Up and Over

Posted August 11, 2013

PART 15 (DAYS 33-35): “How’s everything here?” I asked Chris, the manager at Southern Laughter Lodge, when I arrived back in Queenstown for a day in order to catch a homeward bound flight early the following morning.

“Oh, it’s quiet. It’s finally slowing down,” he answered.

“Oh, is the ski season over?”

“No, the season can go all the way until October,” he told me. “But all the Aussie kids have gone back to university.”

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Hello, Heli.

Posted August 07, 2013

PART 14 (DAYS 31-33): “Two things. Don’t shake the pilot’s seat,” instructed one of the heli-ski guides. “Don’t touch the stick.”

I particularly had to pay attention — and heed caution — because I sat right between my guide Chris and the pilot with his control stick, due to me being the shortest in the group. “I’d be honored to be the shortest man here,” I told Chris. My 5’6” height advantage got me the front and center seat for the spectacular view of the North Harris Mountains, as the helicopter pilot took me, Chris, and four other skiers and snowboarders up above the snow line.

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Middle Man in Middle Earth

Posted August 06, 2013

PART 13 (DAY 26-32): There are different types of tourists that travel around New Zealand. Those with a limited timeframe of two weeks or less — mostly Americans — often do a package tour to pack as much as they can with an organized schedule, even with the 13-16 hour timezone difference. Others may stay put at a luxury resort, and play golf or something. And for the past decade, director Peter Jackson’s country of birth has seen an influx of Lord of the Rings nerds, who come to experience their beloved Middle Earth. There are several companies that offer tours to film locations — some even with costumes and re-enactments by other nerds.

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Beautiful, Yet Remarkably Mediocre

Posted August 03, 2013

PART 12 (DAY 26-30): “Where should I go?” I asked the guy at the Snowbiz One Stop snow gear rental shop in Queenstown, world-renowned adventure sports hub on the South Island of New Zealand. I had rented it all: snow pants, goggles, gloves, boots, and snowboard — even a jacket. They don’t call it “One Stop” for nothing.

“You should go to Remarks,” he suggested. He asked a co-worker nearby — a fellow ski bum with a job at a gear store — who confirmed that I should indeed go to the Remarkables, nearby mountain range and home to one of two local ski areas.

“What about Coronet Peak?” I asked them. I’d heard that one to be the more popular skiiable mountain of the immediate area.

“Coronet’s shit,” they told me. Not that it wasn’t a formidable place for snow sports, but the recent rain on that mountain had washed away all the recent powder and left over a crust of ice — shitty conditions for snowboarding.

And so, I paid for my rental and lift ticket to the Remarkables for the following morning.


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Race on the Brisbane River

Posted July 30, 2013

PART 11 (DAY 25): “I started the African-American Community of Australia. The A.A.C.A.,” said the familiar voice of Maurice, a.k.a. Moe, an African-American ex-pat living in Brisbane. “Guess how many members are in it?”

“I dunno,” I answered before making a hypothesis. “Five?”

“Two,” he replied, chuckling. “And the other guy is a white guy.”

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Rabaul Adventures

Posted July 29, 2013

PART 10 (DAYS 20-24): “It’s five o’clock all the time here,” I said, noticing the wall clock stuck on 5 a.m. (or was it p.m.?) in the baggage claim area of Rabaul’s airport, when we touched down from our flight from Wewak around 11:30 a.m.

“It’s happy hour somewhere, and that somewhere is here!” Emily proclaimed.

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Mask Tourism

Posted July 25, 2013

PART 9 (DAYS 20-24): “Your job, should you choose to accept it, is to seek out tradition, not traditional tourist traps.” This was a comment that had appeared onto Tina’s Facebook page, when were back in the glory of wifi after not having had it for so long.

“It’s from this guy that used to be a missionary I know,” Tina told me.

“Oh, a missionary? Well, he has a lot of questions to answer too,” Ally retorted.

Regardless of its source, for the travel journalist, such a statement is a little off-putting. We’re out in the world to discover new places off the beaten tourist path — or rather, discover new stories or angles of destinations already written about because, “Every place is ruined,” I told Tina. The former missionary’s disconcerting message had come in as we were having a one-to-one over SP Export beers in the bar of the Kokopo Beach Bungalow Resort in Rabaul, our base of operations for our third and final leg of our press trip in Papua New Guinea.

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Team Go-Getter

Posted July 23, 2013

PART 8 (DAYS 18-20): “We’re literally in the middle of nowhere,” I said when our motorized canoe paused for moment as it entered a small tributary of the Sepik River, in the middle of the jungle of northwestern Papua New Guinea. Nearby, a flying fish jumped out of the water, followed by another. “If my phone rang right now and they asked me where I was, I would say I have no idea.”

“Well, we took a four-hour bus ride, then two hours on a boat, then another hour…” Ally explained. We had “gone deep,” as she put it.

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Posted July 21, 2013

PART 7 (DAYS 14-17): “Things could be worse, right?” I told Ally, California-native who worked for the Papua New Guinea Tourism Promotion Authority (in LA), who had organized the press junket I was traveling to PNG for.

“That should be the motto of PNG,” she told me. “‘Things could be worse, right?’ with a question mark at the end.” She shrugged her shoulders with a funny smirk for that last word, after a comic beat. In fact, Ally’s whole personality was full of great comic delivery; she mentioned this one time during an open mic in Venice Beach, she’d gone up and did Dave Chappelle’s stand-up routine in The Nutty Professor verbatim (“Women be shoppin’! Women be shoppin’!...) to see if anyone would notice, before abruptly segueing into a deadpan, “But seriously folks, poverty is crazy, right?”

Little did we know at the time, that the first three-day part of the junket’s proposed itinerary would be canceled (due to a missed chartered flight connection to Tufi), and have to be replanned on a whim, based on whatever activities or accommodations were available in and around PNG’s gritty capital city, Port Moresby.

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The Brisbane of My Existence

Posted July 12, 2013

PART 6 (DAYS 12-14): “Put your bag on the scale,” the nice Virgin Australia employee requested of me in Los Angeles International Airport. While my luggage’s width and height were within carry-on boundaries, its long depth made it look (and weigh) suspiciously heavy. “You’ll have to check it in.”

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The Rodeo Within A Rodeo

Posted July 09, 2013

PART 5 (DAYS 10-11): “I can tell you’re not from around here either, because you don’t have cowboy boots,” I told the friendly stranger in line next to me, wearing sneakers.

“I’m from Montreal,” he admitted.

The Québécois city slicker and I, along with Leigh-Anne and hundreds of others, were lining up for burgers at the free barbecue of the Dogie Do Rodeo, at the ranch of the local Shriner’s Club on the outskirts of downtown Calgary. It was by far Leigh-Anne’s favorite part of Calgary Stampede, a sort of rodeo within a rodeo, and not just because it has an open bar for twelve hours.

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Hell or High Water

Posted July 09, 2013

PART 4 (DAYS 8-11): “How’s this look?” I asked Leigh-Anne, trying on a white cowboy hat in the Lammle’s concession store in Stampede Park, grounds of the Calgary Stampede festival. When you’re at one of the world’s biggest celebrations of western heritage, the least you can do is put on full-brimmed cowboy headwear.

“Uh, you look like someone who’s going to Stampede,” Leigh-Anne admitted.

“Good,” I said. “That’s the look I was going for.”

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Language of the Valley

Posted July 09, 2013

PART 3 (DAYS 5-8): “Wait, I haven’t nut myself yet,” I informed Leigh-Anne in the morning, in a very Arrested Development Tobias Fünke way. We were not in the sleeping quarters as you might think, but in the kitchen, where I had not yet put a spoonful of peanut butter in my bowl.

Breakfast was pretty genius. It was Leigh-Anne’s idea to make a camp version of satay noodles by simply making an instant ramen noodle pack with hot water, adding in its flavor and spicy oil pack, and then adding in a spoonful of peanut butter. Not only did it taste good, but it gave us an extra boost of protein and calories in the morning, before a day of hiking.

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The Wows of Canada Day

Posted July 07, 2013

PART 2 (DAYS 4-5): “BAM!” Leigh-Anne proclaimed as we drove around a bend on the highway to reveal the Canadian Rockies, less than an hour from downtown Calgary. “This is the best part of living in Calgary. Being close to this.”

“Now I know why they call it *BAN*ff!” I said.

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Northern Hospitality After The Floodapocalypse

Posted June 29, 2013

PART 1 (DAYS 1-4): “Get ready to be killed with kindness,” Leigh-Anne said as she picked up from the airport, referring to the Canadian reputation of being amongst the nicest people on earth. “And I don’t mean that southern bitchy kindness.”

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So, Where Was I?

Posted June 24, 2013

PROLOGUE FOR THE NEXT GLOBAL TRIP: The Global Trip travel blog has been around for ten years now(!), but it’s been quite some time since I posted a dispatch while on the road, from Berlin in the late summer of 2012. Well, that doesn’t necessarily mean I haven’t been traveling. If you recall my statement about “journalistic integrity,” I’ve decided to keep this here Global Trip blog independent (for reasons explained in said statement), meaning I would not blog about a press trip. And I’ve been on a few of them since last summer, on behalf of some of the travel publications I write for, which were Instagrammed and Facebooked instead — you know, for posterity. (Obviously, I also wrote the articles after the fact.)

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Ich Bin Eine Brooklyner

From the trip blog: "The Global Trip: Gone Europin'"
Posted September 03, 2012

PART 6 (DAYS 8-11): “Can you believe Erik is making us have another party?” Phil noted to Dani, as the three of us tidied up before company was to arrive in their Berlin flat. He was referring to the fact that, for the second time this year, I had suggested they have a social gathering — by already inviting some of their friends. (The first shindig was their going away party when they left Brooklyn a few months prior.) Dani was excited about the idea of a party — she set up the Facebook invite for it after all — for it would be their first as residents of Berlin, a sort of housewarming.

Soon, the buzzer rang and rang and guests arrived. And my last night in Berlin was about to go out on a high note.

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Plains, Trains, and Kung-Fu Masters

From the trip blog: "The Global Trip: Gone Europin'"
Posted August 31, 2012

PART 5 (DAYS 7-8): “How many coaches does the train have?” my Filipino cousin Joey asked, with the slight English accent one acquires when you’ve lived in the suburbs south of London for five years.

“Eight!” answered the young English voice of his four-year-old son Adam, who I was meeting for the first time. If you’ve followed this blog for years, you might remember that the last time I was in the Philippines, Joey was not with his comic book-inspired, Anchorman-quoting siblings, for he had moved to the U.K. for a job — and a new life. Now married to a fellow Filipino engineer Niña, they lived with their son Adam — a boy that I soon learned was sort of obsessed with trains.

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Men in Kilts

From the trip blog: "The Global Trip: Gone Europin'"
Posted August 29, 2012

PART 4 (DAYS 5-6): London may have hosted the international Summer Olympics just a few weeks before my visit to the U.K., but up north, in Scotland, another traditional sporting event was getting underway. I’m talking about the Highland Games, an action-packed event not to be confused with The Hunger Games or even Highlander. When it comes to Scottish sporting events, there can be only one.

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When You’re with R. Kelly, It’s Always Friday

From the trip blog: "The Global Trip: Gone Europin'"
Posted August 28, 2012

PART 3 (DAY 4): “It’s a trick. They won’t honor it,” my witty friend Rachel said as I looked at the restaurant menu’s specials valid Monday through Thursday. “Because in here, it’s always Friday.”

“You gotta get down on Fridays,” I said. (Coincidentally, we were both sort of obsessed with the famous accidental pop song “Friday” by Rebecca Black.)

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The Jester in Geneva

From the trip blog: "The Global Trip: Gone Europin'"
Posted August 26, 2012

PART 2 (DAYS 2-4): “See the name of the building? Les Florentines? It’s got my name on it. That’s why I got it,” Florin joked to me as we pulled into a parking spot of his condo complex in Ferney-Voltaire, the French/Swiss border town outside Geneva on the French side. It was just passed 12:30 a.m. — two hours later than we’d expected since my flight from Berlin was delayed — but we were still in good spirits. In fact, Florin, who I befriended on the W trek of Torres del Paine in Patagonia, was still the fast talking, wisecracking guy I remembered. Back then, John McClain had declared him the court jester of our trekking group, and twenty months later, nothing had changed thus far.

“I’m still a clown, but I’m a lot worse now,” Florin joked.

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No Sleep ‘Til Berklyn

From the trip blog: "The Global Trip: Gone Europin'"
Posted August 22, 2012

PART 1 (DAYS 1-2): Everything was going exactly as I’d been informed. I was following the detailed email directions from my friend Dani, who had explained in the simplest terms, how to get from Berlin’s Tegel airport, in the northwest part of the city, to her and her husband’s home in the Neukölln neighborhood in the southeast. It was an easy affair — even after being on a sleep-deprived redeye from New York via Brussels — except for the last part: the key she said she’d leave under the doormat in front of the apartment door wasn’t there. So I rang the bell, hoping someone was home.

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The Return of Indie

Posted August 19, 2012

So you may have noticed that I haven’t been so active on The Global Trip blog since that trip to Uganda and Rwanda in January, other than that announcement that I was going to Kenya on my first press trip on behalf of a few weeks later. If you recall that entry, I debated whether or not I should blog a press trip here since that’s really not what The Global Trip blog is about; it’s always been a blog about my independent travel, figuring things out in other places, and making things up as I go. Additionally, it’s been my ulterior motive to inform you desktop travelers out there that one doesn’t need to be especially privileged to travel around the world; if you really have the desire, you’ll find your way to make it happen, even if it takes some time and sacrifice.

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Full Disclosure of an African Boomerang

Posted March 16, 2012

It’s only been two months since I’ve last been on the road—monkeying around in Uganda and Rwanda—but I’ve found myself in a situation where I’ll be going right back to Africa. More specifically, I’ll be returning back to the region I just came from, the East African Community (the official intergovernmental organization comprising of Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, and Kenya) like a sort of human African boomerang. This time, I’ll be landing in Kenya—and hopefully without breaking anything on the way, as boomerangs sometimes do.

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Forget “Africa”

From the trip blog: "The Global Trip: Monkeying Around"
Posted January 22, 2012

DAYS 17-18: “Are you talking about Akabanga?” asked the man waiting in the queue for Business Class check-in at Kigali International Airport, next to where I was waiting for Economy. He noticed I was talking about a certain Rwandan hot sauce to Gearoid, a fellow former guest of the Hotel des Mille Collines that I had shared the complimentary airport taxi with. I was describing the size of the hot sauce’s small eye dropper bottle with my fingers.

“Yeah,” I answered the man in Business Class, smiling at our apparent shared appreciation of Akabanga. “You know it?”

“I have twelve [bottles],” he announced proudly.

I told him I had over two dozen myself, packed in my checked luggage bound for New York via Amsterdam.

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