Foot Photos

Admit it, we all do it. All travelers have their own selfie-type photos they take.

Some take photos with sunrises and sunsets or in front of iconic monuments. Some with locals, some have fire engine fetishes and some meals they eat food photos.

I have been know to take “foot photos”…

9 - MIA - GSH 2015 (54)

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Canaima Lagoon - Venezuela

GE2009 (547)

Myanmar 2012 (227)

But this well-traveled  young man takes foot photos to a whole new extreme.

Meet Andrej Ciesielski….and his foot photo

…and his latest exploits…

 

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A Dirty Dozen Travel Myths

Myths are true legends of actual facts that never happened.”

We are in the middle of winter and we are all just coasting along until the next edition of The Global Scavenger Hunt begins April 15th. Many of us are now susceptible to believe things that just aren’t true—like campaign commercials!

Travel is no different. Urban legends and false truism abound among travelers.

Culled from my vast travel-related archives, here are my dirty dozen travel myths that don’t seem to go away:

Travel Myth #1 – The famous Dream Seat lives! No, I am sorry to say, it is not real. The utterly romantic belief that the person of your dreams (aka your future significant other that you will live happily ever after with…) will just plop down right beside you on that 45-minute commuter flight to Des Moines, or on that 13-hour flight between LAX and HKG—is utter BS. No one likes to be drooled on fella. And everyone gets bad breath after eating the mystery meat too. I know of no couple that has ever met on an airplane! Do you?

Travel Myth #2 – You never feel the bobbing and weaving on cruise ships. Right…and I have this 20% annual rate of return investment vehicle for you too! Indeed, it has to be said, that for the most part, cruise ships are incredibly stable. Most have stabilizers and modern technological advances; but, different folks have different tolerances for the pitch (up and down) and roll (back and forth) movements of cruise ships—especially during heavy high seas. Seasickness (aka motion sickness) is real and there is a big market for it—on cruise ships!

Travel Myth #3
– The airline brace position will save your life in the highly unlikely event of an airplane crash. Hmm, a lot of things might save your life—like where you are sitting on the plane, whether you are drunk or not, whether the plane hits the ground at 600mph or at 120mph, whether it explodes into a fireball or not, whether you land in the water or into a mountain, whether the plane disintegrates midair, whether the plane is full of fuel or empty, whether your incident occurs in a rich country or a precarious failed state, whether you are flying with a CAA approved crew or not, etc…Yes, these things might decide your fate. But, putting your hands on your head and your head between your knees (if you can actually fit there with smaller and smaller seat sizes)—maybe not so much! It could just be a Cold War era remnant from the duck and cover mentality (aka kiss your ass good bye)? BTW: The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) itself claims that the brace position is designed to help minimize fatalities and injuries caused by flying debris in the cabin—not in the crash itself.

Travel Myth #4
– Everyone always needs an international driver’s permit (IDP) when driving outside North America. Nope, you don’t always need one, in fact you usually don’t. Different countries have different rules. Most European countries, and former British Commonwealth nations like South Africa Australia and New Zealand (BTW: Canada is in North America!), among others, you don’t need one to rent or drive a car. A valid U.S. or Canadian driver’s license is enough. For the most part, the so-called international driving permit issued by AAA, is nothing more than your own valid driver’s license translated into different languages for local non-English speaking cops to be able to read!

Travel Myth #5
– Your personal electronic devices will interfere with the plane’s navigation systems. Utter hogwash! (But never argue with a flight attendant about shutting off and stowing your electronic devices.) Who amongst us hasn’t inadvertently left them on for an entire 5-hour cross country flight at some point? (And I have the roaming charges to prove it!). All those laptops and iPads, MP3 players and gaming platforms, iPhones and Blackberries, don’t affect the airplanes electronics—or they wouldn’t be allowed period! There are twin non-electrical-related issues here: 1) people might not pay full attention to the flight attendants in times of emergency; and 2) those items, like any airplane item, risk becoming lethal projectiles in the event of an impact or sudden deceleration. It is all about safety (and airlines figuring out a way to make new fees)—not the planes navigational systems.

Travel Myth #6
– Those hotel key cards have all your personal information coded on them. Nope just another urban legend. Don’t worry about losing them or someone “hacking” them either. All they have is a random alpha numeric code to open one door in the whole hotel.

Travel Myth #7 – You can accumulate one million miles flying a year on your frequent flyer program. Well, not really. This is huge a myth among so-called road warriors—wing-nuts who take flights to nowhere just to accumulate additional airline miles. Maybe you can use an affinity credit card a lot to purchase other goods and services, but you certainly can’t fly a million miles a year unless you are an astronaut. Just do the math: 1,000,000 miles divided by 365 days = 2,740 miles-a-day (at least six hours a day of actual time in the air) every day for a year! Nuff said…

Travel Myth #8 – Train travel is always cheaper than air travel in Europe. Nope, not any more with so many no-frills discount airlines, both domestic and international, exploding on the scene over the past decade. I recently flew from Vienna, Austria (VIE) to Paris, France (CDG) for US$20! Of course my bag cost another US$30, but hey, it was still cheaper and faster. It cost US110 and took 13-hours by train. Ditto for most other major inter-European destinations.

Travel Myth #9 – You will be arrested for attempting to join the infamous Mile High Club during a flight. Well, maybe yes, but usually no. I would not attempt it in an Islamic nation that’s for sure… But, according to the Civil Aviation Authority again, there are no specific laws that govern the matter. That said, various countries have their own laws governing public sex and in reality the flight attendants that I have talked to say go for it, but be discreet—no screaming, yelling or kicking—and be quick! And never try to join the club by yourself in your seat!

Travel Myth #10
The more megapixels a digital camera has the better. That’s just the bigger is better, and more is always good mentality speaking—it’s not true after a certain point. As you may know, megapixels are those tiny dots that make up a picture, so a five-megapixel camera captures photos that make up five million tiny dots of information. Two things: It doesn’t matter what the megapixel size is if you take a bad photo—it will always be a bad photo! Plus, the bigger the megapixels size the bigger the memory card needs to be to hold all your photos. But, here’s the bottom-line, megapixels only really matter if you are either cropping out large portions of a photo or making a giant poster-sized enlargement of one. So, unless you are a pro, having a four or five megapixel camera is perfect. The rest is all marketing hype.

Travel Myth #11 – Travel now while you can before you have children, because you can’t travel afterward. This is just plain bull sh#t! Of course you can still travel with them, but yes you will have to slow down and adjust to their level, lower your expectations about what you can and cannot do and travel is obviously much easier and less expensive without them—but you still can. As I like to say, “Traveling with my partner is a real vacation, traveling with my kids is a real adventure.”

Travel Myth #12
– There is a right way to travel. Wrong, there is no formula right way to travel. There is no cookie cutter one-size-fits-all approach to travel. Some folks love to sleep on the beach, while others are adrenaline junkies. Some like the tried and true and hang with the herd, while others head off to parts unknown by themselves off the beaten path. Some folks just need a long weekend to get a vibe, while others need to immerse themselves for a whole year. There is no right way to travel, and one is not better than the other (ridiculous traveler versus tourist debate); like appreciating art, it is wholly subjective, personal and an individual experience.

What are your top travel myths? We can’t wait to hear them…

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RIP Kenneth F. Crutchlow (1945-2016)

RIP Kenneth Crutchlow (1945-2016)

Thrilled, I shared a trip around the world with Kenneth in 1989, competing together in a crazy global race from San Francisco to New York City (the long way)  on public transportation called the HumanRace.

His curious and boisterous spirit was exhibited front and center from the moment you met him…”Her Britannic Majesty’s  Secretary of State Requests and requires in the Name of Her Majesty all those whom it may concern to allow the bearer to pass freely without let or hindrance, and to afford the bearer such assistance and protection as may be necessary,” he would proudly proclaim with a loud thump of his hand on a table as he bared his British passport. Kenneth was a gracious and vibrant storyteller always accompanied with his tweed jacket, deerstalker and brolly. You couldn’t not like him.

I am privileged to have known him and been able to spend some interesting times traveling the world with him and sharing a pint, or two, on occasion. My condolences go to his family and many friends.

You will be missed Kenneth.
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His Obit from today’s THE PRESS DEMOCRAT | 18 January 2016 paper:

Ex-Santa Rosa ocean rowing enthusiast Kenneth Crutchlow dies at 71

Kenneth Crutchlow, a champion of the lonely, treacherous sport of ocean rowing and easily one of the most audacious and intriguing chaps ever to grace Sonoma County, died Sunday in his native England.

Crutchlow, a daredevil and risk-taker who all his life pushed the boundaries of human experience and had a heck of lot of fun doing so, was 71.

He had hitchhiked and talked his way around the world — for the prize of a beer — when he settled in Sonoma County in 1976. Five years later, he shipped over a small fleet of black London cabs and opened a taxi service in the town of Sonoma; he expanded later into Santa Rosa and Healdsburg.

For decades, the dominant passion of the lanky entrepreneur and adventurer was ocean rowing, typically involving a single adventurer in a small, efficient, manually powered boat.

In 1983, Crutchlow was the chief supporter and advocate of fellow British subject Peter Bird’s first-ever row from San Francisco to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. It was history’s longest nonstop row, 294 days and 9,000 miles.

Also in ’83, Crutchlow and Bird founded the Ocean Rowing Society International to monitor and advance the efforts of people bold enough to take on oceans alone.

With Crutchlow as his manager, Bird attempted five times to become the first person to row the north Pacific from Russia to California. He was lost at sea on a voyage that began in March 1996.

Though heartbroken by his friend’s death, Crutchlow continued to encourage and assist ocean rowers. For years, he directed the Ocean Rowing Society from an office in Santa Rosa.

At various times in his bold, utterly unpredictable life, Crutchlow pushed himself in running shoes or on a bike or in a swimsuit up mountains, across Death Valley and through the frigid waters from Alcatraz to the San Francisco shoreline.

His global perspective, fearlessness and compassion drove him also, more than 30 years ago, to spearhead the release of a British treasure hunter jailed in Vietnam. Several years after that, he successfully pressed for the freedom of two Thai fishermen imprisoned in Vietnam for having ferried the treasure hunter to an island there.

Crutchlow went broke mounting those humanitarian missions. For much of his life, his finances ebbed and flowed dramatically as he threw himself into ventures the typical person would avoid like a pit of crocodiles.

Crutchlow returned to London a number of years ago. His wife, Tatiana, was with him when he died Sunday of stomach cancer.

Friend Kirk Veale, a longtime Santa Rosa businessman who had helped to sponsor Bird’s rows, revered Crutchlow as an extraordinary, visionary man able “to experience life far beyond what the normal person would ever experience.”

Added Veale, “He did it, unbelievably, on no money.”

Said Guerneville resident Tom Lynch, who had traveled with Crutchlow and witnessed his fearless verve, “Oh, my God, he was a character. It’s a sad day.”

There are preliminary plans for a celebration of Crutchlow’s intrepid and colorful life in the North Bay in the spring.

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Good Travel Mates Are Priceless

I have found out that there ain’t any surer way to find out whether you like people or hate them than to travel with them.” – Mark Twain

I know good team work when I see it. Think: Connery & Caine, Huck Finn & Tom Sawyer, Hunter S. Thompson & Lazlo, Don Quixote & Sancho, to name s a few.

As a human being who is hooked on traveling, I understand that having the right travel companion can make the world of difference between embarking on a dream adventure, or being caught up in an endless nightmare.

In the past, I have made it a point to take prospective romantic partners on a trip to test our travel compatibility. Because if you can make it on the road dealing with logistic snafus, cultural nuances, language challenges, utilizing your Travel IQ, overcoming jet lag and physical dissimulation, well, you can deal with the more mundane daily issues of life. And I firmly believe that.

I remember one test drive romance to Paris. She preferred haute couture window shopping and Michelin-starred dinning; while I was prone to picnics in the park and hanging with Jim Morrison’s friends in a Pere Lachaise Cemetery. Despite the sparks flying, that one didn’t work out. Then there was the test drive to Jamaica for the annual reggae Sunsplash Festival. She wanted to hang by the pool and order room service; whereas I went windsurfing and listened to live reggae until dawn. That didn’t work either.

Then there was the test drive I took with a woman to the downtrodden developing nation of Myanmar back in the ’90s. She didn’t mind getting up pre-dawn to catch the morning Buddhist rituals, spending time in odorous wet markets or taking all manner of 4-legged public transportation to off the beaten path spots. We clicked and I have been with her ever since.

Needless to say, traveling with a compatible mate is important. Our annual travel adventure event takes extraordinary determination, chutzpah, daring, grit, and even some intestinal fortitude to participate — and maybe even win the title of The World’s Greatest Travelers. I firmly believe that we as 21st century members of homo touristicus never feel more alive than when we are overcoming obstacles and personal challenges. And traveling done right is all of that. But there is a limit, because travel clearly takes you outside your comfort zone (your happy box), and how you react to being outside that comfort zone is telling about you — and your relationship. It can be the deal breaker.

Traveling with a mate obviously tests your interpersonal skills on a multitude of levels. Not only because it is necessary for travelers to trust strangers in strange lands; but more importantly, because traveling with someone forces you to have a positive and constructive working relationship — whether you are in Topeka or Timbuktu.

Vacation personalities, travel styles, and interests vary among us homo touristicus. Team compatibility comes down to four essential issues: curiosity, tastes, pace and respect. Travelers inevitably have different goals and expectations, buy being patient, compassionate and showing empathy towards each other is critical. Who needs any unnecessary reality TV show-like drama, right?

So, to that end, below are a few of the things that over years I have learned to consider when traveling with a partner around the world to exotic, and sometimes less than optimally functioning, destinations:

● Are you AM people, or PM people? How will you overcome those differences?

● Are you competitive Type A planners, or more laid back Type B free-spirits? How will you find a happy functioning balance?

● Are you people people or a go it alone person? Which of you is best equipped to deal with and be kind to strangers?

● Are you a three-square meals a day type, or a 24/7 snack-type eater? How will you compromise when energy and blood sugar levels start getting low?

● Are you left-brained, or right-brained? Can it be managed?

● Are you a natural leader, or follower? How will you make tough decisions and compromises when you are both right? Will it be a fair decision?

● Are you an analytical planner, or a seat-of-the-pants spontaneous and instinctual wanderer type? How will you manage that? Can you manage to be early and on time, or will you always be rushing at the last-minute?

● Are comfortable silences okay with both of you? Will you respect each others alone time needs?

● How will the other react when one of you just needs some simple non-dramatic alone & quiet time?

Some other more practical realities include:

● Are you a frugal traveler or a nothing-but-the-best type? How will you deal with on-the-road expenses? 50/50 each transaction? Or keep a tab?

● How will you split duties and create a successful division of labor? Packing, logistics, transactions, safety, currency exchanges, food & water?

● How do you make a consensus decision when you both have diametrically opposed views?

In the end, traveling should be about fun — but whose version of fun?

“Traveling tends to magnify all human emotions.” – Peter Høeg… Indeed!

Any constructive pointers from past teams?

 

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2016 New Year’s Travel Resolutions

Happy New Year Everybody –

We are back (Paris was wonderful!) and eager to begin the countdown for the greatest show on earth, the 2016 edition of The Global Scavenger Hunt!

Thought we would start with some well-meaning resolutions…

2016 Travel Resolutions for the New Year

2016…a clean slate.

2015 was annus horribilis—a really bad year! Yet optimism reins.

It is called the January Effect—off with the old and on with the new—where we are overly optimistic and full of wishful thinking about the coming New Year.

Every year we make resolutions. Every year most of us break them as they usually have a shelf life of 4-6 weeks among the strongest willed amongst us; 4-6 days for the rest of us.

Yet travelers are a different breed; we usually follow through with our resolutions. Even when we have more will than wallet, we figure out a way to wherever it is we really want to go. No false hope here.

So, thinking in that vein, I polled a gaggle of great travel buddies last week, and assembled the following 2016 Travel Resolutions that would make us all better travelers:

We resolve to…:
● …be a better global ambassador exhibiting the true spirit of America—not what is on TV.
● …take any and all vacation time we’ve earned…and steal whatever extra days off we can.
● …walk more.
● …go someplace new in 2016, instead of returning to the old tried and true go-to vacation destinations.
● …stop saying you’ve done a country, knowing deep down that we could never really know a country unless we lived there.
● …consciously unplug for longer and longer stretches when we travel.
● …make our politicians see travel as a right, not a luxury; so we can rest, recharge, rejuvenate and reignite our passions being more creative, loyal and productive employees.
● …be more in the moment and love where we are…not where else we could go or be.
● …take authentic, challenging and participatory adventures; less like the reality show, The Amazing Race, and more like the real-life event The Global Scavenger Hunt.
● …to not do last minute guilt souvenir shopping at the airport on the way home.
● …take better pictures—but not so many that we forget to see what is in front of us.
● …not to read (or write) any more travel top 10 or 8 or 7 or 3…lists.
● …say yes instead of maybe and allow for serendipity.
● …to give back by donating more of our time and energy to those in need.
● …challenge ourselves more when we travel.
● …buy quality travel gear and take less of it.
● …learn something new in each place we go about the culture, language, cuisine, politics, history and religion.
● …see our home environments in the context of an out-of-towner and experience our own environment in a fresh way.
● …get out of our comfort zone daily saying “yes” to unknown adventures.
● …turn strangers in strange lands into our friends.
● …be more patient this year.
● …put our money where our mouths are (and beliefs too!) by not patronizing travel services that, well, patronize us. Saying, “No” and, “That’s not right,” are mighty powerful words that many in the travel industry need to hear — a lot more often!
● …not let technology get in the way of us meeting fellow travelers and indigenous people when traveling.
● …leave our expectations hidden and deep in the back of a closet at home alone, by traveling fearlessly without preconceived ideas or prospects.
● …integrate travel more into our lives, as we have with a good diet, exercising regularly and sleeping right. Travel is good for us in so many ways, be it physically, mentally and spiritually.
● …not flaunt our travel exploits and long-winded adventure stories to others — nor to shamelessly show off our travel selfies.
● …be more patient dealing with the trials and tribulations of traveling — be they TSA lines, surly customer service airline reps, over-packed tardy flights, noisy hotel rooms, boorish fellow travelers or screaming babies.
● …stop whining and kvetching about travels minor inconveniences—it is an amazing privilege.

Happy New Year and happy trails in 2016!

(Reprinted from Huffington Post, 31 December 2015)

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