Rounding Up My Fathom Experience
May08

Rounding Up My Fathom Experience

I started writing about my experience with Fathom Travel immediately when I got back to Miami from the trip to the Dominican Republic.  I got about 200 words into my thoughts when I realized that I needed to let things soak in a little bit.  I needed to take a step back and try to understand what my Fathom experience meant, and what it could mean to those looking to join a trip with the cruise line.  I think that’s important to do. In today’s world of blogging so many of our words are knee jerk, so many of our thoughts are spilled out on paper; written high on emotion.  I wanted to let my emotions come back down to earth before writing this article. What is Fathom Travel Of course, before I can get into this piece, I need to talk about the brand.  Fathom Travel is a cruise line – under the umbrella of Carnival Cruises – that has started running trips down to the Caribbean for cultural and humanitarian purposes.  In fact, Fathom became the first American cruise line to visit Cuba in nearly 40 years recently.  The idea of the trips are to use mass tourism to make a difference.  Instead of lounging on the beach, or swimming with dolphins, guest have the opportunity to take part in “impact activities” such as tree planting, pouring cement, teaching English, or making water filters. Of course, whenever there’s a really quick hit style of volunteering like this, there are critics. And some of them are justified.  I have some thoughts. Criticisms of the Voluntourism Model I’m going to start off diving into a couple criticisms not to be cynical, but because I love the idea of tourism for change and positive impact, and I want to see it succeed. Positive vs. Negative Impact: We have to try to look at the balance. Is this trip having more of a positive impact, than a negative one?  The positive impact is clear and obvious. During the time we were there, we gave 3 new houses cement floors that didn’t have them before. We planted a couple thousand trees. We gave dozens of students, and people in the community a chance to learn a bit of English. But what were the negative impacts? Did we take jobs away from other people? Did our being there have a negative environmental impact? Which way did the positive vs. negative impact see-saw sway?  I think it was to the positive side. Fish vs. Teaching to Fish: A lot of what we were doing sort of fell in the category of handing out fish rather than teaching people...

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Hit the Heartland: 5 Springtime Adventures in Iowa
Feb12

Hit the Heartland: 5 Springtime Adventures in Iowa

The U.S. state of Iowa doesn’t generally hit the top of most travelers’ radars. In fact, most people who live in the United States wouldn’t be terribly likely to choose Iowa as a top vacation spot, but that’s all about to change. Aside from its reputation for corn and football, Iowa is a state that’s simply bursting with beautiful landscapes, trendy city scenes, and a fascinating heritage. The Hawkeye State is much more than flat, agricultural land; Iowa boasts elevated areas surrounding rivers and stunning parks. The historic and the modern come together in Iowa to offer visitors a lot more than they might expect. If you’re considering a visit to Iowa spring is the perfect time to go. As the cold weather dissipates and the countryside begins to bloom, there are many choices of Iowa activities that will suit any traveler. 1. The Iowa Great Lakes Not part of the true Great Lakes of North America, but stunning nonetheless, the 15,000 acres of glacial lakes northwest of Des Moines are one of Iowa’s main attractions for locals and visitors alike. Arnold’s Park and Okoboji are the two main population centers in the area, but that does not mean that they’re large city. These are small towns that still exude the lakeside charm of years past. Fishing, camping, and boating are the main activities here, and families have been coming here for generations. Rent a cabin or stay in one of the area hotels, and be sure to pay a visit to the Arnold’s Park Amusement park for a spin on the 125-year-old Ferris wheel. 2. The Des Moines Food Scene Dining out at a great steak restaurant has always been a must when paying a visit to Iowa, but much of the state has caught up with the rest of the world’s foodie scene, and Des Moines is no exception. Home to almost 1,000 restaurants, Des Moines is now a city that rivals many other in the United States on the food quality alone.  The East Village area of downtown Des Moines is home to hip and trendy eateries, and the rest of city offers up cuisines ranging from Thai to Italian and everything in between. Food trucks are even prowling the streets of Des Moines but are restricted to certain areas of the city. Check the Des Moines Register to find where your favorite truck is. 3. The Calkins Nature Area Located on the banks of the Iowa River in Iowa Falls, the Calkins Nature Area is a great way to learn more about the Iowa that existed in the days of yore. This 70-acre preserve is...

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Join Me in Peru AND Bolivia for a Photo Adventure
Apr08

Join Me in Peru AND Bolivia for a Photo Adventure

It’s with great pleasure that I announce that I’m now booking a second photo tour in South America in 2015! Since the booking for the first workshop – which is taking place in Peru, May 2015 – has been so successful, we decided to add another date to accommodate the people that couldn’t make the first trip’s dates.  Specifically, we had in mind the many teachers who let us know that they could only come in the summer months.  Well, here’s your chance. Get all the booking info here. A Bolivian Twist This tour, which will run starting July 13th in Cusco, Peru will not be the exact same workshop as the previous, however, as well be adding a Bolivian twist to it all. The tour will commence in Cusco, Peru where we will visit famous Peruvian sites like Ollantaytambo, Lake Titicaca and, of course, Machu Picchu.  From there, we will work into Bolivia and experience some incredible places such as the Uyuni Salt Flats, the Potosi Mines, and the great city of La Paz. All of the places we visit on this trip are tremendously photogenic, and we’re going to have a blast.  I hope you join us! Dates and Prices Start Date: July 13, 2015 in Cusco, Peru End Date: July 26, 2015 in La Paz, Peru Cost Per Person: $2,990usd For more information on the itinerary, FAQs, and what’s included in the tour, please head over to the info page for the photo workshop on Adventure.com What’s a Photography Workshop? I can’t speak for all photography workshops, because everyone operates differently.  However, in our workshops the goal is to have a genuine travel experience well not feeling rushed to take our photos, as well being in the right places at the right time for photography.  Moreover, these photo workshops give participants a look into what life is like as a professional travel photographer.   Our workshops also include 1-on-1 time with the professional photographers to discuss things like photo editing, and to do image critiques.  Of course, a big part of a photography tour is also meeting other people who have a passion for photography. So, whether you’re a professional photographer looking to build your portfolio quickly, an amateur photographer thinking about making the jump to pro, or just a hobbyist that doesn’t want to feel rush in the hobby, these trips are for you. More Information If you need some more information from me directly, you can always get a hold of me on my contact page.  So, if you have any questions, feel free to shoot me a quick...

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Join Me in Peru AND Bolivia for a Photo Adventure
Apr01

Join Me in Peru AND Bolivia for a Photo Adventure

It’s with great pleasure that I announce that I’m now booking a second photo tour in South America in 2015! Since the booking for the first workshop – which is taking place in Peru, May 2015 – has been so successful, we decided to add another date to accommodate the people that couldn’t make the first trip’s dates.  Specifically, we had in mind the many teachers who let us know that they could only come in the summer months.  Well, here’s your chance. Get all the booking info here. A Bolivian Twist This tour, which will run starting July 13th in Cusco, Peru will not be the exact same workshop as the previous, however, as well be adding a Bolivian twist to it all. The tour will commence in Cusco, Peru where we will visit famous Peruvian sites like Ollantaytambo, Lake Titicaca and, of course, Machu Picchu.  From there, we will work into Bolivia and experience some incredible places such as the Uyuni Salt Flats, the Potosi Mines, and the great city of La Paz. All of the places we visit on this trip are tremendously photogenic, and we’re going to have a blast.  I hope you join us! Dates and Prices Start Date: July 13, 2015 in Cusco, Peru End Date: July 26, 2015 in La Paz, Bolivia Cost Per Person: $2,990usd For more information on the itinerary, FAQs, and what’s included in the tour, please head over to the info page for the photo workshop on Adventure.com What’s a Photography Workshop? I can’t speak for all photography workshops, because everyone operates differently.  However, in our workshops the goal is to have a genuine travel experience well not feeling rushed to take our photos, as well being in the right places at the right time for photography.  Moreover, these photo workshops give participants a look into what life is like as a professional travel photographer.   Our workshops also include 1-on-1 time with the professional photographers to discuss things like photo editing, and to do image critiques.  Of course, a big part of a photography tour is also meeting other people who have a passion for photography. So, whether you’re a professional photographer looking to build your portfolio quickly, an amateur photographer thinking about making the jump to pro, or just a hobbyist that doesn’t want to feel rush in the hobby, these trips are for you. More Information If you need some more information from me directly, you can always get a hold of me on my contact page.  So, if you have any questions, feel free to shoot me a quick...

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On Guilt and Genocide at the Killing Fields in Cambodia
May09

On Guilt and Genocide at the Killing Fields in Cambodia

I’ve been to a lot of intense places on this planet.  If you know my history, you’ll remember that I studied conflict in University.  I made it a bit of a mission to try to understand what causes conflict.  Beyond school, I’ve travelled to as many of these post-conflict regions as I could do, in search of trying to continue to observe and learn.  As such, a visit Cambodia meant that a stop at the Killing Fields at Choeung Ek in Phnom Penh was a necessity. It’s often hard to muster up an explanation of what it’s like walking into a place like this.  Before arriving, you already know you’re meant to be sad.  You know that you’re going to be demoralized, saddened and perhaps even lose hope for a second in humanity.  Before setting foot in a place where genocide – the murder of hundreds of people – took place, you know exactly how you should feel.  But still, there’s no preparing for the actually feeling, is there? In many ways, visiting places like the Killing Fields in Cambodia as a tourist can make one feel guilty.  It’s something that I feel more than anything every time I set foot in a spot like this.  Calling it a tourist “attraction” hurts more than anything that could come out of my mouth.  As a tourist, we almost feel like we’re taking advantage of the horrors of the past to impose a feeling that we’re doing something for the betterment of the planet.  We feel guilty for visiting now, and we feel guilty that people just like us allowed this to happen, and continue to let things like this to happen around the world. But when it comes down to it, I don’t think of these places as “attractions” anymore.  The Killing Fields at Choeung Ek isn’t a travel destination or an attraction, it’s a duty.  As travellers, it’s not our right to visit places like this, it’s a show of respect.  We don’t – or shouldn’t – come to these places for anything related to us.  We do this to show respect for those who died, for those who fought for justice, and to try to find forgiveness for those who wronged humanity.  We should visit the Killing Fields in Phnom Penh, and all places like it, to show people that the sacrifices of those who died will not be forgotten. People come to places like this every day and use the line “I’ve come to make sure that mankind doesn’t make the same mistake again,” but, is it not clear that the same mistakes are forged out constantly?...

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Phnom Penh: Not What I Expected
Apr27

Phnom Penh: Not What I Expected

After reading articles from other travel bloggers and hearing stories from fellow backpackers, I have to admit that I had a greatly distorted image of Phnom Penh going in.  Perhaps the average traveller is just getting soft, maybe they always were, or maybe there is a side of Phnom Penh that is actually incredibly dangerous.  Regardless, I had begun to wonder what I was getting myself into.  Was I about to set foot in yet another bad situation like I had so many times before?  There had to be a real reason why so many backpackers warned me to just avoid Cambodia’s capital, right?   Instead, of taking the advice of so many, I went.  And when I arrived, I was markedly confused.  To my eyes, it was Bamako without the chaotic traffic.  It was a city on a wide stretch of river lined with cafes and restaurants, perfectly paved streets, and tuk-tuk drivers that didn’t find the need to yell fourteen times at me, or get in my face in regards to whether or not I wanted a ride somewhere.  It was tight inner city streets full of smiling kids begging for photos, and friendly hellos. Maybe it was just the change coming from Vietnam where, as a tourist, I was the ears to an unrelenting choir of stabbing “hello, hello, hello, helloooo” everywhere I went.  Or maybe, backpackers are full of shit.  Maybe Phnom Penh is too far from a beach and a mojito.  Perhaps there aren’t enough bikinis and jello shots to appease the average backpacker fantasy of Southeast Asia in Phnom Penh. Sure, Cambodia’s capital isn’t roses and lolipops either.  After exploring the side streets and local markets, it was obvious that there was a bit of an edge to the city.  At times, I got resentful looking glaces as I walked.  But in general, It was far from the squall of darkness and doom that had so often been portrayed to me by others.  I’d even heard reference from some that Cambodia should be avoided all together these days, as it has become too dangerous for tourists. It’s all just sensationalism isn’t it?  It’s just another example of tourists making their travels sound hard at the expense of reality.  It’s perhaps just another excuse to avoid actual local life instead of baking on a beach, dancing with 4,000 other tourists on a full moon-lit beach, then spending all day sleeping in a hammock while on your iPhone talking to family members back home, telling them how “you’ve begun to find yourself”. In so many ways, Southeast Asia has been exactly what I expected.  It’s the land...

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