Uncornered Market » Wanderers in Residence http://uncorneredmarket.com travel wide, live deep Mon, 20 Oct 2014 14:21:30 +0000 en-US hourly 1 A Tandem Bungy Jump on Valentine’s Day [VIDEO]http://uncorneredmarket.com/tandem-bungy-jump-valentines-day-video/ http://uncorneredmarket.com/tandem-bungy-jump-valentines-day-video/#comments Fri, 15 Feb 2013 19:32:59 +0000 http://www.uncorneredmarket.com/?p=12818 By Daniel Noll

I am starting to wonder about you guys. every time you celebrate your ‘love’ (V-day, anniversary) you jump off something very high. Please explain. — A good friend responds to our Valentine’s Day bungy jump, capturing a little problem we seem to have. So there we were in New Zealand, Valentine’s Day approaching. We find […]

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By Daniel Noll

Tandem Bungy Jump on Valentine's Day - Kawarau Bridge near Queenstown, New Zealand
Tandem Bungy Jump on Valentine’s Day – Kawarau Bridge near Queenstown

I am starting to wonder about you guys. every time you celebrate your ‘love’ (V-day, anniversary) you jump off something very high. Please explain.

A good friend responds to our Valentine’s Day bungy jump, capturing a little problem we seem to have.

So there we were in New Zealand, Valentine’s Day approaching. We find ourselves in Queenstown, the so-called adventure capital of the world where just about any adrenaline-pumping, blood-draining exercise can be found. So we think: What sort of shared experience, that we haven’t done before, can we do together to celebrate Valentine’s Day?

Bungy jumping together, now that’s a shared experience. A little pleasure, a little terror.

We each get our feet wrapped up in towels, cords and carabiners. Then we get strapped and hooked together. On the platform, we wrap our inside hands around each other’s waist, grabbing hold of each other’s harness.

The whole time, we’re excited, pretty much terrified.

They call out 3, 2, 1. Then it’s time.

Tandem Bungee Jump for Valentine's Day - Kawarau Bridge, New Zealand
And we’re off!!

Here’s the surprising thing about bungy: it’s not anything like we expected. It’s a rush. We expected that. It’s terrifying. We expected that. But the bounce (it’s not a snap, by the way) at the bottom is soft and elastic and actually a lot of fun, particularly when you pop up and down a few times and realize that you’ve in fact survived and can enjoy an upside-down view of turquoise water and stunning ravine below.

And that’s when we gave each other a hug. This experience makes you truly appreciate you partner and not take him or her for granted.

Valentine's Day Bungee Jump - Kawarau Bridge, New Zealand
Hugging for dear life.

If you’re in the neighborhood and even lightly grazing the idea of doing bungy, do it. It’s a sensation you’ll likely never forget. And if you’re a couple, do the tandem – there’s nothing like the fun of shared terror to bring you even closer.

Watch the video to see for yourself.

Video: A Valentine’s Day Tandem Bungy Jump

Special thanks to AJ Hackett Bungy New Zealand for providing us with this video.

Practical details for Tandem Bungy

At the moment, the only tandem bungy (or bungee, if you like) experience can be had with AJ Hackett Bungy New Zealand in Queenstown, New Zealand. They are the folks that set up the original one in 1988 on the same bridge where we jumped off. You jump from a height of 43 meters (141 feet) off the Kawarau Bridge.

It’s possible to book the same day, however it’s preferred if you book in advance (say, the day before or earlier). Basically, you show up in town, hop a bus, go out to the site, get weighed, go out on the bridge, get strapped in and tied up. Then you jump. Cost is $180 NZ per person and includes a free t-shirt to show off your courage post-jump. The whole experience, while terrifying, strikes us as completely safe. Photos and video are available through download, DVD or a cool USB in the shape of a carabiner for $80 for both photos and video (or $45 for one).

Photo credits to AJ Hackett Bungy New Zealand.

Disclosure: Big thanks to AJ Hackett Bungy New Zealand for talking us through all our adrenaline options in Queenstown and providing us with this tandem bungy experience so we could test it out for ourselves. Our New Zealand Encompassed Tour is provided by G Adventures in cooperation with its Wanderers in Residence program. As always, the opinions expressed here are entirely our own.

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The experiences above were from the G Adventures’ New Zealand Encompassed Tour. If you plan to book this or another tour with G Adventures, please consider starting the process by clicking on the ad below. The price stays the same to you and we earn a small commission. Thank you!

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Next Up: Going Big in Japanhttp://uncorneredmarket.com/big-in-japan/ http://uncorneredmarket.com/big-in-japan/#comments Thu, 03 May 2012 19:42:40 +0000 http://www.uncorneredmarket.com/?p=11133 By Daniel Noll

I have never been to Japan. Audrey has, but she enjoys the distinction of having eaten a hamburger there. In fact, she requested it. Insisted even. Forgive her though, she was only seven, it was her birthday and she was tired of noodles. But she did wear a blue kimono to make up for it. […]

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By Daniel Noll

I have never been to Japan.

Audrey has, but she enjoys the distinction of having eaten a hamburger there. In fact, she requested it. Insisted even. Forgive her though, she was only seven, it was her birthday and she was tired of noodles. But she did wear a blue kimono to make up for it.

Japan Geisha

No, this is not Audrey.

When people inquire about where we’ve been and we tell them that we haven’t yet been to Japan together despite having spent almost two years across Asia, they express disbelief: “How have you not been to Japan?!?!

In turn, we feel a void, a gap, like we really missed something and passed over a place we should have visited long ago.

Now it’s time to correct that.

Why Japan?

Our fascination with Japan goes back, in part, to an outing in San Francisco’s Japantown in the late 1990s. It began in a row of addictive Japanese vending machines, including a booth that spat out a custom-made ink stamp based on a photo snapped of us. The image of our faces was then framed by and filled the windshield of a car — as if we were driving, on the road again. That stamp transformed us back into little children, full of the glee of simplicity and novelty. We applied that stamp to letters, random pieces of paper, anything we could get our hands on. I’d include a photo of the stamp here – it was silly and entertaining and frighteningly lifelike – but it has long since been tucked into a box somewhere.

Cheesy photo stamp-making vending machines as motivation for a trip to Japan?

Yes. This and a host of other pop culture goodies, history and personal advice all helped to plant and tend the seed.

In 2007, at the beginning of our trip, we met a travel and tour consultant that specialized in East Asia, including Japan. Why the focus there? To him, Japan represented “the perfect society.” Courtesy and respect amidst human compression and tight spaces of modern day population density.

Japan, however, always eluded us.

Then in early 2011, we made plans to live in Japan for a couple of months. But, the tsunami and earthquake struck.

We vowed to keep Japan in our sights and visit as soon as we could make it happen. We also hoped to see how it has bounced back.

What Means Japan?

I feel a bit sheepish when trying to describe what Japan means to me. Outside of a reading of Ian Baruma’s then freshly published Inventing Japan: 1853-1964, much of my mind’s image of Japan has been back-filled from a collection of dated bits of pop culture and grade school superficiality.

Speed and light. Moments and tableau. Lost in Translation, loneliness amidst a sea of humanity. Bright lights, big city. Seinfeld gave us the image of Japanese men sleeping in drawers with Kramer. Japan speaks traditional and modern. Geishas, white faces, bold colors. Pokemon and Hello Kitty. Fashion and custom, twisting and temporal. Propriety, formality, and the ultimate in organization to sustain a population stitched into a societal fabric spread across islands. On the flip side, an apparent suppression of emotion so strong that it’s said to produce some of the most profound pornography on the planet. (I am also told by Audrey that I will not consume such content while we are there. Maybe when we return?)

I was recently asked in an interview about where I most wanted to photograph, and answered that although India is likely at the top of my list in terms of places I’ve been it’s Japan – my personal unknown — that I now have a taste to capture.

But the real challenge will be to understand the story, the people, and the culture behind all those images. Clearly, this trip is just the beginning.

Our Japan Itinerary

We take off for Japan this weekend! We’ll start off with G AdventuresDiscover Japan tour.

The tour will take us from Tokyo to Takayama, Kanazawa to Hiroshima, then Kyoto before setting us down at the foot of Mount Fuji for a climb. Our route will be dotted with temples, mountains, sake breweries, and a dose of sobering history. The trains, we’re certain, will run on time.

Mt. Fuji

We’ll follow that up with 4-5 days of hanging in and around Tokyo on our own.

I want to see those Japanese cities of organized compression, people pushed into and subsequently disgorged from subway trains in as timely a fashion as possible. I want to be among those people.

I want to sing karaoke. I want to lavish red-faced in a steam bath.

And of course, there’s the food. Massaged beef, udon and sushi so sweet. And yes, we’ll go to that famous fish market that is scheduled to close sometime soon. I can assure you: astounding amounts of sushi will be eaten.

In spite of these few “musts” I have in my head, I’m not quite certain what I will find. I’m leaving myself open to Japan and I’m thrilled by the opportunity to explore.

I also know that Audrey has come a long way. This time, she tells me, she won’t be eating any hamburgers. But she may just look for another kimono.

——-

Join us on our journey through Japan! You can follow along on Twitter at #dna2japan or on our Facebook page. Don’t worry, we promise not to post too many photos of sushi.

If you have Japan suggestions- food, sights, karaoke bars or otherwise – for any of the places mentioned above, especially Tokyo, please let us know!

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If you plan to book this Discover Japan Tour or another tour with G Adventures, please consider starting the process by clicking on the ad below. The price stays the same to you and we earn a small commission. Thank you!

G Adventures Tours to Asia

Disclosure: Our Discover Japan tour was provided by G Adventures in cooperation with its Wanderers in Residence program. As always, the opinions expressed here are entirely our own.

Photo credits to G Adventures

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Tanzania: My 7th Continent, A Mountain to Climbhttp://uncorneredmarket.com/tanzania-kilimanjaro-safari-serengeti-zanzibar/ http://uncorneredmarket.com/tanzania-kilimanjaro-safari-serengeti-zanzibar/#comments Thu, 26 May 2011 06:44:58 +0000 http://www.uncorneredmarket.com/?p=8306 By Daniel Noll

This is a story of an old legal pad, a mountain in Africa, and a distant dream of shooting an honest game of golf under 90. Tucked deep inside a cardboard box in Prague, Czech Republic, there’s a half-torn crumpled piece of yellow legal pad paper that reads somewhere in the middle, scribbled in blue […]

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By Daniel Noll

This is a story of an old legal pad, a mountain in Africa, and a distant dream of shooting an honest game of golf under 90.

Tucked deep inside a cardboard box in Prague, Czech Republic, there’s a half-torn crumpled piece of yellow legal pad paper that reads somewhere in the middle, scribbled in blue ballpoint: “Climb Mt. Kilimanjaro.”

Those words date back to December 31, 1999. Audrey had been visiting me in San Francisco on a break from her Peace Corps stint in Estonia. As some people frantically stacked cans of beans in their cellars in anticipation of a Y2K meltdown, Audrey and I sipped coffees and each scrawled out “25 Things” – 25 things we’d hoped to do before we died. (If I were writing more formally, I’d call it an “exercise” and make it sound like something from an expensive self-help personal growth program you’d find in Skymall.)

On my legal pad I wrote, “Climb Mt. Kilimanjaro.” (Just under that, I incidentally also wrote, “Shoot an honest game of golf under 90.” Please, I’ve already been given a lot of grief about how uninspired that particular entry is.)

When our exercise concluded, Audrey and I compared lists. And wouldn’t you know it, she had “Climb Mt. Kilimanjaro” on hers, too. Alignment. Nice.

But all these years living, traveling, and thinking about the world, Audrey and I somehow always missed our Africa landing. (In fairness, Audrey spent time in Africa growing up.)

No longer.

This Sunday, we fly to Tanzania to begin a tour with G Adventures (Tanzania Encompassed) that takes us to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro, to game parks like Serengeti National Park, Ngorongoro Crater, and Lake Manyara to witness the migration of the wildebeests and catch a look at some of the Big 5 (elephants, leopard, lion, buffalo and rhino), and finally to Stonetown on the island of Zanzibar.

Why Tanzania?

Three things.

I want to see the real-live Wild Kingdom (Or, as some of you may remember from watching it as a kid “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom”). Marlin Perkins’ voice would rise only slightly – the pounce! A poor zebra or gazelle sipping at the water’s edge was another animal’s lunch. Aerial shots of great movements of wildebeest running across the veldt spoke to lifecycles and the vastness of our small Earth.

Then, looking eastward to the Indian Ocean, there is Zanzibar. Spice markets, beaches, and thoughts of pirates (a friend who was a Peace Corps volunteer in Tanzania had taught me to say “Zanzibar!” with a pirate’s accent.) Arrrgh.

Finally, there’s Mount Kilimanjaro, a mountain peak whose upper reaches are within our reach. A place where you can just put one foot in front the other and end up on the highest point on the African continent — that is if the altitude doesn’t get you.

While I know I have time to hone my golf game, all reports are that climate change is taking its toll on Kilimanjaro and its glaciers are retreating to the point that perhaps in my lifetime, they will be gone. I’d like to see them before they go.

Africa, My Final Continent

This trip to Africa also marks my seventh and final continent. Before I took my first trip abroad when I was 26, it never really occurred to me that I’d see them all.

From my first travels abroad, it will have taken me almost fourteen years.

My first steps were in Scranton, Pennsylvania in North America. In 1997, Hong Kong offered me a first glimpse of Asia while Sydney was my first touch down under. The following year in Europe, my first taste was an unlikely Tallinn, Estonia in the grayest of winters. Eleven years later, the crisp, blue skies of Quito, Ecuador welcomed me to South America, a long continent whose southern tip was the launch point for a frosty welcome to Hanusse Bay, Antarctica.

In a few days Moshi, Tanzania at the foot of Mt. Kilimanjaro will be my first taste of Africa.

Now, I feel this is all a bit unfair to Audrey whose life travels began 22 years before mine. But for her, one continent remains: Australia.

We need to do something about that.

Where Else in Africa?

Traveling to Tanzania and saying “I’ve been to Africa” strikes me as a bit unfair to the continent. It’s akin to saying, “I had a piece of that pie” when in fact you’d only eaten a fragment of crust just rubbed with filling. You think you know what the whole thing is like, but you really don’t — and you won’t be certain until you’ve tasted more.

So a taste of East Africa I’ll have. But there’s much more to East Africa than Tanzania. Add to that North Africa and the Sahara, West Africa and southern Africa and you’ve got yourself another lifetime of travel. This is just one of the ways in which Africa overwhelms me when I think about it.

But for now, Tanzania. I’d like to think of this journey as planting a seed of something bigger, much as our first trip to Asia together in 2004 planted the seed of our current travels.

And yes, I know. I still need to get that honest game of golf under 90.

But until then, I’ve got a mountain to climb.

—-

Follow our journey to Tanzania with us. We’ll be posting photos of our travels in Tanzania via Twitter (#dna2tanzania) and Facebook and in our photo gallery.

After this trip, we are going to be still for several months. I know, I know. We’ve been saying this for months, but barring an offer we absolutely cannot refuse, we actually mean it this time. The location, still to be finalized, points again to Berlin. Stay tuned.

Disclosure: Our tour to Tanzania is in cooperation with Gap Adventures as Wanderers in Residence. The opinions expressed here are entirely our own.

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Bali Holiday Week: Volcanoes, Diving, Temples, Cookinghttp://uncorneredmarket.com/bali-holiday-week/ http://uncorneredmarket.com/bali-holiday-week/#comments Mon, 23 May 2011 04:28:58 +0000 http://www.uncorneredmarket.com/?p=8215 By Audrey Scott

For a relatively small island, Bali can pack in a lot of activities in just a week: volcano-climbing at dawn, diving in coral reefs, cooking traditional Balinese cuisine, visiting Balinese Hindu temples, taking in a traditional Kecak performance, hanging with monkeys, and enjoying a few Balinese massages. Remember when you’d return to school from summer […]

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By Audrey Scott

For a relatively small island, Bali can pack in a lot of activities in just a week: volcano-climbing at dawn, diving in coral reefs, cooking traditional Balinese cuisine, visiting Balinese Hindu temples, taking in a traditional Kecak performance, hanging with monkeys, and enjoying a few Balinese massages.

Tanah Lot - Bali, Indonesia
Tanah Lot, Bali

Remember when you’d return to school from summer break and write an essay entitled: What I Did on My Summer Vacation? Well, here’s our modern-day approach to that question: What did we do on our week-long G Adventures tour of Bali?

Volcano Sunrise: Climbing Mt. Batur

To be perfectly honest, waking up at 3:30 AM was hellish, particularly since we went to sleep after midnight. But as we climbed in perfect darkness and the silhouettes of the surrounding cloud-swaddled volcanoes appeared, it was clear this was all worth it. Only 90 minutes later, we were enjoying a volcano sunrise.

Sunrise at Mt. Batur - Bali, Indonesia
Sunrise atop Bali’s Mt. Batur.

After we’d admired the view, our local trekking guide took us to the edge of one of the craters, buried a bunch of eggs in the ground, and allowed the hot steam of the volcano to cook them. Volcano breakfast, no stove necessary.

Steam Rising from Mt. Batur Volcano - Bali, Indonesia
Breakfast view: Mt. Batur’s smoldering craters.

Watch out for the hungry monkeys. They may look cute, but they snatched Audrey’s breakfast right from her hands.

Cost: 250,000 IDR ($30) for transport, local trekking guides and breakfast. If you have low blood sugar, you may want to bring some snacks or Gatorade to help you get through the climb before breakfast.

Menjangan Island: Scuba Diving the Coral Reefs

Of our two days of diving in Bali, this was our favorite. Because Menjangan Island is a nature reserve, its coral reefs are relatively well-preserved. Visual artists can find inspiration in the shapes, patterns and colors of Mother Nature’s underwater designs. The visibility is fantastic and you don’t need to go very deep for a visually satisfying experience. Because this area is less susceptible to strong currents than other Bali dive sites, it makes for a relaxing dive experience where you can conserve a bit of your air and can stay down longer to enjoy the underwater journey.

Holding Hands While Diving around Menjangan Island - Bali, Indonesia
Yes we hold hands. Even underwater.

Puffer Fish - Menjangan Island, Indonesia
A puffer fish obliges the camera.

Cost: With Sunrise Dive shop, 500,000 IDR ($60)/person includes transport from Lovina, two dives, all equipment and lunch. If you don’t dive, you can opt to snorkel for 300,000 IDR ($35).

Special thanks goes to our friends Daniel and Juliet Jones for the underwater photos above.

Balinese Cooking Course

Unfortunately, there’s a lot of mediocre “Balinese” food served up in restaurants across the island, so much so that were almost about to give up on Balinese food. Then we took a cooking class in Ubud. We are so glad we did. Our understanding of and opinion of Balinese cuisine changed drastically.

Making Sate Lilit - Bali, Indonesia
Sticky fingers. Dan tries his hand at sate lilit, spiced minced meat on lemongrass skewers.

Our cooking class began appropriately with a tour of the Ubud market. Deep in the fruit and vegetable stands (if you can make your way past the souvenir stalls, you’ll find local produce in the back), our instructor explained the various ingredients used in Balinese cuisine.

Then the real fun began. Together, we prepared seven dishes, including: Bumbu Bali (Balinese spice paste), Sayur Urab (mixed vegetables), Tuna Sambal Matah (shrimp with raw sambal), Sate Lilit, Opor Ayam (chicken curry), Tempe Manis (temple in sweet-spicy sauce), and Sambal Udang (shrimp with spicy sambal).

Tuna Sambal Matah - Bali, Indonesia
Tuna Sambal Matah: seared tuna topped with uncooked sambal (sauce).

Cost: A Balinese cooking course with Bumi Bali restaurant in Ubud costs 250,000 IDR ($30/person) and includes a market visit, instructions on how to prepare seven dishes, a cookbook, an apron, transport from your hotel, and a lot of eating. Initially, we were concerned when we discovered the teaching facilities included only one cooking station. However, everyone in the class had the opportunity to participate in preparing multiple dishes and overall, the course provided an enjoyable, tasty and enlightening overview to Balinese cuisine. Recommended.

Note: We will write later in detail about Balinese cuisine and how it incorporates different roots, spices and chilies to create unique flavors and delicious sambals (sauces).

Kecak Performance and Fire Dance

We have to admit that our expectations for this tourist staple were rather low. Everyone and his brother (and sister) seemed to be selling “Kecak Show” tickets across Ubud. While we can’t vouch for the quality of the other shows, we thoroughly enjoyed the performance at Pura Dalem (Mondays and Fridays, 7:30 PM).

Kecak Performers - Ubud, Bali
Kecak Performance – Ubud, Bali

Even if you read the show’s plot description beforehand, you’ll likely be confused throughout the show. But that’s OK – the point is more to enjoy the chanting, dancing, and various beautifully-costumed characters that appear throughout the show.

Kecak Dance Princess - Ubud, Bali
More Kecak performance in Bali.

The show concludes with a man who runs through and dances on piles of burning coconut husks. Talk about intense. After experiencing the pain of stepping on burning embers in Koh Samui, Thailand earlier this year, we have a real appreciation of this art.

Fire Trance Dance - Ubud, Bali
Fire dance at the end of the Kecak performance.

Balinese Hindu Temples

Balinese Hinduism differs considerably from Hinduism practiced in India, and it plays an integral role in much of day-to-day life in Bali, including daily offerings and rather frequent festivals.

Funeral Procession at Besakih Temple - Bali
Funeral Procession at Besakih Temple

Our visit to the 8th century Besakih Temple at the foot of Mount Agung featured a long walk with a local guide to the top of the complex. Along the way, we asked all the questions about Balinese life and belief that we’d collected — about its various gods, ceremonies, pagodas, and caste system — and a beginner’s course in Balinese Hinduism had emerged.

Besakih Temple - Bali, Indonesia
Besakih Temple landscape.

Lunch at Senang Hati Foundation

Balinese Hindus believe in karma and rebirth, making it challenging for those born with disabilities. The prevailing perception is that if a person is born disabled, they must have done something in a previous life to deserve it. Families of disabled children will even go so far as to hide them from society.

The Senang Hati Foundation attempts to break down this cultural discrimination by providing a supportive community environment and skills and empowerment training to people with disabilities.

Visit to Sanang Hati - Bali, Indonesia
Meeting the leaders of Senang Hati Foundation

When we asked about whether companies on Bali were open to hiring disabled people, the women at the center told us, “Now companies hire disabled people because our people are better trained in English and professional skills. We may be physically disabled, but we have an advantage in our skills.”

G Adventures supports this organization by bringing its tour groups by for lunch to meet the people behind the organization and learn more about its activities.

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Did we see all of Bali in a week? Absolutely not. But in this week, our aim was to get an introduction to the island and have some fun. And in that, we succeeded.

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The experiences above were from the G Adventures’ Classic Bali Tour. If you plan to book this or another tour with G Adventures, please consider starting the process by clicking on the ad below. The price stays the same to you and we earn a small commission. Thank you!

G Adventures Tours to Asia

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Disclosure: Our Classic Bali Tour was provided by G Adventures in connection with its Wanderers in Residence program. As always, the opinions expressed here are entirely our own.

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Travel Snobbery and a Tour to Balihttp://uncorneredmarket.com/travel-snobbery-tour-bali/ http://uncorneredmarket.com/travel-snobbery-tour-bali/#comments Thu, 19 May 2011 17:12:17 +0000 http://www.uncorneredmarket.com/?p=8189 By Audrey Scott

Apparently, it’s easy to be a travel snob. Independent travelers can look down on tour groups as not being “hard core” or “authentic” enough. Luxury travelers can look down on backpackers as cheapskates one notch above street riffraff. Holiday-makers looking to relax with a cocktail on the beach are not “real” travelers while those who […]

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By Audrey Scott

Apparently, it’s easy to be a travel snob.

Independent travelers can look down on tour groups as not being “hard core” or “authentic” enough. Luxury travelers can look down on backpackers as cheapskates one notch above street riffraff. Holiday-makers looking to relax with a cocktail on the beach are not “real” travelers while those who are trying to live on $5 a day are “escapists.”

I could go on and on with the stereotypes and slurs that I’ve heard fly in all directions, but that’s not the point. One thing travel can teach you – if you allow it to – is that the world is made up of people whose goals and preferences differ. And those differences — they also apply to travel.

When we announced that we were joining a G Adventures tour of Bali, several friends and readers cocked their heads (literally and virtually), questioning what was going on. After all, we are independent travelers and Bali is a pretty easy place to travel.

The echoes of judgment reached their zenith (or nadir, depending on your perspective) when a follower on Twitter replied to our announcement with: “Why ANYONE needs a tour of Bali is beyond me.”

In truth we didn’t need a tour of Bali. I’d argue that with the exception of a few difficult-to-reach places where specialized transportation or technical expertise is required (e.g., Antarctica, Mount Everest, etc.), you really don’t need a tour anywhere.

So why take a tour?

We knew our reasons, but to understand some others we approached a few people on our tour and asked them.

Tours: A Few of the Reasons to Take Them

A few solo female travelers felt more comfortable – for safety and companionship reasons – traveling in a small group. Others saw the tour as a way to explore parts of the island that they might not otherwise discover on their own in a short time.

Walking Atop Mt. Batur - Bali, Indonesia
Bali High: Above the clouds on Mt. Batur.

Others with busy work schedules commented: “I work a lot, so I didn’t want to spend a lot of time booking hotels and managing logistics.”

With logistics taken care of, they could focus on the substance of the trip.

Tours: The People

And who were the people with these reasons?

There was a young Canadian woman who received a G Adventures tour for her 21st birthday and used it to travel outside North America for the first time. There was also a well-traveled couple honeymooning from Britain, a Swiss event planning manager, a Peruvian-American New Yorker working at a bank, and two (yes, two) operating room nurses from opposite ends of the planet. This was just the beginning.

Friendly Monkey - Ubud, Bali
Friends. Ubud Monkey Forest: He was not on our tour. She was.

Some people came to Bali exclusively for the tour. Others, like us, incorporated it into a longer trip around the island.

In other words, there was a diverse group of nationalities, ages, professions, travel experience and reasons for joining the tour. And frankly, this is what made it interesting.

Our Reasons for Taking a Tour?

Our reasons were pretty straightforward. Bangladesh, and all the organizing we did to travel through the country independently for almost six weeks, had sapped much of our energy. So we came to Bali to relax, do some yoga and have some fun.

We wanted a vacation — to enjoy the island and sample what it had to offer — but we had little interest in all the logistics arrangements.

Above the Clouds at Mt. Batur - Bali, Indonesia
Atop Mt. Batur volcano at dawn

Some of you may be thinking: “Your tour was free so it’s easy to make a decision to take one when you don’t have to pay for it.”

Fair point, but for two things. We joined this particular tour because we wanted to. And in the end, we spent a fair bit of our own money on optional activities — again, because we wanted to.

Autonomy on the Tour?

While G Adventures provided the framework of the trip by arranging logistics (hotels, transport, temple visits), it was the tour participants who decided how to fill in the body of their trip.

Balinese Cooking Classes - Ubud, Bali
Balinese Cooking Class in Ubud

For those who wanted to chill at the pool and get a massage, that was cool. For others who wanted to wake up at 3:30 AM and climb a volcano, good on you. Want to shop? All the more power to you. If you wanted to join the group for dinner, great. If not, have fun on your own. (Note: Optional activities are not included in the price of the tour so be sure to ask ahead about costs so you can accurately budget your trip).

Basically, the idea is do what you want to do. This is your vacation after all.

Small Group Tours or Independent Travel?

There can be a time for both. Whether or not you decide to take a tour anywhere should depend on your travel goals and your resources (i.e., time and money). Keep in mind that if you travel independently one day and take a tour the next, that’s OK too.

When it comes to travel, do what suits you and brings you satisfaction — so long as you do so respectfully. After all, travel is about exploring, adapting, learning, and understanding others.

Here’s to respecting our travel differences and enjoying the journey!

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The experiences above were from the G Adventures’ Classic Bali Tour. If you plan to book this or another tour with G Adventures, please consider starting the process by clicking on the ad below. The price stays the same to you and we earn a small commission. Thank you!

G Adventures Tours to Asia

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Disclosure: Our Classic Bali Tour was provided by G Adventures in connection with its Wanderers in Residence program. As always, the opinions expressed here are entirely our own.

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Becoming Wanderers in Residence with Gap Adventureshttp://uncorneredmarket.com/wanderers-in-residence-gap-adventures/ http://uncorneredmarket.com/wanderers-in-residence-gap-adventures/#comments Tue, 09 Nov 2010 01:01:35 +0000 http://www.uncorneredmarket.com/?p=5877 By Audrey Scott

Over the weekend, we alluded to the fact that we had been selected as inaugural members of the G Adventures Wanderers in Residence program. We were introduced on stage, we called it out on Facebook and Twitter, people congratulated us. Then the phones started ringing. The back channels lit up. So did the front channels. […]

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By Audrey Scott

Over the weekend, we alluded to the fact that we had been selected as inaugural members of the G Adventures Wanderers in Residence program. We were introduced on stage, we called it out on Facebook and Twitter, people congratulated us.

Then the phones started ringing. The back channels lit up. So did the front channels. Everyone was asking: “Sounds cool. Now what does this mean again?
Wanderers in Residence
We’ll be partnering with G Adventures in a number of ways. As we continue our travels, we’ll have the opportunity to take several Gap Adventures tours a year so we can experience what G does best. We’ll take the opportunity to meet G staff in offices around the world. We’ll offer ideas and advice based on our own experiences. There is even talk of Wanderers in Residence designing their own tours or leading their own groups in different parts of the world.

If you ever wanted to travel with Dan and Audrey, this just may be your chance.

Why did we say yes?

As you are probably aware, we usually travel independently, on our own. Although we pick up local tours from time to time, we value our freedom. So partnering with a tour company may sound out of character.

Let us explain.

As we’ve gathered travel experience, we’ve become discerning, casting a sharp eye on the tourism industry. We’ve come across companies who throw around words like “eco” and “sustainable” because it’s both fashionable and a facile means to tug on the heartstrings and jack up the price while doing little to mind the environment or local communities.

But on our Antarctica tour with G Adventures, we noticed a few things: the dedication to sustainability and environment in action (not just in word), passion across the board, focus on education and learning, flexibility to adjust when needed (we were thrown off course 16 hours by bad weather and our tour leader had to turn the tour upside down), and an entrepreneurial spirit to work with us as bloggers at the very last minute.

Most importantly, these are good people. These are people who care. These are people who share our values.

Basically, these are people we’d like to work with.

We also recognize that we were chosen for this program because we are independent and entrepreneurial spirits. G Adventures doesn’t want us to ditch that – it’s who we are. Instead they’d prefer to work with it. This is forward looking; it takes a special kind of company to recognize the value in cooperating like this.

And heck, any company that throws a costume party with such vigor as part of their annual company event is one we want to work with.

Any guesses as to our costumes? Theme=famous dead people

So why us?

G Adventures is about changing lives and providing opportunities for people to grow through the travel experience. The five members selected for this first Wanderers in Residence group – we join Nomadic Matt, Gary from Everything Everywhere and JD from EarthXplorer – live and embody the spirit of travel.

We are all long-term travelers dedicated to sharing what we experience and learn of the world so that others may be motivated to do the same.

Consider us travel evangelists, travel ambassadors.

And as a traveling couple, we are a living example that your traveling wanderlust need not end once you make a commitment to a partner or say “I do.”

OK, OK, Enough of the group hug and happy talk. What’s going to change for Uncornered Market? You guys selling out?

Basically, we’re going to keep doing what we love and what we do best: traveling, meeting people, exploring new cuisines, adventuring, working with microfinance and other organizations, and learning about ourselves.

We’ll continue to go places that we are drawn to, whether or not G Adventures offers tours there. But it is true that you will likely see some more G Adventures advertising on our site and more updates related to experiences we’ve had with them.

What’s up next for us?

From Canada, we fly to Europe (Vienna and Prague) for a few days before departing for Bangkok in mid-November.

After some time in Thailand and Southeast Asia, we’re planning for Bangladesh next. And after that, we have East Africa and the Middle East on the brain.

The not-so-fine print: this is subject to change.

Our lives are about leaving open space to seize the opportunity. So stay tuned for more exciting times ahead.

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Travel: A Means or an End?http://uncorneredmarket.com/travel-means-or-an-end/ http://uncorneredmarket.com/travel-means-or-an-end/#comments Sat, 06 Nov 2010 18:40:31 +0000 http://www.uncorneredmarket.com/?p=5859 By Daniel Noll

We are excited to announce that we have been selected by G Adventures for their Wanderers in Residence program. In preparation for the official announcement today, we answered a few questions about our journey, including the age-old travel writing and travel blogging query, “Why do you travel?“ In doing so, we ticked off a list, […]

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By Daniel Noll

We are excited to announce that we have been selected by G Adventures for their Wanderers in Residence program. In preparation for the official announcement today, we answered a few questions about our journey, including the age-old travel writing and travel blogging query, “Why do you travel?

In doing so, we ticked off a list, gazed at our navels and stumbled onto a stickier query: Is travel merely an instrument to achieve a set of objectives or is travel an aim in itself?

It was my first flight. Eastern Airlines, Scranton Pennsylvania to Orlando, Florida. Our plane took off in the pre-dawn as night yielded to morning. I was eight and had just gotten my first pair of wings. I was also terrified — only slightly — that just a few inches separated me from the open air at some obscene altitude of 29,000 feet. But I was thrilled. Life below was small through those funny-shaped windows, the earth bent, and I watched a sunrise in a way I had never watched one before.

Above it all, I was going somewhere, taking a trip. I was traveling.

Literally and figuratively, I felt a lift. I felt it in that airplane. I felt it on the Caspian Sea, on the Annapurna Circuit, and in the Pamirs. I felt it coming to Toronto a few days ago (surprise, we’re in Canada!). I have felt it on so many journeys for business, for pleasure and now for somewhere in between. I land in airports and get on buses and meet people and eat food and climb mountains. I seek to understand places, things, culture and history.

All these journeys and destinations later, it’s that feeling of possibility that comes packaged with taking a trip –- call it a travel high — that I get when I’m on the move.

But why? The feeling that we get when we travel — do we experience it because we are achieving stuff? Or is there something else?

Travel As a Means to an End

Since Mr. Dictionary always helps me understand what I’m writing about, I consult him again to clarify some terms:

  • means: an agency, instrument, or method used to attain an end
  • end: an intention or aim

The argument that travel is a means to an end (or various ends, for that matter) is well stated implicitly and explicitly in just about every travel article, travel blog post or “About Us” page: to learn, to escape, to challenge ourselves, to discover, to seek thrills, to meet new people, to satisfy our curiosity about the world and to do so firsthand.

We can all attest as to the ability of travel to provide a context to do any and all of this at once. Our world provides travel as the ultimate excuse to move through it. In this way, travel is a gateway, an enabler.

Travel As an End in Itself

But let me play devil’s advocate. Take all the answers you’ve ever given to the question “Why do you travel?” Couldn’t you have achieved all the same ends — learning, growing, exploring — perhaps a little closer to home without traveling?

But travel is a funny thing. Merely taking a trip — the movement, the places, the journey, the destination — suspends us in a different frame of mind.

Traveling places us in an intangible emotional context. And that sets it apart. Not unlike cooking, making music, running, doing yoga – and dare I say, having sex – traveling delivers something above and beyond the end product.

Travel as a Means and an End

We travel because it enables us to pursue and achieve all things conceptual and concrete that we speak to on this blog. But as I examine our own behavior and the behavior of others who travel, I have seen something else that transcends the story of travel as an enabler.

Someday, someone will publish a grand unified theory of the way our brains work. And when they lay the folds of our brains bare with the chemistry coursing through them, travel will have its own special place.

Travel enables us to do things. But travel is also the thing itself.

So why do you travel? For you, is travel a means to an end, the end itself, or both?

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