The Spirit of the Moment

I’m thrilled to share that VirtualWayfarer just passed 1,000,000 views on YouTube (I’m so incredibly humbled and flattered – you are all amazing!). To celebrate, I decided to dive into my video archives, sort through the footage I’ve accrued over the past six years, pull out some favorite shots and to create a travel tribute video exploring and embracing snippets from some of the incredible adventures I’ve had over the past few years.  The result is just under 15 minutes of some of my favorite HD footage and spans 19 countries.

To go with the footage I pulled up a chair, sat down, and attempted to explore the lessons I’ve learned from travel.  The result is a heartfelt exploration of life, travel, and the magic of the road.  In it, I attempt to share some of the more significant lessons I’ve learned from travel, offer some advice, and aspire to convey the sense of ever-increasing wonder I have at the richness of the world at large.

It’s a smudge long, but the feedback has been that the combination of the footage and some of the ideas expressed in the monologue make it well worth the watch.  I hope you’ll take the time to give it a watch and then to share some of your own revelations or grand adventures. At the end of the day, travel and the opportunity to embrace the spirit of the moment is a wondrous thing.

Thank you all so, so, much for continuing to read (and watch!) VirtualWayfarer, offer your feedback, share your special moments, questions, and passion with me. I’m profoundly humbled and flattered by the messages you share with me and that you find my stories, photography, and video interesting.

Some have asked about the quality differences given clips were filmed over 6+ years – footage was shot on a mixture of devices. The earliest footage was filmed on an old Flip HD 720p handheld cam. Other footage was taken on a Vixia HF200. More recent footage was taken on a Canon 600D and a Canon 6D.  Video didn’t load properly?  View it here.

Perito Moreno Glacier and A Jacket Review – Weekly Travel Photo

Hiking Perito Moreno Glacier - Patagonia, Argentina

If you maintain a bucket list it’s time that you get out your pen and add hiking a glacier to it.  The experience is incredible. Of all the blues I’ve seen during my travels I think that glacial blue is, hands down, my favorite.  It’s also quite possibly my favorite color.  There’s just something so deep, so rich, so pure about it – it leaves you thirsty, yearning to swim in it, and to touch it all at once. It’s also a color you can only find in the wild, flowing along the surface, or out from a fissure in a glassier’s jagged surface.

This week’s photo is of adventurers hiking the Perito Moreno Glacier in the Patagonia region of Argentina.  Ringed by sheer cliff faces and cascading waterfalls the Perito Moreno Glacier is a hulking behemoth that slowly slides its way down towards a glacial lake with blue-gray waters that seem otherworldly and which change depending on the intensity of the light.  Opportunities to hike the glacier come in the form of short, and long excursions where intrepid visitors are strapped into harnesses before lashing their shoes to crampons and striding out onto the ice.

The only thing that was missing was the opportunity to explore one of the many ice caves that thread beneath the glacier.  But, I suppose that’s the perfect reason to return.

Peter Storm Jacket

Peter Storm Waterpoof Jacket – Product Review

The folks at Millets recently reached out to me and asked if I was interested in reviewing one of the jackets they have for sale.  After some discussion I gave them an outline of what I wanted.  A jacket that was waterproof, that was good in a mixture of different environments, that had some wind protection, and which also had excellent pockets.  I HATE how many of the jackets in this class lack usable pockets.  They are either too small, too far up on the body, or too shallow.  Another requirement was that it come in an intelligent color that was city-friendly.  Which ruled out watermelon pink, neon yellow and vomit green.

After getting the chance to try the jacket out for a month or so, I’m generally quite happy with it.  The pocket layout is excellent and exactly what I want in a jacket. The jacket itself is warm enough, does a good job repelling water, and can handle itself in the wind.  It’s a good jacket for good weather as well as mild bad weather. Exactly what I need as a backpacker. General build quality is good, and I feel like most of the jacket is built to last.  It has a well designed hood that stows away neatly and in a way that doesn’t disrupt the look and appeal of the jacket.  The jacket has underarm zippers, draw ties on the hood and other relevant places to reduce wind drag, and waterproofed zipper seams.

There are, however, two things about the jacket that people should be aware of.  The first is that they apparently run large.  The version I was provided with is a “large” which is what I normally wear. Keep in mind I’m 6’4″ and roughly 90kg with a 34 waist.  I almost went with an XL, and I’m really glad I didn’t. The cut of the jacket isn’t as fitted as I like and I feel that while I probably had to go with the large for arm length, body wise I’d have been happier with a medium.  This added size does make sense though if you anticipate wearing the jacket with bulky sweaters or run a bit thicker in the waist.     The second, which is my only real complaint about the jacket, is the quality of the main zipper.  While the pocket zippers are all high quality and seem durable, the primary zipper has taken a long time to break in, and doesn’t feel very robust. It’s always hard to judge the quality of a zipper, but in this case the teeth and zipper fit overall feels like the one weak spot in the jacket.

All in all, I’m very happy with the jacket and feel it is a solid piece of waterproof clothing.  It has already replaced my old REI jacket which had started to lose its waterproofing and failed to stand up to the wear and tear of my backpack straps.

You can find out more about the product on the Millets website.

Would you like to see previous Friday Photos? View past travel pictures here.

**The jacket reviewed in this post was provided as a complimentary sample by Millets Online for consideration.  My review of the jacket and its performance is independent and in no way influenced by Millets or Peter Storm. 

Glacial Summers – Weekly Travel Photo

Perito Moreno Glacier - Patagonia, Argentina

To this day I experience a strong longing to return to Argentina. It is, perhaps, one of the most over-looked destinations on earth when one considers the natural majesty, rich foods, and incredible experiences it provides. While many talk about and dream of a trip to New Zealand (I know I did) the central and southern parts of Argentina rest at the same latitude (if not further south) and are home to the equally impressive Southern Andes.

One of my favorite places in south-central Argentina is the Patagonia region and more specifically the Perito Moreno glacier. Situated in the midst of some of the most exotic barren desert you’ll find anywhere in the world, a 15 minute drive delivers you to incredible waterfalls, stunning glaciers, and mossy green forest.  The easiest point of access is by way of El Calafate: a rugged windswept town perched on the side of  a large glacially fed lake.  Added quirk? The town has seasonal flamingos that add even more rich color to the landscape.

Make sure to head over to flickr to see the rest of the album.

Would you like to see previous Weekly Photos? View past travel pictures here. This photo was taken on a Canon G11, I now shoot on a Canon T3i (600D) Camera.

Perito Moreno Waterfalls – Friday’s Weekly Travel Photo

Hiking Perito Moreno Glacier - Patagonia, Argentina

I love hiking near water.  I’m not sure if that love stems from early childhood when I was imprinted with wonderful memories while hiking along snow-melt fed streams in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado, or results from having spent the majority of my life in the dry, dust-filled deserts of South-Central Arizona.  Regardless, the opportunity to hike next to/through/along/over rivers and waterfalls is always high on my priority list.  Thus, the chance to hike along and then out onto the Perito Moreno Glacier in Patagonia, Argentina was extremely appealing.  I signed up, geared up, and was off on a full-day hike.  What I didn’t expect, however, was to have the chance to hike along the base of a series of steep cliff faces decorated by rich, blooming vegetation and roaring waterfalls.  After all, when I think of Glaciers I think of snow and ice…not green vegetation and blooming flowers.  In the photo featured in today’s weekly travel photograph the glacier is immediately behind me.  The waterfall pictured flowed down across the path, before cascading over a swath of black rocks and then diving into a channel carved beneath the base of the glacier.

Would you like to see previous Friday Photos? View past travel pictures here.

Most Beautiful Country – Ask Alex – Travel Question Wednesdays

Ask Alex - Travel Question Q and A every Wednesday

This post is part of the Ask Alex, Travel Question Wednesdays weekly series. To see previous questions click here. To submit your own; tweet it to @AlexBerger, ask it in a comment on this post or send it in by e-mail.

This week’s travel question is from Sam who asks,

Q. “What is the most beautiful country (overall) you’ve been to?

A. – Oh boy, this question always gives me a heck of a hard time. I’m going to assume that you’re talking natural beauty and not about the native population? So far I’ve spent time in some capacity in 38 countries (this excludes Asia and Africa which are on my to-see list). Some of those visits have been little more than brief glimpses while others have been more in-depth and immersive. I feel as though I’ve still missed a lot, even in the countries I’ve visited multiple times and spent extended periods of time in. So, I encourage you to take these answers with a grain of salt. I also can’t give just one, so I’m going to give you my top three.

Hiking Perito Moreno Glacier - Patagonia, Argentina

1. Argentina

In 21 days in the country I was exposed to two of the country’s three incredible climates. These were the cold, mountainous and rugged southern regions of Tierra del Fuego and Patagonia in the south and the hot, lush, jungle regions to the north around Iguazu Falls. Due to the country’s massive size, proximity to the Andes and Antarctica it has a lot to offer. While you hear a lot about Argentina’s rich tango culture and incredible meat, its real gem is its natural landscapes. I think it’s one of the most overlooked countries out there for natural beauty and also, thus far, ranks as the all around most beautiful country I’ve visited.

A Dog Resting Atop Sharkstooth

2. The United States

As an American, I find my home country often gets overlooked – perhaps because a lot of English-centric travel bloggers are original from or based out of the US. The truth of it is though that as with Argentina, the United States is amazing and offers some of the most incredible landscapes and environments you’ll find in the world. The rivers and streams of the Colorado Rockies and San Juans are some of my favorite countryside in world. Places like the Grand Canyon, Sonoran Desert, White Sands, Yellowstone, Yosemite, and Florida Everglades are beautiful, captivating locales that everyone should aspire to see in their lifetime.

Highlands_Scotland_Lake

3. Scotland

During my first visit to Scotland I developed a crush on the country. After my 2nd I fell in love with it completely. There’s something enchanting about the collision between history and natural beauty. While the central highlands and Isle of Skye are beautiful, and areas I highly recommend to everyone, I also strongly suggest the north western coastline and the Orkney Islands. Both are regions that I find myself with an insatiable hunger for.

There are so many amazing places out there, it really is hard to pick a favorite.  I invite you all to share your own favorite destinations.  Which 1 (or 3) have you fallen in love with?

Have a question of your own? ASK IT! Want to see previous questions? click here.

Friday’s Weekly Travel Photo – Ruined Boats

Beagle Channel - Tierra del Fuego, Argentina

Located an hour’s drive outside of Ushuaia, along the Beagle Channel in Tierra del Fuego, Argentina this small ranch serves as the launching pad for zodiac trips out to a small nearby island. The island is home to a seasonal colony of some 4,000 Magellanic Penguins and approximately 50 Gentoo Penguins which live there year-round.

This photo was taken of two old boats, dragged ashore and forgotten long ago.  As you can see, the boats were well past their glory days but still managed to retrain a certain charm.   Despite a late-December visit (their summer), the weather was still fairly cool.  Though, I suppose that’s to be expected when you’re just a few hundred miles from the northern tip of Antarctica.

Would you like to see previous Friday Photos?  View past travel pictures here.

Awe Inspiring Argentina – A Video Blog

Penguin Island in the Beagle Channel - Tierra del Fuego, Argentina

When I set out to explore Argentina over the course of a 21 day trip in December 2010 I was drawn by the stories I had heard of Buenos Aires. Stories of passion, romance, great food and tango dancing so sensual it would leave you with goose bumps. I expected Buenos Aires to be the highlight of my trip, and the place I’d fall in love with during my visit. The embarrassing truth is that the time I set aside for exploring the rest of the country was done almost as an after thought – an added bonus if you will.

Wow was I wrong. While Buenos Aires is an incredible city, the Argentina I fell in love with is the Argentina I experienced in Tierra del Fuego, Patagonia, and Misiones. These regions feature some of the most incredible scenery I’ve seen anywhere on the globe, but don’t take my word for it – here’s footage I shot featuring four of my favorite destinations:

1. Iguazu Falls (Misiones)

This somewhat difficult to reach series of falls is often ranked as the 2nd most impressive waterfall in the world just behind Victoria Falls in Africa. The falls are one of the few “must visit in your lifetime” destinations I suggest to everyone. As an added bonus, if you get lucky it’s sometimes possible to swim on a small beach along San Martin island. Cool right?

2. El Chalten & Mt. Fitz Roy (Patagonia)

The area around El Chalten is stunning. The colors of the rocks in the mountains give off rich colors while seeming to glow. The rock formations are mind boggling and the combination of exotically colored river water, glaciers, and rugged peaks will leave you awed.

3. Perito Moreno Glacier (Patagonia)

This massive glacier is located just a few miles outside of El Calafate. The clean whites and deep rich blues of this glacier are captivating. The towering mountains on either side humbling. The flowers in bloom and waterfalls flowing down and into the glacier amazing. When you visit, make sure to do a hike out onto the glacier. You won’t be disappointed!

4. The Beagle Channel (Tierra del Fuego)

Accessed through Ushuaia, the world’s most southern city and gateway to Antarctica, this video features a day trip out to a small island that serves as home to more than 4,000 penguins from two species. It also highlights spring in one of the world’s most southern locales.

7 Super Shots Photo Game

I recently had the pleasure of contributing a photo to the launch of Hostel Booker’s fun travel photo game which showcased 7 exciting travel photos across 7 categories from 7 different travel bloggers. Now, it’s time for me to dive into my archives and to pull out 7 photos before nominating 5 of my fellow bloggers!  Please enjoy, and let me know which is your personal favorite?

A photo that…takes my breath away

 

Plitvice Lakes Croatia

Located about halfway between Croatia’s Capital, Zagreb and the coastal town of Split is Plitvice Lakes National Park. I had the opportunity to visit the day before first snowfall and quickly fell in love. A UNESCO world heritage site, the area is easily one of Europe’s most beautiful national parks. While the main waterfall featured above was impressive, the 6-8 hour hike along the river as a whole was filled with incredible beauty.

A photo that…makes me laugh or smile

 

Penguin Island in the Beagle Channel - Tierra del Fuego, Argentina

I find penguins hilarious.  They’re odd, inquisitive, horribly awkward on land and generally fairly adorable.  Which is why  I can’t help but grin and chuckle every time I see this photo from a small island in the Beagle Channel in Tierra del Fuego, Argentina.  Located just a few hundred miles north of Antarctica and in the world’s most southern continental region, Tierra del Fuego is a fascinating land full of amazing wonders and highly entertaining inhabitants.

A photo that…makes me dream

 

A Dog Resting Atop Sharkstooth

Taken in the summer of 2011 this shot is from the back side of Shark’s Tooth Pass in southwestern Colorado deep within the San Juan Mountain Range. Every time I see this photo i’m reminded to dream of new adventures, of new accomplishments, and to close my eyes and remember the wonderful adventures already experienced.

A photo that…makes me think

 

Cherry Blossoms & the Tidal Basin - Washington D.C.

The FDR monument in Washington, DC is one of my favorite monuments in the world. It is powerful, compelling and offers amazing quotes based in great wisdom. I snapped this shot of a random woman in front of one of the quotes during a visit in April 2011.  It always causes me to pause and ask myself – what have I done to help those who need it today?

A photo that…makes my mouth water

Outdoor Market in Dublin - Food

Outdoor markets are one of the things I love most about traveling outside of the US. During a recent visit to Dublin I swung by a wonderful little market square located just outside the heart of Temple Bar. Once I stumbled upon this booth I couldn’t help by sample several of the wildly different offerings – each of which had a strong, delightful taste the memory of which makes my mouth water to this day.

A photo that…tells a story

Warehouse Row in the Old Harbor - Bergen, Norway

One of the things I love about travel is the opportunity to stumble upon delightful moments that capture the imagination and tie into our inner self. It can be a reminder of our childhood curiosity, simple delight in every-day things, or a sense of wonder at things we would otherwise be blind to. During a trip to Bergen, Norway I was lucky enough to have my camera out during one of these moments as a young boy wandered away from his parents to boldly march up to a doorway that had piqued his curiosity. For me, this shot embodies my perpetual re-connection with my inner child while on the road.

A photo that…I am most proud of (aka my worthy of National Geographic shot)

Hiking Perito Moreno Glacier - Patagonia, Argentina

There’s something about this photo that just moves me. It is of a random photographer in-front of the Perito Moreno Glacier in the Patagonia region of Argentina after an all-day glacier trek. Despite being snowed and rained upon for most of the trek the clouds lifted and the rains paused long enough for me to capture this special moment. In particular I like how it conveys that sense of wonder that strikes from time to time – causing even the most committed photographer to lower their camera, pause, and take in the wonderful beauty that surrounds them.

Join the Game

1. Choose 7 of your own photos, one for each of the following categories:

  • A photo that…takes my breath away
  • A photo that…makes me laugh or smile
  • A photo that…makes me dream
  • A photo that…makes me think
  • A photo that…makes my mouth water
  • A photo that…tells a story
  • A photo that…I am most proud of (aka my worthy of National Geographic shot)

2. Write a short description for each image.
3. Write somewhere in your blog post: ‘I am taking part in HostelBookers 7 Super Shots‘.
4. Tell us you have participated and tweet the hashtag #7SuperShots
5. Nominate 5 other bloggers by including a link to their blog in your post.
We will be retweeting and sharing the best posts from participating bloggers.

Nominations

I would love to see the fantastic photos the following bloggers come up with, so to each of the following I nominate YOU to post your own 7 Super Shots.

Head on over and see the 7 Super Shots guidelines post which features a number of fantastic photos.