Browsing Tag


Inspiration, Lifestyle

Requiem of a Burned Out Travel Blogger

July 6, 2014 • By

You know how it feels when you’re walking down the street and you catch a glimpse of something familiar. Something that you know without a shadow of a doubt, who or what it is. Your pace quickens as you get closer, so sure that once you’ve caught up with whatever you’re chasing, you will be greeted warmly by sturdy hands embracing you because your presence was missed too.


I feel that way about writing. As you can see from my utter lack of recent posts, I took a long break from it in order to pursue another dream that I felt was calling me. I am so happy to have done so because I don’t ever want to live with even more regrets. I will continue with it, but I am most certain and harbor no doubt that writing is where I am meant to be.

Writing has been a part of my life for almost as long as I have been breathing. It has allowed me to encapsulate my deepest fears and most hopeful dreams safely within the realm of a collection of bound pages throughout the years.


It gave life to words that I dared not utter for fear of judgment or ridicule. It was my sacred place to store all of the feelings that both haunted and elated me and I could come back to revisit them at my own choosing.


City Views, South America

Travel Photo Thursday

August 29, 2013 • By

People watching.  It’s one of my favorite things to do when I travel.  It’s an up close and personal way to studying anyone but it’s particularly interesting when it’s someone in another country.

You quickly come to learn that more often than not, we have more in common than we’d realized.  There may be different methods to attaining similar goals and observing those methods can be teachable moments for us.  But the fact remains that we are not that dissimilar.

I saw these girls on their way to parochial school early one morning in Santiago, Chile.  You could hear them a mile away chattering on about things young girls love to talk about like this guy.  This could have been a scene from any-town U.S.A.  It’s a slice of life of humankind and its simplicity makes me happy to have witnessed it.


santiago schoolgirls

Newbie How-to's, Travel Advice

The Newbie’s Guide To What Seasoned Travelers Have Learned About Traveling

November 15, 2012 • By

seasoned traveler

Hindsight is always 20/20. What is it about traveling for the first time that causes Newbies to hesitate taking the plunge? We’ve all been there; wanting to see the world, but for whatever reason, we talk ourselves out of it.  Some reasons were internal….some external.  At the end of the day, only Only the individual can ascertain what is keeping them from following those long held dreams.

I wanted to get to the bottom of this and perhaps help others who may be stuck to see themselves in the comments that I solicited from several of my travel blogger friends and people who simply love to travel and have been doing it for years.

I posed this question: “If you could go back in time, what mistakes did you make as a newbie traveler that you wish you could change? Of if you were to give a new traveler advice, what would it be?” Here are their responses:READ MORE

Inspiration, Lifestyle

There Is Nothing To Fear, But Fear Itself

July 31, 2012 • By

This is the last day of the Ultimate Blog Challenge. Yay!!! I made it! I thought it would be a good idea to end my journey with a travel related article. It’s about a dear friend of mine who shall remain nameless who wants to travel but is afraid to. There’s so many things that you want to say to encourage….but I didn’t want to think too much about it. I will just speak from the heart and hope that she hears it.


I have a friend who really wants to travel internationally, but she can’t bring herself to do it. She told me that she is afraid to travel across a body of water and the long plane trip won’t be a picnic either. I can sympathize that both issues can be disconcerting, but it should not be a deal breaker. Traveling, while it is fun and wonderful, can be challenging. It will be a challenge for my friend, but I know her deep desire to conquer that fear is why she reads my blog for encouragement.

The most difficult thing about meeting a challenge is taking the first step. She’s done that, so she’s ahead of the game. She’s flown domestically which would always be my first suggestion to conquer that fear. Take baby steps all the while realizing that this will probably be one of the hardest things in your life that you will do and then resolve that you will do it. It will take equal parts bravery and planning but it can be done. We are all faced with things that are uncomfortable…… hell……. unfathomable to conceive of doing. However, we must remind ourselves that in order for great things to happen to us, we have to be willing to receive it…to allow it to happen. Resistance is the antithesis to receiving it. Stop pushing away things that could potentially change your life for the better.READ MORE


If You Have Never Left Your Hometown, You Should Make Plans To Leave….Today!

July 8, 2012 • By

This is day 8 of the July 2012 Ultimate Blog Challenge! Today’s post is an attempt to gently nudge those of you who want to realize their dream of traveling, but for whatever reason, haven’t pulled the trigger. Yet!

Sounds strange, doesn’t it? I mean, you must be scoffing at the very idea that a person could have literally never crossed their state, city or regional border. For those of us who travel on a dime without any regard as to whether or not we could, should, can or can’t….we can’t fathom the idea that someone would feel so out of the loop when it comes to traveling outside of their comfort zone.

But there are many who do not feel that traveling is something that they would ever do….or should do. Some feel that it’s something rich people do which automatically excludes them. I’ve shared the story of my best friend who never left the state of Alabama. I’m a firm believer that you can do whatever you desire to do, but you have to believe it too. No one can snatch a dream from you that isn’t there. I think the fact of the matter is that deep down you may be waiting for someone to give you permission to do the things that you want to do.READ MORE

Inspiration, Travel Advice

See, The Reason Why I Don’t Travel Is…

February 5, 2012 • By

Looking out at the city of New York from the top of Rockefeller Center

What is holding you back from seeing the world?  It’s not as if the desire isn’t there.  There’s something nagging at you that you can’t quantify; it can only be felt, not seen.  It has no basis in reality.  It just hovers above and paralyzes you to the point where you take no action to achieve those dreams and just brush them aside.

People think that dreams should remain as such.  It should be a lovely flight of fancy where we allow it to invade a small space in our mind and then snuff it out quickly as if the thought never existed.

That is the mythology.  We don’t give credence to such fantasies because we consider ourselves unworthy of having good things to come into our lives,  It is never a conscious thought but it is borne out in our actions of self sabotage.  How do these detrimental acts show themselves in our daily lives?READ MORE


How Traveling Improves Your Quality of Life

March 20, 2011 • By

Way back when during prehistoric times, one of my best friends in high school and I were talking about what the future would hold for us one day.  She happened to mention that one of her desires was to leave Alabama.  Having never traveled more than 20 miles from her birthplace, she figured it was time for a change. At the time, it seemed incredulous to me that she had never crossed state lines, so I fully supported that wish.


Long story short, she never left.  I believe that she had wanted to, but didn’t know how to put her plan into action.  I think that there are many people like her who feel stuck and in a rut, so their solution is to do nothing.  Many years later, she still hasn’t and attributes her previous lamentations to youthful flights of fancy.


I don’t like to focus on a life of regrets or what might have-beens, but I can’t help to think about what opportunities she’s missed.  She has settled comfortably into a life where she only gets to see the beauty of the Maasai through photographs gracing the pages of National Geographic.  She will only get to experience that moment through someone else’s vantage point and never realize the sheer joy of witnessing first hand, the completeness that traveling brings to a life.

I believe that my friend has a good and happy life.  Still, I can’t help but wonder how much more fulfilling it would be had she allowed herself to be exposed to things outside her comfort zone.  I think traveling offers you so much more than fancy stamps on your passport.  I believe it makes you a bona-fide citizen of the world and exposes you to things that are not censored by media outlets.  It gives you a first person look at the beauty and ugliness of life.  There are no filters to obfuscate the realities of life, in some ways, it offers a more realistic view of what’s really going on in the world.  In fact, it’s confirmation that we really aren’t so different.  No matter how rich a country is, there is always a segment of the population who aren’t as fortunate.

More importantly, it helps us to bridge the differences between cultures.  I think unfamiliarity breeds contempt; people tend to fear the unknown and mistrust things that they do not understand.  At the end of the day, a father living in Bangladesh wants his family to be as happy as a family living happily in a high rise in upper Manhattan.  Though we may have different ways of living, of worshiping, of dreaming….we all want what’s best for our loved ones….we all have dreams for our families.  That is the great equalizer….we all seek peace, harmony and joy in our everyday living.  Such is the human condition; we simply have our own unique ways of trying to achieve them.

Photo Credit:

One of the truisms borne out of this Internet generation is that the world is getting smaller.  Electronic communication has opened up so many gateways to people and places we wouldn’t ordinarily be exposed to.  I think this makes our quality of life more interesting, complex and exciting.  I believe it makes us more well-rounded, educated, open and willing to take risks.  It creates an instant community between people from all over the globe who share specific interests and the willingness to help one another is nothing short of amazing.  Reaching across the chasm of space and in some respects, time, I believe we can create a new understanding between cultures.  We fear that which is foreign to us; if we resolve to knock down the walls that tend to divide us, we can create a spirit of brotherhood instead of conflict.

Photo Credit: “another story” on Flickr

Isn’t that what truly matters anyway?

Reviews, Travel Advice

One Traveler’s Review Of The Amazon Kindle 3

October 14, 2010 • By

This is the third in a series of infrequent articles that feature technology reviews for the budget traveler

There are never enough hours in a day, is it?  Between working a full time job, running three Blogs, traveling whenever I can; there is rarely time to think, much less indulge in things that I desire, but can’t due to time constraints.  Being busy is a good thing, however, when it keeps you from doing some of the simpler things in life, it becomes drudgery.

One of those simple things that I’d begun to miss was reading.  As a writer, reading is fundamental.  I couldn’t recall the last time that I had read anything with more pages than a magazine.  As a traveler, it’s important to have an escape from the real world and there ‘s nothing better at accomplishing that than immersing yourself in a good read.  So, I resolved to take a stand; to get back to the basics.  I had to do something dramatic, something that would force me to follow through on my goal.  My solution was the Amazon Kindle 3!  I had been a fan of the Kindle since its first incarnation as a white, much larger and more expensive electronic reader.

Amazon Kindle 3

Ta Da!! Here’s my Kindle in all of its glory!

I thought it was a cool invention spearheaded by Jeff Bezos, the founder of  However, at the time, I couldn’t imagine having to pay $399.00 for the reader and still pay for the books on top of that!  Well, patience truly is a virtue.  With its recent version, Amazon has decided to offer more features at a cheaper price.  The Kindle 3 is smaller (6”), sleeker (weighs less than 9 ozs) and your choice of either a lovely shade of charcoal grey or bright white.  The Kindle 3G Wireless Reading Device, Free 3G + Wi-Fi, 6 allows you to search the net wherever there is a Wi-Fi hotspot to be found and sells for 139.00.  The Kindle 3 with Wi-Fi and global 3G coverage allows you to surf the net whenever the spirit hits you, no hotspots needed and it sells for 189.00.  Each of those features (Wi-Fi and 3G) is free for the life of the reader.

Amazon Kindle 3

When not in use, the Kindle goes to ‘sleep’ and a screen saver shows up on the display.  You must slide the button on the bottom right to ‘wake’ it.

As luck would have it, it took a month to get mine as the sudden drop in price created a frenzy in the book-reading world.  Alas, the wait was worth it.  I am absolutely enamored with my Kindle!!  As of this writing, I have almost 100 books stored on it.  There are so many places to find free books online, that is probably where you should start.  Amazon offers various genres that can be purchased through their one-click ordering system.  It literally takes two seconds to buy a Kindle title on Amazon.  And literally 60 seconds later, that title is transported wirelessly to your own personal Kindle.  Be sure to do a search on free Kindle books in their Kindle store before you begin to pay hard cash for a book.

You can organize your books into collections. My collections are divided into author’s names mostly, but some are based on subject matter.

If you don’t create collections, you will have to scroll through pages of this…depending on how many authors you have downloaded. Yuck!

To group an author’s work together into a collection, click on Home, then Menu.  Scroll down to Create new collection.  A dialog box will pop up to allow you to name the collection.  Once you name it, you can click through the pages and select books to add to said collection.

While you can manage your Kindle library on your local hard drive, I prefer to use the freeware, Calibre E-Book management to organize, track and maintain my Kindle books.  It’s a quick download and very user-friendly.  Simply attach your Kindle to a USB port on your computer and as soon as it is recognized, you can transfer books that you have saved on your hard drive or a flash drive to your reader.  I like the way that it can usually locate and download book cover art work that you may be missing or how it can convert incompatible formats like E-Pub to a more usable format like MOBI so that you will be able to read it easily on the Kindle.  Additionally, you will be to edit author and title information if necessary.

Click on Menu and you will see where you can turn the Wi-Fi on/off, purchase more books, search or add bookmarks and/or notes.

It’s a good idea to pass on their offer to sell you a warranty from their warranty provider, Service Net, which warranties your reader for two years at 49.00.  You can get a better deal from Square Trade Warranties (search for them on the Amazon site) which protects you for three years for 39.00!  I’m not usually a fan of warranties, but the e-ink screen on the Kindle is thin and that warranty protects you if you drop it or if it gets wet….something that warranties do not typically cover.  Therefore, as a budgeter, I can justify this cost.

Ok, now here’s a tip that could very well void your warranty ( that includes the following: Amazon, Service Net, Square Trade, all warranties on the planet earth)….if you do this you do so at your own risk.  I will not be responsible should something happen to your Kindle as a result of your trying this tip.   PERIOD!

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, I found out that you can upload your own screen savers (assuming you are tired of the ones that has people who died centuries ago on it).

First, you will have to hack your kindle.  Once the deed is done, you can visit a site created by a really cool dude named Jason.  His screensavers are fantabulous!  Check it out here.  I now have about 30 screen savers on my kindle.  Woot, Woot!

If you want to use your own personal pics….of your baby, husband, wife….you get the idea….you can use any black and white picture that is 600×800 pixels.

Click on the Home button, then Menu and you will be able to access this screen when you click on Experimental from the menu list. You can launch a browser to surf the net, listen to your book being read to you or or simply listen to some nice tunes that you’ve uploaded to the kindle.

To locate free books online check out:

Project Gutenberg


Many Books

Free Kindle books on Amazon

Free E-Books

Aside from the Wi-Fi, 3G features, what makes the Amazon Kindle 3 so gosh darn special?

  • it can store up to 3,500 books
  • has a battery life of one month with a single charge when Wi-Fi is off; 3 weeks with wireless on
  • can be read in bright sunlight with no glare to have to contend with
  • has better contrast resulting in clearer text
  • has text to speech capabilities which can read English-language content out-loud to you
  • you can adjust the text size for easier reading
  • using the five- way controller button, you can place a cursor next to any word that you need to look up in their built- in dictionary
  • supports Kindle (AZW), TXT, PDF, Audible (Audible Enhanced (AA, AAX)), MP3, unprotected MOBI, PRC natively; HTML, DOC, JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP through conversion.
  • changes page orientation to allow easier viewing of graphics and maps
  • stays cool and never overheats while you are reading
  • ready to use right out the box, no computer necessary
  • if you choose the Wi-Fi only version, you can get free access at any AT&T hotspot
  • has QWERTY keyboard that allows you to efficiently write and save notes
  • has password protection that allows you to safely lock your Kindle when not in use
  • has a 3 gig capacity for user content, so if you happen to have any room left over you can listen to MP3s as you read….just be sure to use headphones, otherwise it will sound like you are reading from a jukebox!

Be sure to buy a cover to protect your valuable investment.  I found mine on Ebay that was half the price that Amazon offered.  (UPDATE: I just saw my cover being sold on Ebay for four bucks and change with free shipping….Gah!!)  You will find that it’s handy to purchase a light to attach to the cover so that you can read at night, or on a plane or any public place without disturbing anyone.  I purchased this flex neck reading light from Amazon for 2.99.

Surprisingly, my flex light emits a lot of light, this time of year it’s dark during my commute to work, so this helps out a lot!

The dictionary feature is launched when you place your cursor next to a word and the definition will pop up either at the top or bottom of the page.

Hey, what are you waiting for? Go check it out!

Disclosure: I have included an Amazon link to this review for your convenience. Please note that A View To A Thrill does receive a small percentage for purchases made at when you click on the link.


Reviews, Travel Advice

One Traveler’s Review Of The 120 Gig Zune Player

May 28, 2010 • By

Zune Player

This is the second in a series of infrequent articles that feature technology reviews for the budget traveler

From the time my daughter asked about getting a first generation IPOD for her birthday many eons ago, I have been a devoted fan of the idea of selecting portable music of my own choosing.  Sure, there were plenty of  cassette players and walkmans that tried to turn my head along the way, but nothing surpassed the absolutely delicious prospect of downloading my own digital tracks to groove to while on the road.  Ummmm….yes, I said GROOVE!

While I can respect the innovative genius of the original Ipod, I must admit that I have a  preference for the Zune.  As most travelers can attest, long hauls on planes, trains or automobiles can turn even the meekest shrinking violet into a prime candidate for the ‘no fly’ list.  Variety is crucial when you are in a virtual holding pattern for hours on end.  The Zune allows you to not only download your favorite music, but if you need a change of pace, you can listen to the built in FM radio for your favorite disc jockey or sports/talk show.

Zune has a larger display screen which makes watching videos a bit easier (3.2″ v. Apple’s 2.5″) though some may not like the fact that the aspect ratio hasn’t changed accordingly; it hasn’t proven to be a problem for me.  One of the coolest features is that you can share music between players.  If your friend owns a zune, you can transmit songs back and forth….wirelessly.  You can also sync the songs that you’ve downloaded on your computer to your unit wirelessly or via USB cable if you prefer to sync and charge your unit simultaneously.  Zune has a subscription service called the Zune pass that allows you to stream and unlimited number of songs for $15.00 per month.  There is talk of that price decreasing soon, possibly as a response to Rhapsody’s lowering their subscription rate from $15 to $10/month.

The Zune’s ’rounded square’ navigational button rivals the ease and simplicity of the Ipod.  While it scrolls easily, you must take care to firmly press down on your selection, otherwise, you may end up not only selecting the wrong song, but possibly the wrong artist.  My advice is to always be sure to make deliberate, purposeful clicks when choosing your selections.

The one thing that really isn’t clearly notated is how to power your Zune off.  To turn your zune off, you will need to hold down the small button to the left of the navigation button and the bottom of the navigation button at the same time.  Press down until the display fades to black.  To turn your zune on, press down the small button to the right of the navigation button and the top half of the navigation button at the same time.  Of course, the Zune has more features than you can shake a stick at:

  • You can download pod casts
  • Store your favorite pictures
  • Download and play your favorite games
  • You can download music videos or those from your own personal vault
The headphones included with this version is markedly different from the previous 80 gig version which consisted of a premium and much more superior set of noise canceling ear buds.  I’m not quite why they chose to do this, but I opted to purchase the premium set and give away the other one.  You may want to save a few bucks and purchase all of your accessories from eBay.  There are quite a few reputable suppliers who sell Zune cases, screen protectors, ear buds, batteries, etc. for a few dollars and they offer free shipping to boot.  Of course, in the interest of fairness, I would love to hear from Ipod devotees about why they can’t do without their Ipods.  Please share!

Zune Player UPDATE: I am closing in on my first year of owning my zune player.  I hate to report that it is currently in the Microsoft service center being fixed for the second time.  This is not easy for me to admit, but at this point, I would NOT recommend buying this player.  There are major hard drive failure issues that are difficult for them to get a handle on.  When you send your unit in for repair, they do not send yours back but rather a refurbished replacement from another unlucky purchaser who had their own issues.  I’m fairly certain that I will have to replace it when it is out of warranty.  At that point, I will be spending my money on an IPOD.  Zune still shows much promise, however, until they work the kinks out, your money would be better spent elsewhere.


Product Features

  • Listen to your favorite FM radio stations and click to tag the songs you like for later purchase when you sync your device with your PC
  • Download millions of tracks, whole albums, or playlists with the Zune Pass subscription service; extend your subscription online or by purchasing a Zune Pass card
  • Connect to your home wireless network and remotely sync your Zune device with your PC collection from your dock, AC adapter, or speaker dock accessory
  • 120 GB capacity for up to 30,000 songs, 25,000 photos, or 375 hours of video
  • 3.2-inch color LCD with 320 x 240 pixel display resolution

Technical Details

  • Storage: 120 GB
  • Memory type: Internal hard drive
  • Display: 3.2-inch color LCD
  • Display resolution: 320 x 240 pixels
  • Audio support: AAC, MP3, WMA, WMA Lossless
  • Picture support: JPEG
  • Video support: WMV, H.264, MPEG-4, DVR-MS
  • Song capacity: Up to 30,000 songs
  • Picture capacity: Up to 25,000 photos
  • Video capacity: Up to 375 hours
  • Wireless connectivity: 802.11b/g
  • Wireless range: Up to 30 feet
  • Power supply: Built-in rechargeable battery, AC power adapter (not included), via USB port
  • Battery life (music): Up to 30 hours (wireless off)
  • Battery (video): Up to 4 hours (wireless off)
  • Charging time (AC adapter): Approximately 3 hours (full); approximately 2 hours (90 percent)
  • Charging time (via USB): Approximately 2 hours and 15 minutes (full); approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes (90 percent)
  • Ports: Connector port, Headphone Jack/AV output
  • FM radio: Built-in with RDS
  • Languages: English, French, Spanish
  • Colors: Black, Pink, Green, Blue and Red
  • Dimensions: 2.4 x 4.3 x 0.5 inches / 61.1 x 108.2 x 12.9 millimeters (W x H x D)
  • Weight: 4.5 ounces / 128 grams

Travel Advice

Foodtography | How To Leave Their Mouths Watering For More

February 9, 2010 • By


Sometimes, if a friend is planning to visit a city that I’ve already been to, they will ask me to recommend places where they can eat. I don’t necessarily see myself as a “Foodie” expert, but I do believe that sampling whatever that particular region is best known for is an integral part of the traveler’s experience. My palate isn’t on the exotic side, but my daughter, Carisa and I, were open enough to munch on an octopus’s tentacle once. Suffice it to say that we have absolutely no interest in biting into what is the equivalent of steel belted radials again!

When you are traveling, it’s exciting to record your day to day activities, adding food pics to your photo collection brings your culinary experience to life and will allow others to appreciate those gastronomical delights through at least one of their five senses. So, whenever you are out on the town and about to dig into the delectable meal that’s just been placed in front of you, pull out the old digital and take a clearly focused picture of it. If the lighting is less than desirable, you can always edit the photo in any photo editing program. You will be glad you did because the old saying “a picture is worth a thousand words” couldn’t be truer!

While the food will be the star of the show, I like to take pictures of the restaurant’s surroundings to further create the ambiance of that night. This is all the more important if the restaurant is unique or stands out in some way. Be sure to keep your receipts in the event you forget the name of the dish in question then you can easily write a short blurb about it if you decide to post it online. As a travel blogger, I find that I require quite a bit of storage to house my travel pics in general, so I’ve invested in Flickr Pro photo storage which costs 24.99 per year which I think is very worth it. You’d be surprised at how often food pics garner more attention than the landmarks!READ MORE

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