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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.

Friday, October 30, 2015

The Traveler's Rites of Passage

"Travel sparks ideas and friendships."

- Todd Carmichael
Traveler, Explorer and Coffee Guy

Just recently Lonely Planet, a well known and respected travel guidebook and review publishing company, put up an excellent article on what they referred to as The Traveller's Classic Rites of Passage. Me being well, me, I had to see how I measured up. (I'm the kind of guy who opens the next issue of Conde Nast Traveler and proceeds to analyze how my own history on the road compares to the current issue. "Been there, been there, yeah. Saw that. Did that. Crap, wanna do that...")

The article, written by contributor James Kay, posited eight travel experiences or scenarios -- both good and bad -- which mark a Traveler (I use the singular L, they use the double) as an experienced one, having "passed their rites". My kind of article, I thought, and I read through, comparing my background with what Mr Kay considers essential experiences to be considered "seasoned". Not that I'm competitive, but when it comes to seasoning I want to be a piece of Christmas roast rather than a McDonald's hamburger. (Yeah, yeah. I wanted to make a point and got carried away...deal with it.)

The article's a fun read and pretty much spot on, with one notable exception from my point of view.

Obviously this prompted me to take a look at my own travel experiences and credentials in the lighting Lonely Planet chose. That in mind, here are my own thought. I've experienced a lot, and reported quite a bit of it here, but let's see how I stack up against the Lonely Planet Traveller's Classic Rites of Passage.

That special place 

As the article states, there are any number of places which hit you hard and make an impression. But only one, in the grand scheme, is "that one". A place which hits you and stays with you. It's a rite of passage because it means you've had enough experiences to truly have something to compare it with. Looking back over a multitude of options, if something stands out it's really The One.

For me it's Hanalei Bay, north shore of the Hawaiian island of Kauai. More than any of the other paradises I've found, it's the one which stays with me. Haunts me in a way. Ask me, at almost any time, where I want to be right now, it's likely going to be Hanalei Bay.

And, as it is with almost anyone's "Special Place" it's not easy to describe actually why it's mine. Yes, there's an amazing verdant beauty. Yes it's next to a spectacular part of the Pacific Ocean. There are things to do, so it's not out in the middle of nowhere, but getting away from it all is merely a five minute drive. The people are laid back and friendly.

It's just...special. And for me it's "The One".

(Oddly enough, I will note I wouldn't want to retire there. In a way that would lessen its impact on me, I think. I want to keep it a treasured experience, not an everyday one. It's like a fine wine. If you drink it at every meal -- well, not breakfast -- it's no longer special.)

The captain has turned on the fasten seatbelt sign

Hoboy. Yeah. Turbulence. I have to say that for me, as for millions of other fliers, turbulence is not a welcome experience.

Fortunately, as the article notes, severe turbulence is an extreme rarity. I have, of course, experienced mild turbulence. Heck, anyone who flies into Phoenix airport in the summertime has experienced mild to moderate turbulence just as a habit. (The desert thermals are pretty rough a good percentage of the year.)

Fortunately I've never experienced severe. But more than a dozen times it's certainly been close.

The travel bug... not that one, the other one

Another "hoboy". I've been here enough times in my life to know it's not a pleasant thing. Food poisoning and other travel-related maladies are not fun to deal with, particularly since the vast majority of the time is consumed from doing things you came there to do. My wife had the unfortunate experience of being so ill on one trip to Hawaii's Big Island that we had to forego a planned swim with the manta rays -- one of our life-list items that fortunately got checked off during a subsequent visit.

On another such adventure, I (and my father in law) suffered at the hands of poorly cooked sausage while attending a trip to the Bay Area. I succumbed around 2am, but he was spared until 8 or nine the next morning....right as we were departing for an eight hour drive down the coast. There's nothing more miserable than food poisoning on a road trip -- it necessitated a replanting on our drive to accommodate frequent stops along the way. I was in hangover mode, but my father-in-law was suffering through the worst parts, and did little more than lay prone in the back seat, trying to sleep.

On the other hand there are the infrequent moments of humor. Such as the moment I was lying uncomfortably on the bathroom floor at the Westin Maui, lamenting life itself, when I noticed the brand name of the toilet lid was "Church". I imagine somebody had a good laugh over that wholly appropriate brand name.

The overnight bus journey

While Lonely Planet insists this is a rite of passage, I don't agree. In my entirely humble opinion I believe it's simply having an adventure while on a bus trip. Not a tour bus, as they would suggest, but on a bus ride that is memorable for perhaps all the wrong reasons. 

Such as the local transit bus trip we took in Tijuana, Mexico, from a side street in the tourist area over to the border crossing back to the states. As gringos we were the only people on board. The rest were a number of locals who would board and/or depart as we traversed the city. It was an excellent way to see the town, and all said and done a good way to "go local" as we like to say. 

On the other hand, the woman in the seat next to my ten year old niece really did have two chickens in her lap, and the heavily sozzled guy in the back row who was periodically sampling from a bottle of...something...was very friendly. (Not inappropriately, just drunkenly. A very happy man.)

Our constant reassurances to my niece that she was safe -- and just enjoy the adventure -- didn't do the trick, and we found ourselves, a day or so later, explaining ourselves to her mother. It wasn't any sense of danger her mother feared, she trusted our instincts. It was the inevitable call from the girl's father -- the subject of a pending divorce -- which caused the heartburn.

My beautiful launderette

Doing laundry on a trip is essential. It enables you to pack lighter and still retain a fresh scent. On extended journeys we trundle our goods down to the local laundry and pop in our quarters/pence/euros, oftentimes finding ourselves in the company of both locals as well as fellow travelers. 

Who knew?

The nightmare dorm mate

Being married and traveling frequently with my wife this rarely happens any more. But one of these times I'll relate the work trip I took to San Antonio for training in which an anticipated workmate/roommate called me up -- after checking in -- to surprise me with the news that I would be in my own room without him. 

That was pretty cool, right up un

til the moment he explained that he expected me to fork out half the cost of his room to make things even. (The company was paying for the combined reservation.)

A short yet terse conversation ensued, and he ended up footing the bill. On the other hand, I didn't wake him when I got up to watch the spectacular lightning storm which erupted around 2am.

Life in balance.

Breaking up and making out

I've never really been one for hooking up while traveling, but for me a good portion of travel is meeting new people and spending important time with friends and loved ones. A suitably romantic time with my wife is certainly a major point to any trip we take together, and there are definite bonding times with friends.

I will note that while traveling we have ended up meeting people who have become lifelong pals as a result of good times on a cruise or on a specific adventure.

It's not quite the same as "What Happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas", but is a healthier and less threatening philosophy when it comes to my marriage.

(And going back to my pre-marriage days...well, that stays in Vegas.)

A moment of epiphany

This is the key "Rite of Passage".  This is the one which truly marks the transcendental moment, where the traveler "Gets It" and becomes a Traveler.

Travel is about epiphanies. You can see it every season of THE AMAZING RACE. The discovery. The sudden light bulb of revelation that we are all on this planet together, all part of a greater whole.

I genuinely believe that the most well-rounded people are the ones who throw themselves into a discover of "other-ness" by investigating other cultures and appreciating the differences among us. It doesn't have to be a world away, sometimes it's just visiting neighborhoods different from our own. Getting to know people different from ourselves.

Think of how great this world would be if we embraced the infinite diversity and infinite combinations of people we meet instead of fearing strangeness. Fearing the unknown.

Obviously I'm an American, and proud to be so. On the other hand that does not make me inherently better than any other nation or person. What makes me a better human being is appreciating everyone and everything I find, even if it's completely alien from my own experience.

That moment of epiphany...that moment of revelation...can only come from being open to enlightenment. Open to that flash of understanding, that moment of epiphany.

And that is what makes a Traveler out of a traveler.


Once again we've made it to Friday. In just a few short hours we can kick back and relax -- and get ready for Halloween!

Have a safe and sane weekend, everyone.

This week's Friday Martini comes complete with a healthy salad from the Marriott Hotel in Kansas City.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Pic of the Day: Propeller Driven

If you're looking out the window of the plane and it's a propeller-driven aircraft, chances are you're headed off the beaten path.

Or it's just a short hop that would run the risk of a jet overshooting the runway...or the town.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Monday, October 26, 2015

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Pic of the Day: A Fire Above Sorrento

Early morning departure from cruise ships moored near Sorrento for a day trip down the Amalfi Coast. A fire burns in the hills above the city.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Pic of the Day: Gassy Jack

One of my favorite places to spend time is in the Gastown district of Vancouver, BC.

The district, the oldest part of Vancouver, derives its name from "Gassy" Jack Deighton, who opened the area's first saloon in 1867. Today the cobblestone streets are lined with shops, residences and restaurants, as well as the annual Vancouver Jazz Festival.

Below is a statue of Gassy Jack, found in Gastown in the red brick Maple Tree Square.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Pic of the Day: Catch the Wind

Windsurfer enjoys the constant breeze along Baie St Jean, island of St Barthelemy. 
French West Indies.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Pc of the Day: Sunrise, Hudson Bay

In early October the air begins to chill dramatically on the Canadian tundra. As temperatures drop, ice begins to form on the massive inland sea known as the Hudson Bay. One of the more interesting occurrences is the gathering of polar bears near the town of Churchill, Manitoba. They're there for one thing: to wait for the ice to form and allow them to go out onto thee bay in search of their favorite prey, seal. 

It's an amazing experience amid a stark, almost barren landscape which nonetheless has an astounding beauty to it.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Pic of the Day: Shopping Overload

Inside the Mall of America, just a handful of miles south of Minneapolis and Minneapolis Airport.

The Mall is the largest shopping mall in the United States, comprising 2.5M square feet of retail space, and a complete indoor area approach five million square feet.

It includes an indoor amusement park and an oceanic aquarium.

Any way you slice it, that's a LOT of mall.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Pic of the Day: Room with a View

Much of the mood of photography is based upon the environment. We look for visuals that convey a sense of place, but overwhelm with a sense of "location". Here, this little scenic is part of a much greater whole. A mosaic of balconies, if you will, in the town of Toarmina. Sicily.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Pic of the Day: Post Street Blues

185 Post Street. San Francisco. In B&W.

It's Monday morning. At 4am Pacific as I write this. Pre-caffeine. Insomnia. Just took three Advil.

I have jury duty starting this morning.

If it's a graffiti artist, they're toast.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Pic of the Day: Ghosts at the Alamo

For some reason the Alamo crept onto my radar as I was searching for this morning's Picture of the Day.

Perhaps it's because the title for this shot is "Ghosts at the Alamo".

Saturday, October 17, 2015

New Canvas Print

Just added this new abstract print to the canvas print choices on the Etsy store.

Please drop by!!

Pic of the Day: Breakfast on the Road

When I'm traveling my favorite meal of the day is breakfast. The first cup of coffee, an egg or omelette. Hash browns (love hash browns) and meat of some kind. (Even if I called it sausage, the phrase "meat of some kind" usually still applies.)

For me it's part of the adventure. The beginning of a new chapter.

(Breakfast at the Ludlow Cafe, along Route 66 in the California desert.)

Friday, October 16, 2015

Pc of the Day: The Friday Martini!

Yep, it's finally Friday again. Time for another indulgence from my CHASING MARTINIS collection. This beauty is from an airport bar at Phoenix International Airport.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Pic of the Day: Goodbye US Airways

This Friday we have the final official US Airways flight.

Good times, bad times. I've logged many thousands of miles on their planes. 

They have been, over the last couple of years, my preferred airline.

Happy trails.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Pic of the Day: Thinking Cold Thoughts

It's 5am as I write today's post. The outside temperature is 76F, with 87% humidity. 

It's October 14th.


Can somebody please track down our missing Fall weather? 

Tell it we miss it and want it to come home?

(Sunset over Malibu's Point Dume peninsula)

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Pic of the Day: The Guadalupe Mountains

One of the lesser known parks in the US National Park system is the beautiful and rugged Guadalupe Mountains National Park in West Texas. It's adjacent to Carlsbad Caverns National Park, sitting roughly equidistant between the cities of Carlsbad, NM, and El Paso.

What makes this area unique is that unlike most mountain ranges this was not created by tectonics -- it's the result of a reef formation in a shallow sea that used to cover much of the southwestern US.

This is the southwesternmost and tallest peak in the park -- the 8ooo foot El Capitan as seen from Highway 62.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Pic of the Day: Monday, Monday

Time to get up, get a strong cup of coffee and go adventuring.

Welcome to Monday.

(Riverwalk, San Antonio)

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Pic of the Day: Heat Wave

It's mid-October. Southern California broils under 100F heat. 
If I wanted to live in Phoenix, I'd live in Phoenix.

El Nino had better give us billions of gallons of water to make this acceptable.