Hard Road to Travel

I’ve got a hard road to travel and a rough, rough way to go
Said, it’s a hard road to travel and a rough, rough way to go
But I can’t turn back, my heart is fixed
My mind’s made up, I’ll never stop, my faith will see, see me through

 

I set out in February of 2013, after a Christmas present from my then wife Kim, of enough cash to start a Travel Blog. I have loved to travel for over forty years and began as a buyer for Six Flags amusement parks in the early 70’s. I would spend two months a year in SE Asia and dealt with family manufactures, in many countries. Our days were usually long (over 12 hours) and we really only took one day off our first trip. We hit fourteen cities in nine countries and I was hooked. In addition, my Father was a journalist (a real one not the pre-fab attention getting farces of today). I am sure he is rolling over in his grave at the ridiculous charade called journalism today. I learned to write through his guidance.

 

I was surfing the Internet in regard to somewhere I might be able to afford to retire, as there have been a couple of financial fiascoes in my life and I wound up with no Golden parachute or nest egg after 50 years of laboring away. One day I came across a video from Barbara Weibel of “Hole in The Donut Cultural Travels“, in regard to Ecuador and I instantly thought “I could do that”! I became mesmerized and started making contact with travel bloggers and two stood out as Texas friendly and were amiable to this old man. They actually responded to me, when I posed a question and both became my mentors in design, name and advice about my Travel Blog to be. I cannot thank these two enough for giving me the courage and aid needed to launch the Nomadic Texan. Thank you kindly Lauren DiMarco and Leah Walker Puckett from the bottom of my heart! Of course it didn’t hurt they both were from Texas.

 

Lauren DiMarco of "Where in The World is Lola"?

Lauren DiMarco of “Where in The World is Lola“?

 

 

Leah Walker Puckett of "Leah Travels"!

Leah Walker Puckett of “Leah Travels“!

 

 

After setting up my Blog I cam across a very intelligent young man, with a big heart and a great mind! In addition, he always tells it like it is, regardless of your position or if it might slight your opinion or feelings. My type of man. He graduated from The University of Texas, served in our country’s Air Force and has started a charity for inner city kids that he asked me to help with. Does this young man really know me (I know you are asking that)? I of course said yes immediately and will help Erick Prince Heaggans, The Minority Nomad walk through fire if I have to. He has become a true friend and confidante, ever since I was an hour late to eat Thai food with him in Austin and conduct my first interview. I was highly embarrassed and he just laughed it off. One of my closest friends in social media for sure! Hook ’em Horns Prince!

 

 

Erick Prince Heaggans, The Minority Nomad

Erick Prince Heaggans, The Minority Nomad

 

Let me tell you, I’m all alone, this lonesome road, I roam
I’ve got no love to call my very own
Oh, the river gets deeper, the hills get steeper
And the pain gets deeper every day, yeah

 

After two weeks in Cuenca Ecuador and a three day weekend in Tijuana building a house for an indigent Mexican family in Tijuana last year, I headed off to my first Travel Blogger Conference in Toronto and was completely blown away from the networking and Speed Dating processes. Because of my Panama Hat and apparently my overall brand, created in just under two months. A multitude of bloggers introduced themselves and strolled across the room at parties and functions just because they recognized my hat. Of course at my age I was only able to identify a few and tried valiantly to observe their name tags, without alerting the bloggers to the fact I had no idea what their name was. I recognized faces, as I have always been able to do, but names escaped me in many cases. At the conference I also made contact with a man who was destined to help me enormously and fast became a confidante and mentor, Stephen Oddo of Walks of Italy. I can’t thank Stephen enough for his help, his mentoring and his friendship. He is a class act!

 

Stephen Oddo giving a speech at #TBEX Toronto.

Stephen Oddo giving a speech at #TBEX Toronto.

 

As I left the first night’s event I had to use the facilities and was accosted by Ted Nelson of Traveling Ted from Chicago. He was one of those people whose face I immediately recognized, but I struggled to recall his name. I had no alcohol either! We hit it off immediately as we both have a sick sense of humor and love the outdoors. I more so in my younger days! At one of my Speed Dates in Toronto, SATW had asked to meet with me. They told me I had to have 10, 000 followers on Twitter to qualify. I had around 2, 000 at that time and I asked why the appointment. They told me with 2,000 I could qualify as a photographer. I just laughed and thanked them. I did make it a personal goal to attain this number as soon as humanly possible, but I wanted to do it legitimately and not “purchase” followers, which some people do.

 

Traveling Ted (Ted Nelson from Chicago)

Traveling Ted (Ted Nelson from Chicago) Friend and Mentor

 

I’ve got a hard road to travel and a rough, rough way to go
Said, it’s a hard road to travel and a rough, rough way to go
But I can’t turn back, my heart is fixed
My mind’s made up, I’ll never stop, my faith will see, see me through

 

The months rolled by and I was asked to visit Palestine Texas for a weekend and produce a post that covered the city’s attributes. I wound up writing eight posts in total and fell in love with this charming small community. I still broadcast on social media for the town and this has led me into a couple more visits next spring of Tyler and Nacogdoches, both historic and beautiful Texas Towns. I can’t wait to visit each and cover their sites, via my Nomadic Texan blog.

 

Breezy Lake-Wolfe of Palestine My Hostess

Breezy Lake-Wolfe of Palestine, My Hostess

 

One more thing, I dream of a home, far beyond the sea
Where there is love and peace and joy for me
Oh, in my eyes, I see troubles and danger for me
But destiny where it leads me, I must go, hey

 

One day about a month after I finished my obligations with Palestine, a post went up in a Facebook travel group, announcing a FAM/Press trip to Thailand and Malaysia. I was drooling and couldn’t submit my application fast enough. It was to be a 12 day adventure aimed at 5-star hotels, restaurants and spa activities. Anyone that reeally knows me understands this was my cup of tea and I hit the send button within seconds after finishing my application. It was announced that there was going to be a quick turnaround and they were going to choose the travel bloggers quickly. I couldn’t sleep.

 

The stars must have been aligned and God was in my corner. Bingo I was very fortunate and became one of three travel bloggers chosen along with three freelance writers. I had died and gone to heaven! I have loved SE Asia every since my youth and the first time I set foot on this continent’s soil way back in 1973, as a buyer with Six Flags amusement parks. In addition this trip established friendships that I cherish to this day, not to mention the social media benefits I received from starting my Instagram and Pinterest accounts, which have become fantastic platforms for my blog. Had no idea what I was missing.

 

James Bond Island in Phang Nga Bay Thailand

James Bond Island in Phang Nga Bay Thailand

 

I’ve got a hard road to travel and a rough, rough way to go
Said, it’s a hard road to travel and a rough, rough way to go
But I can’t turn back, my heart is fixed
My mind’s made up, I’ll never stop, my faith will see, see me through

 

Upon my return I went to work and produced somewhere between 25 to 30 posts even though a significant less amount was all that was required. I genuinely cared for the sponsors representatives and made what I what I hope to be lifelong friends. These four individuals are some of the funniest people I have ever traveled with and were a joy to be around on a daily basis. Can’t wait to travel with them again! Thank you kindly #Tourism Authority of Thailand, #Thai Airways and #Tourism Malaysia USA. You are all wonderful human beings!

 

Help me somebody, somebody please

 

I returned generated my posts and my life unraveled. After 36 years of marriage my wife and I decided that we could no longer live in a toxic situation and it would be better for the both of us to divorce. I was devastated and still am. I can find no way to unravel the mental anguish I go through on a daily basis. It is like a fog that surrounds my body and never disappears. Thank God that I have social media and my blog, or I am fairly certain I would not be here. Of special note is a Facebook and Travel friend Talon Windwalker of 1 Dad 1 Kid who through the divorce and through my growth as a travel blogger, has always been there and helped this old man immensely. I finally had the opportunity to meet him in person recently in Austin prior to moving to Dallas. I was thrilled to say the least!

 

Talon Windwalker of 1 Dada 1 Kid

Talon Windwalker of 1 Dad 1 Kid

 

Through it all I have struggled and worked to attain that magic number! I can remember a little less than a year ago how elated I felt when I hit 5,000 followers on Twitter. I knew with a little help and perseverance, eventually I would hit that magic number and qualify for the SATW! It has not been easy and I have worked until the middle of the early morning more times than I can count, but my efforts finally paid off and on November 24, 2014, @VacaRentalz of Vacation Bargains became my 10,000 follower on Twitter! Thank you kindly, to all the young women and young men who follow this old man on Twitter!

 

CLIFF, JIMMY

*** Lyrics By Jimmy Cliff from 

 

Jimmy Cliff – Hard Road To Travel Lyrics | MetroLyrics

Why (and How) I Write: A Blog Hop Post

Recently I was invited to participate in a Blog Hop about one of my favorite subjects (Writing), by two of my favorite bloggers, Bret Love and Mary Gabbett of Green Global Travel. They are both very kind people with a high interest in Ecotourism, nature/wildlife conservation and cultural preservation. They are both truly unique individuals with a perspective on “pouring every ounce of their passion, energy, love and dreams for their family into the site on a daily basis”. Just a few facts about each of them before I answer the four obligatory questions.

 

Bret Love and Mary Gabbett of Green Global Travel

Bret Love and Mary Gabbett of Green Global Travel

 

Mary Gabbett

 

1) Mary was born in Staten Island, New York and lived there until she was 14.

 

2) Because her family had a French graduate student who worked as her au pair, her first language was French and she remembers none of it now, even though she studied it in high school!

 

3) Her parents would take off work every Wednesday during the summer, for family vacation and they would visit museums, art galleries, theatre and amazing ethnic restaurants in New York City.

 

4) Her first big trip as an adult was a month-long vacation in India, where 5 friends and her stayed with one of the girls’ extended family. That’s when she discovered she was a die-hard travel-lover.

 

4) She has a degree in Pyschology, and worked for 10 years doing personality assessments for corporate clients. She gave Bret an informal assessment of himself on their 5th date.

 

5) Bret and her met at a Universalist Unitarian Church Christmas party she threw at her house in 2008. She was just coming off a painful separation, and had only been dating for 5 days when they met.

 

6)  She moved in with Bret 14 months later, after her mother was hospitalized (she’s OK now), a tree fell on her house (it’s OK now), and a wanted rapist was arrested in her front yard. Clearly, the Universe was trying to tell her something.

 

Bret Love

 

1) Bret was born in Atlanta, Georgia, and has never lived more than 30 miles away from the hospital in which he was born.

 

2) His first trip abroad was a 3-week tour of Italy with the Atlanta Boy Choir when he was 11. It included 15 cities in 21 days, and performances for the President of Italy and Pope John Paul II (in the Vatican).

 

3) He grew up in an urban neighborhood that was 98% black by the time he got to high school. When he was 15, they moved to 32 acres in the country, with a majority-white school. Talk about culture shock! His GPA that year dropped from 3.6 to 2.5 due to constant bullying.

 

4) Bret got his first tattoo– of a Native American shaman, from the cover of National Geographic– when he was 23. He originally got it primarily to cover self-inflicted scars from his late-teen depression. But the more tattoos he got, the more he liked them. He now has 6, all of Native American or Celtic art.

 

5)  He’s a big fan of hip-hop, and had his own hip-hop/noise-rock band, The White Aphros, in the ‘90s. In 2000, he was hired by Sprite to put together a compilation of Atlanta hip-hop for a web-based project. They bought two of his songs, which were released under his rap pseudonym, B. Love.

 

6)  All his life, he’s had a policy not to date someone he works with. So its ironic that Mary and him now live, work and play together 24/7/365… especially because they rarely argue. She has definitely changed forever his definition of the word “partnership.”

 

 Green Global Travel Mission Statement

 

In 2000, Bret traveled to South Africa’s Kruger National Park on safari. The immense power of the experiences he had there– seeing cheetah cubs frolicking on the open plain, watching wild dogs digging under a fence to get back into the park, having a massive bull elephant coming so close to his Jeep that he could feel the breath on his face– changed his life forever.

 

It wasn’t just the beauty of seeing these magnificent animals in their natural habitat that moved him. It was the passion with which the park rangers and guides spoke of preserving this incredible gift for generations to come, and the way locals spoke of ecotourism as their hope for a better and brighter economic future. Ever since then he has dreamed of using his abilities as a freelance writer and photographer to help make the world a better place, not just for he and Mary, but for their children and their children’s children. Mary and him have launched Green Global Travel to do just that.

 

They launched Green Global Travel because they are insatiably curious about new people, new places, new experiences and new ideas, and love sharing those things with other people in a way that will hopefully inform and inspire.

 

They launched Green Global Travel because they are passionate about ecotourism, and believe in its potential to help save the world’s precious nature and wildlife by encouraging sustainable practices that both benefit and respect local indigenous cultures.

 

They launched Green Global Travel because they truly believe that the words, photos and videos they capture along their journeys will both entertain you and help draw attention to the importance of environmental conservation.

 

They launched Green Global Travel because it is their dream to save the world, one story at a time.

 

Tam of the Amita Thai Cooking School in Bangkok Thailand and The Nomadic Texan

Tam of the Amita Thai Cooking School in Bangkok Thailand and The Nomadic Texan

 

1) What am I working on/writing?

 

I just finished a series on the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Mobile Bay during the Civil War. It was very educational and I learned that there is a huge circuit of reenactments, involving a large population of Civil War buffs. These people make the rounds dressing in period costume, which are by no means inexpensive. I was literally astounded by the number of people following the various events and the amount of money they freely invest in items that replicate the period, or happen to be authentic pieces from the various battles. Its amazing to me that at almost 65 I had no idea of this segment existed in our society.

 

I am taking a trip to Japan for six weeks, beginning the Friday after Thanksgiving and I am sure this will spark or generate a ton of photographs and blog posts. I will be in one of my favorite countries in the world and have a great deal of spare time, given I will be staying with my oldest son and he will come back to Austin for a week. He also must do that “Job” thing and work daily. This should allow me a freedom to explore and walk the streets trying to gather stories on the fabulous culture, the people and obviously the fantastic foods of Japan. I am drooling over this prospect and can’t wait for the trip to materialize.

 

One of my first stops will be at a chain of sushi and sashimi restaurants that carry the dishes via a conveyor belt. In 2012 when I last visited it was one of two restaurants that we ate at twice. I love the different items and luckily my son has a deep passion for these foods. So I see a blog post for sure on this experience. Then we can begin discussing the Ramen places, the Udon Noodle places (OMG I love Udon noodles), Soba noodles, Yakitori (skewered chicken cooked over a flaming grill) and anything to do with seafood. I might even do a Tempura meal this time and will have to probably do a great deal of these during the day, or when my son is absent. He gets rather embarrassed when I take photos of my food (if I can remember, as I forget half the time, until there is nothing left and it dawns on me I never took a photo and all my food is gone).

 

2) How does my work/writing differ from others of its genre?

 

I am not sure I truly have a niche or a genre as many more experienced travel and food bloggers are constantly telling me, “I need to find a specific niche and generate my writing in that area”. I can’t tell you how many travel bloggers have stated this. I find this too difficult at almost 65 years old and absolutely love all aspects of travel and food. I love to cook and try to take cooking classes in every country I visit and maybe that is a difference, as I am not positive if others go out of their way to take cooking classes in every country. What better way to get to know a culture than through the foods they consume and the methods they use to prepare the dishes?

 

I also am a fan of architectural structures like cathedrals, temples, and shrines which SE Asia has a plethora of and one can turn any corner and stumble upon a new and different religious artifact or building and be drawn into the design and layout. In addition I am attracted to doors, windows and balconies. Specifically those with intricate layouts and impressions.

 

3) Why do I write what I do?

 

One area that is very special to me is volunteerism. This past year I helped an organization build a home in Tijuana Mexico over Memorial Day weekend, with my two youngest sons. It was a very emotional and gut wrenching process. I also walked away know that my sons had seemingly overnight turned into young men with purpose and were driven to help others. The biggest impact though, was when I asked the Mother of the two young children what she would like best about the new house we were building. She answered very quickly and very honestly. She loved that when it rained going forward, she would never have to worry about their dirt floors in the old home turning into mud again. I cried like a baby and had to walk away before I completely fell apart. It was one of the most humbling moments in my life!

 

I also write to help others learn about the countries that they will never ever have a chance to visit, or an experience that I think is unusual and will be appreciated by my subscribers and followers. What has come painfully apparent to me, is that an extensive portion of our society for one reason or another, has not, nor will they ever, venture outside of a 50 mile radius of where the grew up. I feel an obligation to share my experiences with these individuals and hopefully allow them to live vicariously through my travels and adventures.

 

I also have started spending time in Texas towns and writing a series on this experience. I am a huge history buff and love to write, photograph and experience anything to do with the Lone Star State. I have only done Palestine thus far and walked away with eight posts ,from the three days spent in this magnificent Pearl of East Texas. I also have written several posts on my hometown and the city I was actually born in, Austin. This coming spring I have been invited to perform the same function in the towns of Tyler for their Azalea fest weekend in March I believe and in Nacogdoches, both located in East Texas. It has been difficult to have the Convention and Tourism Boards in the mid-size to small towns around Texas understand the true value of social media as a Marketing concept or tool, but the walls are slowly receding and coming down in some cases.

 

Lately, after meeting online and getting to know Bret and Mary I have started looking into environmental processes and what can be done to help us save our planet for future generations, especially since I have three sons that will experience what we leave them. It all started with the movie “Blackfish” and I was so enthralled and captivated by the Killer Whale’s story, that I began to look more closely ate specific stories and posts involving this area, like the recent debacle over swimming with the dolphins at TBEX in Cancun. I had no idea how they were trained or given preparation for the swims. It breaks your heart to see the actual process. Not to mention what happens with Elephants in their training for humans to ride them, or the pain associated with a massive weight on their backs from the saddle.

 

I also have a vested interest in the war against GMO’s and the obvious damage they present to the human body. Thank God each time I venture outside of the US, I am reminded of what actual organic food tastes and looks like. Not to mention the fact that in the two weeks to a month in county, I always lose ten to fifteen pounds. There is no comparison and the taste is 180 degrees from the bland GMO structured “foods” we consume in my home country the USA. All supposedly in the name of furnishing cheap and healthy foods to the populations of the world without sufficient supply. I am sorry, but that is a load of horse manure and these people will eventually obtain the attributes that our society has taken on like Diabetes and obesity. I will argue all day long if your position is of the opposite side and will never, never settle with you!

 

My last tidbit in this area is in regards to healthcare and the continual plundering of our population, by big medicine and all the participants. Try getting sick in let’s say Ecuador and see what a real Doctor that is truly concerned with your health and not taking a CYA approach from fear of a lawsuit involving malpractice. Not only will you be shocked at the genuine care given, but the costs will place an arrow directly between your eyes, as it more than likely will only be about 5% to 10% of what you would have paid in the US. And my apologies, but you cannot come back on me and say the Doctors here are so much better qualified. They are of equal value and trained mostly in the US. They practice exactly what you would expect from an American Doctor and have the same abilities.

 

4) How does my writing process work? 

 

My writing usually revolves around placing selected photos in chronological order on my draft page and then I fill in the gaps so to say by reliving my experience visually with the aid of the photos. Every time I place a photo on the draft page it brings memories back, as they cascade across my brain and flood my gray matter with flashbacks of, or perceptions and involvement in guided tours, spa events, cooking classes and restaurants that make me drool from the recollection of the flavors associated with the countries and meals I have tried. I have been very fortuitous in my travels and been able to cultivate a wide array of trips and recollections of my travels.

 

Most of the time I schedule a time after morning coffee and surfing the Internet to devote strictly to my writing. That way there are no distractions and the words flow freely most of the time, given the photos ability to open up my thoughts. Just like others though there are times when mental issues or stress associated with life come between me and my writing. When this happens I get up and try to do other functions like eating (Ha!) or a minimum of house work. I have washing the whites down real good as I wear mostly white undershirts and white socks. Sorry Fashion patrol, but it is a fact! Usually it only takes a few minutes away to get my thoughts straightened out and then come back and finish.

 

The hard part and probably the area I dislike the most is editing and viewing my grammar, punctuation and run on sentences. I hate this necessary function sometimes! It too bad I can’t just blink my eyes and my draft be checked and repaired of all the errors.

 

And now I’d like to introduce you to my Blog Hop invitees!

 

Brianna Jellerson Simmons of the Casual Travelist.

 

Brianna Simmons of Casual Travelist

Brianna Simmons of Casual Travelist

 

Hi there, my name is Brianna and I’d like to welcome you to the Casual Travelist. I am a travel writer and blogger balancing my love of travel with a full time career. I prefer laid back luxury where the focus is on the experience and in particular culinary, city and nature travel. This blog is dedicated to having great travel experiences and making the most of your limited time to travel.

 

Welcome to the Casual Travelist! This blog focuses on experiential travel and in particular culinary, city and nature travel. I’m just a regular person with a full time career, friends and family that I love and a cat I adore; trying to balance my home life with my passion for travel. I aim to show that you can have great travel experiences whether it’s for 2 days or 2 weeks.

 

I’ve always loved exploring new places. I had a fairly nomadic childhood as a result of my father’s job living throughout the United States and stayed on the move after I joined the US Navy where I got my first taste of traveling abroad. After my stint in the Navy I got married, earned my doctoral degree and began a rewarding career as a physical therapist. I love my home life but the drive to explore remains. My travels have brought me to Europe, the Middle East, Central America, Canada and throughout the US including Alaska. I’m a big fan of traveling locally, you’ll often me exploring around my home state of Virginia as well as the Mid Atlantic.

 

Alison Abbott of the Green With Renvy blog.

 

Alison Abbott of Green With Renvy

Alison Abbott of Green With Renvy

 

Founder and writer Alison Abbott has been a multi discipline designer for all of her adult life. She is a serious design advocate, content creator and small business strategist, who is enthusiastic about keeping it local whether at home or abroad.

 

A passion for travel took hold early in her career, after production trips to the Far East for the fashion and design company she established in 1978. Twenty five successful years later, she segued into the world of renovating houses with an eco-friendly twist. A desire to combine that passion for travel with her growing knowledge in the world of sustainability led her to the launch of Green With Renvy. You’ll find the blog is an enjoyable riff on the concept of renovating your travel and lifestyle in sustainable shades of green. Reducing your carbon footprint can come in many forms, and even small steps can have a significant impact. Sharing these ideas and discoveries with her readers is what Green With Renvy is all about. When not searching for the best of artisans, growers and locales that make a destination unique, Alison shares her time between Boston and Nantucket.

 

Alison is a brand ambassador and Boston Local Expert with Afar Media. Recent work has been featured on Westin™ Finds from Afar, Stonyfield and Trip Advisor B2B. She has provided content creation and photography for both Chase Bank and Afar Media as they relaunch their web site​. Alison’s coverage of The Flower Markets of India was featured in Leaf Magazine. ​ ​ Visit Philly and Visit Aruba have partnered with the site, and she has reviewed hotels around the world.​ Her self guided walking tour of Nantucket – A Faraway Isle was published by Visual Travel Tours and is available for download.

 

As a writer, she explains, “Nothing could make me happier than hearing from a reader who has changed her travel plans for her son’s graduation to stay in an eco-friendly hotel that I recently recommended. Having a subscriber and her husband take a page out of my itinerary in Kerala, India because it sounded like the perfect start to ease them into the chaos that can be India is very rewarding. Something as simple as trying one of my Meatless Monday recipes with great results can make my day. I firmly believe that as individuals become better traveled and more mindful, culturally aware citizens of the globe, the world will be a better place”. With that thought in mind, Alison shares the experience of eco-friendly travel and lifestyle through Green With Renvy.

 

Let’s make a difference together.

 

Jim O’Donnell from Around The World in Eighty Years.

 

Jim O'Donnell of Around The World in Eighty Years

Jim O’Donnell of Around The World in Eighty Years

 

I was born to a middle class white family in a small town in Southern Colorado. We lived in a modest 1920’s stuccoed Spanish colonial style house made of cinder blocks and painted solid white. The roof was peaked and shingled gray. There was a chimney, but the fire-place didn’t work. A great black American Elm grew in our front yard. I lived there from birth to eighteen years old. My mother is still there.

 

In the backyard she grew roses, lilacs and rhubarb for pie. She made my younger brother mow the grass. My father had a plum tree for homemade jam and the lady across the wire fence held a massive wounded crow captive in an oversized cage.

 

On weekends we went to the mountains. In the Huajatollas we crashed up old mining roads in our International Harvester Scout. In the Greenhorns we ate fresh trout from Lake Isabel and picnicked on the grass next to Ophir Creek. In the San Juans we perused places like Rico, Dunton and Sawpit and climbed steep paths dappled in aspen.

 

At Monarch we skied, in the Arkansas we rafted, and in the mountain ghost town of Victor my dad bought a miniature, tumble-down miner’s cabin, from which we explored Long Hungry Gulch, Wilson Creek, Little Pisgah and Grouse Mountain. To the cabin we brought the things we found scattered over the nearby hills and mountains. It was Victor’s past: giant star shaped drill bits, amethyst colored bottles, blue and white Lenox porcelain chunks, milk-glass, pewter cups and rusted open-top cans.

 

I also brought to the cabin a curiosity for the mountain bluebirds, vireos and hummingbirds I saw, the elk that cut our path, the mountain lion we hoped to see, the bear tracks in the mud, the butterscotch ponderosas, the fescue, the Columbine and the way the wind blew rain from the West onto my face in August.

 

Yet, I failed to understand the pits the rain dug where the cows had eaten all the grass. The streams I wasn’t allowed to touch that flowed from the mine tailings. The hill sides that sloughed where all the trees had been cut.

 

The reason I couldn’t hear wolves howling at night, no matter how hard I tried. In the ruins of the ghost town there was a nutty old woman with spiked white hair and breasts that sagged to her knees. Her name was Mary and she collected fossils and miner’s lamps. She said the wolves had been massacred in the 20’s and 30’s and that they would never come back.

 

At some point along the way, I decided that I had to see the world.

 

 

My Amazing Life-Chapter 3, When is a Khlong Really Not a Khlong

I first traveled to Thailand in 1973 as a buyer with Six Flags Amusement parks. I was just 23 and the world lay before my feet, or so I was brash enough to think! We all know when we are young we are invincible and nothing can stop us. I felt that way when I first went to Bangkok. I wanted to try and do everything that was laid out for us and I wouldn’t say no to any opportunity. When they asked us if we wanted to take a Khlong ride, I jumped at the chance. Mind you the structures were completely different back then and Bangkok wasn’t as notorious as it is today for their party atmosphere. It was just another SE Asia city except it had a wonderful allotment of canals, hence the nickname “Venice of the East”.

 

Typical Khlong in the 70's

Typical Khlong in the 70’s

 

Forty years ago is a long time and I know that most of you doubt I can really remember that far back. I can and there are three things that stand out from my first visit to Bangkok. The first thing was the Golden Buddha and all of its beauty. It has since been relocated and yes we visited again on this trip. The second was a restaurant that is no longer in operation named Nick’s Number One. It reminded me of the movie Casablanca the way it was decorated. It had the best steaks in Bangkok. The third item was our Khlong ride in the canals with floating markets. Khlongs are the vessels used to navigate the canal system in Bangkok and they have changed a great deal. When I saw my first Khlong I just about turned around and headed for higher ground. You had to be kidding me. I was supposed to get into this thing?

 

Typical Khlong Used by the Thai People

Typical Khlong Used by the Thai People

 

Well they finally got me in and we ventured out running into Floating Markets everywhere and all kinds of vendors pulling up along side our Khlong, hawking various wares and foods. It was actually a wonderful experience and I soon lost all apprehensions about how tiny the boat was and how unstable it was. I decided to enjoy the ride. Today’s Khlongs have changed dramatically and do not resemble the “canoes” we rode in. They now are covered and can sit several people across like this one below.

 

Present Day Khlongs

Present Day Khlongs

 

The first thing one notices when they walk outside in Bangkok in August is the humidity. It surrounds and envelopes you like a platonic shroud. As I entered the street I was completely over taken by how much I perspired and it made me feel like I hadn’t just taken a shower! Riding in the Khlong was better, as the breeze caused by the boat’s movement helped provide a little coolness. We set out for the day and I was excited to see how much remained the same and how the canals had changed as I remembered them. One thing for sure is poverty never changes. There were issues back in the 70’s and there still are.

 

Typical Homes Along the Canals

Typical Homes Along the Canals

 

Not as

Not as Illustrious as One Might Think

 

We saw these yellow boats on our journey around the canals and I had to inquire what they represented or what the deal was. It turns out the government is highly concerned about the appearance and tourism approach of the canals and has these boats gather the trash and weeds that exist in the canals. I think that is a great idea and should help the environment.

 

A Government Boat That Works for The Government

A Government Boat That Works for The Environmental Ministry

 

The canals serve as a method of circulating and balancing the tides as they roll in and out. At most entrances off of the Chao Phraya River there are gates similar to these to hold back flooding in the canals. When  a typhoon or storm approaches they are closed and efforts are made to protect the people who live on the canals. It works sometimes and sometimes the forces of nature are just too strong.

 

Dam Gates

Dam Gates

 

One never grows tired of the ornate structures that exist along the canals and are used for worship by the local population. I am always intrigued and cannot get enough of the Thai Temple construction. They are both beautiful and magical in my opinion. One has to appreciate the fact that 95% of the people practice Theravada Buddhism and are a very reverent society. Not once did I see any of our representatives pass a Temple without offering a sign of respect, by clasping their hands together and bowing towards the structures. I am impressed with the strength of their religion and how they treat the shrines with appropriate honor.

 

Temple Along the Canals

Temple Along the Canals

 

What I did not expect or remember was the plethora of Monitor Lizards that abound in the canals. We were told that sightings are extremely rare and group gatherings are almost impossible to view. We saw this one swimming in the water and it was a little too close for the comfort of yours truly. We then saw a group of five sunning on the banks and our guide stated that the Thai people considered this a very lucky event. Who knows maybe I will win the lottery!

 

Water Monitor Swimming by the Khlong

Water Monitor Swimming by the Khlong

 

As we turned a corner and came upon the dock I thought I saw another Monitor Lizard sunning himself. My photo may not do it justice, but it seemed to be about 150 to 175 pounds and more than likely could eat any dog, cat, rodent or small child that got in its way. It was damn scary!

 

Water Monitor Lizard Sunning on a Dock

Water Monitor Lizard Sunning on a Dock

 

Just when I thought I had seen everything we came upon this. I was flabbergasted that they actually used street signs and had names for the different canals. I guess it would help if you really didn’t know your way around, if by some chance you had your own vessel. Really caught me off guard and I found it humorous to an extent.

 

Street Signs in the Canals

Street Signs in the Canals

 

As we came to an intersection in the canals I noticed this boat docked beside the canal. I am not sure what it is used for or how they would even get it through some of the narrow areas, but it caught my eye and I thought I should share.

 

 

A Long Boat if I Ever Saw One

A Long Boat if I Ever Saw One 

 

As we ventured down one canal we came upon this beautiful wood house and I asked our wonderful guide Sammy what type of wood it was. He stated Teak. I am not sure if I have ever seen this amount of Teak and he told me it had to cost a fortune, but would last a substantial amount of time. I believe it!

 

Teak House

Teak House

 

Right before we disembarked at our cooking class we came upon this group of school children honoring Loy Katrong, a Thai festival celebrated annually.

 

Thai Children's Lanterns are Set Free After Making a Wish

Thai Children’s Lanterns are Set Free After Making a Wish

 

There could be no better way to end our Khlong ride than seeing the smiling faces of these children. They were genuine smiles and they all waved and expressed their joy at seeing us on the canal.

 

Thai Children Celebrating Loy Katrong

Thai Children Celebrating Loy Katrong

 

I have a confession to make. For forty years of my life I have always thought that the boats that traveled the canal systems in Bangkok, were named Khlongs, as they were called Khlong boats in 1973 when I first visited. This trip I learned that in reality a Khlong is the Thai word for the canal and not the boat. So the literal translation from that trip is “Canal boats”. I guess its true that one learns something new everyday. It was definitely a “Duh” moment!

 

 

 

 

 

*** My trip to Thailand and Malaysia was sponsored by Thai Airways, the Tourism Authority of Thailand and Tourism Malaysia USA. All opinions are solely mine and as always generated without any influence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Amazing Life-Chapter 1, Thai Airways

I recently participated in a FAM/Press trip to Thailand and Malaysia. I have been to Thailand many years ago, but never to Malaysia and I always get excited when my destination is SE Asia or that part of the world. I love the people, the food and the culture in this part of the world and was profoundly enthusiastic over the impending trip. I received my itinerary and saw that we would be visiting many 5-star hotels, one of the world’s top 50 restaurants. The basic theme was culinary and spa events. My cup of tea for sure! Our Airline of choice would be Thai Airways. Its slogan is “Smooth as Silk”. Little did I know that this airline would soon capture my heart!

 

Thai Airways Logo

Thai Airways Logo

 

I flew my old stand-by American Airlines from Austin to Los Angeles and the service was typical and fairly unremarkable. One does not fly this airline to be impressed. If you live in Texas as I do, then you more than likely fly American, as many cities are hubs for American and American Eagle in smaller towns. Such is the case in Austin. The majority of the flights out of Austin are on American Airlines.

 

I landed at LAX, gathered my bags and started to walk out the door towards Tom Bradley Terminal, which houses the International flights and bumped into Mary Jo Manzanares, one of the other Travel Bloggers going on the trip. She is an elite blogger, director of #TBEX and a stewardess in her spare time. We walked together and made contact inside the terminal with our group.

 

The Group Outside of The Star Alliance Lounge

The Group Outside of The Star Alliance Lounge

 

I learned the group would be three travel bloggers, three print media writers and a representative from Thai Airways, Tourism Authority of Thailand, Tourism Malaysia USA and Saeshe the advertising company that put the trip together and organized the itinerary. We were quickly whisked upstairs to the Star Alliance Lounge. Having visited many Admirals Club locations I was knocked over by the offerings and easy access to WiFi at the Star Alliance Lounge. This was my wonderful Thai lunch with my choice of noodles, veggies and chicken.

 

Lunch at the Star Alliance Lounge in LAX

Lunch at the Star Alliance Lounge in LAX

 

I boarded in Economy for the first leg of our flight to Seoul from LAX. I was surprised, as the width of the seat was comfortable and had to be at least three to four inches wider that my usual seat in economy in American. All seats had video screens for viewing movies, playing games, etc. The seats leaned back with hardly any intrusion into the seat behind. I love that aspect of the plane.

 

I absolutely hate it when the passenger in front leans so far back that you cannot get out of your seat to move around. Given the 12.5 hour flight to Seoul South Korea; we had the opportunity to eat three different meals, but I could only handle two. Prior to the meal the stewardesses and stewards hand you a very warm washcloth to clean your hands and face with. It is very stimulating I must say. This was my first meal in economy, a curry pork dish with a shrimp appetizer.

 

My Economy meal on Thai Airways

My Economy meal on Thai Airways

 

Remember this is in Economy. It was fantastic and I ate every bite, as if I hadn’t eaten just before boarding at the Star Alliance Lounge. One of the first things I noticed on Thai Airways is the smiles of their people. I am not used to this on my domestic flights with airlines in the US. The majority of the stewardesses and stewards are just going through the motion and appear to be waiting for retirement in most cases. Not only do you visualize the smiles on Thai Airways, but you get the idea they are genuine and the employees really want to help you.

 

An Ever Present Smiling Face on Thai Airways

An Ever Present Smiling Face on Thai Airways

 

They continually walk the aisles and ask for your needs, unless you are sleeping and they respectfully leave you alone if that is the case. Another factor to consider is that all alcohol is no charge if you are 18 or older, regardless of seating class. I couldn’t believe this given what my old stand by airlines charges for one beer. Many passengers took advantage of this, but I did not see any that became inebriated, so I am guessing they “control” the flow to a certain degree.

 

One’s drink service (mine was water and Coca-Cola) is continuous and non stop as long as you desire. Its not like my normal American service where you get your one drink and the airlines personnel sit for the remainder of the trip, consuming first class meals and all the beverages they can ingest. The Thai Airways people work their rear ends off the entire flight. We landed in Seoul. South Korea has a strange policy and all passengers have to deplane and go through customs and security. I don’t get it but it is what it is!

 

Our Thai Airways Plane in Seoul Korea

Our Thai Airways Plane in Seoul Korea

 

On the first leg of our flight from LAX to Seoul I got the short straw. I rode as stated previously, in the Economy section. On the second leg from Seoul to Bangkok we all traded out, as there were several spots in Business class, that we used on both legs. This leg I flew in Business Class. Thank you Thai Airways for this experience. Business class is a drastic difference and the seats are wonderful. You can get a massage with one of the seat settings or adjust the seat to your liking and lean back as far as you like, without intruding on the people behind you. This is a photo of the controls. Notice the very front icon states bed. They really mean it, as your seat folds down completely and turns into a flat bed. Oh so good on long flights with major time zone variances.

 

The Seat Controls with a Massage and Bed Icon

The Seat Controls with a Massage and Bed Icon

 

So what were the meals like in business class you ask? Each passenger had an appetizer, an entree, a cheese and fruit tray and a desert. Not just once but twice on the longer legs. I was fortunate and received the Business class allocation for the return trip from Seoul to LAX. It was heaven. This is just an example of my dishes and courses served.

 

My appetizer in Business Class

My appetizer in Business Class

 

My Entree (Shrimp Curry) in Business Class

My Entree (Shrimp Curry) in Business Class

 

A Cheese and Fruit Plate

A Cheese and Fruit Plate

 

Desert in Business Class

Desert in Business Class

 

As the flights transpired I noticed that the Thai Airways personnel remained very active and were always there to pick up your empty glass or food tray. You didn’t have to wait for 45 minutes like on domestic airlines, to have someone retrieve your finished product. They never stopped working and passengers were all treated like royalty, regardless of the seating class I was in. This wasn’t my expectation, given normal transgressions on domestic flights in the US.

 

I have saved my finest point until last intentionally and one that may or may not effect you personally. Traveling frequently and consuming as much as I do with drinks and food, its only natural that I have to use the facilities. The good news is there are ample amounts of facilities, regardless of seating class on Thai Airways. As you know on domestic flights one has to literally wade through the swamp, referred to as a bathroom on flights. You know what I am talking about and how bad they get on flights over let’s say 3 hours long. What did the Thai Airways personnel do you ask?

 

I will gladly tell you as I saw this with my own eyes. They literally clean the restrooms from top to bottom on a regular basis. I am not talking every four hours or so. I am talking like almost between every passenger or as quickly as possible. They take a sanitizer and clean the walls, the toilet seat, the sink and yes even the floor. I was blown away when I turned the corner and saw a stewardess with plastic disposable gloves wiping down the floor of a restroom. They even fold the toilet paper just like in hotels.

 

Thai Airways may charge a little more than other airlines, but if you consider their service, their warm friendly personnel, the amazing food in all seating classes and the free alcohol, I think that their premium is not that much to ask. It is offset with your comfort and well being. I know this, I have found a new airline that I will go out of my way to fly from now on. They are far superior to any other airline I have ever flown in my forty plus years of flying. Thank you Abha Wangpaichitr for allowing me to experience your wonderful airline and for showing me that good old fashioned customer service, is still alive in the airline Industry! I will fly you again and again, when the opportunity arises.

 

Abha Wangpaichitr Thai Airways Representative

Abha Wangpaichitr Thai Airways Representative

 

 

 

 

*** My trip to Thailand and Malaysia was sponsored by Thai Airways, the Tourism Authority of Thailand and Tourism Malaysia USA. All opinions are solely mine and as always generated without any influence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where Did American Airlines Go?

This is a “customer complaint” I wrote to American Airlines on September 16th after I got back from my most recent visit to Ecuador. I was assigned a complaint number via Twitter, the only arm of their customer service department that apparently cares to attempt to resolve their issues.

16 Sep

We’ve received your email and have forwarded it to Customer Relations. Your confirmation number is 1-1013447298.

 

**********

 

For over 40 years (yes I am that old and still kicking) I have been flying American Airlines. I grew up in Arlington Texas and as there has always been access to this Airline in the DFW metro area. The headquarters has been located there since 1979 . Until 1973 when the airline transferred to Dallas/Ft Worth International Airport, my flights primarily went out of Love Field in Dallas. It was an ordeal to use this airport and no one was more thankful than me when, DFW opened in early 1973.

 

As a buyer with Six Flags amusement parks I had the great fortune of traveling to SE Asia for two months each year and to all the major trade shows in the US annually. I used the airlines quite a lot. In fact I am approaching the million mile level with your airline and have always been treated great. I have a myriad of friends that have worked as Stewardesses and at the Ticket Desk for American Airlines over the years and was always proud that they headquartered in my backyard.

 

Recently I have noticed a complete reversal in service, attitude and courtesy among the majority of the employees. I am not sure if its the merger with US Airways or what. My most recent flight from Guayaquil to Miami, was an example of this. Its bad enough you have to get up at 2:30 AM to get to the airport, buy having transpire what happened to me was beyond belief on this flight.

 

Breakfast for a $949 ticket!

Breakfast for a $949 ticket!

 

We were served this amazing breakfast. After all I paid $949 for this ticket and it proudly announced breakfast would be served on the flight itinerary. If you count there are 3 bites of pineapple, 5 bites of watermelon,one grape, a sandwich and either jam or butter to apply to your bread. I was awestruck by the quality. After downing the fruit in about two bites, I opened the sandwich and found this.

 

Breakfast Sandwich for a $949 Ticket

Breakfast Sandwich for a $949 Ticket

 

There was one measly slice of ham that had to weigh .25 ounce and a slice of cheese that had to weigh .30 ounce I am guessing. I had to laugh to keep from exploding. After consuming this wonderful nutritious meal I was overcome with the Grand Amoeba, more commonly known as Montezuma’s Revenge. I looked to the rear of the coach and there had to be 12 or more people in line. I got up (I was in 3 or 4 rows back from first class) and went to the first class area to use the restroom. A nice young man (Steward) named Art stepped up and told me it would be two seconds before it was free, as the crew was using it.

 

I asked him if he was sure it was going to be two seconds and he replied well maybe three seconds. I laughed and returned to my seat squirming. When it was apparent the lavatory was free, I got up to go to the first class again and lo and behold a stewardess with short silver hair started walking to me, pointing her finger in my face and telling me I had no right to use this facility and would have to return to the rear lavatory, which now had 15 or more people in it. I was extremely upset, as this same lady had allowed no less than 10 to 12 “coach” passengers to use the first class facilities prior to me and carried on a conversation with some of them, as they waited.

 

As I returned to get in the massive coach line, a wonderful stewardess that had seen the entire episode apologized to me and tried valiantly to calm me down. I believe her name was Kathy. Tall lady with 29 years experience she told me, blond hair and a fantastic disposition. She helped keep me out of trouble! It helped somewhat.

 

My issue is that I was the only individual that this lady would not allow to use the facilities and why she chose me to discriminate against is beyond me. I am not sure if it was my age, my beard, my Hawaiian shirt or my Panama Hat, but she obviously felt compelled to reject me and only me. I was embarrassed beyond belief and cannot tell you how much I wanted to tell this lady off. I knew if I did that I would more than likely wind up in jail in Miami and chose to write you, the management about this incident.

 

I intentionally watched her actions, after disciplining me in front of the entire coach passenger population and she continued to allow other coach passengers to use the first class restroom. I was furious. She again stopped before the curtain and carried on a conversation with a coach passenger, then allowing him to use the first class facilities.  I am mortified that I was singled out, especially since I was very sick to my stomach and barely got to the coach restroom without having an accident in my pants!”

 

***********

 

As of today October 9, 2013 I have received no response, no apology or no solution to my discrimination. I am perplexed and very disenchanted that American Airlines has chosen to completely ignore this situation and has made no contact with me to attempt a resolution. I am asking my travel and food bloggers friends to use social media and blast this over all your platforms, until they decide to address this issue. I appreciate any and all help. Please use the hashtag:

 

       #AAFixThisNow!

 

 

Thank you kindly in advance for your help and support!!!

 

I Think I Need to Buy an Army Tank to Drive With!

Its funny. Back in my buying days at Six Flags, when I would go to SE Asia each year for the two months to purchase souvenirs, trinkets and gifts for the park system. I was always amazed at how the car traffic seemed to be in total disarray. I was comfortable driving back home in the US and wondered how the people survived the stress of the frantic driving habits in SE Asia.

 

Japanese Road Sign

Japanese Road Sign

 

Fast forward to 2013 in the states. I am making lettuce wraps for my wife and I, this evening. I discover I need water chestnuts for the online recipe, for Asian wraps with Hamburger. I left the house and merged into a heavily traveled Highway, that runs Northwest out of Austin to the Hill country. Highway 183. I was in the right (slow lane) and there had to have been no more that 1 1/2 car lengths between me and the car in front. As we approached a major intersection, this individual rammed in between us and I had to hit my brakes to avoid hitting her. Yes I said her. I was surprised as this type of behavior from a young female, as its primarily men that drive so aggressively these days.

 

I don’t know if its my age or what, but this infuriates me when somebody can’t wait five seconds and merge in behind me. They clearly think their “time” is more important than mine. It seems to be escalating lately and more and more drivers are acting like horse’s rears and showing no concern for safety or other drivers. Its insane. So I go shopping and get my chestnuts and a few other items.

 

Cuenca Traffic but Could Be Anywhere US

Heavy Traffic

 

I start back home and mind you have a back seat with several bags of groceries. I approach a 4-way stop. I am on the right as another smaller vehicle stops to my left. This time its a man driving. I am in a two lane surface street and I push the accelerator. The car on the left turns into the cross street area and with no blinker moves over to my lane and immediately veers into the library. Again I have to hit my brakes and am thankful nothing in the sacks of groceries is breakable, as the bags obviously hit the floor when I jammed on my brakes.

 

I don’t get it. Why is there no concern for others anymore on the streets and highways. People drive like there is no tomorrow, which might be true if they don’t start showing a little caution. People cut people off all the time and can’t understand why you get irritated. Hardly anyone uses a turn blinker anymore, to warn you that they are turning this two ton or more weapon. We have lost all respect and common courtesy and I think its time for me to start walking everywhere. It will probably make me healthier and I might just live a little longer! Time to make the wraps!

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