The Inspiration Initiative – My Sources of Inspiration

Mount Fitz Roy Boots

The Inspiration Initiative: #InspireTravel

Recently EasyJet Holidays reached out to me and asked if I would help them launch a new project they’re calling the Inspiration Initiative.  I loved the idea and in turn I’ve put together the following inspiration initiative post. Join in and help to inspire travel by sharing your own holiday and travel inspirations.  You can find out more here.


In 1994 my Mom and Dad rented out our house, uprooted my younger brother and I, and loaded the family into an airplane bound for Europe. We spent the next 11 months exploring Europe by foot, plane, train, and automobile. All the while they taught me about history, culture, tolerance and curiosity while also providing for my academic basics. What’s more, after returning to the states and spending a year to re-adjust they did it again, this time in a 32 foot fifth-wheel trailer as part of a ’round-the-US year-long trip.

I knew what they were doing was amazing at the time but, it has only been as I’ve transitioned into adult hood that I’ve truly realized and come to appreciate the amount of planning, preparation, and inspired drive that went into these trips. As I’ve transitioned from a child to a man in my own right, they’ve smoothly gone from parent and guide to mentor and friend. They have not only inspired me, they have also laid the groundwork and foundations which drive me to seek out inspiration; which push me to identify and associate with people who challenge, inform, and empower me.


Star Trek: The Next Generation. As a child growing up in the 80s and early 90s the voyages of the USS Enterprise captivated me. The intro narrative, “Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its continuing mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before” fostered an intense desire in me to explore the world (and beyond). It drove me to look to the far horizon, to dream of visiting the stars, and to embrace a passion and belief in a better future. It not only inspired me to travel and to appreciate new cultures and the arts, it instilled in me the passion of a futurist – a dreamer with a strong desire to also be an enactor working to bring science fiction to life. To this day I still consider Captain Picard to be one of the more influential and inspirational role models in my life.


Despite being born in Colorado and raised in Arizona, a large part of my childhood was spent on the Mexican beaches of Puerto Penasco (Rocky Point). Some of my first brushes with adventure were as a diaper-wearing toddler bravely making my way across what at the time seemed to be giant sand dunes, all under the watchful eye of my parents. As the years passed I traded in my diaper for a swimsuit, bucket, and net while roaming further afield. With these in hand I spent hours upon end exploring the beach’s tide pools and further nurturing my sense of curiosity as I sought out new life, ecosystems and discoveries one tide pool at a time. I can’t name a specific year, as we’d spend at least one month out of each year camped on the beach, but it was a formative part of my childhood. To this day there’s something about the smell of fresh ocean air which captivates and invigorates me.


Preikestolen Norway – located along Norway’s southwestern fjords. This wonderful natural formation is unusual, beautiful, and awe-inspiring.  With a semi-strenuous 3.8km hike along a rustic, boulder-littered path you’ll have to work a bit to reach Preikestolen or the “Preacher’s Pulpit” as it is also commonly known.  The small uphill hike is well worth it.  In addition to being beautiful, the final destination is heart-stopping and sure to take your breath away.  The pulpit’s rock formation is a large square roughly 25 meters x 25 meters which protrudes from the cliff face over the picturesque Lysefjorden fjord below. The sheer face of the cliff drops off nearly 2,000 feet (604 meters) to the fjord and offers an incredible panoramic view of the Norwegian countryside and surrounding mountain range.  If the weather is cooperating, it’s also possible to sit at one of the corners or along the outward edge of the pulpit where tradition suggests either dangling your legs over the side into empty air or crawling forward on your belly to glance over the edge into the void.  As someone with a fear of heights, it was a rich experience pushing my comfort zone while soaking up the sheer majesty of the location.  It served to further re-enforce my passion for travel, adventure, and exploration while showcasing the wonder and magnificent beauty that the world holds for those willing to seek it out.  You can see my post from Preikestolen here, and a video from over the edge here.

Inspiration Initiative Nominees;

Travel Yourself
Pommie Travels
My Travel Thirst
Wild About Travel
The Planet D

I wish you all safe travels and inspiring adventures. 

Click here for more information on the EasyJet Holidays Inspiration Initiative

Renting A Rowboat and Expecting a Luxury Cruise Ship – Let’s Talk Budget Airlines

Smithsonian Air and Space Museum

It happened again, I posted an update about an upcoming flight with a budget airline and before long had messages from several friends and readers telling me to be careful or suggesting I book with a traditional airline. I ignored their warnings and happily booked with EasyJet. Why? Not only because they were the cheapest option but because I genuinely like budget airlines.

Wait….what?  Those of you who have been reading for a while will no doubt recall that I have a long history of being disappointed by airline customer service and transparency. From being charged for water by US Airways on a ticket between AZ and Europe to being lied to by British Airways I always groan a little when the time comes to deal with airlines.

I should be the last person ready to sing budget airline’s prices, right? Not exactly. My upbeat opinion seems to lay in managed expectations. When I book with a budget airline I’m not expecting traditional “airline” quality service. I’m booking a ticket on an air-bus. An air-bus that is usually only slightly above the quality of a city bus, lacks the crazy people and has slightly more comfortable seating (though RyanAir is working on “fixing” this). The ticket is cheap, the perks are non-existent, the rules are firm, and it gets me where I want to go. In effect, I book a rowboat to get me where I’m going and expect a rowboat when I arrive. The big problem, and source of endless frustration, complaining, and agitation among travelers seems to stem largely from occasions where people book a rowboat usually knowing it’s a rowboat and then show up expecting a luxury liner.

To be fair, budget airlines don’t make a major effort to differentiate themselves from traditional airlines. Let’s face it, “service for a premium, shitty seats, cramped planes and ridiculous fees but GREAT prices!” isn’t exactly marketing gold. For those who assume most airlines are the same, this can be a massive shock. Especially if they’ve paid sticker price for their ticket and failed to anticipate and incorporate the secondary fees and rules designed to generate the airline significant secondary income.

When I book a budget airline, I book differently.

I do my research on the front end and make sure that I know what the rules are – especially for luggage and check in – and then make sure that I’m well within a safety buffer. If I think there’s a chance I’ll go over weight or that my bag is over sized I don’t assume they’ll overlook it, or that I can just risk it. I incorporate the $10-$20 extra for a checked bag into my fare cost.

I’m also not put off by the $5 credit card fee, the $5 nonsense fee, the $5 made up just because fee or the $7 mickeymouse convenience charge. Again, these are all expenses that I’ve already incorporated into my cost when analyzing which airline I choose to book with. It’s an annoying game and involves some added mickey mouse, but if I can play the game and get a a fare at 1/2 to 1/3 the cost of a conventional carrier then so be it. Bring it on!

Additionally, I almost never book a standard or last minute ticket with a budget airline. Budget airlines are cheap within a certain structure. That does not mean, however, that they’re always going to be the cheapest option. In many ways I view them in the same way as department stores – if you’re paying sticker price and it’s not on sale, you’re tossing money away.

At the end of the day I weigh the actual cost of the fare with a budget airline, the length of the flight, the airports I’m flying between, and the cost of more traditional airlines before booking. The end result? I book about 40%/60% on traditional/budget airlines.  There are also a number of budget airlines I just won’t fly.  Groups like Spirit Airlines have chosen fee structures which I find defeat the purpose of flying on a budget airline entirely.  Others have reliability or safety issues which leave me uncomfortable.

For many of you this may be nothing new. For some of you, hopefully it serves as an invitation to re-frame your personal perspective and approach to engaging with budget airlines. Still not convinced? Share your piece in a comment – I always value your feedback!

Launching Ultimate Packing List .com

My last update mentioned a number of different projects. While most are still under way and keeping me terribly busy, I’ve completed and launched The Ultimate Packing List, which can be accessed through

I found myself regularly answering a multitude of questions for friends who were about to embark on their 1st, 2nd or 3rd trip abroad. More often than not I was able to contribute a lot, but left out important details – or found that they were too close to their departure date to act on some of the advice/suggestions I had to offer.

There are a multitude of great travel tip posts out there.  In fact, just about every travel blogger who’s spent any time writing has written up a tips and tricks post at some point or another.  That said, most have great information but are either too comprehensive (and have been turned into multi-page resource sites which are overwhelming) or too basic (and lack a succinct, yet comprehensive approach to delivering the tips and tricks needed).

Additionally, there’s not a one stop shop out there that streamlines finding and potentially purchasing hostel/backpacking specific gear. You can read through posts which randomly suggest (and even in some cases link to) various items they recommend but it’s usually scattered and leaves the travelers scrambling to claw together a solid list.  Which is a problem further confounded by big box stores which have too many options and completely unnecessary items.

My answer? Create a website with 3 basic pages. That’s it.  The K.I.S.S. principle in action – An extremely comprehensive travel tip post targeted specifically for 20-30 something travelers. A page to display videos outlining what and how to pack submitted by experienced travelers and a final page that interfaces with Amazon to deliver a storefront delivering rock bottom Amazon pricing on a very limited list of hand picked hostel/backpacking relevant and recommended items.

I’m currently looking for new packing videos and always open to travel tip or gear suggestions – so without further ado – hop on over, check it out and let me know what you think!

Amsterdam – Updated

After evaluating my options I decided to book a flight from London to Amsterdam instead of trying to deal with the ferry/train situation or wasting days going by bus. With Easyjet, Bmi, and Ryanair it’s amazing how cheap flying can be. Think Southwest – but sometimes even better. I made it to the airport by tube, got through customs and check-in without any hiccups and then enjoyed the brief flight down to Amsterdam. There I was relieved to find that almost everything/everyone was in/spoke English. This let me navigate around and find my way into the city proper without too much trouble.

The entire city spans out from the central rail station in oddly shaped rings with canals making wide loops mirroring the streets. It’s a pretty incredible layout – but also very confusing for something that seems apparently straight forward and symmetrical. The architecture is incredible. For whatever reason a lot of the older buildings have settled which results in all sorts of oddly leaning buildings meanwhile the cobblestone streets are beautiful and the canals – every turn you find yourself in an even more picturesque setting. Also, the leaves on a lot of the trees are starting to turn -or perhaps are always colored- either way it adds to the feeling. The canals are usually fairly quiet, with boats moored all along them everywhere you look. The boats themselves are pretty amazing. Old barges, small pleasure craft, odd little skiffs, you never know what you’ll see… if it’ll be halfway under water, or how it will be colored.

My hostel was located about a 5 minute walk away from the central rail station right on the edge of the red light district. To be honest, I think the street in addition to being where most of the hostels were, also was the gay district. There were some really…different shops along it. The hostel opened up onto the small pedestrian/bike street and behind it there was a large circular courtyard with a church in it. My room on the 2nd floor -which i shared with 9 or so other beds-opened up onto the courtyard…which was great, but also a bit annoying at times… go figure…the church had bells =) The hostel itself was a bit of a dump. They allowed smoking in it, so the entire place smelled like weed and while the beds were decent and the sheets were clean the walls had writing written all over them/carved into the walls. Perhaps the most comical part was the Bathrooms. The compartments were so small that one almost needed to open the door to sit down or stand up before shutting the door again…that or become some sort of super human circus acrobat.

It was also interesting seeing an active mini-cathedral on the fringe of the red-light district. On that same square there were several “coffee” shops and if memory serves there may have been an adult store or two. Wild contrast – but then again, that’s Amsterdam.

I spent the first part of the day proper after arriving exploring the architectural elements of the city. I basically just wandered around – got lost and explored. It was great. The winding streets, packed with people, with new sites and scents etc. were all pretty fantastic. The swans, the trees, the bicycles – that’s the other thing – there are bikes EVERYWHERE. There is one bike parking station in front of the rail yard that is the size of a 2-3 story parking garage – all full of bikes and nothing but bikes. In fact, the most dangerous thing about Amsterdam I think is the bikes and mopeds. They all have bells and just go roaring down the streets ringing them. God help you if you don’t move.

The red light district was intense…especially at night. You always hear talk of the doors/windows etc. but it really surprised me how many there were once the sun set and the red lights went on. Normal buildings you walk past during the day suddenly transform into a veritable art gallery full of flesh in all different types, shapes, and sizes. Definitely a different experience walking down those streets. Sometimes I felt like I was the one on display, not vice versa. With the girls staring you up and down, trying to engage you, even had a few knock on the glass to get my attention trying to get me to come over. No worries though, I didn’t browse the wares. Though there were times I definitely felt like Odysseus tied to the mast, as he passed the Siren’s isles.

In addition to deciding against a hooker, I also decided mushrooms didn’t really have any appeal or draw. A fact I only mention, because I don’t even want to imagine what y’all might expect from a 22 year old male wandering Amsterdam on his own. Any how – After exploring the red light district a bit at night, getting some food, and grabbing a drink I headed back to the Hostel and called it a night.

The first day proper consisted of walking and exploring. The day itself was overcast and misted off and on throughout the day. Nothing to fret about, but still enough to keep things cooler and make taking photos a PIA. I woke up, pulled myself together and then before I left the hostel started chatting with an Israeli couple traveling together and an American-or was it Canadian? girl staying in the dorm below me. She was traveling on her own before heading to London to work in the Fashion industry. Both being on our own, we ended up hitting it off and elected to meet up later that day to explore the nightlife. Two other Canadian girls (hairdressers actually) traveling in Europe before a conference in Greece also joined us.

After meeting each other and socializing a bit i struck off to explore the city. I wandered until I found some food (Burger King of all things) then continued on until I meandered past a 3 story sex museum. Three stories for 3 Euro seemed like a fair trade so in I went. The museum itself was pretty fascinating. Chock full of erotic carvings, photos, video, etc. from across history. When you look at modern social perception of pornography – it’s often – in the states at least, treated like some new creation that stems from modern perversion and technology. It’s funny how different the reality of it all is. From ancient oriental wall hangings that had a secret pull away front end that revealed hand painted porn to authentic Greek plates and vases that depicted sexual acts. One of the more bizarre was a sword that King Leopold had commissioned which had a man sexually engaged with – if i remember right a lion on the pommel. Hows that for a firm grip on something? The Museum also had a number of mannikins some of which were animated. It was an odd experience to say the least.

From there I had something truly unusual happen. As i explored the city, map in hand I got lost. Occasionally, I’ll get a bit off from where I mean to be as I wander, but this time I was 100% confused. No idea which direction was north, or what would take me weird. To be honest, it’s one of the first times that’s happened to me in years. It was an odd and humbling feeling. It wasn’t so much scary – as i knew i could always ask directions – as it was just eye opening. It was a new feeling, a new sensation. Definitely different than what i was familiar with. I can’t imagine feeling that on a regular basis.

Eventually I continued to wander until I figured out where I was – which as it so happens wasn’t close to where I thought I was. Oops. The downside of my lost wanderings was that I missed my time-frame for the National Museum in Amsterdam. The upside was I got to see a lot of the city, wandered through the flower market, and a book flee market. The wandering was beautiful, and in many ways I think I got more out of it, than wandering through another museum – Berlin’s better for that anyhow right!

After my wandering, I returned to the hostel, took a quick nap then headed downstairs to the pub under the hostel for a discounted meal (hostel owned) where I bumped into the first Canadian girl from earlier. We ate, then headed upstairs to pick up the others who had gotten then hands on some mushrooms earlier and were sobering up. They all finished getting ready and we headed out to the pubs – where we poked around and explored a bit. Meeting some locals, as well as some other travelers while relaxing, unwinding, taking in the sites and partying a bit. The night for the most part was a fun blur as we wandered between 4 pubs and spent some time out by the canals.

Unfortunately, I’ve run out of time. So, that’s it for now. Time to switch to another hostel here in Berlin for a night and to hit up the city! Did the national art and Bode yesterday. I’ll try for the wall and some other sights today.