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Welcome to the online blog for traveler/writer/photographer Steven Barber. Come in. Relax. Take off your shoes and socks -- or any other article of clothing, this is the internet. Have a look around. I hope to intrigue, amuse, entertain, and maybe provoke you just a little. I love to find adventure. All I need is a change of clothes, my Nikon, an open mind and a strong cup of coffee.

Monday, May 19, 2014


"There is no passion to be found playing small - in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living."
                                             Nelson Mandela

I'm sitting at my desk, in the dark, wearing an "Air Mango" collared shirt, purchased at a Jimmy Buffett store in Philipsburg, Sint Maarten. 

Yesterday, all day, I was wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with the palm of a hand and the words "Bandolier National Monument". New Mexico. 

Two days ago it was a green t-shirt, unfortunately "tie-dyed" over the years by the California sun, from the very chic Caribbean island of St. Barth. The design is of a stylized air plane on a runway with the words "L'avion" on the front of the shirt, a reference to the island's famous air strip -- an e-ticket ride for anyone who has even flown into or out of there. Or both.

In our kitchen and the back laundry room are display cases with more than a hundred forty shot glasses from around the world. I started my adventures, decades ago, by collecting coffee mugs, but this quickly grew unwieldy. Shots glasses are far easier to display and collect. Both cases are full, with the overflow sitting atop the display, begging for the next earthquake to send them flying into the air and onto the floor tiles six feet below.

Travel is a fundamental in my life.

A few weeks ago, as we returned from a tremendous trip Down Under, I put this blog on pause. Coming home, with the perspective on having a great adventure fresh on my mind, I pounded out a handful of essays and started to post. But something was missing. You noticed it too. Usually when I post a new blog entry I get quite a few first-day visitors. But something was wrong. Only five people checked in that first day. And only six the next day.

Something was wrong. So I posted that I was taking a brief sabbatical to figure things out. It wasn't much fun any more, and this was bleeding through in a way that it wasn't much fun for the reader either. So I posted notices here and elsewhere that I was taking a breather to figure it all out.

Being the good friends that they are, a couple of people offered polite suggestions and thoughts, while most people sent me a note saying they would miss "living vicariously". And I appreciated them all. But it didn't really help put the finger on the problem. Why was it no longer fun, and why was no one coming to the blog. 

That was my second error. My day to day stats were actually up. But not for the newer stuff. I was getting (and continue to get) regular hits to previous posts dealing with New Mexico Chocolate; the sunrise on Mount Haleakala; what it's like to fly above the clouds on a bright morning; and other things. Of particular note is the stratospheric popularity of the film locations for Under the Tuscan Sun.

Then the phone rang. It was a good friend of mine, a well-known writer who is one of the most solid and supportive people I know. We talked for a couple of minutes, exploring different possibilities, ideas, and direction. I argued a bit -- we rarely argue -- and kept pointing out that I couldn't do things because it didn't fit in with the business model I had in mind. The branding of The Thumbnail Traveler, and the eventual direction I wanted to go. 

He listened, patiently. Then, as he is so very able to do and do well, he nailed it.

"It sounds to me like you've lost the passion."


"You're not creating from a sense of passion. You're just doing business."

I argued some more. 

Our conversation drifted to other topics, but I could hear a sense of disappointment in his voice. I wasn't getting it.

Fifteen minutes later the penny dropped. He was right, the bastard.

Two of my very favorite passions in life -- beyond my wife and our respective families and friends -- are travel and photography. The combination are what drove me to create The Thumbnail Traveler in the first place. It's what adds so much texture and complexity to my life, and gives me perspective on who we are and what we have. I look back at my original blog entry and realize I wasn't talking about the wonder and talking about the photos -- I was treating them as incidental and just basically talking instead of enthusing.

I was treating it like a job.

(Don't get me wrong. Jobs can be fun and fulfilling. But taking your passion and allowing it to become mundane is a sad thing.)

I look back and realize that my photographs -- almost entirely lacking in the last four posts -- devolved into simple illustrations. To me, as a photographer, they are (or should be) the -- *ahem* -- focus of this blog. So why wasn't I treating them that way? I loved the places I was going, the adventures I was having, but the explanation of them became simply about providing content. Not telling my friends (that would be you, the reader) about the experiences I'd had. The fun. The adventure. When things went wrong, and when they went so very, very right.

And what I learned along the way, about myself as well as about the place I was visiting. The people I met. The flavors, the smells, the worlds I encountered. I was missing -- in the last six months or more, I think -- what it feels like to have the Indian Ocean lapping at your ankles. Of the insanity of the Vegas Strip. The taste of coal oven pizza in The Village. Gazing down upon Paris from the heights of the Eiffel Tower.

That is what this is all about, this moving from one spot to another.


I like to think I'm back. I called my friend and called him the appropriate names, while at the same time thanking him for the insight. My wife, hearing what he'd said, reinforced the message. It's about the passion.

So please, rejoin me on this adventure. Keep me honest. Let's have some fun. Tomorrow I will post the first of what I hope is a long series of true adventures, based on the visuals I have created to bring you along with me.

After all, I've heard somewhere that All I need is a change of clothes, my Nikon, an open mind and a strong cup of coffee.

Taking a break while snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef, a life-long dream come true.

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