Dead Goat Polo in Kyrgyzstan? Yeah, It’s a Real Thing.
Aug02

Dead Goat Polo in Kyrgyzstan? Yeah, It’s a Real Thing.

I used to be such a stickler to keeping the blog in chronological order, but I think that’s part of the reason why I always fell so far behind.  I think, too, that it doesn’t matter if I keep this thing in order. If you want to see what I’m up to day-to-day, you have my social media, and you have my travel vlog.  I think (final thought, I promise), that I want to use this space to just write about the things I want to write about, regardless of when they happened.  Today, I want to write about dead goat polo, a sport known as Kok-Boru in Kyrgyzstan.  It’s a bit barbaric, it’s definitely a bit of a controversy, but the thoughts the sport evoked in me were interesting, so I wanted to share them with you. What is Kok-Boru: Dead Goat Polo I’ve heard to people refer to Kok-Boru as both dead goat polo and dead goat football.  But, to me, it’s more like dead goat rugby.  The sport is actually played in many of the ‘stans and is named different things in different countries.  In fact, the sport was featured in one of the Rambo movies, though I think in that film it was being played in Afghanistan. The history and folklore behind the sport is interesting.  In Kyrgyzstan, after seeing my second match of Kok-Boru, one of the local players gave me a bit of a rundown on the sport.  Apparently, dead goat polo was invented in the mountains after locals saw a pack of grey wolves kill a goat and then toss it around for fun.  And while that first part might be folklore, the sport was actually used as a means to get horses ready for war.  And, if you ever watch the game, that idea makes full sense.  The horses, along with their riders are constantly smashing into each other, blocking, and battling. It does look like real war at times. In reality, the game looks a little bit like rugby with a tire-tube basketball-style goal.  Teams scrum for the dead goat, and try to scoop it from the ground of the pitch and then deliver it to the goal.  Most of the game is spent in a face-off-like battle to pick up the goat in which teams push and shove until someone picks up the goat. Then, they battle their way around the pitch until the goat gets tossed into one of the goals.  Quite often, the game can be a little bit slow. But, then, occasionally the scrums break and there is some excitement as they race towards a goal....

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Where to Stay? Jamaican Accommodation Guide
Mar28

Where to Stay? Jamaican Accommodation Guide

Honestly, most people who come from North America or Europe to Jamaica do so as some sort of a package.  They book complete trips that hook them up at all-inclusive resorts around the island.  Personally, I’m not much of a fan of the all-inclusive world.  It tends to leave tourists boxed in, and stuck in their particular resort.  And, yes, if you’re looking for a pure vacation where you don’t really have to think at all, it is a decent option. Still, I have some other ideas for you.  This is my quick guide to accommodation in Jamaica. Vacation Rentals I’m a huge fan of the vacation rentals world.  I think that rentals like this allow tourists a bit more freedom to explore, and maybe even a sense of living in a destination.  Moreover, one can find a wide spectrum of types of accommodation to stay in by using vacations rentals.  For example, you can often find fairly cheap apartments, or you can find beautiful luxury houses for rent in Jamaica.  So, regardless of what you’re after – or your budget – there’s an option for you. Boutique Hotels The boutique hotels are a great option in Jamaica as well.  Generally speaking, the boutique hotels you’ll find on the island have so much more character to them in comparison with the massive all-inclusive resorts. One of my favourite boutique hotels in Jamaica is a place called Rockhouse Hotel in Negril.  It’s rooms are cool, and the setting – out on a set of jagged rocks – is beyond incredible.  Some of the rooms even have their own private pools, others have ladders down into the calm bits of sea within the rocks.  It’s simply stunning here.  And, boutique hotels like Rockhouse are scattered all over the country. Hostels and Guesthouses If you’re on a bit of a budget, you can also find a bunch of hostels and guesthouses throughout Jamaica.  The guesthouses in particular are great value, and give you a nice insight into island life. The obvious downside to guesthouses is that for the most part they are fairly far from the beach or the tourist attractions.  The advantage is you’ll get a bit look at real Jamaican life.  It’s as close as you can get to renting a house in Jamaica.  Moreover, staying at the guesthouses is a nice way to get some interaction with the locals that you just don’t get at the all-inclusive resorts. If you’re really on a budget, you can actually find quite a few hostels in Jamaica as well.  Especially in bigger centers like Negril and Montego Bay, you’ll find some nice...

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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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