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.
Unlike the quiet and solitary destinations featured so far in this week's review of our favorite beaches, this one's all about the social scene. Positano, Italy, along the Amalfi Coast is a vibrant town facing into the Tyrrhenian Sea.
From certain angles you can spy the far off Isle of Capri.
Positano's restaurant and hotel-lined beach is a sunny stretch at the base of steep cliffs, creating an energetic and spectacular setting. Painters, boat people and throngs of tourists and locals descend upon the water in busy groups, and the activity is constant.
The beach isn't sandy, but instead full of small pebbles which makes it necessary to invest in a pair of flip-flops for your visit - I would have said "thongs", which is what we called them when I was a boy, but that's a completely different things these days. And while you may choose to invest in one while wandering the boutique-lined streets of Positano, it wouldn't protect your feet much.
Dipping my feet into the Mediterranean required I remove my shoes, a mistake while holding the Nikons. I bobbled and very nearly lost the shoe as it flipped into the water and began the long trek to Capri. I retrieved it, doubtless becoming a bit of a spectacle as a tourist retrieving the shoe with cameras jangling, but now have a short story to tell of my brief stay in Positano.
Just a wonderful destination and one which cries for deep exploration as well as an active day on the very busy beach.
Beaches come in all shapes and sizes, from the very tiny (Poipu Beach, which we featured on Monday) to the vast and beautiful Piha Beach in New Zealand (tomorrow's selection).
Australia is no slouch when it comes to sand and surf. And in the Daintree Rainforest, in what is often referred to as the "Effen Q" (FNQ, Far North Queensland), there are several beautiful and quite empty shorelines for the adventurous visitors. Myall Beach, located in the national park menacingly entitled Cape Tribulation, is a remote and yet accessible stretch of sand. Swimming is discouraged.
Then again, they may be a bit busier when the weather is more compliant. The advance system from an incoming typhoon (still many hundreds of miles from shore) lends an ominous touch to the surf and clouds. The rugged rocks add to the ambience as the rainforest threatens to spill into the ocean.
It's an intimidating place; empty and spectacular.
On the West Coast we typically think of beaches as bright, sunny places with lots of sandy places to sun and tan.
Easterners, however, understand the darker and more fascinating nature of beaches during inclement weather. Emerald Isle, along the beautiful coast of North Carolina, is no stranger to inclement weather and even multiple hurricanes over the years.
Fortunately this event was only a fall squall which quickly blew by and allowed us some time on the sand.
(Originally Appearing in Susan K. Perry's CREATING IN FLOW column on Psychology Today Online.)
At first glance the book THE HAPPY TRAVELER, by Associate Professor of Psychology Jaime Kurtz (OXFORD PRESS, 2017), looks misleadingly innocent.
It promises to unlock the secrets of better vacations, for one. That's an admirable goal and certainly worth a page turn or two. And below that the cover says that Dr. Kurtz is a Happiness Researcher, and will share the science behind meaningful travel.
All very gentle and, and a way, purple dinosaur-esque. It suggests this is yet another of the travel books which give you basic ideas, recounted for the umpteenth time, on how to go on a better vacation, how to make the most out of the trip, etc, etc, etc.
But the author is off on a different and much richer tangent than that. That the book was written by a psychologist rather than an armchair travel enthusiast should be the first indication the book isn't quite as innocent as the cover would suggest.
THE HAPPY TRAVELER is actually far more a research piece dealing with the psychology of better understanding yourself and working towards creating and enjoying vacations tailored to appeal to your personal psychological needs rather than simply taking off and hoping you enjoy yourself.
If that sounds a bit dry, it's my fault not the author's. Dr. Kurtz does an excellent job of keeping the language lively and understandable even as she throws a variety of genuine psychologist terminology at the reader. You may find yourself digging through a drawer for a highlighting pen to make sure those important concepts don't get lost before you close the cover at the end of the book.
Early on the author takes on a psychologist's tone as she reviews individual personality traits and how they impact the planning of a terrific trip. The reader learns new, and scientific, terms such as allocentrism and psychocentrism. Words which even my spellcheck doesn't recognize.
But they're important to Dr. Kurtz' thesis. Allocentric people prefer adventurous travel. Novelty. Psychocentrics prefer familiarity and structure. They just want to get away and relax. The key here is understanding which of these two are you, the reader, and where on the spectrum you may fall.
The book reviews these and other concepts, and uses a series of chapters and useful lists of things and ideas to enable people to figure out where they are as a traveler. It provides tools and explanations for the reader to determine which approach best suits their psychological needs, and putting their own wants and needs into one of these traits - or those in between the extremes - to better plan and identify vacations which will best appeal to their own selves.
Throughout the book the author makes effective use of quotes and ideas both from her own travels and research as well as well-known travelers and celebrities. There are dozens of personal anecdotes used to illustrate an idea, as well as descriptions of the expected benefits of truly figuring out who you are and how you get the most out of your vacation efforts. She creates, chapter by chapter, a sequential set of guidelines for better understanding who we are and how we can take the steps to take full advantage of our time off and our travel dollars. And that, in anyone's book, is useful information.
I will admit that at first - entirely due to my expectations - I was a little off put by the researcher-aspect of the book, but as my own expectations began to change I realized what she was onto and how useful the information is to the person who is simply trying to figure out the above. They may be someone who has gone on a half dozen frustrating trips, but they did so without really taking the time to understand their own needs and enjoyment. And they need something a good deal more informed than a light travel guide to help them sort it out.
As a tool for truly planning a more effective and rewarding trip this book excels. It's a self-help guide which is a genuine self-help. Understanding the nature of what you want to do, not just the options once you're there.
It's a unique approach and one which does take a moment to internalize. But as the author notes in the opening paragraphs to chapter two, one of the biggest surprises on a poorly planned trip may be the realization that you've "inadvertently brought myself with me to the island". In other words, plan for yourself and not what you THINK you ought to enjoy.
With THE HAPPY TRAVELER you will get the insight and tools with which to examine yourself and better understand the psychology of planning a terrific trip.
Of all cities in the world, Venice is commonly listed as among the most beautiful and unique. Both are fitting descriptions.
One of the primary charms is that the vast majority of thoroughfares in Venice are alleys. This makes the city imminently walkable, and the virtue of being entirely surrounded by water means you can only get so lost before you encounter the sea. (You can get very, very lost, but there's ultimately going to be a line of water you cannot cross.)
But the magic of Venice is readily found down just about any interesting corridor you chose to take.
To finish our weeklong exploration of alleys we visit Venice, the grandest Alley lady of them all.