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My big expedition to Georgia is only a few weeks away, but I was craving a mountain adventure last month and hopped on a plane back to Montana, then onward via car to Alberta, Canada. This is one of the most beautiful places I've seen in all my travels, and the majority of my time was spent in Banff National Park. In this region, you are surrounded by majestic landscapes, pristine turquoise waters and cool forest breezes. I'll write about the natural landscapes in a separate post, but today I want to speak about portion sizes in Canadian restaurants and lodging in Banff.

America is known as the land of gluttony on many levels, and this includes our food. Yes, our portions are huge but I think in Banff they were even larger! I could not believe it actually, the huge piles of food thrown on plates at all restaurants. I traveled with my young cousin who is a hockey player and consumes excessive calories at each setting. Here is his breakfast one morning - something known as "cowboy grits." Grits are a type of crushed cornmeal, not sure if they are popular in Russia, but I do not like the texture or taste. This breakfast costs around 9 Canadian dollars.Read more... )
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Over the past few years, I've become an emotional traveler. In the old days, it was simply about checking off as many countries and States as possible in my quest for global exploration. However, running from place to place, frantically snapping photos without the ability to even mentally process or absorb the landscape or person in the image, is no longer appealing, nor does it serve any value in human understanding or connection.

During the Alaska journey last summer, I had the opportunity to make a brief stop in Skagway, a small town with less than 1,000 residents. People here live totally off the grid, surrounded by forests and huge mountains, with no doctors or lawyers for hundreds of miles.  In the summer months, the population swells. Over a million tourists enter the village during the busy Alaska cruise season from May - September. I spent almost no time with the hordes of tourists, and instead ventured into the Yukon Territory of Canada, where this photo was taken. Never in my life have I seen such stunning landscapes, with a deep historical root, combining all elements of the human spirit - endurance, joy, defeat, sorrow...

Read more... )

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There's more than one Washington in America! Most foreigners think only of Washington, DC, the nation's capital and my home, but on the other side of the country sits the beautiful State of Washington. This was the start and end point for my cruise to Alaska, as the ship departed from Puget Sound in Seattle and returned there seven days later after stopping in various Alaskan villages, and a few hours in beautiful Victoria, British Columbia on the last night.

Seattle is known for many things - its large Public Market, the first Starbuck's, the Space Needle and stunning nature outside of the city areas. However, I remember it most fondly as the birthplace of grunge music, Seattle being the native land of bands like Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Alice in Chains. These bands produced the soundtrack of my early adult life during my 20's. I listened to them all with passion, though I'm not sure if younger kids today are even aware of these legendary rock bands. In my mind, rock 'n' roll is dead. Replaced with over-synthesized music and untalented pretty faces with auto-tuned voices. But, music is not the focus of this post. Just a few pictures of Seattle and Victoria, British Columbia before telling you about the cruiseship on which I traveled. The cover shot is a view of the Seattle skyline, as our ship was embarking for the weeklong journey through majestic Alaska.Read more... )
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Today is a sad day, full of reflection for most Americans. I remember vividly where I was on September 11, 2001. Sleeping in a hotel room in one of the noisiest, crowded and most debaucherous cities in the nation - Las Vegas. The phone rang around 6 a.m. West Coast time, the voice of a relative in Virginia telling us about the World Trade Center attacks. All I wanted in that moment was to get home to my family, to feel safe and secure in the presence of loved ones. There is nothing more important to me than family, and last week I shared an amazing adventure with my mom and dad in Alaska. The trip was a surprise gift for them, to show gratitude and respect for all the sacrifices they've made for me and my sister. I can't say either of my parents are bitten by the travel bug. My father has never even traveled overseas and doesn't really have the desire to do so. For the first time in his life, he now has a passport, a necessity for the Alaska trip because we also visited Canada for a short time. This photo was taken in the Yukon Territory, where you can find some of the most wild nature in all of Canada. Where winter temperatures commonly fall below -30 Celsius, with gusting winds infiltrating your nostrils and freezing water on your face. Even at the beginning of September, the air was crisp, cold and wondrous. I loved it!

On this somber day, I think back to last week, when I was standing in the presence of the most magnificent and majestic nature my eyes have ever seen. Completely peaceful environments where animals, humans and objects of nature follow the natural order of things. The cycle of life - where the strong and resilient survive.

Tell me please - where can I find wild, remote and mountainous nature in Russia? Kamatchka or the Altai region? I want to plan another trip for early winter, but need help on where to go and local travel guides who can assist me w/language barriers and arrangements, etc. Any recommendations are welcome.

Next week I'll start writing look for new stories. :) 


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