Sunday, August 3, 2008

My Alaska Experiment

Outside Tent & Breakfast, Seldovia, AK

When going to Alaska for my summer vacation I had a lot of ideas in my mind of how the trip would be. I even had a tarot card reader at a Google party tell me months in advance that I would be "naturally enlightened" during the summer, to my delight. But, in my time there I quickly discovered that things don't always go the way you plan them and enlightenment can mean many unpredictable things.

Trail to the Ice Climb with Ascending Path outside of Girdwood, AK

Unpredictability can come in many forms, like, for instance, the weather. Alaska had the coldest summer on record since 1980. This meant that it stayed pretty cool most of the days I was there and almost freezing in the evenings. It was actually nice because it meant there was no excuse to not light a fire and sit there for hours, or to pile on as many blankets as possible, comforted by the weight.

Eric & Brett in Homer, AK

Wildlife is naturally unpredictable as well. Managing expectations is a phrase we commonly use in advertising to make sure clients aren't expecting more than what we're realistically able to offer. One of the things I really wanted to see while in Alaska was a bear. I saw a moose (very rare in summer), elk, reindeer, mountain goats, otters, husky puppies and even some jellyfish. All of these animals were absolutely incredible to see, but yet, I still wish I had seen a bear. Were my expectations unrealistic? Maybe, maybe not, but until next time this live bear cam will have to do.

Food is definitely something I include on a list of things that can be enlightening. However, I didn't really expect to find anything better than what I could get in Seattle. Salmon and halibut are common foods in both locations, and many places do a great job with them. The Mad Fish Restaurant in Seldovia was one of the two places open for dinner on Sunday night, so we showed up as their first guests of the evening. Both me and my friend agreed that they had the best fish we had ever eaten.

Edge of the Glacier we climbed

The most important form of enlightenment I (re)discovered was how important it is to trust the right people. When glacier hiking and ice climbing you place your life in the hands of those skilled enough to protect you, make sure you enjoy your experience and get home safely. Without the proper attitude, gear and knowledge it is likely that mistakes can be made and injury will result. But with a little research, the use your gut feeling and faith in your peers you can do just about anything.

Alaskan Nightlife: Humpy's, Brown Bear Saloon, The Salty Dawg

Destination Reading: Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

Destination Listening: Into the Wild Soundtrack by Eddie Vedder

My friend Brett's Official Alaska Weather Report

Photography by me

Thursday, July 31, 2008

City of Best Travel Deals

The Los Angeles Times consistently gives great information on the best travel deals out there. I have found some really great hotel offers and vacation information here and you don't need to live in LA for them to be relevant. Highly recommended!

LA Times: Daily Travel & Deal Blog

Monday, July 21, 2008

Abu Dhabi Snobby

I just found out that my travel blog is blocked in the United Arab Emirates due to content. My family-friendly travel blog, blocked! I feel so rejected.

Internet Filtering in the United Arab Emirates

Mike's UAE Blog

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Sinclair Jungle

Sinclair Island is a small piece of land off the coast of Washington just West of Bellingham and Anacortes. It's home to a number of private residences powered only by solar panels and generators. There aren't any restaurants, bars, camp sites, hotels or grocery stores. The owners of the homes take pride in the simple pleasures it offers and many are upset when new homeowners build large, obnoxious homes, tear down trees and use four wheelers.

A friend of mine has had property in the family since the 1960s and took me out for the weekend. The islanders welcome guests and invited us to a presidential debate heavily in favor of Obama (not too surprising), showered us with food and wine and even had us over for coffee the next morning. It's hard to deny the charm of the place, so if you're lucky enough to get an invite, I suggest saying "yes."

Photography by me.

World's 10 Best Airports

It doesn't hurt to have a long layover in the 10 locations listed in this article by Forbes. As I've mentioned before, the Singapore Airport is quite nice!

Forbes: World's 10 Best Airports

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Huntington Library?

If you are visiting Los Angeles I highly recommend spending a day at the Huntington Library, especially if you're the type of person that doesn't really like Los Angeles. The Huntington Library has an eclectic collection of artwork, historical pieces and botanical gardens all nestled back in a quiet neighborhood just past Pasadena.

One of the current exhibits is "Pressed in Time: American Prints 1905–1950," sponsored by one of my favorite actors, Steve Martin. The exhibit had a few different focuses, including World War II, places of worship, the rapid growth of cities and the California coast. Despite this great variety, they were all tied together with an incredible sense of insight into the lives of people during the first half of the 20th century. The California coast pictures were timeless, showing the natural reoccurrence of wild fires and the beauty of the coast. Also timeless were the prints depicting the contrast between the love of big cities, industrial growth and wealth versus the hatred of overdevelopment, the negative social impacts of the inner city and the impending doom the artists forecasted. Nostradamus?

My favorite part of the Huntington Library is the botanical gardens. I've visited Huntington 4-5 times before but they never fail to amaze me. The Japanese gardens (currently in renovation) and the Desert Gardens are my favorite and a must see. You've likely seen the Japanese Gardens before in the popular TV show Heroes, and the sculpture garden in a few movies, such as the Wedding Planner (horrible movie, great scenery).

If you plan in advance you can have a champagne brunch at the Tea Room. The array of cheeses, pastries, teas and other foods is impressive.

Photography by me.