Tres Domingo 5.6

  1. I spent part of this weekend in northern Iowa.  I visited Backbone State Park, Iowa’s oldest state park.  It’s a park of rocky towers and cliff faces, full of frenetic gray squirrels, blue herons and vocal geese.  Deer were everywhere in the park. It’s truly one of my favorite places in the state.

  2. I’ve spent more time out west in the past year than at any point in my life.  The destinations are superlative, but so are the distances. (A book I read last year Earning the Rockies touches on this.)  One solution for a traveler who wants to take in the sites but not spend all of their days behind the wheel is Roadies Tours.  These tours take place on a giant tour bus, like the ones rock stars travel on.  All of the driving happens while you sleep, or rage like a rock star, if you choose.  In each city the bus will partner with a local hotel and guests have access to the amenities.  Trips start at $1299.

  3. Migratory animals are so incredibly interesting.  The knowledge that sea turtles or whales or countless other species have to make long distance journeys is remarkable.  The New York Times had an opinion article last week about shorebirds, the ultimate travelers:

“Another shorebird, the pectoral sandpiper, departs from northern Alaska long before its offspring can fly, heading south to spend the winter in the pampas of Argentina. More amazing, the offspring left behind eventually take to the air on their own and, with no guidance, follow exactly the same route, joining their parents at a point 8,800 miles to the south. Scientists have no clue as to how this is programmed into the youngsters.”

It is incredible that these journeys are made at all and the fact that this knowledge is apparently ingrained at birth is awe-inspiring!  However the populations of North American shorebirds have declined 51% since 1975. Illegal hunting, climate change and habitat destruction by draining wetlands and building seawalls are the culprits.  The incredible part about these animals, their range, also makes addressing the threats facing them so challenging. I’ll let the article make the final point:

“The global collapse of migratory shorebird populations is much more than a calamity facing a group of exquisitely evolved birds. It also tells us that our global network of aquatic systems is fraying. If water is the world’s lifeblood and aquatic systems are its connective tissue, then the decline of the planet’s most spectacular global travelers signals a systemic illness that demands our attention and action.”

 

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Tres Domingo 4.29

 

  1. Traveling involves lots of moving and its important to keep hydrated.  Unfortunately this translates to traveling requires a lot of plastic. Travelers gobble down loads of bottled water, much of which will not be recycled.  Fortunately, this week I learned about Travelers Against Plastic which encourages travelers to use other, more sustainable options to stay full of H20. One of these is GRAYL Purifier Bottle.  I’ll likely be purchasing one of these before the next trip.

  2. With the NBA Playoffs entering the second round it’s got me thinking about the best places to watch a playoff game.  I saw my first ever playoff game in Salt Lake City last year, watching the Jazz (and epic traveler Boris Diaw) lose to Golden State.  The atmosphere was electric. On my way to Omaha last week I listened to an episode of the House of Carbs podcast which broke down the top playoff cities for food.  I’d have ranked Portland higher personally but a good listen nonetheless.  

  3. Finally, the story of Houtouwan, an abandoned fishing village that nature if slowly reclaiming.  This National Geographic video tells the story well.  Declining fish stocks meant that most residents sought their livelihood elsewhere.  Nature is fairly rapidly reclaiming the land.  It reminds of the book  The World Without Us which I highly recommend.  One can also drive around many parts of Iowa and see barns collapsing or old schoolhouses being reclaimed by nature.  

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Tres Domingo 4.22

  1. Writing these three points on a weekly basis has helped me clarify what is really important to me in the travel sphere and dedicated readers know that one of those things is wildlife conservation.  I read about Wildaid this week which focuses on stopping the illegal wildlife trade.  Their motto is “When the buying stop, the killing stops.” Through them I learned that there are only 3200 tigers left in the wild in the world.  This is a great organization that I’d encourage you to research and support.

  2. I am right now planning a trip for a couple biking from Copenhagen to Amsterdam.  Copenhagen has really been on my radar lately. It seems such a modern, progressive city.  If only it had a warmer climate…

  3. As I’ve spent time in other parts of the country for work the dream of having a location independent job grows.  While I’m not searching to hard for that I am dreaming about living in an Airstream and being able to work from wherever.  A few weeks in Moab? Great! Swing up through Idaho? Why not? If anyone is feeling particular generous...

Tres Domingo 4.15

  1. I’m still dreaming of Chile.  The unique geography of this country, scrunched between the Andes and the Pacific and stretching 2600 miles north-south, almost begs a comprehensive trip.  The amount of national parks in the country should encourage you to do so, my intrepid readers!

  2. There were two articles this week that continued my thinking about how we treat the other species on the planet.  Both were broadly focused on taking animals from the wild and making them into pets, either as individuals or as part of an international economy of exotic animals.  It is a fine line between valuing animals for their beauty or ecological niche and needing to capture one in the wild and put it into the wholly unfamiliar atmosphere of a suburban home or a condo.  Let’s let what should be wild, be wild.

  3. Changes are coming to Bangkok’s street food scene.  We will be there this fall and hope some of the places listed will still be options!

 

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Tres Doming 4.8

Tres Domingo 4.8

 

  1. Travel Burnout- I’ve spent the last week in Chile and believe me I was not burnt out.  However the first time I was in Chile, in 2009, I kind of was. I was 3 months into my 6 month trip and had spent the previous weeks on a beautiful beach in Ecuador, tramping around Argentina, from hot steamy waterfalls to majestic Patagonia.  I made great friends in Canoa & Bariloche & Ushuaia. So once I got to Chile in March of 2009 I was comparing everything to what had come before. (And no, this isn’t just because Chile had stricter rules about wine on long distance bus rides.)  Two months ago I chatted in Quito with a British travel who had been doing the South American loop for many months and I was excited to talk about the places I’ve dreamt of since I last saw them:

“What’d you think of Iguazu Falls?”

“Yeah, not bad.  Few too many people I’d say.”

“Well, you made it El Calafate Glacier?  It’s massive right! And when the huge chunks fall into the water because it’s one of the only advancing glaciers, pretty awesome wasn’t it?”

“Well, I guess there wasn't’t much to do there.  There’s the glacier, there it is”

Who knows, maybe we just look for different things when we travel but becoming jaded as a traveler is all too-easy.  “Place X is nice, but Costa Rica’s beaches are so much better.” “The culture of Indonesia is so much more authentic than Place X”  It’s natural to do this but travel is much more rewarding when we look at each place with fresh eyes.

2. Speaking of which, Santiago is great!  I was thinking as I walked through the city on Wednesday that I really am experiencing almost a double culture change.  One, the most obvious is being in a Latin American country where my level of understanding is impaired, foods differ and all of the other obvious cultural things we expect when traveling to another country.  But, the other culture change is being in a massive city! Santiago is a city of 7 million, the size of Houston, Madrid or Rangon. A full forty percent of Chile’s population lives in Santiago. Although I live in the core of Des Moines, it’s nowhere close to the same experience.  This city has more than double the population of Iowa! Meaning, I get to learn the subway system, hear traffic constantly, order Uber Eats, pass through crowded markets, and sit on my 14th floor rental and look at other high rises. I really enjoy this urban living but wonder if I would enjoy it on a longer term basis.  

3.  Finally and most importantly, let’s talk about why I am actually in this beautiful country!  For the past year I have worked for the Solidarity Foundation, helping populations gain greater power over their finances.  A simple way to describe it is that each group is setting up a mini-bank. Members save money weekly over a 6 month period, and can request loans during that time from the group fund.  They pay that back with interest, at a rate that they decided on by voting. The interest also stays in the group fund. At the end of the six month period, members get their savings amount back plus a proportional share of the interest.  During my time there I met with organizations that work with immigrants, primarily Haitian. The work being done by these organizations was incredibly inspiring and I look forward to working with them in the future.

 

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Tres Domingo 4.1

  1. THE ATAMCA DESERT!!!- Wednesday through Thursday, I spent 24 hours traveling from the frozen and freezing tundra of Des Moines to the arid town of San Pedro de Atacama and that's not a complaint.  The Atacama Desert is a land that demands superlatives but creates speechlessness.  I’m in my rustic AirBnB looking at the pictures I took mere hours earlier and the deep thoughts that come to mind are: “Whoa those colors,” and “Deserts man.” I saw altiplano lakes, lunar landscapes, flamingos, vicunas and had more troubles with llamas in traffic than cars.  My wife Emily did not make the trip meaning that my trusted companion was a tiny Peugeot vehicle I affectionately named Old Frenchy.  The roads outside of the major highways were rough.  Frenchy might not have looked like much but she bent those roads to her will.

  2. For my last meal in the Atacama region I ordered the most appropriate thing possible: llama, served with rice, quinoa and french fries.  I’ll say this about eating llama: It is a thing that I did. And that’s about the extent of my enjoyment. Tough and pretty bland, it was not a treat.  I felt guilty for eating cheap pizzas to avoid the high prices of the region and after eating Cliff bars for two meals a day I was looking forward to a treat.  Llama was not it.

  3. While waiting in a security line I heard a guy say to his female companion “who cares,I won’t see these people again.” A few seconds later, fart smell. As I avoided inhaling for as long as possible it reminded me of a comment my wise wife made recently about the anonymity of travel. While the main benefit of that anonymity isn’t exactly crop dusting strangers at will, going to a place where no one knows you is very empowering in a way. 



 

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Tres Domingo 3.25

  1. Airports: I’ve hated O’Hare ever since I was delayed for an hour, took a nap and missed my flight. That was 10 years ago and absolutely nothing has changed my opinion. But it doesn’t have to be that way.  The Portland airport is an absolute gem. It has the great food and beer selection you’d expect but enforces street pricing so you don’t get gouged like you do at most airports. Also, Salt Lake City is one of the most beautiful places to fly into. I’m currently on a flight descending into the airport and looking at snow covered mountains right next to flat deserts. Maybe I’ll just skip my flight back to Des Moines and chill in Utah for a bit. (Spoiler: I did not)

  2. Running: On March 17th I celebrated a daily running streak of 10 years. Why would anyone do this is a fair question. It’s not an original idea, as my father ran daily for 18 years. In March of 2008 I found myself in a vaguely castle-themed Best Western in Richmond, Virginia. Working on an infrastructure-surveying crew at the time I found myself with plenty of downtime some of which I spent on the treadmill. After a few weeks I came to the realization that I’d been doing it daily and it took off from there. This was around the time that travel became a big part of my focus and it’s a daily ritual I’ve completed in exotic locales like Jakarta, Rome and the beaches of the Galapagos. It’s a ritual I’ve also done in Adel, Iowa and Beckly, West Virginia and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and plenty of treadmills in between. It’s added a consistency to my life that’s been more important than PRs or calories lost.

  3. Smart Animals: over the past couple weeks I’ve been volunteering at the Ape Cognition and Conservation Initiative, an amazing facility with five bonobos, which along with chimpanzees are our closest genetic relative. I am also currently reading “Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are” by Frans De Waal. Both of which have me thinking a great deal about humanity’s place on this planet. We think of ourselves as being unique and in many ways we are. I write this in a plane, something that no other species has created. And yet, the chimp Ayumu has demonstrated greater memory powers than humans. Many other animals use tools, especially our closest relatives. And the wintering in warmer climates humans have recently practiced was unimaginable only a century ago, while sea turtles, whales and other species have been seasonally migrating for millenniums. What does this mean from a travel perspective?  Wildlife is an incredibly enriching part of travel. Personally, I’d highly recommend a visit to the Galápagos Islands and feel a strong need to visit Kenya & Tanzania from where we emerged as a species. Also I’d really like to see mountain gorillas in Rwanda and orangutans in Asia. Has anyone done this?

 

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Tres Domingo 3.18

  1. Easter Island- This morning I read two articles about Rapa Nui aka Easter Island caught my eye.  An article about the changing climate threat to the mystical island and another using the isolated island civilizational collapse half a millennium ago as a parable for our own precarious environmental situation.  I’ve always wanted to visit Rapa Nui but it is an expensive destination and I’ve yet to make it. However the story about the deforestation of the island and the subsequent civilizational collapse has loomed in my mind ever since reading Jared Diamond’s classic Collapse.

  2. On a lighter note, I’m returning to Chile!  I will be spending most of my time in Santiago as part of my work with the Solidarity Foundation, sharing our savings group model with Venezuelan and Haitian refugees in the capital.  But, surprising no one, I’ve carved out some time to explore as well. After a red eye-flight from Des Moines→Dallas→ Santiago I am hopping on yet another plan to the extreme north of the country.  Why? To explore the driest place on the planet,the Atacama desert!  I have a couple of days to explore otherworldly landscapes and literally view other worlds, as the Atacama is one of the best stargazing regions in the world.  

  3. Finally, full disclosure: I am writing this from a tea shop in Portland.  What a city! My flight landed at 10 and in the 3.5 hours since I’ve landed I’ve had espresso from the legendary Stumptown, a bibimbap box from Kim Jong Grillin and matcha latte that really hit the spot after an early morning of flying.  I head back to Des Moines tomorrow but not before I stuff my face with as much of the best food this city has to offer.

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