Monday, August 29, 2016

Recap: This blog's 5 most popular posts

For those whom may be new to this blog, of course you can look at the sidebar to show popular posts as they change on a weekly basis, but I thought I would recap the 5 most popular posts I've published. Hopefully the content appeals to new readers as well.

Happy reading. Cheers!

Cool People Profile: Hazen Audel Originally posted July 22, 2010, providing information about my friend Hazen Audel. Since the post, he has become the host of National Geographic's "Primal Survivor" TV series (2 seasons).

50 Life-changing Trips (Men's Health August 2010) Originally posted on July 05, 2010, I found an interesting (but poorly constructed) article in Men's Health Magazine (August 2010 issue) suggesting "guy trips" that will change your life. I combed through the article and put everything into list format with appropriate links and estimated costs to complete each of the 50 trips, which are still as amazing today as when I first published then in 2010. I've nominally completed 9 of the trips. Note: The list shows 38 trips because several are combined by the magazine.

Japan Country Report Originally posted September 25, 2012, part of an ongoing series of travelogues to detail my personal impressions of countries that I've traveled to; in this case, Japan, one of my favorites.

Why Are Americans Afraid to Travel Overseas? Originally posted on July 20, 2010, I go through some statistics about how only perhaps 1 in 8 Americans has traveled overseas to a country other than Canada, Mexico, or in the Caribbean (all of which, until recently, didn't require a passport). I pose some challenges to American comfort zones and fear of the strange / exotic. That said, when Americans do go overseas, they tend to remember it and truly appreciate the experience. Solution: Travel more!

Geopolitics: Update 2010 Failed States Index Every year I look at the list put out by Foreign Policy Magazine and the Institute for Peace detailing the countries most likely to collapse politically, socially, and environmentally. Unfortunately, many of the "worst countries" on the list stay there year after year, proving that peace is hard won and hard to maintain.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

50 Life-changing trips (Men's Health August 2010)

Adventurous people usually look to others for inspiration and follow their accomplishments. And while I've done a bit of adventurous travel, I don't consider myself a true adventurer... yet. There are plenty of others doing really cool and really great things out there and in the coming weeks, I'll be starting a new column describing some of these cool people. But in the meantime, I look at lists, travelogues, and the plans or ongoing trips of "true" adventurers for my inspiration.

So when I saw an article titled "50 Guy Trips That Will Change Your Life" (by Claire Martin and Greg Melville) in the August 2010 Men's Health magazine, I paid attention. While I find most lists to be superficial or based more on "buying an experience" than true adventure, I think with the right perspective, taking trips hosted by well-known agencies can help. Also, I don't necessarily agree with every point on the Men's Health list but I think it is a good starting point to examine what other people think are good experiences. Look through the list and see if there is a common theme in the experiences you are attracted to and use it as a jumping board for making your life the one you've always dreamed about.

Picture above (taken 2005): The Angkhor Wat, Cambodia temple seen in the movie Laura Croft: Tombraider.

For ease, I've grouped different trips together so the list won't be 50 items in number. I decided to compile this list because I couldn't find a good online version and the magazine format led a bit to be desired (not really in list format). I hope everyone enjoys.

Complete List of Men's Health 50-Life Changing Trips for Men

1. Paddle the Grand Canyon: example trip $4,270 for a 13-18 day 300 mile white water experience.
2. Climb a 14,000 ft mountain peak: List here of such peaks. Examples include climbing Mt. Shasta in California (2-day guided) or climbing Mt. Ranier in Washington (4-day guided).
3. Go-Kart Racing School: example trip $425 for 4 hours at Kart Racing School, Phoenix AZ.
4. Master the art of BBQ grilling: example $1,950 3-day cooking course.
5. Catch and cook your own trout: example $800/day guided fishing and cooking trip with The Ranch at Rock Creek, Montana.
6. Track an elephant with Maasai warriors: example $600/night guided trek in the Chyly Hills, Kenya at Campi ya Kanzi, a Maasai-owned ranch.
7. Visit some renowned and less-touristed National Parks: examples include hiking an 800-mile trail network through the Great Smokey Mountains between Tennessee and North Carolina; visiting Glacier National Park in Montana; seeing wolves at Isle Royale National Park in Michigan; or seeing the back country of Alaska at Wrangell-St. Elias National Park.
8. Kayak with blue whales, the largest mammal ever to live: example $1,000 6-day trip in the Sea of Cortez at Loreto Islands Bay Marine Park.
9. Make your own Pinoit Noir: example $1,750 for 3-day course every September at the Sonoma County Grape Camp, California.
10. Climb a redwood tree: example 1-day course only $65 in Humboldt County, California.
11. Kayak the Galapagos Islands: example $4,490 for an 11-day tour in the area that solidified Charles Darwin's theory of natural selection.
12. Survive alone in the wild: example $1,400 7-day survival school in Southern Utah.
13. Save the Amazon in person: example $2,550 8-day trip with one of the largest conservation groups in the area.
14. Canoe in the wild woods of Maine: example guided $1,250 trip over 100 miles (otherwise canoe rentals only $25/day unguided).
15. Go kite surfing: example $150/day course at Cape Hatteras National Seashore in the North Carolina Outer Banks.
16. Stay in an eco-lodge: good examples include Maho Bay Camps in St. John, US Virgin Islands; the Chaa Creek Lodge in Belize; and the Milia Mountain Retreat in a recreated old stone village on Crete, Greece.
17. Snorkel the Belize barrier reef (I'd also add that the Maldives, from experience, have some of the best and most accessible snorkeling in the world): example $1,050 for 5-day boat trip to the famous blue hole.
18. Go on a fitness boot camp in Hawaii: example $2,250 7-day course in Waikiki (spring) or Maui (fall), including kayaking, swimming, surfing, snorkeling, food, and getting fit the way men used to get fit (by being active and sporty).
19. Hike solo the 150-mile trail through the Annapurna Region of Nepal: just the cost of a guidebook, permits, and some will of character (in my experience, the whole trip besides flights cost under $300 for about 2 weeks).
20. Track your DNA and genetic history: example only $100 through the National Geographic Genographic Project.
21. Go on wine tours in the regions most famous for certain wines: Try Napa Valley, California for modern cabernets and pinot noires, especially taking in the vineyards of the Hess Collection, Joseph Phelps, and Schramsberg; Burgundy, France for the full-bodied reds by the same name (duh), visiting the traditional and storied vineyards of Joseph Drouhin, Bouchard, Père et Fils, and Domaine Faiveley; and visiting Stellenbosch, South Africa for that countries best wine-producing region, taking care not to miss the vineyards of Rustenberg, Boekenhoutskloof, and Thelema Mountain.
22. Dance the samba in the Rio Carnival: Find a samba school to train with, buy the costume, and get a participant's perspective of fine Brasilian booty shaking.
23. Mountain bike to the bottom of Mexico's Grand Canyon, the Copper Canyon of Chihuahua State (and maybe see a Chihuahua dog in its home turf): example $2,700 for an 8-day guided tour to the bottom of the canyon and transport up.
24. Enjoy Ernest Hemingway's Key West: visit Hemingway's house while staying at the historic Southernmost Resort (or any other small bed and breakfast inn) in old town. While you're at it, go big game fishing through one of the dozens of charter companies in Key West and throw back a drink at Sloppy Joe's bar, a Hemingway drinking hole (and besides writing and fishing, he probably did drinking best).
25. Experience Carribean Jazz in person: try The Latin Roots salsa club in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico.
26. Party the night away in Mykonos, Greece because sometimes you just gotta say you did it (like Ibiza) even if it has lost what drew people in the first place (relaxed beach-vibe party atmosphere): stay at The Apenema Resort (because sometimes you're too old to backpack on the beach and get crabs from total strangers).
27. Give back to your local community: examples include working on a bridge in the continental US or mowing the lawn of a soldier stationed abroad, or building a playground, but there are plenty of other ways you can give back if you start looking.
28. Travel first class around the world: from $10,000 using either the Star Alliance, One World, or SkyTeam alliance for round the world (RTW) tickets (more info and links in my former post on RTW travel).
29. Create your own summer camp tradition for friends or family: lakeside vacation cabin rentals can be found here and here.
30. Camp on a volcano: options include Guatemala's Volcán Pacaya for $70 for a 2-day camping trip or staying in Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island of Hawaii. If you don't need an active volcano you could try sleeping with the Mountain Gorillas (perhaps in the very footsteps Dian Fossey took) in Rwanda's volcanic mountains.
31. Take an expedition: the article gave the example of Sebastian Junger, documentary filmmaker and author of The Perfect Storm, who spent 5 1-month trips in Afghanistan over 1 year to live with a platoon of American soldiers and film them as an embedded reporter to make the documentary film Restrepo; you can tag along or plan your own expedition using the inspiration of others or your own heart.
32. Follow a band around the country: pick your band, but I just saw Silversun Pickups at Summerfest in Milwaukee, WI and they seem as engaging as Nine Inch Nails or The Rolling Stones. Or for real old school, go with Public Enemy on their new concert tour.
33. Live in New York City and get involved in the night life: this idea motivated John Varvatos (menswear designer extraordinaire) at the height of the club scene.
34. Join a nature adventure linked to a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO), doing your part physically to help the environment and reaping your own rewards in the process.
35. Climb Mount Everest: It took Bear Grylls, host of Man Vs. Wild, 6 years to train (and his team still lost 2 people); but hey, if you aren't up to the climb or the $50,000 fee, then you can still climb to base camp, which at over 16,000 ft (> 5,000 meters), still ain't too shabby!
36. Help preserve the ocean in person: both the Oceanic Preservation Society and Oceanic Society offer expeditions.

Total cost to do all of the above adventure trips: over $42,000 USD plus transportation costs. Seems expensive but hardly the price of an SUV these days. Which would you rather have, a truck or a lifetime of experiences? And even if you did all of the trips linked above, you don't have to do them continuously.

But remember, the truly adventurous person may just decide to do all of the above or more meaningful trips on their own, under great hardship, and with little expense... of course, sometimes it takes a little nudge to get going in the right direction, so the above trips are good for those only able to fit adventures into their 2-week vacations.

Got only 2 weeks because you have a job, a family, and frankly aren't ready to commit full-time to adventure travel or change careers to a field that encourages adventure (war zone photojournalist, anyone?)? That didn't stop Robert Young Pelton from taking his vacations in some of the world's most dangerous places from his home in California until he was able to scrape up enough material and experience to create a humorous survival guide to travel through warzones and other wacky places. Now, he does it full time, which goes to show that if you follow your passions, whatever they may be, and accomplish them whenever you can (but in a structured manner with goals, however indefinite, in mind) then sometimes the career you dream for finds you.

I'll be profiling Robert Young Pelton this coming thursday and other "cool people" in the coming weeks. While the people may vary in what they do, all are grounded by the common theme that they followed their dreams, often in the background while working day jobs, until their dreams fueled enough momentum to become their all-consuming reality... which ain't a bad thing if you are passionate about what consumes you!

Thanks for reading,


Friday, October 31, 2014

Foto Fridays: Cell phones VS newspapers

For those wont to argue that people are more antisocial from phones...

Monday, October 28, 2013

Fantasy Fest Key West (some pictures, including an appearance by Ron Jeremy)

 Fantasy Fest is an annual celebration in Key West, Florida that is sort of a combination of Mardi Gras, Carnival, and Halloween all rolled into one, but many have trouble pinning it down and defining it.

Perhaps some pictures will help... (click for larger view)

Monday, July 22, 2013

List of fake and real Extra Virgin Olive Oils

"More than two-thirds of common brands of extra-virgin olive oil found in California grocery stores aren't what they claim to be, according to a report by researchers at UC Davis, " said the Los Angeles Times in the story linked to below.

Scroll down to page 10 of the UC-Davis report here for the chart of the various brands.

The tests to determine extra-vrigin oil (acidity, peroxide level, etc.) are listed and described.
"Lab tests cast doubt on olive oil's virginity"

Los Angeles Times

Found to have be fraudulently labeled as Extra-Virgin [often adulterated and mixed with cheaper non-olive oils]:

Whole Foods
Rachel Ray
Newman's Own
Filippo Berio

Found to be accurately labeled as Extra-Virgin:

Kirkland Organic
Corto Olive
California Olive Ranch
McEvoy Ranch Organic