Theme: European Christmas HolidayCountry: Italy Language: English & Italian Unit of Currency: Euro Location: Milan, Rome, & Venice Year: 2011 Bucket list: Entering Rome’s Colosseum
DO: BROWSE EUROPE’S MOST FASHIONABLY PRICED DESIGNER CLOTHES
Exploring the city and setting the scene for creative photography
DO: TOUR THE COLOSSEUM
Touring the Colosseum and adventuring into other ruins for the day
DO: EXPLORE THE FLOATING CITY
Walking through every nook and cranny that the city has to offer
A little life lesson I learned– When traveling you have to be flexible. Sure I have an itinerary on the locations and dates that I should be in the following countries; however, you cannot prepare for some hiccups along the way.
After my train from Ljubljana, Slovenia I woke up to find myself missing my train connection in Villach Westbf, Austria and ended up in Spittal – Mattersee, Austria (merely 45 minutes away from my anticipated arrival train station!). At 0300 this was not what I wanted to deal with, but fortunately I was able to get a train back to the original train station in Villach Westbf and later continue my train ride to Venice, Italy! If this was the worst thing that happens to me during this Eurotrip, then I will be grateful!
Ventures of Italy:
Venice – The city’s labyrinthine network of islands, bridges, pedestrian alleys, and canals made this location one of most unique and spectacular places to visit! If the fact that Venice sits upon a body of water was not amazing enough, the entire city prides itself on the festival where locals wear masks (resembles Mardi Gras).
Every shop sold masks; some of the most beautiful and creative pressed paper designs that I had ever seen. And therein lies the beauty of the destination: afternoons spent wandering from palace to piazza, exploring the small art museums, shopping the stalls that line the streets, and encountering a fresh side of Venice, a fascinating amalgamation of influences—Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman, and Italian—every time you round a corner.
Venice or as locals acknowledge this city as the perpetual love affair has over 118 small islands that create this watery world of mystery. It was super easy to forget the map and get lost amongst the Byzantine domes and palazzos leading to an amazing slew of mystical possessions and great treats!
Milan – the famous location known for the completed works of Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Last Supper.” The locals referred Leonardo da Vinci as the “genius of a renaissance man” with compelling captivation of his power, depth, and humanity of his masterpieces.
It was evident that along with the great combination of architecture, artists, and a keen fashionable sense, Milan is the perfect example of a place that enjoys the finer things in life. For example, a stroll across its Piazza del Duomo and the endless streets of local shops corroborates the city’s love for fashion, which consequently folded Milan into a city of an epicent of fashion, design, and good living. The Duomo itself captured the city’s creative energy with its size and ornamentation
Rome – Several years past its third millennium mark, the warmest of European capitals was more captivating than ever. Rome’s dramatic physique, from her majestic antiquities to her sinuous baroque curves, had been thrown into even higher relief by a modern trend that had made its presence felt in a major way: in hotels, restaurants, and shops that have adopted a more current, international aesthetic. Traditionalists needn’t worry, however—Rome was still very much enamored of her past, and you can find old-school establishments all over town if you know where to look.
While the Colosseum and the Vatican still loom large in the skyline and identity of Rome, you’ll discover the true soul of the city away from the big sights—in neighborhood coffee bars and trattorias, and from riders of Vespas exchanging boisterous greetings while passing on cobblestone backstreets. For a city this stylish and accomplished, Rome’s remarkable accessibility, even for first-time or short-term visitors, is her most generous asset. Not to mention that Vatican City, the smallest country in the world, was a barrier to the visitors of Rome, but home to the residents who pride on this mysterious and intriguing location.
At the time of Christmas Cheer and Good Tidings, the traditional and more decorative Christmas Markets come to light. Romans erect elaborate presepi (Nativity scenes) across the city, from life-size tableaux on the Spanish Steps and before St. Peter’s to countless crèches in church chapels, all populated by papier-mâché or terracotta figurines and most with a pizza parlor tucked between the shops of the Bethlehem backdrop.
Market action centers in Rome on Piazza Navona, its Bernini fountains surrounded by stalls hawking toys, handmade presepio figures, carnival games of chance, ciambelle (dinner plate-size doughnuts), and 101 variations on peanut brittle! Talk about a great way to introduce Christmas to the lovely month of December!
I could go on forever about the unforgettable time that I had in Italy, but I thought one post would suffice.
Theme: The Voyage of Discovery Phase: Phase 1: Part 1 Country: United States of America (USA) Language: English Unit of Currency: US dollars Location: Florida Year: 2014 Bucket list: Visiting The Turtle Hospital in Marathon Key, Florida
Hang gliding in the Southern part of The Everglades National Park
Sky diving Key West
Jessica’s 3rd sky dive
Joshua’s 1st sky dive for his 25th birthday
Video: Sky diving over Key West, FL, USA with Josh – 12,000 feet & 130mph
Spending Friday night at Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights
Video: Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights
Hanging out in The Turtle Hospital in Marathon Key, Florida for the day
Contributing to The Turtle Hospital’s rescue program and for their continued efforts in saving the lives of sea turtles
Visiting The Everglades National Park, and talking to TV Animal Planet Gatorboys, Paul about his efforts in conservation
Teaching others about sea turtles and their dietary supplements at The Turtle Hospital in Marathon Key, Florida
Learning about nitrogen ice cream and the pros and cons of regular ice cream
Highlights of Week 1:
It’s been crazy trying to travel and upload photographs/videos/travel stories, but hey, I promise I will get better at it as time progresses! “:
*Adrenaline: Airboat ride in the Everglades National Park *Conservation: the Everglades National Park (learned about the gators from TV’s Gatorboys, Paul) *Education: Chill-N Nitrogen Ice Cream
1) Experiencing the best smoothie in the states @ Tropical Smoothie Cafe – a perfect blend of pineapples, strawberries, and bananas in a signature drink called “Paradise Point.”
2) Visiting family in Cocoa Beach, FL - Josh and Maggie aka mom enjoyed hanging out with Uncle Matt, Aunt Dorothy, Jim, Steve, and the Castillo bunch - Betsy, Benjamin, & Camille. Hopefully next time we will be able to see Alfonso, Maggie, Claire, and Cody! We missed you guys!
3) Work related – Receiving my Norwegian medical, my 2nd primary passport, and my 3rd secondary passport – all of these were required to continue traveling outside the United States! Absolutely vital!
4) Chilling @ Fort Lauderdale Beach for the morning – beautiful sunny “typical” Florida day and excellent photographs on the sand.
5) Hanging out downtown Fort Lauderdale watching the Cleveland Browns vs. the Cincinnati Bengals American Football game @ Taps – It was sweet visiting with Martin, Becca Ann, and Megan; and a surprise visit with Brianadded a good vibe for the night. Also, we had a great time with Colleen this week!
6) Satisfying the sweet tooth @ Chill-N Nitrogen Ice Cream – Vn + Cf + Mw. A chemical equation likely to baffle scientists, unless they’re familiar with Chill-N Nitrogen Ice Cream’s periodic table of flavors. Then they’d know that the “equation” translates to vanilla ice cream, chocolate fudge, and marshmallows—resulting in a sort-of s’more sundae that should be kept far away from campfires.
Chill-N’s science-class vibe is inspired by the ice cream itself, which the shop creates by flash-freezing ice-cream or yogurt with pure nitrogen. Customers start by picking either ice cream or yogurt as the base, then flavor it with natural ingredients like pure vanilla or some of the 60 pounds of Nutella that Chill-N goes through each week. They also get to blend in any of the nearly 20 mix-n’s on the periodic table, including little-known elements such as gummy bears (Gb) and Pop Tarts (Pt). The shop mixes it all together, then adds a hefty blast of liquid nitrogen. A very fun, and educational activity for everyone!
6) Cruising on an airboat ride @ the Everglades National Park, another educational activity for the trip – saw 3 American alligators, loads of birds, fish, native plants, etc. Used gopro to capture the alligators and airboat ride! *The best part of the experience was a photograph with Paul, one of the members of Gatorboys, holding a real live baby alligator, and Paul’s demonstration on how to handle an alligator if the unexpected creature shows up in your backyard!
7) Laughing out loud @ Funky Buddha of Boca Raton, FL – a showcase of Boca Raton’s best comedians in the area comprised of 5 guys and 2 girls. The furthest act came from Key Largo, FL! It was a good fun night with Marty Party aka Martin!
8) Taking photographs of a McLaren, and surprisingly have the owner offer to take a picture of you sitting in the driver seat! Sweet ride, though I was a bit too tall for it!
9) Eating at one of my favorite ice cream parlors @ Jaxson’s Ice Cream Parlor & Restaurant – with over 40 different flavors to choose from, it was hard to decide on just 1 flavor! Their speciality is the kitchen sink!
Highlights of Week 2:
*Adrenaline: Skydive Key West & Hang gliding
*Conservation: Sea turtle hospital in Marathon
*Education: Dolphin Research Center in Marathon Key, World famous graffiti at Wynwood Walls *Other: The Florida Keys, South Beach
1) Skydiving over Key West and a few of Florida’s keys – amazing experience, great guys, and it was my little brother’s, Josh, late 25th birthday present (he loved it!). I was even able to drive the plane to my jump spot (with supervision of course!) Thank you Skydive Key West for a great time! After my 3rd jump, I have to admit that I WILL be doing this every country!
2) Hang gliding south of Everglades National Park – there is no way to describe the feeling of “soaring” with the birds of prey and “floating” in the clouds, but if I were to sum this up, I would say with a lot of enthusiasm that this was an “INCREDIBLE” experience! To have control of flying the glider was super cool, and I may in the future get certified as a US hang glider
*The ultimate experience – flying in the clouds (could not see much in front of your face, but white clouds) and being above the white clouds to be welcomed by a blue sky.
3) Hanging out for the day at a Sea turtle hospital in Marathon Key, FL – The staff was very sweet and indeed, exceeded my expectations of a how a hospital’s working staff and volunteers interact with the public. Between the presentations, display of sea turtles in each exhibit, and study guides to help others identify what they are looking at (with the given names of sea turtle species written), the programme that they have is in my opinion, one of the best in North America. During this time, I was also able to interview a few volunteers, which later I will post about. The dolphin research center staff was also very friendly, and with both programmes in effect, Marathon Key is a wonderful destination to learn about sea turtles and dolphins!
4) Driving around downtown Miami and photographing a few famous locations of the Wynwood Walls – this was by far the coolest experience that I had in Miami (yes, even triumphs South Beach). This is a location where artists all over the world have come together to help create a better atmosphere for this part of Miami. The world-class murals and spirit of the project continues to attract thousands of people to the Wynwood Walls each year. Among other things, it is an inspiring model for the revitalization of run-down, abandoned historic communities and a must-see destination for the city.
5) Reaching the southernmost point in North America – getting a signature jumpin’ photograph was the mission, and finally the time came and I got to visit this world famous destination at night! Now the only way to go is North! Canada, I will see you earlier next year of 2015!
Phase 1: Part 1 North America was a great start to a world trip, and as I continue to drive around North America, I promise to keep you all posted through Josh and I’s travel writing, photographs, videos, travel stories, and anything else that we come across.
**Thank you to all those that went out of their way to see us on this part of “The Voyage of Discovery.” Most importantly, thank you Maggie aka mom and Rascal for joining us on the start of this world trip.
BAKERSVILLE — Jessica Benford insists the upgrades to Oakley were an absolute necessity.
She’s spent approximately $15,000 for the new front bumper, 2.5-inch lift, 33-inch tires, 17- by 9-inch rims, Smittybilt sidesteps and winch, 50-inch front light bar, and a plate-metal roto-rack with canisters of water, spare fuel and First Aid materials.
If it seems like overkill, it’s maybe because you don’t know Benford. The self-described adrenaline junkie didn’t enhance her 2010 Jeep Wrangler because it looks cool or because she likes to throw money around.
She did it because she aims to take the Jeep across the globe. Literally.
“I kind of went nuts this past year,” the 31-year-old Rockwood native said Friday as she sat down to an appetizer at her family’s restaurant, Laurel Mountain Inn, immediately after completing the 11-hour drive from her residence in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. She later had a send-off party Saturday at the inn with more than 100 friends and family members.
Some of the upgrades, she said, she hopes she won’t have to use: “(But) if I do, I have the utilities. I have the weaponry in my favor.”
Benford will soon begin her self-described “voyage of discovery,” an eight-year plan to hit all seven continents and about 150 of the world’s 221 countries. It’s a realistic goal because her career as a marine mammal scientist allows her to take extended periods of time off in between jobs.
Professionally, the Penn State University grad is contracted by international oil and gas companies to conduct independent research on the industry’s impact on wildlife near deep-sea drilling. She listens to whales and dolphins, also watching for behavioral cues. If marine mammals are being disturbed by the operations, the oil and gas companies may be forced to shut down and move elsewhere.
Given the fact that her “daily grind” for the past eight years is already akin to adventure for most of us, it should be no surprise that Benford goes to even more extreme lengths to get her kicks in her spare time.
Her mother, Maggie Benford, visibly beams with pride when she recalls how entralled her daughter became with the dolphins and their trainers while visiting Sea World as a young girl.
“She would literally want to go talk to the ones there,” she said. “She was like, This is what I want to do. And she never let up.”
Though Benford’s voyage is expected to take nearly a decade, she’s OK with that. She said it’s already been about eight years in the making as she has researched and meticulously planned her journey.
Benford was first inspired to traverse the globe after taking a sidecar motorcycle trip with a friend several years ago from California down through Mexico. In the past five years alone, she has been to 57 different countries.
“It just kind of clicked,” she said.
That doesn’t mean she’s neglected the good ole U.S., either. Just two years ago she took a U.S. National Park trip through 27 states. The sightseeing took nearly three months, and added about 16,000 miles to Oakley’s resume.
“It was an amazing trip,” she said.
To document her upcoming tour of the world, she is bringing seven or eight cameras, including a helicopter drone she plans to fly over Bolivia’s infamous “Death Road.”
For at least some of the trips, she will be accompanied by her videographer and brother Josh, who said he’s actually looking forward to Canada the most.
“I’m very excited to have the opportunity,” he said.
The trip, according to Benford, isn’t going to be a typical tourist’s trot. Not only does she plan to stay off beaten paths, but also spend time volunteering and pitching in with various conservation and cleanup efforts.
“As a traveler, it’s amazing how many people you meet,” she said. “There’s just so many great people.”
Benford also wants to use her experiences for education. She is looking to give lectures at universities, and may write a book someday.
Theme: Jeepin’ Around Canada Roadtrip Country: Canada Language: English & French Unit of Currency: Canadian dollar Location: Montreal, Niagara Falls, Ottawa, Quebec City, & Toronto Year: 2000 & 2012 Bucket list: Photographing the mist at Niagara Falls
DO: SPEND HALLOWEEN AT MONTREAL’S SIX FLAGS THEME PARK
Jumping on every roller coaster in the Six Flag’s theme park and checking out the street performers
DO: VISIT THE NIAGARA FALLS
Niagara Falls City:
Photographing the Niagara Falls in Canada and getting a glimpse of New York’s Buffalo Falls
DO: SPEND THE NIGHT IN AN OLD JAIL HOSTEL
On Halloween night, staying the night in a haunted jail hostel and a quick jaunt to UNESCO World Heritage Site, Canal Rideau
DO: EXPLORE THE CITY OF TORONTO
Walking down the street taking in the sights, sounds, and tastes of the city