January 06, 2004

2004 Travel Blog Recap

We couldn't let our travel bloging end without one last entry...a conclusion of sorts for all of our (3?)faithful readers. After editing nearly 6,000 digital photos (we're still recovering!) we've created a summary of sorts featuring:


j + j

January 05, 2004

By the numbers

January 04, 2004

The Pictures Worth 1,000 Words

Man was it tough to narrow down the (approx) 5,781 pictures we took over the course of our trip. That being said, it was fun trying to :-). We've categorized our faves by country below, focusing each to 10-15 of the most poignant photos we snapped. We also thought it would be worthwhile to include a few thematic categories including kiddies, flowers and pics of us. Enjoy!

Favorite Pictures from Brazil

Favorite Pictures from Cambodia

  • Prison cell / Tuol Sleng Prison (now genocide museum) / Phnom Penh
  • The happy tomb raiding couple / Angkor Wat / Siam Reap
  • Column infitium / Lion Temple (under bridge) / Siam Reap
  • Monks on the lookout / Angkor Wat / Siam Reap
  • Statue tug-o-war / Angkor Thom / Siam Reap
  • Janet's viewpoint / Angkor Wat / Siam Reap
  • Jim templing / Angkor Wat / Siam Reap
  • Nature wins out / Ta Prohm / Siam Reap
  • Stone tree / Ta Prohm / Siam Reap

  • Fave Egypt Snaps

    Salvaged Greece Pics (all pics lost somewhere on the Canary Islands :-(). Thanks to Stacey and Shane for sharing their snaps with us:

    Favorite Pics from Kenya

    Favorite Pics from Laos

    Favorite Pics from Morocco

    Favorite Pics from Mozambique

    Favorite Pics from Myanmar (Burma)

    Favorite Pics from Portugal

    Favorite Pics from Singapore

    Favorite Pics from South Africa

    Favorite Pics from South Africa (Safari)

    Favorite Pics from Spain

    Favorite Pics from Tanzania

    Favorite Pics from Thailand

    Favorite Pics from Turkey

    Favorite Pics of Kiddies

    Floral Faves

    J + J

    January 03, 2004

    Recap: stuff I learned along the way...


    Below is my list of things this journey reminded me were self-evident truths and new discoveries I was lucky enough to make along the way. Before reading, please bear in mind that:

    Now that that's out of the way...

    Stuff our journey reinforced:

    1. My wife is the perfect travel companion
    2. Peoples' natures are, for the most part, good the world over
    3. That said, due to the nature of traveling (vs. 'vacationing', see list #2), you need to retain a healthy amount of skepticism and wariness to prepare yourself for the few bad seeds you encounter
    4. Sometimes you cannot completely lose yourself in a moment whilst looking through a lens
    5. That said, photography can hone the aesthetic
    6. Americans, at least the lower > upper middle class (and beyond) have it pretty damn good compared to the rest of the world
    7. That said, America is far from the be-all-end all most of its citizens think it is. We experienced many countries whose (general) mindset, quality of life and overall priorities were more akin with our own than the States.
    8. You can't travel with just anyone
    9. I love hangin' with kids, regardless of nationality, age, race, creed, etc. I usually get the sense they dig hanging w/ me too ;-)
    10. Prior to this trip I did not make self observation/reflection a high enough priority
    11. My digestive system is more sensitive than I'd like it to be
    12. Non-US peeps often know more about United States politics than Americans. I had a 19 year-old cab driver in Brazil ask how I thought Howard Dean stacked up against Kerry back in February, then proceed to share his insight on the matter!
    13. If I believed the media accurately depicted world events and issues (e.g. the avian flu), Janet and I would have never left this country
    14. Americans (especially of the non-obnoxious variety) need to travel more
    15. American business needs to help enable the above by providing more than two weeks of vacation and encouraging better personal/work balance
    16. There's nothing quite like the serenity one can find whilst diving
    17. I'd take a 95° F day over a 40° F day any day
    18. Prescription drugs are WAY too expensive in the U.S. and many of our drugs should be sold over-the-counter
    19. Too many Americans have bought into the myth that in order to have a "full life" one must be "successful" in the traditional sense: work hard, be loyal to your company, gain notoriety for both. A career should be a means to a more fulfilling and meaningful end, no more.
    20. Tan lines are hot
    21. I have a huge weak spot for desserts, no matter what the continent or content
    22. Americans are far too uptight (sexually speaking)
    23. English (for better of worse) fulfills Esperanto's promise
    24. We're on this rock for a fraction of a fraction of a nanosecond. Egypt and Greece truly underscored this one!
    25. Smoking is disgusting (save the occasional hookah)
    26. Especially in developing nations, religion is often an impediment to realizing one's potential and appreciating one's heritage
    27. I may have been a fish in a past life
    28. Soccer AKA football bores me
    29. It does not have to be written before the first half of the 20th century to be worthy of the moniker of "literature." On this trip I read quite a bit of fiction from the last decade or so (one cannot be too choosy on the road!) and was pleasantly reminded of this by authors like Cormac McCarthy, Ben Elton, John Updike, Salman Rushdie, Arthur Phillips
    30. I have too much "stuff"
    31. Chances are it'll be there when you get back

    Stuff I've learned on this journey:

    1. First and foremost, I have learned the difference between vacationing and traveling, which deserves its own mini-treatise:



    Stay for 1-2 weeks maximumJourney for a minimum of 2 months
    Try to forget about their daily routineCreate an entirely new paradigm for routines
    Often view time off as a means of escapeSee the journey as a means to enlightenment
    Become familiar with tourist locales Meet locals
    Spend time dwelling on the invariable email/work 'pile up' awaiting their returnLose track of time
    Be grateful for sharing an extended period of uninterrupted time with their partnerGet to know their partner even better than they thought possible
    Only able to stay in a given spot for a short whileCan become a nomad or a transplant, learning to feel when it's time to go and act on that feeling
    Appreciate "getting away from it all"Appreciate living in the moment
    Carve out free timeDiscover what freedom really means
    Learn what the local language isLearn to communicate (at least on a basic level) with locals
    Think 'I really should do this more often' during the tripRethink their priorities in life
    Generally shun other touristsGenuinely look forward to meeting, engaging and learning from fellow travelers
    Book months (years?) in advanceDecide as they go
    Generally seek out / expect a little pampering now & thenLearn to get by with less and appreciate the simplicity less brings

    2. My fingernails and hair seem to grown faster in warm climates
    3. The safari experience makes going to zoos all the more difficult
    4. The grass is always greener across the border / continent / ocean. Two examples: one a Mozambiquean who had good balance in his life, a decent job, home and great family being fascinated by the thought of transplanting everything to America, while I looked at his relative simplicity and happiness with envy. Also, in Asia most peeps do their utmost to avoid exposure to sunlight as a tan is associated with the lower/working class.
    5. Prejudice knows no boundaries
    6. Sometimes it's worth spending a bit more (sleeper trains, the occasional flight, the restaurant that is an experience unto itself)
    7. Sometimes the more you spend the less memorable the experience. We met far more likeminded and interesting people at hostels and backpackers for instance.
    8. Even I was surprised by the universal and deep seeded hatred of Dubya. We saw t-shirts in South Africa with George in guns sights, art exhibits decrying him in Barcelona, were beguiled in Greece and Spain, lectured in Brazil and cautiously felt out in Thailand and Laos.
    9. A safari guide/driver can make all the difference
    10. Divemasters are only truly memorable when they're incompetent
    11. I'm too old for Carnivale :-)
    12. My wife and I can hack pretty tough travel
    13. I'm a poor girl substitute (as my wife informed me on numerous occasions!)
    14. It's nearly impossible to have an authentic travel experience, one in which you make a real connection with a local, unless you occasionally let your 'travel guard' down
    15. Just because you're keeping to a budget, aren't sitting in front of a PC all day and carry 45 lbs. on your back every other day does not guarantee that you'll lose weight
    16. Our children will travel
    17. It's exceptionally healthy to live without an alarm clock for an extended period of time in your adult life
    18. If you're reasonably intelligent, a bit flexible and generally treat people well things will work out
    19. My wife's presence is more effective at mosquito bite prevention than deet
    20. Joy is easiest to come by when things are simple
    21. Canon is an analog company feigning competence in a digital age
    22. The world is much smaller than I once perceived
    23. I don't miss Television (ok, maybe the Simpons and the occasional Sports center but that's about it!)
    24. There's a morning person inside me. He may only reveal himself when vacationing/traveling but he's there
    25. Natural remedies can be just as effective, and far more beneficial, than pill-popping
    26. Baboons are nasty, ill-tempered creatures
    27. Democracy isn't always better
    28. I cannot reconcile the mentality and consequences of the veil in Muslim society
    29. There's something liberating about carrying all of your (immediate) possessions on your back
    30. Respect your limits when diving
    31. Beer is simply too filling for me to consume regularly and copiously
    32. Everyone should experience traveling at least once
    33. Long hair is harder to maintain and manage than I thought
    34. I am a digital convert. The immediate gratification and extensibility of digital photography and the possibilities afforded by digital music players like the i-Pod are simply too compelling to go back to 35mm or CDs.
    35. A little effort to learn some phrases and words in the local language goes a long way
    36. Everyone should (must??) see wildlife in an unadulterated, natural setting - whether it be below the water, on land or in a tree - at least once in their lifetime
    37. A moleskin is essential travel gear
    38. When traveling you will invariably leave a country with some amount of local currency on you that you hadn't intended leaving with
    39. Write it down when it occurs to you, take the shot when it strikes you
    40. Travel agents - for the most part - blow
    41. There's nothing worse in a hostel than sharing a dorm with a snorer
    42. When traveling I crave news even more than I thought I would
    43. Smooth Jazz is the international tourist soundtrack
    44. My food and beverage snobbery now extends to coffee (Nestle, the makers of Nescafe, are to blame as it was all that was available through most of Asia and nearly all of Africa)
    45. "British English" amuses me immensely, with phrases like 'swimming costume' (bathing suit, which is funny too if you think about it), 'properly trollied' (wasted), 'knackered' (wiped out), 'bollocks' (balls, expressing disbelief or disappointment), 'pissed' (another form of trollied), extensive use of 'proper' (proper tea, proper toast, etc.), 'bugger off' (translated to 'piss off' in American lingo), "taking the piss" (F'ing with someone) and the substitution of a soft 'er' for any word ending in a vowel (e.g. "Canad(er)"
    46. Antihistamine is a necessity on any dive safari (week-long live aboard)
    47. You rarely keep in touch with people you meet while traveling, no matter how cool they are or how deeply you bonded with them. It's not that you didn't / don't feel a connection, merely that the improbability of reconnecting and the details of the workaday world decrease the likelihood.
    48. The smaller and more rural the town, the greater the chance of having a meaningful experience with a local
    49. Governments the world over have rightly earned their citizen's scorn: the Bush regime in not unique in this regard
    50. The kind of person who would best serve local, national and global interests in a governmental leadership role is least likely to be interested in politics
    51. There would be more 'morning people' in the world if more folks arose for themselves instead of a paycheck
    52. Methloquine (Malaria medicine) really does effect my dreams
    53. Hotel rating conversion for U.S resident traveling abroad: take 1 * off Asian ratings, 1/1.5 * off of South America and 2 * off of Africa's hotel ratings
    54. More often than not, it's worth the effort
    55. Come back a different way than how you got there, even if it risks getting a bit lost
    56. You can get by in 90% of the world with just three electrical adapters
    57. I have learned the value of a good pen
    58. I find that I'm now pretty fascinated by flags: identifying them, learning the story behind them, etc
    59. Americans are far too loud
    60. You're never really alone while traveling
    61. The Euro is quickly usurping the dollar as the king of currency
    62. React appropriately when a piece of artwork tugs harder on your heart strings than your purse strings
    63. It really is a small world and it gets smaller with the passage of time
    64. Given this, it's imperative that Americans develop a global conscience and think of themselves as world citizens first, U.S citizens second
    65. The waist strap is the most crucial element to a backpack
    66. Deserts are cool. Fascinating even.
    67. It's only a matter of time until the world's most impressive sites are marred by the unabashed advertising of multi-nationals
    68. We've learned to say hello/goodbye/thank you in 12 additional languages
    69. When doing the 'round the world thing, it's usually better to buy airline tickets as you go
    70. Coke Light (sold everywhere outside the U.S.) is infinitely better than Diet Coke (or any diet cola for that matter)
    71. Due to the nature of traveling (spending time off the beaten path, being on the road for months at a time), you will get ripped of at least a handful of times
    72. When it happens, be forceful in railing against it when possible, and if that fails chalk it up as a learning experience and move on instead of stewing on it. It's bad enough you got ripped off :-) 73. People's 'mobile phone voices' are too loud the world over
    74. Reading good and bad energy is an invaluable skill, especially when traveling in unfamiliar territory
    75. Generally speaking, I'd prefer a slightly shabby hostel filled with like-minded peeps than a 3 or 4* hotel
    76. I'd rather spend my $ (or Euros, or Kip, or Rand, or Shillings or Lira) on an experience than a place to lay my head
    77. That said, if the mattress one lays his head on is horribly uncomfortable....
    78. All tourists are annoying, but some are worse than others. Not including Americans (who we rarely encountered on our journey), the nationalities we found most annoying were: 1) Italians (tell an Italian not to touch, go below a certain depth, be respectful of local customs, etc. and more likely than not he'll do the opposite) 2) Japanese (tend to be more self-centered than most and their quirkiness (i.e. wearing life jackets in two feet of water, fur coats in 93° weather) gets under my skin and 3) Frenchies (an easy target but they tend to be loud and a bit on the arrogant side)
    79. If it's around dinner time (locally) and a restaurant has no or very few patrons, there's probably a good reason. It's best not to discover the reason for yourself
    80. Restaurants with a view are typically overpriced and under deliver
    81. Be skeptical of a restaurant displaying pictures of its entrees
    82. Be wary of the combo Minimart/Tourist Agency/Internet café. The more a small business tries to be, the less likely it provides a good service in any category
    83. Seek out restaurants serving local cuisine with local ingredients
    84. Look harder for spots responsible for their own local ingredients
    85. Language barriers are never insurmountable. One can always fall back on the universal languages of pointing or charades.
    86. Pace yourself
    87. Bread + Appetizer + Salad + Entrée + Dessert is a ridiculous and unhealthy amount of food for one sitting
    88. Humor is a universal diffuser of tension
    89. Sarcasm does not translate
    90. Use a source for travel advisories other than the U.S. state department (i.e. New Zealand, Australia, England)
    91. Sometimes you can't take it all in without taking your time
    92. Traveling costs less than you think
    93. With some modifications, most notably pace, one can travel well into his 50's (and beyond)
    94. Bucket showers aren't as bad as they sound
    95. We waste too much water
    96. The mullet is back and it scares the hell out me
    97. Respect most local customs but don't always follow them
    98. A reasonably skilled driver with experience negotiating the traffic of NYC, Chicago, Boston, LA, etc. can do just fine road-wise anywhere in the world
    99. Memories of an experience become more positive over time
    100. Don't underestimate the novelty of writing and receiving postcards
    101. If you're reasonably observant and creative you will come away from travel with a couple of halfway viable business ideas
    102. After nine months of sun chasing, the characteristics of our "perfect beach", in order of importance, are as follows: 1) sand (fine, powdery white = best), 2) water (clear, cool (not cold)), 3) surrounding scenery (impressive and varied landscape), 4) cleanliness (litter free!), 5) sunbathers per square meter (isolated, but not empty), 6) 'swimmability' (no coral or rocks underfoot), 7) attire of inhabitants (clothing optional scores highest), 8) accompanying soundtrack (none preferred, but cheesy thumbing dance music abhorred).
    103. Try a nude beach at least once
    104. Stuff that pretty much blows, regardless of locale: bus drivers (generally surly, unhelpful, overly aggressive), tour operators (far more interested in their bottom line than your return business), street vendors/peddlers (impossibly annoying and persistent in pushing crappy merchandise), tourists (see above)
    105. When on the road for months, there is an undeniable comfort in the occasional fast food meal
    106. The hardest part about traveling is putting yourself in a position to do so (e.g. taking the leap of faith and leaving the security of an income, trusting you will find something when you return)

    107. Always best to learn this kind of stuff on your own!

    January 02, 2004

    A few of our favorite things

    The blog would feel a little incomplete without a few "best of" lists. Plus, we've already been asked by numerous folks what our "favorite country is" which is really to broad a question to answer adequately. Naturally each place had its own unique pros & cons. Sooooo, nine months and 16 countries later, here's a recap of the things we liked the best (note these lists (obviously) ONLY represent place we've been to whilst traveling in '04 :-):

    Favorite cities (pop. > 1,000,000)

    1. Cape Town, South Africa
    2. Istanbul, Turkey
    3. Seville, Spain
    4. Barcelona, Spain
    5. Salvador, Brazil
    6. Lisbon, Portugal
    7. Rio De Janeiro, Brazil
    8. Chiang Mai, Thailand

    Favorite Small Towns (pop. > 200,000)

    1. Stone Town, Zanzibar Island, Tanzania
    2. Paraty, Brazil
    3. Fira, Santorini, Greece
    4. Granada, Spain
    5. Luang Prabang, Laos
    6. Hermanus, South Africa
    7. Kas, Turkey
    8. Sintra, Portugal
    9. Pipa, Brazil
    10. Lagos, Portugal
    11. Goreme, Kappadocia, Turkey

    Best All-around Cuisine:

    1. Turkey
    2. Thailand
    3. Spain
    4. Brazil
    5. South Africa

    Best Beaches:
    1. Island 60, Mergui Archipelago, Myanmar
    2. Lions Beach, Fernando De Norohna, Brazil
    3. Elia Beach, Mykonos, Greece
    4. Bweeju, Zanzibar, Tanzania
    5. Island 65, Mergui Archipelago, Myanmar
    6. Maya Beach, Ko Phi Phi, Thailand
    7. Two Brothers Beach, Fernando De Norohna, Brazil
    8. Impanema, Rio De Janeiro, Brazil
    9. Railei Beach, Krabi Peninsula, Thailand
    10. Kendwa, Zanzibar, Tanzania
    11. Super Paradise, Mykonos, Greece
    12. Dona Ana, Algarvae, Portugal
    13. Tofu, Mozambique

    Hottest Women

    1. Brazilian
    2. Spanish
    3. Laotian
    4. Egyptian (when visible!)

    Best Diving

    1. Red Sea, South of Hurgada, Egypt
    2. Ko Phi Phi, Thailand
    3. Tofu, Mozambique
    4. Fernando De Norohna, Brazil
    5. Mergui Archipelago, Myanmar

    Friendliest People:
    1. Laotian
    2. Thai
    3. Turks
    4. Portuguese
    5. Tanzania, Zanzibarians especially

    Most Memorable "Experiences"

    1. Witnessing the Masai Mara Mammal Migration, Kenya
    2. Safari in the Umlani Private Game Reserve, Kruger National Park, South Africa
    3. Red Sea Diving, Egypt
    4. (Surviving :-)) Carnivale, Salvador, Brazil
    5. Hiking the Red and Rose Valley, Kappadocia, Turkey
    6. Tubing down the Nam Song River, Vang Vieng, Laos
    7. Samaria Gorge Hiking, Crete, Greece
    8. Cruising down the Nile (and all the sights along the way), Egypt
    9. "Teaching" school children (and prompting them to dance) in Thailand

    Most Magnificent Man-made Wonders:

    1. Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia
    2. The Sargada Familia, Barcelona, Greece
    3. Pyramids of Giza, Egypt
    4. El Hambra, Granada, Spain
    5. Parthenon, Athens, Greece
    6. Karnak Temple, Luxor, Egypt
    7. Knossos, Crete, Greece
    8. Great Temple of Ramses II & Temple of Hathor, Abu Simbel, Egypt
    9. Ephesus, Turkey
    10. Alcazar, Seville, Spain
    11. Blue Mosque, Istanbul, Turkey
    12. Mosque Madrassa of Sultan Hassan, Cairo, Egypt
    13. Palacia Nacional Pena, Sintra, Portugal

    Most Impressive Natural Wonders:

    1. Kappadocia, Turkey
    2. The islands of the Mergui Archipelago, Myanmar
    3. Ngoro Ngoro Crater, Tanzania
    4. The underwater world of the Red Sea, Egypt
    5. Santorini Island and Calledra, Greece
    6. Black and White Deserts of Egypt
    7. Stellenboch and the Wine Country, South Africa
    8. Limestone Cliffs on the Western Islands of Thailand
    9. Cape Point, South Africa
    10. Foz de Iguazu, Brazil
    11. The Mighty Mekong River, Laos
    12. Table Mountain, Cape Town, South Africa
    13. Algarvae Coast, Portugal

    Most Moving Experiences:

    1. The rough yet rewarding overland travel through Mozambique
    2. Attempting to comprehend the Killing Fields, Phnom Phen, Cambodia
    3. Seeing the destructive aftermath of war in Nong Khiaw, Laos
    4. Witnessing the hope and pride of South Africans in spite of the dire atmosphere of Soweto township, Johannesburg, South Africa
    5. Seeing the poverty of the children of Cambodia
    6. Feeding off the smiles and exuberance of the children of Africa

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