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Beauty In Your Own Backyard

All too often I find myself daydreaming about my next travel adventure. I would say 95% of the time, my mind wanders to international lands where I can find food, culture, and environments vastly different from my regular life.

But, then the financial reality of paying for these exotic trips that I dream of hits and I realize that the only way I can experience them as soon as I would like to is if I a) win a trip or b) win a trip. Seeing as I likely tapped out my trip winning luck for life, it’s time to look for alternatives.

Thankfully, last week I had the pleasure of attending the 2012 International Pow Wow in Los Angeles where Brand USA launched its first official marketing campaign for Discover America. Their ads are based on the four senses and how you can experience America through them.

See it. Hear it. Taste it. Touch it.

I got goosebumps when I saw this ad. Almost immediately my traveling mind started to wander to lands in my own backyard. Exploring the stunning landscapes of Yellowstone National Park. Enjoying the food, music, and culture of New Orleans. Experiencing the autumn glow of Vermont maple trees. I was excited about traveling and exploring the beauty and wonder that my own country as to offer.

Have you been surprised by what travel adventures your own backyard has to offer?

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Make It Count – Travel Inspiration

The video is a great reminder of why I love to travel, and why I decided to make tourism my career. Enjoy!

The Colors of Morocco

As our plane left Paris en route to Casablanca, I closed my eyes and started to imagine what my next 2 weeks would be like in Morocco. Having never visited the country before, I let my imagination take flight. I pictured being surrounded by varying shades of desert orange. Sand in my toes, my hair, and probably my mouth. Men and women adorned in scarves that kept the wind and blowing sand at bay. So you might be amused at my surprise when as we were about to land and I asked my sister, who had the window seat, “What does Morocco look like?” She responded… “Like California…”

California? Yah, I guess we have a desert, but that is not the first visual association most people have with the state. So, in disbelief I leaned over my sister to get my own first look of Morocco. She was right. It looked liked we were flying over Central California. There were bright green agricultural plots of land, rolling hills, and snowy mountains. All I could think was, did we get on the right plane?

Over the next 2 weeks I was amazed and in awe each day as Morocco surprised me with a new landscape, a new set of colors, a new destination image to add to my travel memories of this magnificent land. Here is a taste of  the kaleidoscopic backdrops of Morocco.

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Ruins of Volubilis which are surrounded by olive fields

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Evening walk in Midelt, a town known for it's apple production

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The Sahara Desert

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Palm grove oasis in Todra Gorge

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Snow in the High Atlas Mountains

Sunset in Essaouira

Tourism Ads That Make Me Happy

I love a good tourism ad, don’t you? Sometimes they make me want to travel to a destination, and other times they just make me happy and remind me why I love tourism people so much. Here are some of my favorite tourism gems.

1) Visit California – I love Jason Mraz and Betty White. Therefore awesome commercial.

2) Switzerland Tourism – This makes me writhe in agony… but I can’t stop watching. I love old men, and this one is particularly adorable.

3) Enjoy England – The goal of this advert is to encourage Brits to travel domestically in 2012. Little do they know, it makes Anglophiles, like myself, go weak in the knees with all the delicious britishness.

4) Las Vegas – Know the code. Need I say more?

5) Switzerland Tourism… again. This one is my all time favorite. Only tourism advert that literally had me going to kayak.com to look at flight prices after watching it. They clearly understand their target market. Hubba hubba. Switzerland for the the win!

What Inspires You To Travel?

Videos like this inspire me…

Music and Travel: Jason Mraz, From Grammy Award Winner to Global Traveler

I’m a touring artist who seeks out unique corners of the world to find influences for my music. – Jason Mraz
(Jason Mraz concert, Manchester, UK, 2003)

(Jason Mraz concert, Manchester, UK, 2003)

You may not believe me, but I have traveled around the world multiple times with the Grammy award-winning musical wordsmith, Jason Mraz. Albeit, the majority of the time he was encased in my ipod and communicated with me through my headphones. But a few times he was on stage, in his element, as a traveler just like me.

For me, and I imagine many others, music and travel go hand in hand. Can you really imagine a road trip without the radio on or your favorite “on the road” playlist? For musicians, like Jason Mraz, travel can be a form of inspiration and musical education.

Not only is Jason Mraz an amazing musician and songwriter, he is also a thoughtful, inspired traveler. Below are some excerpts from a recent interview Jason did with National Geographic Traveler, for their One on One feature.  The full interview can be found here: Traveling Troubadour.

What style of traveler are you? A spontaneous one, with little preparation. I pack light. I don’t feel a need to rush through all the major landmarks. Like, if I go to Paris, I might just take a walk, with no map or tourist site in mind, and end up in a neighborhood coffee shop. That’s how I ended up in San Diego. I traveled there and found this great coffee shop that I love to make music in and I ended up staying. I’ve lived there for 12 years now.

Are there places that have moved you to write songs? Many. I wrote several songs during my time in Ghana. I made a return trip to Brazil for a week to absorb the music and culture, and I wrote many songs. New York had a profound effect on me, as well as California. I’m a touring artist who seeks out unique corners of the world to find influences for my music.

What has really surprised you in your travels? I’m constantly surprised that no matter where I go, people are similar, just trying to make it. We’re all quiet and shy in an elevator with other people. Most people hesitate to make eye contact. Before I ever traveled to Japan I thought maybe it would be like another planet. But when I got there I realized, oh, these are just humans over here doing the same human thing, perhaps with different resources. It made me feel less timid about going places and more able to just walk through a village in, say, Ghana, looking like the only white guy alive.

Are there places you haven’t been to yet that you want to visit? I’ve always wanted to take that cruise to Antarctica to see the unspoiled continent. That would be just a brilliant trip for nature, solitude, and for writing in the journal. To really see Earth, you should visit all seven continents, and that is the only one I have not been to.

This interview got me thinking about how much music has influenced my travel experiences. I am curious how it has influenced yours as well.

What are some of your favorite music/travel memories?

I’ll start things off…

  • Always seeing Peruvian Pan Flute bands when I travel outside of the US.
  • Going on a road trip to the Grand Canyon with my family and listening to REM and the 4 Non Blondes on repeat the entire way.
  • Singing so loud at the karaoke club in Kyoto, Japan that my friends took my microphone away from me.

Traveling Sustainably Is Easy When You Are Visiting San Francisco

Excellent, my first reader question (courtesy of my mother):

We’ll be in San Francisco for several days in a couple of weeks with family from the Midwest.  Do you have any suggestions for activities other than the large tourist attractions that would support the local community?

San Francisco is a pretty magical city to visit with everything you could ask for on a vacation in the wee space of a 7×7 square mile box. Because of its limited space resources, San Francisco has taken innovative steps to become one of the top Green cities in the U.S. The city excels in sustainable values with its vast public transportation network, strong biking community, well-preserved parks and green spaces, and support for local shops and restaurants.

But to answer the question more specifically, with regard to looking for tourist worthy activities that support local communities in San Francisco, I have the following ideas…

San Francisco is well-known for having distinctive neighborhoods. Each neighborhood has its own eclectic style and feel and consequently each neighborhood, aside from Union Square and the Financial District (which are full of chain stores and restaurants), is filled to the brim with local SME’s (small and medium-sized enterprises). Therefore, you can pretty much walk around any neighborhood in the city and easily support the local community by supporting their local businesses.

One idea for getting to know some of these unique neighborhoods, while supporting and interacting with the local community, is joining one of the San Francisco City Guides walking tours. City Guides is a non-profit organization that runs primarily off of the support of volunteer guides. The tours are free and no reservations are required, unless you are a group of 8 or more. The guides are locals themselves and this promotes a healthy interaction between visitors and hosts who are both excited about sharing knowledge about the city they love. Tours range from general neighborhood walks of Japantown or West Portal, to themed ones like Ghosts, Sinners and Secret Places and Billionaire’s Row: Outdoor Broadway Architecture.

Another great destination to visit in San Francisco that will help support the local community is taking a trip to the Ferry Building. While it is slowly starting to become a tourist hot spot, it is still a local hangout and brimming with locally sourced shops and places to eat. Furthermore, if you visit on a Tuesday, Thursday, or Saturday you can enjoy the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market which takes place just outside of the Ferry Building.  Visiting the market and sampling the local food, such as the pork sandwich from Roli Roti, will help support the local Northern California agriculture industry.

Does anyone else have any suggestions on places to take visitors in San Francisco that support local communities and/or would be sustainable travel options?

For more information on “Green” travel options in San Francisco, visit the San Francisco Convention and Visitor Bureau’s website dedicated to the topic: http://www.onlyinsanfrancisco.com/green/

Inaugural Post

I thought it would be a good idea, for my first posting, to share some of the things I hope to address in the future of this blog to titillate your interest. (Yes, I just said titillate)

But I think it is first important to start at the very beginning, it’s a very good place to start. When you write you begin with “A, B, C”, when you travel you begin with “Where the hell am I?”

Lot’s of travel blogs will tell you all about the next coolest place to visit in the world, but not mine. OK, I lie, maybe I will a little bit. My main goal, however, is to spread the word about sustainable tourism. Now, before you go waving me off for being too “hippie” or a “tree-huger” take a listen to some of my ideas. I am fully aware that many believe sustainable tourism is an oxymoron since tourism itself is a rather consumptive activity. In many ways this is true, and I fully acknowledge that I too consume a great deal when I travel and leave a mighty footprint when I fly on planes. But, I am hoping to show you that there are smart, smarter, and smartest choices to make while traveling that do result in positive sustainable outcomes and can increase the fun factor on your holiday experience. I hope to cover a broad range of topics as this blog of mine progresses. From questioning what sustainable tourism really means, to highlighting specific sites and sounds around the world that can be sustainably experienced. I also plan to talk about some cheaper traveling options, for those like me with small budgets, that can make larger differences in a community than an over the top, oober pricey, resorty/cruisey vacation. And if you are lucky I may post some embarrassing holiday photos and videos of my own travel experiences. Obviously I would do this to once again titillate your interest.

So, to get things started, I would love for you to send me any questions you have or ideas you would like me to discuss about traveling, tourism, sustainability, my love of trekking with llamas, etc. Let this blog be your oyster.

Wait, what?

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