Where are the Tourists in Central Asia?

It’s been a few weeks since our return from Central Asia, and I think I’ve had ample time to process our amazing experience there. One of the things we noticed throughout our time there was the near complete lack of tourists. With the exception of the odd Dutch or Israeli traveler, we met very few other travelers on the road. With all Central Asia has to offer, from crumbling modernist concrete to majestic scenery to extremely inexpensive transportation and cost of living, we were constantly wondering, “Why are we the only ones here?”

So I went about gathering opinions about why Central Asia (granted, we were only in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan) seems to fly under the radar when it comes to travel destinations. To be fair, this is not a statistical study, as my sample size was about five, including my parents and others who might have some trouble identifying the stans on a map. Hey, I never claimed to be a mathematician.img_1958 img_2092 img_2222 Read more

Happy Pizza and Khmer Karaoke in Kampot, Cambodia

We ended up in Kampot after I had a hipster traveler existential crisis.  Feeling like we weren’t going anywhere truly “off the beaten path,” I opted to cut our time short in Koh Rong Samloem by a day to spend a night in the relative backwater (at least, compared to Siem Reap and Bangkok) of Kampot, in southern Cambodia.

We wanted to have a laid back 24 hours in a laid back town before heading to less-laid back Siem Reap, and Kampot turned out to do just the trick. DSC_0051 (3) DSC_0083 (2) DSC_0095 (2) Read more

Puppies and Rainbows on Koh Rong Samloem, Cambodia

As it was the theme of our trip, I knew it would be necessary to hit up some basic beaches while we were in Southeast Asia.  The region is known for its pristine (or what were once pristine, I should say) beach paradises – made most famous by Alex Garland’s book and proceeding Danny Boyle film, “The Beach.”  DSC_0839 DSC_0866 DSC_0887

I’d spent my fair share of time sunning my buns on beaches in the Gulf of Thailand, but never in Cambodia.  My times past had been limited to the islands of Koh Pha Ngan, Koh  Tao, and Koh Samet – each of which by now are long since discovered and, much to my chagrin, the predominating backpacker mentalities there are now more about sex and drugs rather than sloth and gluttony (my preferred travel sins). Read more

Road Trip! Bulgarian Roadside Commie Kitsch

The title to this post makes me grin from ear to ear.  It is a microcosm of everything travel-related that I’m living for these days – road trips, Balkan destinations, and the stuff for which this site is named.  I think if a single post were to encapsulate the way I love to travel, it would be this one.  So with that, let’s dive headfirst into the wacky world of Bulgarian monuments.

The major draw to Bulgaria (and the whole Balkan region, to be honest) was the ability to visit Buzludzha (more to come on Buzludzha!), the showcase, now-abandoned, former meeting hall of the Bulgarian Communist Party.  As it is inaccessible without private transportation, we rented a car for the Bulgaria portion of our trip.  A rather unexpected side benefit to this was being able to pull over whenever and wherever (within reason, of course) that we wanted.

As it turns out, there are roadside relics of the Communist era all over Bulgaria.  Quelle fortune!

It seemed as though everywhere we went there was a random, totally wacky structure, monument, or sculpture – and our job was to spot them as we went on the most fun game of “Where’s Waldo” ever played.  jpegs-288_21846306344_o Read more

5 Reasons to Travel in the Off Season

When one thinks of a vacation, usually it’s very much associated with the summertime, when good weather is almost assured and families with children are able to take time off to jaunt to exotic locations around the country and the world.  This said, of the three big trips we’ve taken over the past year, two have been in the off season, and one in the almost off season.  

And we certainly wouldn’t have it any other way.  Traveling in the off season is, for us, a much better alternative than traveling in peak season.  Here are the reasons why:Jpegs-470Jpegs-460 Read more

Confession: I am NOT a Backpacker

There is a lot of talk in the travel blogger community that glorifies frugal travel.  And I get it – the more cheaply one is able to travel, the more time one is able to spend on the road.  Short term travel is more mainstream and often times more expensive.  Cheaper travel also allows for slower travel – often times with accommodation getting cheaper the longer one stays in a single place.  These strategies are great for the long term traveler.   For many travel bloggers, whose bread and butter relies on traveling and writing about new places prolifically and in real time, frugality and finding ways to cut corners on costs is a great strategy for maintaining that lifestyle.  I totally get it.

I wouldn't mind taking things slowly here, on Little Corn Island, Nicaragua.
I wouldn’t mind taking things slowly here, on Little Corn Island, Nicaragua.

But that’s not for me.  And, I would argue, the majority of people traveling in the world – especially those holding down 9-5’s.  For my family and almost all of my peers, life only allows for short term travel – a fact that doesn’t have to be as reviled as it is in the travel blogging community today.

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Squid and Sand – Korea’s Remote Ulleung-do

During graduate school, I made several trips back to Korea, where I lived between 2006 and 2007. As opposed to just staying in Seoul the entire time (because TV and delivery Korean food is tempting), I tried to get out of the city at least once on each trip to visit a part of Korea I hadn’t seen while I lived there.

That’s how I made my way to Ulleung-do in the summer of 2010.

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The Accommodation Paradox – Apartment or Hotel?

I am not a graphic designer, clearly.
I am not a graphic designer, clearly.

I’ve been traveling in fairly offbeat/exotic places for a solid chunk of time now, and one thing I find myself talking to folks about over and over is how I choose a place to stay.  Now keep in mind that, despite having closed the hostel chapter of my life (temporarily, at least), I don’t crinkle my nose at staying at places that wouldn’t be considered luxurious.  Quite the opposite – as a story collector, I often find that a night or two at a grotty “hotel” in a random corner of the planet (I’m looking at you, Casa Iguana on Little Corn Island, Nicaragua) can yield some incredible memories that dazzle at cocktail parties.  And while I admire the long term travelers who stay at such places without qualms (as being thrifty with accommodation is one prong of a strategy that allows those folks to stay on the road for so long), putting in my time at my 9-5 for 11 months a year financially allows me to spend a moderate amount of coin to ensure relative creature comforts while on the road.

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