil Hills, and Manteo. There's is a lot more that meets the eye on a cold day at the beach.
The fall season is upon us again. Cool winds, rainy days, and leaves falling across the ground. Just as quick as it arrives it departs like a shadow in the night. Oh, and did I mention the greatest holiday in existence? I'm talking about Halloween of course? All of you haters out there; I challenge you to find me another holiday that has something for everyone like Halloween does. Kids get mountains of candy, teens get underage costume parties, adults get an excuse to drink, and the elderly get attention when kids knock at their door. Yeah... how about that philosophical bomb. Though it is traditionally a local holiday, getting out and traveling during the season may give you the most fright for your flight. Try any of these prospective Hollows Eve locations to really get in the spirit.
I was driving home from a long day of work when my car suddenly announced in its sarcastic robot voice, " ANNIVERSARY IN 2 WEEK, CONGRATS LARRY". I realized I was woefully unprepared this year.
I have no idea what men have left in the imagination department on their 30th Anniversary. That's probably why they just start buying expensive shit like diamonds and cars, they can't think of anything else.
I've been with my wife for 8 years. That's eight birthdays, eight Christmases, eight Valentines Days, I think your getting the idea. Its not easy to keep your woman impressed after you continue to one up yourself year after year. So I did the only thing I could do; drank whiskey and hit the Google Search button on my desktop. What I found turned out to be a perfect weekend in Savannah, GA.
Recently I had the chance to get down to Myrtle Beach, SC. It is long overdue since I've been at Bragg for nearly 4 years now. I packed a lot into 48hrs; from beach fronts to black swamps to Georgetown harbor, I was moving all over the place. And the kicker, my parents were in town.... now we are really in trouble people.
It was the summer of 2010. I was heading off the Airborne School in Ft. Benning, GA. On my way I stopped in Memphis, TN. Unknown to me, it was biker week in downtown Memphis. Thousands of riders come out each year. In one of those rare circumstances, I just so happened to walk right into the middle of it. There was everything you could imagine, bikers of all kinds, from your leisurely day job riders to people who lived on the road. There were hippies, tourists, metal heads, a ton of police, and passer bys like myself. Most importantly there was musicians, so many I couldn't even tell you. It was a week of serious blues music and I was loving it. I'm not sure if its because of the music or the fact that I wasn't expecting what I had found. It was, and still is, one of the most memorable places I've ever visited. To see all my pictures check out my Memphis page here.
Admittedly this blog came about while playing my buftravels drinking game. Its pretty straight forward but no need for the details; I was in a very "altered" state and had a bit of enlightenment during the process. I thought, what would be the worst place I could be in right now in my condition? Folks, no need to risk your lives. Between a bit of research and a few 1st hand experiences here are the top things to steer clear from while killing your personal mini keg. You'll thank me for this blog one day; I accept checks or cash. Or you can always leave me a line in the comments section and get another free gift from buftravels. The greatest magnet you will ever own shipped to your door absolutely free. It may look better than your fridge though.
In previous blogs, I’ve talked about transit during your overseas trip; getting from one place to another. In some cases it can serve more curious than the place you end up. From gondolas to go-carts and oceans to deserts you may rethink travel methods next time you opt for the run of the mill taxi.
I have talked to several married couples that sadly state that they have never taken a honey moon. Until September of 2012 that was also true for my wife and I. It was our 7th year anniversary and my 3rd time overseas. I was coming home on leave on the 1st of September and our anniversary was on the 2nd. I wanted to take her some place that she would enjoy, would be memorable, and that would give us plenty of time alone. At first we considered the beach but after much juggling of the idea we decided that the mountains would give us the privacy we wanted and still allow us to have a good time with attractions in the area. As John Muir once said “The Mountains are calling and I must go”.
If your sitting halfway across the world what else is there to do? Running the 2013 Dubai Marathon was an experience that will be hard to forget for both good and painful reasons. It turned out to be one unique travel opportunity. Not only are you in a new part of the world; your seeing it in a truly exceptional way. Places and people you wouldn't have seen normally while taking a path that is definitely less traveled. They don't close six lanes of traffic for people to walk down the street everyday. Add police cars, motor bikes, mounted cameras and helicopters. Then it becomes even more fascinating. Did I mention you get a chance to run a course that world competitors
are running at the same time? Read more for my biggest takeaways from my first marathon and why you should consider one on your next overseas adventure.
I’ve only been to handful of countries but I have picked up quite a bit when it comes to building a trip itinerary and maximizing your options. Usually, I average about five locations per 2 weeks. That may not sound like much but it’s the consideration of variables you need to look at. My big three are cost vs. value, effort vs. fulfillment, and complexity vs. convenience. As a foundation, I found these to be sound and fitting. They serve as gauges to estimating the total experience you will be getting on your dollar and your time. Use these guidelines or don’t. Regardless, I guarantee it will spur questions you never knew you had and answer ones you have always been asking.
According to the good old Mayan calendar, the 21st of December, 2012 marks the end of the world for all you weirdos out there; I guess that would be me. If you haven’t been tracking, it it’s a 2000 year old prophecy stating that on this date the world will end with some cataclysmic event or a "new beginning".
The good news is that there is a host of other prophecy theories that corroborate this (yes that’s good news). Basically, if this doesn’t happen all of the “end of the world” predictions will be debunked. Although, there are some spectacular places to see and things to do before it’s all over. It will make you take a step back; I know I did after finding a few of these. Plus, I have to write this blog before the end of the world ; ) Enjoy my top list of places and things to do with your time on this most final Christmas season. I’ll still got $20 on the bet that I will be seeing you again next year though. Enjoy the list and have a very Merry Christmas!
To my few and random followers out there, I apologize for the extended hiatus. As you are fully aware, the Holidays are upon us, the turkey is dead, and Christmas madness is in full swing. I wish I could be in the states right now to see the chaotic raging disorder at shopping centers everywhere. It’s the closest thing to a real zombie apocalypse. Hundreds of thousands of people drudging out of bed at 4am, aggressive, with one goal in mind. P.S. -To the mobility scooter army out there looking for me, "Not gunna find me this year!" Had a few drinks with my brother and went to a shopping center at 4am last year; got hit by three people……. two of those people were in mobility scooters. Thus the conspiracy blossomed.
In the spirit of the season, heading into a gladiatorial battle to get the last $5 iPhone is a rush. Getting hit in the face by a soccer mom is priceless but what if you didn’t feel like it, or you just got finished paying off the medical bills you sustained from last year. I got one word for you…….. INTERNET. There have never been more opportunities to get some great things at great prices. For once I’m telling you keep your keys on the table; get some whiskey, get a nice chair, and get a good internet connection. We are about to follow the "white rabbit". (If you didn't get that you probably didn't get my Yoda jokes either).
I have officially published the pictures for both AUS and NZ. The video logs & journal for AUS has also been published. Lastly, be sure to check back every once in a while as I am starting my journals for Italy, and Germany and will be updating them throughout the season. If you like these journal logs send me a shout out and let me know. I write this thing to provide context, advice, and stories to enjoy with all of you,...... strangers that I don't know, for what reason, I have no idea. I'm just doing my part to make the internet a little less boring. My rambling self will always be on here providing you with a level of travel planning that is, well not like professional travel planning,....... its more fun than that. x )
P.S. If anyone is out there from the UK get at me, I have some questions of my own as I may be coming to a town near you in the future. Hide your kids, hide your wife, hide your dog, but please don't hide the whiskey. And of course, Cheers!
BLUF- For all the PETA activists and vegans out there, you best go hide under a hemp blanket.
I've had a lot of nights in my life, many of which I can't fully remember and I've been a lot of places, most which I will never see again. Through it all, there's only one thing that's been a constant and that's the jacket. Maybe its because I grew up in the northern Pennsylvania, stumbling through blizzards every other day but the jacket becomes a permanent staple. Like it or not, we are a superficial society. People start remembering you by that appearance and it becomes a part of who you are. This isn't a bad thing, but you should take the time to consider it. My jacket has saved me from typical (rain, hail, sleet, snow, dust, dirt, etc.) More importantly, its saved me from not so typical things ( rocks, beer, piss, puke, blood, fire, cornfields, the police, boring people, etc.) Wingman my ass, the jacket has saved me quite a bit. And I've had mine for nearly a decade, that's a lot of saves,....... especially the fire. I think those are good enough reasons to have one, but if you need some more than here you go.
I'm not sure whether God or Satan created airports, but depending on which one your in, it can seem like one of those is the right answer. Surviving the dreadful land of "AIRPORT" can be a challenge indeed. Images of mass overcrowding, snappy TSA agents, screaming babies, $10 coffees, annoying kids, and people smashing your heels off with their mobility scooters start flashing in front of you. If you have never been through an airport before, or just haven't traveled, don't worry, there's plenty of those times waiting for you. Hey, I'm just the messenger here. Before you get discouraged though, don't worry, what's a good military officer without a plan. From the person who steps into an airport for the first time, to the rugged veteran, the game is always changing and you want to be on top. Here are some tips to give you a head start. And unfortunately, I am not bullshitting you about being detained in Italy. I fell on that sword so we can all learn how to avoid detainment. It's all here folks.
This may seem like a bold statement and your right, it is, and I have good reason. Many of us in the USA squirm when the topic of physical fitness starts. We're a nation of fatties, let's all face reality people. We're just a bunch of fatty mic-fattsters blubbering around. Over twenty years of a society increasingly focused on convenience and fast food hasn't done anything good for us.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and prevention more than one-third of U.S. adults (35.7%) and approximately 17% (or 12.5 million) of children and adolescents aged 2—19 years are obese .. Yes I said obese, that's not even overweight statistics. Nobody wants to see those. Sure maybe I'm biased being in the military where physical fitness is a factor but these are some of my top reasons that you won't get to see the same, sights, sounds, and people that you would see if you were physically fit.
Spending countless hours combing through travel destinations and top ten lists I found myself in a mind numbing trance of glowing ambient screens and repetition. It was always the same thing; really expensive vacations or skimming by on public transit and hostel diving. The options got stale and I thought to myself, “There’s got to be other things out there”. Well, my inner consciousness was right. Unknown to your average person running the 8-5pm hamster wheel there are tons of unique travel opportunities out there. Best of all, many of these are for a good cause and will truly put you on the adventure path. You will learn new words like WWOOFing, Sustainable Traveling, and Charity Travel. And I know you want to know what the hell WWOOFing is. The answers to these burning questions and more.
I had the chance to speak with a colleague who recently covered 9 different countries in 15 days, definitely an impressive feat. I couldn't help but ask, "Did you feel like it was a bit much in that time?" He responded with, "well, if it wasn't for my guide I definitely wouldn't have made it". He went on to tell me about his guide and driver. The guys who took them everywhere and the ones would get them back to their hostel after partying till 4am. The ones that woke them up at 6am to go whitewater rafting, or skiing, or whatever else the activity was for that day. The ones who stowed them away in the travel van before they got arrested one night. I was a little jealous. "So you just partied to oblivion and these two kept you alive and moving huh?", I asked. He looked at me, a grin spreading across his face, "Pretty much yeah, that's how it went down." In addition to my thoughts of how brilliant that was, another thought popped into my head, what if my friend never had the magical travel fairy with him? How would things have turned out. Would they have been as glorious?
Its been almost 3 years since I built my first website. In that time its been anything but a cake walk to success. Believe me, I still have quite a battle. I could never figure it out. My pages were well laid out, content was professional, and presentation was original. Yet for some reason the ball just never got rolling.
While I am still very far away from what I defined "success" as before, things have been re-framed and the picture is different now. I've had the opportunity to get knocked down and get back up. While I'm still getting the snot knocked outta me in this endevour I ain't down for the count just yet. So I have taken 3 years of my previous misconceptions and errors to create a short but pain saving compilation of the things I did, and more importantly, the things I did not do to make my first attempt successful.
When I get to a new country I always get it, the flutter in my chest, the sweaty palms, and the adrenaline at its peak. There's just something about the feeling of touching down in another country that I will never get over. My mind is racing and I find myself flipping the switch. By that I mean that my mindset totally changes and its game on, I have my camera ready and I'm not afraid to use it. My wife and friends can attest to this transformation quite distinctly.
I took over 300 shots in Venice alone. Others be damned, but I'm the weirdo snapping shots in all kinds of places standing on a bench, kneeling on the sidewalk, etc. etc. That's part of the adventure and I have never regretted it. Its fun to get out of your shell and break the rigidity of human behavior every once in a while, right? And there's an excuse, your adventuring! The problem can be when you find your eyes on the camera screen more than on the vast expanse of where you are. Thankfully my wife tends to bring me back to reality now and again (god bless her heart). The experience is just as important as documenting it. Here is my best stab at breaking down the paradox. First lets look at "Getting the Shot"
So you have finally caught a break. The stars have aligned in perfect harmony, and you have the money, time, and availability to go on an overseas trip. Your eyes have darted around Google maps for weeks and you have found the country you want. Before you start digging your old luggage out of the closet here are some great things to take into consideration. But who am I to tell you what to do, the nerve of this guy right.... Well I've been the guy who pulled the bags out of his closet and took off and I learned a lot of these lessons, just in a much more inconvenient and sometimes painful way. Because I'm such a bleeding heart I wouldn't want to see someone else go through it when they didn't have to so here we go. This is the first piece of the puzzle to get the most out of your overseas trip. Great travels, Larry.