Crystal Balling for 2010

What can we expect for the travel world in 2010? More airline debacles? The death of business travel? Super cheap package deals for budget-minded travelers? Check out the forecast from USA Today right here.




Holidays in New York City

Land, Air, and See is heading to New York City for the Holidays! When I was growing up, it felt like the world ceased to rotate on Christmas. Grocery stores, gas stations, and hospitals (?) all boarded up their doors and windows at 5 p.m. on December 24th and didn't open back up until December 26th. If you celebrated Christmas, you were too busy to notice that nothing was open. If however, you did not celebrate Christmas (like yours truly), preparing for December 25th was like gearing up for an impending natural disaster. You stocked up on enough movies, board games, and food to ride out the perfect storm of joyful gift giving and merriment that was certain to bring your town to a grinding halt.

It's not really like that anymore. Even in the smallest of towns you are sure to find a greasy spoon diner, 24 hour gas station, or Chinese restaurant that keeps the torch of commerce burning on Christmas Day. But we aren't taking any chances this year. We're heading to the city that never sleeps, even on Christmas. We've been to New York plenty of times but this will be the first time we've gone on Christmas. The knee-jerk reaction to traveling on Christmas is, "Will anything be open? Will there be enough to do?" If you google "things to do In New York City on Christmas," you'll get lists like this one from LoveToEatAndTravel.com:

1. "Radio City Christmas Spectacular" - Best Holiday Show in NYC
2. "Top of the Rock" Observation Deck 70th Floor at Rockefeller Plaza
3. New York City "Holiday Lights" Tour
4. Ice-Skating at Rockefeller Center
5. Horse-Drawn Carriage ride through Central Park
6. Manhattan Island Cruise
7. New York City "Hop-On Hop-Off" Double-Decker Bus Tour
8. Empire State Building Observatory
9. Madame Tussauds Wax Museum
10. Museum of Modern Art or American Museum of Natural History

Not too shabby but not daringly original either. The web is full of similar lists. When we get back, well do a FIVES on what we think are the best things to do in New York City on the Holidays - Land, Air, and See style.



"I Miss the Earth So Much, I Miss My Wife..."

"I'm a rocket maaaaa-aaaa-aaaaa-aannn." And you could be one too, for a cool $200,000.00. Meet the Virgin Galactic Spaceship...

Climb to 50,000 feet, travel at three times the speed of sound, experience the silence of space, view the earth as a big blue map, and float in zero gravity.

Check out more at Virgin Galactic's official website.




Travel on the Cheap

"I would travel more often but it's just so darn expensive."

If you have heard, or have uttered those words, think again. Authentic Thai food, in Thailand, for $1. Beachside bungalows for $5 per night. The gang at Deck Chair suggest four exotic locations for the thrifty traveler. Check out the article here.




The Plane Rides From Hell and How to Make the Best of Them

I have had some fairly unpleasant experiences with airplanes. Getting stuck on the runway for what feels like days. Nose dive bouncy landings on sketchy regional jets. Luggage that, unbeknownst to me, had it's own plans to visit Mexico while I'm visiting Las Vegas. Bombastic Bollywood films played at full volume on an Air India red eye. The list goes on and surely, you have your own list too. But the most reoccuring airline irritant has, for me, always been disruptions from other passengers. The loud family with the loud little children who, to be properly settled and behaved, need to play with really loud musical toys that when shaken, replicate the sound of a fire engine crashing in to a buildling full of small, silver bells. Or how about being seated next to the morbidly obese, extremely sweaty guy who should (can we be honest without getting upset?) have purchased two seats. Or maybe sharing a row with the lady with the flu who can't stop coughing and sneezing and who also has a frightened poodle in bag stuffed under her seat.

If you can relate to my frustration, then you may enjoy this article from SmarterTravel.com. It might help you become a better person in potentially annoying airline situations.




Dan Balosanu's Ireland

We visited Ireland for the second time this past May. Our first visit was centered around Dublin only, which was a grand time, but left us wanting more. So this year, we rented a car and saw the country right. My wife Molly captured some amazing pictures during our driving tour but sadly lost her very nice, very new, kind of expensive camera during the last 48 hours of our trip. With the camera went many of the best photos she captured. That's why I was glad to find Dan Balosanu's blog, indepth panoramics. Dan uses beautiful panoramic shots to display the scenic coastlines, misty mornings, and living history of Ireland. These pictures take me back to some of the most beautiful landscapes I've ever seen.

Check out Dan's blog here.




Rick Steves Is Pretty Sweet

My wife got me in to Rick Steves a few years ago. Her adoration, (and insistance in stopping on public television every time he was on) eventually led to my love of the man too. Our travel has been enriched by his TV show, comprehensive guidebooks, and amazing step-by-step audio tour podcasts. If you live in or around Edmonds, Washington you can even attend Rick's free weekly travel classes.

Get to know Rick Steves.




The Wanderlusters

Inspiration to do something new and exciting is everywhere. Just in case you haven't come across any good inspiration in a while, check out what these two fine folks did.

"We're spending the year on a spiritual quest, a re-prioritization of life priorities, and really digging into what it looks like to invest in a marriage."

And they're doing this road trip style...in a camper.




Twittering While Traveling

For the record, I am not a Tweeter, or Twitterer, or whatever the politically correct phrasing is these days. I will however admit to random voyeur sessions of reading people's tweets. Thanks to worldhum, interesting travel tweets are now easier to find. Each month they compile a list of the eight best Twitter posts from travelers all over the world. Check out the current list here.

My favorite...

"Say what you will about swine flu & drug gangs—you have to love a country where pork tacos are for breakfast."



These Are Just Two of My Favorite Things

Beards and travel.



Going On Holiday

Depending on where in the world you call home, the amount of vacation time you receieve from your employer will vary. Here in the US the average worker gets ten days to do with as they please, with a few national holiday observances thrown in throughout the year. For a travel enthusiast, ten days is not a lot to work with. When my wife and I went to France last year, we used our entire ten days, in the beginning of the year, leaving us nothing for the rest of the year. To add insult to injury, the French we met pitied us for our lack of time off. "It's so unfortunate," they would say with sympathetic eyes and warm pats on the back.

Turns out, France has the highest amount of minimum vacation days required by law...SEVEN WEEKS! No wonder they felt sorry for us.  Denmark comes in second with six weeks. Germany, Finland, and Austria also rank high.

You can check out the country-by-country comparison here.

Our lack of usable days in the US has really bothered me for the last year. But hey, at least I'm not in China where employers aren't required to give their employees any days off.



The Only Way to Fly, Part Two: CREEPS!

A hoax?!
Seriously. Creeps.



The Only Way to Fly

As I type this, there's a six year old kid flying high over Colorado in a runaway home made balloon. It seems as if his family built some sort of flying saucer shaped experimental aircraft, the kid climbed in, it accidentally took off, and now authorities are scrambling to catch the balloon. It's possible that the craft could reach altitudes of 10,000 feet.

That kid is probably wetting his pants right now.

Here's video:



FIVES. Entry Number Two: Five Things To Do In Austin, Texas

Last September we visited Austin, Texas to see some old friends and attend the three day Austin City Limits Music Festival. While we were there we totally fell in love with the city and it's people. Definitely good vibes all around. Here's a list of five "must-dos" while visiting Austin:

1. See Live Music - Austin has declared itself "The Live Music Capital of the World" and it's a fitting title. In addition to the popular Austin City Limits and the annual music/film/arts event South By SouthwestAustin also boasts the Latin inspired Pachanga festival and the more recent Urban Music Festival. But large scale events aside, this town just breathes music. Almost any downtown restaurant, bar, or coffee shop has some form of live music every day of the week. In our visit we even saw a very small, modest taco stand with an elaborate stage and seating area built beside it to host live shows.

2. Eat Local Food -  You won't see too many McDonald's or Starbucks around downtown Austin. That's because Austin puts great effort in to promoting unique local businesses. Two of our favorite places are the extreme sports themed Wahoo's Fish Taco, and the very quirky Amy's Ice Creams where you can get the incredible flavor creation "Mexican Vanilla." Oh, and I hear they have some good BBQ in Austin too ;)

3. Shop SoCo - South Congress Avenue features some of the most eclectic shopping in all of Austin. Antiques, hand made jewelry and kitsch, trendy boutiques, vintage clothing, chic home decor, and more . Be sure to check out Allen's Boots to satisfy your inner cowboy and the wild everything-but-the-kitchen-sink store Uncommon Objects.

4. Get Outdoors - The people of Austin tend to be an active, health conscious bunch and they don't have to travel far to engage in all sorts of exciting outdoor activity. Lady Bird Lake offers kayaking on the water and ten miles of scenic hiking and biking trails that wind all through the city. If you need a break from the heat, take a dip in the three acre Barton Springs Pool that is fed from under ground springs and is an average 68 degrees year round.

5. Congress Bridge Bats - The Congress Avenue Bridge spans Town Lake in downtown Austin and is home to the largest urban bat colony in North America. About 1.5 million Mexican free-tail bats emerge each night from mid-March to November and flood the sky in search of food. This event has become one of the most spectacular and unusual tourist attractions in Texas and pays proper due to the local creed, "Keep Austin Weird."

For more on Austin, Texas check out http://www.austintexas.org/



ANECDOTES. Entry Number Two: Gypsy Cab

It is a chilly Easter Sunday morning in Paris and today Molly and I are preparing to depart from Beauvais Airport to Ireland. Last night, to prepare for our morning commute, we walked the route from our hotel to the Metro station and took the necessary sequence of underground trains to the central above-ground train depot where we would catch our ride to Beauvais. Beauvais is a little town about one hour north of Paris and because of the distance, we have to take the train. It's worth it though, as flights from Beauvais are almost half the cost of the larger Charles De Gaulle Airport. We were careful to note the exact amount of time it took to get to the bus depot. When we set our alarm before bed we allowed for a few extra minutes in case checking out of the hotel or packing our bags took a little longer than usual. As usual, we needed those extra minutes and a few more. Nothing that we couldn't handle though.

One thing we didn't plan on however, was the Easter Sunday Metro schedule.

It seems that on Easter Sunday, the Paris Metro only runs half of the regular number of subway trains. We have three trains to catch on our way to the depot. Instead of five or ten minutes between arriving trains, we are waiting almost twenty minutes for each train. We didn't figure on this. Easter Sunday is devouring our alotted bank of time. We're starting to get anxious as we look at my watch and see the hands cranking their way to the departure of our above-ground train to the airport. If we miss that train, we might miss our flight! As the final Metro Train stops at the depot, we rudely push our way to the sliding doors and with a death grip on our luggage, burst from the platform and run to catch our train. Something isn't right, though. This is not where we got off during last night's practice session.


We're on the opposite side of the depot, but it's fine. We'll just follow the signs and we still have...seven minutes before our train leaves the station. The signs say the station is up on the next level. Just run! Not so easy. The escalators are broken down and roped off for repairs. Where are the stairs? How can there not be any stairs?! Let's find someone to help us. We are spinning in confused circles. Nobody in sight! How can there be no one working in this place today?!  Oh, Easter Sunday.

My watch reads seven-oh-five and that means our train is gone. We're deflated. We're exhausted. We're lost in a train station.

It's twenty minutes later and we are staring at the place where our train to the airport sat less than one half hour ago. The next train won't leave for over an hour and it will be too late to catch our flight. Molly is waiting sadly in the cafe' and I am in line at the ticket window attempting to exchange our train passes for the later train, a train that will not get us to the airport on time but will get us there nonetheless. The girl at the ticket window could probably care less about our predicament but I am telling her every grisly detail anyway. She is smiling and saying that I'm in luck. The later train just happens to be an express train directly to Beauvais. It's twice as fast as the other train and has no stops. She says it will arrive only twenty minutes later than the first train that we missed.


Molly and I are now sitting in the plush comfort of the express train, snacking on croissants and sipping coffee. The French countryside is whizzing by in a blur and we are happy again. Once we arrive in Beauvais, we will catch the shuttle bus for a short twelve minute ride to the airport. Next stop, Beauvais.

Wow, Beauvais is a tiny little town. It's peaceful and quaint and totally silent. Departing the train we post up at the shuttle bus stop. Looking to the right we can see an older man standing slightly hunched, wearing a newsboy cap and smoking a hand rolled cigarette. Across the street we see a suspicious looking middle aged guy with a pencil thin mustache wearing a Member's Only jacket. He's pacing the sidewalk and watching our every move. We hope that the shuttle comes soon. We are getting impatient and a little freaked out by the constant staring of Mr. Member's Only and decide to head in to the train station to inquire about the shuttle.

The shuttle doesn't run for another three hours. We are reminded that it's Easter Sunday. Thanks, we almost forgot.

We are handed a list of cab companies and we head to the pay phone to call for a ride. This one looks good. No answer. Try the next one. No answer. How about this one? Nothing. Every cab company appears to observe the Easter Sunday transportation blackout. Mr. Member's Only is waiting outside of the phone booth like a chubby, poorly mustachioed vulture. He offers us a ride. We decline and walk away. The cigarette smoking old man, who I just noticed has a patch on his jacket shaped like a car and some official enough looking logo, looks at us and says two words, "Taxi? Aeroport?" Oh yes, thank you. Mr. Member's Only is disappointed. As we walk with the old man to his car Molly is tugging my sleeve and whsipering that she doesn't feel good about this. We get to the car and see that it's not a taxi at all. It's a faded blue beat up two door hatchback from the early 1980's. He pops open the trunk and we detect the faint smell of urine. He points for us to put our bags in. I ask him how much the ride will cost. He wants twenty euros. Molly's nervous panic rubs off on me and we give him the universal facial expression for thanks-but-no-thanks and start back to the station. He looks angry as he waves us away with a flip of his hands.

Mr. Member's Only has been watching this whole exchange and he now makes another attempt to lure us in to his car. He is undercutting the old man by five euros. But he is just too darn creepy and we decline again. Another check of the time reveals that we need to be at the airport in thirty minutes or we miss our plane. We have made it this far and I don't want to give up. I am going out on a limb and against Molly's wishes as I approach the old man and signal that we'll take his offer. "Twenty?" he says. I reach in to my pocket and to my horror pull out only twelve euros and change. He flips his hands in disgust again. I scan the area for an ATM but there is none. There doesn't seem to be a bank or business in the entire town. We have been defeated. Twelve minutes away is the plane that we almost caught. The morning has been a rollercoaster ride and now we are sick to our stomachs with hopelessness. Molly and I exchange heartbroken glances and head to the station to take a seat and mourn our loss.

All of the sudden we hear someone whistle. It's the old man. He is waving us over to his car. I approach humbly and hold out the twelve euros and change. He gives me a look of pity and shakes his head as if to say, "I can't stand to see you two stupid kids stuck here. Come on." I am grateful and excited. Molly is still terrified. She is convinced that this is going to turn out bad.

What if he takes us out in to a field, steals our stuff, and then leaves us? Or even worse...KILLS US?!

We can't think like that now. We have to get to the airport. Let's go!

Our luggage goes in the back. I ride shotgun. Molly clears the garbage off of the rear seat and hops in. The old man gets in and I make sure he knows we need to get to the airport in a hurry. I speak in French but he doesn't seem to understand. I try English but he doesn't comprehend that either. I have no clue as to his nationality. Maybe Italian? He just nods and says, "Aeroport," then out of nowhere adds, "NO POLICE!" That doesn't sound good. He repeats, "NO POLICE!" and raises his eyebrows in anticipation of my agreement. I say, "Oh no, no police." He seems pleased. He rolls another cigarette and we're off. The windows don't roll down and the smoke and urine smell are making us ill. I try to hand him the money but he won't take it. He lifts a pile of envelopes and newspapers from the dashboard and motions for me to stash the money under the pile. Turning to look at Molly I can see that she is still awaiting our robbery and possible murder.

Like a gift from heaven, the road signs indicate that the next exit is the airport. We still have time to catch the plane! We exit the road and can see the airport to the right. The old man makes a left. We can see the planes getting smaller as we head in the wrong direction. Was Molly right? Are we going to end up dead in a gutter somewhere? I start to squirm in my seat and Molly's knuckles are turning white as she grips the door handle. The old man pulls in to a residential neighborhood. Oh great, we'll end up dead in someone's basement! He brings the car to the curb, turns off the ignition, exits the car, and unloads our bags on the street. We're confused. We get out and meet him behind the car. Before I can ask what is going on, he stoops down, looks past us, and points to a worn out dirt path that leads to a small patch of woods behind the houses. "Aeroport." We thank him, grab our bags, and head down the path. We trek through the small wooded area until it opens up to a big field, revealing the airport in all of it's half-priced glory. We have five minutes before the flight check-in desk closes. We sprint to the facility and reach the check-in desk with only two mintues to spare.

We made it.

Molly tells me to look out the big windows to the passenger drop off area. A police car has pulled over an illegal taxi, a gypsy cab, driven by Mr. Member's Only. They have detained the driver and passengers and are searching the car and luggage. That could have been us if we went with Mr. Member's Only. We would have made it to the airport only to be stopped just short of checking in. Instead, we were delivered to a secret path by a dirty old professional who gives discounts and who knew to avoid the police and hide the money. Suddenly, the beat up car, the smoke, and the urine smell didn't seem so bad after all.



Staying Connected

What gadgets can't you travel without? Phone, camera, GPS, MP3 player, laptop? In Europe last Spring I found myself sitting on a plane, tangled in devices and cables and batteries and headphones - all in an effort to stay connected. I needed to simplify.

PC World just put out a helpful "best-of" article on travel-friendly netbooks, laptops, and smartphones. Read it here:


When I travel I want to stay connected and document my trip while struggling to keep my packing weight and my expenses to a minimum. Recently I took up the task of finding a new travel-friendly smartphone for domestic and international trips. After weeks of research and awkward visits to the mobile phone store ("Oh, you again. Are you ever going to buy a new phone?") I decided on the Samsung Omnia:

Con: This is not a GSM (global-ready) phone. I thought a GSM phone was what I wanted but after looking at several I found that they lacked a lot of the key features I needed. In addition, the cost of maintaining the monthly global calling plan, plus the increased per-minute rate, was just too expensive. The simple solution for international calling is to buy a cheap pre-paid calling card and use public phones to make your calls. I estimated that by using a calling card on my last week long trip out of the United States I saved over $100.00 compared to having made the same calls on a world phone.

Pros: Tons of features that eliminate the need to carry five or six different devices. 5 MP camera - one of the highest for camera phones, 16 GB of storage - perfect for music and video, full HTML web browsing with WI-FI connectivity - great for e-mail and blogging, Windows Mobile 6.1 - if you need to keep up on work while you're away, full QWERTY touch screen keyboard, GPS, tons of apps - Facebook, Google Maps.

This is the only device I take with me now. Everything I need in one small package. I look forward to taking a break in a little coffee shop or bar that offers free WI-FI. I'll sit for an hour or so, listen to music, catch up on e-mail, update blogs, edit some photos and videos and upload them for friends and family to see, then throw the phone in my pocket and move on.



Don't Let Flu Season Get You Down!

With all the talk of the impending doom about to be let loose in the form of H1-N1, a.k.a. "THE SWINE FLU," us fellow travelers need to watch out for each other. Nothing would ruin your next trip like finding out you are riddled with SWINE FLU and not allowed to board your plane to wherever. On that note, I present the authority on flu prevention, Elmo:


Gypsy Cabs

Illegal taxi service, sometimes referred to as a "gypsy cab," can be found in most major worldwide cities. These cabs wait at busy tourist areas like city centers, airports, bus depots, etc. In a pinch a traveler may feel that an unlicensed taxi is the way to go. There are pros (convenience, negotiable price) and cons (unregulated safety standards, potential theft, impact on legitamate taxi service) so the savvy traveler should exercise caution.

In the next installment of ANECDOTES, you can read of our first hand account with illegal taxi service in France and decide from our experience if it's worth it or not.



PHOTO FICTION. Entry Number One: Charles Kelly

My name is Charles Kelly. I am seventy-three years old and reside in Fingal at the doorstep of Dublin City in Ireland. Every Thursday I charter a taxi to Trinity College, purchase the day's newspaper from the street vendor, and take my post at the foot of the statue of poet, singer, songwriter, and balladeer Thomas Moore. The monument graces the busy sidewalk near the entrance of the college. I read the newspaper from front to back, only avoiding the obituary pages.

When I finish my reading I like to sing out loud the songs and poems of Thomas Moore. I am often mistaken for a drunk, a loon, or a man without a home but in reality I am just an old timer confident in his loneliness. It saddens me when young people hear my proclamation of Thomas Moore's most notable works, squint their eyes at me, then turn to each other with curled lips and wrinkled noses and say in disgust, "What is he going on about?!" It also bothers me that most people nowadays only recognize Moore's song Believe Me If All Those Endearing Young Charms because it is often used as a popular gag in a number of cartoons, usually involving a piano rigged to explode when a certain note is played. The hero, typically Bugs Bunny, tries to play the melody line of the song, but always misses the rigged note (C above middle C). The villain or rival, finally exasperated, pushes the hero aside and plays the song himself, striking the correct note and blowing himself up. People know the tune, but not its composer. My appreciation goes much deeper.

Despite Thomas Moore living a handful of generations before me I have a special relationship with him not only through his poetry and music but through a strange similarity in our family lives. Moore had five children, two boys and three girls - as did I. Moore lost all of his children in his lifetime to untimely death - as did I. Moore received word of the death of his last surviving child on a Thursday - as did I. He wrote in his diary, "The last of our five children are gone and I am left desolate and alone." I couldn't have phrased it any better. Perfect and simple.

That's why Thursdays are for Thomas and Me, Charles Kelly.



ANECDOTES. Entry Number One: Jonas

He was buzzing all over the reception hall. This young, dark man in a baby blue short sleeved dress shirt tucked neatly in to chocolate brown slacks cinched tight around his narrow waist. From the kitchen to the tables and back again, he moved with purpose and precision. Expressionless except for a sweet smile flashed at those whom he passed on his short, repeated routes. In a room full of old familiar faces, his was new. I heard the event coordinator mumble something to him in French to which he nodded acceptingly and continued his busy motion.

Dinner time arrived and the assigned seating placed this stranger to the right of my wife and me. A few introductory words were delivered over the public address system by the event coordinator as to why we were here (a thirtieth anniversary celebration for a couple we know) and what was being served for dinner (lasagna, salad, ciabatta bread with olive oil for dipping, Sangiovese wine). As the food was dished up I turned to the young stranger and asked his name.

“Jo-NAS,” he answered in a deep French accent.

I gave my name, my wife’s name, as well as my mother and father’s names who were sitting across the long table from us.

“Where are you from Jonas?” I asked.

“Benin. In West Africa.”

“How old are you?”


“What brings you to the United States?”

“I move to Cincinnati. For good,” he replied in just slightly broken English.

We tried to impress Jonas with what little French we knew. After four years of French in High School my father can only remember how to say, "Shut your mouth." Our French vocabulary being what is was, we returned to asking him questions of general nature. Each of his replies were met with the angled head nods and eyebrow raises of genuine and eager interest from those at the table.

I could not help but notice the distinct characteristics of Jonas’ face. Bright, almond shaped eyes; a vibrant white smile; smooth skin the color of a coffee bean. One feature stood out from all the rest though. On the apples of Jonas’ cheeks were a series of scars. The scars numbered three to each cheek, perfectly spaced from right to left, about one inch in vertical length. I couldn’t pinpoint why, but these scars gave this otherwise reserved and quiet young man a sense of depth and wisdom.

After busying ourselves with eating for a few minutes I presented Jonas with another question.

“What did you do for work in Benin?”

“I was a Youth Advisor.”

“Is that a government assigned job or something?”

“No, it is NGO job.”

I showed a look of confusion.

Jonas picked up on this and elaborated, “S-O-S – N-G-O.”

“Oh, OK I understand,” I lied.

“What was your responsibility there?” questioned my mother from across the table.

“In Benin I help children. Girls from age of twelve, boys from age of fourteen. From this ages children becoming adults. They have changes in mind and body. I help them learn about next steps in life. ‘You try this job. You learn to do this skill. This is what to expect next.’”

“I see,” I said as his role became clearer. “Do you work with their parents on this?”

“You see, the children and the parents do not…discuss…communicate about these things.”

“Is that a part of the general culture?”

“Yes. The parents and children do not talk close about things. Most of children at that age leave home and come to live in small…it is like a small village. It is job of Youth Advisor to listen to the children and help them from then on.”

I could tell that my mother was taking this information in, processing it, and allowing it to hit her emotionally. She and I have always had an open dialogue, especially through my teenage years and she was having trouble grasping the idea of a parent sending their child off to gain a close relationship with a total stranger who would then help release them in to adulthood. Then, Jonas delivered this:

“Sometime though, the parent drop off baby to us,” he said as he made the gesture of laying an infant down to rest. Both arms stayed extended, hands turned up as he continued, “One, two weeks old. They have baby and they are scared. They don’t know what to do. They just leave it outside of door for us to find.”

My mother gasped as her face saddened. “Oh no! Just a little baby?! Does this happen often?”

Jonas lowered his eyes and softly whispered, “Yes.”

Jonas’ expression showed that no matter how many times he had seen a baby abandoned, he never got accustomed to it.

He continued to open up with confidence. “As a boy, my parents were separated. I am the oldest child. I had to raise my three sisters.”

“How old were you?” asked my mother, almost breathless with emotion.

“Eight years old,” stated Jonas with a proud smile, a smile so big that his scars almost disappeared.

Loudly, my mother exclaimed, “YOU WERE ONLY EIGHT YEARS OLD AND YOU RAISED THREE LITTLE GIRLS! I am going to have to hug you!”

Jonas was surprised and laughed out loud.

I leaned over and told him, “She’s serious. You had better get ready.”

With that, Jonas stood up and walked to the end of the table with outstretched arms to meet my mother half way. He stood about a foot taller than her and as she wrapped both arms around his core and buried her head in his chest, he turned back and looked at me with that big, beautiful smile. He patted my mother’s back as she squeezed him tight and then returned to his seat next to me. I put my arm around his shoulder. Jonas was now my brother.



Jet Blue Shall Know Our Velocity

Jet Blue Airlines' current promotion makes me wish I didn't have a full time job. In fact, it makes me want to quit my full time job just so I could take full advantage of the offer and blog about the whole experience.

What is the promotion, you may ask?

For $599, Jet Blue customers can purchase an unlimited travel pass that lets them fly for free to any of the airline's 56 international and domestic destinations as often as they like between Sept. 8 and Oct. 8.


In Dave Egger's book They Shall Know Our Velocity, two young men purchase promotional plane tickets that allow for unrestricted flight to anywhere in the world as long as they keep going in the same latitudinal direction. I often fantasize about what I would do with such a plane ticket. Granted, Jet Blue is not a full service international airline. However, for $599 I would take advantage of destinations like Jamaica, Puerto Rico, The Dominican Republic, and Costa Rica. Tempting!

Get greedy with this one, kids!



AFAR Magazine

The new magazine and online travel resource, AFAR, contains more of what I want to see in travel media. AFAR focuses on "experiential" travel and challenges its readers to go beyond pre-packaged consumerist jaunts in favor of genuine, authentic, and even unexpected trips. AFAR's mission:

"Our mission is to inspire and guide those who travel the world seeking to connect with its people, experience their culture, and understand their perspectives."

I especially like how AFAR was born:

"Greg Sullivan is a globe-trotting serial entrepreneur. Joe Diaz is a former teacher who grew up in a bi-cultural family, with one foot in Spain and the other in California. These seasoned travelers hatched the idea for AFAR Media over a beer on a beach in Goa, India."

My kind of guys. Support this venture by visiting their website and signing up for a FREE issue of the magazine.




Be Careful!

Yesterday's news about the release of two American journalists from North Korea got me thinking about safe travel. Another recent news item, the arrest of three American backpackers who strayed over the Iran border from the Kurdistan region of Iraq, points to the dangers of being too confident when visiting an unfamiliar land.

The U.S. Department of State is great resource for making travel plans. Click the link below for tips on everything from packing to preparing to visit a high risk area of the world.




Laura Ling and Euna Lee Pardoned

At Bill Clinton's request, North Korea's Kim Jong II has issued an official pardon of two American journalists. Way to go Bill!

Read the breaking news story here:




FIVES. Entry Number One: Five Things To Learn To Say In a Foreign Language

When traveling it is essential to make an effort to communicate in the native language of the place you are visiting. From the moment you decide on your destination, you should begin learning and practicing the basic greetings and expressions of the locale you'll be visiting. Under no circumstances should you assume that the locals will understand your language. I've seen many Americans make this mistake and it can be both embarassing and frustrating for all parties involved.

Which brings me to the first installment of FIVES. If you are going to learn FIVE words or expressions in the language of the place you will be visiting, I suggest starting with the following:

1. "Hello" - You'll say this to almost everyone you come in contact with and it's a great way to share a few head nods and passing smiles with the people you encounter daily.

2. "Please" - All cultures value good manners. Even if you are ordering food from a menu that you can't read, the least you can do is point to the selection and say, "Please."

3. "Thank you." - Again, basic manners. If someone opens a door for you, serves you a drink, or gives you ride to your next destination, always thank them graciously.

4. "I'm sorry" - Being unfamiliar with your surroundings or the local customs, you are bound to make some mistakes. Most often though, mistakes will be overlooked if you can simply apologize for your misstep.

5. "I don't speak much (insert language here)" - This explanation should be delivered with humility after you have said all that you can possibly say in a particular foreign language. The key is to show through your tone that you really wish you could speak more of the language but unfortunately cannot.

These five expressions are simply a starting point but you will likely use these more frequently than most other words and phrases.


Recommended Reading


I recently settled in to a rainy weekend with this book and quickly found my head spinning with new ideas about the possibilities of extended jaunts, living "in the grey," and even total relocation.

A good bit of the content seems motivated by political and economic discontent with the United States but a discerning reader can filter out the opinions and salvage the essentials. The most valuable resources in this book are the detailed breakdowns of countries all over the world. Each country's climate, government, social life, cost of living, and cultural offerings are prepared in an easy to read format that, when combined with first hand accounts of people who have actually made the trip, provide a good starting point for choosing a new location to travel to.




In addition to the regular musings found here, Land, Air, and See will have several reoccurring features.

FIVES: Lists, countdowns, tips, and rankers brilliantly and conveniently arranged in groups of five.

ANECDOTES: True travel tales from personal experience written in vivid story form.

PHOTO FICTION: Each entry will feature one photo taken by my lovely wife and travel partner, Molly Grace, accompanied with a fictional account about the scenes and subjects found in the photo.



About Land, Air, and See

The more I travel, the more I want to travel. The more I see and experience, the more I realize how little I know about the world we live in, other cultures, even myself as a person. It's so easy to fall in to the patterns and routines of everyday life. Through repetition, these cycles can become all we know. Eventually, we are lulled in to a comfort zone. Inside this comfort zone we become soft; de-conditioned for challenge, change, and anything that would push us out of the comfort zone.

Travel keeps me from getting too comfortable.

This blog serves as an outlet for me to document and share my travel experiences with those who have a similar thirst for stepping outside of the comfort zone and learning more about themselves and the world in which they live.

Read. Share. Enjoy.