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.
Do you have a favorite thing to eat? Perhaps favorite restaurant chain? Favorite drink?
Pilgrimages are typically referred to in religious terms, but there's no reason you can't make a pilgrimage...to the home of your favorite soda, or food. Have you eaten a hamburger at the oldest surviving McDonalds in Downey, California? Visited the oldest surviving White Castle building in Indianapolis (sadly, long closed but still architecturally sound)?
The Coca Cola Corporation has a well-known visitors center and museum at its corporate headquarters in Atlanta. Hershey, Pennsylvania is an entire city and theme park built up around the celebration of chocolate. Many creameries in the upper midwest offer tours of their milk and cheese operations. And even of they don't offer a tour, the tasting room can be quite delicious.
Just a taste, please!
Many companies have these sorts of attractions for you to come, sample their wares and perhaps learn a bit about how your favorite things are made. It's a pilgrimage with benefits, so to speak.
Celestial Seasonings has a terrific tour at their tea facility in Boulder, Colorado. The SPAM Museum is in Austin, Minnesota (no, not Hawaii). The Sea Spirits Distillery on Maui has a great tour in a gorgeous setting. McIlhenny Company, makers of Tabasco, has a famous visitors facility just a couple of hours from New Orleans.
If you're a wine drinker most wineries have tasting rooms. With wineries in virtually every state there's no doubt a pretty decent place just begging for a day trip. Or maybe visiting a brewery is more your speed. Or a distillery.
The point is that we often default on the standard adventures for our time on the road. Flying off to parts unknown and head to the beach, park or other. We don't often think about visiting those places, those institutions which may be a favorite part of our day.
It's worth the trip.
(There's a terrific website, Factory Tours USA, with loads of possible tours in all fifty states.)
Part of living the Travelers' lifestyle involves getting to know your own part of the world pretty well. A solid understanding and appreciation of the place you live is fundamental to setting a base-line for when you're visiting other places (how does this new place differ from your own) but also gives you the opportunity to show off where YOU live with visitors.
When family or friends visit from out of town are you able to highlight some of the places they should visit while in the area? What places appeal to you? Where would YOU go if only visiting for a few days. Is there a special sight which most people don't know? A point of interest? A restaurant which "only the locals" know? A cool little shop that's just a little bit different?
These are the things your visitors might want to see, do and experience. What best represents the area and why you choose to live there?
It can help get you a new perspective and appreciation for your own locale. For how others would see it. The good, the bad and the tourist-trappy. (Remember, Rick Steves' advice is to embrace the tourist spots for what they are, and get a good mix between diving into the local scene and spending the time at the touristy places.)
Knowing your own neck of the woods and being able to show it off to visitors is a basic skill for most Travelers. After all, if we don't know where we're from, how will we appreciate what we're seeing when we're somewhere else?
It's too cold in the northern US to dine outdoors right now, but that only makes it something to look forward to once warmer weather arrives. It's a way to get outside and clear your head while filling your mouth.
What's your favorite place to dine outdoors?
(The below is one of several squares in old Nice.)
I was watching one of the Rick Steves' shows on PBS the other day, on the topic of Tuscan and Umbrian hilltop towns. One of the ones discussed, of course, was the well-known and wonderful town of Cortona, featured in the film Under the Tuscan Sun and discussed here on a few occasions.
It's one of my favorite towns in Italy, and I hope to return there some day.
Being more than just a casual music fan - my wife is a professional jazz singer - I am fascinated by the music scene. The diversity and quality of talent all around the world is both phenomenal and exciting. It's something I look for when I'm at a particular place.
The below shots are from an evening of music in Austin, Texas - one of the many homes of music across the world - and was going on in the back room of a restaurant a group of friends and I were visiting. I heard the music and moved to check it out, discovering some genuine talents in the room.
It's a fun thing, and no matter where you may be headed there's some sort of music being played.
Check it out. It's a great way to immerse yourself. And maybe meet somebody new.
Some changes coming here at the Thumbnail Traveler. Good ones, I hope.
I want to begin building a bit more of the Lifestyle and Travel Destination elements of the site, tying in a number of things including the Chasing Martinis page's content and other aspects of travel above and beyond photographs and vignettes. Things to do and detailed travel reports about adventures to be had.
In that regard you'll start seeing more Lifestyle elements coming to the page. How to live a Traveler's lifestyle even when you're at home. In other words, how to do things that make you feel like life itself is the adventure, and not just leaving that to the two or three weeks a year you can go somewhere.
And so, you'll see some new and at-times surprising content. Martini recipes will start appearing on the Chasing Martinis site. I might include some really cool food recipes here based on a traveler's cuisine. Nothing makes you feel like you're living the lifestyle than preparing and eating exotic cuisine. I'll be adding weekender material, ideas for how you can make short journeys without a lot of expense. Getting out, getting to see the places we live, as a tourist or traveler might see them.
(We've discussed the difference between a tourist and traveler, and it's nicely defined on the picture below. But, as ace travel-maven Rick Steves notes: "Embrace the tourist stuff" when you're in a touristy locale. It's good advice. This particularly applies to your own, local, touristy stuff.)
So stay tuned, it's going to be a series of fine-tunings, not a wholesale change. But stick around, we've got some cool stuff coming up.
By the time you read this I will be on the road up the side of Mount Haleakala, the tallest peak on the Hawaiian island of Maui. I am ascending the dormant volcano, doubtless with dozens of other people, seeking one of the most beautiful sunrises on planet Earth.
I have been fortunate enough to experience it once before. But today is rather special. It's my 57th birthday, and I can think of no better way to start my day and year off than with a trip to the summit.
It's a spiritual and cleansing thing I need to do after a couple of rough years. Today we are renewed.