Announcing the 3rd Arizona Travel Blogger Meetup!

Grand Canyon at Sunset - Boots

The time has come for the 3rd Arizona Travel Blogger Meet (and tweet!) up. Bring your stories, pictures and self for an hour or two of travel talk, stories and bonding with other members of Arizona’s local travel community.

The goal is simple! Get to know each other while developing a more aware/active travel community in Arizona. We’ve got a ton of talent/experience in Arizona and it’s about time we started helping each other!

The meet-up will be this Saturday, October 23rd at 1:30PM. We’ll be meeting at Boulders on Broadway which is located just west of Mill Avenue off of Broadway in Tempe. All you need to bring is yourself.

If you’ll be attending, please feel free to post a quick introduction, including your twitter info/website/blog in a response to this post.

Date: Saturday, October 23rd 1:30PM-3:00PM.

Location: Boulders on Broadway which is located on the North East Corner of Broadway and Roosevelt Street in Tempe. View it on Google here. The address is 530 W Broadway Road, Tempe, AZ.

Coordination: My (Alex) phone number is 480.313.2441 if you want to confirm anything or are having issues finding the coffee shop shoot me a text/call. I won’t be able to check twitter during the event, so make sure to contact me directly.

Spread the Word: So, here’s the challenge. Let’s make sure we don’t miss anyone. Are you aware of travel tweeps, bloggers or industry personalities that might like to join? Make sure to either send them to this post, or get me their e-mail and I’ll reach out to them.

AZ COMMUNITY – On twitter? See the list I’ve assembled of AZ based travel twitter users here.

Any questions? Post them in a comment – or feel free to e-mail me directly via alex ~at~ virtualwayfarer.com.

March and August’s meetups were an absolute blast and I’m really excited/looking forward to round two! Hope to see you all there.

When Pay It Forward Meets Its Match

Several years ago I had a realization.  That realization wasn’t sudden, or abrupt, but it was profoundly powerful.  It was the realization that we as individuals are fundamentally responsible for our actions and the impact of those actions on the people around us.  That realization led me to re-analyze the way I interact with people, and what type of people I choose to surround myself with.

I’ve come to realize that there are effectively two types of people in the world.  Those who create their own luck and dismiss adversity/challenges and disappointments as part of the process, and then those who languish in their own bad luck.  This latter group seem constantly plagued by bad luck, most of which can be traced back to their life choices and fixation on their own poor condition.  The latter seem to always be pointing to others and claiming, “if only I had your luck, your skill, your opportunities, your good lucks, etc.” and who by that same coin refuse to create their own luck and opportunity.  These ‘if only’ personalities relish in creating missed opportunities and then pointing to and fixating on them as indicators of why they cannot get ahead or succeed.  While this world view isn’t the focus of this post, it is tied directly to an inner decision that goes hand in hand with it.  So, keep it in mind as you read.

Pay It Forward

The concept is simple.  When you read those three words, you probably immediately think of the movie which offered the ideology significant publicity.  Ultimately, however, it’s little more than an extension of the Golden Rule – that is, do onto others as you would have done onto yourself.

It’s a simple approach to life, but one which is surprisingly rare. Oh, don’t get me wrong, you’ll find small examples of good behavior in everyone, but in many ways it has come to be an ideology at odds with our culture.  Why help a stranger in a city of millions? It’s part of our nature to wonder, “What’s in it for me?”   and of course, “What’s the cost?.”  The answers to these questions don’t exactly give the most marketable responses.  What’s in it for me?  The chance of a better world. The chance to help people. It’s a vague answer, one which is general and initially seems insignificant. You can bring the concept of Karma into it as many do, but even then it’s somewhat nebulous.  The truth is that living a life which focuses on paying it forward does pay major dividends.  You live a happier, healthier life and ultimately end up surrounding yourself by other people who are sincerely willing to help, for no better reason than that they can, but in truth – that is the easy part of the equation.

The second question is far more challenging: what’s the cost?  Most believers in a pay it forward ideology will shrug off the question, usually giving a nebulous answer that implies nothing – that there is no cost.  The reality is, that there is a cost – and that cost can potentially be significant. A point I was painfully reminded of last night.

There’s a reason that one of the most widely recognizable adages in our culture is, “No Good Deed Goes Unpunished”.   It’s not that every good deed is punished, but rather that the sting of getting burned while trying to do a good deed hurts twice as much.  It’s not only fundamentally hurtful but carries with it a strong sense of betrayal coupled with anger and those emotions, especially combined are incredibly powerful.  So powerful in fact that they can do far more than just causing people to abandon a Pay It Forward approach to life, where they might do little more than revert to apathy and inaction.  It can cause a Pay It Backwards approach which leaves people bitter and aggressive and that’s the true danger.  It’s also why I started this article talking about how we deal with success and obstacles in our day to day lives.

An Example

I mentioned earlier that the reason for this post was an altercation I had last night. Without going into too much depth I came upon a car last night around 9:30PM in a parking lot commonly used by bar goers.  I was a bit early and the parking lot was largely empty. I immediately noticed that the car next to mind still had the keys in the door.  I faced a dilemma. The keys were not owned by someone I knew and none of my business.  They were a stranger’s keys and any theft/damage done would be to a complete stranger, and the direct result of their lack of attention. Yet, if they had been my keys and a stranger noticed them – what would I hope that they might do?  Ignore them and leave the car to the next, less scrupulous passer by (Keep in mind that the Phoenix area ranks in the top 10 for Automotive theft)?  Or take what action was available to help.

After a moments consideration I weighed the options – would they find the keys if i put them on the front tire?  The windshield? Probably not. Should I open the car door and place them on the car seat?  Maybe during the day, but not at night – that would go beyond just helping and risk trespassing.  The obvious option seemed to remove the keys and drop them on the ground immediately below the lock.  There they’d be easily found by the owners when they searched their pockets, but wouldn’t be readily visible to everyone in the parking lot. I dropped the keys, and began my way towards the bars where I was schedule to meet several friends.

I got about 15 feet before a large male (I’m 6’4/200 pounds and this guy was larger/more athletic) started shouting at me from ahead of me. I quickly explained the situation, what was going on, and encouraged the guy to calm down and talk to me. He wasn’t having it.  The back and forth continued for a solid minute as I backpedaled maintain my distance while he threatened me, demanded MY keys, and ignored what I was saying. I even went so far as to volunteer to call the police over, if he’d calm down, so that I could explain the situation.  The threats continued, even after I could see that the Girl he was with found the keys – right where I said they’d be – and had opened the car door.

Eventually he decided threats of putting me in the hospital were insufficient, and made a leap towards me. I know when I’m outgunned – and I retreated. Quickly. He couldn’t keep up, gave up shortly there after, turned and made a B-line back to my vehicle, which he proceeded to kick repeatedly leaving heavy scuffing on the trunk and denting in the rear passenger side door so badly that it won’t open.  Keep in mind, all of this has occurred AFTER I’ve offered to discuss the incident with the police and after the girl he was with had gained access to the car.

Still keeping my distance, I dialed 911 as soon as he headed back towards the vehicles and requested police intervention.  They arrived, but not before the thug and the woman he was with got into their car and burned out of the parking lot – unfortunately – before I could close enough distance to grab a plate number.

So, what did trying to help someone get me?  Very nearly a serious trip to the hospital, and at least a $500 deductible to get the damage fixed.

To Pay It Backwards?

The whole event left me feeling incredibly frustrated, angry, and disheartened.  Beyond that, it left me wondering what I’d do in the future when I find myself faced with a similar dilemma.  The thought do nothing of course came to mind, but it didn’t stop there.  What might I do in the future?  After all, helping someone had just been negatively re-enforced, so why not do the opposite?  Why not sheer the key off in the lock with a quick kick? Should I join countless other Arizonans and start carrying A gun? A knife?

As each of these thoughts floated through my mind over the course of the evening, I inevitably had to keep reminding myself that the cost still merited the greater benefit. That I was faced with a very clear opportunity.  I could stick to my guns and remain a “shit happens” person, or I could pack it in, throw up a white flag, and retreat to the “If only”,  “poor me” camp.

For my part I’ve chosen to stick to my guns.  In the future I may think twice before deciding to go ahead and try and help someone out in a similar situation, but I’ll still do it.  Why?  Because it’s worth it. Unfortunately, discussions I’ve had with friends in the last 24 hours left me feeling like these types of events have led a lot of people to abandon a Pay It Forward approach to life, which is a loss for us all. I hope if you find yourself in that camp, that you’ll re-consider.

At the end of the day, despite the occasional cost – it’s worth it.

Post Arizona Travel Tweetup Wrapup

Arizona Tweetup Number 2 Crew
(From Left to Right: Kerri, Toni, Patricia, Alex, Jackie)

We just wrapped up the 2nd Arizona Travel Tweetup and I’m thrilled to say it was an absolute blast.  We added three new faces to the group and spent a couple hours exchanging travel stories, wisdom, and doing more than a little brainstorming.   You can see the original event announcement here.

Who made it (make sure you’re following them!):

Kerri who tweets at @khegre and is a passionate travel micro-blogger.

Jackie who tweets at @bikelady, blogs at Bike With Jackie, Arizona Travel and Adventure and is a professional travel writer and published guide author.

Toni who tweets as @SmithTempe and @VisitTempe, blogs on Visit Tempe and serves as the voice of Tempe travel.

Patricia who tweets as @patriciaelenie, blogs on Patricia Lapadula and is an active independent travel blogger and photographer.

and myself – Alex on twitter as @AlexBerger, blogs here VirtualWayfarer and runs the UltimatePackingList and TravelResourceList.

For those looking to connect with fellow Arizona based travel people please make sure to look over my AZ Travel list on twitter (if you’re not on it post here or shoot me a tweet).

What We Talked About

I was really excited by how much ground we covered over a relatively short period. For those of you who were not able to join us – here’s a taste of what you missed:

Travel stories and photos – No surprise here right? We had some great ones from an amazing long duration sailing trip, to stories about culture shock in Africa, crying babies, and the woes of traveling with young children.  @patriciaelenie brought several stunning photos from her recent SEA Semester program where she sailed for several months around the Caribbean while @BikeLady brought several copies of her recently released Backroads and Byways of Arizona guide.

Twitter – It’s not really a tweetup if you don’t talk about twitter and we did! From general discussions about social media, to more specific discussions about how we use and rely on twitter as a tool we had what i found to be a very informative discussion.

One of my favorite tips came from @khhegre who suggested the creation of small twitter lists consisting of category driven favorites. She’s used this as a creative way to overcome the challenges that go with the forced feed sampling approach which happens as you break 200 follows. The creation of lists still allows you to sample general tweets, while making sure you’re able to filter it category or emphasis when the mood strikes.

We also discussed the ways in which twitter has changed how we follow and consume blog content.  The general consensus was that while many of us previously had favorite blogs/blog feeds which we followed, that our general approach had changed.  Now the emphasis was on people, individual articles and information feeds, over the blog feed itself.  Our new approach has evolved into sampling what looks interesting from our twitter feed which if reflective of general twitter users (Which I believe it is) shows a fundamental shift in how bloggers need to position themselves, distribute their posts, and share with the community.   It looks like you’ll need to be even more social and pro-active in the future if you want to put your content in front of people.

We also discussed a few other basics, things like how we choose who to follow, the impact and importance of your following/follower ratio, and the power of twitter as a tool to build new relationships and friendships. Especially for travelers!  I found @SmithTempe/@VisitTempe’s insights into how Tempe has been pushing into Social Media and really re-defining their relationship with the travel community to be really informative and exciting.

LinkedIn, TBEX, Tripitini – As a community focused event, the question of communities came up.  We talked about three of the largest concentrations of general travel discussion.  LinkedIn was a new one for me, but apparently as a very vibrant travel discussion community.  We discussed Travel Blog Exchange in some depth including a break down on the recent TBEX conference which @khegre had been able to attend as well as Tripitini a more recent community on the scene that is very similar to Tripitini and has an active travel community.

Facebook – We spent some time brainstorming on the way we use and interact with Facebook as well as its potential for improving social interaction, building/maintaining travel contacts/friendships and as a traffic/community building tool.  The consensus?  Facebook has done amazing things for empowering travelers and giving an easy way to meet and stay in contact with friends made on the road. We also looked at how Facebook is increasingly becoming one of the primary traffic drivers for independent bloggers and community sites.  Probably in no-small part due to the same shift we’re seeing in Twitter as people move from individual blog loyalty to a focus on people’s recommendations and individual links.

Hostels and Couchsurfing – We had a fun chat with a few comical adventure stories about what hostels are, who they’re right for, their positives and some of their drawbacks. We also discussed Couchsurfing (with a quick introduction to what it is) and different tools for reaching out to travelers as they visit Phoenix/Arizona.

Lots more beyond that, but those are the highlights that jump to mind! Hopefully they serve as good food for thought for those who were not able to join us.  If they’ve sparked a thought or question, don’t hesitate to keep the conversation going in a comment here on this post.

Thank you again to everyone who came out.  I hope to get a 3rd Arizona Travel Tweetup organized for sometime in late September or early October.  I look forward to continuing to build the community and helping put real faces and names to twitter/blogs/websites.

Announcing the 2nd Arizona Travel Blogger Meetup!

Tempe Town Lake at Sunset by Alex Berger

The time has come for the 2nd Arizona Travel Blogger Meet (and tweet!) up. Bring your stories, pictures and self for a few hours of travel talk, stories and bonding with other members of Arizona’s local travel community.

The goal is simple! Get to know each other while developing a more aware/active travel community in Arizona. We’ve got a ton of talent/experience in Arizona and it’s about time we started helping each other/getting to know each other.

Based on the poll results, I’ve chosen Saturday, August 7th at 1PM as the date/time for the meetup.  We’ll be meeting at the Xtreme Bean which is a great coffee shop in southern Tempe.  All you need to bring is yourself. If you’ll be attending, please feel free to post a quick introduction, including your twitter info/website/blog in a response to this post.

Date: Saturday, August 7th at 1:00PM-3:00PM (may go longer).

Location: Xtreme Bean which is located on the South West Corner of McClintock and Southern in Tempe, near the US 60/101. Yelp profile here.

Coordination: Use twitter hash tag #aztw. My (Alex) phone number is 480.313.2441 if you want to confirm anything or are having issues finding the coffee shop.

Spread the Word: So, here’s the challenge. Let’s make sure we don’t miss anyone. Are you aware of travel tweeps, bloggers or industry personalities that might like to join? Make sure to either send them to this post, or get me their e-mail and I’ll reach out to them.

AZ COMMUNITY – On twitter? See the list I’ve assembled of AZ based travel twitter users here.

Any questions?  Post them in a comment – or feel free to e-mail me directly via alex ~at~ virtualwayfarer.com.

March’s meetup was an absolute blast and I’m really excited/looking forward to round two! Hope to see you all there.

Animals in Spring

We often think of visiting the Zoo in the summer months.  Times when it’s hot outside and the escape to a small oasis with wild animals, great  palms and more sounds particularly alluring.  Yet the animals themselves feel that same urge to avoid the heat and crowds, particularly here in Phoenix.

On previous trips to the Zoo I’ve mostly encountered Giraffes huddled in the shade, Monkeys sequestered in small shady corners, and the occasional lazy Lions paw dangling haphazardly out of a cubby.   Taking advantage of a warm week in early spring, I opted for an off season visit. To my delight the animals were out in fine form enjoying the weather and providing me with an opportunity to record a bit of video. Enjoy!

The Arizona Travel Tweetup – In Review!

Arizona Travel Tweetup Crew

Howdy all! Just got back from Tempe and the Xtreme Bean where I had the pleasure of kicking off the first Arizona Travel Tweetup.  I’m thrilled to say that despite busy March schedules we had a better than expected turnout – offering the opportunity to lay the ground work for a better organized Arizona travel community.

We talked twitter, wordpress, travel tips and more while exchanging adventure stories and getting acquainted with the people behind the twitter handle.  It was an absolute blast! You can find the details behind the meet-up here as well as a growing list of Arizona Travel blogging/twitter personalities.

In attendance:

@AlexBerger – Virtualwayfarer – Scottsdale, AZ

@girlfromarizona – Girl From Arizona – Tempe, AZ

@khegre – Khegre on Twitter – Phoenix, AZ

@tomtravel2 – Tom Travel 2 – Scottsdale, AZ

Thank you all so much for coming out.  I hope to set up another tweetup sometime in the next 2-3 months.  If you have any suggestions/venue ideas/requests or comments please don’t hesitate to post them here or shoot me an @Alexberger on twitter.  I’d love your feedback and participation!

From Ballroom to Boardroom – Ignite Phoenix 5

Hello friends!

First and foremost thank you for allowing me to share my passion for Ballroom dancing! I’ve put this post together as a follow up to my Ignite Phoenix 5 Presentation in order to share more information with anyone inspired to try Ballroom dance.

The valley has a plethora of wonderful social dance venues, most of which offer a lesson as part of the evening’s cover. Average price for the lesson/evening of dancing varies, but it’s typically under $10. The venues themselves come in all types and shapes from Bars to Dance Studios. The really exciting part is that these group classes are tailored to beginners fresh off the street, offering a fun alternative to private lessons. They also don’t require that you bring a partner, though it’s never a bad idea!

My personal recommendation is that those new to Ballroom/Latin/Swing dancing start with the social salsa evenings. Salsa dancing is one of the less intimidating dances, and also one of the easiest dances to pick up and begin dancing socially.

The Presentation:

Where To Go?

I’ve included the following links to venue and calendar information for social dance venues around the valley:

AZSalsa.net – Salsa Dancing

PhoenixSalsa.com – Salsa Dancing

GPSDC.com – Swing Dancing

AZ Lindy Hop Society – Swing Dancing

Phoenix USA Dance – Mixed Venues

Tango Arizona – Tango Dancing

*If you know of another dance resource here in the valley, please post it in a comment and I’ll get it added ASAP!

Other Resources

In 2008 I wrote two posts geared towards helping people interested in getting into Ballroom. While they’re slightly dated, they’re still worth a look if you’re on the hunt for more information:

Ballroom Dancing – It’s Not Just Social, It’s Business

10 Tips For Ballroom Success

Questions?

Have questions or need clarification? Post a comment or shoot me a tweet @AlexBerger with whatever is on your mind and I’ll see what I can do to help!

A Quick Thank You

My personal relationship with Ballroom dance began 5+ years ago, through the Ballroom/Latin/Swing courses at Arizona State University.  It is truly amazing how diverse and unexpected Ballroom’s benefits are – regardless of your vocation.  Over the last five years I’ve seen it transform everyone from collegiate athletes to budding engineers.

When I started dance classes at ASU, dancing was still anything but cool and to say I lacked an aptitude for it would be…well…an understatement. Luckily I ended up getting Larry Caves as my professor. Larry’s mentorship stretched beyond his fun-first approach to Ballroom and was instrumental in helping me realize that dance was far more than just a social outing.  Not a day goes by in my professional career as a Mergers and Acquisitions Analyst or entrepreneurial pursuits that I don’t rely on the skills I learned dancing.

Ignite Phoenix 5

I’m very excited to announce that I will be speaking at Ignite Phoenix #5. I’ve been a huge fan of the Ignite series since I discovered it just under a year ago. It embodies a somewhat random, haphazard pursuit of knowledge and wisdom which I absolutely love.

Late last week I was informed that my talk “From Ballroom to Boardroom: Three Steps in the Right Direction” had been chosen as one of 18 presentations for Ignite Phoenix #5 which will be taking place November 3rd (tickets go on sale on the 16th!). It truly is an honor to have been selected, with over 100+ proposals submitted the diversity and range of ideas proposed were truly fascinating.

What is Ignite?

For those of you unfamiliar with Ignite Phoenix, Ignite is a series of events that have been organized by inspired, creative individuals in communities throughout the world. Some are location based (like Ignite Phoenix) while others are company based (like Ignite Google). I’ll have 5 minutes and 20 slides to present.  The catch?  Those 20 slides change automatically every 15 seconds!

From Ignite-Phoenix.org:
“Ignite Phoenix is an information exchange for fostering and inspiring Phoenix’s creative community. In one evening, you hear 18 passionate speakers from our creative, technical, and business communities talking about their current projects or favorite ideas for just five minutes. Presentations will educate and inspire you, and maybe make you laugh in the process.”

If you’re interested in viewing past Ignite Phoenix presentations check out their Blip.tv channel: http://ignitephoenix.blip.tv

Event Details
When: November 3rd, 2009
Time: 6PM-9PM
Where: Tempe Center For the Arts
700 W. Rio Salado Parkway
Tempe, AZ 85281
How: http://ignite-phoenix.org

Tickets go on sale Friday, October 16th at 10AM and will sell out quickly. The ticket price is $5. A limited number of tickets/access to a viewing room will be available on the day of the vent for free.

Interested in more on the topic I’ll be presenting on? Check out my blog post Ballroom Dancing – It’s not just social, it’s business. The post is over a year old, but expresses some of the foundational concepts I’ll be covering in my talk.

If you have any thoughts, questions or comments I’d love to hear them. Just post a comment below!