Welcome to my 200th travelingwithtom.com post! I’ve said this before but it bears repeating, when I started this endeavor I never dreamt that I would keep this up for a year much less nearly four years. Yet, here I am this week celebrating persistence in keeping this thing going, one post a week for 200 weeks! Sure there are a few extra articles thrown in as a bonus, usually when an significant event happens at either some place we’ve traveled or some remarkable personal interactions during travel and/or photographing along the way. This week I’m recapping a few blasts from the past several months that had an impact on me as well as generated comments from my readers. And before I forget, a big thanks to you for checking in periodically to peruse through my posts. When I started this endeavor I was writing mostly for myself and to a certain extent I still do but as time has passed and the audience grown I try my best to tell stories and use photos that you, the readers, might find interesting. Please keep those comments coming, especially those letting me know that I’ve missed the mark!
I often reflect where my wanderlust and wonder of the world both near and far originates. It might be all the books that I read growing up on the farm out on the plains of western North Dakota. Or maybe it was the regular perusing through the set of World Book encyclopedias that my parents bought in the late 50’s or early 60’s from a door to door salesman. Or it could be the daydreaming I would do when reading books such as Travels with Charley by Hemingway, The Call of the Wild by London, The Jungle Book by Kipling, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. I recall the stink eye that Dad would give me because he was waiting for me to drive up with the truck while he was waiting with the combine hopper filled with grain during harvest just because I was absorbed in a book. Now he was a prolific reader too so I think he understood at some level but during harvest time was precious. So it looks the common denominators are reading and daydreaming something that I still do! Well enough reminiscing and on to a few of my favs from the past months.
In April of 2018, I traveled to Taos for a photo tour and reunion with photographers I had taken a class with on Madeline Island in 2015. It was a great trip that resulted in a treasure trove of both memories and photos of central and northern New Mexico. From that experience, I created a documentary for a local photography class I was taking. Here’s the beginning of the story:
“With that as a backdrop, I present to you my documentary project titled “Santuario” Spanish for sanctuary. The idea for this project came about as I was planning my April trip to Taos, New Mexico for a photo workshop. I had also enrolled in a local class on documentary photography. As I was preparing for my trip, I purchased a book on photographing the southwest focusing on the natural landmarks of Colorado and New Mexico. Some of the landmarks featured in this book were of the many old and unique houses of worship in the Taos area, I decided to make that the focus of my documentary photography project. It wasn’t until I got home when the photos and words came together that resulted in the final product as presented below. This time of self reflection and national soul searching seems to be an appropriate time to share with you, my readers. Your thoughts and comments are appreciated.” If you’d like to see all the photos and words from this post click here.
Late last year, I was running out of material for this blog so I dug into my photo archives for inspiration. From that search came two posts on clouds and three post on trees. Yes, I was that hard up! But it resulted in some of my favorite posts. You can see more by clicking, here, here, here, here, and here! Here’s an example:
“Over the past several years, I’ve taken 10,000’s of thousands of photos in my native state of North Dakota. There is interesting story behind the first photo. About ten years ago, we were visiting my wife’s parents in western North Dakota and my father-in-law announced that he wanted to go to the casino at New Town on the Ft. Berthold Indian Reservation. This surprised everyone because he wasn’t much of gambler, he worked too hard for his money, and he was kind of a home body. So we immediately took advantage of his apparent whimsical request and made the nearly two hour trip (one way!) through the scenic Killdeer Mountains and across the Missouri River to the casino. After a half hour or so of low stakes slot machine gambling, we took part in the buffet (the real reason he wanted to go!) and headed back to the ranch. Well, I missed the turn off to the most direct route so kept going on the alternative course. My passengers were dozing after stuffing themselves at the buffet when I saw this scene ahead of me, the silhouette of Watford City against the brilliant red and orange clouds. I quickly pulled over and shot a few photos while the passengers woke up wondering what I was taking photos of, I told them to cast their gaze upon one of the most beautiful scenes ever presented to humankind! Hope you agree.”
Earlier this year, we spent 19 days in Panama at a time when the “polar vortex” was inundating the Midwest of the US. For the first part of our stay, we were on a Road Scholar tour of the Panama Canal. The most memorable part of our journey was the day we made the full transit through the canal on the small vessel “Islamorada.” The following is a short excerpt from that post, you can check out the rest here.
“In this series of photos, we follow the Star Laguna into the first cell of the Miraflores locks. You’ll note that the Islamorada will get up close and personal with the Star Laguna. Also making the transit with us is a tugboat that is likely getting repositioned on the Canal to assist a ship through the locks.”
In March we spent a week in our nation’s capital, Washington, District of Columbia. We had a lot of fun and interesting experiences, one of the most memorable was our first visit to the National Museum of African American History and Culture. The following is a bit of teaser for you, check out the full post by clicking here.
“This week we are visiting the newest of the Smithsonian Museums in Washington, DC, the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Opening in 2016, this museum chronicles the African American experience from the 1500’s to current times, their suffering, their perserverance, and their triumphs. All I can say is WOW, it is mind blowing and as a caucasian American, quite revealing and sobering.”
While my traveling partner and I have had a lot of wonderful traveling experiences over the years, it’s hard to top our trip to Ukraine in May 2019. My regular readers will know that I’ve written eleven posts about our time in Ukraine, just about enough for a small book! Some of our most memorable times were when we were with local people, either on tour or when meeting up with Open World delegates that have stayed with us the past few years. So here’s a few Ukrainians we met up with along the trail.
On our first day in Lviv and suffering from jet lag, we went on a walking tour with the very personable Diana who oriented us to the city.
“Meet Diana, the guide. She has nearly 20 years of guiding experience, she speaks several languages in addition to her native Ukrainian and excellent English. This tour was booked through the website toursbylocals.com that matches tourists with vetted local guides.”
Valeria and Alex took us from Lviv to Borschiv in a search for my traveling partner’s ancestors.
“With that bit of information, we met Valeria, our English speaking guide and translator and Alex, our driver, for this little adventure.”
We met our gastronomy (relationship of food and culture) needs by taking a Ukrainian cooking class in Lviv. Here’s a teaser.
“The Eldest signed us up for a class taught by Kateryna Lytvyniuk called Sil′ Ukrainian Cooking Class. Sil′ is the word for salt in the Ukrainian language and Kateryna has used salt to weave a metaphor that goes something like this: ‘salt brings out the flavor in food and was used to preserve foods when traveling and traveling brings us together.’ The class was held in Kateryna and Andy’s (her husband) beautiful and comfortable apartment somewhere in Lviv. Andy picked us up at our AirBnb and dropped us off at the apartment while he retrieved another party of three. Meet Kateryna, the instructor for the evening and a professional architect by day who designed the kitchen for her passion of cooking.”
We met these remarkable young women who led us on a tour of Znesinnya Regional Landscape Park in Lviv. Here’s an excerpt:
“Soon our escorts arrived. Meet Ulyana, Anna, Maria (L to R) with The Eldest standing between Ulyana and Anna. The Eldest arranged this excursion through her work in International Agriculture Programs at Penn State University to learn more about women in agricultural activities.”
After arriving Kyiv from Lviv, we took an orientation tour of the central part of the city, this time with Taya.
“Later in the day, we met up with Taya, the English speaking tour guide that would lead us on a two hour walking tour of some of the major sites in central Kyiv.”
All in all, we spent the most time with Yuri, our translator, guide, and driver for a couple of days outside of Kyiv. After the original post a few weeks ago, Yuri reminded me that in addition to these talents, he’s also a musician. Here’s a recording of a song he sent to us.
“Welcome back to another post from our recent journey to Ukraine. This week we spend the day with Yuri who takes us to an open air folk life museum located about an hour + southeast of Kyiv and a visit to a working farm to learn more about Ukrainian agriculture. I introduced Yuri to you a couple posts back but here’s a bit of a recap. The Eldest connected with Yuri through the website Tours by Locals, click here for a description of the services Yuri provides. Yuri has three things going for him, he’s an experienced tour guide, an excellent translator (self taught in English), and provides transportation if needed. So after a meeting on Saturday to verify that we four Americans of varying sizes could fit in his car, we agreed to meet him at 7 AM Wednesday morning for our day long trip to the countryside.”
On Sunday we went on a walking tour with Maksym and Christina. Then two days later we made a visit to Alina and Maksym’s home to meet the babies. Alina stayed with us in 2017 during her visit to the US as a Open World delegate. It was so great to see her again and meet her family.
“It was a couple of days later that my traveling partner and I went to visit Alina and Maksym and their five month old twins, Vasil and Maria! We had a great day with the proud parents, a wonderful meal, held the babies, and took a walk in the park. We can’t wait for our return visit to see their growth and development.”
We also met up with Oleg who stayed with in 2013 when he came to Madison as an Open World delegate. It was so good to see him and fun to meet his beautiful family.
“Soon they showed up and we happily greeted each other and made introductions all around. Here’s a photo of the family, Oleg in the back middle, his wife Natalya on his left, his 16 year old daughter Olya on his right, and in front with the Wisconsin Badger t-shirt is his 11 year old son, Svyatoslav, Slav for short. Oleg hasn’t changed much, he’s as serious and intense as he was when he stayed with us a few years ago. Natalya is a lovely person and at the time of our meeting was about 8 1/2 months pregnant, I’m happy to report that she had a baby girl in mid June a few weeks after our visit. Olya is quite a character with a great sense of humor. Her English is quite good as she traveled to Vancouver, Canada for about six weeks a couple of years ago to improve her English speaking ability. At one point, she told us that she could say anything she wanted because her parents wouldn’t understand a word she said! Slav, at first was a little on the shy side but opened up after a bit, he can understand some English but is hesitant to speak.”
So folks, those are a few of my favorite excerpts from the past several months. So I’ll quit for today and join my traveling partner for an anniversary drink, water!
Next up, a few posts from London.
Until then, happy travels!