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Service Travel

Written by Payton Lee in Asia, Culture

Guest post by Kyle Bristow Kyle is an advocate for SERVE THE CHILDREN, a missionary organization that serves schools in Liberia and Central India. He travels all over the world, but holds a special place in his heart for trips that fulfill a bigger purpose. To find out more or to donate go to www.servethechildren.com. I HAVE the honor of kicking off a four-part series on an organization that’s near and dear to my heart called Serve the Children.  Serve the Children is an organization that, among other things, helps support three schools in Liberia and a children’s home in central India.  I had the privilege of living at the children’s home for four months …

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Sitting on Cushions in Seoul

Written by Payton Lee in Asia

  Guest Post by Kyle B. Kyle is a United Airlines Customer Service Specialist. He is married with 2 kids. Kyle and his wife still manage to make travel and adventure a priority of life. Visiting over 34 countries to date, his goal is to see as much of the world as he can, learning more and more as he goes.   A ten hour layover in Seoul became one of my fondest memories in South Korea.  My wife and I went into the city to snap pictures of Gyeongbokgung Palace.  Afterwards, our stomachs lead us in search of substance. However, despite being near a popular tourist spot, our surroundings consisted of what looked like …

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Embrace the music of the world

Written by Hank Martin in Asia

If you are looking for a real sensory trip take a caravan, by Camel, several miles outside of Dunhuang. As you wind across the vast stretches of golden sand listen for the sound of the world talking to you.

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The Code of The Samurai: Civics, Bushido, and Death

Written by Hank Martin in Asia

Japan wasn’t always an imperial country. At one point they seamlessly blended warfare and government, and not in the military industrial complex way of today. There was a time when the warrior class ruled Japan, living by a code of honor so valiant and deep that its origin is untraceable.

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Are you Looking in the Box?

Written by Hank Martin in Culture, Personal Development

Learning to Create Disruption If your life, your job, your relationship was perfect you would be bored. But, just because something is not perfect does not mean we should not continue working towards perfection. I sat contemplating this the other day as I thought about business. Businesses are systems. In fact, everything is a system, including your life. We like systems to run the same way every day, and willingly accept flawed system out of fear. Too afraid of creating chaos and then possessing the ability to control it we shun opportunities for improvement. Think of the intricate system beneath the hood of your car, for example. If one component is not running correctly the …

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Service Travel

Written by Payton Lee in Asia, Culture

Guest post by Kyle Bristow Kyle is an advocate for SERVE THE CHILDREN, a missionary organization that serves schools in Liberia and Central India. He travels all over the world, but holds a special place in his heart for trips that fulfill a bigger purpose. To find out more or to donate go to www.servethechildren.com. I HAVE the honor of kicking off a four-part series on an organization that’s near and dear to my heart called Serve the Children.  Serve the Children is an organization that, among other things, helps support three schools in Liberia and a children’s home in central India.  I had the privilege of living at the children’s home for four months …

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Play the Game: History Culture and Travel of Games

Written by Payton Lee in Culture

It all started with a game of Backgammon. Since we had never played before it was a battle between us, and a battle to decipher the rules. The first time playing any game can be frustrating. You read the rules, try to figure out a strategy, grow impatient, and just begin. Many times the first round is full of wrong moves, arguments over correct rules, and a surprise win. The more you play the better you get at remembering rules, and you start developing a personal strategy against your opponent. As we learned Backgammon, I discovered a direct connection to travel. The first time traveling can be frustrating as you deal with lots of unknowns. …

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How to Bargain in Morocco

Written by Hank Martin in Culture, Middle East, Personal Development

Bargaining at a market, with a friend, or anywhere else is an art form and a long-lost skill. We’ve become conditioned to accept what the price tag tells us. But, in many parts of the world bargaining is as common as breathing.

Before there was such a thing as money people bartered for goods. The skills and techniques of bargaining are thousands of years old.

These skills are useful even if you aren’t going to be traveling anywhere. Looking to buy a car? How about something from Craigslist or your local newspaper’s classifieds? Even in the U.S. the art of the haggle is alive and well.

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How does the exchange rate affect travel

Written by Hank Martin in Culture, Personal Development

I’m a by the book kind of guy. Lately I’ve been hooked on date regarding U.S. travelers. Using data from the Office of Travel and Tourism Industries and historical exchange rates from the Federal Reserve between the dollar and the euro I put together a few graphs. I wanted to answer the question: Does the exchange rate affect the travel habits of people. Below are my insights and findings: Method: I began by taking the exchange rate between the dollar and euro for January 3rd of every year from 2000 – 2015 Next I took the total number of yearly travelers to Europe from the United States from 2000 – 2015 My aim was to see …

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Hike Sucha Bella Gorge 

Written by Hank Martin in E. Europe

On those rare winter days in Slovakia when the sun is a bright yellow disc in a cold, clear blue sky you remember that action makes you human. So you move, leaving Spisska Nova Ves to itself and discarding the little downtown park and bars where you can do shots of absinthe and walk to an auditorium now converted in to a night club.

Each step West you take brings a renewed pioneer feeling, as if you are an adventurer heading towards unknown destinations. Eventually trees with huge, nude canopies frozen by winter’s cold, and pine cones tossed carelessly to the rock hard terra by evergreens appear.

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How to Navigate a European Cafe

Written by Hank Martin in E. Europe, Travel Tips, W. Europe

Ahhh…the European cafe, a focal point of any great Europe adventure. With nice weather you can sit outside on the patio and watch people walk through the town square while sipping a foofy latte of some sort. Or, you can proceed inside and stumble your way through the tables scattered like land mines in front of the entrance. I am convinced this is done to see who is a tourist and who is a local. Tourists trip, blunder and crash through the entrance while locals already know the best route through this cafe land-mine. European cafes embody everything that is notable about European culture: simple pleasures, portion controlled coffee, the company of others that you …

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A Musical Sea Organ in Zadar, Croatia

Written by Payton Lee in E. Europe

Zadar, Croatia – Sea Organ Croatia took my breath away every second it got. From the beauty of the coastline and clear beaches to the rushing of waterfalls, this country has been blessed with eye-catching landscapes. After camping through this skinny coastal land, I found a new appreciation for the wonders of nature. And then, we found the cherry on top in Zadar. The Zadar boardwalk is beautiful at night with ambient lighting and an endless view of the sea lined with cargo ships lit up. But, it doesn’t stop there. This beautiful boardwalk plays a tune that melted my heart. The morske orgulje, as the Croatians say, is a musical sea organ built to …

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Atlantis…The Lost City Uncovered

Written by Hank Martin in E. Europe

Sometimes when we are are lost in the present the past reveals treasures that show us a new way for the future . It is not every day that a whole city gets frozen in time, unavailing stories and traditions of long ago.  Stretched out on the red sand I watch small waves crash into the shore. Whoooooo puuuusssshhhhh. Poseidon sends row after row of the rippling Aegean Sea out to meet the wet sand. The cliffs and sand were infused with red from volcanic eruptions. This is how the nearby city of Akrotiri, a greek city preserved and buried under volcanic ash gained its fame. The excavations are deep, as if they are digging …

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The Theatre of Dionysus: Think Big

Written by Hank Martin in E. Europe

Located near the Parthenon is the theatre of Dionysus, a theatre responsible for shaping European theater today and giving the world the tragic and comedic plays. The greatest of these two was the tragedy, a play aimed at giving audiences a cathartic, life changing experience through the tragic experiences characters underwent.

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Watching Sunrises

Written by Hank Martin in Middle East, N. America, W. Europe

A sunrise and sunset have one thing in common, nobody watches them anymore. We are too busy. Can you remember  the last time you watched the sun crank itself into the sky and bring light to the world, or slip behind the horizon in a prism of color? I have seen sunrises and sunsets all over the world, and each one is different. Israel In Nazareth I hiked Mt Sinai, crossing a highway now cleaving the mountain in two. We wove a drunken path up the mountain, cutting back and forth in big half circles. The sun rose on the way up, exposing patches of wild green grass and clay earth underfoot. Finally summitting, we …

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Asilah, a City of Shapes, Faults, and Risings

Written by Hank Martin in Middle East

If you travel North of Tangier, Morocco and head towards the smell of salt and the squawk of birds you find Asilah standing stout and thick like a dwarf. The legs of the city are thick walls that run beside the beach, foundations buried deep in loose sand. Above the wet block wall, the color of a middle aged man’s hair, white pushes up like Tetris. Rising in squares and rectangles the pieces keep falling until they surpass the gray wall and cut shapes out of the blue sky. These boxes have drooping eyes cut into their sides, elongated half circles that look towards the crashing Atlantic Ocean. Some of the eyes are framed with …

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Trusting in Authenticity

Written by Hank Martin in Middle East

If you travel through Jerusalem, beyond the Western Wall and Sepulcher of Christ that empower and give meaning to so many, and keep traveling East you pass through kibbutzes trying to give meaning in a different way. At this point, North of you is Jerico, a city surrounded by an old wall and filled with houses and people the color of sand. Keep moving East and South through the 1949 Armistice Agreement Line, the boundary formed by the formal armistice that ended the Arab-Israeli War and established treaty line for Israeli and Jordanian-Iraqi Forces, and towards the southern tip of the dead sea. Beyond this imaginary line drawn on a map is a place called …

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How to Bargain in Morocco

Written by Hank Martin in Culture, Middle East, Personal Development

Bargaining at a market, with a friend, or anywhere else is an art form and a long-lost skill. We’ve become conditioned to accept what the price tag tells us. But, in many parts of the world bargaining is as common as breathing.

Before there was such a thing as money people bartered for goods. The skills and techniques of bargaining are thousands of years old.

These skills are useful even if you aren’t going to be traveling anywhere. Looking to buy a car? How about something from Craigslist or your local newspaper’s classifieds? Even in the U.S. the art of the haggle is alive and well.

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How to Make Moroccan Mint Tea

Written by Hank Martin in Middle East

I raised my glass and took a long swig, savoring the sweet, minty beverage. My 8 oz. drinking glass was filled to the brim with green leaves. The liquid itself was muddy, the color of melted cane sugar. But the taste was dangerous, very dangerous. It tasted like sunshine in a glass, and gave me a warm fuzzy feeling like a gaggle of kittens.

That was my first experience with Moroccan Mint Tea, or Maghrebi Tea, a tea most popular in Spain and Morocco. This delicious beverage is easy to make, and even easier to drink. It is perfect after a long day of work at the job you hate, or as a way to wash away your worries.

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Real Jobs are for JERKS! ~ feature from ski bum issue 14

Written by Payton Lee in N. America

“Real Jobs are for Jerks” Written by Kevin Eddy, a Breckenridge ski instructor and trainer. He is a 25 year snow-sport educator, whose career has led him on ski adventures in Wyoming, South Dakota, New Mexico, and Colorado. Currently he is soaking up nearly as many ski days as his ski bum heroes, and looking for opportunities to get even more via the backcountry.   If you take a morning stroll down Main Street in Breckenridge, CO on any day during the ski season, it will seem like any other morning, in any other town.  The hustle and bustle of business owners getting their doors open.  Food trucks supplying their wares to said businesses.  People …

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Watching Sunrises

Written by Hank Martin in Middle East, N. America, W. Europe

A sunrise and sunset have one thing in common, nobody watches them anymore. We are too busy. Can you remember  the last time you watched the sun crank itself into the sky and bring light to the world, or slip behind the horizon in a prism of color? I have seen sunrises and sunsets all over the world, and each one is different. Israel In Nazareth I hiked Mt Sinai, crossing a highway now cleaving the mountain in two. We wove a drunken path up the mountain, cutting back and forth in big half circles. The sun rose on the way up, exposing patches of wild green grass and clay earth underfoot. Finally summitting, we …

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Collecting Sea Glass: Regret and Travel

Written by Hank Martin in N. America, UK

When you walk a long stretch of beach on a windy day your footprints disappear as fast as you make them. The sand is wet and rough, like a dog’s tongue, and now and again you may spot a piece of sea glass. Sea glass is a small piece of highly polished glass. Formed over decades this glass is shaped by friction from currents sand tumbling waves. Smooth and cool to the touch, these shards look like gemstones with their deep blue, green and red colors. Because they are often very small you will miss some of these wonders while walking. But, if you walk long enough you will find enough to fill both hands. …

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Sometimes You Get Lost in the Desert

Written by Payton Lee in N. America, Personal Development

I don’t know if I can pedal or walk another inch. We may be stranded here for the night. Of course we would probably freeze to death. Naturally when we left the car it was 70 degrees, so I shed all warm layers, leaving them behind. Real smart move there. Maybe I could wrap myself in first aid bandages or start a fire with the lighter. Would that keep the predators away? Are there snakes out here? We literally can see no road, no sign of human life, and have hardly any cell signal out here. Move legs, move! These were my unspoken thoughts during our latest biking adventure. We had set out for a …

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Hustle, Failure and Searching for Greatness

Written by Hank Martin in N. America, S. America

For it is not what happens to me that makes me great but what I do, and certainty there is no one who believes that someone became great by winning the big lottery prize. – Soren Kierkegaard In Virginia you can visit Thomas Jefferson’s plantation, finding amazement in the winding living room staircase that was built by soaking wood in water and bending it. Or, go to Santa Marta, Colombia and see Simeon Bolivar’s home that overlooks the Mediterranean. Anywhere you go you can find greatness immortalized, houses preserved as monuments, memorials, statues and more. Despite different politics, economies and cultures greatness is a universal concept. There is something humanizing and inspiring about seeing the …

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Are you Looking in the Box?

Written by Hank Martin in Culture, Personal Development

Learning to Create Disruption If your life, your job, your relationship was perfect you would be bored. But, just because something is not perfect does not mean we should not continue working towards perfection. I sat contemplating this the other day as I thought about business. Businesses are systems. In fact, everything is a system, including your life. We like systems to run the same way every day, and willingly accept flawed system out of fear. Too afraid of creating chaos and then possessing the ability to control it we shun opportunities for improvement. Think of the intricate system beneath the hood of your car, for example. If one component is not running correctly the …

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Creating Vs. Documenting: Why Technology is Ruining Your Experience of a Place

Written by Hank Martin in Personal Development

Cell phones are making us dumb and preventing us from seeing the world. Everywhere I go I see people with phones in their hands. Check out lines. Coffee shops. In cars. At bars. Cell phones have become a habitual activity. We use them even when we do not mean to as a way of filling the gaps in our day. Cell phones are killing our lives Did you know that over 10 billion photos are taken with iPhones every month? Wrap your head around that one. 10 Billion. What do we do with all these photos? Well, over 300 million are posted to Facebook every month. Most of the rest probably go on Instagram or …

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A Train Somewhere: Preparing for Success

Written by Hank Martin in Personal Development

The countryside rolled by, and I moved onward from one place to another. I don’t even remember where I was going that time. That’s sad. Too many train rides. Too many plane rides. Too many car rides. All of them taking me from this place to that place. I was young then, that’s what I remember. The experience is only sensations. The blur of the landscape. The hard plastic seats. The clack of metal on metal as wheels rolled on over metal lines in to the distance. I have so many of those experiences that they gel together. All of the things I’ve experienced on trains couldn’t have happened on the same journey, could they? …

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Three Inches Up…There’s a Great Big World

Written by Hank Martin in Personal Development

Look up! Look up! Look what your missing! It’s right in front of your face! I watched 50 or more people stroll through town the other day with their heads down. Can you guess why their heads were down?  Yep, because they were engrossed in their cell phones. These were not just locals and this place was not just a dirty big city street. No,the people I was watching were tourists from out of town, vacationing in one of the most beautiful mountain towns during one of the most beautiful fall seasons I’ve ever experienced. Maybe they looked up for one second to snap a quick photo of the golden sunlight striking the grey peak …

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Appia Antica Way

Written by Hank Martin in Personal Development

Rome is like a cake. Beneath roads are old houses, a subterranean layer of history eroding away and returning to the Earth. Modern civilization is the frosting on top, a metamorphosizing, gelatinous mass of life shifting at the whims of the time. Some parts of this upper crust are the same as always. Bernini alleys, a coliseum built from money plundered from Jews, Salvi’s trevi fountain and more are relics of a different time. You can pass an ATM on the corner and then find yourself standing before the looming, black and weathered Pantheon. History overflows in this city like water from a bucket. The past spills into the modern world, melding the two. In …

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Is Colombia Safe?

Written by Hank Martin in S. America

So you are thinking of traveling to Colombia, but are not sure what to expect. Is Colombia scary? Is it safe for you to travel there? Will your life be in danger? All these questions and more are answered.   Misconceptions about Colombia Pablo Escobar. Strippers. Blow. Murder. These are just some of the misconceptions about Colombia. It is true that Escobar once had his henchman kidnap officials in a government building and tanks leveled the building to kill the intruders. They also killed many innocent people. There is also truth to the corruption of Colombia. There was the Banana Massacre way back in 1928. Then bribery and treachery once filled every level of government, …

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Hustle, Failure and Searching for Greatness

Written by Hank Martin in N. America, S. America

For it is not what happens to me that makes me great but what I do, and certainty there is no one who believes that someone became great by winning the big lottery prize. – Soren Kierkegaard In Virginia you can visit Thomas Jefferson’s plantation, finding amazement in the winding living room staircase that was built by soaking wood in water and bending it. Or, go to Santa Marta, Colombia and see Simeon Bolivar’s home that overlooks the Mediterranean. Anywhere you go you can find greatness immortalized, houses preserved as monuments, memorials, statues and more. Despite different politics, economies and cultures greatness is a universal concept. There is something humanizing and inspiring about seeing the …

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Photo Story: Colombian Finca

Written by Payton Lee in S. America

Coffee Plants, Coffee Beans and One Great Cup of Coffee Our journey started with a 40 minute taxi ride outside of  Santa Marta. We passed through small town after small town, each one more rural than the one before. Nestled deep in the jungle, accessible by a concrete road filled with pot holes and curves, we found a gem called La Victoria. Coffee farms fill rural Colombia. Envisioning that so humble and hidden a place helps fuel the worldwide coffee addiction is difficult. But don’t take our word for it. Our photo story will let you to see La Victoria coffee farm as we did. So put on a fresh pot of coffee, sit back, …

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Stop Throwing Your Pennies into Wishing Wells; A Penny Saved is a Trip Paid

Written by Payton Lee in The Backpack

  A picture of a wishing well in New Mexico recently reminded me there are two types of people: those that wish and those that act.  Which are you?  I continued to think on this image and it led me to the following inspiration.                 “Wishing wells are great for those who have a pocket full of pennies.”                 “Wishing wells are not great for those who wish to see the world.”                 “Wishing cannot make you get on a plane.”                 “Wishing cannot make you see …

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Sneak Peak: Issue 13

Written by Hank Martin in The Backpack

Our next issue is smokin! We went through and redesigned our look. It looks awesome, but we might be biased. Issue 13 is packed full of beer stories, relationships and service. Find out more below. Summary: Germany boasts some of the best beer in the world. There are still monastic breweries, with faithful monks who made the craft popular way back in the 10th century. However, the monk’s traditions have reached a new state in America. Today more than 3,000 microbreweries have popped up with specialty craft beer. Much like the monks, these craft brewers try their hand at new recipes in order to please the pallets of patrons. But this issue is not just …

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Plan for the Unplanned

Written by Payton Lee in The Backpack

The flight attendant came over the speaker phone, “Ladies and gentlemen, please don’t strangle me for the bad news I’m about to deliver. The cooling feature in this air tight bubble is taking a vacation for the moment. You will have to breath in your neighbor’s hot air and comfort yourself with our overpriced snack menu while we talk the system down from its tropical mood. The pilot says he could still make the 10 hour journey on time, but the airline company doesn’t want him wasting extra fuel, so it will now be an exhausting 11 hour journey. We will keep you updated if we aren’t too busy gossiping in the back foray about …

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Do you have your BREAD BAG?

Written by Payton Lee in The Backpack

When you think of soldiers it is automatic to think of cameo uniforms, guns, weaponry, and other badass James Bond like gadgets. You probably don’t think about their lunch sacks, though, or even the fact that yes, soldiers have to eat too. During World War II, rations, or nutritional supplies, were in the form of bread, dried meats, and cheese. Bread being the cheapest of the three was the most common and filling for a long day of walking, hence the naming of the bags. Unlike today’s compact MRE’s that come in nice plastic pouches, a soldier’s meal was put into this “bread bag” to store for later. Some would sling them over their shoulder …

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Picking Your Travel Buddies

Written by Payton Lee in Travel Tips

So you really really want to travel with one or more of your best friends. It sounds awesome; it looks perfect in the movies; and you are always having fun together. Stop, heed the caution signs, check your traits, and leave your flapping friendship at the door for a minute. There are things you must know before you make this life changing, friendship testing journey. Traveling with other humans requires more thought than who’s bringing the hair dryer to share or who will do the driving. Unless you already live with this person 24/7 and hang out often, people have many traits left undisclosed. Traveling to foreign places is not only going to heighten emotions, …

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Save Money Traveling

Written by Hank Martin in Travel Tips

Did you know we are in a brave new world? Technology has reached the point where it has made the world accessible. The sheer volume of information available to us lets us get degrees for free online, study languages for free and find out information about anything. With the help of forums, meet ups and more the boundaries of the world are being destroyed. Travel, once a luxury item is now an item for anyone who is willing to put the time in. Travel has been equalized, and no more is it an activity for just kings, princes and philosophers. You do not need to be wealthy to travel. Instead of having money you can …

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The Bundling Rage!

Written by Payton Lee in Travel Tips

It’s a package deal, they say. Bundle this with that and get a better price. It’s like Christmas morning, wrapped with a fancy bow and your name on it. But how much of your soul, your spirit, your brain power dies every time you buy into the bundling rage?     First, let’s step back and examine how many products fall into this dark hole of bundling.  Food- When flying through a fast food joint, bundling is thrown into your face with speed and efficiency. You are hungry, they know it, and it’s too tempting to not get fries AND a drink with that burger. The biggest pictures on the screen are meal deals, easily …

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The Imagination of a Traveler

Written by Hank Martin in Travel Tips, W. Europe

I think about why I travel all the time. I am so obsessed with the psychology of travel that I asked professional travel writers, photographers and journalists. I then wrote about using travel as a way to combat depression and the downs of life, and the idea of running as a virtue. When you choose one thing over another, especially something that has a huge impact on your life it is only natural to question, did I make the right decision? After all, your life, my life, would be very different if we had never caught the travel bug. I can’t help but question if this wondering, this attempt to reconcile the decisions of my …

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Doubt and Travel

Written by Hank Martin in Travel Tips

Again the phone pressed to my ear rang and rang. The electronic buzzing was annoying at this point. After a long night of travel we were tired, and still I was not able to reach our contact in Jerusalem. The plan was to meet up with him, spend the night at his place, and go from there. Friends of mine had recommended him after they too had couch surfed at his place. Frankly, he was our plan and without him we didn’t have a plan. So we stood in the bus depot near a McDonalds watching people stuff their faces with deep-fried French fries and greasy burgers lathered in mayo and ketchup. We were exhausted …

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Collecting Sea Glass: Regret and Travel

Written by Hank Martin in N. America, UK

When you walk a long stretch of beach on a windy day your footprints disappear as fast as you make them. The sand is wet and rough, like a dog’s tongue, and now and again you may spot a piece of sea glass. Sea glass is a small piece of highly polished glass. Formed over decades this glass is shaped by friction from currents sand tumbling waves. Smooth and cool to the touch, these shards look like gemstones with their deep blue, green and red colors. Because they are often very small you will miss some of these wonders while walking. But, if you walk long enough you will find enough to fill both hands. …

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Bagpipes, Scotch, and Unicorns!

Written by Payton Lee in UK

I would like to dedicate this post to my dear friend Gail who recently took her first European trip to Scotland. Gail’s love for horses centered her trip around traditional Scottish riding. After returning from Scotland, she told me all of the great things she had done and seen. I asked her what her most favorite part about Scotland was, and she gave me a simple, but perfect answer:  “How genuinely friendly everyone was.”  For any country this has to be the ultimate compliment. Thinking back to my own experiences there, I fully agree with Gail’s response, and so began this post with my inspiration from her tales of friendly Scotland.     Scotland is …

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Interviewing an Irish Woman

Written by Payton Lee in UK

Boy do we have a treat for you. She’s redheaded, bold, independent, and can drink a Guinness faster than you can you can say Happy St. Patrick’s Day!  Pan interview with our dear Irish friend. How long have you lived in Ireland? On and off as a wee one. But most recently I was there from 2011-2013. What do you miss the most about Ireland? The long summer days spent with friends on the beach, BBQ-ing, chatting with friends and overall just having the craic. Irish summers are wonderful because the sun won’t go down until after 9pm, it’s never too hot, and there is always fun to be had. A true initiation into an Irish …

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A Tower Worth Mentioning

Written by Hank Martin in W. Europe

I spent an hour in Paris once, driving around the sparkling Eiffel tower at midnight and then leaving town again. That was all I needed to see. It was the second time I had visited. The first time I officiated a wedding under that same metal wonder. You could say that by the second visit we were already friends. That first time I walked Champs Elysee with Joe Dassin echoing in my head. I slept on a park bench for the night too, and got woke up by a street sweeper the next morning. Why didn’t I get a hotel? There were none closer to Notre Dame Cathedral than the park bench. But most of …

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The Spain that Sucks You in, Spits you Up and Steals your Passport

Written by Hank Martin in W. Europe

The night started off with tapas and sangria.These are obvious delights when in Spain. But this happy-go-lucky place known as Barcelona has a dark side that can make a fool out of any passer by and destroy a good night in the city. Barcelona is known for its crime. Pick pocketers, scammers, and plain old muggers lurk in the corners. In fact, a lot of these criminals make more money through thieving than honest people do by working hard. The police get so many reports about stolen goods they simply file them alphabetically without even taking a second look at the paperwork. (So I saw in my experience.) This cool city is filled with exotic …

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Watching Sunrises

Written by Hank Martin in Middle East, N. America, W. Europe

A sunrise and sunset have one thing in common, nobody watches them anymore. We are too busy. Can you remember  the last time you watched the sun crank itself into the sky and bring light to the world, or slip behind the horizon in a prism of color? I have seen sunrises and sunsets all over the world, and each one is different. Israel In Nazareth I hiked Mt Sinai, crossing a highway now cleaving the mountain in two. We wove a drunken path up the mountain, cutting back and forth in big half circles. The sun rose on the way up, exposing patches of wild green grass and clay earth underfoot. Finally summitting, we …

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Bologna at Night

Written by Hank Martin in W. Europe

It is dark out and there is a man crouched under a nearby bush smoking crack. The further I plunge into the Bologna park the more movement I hear. There is a rustling of leaves there. A sniff and cough in front of me. The sound of footprints from behind me. A beautiful brick walkway outlines the outer edge of the park, and in the center are several fountains spewing water. They make the only other sound besides my thumping heart and the occasional whoosh of a match being lit and crunching of branches underfoot. As darkness settled in to Bologna the rats of the city climbed out of their holes and embraced the world …

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Villa D Este: Gardens, Grottos, Frescoes and 100 Fountains

Written by Hank Martin in W. Europe

High above, and outside the city of Rome there is a mansion of decadence where you can avoid information overload. From the park bench outside of the mansion you can look towards the octopus city of Rome that spreads with large tentacles. Here you can watch the sun set on the epicenter of the old Roman Empire and reflect on what you have just experienced. Villa de Este overwhelms the other big site in Tivoli worth visiting- Hadrian’s Castle. While Hadrian’s Castle is a skeleton from the past, Villa D’Este is a never ending room by room tour through art, history and architecture. Built by a scorned catholic cardinal with more money than a man …

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