Liebster Award

liebsterI have been nominated for the Liebster award! It’s always nice to be recognized by my fellow bloggers in the community.

The aim of the Liebster award is to get smaller blogs with less than 200 followers a bit of recognition, share some love and spread the word. There are some rules to follow though. You’ve got to play the game!

• Post the award on your blog

• Thank the blogger presenting you with this award and provide a link back to their blog

• You then need to write 11 random facts about yourself

• One good turn deserves another, meaning, you then need to find 11 other bloggers with less than 200 followers who you think are deserving of the award so that you can then nominate them! In other words, keep the love going and help small, new blogs get out there and get noticed!

• Finally, the award presenter will ask 11 questions of you which you need to answer and then you, in turn, ask your nominees 11 questions, and so it goes.

Here we go…

First, I would like to thank willc88 for nominating me for this award. I am always honored when someone takes the time to give my blog a shout-out, it encourages me to keep going. I look forward to reading more of his fascinating posts about life in Mexico City as my visit draws nearer. Please check his blog out here.

My 11 random facts:

1. I’ve visited several countries around the world but in my own country I’ve barely left the East Coast. In fact, the farthest west I’ve ever traveled is Fontana Dam in North Carolina, and since NC is on the East Coast, that’s not very far at all. This is something I’m hoping to remedy in the coming years with a cross-country drive out to Yellowstone.

2. I play the saxophone. Actually, I played until I graduated high school and then never picked it up again until my 40th birthday when I received a new sax as a gift. Playing again was like riding a bike, and I quickly joined a community band for about two years. I’m currently on hiatus from playing, but hoping to pick it up again soon.

3. My first trip to Europe in 2007 at the age of 36 was the first time I had ever left the country (not counting a trip just over the border to Niagara Falls, Canada in 2002). It was also the first time I had flown in 18 years.

4. I celebrated my 36th birthday in Munich, Germany.

5. I still have virtually every poster I’ve had since I was a kid, and most of them are hanging in my office, a room my wife calls Man World. The oldest poster is from the 1976 version of King Kong.

6. I wrote my first story in 2nd grade (I was about six years old), a haunted house collaboration with two classmates.

7. I’ve had the same best friend since I was five years old.

8. I once nearly drowned in a lake when I was very young. I was rescued by a friend’s father.

9. I love to cook. My specialties are Italian and Mexican dishes, as well as Asian stir fry. I also enjoy making creative meals out of whatever happens to be in the kitchen.

10. I play tennis and hockey.

11. I’m a TV and movie junkie. There are four DVRs in my house capable of recording a total of 11 programs at one time that can be watched in any room in the house.

Blogs I would like to nominate…

Alas, most of the blogs I follow either already have over 200 followers or have already won the Liebster award, so this list is going to be quite short. I will try to add more blogs to this list over time (I have a folder full of links to over 200 blogs I’m planning to visit as time permits).

  1. Rosemarie in Europe 2013 – a blog about an epic trip to Europe, including a hiking tour of the Italian Dolomites, with great photos.
  2. Living in the Langhe – This blogger is living the dream: to drop everything, pack up, and buy a house in Italy. I’m living vicariously through his posts. 🙂

And the questions I must answer….

1. If you could live the life of anybody in the world for a day, who would it be any why?

An astronaut, because outer space is the one place I’ll never have a realistic chance of seeing in my life.

2. Coke or Pepsi?

I gave up soda years ago, but I’m pretty much addicted to iced tea.

3. What is the worst thing you’ve ever eaten?

I’m not a very adventurous eater, so I don’t try too many new things. But there was this one dish I ordered when our group stopped at a restaurant in a rest stop in Germany. It was a rice dish but it had tons of mushrooms (which I didn’t realize when I ordered it) and it was awful.

4. If you were to go and live in another country, where would it be?

That’s a tough choice, Italy or Germany would be great, but I think the country I’m most drawn to is Switzerland.

5. If you had to give up one for the rest of your life, would it be beer or meat (pasta if you’re veggie)?

That’s easy: beer. I can’t live without bacon but I could live without beer, especially since I prefer something like prosecco anyway.

6.  What’s your dream job?

To be able to stay home, write, and earn a living off my writing.

7. If you could only ever listen to one album again what would it be?

I was going to cheat and say Pink Floyd’s Discovery box set, but I’ll go with Dark Side of the Moon, though Springsteen’s Born to Run also deserves strong consideration.

8. Why are you a blogger?

I’ve been blogging on and off for years and for many different reasons, but mostly because I just love to write. The primary features of my blog, travel stories and photos, evolved organically with the increased traveling I’ve done in recent years. Ultimately, my hope is to build an audience for my writing as I continue to seek an agent/publisher for my novel. To that end I also feature creative writing samples, but the main focus will still be travel and photography.

9. Would you rather have a girlfriend/boyfriend with the head and body of a person and the bottom of a giant fish, or a girlfriend/boyfriend with the head and body of a giant fish and the bottom of a person?

I think head and body of a person would be much more desirable than a fish head.

10. Do you have a pet hate?

I hate when people don’t take the extra two seconds to park straight and between the lines. I also get annoyed when groups of people don’t go single file when approaching you in a hallway or a sidewalk, forcing you to squeeze by them.

11. What was the last thing to make you laugh?

Last night’s Colbert Report.

And now for my questions:

I really struggled to come up with 11 questions. I tried to stick mostly with a travel theme, but I threw a few others in there as well. The first three questions I stole from the ones I answered above because I thought they were good questions to ask.

1. Why do you blog?
2. What is your dream job?
3. If you could live in one country other than your own, which one would it be?
4. What place is at the top of your bucket list to visit?
5. If you could live for a week in one era of human history, which would it be?
6. What do you like most/least about travel?
7. What is your favorite place you have visited?
8. What is your favorite food?
9. What person from history would you like to meet?
10. Do you have a favorite author?
11. What is your favorite movie?

Best Moment Award

best_momentThe Rules: Winners re-post this completely with their acceptance speech and have the privilege of awarding the next awards! The re-post should include a new set of people/blogs worthy of the award; and winners notify them of the great news!

Awarding the people who live in the moment,
The noble who write and capture the best in life,
The bold who reminded us what really mattered –
Savoring the experience of quality time.

What makes a good acceptance speech?

    • Gratitude. Thank the people who helped you along the way.
    • Humour. Keep us entertained and smiling.
    • Inspiration. Make your story touch our lives.

My Acceptance Speech:

I would like to thank Alli from The Vintage Postcard for this honor, and I’d also like to congratulate her on her recent trip to New Zealand and the great stories and photos she has been sharing.

In my acceptance of the Vintage Reel Award I discussed some of the experiences that shaped my love for travel and the people who helped me along the way.  For this post I’ve decided to talk about why I write, how my blog has grown, and my introduction into the greater blogging community.

I have operated a blog in one form or another for around a decade, usually involving spurts of writing followed by an eventual loss of interest. This blog actually began as a sports and entertainment blog years ago on blogspot, to which I only sporadically posted. After importing my blog into WordPress in 2012 I began writing about my travels, but it really wasn’t until the end of 2012 and early 2013 that I began posting with enough frequency to start getting recognized by my fellow bloggers in the community (it also helped that I finally learned to tag my posts).

That was when I discovered this vast new world known as the blogging community. I’ve been amazed at how supportive everyone is (I rarely see the type of flaming so characteristic of message boards on other sites). In spite of the fact that most of us are strangers from all over the world, there really is a sense of community.

So I would like to thank all of my fellow bloggers for your support. It is you who have inspired me to keep writing, to make this blog a labor of love rather than just an occasional hobby. Since the beginning of the year I have revamped my blog and turned it into a hub for all of my writing endeavors. In the process my blog has grown from just two followers in 2012 to almost sixty now–not nearly as impressive as some of the success stories I’ve seen from other blogs, but every new follower inspires me to keep going.

I have always loved to write–I wrote my first story in second grade and rarely stopped writing until graduating from college, when, as often happens, life got in the way and my writing was relegated to the back burner for much of my adult life. But that’s really just an excuse, because if you love to write, you find a way. I did manage to complete a novel over the course of the last decade, thanks in large part to being out of work for about 20 months, but it wasn’t until this blog started taking off (particularly the travel section) that I began writing regularly again, and remembering how rewarding it can be. The very act of putting my thoughts into words, of creating something from nothing, should be reward enough, but I won’t deny that it makes a huge difference from a motivational perspective to know there is an audience out there reading what I write. For that I am grateful to all of you.

I am also inspired by my visits to the blogs of my peers in the blogging community. There is so much great content out there, of which I’ve only scratched the surface. I am making it my mission to visit the blog of everyone who has visited mine. Each day I try to visit a few when I have time, but I still have a long way to go. In the meantime, for my list of nominees, here are the blogs that have stood out for me so far, in no particular order. Some are travel blogs, others are more creative arts-oriented or a mixture of both.  All are worth a visit.

  1. Cristian Mihai
  2. traveleum
  3. (pre) concept
  4. Rosemarie in Europe 2013
  5. Living in the Langhe
  6. Bucket List Publications
  7. escapedfromyorkshire
  8. Postcard Poems and Prose

The Vintage Reel Award

I would like to thank Alli from The Vintage Postcard for honoring me with a Vintage Reel Award, which she created as a way of recognizing fellow bloggers in the blogging community.  It’s always nice to get a shout-out from one of my peers, and the award is a great way to encourage interaction among bloggers who share common interests.

The Vintage Reel Award is designed for bloggers to look back and recall old, valuable memories, perhaps ones that shaped who they are today and in particular, their passion for travel. Steps upon accepting the Vintage Reel Award:

1. Upload an old photo of yourself and describe a story behind it
2. Answer the 4 questions
3. Nominate 10 other nominees

1. My Old Photo

This picture of me posing with my balalaika was taken circa 1979. I chose this one because it foreshadows both my love for music and my passion for travel, and also because it ties in to my third response below.

My Uncle Kipp brought this back from one of his many trips to Russia.  I loved it and played it all the time–until, being the klutzy kid that I was, I broke it.  If I recall, the neck snapped in half, but I don’t even remember how it happened.  It would not be my last mishap with a gift from my uncle.  One year he gave me an authentic Swiss army knife, which my parents promptly confiscated after I sliced my thumb open. But I still have that knife and frequently make use of it (it came in handy during my hike of the Inca Trail last year).

Overall, what this photo represents to me is how, from a young age, my uncle made me aware of a world beyond the one outside my front door.  It wouldn’t be until my 36th year on this planet that I would finally make my first trip overseas, but the seeds were planted way back then.

2. My responses

What is your favourite childhood memory?

I had a wonderful childhood so it’s tough to pick just one memory, though standouts include road trips with my family and summers spent camping. However, in keeping with the theme of travel and adventure, I’d like to recount one summer afternoon from my childhood in Clayton, NJ when my friends and I decided to explore the forest across the street from my house.  We had ventured into those woods before, but never far.  This time we were determined to keep going all the way to the end, wherever that may be.

There was no path to follow so we just chose a general direction and off we went, forging our way into the unknown.  We met every challenge that crossed our path, including a wide stream that we traversed by climbing a tree that was bent over the stream. Imagining ourselves as cool survivalists, we even drank from a running stream that one of us claimed was clean because the water was running over rocks–lord knows what pathogens I picked up that day!

Eventually, after an all-day adventure, the end of the forest was in sight.  We had triumphed, just like all of those famous explorers who had discovered new worlds and ancient civilizations. Our own great discovery awaited to be added to the annals of history. And so we emerged–onto Clayton Avenue, a road that was about a 15-minute walk from my house. Our daylong trek had not exactly resulted in the discovery of Machu Picchu, but that wasn’t the point. I realized for the first time that the journey is often greater than the destination. I look back on that day now with a kind of Stand By Me fondness, and I’m reminded of the final line of that film, which rings largely true: “I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, does anyone?”

Describe how you were as a child and how you are now. Are you pretty much the same in terms of what excites you and interests you?

As I approach my 42nd birthday I’m every bit the kid at heart I was at 12–and my wife might even say I’m still at the same level of maturity. 🙂  Most of what moved me then still moves me now: Star Wars, dinosaurs, outer space, history, music, sports, nature, the wonders of the world, a good book, film, or TV show that takes me to another world . . . did I mention Star Wars?

Who is that person in your life that you couldn’t live without?

Everyone in my life is extremely important to me.  From my immediate family to my aunts, uncles, and cousins, they all enrich my life in unique ways and I could never imagine living without them.  But in keeping with the travel theme of this post, I want to give special recognition to the two people who are most responsible for making my travel dreams a reality:

My wife Jen makes everything possible. Not only has she always been there for me, but she is fully supportive of my desire to see the world even though she doesn’t like to fly or travel herself. I’m very lucky to have a spouse who is okay with me going on these trips by myself, including my epic 2011 trip to Europe in which I was gone for a month! And she didn’t bat an eye when I made plans for my 2009 European trip while still looking for a job–she’s a keeper 😉

I also have to give a shout-out to my Uncle Kipp, a pro traveler if ever there was one, who introduced me to traveling and gave me the confidence to travel alone in foreign countries, culminating in my first ever solo overseas flight to Peru last year.  He has been my travel buddy for all four of my overseas trips.

Without these two people in my life, the closest I would ever have gotten to the wonders of Europe and South America would have been via my television set.

What are your major barriers to travel that you overcome in order to continue traveling? (Money, time, work, etc)

I think time is always the biggest issue given how few vacation days the average full-time employee gets here in the States in comparison to our counterparts in many other countries. An epic trip like I took to Peru last year uses up the majority of my paid time off, and the month-long trip I took to Europe in 2011 would not even be possible now (I had been a contract worker during that time, so I was able to take over a month off without pay).

The other barrier is my disdain for air travel. I’m not afraid of flying but I hate the hassle of it, so I have to psyche myself up for that portion of any trip. When I travel domestically, I will almost always choose driving over flying, even if my destination is a thousand miles away. I’ve driven from my home in New Jersey to Orlando (twice), Niagara Falls in Canada, Bar Harbor all the way near the top of Maine, and to the Outer Banks and Smoky Mountains of North Carolina. At some point in my life I would like to do a drive across the entire country, and even the multiple days it would take to accomplish that would be less of a hassle than flying.

3. My Nominees

This will have to remain a work in progress as I am still fairly new to interacting with my peers in the travel blogging community and thus have not yet built up a large base of regularly visited sites. But I fully intend to visit the blogs of everyone who has visited mine. I’ve been very impressed with the blogs I’ve visited thus far in terms of their passion for travel and the quality of the writing and photography. I can’t wait to see what the rest have in store for me.  In the meantime, I’d like to point all of you back to The Vintage Postcard, an inspiring blog that should be a regular destination for all lovers of travel.