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

Photo of The Day #45

Coffee Club

Coffee Club

 

 

In Toronto at #TBEX the #Travel blogger conference this past June, I had the good fortune to finally meet with the Coffee Club. We are a group of six travel bloggers who absolutely love coffee and have a passion beyond the norm, for this magical elixir! We are always trading remarks about who is having coffee where and of what quality. It is a one-upsmanship game and we all have our days.

 

 

Looking at the photo from the left is Karla of TravellerSoul76, Lance of TripsByLance, Aaron of elATLboy, Jill of RoadWarrior, Maria of LatinAbroad and some old guy of the NomadicTexan. We all are also kind of kooky, if you haven’t gathered by now. I enjoyed being around these great bloggers and hope to see them at the next#TBEX conference 2014, in North America for a cup of java!

Capture the Colour #CTC13

 

Okay I am going to jump out into the sandbox and enter the “Capture the Colour” contest this year. I have never done anything like this, as I am petrified to even submit my photos. When you consider the excellent professionals that are involved I really don’t stand a chance, but what the hell, I have to start sometime. Travel Supermarket is sponsoring the contest and each contestant is required to submit five photos displaying their ability to reflect on the colors red, blue, yellow, white and green. Simple enough? Right? No it isn’t! I am here to tell you it took me two hours of pilfering through my collection, to narrow each color down to three or so possibilities. Absolutely nerve-racking! So here goes.

 

Red Ripe Cacao SeedPod

Red-Ripe Cacao Seed Pod

 

 

I took this photo on my most recent trip to Ecuador when I had the extreme pleasure of visiting and touring a Cacao Plantation in El Oro province. It was an awesome trip and as most people do, I love chocolate to death! I can eat it every day. Just ask my wife Kim!

 

 

Dessert at The Eucalyptus Cafe in Cuenca From My March Trip with Kim

Yellow-Dessert at The Eucalyptus Cafe in Cuenca From My March Trip with Kim

 

 

Kim and I were shopping at a local Home Depot one day this past fall I believe and stumbled upon a collection of potted orchids for sale. I though that they were outstanding and had not seen a blue orchid previously. Loved it and now I am using it in this contest. Wonders never cease!

 

 

Home Depot Orchids

Blue-Home Depot Orchids

 

 

We have three sons and lived in a house on the Mountain, in Austin Texas for approximately 18 years, while raising our sons. I will never forget this snowfall, as it rarely snows in Texas and I was out before sunup trying to get the right photo. This one showed the snow on the backyard umbrella and the trees in contrast to the other colors.

 

 

A Snow Fall in Austin Texas-Very Rare

White-A Snow Fall in Austin Texas-Very Rare

 

 

On Memorial Day of this year I was invited to partake in a project that our middle son’s company sponsors. Homes of Hope is a fantastic organization that builds homes for individuals that truly need help. This calla lily was outside the Rosarito Beach Hotel in Mexico where we stayed while working on the project. I will never forget the experience of turning the home over to the needy family! It was truly humbling!

 

 

Green-Calla Lily

Green-Calla Lily

 

Thanks to my friend Joe Newman at Cosmic Smudge for nominating me for the contest and forcing me to come out of my shell! I wish I could quote technical photographic data about my equipment like Joe did, but the simple truth is that I used my Nikon digital pocket camera on all the photos including this one that kind of displays all the colors together. (Uh oh I am jumping outside the spectrum). I may have used a little editing prerogative, but that is all.

 

Bridge View on Spadina In Toronto

Bridge View on Spadina In Toronto

 

Part of the contest and a way to increase the participants, which directly decreases my chances (Ha-I am joking. I know I have absolutely no chance against the pros!) is to nominate an additional five bloggers to enter. So here goes. Y’all don’t hate me and please enter this #CTC13 contest and blow the competition away!

 

Lisa Niver Rajna at We Said Go Travel

Will Castillo at I Will Travel

Karla Aguilar Perez at Traveller Soul

Lauren and Kenin Bassart at The Constant Rambler

Linda and Dan Bibb at As We Saw It

I am cutting my own throat as both Karla Aguilar Perez and Dan Bibb are wonderful photographers and do it professionally. Who know maybe this will help the out! A big “THANK YOU” to Travel Supermarket for allowing us to participate (definitely brown-nosing) and best of luck to all the competitors! Saludos mi amigos!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo of the Day #5

Electric Mass Transit in Toronto

Electric Mass Transit in Toronto

 

The Mass Transit system in Toronto was fantastic and ran virtually everywhere one needed. Most of the sports stadiums, conference centers, restaurants and the “Entertainment Area” are downtown and close to lake Ontario. There was always a Monorail available from most venues. On Spadina street they came every five or ten seconds and stopped only if passengers were waiting.

 

It is clearly a very efficient and  popular method of getting around. The population uses it and it obviously eliminated a good portion of the automobile traffic. Toronto is ahead of the curve when compared with some major cities in the US. I highly recommend using the system, if you visit Toronto.

The Hat

Before I came to Toronto for the TBEX conference, I wrote on my social media platforms that everyone should look for me with my hat, my white beard and my Hawaiian shirts. I figured that there would not be too many old geezers that had this “look”. Little did I know that my Panama hat would become an institution in my life. This was my first experience mingling with the elite of the Travel Blogger world and I wanted to try and meet as many of my new “online friends” as possible. I encouraged all to introduce themselves, as I wanted photo ops and truly like meeting new people face to face.

 

Nomadic Texan & Miret Padovani (http://flaneriefeminine.com/) from Zurich. A Lady Blogger with Fabulous Talents

Nomadic Texan & Miret Padovani (FlanerieFeminine.com) from Zurich. A Lady Blogger with Fabulous Talents

 

 

I really had no idea what to expect at TBEX or what the experience would teach me. I did know that I wanted to gain as much knowledge about traffic, SEO and building my brand as possible. Looking through the options on the first day I selected all the business topics from the various categories (HHMM maybe my background had something to do with this-Ha!). Of course I waited too long to get to the opening session and was frantically trying to locate the room, when I discovered and icon in the business, Johnny Jet was also a little lost. We teamed our brilliant minds together and eventually found our destination (after I mislead him–not a good start to my first meet up with Mr. Jet)!

 

Trey Ratcliff Was Phenomenal

Trey Ratcliff Was Phenomenal

 

The opening keynote by Trey Ratcliff blew me away. This young man of StuckInCustoms is a phenomenal photographer and has vision issues in one eye. When you look at his photography you will be amazed. He was wearing his new Google glasses and told us all the finer qualities and attribute of the glasses. I was in awe! As I was  leaving the opening session a young man approached me and said “Hi Mike”. I was a little lost, thinking about my first breakout and did not recognize him at first. Turned out to be Will Castillo a friend and blogger I am trying to help out. You can follow him at IWillTravel and he is a very interesting young man, who loves South America almost as much as I do! Between the opening session and my first breakout no less than five bloggers came up and said hello. One even had me wait to meet her Mother! All because they saw “The Hat” from across the room.

 

A Slide from Ted Murphy's Presentation

A Slide Stating the Blogger’s Value to Direct Marketing Organizations

 

I headed out of the session to my first breakout “Brands, Blogger & Dollars” given by Ted Murphy. I wrote two pages of notes (I am still trying to decipher a few words–my writing is atrocious) and discovered I should have brought a tablet or I-Phone and recorded the breakouts. I couldn’t write as fast as they talked! In essence Ted’s most important factors in dealing with brands or sponsors are the following; 1) Quality of Content, 2) Relevance to Industry, 3) Personality, 4) Engagement and 5) Traffic. Ted also focused extremely deeply on the FTC guidelines and what is acceptable and what isn’t. He stated we all need to read the guidelines for sponsorship. Who knew? I was extremely excited at the information learned and stepped out to head toward my second breakout. This time it was six or seven bloggers that came up and introduced themselves and I got a few photo ops. They saw “The Hat” from across the room again. See the pattern starting to develop?

 

William Bakker from Think! Social Media-Brilliant Man

William Bakker from Think! Social Media-Brilliant Man

 

My second breakout was with William Bakker of “Think! Social Media” and his topic was Lesson Learned: “Working with Bloggers & Destinations”. This young man energized everyone in the room, even though his dutch accent was pervasive, we could interpret his talk. He gave a myriad of facts and again I couldn’t keep up and write fast enough. Did you know the #1 social media platform for determining travel is Facebook. People trust their friends feedback more than any other source.

 

William Tells Us What They Look For in Blogger Trips

DMO Take-Aways For Blogger Trips

 

William stated that bloggers are “Content Creators” or Story Tellers and we must be authentic, and honest, if we desire credibility in the profession. He gave us Think’s blogger requirements on their selection process for press trips: 1) The blogger has to value the destination of Think’s trip, 2) What is your reach-Size of Audience, 3) What are your audience demographics, 4) What is your influence in a niche (Twitter & Facebook Activity), 5) Do you have a connection to other Influencers 6) What is your Quality & Style, 7) What is your speed of communication, 8) What is your level of technology & tools use, 9) Do you have a Personality.  I could have listened to him all day, but had to grab a bite to eat.

 

Will Castillo of IWill_Travel (Your Eyes are Supposed to be Open Will)!

Will Castillo, of “I Will Travel” (Your Eyes are Supposed to be Open Will)!

 

Will had offered to buy my lunch and I am not one to turn food down! I told him at lunch that he needed to find an item like “The Hat” and establish his brand. We talked about various travel topics and it was time to get back.  After lunch I had pre-selected my friend Stephen Oddo of Walks of Italy breakout and thought I would give him a hard time. His title was “Where’s my ROI? Campaign & Strategies in Digital Marketing”. Stephen stated “Marketing is the practice of creating a name, symbol or design that identifies and differentiates a product from another product”. Prior to the start of the third breakout, one of my closet online friends Jill of Road Warrior, came running up to where I sat and gave me a hug. She saw “The Hat” from the back of the room. So my design or symbol became “The Hat” without any conscience effort on my part. It just transpired!

 

Stephen Oddo from Walks of Italy

Stephen Oddo from Walks of Italy

 

 

Stephen stated you do this with 1) Personality, 2) Set standards and follow them, 3) Be Consistent, 4) Develop a Positive Reputation. He also said that blogs are the third most influential digital resource for purchasing travel. He stated 50% of travelers changed their minds based on what they read on trusted blogs. Wow! Had no idea “The Hat” had this much responsibility!

 

Janice Waugh, publisher of Solo Traveler (http://solotravelerblog.com), the blog for those who travel alone and author of The Solo Traveler's Handbook (http://thetravelershandbooks.com) navigating Speed Dating

Janice Waugh, publisher of Solo Traveler (http://solotravelerblog.com), the blog for those who travel alone and author of The Solo Traveler’s Handbook (http://thetravelershandbooks.com), navigating Speed Dating

 

Time was flying by and my first experience in Speed Dating was staring me in the face. Was I ready. Had I gathered the correct statistics. How hard could it really be? I soon discovered. We had 10 minutes for each date and it became a whirlwind of activity and discussion and just as you got to know the vendor it was time to change and move on. This was one of the two hardest hours I have ever worked in my life. Not physically, but trying to give my presentation and communicate my niche and brand was extremely difficult in under 10 minutes. I was worn out and the night hadn’t even begun, for “The Hat”!

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Virgin’s Very First Time

Okay I know the title might be a little misleading, but in essence I was a virgin at TBEX and had no idea what to expect or what I would gain from the experience. In reality it was an eye-opening learning experience and enhanced my ego (my wife Kim’s feedback)! I knew going in that the fact my Speed Dating calendar had almost been filled, that I was in for an extraordinary event. I just didn’t think about the fact that I had just returned from my expedition to Tijuana, building the house for Homes of Hope and would wind up worn down and really tired. I will never put back to back weekends of this much exercise together again, unless I am asked of course!

 

A church photo from the bus ride in and in the rain

A church photo from the bus ride in and in the rain

 

My flight arrived in Toronto at 5:30 PM and I arranged for a round trip bus trip, thinking this would provide plenty of time to get my bags to the hotel and go to the opening night party. Bummer…it didn’t transpire exactly like I hoped. There was a transfer to a shuttle van with about 11 other people and of course I was the LAST one dropped off. I got to my hotel at around 7:45 and the party started at 7:00 PM. So…no shower, no change of clothes, however I was able to brush my teeth! Started walking to Roy Thomson Hall for the party arriving about 8:30 half way through.

 

Street art/graffiti on the walk to Roy Thomson Hall

Street art/graffiti on the walk to Roy Thomson Hall

 

I met a charming lady who was just as lost as me trying to get into the party. All of a sudden I hear “Mike” being yelled and I recognize the face right away. It was Kenin Bassart of The Constant Rambler and I knew I wouldn’t be alone at the party. He and his wife Lauren have been very cool connections on my social media links and we have grown to know each other fairly well. Kenin directed me to the other side for my entry. I received my badge and walked into the zoo! It was like something out of a movie. A band was playing, food stations were everywhere (with fantastic eats) and of course the bars were flowing with alcohol.

 

Kenin and Lauren Bassart...Two Wonderful Bloggers & Friends

Kenin and Lauren Bassart…Two Wonderful Bloggers & Friends

 

I met with Kenin and Lauren downstairs and ran into Derek4Real  from Austin. It was going to be a good night, but I had no idea how good! Toronto was hot and humid, just like Austin so I went back upstairs and enjoyed the A/C inside. Great step! I started walking around and ran into several bloggers that I have met online. I ran into Maria Laborde from LatinAbroad.com and had the ugliest picture of me taken all night! Then I bumped into Monika Fuchs from TravelWorldOnline.de and didn’t even recognize her. She had to tell me who she was (embarrassing)!

 

Derek4Real on the right along with Jum and Warren

Jim and Warren with Derek4Real on the right

 

Poor Maria...She has to be embarrassed by my ugly mouth

Poor Maria…She has to be embarrassed by my ugly mouth

 

I had people coming up and saying hi and it finally dawned on me that my hat was a “brand”. Everyone kept saying they saw my hat and came over to introduce themselves, as I had asked ahead of time. I lot of the bloggers did not look like their profile photos and this old man struggled all night long trying to see who was who. A few that I talk with regularly like Charu Suri of the ButterflyDiary.com, Michael and Nicole of SuitcaseStories.com, Pola Henderson of JettingAround.com, and Alexandra Kovacova of CrazySexyFunTraveler.com I recognized immediately. Others I had to read their badges and at times even that was rough as my eyes are not what they used to be.

 

Charu from Butterfly Diaries

Charu from Butterfly Diaries

 

Alex from Crazy Sexy Fun Traveler

Alex from Crazy Sexy Fun Traveler (This may be worse than my photo with Maria–my darn mouth)

 

Pola from Jetting Around

Pola from Jetting Around

 

As the hours flew by it all became a whirlwind and I realized it was time for the “Senior” travel blogger to retire! I knew I had a jaunt back to the hotel and decided to use the men’s room on the way out. As I left and was climbing back up the stairs a voice asked “Are you Mike”? I turned and had absolutely no idea who had approached me “leaving the men’s room”. I was a little nervous to say the least. He showed me his badge and I almost fell over. It was Ted Nelson of TravelingTed.com , but he didn’t have his hat or sunglasses on and I didn’t put two and two together until I looked at his badge! We both got a big laugh. I asked someone passing by to take our photo and we were on record (of course if you know Ted, you know he had a beer in his hand)!

 

Traveleing Ted, the beer man!

Traveleing Ted, the beer man!

 

I walked home wondering what the next day would bring and how the “Virgin” would handle his first ever #TBEX conference. Time would tell! I have to learn to keep my darn big mouth shut for photos, if I learn nothing else from the conference!!!

 

Nicole and Michael of Suitcase Stories, with Emma of Got to Keep Moving in the Center

Nicole and Michael of Suitcase Stories, with Emma of “Got to Keep Moving”, in the Center

 

 

 

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Amateur Traveler Episode 471 - Travel to Austin, Texas



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