Prompt #27: WANDERLUST

Share a photo or video that just makes you want to GO. RIGHT. NOW

I have posted some of these before but they are worth posting (and watching) again.  I wish that I had come up with these ideas.  This is a perfect encapsulation of some of my favorite things and certainly a motivation for me to keep getting out there, to keep exploring the world.

MOVE from Rick Mereki on Vimeo.

LEARN from Rick Mereki on Vimeo.

EAT from Rick Mereki on Vimeo.


November 27, 2011 3 comments

Prompt #26: PHOTO my fourteenth entry in the 30 Days of Indie Travel Series

Post a photo of your favorite place and tell us what you love about it.

This should be a very easy post, but for some reason I am really struggling with it.  I am not sure if I have a favorite place.  There have been so many places i have loved.  South Africa was one of my favorite trips, filled with great sights, tastes and experiences.  I love Tibet and will always have a special place for Beijing, even with the difficulties that it can throw at you from time to time.  The United States and Michigan will always be close to my heart.  I love the mountains, and cities.  I love to experience new places.  In short, I don’t think I will ever have just one favorite place.  Instead, enjoy these five photos, some of my favorites and a representation of my favorite places.

This is also a good time to announce that I am launching a new photography only website soon that will feature a photo each day.  Look here for more details once I have them.


Prompt #25: FAMILY, my thirteenth entry in the 30 Days of Indie Travel series

Family shapes who we are, but sometimes the family we create plays a bigger role in our lives than the one we were born into. Tell a story about how either of your “families” have impacted your life and your travels.

From the very beginning, my family has encouraged and been an important part of my travels.  There is no way that I could travel as much as I do without the love, support and understanding of my family.  My family imparted their love of travel on me from a very young age.

Growing up International travel was not a big part of our lives.  In fact, until I was 17 the only other country I had been to was Canada.  We did, however, make it to every corner of the United States.  I have very fond memories of packing up our van pretty much every school vacation to visit family across the United States.  This is the big reason I have been to 45 of the 50 States.  Minnesota and New York were frequent destinations, though we also had a few trips out West, two times to Florida and a few trips to Texas.  Our family was proud of our ability to travel well together, made easier by my parents decision to purchase a 15 passenger van.  This ensured that each of us had our own seat making it easier to stretch out, get some sleep and stay out of each others way.  These trips would not have been possible without my Dad’s ability to stay awake all night.  He also was a master at the license plate and alphabet game, making our waking hours pass by quickly.  Many of these trips would depart on Friday when we got out of school.  A quick stop for dinner and a bathroom break or two were the only breaks he got to take before our early morning arrival.

These long trips were also made easier by the preparations my Mom made.  For each long trip (over 5 hours) we were given a travel box.  This was filled with activities and treats, plenty to fill the hours in the car when we were awake.  The rule was that we could not open them until we were on the expressway, the beginning of the trip that always seemed to take forever to get to.  When we each moved away to college we were able to take the travel box with us, filled with goodies to make our time in the dorm a bit easier.  To supplement these goodies on longer trips she also came prepared with a bag full of loot for either “eating, doing or sharing”.  Every few hours we were able to choose one of these to help keep us busy.  While never anything that we kept long term, we always looked forward to these diversions that remain a fond memory of our times together.

These early trips set the precedent for me to discover my world.  To know as much about different places as I could through first hand experience.  While International travel has taken the place of U.S. road trips, these trips are still some of my favorite memories of growing up.  I have no doubt that these trips helped to bring my family closer together, a bond that lasts today.

The encouragement to travel from my family has also been a part of my International trips.  I still have a long way to go to catch the number of countries that my Grandparents have visited.  My Dad’s parents have been to 56 different countries.  One of their last trips abroad was to visit me (along with the rest of my family) in China during the 2008 Olympics.  They were also the catalyst for my first trip out of North America, taking the entire family on a “heritage tour” of Europe so that we could help them celebrate their 45th wedding anniversary.  The 16 days we spent in Austria, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Germany and the Netherlands gave me the International travel bug that I still have not come close to satisfying.  This trip help show me just how much the world has to explore.  While I have made it to many more countries since, I have discovered that there is that just much else still to see.

There is really no doubt that a huge THANK YOU is in order to my family.  I cannot imagine what my life would be like without them, and without the travels I have taken that they have supported and inspired.  I can’t wait to see more of the world with them, starting in just a few weeks when my Dad, Brother and I explore Japan.

Thankful for the world

Prompt #24: GIVING THANKS, my twelfth entry in the 30 Days of Indie Travel Series

Seeing what others have – and don’t have – around the world often helps us appreciate our own good fortune. What are you thankful for this year ?

I am thankful for:

  1. Having a job and even more than that is having a job that allows me the flexibility to travel as much as I do
  2. Having a family that supports my life
  3. Having Teph to share my life and travels with
  4. Living in a time where it is possible to travel around the world, to stay connected with those that you love even when half way around the world.
  5. Health and Happiness

The Internet

Prompt #23: TECHNOLOGY – Number 11 of the 30 Days of Indie Travel series

Where would today’s travelers be without smartphones, GPS, iPods, iPads, or even the internet? Share one item of tech you can’t live without or tell us how technology has changed the way you travel.

I love technology.  It has changed travel for the better.  On my first international trip I had to pack a CD player and CD’s, enough books to get me through the time in the air and on the road, and a camera.  Today the CD player and CD’s have been replaced by my iPhone and the number of books I take has gone down since I have my numerous titles installed on my iPad.  I do have a lot more camera equipment and a laptop, but this is due in large part to my evolution as a photographer from using a point and shoot to a DSLR with the lenses and storage needs that go along with it.  I firmly feel that technology helps me to travel more enjoyably and to travel more intelligently.

The one technology that I could not travel without though is the internet.  On trips, the internet is my lifeline.  It provides a copious amount of information about a place very easily.  Maps, reviews and suggestions are all much easier (and more compact) to access than when you had to have a Lonely Planet guide with you for each destination.  Today you can log onto wikitravel.org and get great information about a place from a wide variety of people very easily, while other sites may offer specifically tailored information for your interests.

The internet is also crucial to travel bookings.  I no longer have to use an agent to compare properties and flights.  Instead I can do this quickly and easily, finding the best deal for my travel needs myself.  I can check on kayak.com what is available and at what price then go to tripadvisor.com to see if the lowest price is really the best deal.  I love to plan trips and with all of the tools on the internet available to me this is very easy to check out and consider alternatives.

The internet also plays a huge role in my communication while away from home.  It allows for inexpensive phone calls and email, making it far easier and far less expensive to keep in touch with my friends and family.  I do not need to find a postcard stamp and a mailbox, I just need wi-fi.  Skype makes it much less important to have an international calling card with you.  In short, without the internet, communication would be much more difficult and much more expensive.

The internet is a great addition to the lives of travelers.  It is important to let it go from time to time while traveling, to ensure that you are living life instead of living life online.  Without access to the internet, however, it would be much more difficult for me to live abroad, much more difficult for me to travel.

Trans-Siberian Railway

November 23, 2011 1 comment

Prompt #22: TRANSIT – my tenth entry in the 30 Days of Indie Travel series

The word travel comes from a French word meaning “work” and sometimes, getting there is work. Between crowded buses, long airline delays, overnight trains and crazy rickshaw rides, transportation can be stressful, but it can also be a rewarding part of the tip. Tell us about a time when the journey became more important than the destination.

The more I travel, the more I enjoy the journey, at least in hindsight.  While stuck in a small airplane seat, wedged into a bus on curvy mountain roads or trying to sleep on a layover, I have done my share of complaining, but these aspects of travel are far outweighed by the ability to experience something new, to be immersed in a culture unlike your own.  Looking back on the memories of travel these unpleasant events are usually glossed over, replaced by the highlights of the trip.

One trip I have taken that was all about the journey, the experience of getting there occurred in 2007, my first year teaching in China, I decided to take the long way home.  It had long been a dream of mine to take the Trans-Siberian railroad.  While I didn’t have to take the whole trip (Vladivostok to Moscow), the Trans-Mongolian (Beijing to Moscow) journey was a perfect opportunity.  7 Days on a train is a long time, but an experience I would do again in a heartbeat.  

I arranged and purchased everything for this trip from Beijing, meaning that most of the people in my car were Chinese.  I had a very limited budget and as a result had a cheap ticket that went straight from Beijing to Moscow instead of stopping to see some sights along the way.  The seven days I had on the train meant I got a lot of relaxing (sleeping) done, some very thick books (the Brothers Karamazov and others) read and some great conversations with the one other American in my car.  I am not sure I would do it straight through on a repeat journey, but it was an amazing experience doing it straight this first time.

There were some hiccups along the way largely due to lack of funds.  I had expected my debit card to work in Russia but was distraught when I got the message that it was rejected.  Once I got to Moscow I found out that all ATM transactions are blocked in Russia by my bank due to worries of fraud.  This would have been nice to know before departing since it meant that I had no money (and thus no food) for 5 days on the train.  I had a few snacks with me which I rationed and my car mates shared some that they had with me keeping me from completely starving.  Oh well, lesson learned.

This seven day trip was simply about the journey, the sights along the way an accompaniment to the constant movement across Asia and into Europe.  Upon arrival in Russia I had a great time visiting Moscow, St. Petersburg and then on into Scandinavia but the journey remains a great memory.  Sometimes taking a bit longer to get to a place pays off and makes you appreciate the distance we are able to travel these days.

Finding Myself

Prompt #21: LOVE AFFAIR, my ninth entry for the 30 Days of Indie Travel

When we travel, our senses are heightened. We feel more alive and we’re more free to do things we might not at home. We can be who we want. There’s an air of urgency to everything we do – we know our time here, in this place, and with these people, is limited. If we want to do something, we have to do it now. It’s no wonder then that many travelers have relationships on the road. Tell us about a “special someone” you met while traveling.

Not to be boring, but there have not been any on-the-road relationships in my past.  I have however, come to terms with myself while traveling.  Traveling removes the daily patterns that we so easily fall into in our life.  At home, we eat at more or less the same places, watch the same TV shows, spend our time online or running errands, things that  follow a predictable, usual pattern.  On the road, you throw all of these things to the wind.  Hopefully you are trying new things to eat, visiting places that you would not normally come across and even perhaps trying activities that are scary.   Through taking risks when traveling, I have discovered a lot of stuff that I actually kind of like.


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