October 20, 2010

Where's Andrew?


Ever since I returned from Antarctica, all my wonderful readers have been demanding to know when I would be heading out again. Well, the time has come. Starting next month, I will be out on the road for National Geographic Traveler, darting from one location to the next, exploring openly and sending back a steady stream of photos, video, tweets, and blog posts for all of you. Find me on Twitter, and stay tuned for more at National Geographic. Thanks for all your support and get ready to have some fun!

October 18, 2010

Counterintuitive


I am not a photographer. I am a writer who takes pictures now and then. That said, I find that in this day in age, if you work in media at all--even writing books--publishers and editors keep requesting photos of me, the writer. Over the past year, I've found myself having to take more and more pictures for higher-standard publications--Frankly, I find it all a very daunting challenge but also kind of fun.

Travel photography is tricky stuff and only now am I appreciating the real sense of work that goes on behind it. In an attempt to improve my photo skills, I took a 4-day course with National Geographic Expeditions. The entire experience was rich and educational, not to mention extremely tough and fun. I learned a lot in a very short time and feel an iota more confidence behind the camera then I did before. A lifetime of practice awaits.

Of the few thousand pictures that I shot, I was able to stomach about 10 of the images. Here's one of my favorites--a self portrait snapped in the bathroom/utility closet of a Capitol Hill used bookstore (it looks better bigger, so click on it if you want).

October 1, 2010

National Geographic Radio Interview



For the few and far between who actually read this blog. Here's my latest interview w/ National Geographic's wonderful adventurer and wild man Boyd Matson. I talk a bit about my bus trip to Antarctica, then hint at my next project, which will put me out on the road later on this year. Stay tuned to find out more!

September 29, 2010

Green Land

September has been a busy month, both for traveling and writing. I saw the dawn of September 1st from the window of a jet somewhere over the North Sea on my way to Copenhagen. I then spent a glorious week in Greenland, which is a country that has fascinated me ever since I could read a map. Finally getting to Greenland was a dream come true--and I also got goose-pimply over the fact that I have crossed both the Arctic and Antarctic circles this year.

Anyway, you can watch/read/listen to all my Greenland coverage over at Gadling, including the following video clips:



That's my attempt at speaking Greenlandic, which is a curious Inuit tongue. I have no idea if this is comprehensible, but I tried. Anyway, this is what traveling in Greenland is like:



I felt very fortunate to visit the village of Tasiusaq, a miniature dot of a settlement on the very southern tip of Greenland. During the hour I was there, the school kids came outside for recess, where they were playing baseball, so I thought:



I also ate whale (!):



And went swimming outdoors:

August 26, 2010

How I Travel

The kind folks over at BootsnAll asked me to participate in their "How I Travel" series. You can read the resulting piece HERE. Many thanks to Steve for taking an interest & for all their good questions & for caring enough to ask.

Honestly, I never really considered how I traveled until I got their questionnaire. I could tell you all the ways I don't travel, but not really anything beyond that. Can't say if it's right or wrong, better or worse. How I travel is that I travel, anyway, anyhow.

August 18, 2010

Undisclosed Location

This week I'm in another country. Normally I get to talk openly about where I am and what I'm doing, but this time it's different. Like some secret agent, I'm under strict legal obligation NOT to tell people where I'm at. And so I shot this video on the beach, giving all my readers a few clues as to where I am but not getting too specific. After a summer of sitting still it feels great to be out in one of the more exotic corners of the globe. I love re-discovering how much energy I get from traveling and this week is no exception.

August 9, 2010

Bus2Antarctica Feature Released

So, exactly one year after I actually pitched my crazy idea to National Geographic Traveler (to take buses from National Geographic headquarters all the way to Antarctica), the magazine has printed my story. If you don't have a subscription, then feel free to can rush out and buy four or five copies from the newsstand. Or you can read it online HERE. Or, you can be among the very first humans to get National Geographic Traveler on the iPad, the first issue of which includes my story with all of its multi-media layers.

I'd like to thank the many hands and minds that went into the final product, including (but not limited to) Janelle Nanos, Marilyn Terrell, Keith Bellows, Scott Stuckey, Jayne Wise, Krista Rossow, Jeannette Kimmel, and Suzanne Hackett. Thanks so much to all of you for helping me take an idea and make it a very real and fun adventure.


August 5, 2010

Digital Postcard: Punakha Dzong

I met Beth Whitman at the New York Times Travel Show where we were both on a panel about independent travel. She's a kindred spirit, a fellow guidebook writer, a wonderful wanderer and the founder of Wanderlust & Lipstick--a travel company for women. Beth knows Bhutan very well (so I'm jealous) and she sent me this about one of Bhutan's famous dzongs (the fortress-monasteries in this Buddhist kingdom). Thanks Beth!

Punakha dzong is easily the most beautiful of all the dzongs in Bhutan and has a storied history to boot.

First, you should know that a dzong is a combination of both a fortress and monastery and one is located in every district of the country. Dongs serve several purposes including protection for the region, an administrative seat for the government and they house the local monk body. Annual tsechus (festivals) are held in the courtyard of dzongs and villagers from the entire region walk for hours to attend, dressed in their finest traditional outfits.

Punakha dzong served as the seat of the country’s government up until 1955 (when it moved to the then new capital, Thimphu). Today, it is the winter home to the head abbot (called the Je Khenpo) and houses 600 or so monks. It’s here that the monks study Sanskrit scriptures and perform chants throughout the day.

The interior of the main temple is dominated by a large gilded statue of Buddha, flanked by Guru Rimpoche, Bhutan’s most revered lama who founded Buddhism in Bhutan, and Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, who unified the country in the 1630’s. Sitting behind glass and completely filling the side walls are a thousand small Buddha statues. Photography is forbidden in this sacred interior but stories linger and have been passed down through the generations.

One of the most fascinating legends concerns the near invasion of the Tibetan army in 1639. The Bhutanese army guarding the dzong was well outnumbered by the Tibetans – however they were quite clever.

While the Tibetans kept watch over the dzong in preparation for an attack, the Bhutanese marched out of one door of the dzong, walked around the corner and entered a secret entrance in the back, away from the eyes of the spying Tibetans. They then marched themselves out the front door once again. The Tibetans, thinking that they were too few to fight such a large army, fled without invading. This is an excellent example of how Bhutan has managed to stay independent for so long – despite being surrounded by both China and India.

The best time to visit the Punakha Dzong is in early spring when the purple jacaranda trees are in full bloom, the two rivers that merge right next to the dzong are raging and all of the monks are in residence. You might even have a chance to listen to the monks chant if you arrive by mid-morning.

July 8, 2010

Midsummer Armchair Travels

It's really, really hot outside. Over a hundred degrees and sweltering, so that the heat hits you in endless waves coming down from the sky and up from the asphalt-smelling street. Unlike most Americans in July, I am not going elsewhere or traveling or "getting away". In fact, I am staying put in my air-conditioned home office because frankly, I like Washington, DC in the summer. It's fairly empty and fun.

That doesn't mean I'm not busy. I'm incredibly busy because I'm trying to (start) writing a book, which is more difficult than most people will ever know. It's excruciating and delightful at the same time. Since writers also have to make money (do we?), I'm still pumping out blog bits left and right. There is no rhyme or reason to these little articles--I just pick a place on the map that means something to me and write about it. Hence the following titles:
So there. I listed some random blog bits I wrote in the past two weeks. I also flew to the Pacific Northwest for the first time. And I also finally completed my expense accounts for my trip to Antarctica, which involved three months of travel in 17 countries. It was the mother of all expense accounts and I am grateful to Netflix for getting me through the difficult days of gluesticking Guatemalan bus receipts onto construction paper.

Alright, so that's, like, my life right now. Not traveling, just writing, and glad for it. Don't worry though, I'll be back on the road soon enough.

June 19, 2010

A Fish Tale

When you travel so much, what kind of pet can you have? Well, I really, really wanna dog. I love dogs, but with my schedule it's just not feasible (or fair to the dog). Loving all animals, I have had about every kind of pet you can have and borrow other peoples' pets when they're away.

Nowadays, I settled on fish and have a big 60 gallon tank filled with white sand. I tried keeping a big, beautiful school of dainty neon tetras, which I love, but alas, they are so dainty that it was very hard keeping them alive. In fact, I ended up just killing a lot of Amazonian fish. Feeling somewhat guilty about this, I finally switched up to a heartier South American fish--a pair of bright orange tiger oscars that I named Diego and Santos, respectively. The tiny fish quickly grew into very large and very aggressive fish (which is what they're supposed to do) and became quite unruly--tapping the glass, splashing and fighting.

Also, Diego became greedier and greedier and grew larger and fatter and stronger than Santos. And then one day, Santos started swimming upside down and then eventually he was just floating upside down. Full-grown oscars are too gigantic to flush, so I had to have poor Santos euthanized (it pays to be married to a fish biologist). It was a mercy killing, given that Diego had already bitten him numerous times and peeled away large amounts of his scales (why, oh why must you be so mean, tiger oscar?)

The next day, Diego finished off the only other living thing in the tank, my 4-year old plecostoma, who I thought was immune given his size (big) and that he had been there first. I nearly cried I was so distraught.
I mean, I understand Diego's nature is to be territorial and aggressive, but the pleco was there first!

And so now I have a very large, single, angry fish who looms mightily in his territory and stares up at me with his fierce jaw every morning. I have changed his name to "Bastard" because it is far more fitting than the more humane and saintly Diego.

Bastard is the perfect pet for someone who travels lots because not only does he not care about me in the slightest, but if he doesn't get fed for a few days, it's not a big deal. He gets his fill when there is food and then makes it last. I still wish I had my itty bitty neon tetras just smiling and glowing in the light, but for now, Bastard will do.

June 14, 2010

Back from Bermuda

video

Still alive and kicking, just kind of swamped in work and stuff . . . "and stuff" including my past two Smithsonian lectures (India & Antarctica), lots of little work tidbits (copywriting, blogging, a few features and some articlettes) and my wedding. Yeah, I got married 10 days ago, so I've been rather occupied.

Hence, my recent trip to Bermuda was neither work-related nor anything-related other than relaxing with my better half. Now I realize all the cliche that surrounds a honeymoon to Bermuda, but there's a reason for that. I mean, I could have and would have gone anywhere in the world on my honeymoon, but I wanted something close (1 hour 45 minute flight from an airport that's a 5-minute cab ride from home, so CHECK), beautiful beaches (CHECK), civilized (CHECK), good diving (CHECK) and low maintenance (CHECK). Too bad it doesn't come in a cheaper package, but regardless of the high cost and cliche and all the rest of it, I have to say, I LOVE Bermuda. So many things are just right there. This was my second trip and will definitely not be my last.

Anyway, the above video clip is the last beach I swam on before reluctantly returning to my busy life in the city. Here's to real vacations--the kind without sightseeing or agendas or waking up too early. Just days and days of endless pink beaches to choose from.

May 13, 2010

I alway have Paris


Another month has passed and just how have I been spending it? Working, mainly. Working and recovering from work and then working again. Everyone keeps asking me where I'm going to next and honestly, I don't know.

Then I got this whirlwind assignment to Paris, which I could not say no to (say no to Paris?). Anyway, I had a lovely time, spent 24 hours hitting the streets and roaming about the most lovely urban space on the planet. Then I got stuck, for a LONG time. I dealt with three canceled flights and lots of bad airline inefficiency and all the rest of it--in the end, I coped by going back into the city for a few more hours and sitting in one of my favorite little corner parks in the 14th arrondissement.

So here I am, on a park bench, making excuses and just talking at the camera, explaining to all these imaginary readers how I'm sitting on a park bench in Paris, althought it looks as I could have been filming anywhere.

In the end I made it home, just in time to deliver my big lecture on Antarctica at the Smithsonian. It was a great crowd with lots of friends, old and new. Still, today, the day after, I'm still savoring the aftertaste of my too-short, too-crazy weekend in Paris.

April 6, 2010

LIVE Online


How do you even begin to try and capture a 10,000-mile overland journey from your home all the way to Antarctica? It's a baffling task, but I'm going to try and do exactly that next week during a 1-hour LIVE WEBINAR with National Geographic Expeditions on April 12th, 2010 at 8 PM EST. During the webinar, visitors will be able to watch and listen to my presentation live from their own computers at home and even ask questions via chat. I'm looking forward to finally connecting with all my fabulous followers and readers.

You can register for the free event HERE and read more about it at Intelligent Travel. Thanks again to both National Geographic Expeditions and Lindblad Expeditions for arranging this event and for all your wonderful support.

(Photo by Sisse Brimberg & Cotton Coulson/KEENPRESS)

March 21, 2010

Home

Home again, home again. I made it.

I'm back from Antarctica and my epic bus journey and the forever road of the Americas: North, Central, and South. It feels great to be home, especially since it's spring now, and it was fall way down there, and somehow I managed to skip all of the snow heavy winter. It took me a day to remember where I was, four days to unpack, and about two weeks to get back to my website. Yeah, that's how slow I am. So now I'm back at my desk and writing away.

It was a grand adventure friends, this throwing myself across the globe and finding penguins at the other end of it all. Everyone keeps asking where I'm headed to next and honestly, I don't know. There are so many options, but for the time being, I'm quite content to sit tight and be in one place for one time.

February 8, 2010

Bus 2 Antarctica

For those who don't know, for the last 5 weeks I've been riding buses all the way from my hometown of Washington, DC to the southernmost point I can get to: Antarctica. As of today, I've made it to the southern part of Patagonia and am waiting for my final bus to Ushuaia where I will board the National Geographic Explorer en route to Antarctica.

These two journeys--the 10,000 mile overland jaunt from National Geographic headquarters all the way down to the bottommost point of the America as well as the voyage to Antarctica--both represent dreams come true for me as a traveler. I am still overwhelmed and grateful for the opportunity that I have to do this.

I have not been updating this blog as much during that time as I have been blogging directly for National Geographic Traveler's main blog, Intelligent Travel.

Please follow along on my travels:
Thanks & see you all in Antarctica!