Category: Countries

DIY Photo Tour of San Francisco

Traveling the West Coast with a camera and an empty wallet? Take this hobo photographer’s insights for capturing the best of San Francisco over a day with meager resources on hand.

Californya
Northern Californya’s one hell of a photogenic part of the world, but if you’re trying to make the most of it in a short time, San Francisco’s got plenty to offer.

Map of Your Trip in San FranciscoYour trip through the city can go any which way, but if you follow mine, you’ll do best with your own car. If you don’t have a car, the Bay has a supreme (by American standards) transport system called The Bart, which should be able to transport you to most places for reasonable costs. Click the map on the left to see where we’re going.

San Francisco and the Bay
I started my photo journey a little before noon at Twin Peaks for a supreme view of the Golden Gate Bridge (left), the city, Oakland and the rest of the Bay (right).

Street Art of Haight and Ashbury
One of the best things you’ll find in the Bay is the street art, particularly in San Francisco and Oakland. A great place to soak up some public art and a happening vibe is the Haight-Ashbury District. The tourist business may have replaced the Haight’s rebellious counter-culture of the 60’s, but it still makes for a cool afternoon walk.

Street Art in the Mission
Another spot with great art and the buzz of busy humans is the Mission District.

The Transamerica Pyramid
Now we’ll start with a look at some of the city’s more iconic sights. From here the route will take us through the heart of SOMA and the rat-racy CBD. There’s endless shopping and high-end restaurants here, but we’ll skip all that luxury nonsense for sights like the Embarcadero, Telegraph Hill, Chinatown and the Transamerica Pyramid.

Fisherman at Baker’s Beach
With any luck we’ll have enough time to make it down to Baker’s Beach by sunset. I had the good fortune of catching a local fisherman at work trying to nab some dinner for the evening.

Golden Gate Bridge from Baker's Beach
Snapping the bridge from Baker’s Beach was a quintessential moment for me. Depending on the time of year, there’s enough room to enjoy yourself, but also plenty of people to socialize with.

The Transamerica Pyramid Framed by the Golden Gate
Crossing the Golden Gate Bridge is pretty cool at night, and it’s free to leave the city, but do so carefully; it’s 6 bucks to come back in. Take the first exit after the bridge on the right, cross back under it and follow the road up the hill for several fantastic vantage points of the bridge. Park the car before the roundabout and track the bright light from downtown until you see the Transamerica Pyramid framed by the bridge.

The Golden Gate Bridge at Night
On the way back down be sure to stop at the Battery Spencer, get out and walk towards the cliff and see if you can snap the classic bridge-by-night scene.

Final Note: San Francisco’s a wildly expensive place. If you’re really trying to pinch your pennies here, keep an eye out for different foods on carts or in little “holes in the wall.” Pay especially close attention to parking signs when you leave the car. If you aren’t careful, you’ll wind up in the wrong zone and pay something like $75 for that.

Gem & Jam 2014 Recap and Review

Cutting our way from southern Colorado, we descended the gorgeous canyons near the Salt River onto the Sonoran Desert.

Tucson SaguaroAs the landscape started filling in with Saguaros, the antiquarian masters of the desert, we knew we were finally entering a new exciting world, the land of transformational festivals, where mystery, beauty and art are explored with open minds from around the world.

The Gem & Jam Festival is the musical and artistic complement to Tuscon’s Gem & Mineral Shows, the world’s largest collection of gorgeous raw and cut stones.

The Slaughterhouse, Tucson
These days I’m disenfranchised with the massively popular, super-corporate festivals, but Gem & Jam’s venue The Slaughterhouse was the right size for all the visionary art and music I could handle. As a former meat-packing plant that usually hosts haunted houses, It’s kind of an eerie place, but the indoor and outdoor stages set the right vibe for transformational fun.

The Wooks of Gem & JamGem & Jam is a wook-fest. If you’re like me and cringe at the sight of candy kids at raves, or barely stop yourself from fighting douchers at EDM shows, check out the brighter side of “the wookening.” Wooks are hairy creatures from strange and different planets. Their lifestyle doesn’t fit any other that I’ve discovered yet. They dress like trendy hobos, eat more psychoactives than food, and generally go to the land of no control. I’m no wook, but I’m more at home with the happy, reckless wook-style than the other wacky electronic scenes.

Highlights from the first night included Desert Dwellers, and Paul Basic and Supervision from the Pretty Lights Label. Supervision threw down some killer scratching, something I hadn’t seen at past shows and something he really needs to do more often.

The Motet at Gem & Jam
The first night’s standout was Colorado’s own renowned funk band, The Motet, who gave a proper shout-out to themselves as the only live band at a festival without many of ‘em. Thank God for the funk.

The second night was highlighted by Russ Liquid, a surprisingly versatile trumpet player who knows how to rock a show. Thriftworks produces a unique blend of trippy-ass sounds that eventually made us feel like we were leaving our bodies for another dimension. An interesting experience but I’d rather be on earth to feel the full festi-experience.

The Wooks of Gem & JamNot everyone agrees with me though. This girl literally blasted off into the next dimension on a DMT trip right underneath the stage. After 20 minutes or so she came back and seemed alright, but she was without her friends. This shows the importance of taking care of your friends at these events.

Elliot Lipp is one of my favorite producers, and he also played a great set during the second night that featured a lot of his greatest hits. His DJ skills are supreme, pulling little pieces from his songs that pan into the full song some of the time, but other times don’t and leave me tingling and wantin’ more.

The Wooks of Gem & JamAlex Grey’s visionary psychedelic art has captured the attention of people from around the world, and I was pleased to see his blissed-out demeanor while he painted with his wife Allyson and the musicians by his side. He humbly meets and greets his many fans, signing autographs and engaging in conversation with anyone who approaches him. Listening to him speak about the growing “love tribe” brought a serene lucidity to everybody there:

The indoor stage filled to the brim for Bluetech, whose melodic, flowing rhythms kept us dancing hard well past midnight. Mimosa closed out the night and unfortunately he only played one of his decent older songs. As we made our swift escape, we knew we made the right choice ‘cause the new “music” felt like it was ripping at the core of my very being.

The third night finally arrived and we couldn’t believe the festival was about to come to a close. Really upset at missing Lynx’s set, Govinda opened our night with some of that tasty bass we live for. Love & Light took it easy by holding back on the womps from the days-of-dubstep-old. Despite a generally choppy flow, they played a surprisingly fun and exciting set.

Random Rab at Gem & JamRandom Rab, the king of happy, good times, played with his friend Cedar on the drums. Rab’s known for setting legendary good vibes, and he sure didn’t disappoint at Gem & Jam this year. If you haven’t seen Rab yet, especially one of his famous sunrise sets, my advice to you is do it!

BoomBox at Gem & Jam 2014BoomBox brought their 70’s porno style that seems to travel with ‘em everywhere they go. Their sexy grooves are guaranteed to light up the night, unless they’re shut down in the middle of a song, which is exactly what happened. I guess Tucson has some strict laws on this stuff, but this was the weakest, most unceremonious ending to a festival I’ve ever seen.

Fire DancingI’m continuously impressed with the on-stage performers who dance, twirl fire and paint alongside the festival’s musical artists. Even random people hooping in the crowds are fun to watch. Regardless how people contribute to transformational festivals, it’s following through on our intentions to bring joy, healing, inspiration, fulfillment and peace into the world that makes a difference. This is our generation’s chance to leave our mark.

The Mystic Team: Dave & LaceyThe need to expand our collective horizons beyond the material world of money and basic needs has become painfully obvious. It’s time to reconnect with our higher, visionary core and rekindle our uniquely human drive for creativity and souls’ connections. Transformational festivals such as Gem & Jam foster a space to collectivize our creative efforts. The community artistic awakening that’s been blowing up around the world over the last several years is the kind of energy we should cherish to leave a brighter world for our grandkids, and I’m gonna keep participating in it any way I can.

West Coastin the Pacific Northwest

In spite of only scaring one girl with my homelessness, my first trip North by Northwest was brilliant. Hangin with friends old and new, puffin tough, eatin tasty foods, drum and bass shows (whaat?), and snapping great photos in gorgeous places (see ‘em below) made it a trip I won’t forget.

Check the journey’s video log at the bottom (totally worth it)!

I thought backpacking in my car would be a breeze, but I learned it isn’t all peaches and cream.

PROS of traveling in my car:

1. Traveling with 40-50 pounds of gear OFF my back
2. Being transport commander brings the ultimate freedom to MOVE
3. Even though my little car’s a sedan, it doubled up as a good home in a pinch

CONS of traveling in my car:

1. Long highways + high gas prices = lonely, expensive roads
2. I nearly lost my mind dealing with parking and traffic jams in CBD’s
  • Solution: Parking the car at transit hubs & jumping on local trains & busses
3. Got some problems with my piloting style?
  • Solution: Well you kind sirs can stfd and stfu. You’re stressing me out when you get all scared about my revelation that I don’t even have to look at the road while I’m driving.


Journey route: it takes about 20 hours to reach the West Coast from Colorado.

After watching tweaker dramas through the holes in the walls of our hotel, and being woken up by an antsy cop for poaching camp in the woods, we left Redding, California for greener pastures.


Next stop was Oregon’s Crater Lake, which fills the remnants of a volcano that exploded 7,700 years ago. The cone inside the lake is another volcano that bubbled up about 400 years after the former volcano crumbled in on itself.

After a spontaneous friendsgiving in Portland, I got so involved in the music scene that I forgot I even had a camera.


The only photo I took in Portland was a good one though: the Nightmares on Wax live band!

Oregonians are across the board a smiling, friendly people. I picked up happy, warm vibes the whole time I was there, making it hard to leave. But I can always hear my name being called around that next bend in the road.

For me longer travel is a test of the will since it shakes me out of my routine, but I deal with it by recognizing that the adjustments I make to life on the road are ultimately a small price to pay for the deep value that really slow travel brings.

Loneliness is rarely a problem when arranging rideshares through Craigslist and Couchsurfing. The ability to preview potential ride-alongs through CS makes it an especially great tool to see if they’re an agreeable personality for the ride. It’s a great way to cut down fuel costs as well!

My traveler spirit’s felt a little dormant since coming home from Asia last year. I’m not exactly sure why San Francisco did the trick, but it’s the place where my nomadic-self came fully back online.

I think it was the city’s vibrant art, music, architecture and people that helped me remember how to do it: quiet the ego when it says I. I. Me…and let the camera view the world with 3rd eye vision. Slow down and let the tides of travel flow on the shores of life.


Street art is ever-present and truly epic in San Francisco and Oakland. How come every city in the world isn’t doing this?! Imagine how much prettier and vivacious the concrete jungles could be…

There’s something about the Golden Gate that pulls on the strings of my imagination, inspiring a few good photos:


Baker’s Beach is a classic spot for some bridge action.


I had to grab the classic bridge-by-night.

If you’re wondering how I spent two months on the road, rest assured it was done by barely scraping by. I’m slowly mastering the art, so I’m gonna write a hobo’s guide to traveling on your bottom dollar sometime soon.

Barely hangin on didn’t stop my trip down Highway 1 from being one of my favorites in the US. The raw, natural beauty of the coastline from central California through Washington is surreal. I got into some fun photography in the Big Sur area. I’ll let the photos do the talking:


I’ve been loving lunar photography lately. This one with a sunset over the Pacific hit me right in the heart.


Astonishing that a young industrial heiress used to live here, at McWay Falls on the Big Sur coast.


As the incomprehensively massive Pacific surf nearly destroyed both sides of the rock I was on, I captured my most rewarding picture yet.

It was a unique shot for me cause I haven’t nearly died so many times in a photo shoot before. I’ve never been so terrified of being swallowed up by the ocean, but this was THE place for the shot. I had to get it. I’ve had enough brushes with death to be at peace with my inevitable transition, but I can think of better ways to do it than being swept off a cliff, split open on the rocks below and sucked out to sea.

In the photo we have Big Sur’s classic sea boulders underneath a nearly full moon. The orange glow is the neighboring towns of Carmel by the Sea and Monterey. A fairly huge meteorite was pulled into orbit while the shutter was open, but sadly didn’t pass in front of the lens. The camera did catch a plane passing through the shot however: the yellow streak through the middle of the sky. In the distance some sea lions added their magic to the moment as they flopped around on the rocks and barked at the moon, or whatever sea lions bark at.


After meeting some fantastic family members for the first time, I creeped around Los Angeles til I found this little spot.


Another favorite: Venus in the Delicate Arch during sunset.

This one became another infamous shot as I took a major slide right up to the edge of a massive cliff while setting up. Just after the shot, I witnessed the setting of Venus for the first time. As the planet exploded into a firey orange on the horizon, I thought my eyes were lying little bastards. It was too good to be true. At the time I knew the camera could do no justice so I didn’t snap, but now I wish I had at least a partial memory of the occasion. This is how we learn I guess…

If you’re into photography and enjoyed this round, be sure to check out my page on 500px. It’s turning into my personal best collection, plus we can be friends on there, and share EVERYTHING together. Don’t be creeped out, I just wanna see your photos too.

Coming off the delicious high of a two year trip through east Asia left me with a travel hangover, but this trip turned out to be another 3rd eye opener.

Travel in the so-called 3rd world is imbued with magic, but I finally realized you don’t have to be surrounded by exotica to reach the wondrously high plateau of long travel.

What’s the lesson from this trip?

The most successful travelers reduce their expectations to what’s happening in the moment, and continuously live these moments until they’re totally immersed in the travel experience. And then they do it all again.

2013’s Pacific Northwest Video Log

Sonic Bloom 2013 Preview

One of the harder things to cope with while growing up in the US is an education system that prioritizes problem solving. An indispensable skill in the modern world no doubt, but it comes with the cost of leaving us ill-equipped to deal with the infinite complexities of existence outside of the here and now. Young Americans are left searching for something more.

Although traveling’s my favorite way to quickly wizen up, it’s only one amongst a million. One of the greatest things about life in the US is the growing movement seeking wisdom outside traditional institutions. It’s a movement powered by diversity and creativity, and tends to come together in camping and music festivals around the world. I’m lucky to call Colorado my home since it’s hosting Sonic Bloom, an amazing festival offering the chance to shape the collective efforts of Expanding Consciousness.


The 8th annual Sonic Bloom’s gonna be the place to grow The Trinity [Mind, Body & Soul] this festival season. Like other Electronic Dance Music (EDM) festivals, it centers around the core ritual of ecstatic dance, but also promises to boost The Body with activities like yoga classes, mountain biking, whitewater rafting and belly-dance classes. Located at Shadow’s Ranch near Georgetown, Colorado, the rolling hills and rivers of the Rocky Mountains frame a perfect backdrop for a little body enrichment.


Gaia by Alex Grey

Workshops on topics as diverse as earthship biotecture, Crossing the Event Horizon (based on Jungian psychology), sacred sound, Hindu metaphysics, and Toltec healing are being hosted to open pathways in The Mind. Jamie Janover’s presenting on an emerging “Unified Field Theory” which explains the evolution of the forces of nature and consciousness with references to ancient codes and architecture.

There’s over a hundred artists on hand this year to move the power of Soul. From musicians, to painters and drawers, to dancers and culinary masters, there’s enough inspiration here to get your fill for months. Some of the big musicians playing this year are Grouch & Eligh, Opiuo, Random Rab, Bluetech, Zilla, The Polish Ambassador, Minnesota, Phutureprimitive, Andreilien (Heyoka), Wick-it, ill-Esha, Love & Light, Future Simple Project, Russ Liquid…


Forest Medicine by Jamie Kaminskas

Sonic Bloom’s an exceptional gathering since it’s moving beyond the commercial party that characterizes bigger festivals to a place where awareness and creativity are fostered through intentional community building. It’s a place where we’ll find people working towards a unified spiritual field without dogma, doctrines or charismatic leaders, a place where each person can construct their own universal views with the support of other like-minded people.

I’ve been granted a press pass by the good folks pulling the show together, so stay tuned for a video log from my experience. For more information about the journey of transformational festivals, see the incredible series co-produced by Jeet-Kei Leung and Akira Chan, The Bloom.

Blowing Stuff Up with Colorado Fireworks

Remembering that the Good Life isn’t all intensity and no fun, we took to the backyard for a little spring cleaning. The latest Colorado fireworks laws and fire bans make it hard to have our pyrotechnic fun, but a snow storm helped us find our way. Mix a little boredom and some extra junk and here’s what you get. Since it’s sure to be another desert-like summer, this’ll probably be our last chance to play with fire for the season.

Filipino Street Food: Balut (Fertilized Duck Eggs)

The bus rolled with a jerky unease, escalating my debilitating cravings for food. The smoky green fields ceased their race towards the volcanoes as they met the concrete jungle.

Manila has a nasty reputation as a city clouded by the darker aspects of humanity, but traveling’s taught me that colorful cultures tend to create the most exciting and savory dishes.

My host has the pudgy, effeminate features Filipinas are known for. She’s a master caterer and a confident guide on my zealous quest for local delicacies.

She knows the place, and the market seems to fit the bill: barbeque carts, stray dogs, and warm, billowing smoke carrying the rapturing smells of authentic grub. My stomach’s reaching the peak of a howling crescendo, but she assures me we’ve found the remedy.

We’ve come to the right place. The municipality of Pateros is famous for producing balut, a fertilized duck embryo that found its place on Filipino tables after Chinese traders brought it from the north.

After 15 days of gestation, the fertilized eggs are ready to sell. They’ve just popped up from the buckets of sand that conceal their warmth, and I’m shocked.

Through my lens, a fetal duck seems oddly out of place against a backdrop of hot sauce and vinegar, but she consoles my queasiness with the reminder that “it’s more fun in the Philippines!” The locals are ever-happy to see a foreigner try their food, and a small crowd forms to watch.

Now retreat’s as likely as it is for the frontline warrior, so the hatch opens up and finds a surprising medly. The texture’s from an atrociously different world, but the infusion of tastes collaborate to charm my former hunger problem. The congregation’s pleased with my reaction and return to their business.

I’ve tried everything from scorpions to chicken brains during my year in China, but I missed the chance to sample the original Chinese version of fertilized eggs. Now I’ll have at least one clear goal for my next trip to the Middle Kingdom.

To see the search for & battle with balut, click here & watch between 0:22 & 3:44.

Chinese Lion Dance – Tet New Year, Saigon, Vietnam

The video shows a traditional Chinese lion dance in Vietnamese style at a Tet New Year’s celebration in central Saigon. The custom comes from a Chinese tradition called “cái ching” (青採) which translates to “vegetable pick.” The meanings of Chinese words are often connected when they share similar sounds, especially when the associated meaning is really positive or really negative. Since “cái” (青) has the same pronunciation as “cái” (财), or fortune, “cái ching” is meant to be an auspicious occasion.

In the “cái ching” tradition, different types of vegetables are hung outside of businesses or homes as a challenge for the lion to obtain. The more difficult the challenge, the fatter the red envelope of “lucky money” to be rewarded.


This picture taken in Vancouver’s Chinatown shows how it was done in the days of old when the lettuce was hung 15 to 20 feet above the ground and only the best martial artists could reach it.

Today the competition is usually acted out in dance. The lion dance, and sometimes the dragon dance, are performed for important occasions including cultural and religious festivals, business openings, birthdays and wedding ceremonies. The Vietnamese have adapted their own style to the Chinese lion dance, as seen above.

Travel to Taiwan! (Video)

I’ve got an odd fetish for poor Asian countries, so I’m not sure if Taiwan ranks as my favorite, but it is a fantastic country with all the order, comforts and general pleasantries that are missing from mainland China. There are a lot of things to do here, and if you’re a native English speaker, there’s a good chance you’ll find yourself teaching English and studying Chinese like most of the other expats. It seems like a comfortable, Good Life to me.

Highlights From the Video: A Taipei street party, betel nut girls, Taipei night markets, tasty turtles and snake blood, a Filipino disco, Taroko Gorge, local hot springs and volcanic mud baths.

Places Seen in the Video
Taipei and its night markets, Taoyuan and its dirty Filipino disco (Thai OK), Taroko Gorge and local hot springs.

Best Time to Travel to Taiwan
You can travel somewhat comfortably in Taiwan all year long, but the summer months are especially hot and humid, while the winter months are cool and especially rainy. The spring and fall months have the best temperatures and generally dry weather.

Transport
The Taipei MRT (subway system) is very modern and extremely efficient. It’s well connected to Taiwan’s nationaltrain system which again is modern and very timely. The railroads circle the island, cut into the mountains at a couple different cities, and feature some of the world’s best high speed services.

Eats & Drinks
There’s no way to avoid the fact that Taiwanese food is diverse and delicious. You can easily find a number of strange and exotic foods reminiscent of mainland China (can anyone say bull dicks?). If you’re into expensive international dishes, Taipei can suit your needs. But if you want cheaper local delicacies, you can stay on the thrifty side as well, from about 30NT for squid balls to about 150NT for Taiwanese brunches (very similar to English and American breakfasts). Being an island, delectable seafood specialties are never hard to come by.

Taiwan (Photos)

Superior to mainland China in every respect that I can dream up. Taiwan escaped the wrath of Mao and has a lot to show for it: beautiful mountains and beaches, great cuisine, friendly and civilized people, efficient transportation, and fun nightlife in the north. Great place to see!

Welcome to Taiwan

Modern Taiwan was formed after the Nationalists fled to the island during the horrific Chinese Civil War. Changing from Japanese to Nationalist Chinese rule was a violent, confusing time. Taiwan’s White Terror (1949-1987) was a period of martial law under Chiang Kai-shek who simultaneously purged the island of enemies (whether real or perceived) and planned an attack on mainland China, his cherished and maniacal liberation scheme.

The US supported Taiwan politically and militarily until 1978 when they finally recognized the communists on the mainland as the legitimate sovereign of China. Like pulling a band-aid, Taiwan’s break with the US was quick but left a stinging feeling for the Taiwanese. Their violent anti-US reactions only confounded an already violent past riddled by organized crime and political corruption; these problems continued well into the 1980’s.


By the 1990’s Taiwan had become a wealthy, industrialized nation.

Democratization was finally realized in 1996 when the Taiwanese chose their first democratically-elected president, Lee Teng-hui. Since then peace has returned and the island has prospered. Today it is one of the safest and cleanest destinations in Asia and the rest of the world.

Ask any mainlander about Taiwan’s status, and the answer inevitably returned is, ‘Taiwan is a province of China.’ This is just one among many examples of how effective Mao and his propaganda have been at ‘smashing their brains down to size.’ China’s indefinite postponement of Taiwan’s independence has become a thorny issue to say the least. Both ‘solutions’ proposed to end this political stalemate, full independence or mainland control, each bring a host of problems. The best outcome may come from staying the course and keeping their defacto independence. Taiwan should probably rest in the history books as the interesting anomaly that it is, and nothing more.

Despite Taiwan’s turbulent past, it remains a top-notch backpacking destination, especially for native English speakers who should have no problem finding teaching work. Taipei is a fun and safe international city, and the east coast and interior areas of the island have fantastic natural attractions. Hot springs are littered throughout the island, the mountains are surprisingly high and beautiful, you can find snow in the winter (although not quite enough for skiing), there are tons of hiking/biking trails, the beaches on the east and south coasts are nice, and since it’s Asia you can of course find temples everywhere. The food is good, the people are civilized and friendly, and the country’s train system is world-class. However you find your fun, you’re guaranteed to enjoy your stay here.

Meet Dave

Meet DaveUnfulfilled by consumer lifestyles, I left on a really slow trip around the world. As a 3rd eye traveler on the New American Dream, my aim is to inspire and cultivate conscious living along the way....Read More...

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