Seven Years On the Road

Today marks the 7th anniversary of the day I turned over the keys to my house and began a life of full time travel. There are other dates close to this I could have chosen as my anniversary, but I picked turning over the keys to my house as the start of my travels because that was the point of no return.

When I began in 2007 I told everyone I would be gone for a year, but secretly I thought I might be gone for two. Never in my wildest dreams, however, did I think I be doing this seven years later.

Never did I think I’d be celebrating this day on a remote island in the Atlantic Ocean having visited over 150 countries and territories around the world. I never could have imagined that I’d have won so many major travel photography awards, because when I started I never thought of myself as a photographer.
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Off to St. Helena!

In 2011 I did a post listing the 13 places in the I most wanted to visit but haven’t yet. To date, I’ve only visited one of the places on that list: Lord Howe Island in Australia.

Today I’m embarking on a trip in Cape Town to cross off the second destination on my list: the island of St. Helena.

For those of you who have no idea where or what St. Helena is, here are some quick facts:
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Visions of Namibia

I visited Namibia for the first time in November 2013. What I experienced was far beyond my expectations. I found it to be a land of contradictions. It is a place where you can experience daily fog in the desert. Where you may have to wear a coat in the tropics. It has some of the oldest land and human artifacts on Earth, yet it is one of the youngest countries in the world.

It is also a spectacular place for photography. You could almost throw your camera in the air and be guaranteed a great photo.

This collection is the result of a five day trip I took into the Namib Desert and a shorter two day trip to Damaraland to visit the ancient rock carvings of Twyfelfontein. Both are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

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March 2014 Desktop Wallpaper

March 2014 Desktop Wallpaper

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Why NOW is the Best Time To Visit South Africa in Decades…. And By the Way, Did I mention I’m Running A Photography Tour Here in May?

South Africa has never been cheaper

I’ve been in South Africa now for about three weeks. I was last here in 2010 and I was rather shocked at how affordable I’m finding it this time. I didn’t remember it being this cheap before.

As it turns out, my suspicions were correct. South Africa has gotten significantly cheaper. During my 2010 visit, the US Dollar (USD) was able to purchase about 7 South African Rand (ZAR). As of today, the dollar can now get 11.16 rand. That is over a 59% devaluation of the rand to the dollar!

To give you an idea of prices, I spent all of December in Australia. While I was there I ate several times at a popular South African chain restaurant called Nando’s.(they specialized in grilled chicken) The average meal at Nando’s in Australia would run me about US$21. The same exact meal at the same exact chain in South Africa was a bit over $7. A similar meal in the US would probably run around $12-15. That meal was also in Cape Town which is probably one of the most expensive cities in South Africa.

I’ve had many meals here in Durban where I never had to pay more than $5. The hotel I’m staying at is rated at 4-stars on Hotels.com (but I’d call it a 3-star). It is located across the street from the beach and is very nice by my standards. I’ve been paying US$38/night.

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February 2014 Desktop Wallpaper

February 2014 Desktop Wallpaper

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This months wallpaper image is of a derelict ship on the Skeleton Coast of Namibia.

Mayan Ruins and Karl ‘The Screw’

This is a guest post by my friend Wes Nations who blogs at JohnnyVagabond.com. I met Wes several years ago in Bangkok and he’s been a big help to me providing graphic design on thing like my travel photography book. Wes has had some of the most interesting stories of any traveler I know, and I’m pleased that he has agreed to share one of them here.

Take it away, Wes…..


I met Karl in Flores, Guatemala, a small island town in the middle of Lake Petén. He was a massive man, tanned and with a thick head of white hair and matching beard. I wouldn’t have guessed it but he was 72 years old. He had a heavy German accent but it turned out that he had emigrated to Australia when he was in his teens and was now living in Florida. A full life.

I asked what he had done for a living and he looked down at his feet for a second before answering. “I’m not proud of it but I was a Screw“. When I just stared at him, confused, he added “I was a prison guard. Twenty five years…”
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My 2014 Travel Plans

Several times in the past I’ve outlined my future travel plans, and in every case they ended up being inaccurate. Plans change, opportunities arise and some things just don’t pan out.

I present this not as an official document, but as a draft of what I know as of now. The further out in time I go, the less clear everything becomes.

Last year I announced that I was going to slow down a bit, and this year I will finally start to do that. I admit that my slowing down is still way more active than most people, but for me, it is a bit slower. I’ll be spending more time in one place and doing side trips. The result of this, I hope, is that I will be more productive, write more for this website, and finally (FINALLY) get my book done.

You can see a complete list of the countries and territories I think I’ll be visiting in 2014 if you scroll down to the bottom of my country list.

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Amateur Traveler Interview on the Lesser Antilles

Last summer I did an island hopping tour of the Lesser Antilles in the Caribbean. I recently did two appearances on the popular Amateur Traveler podcast with my friend Chris Christensen to talk about my trip.

Because there were so many islands, we split the interview into two with the first half talking about the Leeward Islands (USVI, BVI, St Martin, Saba, St Eustatius, Anguilla, St Bart’s, St Kitts and Nevis, Antigua and Barbuda, and Montserrat) and the Windward Islands (Guadeloupe, Dominica, Martinique, St Lucia, Barbados, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Grenada, and Trinidad and Tobago).

This was actually my 6th and 7th appearance on the show, going all the way back to 2008. I always tend to talk about tiny countries. My previous episodes include the micro-states of Europe, the Canary Islands, UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the Persian Gulf States, and Micronesia region.

If you don’t subscribe to the Amateur Traveler, you really should. It is one of the best travel podcasts on the Internet.

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My Most Memorable Accommodations, Restaurants and Airlines of 2013

Before we get too far into 2014, I figure I should publish my annual list of my favorite hotels from the previous year. Read my previous year end favorites from 2012 and 2011.

For the most part, I do not talk about hotels, airlines and the minutia of travel. There are people out there who care much more about this stuff than I do. I don’t travel to stay in hostels, I stay in hotels so I can travel.

That being said, I give myself one opportunity per year to talk about the hotels I stayed at during the previous year. This is that time.

Some explanation for how I compiled this list: The list is 100% subjective. I do not visit hotels with a checklist and inspect them looking for small problems. This list represents an overall impression of a place which often may be a factor of amenities, service, location or just a general feeling. Some places I paid my own way, and some were comped. I slept in over 150 beds in 2013 and the number may be closer to 200. There is no set number for the list. I could have been larger or smaller depending on where I stayed. The list is not a reflection of luxury. There are luxury hotels on the list, but there are also hostels. To be eligible for the list, I had to have actually slept there at least one night. Site visits do not count. This list represents my personal views. I’d gladly recommend any of these places, but your experience may be different than mine.

With that out of the way, here were my favorite places of 2013……
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